Finding Wrong or Finding Right?

Why is it so much easier to talk about what went wrong when so many more of them when right?

Do something that creates a bad customer experience and the statistics are that one dissatisfied customer will tell 15 other people about their bad experience.  Create a great customer experience and they might tell 2 other people.

At the end of the day, is your mind filled with what went wrong or what went right?

We humans can have a bad habit of focusing our energy and attention on the negative – what went wrong, what needs to be fixed, what we didn’t get done, who let us down and the like.  I caught myself doing it today.

Want to enjoy every day in business?  Want to get up every morning feeling like you can’t wait to get to work?   Make a new habit.  At the end of the day, take a few moments and list everything that went right.  

Having a less than perfect day?  We feel like we do but most of the time it is just one something.  Take a moment to list what has already gone right and move on.

When something goes wrong, acknowledge it and do something to make it right.

Your customers may not cheer for you, but the confidence and positive outlook that you gain when you make the effort to acknowledge what you’ve done right will keep them coming back every time!

Frequency of Use Rules

When setting up a workspace, it makes sense to place items based on how frequently you expect to use them.  These are the ‘rules’ I use when working with clients:

  1. If you use it every day keep it on or in the desk
  2. If you use it every week, keep in the desk or within reach
  3. If you use if more that once a month, keep it within reach or the room
  4. If you use it less than once a month, store it elsewhere

These simple guidelines for placing tools, supplies, referent materials – just about anything you need to complete your work make sure you have easy access to what you use most and keep things you use less frequently out of your way.

The Incredible Shrinking Workspace

Companies are not only rightsizing staff; they are increasingly downsizing workspaces.  A downsizing of your workspace brings on new challenges; especially if you feel your previous space seemed small and overcrowded.  As you work to fit everything in, here are some key ideas to keep in mind:

 All storage space (desk tops, file cabinets, drawers etc.) are little graveyards where useful but no longer used items waste away until someone takes the time to move them on to new homes.  Down sizing your workspace is a great reason to move all these useful but no longer items out of your way.

  1. Ruthlessly apply my frequency of use rules:
  2. Look at under-utilized spaces like walls where you can add shelves or racks – this is especially easy in the cubicle environment where there is a wide range of accessories available.
  3. Vertical storage generally takes up less space than horizontal storage so look at desk top vertical file containers rather that horizontal stacker bins
  4. Horizontal or vertical bins on bookshelves make it easy to keep large projects visible but separate when you have more of them than books.
  5. Look at what you are storing on paper that can be stored as easily in an electronic format.  The set up can take time but if push comes to shove on space it is a great alternative.
  6. Store action related paper – things you have to do –in a desktop systems.  Store information related paper out of sight and only keep information you know you are going to use on a regular basis within reach.
  7. Keep personal items to the corners and outside of the “active work space” so they can be enjoyed but not get in the way.

 Your incredible shrinking workspace is really an opportunity to clean up and clear out and simplify your work environment to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs.  Getting rid of ‘old stuff’ that is weighing you down is a very liberating experience.

How Good a Plate Spinner Are You?

Ok, you love to __________  —- just fill in the blank – cook, organize, selling xyz product                   

You decided to want to work for yourself—no boss to report to, you can schedule time as you want and make a fortune.  That’s the promise – that’s how owning a business for yourself is marketed.

By now you may realize that every customer is a boss—sometimes a very demanding one.  You work more hours than ever—now you are free to work days, nights, weekends.  And, you are starting to see the difference between gross revenue—the $ your company collects from customers—and gross profits—what’s left after you pay everyone else including Uncle Sam.  This is a reality – not the only reality of owning your own business, but one of them.

 Being a small business owner is very different from owning a corporation.  You’re a small business because you like it that way—small is good.  It’s intimate. It’s personal. It is flexible.  You are in command of your future.

Being good at what you love is not enough but it is a great foundation.  It is the only foundation that will make you get up in morning and feel like you can’t wait to get started. It is the only one that will keep you going when things get tough and they will before times get good again , before they get tough again and good again. Life is made up of cycles with each loop different from the one before.

The secret to living the promise without getting lost in the reality is found in developing leadership skills.  During four years of study under Dr. Thomas Jones PhD at the Small Business Development Center, I learned there are four key areas to running a business and while you don’t have to do the work in all four you need to lead in all four. 

You need to pay attention to and put energy into continuing to build your Expertise, Marketing, Finances and understanding and making choices about Technology. 

Remember the old plate spinner juggling act?  A plate would be placed on the end of a stick, the juggler would set it spinning then move on to another stick and place until there was an entire row of spinning plates?  The juggler had to accurately decide which plate needed attention to keep all the plates in the air.  That’s what it’s like to run your own business – deciding when each of the key pieces needs some energy so all the plates stay in the air.

