Connected Relationships

This month we’ve spent time talking about families and about relationships, today we finish the month talking about our romantic relationships.  I’ve spent time with many unhappy couples, and with individuals who aren’t together anymore because they couldn’t make their romantic relationship work.  Don’t get me wrong, relationships are challenging, and people do change.  And you add to the regular challenges of relationships that we’re part of a society that puts a huge emphasis on having a romantic relationship, that it seems strange or wrong when you don’t have one!  We do live in a very busy society, with our calendars very full, our days scheduled, and many of us have trouble prioritizing and making time for things that really matter in life unfortunately.

There will always be things that will challenge you and your partner.  As you grow older you will change, and so will your lives.  There will be things you disagree on and things you agree to disagree on. You may even grow apart and no longer be right for each other.  But, in my mind, there’s absolutely no excuse for a relationship you’re truly happy with to become boring.  There are simple things you can do to make your relationship last longer, be healthier and make both of you happier.  Barbara de Angelis says:

“The more connections you and your lover make, not just between your bodies, but between your minds, your hearts, and your souls, the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship, and the more real moments you will experience together.”

The more time you spend together, the more intentional you are about the time you spend together, the more ways you learn from each other, connect to each other and discover each other, the easier it will be for you to keep learning, discovering, connecting and loving each other.

You can take walks, go to the zoo, hold hands while watching TV, go food shopping together, read the paper together, email, text, tweet, talk on the phone while commuting, cook together, try new recipes together, read the same book and compare notes, do a creative hobby together, pray together, share about each other’s careers, dream about the future together, and sit in nature together.  There are innumerable ways that you can make the time to connect with your partner.

How well connected you both are depends on your willingness to make the connections happen.  This summer, I encourage you to take advantage of the beautiful weather and spend time alone with your partner, learning, discovering, exploring and loving in all the ways you can think of, and some more.

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Successful Summers

Summer is officially here, and for some business owners, it’s the slow season.  People leave and spend time in other locations, they go on vacations and some areas empty out.  Of course some businesses’ busy season is the summer, and they look forward to the influx of customers and people interested in learning more about their corner of the world.  If you’re not a “summer” business, you may struggle to make ends meet, or find yourself with lots of free time.  If this is you, I’ve got some ideas about how you can make this summer a successful one for your business.

1-offer something new.  Yes, add something special for the summer only.  Partner with a local high school and offer computer classes at your tech store.  Add special summer-esque merchandise to your shelves.  Source local produce and other products to add to your menu.   It’s also a great time to add to on your online offers, since the internet never closes.  Take advantage of the other abundances that summer offers.

2-clean up.  Yes, I’m serious.  Take advantage of the off-season and close for a week to do a deep cleaning on your store.  Make the changes on your website that you’ve been meaning to make (or get a website in the first place!).  For most businesses, a bright, clean, warm location encourages customers to come back and makes them feel welcome.  Also take time to clean up your offerings.  Get rid of things that aren’t serving your business and make room for things that do serve your customers.

3-learn.  This is one of my favorite things to do.  While the crowds are away, both you and your employees should take the time to get in extra training.  Hire a customer expert to come in and work with yourself and your employees on how to better treat and excite customers.  Send the employees away to a local college for some extra classes in your industry.  Sponsor a field trip to a similar business, or any thriving business, where your employees could learn some things.  Do in-house work with your employees and make sure that they’re taking care of your customers.

This summer get a new perspective on your business, and refresh yourself for the fall season.  What will you do to make this summer a success?

Fresh Food for Summer

Summer is a great time to visit a farmer’s market near you and get some fresh fruits and veggies.  Encourage your kids and family to eat them with these yummy recipes!

Vegetables

Veggie chips

Corn, avocado and tomato salad

Confetti corn quesadillas

Granny smith slaw

Crunchy carrot salad

Broccoli salad

Baked penne with roasted vegetables

Zucchini bread

Spiced green salad

Pickled vegetables

Fettuccine with summer vegetables and goat cheese

Fresh corn salad

Corn and blueberry salad

Coleslaw

Fruit

Fruit pizza

Berry trifle

Fruit crisp

Watermelon granita

Mango-honey fruit leather

Peach cake

Peach and blueberry pizza

Eton mess

Kiwi pineapple smoothies

Blueberry hand pies

Rustic peach tart

Pineapple upside-down cake

Share your favorite vegetable and fruit recipes in the comments!

