It Begins with You

Neale Donald Walsch said “that love is the center and the core of everything, and that Self is the place where all love must begin”

I believe that our relationships and families would all drastically improve if we stopped hiding and started standing up.  Some of us have to take responsibility, others of us have to let go and make others take responsibility, but most of us have to learn how to really love.

Yes, the family unit was created to raise children and provide stability in the community, but much more important, it was created to teach, share and spread love.  It’s usually where our first glimpses of love are had, and most lasting impressions of what love is are created.

But if we actually want to dream about a world where the horrific events of Boston don’t happen as often, loving ourselves and each other is part of the answer.  Of course, it’s not that simple in most cases, we don’t just love someone, we have to learn to love them.  No, love isn’t the whole answer, but it is part of the answer to fixing relationships, and even the world.

So if you were to take on the challenge of learning to love better, what would it require?

First, it would require you acting on the fact that the type of love you need may not be the type of love that is what someone else needs.  Maybe love is your partner making your favorite dinner, but to them, love is sitting on the couch together watching TV or a movie every night.  If you think that everyone things love is a bunch of flowers or long night in the bedroom, you’re wrong.  Those are important in every relationship, but may not be what makes your partner feel loved.

Second, know that kids are easily swayed by money and gifts, but would rather have your time and attention.  I’ve been with countless kids who know their parents are ignoring them.  Actually set aside that phone for a time each day and just be with your kids (I suggest you leave the phone in another room so you’re not tempted).  Make it a point to do special things with them and have special parent-kid time individually with your kids.

If we all made it a point to show and tell others that we loved them, everyone would feel more appreciated, more recognized and slowly but surely, the world would become a better place.

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Honest Business

April 30 is National Honesty Day, and there are two places that I believe honesty is very important: in our families and relationships, and in our businesses.  I’m a big supporter of visible, open businesses.  I don’t believe that a business needs to cover anything up or lie about anything or tell half-truths or hide the truth to clients and potential clients.  No, every client and potential client doesn’t need to know everything, but it is important for them to know enough to feel comfortable doing business with you.  In the same note, it’s important to be open with your employees as well.  They don’t need all the information, but they need enough to be able to make educated decisions that support you and the business and do the right things for the customers.   Here are my big 3 reasons why you should be honest in business:

If you’re lying about one thing, you’re probably lying about others.  This breaks down the trust that you try so hard to build in order to gain clients.  When lies and half truths come up, people wonder what else you’ve lied about and what might be trust-on-a-shaky-foundation now has no foundation to rest on  at all.

No excuses necessary.  Yes, sometimes there’s a valid reason why something is the way it is, or why something happened.  I totally understand that, and so do most customers.  But if you’re just honest that you don’t have a product that day or that a machine is broken, rather than making up a lie, you’ll be able to offer an alternative.  Maybe there’s another product that would serve as a substitute, or you could suggest another shop that can do what you can’t, or at the very least let people know when you expect to be back to normal.

You’ll last longer. If customers and employees know they can count on you to be straightforward and honest with them, they’ll be more likely to be good employees and customers and bring you business.  Likeable businesses (that have a good foundation, financially smart plan and good products/services) last longer than those that aren’t pleasant to do business with.

This week I encourage you to take a good look at your business and check in to see if you’re being honest with yourself, your employees and your customers, and what you can do to improve that.

Let’s Grow a Garden

With spring finally here, it’s time to get outside and get messy! Today I’ve got some great ideas to help you with your garden, and get the whole family involved.  Don’t worry, if you don’t have outdoor space I’ve got a couple ideas for keeping those green thumbs in the family happy too.

What to plant:

I love planting tomatoes, peppers, and peas.  They get great results in Northern NJ.  They’re also easy to maintain and produce more than just one crop (unlike lettuce or radishes).

However, I love the cheeriness that flowers bring both indoors and out, so planting flowers, especially if you host gatherings frequently, is a great idea.

Planting:

For the fruits and vegetables, you’ll want to plant in an enclosed area, maybe for the flowers too, depending on the animals that live near you.

Have the kids help you plant, water and weed, as well as make signs like these cute bugs to help know what you’ve planted where.

You can also divide the garden into sectors so that each kid is responsible for one, and has to take care of it.

If you’re a little behind the planting timeline too, you can start your plants inside with this homemade “greenhouse.”

More garden fun:

If you don’t really have a green thumb, or not much outdoor space, but your kids really want to plant something, here are 14 cute and easy grass planting projects.

In line with not planting, you can also make a very zen rock garden that doesn’t take up much space but is lots of fun to play with and relaxing to look at.