How good are you at spinning plates?

Drowning In Information? Here’s a Lifeline.

We are being inudated with information.  This flood of information can become a major source of stress and wasted time.  It lowers our productivity and leaves us wishing we could just drown and get it over with.  The key to good information management is having a good system.  A system is nothing more than having the right tools and the right habits.  The ‘right’ tools vary quite a bit with the type of job and industry you may be in, but the right habits are the same for everyone. 

Empty your ‘in’ basket and e-mail inbox every time you enter your office.  It takes only a few moments to scan a few documents.  With paper, it lets your co-workers trust that you will see things placed in the basket on a timely basis so they stop setting things your chair and other assorted places.  With e-mail it means something similar but fequent emptying is more for your peace of mind.

You should see his e-mail inbox

Scan (not read) the incoming messages and e-mail.  Make a decision.  Decide when you need to take action on information that require action.  Take immediate action if the urgency to act is real. File, in a meaningful way those papers or e-mail that can be done (or read) later in a date activated file system.  (Folders labeled ‘1’ thru ’31’ and ‘next month’ is one set up of a date activated system.)  File information away. Toss useless information ASAP.  When my e-mail comes in, I use the control button to select all the junk e-mail to delete first.

Save articles, not magazines and newsletters.  Scan headlines and tables of contents to identify articles of interest.  Remove the item and file it in either the date activated system if it’s required reading, or a reference file by topic if you just need to refer to it when circumstances warrant.

Set aside reading time.  Plan on spending a fixed amount of time per day or week to read.

These four tips will help you manage information, be it paper or electronic much more efficiently.  What is your best tip for managing information?

Free Publicity Takes Planning – 3 Tips To Make it Work for You

I opened my Portland Business Journal one January day back in 1989 and I saw a headline about a National Clear Off Your Desk Day Contest. First I got upset that I didn’t know about the holiday and I missed that opportunity.  Then I got into action.  I found out the holdiay was posted in Chase’s Holiday Listing (available from your local reference libararian).  I initiated a project with my local NAPO Chapter and we identified 15 hollidays professional organizers could use to promote our businesses.  I also found you can create a holiday and I joined the national board of NAPO to create and promote National Get Organized Week  in October which has since evolved to National Get Organized Month which is every January.  I learned sending press releases and free publicity was a route for marketing my business.  Here are 3 tips for getting and using free publicity.

Be neutral. Media outlets sell advertising to create opportunities for businesses to market themselves.  Their editorial content is focused on informing their readers. If you are submitting a press release to appear in a listing of local events or “who’s in the news,” your press release should be me-focused—“Look at me. Here’s what I have to offer.” If, however, you wish to be included in a feature article, your press release should be they-focused—“What do they need or want to hear about?”

 Be timely. Orient press releases toward the present or the future, otherwise you are just yesterday’s news. Letters to the editor offering an organizer’s perspective on current news or breaking trends are an often-overlooked opportunity. Upcoming holidays often offer a chance for you to provide organizing tips in advance of the event.  Check Chase’s Calendar of Events (a day-by-day directory of special days, weeks, and months that is available at your local library’s reference desk) for ideas.  Being timely will increase your chances of having your press release used and establishes you as an expert that is keeping up with today’s rapid paced world.

 Be reachable. Most media people are on tight deadlines, so be sure to include all the ways you can be reached—phone, cell, fax, e-mail, text, twitter—on your press releases. Check them frequently.

Sending press releases, communicating with the media, and generating free publicity are useful marketing tools—use them wisely.

What Are You Paying Attention To?

So many people have taught me so many things over the years.  I am grateful to everyone of them for everything they have taught me.  One that has been on my mind a lot in this economy is something I first heard from then fellow organizer, now professional artist Gloria Ritter

“What you pay attention to, you give energy to and what you give energy to grows.”

I’ve seen the same wisdom in Native American lore and many other places since Gloria first shared these words with me.  It seems to be a lesson I have to learn over and over again. 

I am trying to remember to pay attention to the bright spots in my business – the things that are going right because that is what I want to grow and expand.  Because you know what?  The reality is that there are always things going right when others are going wrong and things going wrong when most are going right.  I get to choose which I pay attention to.

But why do I have to consciously remind myself to look and keep looking?  Partly because the news is so focused on what is wrong, how bad the economy is, how many people are struggling.  It’s like giving us permission to struggle.  It is so hard to tune it out when it is daily conversation for just about everyone.  What it is about human nature that we will always share what is wrong or bad and almost never share what went well or is good?

I would much rather pay attention, give energy and grow all the wonderful things in this life.  How about you? Do you have a bright spot you need to give some attention and energy to so it can grow?

