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Tag Archives: Stephanie Bennis

Why We Need Rainy Days

cat looking at rainy window

It has been a gorgeous summer in Pennsylvania. After a long and cold winter, we have earned these warm and sunny days – and there have been many! A couple of weeks ago I had some (rare) free time during a Sunday afternoon. My first instinct was to find something to do outside that would allow me to enjoy the day; however, the skies were ominous with a pending thundershower. As I stood by the window, I took a deep breath and felt a wave of relief wash over me. What an odd reaction to have to a dismal day? No, I didn’t feel sad, depressed, frustrated or annoyed. I felt relieved.

Reflecting on this feeling and the circumstances of the day made me realize something quite important. We all need rainy days in our life. Obviously the rain nourishes and revitalizes the earth, but it does the same for us.

My relief came from not feeling like I had to find something to do make the most of the nice weather. I had an excuse to be inside – and to just slow down for a little bit. On this particular afternoon, I watched a movie from start to finish (a nearly impossible feat for a mother of a toddler). That’s it. That’s all I accomplished and had nothing to show for it. Or did I? I felt focused, rested and happy. It’s the first time in a long time that I turned off all other distractions and was fully present in the moment. I can’t remember the last time I did this, can you?

On a sunny day, I feel like I need to be outside walking, running or at the park with Holden. I feel guilty making him play inside when I know all too soon winter weather will come rolling in and we’ll be locked up for months. Even when we’re inside during naptime, the blue skies inspire me to tackle work projects and chores at a dizzying pace. In the afternoon we’re on the go again, running errands or back to the park. And after dinner? You guessed it; we get outside as a family! I’m proud of my active lifestyle that has allowed me to accomplish all that I have, but even hybrid moms need to idle every so often.

On a rainy day, we move slower. There’s no rush to get to the park; it’s not even an option. Naps seem to last a little longer and watching more television than usual is completely acceptable. If errands can wait, they do. Getting toddler in and out of a car seat is even more of a miserable chore when rain is pounding on your back. Maybe best of all, without the sun shining through the windows, I don’t notice the little finger prints that should be cleaned off as well as every other surface you can imagine. It all waits and we rest.

I don’t take for granted that the “sunny” days, when I feel energized and productive, will always be around – so I make the most of them! But I no longer dread the “rainy” days that serve an equally important purpose. These days revitalize my soul and force me to slow down long enough to appreciate the need for balance. The weather is a funny thing; somehow it knows exactly what we need even when we do not.

What purpose do rainy days serve for you? Share how you have found balance in your daily life!

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Life

 

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Twas Two Days Before Christmas…

Twas Two Days Before Christmas

(A fun twist on a familiar favorite)

Twas two days before Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

Miss Pinot was nestled all snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my sleepy, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly matters?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays relaxing as I’ve done mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

whimsical christmas tree

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Life

 

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When In Doubt, Take the Next Small Step

small stepIn business and in life, being faced with different choices can be an overwhelming and paralyzing situation. We always want to make the “right” choice, the one that we can look back on years later and know we wouldn’t change a thing. But rarely are we afforded the benefit of hindsight. In a recent conversation with a client, I was discussing how difficult it can be to make decisions as a business owner. With the weight of the world on our shoulders, we worry that one poor choice can bring it all tumbling down. We are often forced to make decisions on limited time and limited information because if we took the time to fully outline every option, we would never move forward with anything. Therefore, one of the greatest accomplishments of any business owner is to empower yourself with the confidence to make decisions and stand behind whatever the outcome. When in doubt, take the next small step. You don’t have to act radically or nonsensically, but you must still move forward. Especially when you’re not sure of your footing, the best option is to simply take a single step in one definite direction. This is some of the best advice I’ve ever received. It’s obviously applicable to an entrepreneur, but I believe we can also apply it to all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.  

