May, 2011 Archive

Fighting Fires

May 31st, 2011 by Ric in Sharing Success

“Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”
– Charlie Batch

“A fire department’s major work is fire prevention and readying itself to respond to emergencies.”
– Daniel Tobin

On the face of it, the two quotes above seem to be talking about two different things. Dig deeper though, and you’ll see that they have the same message: if you prepare well, your job gets easier.

That’s not exactly the way Daniel Tobin put it, but that’s the point I took away from his Small Business CEO Magazine article entitled The Manager as a Firefighter.

“The fires never stop,” Daniel keeps hearing from complaining managers. “We never have time to get any real work done.”

Daniel suggests that “they ought to take time to do some planning, that there may be a way to prevent future fires so that their groups can get back to their ‘real work.’”

The usual reply, unfortunately, is that they don’t have enough time. “We’ve got to put out those fires or we’ll lose everything.”

What’s worse is that this attitude seems to be rewarded. “Employee of the Month” and similar awards usually “recognize people who come to the rescue in an emergency.” There’s nothing wrong about this per se, but Daniel explains that “these companies would be better off giving awards for fire prevention. When a manager’s department is spending a terrific amount of time fighting fires, it’s a sign that something is very wrong.”

Daniel compares this to an actual fire department. When he asked a fire chief how much time they spent fighting fires, the response was this: “If we had to spend 5 percent of our time fighting actual fires, the entire city would be in ashes. The number is probably more like 1 percent, 2 percent tops.”

This brings us back to the second quote above. The bulk of a firefighter’s job isn’t fighting fires and handling emergencies – the most important part of his job is preventing these emergencies from happening in the first place.

A manager’s job isn’t very different. If managers can plan ahead and find ways to prevent their own workplace emergencies, then they have more time to focus on more important things, like increasing revenue, reducing costs, and developing other ways to expand business.

Daniel doesn’t give a whole lot of tips on planning ahead, but there’s a wealth of information around on that topic anyway. He does, however, share a couple of tips to help make fighting workplace fires easier.

His first tip is to “empower employees to learn new skills and to seek their own solutions to problems.” This is like giving your employees fire extinguishers and training them to fight little fires themselves instead of calling you (the fire department) immediately. The less time you spend dealing with these little fires, the more time you have to do some real work.

Daniel second tip is for managers to “thoroughly understand their company’s business processes and methods.” The fire department does this by “studying the city and the businesses within the city so that it knows how the buildings are structured, what kind of work the businesses do, what materials they use and so forth.” The fire department equips itself to fight fires, not just with their trucks and hoses, but with their knowledge about the city and its structures.

This improved ability to fight fires is only one aspect of knowing the business though. What’s more important for managers is that their understanding of the business allows them to “select the optimal work methods that will prevent fires from breaking out in the first place.”

Ultimately, that’s what we want – we want to prevent fires from breaking out. Sure, “heroics provide great anecdotes for business books,” Daniel says, “but no company can bet its future on the constant heroics of its employees.” A good plan for the road ahead, that’s something your company can bet on.

Ric


Image by: creativedoxfoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



The Truth About What You Want

May 24th, 2011 by Ric in Lifestyle, Sharing Success

“Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
- Buddha

Susan Russo starts off her article Tell Yourself the Truth up on Healthy Wealthy nWise with that quote, and I can’t think of a more appropriate statement. Somehow, like the sun and the moon, the truth always comes out.

The truth Susan talks about, however, isn’t a juicy piece of news, or a government secret. The truth Susan talks about is something much more personal – it’s about me, it’s about you, and it’s about all of us.

The truth Susan talks about is this: we can live any way we want if we choose to.

Yes, this is something we all know already, but do we really live by this truth? “Think of all of the excuses you’ve heard people tell themselves to avoid facing reality,” Susan asks. “People don’t exercise because they don’t have the time. They drink because they’re stressed. Children are neglected because the parents are too busy to take 5 minutes out of their days to give to them.”

We all make excuses to avoid things we simply don’t want to deal with. We also make excuses to do the things we want, even when we know those things are bad for us.

