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Book Smart vs. Street Smart: What I’ve Learned about PR Outside the Classroom

Qualified specialist

While I was earning my degrees in public relations and communication from Penn State University, I was already putting these skills into practice for some of my first clients. It’s amazing to look back and realize that real businesses put their trust in a young student who had really just “book smart” PR skills, and little to no real-life application. What’s even more amazing, is some of these very first clients continue to work with me to this day.

Now, I have matched and well exceed the length of that college education with “street smart” PR experience. Over the last six years, I continue to place a high value on forever educating myself on the latest trends and techniques in the public relations field. This just happens to come in a different form than a brick-and-mortar classroom. From networking groups and industry associations, to simply staying up to date on the news, it takes dedication and a hunger to learn, not just degrees upon degrees, to fine tune your PR skills.

Here are the key public relations skills I’ve gained since leaving the classroom and entering the real world, and I would consider all of these to be critical to the success of my PR consulting business!

Prospecting and Qualifying Clients

Early in my business, I would take on pretty much any client who came my way. I kind of had to. I have no idea how to prospect or qualify these contacts to ensure they would be a good fit for my business. This wasn’t something I was taught in my PR classes. I learned how to develop goals and tactics for clients, once I had them, but I wasn’t taught the important early steps like first matching a client’s needs with my services.

I’ve become very “street smart” with qualifying leads. I don’t immediately commit to a meeting or even a phone call until I’ve done a bit of homework and asked some essential questions. This has saved me a lot of billable work hours, and has afforded me a few more afternoon naps.

Growing Long-Term Relationships

Another valuable skill not found in textbooks is the ability to turn one-time projects into quarterly or annual retainers. This has become my bread and butter. Just about every single client that has started off with a small or finite project (website content, monthly blogs, media training session) has come back to then sign on with an ongoing contract worth sometimes 10x more per month than that first contract. The key to setting yourself up for residual business with a client is handling that initial project, no matter how small, with the same passion and dedication you would handle your biggest annual retainer. Often a client is testing you to see if you’re a good fit for a long-term relationship. Don’t fail this test!

Effectively Managing Payments

In the first half of 2017 alone, I’ve billed 25+ clients, many on a monthly or quarterly basis. That’s a lot of invoices to manage! My (oddly reluctant) switch to using QuickBooks couldn’t have come at a better time. Rather than relying on a spreadsheet, or worse, a post-it note on my computer, I diligently log everything into QuickBooks. Invoicing is still a process I must make time to do, but it’s a much more streamlined one. I can see what clients owe me money at any time and how many days has passed since issuing the invoice. My husband jokes I could be a bounty hunter in my next life. And to my tax attorney, you’re welcome in advance!

Monetizing “Scope Creep”

This skill ties back to “growing long-term relationships.” It’s a good thing my clients often come to me for more work! However, it can go south when these clients don’t realize the additional work requires additional time and needs to be billed as such. Fresh out of college, I lacked the business savvy to monetize the “scope creep” of a project. I would bill it as “good will” and do the work without earning an extra cent. I still believe in some good will favors, but I only have a certain amount of good will to pour into any given client.

Rather, I am quick to show my interest in taking on this additional work for a client and let them know upfront that I would be happy to give them a proposal for that additional work. This softly reminds them that the work they’re asking to have completed is outside their current contact. I can do it, but for a fee. I have not once had a bad reaction. Clients often respond “Oh of course, I want to pay you for your additional work.” I’m so glad I’m not still losing money on all that good will I was throwing around!

Knowing When to Let Go

Knowing when to cut ties with a client that is no longer a good fit for your business was never covered in any of my PR textbooks, that’s for sure! This is a skill I am still learning along that way, and unfortunately it still remains a pretty steep learning curve. Because of my ability to prospect and qualify clients, I have reduced the need to let a client go, but it has and still will happen from time to time.

What I’ve learned is, make it about you, not them. Don’t focus on their shortcomings, as tempting as it may be, but rather focus on why your business isn’t in a position to best serve them. Be upfront, keep it short and do it early! Those are my pearls of wisdom.

