RSS

Tag Archives: communication

8 Time Saving Hacks I Use Every Day

time saving hacks

Living life as a young entrepreneur, I’ve tried to maintain the mindset that it’s not about building a business, it’s about building a life. How we spend our time determines the life we lead. While I love my work, I also love time spent with my family, outside, exercising and relaxing. And for me, these are all rewards of being efficient with my time.

Over the years I’ve gotten very good at efficiency, so much so that it’s a running joke between people who know me well. No, I don’t have any more hours in a day than anyone else, but I have learned some extremely helpful time saving hacks that may make it seem that way to the outside world. They’re not magical or revolutionary, they simply use common sense that we often stray away from throughout life.

1. Start your day one hour earlier than everyone else

Rise and shine sounds a heck of a lot easier than actually doing it, but getting up early and getting a head start on work is one time saving hack that has made a huge difference in my day. I catch up on all my emails, knock off the easy or reoccurring tasks on my to-do list and prioritize the remaining tasks so I have a game plan of the rest of the day.

Even though it’s only an hour of work, I find that my clear and focused mental state in the morning, combined with the silence of everyone else sleeping, allows me to work with incredible efficiency. I turn that single hour into half a day’s work sometimes. And for someone who works from home as both an entrepreneur and a mom, knowing I have that uninterrupted hour is a Godsend.

2. Simplify your morning routine

Take a critical look at your morning routine and really think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The first time I did this, I was shocked at how many minutes I was wasting by not structuring my routine properly and by doing things that simply didn’t have any added benefit to the rest of my day.

From little things, like narrowing down the number of health and beauty products I use to the big things, like eliminating my morning commute by working from home, I have become an efficiency machine. If any part of your routine doesn’t help you look better, feel better or keep your household and business running, rethink why you feel the need to make it a part of your day. Habit alone is not an acceptable answer.

3. Block-schedule meetings and errands

Because I do double duty as a mom and a business owner, strategic scheduling is a must. Finding a block of time for a meeting (that doesn’t include my son as a tagalong) can be harder than snagging a dinner reservation at one of the swankiest restaurants in L.A.

One day a week, my husband will work from home and free me up to see clients, attend networking meetings and have some uninterrupted work time. So, I try and fit as much in as I can into these days. What I’ve found is that even without my “mommy duties” as the catalyst for this type of scheduling, planning my meetings and errands in blocks of time is incredibly efficient. When possible, I’ll schedule meetings back to back in the same coffee shop where clients can come to me and I always incorporate stops at the bank or post office while I’m already out.

4. Complete reoccurring tasks in batches

Whether they’re part of running a business or running a household, we always have those reoccurring tasks that need done daily, weekly or monthly. For me, some of these tasks happen to be writing for my blog, paying bills and making baby food. While these are quite a random assortment of tasks, I’ve found they have at least one thing on common – they can be done in batches.

Unless something is especially timely, I write and schedule my blog posts weeks in advance. I often write several posts in a day when I’m feeling particularly creative. For bills that are the same every month, I use the online bill payment feature through my bank to have these checks go out automatically. And for baby food, I have one full-blown cooking and freezing day a month that allows me to mess up and clean up the kitchen just once while enjoying extremely convenient (and cheap!) mealtimes the rest of the month. Identify your own reoccurring tasks and tackle them in quantity. This will save you so much more time than completing them one by one day after day.

5. Set time limits

This time saving technique is pretty straightforward. For those tasks that chronically take up more time than you anticipate, set a reasonable time limit and stick to it. At first, you’ll likely exceed your limit and have to stop for the day, but over time I’ve found that I’ve gotten more efficient because I really want to beat that timer! It also forces me to dive right into a project rather than wasting a half hour or more getting into the “right” mindset.

6. Unsubscribe from emails you don’t want to receive

This is something I started doing a couple of years ago and it’s completely changed the dynamics of my inbox. Any time we purchase anything online, attend an event or hand over our email address in exchange for more information, we can expect to be automatically added to a list serv. Maybe it’s minutes or maybe it’s weeks later, but we can also expect to begin receiving marketing emails.

Unless this is something you are interested in receiving, take the time to unsubscribe! Sure, this requires a few more clicks and maybe even some typing which takes longer than simply hitting delete, but in the long run it will absolutely save you time and preserve the space in your inbox for important messages.

