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What I Learned From My Accident

Bandaging armAbout a week ago I was out for a morning run. This is pretty routine for me as I love starting my day with some form of physical activity. However, this particular run would be anything but a routine experience.

About half way into my 10k, I tripped and fell just about face first onto the cement. After I regained my bearings, I assessed my injuries – two skinned knees that were already starting to bruise, a banged up elbow and a bruised and scraped chin that was beginning to swell. My right wrist was tingly and sore, but I figured I got off pretty easy considering the intensity of the fall. I made the decision to finish my run, battle scars and all.

It wasn’t until I was in the shower did I realize something about my wrist was definitely not right. It couldn’t bear weight and just hung there. I had to compensate with my left hand for just about everything. Okay, I thought, let’s see how the morning goes and I’ll decide if I want to put myself through the additional suffering of an urgent care experience.

I managed to get myself dressed, make breakfast, shoot off a few emails and head to a client meeting. By the end of this meeting, my elbow and wrist were swollen with fluid and things were getting worse, fast. I knew urgent care was inevitable, so after spending two and half hours of my time (and who knows what the bill will be), I was told I fortunately didn’t break any bones, but badly sprained my right wrist and elbow. With my arm in a sling, I got myself home and called it a day. By this point my fingers were ice cold and it hurt to move my arm the slightest. This was the worst it could get, right?

Friday night was horrific. Little to no sleep due to the dull pain and inability to get comfortable in any position. By the morning, my arm was at its worst and so were my emotions. How will I cook breakfast for the kids? How will I make the bed? How will I dress myself? How will I change a diaper? How will I do anything?

I am fortunate to have a loving and patient husband who calmed my panic and quickly stepped into action. Over the next days of healing, there were life lessons to be learned. As much as I was inconvenienced by this injury, something tells me God was giving me a crash course in some wisdom I needed to gain. Here is what I learned…

Things may get worse before they get better.

I was foolish to think the extent of my injuries were what I felt immediately after my fall. My body was in shock and still responding to the trauma. Rather, about 24 hours later the real effects set in. Bruises had developed, swelling took place and the pain was at its height. I was so discouraged to wake up the next day to find I wasn’t yet on the road to recovery. Healing takes time and so does the hurt. Things have to settle in before you can respond, and this applies to emotional hurt too. Too often, we are quick to respond to a traumatic situation when really we need to be still and process all that’s going on before taking the next step.

When you need someone to help, let them do it their way.

My husband made my healing process possible. Had I been left to care for my young sons (and myself) with a sprained right arm, I don’t know how it would happen. I couldn’t do much for myself, let alone anyone else. He assumed all chores and became my caregiver too. He washed my face and attempted his best to put my hair in a pony tail (a picture of that will NOT be shared).

There were several times I got overwhelmed by my inability to help around the house. While my husband was taking care of all the chores, he wasn’t doing things the way I would do them. In a moment of wisdom he told me “I’m going to take care of things, but they might not get done the way you would do them.” He was right and it was unfair for me to demand my methods over his. I learned to let go and in doing so, he was empowered to do things he doesn’t normally do. From this experience, I think I’ll do a better job of letting him help with more of the tasks that I needlessly stack on my plate.

You can’t do it all, but you can still do something.

In cleaning up breakfast on Saturday, I could see a laundry list of tasks that needed our attention. There were dishes in the sink, the countertops needed wiped down and there were crumbs on the floor that needed swept up. Usually I would tackle these while my husband was changing the kids and making their beds. But in this moment I felt helpless and frustrated. I started to see what I could accomplish with one hand. Amazingly, I was pretty good at cleaning the countertops and sweeping the floors left-handed. Being able to accomplish even these small tasks lifted my spirits, made me feel empowered and gave me hope that very soon things will start to feel “normal” again.

Look on the bright side, because there is always a bright side.