Having Confidence in a Unique Vision

Lastly, the ability to believe in yourself and not compare your journey against someone else’s is something I 100% had to learn outside of the classroom. This applies to both business and life. I am passionate about being a PR consultant. I don’t want a big firm with lots of employees and overhead. I want the complete freedom and flexibility to take on all of my own clients, team up with power partners when I need it, or run a completely lean operation when I don’t. I want to take unlimited vacation days and hit the gym at 2 in the afternoon, if I want!

I like that no client or colleague owns my time completely. I have a unique business model to which many cannot relate. It’s taken time for me to confidently say “I’m a professional public relations consultant” without feeling the need to hide behind a fictitious and irrelevant title like “CEO” or “Principal” to make it sound like a run a big firm. After all, I advocate for my clients to be transparent and genuine; it’s important I am too.

In your career, how would you compare your book smarts to your street smarts? Which do you value more? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

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Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

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!


Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

Technology is a help as much as it is a hindrance. While we have used countless forms of technology to fuel our efficiency, organization and communication with one another and the way we impact the world, we have also lost some essential and valuable skills along the way.

What skills have suffered? Mostly our people skills and soft skills, but also a few others you might not expect! Let’s take at a look at the 11 skills that technology is killing and see if they apply to you as well.

Handwriting

I certainly hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t recognize my own handwriting on the rare occasion I need to send a written letter or jot down some notes. There are really limited instances that don’t allow for a keyboard to make our thoughts legible. While technology certainly provides ease and efficiency of writing, quality penmanship has become a lost art.

Why does this matter? There will always be instances when a pen and pencil yield a more “personal” product, like a thank you note. There will also be times when we simply will run out of battery or WiFi and need to ask for some paper to capture important thoughts.

Eye contact

We have the ability to communicate with more people than ever on a daily basis. Yet, this has made these countless interactions feel less personal. Contributing your opinion to an online thread of thousands of comments is nowhere near as direct and meaningful as a face-to-face conversation with someone over a cup of coffee. I’ve found that people are so engrossed in their technology, catching up on email or social networks as they walk to and from their next destination, that they forget to look up and see the “real life” people standing around them.

The result? We forgot to look into someone’s eyes when we are talking to them. Do you greet your cashier by looking him in the eye and asking “How are you?” Do you keep eye contact with someone as they answer your question? If not, these are all areas we should strive to improve by unplugging from technology and plugging into one another.

The art of small talk

For most career-minded individuals, networking and meeting new people is essential for growing your business. This often means making a lot of small talk. But quality small talk requires more than just asking someone the obligatory “How are you today?” or commenting on the weather. It requires attention to the situation and nonverbal cues that tell us what will engage that person.

Technology has distracted and disconnected us from the living, breathing world around us so much that we have lost the valuable skill of being able to have an off-the-cuff conversation with a complete stranger.

Basic math

I am not too proud (though embarrassed) to admit that my basic math skills are severely lacking. Funny enough, I do still know my times tables and have not forgotten how to add or subtract. What I’ve lost is my confidence and patience to do the work mentally. Why? Because of technology. Why spend twice the time coming up with an answer I am only 50% sure is correct when I can just whip out my phone, punch in some numbers and have full confidence in the right answer?

This, of course, is a dangerous mindset and one that will continue to spread from generation to generation as technology only becomes increasingly convenient and ever-present. The solution is not easy, but it can start with each of us personally. We should take pride in keeping our basic math skills sharp and utilize them even if it means taking a few extra minutes and double-checking our answers.

Social awareness

Social awareness is the modern day way to say common courtesy. As the result of our obsession with and reliance upon technology, we forget there are other humans around us. The most common examples I’ve come across are people forgetting to hold the door, stepping in front of a line of waiting customers and cutting people off with a grocery cart.

While these are simple scenarios, they do indicate a larger social problem. We are so consumed in our own (online) lives that we ignore the need to courtesy coexist with one another.