7. Push people to communicate by email

For the majority of scenarios, email communication is a much more concise way to communicate. A phone call, for example, first requires both parties to be available at the same to connect. In today’s fast paced society that is becoming less and less likely. Next, there are the obligatory “How are you’s?” followed by some chit chat. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get straight to the root of the conversation. If the information is complicated or hard to remember, often one person will say “Can you email it to me?” And if you don’t connect on the first try, you might end up playing phone tag and spending even more time dialing in and checking your voicemail.

Do I make a convincing case yet? Whenever possible, I ask people to email me. I’ve also started removing my phone number from business cards so that if people feel the need to call, they can start by first emailing me for my number and I can assess whether it’s truly necessary. This isn’t to overlook the times when phone calls and face-to-face meetings are the better option, but for a hybrid mom, I love that emails can be answered on my time and don’t convey the screeching child that is likely in the background.

8. Learn to say no

People and things will always be vying for pieces of your day; you must become a conscientious keeper of your time. First, get your priorities straight. For me, this is running a business, being with my family, staying connected with friends, exercising and relaxing. For obligations that fall outside of these categories, I carefully consider whether or not they’re worth my time.

Just because someone asks you for a favor or wants to meet to sell you something you don’t need, doesn’t mean you have to say yes. Learn to say no (nicely) and you’ll be amazed with the amount of free time you’ll earn back.

What are some of your own time saving hacks? Share in the comments below and help us all to find a little more free time in our day!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Number One Thing You Must Do Before You Begin Writing

pencil blank paper

There’s a widespread misconception about writing that needs to be cleared up. We read a captivating blog, spot a witty billboard or receive a thought provoking direct mail piece and assume that some very talented writer sat down, opened their mind and let the words flow onto the paper. Done! The perfect content was crafted in a moment of sheer inspiration. Unfortunately this writing fantasy rarely exists in the real world. Instead, inspiration must be paired with strategy and a great deal of pre-planning before fingers ever hit the keyboard.

Oh it’s tempting to dive right in. Feeling a rush of creativity, you figure the smartest thing you can do is to get it all out while you have it. I’ve tried this myself. Still, all I’m really left with is a disorganized doodle of words and phrases that, while they sound great independently, require as much time and editing to string together as if I were to just write a new article from scratch.

I’ve since realized there’s one thing I must always do before I begin writing. I don’t write the introduction, craft a title or pick out a piece of accompanying clip art before I’ve answered just one question…

What effect do I want to produce on my readers?

This is more specific than how it reads, so let me explain a bit further. Every great piece of writing evokes some type of emotion – hope, joy, fear, excitement, doubt, anger, trust, curiosity and the list goes on and on. After pondering this, I promise you that you will analyze what you read the rest of today more critically. And you’ll find that it’s true. Effective content centers on emotion. What you must determine before you begin writing is exactly what emotion from your readers will be of most value to you and the purpose of your writing.

One of the forefathers of professional copywriting, Robert Collier, says it like this. “Before you put pen to paper, before you ring for your stenographer, decide in your own mind what effect you want to produce on your reader — what feeling you must arouse in him.”

Create a Magnetic Headline

Once you’ve selected your desired emotion, every other component of your writing will work to emphasize it. A big one is your title. This should be carefully crafted to be emotionally charged. Aim to create a magnetic headline that readers can’t pass up. Check out the one I chose here, “The Number One Thing You Must Do Before You Begin Writing.” As the reader, this plays to my insecurity of always striving to be a better writer. I wouldn’t dare miss out on learning the one thing I “must” do before I write. It evokes an emotion that is strong enough to drive me to read on. This leads to another important point…

Select the Strongest Emotion

You want to choose the strongest (relevant) emotion that will make your readers act. My example of insecurity is a powerful emotion that identifies a reader’s weakness and leads them to seek a solution – which your writing should provide. Less influential emotions like empathy or contentment won’t create the same urgency for action. If using a negative emotion, you must make your readers feel uncomfortable enough to want to change something. If using a positive emotion, you must tempt readers with a benefit so life-changing that they can’t pass it up.

Avoid Scare Tactics

Emotions lead us to act, but if too strong, can also turn us off. What may appear to be just words on paper actually hold the power to draw us in to a new reality (talk to any Harry Potter fan), so use with care. When selecting a strong emotion, don’t overly dramatize your writing. Scare tactics and overwhelming sadness can make readers uncomfortable enough not that they’ll act to resolve the emotion, but that they’ll shut down and tune out. One classic example of this in video form is the ASPCA’s “Arms of the Angel” commercial. It’s been spoofed many times over because I don’t think anyone can watch the whole thing without turning it off or crying so hard you can’t see the phone number to call to make a donation. While it certainly evokes a strong emotion, it’s overpowering to the point of becoming less effective than some of their newer, toned-down commercials you’ll see on TV now.