5 Ways to Improve this Summer

Next week I’ll be sharing some tips for success in business this summer, a season that is a big success for some businesses, and the slow season for many others.  This week however, I thought I’d share 5 of the things I notice consistently missing, lacking or failing in many businesses I work with.

A decent website: there’s no excuse to not have a nice looking website.  Whether we like it or not people do still judge a book by the cover.  It’s important to have all relevant information about your business, yourself and your offerings on the site, as well as several ways to contact you.  Don’t forget to include relevant pictures, as well as a decent picture of you too.  One final thought: everyone loves video, but any video or audio on your site should not start when people get to the site.  Visitors should have to click on it to make it work.

Professionalism:  I’ve met an unfortunate number of people who fit the unprofessional status.  Somewhere along the lines of us advancing in many great ways in society, we’ve failed as far as communicating and caring for our fellow humans.  We’ve left our good manners behind, have picked up bad habits and haven’t trained our staff in how to properly treat our very valuable customers.

Social strategy: Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn are all great marketing tools, but they lose value very quickly when you’re not updating them, aren’t sharing things people care about that are relevant to your business, and when all you do is promote and market on them.  They’re social sites and people expect you to be there and socialize with them.  If you don’t want to socialize, go live in the hills.  There’s almost no way in our society today that no matter what job or business you have you won’t deal with customers and people in one way or another.

Multiple options: it’s great to have a fantastic product or service.  It’s even better to have several fantastic products or levels of service.  When you’ve only got one option, such as one weight loss vitamin or just manuscript proofreading, you’re missing out on up-selling, cross selling and often future selling opportunities to the same clients.  Without multiple options, more often than not you’ll have to do the work to get new customers rather than continuing to work with those who already love what you do or sell.

Up to date: Selling outdated products or having old information on your website makes you look less professional, and doesn’t help new or newly interested customers.  I can’t tell you the number of grocery stores I’ve gone in that have had outdated foods, or clients I’ve worked with who base their services on outdated information.  Even if your products or services haven’t changed, it’s important to give the impression that they are just as current as the newest business in your industry.

The bottom line is this: put your best foot forward 100% of the time.  Your customers will appreciate it and you’ll feel good about your business too.

On Being a Father

This week being the week that leads up to Father’s Day this Sunday in the USA, I was looking for a fresh perspective to share with you on being a father, so I asked a friend who is a dad for his thoughts on Father’s Day.  His answer was that for him, Father’s Day is all about his kids.

Of course, he’s absolutely right.  Without kids (literal or figurative), you’re not able to experience this celebration as others do.  So often we take Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and make it all about the parent, which we should.  It’s important to celebrate them for who they are.  These people have chosen to devote years of their lives to raising our future.  But this year, instead of putting your feet up and letting everyone celebrate you, what if you spent the day celebrating with your kids?

What if you spent the day letting your kids dictate the schedule, instead of your smartphone?  What if you played the games they wanted to or read books with them?  What if just you and the kids went out for ice cream?  What if you let the kid in you out for a little while and enjoyed their free attitudes and joy?

What if this Father’s Day you decided to be the best father you could be?  I’ve known some great dads, and some that had lots of room for improvement, and of course there are the dads who aren’t present at all.  What if this was the year you decided that you want your kids to become the best they possibly can?  It won’t be easy, but all of our futures are depending on your kids.  Some will turn out well in spite of what you’ve done, others will turn out well because of what you’ve done.  I hope that you’re the type of parent to choose the latter.  Set a good example for your kids this Father’s Day by just being there for them and loving them.  Don’t worry if you don’t know how to play, they’ll be happy to fill you in.

Getting to Success

Last week a leader in the business industry, Seth Godin, celebrated a milestone: 5000 blog posts.  That’s a lot of writing.  Today I thought we’d take Mr. Godin as our inspiration and discuss how we too can be successful.

Consistency for the win.  You can’t get to 5000 blog posts if you don’t write a lot.  You also can’t become a multi-best selling author if you don’t keep writing.  You can’t become a much desired speaker if you don’t keep speaking.  You can’t make the best cupcakes in the world if you don’t keep practicing.  When people know you’re reliable and consistently good, they’ll come back for more.