For the crafty (and not green) kids in your family, a rainbow garden trellis, or gazing ball are two things you could make to add to the gardening.

Will you be out in nature this year planting?  What will you be growing?

To Do Today

Today I thought I would do something little different.  Yes, I’ve written your “to do” list for you.  It’s pretty simple, but if you implement it, you’ll get powerful results.

1-make a plan for your social media.  If you haven’t been on social media much, maybe it’s because you don’t really get it and don’t know how to get results.  As with all marketing, you need a plan.  Today make that plan for how you’re going to engage your people, share relevant content and promote your brand and products/services.  Once you’ve got that plan, or if you’ve already got one, it’s time to start implementing!

2-refresh your website.  So many sites I visit are outdated or not helpful to potential customers.  If you can’t update your site at a moment’s notice, or your web people can’t update it within 24 hours for you, it’s time for a new site.  There is no reason in today’s internet world for you not to be able to update your site as necessary.

3-reach out to potential clients.  Send out a reminder to your newsletter subscribers, write up a blog post, email someone you’ve been going back and forth with, make a call, or post a new ad that will bring you business.  Often to get business you have to let people know you’re open for business.

4-check in with your employees.  Make sure everyone is having a great day, that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing to help run the business successfully, and that you’re doing all you can to blow your customers away.

5-consider something new.  If you’ve been in business for a while, it may be time to freshen up your offerings.  Look at what other people in your field are offering, or consider those big dreams you’ve always had.  Today might just be the day to get those dreams off the ground.

Well, there you go!  I’d love to hear about the actions you take and results you get, share them in the comments.

Tax Day Troubles

For those of us in the USA, Tax Day has come again.  I’m thankful to have already done my taxes, but today’s post isn’t really about taxes, but money.  As couples, one of the things that comes up in conversations almost daily is money.  I’m blessed to be in a relationship that we don’t really disagree about money and spending, and while I’m a lot better about managing money than he is, he’s getting better.  If you’re not as fortunate as I am, here are a few tips to help you and your partner with money.

Don’t ignore it:  When you don’t know what’s in your account, you’re setting yourself up for issues.  I know approximately how much I spend each month in bills and other expenses, plus what I make (even with the ups and downs of an entrepreneur’s life).  If you both pretend the issues will go away or the money will just appear in your account, you’re making a big mistake.

Track it:  There are tons of different software and programs out there you can use to manage your money and track what’s going on.  There’s Mint, Quickbooks, Microsoft Excel, and even pen and paper if you don’t want to use a computer (although I suggest you do).  I suggest you track everything, from grocery to babysitting to donations and lunch money, in addition to your traditional bills.  The more you track, the closer you’ll be to not missing any money at the end of the month and being able to identify where it all went.

Fix it: once you’ve tracked your spending and income, you can decide if you’ve got expenses that you don’t really need, or which areas you can cut back on (if necessary).  Spending money is necessary in life, it’s not something we can do without.  But you can be smart about your spending and make sure that you’re preparing for the future and college/retirement and unexpected expenses too.

Update it:  I strongly recommend that you update your chosen money management program monthly.  Even better, update it together.  If you’re both aware of what’s going on with the money, you can’t blame each other if things go south.

The biggest change you can make today is to actually talk about it.  Be aware of where you’re at and don’t avoid the conversation.

Stressed by Success II

Last week Wednesday we talked about how you, the business owner, can get past the stress that success (or lack thereof) creates.  You can read that blog post here.  Today we’re doing part 2 and discussing some of the things you can do to bring your business to health and life again.

Hire a business consultant: a consultant can point out some of the biggest issues in your business that are causing you to lose money.  You may know some of the issues plaguing your business, but often it’s necessary to hear them from an outside source to motivate you into action and do something about them.

Update your website: Today I heard a commercial on the radio about how some business owner didn’t have a website and when he made one, his business doubled.  I’m always amazed when I hear that people don’t have a website, even a simple one.  In today’s advanced state of technology it’s possible to have a cheap website that’s decent, or even a free one that’s nicer than some others out there.  If you don’t have a website you’re missing out on the opportunity to show up in searches on Google with your competitors.

Update your marketing plan: if you don’t have a plan on how you’re reaching new customers, and how you’re reminding your existing ones to come back and visit, you’re probably feeling lost, and probably not doing the right marketing or maybe not doing any real marketing at all.  Your business depends on your marketing online and offline as well as the word of mouth of your customers.  If you don’t have a plan on how to do the marketing or how to encourage your customers to spread the word, you’re missing out.

