Wednesday, August 11. 2010
For whatever reason, we have had thunderstorms that have hit between 3am and 5am for the last several mornings. Despite the best of intentions and a desire to sleep a full night, the storms often make themselves known. When I'm out in my kayak and see weather brewing on the horizon or a flash of lightning; I take the appropriate action and paddle towards shore.
Sometimes there are storms in the business world that companies ignore, often to their demise. Some examples include:
1. The recording industry thinking that downloaded music is a fad.
2. Video rental stores thinking that Netflix and Redbox won't affect their market share.
3. Any business hoping to attract a Generation X or Y client who has a website that was designed in 2001.
4. Any business that thinks their customers are loyal and won't be swayed by the competition's marketing efforts.
Just like a small rumble of thunder in the distance, your customers will ask for things that they want. Instead of trying to defend status quo, listen to them. Maybe you notice a competitor or another business using some savvy marketing practices. Model them!
Sometimes storms pass, other times they last a while. One thing is for sure; they always have an impact on the area that they pass over. Don't let your business get washed away because you are not observant.
Saturday, July 31. 2010
I just received a note from one of my coaching clients last night. She was telling me about the lack of speaking dates on her calendar. I offered a few suggestions and told her that I expected a report of her results within 24 hours. She ended up booking 2 speaking dates. Regardless of if you are a speaker, author, or just want to achieve better results in any area of life; follow this system:
1. Get a coach or trainer. A huge mistake that a lot of people make is that if they find something that doesn't work that well, they do more of it expecting different results. Whether it is a personal trainer who shows you that you are off by 3 degrees on doing a bicep curl, a golf coach who teaches you to bend your knees just a tad more, or a business coach who teaches you the 2 crucial words that can make your offer irresistible; you can leapfrog the learning curve by leveraging the experiences of others.
2. Practice the new technique and expect it to be uncomfortable. New things take a bit of getting used to.
3. Push yourself, and find an accountability partner. This person can be your trainer or coach. It could be a spouse or friend. I have a "Nag list" that my coach requires me to report to her twice per week. This allows me to accomplish a heck of a lot more than I would if I did not have that accountability.
We are living in an age of ever-changing technology, expectation, and aptitude. Tap your passions, discover a way to market it, and Always Better Your Best!
Friday, July 23. 2010
Last weekend, we were craving whole grain pancakes that are offered at several national restaurant chains in our area. When we entered restaurant #1, there was no one at the hostess table or the cash register. I understand that this was a Sunday morning and that it is one of the busiest times for breakfast.
While we were patiently waiting with others who had come in after us, a woman hurriedly rang someone up on the register and ran off to somewhere else in the restaurant. There was no "Welcome to our restaurant, we will be with you shortly," greetings or any other type of recognition. When we finally were able to get our name on the list she said, "There is a 15 minute wait." I understand that people need to wait in line at restaurants, but the absence of a greeting turned us off and we left for their competition.
When we entered the Village Inn restaurant, they were just as busy, but the manager greeted us warmly and informed us that it would be just a few minutes before we could get a table. The server we had was excellent and tended to our every need. The manager also popped by our table just to make sure everything was to our liking. We were thrilled with the experience and will gladly go back again soon.
What does this have to do with your business?
1. A smile and a warm greeting is one of the easiest and cheapest openers to any relationship. Keep in mind that you pay a lot of money to get people to come into your place of business, or for your phone to ring. Invest the proper amount of time with the "Director of First Impressions" so that the foundation is set for a good experience. If after the proper training they still turn people off, start working on a separation process.
2. Listen and fill the needs of your clients. I often hear people say things like, "He is a great talker, he could sell anything!" Actually, show me someone who is a great listener and I will show you someone who will be far better in sales than someone trying to work a "canned" pitch.
3. Ask people to buy. I don't know why this is so hard for some people. Zig Ziglar refers to salespeople who don't ask for the sale as "Professional Visitors." Even though we were stuffed from our breakfast described above, our server still offered to send us home with a pie. The worst thing that people can do is tell you "No" they can't shoot you and eat you.
Enjoy the sweet taste of success!
Monday, July 12. 2010
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last month, you are probably aware that the world has been going absolutely nuts about the World Cup. Whether or not you were one of the fans who found themselves glued to the television to catch any part of the tournament; you were undoubtedly aware of the economic impact of the tournament.
I'm not talking about the billions of dollars that were generated in South Africa, who hosted the event. Rather I'm talking about the impact of lost productivity in many countries who literally shut down for a matter of days to view the World Cup.