Let’s be real here. You don’t smoke or drink because you’re stressed. You do it because you enjoy it, and for a few minutes at least, you feel good.

The reason you don’t exercise isn’t a lack of time. The reason you don’t exercise is that you don’t enjoy it, and there are plenty of other things you’d rather do.

Susan stresses that it’s time to live without excuses. Susan shares the following examples of cutting out excuses: “I’m fat because I don’t exercise and I eat what I want.”

“I’m stressed because I let life and all of its complications upset me.”

“I am in debt because I’m wasteful and don’t cut back in the many ways that I can.”

This list goes on and on, but the idea is clear – you have to face the truth about why you are where you are today. Until then, “until you quit making excuses as to why you can’t;” says Susan “you will continue to have what you’ve got.”

“If you really want to lose weight make the time to work out,” Susan suggests. “If you’re stressed, learn stress management or meditate. If you are struggling financially; create a budget and adhere to it.” If you really want something, stop making excuses, and go out and do something about it.

Another Healthy Wealthy nWise contributor, Debra Kasowski, seems to describe the next steps in here article How to Take Responsibility For Your Own Actions, sharing a few tips on getting what you really want. She shares eight different tips, but I’ll be sharing only a few of my favorites here:

Get Clear on What You Want.
“You can have what you want,” Debra explains, but “many people do not get what they want because they are not always clear on what exactly it is they want or expect from themselves or others.” You have to know what you want, otherwise you don’t have a goal or a direction. What many sometimes forget though is that you also have to make sure the people around you know that too. This way, others can help you achieve your goals, or at the very least not get in the way of them.

Set Your Priorities.
It’s easy to get frustrated when you encounter obstacles to your goals – we can all relate to that. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is pretty simple: those who stop fail, and those who keep going succeed. Debra gives as an example being unable to block off an hour and half for the gym. Some won’t bother going anymore. “Going to the gym or for a walk for 30 minutes is still better that you coming home to sit on the couch,” Debra explains. “Do something toward reaching your goal instead of nothing.”

Go and Get It.
The tip is Debra’s, but I’ll go back to Susan’s quote for this: “until you quit making excuses as to why you can’t; you will continue to have what you’ve got.” You are responsible for getting what you want. If you really want something, you have to take action and go get it.

To get what we want, we have to stop making excuses, and we have to start moving. Otherwise, we stay right where we are, and that’s the truth.

Stay true,
Ric


Image by: sakhorn38 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Let Go and Move

May 17th, 2011 by Ric in Lifestyle

My boys Chandler and Stefan are growing up so fast. Chandler is 14 while Stefan is five. I know they are still several years away from their twenties, but after reading James Gladwin’s An Open Letter to Those in Their Twenties and Thirties over at Healthy Wealthy nWise, I couldn’t help but think of my two boys. They’re still my boys, but they’re quickly growing into young men who make their own decisions and make their own marks in this world.

You see, James’ letter may be addressed to the twenty- and thirty- somethings, but I’m sure his message also resonates with people older than that too. I’m sure anybody it also strikes some notes with anybody who has children learning about maturity, responsibility, and independence.

The good news for today’s youth, as James puts it, is that they “have been given so much. It’s probably been the same for every generation, but maybe the stakes are higher, more exciting, more rewarding, more exhilarating and – yes – more scary,” My boys probably don’t feel that fear much (at least not yet), but Liz and I are probably scared enough for the both of them right now.

James’ letter isn’t about fear and the differences between our era and theirs though – his letter is about attitude. James talks about how to approach life, and I believe his advice holds true whether you’re in your twenties, your fifties, or your teens. His first piece of advice:

“Become interested in moving away from meeting expectations. Question the degree to which you are living the life you love, or one that has been designed for you by (well meaning) parents, or your social group.”

This is advice Liz and I give, but when I think about Chandler and Stefan, this same advice scares me a little. I want my boys to do what makes them happy. At the same time, they’re still my boys, and I will always want to protect them and help them in whatever way I can.

The idea that you have to let your children make their own mistakes comes to mind. To live the life you love, you follow your own plan, not one by somebody else. My boys know this already, or at least I hope so. Liz and I know this too, but actually following it and letting go of our boys might prove a bit more difficult.

