Tag Archives: Life

Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

Having worked with many, many different clients over the years, I’ve had the benefit of learning how they each run their business and how they quantify success.

As you might expect, this is as unique as a fingerprint. However, one thing I did find to be common among the happiest and healthiest businesses was that they did not focus their measure of success on any of the following nine metrics I will soon discuss. To say the least, these metrics are false and misleading. They also create an imbalanced company culture which can snow ball into bigger problems down the road.

Take a look at the nine metrics for success that we all need to stop using right now!

How long you spend completing a task

Imagine how long it would take most of us to change the oil in our car. Just because we devoted hours of (frustrating) labor to this task, doesn’t mean we were any more successful than a skilled mechanic who can complete this same job in a fraction of the time. How long someone spends completing a task is not an indicator of success.

How early or late you’re accessible by phone or email

Our culture tells us that the longer we work, the more important we must be. Checking emails and answering phone calls from sunrise to sunset makes us feel like we are more successful than our peers who cut out at (gasp!) 6pm and let emails wait until normal office hours resume the next day. How early or late we allow ourselves to be accessible for work tasks is not correlated to success, but it is most certainly correlated to a work-life imbalance.

The size of your office

One of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses make is investing in a large office space they simply don’t need. There’s no denying my support of a virtual work environment for its efficiency and cost-savings. Yet, so often new entrepreneurs feel that their success must be validated with a commercial office space that is one more thing to manage and one more bill to pay. The size of your office is not an indicator of success. Many high-profile business owners and CEOs throughout history have worked from their home, out of a basement or garage or voluntarily took the smallest office space in their building.

The size of your staff

Similar to the size of your office, the size of your staff doesn’t indicate success any more than the size of an SUV indicates the stature of the person driving it. All of these items can be obtained by people who are barely able to pay the bills each month – all for the perception of looking “bigger” than what they are. Work to keep your overhead as low as possible and instead focus on the size of your profit margins.

Fancy stationary

One of my biggest pet peeves is working with a client who claims to have a shoestring marketing budget, but who then pays an invoice with a slew of unnecessary collateral materials that were certainly not cheap. Custom-printed checks, stationary, envelopes and embossed business cards will not be what (solely) seals the deal with your client – a good communications strategy will. Don’t mistakenly use this as a metric for success and instead smartly invest your marketing dollars elsewhere.

The number of business cards you hand out

Speaking of business cards, loading up on thousands of these paper rectangles and then tossing them out like confetti at a networking function will not build meaningful relationships with fellow professionals and may actually make a bad first impression. Handing out hundreds of business cards a day (without any strategy or follow-up) is not a useful metric for success. Anyone can do that – including small children and robots.

The clutter in your inbox

Busyness does not equate to productivity and a cluttered inbox does not equate to success. Hundreds of unread emails may look impressive at first glance, but when the majority of these messages are spam, promotions and auto-responses, you are merely trying to convince yourself you’re important. I tend to treat my inbox like my to-do list. The few messages I leave there require my attention and usually receive it within a day. All other messages are read, discarded or filed into their appropriate sub folder. To someone else looking at my inbox, I may look like I’ve had a pretty easy day. But I’m okay with that because I know that this is not an indicator of success.

The number of meetings you attend

During my time spent working in government, I experienced just how much time can be wasted in meetings. People loved to schedule meetings and conference calls to basically fill their entire work day. This would then give them the need to stay late to actually accomplish anything, perpetuating this false measurement of success. The number of meetings you attend does not equate to a successful day or your level of importance within a company. In fact, the people who often have important work to do find any excuse to get out of these meetings and get back to their computers.

Social media likes, followers and interactions

Finally, and this one may shock you, the number of interactions you receive on social media is not an indicator of success. You may say, “Well then why are we told to spend so much time and money on establishing a social media presence to build our business?” I’m not discounting the effectiveness of a strategic social media plan as part of a larger marketing effort, but I am offering a friendly reminder that you and your business are worth far more than the number of likes you have on your fan page.