One study suggests the German economy, Europe's largest, loses more than $8 billion in productivity, about 0.27 percent of gross domestic product, during the month long tournament. Surveys in Britain predict output losses there of $1.5 billion to $2.3 billion.
What does this mean for you and your business? Perhaps you and your staff spend 30 minutes at the beginning of the day checking Facebook or other social media sites. Perhaps you are prone to answering a ringing phone, even when you are in the middle of a project. You may even engage in idle chatter or water cooler talk throughout the day. An hour here, an hour there...pretty soon you find yourself with projects not done and no more time left in the day.
Here are a few tips that I have found useful in ridding myself of "time vampires":
1. Return calls and check voice mail at certain times during the day. Obviously if you are in retail, this does not apply, but my outgoing message says, "I check my messages at noon and at the end of the business day. I will get back to you as quickly as possible. If this is an urgent matter, please text or email."
2. Schedule "Blow off" time. This time can be a bit of a mental break, a chance to catch up if you are off schedule, or it can allow you to mentally shift gears when switching activities.
3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. I can't tell you how many times I have found myself spending an hour trying to figure out a computer problem, plumbing problem, or some menial task when I could have and should have delegated the duty to someone else. If you don't have a staff, find someone to handle some of the non-revenue producing activities for you. Sites like Elance and oDesk offer people who would love to tackle your time wasting activities for a few bucks.
I hope this helps you add a few more hours in your day.
Thursday, June 10. 2010
Have you ever been at a restaurant where you felt totally unwelcome? I'm not talking about the kind of ignoring that happens when a place is totally slammed with customers; rather an atmosphere where people don't really care if you spend your money there.
The other day my friend, Tony, and I decided to visit a well known restaurant in Madison, WI. I won't divulge the name of the establishment, but I will tell you that they serve chicken wings...and they have a city located in New York as part of their name. We were eager to catch up and do some solid masterminding over an ice cold beverage. Not only were we not greeted when we walked through the door, but I wound up having to go to the bar to purchase our drinks. It was pretty obvious that the service staff was more interested in their conversations and text messaging than they were in helping to gain revenue for their establishment.
After about 20 minutes of masterminding and brainstorming, Tony and I began to wonder if we had some kind of plague or third eye growing out of our forehead. Perhaps we were on the set of Night of the Living Dead. No one had even said "Hello." At that moment, we decided to visit one of my favorite sushi hot spots named Wasabi.
We were greeted by everyone within seconds of entering, and shown to our table. The server was very gracious and pleasant and she was genuinely happy to provide us with a memorable experience. Guess which place will be around 6 months from now?
Here are a few lessons that you may apply to your business to help create great experiences for your clients:
1. Train the "Director of First Impressions." This can be a hostess, administrative assistant, or anyone who is the first point of contact for your customer. This person is often overlooked and under-appreciated, yet they set the foundation for the experience that people will have when they do business with you. Take care of them.
2. Check in on your guests. No one likes to look around to find their server. It is your job to take care of your guest.
3. Communicate with people if there was a mistake. A simple "I'm sorry we took so long to serve you, but we are a bit short staffed tonight." Would have cast a completely different light on the experience which I described above.
There is nothing like helping people create a fantastic experience. Many businesses spend barrels of money to get people through their doorway, but they neglect them when they are there. The easiest and most cost effective way to grow your business is to take care of the customers that you already have. I hope that you and your staff will continue to live with an "Always Better Your Best" attitude!
Monday, May 24. 2010
Can a group of heavily caffeinated young people help pave the way for your business and branding success? Only if you look behind the surface and pay attention to the real message. This morning I was enjoying my morning Diet Dew and listening to the radio. The "Dewmocracy" commercial came across the radio letting me know that "I could be part of a crucial moment in history...helping to choose the next permanent flavor of the Mountain Dew." I'm sure that this "historic" moment pales in comparison to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or marching on Selma, but I have always been fascinated by the unique and provocative ad campaigns that my favorite soda churns out.
Here are 3 crucial ways that this ad campaign ties into your business and your career:
1. Understand what is important to your clientele. Most Dew drinkers are 12-30 years old. That makes them part of 2 pivotal generations: Generation Y and Generation Next. These generations DEMAND to belong to something. What better way to belong to something than to be one of 3,200,498 votes that is on store shelves.
Why not create some kind of promotion within your business where people can vote for their favorite product or service within your business? Whether you offer 3 unique styles of necklaces that people could vote on, a favorite new logo for your business, or a tee shirt design; people will gladly offer their two cents.
2. Capture your client's information. It amazes me how many businesses pay huge money to get their phone to ring, doorbell to chime, or email inbox to ping. Yet they don't capture the client's information. The Dew Crew takes things a bit further by asking not only your contact information, but also offers to show you (via Facebook) what your friends thought of each flavor.