For the twenty- and thirty- somethings reading this post, I know this piece of advice isn’t very easy to follow either. Your family and friends play a large part in molding you into who you are now, but they don’t define everything. At some point, you have to figure out the difference between the person your parents, teachers, and friends expect you to be, and the person you want to be. It’s not easy, and being a father to two fast-growing boys, I don’t expect your parents to make this easy either.

James shares another, related piece of advice:

“Become interested in moving away from pleasing others. So often that’s how we defined ourselves, pleasing parents, teachers, employers and soon, rather than defining ourselves by what we feel, in our heart’s core, to be authentic.”

It’s natural for us to try and please our parents, teachers, and other authority figures – it’s almost ingrained in us. Trying to please others isn’t in itself a bad thing, but it has a tendency of getting in the way of living your own life. Again, this is about figuring out who you are, and not letting others define that for you.

James also shares with this piece of advice:

“Above all, why not become interested in moving away from ’shoulds’ ‘oughts’ and ‘musts’.”

I don’t think this really needs much explanation – I believe that being true to yourself and pursuing what you love ensures that you will end up living without regrets.

He closes with this idea, explaining how moving away from these, and other things, works:

“When you start ‘moving away’ you are – using the analogy of the river – moving away from the river bank, the shallows, the rocks, into the faster, deeper water, which can carry you further and faster to where you want to go.”

I hope, someday, my boys find themselves further than they ever dreamed they could get.

I also hope, wherever they find themselves, they always find their way back home.

Ric


Image by: Sujin Jetkasettakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Inside Job: Advertising from Within

May 10th, 2011 by Adaire in Financial Freedom

Starting a business is a big investment. It requires significant amount of money, time and energy. That is why, running it should be equally given full attention and care. A big, and usually the most intricate, part of operating a business is building the brand through advertising.

Advertising is usually attributed to using a medium, either print, radio TV or internet. However, in the Healthy Wealthy n Wise article “Small Business Marketing and Advertising Ideas to Increase your Small Business Sales”, the author, Claude Whitacre, talks about advertising being internally integrated in the business operations. Claude cites effective business tips that can increase client base and business returns.

Eye Candy

Yes, your business should be pleasing to the eyes because most first-time clients are gained through first impression. Claude gives emphasis on the importance of making your place of business (i.e. shops or restaurants) very inviting through visual appeal.

While it seems menial, keeping your parking space occupied gives an impression that many people come to your place so it should be worth a try. On the contrary, make sure that there is enough space for upcoming customers. You don’t want to discourage them with the unavailability of space.

Inside, customers will best appreciate your products and services if the place is sufficiently lit. Imagine an art gallery that looks dark, buyers won’t be able to appreciate the details if the artworks are not properly lit. So how can you expect a sale? Open your clients’ eyes to the real beauty of your offer through effective lighting.

Music to the Ears

Sound, just like light, travels fast to reach your target even without them looking (i.e. when driving). That is why audio such as on-location call outs and music are also very effective in luring customers to come give your service a try.

Sounds add entertainment value and also ease out either the background noise or awkward silence. When choosing the music, make sure it is appropriate for your business. Spa audio should be soothing so it should be light and not too loud. Restaurants music should be a bit livelier but should not overpower conversations. Meanwhile, clubs and bars appear more exciting with very loud and fast music on.

Heaven Scent

Good smell is not only about making the food appetizing or setting an ambience. The place itself should smell hygienic. Apart from keeping it clean, Claude suggests keeping your shop smelling fresh by doing away with odor causes such as smoking and pets.

Another common odor cause is the comfort room. If possible, choose a business location that offers a common comfort room. Not only will this avoid unpleasant smell, this will also free you from cleaning obligations. However, if you already have one, just make sure that the trash inside is regularly emptied and the comfort room is kept spic and span.

Mark Your Words

Having a potential client come see your shop is an achievement. Hence, you must make the most of this opportunity to build and sustain a relationship with your client. Signs or plaque cards are the most direct ways to communicate. Sadly, these are the most taken-for-granted channels.