In Business

I have written passionately about my experience as an entrepreneur and I advocate for other entrepreneurial hopefuls to “take the leap.” But with this major life decision, I must caution that you should still do it with some rationale. When I was confronted with the ultimate decision to either stay in my current job or turn my part time passion into my full time career, it was done as an initial small step that has since turned into a major life change. I began by first incorporating my business. Not only did this make my side work feel more legitimate, it was also a sound investment that has since saved me a lot of money (and headaches) on taxes. This started things rolling in the right direction. My next step was securing enough clients that I knew I could cover my bills. And the next step was the big one – resigning from my 9-5 for a life as an entrepreneur. When broken down, these were all single steps that turned into quite an amazing journey. Even now when I’m faced with wanting to make a change in my business, I pause, breath and identify the next small step. If I only looked at the big picture, I would easily overwhelm myself with how I get from point A to point B – especially when they appear oceans apart. Instead, move just one step in the direction you know you want to travel and do so with confidence!

In Life

For those of us who aren’t business owners or entrepreneurs, life is stilled filled with countless decisions we must make on a daily basis. Small choices like what to have for dinner or how to spend a free weekend are relatively easy to decide. But bigger decisions like buying a new car, building a house or going on vacation can add unwanted anxiety and unnecessary stress to our lives.  When in doubt, take the next small step. Begin by looking at your finances or researching the top options, but take one step forward! Big decisions shouldn’t be made overnight, but progress can still be made slowly and consistently to help you make a smart choice in the end. By taking small steps, you’re less likely to make a decision due to pressure, frustration or confusion and you’re more likely to enjoy the process and feel confident with the end result. Take a moment to think of a big decision you’ve been avoiding and identify one small step you can take today. It doesn’t need to be the end result, but it should at least put you one step closer!

No matter the scope or size of the decision, we have all encountered obstacles in our effort to move forward. Have you ever had difficulty making decisions? What’s the best advice you can give to become a more decisive person? Share your insight by commenting below!

 
 

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Revealing Character Through Communication

angry person on phoneDuring the steps along my career path, I’ve encountered some truly great communicators who were friendly, organized and a pleasure to work with. As with any balance to life, I have also encountered a memorable few who were quite the opposite – impatient, rude and condescending. I used to take negative communication very personally, wondering what I could have done to make it a more pleasant experience, but have since reconciled that it had little to do with me. I wasn’t giving the person the answer they wanted (maybe I wasn’t the right contact to address their request or maybe it simply couldn’t be done). And because of this, they felt as though they could treat me with less respect or professionalism than someone who could offer them immediate solutions.

I continue to encounter similar styles of communication from time to time and it really grates on me. I believe that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Therefore, these incidences are a reflection of a character flaw that many people may be unaware they exhibit. I’m sure I am not exempt from this – a lapse in my communication may have left someone else feeling brushed off or belittled at one point or another. In an effort to put an end to unprofessional communication, I want to examine the following key points to shed light on why this is such a critical problem:

The importance of always being professional

It’s a small world. We all know the meaning of this phrase as we have likely had the experience of running into contacts again and again through similar circles or completely unrelated circumstances. This is a reminder to me every day that my reputation is my most valuable business asset. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, you can’t afford to burn bridges if you want to be successful in your career. Nothing slows down business growth faster. The importance of always being professional when communicating with customers or vendors is realizing that you may very likely have to deal with them again. Don’t ignore this important lesson! Most of the unprofessional communicators I’ve had to deal with have popped up in my life again, needing information or services from me – often with their tail tucked between their legs.

Identifying the subtle negatives

Sometimes the worst communication experiences are hard to identify because they’re subtle, yet leave you with an overall feeling of hurt, frustration or anger. It may be hard to pinpoint the exact reasons the conversation was so unpleasant, but the feeling it leaves you with is real nonetheless. The subtle negatives I’ve most often identified have involved someone exerting their power or position to make me feel dumb or incorrect about an answer I have provided. Another common subtle negative is someone being bossy or aggressive in their tone and in the type of services they demand. In less subtle situations, I’ve had people outright yell at me, hang up the phone or threaten me in various ways (chalk this up to some good old political campaign experience). Most often negative communication can be identified in someone’s tone and word choice. Even if you have something negative you must communicate – and this does happen – there are various ways to still make it a positive communication experience overall. There’s no excuse.