This is NOT about picking a flavor. It is about tapping into the primary communication style of your target market. I highly doubt that someone marketing dentures to senior citizens would utilize social media as their primary communication method. Different vehicles are much more effective when reaching an older demographic. If you are not that web savvy, find a high school or college age student to help you out with getting your presence out on the web. It doesn't matter how it gets done, it just matters that it gets done.
3. Keep in communication with your clientele. If you are not in front of your prospects at least every other week, your competition is. Don't let them get away. Whether it is an email magazine, articles that you write for industry publications that your target market reads, or simply sending a random card to your clients; you need to stay on their radar screen!
If you open your eyes and ears to what is going on around you and implement a crazy campaign or two, great things are bound to happen!
Wednesday, May 12. 2010
One of the greatest things about speaking at conventions is that I get to travel to various parts of the map. Friends that have moved away whom I have not seen in years are a bit easier to visit when I happen to have a speaking engagement in their area. Last night I was treated to an amazing evening with my friends, Cleve and Michelle Gaddis, and their 4 daughters. They happen to be in the Atlanta metro area which is where I'm speaking this afternoon.
While we were driving to their home last night, Cleve and I were discussing the "return on investment" of extra curricular activities and children. Cleve's oldest and my youngest are roughly the same age, and we can identify with the expense of time and money of these activities.. The activities may be sports, music, theater, or any other thing that helps a child identify a unique outlet of talent.
When we walked into Cleve's home, I was treated to a ukulele serenade by their 4 daughters and his wife Michelle. They were rolling through old songs and new songs and it was amazing! After dinner, we watched the video editing talents of yet another daughter. These top shelf quality music and family videos that she created on their Mac certainly put the old carousal slide shows of yesteryear to shame.
Then we moved on to more music. I grabbed a guitar, 2 girls grabbed their ukuleles, and everyone was having a great time. As his two youngest daughters began to fall asleep, I looked over at Cleve who was grinning from ear to ear like the proud father that he is. I reflected back on the conversation that he and I had en route to his home. While some parents bemoan the seemingly endless series of checks to write for baseball, drama, class trips, piano lessons, and the like; the investment pays off in spades.
Even if you can't carry a tune in a bucket, throw a football farther than your big toe, or have no idea why your kid is so excited to be in front of a camera; remember that the investment of time that you spend now will pay off for years and years to come!
Friday, April 23. 2010
One of the leading news stories last week was depicting thousands of public union people in Illinois screaming "Raise My Taxes!" in hopes that they would continue to receive a paycheck. In today's day of governmental redistribution and the near outlawing of capitalism at breakneck speed, I feel it necessary to point out a few flaws of the event depicted above.
1. You are asking to take some of your money, send it to a bureaucracy, and hope to get a chunk of it back. They are calling this "Security." Would you encourage your 5 year old running a lemonade stand to take their proceeds and send it to the state who has 4-5 people paid to process the money, then hope to receive a few pennies back? I think not. Bureaucracies are expensive and inefficient by definition.
2. The protesters are handing all of their personal power over to someone else. Too many people forget that until about 100 years ago, nearly everyone in the United States was an entrepreneur of some kind. If you needed more money, you found an extra job, or helped out on someone's farm. I know several teachers, firefighters, and other municipal employees who have lucrative second careers in real estate, network marketing, and other jobs to help augment their incomes. Find a hobby, a passion, or an interest, and discover how to turn that into a part time income.
3. Understand that we live in a society that (currently) allows us to freely pick our occupations. If you own a store that sells a product and 100% of your revenue comes from a certain type of client, what would happen if that client no longer had money to pay for your product? You would do something else.
When you remove flexibility from your lexicon of skills, your opportunities in life are terribly diminished.
Thursday, April 15. 2010
Last night my son, Alex and I were finishing up some yard work. We can burn yard debris in our community and had amassed quite a huge pile of stuff ranging from an old Christmas tree to dried grass that was raked up earlier in the day yesterday. When we burn, we make sure that the conditions are right. It can't be too winds (otherwise we would have a huge fire!), it can't be too wet, and I do my best to burn when the neighbors don't have their windows open. The conditions were perfect last night and we grabbed our lawn chairs, a couple of smoothies, and a glow in the dark football and headed out to the fire pit.
Once Alex touched the flame to the grass on the pile, it only took 20 seconds or so for the fire to start growing rapidly. The heat was so intense that we needed to sit about 15 feet back from the fire. Within 20 minutes, the entire pile which had started out standing about 30 inches tall was reduced to nearly nothing.
