A big step on my entrepreneurial journey

April 28, 2015 By Brian R. King, LCSW

open-4-bizWhy did you decide to go into business for yourself?

Were you sick of working for someone else?
Did you experience an unexpected loss of employment that you turned into an opportunity to become self-employed?

Whatever the reason, each of has our entrepreneurial origin story.

I was raised by entrepreneurs, but after a lifetime of watching them work hard, long hours, I’d thought it wasn’t for me.

So I graduated college with a master’s in social work, got a job and started a family. It was when my oldest son Zach was diagnosed with a form of autism after entering first grade that the foundation of my journey was solidified.

I had to quickly become an expert on autism, available resources, and best practices for parenting a child with such unique needs. It was in helping Zach, and later his brothers to navigate the complex waters of the autism spectrum that I discovered my lifelong struggles could be explained by undiagnosed ADHD and Dyslexia.

I became so skilled at raising my own children that other parents began clamoring for my advice. A small group strongly urged me to open my own practice and after about 18 months of prodding I did it. Now 9 years and 5 books later, I have an international following of those who seek my advice.

As a fellow entrepreneur, you know that the journey doesn’t always stay pointed in the same direction. This lifestyle teaches us, grows us and transforms us. Over the past nine years I’ve learned so much about myself, most importantly, that raising a child on the autism spectrum doesn’t require you to be an expert on autism per se‘, you will do any child a greater service if you simply learn to model the importance of simply being human.

You teach them (through your example) that:

  • Perfectionism isn’t a strategy for success, but trial and learning is.
  • Delegating isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s the realization that your personal and business growth depends upon your opportunity to focus on your core genius, the gift that differentiates you from your competitors.
  • Succeeding in partnership instead of alone allows you to go further, faster and impact more lives.
  • This is just the tip of the iceberg

Why am I telling you all of this?

A few years ago I realized that I had effectively painted myself into a corner (entrepreneurially speaking). When I started my practice nine years ago I chose the name, I’m An Aspie, Inc., (NOTE: ‘Aspie’ is a colloquial term coined by the adult community of those with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, to depathologize their experience) as it captured my close identification with the autism community and my commitment to them.

But as I grew as a parent, an entrepreneur, and most importantly as a person. I realized that I had so many other talents, talents I really enjoyed using, but could find few opportunities to express as long as I was known solely as “The autism parenting guy.”

I realized, that if I was going to become the change I wanted to see, I needed to make some changes, one of the biggest was the name of my business. With that, I am happy to announce that as of today, the legal name of my business is Brian R. King International, Inc.

What does that mean moving forward? The special needs community has been an important part of my life for the past nine years, as I’m raising children with special needs, that community will always have a place in my life. But I know I can do more.

Over the years, I’ve discovered a gift for helping people learn to see their lives as an empowering story of trips, triumphs and opportunities to bring value to the lives they touch every single day. Little did I know that this ability would be attractive to businesses looking to more authentically connect with their customers.

One company in particular called Microshare Intl, approached me with an opportunity to joint venture with them on several long term projects that will allow me to use my gift for storytelling to help its clients better connect with their customers. This is a very exciting time for me and my business, I hope you’ll come along for the journey.

Remember, the journey of our lives is more a maze than a highway. It can feel like there are more falls than forwards and more stops than goes. But you know what, if that’s how your life feels then it means you’re doing it right. The journey of an entrepreneur is about perseverance, resilience, creativity, passion and vision. It’s also about humility, partnership and humanity. Here’s to your journey, may it lead you to the place where dreams and reality meet.

Thanks for being you.

About Brian R. King, LCSW

brian_finalBrian R. King, LCSW is the Director of Business Development for Microshare Intl to provide Entrepreneurs and Companies with cutting edge marketing and business building strategies.

As a Professional Workshop Facilitator and Keynote Presenter who has been wowing audiences since he was 17 years old, Brian has become increasingly known for his personal story of resilience in the face of Learning and Physical disabilities to become#1 Best-Selling Author and successful Entrepreneur.

In his popular keynote presentations, Brian reveals key decisions we all must make in order to be consistently successful regardless of our challenges.


How Important is College Size?

Written by Wendy Nelson

I took my middle daughter on a college visit yesterday to a regional university a couple hours away.  It was a structured visit day.  During the opening presentation, they put a lot of focus on the question, “How important is college size?”

