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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

5 New Year_s Resolutions for Better Time Management

Some of my very first blog posts have focused on the topic of time management. I’m passionate about discovering new ways to efficiently use my time so that I can have the greatest impact on my clients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The reality is, it will always be a work in progress and sometimes I slide back into old habits that leave me feeling overwhelmed.

For 2018, I want to refresh my time management tools to make this year my most fulfilling one yet, both on the professional and personal sides of life. If you find that you’re already struggling to keep you head above water in these first few weeks of January, I urge you to join me in making five small, but impactful New Year’s resolutions. The common goal of these resolutions is to help you balance your life so you’re doing more of what you love, and being mentally present in the moment to fully enjoy it.

Take this resolution with me! In 2018, I will…

  1. Start my morning with a clear “inbox”

Several years ago (once my kids were finally on good sleep schedules), I began to wake up one hour earlier than the rest of my family. I used this time to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and clear out my inbox. By the time everyone else was waking up, I had handled many small tasks and outlined the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I could then close my computer and enjoy those morning hours with my family.

By the time my husband and sons were off to their respective locations for the day, I could again open up shop and jump right into my core tasks. I found this single hour in the morning gave me so much more patience and peace of mind to be present with my family. While there may be some mornings I choose to hit snooze, I resolve this year to use this “power hour” at least 3 times per week, or as needed.

  1. Keep an organized to-do list for each day

I have always kept a rolling to-do list of every task on my plate at a given time. However, this year I resolve to take things up a notch and organize this a bit further. I find that by placing my to-do’s on a list on my computer, I no longer carry around the mental weight of trying to remember it all. I also love the satisfaction of deleting something from my to-do list.

This year, I plan to keep a daily to-do list where I can spread out and prioritize my work tasks over the course of the week. In doing so, I know that I merely need to accomplish what is on today’s to-do list to stay on track. One long list can be paralyzing to tackle. Rather, a list that breaks it down by day and order of importance is far more manageable.

  1. Manage other people’s expectations of my time

This is an important one! Typically I try and complete work tasks as quickly as I can for my clients, often giving them same-day service. While this has helped to build up a great book of business, adhering to this standard every single day is neither reasonable nor necessary. Rather, this year I resolve to manage people’s expectations of my time, both professionally and personally. I plan to assign a realistic deadline so everyone is on the same page and so that it works into my workflow without causing undue stress. I anticipate I will often deliver tasks in advance of the deadline, which is all the better for building a good reputation with clients! But having a deadline as my buffer will help me retrain myself that many tasks can wait while I prioritize other things in my day like relaxation and family.

  1. Block schedule my time

Another secret to getting the most out of the hours in my day is to use a block scheduling strategy. On days when I have one out-of-the-home meeting scheduled, I try to schedule a few others as well. There are a few reasons for doing this. First, I know I will already be out and about and professionally dressed (not always the case when working from home!). Second, having just one meeting during the day really breaks my concertation and work flow. If it’s going to get broken anyways, I may as well make it worth it by blocking most of that day out for other meetings.

On the flip side, days when I have no meetings or phone calls scheduled, I am very protective of this time and strategically plan nothing else on such a day. I know I can get into a deep concertation and plow through a lot of work tasks that would typically take me far more time if disrupted by anything else. I love these days just as much as I love my client meeting days. It’s all about balance – and something that I resolve to gain more of in the New Year.

  1. Decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on

When you spend any part of your career as an entrepreneur, you quickly learn to say yes to any work that comes your way. However, once you’ve built a solid business, you need to remove yourself from the trap of trading your time for tasks that don’t pay your market rate or that you simply down enjoy. While I have gotten better each year, I want to make a conscious effort in 2018 to decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on. This applies to work tasks as much as it applies to household tasks.

Consider what you time is worth. If you can work an extra hour or two and afford someone else to do something you don’t enjoy, like clean your home, it’s more than break even! Before you start turning down or having someone else take on work for you, get a good grip on your budget and understand your “hourly rate.” Then, gradually transition into letting other people help you get things done. After all, it’s an opportunity to someone else to make a living too!