Committing things to memory

If you were without your cell phone and needed to call your closest friends and family, would you know their phone numbers by memory? Probably not! I know I have exactly two phone numbers memorized aside from my own, my childhood home phone and my husband’s cell. This means I couldn’t even call my own parents’ cell phones without referencing my contact list.

Technology is a great tool for storing important information and phone numbers are just one of countless examples. But think about how we also Google everything imaginable – even common things like the meaning of an acronym or the year WWII began. If we lost access to all technology, would we, as adults, be “smarter than a 5th grader?” I’m not so sure.

Appreciating silence

This skill is one I really see the importance of as an introvert, yet I don’t always practice it. Think of your work environment. Do you always need some sort of background noise like a radio or TV? When walking from one place to another, do you feel the desire to talk to someone on the phone or pop in your headphones? When is the last time you did anything (aside from sleeping) in complete silence for more than an hour?

Appreciating silence is an important skill because it forces us to clear out the mental clutter, listen to our thoughts and address issues that might be bugging us. All of these things are easily masked by technology and noise – but will cause stress and distraction if not given proper attention.

Feeling comfortable without “props”

Similarly to feeling uncomfortable in complete silence, how do you react to waiting for someone or something without any technology to distract you? I know if I am waiting for a client, a food order or to be called back for an appointment, I feel the need to read emails, check in on social media or catch up on texts.

There’s a level of efficiency with this, but that is soon fulfilled within a few minutes. The issue is when we aimlessly browse our phones or tablets as a distraction from the world around us. The next time you’re waiting for someone to meet you in a coffee shop, enjoy sipping your coffee and watching the real world unfold. It’s amazing what you’ll see that you would have missed otherwise!

Making plans and sticking to them

When making social plans on the weekend, I’ve often wondered what people did before cell phones when it came to changing plans or running late. From asking enough of my “older peers,” I’ve come to the conclusion that people simply did a better job of sticking to their original plans!

Thanks to technology we have the ability to endlessly change where we’re going, at what time and with whom. If you’re on the receiving end of all of these changes it’s frustrating to say the least. Back before cell phones and social media, once people left the house, they were expected to be where they said they were going – and they really made a better effort of honoring that.

Fully focusing on one thing

Using multitasking to be more efficient with your time is a huge myth. Why? We’re not machines. We cannot quickly or easily switch from one task to another without losing momentum in the process. When we multitask and try to do too many things at once, we don’t fully accomplish anything.

Technology has created an environment where it’s easy to multitask and pile on distraction upon distraction. One time I caught myself watching TV while surfing my iPad. I couldn’t remember what show I was watching and I had minimal recollection of what I was looking at on social media. Trying to multitask my leisure time was a moment of reckoning for me. We need to get back to applying our sole focus to one thing at a time, doing it well and moving on to the next task with a clear mind.

Feeling content

Finally and most importantly, our reliance upon technology has messed with our ability to feel content. This is a bold claim, but one I strongly believe is true. How do you feel when you surf social media? In seeing other people’s lives (which are inevitably a carefully framed highlight reel of the truth), how do you feel about your own? Recently there have been more and more times that I have felt worse after browsing social media – not relaxed or entertained, like I had hoped.

Technology provides us a big, open window into each other’s’ lives. As we peer through, we can’t help but compare what we see to our own reality. Using technology for this purpose fuels jealously, discontent and stress. The skill we really need to strengthen is our ability to be happy for one another while being equally happy for ourselves. We are all blessed in different ways!

Has the overuse of technology hindered some of these valuable skills for you personally? Or does this apply to someone you know? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2016 in Life, Technology

 

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4 Reasons to Keep an Updated Resume – Even When You’re Not Looking for a Job

4 Reasons to Keep an Updated Resume

If you’ve been settled into your current job, even for just a year, it may be time to revisit and update your resume. You might be thinking “Why would I spend my time on that? I enjoy my job and have no plans to leave anytime soon.” Unfortunately, our economy and personal situations are equally hard to predict and either could land you unexpectedly unemployed or with the immediate need to find another job.