Letting someone know when they’re being unprofessional

This is a difficult subject to breach. No one wants to directly confront someone else about their attitude or negativity because it can be, well…scary. We’re more willing to put up with the unprofessionalism and belittlement than we are willing to tell someone they’re just being rude. The risk is that we end up looking rude in return or that we anger them even more and the communication further declines. If the negative communication is subtle and you’re not sure if they even know they’re coming across this way, it’s important to handle the situation softly, but directly. Let them know that it’s how they’re making you feel rather than accusing them of being outright mean. No one can argue with how you feel and hopefully even if they don’t want to recognize that their actions are causing this, they will at least be professional enough to make an effort to change. On the other extreme, if someone is being unprofessional to the point of yelling or insulting you, then you must also address this directly, but more firmly. Identify specific examples in which their communication is unacceptable (swearing, yelling and hanging up a phone are never acceptable in my mind) and let them know that you will have to cut off further communication if they can’t approach the situation more professionally. Hopefully such instances are rare, but it’s important to know how to speak up to put and end to it.

They key concept worth taking away from all of this is that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Negativity is never acceptable even if you realize you’re “only” dealing with an office administrator, assistant or intern. Most often, these are the gatekeepers for who you really want to be talking to. As I said before, it’s a small world, so be sure to be kind and professional to everyone you encounter. It truly takes no more (maybe even less) effort than it does to be rude and when the world connects you with them again you’ll be glad you have a friend, not a burnt bridge, to work with.

 

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A Guide to the Modern Press Release

press releaseWith so many newspapers scaling back or going digital, the value and effectiveness of the traditional press release has become a bit of a mystery to us all.  This has left many businesses even more confused as to how they should communicate with the media when they feel they have something important to say. Is the press release still relevant? From my conversations with print and online reporters and other PR professionals, the answer is absolutely yes! But we have to stay in tune to the changes and advancements to news sources that may alter the definition of “a great press release.” Overall, the core essentials have remained the same, yet are so often ignored – even by professionals in the field. In an effort to shed some light on the lost art of press release writing (and to adapt it to the modern art it has become) here is my general guide to writing a solid press release right now.

Modes of communication

Whether you own a fax machine or even know what one looks like, this is still one of the most common and important ways to disseminate your press release. When researching a reporter’s contact information, don’t assume the fax is an outdated system. Some reporters truly prefer receiving news this way, especially if their email inbox functions more like a black hole. The second big mode of communication is indeed email.  I’d suggest using both email and fax whenever possible, and re-sending the email after a day or two with a new subject line for a second (or third) shot at getting noticed.  Make the news relevant to each reporter (do they cover a specific interest?), their target readership and personalize the message whenever possible. Aim to build an ongoing relationship with reporters; don’t just spam them with press releases whenever you want their attention. One great way to do this is to provide them with consistently useful information in a neatly packaged press release. More on that now…

The title

Now that we covered how to get your message out there, we can dig deeper into strategically packaging your news, and of course the title will be the first thing reporters see – and judge. The title should be the most newsworthy element of your press release. While it may be tempting to stick your business’s name or your own name up there right away, this is not likely the information that will catch a reporter’s eye and make him think “my readers need to know this.” For example, Jack Smith’s Auto Shop Merges With Tasty Treats Ice Cream has no immediate relevance to a reporter. A better title might be Two Locally-Owned Businesses Combine Auto Parts, Ice Cream In Unusual Merger. Really? Yes, because the second title spells out why a reporter should care to cover this news– it’s local and it’s unusual. These are two newsworthy elements that always attract readers’ attention. The reporter will likely change the title any way for their story, so don’t worry about writing for the masses. You just need to get the attention of one person – the reporter. This is your three-second “elevator pitch” and it has to cut to the chase. You are trying to sell to the reporter; the reporter is trying to sell to the reader. Remember that.