As I kept replaying my fall in my mind, and as I had to explain the story to my concerned friends and neighbors who saw my injuries, I realized time and time again just how much worse it could have been! Foremost, thank God for no broken bones. At first glance, urgent care thought I would surely need a cast over my elbow. Imagine the inconvenience of that! Next, I feel fortunate, given the major bruise to my chin, that I didn’t break a single tooth or completely crack my chin open. Finally, I’m grateful that of all the many, many runs I have been on, to date this is the only one that “tripped” me up. There are so many people every day who are in horrific, permanently life-changing accidents. Who am I to feel sorry? I feel lucky!

It’s won’t be like this forever.                            

As I quickly regained strength in my arm, the most significant being in the first 48 hours, I realized I’m going to be back to good health in about one week. While those days of pain and healing were significant, they are the smallest blip in the overall timeline of my life. Yes I’ll surely have other injuries in the future, but I hope I will remember this important life lesson – that whatever you’re going through right now feels like the biggest and most challenging thing in your life (maybe it is), but when it’s over, the years to come will fade and soften this memory with things far brighter.

Has life ever thrown you a major curve ball? How did you respond and what were some of the lessons you learned? Please share your wisdom!

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Freshly Pressed, Life

 

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7 Mistakes that Push Away New Business

7 Mistakes that Push Away New Business

When you’re fortunate to have new business come knocking at your door, it’s still far from a done deal. Winning over a client takes time, patience and strategy. In my industry, things always begin with an initial client phone call or an in-person meeting. This casual, first meeting is the opportunity for both parties to feel each other out. Do our visions and values align? Do we share realistic expectations for what can be accomplished with the given budget and time frame? Most importantly, is there chemistry? No, nothing romantic, just a good synergy that will help create a productive working relationship.

Even if all of these things appear to be on target, there are still quite a few ways in which I can push away this new business, if I’m not careful. While the ability to read a client and build a strong connection from the start isn’t something you can necessarily teach, there are a few obvious mistakes you should avoid when trying to win over a new client. Save yourself some future regret but taking note of the next seven items on this list!

  1. Being unresponsive

The first mistake you can make is to be anything but highly responsive to your prospective client. This is the first impression you make. If they call you to learn more about your services, respond to them same day. Even if you’re not able to connect by phone, the least you can do is email them to set up a time for a future phone call or meeting. Carry this level of responsiveness into every phase of working with this client. Chronically late responses are a red flag to the client that you may not be the easiest person work with.

  1. Acting like you have all the answers

In your first client meeting, don’t come in there like you have all the answers. You don’t. You’re meeting this client for the first time and you likely know little about the industry and nothing about their business (more than a website and social media can tell you). I know in my case, people call me in because there are serious internal problems taking place. This is something you can’t know simply by Googling them. Come ready to listen, take notes and ask questions.

  1. Lacking examples of your insight and experiences

While you don’t want to come in acting like you know everything about the client’s particular business, you do want to walk in ready to prove your knowledge and expertise. Offer plenty of examples of past client success stories that relate to the services you may provide to this new client. Real-world examples are not only powerful, they are memorable. Additionally, be prepared to offer some examples of new ideas you have, tailored to the client’s needs. Make them feel like you’re offering fresh solutions and not something canned that you provide to every client.

  1. Pushing a client toward a final decision in your first meeting

Let the first meeting be a no-pressure zone. If you do a good job selling yourself, there is no need to pressure a new client into making a final decision as to whether they want to work with you right then and there. In fact, it’s likely going to be in your favor to have them sleep on the ideas you presented and to get even more excited about them! Don’t be so desperate to close the deal that you end up closing the door on yourself.

  1. Leaving the first meeting with no action plan

Just because you’re not going to pressure the new client into a final decision doesn’t mean you can’t have a clear path for the next steps you will take toward that final decision. You need to leave the meeting with an action plan in place. If possible, leave with the ball in your court. That means it’s on you to get the client a proposal or follow-up with additional information to help them make a decision. This gives you the power to reach out to them on your terms, rather than waiting to hear back from the client.