Remember, when it comes to incorporating emotions in your writing, a little goes a long way. First select the strongest, most relevant emotion that will compliment and promote your message. Then, center all other aspects of your writing, like creating a magnetic headline, on this emotion. The end result will be content that is organized, creative and effective – from start to finish!

How do you determine the effect you want to produce on your reader before you begin writing? Share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dealing with the Pain Points: The right way to identify your customers’ needs

pain pointsIn my line of work, I’m often brought on board to deal with pain. Let me clarify this a bit further. I help my clients identify the pain points of their business as it pertains to communication. I also help them identify the pain points of their target audience so we know how to better connect with them. And even with years of experience now under my belt, this task has become no easier than the very first time I learned about the abstract concept of pain points – mostly due to the fact that every client is different, and so is their pain.

Uncovering a client or customer’s pain points shouldn’t inflict them with more pain. Which is why we can’t overlook the fact there are right ways – and some very wrong ways – to go about this process. I’m willing to bet many of you have been subjected to the wrong way at least once, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. This is the salesperson who tells YOU what your pain is, before really getting to know you or your needs. This is the business advisor who offers no insight and simply asks you to tell him what your biggest pain points are as he jots them down with a nod and smile.

So what’s the right way to identify your customers’ needs? Here are four snippets of wisdom I’ve compiled after talking with fellow communications professionals and business owners. Across the board, these are the key concepts you need to keep in mind whether you’re identifying your own pain points or the pain points of your target audience.

Make it a discussion

Clients and customers just want to be heard, especially when it comes to understanding their greatest pains. Don’t walk into a meeting with a list of predetermined pain points to sell them. Instead, start a conversation. Get to know more about them, their business and their needs. As the conversation progresses, you’ll gain a better understanding of the pain points they share with fellow businesses in the industry as well as pain points that are completely unique to them.

In an effort to start a discussion, don’t go to the other extreme of making them do all the talking either. Sure, ask questions, but don’t drop a bomb like “What are all your biggest pain points right now?” First, you can’t assume your client even really knows what a pain point is. Second, you’re likely to turn a nice conversation into an interrogation with a loaded question like that. Let them talk and then offer insight. You know, like a dialogue?

Share your experience

Once you’ve started a pleasant discussion and gained a foundation for understanding their needs, it’s time to offer some valuable input. Given things have progressed in the direction you anticipated, you can refer to some information you’ve prepared in advance. For example, this could be a slide or printout of what you have found to be common pain points within their industry – shared by other professionals with whom you’ve worked. Guide them with your experience, but acknowledge and respect the fact that every business is unique and so are their pains.

Peel back the onion

What many perceive to be their pain points is only the first layer. This is where your expertise becomes so valuable! Don’t take what your clients or customers identify as their pain points to be the final answer. Ask more questions to gain a deeper understanding and even challenge some of the points, if you feel necessary. Your goal should be to expand your clients’ understanding of their business’s needs or customers’ pains. You need to be the mirror that allows them to see their blind spots – this is where you add value to the process.

Keep it reasonable

Some strategies aim to amplify pain points and blow them out of proportion. I find that this comes across both dramatic and cheesy – and at the end of the day, makes YOU look less professional. Make your pain points both real and relatable. For example, if you choose to incorporate your pain points on your website, you want them to ask rhetorical questions that almost everyone in your target audience can answer with a resounding “Yes!” They should be general enough to relate to the vast majority of people you’re trying to reach, yet specific enough to still be meaningful. You want your pain points to really strike a chord with your audience, and after they answer these rhetorical questions, make them want to do business with you!

What strategies have you used to identify your own pain points or the pain points of your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The 11 Most Annoying Email Personalities

annoying_email_habits

Proper email etiquette is an acquired skill and one we must actively work to maintain. Communicating with someone who lacks this etiquette can be one of the most frustrating experiences for any professional. A few of your most frequent offenders might be coming to mind right now. You know who they are. They’re the people who never respond, always hit “reply all” or frequently fill your inbox with spam.  Simply put, they make communication far more complicated than it needs to be.