The critical first paragraph

Once you make it past the title, there is still another part of the press release that is of paramount importance for determining whether it lands on a reporter’s desk or in a trash can. It’s the first paragraph. I was taught that the first paragraph of a press release should never exceed two sentences. These can be long sentences, but two sentences is the rule of thumb. I doubt any reporter would see three periods in a first paragraph and toss a press release out solely based on this, but sticking to this rule does get you to get to the point – fast. The first of these two sentences should be the quick attention-getter and the second should be the single sentence that summarizes the key points of the entire press release. Sound like that’s asking a lot? The first paragraph is never easy. It may be the most time you spend on putting together two sentences and it should be. This is a critical component that far too many people gloss over. You may have heard that a press release (and any news story) should be written like an upside down pyramid, with the most newsworthy information on top, working down to the least newsworthy. With this analogy, you want to be sure the biggest part of your pyramid, the first paragraph, is built rock solid.

What’s in it for…everyone else?

Once you’ve made it past the title and the first paragraph, you’re ready to dive into all the other details of your press release. But this doesn’t give you a free pass to ramble on about unrelated, non-newsworthy tidbits. Throughout all of your writing, you need to keep a single question in mind. “What’s in it for everyone else?” Write this on a sticky note, the top of your word document or your cat if you need to, but don’t lose sight of this direction! Every paragraph in your press release should have an easily identifiable WIFM (what’s in it for me?) element – with “me” being the reporter/reader. It’s easy to see what you’d be getting out of a press release that’s picked up for a news story…free press! Don’t spend too much time tooting your own horn in the content. Instead focus on why anyone else should care about what you have to say. How will they be personally affected by this news? How will they benefit having read this?

Formatting a reporter will appreciate

Reporters and journalists adhere to Associated Press (AP) Style when formatting their news stories. For Public Relations professionals, it’s an industry-best practice to write press releases in this same style to keep all formatting the same. It also adds to your credibility. Everything from when to abbreviate a city, how to format dates and time, when to capitalize professional titles and more and more and more can be found in the AP Style Book! It was a handbook I bought early on in college and still have to this day (dog-eared pages and all). Resources to help you with AP Style questions can be found all across the web. Here’s the main web page. If you think you’ll be referring to this often, I’d suggest buying a copy. It’s far too much information to ever fully commit to memory, so having a copy on hand makes life, and press release writing, a lot easier.

Common mistakes and missed opportunities

Keep it to one page – It would take a compelling news story or announcement to convince me that more than one page was absolutely needed to cover all the truly newsworthy elements. Reporters can contact you if they’re intrigued enough and want more information. That’s why you provide that information in the header. Two-page press releases seem just as obnoxious as two-page resumes. Save something for the interview!

Quotes – Quotes are a key way to say something you would otherwise just write into the press release, while calling out a specific person of importance and breaking up the content. Quotes coming from you or your client can be easily molded to say exactly what you want them to say. Just make sure you format them correctly according to AP Style!

Make use of the subtitle – This is the sentence that appears directly below the title (and before the first paragraph). It is a great opportunity to explain the title a bit further as well as include a link to your web site, if relevant. By utilizing this part of the press release, you’re less tempted to weigh your title down with too many words.

Include a boiler plate – The boiler plate is that final paragraph that appears right before the “###” which signals the end of the press release. It’s a paragraph which can stand all on its own and usually summarizes the business or organization. Instead of trying to shove this same information into the body of the press release where it may not belong, the boiler plate provides a separate and organized space to highlight the core facts about your business at the very end.

One final thought on adapting to technology…

Video news releases (VNRs) are changing the way many reporters view traditional words-only press releases. I’m not entirely convinced that VNRs will take over the market anytime soon and so I suggest sticking with the written press release, but adding in b-roll footage, video clips and photos whenever available. Especially for online news sources, the more photos and videos that accompany a story, the more enticing it is to feature it. As readers, when we surf the web we’re drawn to images. Stories that include images are that much more attractive to news sites. It’s all about the web hits and readership!