The presentation broke down three categories of college size:

  • Megaversities – 10,000 + students
  • Medium-sized universities – 4,000 – 10,000 students
  • Small universities – under 4,000 students

The general thought for college size is that large = options and small = personal attention.  The university we were visiting is a medium-sized university with just over 5,000 students. Of course their argument was that medium-sized schools offer the best of both worlds and I do find a lot of logic in what they said.

A medium-sized university is large enough to offer a lot of options, but small enough that you don’t get lost in the crowd.  

A medium-sized university can offer small class sizes and personal attention, but they can also offer lots of degree programs, lots of clubs and activities and lots of other options for making the most out of the college experience.

This all sounded great to me.  Who wouldn’t choose a medium-sized university? Apparently, a lot of students. According to this medium-sized university’s presentation, this is the smallest category of colleges in the U.S.  In fact, a quick search on online showed me that out of over 2,000 schools in their database across the U.S., only 237 schools fall into the category of 5,000 – 9,999 students.

Despite all the selling of personal attention, my daughter says her top choice is still a school that falls on the large side of the “megaversity” category.

I think that college size is a category your student has to get right in order to be happy.

There is no “one size fits all” and students will gravitate towards the size that feels comfortable for them.  The only way to really understand this is through college visits.  In fact, overnight visits are the best for truly experiencing the feel of the school.  Make a point to visit schools of all sizes so your student can compare the differences.

Have your student start thinking about the right college size by asking these questions:

  • Which of my high school classes feel like the right size?
  • Do I have any classes that seem too big or too small?  If so, what don’t I like about that?
  • Is it easier for me to make choices when I have a large number of options or only a few options?
  • Is it important to me that lots of people know me by name?
  • Do I enjoy having a close relationship with my teachers?

One of the best ways for your student to understand how a college’s size will work for him or her is to talk to current or former students.  Ask them how they feel/felt about the school’s size.

Keep in mind that there are often many ways to make a large school feel smaller, but not many to make a small school feel larger.  If the school feels too small on the first visit, imagine how your student will feel about it after a few years on campus!


Federal Tax Breaks for College Parents

ID-100128849Written by Wendy Nelson

Once my oldest daughter had decided on a college and I knew writing tuition checks would be in my near future, I decided to research federal tax breaks for college parents.  Finding this information was not as straight forward as I hoped it would be, but after researching in several different places, I was able to put together some general guidelines.

Top Tips For Claiming Your Kid’s College Expenses on Your Taxes

  • If your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is over $180,000  you cannot take any tax credits or deductions for your kid’s college expenses (based on the rules at the time I am writing this).  If you think your MAGI (usually the same as your AGI) will be close to the limit, but not far over, consider kicking more pre-tax dollars to a 401K or Flexible Spending Account.
  • You cannot claim both a tuition deduction and a credit (either Lifetime Learning Credit or American Opportunity Tax Credit) in the same year.  You need to compare the three and see which, if any, you are eligible for, and which will provide the biggest benefit.
  • Money spent on room and board can never be claimed on your taxes.  Only tuition, fees and sometimes supplies (depending on the deduction/credit) are eligible.
  • You cannot claim your kid’s college expenses if you use the filing status of Married Filing Separately.
  • If you claim an exemption for the student on your taxes, then you can claim the student’s educational expenses.  The student cannot claim these expenses on his/her tax return.
  • If you do not claim an exemption for the student on your taxes, then the student can claim his/her educational expenses on his/her tax return.  You cannot claim these expenses on your tax return.
  • It does not matter whether the money to pay the expenses came directly from you or came from the student.  If you are claiming the expense, both sources are treated as if you had paid them.
  • Your student’s school is required to provide a 1098-T Tuition Statement by January 31.  Use this form when filling out your taxes.
  • If you think you are eligible for a credit or deduction, make sure at least $4,000 is paid towards tuition and fees from an account that you or your child own.

Comparison Table of Federal Tax Credits and Deductions for Educational Expenses

indexDisclaimer:  I am not a tax professional and I am relying on the accuracy of information found on the IRS website and other sites.  If you have further questions on federal tax breaks for college parents, I suggest checking with your tax advisor.  If you do your own taxes, TurboTax makes it easy to enter your educational expenses and will figure out the best credit/deduction for you (if you qualify for one).