From my experience, I’ve identified 11 personalities of poor email etiquette. Some stem from ignorance while others stem from defiance. No matter the origin of the personality, they all produce a similar aggravation when it comes time to communicate with them. How many of these sound frustratingly familiar?

The black hole

You may as well be sending your message in to outer space. No matter how many times and ways you follow-up, you never receive a response. Ever. I mean, why even have an email account?

The never BCC

Blind-closed-copying (BCC) is a glorious tool that allows people to send a message to the masses, without disclosing everyone’s email address to each other. That is, until it is misused. Such as when you get included in a long email chain with people you don’t know – and don’t really want to have your email address. Which leads to…

The reply all

Inevitably the “never BCC” offender brings about the “reply all” guy who copies the entire email list on a response that is only relevant to the sender…or no one at all. Most of us know this disastrous scenario. The reply all email responses keep coming days, even weeks later and not one of them ever really relevant to anyone more than the sender (yeah, the “never BCC” guy).

The reply one

In selective instances where you actually want people to reply all, like when you’re trying to introduce two people or have them work together, one person only ever replies to you. This means you have to constantly forward to the rest of the group so that they’re aware of the response.

The forward with no explanation

This is the person who forwards a message to you with no additional details and it’s not overly apparent as to what’s expected of you. Do you need to respond? Is this just FYI? Forwarding an email takes no effort, at least grant us with a small explanation so we don’t have to send the passive aggressive response, “Is any action needed for this?”

The single word response

You’ll send a long email with various topics requiring some thought and explanation in return, yet this person finds it somehow sufficient to respond simply with “okay” or “yes.” After a while, you’ll try tactics like bolding, highlighting and underlining the exact questions you need answered in detail – but I promise you, even with all that effort, they’re only ever going to tell you that it’s “okay.”

The stream of conscious

These email messages tend to read like a terribly written monologue. They include every thought that pops into the person’s head during his time writing, sometimes even including strange and irrelevant details like what he ate for lunch or that he has to walk the dog tonight. You’ll wholeheartedly wish it was acceptable to respond with “Can you just boil this down into an executive summary for me?”

The spammer

This person clutters your inbox with non-work related emails, sharing those forwarded messages that contain corny jokes, awkward gifs and links to download a video you just “have to see to believe.” Not everyone thinks that video of a dancing cat is hilarious – or deserving of 5 minutes of your busy work day. If only the government would also mandate a required unsubscribe option for these people as well.

The hit and run

This is the person who, for a while, will answer your messages quickly and with enthusiasm. Then, he goes completely AWOL. What changed? What did I do? I get it. Everyone can get swamped with work for a few days or be out traveling. Still, such a drastic 180 in email communication is as hard to rationalize as it is annoying.

The last word

This person always has to have the last word, even when a response is completely unnecessary. Say, for example, you send an email to coordinate a time to meet. Once you decide on a place and time, it’s perfectly acceptable to close the conversation there. Instead “the last word” guy will always shoot back a final email to whatever you say even if it’s merely repeating your exact message. If you have the time and patience, you could really have some fun just to see how many of the same responses you can get from “the last word” guy.

The selective responder

This email personality is most frustrating when you have several important questions for which you need answers. You clearly outline each one (maybe even with numbers or bullet points), yet “the selective responder” will reply with only a fraction of the requested information, offering no acknowledgement of or explanation for the outstanding questions that remain. Inevitably, you reply again (and again) with a narrowed down list of questions until you get all your answers. You may as well be a dentist pulling teeth.

The better late than never

Finally, there’s this wild card. The “better late than never” guy will finally respond to an email you sent months ago without acknowledging the fact half a year has gone by or offering an explanation as to why it took so long. Even odder, this email personality doesn’t seem to realize that his response has little to no value now as you’ve had to move on and find your information elsewhere.

What type of annoying email personalities do you most often encounter? Do you have some more that should be added to this list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Make Your Business Strategy a Mile Deep and a Foot Wide

mile deep foot wideYou can’t scroll through your social media news feed without coming across an article, video or photo that has gone viral. And don’t forget about the sponsored posts that force us to consume information all because Facebook says it fits our demographic. This communication overload can lead us to believe that we must utilize every marketing strategy out there in order to grab the attention of potential clients or customers.

This goes against the longstanding wisdom to be “a mile deep a foot wide.” And by that I mean – be selective about where you dedicate your time and money and choose only the strategies that best fit your goals and audience.