Likes can be easily bought and interactions can be skewed to the point where it’s hard to tell what, if any part of your sales are a direct result of someone following you on social media. Stop making this the focus of every sales and marketing meeting!

What should be our metrics for success?

…Quality and productivity!

There is one philosophy all businesses would benefit from embracing, and that’s simply to “Get it done…right!” Quality and productivity are the two metrics that we should use to measure the success of our day and the overall success of our business. Did we deliver quality work in a productive manner? The businesses that embody this philosophy and promote this culture to its employees are the ones that are thriving.

Did you knock everything off your to-do list by 3pm? Great, see you tomorrow! Do you need to spend a few extra hours perfecting a project you know your client will love? Maybe you work a little late tonight, but you know it will pay off in the end. Stop comparing hours, square-footage, email count and boxes of business cards. Instead, “Work hard in silence and let success make the noise.”

Which of these metrics do you most commonly see misused to measure success? Share the outcomes by commenting below!



Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Business & Success


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The 9 C’s of What Motivates Humans to Do Anything

What Motivates Humans to Do Anything

Motivation is a powerful and fascinating component of our human lives. We are fickle, particular and often lazy creatures that require a great deal of motivation to do anything. Nearly every part of my career in communications is somehow related back to how I can motivate someone to do something. And while it may seem simple enough, it’s no easy task!

Any effective marketing, advertising or public relations strategy should take into consideration the most likely motivating factors of your target audience. What will get them to take action? The bad news is that it can be a combination of any number of things. The good news is that the most common motivators fall into nine categories (that ironically can all be labeled with a word that starts with C).

Let’s take a look at the nine C’s of what motivates humans to do anything – and how to ignite this motivation style. I urge you to carefully think about which one is the strongest motivator for you personally and pinpoint the one you rely on the most to motivate others. I promise the results will spark your curiosity (yes, that’s one of the C words we will cover)!


As human begins, we are drawn to a challenge. The excitement and fulfillment we receive when we achieve more than we initially thought possible is an intoxicating rush of adrenaline that keeps us coming back for more. To an extent this can depend upon personality type, but to some degree we all crave a good challenge now and then.

How to ignite this motivation style: Set the bar and challenge your audience to raise it. Some very effective marketing campaigns have challenged us to create a better solution, try something new or dare to be different. We crave the feelings of pride and accomplishment that come from taking on a challenge.


Long before we had a term to define marketing and advertising strategies, we have been motivating people through competition in a variety of ways. It’s why athletes put their bodies through intensive training and unbelievable feats of endurance – all to better themselves and gain a leg up on the competition. We’re not all athletes, but we are all motivated by competition in some shape or form. If we think we can do or have something better than someone else, you better believe we’re going to be motivated to try it!

How to ignite this motivation style: Showcase how other people are excelling and how your audience can too with your business or service. No one wants to be left behind. Appeal to the desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and you will motive action.


Thinking of compliance as a motivating factor seems funny because not often do we like to be told what to do. Or so we think. As creatures of habit, we seek someone who will tell us what to do because it’s all we have known our whole lives (we can thank Mom and Dad for that). If your boss or client should walk in right now and hand you a work task, chances are nearly certain that you will comply with their request. You now feel obligated to complete this task which is a strong motivator for action.

How to ignite this motivation style: Make your audience feel obligated or committed to doing something. Identify a specific action and convince them that it is their responsibility to fulfil this duty.


What should happen if you do not take an action? Will you lose money, lose your job, make someone angry or something worse? If you believe that a negative consequence is associated with not taking a specific action, you are highly motivated to indeed take that action. Whether we know it or not, we run cost-benefit analyses in our head all the time. The consequence must be perceived as worse than the effort, expense or risk associated with the action. That’s where marketing comes in.