Social Media Ambivalence

I am ambivalent about social media.  Makes sense.  I haven’t grown up with cell phone in my ear and texting my every thought.  I didn’t have a PC on my desk in my first bunch of jobs either.  YIKES!  The quote from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe explains a lot about my mixed feelings about this new media world.
“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” — Douglas Adams
Posting on a wall or tweeting out in space feels like that to me.  Like I am tossing something into space in the hope that someone will hear it.  Sort of like my favorite Dr Suess’s Who down in Whoville shouting “we are here”.  No human commuication or dialogue but just a voice in the void. 
We are here!

We are here!

At the same time, I can see, because frankly it is pretty much as plain as day, that ‘out there’ in that void is anything but an empty space.  It is full of people searching, some of them potential clients who are looking for someone like me. 
I need to be there and it needs to be in a way that connects the right potential client with the right service provider – me.  I need to learn this new language.
In a conversation with a peer earlier today, I said that my generation has a role to play in helping the 20 & 30 somethings to experience the powerful energy dynamics of face to face conversation.  You exchange posts for decades and not experience the energy of a true two-party interaction.  And, they have a role to play in my life – to show me how to genuinely connect and feel connected to this new kind of conversational energy.  It is not better or worse just different.
So here I sit, writing another blog post while Miss Kitty walks back and forth in front of me occasionally adding her 2 cents to the post and wondering – does anyone hear me?  I am here!

3 Times You Should Look at Your Pricing

When is it time to look at what you are charging for your products or services?
First, review it annually. Why? In a word – inflation. Every year the value of the dollar changes. In a good year the inflation rate is 2 — 3%. In tough years it can be 12-15%. For every 1% the inflation rate rises, your dollar looses that percent in value. Let’s say you charge $100. If the inflation rate was 5% and you again charge $100 it’s only worth $95 in buying power in the new year. At a minimum you should consider adjusting your prices every year or two in response to inflation.

Another time to check your rates is when people are complaining too much or not enough. The rule of thumb is that about 20% of your prospects should complain. Too few complaints may indicate that you are priced to low. Too many complaints may mean you are overpriced for the market you are targeting.

A third key time to look at your pricing is in response to the economy. In a down economy such as we have been experiencing you may have to shift to a survival mode, cut costs and lower prices to capture more market or add more value to existing packages to entice reluctant customers. As the economy recovers, as it is now, you can begin to raise prices back up again.

I [put several strategies in place over the last two years.  I stopped charging for an initial assessment and offered it at no charge.  I offered three hours of service for the price of two.  As the econonomy improves these programs will come to an end.

What did you have to do with your pricing or service packages to keep business moving? Are you coming out of this downturn with more clients than you had going in or fewer?

Have Fear But Do It Anyway

Last night was my Toastmasters club meeting.  I have been a member of the Clackamas Stepping Stones for more than 20 years. In fact, my time in business is only a couple of months longer than my membership in Toastmasters.

I can state with total confidence that without the skills I learned in my TM club, I would not still be in business.   It is one of the two best investments I ever made in my business and it is still a top investment.

You might recall from an earlier post that I did not start my business, it started itself.  I was a totally shy person – never spoke unless spoken to, didn’t make eye contact with people and never shared my opinion.  But the business was going and I needed to learn how to market it.

At my first NAPO conference, hoping to learn what kind or flyer or ad would work, I learned instead that public speaking was the route.  Why?  Because profesional organizing was a brand new industry.  People read ads when they are looking for something.  If they don’t know to look for organizing help it would just be throwing money down a hole.

Yikes! That was not the answer I wanted to hear but it was the one I received.  I returned and spent a couple of months trying to decide which was worse, trusting another employer with my future or learning how to speak in public.

Probably like most of you reading this, your vision of public speaking is that of a Tony Robbins or an equally charismatic, bigger than life perosnality.  It was mine.  But, when I visited this club, I saw perfectly ordinary people speaking about ordinary, every day things.  My immediate thought was – “If that is public speaking, I can do that.”  My knees were literally knocking as I gave my first speech – I had always thought that was just a figure of speech – but I made it though and I have never looked back.

I went back to the NAPO conference the nest year and presentated a workshop. 

I did something I was afraid to do and in the process found a whole other side of myself . I found my voice.  It improved all my relationships because I was less a passive listener and more a participant.    It keeps me in an uplifting environment because every week, every person in the room is there to conquer a fear or improve a skill – itself a positive mindset – and we are all helping each other in working towards our individual goals.  It gave me a new marketing tool and revenue stream that is now expanding into webinars.

Is there something you are afraid to do?  What if you did it anyway and you found treasure on the other side?