By keeping an updated resume, you won’t be overwhelmed by the task of updating it with a decade or more of new work experience, or worse yet, creating a completely new one from scratch. This is a major time savings when time is of the essence!

Simply put, the power of keeping a polished resume throughout your career can be more valuable than you think. Take a look at these 4 reasons to keep an updated resume, even when you’re not looking for a job.

Resumes are used for more than just job hunting

Keep in mind that a resume serves far more purposes that just landing a new job. If you want to apply for an award, toss your hat in the ring to be a guest speaker or be considered for a promotion within your current position, an updated resume may be required. By keeping an updated resume, you’re that much more prepared to jump on these opportunities as they arise.

It helps you see areas that might need strengthening

Could some continuing education or an industry certification help give you more of an edge in your professional field? As you update your resume periodically, you can see areas that may need to be strengthened in order to keep up with your peers. As much as your resume is a snapshot of your past work experience and qualifications, it can also serve as a road map to your future professional goals. If you take the time to review it frequently, you will see the potholes that need a little filling.

You may not be looking for a job, but a job could be looking for you

Headhunters and hiring managers might see your qualifications (like on social media platforms such as Linkedin) and approach you about a job opportunity. By keeping your resume updated, you’ll be able to quickly act on such an offer without hesitation. This is all the more reason to also keep your Linkedin profile updated along with your printed resume. They duplicate essentially the same information, so it’s hardly any additional work, especially considering the potential gain from doing so.

If and when you start a new job search, you’ll be glad you kept up with it

Updating a resume that is twenty years old is far more overwhelming than one that is updated every year. Plus, think about all the details that are sure to get lost over time. Can you recall all of the responsibilities and achievements from your first job from memory? Not likely. If you commit to capturing this information on a yearly basis, your resume will stay up to date and comprehensive of all the amazing things you have accomplished in your career thus far. Best of all, whenever you find yourself in need of a resume, it will be as simple as pulling up the file and glancing over it for a quick review rather than blowing off a pile of dust and trying to recall details of your job from several decades prior. Your future self cannot thank you enough for this!

When’s the last time you took a critical look at your resume? Share whether you do or do not have an updated resume and why by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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Why a Basic Knowledge of Photography Will Improve Your Public Relations

Why a Basic Knowledge of Photography Will Improve Your Public Relations

Photography is a powerful tool that can help you convey a message or establish a brand. Specifically in the Public Relations industry, one great image can be the difference between having your press release picked up or not. Although photography won’t make up for poorly crafted content, visuals can go a long way toward making quality content that much better.

So what are the basics of what PR professionals should know about photography? Here are for instances when photography can help to improve your business’s PR strategy.

No Image No Story

Without an image, your story feels incomplete. People want to see something in addition to reading something (even if the visual is the title of the article, like we often do here). It captures a reader’s attention and stands out more than just all words. It also makes it easy for a reader to get a sense of what the story is about before reading it.

Depending upon your resources and how large a PR company you have, you can often outsource or hire a professional photographer to work on projects. There are times, however, when there is no budget to outsource or you have multiple projects and not enough employees to cover all your events. In either situation, this is when having a basic knowledge of photography skills will be a huge asset. You can dive right in and capture some great images yourself!

Even a simple, stock image can help your article to look more interesting and polished.

Even a simple, stock image can help your article to look more interesting and polished.

Stock Image Gallery

As we mentioned in the previous point, sometimes you can afford to outsource your work to a professional photographer for certain projects. And creating a stock image gallery for your PR Firm is one of the most valuable ways to utilize professional photography again and again. Quality stock images can be used on your website, social media, marketing materials, blogs, newsletters and much more. Most importantly, they are exclusively yours. No one else will have them and you won’t have to worry about copyright issues.

This stock image was shot by our own photography, Danielle. There are countless ways we can use this for future promotions and best of all, it's uniquely ours!

This stock image was shot by our own photography, Danielle. There are countless ways we can use this for future promotions and best of all, it’s uniquely ours!