Parents: Do This Before Your Student Starts the College Search

Written by Wendy Nelson

The first thing I suggest dGrad-Capoing before your student starts the college search is to truly understand how much you can afford to pay or want to pay.  Most parents can’t afford, or don’t want to pay, full sticker price at any college their student may be interested in going to!  The earlier you establish a maximum college cost, the more you will save time and energy in the college search and guard against potential heartbreak and frustration in the long run.

Step One – Consider Established College Savings

Sit down and make a list or start a spreadsheet with your established pool of money.  Include:

  • Current college savings fund balance
  • A projected amount for future contributions to your student’s college savings fund at the current contribution rate (if you continue to save the same amount until your child starts college, how much extra do you expect to have?)
  • Commitments from grandparents or others to fund a portion of your kid’s college

Step Two – Agree on a Student Contribution Amount

This is the amount you want your child to contribute towards funding his or her own education. Many studies show that the more students are invested in their own education, the more seriously they take it.  It is important to decide what your stance is on this and have a conversation early with your child regarding your expectations.

My husband and I agreed that some amount of student contribution was important and established the following expectations for our girls:

  • A full-time summer job, from the time they are old enough to get one in high school through the end of college, to contribute towards tuition
  • A part-time job during college to pay for spending money and books

Of course these are goals, not absolutes.  Our oldest daughter was not able to find a part-time job during her freshman year so we ended up providing her a monthly allowance and buying all of her books.  Luckily, she is already set with a job for sophomore year!

Step Three – Consider College Funding Through Cash Flow

Are you willing to, and can you afford to, contribute to college out of your monthly cash flow?  We decided we would handle room & board, at least for our first two girls, out of cash flow.  Their established college savings accounts would only be used for tuition.  This decision was primarily because we had not put as much as we should have into their college savings accounts the whole time they were growing up because we had no idea how inflated the price of college had become – what a wake up call that was!  Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize this until our oldest child is in high school and we start looking at college prices.

Every family situation is going to be different with respect to cash flow.  Some will not be able to contribute at all out of cash flow, some will be able to contribute a lot out of cash flow, and many will be somewhere in between.

The amount you decide on in this step could greatly impact the college search.

Step Four – Add This All Together and See Where You Are

Let’s look at an example:

  • $25,000 Current College Savings
  • $0 Committed contribution from other family
  • $4,800 Expected Additional College Savings ($200/month, two years left to save – I kept it simple and didn’t include interest or growth rate)
  • $3,000/Year Student Expected Contribution towards tuition  + room & board
  • Student will work to pay for books and additional living expenses while in college
  • $500/Month Contribution from cash flow while student is in college

That gives this example family $29,800 in savings – divided by four years of college gives us $7,450 per year.  Add in the $3,000 per year from the student and they have $10,450 per year to work with.

Now, taking the cash flow amount into consideration, that’s about an extra $6,000 per year.

Total per year amount = $16,450

Step Five – Assess What You Can Buy With What You Have

Looking only at the money the family can put into college, the student in our example needs to find a school where tuition, fees, room and board can be purchased for $16,450 per year.  If we go off of sticker prices alone, this student is probably limited to in-state public colleges.

Fortunately, there is the whole world of need-based and merit-based  aid to explore.  Exploring these will greatly help you to establish a maximum college cost for your student.  That will be Step Six and I will get into that in my next post!


Pay for College Using Your Student’s Skills and Abilities

skillWritten by Wendy Nelson

Last week, I talked about understanding how much you can afford to and want to pay for your child’s college education in the post, “Parents: Do This Before Your Student Starts the College Search.”  I said I would talk about exploring need-based and merit-based aid as “Step 6″ in the process.  Since these are both big topics, I am going to focus on merit-based aid this week, along with other types of talent and skill based aid.  This will include:

  • Athletic Scholarships
  • Talent Scholarships
  • Merit Scholarships/Grants

Private Scholarships

Yes, there are plenty of private scholarships to apply for out there and many will apply to your student’s skills and talents, but competition is steep and the dollar amounts are usually low compared to what your student can receive directly from schools.  My advice is this:  Don’t go into the college search planning on any private scholarships.  Rather, use private scholarships at the end of the process as a nice “bonus.”

Athletic Scholarships

Many articles have been written to warn parents of the dangers of counting on athletic scholarships.  If you have a very talented athlete, there’s nothing wrong with trying for athletic scholarships.  My advice:

  1. Don’t count on an athletic scholarship to pay for college.  Have a back-up plan.
  2. Do your homework.  The NCSA and NCAA sites are a great place to start, but are definitely in favor of going through the recruiting process.  Make sure you also read up on the negatives.
  3. Discuss how much your child wants to play college sports.  Is it more for the love of the sport and just getting to be on a team or are you really just hoping for a “free ride” for college?
  4. For those who are truly in it for the experience, discuss the option of Division 3 schools.  While these schools don’t give athletic scholarships, they may offer your student a nice merit scholarships if they really want him/her on the team.  The competition level for getting on a team will be lower.