Have you made a resolution for the New Year? Does it focus on time management or something else? Share what you hope to accomplish in 2018 by leaving a comment below!

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7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

For a business owner, putting together client proposals or customer quotes (whichever applies to your industry) can feel like the bane of your existence some days. If you invest way too much time and energy into your client proposals, that’s time you’re not spending on doing actual work. Moreover, on the chance that client chooses to work with a different business, your time was a complete wash.

So how can you streamline your proposal process? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along my entrepreneurial journey that allow me to put together just about every client proposal in an hour or less.

  1. Use a standard template.

While every proposal will (and should) be unique, you will save a lot of time and headache by developing and following a standard template. More than just consistent branding, a standard template will guide you with what information to include where. As you build an archive of past client proposals, you can pull entire sections from these, especially if you’re proposing a similar package of services.

  1. Scope the client’s desired services in the first meeting.

During my first meeting with a client, I leave with a pretty well defined scope of services. That’s very intentional on my part. With a narrowed focus on what my client wants, I can quickly and efficiently put together a proposal and email it to them same-day. I’ve found that producing a proposal on the same day of our meeting keeps the momentum going and often leads to a signed contract within a day or two.

  1. If the client doesn’t know what they want, charge to tell them!

If you find yourself in a meeting with a client thinking “They have no clue what they need! Where do I start?” this is a good indication that the first thing you give that client is a strategy. And by give, I mean get paid to create a comprehensive strategic plan. Working with a client to map out their strategic plan will help you see if you work well together. You will also prove the value of your work while outlining the scope of your services moving forward.

  1. Don’t put a price on anything until you agree upon scope.

This is the third point to focus on the importance of scope. Do you get the picture why it’s so important? If not, let me give you one more reason to consider. Say you create a large proposal for a client, throwing in stuff you didn’t talk about and you’re not sure they really want. You put a final price on it and send it over for review. Then the client comes back and wants you to take out what they feel is about “half” of the services and then wants you to also cut the price in half. This could put you in a really tough position!

Maybe the half they removed consisted of the less time consuming services, so it’s not really an even split. Maybe you gave them a slight discount considering they were going to purchase a larger block of your hours. Now you’re in a sticky situation. You either take the work for less than you would like to charge or have to explain to your client why the price is higher than they feel it should be.

Avoid all of this mess by providing your client with an “idea proposal” for them to first prioritize the exact services they are interested in having you quote. Then quote away! You may even consider breaking down the total price into line-items so if your client should wish to remove a piece of the proposal, it’s clearly marked how this will impact the total price. Which brings us to the next point…

  1. Break down the proposal into small line-items and let the client pick and choose.

If your client has a limited budget, but you still want to showcase the full scope of services you can provide, consider quoting the services out as smaller line-items. For example, a client asks for your help with a direct mail piece and new marketing materials, but you know they desperately need a new website and social media overhaul. Include these extra pieces in your proposal so they can see what each will cost.

I most often see one of two things happen. The client is pleasantly surprised by the price and decides to add the extra services in right now or they create room for it in their business’s budget and come back a few months later to complete the extra work. Whether it’s now or later, it is extra business you may not have gotten unless you presented it!

  1. If the client’s deliverables will vary each month, simply sell blocks of your time.

For a few of my clients, their strategic communication needs ebb and flow from month to month. One month we might focus all of our hours on a single, large project. The next month there may be several smaller projects that take up our time. For these clients, I simply sell them a block of hours that they can apply however they wish. If an urgent project comes up, we can shift the focus of our monthly hours or they can add hours to their retainer. The best part is that presenting this option is a very simple proposal to put together! I show my standard hourly rate and then the various discounts per hour they will receive based upon the quantity they pre-purchase.

  1. Put a 30-day expiration date on all proposals.

Finally, I highly recommend placing an expiration date on all of your proposals. You can determine how strict you want to be, I personally say 30 days from the date the proposal was delivered. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. First, you add a sense of urgency for the client. They realize that if they wait beyond that 30 days, you may take on a different client in their place and no longer have the bandwidth to accommodate their work. This results in closing the contract sooner. Second, you reserve the right to issue a new proposal once that 30 days has passed. If there is higher demand for your time, your price will likely increase. This is a standard practice many industries use and you should too!