How does this apply to you and I?
1. If you have a stack of stuff that consistently gets shuffled from one location to another in your office or home, take care of it. Do it, delegate it, or dump it.
2. Sometimes things have a purpose at a specific time in our lives, then they are not needed anymore. The Christmas tree was beautiful in December, but it had outlived it's usefulness. What things do you need to purge?
3. Have some fun. Sometimes we focus too much on the "got to" areas of life, and need to look at them as "get to" opportunities. Just as we enjoyed the experience of being around the fire, you may be able to turn your project into a fun event.
Life leaves us lessons every day. What we do with them is up to us.
Always Better Your Best!
Monday, April 12. 2010
I was captivated by an article that I read this morning featuring Ford CEO Alan Mulally. When Mulally took over the reigns at Ford, the company was at the edge of the cliff along with the other US automakers, peering down the well of bankruptcy. Unlike his competition who leaped into bed with the government (which is kind of like taking money from the mob), Mulally insisted on making Ford great again.
Let's take a look at a few things that allowed Ford's stock to rise 700% over the last couple of years:
1. Be cool. Many businesses sell products that they like, not necessarily what the customer likes. Ford recognized a need for technology and sleekness. By using sync technology, they effectively created a 4000 lb. smart phone and the unique experience that goes along with it.
The same can be said for colleges who listen to their customers (students). Many institutions seek to please their unions and faculty first, and then let the students know what they will be left with. Kaplan University has a great ad campaign where they reassure you that you can learn at your pace, using your preferred method of learning, and will even actively work at placing you in a job in your preferred field. Why? That is what their clients demanded!
2. Streamline. Ford had 97 models when Mulally took over. Now they have 20. Don't try to be a "Jack of all trades and a master of nothing." Work on doing something exceptionally well and you will stand out. When I started my speaking career, I also owned a vacuum cleaner business, a janitorial company, a health chef business, and was a speaker. I thought that people would be impressed at the diversity of my interests. Instead I found myself having a hard time focusing on 4 completely unrelated ventures. When I placed 100% of my focus on helping people via delivering meaningful messages of motivation, and business took off. What can you lose in your business?
3. Ditch the naysayers. The board at Ford was stuck in their ways when it came to integrating technology into their vehicles. You cannot ignore the importance of constantly refining and researching unique features and benefits to owning your product. They fired the board and replaced them with people who were a bit more open minded. Who do you bounce ideas off of when it comes to your business? Your parents, your cousin Eddie, and people who don't know a thing about your business?
I would encourage everyone to be a part of a mastermind group. This collaborative group allows you to share ideas and help each other out. You won't always like what your partners will say, but you will love the result!
As you begin your day today, ask yourself, "How can we create a great experience?"
Thursday, April 1. 2010
I am fascinated by realtors. They are in a profession where nearly everyone should use their services, yet some people try to save a few dollars and do things on their own. My rule is: hire people who enjoy doing what you would have to really work at. The experience, connections, and efforts of many realtors allow you to leverage your time for more enjoyable things (like doing what you do best!)
Real estate professionals invest thousands in their licensing, continuing education, and marketing their name. With all of that being said, I just have to share an experience that I had this weekend. We are currently looking for investment property and noticed a home not far from ours that is owned by a very motivated seller. The home is listed with a very well known realtor who has been in the business for quite some time. I told Shelly that I would stop by the the open house last weekend and look at the property.
Upon entering the home, I noticed it was clean and well lit. The realtor walked toward me and instead of introducing herself and asking a bit about me, this person handed me a flyer of the MLS listing and told me that I could just look around. Whether or not the property would have fit into what we were looking for is irrelevant. The inconsiderate manner of the realtor was like a slap in the face. Keep in mind that I am not a thin skinned guy who needs a hug from someone when I enter an open house, but I was amazed at the waste of money and time that this individual exhibited. Most realtors will invest $500-$1000 (at the very least) in time, advertising, and opportunity cost to market a property. My hope for this person is that I happened to be the exception, not the rule in terms of her behavior.
When I speak to realtor groups and ask them how much an average client will make them over the course of their career, the answer is usually $40,000-$75,000. The top producing realtors who I know are people who are genuinely interested in people. That quick 10 second introduction, the follow up card, the smile can pay enormous dividends.
Here are a few tips from the top producers:
1. Introduce yourself to any prospect and find out a few things about them. The "small talk" that some people don't think they need to waste time doing are usually the subconscious factors that prospects evaluate when determining whom to do business with.
2. Be helpful, but invisible. This can apply to a salesperson or a restaurant server. I love frequenting restaurants where the server makes sure our drinks are full, plates are cleared, but they are not feeling the need to sit down next to us and show us pictures of their kids.