As Claude put it, your business sign should be lit even night so you get that extra exposure beyond business hours. In addition, Claude advises to avoid putting up signs that can possibly offend, harass or turn off such as political and racial statements.

As a Marketing and Local Advertising expert and author of the book The Unfair Advantage Small Business Advertising Manual, Claude understands how advertising can be best used as a business tool.

Remember, the success of advertising lies not on what you try to portray but being able to back up your claims with perceivable truths that will win the trust and hearts of your customers! :)

More than promises, make your advertisements an experience!

Adaire


Image by: Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Ride the Waves and Turn the Tide – How to make it work for you either way

May 3rd, 2011 by Liz in Sharing Success


“It takes but one positive thought, when given a chance to survive and thrive, to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.” ~ Robert Schuller

Social media as a marketing medium can be as fickle as a woman’s emotions <g>.  It’s either you’re liked or not, criticized or adored.  And all this is done in a very public manner, with a very extensive reach, through the World Wide Web.  For this reason, some marketers hesitate to use social mediums to their advantage – when the uncertainties of the internet tides are too much for them to bet on.  And some of those who do “brave the elements” eventually face social publicity nightmares that need PR management.

In this very public arena where the throwing of likes and dislikes is as easy as clicking a button, marketers get a fair share of criticism and admiration.  If the tides bring in the latter, then, it’s a success, a reason to celebrate! <g>  If on the other hand, the majority of virtual voices point to the down side, it becomes a headache that needs to be addressed before the marketer drowns in a tidal wave of negativity.

Jordan Knox, NuRelm’s new social media specialist, sends some SOS with 5 Ways to Turn Negative Social Media Feedback into a Positive.  In the August 2010 issue of InternetMarketingTNT.com, Jordan suggests the following next steps for negative feedback:

1)    Identify the intention of the negative comment – Is it a legitimate complaint? Does it need a solution? Or is it merely spam complaints that have no valid basis for criticism?

2)    Humanize the response - by understanding where the feedback is coming from and by addressing the comment, the marketer acknowledges that social media is a forum for conversation.  Every response becomes an opportunity to turn the negative comment around into a positive light.

A logical response can change the negative view in the public’s eyes.  Issues on after-sales service can be explained well enough for the customer to realize that there is a really good explanation for everything.  Either way, a rational reply lets people know that what they had to say was noted, listened to, or possibly acted upon.

For derogatory comments that need no reply, they can be ignored, lest your objective is to further a no-win fight publicized within your social network.

3)    Promptly address problems – promptness is essential to reassure the customers that their issues are of primary concern, and are being given the appropriate attention.  Furthermore, immediate action on a customer complaint narrows the window of time for added negative feedback from the same person.

Jordan suggests making use of reputation monitors such as Google alerts, for real time monitoring.

4)    Involve your audience – Be one step ahead of possible complaints and avoid getting them proliferated through public media sites.  One way to do so is to tap your customer base by surveying them directly.  You can use this data as reference points for addressing problems and questions, and at the same time, makes the customer feel a part of the “service improvement” process.

5)    Do not delete – as tempting as it may seem to just delete all the negativity from digital space, don’t!  Remember, you’re into social marketing and that space is open venue for all kinds of comments, both good and bad.  It’s all a matter of using them as opportunities to turn the bad into a good thing for you.

Another battleground

When before, the fight happens at the point of sale, social media is now another marketing battleground where strategic combat techniques guided by intelligence and caution should be used.

The venue may have changed and turned digital but the principles of customer service and public relations have remained constant.  In any case, any kind of publicity, whether good or bad, is still publicity.  And even major waves of negative comments can be turned around to become positive.

As a marketer who takes social media seriously, every good and bad thing that flows in and out of this channel can be used for the betterment of products and services.  You can save these negative comments and use it as a platform for training company personnel on how to address them, and more importantly, how to prevent them in the future.

Ride the waves; don’t let negativity drown you out.  Ride it out into the sea of positive response, ideas, and success.

Stay positive! <g>

Liz


Image by:
Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net