To bring it all back together, the key to writing faster client proposals is to be efficient and strategic in your first meeting with the client to leave with a prioritized list of what they want. You also want to develop a standard template, use pieces from past proposals where applicable, and be careful about how you structure your pricing so that you don’t back yourself into a corner. Finally, protect your time and add a sense of urgency to your proposal by setting an expiration date.

What tip for writing faster client proposals did you find most helpful? Or do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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How to Be Your Own News Source (Guest Blog by Beth Ann Matkovich)

The following post comes to us from Beth Ann Matkovich, a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. Please see her complete byline at the end of the article and learn how to connect with Beth Ann!


How to Be Your Own News Source

Let’s face it, not every business or industry has a compelling story to tell.

When markets started turning south in 2008, the president of our firm called a meeting and asked us to brainstorm ways that we could generate income outside of our typical revenue stream. Social media was just coming into popularity, so I suggested that we monetize our intelligence. As the market was falling and things began to move ever slower, I proposed that we share our intelligence with clients and prospects to establish ourselves as industry leaders during the downtime, so that when the recession passed, we would be top of mind when our clients and prospects needed our services.

The Power of Content Marketing

But with no “news” or stories to share, how can companies become their own news outlet? The answer is easy: content marketing. Simply put, content marketing puts you in front of your current and potential clients.

Whether you offer a product or a service, or are a B2B or B2C organization, your knowledge is your product. According to an oral presentation given by Tyler Bouldin, Senior Web Strategy Manager at WebpageFX, the benefits of sharing your knowledge are many:

  • It establishes you and/or your company as a subject matter expert.
  • It establishes you and/or your company as an industry leader.
  • It engages readers and gains followers.
  • It improves retention.
  • It can turn leads into prospects.
  • It fills potential gaps in the sales process.

Start with These Key Questions

But before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to create your content, Bouldin notes that it’s important to identify who you want to reach. Is it existing clients? New prospects? Others? After you identify your audience, describe who they are by creating a persona. Are members of your audience men, women, or both? How old are they? Where are they located? What is their education and income level? What are the pain points that you can address or resolve for them?

The last point is critical, as it is the foundation of your content. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Yes, content marketing is intended to ultimately bring in sales. But the purpose of developing content is to inform your audience and share valuable information. By educating your readers, you become a trusted source of information. Content marketing is not a one-way pushy sales pitch.

Have a Clear Focus for your Content

So what should you write about? According to Bouldin, that question can be answered with another question: What do you know about that will interest your readers? Back to square one, right? Wrong. Consider what changes are taking place in your industry and how it impacts your audience—and most of all—how you can help. What do you do or offer that no one else does or that differentiates you from others? What are your clients’ most frequently asked questions?

Plan Ahead

After you’ve identified your topics, create a plan for sharing your content. Creating a content calendar is a helpful way to visualize what content is posted where, and to schedule topics accordingly around other or related topics or events. Having a plan also offers a checklist of sorts to ensure that the work gets done.

Success is in Promotion

So you’ve identified your audience and topics, written your content, and created a plan to share it. Now get out there and promote it! Bouldin notes that if your company or organization doesn’t already have a blog, create one. This is an ideal venue for your content.

Be sure to share and promote your blog on social media. It’s important to keep your audience in mind when considering social media platforms. You likely won’t attract many 55+ business professionals on Snapchat, so make sure your message is appropriate for the platform and its audience.

You can also create an e-newsletter to get your content directly to your audience. Online tools such as MailChimp or Constant Contact are popular platforms that can help you track engagement so that you can see who is opening your newsletter and when, and allow you to adjust send times and content as appropriate. For extra mileage, share your expertise with industry trade publications and blogs.

Measure, Adjust and Refine Your Efforts

If incoming calls and foot traffic don’t show the success of your content marketing efforts, get out your measuring tools. Google analytics can give a good overview of your content’s performance and allow you to drill down into pages, users, engagement, and bounce rates.

Just like any other marketing tactic, content marketing is not a once-and-done deal. After creating and sharing your content, measure your message’s effectiveness and start again. Keeping your message in front of your audience will keep you and your organization ahead of your competition and establish you as a valued news source for your readers.