How to ignite this motivation style: Play upon fear or doubt that something bad will result from not taking this action. They key is to identify your audience’s shared insecurity or vulnerability and position your desired action as the way to prevent negative consequences.


There are countless aspects of our lives that we simply cannot control. This is why our ability to control something – anything – is a great motivator. We want to feel the power and stability of being in control, no matter how small. Even if this is simply picking our ice cream flavor or choosing the color of our car, empower people with a sense of control and they will be motivated to take action.

How to ignite this motivation style: Show how taking action will put your audience in a position of control. Empower them with (limited) options to improve their current situation or demonstrate how the action will help them solve a problem that feels beyond their control.


We are also motivated by the desire to feel connected to other people. This is why we devote a great portion of our time to cultivating friendships and building a community around us. Our individual personalities will influence how many and what type connections we seek, but we all want to feel connected to some degree. I am without a doubt an introvert, but I still need and crave connections in my life.

How to ignite this motivation style: Speak to your audience’s inherent desire to feel accepted and part of the “bigger picture.” Paint a picture of a connected community bonding and working together.


Another motivational factor that is closely linked to the feeling of community and involvement is “contribution.” Our actions can be motivated by the desire to help a cause. Fundraising for a nonprofit or political organization takes a very specific appeal – and based upon the millions of dollars donated to various organizations every month, it is also a very effective form of motivation.

How to ignite this motivation style: Convince your audience that their actions will contribute to a community or cause. Make it easy to understand how their actions will benefit the greater good and serve a purpose that is meaningful to them.


We have covered the categories of people wanting to feel connected and people wanting to contribute to something bigger than themselves, but we would be amiss to not also address a more selfish motivator of pride. Craftsmanship motivates us to take action because we are drawn to the idea of showcasing our skills and talents to create something that other people admire. Craftsmanship is not all selfish. Many people create beautiful and useful things for someone else to enjoy while also placing a feather in their cap.

How to ignite this motivation style: Play upon your audience’s pride to use their skills and talents create something of value. Showcase examples of what others have created and how they are being used and enjoyed by many.


Finally there is curiosity. This is another inherent human desire that exists within each and every one of us. We want to know what something is, how it works and ultimately how it can benefit our lives in some way. Piquing someone’s curiosity in an effort to elicit action is a common, but extremely effective marketing technique.

How to ignite this motivation style: Ask a good question to leave your audience with a burning desire to know more. You shouldn’t aim to fully answer the question, but rather spark interest that will drive them to take action to get more information.

What factor tends to motivate you the most? Expand upon an idea or add to the list by commenting below!


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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in Business & Success, Life


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The Two-Day Truce: Reclaiming Respect for the Weekend

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

The Two-Day Truce Reclaiming Respect for the WeekendI can’t be the only one to confess that my blood pressure raises and eyes dilate when I hear the all too familiar “Ding!” of my phone when a new email comes in. I’m like one of Ivan Pavlov’s dogs, except instead of salivating, I’m overcome with the urge to immediately check my phone and respond instantly with an answer to or acknowledgement of the pending request. This mindset can make for a stressful week, but apply it to the 2-days we’re supposed to allow ourselves for rest and relaxation each weekend and this flirts on the brink of insanity.

As a new business owner, I’m told – this too shall pass. But what if it doesn’t? What if fate should have it that my obsession with instantaneous answers isn’t linked to my young entrepreneurship, but rather the growing trend in technology? Now we’re no longer flirting on the brink of insanity, we’re outright courting it with a fancy dinner and bottle of wine.

I can’t help but fantasize with the idea of living in a 1950’s office environment just for contrast. What was it possibly like to lock the door on your business at 5pm Friday and be unreachable until 9am Monday? Moreover, what was it like to wait around for a written memo to be passed from office to office until an answer was returned hours…or days later? The TV show Mad Men might give us a glimpse into this lifestyle, but we will never truly know what it is like to live it. What some might see as a business-stifling, slow communication process, I see as the key to a work-life balance. With the aid of ever-connecting technology, we have officially become accessible at all hours of the day and so we have trained ourselves, and our peers, to expect immediate responses regardless of weekends, holidays and once in a lifetime occasions like weddings, funerals and even the birth of our own children.