Know your stuff.  Seth Godin doesn’t talk about aquariums, he talks about life and marketing, two topics he knows a lot about.  It’s evident when you read his writings he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s got the proof to back it up.  His successful companies are evidence enough that what Seth Godin knows works.

Win some, lose some.  When you’re as big as Seth Godin, you accept that you can’t please everyone, or even resonate with everyone all the time.  Nor should you.  You can’t be all things to all people.  Accept that the people you’re most supposed to help will find you at the time they need you.

Do what you love.  It’s evident after reading many of his writings that Seth Godin has a passion for what he does, and for sharing his insights and perspective with people.  It doesn’t come across like a chore for him to churn out all these blog posts and books, rather, he seems to enjoy it as much as the readers do.

There are few things in life these days, it seems, that last.  Not many TV shows make it to 100 episodes anymore, and it’s hard to find marriages that last 50+ too, let alone to stay in the same business or the same job for more than a few years.  It’s OK to passionately embrace all that life sends your way, but make sure that you give it your all, however you choose to live.  A life not well lived is not a life at all.

Lessons from Children’s Books

This month we’re celebrating the birth and life of two amazing men: Richard Scarry and Eric Carle.  These two men were/are two of children’s book artists who have captivated the hearts and minds of children everywhere.  Not only are their books entertaining (and educating) for children, there are several things we adults can learn from them about understanding, loving and nurturing the kids in our lives.

Love color:  both of these men show a passion for color in their work.  From beautifully colored butterflies to gorillas in bright banana cars, there’s no lack of color in the stories.  Color is important because it adds dimension to the world and helps kids bring their imagination to life.

Be creative:  kids love to stretch their minds and reach for things that we adults can’t imagine.  The creativity presented in Scarry and Carle’s books excites kid’s brain cells, simply because you’re looking at not just an animal, but an animal with a heart, life and sometimes a conscience.

Simple is good:  there’s very little in Scarry and Carle’s books that’s complicated.  Yes, their books do include beautiful details, but they’re not complicated details.  It’s hours of fun and discovery.

Learning is fun:  growing up I remember being excited every time my mom brought out a book by Scarry or Carle.  These authors with their cute drawings and passion for exploring life always captured my wandering mind.  It didn’t seem weird or boring to learn about faraway countries or different lessons in life, rather it was interesting.

Animals are awesome:  yes, I love animals!  Not only do their books teach a love and respect for animals, the lessons the animals experience are totally relate-able to kids and their parents.

Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and what lessons have you learned from reading with your kids?

Business Relationship Basics

This month our theme is on relationships.  It’s a big topic and certainly one that affects every area of our lives.  Throughout the month we’ll be talking about some different aspects of relationships and business on Wednesdays, and help make your relationships in business, and out, more successful.  Today though, I want to just touch on a couple of topics that will immediately make your relationships (and business as a result) more successful if you tap into them.

Communication: this is one of the biggest keys to life. If you communicate the wrong thing or if you don’t communicate at all you’ll always struggle in your relationships.  Communication is about more than just the words that come out of your mouth, it includes the way you present yourself physically, how you treat people and the ways you act.  Often the most telling communication for people is what isn’t said or done.  What’s missing can be just as big of a deal breaker as what is there.

Leaders have relationships: if you truly want to be a leader in business, you have to get good at having relationships.  Yes, sometimes it is about who you know and your connections.  But often you can get just as far by knowing how to connect with people honestly and authentically.  Those who distance themselves from people (especially their “subordinates”) are missing out on a big opportunity to strengthen and develop the company.

Success: the relationships you do or don’t build will be the success or downfall of your company.  Whether we’re talking about social media, sales pitches, product quality, employee turnover, or just business longevity, the relationships you choose to make have direct impact on your bottom line.  Make relationships with people only concerned about the size of their paycheck, and you’re missing out on amazing opportunities to make more than just money.

Success comes in degrees, as do relationships.  Not all relationships need to be best friend type relationships.  There should only be a handful of those relationships in your life.  But your ability to get along with people, connect with them, make them feel special and needed, and give them a place and purpose in life and in your company, or connected with your company, will have much better, more lasting results than if you try to make as much money as quickly as you can.  Doors will continue to open for you if you strive to have healthy, positive relationships with people, even when life brings changes your way.