Have you used content marketing to position your business as an industry leader on a particular topic? What strategies did you find to be most successful? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!


P Beth Ann McCoy (2)About the Author: Beth Ann McCoy is a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. She has broad experience with small, non-profit organizations, large international corporations and everything in between. She has written short and long-form content for local and global publications including Harrisburg Magazine, the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal, World Pipelines, and Water and Wastewater International, among others. Beth Ann welcomes new opportunities and can be reached at bmatkovich@hotmail.com.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Guest Blogger

 

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Dear New Entrepreneur…A Letter to My Younger Self

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!


Momsquad

Credit: Perry Media Group where I am proud to be a part of the “Mom Squad” team of fellow communication consultants.

It was July 2011 when I handed HR my two-week notice. I still have this simple letter, modeled after a template I found online when I googled “professional resignation.” I put no more effort into creating this life-changing document than I had put into what was supposed to be my “dream job” for the past 4 months.

Before taking the entrepreneurial leap to start my own Public Relations consulting business, I worked in the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Office of Legislative Affairs. The title and the perception were the only things remotely impressive and glamorous about this job, I assure you.

My tiny cubicle, stable salary and paid time off, while a luxury for most fresh college grads, all contributed to creating a comfortable prison that just might have kept me locked away until I earned my vested retirement, had I not longed for so much more.

Blame it on my entrepreneurial spirit – or foolish confidence, but I was willing to walk away from the guarantee of a stable, but unfulfilling, career for the chance at creating something so much greater.

Nearly seven years later, I thank this young entrepreneur who wasted no time pursuing her dreams. Every day I work to make her sacrifices and uncertainties worth something by continuing to grow this business while never slipping back into the monotony of a career I don’t truly love.

Like most entrepreneurs, I wish I could somehow equip my younger self with the wisdom I’ve since gained from years of experience. Though I can’t, I can hopefully inspire other new entrepreneurs to take the leap – and maybe, just maybe – change the world…or at least their own!


Dear New Entrepreneur:

I know you’re busy, and likely skeptical about the advice I want to give you, so I will get straight to the point. You know a lot; a lot more than you might give yourself credit for right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand to learn a few things from a fellow entrepreneur who is a few years ahead of you on this journey.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do – I know that’s exactly what you’re trying to escape. But I would like to tell you that you’re on the right track, your gut is your best navigation device and the passion you feel today will continue to grow, despite what people may try and tell you. Please read on. I promise it won’t take long and it just might be that reassurance you’re so desperately looking for right now.

My advice to you, new entrepreneur is this…

Office space and employees don’t determine your success.

Right now you may be working from home as a sole proprietor just waiting for your first chance to lock into a commercial lease and hire your best friends. Stop looking for ways to tie yourself down and add to your overhead. This is everything you ran away from in corporate America. Learn to love the freedom and efficiency of working from home with no one to answer to but yourself. Hire fellow contractors only as you need them, get to know the best coffee shops to hold client meetings and enjoy keeping so much more of your salary – and sanity.

It’s okay to walk away from a “bad” client…even if you really need the money.

Go with your gut here. If a client tries to undercut your pricing or negotiate you into a corner, be willing to walk away. There will always be more, I promise. Yeah, you could really use the money…you always will be able to “really use the money.” The drawbacks to taking on a client that is a bad fit for your business will always cost you more in the long run than they’re willing to pay. Set boundaries and respect your values. You will learn to appreciate those “good” clients so much more!

You will always be surprised by those who want to see you succeed…and those who do not.

There will always be “friends” who you think will support you way more than they actually do. It will hurt and may make you question your decision to become an entrepreneur. Your decision is not what you should be second-guessing, rather it’s your friendship with this person. But don’t take it too hard; there will also be people you barely know that will rise up as your greatest cheerleaders. Appreciate these people and do the same for them in return!

Basic skills, like mail merging and stuffing envelopes, will be just as important five years from now.

When I first started out, I thought someday I might hire someone who would send my invoices, set meetings on my calendar and answer my phone calls. Five years later and the most capable person to handle these tasks is still me. These basic skills will always be important for running your business. Stay as hands on as it makes sense. Don’t outsource something just because you think you’re above it. Keep your overhead – and your ego – in check.