Merit Scholarships & Grants

Here is your biggest source of non-need based aid for college.  As I explain in my post, Finding Great Merit Scholarships, there are different methods for schools to assess what students deserve merit scholarships.  Some use a straight forward grid approach where higher GPAs and ACT/SAT scores lead to higher merit awards.  Others use a more subjective approach of assessing the student as a whole.  Often, leadership experience and community service are considered.

You may be able to get a decent idea of how much a school will award your student based on his/her GPA and test scores by using the school’s Net Price Calculator.  Some schools include this component on their calculators, but others only base their calculators on financial need.

My Tips:

  • Go to the websites for schools your student may be interested in and read up on their scholarship offerings.  Some schools make these easy to find and others do not.  If you can’t find this, try typing “Scholarships” in the site’s Search field.
  • Try out the schools’ Net Price Calculators to see if they provide a figure for potential merit aid.
  • If you need a better idea on merit aid than what you find online, an admissions counselor would be your next step.  It’s always better to have your student connect with a counselor, than you as a parent, but early in the process, they expect to get questions from parents.  They can talk you through merit scholarships they offer and where they think your student will fall best on his or her statistics.
  • Decide whether you need to limit your kid’s college search to schools where he/she has the best potential for large merit scholarships.
  • If your child has a solid idea of what he or she wants to study, check into departmental scholarship offerings.  Many schools award scholarships to students who declare specific majors.  These may be listed on the school website, but if you don’t find any, this is a good question for an admissions counselor or department chair.
  • It may be worth checking into full-ride and full-tuition scholarships if your student has a strong GPA and strong ACT or SAT score.  I have compiled an extensive list of these opportunities in my Full Scholarship List.

Talent Scholarships

Does your child have a particular talent like music, dance, or art?  Or maybe something more unique?  Search for “talent scholarships” on the school websites.  These are usually smaller amounts (unless the school specializes in these programs), maybe $1,000 – $5,000, but many schools will let a student combine a merit scholarship and a talent scholarship.  Some schools offer some pretty unique talent scholarships.  Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find these.  You really have to search directly on the school websites.

A merit, talent, or athletic scholarship offering is really an expression of how much a school wants your student.  If you really shop around, there is a good chance that your student will find one or more schools that highly value his or her particular mix of skills, qualities, interests and talents.


3 Reasons Your Junior Should Take the PSAT

The PSAT/NMSQT test is offered by high schools around the country in October.  It is an important test for college-bound high school juniors.  If your junior is not already signed up, understand why this test is beneficial and get them signed up soon.

Why Your Junior Should Take the PSAT

  1. Test Prep – The PSAT format is the same as the SAT test.  If your student is planning to take the SAT, the PSAT will serve as an initial practice test.  With the scores, your student will receive feedback on how to prepare for the SAT.  Even if your student is planning to take the ACT instead of the SAT, the experience will be helpful to prepare for a multi-hour test.  It will also help in determining which test your student is better suited for.  Since the ACT and SAT currently are set up differently, to test somewhat different skill sets, some students will do better on one test vs. the other.  As the Princeton Review indicates, it’s all about getting a high score, so a student should stick with the test that gives them the potential to achieve the highest score.  Most colleges will accept both tests.  For students looking to get into very competitive schools that take either test, I recommend having a high school junior take the PSAT in October, followed by the ACT in either October or December (if your student hasn’t taken it previously).  Then analyze the results from both tests to see which one makes more sense to focus on going forward.
  2. Scholarships – The NMSQT component of the PSAT is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.  The test is used to select candidates for the National Merit Scholarship Program.  It is a very competitive program and is based on the highest PSAT scores state by state.  That means each state has its own cutoff score for eligibility.  You can read more about the National Merit Scholarship Program here: National Merit Scholarship Program.  There is also the National Achievement Scholarship Program to recognize outstanding African American students and the National Hispanic Recognition Program.  Through the National Merit Scholarship Program, students may be eligible for scholarships directly from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, scholarships sponsored by colleges and universities, and scholarships sponsored by corporations.  The student guide for the National Merit Scholarship Program lists out all corporations and colleges currently offering scholarships through the program.  However, it does not indicate scholarship amounts for each.  My Full Scholarship List includes schools that offer full-tuition and full-ride scholarships for finalists and semi-finalists in the national merit programs.
  3. Information – Taking the PSAT will open up several avenues of information for your student.  With the test results, your student will receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses and ways to prepare for college.  Your student will also receive feedback on suitable majors and careers and a list of colleges to consider.  Taking the test puts your student into a data bank that will make them accessible to schools around the country – meaning your student will get information from lots of colleges!  This used to mean stacks of college brochures in the mail, but has now turned into tons of emails in your students inbox.