Clients and Events

Often in the PR field, you will be asked to photograph important clients or events, meaning you need to have a basic understanding of photography to capture these moments with quality shots. During events, people won’t often pose for multiple photographs (or pose at all), so it’s important to capture usable images on the first try – you won’t get a second chance. It’s highly disappointing to both you and your client if you host an incredible event without a single good photo to promote your work.

This image was captured at a client's charitable volunteer event. An action shot really helps to tell a story more so than a posed shot.

This image was captured at a client’s charitable volunteer event. An action shot really helps to tell a story more so than a posed shot.

Blogging

We know that blogging is a powerful marketing and branding tool that is valuable to your business is so many ways (we’ve written about it a lot). When it comes to a great blog, you need at least one image to draw readers in and help them connect with your message. Especially when your blog is shared on social media, this visual will create a much more aesthetically pleasing post that stands out in newsfeeds. Even the most catchy title and creative description will get lost in the noise without a photo to complement the words.

Do you work in PR or use PR strategies to grow your business? If so, let us know if this was helpful by commenting below!

 
 

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A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

This week’s blog shares the personal perspective of Bennis Inc employee, Danielle Gouger. Danielle is our PR assistant and photographer and balances the unique challenges of life as a working mother. Learn more about Danielle here!


A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

As a newly single mom of a four-year-old spunky little girl, I began working from home in January of this year, and I am still learning each and every day how to achieve work-life balance.

Transitioning from my former position as a photography studio manager where I worked almost every weekend, many late evenings, and was always on call to support to my team, I find working from home and setting my hours has enabled me to re-prioritize and find a better work-life balance.

I was afraid, after leaving my photography position, that I would not be able to find a career that I was passionate about that would still allow me to be the mother I wanted to be. I am so thankful and grateful at this time in my life to have landed a job with a local Public Relations company that is led by a working mom now of two little ones, who understands and has worked hard to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship.

This new position offers me the creativity I need to thrive in my career and also the flexibility to work from home so that I can spend more time with my daughter. But it’s important to note it takes organization and time management to make it all work! Here is my guide for achieving work-life balance as a working mom, based upon my personal experience thus far.

Get Focused

Balancing work life and personal life means being effective with the time you have to work. Simply put, I don’t allow for distractions! Concentrating while working from home can sometimes be challenging with all the distractions of wanting to do other things, so it’s important to treat work time as sacred.

After I drop my daughter off at her daycare down the street, I come home, turn my laptop on, pour a second cup of coffee, and get started with my work day with checking my email. Now is the best time for me to get focused and dive right into my workday tasks. Having a great work environment is proven to facilitate productivity, so when working from home, it is important to create and maintain whatever type of environment helps you focus. I have personally found that having a designated office area in my home has helped me to be more focused and separate my work and personal life.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!

I’ve always been a planner, but once you have children it is so much more important to plan and keep a schedule, not only for yourself but kids need a routine, too! The most beneficial tool I use in my everyday life, besides my cell phone, is my calendar. Penciling in appointments, meetings and activities, really gives me a realistic view of my time. It’s important to factor in driving distance between places!

Also, you need to allow enough time to settle into an activity. For instance, when I take my daughter to daycare in the morning, it takes us some time to say our goodbyes to make sure we are both comfortable with her acclimating to her day. One final element I like schedule in my day or week is catch up time. This allows for life’s unexpected moments that, even with planning, can and do happen with work and especially when raising a four-year-old!

Prioritize

Watch for patterns in your day. Are you more productive in the morning or the afternoon? This is an important question to ask yourself when prioritizing your day and week.

I personally get more accomplished in the morning. So in my case, I try and tackle harder tasks in the morning as that is when I get my best work done. I also try to maximize my time by breaking down my day into smaller, bite-size tasks. Doing this allows me to get a lot more accomplished and to stay focused on the task at hand.

When it comes to household chores and errands (yes, they’re a necessary evil), I try and write a list for the week and pick two things to accomplish off my list each day. This prevents these responsibilities from piling up over the week and overflowing into my previous “family time” over the weekend.