Make friends with your competition.

You will meet many other businesses along your journey that appear to do exactly what you do. Before you choose to secretly stalk their social media accounts and compare your client list, sit down and get to know them! Learning more about businesses I once deemed as competition has helped to create some of the best “power partnerships” I have. It’s amazing how once you really get to know about each other and the ideal client you are each hoping to find, you will realize you don’t overlap at all. Rather, you are great referrals for one another that can work together to help you both thrive.

Never make excuses

Mistakes will happen. Hopefully they are small, but they also might be big. No matter the size or scope, take ownership of any mistake and never make excuses. If something was truly a mistake or oversight, you have nothing of which to be ashamed. We are fallible humans, even us entrepreneurs. A reasonable client will understand this simple truth, as they are bound to make a few mistakes too. You will build credibility and trust if you own up to a mistake quickly and openly without blaming it on something, or someone else.

Only you can determine what you are worth

Deciding how you will price your services will be one of the hardest parts of running your business. You will have moments when you feel horribly underpaid and moments when you question whether you’re asking for too much. My best advice is to be strategic and remain consistent. This doesn’t mean you will (or should) charge the same rates for the rest of your life. Your experience will increase and so should your fees. But developing a strategy for how you will price your projects early on will save you from second-guessing, losing clients and losing income in the future.

Work toward creating a lifestyle, not just a business

In an effort to run a business, it’s easy to make the mistake of letting the business run you. Don’t recreate the same hell you fought so hard to leave to start your entrepreneurial journey. Take time off, travel, spend some money on fun things (all within reason, of course…it doesn’t take much)! Always keep in mind your goal of creating a particular lifestyle – one that affords you to be flexible and fulfilled – not just earning a certain income no matter the real costs.

Begin and end every day with affirmations

The entrepreneurial journey can be rough at times, that goes without saying. Amidst your efforts to be self-motivated and fearless, also take it easy on yourself when you need it. Promise to begin and end every day with affirmations as to all the things you’re doing well and that are going right. It’s easy to forget and take for granted life’s little blessings when you’re so focused on ironing out every wrinkle. Appreciate the small gestures, like a green light when you really need it, that are reasons to smile.

That’s all I have for you, new entrepreneur. It’s not all the advice I could give, but it’s all I feel you really need right now. Remember…after all, you’ve got this!

What piece of advice speaks to you? Do you have other words of wisdom to offer new entrepreneurs based upon your own experience? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
 

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9 Tips for Planning a Successful Golf Outing Fundraiser

Golf ball

If you’ve ever planned a golf outing fundraiser, you know they can take up a lot of time and resources. However, they can also help your organization raise a good amount of cash…that is if you’re smart about it.

I’ve personally seen golf outings net tens of thousands of dollars in a single day, and others that seem to barely break even. The core differences between these two extremes can be boiled down into nine pieces of simple event planning advice.

Check out my tried and true tips for planning a successful golf outing fundraiser!

#1 Choose a golf course who is flexible and reasonable

Hopefully you have the power to choose among several golf courses. While yes, you want a course that people desire to golf, from the event planning perspective, you also want one that is flexible and reasonable with how the handle their golf outings.

Most recently I worked with a course that allowed us to bring in our own breakfast foods, coffee, beer and beverages for golfers to stock up on before hitting the course. They also provided catering on-site for the picnic afterword that was extremely affordable. While I gave them an estimated headcount, they only charged us based upon who actually showed up that day. Now that’s service! This level of flexibility may not be possible for everyone to find, based upon your location, but at least go in ready to negotiate!

#2 Coffee and donuts go a long way

If you can find that course that allows you to bring in coffee and donuts for your outing, do it! I’ve seen firsthand as to how this small gesture really welcomes your golfers and encourages them to stand around and chat with each other before hitting the green.

Especially if you’re planning a golf outing when whether tends to be cooler, a warm cup of coffee is more welcoming than a hug (and I don’t recommend you hug each golfer upon arrival). So, take the extra 20 minutes to grab a few dozen donuts and boxes of coffee. It won’t go unnoticed. Extras? Offer them to the golf course staff. Another win!