To find out all the details on the PSAT test, visit the College Board’s official PSAT site.  Even if your student’s school is not offering the test, the site will help you find a nearby school that is.  The test is typically offered both during the school day and on a Saturday, so you should be able to find one that is doable.  And finally, the test costs only $14 so it is definitely worth the price for all of the benefits.


Don’t Break the Budget on ACT and SAT Prep Resources

ACT and SAT prep resources can help your student be better prepared to take the tests and achieve higher scores.  Some of these resources run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars.  Does spending that much really result in a score increase that justifies the cost?  I have not seen any data that supports this.  I would argue that with enough time and discipline, your student can benefit just as much from low-cost ACT and SAT prep resources.

I have listed some great low-cost and free test prep resources below that I would encourage you to check out.  You can also see the full range of ACT resources out there in my spreadsheet, ACT Prep Resources.

Low-Cost ACT Prep Resources

  1. Books – There are some great guides available through Amazon or your local bookstore including The Real ACT Prep Guide, Barron’s ACT 36 and Cracking the ACT.
  2. Official ACT Online Prep Program – $24.95 for a year of access
  3. YouTube – Type “ACT Test Prep” in the search box and you can choose from many different videos on ACT topics
  4. Free Online ACT Practice Tests – Available through sites like PowerScore
  5. Free Online ACT Prep Course through Number2.com

Low-Cost SAT Prep Resources

  1. Books – Some of the best ones include The Official SAT Study Guide, Cracking the SAT, and Kaplan SAT.
  2. YouTube – Type “SAT Test Prep” in the search box and you can choose from many different videos on SAT topics
  3. Free Online SAT Practice Tests – Available through sites like PowerScore
  4. Free Online SAT Prep Course through Number2.com

Are there others you have found?  If so, please leave a comment with the details so that other parents can benefit from these great low-cost ACT and SAT prep resources!


Taking the First ACT/SAT

My high school junior daughter takes the ACT for the first time in December.  She hasn’t done any test prep and hasn’t taken any practice tests.  This is not the way I would prefer to go about it, but given that we are two weeks out and she hasn’t wanted to prepare, I don’t think it’s going to happen!

Taking the first ACT/SAT is an important step for most college bound students.  Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Baseline – Use the first ACT/SAT scores as a baseline.  Are the scores “good enough” for what your student wants to achieve?  Given that there is usually room for improvement, this baseline will help you work with your student to set a goal of what he or she would like to achieve on the next test.
  2. Test Pacing – Taking the first real test will help your student determine pacing.  Maybe he or she spent too long on a section and had to rush through others.  Help him/her think about what to do different the next time.
  3. Test Prep – Are there specific areas of the test where scores need to be improved or is overall improvement needed?  Think about the amount of test prep needed before the next test and plan accordingly.  For those taking the ACT, I have a spreadsheet of different ACT test prep options that will help when you are considering what kind of prep you are willing to consider.
  4. College Search List – Having the first ACT/SAT scores will help your student narrow down schools by admissions standards.  This is where you can really start refining the college search list.  Look for schools that would be matches or reaches based on those first ACT/SAT scores.  It is reasonable to improve your scores by 10-15%, but probably not by more than 25%.  This is especially important if you are counting on significant merit aid to afford college.
  5. Merit-Based Aid – The best merit-based aid opportunities are usually found at schools where your student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores would put him or her in the top 25% of applicants.  Use the first ACT/SAT scores to determine where this will be possible.  Also, if a school includes merit-based aid on their Net Price Calculator, you can plug in the ACT/SAT scores to estimate what the school might offer.

I am looking forward to my daughter getting this first ACT test out of the way.  I am hoping it will give us the opportunity to encourage her to study and set a goal for the next time around.