What I thought would be a quick glimpse into writing a great press release has become a lengthier guide than I anticipated. I still have so much more information I could include here, but will save that for another time. Until then, please share your own experiences and expertise on writing press releases. Is there something I missed? Something you disagree with? Or something you’ve found to be particularly effective? Please share by commenting below!

 
 

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Blogging For Broke: The Value of Blogging Outside of Income

empty-pocketsI first began the Bennis Inc blog in July of 2011 and since then I’m proud (and amazed) to say it has earned over 37,000 hits, 1,000 comments, 614 loyal subscribers and many, many more readers and supporters. Thank you! Even if this is your first time stopping by, you’re contributing to something that has grown into my passion among other things. I often get questions from fellow bloggers, entrepreneurs and friends who want to know the best way to monetize a blog. I usually stare at them blankly and respond with, “I never thought of that.” Well, that’s not completely true – I have wished that I could find the magic bullet to turn my blog into a big money maker where all I have to do is write and rake in the dough. However, I know enough to realize that this is not even close to the common scenario for so many blogs out there, and it’s not really my goal for blogging to begin with. Instead, I choose to feed the hungry Bennis Inc blog with weekly ramblings about the unpaved road of entrepreneurship for reasons that are not directly fueled by money. That’s right, I’m blogging for broke and I’m perfectly OK with that. The benefits I do receive from blogging are ones that I couldn’t buy if I tried. And so I find it important to share with you – and all fellow bloggers or aspiring bloggers out there– that blogging brings great value completely separate from the monetary kind.

Complete Control

As a business owner you may be the boss inside your own world, but as soon as you offer a service to a client or customer they become your “boss” to an extent. They have the ultimate say over deadlines, scope of the project and final edits. Frankly, there are some days when I just need that feeling of being in control again! My blog is the place I know I can always turn to satisfy this need. I am the boss here. I have the first and final say in what I write about. I tag, categorize and schedule posts exactly as I see fit and there’s no one there to second guess accuracy or style. I imagine this to be similar to the enjoyment an artist gets out of painting for himself every so often rather than for a specific client. The final masterpiece is all your own and whether you display it to the world or keep it all to yourself – that’s your decision to make.

A Means For Progress – When All Else Stands Still

I can’t be alone when I say that I enjoy progress. I hate hold-ups and stand-stills. In fact, this was one of the main motivating factors as to why I left my former job and ventured out on my own to begin with. While my projects progress at a much quicker rate than they did before I owned Bennis, Inc, I am still at the mercy of my clients if I’m waiting on feedback or critical information to move forward. There are some days when I have a million balls in the air, yet my hands are oddly idle because of clogs in progress. I refer to this state as the calm before the storm or being stuck in the eye of the hurricane. At any moment I could have an inbox full of emails come in fill my day up instantly. So what do I do when I’m waiting on a stand-still? I turn to my blog. It allows me to feel accomplished and to get the immediate gratification of taking something from conception to completion. It’s literally how I keep my hands busy whenever I need something to do.

A Living Portfolio

My blog is my journal and my canvas. It’s where I direct my extra creativity when it’s not fully exhausted on client projects. Every so often I enjoy looking back to some of my first posts, not just to see how far my writing has progressed, but to catch a glimpse into exactly what I was thinking months and years ago. I can remember the most pressing issues in my life at that time and briefly relive them through my writing. It’s a living portfolio not just of my work, but of my life. Better yet is when a client asks to see my writing samples, I can easily direct them to my blog where they have a full array of topics and styles to choose from to really immerse themselves in the level of writing I can produce.

People Really Get To Know You

The final and possibly greatest benefit to my blogging is how many people it reaches without my ever knowing. My day is instantly made when someone mentions a recent post in conversation and I had no idea they ever read my blog before. I have friends and family members also tell me about acquaintances who read my blog on the regular. Many of these are people I have yet to meet! From such experiences I’ve found that my blog allows people to get to know me for more than just my business, but as a person. It’s that “human element” I so often advocate for businesses to tap into. When someone feels like they have insight and understanding as to what makes you tick, they are more likely to trust you – and eventually hire you when your services align with their needs. Social media allows people from all over the world to feel like they really know each other even if they’ve never met or spoken in person. Blogging is a powerful means for creating such peripheral relationships.