Finally, as a single mom trying to balance work and life, you can sometimes forget to prioritize yourself. It’s important to take even 20 minutes for yourself each day, whether that’s catching up on a favorite TV show, going for a walk, or simply sitting in peace. Taking that little time for yourself allows you to be more available and present to do everything else you need to do as a working mom.

Close Down for the Night

There is a saying “every day has a new beginning,” so I believe there should be an end to every night. It is important to try and accomplish as much as you can off your daily to-do list to prevent these tasks from flowing into the next day and making tomorrow more overwhelming than it needs to be.

I try to get my workday accomplished by 5 o’clock now, so that once I pick my daughter up for the day I can focus the evening on her. Right before leaving the house, I will once again go through my emails to make sure I haven’t missed anything and then close down for the day. Once I pick her up, we will occasionally run a small errand or I will complete a household chore before supper. Except for Tuesdays; this is a night fully dedicated to her as she goes to her gymnastics class that evening and I love to be there and watch her in her element!

I now make it a priority to sit down with my daughter for dinner, and the rest of the evening we spend quality time together before bath and bedtime. Once my little one is sound asleep, I will give myself some time to read a book or catch up on a favorite show, as I have learned you deserve some “you” time the close the day. We work too hard not to reward ourselves with this! Finally, as important as it is to close down for the night, on Friday’s after I wrap my day up, I try to close down from work for the weekend, and leave what can wait to Monday.

How do you achieve balance as a working mom? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

Technology is a help as much as it is a hindrance. While we have used countless forms of technology to fuel our efficiency, organization, communication with one another and the way we impact the world,  we have also lost some essential and valuable skills along the way.

What skills have suffered? Mostly our people skills and soft skills, but also a few others you might not expect! Let’s take at a look at the 11 skills that technology is killing and see if they apply to you as well.

Handwriting

I certainly hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t recognize my own handwriting on the rare occasion I need to send a written letter or jot down some notes. There are really limited instances that don’t allow for a keyboard to make our thoughts legible. While technology certainly provides ease and efficiency of writing, quality penmanship has become a lost art.

Why does this matter? There will always be instances when a pen and pencil yield a more “personal” product, like a thank you note. There will also be times when we simply will run out of battery or WiFi and need to ask for some paper to capture important thoughts.

Eye contact

We have the ability to communicate with more people than ever on a daily basis. Yet, this has made these countless interactions feel less personal. Contributing your opinion to an online thread of thousands of comments is nowhere near as direct and meaningful as a face-to-face conversation with someone over a cup of coffee. I’ve found that people are so engrossed in their technology, catching up on email or social networks as they walk to and from their next destination, that they forget to look up and see the “real life” people standing around them.

The result? We forgot to look into someone’s eyes when we are talking to them. Do you greet your cashier by looking him in the eye and asking “How are you?” Do you keep eye contact with someone as they answer your question? If not, these are all areas we should strive to improve by unplugging from technology and plugging into one another.

The art of small talk

For most career-minded individuals, networking and meeting new people is essential for growing your business. This often means making a lot of small talk. But quality small talk requires more than just asking someone the obligatory “How are you today?” or commenting on the weather. It requires attention to the situation and nonverbal cues that tell us what will engage that person.

Technology has distracted and disconnected us from the living, breathing world around us so much that we have lost the valuable skill of being able to have an off-the-cuff conversation with a complete stranger.

Basic math

I am not too proud (though embarrassed) to admit that my basic math skills are severely lacking. Funny enough, I do still know my times tables and have not forgotten how to add or subtract. What I’ve lost is my confidence and patience to do the work mentally. Why? Because of technology. Why spend twice the time coming up with an answer I am only 50% sure is correct when I can just whip out my phone, punch in some numbers and have full confidence in the right answer?

This, of course, is a dangerous mindset and one that will continue to spread from generation to generation as technology only becomes increasingly convenient and ever-present. The solution is not easy, but it can start with each of us personally. We should take pride in keeping our basic math skills sharp and utilize them even if it means taking a few extra minutes and double-checking our answers.