Instead, I’ve been seeing a growing trend where business owners spread their time and budget thin by trying to do it all. While an effective communications strategy requires a variety of tactics, it also requires you to be selective with your tactics and then focus your full attention on doing them exceptionally well.

So why should you rethink your complicated and scattered communications, marketing, advertising or business strategy? Here are four key reasons why being a mile deep and a foot wide will better serve your business and your bottom line.

You’ll be able to devote more resources to what makes the greatest impact.

When you try to do it all, you can’t provide each task with the time and attention it needs to produce the best results. So often, I’ve seen business owners throw their hands up as to why – with all that they are doing – nothing seems to be making a difference. Instead of stopping to take a look at the chaos and disorganization of their strategy, they try and do more.  And so the downward spiral continues.

The only solution is to stop, breathe and take a critical look at where you’re devoting your resources. If the depth of your tactics is not yet a mile deep, your breadth should be no more than a foot wide. More simply put, first master the tactics that are producing the greatest results before adding in anything additional. Once you’ve found a good pace and are happy with your ROI, you can slowly explore with more variables.

You’ll be able to more easily identify what’s working.

If you begin your communications efforts with a massive strategy right out of the gate, it’s going to be difficult to identify exactly what tactic is helping you reach your goals. Changing everything at once will only add more confusion as to what’s really working – and what isn’t.

Instead, the “doing less, but doing it well” approach will allow you to more easily identify what each tactic is accomplishing as you slowly add them in one by one. If your web hits skyrocket over one quarter’s time and the only thing you changed was adding in a monthly e-blast, you can likely credit this as the catalyst.

Every strategy does not apply to every business.

When I help businesses to develop a comprehensive communications strategy, I’ve found that this is often misdirected with the desire to do everything they’ve ever seen another business do. I see innovative marketing techniques around me every day, but I know that only a fraction of these would work well for my business. The same is true for any business. Not every strategy is necessary, nor effective, for helping you reach your specific goals.

Business owners take note, you must consider many factors that make your business unique (i.e. industry, size, target customers, location) when selecting the tactics to best serve your business.  While you might be inspired by the multi-million dollar grassroots campaign of a powerhouse brand, this is not likely the most feasible or effective strategy to help you reach your specific audience.

You’ll preserve your sanity.

Finally, your ability to embrace a “mile deep and a foot wide” mindset will remove the stress and frustration caused by wasting your resources on a cluttered and misdirected communications strategy. Don’t you want to do everything to the best of your ability? Trying to do it all won’t allow you to meet this standard. Instead, narrow the breadth of your tactics and focus on their depth. Produce quality and consistent messaging that helps to build a loyal and attentive audience.

Do you practice the “mile deep and a foot wide” philosophy? Why or why not? Share your thoughts!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Blogging Has Built My Business

building blocksWhen I first began blogging in June of 2011, it was an experiment. Publishing my first post didn’t feel much different than writing in a Word doc. I had zero subscribers and only a measly three or four people randomly stumbled on my blog each day. I wanted to learn how to be an effective blogger for my clients. To do so, I first had to become an effective blogger for myself. The blogging experiment far exceeded my expectations and I’m officially hooked. I write passionately for my readership of more than 700 subscribers every Monday morning.

The Bennis Inc blog began as nothing but a blank page, just as most things in life do. But it grew – and so did my business. Sure, time alone can cause growth, but I venture to say that it took more than just time. It took regular upkeep, vision and a willingness to put my thoughts out there for all the world to see. As awkward as that felt in the beginning, almost 150 blog posts later and it couldn’t feel more natural.

The best side effect of this blogging experiment was how it built my business and defined my personal brand. I’m still amazed to talk to a new acquaintance who mentions a recent post they read or to look at the stats and see the various search terms that led people to my blog. Whether you’re a fellow blogger (novice or expert) or an intrigued reader, here are the key ways in which blogging has built my business – and has the power to build yours as well.

It’s an icebreaker

My blog provides a great reason to start a conversation. Whether it’s in a business meeting or a quick run-in at the coffee shop, telling me, “Oh by the way, I read your blog,” has replaced the obligatory conversation about the weather. It has also given people a reason to reach out to me with a professional question or to explore the services I offer. If I was just a name on a web site, people may not feel this same connection or be motivated to start a conversation. This is a pleasant reminder that the time I spend putting my thoughts into words is worth something.  It’s cultivating an audience, opening doors and inspiring people enough to want to tell me about it.