3. Follow up. Most people in sales are absolutely terrible at this! Drop a "nice to meet you" card in the mail. I also recommend sending a quick email thanking them for their time.
Hopefully these tips and this story will keep you practicing an "Always Better Your Best" business philosophy.
Saturday, March 27. 2010
We were out with some friends yesterday evening and I was visiting with a friend of ours named Mike who had recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas. When I asked him about the highlights of the trip he said, "Driving a race car on a NASCAR style track!" He proceeded to tell me about driving in excess of 140 miles per hour and the rush associated with it.
"They secure your helmet to the back of the seat so you are pretty much forced to look forward at all times. You can't care about what is going on behind you, you just have to look ahead always." said Mike. That got me thinking about how important the power of focus is when you are flying around a race track at 150 mph. How many times do we go through the race of life focusing on what is going on behind us, and all around us?
We cannot control the events that have occurred in the past. The past relationships, successes, failures, and dreams. What we can control is where our focus is right now. Learning from the past is good, but if you are living in the past it makes it impossible to move forward.
Life moves quickly, enjoy the ride!
Monday, March 22. 2010
I have visited with a number of business owners, community leaders, and members of the media today regarding the House passage of the Health Care Reform Act. While the vast majority of small business owners are going into "freak out" mode with the prospect of 30-60% tax increases, I encourage everyone to redouble your efforts on pursuing your success.
People don't usually get paid to freak out or to worry. (Rush Limbaugh, James Carville, and others excluded) Focus on growing your businesses and careers. Your economy is much more important than THE economy.
1. Rekindle an old business contact to let them know you are still alive. (A client of mine did that this morning and was pleased to hear them express interest in their product line)
2. Read. You never see a Barnes and Noble next to a "Buy Here, Pay Here" car lot. Reading is muscle building for your brain.
3. Exercise. The late Jim Rohn said, "You can't pay someone to do your push-ups for you!" Do a little something every day to keep your belly at bay!
Always Better Your Best!
Friday, March 19. 2010
Last night Shelly and I attended Branson's end of season wrestling banquet. Awards were given, stories were told, and the coaches were thanked. The highlight of the event was when the mother of a boy on the team came up to thank everyone on behalf of her son.
While you wouldn't expect someone's mother to speak on behalf of their son in high school, it is important to realize that her son, James, is autistic. Many children with autism dislike being touched and are anything but social; yet James enjoyed a fun season. Her comment to the coach and his teammates was that James has "different abilities". The coaches and kids embraced James as the fellow teammate that he was and pushed him to do his best. While he did not win many matches, he tried his best and enjoyed the experience. When the banquet was over, many people were touched by her kind words and were also grateful for the kindness and belief that the coaches and team possessed.
That got me thinking about how many times I have seen people try to get some kind of "special" treatment because of this condition or that condition. They invest 100% of their energy on lowering the bar of expectation for themselves instead of pushing themselves to grow. I have had the privilege of working with people who have looked at a perceived disability as a different ability. Some of us possess disabilities that are physical, others possess mental challenges.
My favorite author, Vince Flynn, is dyslexic. Yet that has not stopped him from writing 12 best selling books. My friend, Roger Crawford is missing the lower portion of one of his legs. That has not stopped him from helping people discover their possibilities by speaking all over the world. The world is full of examples of people who have made a decision to embrace life as a participant, not a victim.
The story about James Plavak is not only a great lesson because of what he decided to do; it is a great lesson about what is possible for all of us to do when we embrace the strengths and possibilities of people who have abilities which are different than our own.
Thursday, March 11. 2010
How many times have you heard someone say, "I have 20 years experience in this business." While they may have worked in that particular industry for 20 years, chances are their career path looked like this:
Shef and Brian Tracy
- Year One- Worked their tail off. Learning everything they could, reading everything, growing their value.
- Years 2-20- Lived with the "Been there, done that" attitude. They know everything, have done everything, and don't have to read some silly stuff, attend silly seminars, or listen to silly audios.
People wonder why their incomes and their careers have stagnated. Perhaps they should consider the importance of constantly sharpening their life skills, job skills, and value. We cannot control everything that happens in this world, but we can control a lot of our world.
Be part of the 10%! I had an opportunity to meet Brian Tracy the other evening. One of the alarming stats he shared with us is that only 10% of people will seek outside learning experiences. Brian was one of the speakers and authors who I studied very early in my speaking career. Isn't it amazing that 10% of people seek outside learning opportunities, and roughly 10% of people are financially independent? Think about it....
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