If you’re stopping by as a reader, but have been curious about starting your own blog, I hope this gives you some inspiration to take that next step forward (here’s some information you might find helpful). Who knows what passion it could unlock within you? If you’re a fellow blogger, I hope you’ll take just a moment to comment with the benefits you receive from blogging and consider sharing this with your community as well.

 

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The Things I Would Never Know Without Facebook

facebook loginFacebook – what was life ever like before this social networking phenomenon? Old flames and friendships have been rekindled, businesses have taken off and tanked and jobs have been found and lost all as a result of our publicly displayed interactions on this single web site. With more than 750,000,000 unique visitors estimated each month, you’re in the minority (at least within modern society) if you’ve chosen to stand strong and quit or resist the temptation of joining Facebook. Because of the nature of my business and my own curiosity with other people’s lives, I don’t think I’ll ever join the ranks of Facebook protestors, just as I don’t anticipate becoming Mennonite anytime soon. However, just entertaining this idea did lead me to ponder what would I be missing if I deleted Facebook and disconnected from the world of “likes” and “status updates.” What would I never know if it wasn’t for Facebook? So here is my comical, but insightful list of the knowledge and resources I’d lack without my daily logins to the world’s most popular social networking site:

Last Names

Without Facebook I’m fairly certain I would know as many of my acquaintances’ last names as I would their phone numbers without my cell phone contact list. Which means I would basically only know the last names of my family members…maybe. Facebook has become my flash card memory game for learning people’s full names and placing them with a face. I’m always proud when I can reference someone by their full name without stuttering or second guessing. What I don’t also reveal is that in addition to knowing their last name, I also likely know what they ate for lunch and the name of their family dog…

Birthdays

What better way to make someone feel special than to remember them on their birthday? Facebook has made this nearly fool proof so long as everyone chooses to list their birthday on their profile. I’m not a supporter of the cheesy and impersonal birthday wishes on someone’s Facebook wall (in fact, I think it’s been years since I’ve done this for anyone), but Facebook does help to prompt me to send them a more personal message or mention it in conversation if I see them that day or week. Is this a cheap shortcut to actually committing birthdays to memory? Absolutely. But I know I always appreciate a birthday wish and rarely accuse someone of only knowing this because of Facebook – particularly if the wish is accompanied by cake or an alcoholic beverage. I’ll take it!

Life Milestones

Even more useful than a birthday reminder is being cued in to the major life milestones of my contacts. Without Facebook I would have to rely on second-hand information or class reunions to tell me about my acquaintances marriages, children, new jobs and even the less happy parts of life. This instant news feed of pictures and posts allows me to stay in the know and offer support or congratulations where warranted. It’s safe to assume that with the volume of “friends” most of us have on Facebook, most people look, but don’t comment on such milestones. However, the pride and excitement we experience from announcing our news to the masses is well worth the couple of haters that might come along with it.

Insignificant and Trivial Facts

Life milestones are one thing – they’re newsworthy, interesting and I’m happy to be kept informed of them. On the flip side, there are far more insignificant and trivial items that are also shared on Facebook that I could manage without ever knowing. When I spend more than 5 minutes of my day reading about someone’s rant over a ref’s bad call, cliché quotes or a self-photo shoot taken in someone’s bathroom mirror – I know that is 5 minutes of my life I will never get back and I need to remove myself from my computer immediately. There’s no denying that Facebook can be a huge time waster, so we have to keep in check what type of information we’re consuming and know when to step away.

How to Reach Someone Without an Email

Back to the more useful elements of Facebook, I’ve found it to be an extremely reliable resource of reaching people who I don’t have an email for. Mostly these are friends or distant relatives, but in some cases Facebook has also helped me to connect with someone regarding something business related. They had a bad email address or were unresponsive, yet answered my Facebook message within minutes. It’s amazing! Without Facebook, my “Plan B” for reaching someone aside from email or phone would be reduced to smoke signals or a carrier pigeon. While both are creative, they yield far less reliable results.