It reaches further than you might imagine

My blog has opened up an avenue for communication with people from all across the world. When looking at the stats, it’s exciting to see how many different countries are lit up on the map. Even more fulfilling than just numbers and statistics is the meaningful interactions with people via comments and emails. The reach of my blog has helped to grow my business on a more local level as well. Within my local network, I’m impressed by how many people I know (and look up to) read it on the regular. I would never have imagined they had the interest or free time, but they do. This has helped to build my credibility as a writer and entrepreneur.

It’s a living portfolio

I’ve often referred to a blog as a living portfolio of your work. When a client asks to see examples of my writing, I can simply send them to my blog where they can choose from a variety of topics to really get a feel for my style. This is much easier and more genuine than putting together a dull document of writing samples. They can also see the interactions with my readers which demonstrates my ability to grow an audience. My blog has become a valuable asset to my proposal process and I believe has helped to win me some work as well.

It strengthens your SEO and your personal brand

The final and most powerful way I feel my blog has helped to build my business is by strengthening my SEO and personal brand. Adding fresh and high quality content to your blog and appropriately tagging each post is one the best ways to increase your search engine optimization. I choose to host my blog on WordPress (as oppose to my web site) because of its added SEO power. Many readers have found my blog by browsing WordPress’s categories.

My blog has also strengthened my personal brand by showcasing the “human element” of Bennis Inc – me! While my business is all about Public Relations, I choose to make my blog much more personal with many articles on the struggle of entrepreneurship, life balance and unconventional wisdom. My blog shines a spotlight on the “Twenty-Something Entrepreneur” that I’ve become.

There you have it – all the compelling reasons you could need to be inspired to create or grow your own blog! The most important thing to remember is that once you start, don’t stop. Keep writing and posting regular content. Think of your blog as a hungry little monster. It needs food to keep it growing and that’s what your posts will be, food for your blog and fuel for search engines to pull new readers to your site.

Finally, here are some tips for successful blogging to get you start. Go forth and blog!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Repair a Broken Business Relationship

bridge repairsA while back I wrote the blog Revealing Character Through Communication where I examined the issue of unprofessional communication. This topic sparked a lot of discussion and ultimately begged this question, “When unprofessional communication damages a relationship, how do you go about fixing it?” Whether this is a question you’re used to facing head on or one you’d rather avoid at any cost, I’ve found several key steps that help to quickly resolve this uncomfortable situation. For this week’s blog, I hope to close the loop on the topic of unprofessional communication and give you a working blueprint for how you can appropriately address a strained business relationship.

Look for the signs

A broken relationship can center on a single event, but most commonly it is compounded by several other events that aggravate the negative feelings even further. Be aware of the early signs of a strained relationship. Look for changes in communication, tone or willingness to help. These are all red flags that something has changed. The sooner you can address the breakdown in communication, the more likely the relationship is to fully recover. Some signs are quite obvious and if this is the case, consider yourself lucky.  Other signs present themselves passive aggressively and require a keener sense to identify. For example, a lag in response time, short answers or an overly negative tone are passive aggressive signs of strained business communication. If any of these signs persist for a period of time or cannot be explained by another life event, it’s time to address the situation.

Acknowledge that something is wrong

The next step is to face the problem head on. You must clearly address your concern with the person in a professional and non-accusatory way. If you’re not sure of what event could have initiated the breakdown in communication, begin with a question to break the ice. “Did I do or say something to upset you?” On the other hand, if you are aware of the event that strained the relationship, address this with a direct statement. “I realize that the last time we spoke I may have come across ungrateful for your work.” In either case, be sure what you’re saying is sincere. Even the slightest hint of sarcasm or aggression can sour the best intentions. Once you’ve acknowledged the breakdown, the next step is to take action.

Choose to terminate or repair

This step is a critical one. Most often our instinct is to patch up a damaged relationship as quickly as possible. In many cases this is the right course of action; however, it’s important to be open to the fact that a relationship may not be worth repairing. There are many factors to consider, among the most important are how much do you value this relationship and is it essential to the success of your business. If you determine that this is a relationship you must repair, move forward immediately by first offering an apology and then taking the appropriate actions to right the wrongs.

Don’t walk on eggshells

Once you establish a resolution and begin to move forward, don’t allow the awkwardness that was once there to linger. The best way to dissolve any residual feelings of hurt is to treat the situation normally again. Don’t walk on eggshells around each other as this will only draw more attention to the negative situation that has since been resolved. Instead, treat each other kindly just as you would anyone else – no more, no less.