#3 Sponsorships, sponsorships, sponsorships

If this isn’t the first golf outing that you are planning, then you already know that sponsorships are really what make or break the event. Long before the day of golf arrives, you should have a pretty good amount of money committed to your outing by way of sponsorships.

Commonly, you’ll set various levels of sponsorships from Gold-level down to holes sponsors. Basically, make your sponsorship packages so attractive that no business sends a single golfer, but always sponsors a hole and a foursome (or more). Be sure to clearly communicate all the marketing benefits they’ll receive and make good on your promise.

What I’ve seen to be most effective is finding the person who has a personal connection to the business to make the sponsorship ask. Engage your board members (if you have them) to lend their hand in this way. Shooting off a few emails from the right people can result in thousands of extra dollars for your organization.

#4 Ask golf companies for charitable donations

Next, do your online research and compile a list of local, regional and national golf companies that offer charitable donations or sponsorships. You’ll be surprised by how many do! For example, you can request a free copy of Golf Magazine to give out to your golfers in their swag bags. Or Dixon Golf will send a rep along with a ton of free giveaways to enhance your outing with contests and prizes. Be sure to send in your charitable requests early. Some ask as much as 6 months in advance. This will also give you a good indication of what you can count on and where you may need to supplement your giveaways and door prizes.

#5 Sell Mulligans

At registration, be sure to hit your golfers up for a little extra cash by selling mulligans. I’ve found the pretty much every single person will buy them! For example, if you sell a mulligan for $5 each and each golfer in a foursome purchases 4 each (believe me, if one does they all will), then you’re standing to make an extra $80 in cash per foursome. The benefit to the golfer? A mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong. Essentially, the golfer is allowed to replay a stroke (even though this is against the formal rules of golf). Hey, it’s earning money for a good cause, right?

#6 Everyone loves free stuff

So we’ve talked about the free donuts and coffee and anything else you might get donated from golf companies. Don’t forget about providing a bag of snacks and other small items for golfers to load up on before hitting the green. Prepack a small bag of items like crackers, chips, trail mix, granola bars, non-meltable candy and gum. You can also put any of your organization’s marketing materials into these bags to ensure they’re received. Golfers will always appreciate a new sleeve of golf balls, tees, a t-shirt or hat. Know your audience and what they would most likely appreciate and focus your budget on these items.

#7 Cash is the best prize

Are you struggling to think of what the winning foursome, closest to the pin golfer or longest drive golfer will appreciate as their prize? Keep it simple for everyone and give out cash. This way, the golfers can put that money toward what they really want and need and aren’t stuck with something they’ll just look to give away. There’s no lack of use for cash! Plus getting out cash from the bank is the easiest gift shopping you’ll ever do.

#8 Run an efficient agenda

A golf outing is a long day for everyone. No matter how you slice it, a round of golf will pretty much take four hours. When your golfers come off the green, they’ll be tired, hungry and starting to think about hitting the road.

As part of your outing, you’ll likely want to provide them with an afternoon picnic or evening dinner. Plus this is your opportunity to share news and updates about your organization and bring everyone together one last time before saying “see you next year.” My advice is to run a very efficient agenda to keep people engaged. This means have the food ready to go as soon as people start filtering back in. Buffets are great because those who arrive first can get a head start and you aren’t waiting on the stragglers. Then, when most are seated and eating, kick off the program portion of your event. Announce the winners, draw the door prizes, make your announcements and share your thanks for those who helped to make the event a success. If your event gets the reputation that the dinner runs long and dry, more and more people will start to skip it altogether.

#9 Follow-up with unpaid sponsors and golfers

Finally, and most importantly to making your golf outing fundraiser a success is collecting 100% of the funds people have committed to you. You’ve paid all your invoices, so your golfers and sponsors need to make good on theirs.

Wait until after the golf outing, so that you can see who arrives with checks in hand, and then start your follow-up on unpaid accounts right away. Usually a friendly reminder email is all it takes, but sometimes it will take several forms of follow-up from phone calls to mailed invoices. This I promise you, if you don’t follow-up you will never have 100% of your commitments magically role in. Yes, it’s a pain, but when an email can ensure you get an extra $1,000 – do it!

Have you planned a golf outing fundraiser? Share your biggest challenges or secrets for success by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

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!


Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

Blogging is more than just a popular pastime, it’s becoming an increasingly important part of brand building and business development. Whether you’ve committed to a daily, weekly or monthly blog, regularly fueling its appetite with quality content can feel like a looming task on your to-do list.

So often we don’t stay consistent with publishing to a blog because we feel it’s too time consuming. Before you throw in the towel – and risk losing all the benefits of your blog – begin with these tips for writing better, faster blog posts. The easier and less time consuming this tasks becomes, the more likely you are to find a good routine and stick to it!

Let’s take a look…

Keep a running list of potential blog topics

It can be challenging when you know you need to write a blog post, but you simply don’t have any ideas come to mind. You may waste valuable minutes trying to come up with a topic that doesn’t motivate you to write and the result is a painful writing process that leaves you frustrated and drained. Overcome this hurdle by keeping a running list of potential blog topics. You never know when an idea will strike you, but it’s not likely to be during an ideal moment to sit down and write. Throw the topic into a word doc and then come back to it when you’re prepared to take on this task.

Save a folder of photos and quotes for inspiration

Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms. You don’t even need to have a particular topic in mind, but so long as a photo or quote sparks your creativity, it’s worth keeping in a folder for future use. Then, when you’re ready to write, browse through this folder and see what new ideas come to mind. I love pulling from quotes for inspiration. Most importantly, take a new spin on a quote to make the blog post original.

Start with the title and closing question

Staring at a blank word doc can be enough to signal anyone’s writer’s block. Once I open a new document, I immediately slap a headline up there and also write the closing question (you’ll see these at the end of every blog post I write). This gives me an immediate sense of productivity and also helps to set the tone of my blog.

Outline your sub headlines

Once you have a main headline, continue to outline the core pieces of your blog post with the sub headlines that shape the flow of your article. Many of my posts are lists of some sort, so I use this step to establish how long my list will be and what it will include. This helps me to visualize the full scope of the blog post and ensure I’m not missing any major components.

Leave your intro for last

You read that right. I’m suggesting you write everything else about your blog post then go back and do your introduction. This may seem backwards, but once you do it a few times you’ll see the major time-saving benefit. Once you have written all the other content within your article, you will have a better understanding of how to “preview” your main points in the introduction. Starting here cold will take you much more time to gather your thoughts, plus what you write may not even be relevant by the time you are done shaping the rest of the blog.

Write it all out, then proof read

For this particular technique of “speed writing a blog post,” you don’t want to take any more breaks than is necessary. I know I’m personally guilty of stopping after reach paragraph to proof read my work before moving it. This is a sneaky procrastination trick that we often don’t know we are doing. My rule of thumb for pumping out a quick blog post is to write everything out as it comes to mind and then switch to my editor’s hat and proof read the entire article at once. This is much better for efficiency and should also result in better overall editing.

Write several blog posts at once, when the mood is right

If you find yourself particularly inspired or with a good chunk of time to dive into writing, don’t stop with one blog post! Keep writing as many as you can. Once your writing muscle is warmed up, it’s a great opportunity to stock pile some blog posts for the future. Pay attention to when your creativity and quality of writing may start to wane and call it quits for the day. But push yourself a little further to write more than what you were planning, should you have the motivation.

Short and sweet works for everyone!

Finally and most importantly, avoid the pitfall of making writing a blog post into a far more daunting task than it needs to be. I, too, can get longwinded at times and before I know it I have wasted 2 hours on a blog post that should have only taken me 45 minutes to complete. The end result is a longer, but not necessarily better article. I actively try to get my thoughts out in a paragraph or two per sub headline. If I find I want to dig deeper into that particular topic, I note it as a potential blog post of its own in the future. Trust me, everyone will appreciate a short and sweet blog post that gets straight to the point!

Do you struggle to write quick and quality blog posts that don’t consume too much of your time? Share your challenges by commenting below and I’ll personally offer you an answer!

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

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!


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!

 

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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