Check your services/products: another major reason your business may be struggling is because of what you’re offering. If you’re selling vinyl records, and have been since 1950, you’re struggling because some 90% of the population aren’t interested in them anymore.  If you look at some of the businesses who have failed lately, like Borders, you’re missing out on moving with what people are buying.  No, you don’t have to succumb to every trend, but you can’t sell products and services that hardly anyone wants to buy, unless the money is there to support that, like buying official Batmobiles or Jurassic Park movie props.  As long as you know there’s a solid, strong, market out there for what you’re selling, you can keep selling what you have been, but pay attention to customer requests as they’ll let you know when you need to consider changes.

If you’re dealing with personal or business stress within your business, I invite you to visit my website and get my free guide to building a better business (along with my free weekly business growth newsletter).  You’re not alone in your business, nor do you have to deal with the stress that comes with running a business alone.

Action for Autism

April 2nd, in case you missed it, was World Autism Awareness Day.  You probably know at least one individual who has or is family with someone who has Autism.  In case you don’t, let’s look at the statistics: 1/88 kids are diagnosed with some form of Autism, and individuals affected by autism are increasing at a rate of at least 10% annually.  While there isn’t any definitive answers to what causes Autism, some things may be environment and genetics, scientists believe.  If it’s not in your family or you’ve not directly affected by any of the Autism family disorders, you may not see the need to know about it or care about it.  However, if you have kids, there’s a good chance your kids will meet someone their age with Autism sooner or later, or they’ll ask you about it when you meet a family in the supermarket or at a restaurant.

Let’s take care of the details before we move onto the future of Autism.  First, it’s not something you can catch, and it’s not something that makes anyone a lesser person.  Essentially, it is caused by some type of failure in the brain during development.  When the brain doesn’t properly develop, other areas of our lives and bodies are affected, and in the case of Autism, that may include social or verbal challenges and sometimes physical differences as well.  However, there are lots of people who have some type of Autism that are very successful and talented.

There’s a lot more that needs to be learned.  Just like Aids, cancers and other health issues, there are still tons that need to be learned and discovered about what Autism is, how it develops and what we can do to treat or help individuals with Autism.  If you’re a concerned parent, you can take this online test to determine risks and likelihood of having some form of Autism.  Also, talk with your doctor about your concerns, don’t just assume the worst.

Whether or not you’re personally affected by Autism, there’s lots you can do.  At the Autism Speaks website, there are family services, ways to get involved in advocacy and government awareness, walks you can join, apps you can use, and of course you can donate too.  One of my other favorite organizations is Easter Seals, who helps individuals and families with all kinds of disabilities.

Together we can support and find answers to Autism, what will you do?

Stressed by Success I

We’ve finally reached a new month and hopefully the miracle of spring.  This month one of the things we’ll be focusing on is health and being healthy.  The thing that I never cease to be amazed by is how many people and businesses are essentially unhealthy yet they manage to function.  You’ve witnessed lots of significantly overweight people, significantly over budget businesses, very sick people because of the choices they made in life, or businesses not coming close to clearing expenses.  These businesses and people, with the exception of significantly overweight people, may be hiding their symptoms and the truth about their status, but deep down they know whether they’re healthy or not.  Maybe they’ve just lost control, or maybe they were never very healthy to begin with.  Whatever the situation, there is hope!   Today we’re beginning with some tips for helping the people behind the businesses get back on track, next week we’ll come back with part 2 with tips for businesses.

Pay attention to your body: We’ve gotten good at ignoring our bodies and what they try to tell us.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to meditate for hours to be able to listen to your body.  You’re probably familiar with that gut feeling, as well as the signal that you’re hungry.  Both of these are signals that indicate your body wants to tell you something.  Other signals could include leg cramps, headaches, and stomach troubles.  These could indicate you’re not eating the right stuff to support your very busy schedule, or you’re not getting enough exercise to keep your body in shape.

Feed your brain: your brain is very important to running your business (and life) successfully.  You need to be reading educational books ans articles about your industry, business and leadership.  It’s also great to listen to audios and podcasts on your ride to work, and attend seminars that will help you improve your business and stay current. It’s equally, if not more, important to limit your exposure to negative news, bad TV and people who always discourage you.

Enjoy life: a big key to success and dealing with stress is making sure you have some measure of variety in your life.  If you’re spending all your time on business, you probably are missing out on living and loving.  It’s important to get outdoors and get fresh air, laugh with friends and family, and build relationships that support you and make you feel good.  Adding these activities and pursuits that may seem frivolous are actually very important to your health and ability to put the energy and passion that’s necessary back into your business.

Without you your business would not be as successful as with you.  So making sure you’re healthy means you’ll be able to fully support your business and your life is very important.  What do you do to support yourself?