  1. Not following-up

This loops back to mistake number one and the need to be responsive. Just as it’s important to be responsive, it’s equally important to initiate a response. Give the client some space after your first meeting and after you’ve provided them with a proposal and an outline of next steps. Then, about one week later (or if they specified how much time they need), follow-up! Keep it short and sincere. Ask them if they have any additional questions you can answer. Or if a new idea has come to you, share that with them – along with your enthusiasm for working with them soon. These techniques enable you to stay in touch without nagging them.

  1. Charging a new client for your business development time

Another mistake that pushes away new business is charging for things like your first consultation meeting, putting together a proposal or any other initial communications. If you’re properly vetting your leads, you should be closing just about every new client meeting you take. Your time spent in business development stands to yield far more profit in the long-run than the couple hundred dollars you may make charging your client for every interaction. Furthermore, the practice of nickel and diming a client is sure to make them question your business practices and possibly scare them off altogether. Do your homework, qualify your leads and then invest that initial time at no cost, knowing you have a great shot at making it back ten-fold!

Have you made any of these same mistakes and found that it pushed away new business? Or can you think of something else that is missing from this list? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

 

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Why Didn’t My Press Release Get Picked Up?

Upset disappointed young businessman sitting with hands on head

Whether we PR professionals want to come to terms with it or not, the media is not our mouthpiece that will print exactly what we want, when we want it. They are the ultimate gatekeepers who determine the extent of media exposure that will be granted to us or our clients. The sheer volume of press releases that cross their desk each and every day ensures that only a fraction will receive review, and an even fewer number will be published in some capacity.

But don’t despair! Rarely is an ignored press release a direct reflection on your business or your media relations skills. Rather it could be any number of possible circumstances. Take a look:

It wasn’t really news.

The hard truth is that you’re likely to think everything your organization does is newsworthy because, well, it involves you. It can sometimes require taking a step back and role playing a reporter to determine whether or not something is worthy of media attention. Just because it’s not a good fit for the media, doesn’t mean you can’t promote it in other ways. Utilize your website, blog, social media, and newsletter to tell your story.

It was overly promotional.

Be sure to learn the best practices of writing a press release. Your headline can make or break your chances of getting picked-up. If you start off overly promotional, with a heavy focus on your business or brand, this is a huge red flag to a reporter that this isn’t a helpful “news hint,” it’s a PR tactic. As much as a client may want to see their name in the title, explain to them that this isn’t the best media-bait.

You’ve used this angle, again and again.

Is your strategy to, every month, announce the new businesses to whom you’ve sold services or goods? The first time you do this is the best chance you’ll have at gaining media attention. Every press release after that is beating a dead horse, in the eyes of the media. Reserve this angle for a truly noteworthy client, or present your new client information in a unique way. It’s easy for the media to spot a template press release which will quickly get you tossed in the “no” file.

It got stuck in spam.

There are major benefits to using an email platform like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to send out your press releases. However, they can increase your chances of getting you sent to a spam folder. I’ve had my own clients’ emails skip my inbox and head straight for the spam folder, even after I marked previous messages from the same sender as “not spam.” The bottom line is to track your analytics, as these email platforms allow you to do. If it seems like a low percentage of contacts are opening your email, it may be due to their spam filters.

It was poorly written.

Another hard truth is that your press release may been poorly written to a point that your media contacts couldn’t see the value in the information you were sharing. I again reference the best practices of press releases to ensure you have the greatest advantage of getting picked up. You need to write to the media’s preference, not your own. Learn to embrace AP style!

You relied solely on a “Wire” for distribution.

You are likely familiar with PR wire services such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, and Business Wire. I have yet to have a client truly benefit from any pick-ups received from such services. I believe the value lies in personal contact, not some syndication service. Even if you’re hitting a list of several hundred media contacts, you are far more able to personalize your messaging and track their engagement from traditional email. Don’t waste your time or money!

You gave up too soon.