My Husband

I could say I saved this as the last item on my list because it’s my most exciting and most life-changing thing I gained from Facebook, but in reality it’s because I really didn’t appreciate how impactful Facebook has been on my life until I started thinking a bit deeper. It wasn’t quite as awkward or painful as an online dating experience, but the story of how we met is a pretty entertaining one that you can read more about here. My husband Scott and I first connected on Facebook after being introduced by mutual friends. Without a platform for social networking, I’m not sure how we would have followed-up and communicated further since no numbers were initially exchanged. Chances are good that the excitement to see each other again would have faded and that little spark fizzled out. But thanks to Facebook, that wasn’t the case! Our story is far from unique and the accurate number of couples who have connected and ultimately married as a result of Facebook would be hard to quantify.

To wrap up with just a brief moment of shameless self-promotion – for those of you who are among the 750,000,000 monthly visitors to Facebook, you should also connect with Bennis Inc here: Facebook.com/BennisInc. I would love to soon have our number of “likes” reflect the number or loyal readers and followers of the Bennis Inc Blog. Don’t have Facebook? I still want you to connect! Instead, comment below and tell us why you made this choice.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Life, Social Media, Technology

 

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The Most Dangerous Risk of All

THE-MOST-DANGEROUS-RISK-OF-ALLEntrepreneurs are often given the credit for being the risk-takers. We are the ones pictured as taking the leap of faith and throwing our careers and concerns for stability aside to begin something all our own. While there is a great reward in store for those who make it to the other side, this comes at the risk of miscalculating our steps, not making ends meet and losing it all for something that adds up to absolutely nothing. This is a large risk no doubt, but I no longer see this as the most dangerous risk we stand to take in life. The most dangerous risk of all is the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. It’s the risk most of us take every day in our life and in our careers, not by consciously making risky choices, but by subconsciously burying them deep within. It’s not the risk of losing comfort and stability that we should be most scared of, it’s the risk of never knowing anything else.

I used to be one of these dangerous risk takers. I remember thinking that if I could hang in there so many more years I would be able to ensure a stable retirement package. This would have cost me almost a decade more of my life, yet I was willing to look at it as a worthy investment of my time all for the promise of finally being able to do what I really wanted several more decades down the road. I was only 23 yet I was sitting there, in my windowless cubicle, convincing myself that doubling the years of my life with work I felt no passion toward was the smart and stable investment. In retrospect, the “quarter-life crisis” that came on not too many weeks later and seen by some as reckless and arrogant, truly saved my life.

We all have a life that can be saved. This doesn’t mean we need to be to the point of depression or dark thoughts, this simply means we all have years of our life that we are at the risk of misusing with meaningless work unless some inspiration or motivation should force us to see our future one of two ways. If you’re unhappy with where you are right now, whether this is in your personal life or your career, you can take one type of risk which is to change it. With this, you risk being pushed outside your comfort zone, thrown into entrepreneurial survival mode and challenged to explore who you really are and what you’re made of. This is not comfortable nor is it stable. Or you can take another type of risk which is to do absolutely nothing. It may not feel like you’re making an active decision to take such a risk, which is what makes it the most dangerous risk of all. It’s the risk that slowly creeps into our lives disguised as comfort and stability. Only years later can we look back and see that at the risk of keeping these two crutches, we lost years spent living something much more fulfilling.

With so much emphasis placed on retirement as the time in our lives when we can finally do what we actually want, it becomes engrained in us early on that we must work the majority of our lives to fully enjoy it only when we’re old. But what about fully enjoying life while you’re young? This doesn’t come with the recommendation of quitting your job with no plan or living life as an aimless drifter. Much to the contrast, this comes with the recommendation of having a very specific plan that aligns you with making a passionate living and creating an extraordinary life at every age. It means setting goals and taking the initiative to meet them – something that dangerous risk takers don’t do. And it means creating the type of life that you’re excited to live every day, not just when you’re 55 and ½.

While you may not think you embody a real risk taker, just remember that if you’re not willing to risk it all…you already are.

 
 

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Good, Cheap, Fast: The dilemma of providing ideal service

good-cheap-fast signJust a few days ago I was in a local mechanic’s shop and amidst the shelves stacked high with dusty papers and some foreign-looking objects that were likely common knowledge auto parts, there was a simple sign hung on the window that looked into the garage. It read, “We offer three kinds of service: Good – Cheap – Fast. You can pick any two.” After my initial amusement from envisioning an old crotchety man pleased with himself as he hung this sign in his shop, I realized that is the dilemma every business owner faces when trying to offer a customer ideal service. For a laundry list of reasons, my business is very different from this mechanic’s. But when it comes to customer service, this sign accurately summarizes us both.

If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap. “Rush” projects are common in almost every industry. From the mechanic to the Public Relations professional, sometimes some things just cannot wait. Because a rush project can save a client from a terrible inconvenience, loss of potential business or increase their revenue, I certainly accommodate them whenever possible. In fact, one of my main reasons for keeping ahead of my planned projects is to allow for the occasional rush project. Allow me to say what most other business owners think; we keep this open time for rush projects because they’re a great source of unexpected and well-paying work. People are willing to pay more to prevent a bad situation – and thus, the dilemma of rush service. A bad business owner takes advantage of this opportunity to gauge a client in a vulnerable situation (i.e. obscene rush shipping charges or overtime wages), while a good business owner charges just enough more to compensate them for the extra hours of work and the opportunity-cost of pushing their scheduled projects to the side.

If it’s good and cheap, it won’t be fast. For clients who want the highest quality of service at the best price possible, the key is to be flexible with your deadlines and to start well ahead of when you need something done. The best example I can give here is my experience with mass mailings and the postal system. If I have a large enough mailing, I can benefit from pre-sorted postage rates which are half that of a regular stamp. This is a huge cost savings when your list is in the thousands! However, the big caveat here is that you must give yourself ample lead time for the mailing to process and hit mailboxes—I’m talking about a month. The postal service offers this discount rate, but it can take up to 25 business days to be delivered, as opposed to the standard 2-3. If you want something done good and cheap, you must be more flexible on the time frame in which you wish to have it completed. A long lead time (and ample patience) can save you a lot of money in the long run if you can plan ahead for it.

If it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. This combination of service is the one that most good business owners would prefer to avoid entirely. When it’s all said and done, neither the customer nor the business will be happy with a final product that was done quickly and cheaply. I know this is one of the rare instances where I might need to step away from a project if I think it will poorly reflect upon me or my business. Certainly I offer every client my best services at the fairest rates; it’s only when I’m stretched beyond reason that it becomes a problem. The two other options above prove why fast and cheap service won’t be the best quality. A business either needs to charge more for a rush project that pushes all other projects to the side or needs more time and flexibility from a client to do the best work on a tight budget.

Can we ever have all three? If you’re talking in extremes, I’d say the answer is no. An award-winning web site design done in three days for under $500 is either a scam or poor business management. In the real world, one of these three factors (time, quality or cost) would need to give. In less extreme examples, I have personally benefited from rush projects, done completely to my standard and for a fair price. The key is relationships. Once you build a good relationship with a business owner or contractor, you can work with them to achieve a good balance of all three.

As for me and the mechanic, I paid well under what the dealership would have charged me, fulfilled my inspection until 2014 and had my car back in just a few hours. So regardless of what that sign hanging in his window said, I think I just might have gotten away with choosing a little bit of all three!

 
 

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Twas The Day Before Christmas…

Twas The Day Before Christmas

(As retold by an entrepreneur)

Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

Miss Pinot was nestled all snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my sleepy, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly mattered?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays relaxing as I’ve done mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

whimsical christmas

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Life

 

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