I acknowledge that I’m somewhat at fault for this. I check emails on my phone with the same repetition in which I breathe or blink. And answering emails on the weekend only encourages conversation because I voluntarily make myself accessible. So this weekend it stops. I want that 2-day break; I earned that 2-day break – and so did you. So why do we continue to choose to watch our phones rather than watch a movie with our significant other? Why do we use our weekends to pitch to a potential client when we could be pitching to our son or nephew on a beautiful sunny day?

Let’s call a truce. Let’s work hard this week so we can designate this weekend for rest and relaxation. But I can’t do it alone. I challenge each of you to limit your emails this weekend to urgent communication only. Ask yourself, “Can it wait until Monday?” And then get out there and enjoy an entire Saturday and Sunday to yourself. Lock your email, just as you would your office door, at 5pm on Friday and open it again Monday at 9am. I promise you that calling a Two Day Truce, won’t result in the demise of your business, but more likely will result in allowing others to also reclaim the respect for their own weekend.


Posted by on October 5, 2015 in Business & Success, Life


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Finding a New Perspective at 13,000 Feet

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

Not much in life shocks or scares me anymore. I’m not an adrenaline junkie or immune to fear, but I just haven’t experienced much in my daily life lately that has gotten my heart racing. I began to question whether I was apathetic to life or just not pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, so I decided to take an extreme test of fear, courage and insanity to find the answer. I decided to go skydiving.

Throughout the whole experience I was most apprehensive about kneeling at the door of the plane, looking down at a world so small, it’s barely recognizable…and not feeling a single thing. How sad would it be to discover that life isn’t enough to satisfy you? With everything beautiful and wonderful to experience in our world, I think the worst emotion to suffer through is the lack of emotion altogether.

Skydiving proved to me that I am very capable of feeling every emotion and in rapid succession. As the door opened and I inched my way toward it, I had no time to over-think what was happening—I jumped. And like that, I was free falling to the earth for close to a minute. In those 60 seconds I experienced doubt, fear, confusion, lack of control, excitement, happiness, appreciation, love and pride. When the parachute successfully released, I felt an unexpected sense of calm. I was still falling rapidly toward the earth, but in comparison to free falling, I was relaxed and content to just enjoy the ride.

By the time I landed, sitting in the grass, all of the stresses that had seemed so overwhelming must have blown off me on the way down. The only way to describe how I felt is to compare it to having just gotten the most amazing massage. I was so relaxed and almost in a dream-like state, my heart rate might have been 40 beats a minute. I understand how ridiculous this sounds, comparing skydiving to a massage, so I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me—I wouldn’t have either 24 hours ago.

I loved my experience, but I’m not “addicted” to this extreme sport and I may choose to never go back. I think I’ve gained from it everything I needed to and I don’t want to risk a second experience tarnishing the spiritual awakening it was for me.

When you’re free falling 13,000 feet above the earth, your mind can focus on little else but finding the energy to breathe. And maybe that’s what this whole experience helped me to realize. Life is made up of a series of breaths and no matter how stressful or uncomfortable the situation may be, as long as I find the strength and composure to take that one next breath, everything else—just like the world from two miles up—is small in comparison.

First breath out of the plane

Scott during his free fall

Back on the ground, coming off of an adrenaline high!

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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in Life


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How to Gear Up for Your Busy Season

How to Gear Up for Your Busy SeasonIt pains me to admit that my favorite season, summer, is coming to a close. As we look toward September and beyond, this can often appear to be a black hole of project deadlines, obligations and even more juggling of family activities. Somehow we need all of these things to fit into the same 24 hours in a day we expected so much less out of throughout the summer. It’s a recipe for stress, overwhelm and depression if we are not careful.