Finally, and most importantly, you may have just given up too soon. I have yet to receive a single complaint from a member of the media for sending out the same press release twice, each with a unique headline. Sometimes you hit them on a busy news day when they just don’t have the capacity to cover your story. A few days later might be the perfect timing for when they need a story like yours. Try and try and again – but two times is the perfect number. Anything more than that could work against you.

Most importantly, don’t drive yourself crazy over-analyzing the reasons your press release may have been overlooked – and don’t stop trying! Tomorrow is another news day.

Can you empathize with this experience? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

 

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Online Bullying Even When Working From Home (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


Online Bullying Even When Working From Home

African man sleeping at his workplace in officeFor me, this is a personal topic. Bullying was endemic in the company where I worked prior to becoming a mother. Human Resources is a challenging and fast moving area of any business. At first it excited me – the ability to find ideal, new employees, evaluating them, helping them flourish and rewarding the good ones. However, it soon became like many other areas of business and life in general – a case of who you know, what you say to the right person, and more, how you destroy those you do not like. Those in power bullied the new, the weak, and the ostracized. This had nothing to do with ability or work ethic, but everything to do with cliques.

No Boundaries for 21st Century Bullying

The level of bullying increased whenever someone was ill, made a mistake, or worst of all, got pregnant. So you can imagine my own feelings on becoming pregnant for the first time. Sure enough, the bullying stepped up a notch. Luckily, senior management was flexible and accommodating, so they let me become a remote worker. My jobs could be done from home just as well as in the office and for a while this was fantastic; largely because I had a new daughter who brought joy to my life, a supportive and engaged husband, and maternity leave – sweet maternity leave.

Once back, even though I worked from home, I would receive bullying emails, text, Skype messages, and phone calls. Eventually I was released from my work for “under-performance,” despite being one of highest producing employees. Working from home is not a protection from bullying in the 21st century. Whether as a remote employee or a freelance worker, those who seek to bully will do so regardless of the working environment. It can be brazen and open or covert. In fact, the proliferation of smart devices, chat apps, online work platforms, and so on make it easier for bullies to get a hold of their targets and harass them 24/7.

What Employees can do to Reduce Online Bullying

If you need to leave your current employer or client, then you are presented with several options. There may be legal angles you can take due to the nature of the bullying. This is, however, a long term compensation rather than a solution. Finding new clients is obviously the first thing for a freelancer to do. Being self-employed, there are benefits and problems when work is slow, so it can feel difficult to give up a source of income and trade it in for insecurity. If you have been earning for long enough, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. While there are federal regulations, most of this is handled on a state by state basis. Any unemployment insurance and benefits can be vital in giving you the chance to turn around your situation and find new employment, new clients, or a totally new direction.

However, it may be possible to save the situation. Being bullied has untold effects on our bodies and our minds, but it is not something to suffer or put up with. First, you should gather evidence of how you are being bullied by this person or people. Then you need to find the support of someone in authority – this can include a Union Rep if you have one. Check your legal rights under both federal and state law. Then you need to stay tough, hold your ground, and sadly, as noted above, have an exit strategy just in case. Now, the important part is not to confront the bully directly because they can and will twist this to suit them. First confide in management or a colleague, and work with them to address the situation.

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Bullying can come in all shapes and forms – and even from someone you consider a friend. If a colleague or client’s actions are causing you mental and emotional distress and impacting your work, it’s time to take action. No amount of money is worth putting up with negative and harassing comments. Often it’s the subtle harassment that builds up over time that is the hardest to identify. Working together doesn’t mean you have to be friends, but it absolutely means you must treat each other with respect!

Have you been a victim of workplace bullying? Please help us shine a light on the common occurrence of this very important topic!

 

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The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take

The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take.pngAs an entrepreneur, the only thing that is constant is change. There is an ebb and flow that takes some getting used to – if you can ever really get used to it at all. To make things more complicated, try throwing a family into the mix. That means other little humans rely on you for both time and money to keep them going. You begin carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and after enough time, you forget how to relax and enjoy downtime.

Candidly, I’m describing my personal scenario since I became a business owner nearly six years ago and a mom nearly four years ago (and again just last year). Ever so gradual I have taken on more and more responsibilities in my day. To think back to simpler times, I wonder how I could ever feel like I was busy then. It’s true. Life can gradually add weight to the baggage you carry; you hardly notice as it happens, then all of a sudden it feels like it’s going to bury you.

What I’ve discovered to be effective for “checking” yourself every so often is a simple two-week evaluation that forces you to recognize unhealthy habits that could send you into a downward spiral of stress, anxiety and overload. It can also help you identify where you’re making progress so that you stay on the right track. Take a look at the eight questions I ask and answer every two weeks to gauge my happiness and satisfaction with my business. I highly encourage all fellow entrepreneurs (and especially hybrid moms) to do the same!

Overall, would you say most days you felt happy/positive/fulfilled or sad/negative/stressed?

This questions is so important to note trends in your mood that could signal a need for a change in your lifestyle. To live, even just two weeks of your life, where you felt sad more often than you felt happy is a waste of precious time we have here on this planet.

On average how many (waking) hours a day do you spend working?

Through this question, if you realize you have been putting in 10+ hour work days (even if not consecutive hours) for two or more weeks, your life is greatly unbalanced. This means you’re splitting the other half of your day among sleep, family, hobbies, self-care and household duties. Something is bound to get pushed out!

On average how many (waking) hours a day do you spend NOT working?

This is essentially a follow-up question to the one prior. Say you work 10 hours then sleep 8 hours in a day. It’s a shock to realize you’re giving yourself, your family and your friends just 6 hours of your day, at best. In the grand scheme of things, isn’t this where you would rather spend your majority of time?

Have you felt like you had time to pursue hobbies that weren’t work-related?

I can’t recall (seriously) the last time I read something for fun. That’s sad. In my latest two-week evaluation, I realized I really needed to carve out time for personal reading. It’s a simple fix, like putting down my phone before bed and replacing it with a book. Catching this early will help you dedicate time to your hobbies so you don’t risk losing a sense of self.

Have you dreamt, or woke in the middle of the night thinking about work responsibilities?

If the thought of work is now disrupting your sleep (especially on an ongoing basis), something needs to change. This means you’re struggling to “shut down” after works hours and you are carrying the stress of work with you wherever you go.

What costs you time, and that you don’t enjoy doing, which could be outsourced?

If there’s a responsibility on your plate that takes up a good chunk of your time, you don’t enjoy doing it and your time would better be spent elsewhere – see if it can be outsourced! For me, this was cleaning. For my husband, this was lawn work. It sounds very “real housewives” of us, but when ran the numbers of the value of our time versus employing someone who runs a business doing these tasks, it just made sense. And it might make sense for you too!

Have you let someone guilt you into taking on more responsibilities when you did not want to?

Oh how I struggle saying now! A little pro bono work here and there is to be expected, but if you’re allowing multiple people to guilt you into to lightening their load, while adding to yours – that’s not right! Not only will this cause you stress, it will negatively impact your relationship with the person long-term. Put a plan in place for standing your ground and being upfront with people when you simply don’t want to take on more work.

What is the one thing you want to improve in the next two weeks?

This question is aimed at getting you to set a short-term goal. If you wanted to improve only one thing in your life in the next two weeks, what would it be? For some of you, you might discover it’s the need to let a trouble client go. For others, it might be getting on a better exercise routine or taking up a new hobby to relieve stress. Set this goal today, and in two-weeks you’ll again have the opportunity to see if you made progress toward reaching it.

Are you up for taking this two-week evaluation? I would love to hear what you discover as a result. Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Would You Ask a Man That Question?

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A real life snapshot from my life as a work-from-home mom

A few weeks ago I was asked a question that I initially didn’t hesitate to answer. It’s actually a question I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, so I felt prepared to defend myself with an explanation. The question was, “How do you plan to balance work with a family?”

It’s not an unreasonable question, right? It was asked in a light-hearted way by a new client who, I truly believe, felt like they were going through any normal paces of qualifying someone to be their new PR consultant. The board voted unanimously in my favor and I ultimately got the job. Sometime later, a female colleague of mine, who was also at that meeting, brought up her frustration that I had to answer such a “ridiculous” question. She picked up on the (not so subtle) sexism of that question that I’ve come to view as normal as a female business owner and working mom. Her point was clear. Would you ask a man that question? No, no you wouldn’t.

Picture a man being asked “How do you plan to balance work with a family?” during a job interview. I envision a bewildered look come across his face as he responds “What do you mean?” He would likely ask for clarification before he felt compelled to offer an explanation…an excuse, really. Meanwhile, I had my “excuse” locked and loaded because it’s one I’ve had to provide time and time again. Sometimes I even voluntarily offer it up as I can see the look of concern come across a client’s face when they learn I have two young children, one of whom stays at home with me 5 out of the 7 days of the week.

“When do you have time to do work?”

That’s another common question. I used to be proud to answer this with a description of my highly disciplined and efficient schedule that is required for raising a family, keeping up with the house and growing a business. But now I see that I was defending myself from society’s disbelief that I can be a mother and a business owner – and do both well.

I’m not angry or outraged at these questions. I hold no grudge against the people who asked them. Rather, I’m shocked by my own numbness toward sexist remarks made to women entrepreneurs daily. I’m sad that I allowed myself to feel guilty, even for just one second, for “balancing work and a family.”

It is without question that a woman most often gets the lion’s share of work and responsibility when it comes to raising a family. Rather than questioning her ability to work and parent, congratulate her, offer encouragement and be flexible with your demands.

How refreshing would it be to instead hear “I know you have a young family. It’s wonderful you’re pursuing your passion. We will flexible, as we know family comes first.”

I’m fortunate to work with understanding and encouraging clients who not only know I am a hybrid mom, but see it as a badge of honor. They know when they call me there’s always a chance you’ll hear a babbling baby in the background or that I may need to reschedule a meeting because I’ve got a sick toddler. But as a mother, I also know how to power through a challenge and multi-task like it’s an Olympic sport. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. And if you want something done quickly, correctly and with every distraction going on around her, give it to a mom.

Have you ever been asked a sexist or unfair question? Share how you responded, or wish you had responded by leaving a comment!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Benefit of Business Turnover in the New Year

new startA new year brings so much change and often I forget that this applies to my business as well. The transition from December into January can be tumultuous. This is a time when many of my clients will take a close look at their budgets and consider whether or not they’d like to continue my services. I’m grateful that most often they do, but this is also a time of year when I get an email or phone call letting me know that my working relationship with a client will be coming to an end.

For some, it’s because they hired someone internally or plan to have another company they already work with cover some of my services. For others, it’s a budget issue. The past year didn’t produce like they hoped it would and they have to cut back.

I never like “losing” a client; however, I’ve come to find peace in the natural ebb and flow of business that comes with the start of a new year. Here’s why.

The new year also bring news business

The start of a new year is also a time when businesses start looking for additional help. Maybe it’s part of their New Year resolution or maybe they postponed efforts over the holidays, but either way January has historically brought in most of my new business. In retrospect, it’s actually a really good thing that some clients stepped away because this allows me the bandwidth to engage new business.

These clients are no longer a good fit

When a client chooses to discontinue services, for any reason, it’s because we’re no longer a good fit for one another. A client who doesn’t value my services or who no longer has a budget for my work isn’t someone I want to be working with. No one likes a loss in income, but it’s important to always work with clients who benefit from your hard work and can pay you what you’re worth.

I need help saying no

Most importantly, I’ve realized that a turnover in business with the start of a new year often provides me with the margin I need, but often forget to give myself. I am very capable of overloading my schedule and setting ridiculously high expectations that set me up for failure. Clients who step away force me to embrace some newfound free time (even if only for a short while).

How does your business change with the start of a new year? Share a personal experience by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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