February 18, 2015 - Phil Hodgen

Singapore for a Weekend Mastermind

I am sitting in the lounge at LAX with a cheap J class boarding pass in my hand. (That brings to mind the Velvet Underground song “I’m Waiting For The Man” [YouTube, good live version with Lou Reed and David Bowie], except the ticket cost more than $26).

Cheap Business Class to Asia

Flyertalk forum people generally have good things to say about China Southern (the consensus opinion seems to be “things good, service meh”) (or in their parlance “hard product good, soft product meh”) so we shall see. But cheap. Like half the cost of Singapore Airlines.

The other low cost carrier seems to be Philippine Airlines, and I may give them a shot next time. J class flights cheap. I like that. (J class = business class; check the code on your ticket to see what you are. F is first class. Y is economy. There are a bunch of other codes for variants/discounts on first, business, and economy tickets. Know your codes if you care about frequent flyer miles.)

Frequent Flyer Points, Delta Airlines, and Blowtorches

My biggest problem (ooh, First World Problems) is where to have the frequent flyer miles accrue. China Southern is part of the Skyteam alliance. That means Delta usually, except that Delta has recently taken a blowtorch and dynamite to its frequent flyer program.

Lucky for me that I recently almost completely cleaned out my FFMs there to book a trip for my wife and younger daughter. I have 1,309 miles left at Delta and they will probably sit, unused, forever.

The program formerly known as Skymiles (to Delta) and Skypesos (to the rest of the world) is starting to look more like Skypennies With Random And Frequent Changes For The Worse. A few days ago Delta took down the award chart from its website (deliberately) so it is impossible to know how many points are needed to book a free flight.

I will take the LAX-CAN-SIN-CAN-LAX flight points and credit them to my frequent flyer account on Korean Airlines. It has much better flight availability (using points) to Asia.

But I digress.

What I’m Doing in Singapore

I’m headed to a weekend mastermind group sponsored by Dynamite Circle (I am a member), which is a service provided by Ian and Dan of Tropical MBA.

It’s worth your while reading the TMBA blog and listening to the podcast. Even if you do not fit the “location independent lifestyle” or “digital nomad” profile, there are useful things to learn.

Dan and Ian have done something impressive. They transformed themselves from from two random guys standing around in a parking lot in North San Diego County to the owners of very real and profitable businesses. The best part? These are businesses that they can operate from anywhere on the planet that they want to be (Ian = Austin and Dan = Philippines right now).

Attending the mastermind will be a group of 30 entrepreneurs who have reached a certain level of success.

I’m showing up. I have something to share, and something to learn.

What I will share

I will share what I know about tax stuff. The people at the mastermind are exactly the people who suffer from the U.S. tax system because they are U.S. citizens owning and operating businesses outside the USA. I have some experience 🙂 in fixing and preventing messes of that sort.

My general philosophy about tax planning for businesses is that tax is an unavoidable fact, and you should pick your optimization targets carefully. An entrepreneur or executive should do tax planning by optimizing these variables in this sequence:

    1. Your Brain. Minimize the entrepreneur or executive’s time spent thinking about anything tax. You build a successful business by creating customers, so do that. An hour of an entrepreneur’s time spent on marketing or product development is vastly more valuable than an hour spent thinking about Subpart F income.


    1. Simplicity and Systems. Simple systems are cheap to run and hard to break. You will reduce overhead and decrease your risk of killer tax penalties. (You can completely outsource your back-end financial systems to us — accounting/tax compliance for international companies). (Subtle sales pitch there, Phil. Sheesh.)


  1. Tax. Third on my list is everyone else’s first item. Reduce tax. But don’t focus on the USA. Reduce your worldwide average income tax. Your metric is a fraction that has “total worldwide income tax” as the numerator and “total worldwide profit” as the denominator.

What I will learn

I’m showing up to learn, mostly. If you have watched our website evolve (if that’s the right word) recently you can sense one of the pain points we have. Heavy sigh. Are there any web specialists out there? The whole UX/architecture thinking process for a website is beyond me. Another place where learning needs to happen: webinars. We are also doing regular webinars (next one is 31 March 2015 for would-be expatriates). There are lots of technical things to learn from people who are further down the road.

But mostly I am approaching the mastermind with a “whatever” mentality. What are people doing that is interesting and I have never seen or thought of before?

William Gibson’s famous line rings true: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” I have a lot to learn from people like Dan and Ian and the others who will be in Singapore.

All of the good things I have experienced in life that have happened because I met a new human. In fact, all things are delivered to you via humans or via nature. Not corporations, not businesses, not governments, not nothing else. Mother Nature or another human being. It took me a long time to understand that, but once I did, it changed my whole approach to life. I want to meet new people all the time.

That’s why it’s worth buying a cheap business class ticket to Singapore and experiencing world-class jet lag. I will get an opportunity to sit around and talk to people completely unlike me — people who I would otherwise never meet.

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