Have you ever had to repair a broken business relationship? What were some key steps you took to accomplish this professionally? Share your opinion and questions by commenting below!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Finding Happiness Throughout Every Stage of Life

happyAs a young business owner, I sometimes catch myself wishing away the present moment for a milestone in the future in which I think things will be happier, easier, more successful or less stressful. I’m just beginning my career, so there is a lot of time ahead of me before I can even think about slowing down or planning for retirement. The span of time between now and then will define most of what I’ll remember as being my life. When put into this perspective, I immediately regret any time that I wished away the work week to get to the weekend. If I continued to live my life only enjoying 2 out of every 7 days, I will enjoy only a fraction of the time I’ve been given! I don’t feel alone in this mindset; in fact I know I’m not. To be truly content, we need to learn to find happiness throughout every stage of life. There’s no reason that the joy we feel on Christmas or the first day of vacation can’t be felt each and every day.

The Problem: Deferring Happiness

Whether we know we’re doing it or not, we often defer our happiness for a point in the future when everything will be perfect. Do either of these phrases sound familiar? “I just want it to be the weekend so I can relax!” or “Once I get that promotion, I’ll finally treat myself to an overdue vacation.” We should find relaxation and enjoyment every day, not just on special days. This is deferring happiness.

The problem with deferring happiness is that we don’t allow ourselves to be truly content until we reach a fictitious and self-imposed target – a target that is always moving. There are enough variables in life that this “perfect situation” we’re waiting for will likely never happen. If we continue to deny ourselves the ability to be happy right now, then we will live the majority of our lives rushing through the present for a future that is always out of reach.

The Solution: Practicing “Nowness”

Pause for a moment and reflect on the thoughts that normally fill your mind. If you’re like most, these thoughts are either projections into the future or memories from the past. It’s rare that we really stop and focus on the exact moment in which we’re living and take in the experience of the “now.” It’s hard. The present is not always exciting. In fact, much of it is a well-memorized routine and so it’s easy to go into autopilot. But to be truly happy throughout every stage of life, we must practice “nowness” and learn to find contentment each and every day.

So how do we break the bad habit of deferring happiness and get into the new habit of practicing nowness? Here are just a few ways in which you can take the first step:

Stop using the phrase, “Once I retire I will…” There’s no reason you must reserve these enjoyments for retirement. With moderation and a little planning, things like traveling to a foreign country, pursuing a hobby or just taking a nap from time to time can all be woven into our lives right now. Plus, once you reach retirement age, things like skydiving, climbing Mt. Everest and salsa dancing might not be as feasible to you as they are right now.

Put a sign on your desk, mirror or refrigerator to remind you that right now is the best moment of your life—or at least it can be if you have the right mindset. This small reminder will make a big impact on your mood and remind you of everything you have to be happy about right now.

If you find yourself fantasizing about a future moment in which you’ll finally be happy, stop and make yourself think of at least one thing you’re happy about right now. Even on the dullest of days you can still be happy about good health, a delicious lunch, a visit from a friend or feeling accomplished at work. An upcoming vacation, holiday or career change are all reasons to look to the future for happiness, but don’t discount the happiness that surrounds you right now. Learn to celebrate even the smallest things that bring you joy on a daily basis.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Moving Beyond the Time Sheet: Making Efficiency Part of Your Pricing

mowing lawnSeveral months ago I wrote about how to be smart and fair when pricing your services. This is a critical area for any business and also one which can be the most challenging. It’s hard to put a price on passion. We risk either under valuing our services or becoming too-consumed with our work and pricing ourselves too high. Even after we have developed a consistent method for setting an hourly rate and accurately predicting the hours involved for any given project, we’re still faced with the double-edge sword of efficiency. To better illustrate my points, let me offer this analogy:

Say you want to pay someone to mow your grass. Your yard provides a well-defined scope and size for a project, yet several mowing companies provide you with very different pricing. Why? The difference between each company’s tools, experience and efficiency all play a role in the variables of their rate. One mowing company may only have access to a push mower and so they have to account for an employee taking 4-6 hours to complete the work. Another company may have equipment with all the bells and whistles requiring just 20 minutes to complete the project, but they must recoup the cost of the capital for this equipment. The second mowing company may spend far less time on your yard, but they can’t (and likely won’t) charge you just for 20 minutes of work. There’s the factor of efficiency which also has a price.