Social awareness

Social awareness is the modern day way to say common courtesy. As the result of our obsession with and reliance upon technology, we forget there are other humans around us. The most common examples I’ve come across are people forgetting to hold the door, stepping in front of a line of waiting customers and cutting people off with a grocery cart.

While these are simple scenarios, they do indicate a larger social problem. We are so consumed in our own (online) lives that we ignore the need to courtesy coexist with one another.

Committing things to memory

If you were without your cell phone and needed to call your closest friends and family, would you know their phone numbers by memory? Probably not! I know I have exactly two phone numbers memorized aside from my own, my childhood home phone and my husband’s cell. This means I couldn’t even call my own parents’ cell phones without referencing my contact list.

Technology is a great tool for storing important information and phone numbers are just one of countless examples. But think about how we also Google everything imaginable – even common things like the meaning of an acronym or the year WWII began. If we lost access to all technology, would we, as adults, be “smarter than a 5th grader?” I’m not so sure.

Appreciating silence

This skill is one I really see the importance of as an introvert, yet I don’t always practice it. Think of your work environment. Do you always need some sort of background noise like a radio or TV? When walking from one place to another, do you feel the desire to talk to someone on the phone or pop in your headphones? When is the last time you did anything (aside from sleeping) in complete silence for more than an hour?

Appreciating silence is an important skill because it forces us to clear out the mental clutter, listen to our thoughts and address issues that might be bugging us. All of these things are easily masked by technology and noise – but will cause stress and distraction if not given proper attention.

Feeling comfortable without “props”

Similarly to feeling uncomfortable in complete silence, how do you react to waiting for someone or something without any technology to distract you? I know if I am waiting for a client, a food order or to be called back for an appointment, I feel the need to read emails, check in on social media or catch up on texts.

There’s a level of efficiency with this, but that is soon fulfilled within a few minutes. The issue is when we aimlessly browse our phones or tablets as a distraction from the world around us. The next time you’re waiting for someone to meet you in a coffee shop, enjoy sipping your coffee and watching the real world unfold. It’s amazing what you’ll see that you would have missed otherwise!

Making plans and sticking to them

When making social plans on the weekend, I’ve often wondered what people did before cell phones when it came to changing plans or running late. From asking enough of my “older peers,” I’ve come to the conclusion that people simply did a better job of sticking to their original plans!

Thanks to technology we have the ability to endlessly change where we’re going, at what time and with whom. If you’re on the receiving end of all of these changes it’s frustrating to say the least. Back before cell phones and social media, once people left the house, they were expected to be where they said they were going – and they really made a better effort of honoring that.

Fully focusing on one thing

Using multitasking to be more efficient with your time is a huge myth. Why? We’re not machines. We cannot quickly or easily switch from one task to another without losing momentum in the process. When we multitask and try to do too many things at once, we don’t fully accomplish anything.

Technology has created an environment where it’s easy to multitask and pile on distraction upon distraction. One time I caught myself watching TV while surfing my iPad. I couldn’t remember what show I was watching and I had minimal recollection of what I was looking at on social media. Trying to multitask my leisure time was a moment of reckoning for me. We need to get back to applying our sole focus to one thing at a time, doing it well and moving on to the next task with a clear mind.

Feeling content

Finally and most importantly, our reliance upon technology has messed with our ability to feel content. This is a bold claim, but one I strongly believe is true. How do you feel when you surf social media? In seeing other people’s lives (which are inevitably a carefully framed highlight reel of the truth), how do you feel about your own? Recently there have been more and more times that I have felt worse after browsing social media – not relaxed or entertained, like I had hoped.

Technology provides us a big, open window into each other’s’ lives. As we peer through, we can’t help but compare what we see to our own reality. Using technology for this purpose fuels jealously, discontent and stress. The skill we really need to strengthen is our ability to be happy for one another while being equally happy for ourselves. We are all blessed in different ways!

Has the overuse of technology hindered some of these valuable skills for you personally? Or does this apply to someone you know? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Life

 

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

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

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

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

Scope of project

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

Cost of capital

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

Paying for professionalism

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

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

 
 

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