The good news is there are a ton of good things that come from your busy season – greater productivity, achievement and organization just to name a few. It’s a great opportunity to wake up and show what we’re truly capable of, but we must be careful to also be realistic with the expectations we have for our schedules and to strategically plan out moments of happiness and relaxation as well.

Take a look at these top tips I highly recommend taking to heart if you hope to make this your most successful – and most manageable – busy season yet!

Start with the big things

Looking at a laundry list of to-items that have to all make it to your calendar can be overwhelming to say the least. But remember that not all of these tasks share the same urgency and importance as one another. Some may simply not even need to be addressed during your busy season at all. Others can be delegated to another staff member or outsourced.

Start by populating your calendar with the “big” events or deadlines that are firmly set. Once you are able to see how these shake out, you can fill in your next level of important items, strategically scheduling them on days and weeks that another big event does not land. If you take care of the big things first, the little things will more easily fall into place.

Map it out long-term

Next, look at the big picture. If you know your busy season runs approximately three months, look at these three months side by side. Based upon your list of priority to-do’s, looking at just one month at a time may tempt you to overload that first month with as many tasks as possible, when that simply isn’t necessary. If a meeting or event can be pushed a month or two down the road with no major repercussions – push it! Just because you can get something done this week or this month, doesn’t mean it has to get done this week or this month. Stretch out your busy season…and maximize your sanity.

Gear up slowly

“Diving in head first” is a phrase we commonly hear in business. Sure, there are some occasions that call for you to jump right in without hesitation or second guessing. But for your busy season, which you can reasonably see boiling to a peak on your calendar, ease into your new schedule gradually.

If you know you will need to get up (a lot) earlier in the mornings to fit in some extra work time, transition your body by getting up just 15 minutes or a half hour early a few days at a time. If you can remember the agony of the sound of your alarm on the first day of school, avoid this by conditioning your body slowly to the “joy” of functioning early in the morning. Apply this theory to working through your lunch hour or getting in a few extra hours before bed. See what works best for you and stick to it!

Say “No”

The activities you enjoyed during your “slower” months, like social coffee meetings or writing daily posts on your personal blog, may need to be moved to your back burner as you gear up for your busy season. These are worthy time commitments when you aren’t overloaded with other client work, but when you hit that crazy time of the year, pull back on these items and focus foremost on the things that are directly making you money. Learning to say “no” now will save you stress and overwhelm in the coming weeks.

Avoid busyness

There is a big difference between being productive and being busy. The first means you’re tackling priorities, making money and delivering results to clients. Busyness means you’re filling your schedule with tasks that simply aren’t priority or don’t need you immediate attention. This relates back to the advice of “just say no.” Be ruthless with your schedule and only take on tasks that are a productive use of your time.

Schedule time for relaxation, personal development and social activities

Having just mentioned everything I did about prioritizing your time with big, important, money-making tasks, I’m also going to stress the importance of strategically scheduling downtime. How is both possible, you say? Put it on your calendar like any other appointment that’s filling your time that week. Make planned relaxation, personal development and social activities part of your busy season, too. Yes, you may need to scale back from what you would normally get to do during your slower months, but personal time is so important for keeping your sanity and preserving your happiness.

Give yourself “carrots” along the way

Speaking of happiness, I strongly suggest dangling some “carrots” in front of yourself to keep you motivated and engaged in your work. Busy seasons are a welcome change because they often result in greater cash flow, but no amount of increased income is worth burning yourself out for months on end. Once you achieve a certain deadline, celebrate with a dedicated afternoon off. Or reward yourself with a rerun of your favorite TV show if you work hard to knock off your biggest task before noon. Too many rewards will undermine your hard work and self-control, but the right balance will keep you refreshed and focused.

Be realistic with your expectations!

Finally, get real with what you’re expecting of yourself over the coming months. The most spectacularly color-coded calendar, planned out by the hour means nothing if it’s completely unreasonable for a human to achieve. We are not robots and even when we need to be functioning on all cylinders, we still need to ease up on ourselves when the mood calls for it. Get honest with your personality type, work style and capabilities – remember to also extend the same consideration to those helping you through your busy season.

Are you preparing to enter a busy season this fall? Share how you plan to prepare yourself to successfully manage this new schedule by commenting below!


Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Business & Success


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Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

Taking a Cue from Mother NatureSo often in life, nature is something we first try to change and then try equally as hard to replicate. I might be among the worst offenders of this. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with my time, cut-out the waste and cram in just one more hour’s worth of work somewhere, somehow. But time and time again, this haste has led me to mistakes, accidents and set-backs that in the end required more of my time than if I had just tried to do things right in the first place. Just a few days ago I was inspired by the Lao Tzu quote, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Ancient philosophers have quite a knack for making the most obvious statements while lining them with an intensely deep meaning that changes your world in a matter of seconds. And with this quote, I began to reexamine the perceived benefit of rushing through life’s tasks.

I can recall countless instances where rushing has cost me valuable time and caused unnecessary frustration. In the morning, I always feel like I’m saving time by multi tasking while brushing my teeth, but when toothpaste ends up on clothes and carpets, I spend more time cleaning up a mess that would otherwise have not been created. One specific morning, I was reaching for a canister of oatmeal with one hand and opening a drawer to grab a spoon with the other, when the entire canister came crashing to the floor. I lost about 20 minutes that day sweeping up oatmeal all for the possibility of saving a few extra seconds. Aside from a few messes here and there, rushing while driving to a meeting, proof-reading an important document or balancing my finances could lead to consequences far more severe. I suppose the underlying point is – how much time could I really be gaining by overloading myself with unnecessary multi-tasking?

In looking to nature for examples, I realized far more important tasks are accomplished every day, moving at the exact same pace they have been for all time. There’s something to be said for steady and consistent progress. Flowers bloom, animals migrate and weather changes just as it should to keep everything else moving in harmony. Could you imagine if just one piece of this puzzle were to rush its role? Everything else would be thrown off to create repercussions almost unimaginable. Most interesting of all is that we might be the only species inclined to rush. Where does this pressure come from? Why do we feel like what we accomplish in the time we’re given is never enough? I’m sure we can each answer this based upon different reflections, but what’s important is that we stop rushing long enough to at least ask.

In my own life, I can easily pick out the almost comical examples of how I try to change nature, just to replicate it. Our natural state is what we first try to improve upon, but ultimately use as our model for perfection. Just last week I spent a day rushing through my to-do list, feeling overwhelmed by everything I needed to get done. My reason for the rush? I wanted to have time to do yoga that afternoon so I could “unwind and de-stress.”  My new goal is to take a cue from Mother Nature and find a pace at which I’m making steady and consistent progress. For a serial multi-tasker this will be hard habit to break, but if it allows me to find more moments of clarity and contentment to appreciate the natural perfection of the world around me, it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

One of my favorite photos of Scott and me in front of Penn State’s Old Main Building. Every year, these flowers bloom in perfect harmony with spring and summer on campus.


Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Life, Wisdom


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What Building a Home Has Taught Me About Project Management

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

I feel fortunate and excited to announce that we are just two months out from the completion of our new home. Building a custom home has been a long-time dream that was made possible only through sacrifices and hard work from both my husband and me as well as through many generous and talented people in our lives.

It’s been quite a process that I can only describe as thrilling, overwhelming, humbling and surreal. It required meeting at least once per week with our project managers to make countless decisions and to attempt to balance a budget that was expanding faster than our toddler during a growth spurt.

Although each home our builder creates is custom from start to finish, there is a clear process in place that keeps things moving while allowing for adjustments to be continually made as needed. It’s quite impressive! My husband’s background is in civil engineering, so he had a better understanding of how this whole “construction thing” worked. Still, it was an equal learning experience for both of us.

And I learned a lot.

As a Public Relations consultant, I often play the role of “project manager” for my clients. I scope the project, divide tasks, manage budgets and meet deadlines. While the soft skills of PR are different than the hard skills of the subcontractors working on our home, I found many similarities as to how they effectively approached each project.

Through our personal home building process, I developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a good project manager and how to advocate for your client’s best interests. Of course I want to take this knowledge and use it to benefit my own clients. Here are the most valuable lessons I now plan to further incorporate into my own business:

The decision to start a project is only the first of countless decisions

When we made the decision to build a custom home, we took a deep sigh of relief that this variable was now a known. However, it’s foolish to praise yourself too much for this major life decision. It’s merely the first of countless others you must make to complete the project. The best piece of advice I gained from this experience was to stay committed to (and interested in) the project – even when there are setbacks and standstills.

This applies to my clients, whether we are working on new website content, implementing a social media strategy or creating marketing materials, remember that all of these projects will require many, many decisions. If you are not in a position to give the project the attention it requires, consider whether now is a smart time to begin the project altogether.

A picture of the stone in progress.

A picture of the stone in progress.

Know Your Critical Path

In construction, there is a clearly outlined critical path of smaller tasks that must be completed in a specific order and meet specific deadlines in order to keep the project as a whole on track. The importance of knowing your critical path applies far beyond construction alone.

I now have a renewed appreciation for beginning each project with a shared understanding of its critical path so that the client and any outside vendors are aware of the valuable role they play and how their deadlines affect so many others.

Be prepared for setbacks – and to hustle to make up time

So often the phrase that runs through my mind on projects is “I’m hurrying up only to wait.” What I mean is I often feel like other people involved in the project delay critical pieces and then when they finally deliver, they expect an immediate turnaround from me. You can surely see how this would be frustrating.

Through home building, I have learned that this is far from a unique problem. Whether it’s Mother Nature or another subcontractors holding up the show, inevitably other workers will be expected to expedite their results to make up for lost time. And sometimes this rush is for nothing as other factors hold up the next piece of the project anyways. Frustration – yes this is a shared feeling across all projects regardless of size or industry!

“Now” is always the best time to voice a concern

One day on site, my husband was walking through our home and had an idea to make the opening to our dining room even more “open concept.” This would, however, require cutting down the existing framing that had been put into place not a day or so sooner. We hesitated, considering the small inconvenience this would cause a worker; however, our project manager quickly spoke up. Within the next few minutes, the wood was cut back and repositioned to create the larger opening. That’s all it took at this point in the project.

What I learned was had we waited until there was drywall in place before voicing our concern, the fix would have required far more time and manpower. Worse, we may have chosen to live with the wall as it originally was and always wondered “what if.” From this example, I gained the lesson that right now will always be the best time to voice a concern. Waiting until you send the project to print or hit send on the email is too late. Speak up now – and don’t worry, people will be sure to weigh the pros and cons for you if the request is going to require more than just a few minutes to correct.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

The framework provides structure, but the details provide character

Finally, the process of building a custom home gave me an appreciation for both the framework and the finishing details. While I was happy to finally break ground, I wasn’t overly excited about a big cement hole. Nor was I particularly excited to select an HVAC system or frame out our low voltage wiring. When I finally got enthusiastic with the project was when I was able to select things like the marble for our kitchen or the style of our built-ins.

I realize now, more than ever, that these less than exciting details will be the ones that keep me comfortable in our home throughout the years. I may not always see them, but I will certainly appreciate the value they add. The framework and more technical details to any project may not be artistic, but they are necessary for achieving the end result. The details are where you truly define character and add personality. Regardless of what gets you excited, both must work in unison to deliver a functional and attractive finished product.

What other pieces of advice on project management could you add to this list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!


Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Business & Success


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