As business owners we should strive to become efficient with our work, but we shouldn’t then penalize ourselves for this skill. Although our ability to complete a project in less time means technically less billing hours, we need to keep in mind that there’s much more to pricing services than just our time. Take a look at the following three pillars of pricing that move beyond the time sheet and are worth considering when pricing your services. These may also help you understand why other companies price their services the way they do:

Scope of project

The size (or scope) of a project plays a large role in pricing, but not the only role. Businesses shouldn’t price a project based upon time alone. There should always be built-in motivation to be efficient with both time and resources and to not take advantage of a time sheet. I’ve moved as far from time sheets as I can because it penalizes my efficiency while leaving clients with an unknown variable of cost for my work. I prefer to quote a project in full based upon its scope and then I stick to this price, regardless of hours spent on the project, unless the scope should substantially change. Whether this works out to be my client’s benefit or my own, it ensures I work efficiently which most often results in completing projects well before deadline.

Cost of capital

A business invests a great deal of capital into their tools, resources and talent that allow them to provide optimum service. While a particular project may take an efficient business less time to complete because of these tools, there’s a cost to that investment that also must be taken into account when pricing services. Most commonly I see this in printing services. The cost of professional printing equipment is expensive! So while it may take mere minutes to print off a 5,000 piece mailer, when before it would take hours, the bigger and better copier required an initial investment from the company. I wouldn’t expect this printing company to charge for just 20 minutes of work when resources, much more than time, were the real expense.

Paying for professionalism

Finally, there is the cost of professionalism. If you want a service done right the first time, it’s worth paying a higher price to work with a business with a great reputation and track record for producing results. Sure, it can be tempting to go for the lowest price possible, but most of us have also experienced the repercussions of such temptation. In the long-term it’s often worth investing a little more to get exactly what you want the first time. Your time is also valuable and so the less time you spend fixing errors, or micro-managing projects the more time you can invest back into growing your business. When pricing your services, the point is very similar – don’t compete on price alone. Offer clients value, professionalism and high-quality service along with a price you feel is fair.

How do you currently price your services? Do you reward yourself for efficiency or penalize yourself? This is a critical question worth giving some thought – especially because it could save you hours of work and a lot of profit in the long-term. Weigh in on this topic by leaving your comments below!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A No Is As Good As a Yes

yes or no signThink for a moment how many questions you ask in a single day. There are the simple questions like asking your child what they’d like for breakfast or asking your spouse what time they’ll be home from work. There are then the more complex questions like asking your boss to clarify your responsibilities on a project or asking a potential client if they’d like to move forward with your services. For simple questions, an answer is usually easy to obtain. But for the more complex and sometimes controversial questions, a quick and straightforward answer is harder to extract.

Anyone who has asked enough questions knows exactly what I’m talking about. So often we avoid providing someone with an answer because we think it will upset them or strain our relationship. The interesting reality is that the lack of an answer is more frustrating, and potentially more damaging, than providing a yes or no because it demonstrates a lack of respect for someone’s time.

In business, I often compare waiting for an answer to being in progress purgatory. It’s terrible to have your hands tied and be forced to bring work to a halt while you wait for a response from a client or co-worker. There are certainly instances where a delayed response is understandable. Life has been known to throw curve balls. But when an answer can be provided, it should be provided—as quickly and clearly as possible. Otherwise you may be costing someone else their time and energy as they wait for an answer and put effort into following-up.

I’m sure we can all bring a few examples to mind, maybe even one we’re dealing with right now. It’s that email that hasn’t been answered in over a week or that voice mail message that’s still waiting on a call back. It shows a lack of respect for someone else’s time when such questions or requests go unanswered and it can all be avoided with some simple communication. Immediate responses aren’t always possible or expected, but even when you can’t provide a response, you can provide the communication that you are seeking one. I know I always appreciate a message acknowledging my question and letting me know when to expect follow-up.

The bottom line is that you’re not doing anyone any favors by leaving them hanging. If the answer you have isn’t the one they’d prefer, you likely still have a good reason for choosing that answer. Explain this reasoning as simply as possible and give them the answer straight-up. Even if you can’t give someone the response they want, you can at least give them the ability to move forward and seek a different solution or opportunity. And at the end of the day, that’s a lot better than being stuck in progress purgatory!

Do you agree that a no is as good as a yes compared to not receiving an answer at all? What role in this scenario do you usually play—the one waiting for the response or the one evading the response? Share your insights and input by commenting below!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 858 other followers

%d bloggers like this: