The Business of Respect

We’re getting into another holiday season, with Good Friday today, Passover starting tonight and Easter on Sunday. With some of the recent events and these holidays coming up I thought it would be a good idea to talk about something we as business owners can struggle with: the human side of things. I get it, we all want sales, we all want to grow our businesses, but I don’t think that has to happen at the expense of others, or without regard of others. Let’s talk about a few specific examples.

Easter/Passover: there’s a large percentage of the population who will celebrate one of these holidays, and anytime there’s a holiday it means increased stress levels, even if you don’t celebrate the holiday personally because many other people around you will be stressing out. A little more patience and a little consideration can go a long way to diffusing potential tensions and reducing the general stress level.

Social media: I was talking recently with several people who have used social media for their business but really didn’t get it or know how to use it for their business. Yes, businesses do get sales from social media, but it can’t be ignored that it’s social media, not sales media, and that the social aspect is often the missing link between the engagement numbers they have and those they want.

Facebook’s data issue: in some ways it may not seem like a big issue, because “they’re just numbers” but behind that data is a lot more than just numbers on a page, they’re little bits of many people’s lives. At this point the mistakes have happened so changes should be made as a result of the issue and the companies involved need to take responsibility, and then apologies should be issued, with sensitivity to the fears, frustrations, and concerns that people are experiencing.

Feelings and relationships: I was reading an email from one of the business coaches I’ve connected with and she was sharing about her birthday last year and last few months with her father before he died. It was a sweet email and reminded me about the stories and relationships that each of us have, and how as businesses if we’re able to build even a fraction of that kind of relationship with our customers we’re lucky.

No, not every moment in business is a touchy-feely one, there’s a lot of business that is very cut and dried. But behind each and every sale there’s a person, someone who will use the product you’ve created, someone who will share that product with someone they love, someone who will apply your wisdom to their life, someone who will use your service to help someone else, which means it’s not just something you’re creating for and selling to one person, it’s something that can affect many. So how can you make this weekend special for the people you help in your business?

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A Little Time for Quiet

When was the last time you were really quiet? Maybe you had the opportunity this winter if the power went out where you are and everything stopped for a few hours or days. We’re so used to the world that we live in with the quiet hum of refrigerators and other appliances working in the background that even when we think it’s quiet, for instance when the kids leave the house and we turn off the TV, it’s really not. But when everything shuts off, or you venture deep into the woods on a snowy day, it’s truly quiet.

As the season of Lent finishes up and we head into the days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, whether you’re religious or not, it’s a good reminder and opportunity to make time for quiet reflection. What’s the power of quiet reflection and why would we want to do it? Well, quiet reflection is a time for not only processing what’s been going on in your life and considering your goals and accomplishments, but also about finding peace, healing and connecting with yourself.

I know that the quiet scares some of us, it can be a little overwhelming to feel so isolated, especially in this world that we live in where we’re almost constantly around others and talking with other whether in person or virtually. So it may take a little time and effort to get to the point that you’re comfortable with the world around you being quiet and it just being you and your thoughts all alone. But I think it’s important because we don’t spend enough time on reflection, let alone quiet reflection by ourselves. I don’t think most of us take the time to really connect with ourselves and check in on things before just charging forward. There’s nothing wrong with being decisive or taking action (both are important), but I think we miss out on an opportunity to build our confidence in ourselves and to learn deep and amazing things about ourselves when we only do the action side of things and not the quiet reflection.

So this week I would encourage you to make time for quiet time, just you, maybe a note pad and pen, and your thoughts. If you work on making it a regular habit I think you’ll find that you’re more relaxed, more prepared and more at peace with life. What will you learn in the quiet?

The Marathon of Parenting

I was talking with a friend this week and she mentioned that her husband wanted time to do some things and therefore could she watch their son while he did them? It’s not a strange request, in fact it’s pretty normal. But the statement that followed his request and their discussion of her need for him to do some parenting was that he “didn’t realize kids would be this much work”.

Ah yes, that old “let’s have kids!” chat sounds great until you realize how much money, time, effort, blood, sweat and tears are involved. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. I believe kids are a blessing, but I also would do my absolute best to never bring a kid into the world if I was not prepared for taking care of them and investing in them for the next 20+ years. And some people simply aren’t capable of being the parents their kids need them to be.

But, since you’re here you’ve already most likely got kids and are being met daily (and hourly) with challenges and craziness. This is par for the course. But how you do the course is what makes all the difference. You can be a miserable parent, and your kids will sure remember it and probably make your life miserable at some point in time because of it. Or you can choose to take each challenge as it comes with an open heart, lots of love, extra patience, and the security of knowing that you are never alone in the journey. I’m here, there are countless blogs, Facebook pages, local groups and organizations who are ready, willing and able to support both you and your kids.

Don’t worry about fixing today’s problems by the end of today, plan for the long haul and that when you and your kids cross that finish line you’ll all be proud to be there.

Refresh for Spring Success

With spring officially arriving even if we did have a snow storm where I live this week, I thought we’d talk about some ways that you can bring new life to your business.

1-add a new product or service. I get emails from companies on a regular basis announcing new collections they’re offering, new partnerships they’re doing or seasonal offerings they’ve got. There’s something exciting for both the customers and the company when a new product is added, whether it’s planned to be a permanent edition or just a seasonal or short term opportunity.

2-refresh your marketing. Maybe marketing isn’t something you’ve been consistent with for your business, or you’re just not happy with the marketing you’re doing. Spring is a great time to redesign your newsletter email, recommit to marketing consistently, create and implement a new strategy for marketing on social media, do more local marketing (yes, even if you’re just an only business), or make some updates to your website.

3-clean up. If you’ve got a physical location that customers come to, or a location where you spend a lot of time working or store products, spring is a great time to do a deep cleaning of your location, move things around, throw things out and put a fresh coat of paint on the place.  Customers will appreciate the space being neat and clean, and so will you!

4-education. Spring is also a great time to learn a new skill or get some education, both for you as the business owner as well as your employees. Whether you’re interested in expanding your services and need some education to do that, or you want to give your employees some opportunities to be more proficient or work in other areas that they currently don’t, sometimes some education can be just the thing to get you refreshed, renewed and bring new life to the business.

So what will you do to put some spring in your business?

A Refresh for Spring Success

With the official arrival of spring, I’m thinking about why many of us are so productive in the spring. I think it has to do with everything being fresh. We’re more likely to pick up the new shirt, spend time in the clean rooms, and even be with people who are more like sunshine than rain clouds. There’s something magical about going out in nature after a rainstorm, or seeing peices of history uncovered by a storm. There’s something refereshing about walking into a clean room or putting away clean clothes or finally getting things organized (that hands-on-the-hips, surveying the victory moment).

With that breath of fresh air also seems to come a burst of energy, a feeling of renewal, and a spark to the motivation that may have been missing for some time. So if you’ve been struggling with success, maybe it’s time to give yourself a little spring refresh. I get it, we’re pulled in many directions, given more to our piles rather than less, distracted by shiny things and trying to stay with the movement of life. Whether you get organized, hire help, delegate, or let go of stuff, spring is a great time to give yourself a fresh chance at success.

Spring would be beautiful if just the green stuff showed up or if we only had flowers come up, but true spring experiences are an explosion of activity, growth and new life. Spring isn’t just baby bunnies or crocuses, there are countless animals and flowers that come into bloom. It’s only when it’s all taken together that you can really see and appreciate what spring is all about. Don’t feel like you have to make “spring” happen in your life without help. Yes, you’ll have to make some potentially big decisions that you may have been avoiding, but passing on the cleaning to a cleaning crew, hiring a carpenter to build you shelving that actually works for you, deleting emails you’re never going to read, or saying no to some things you’re really not passionate about can give you the mental and physical freedom to get more done that only you can do, and only in the way that you can do it.

So on this fine spring day, what freshness will you commit to creating or welcoming in your life?

A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?

Building a 4 Leaf Clover Business

With St. Patrick’s Day this weekend I thought today we’d talk about 4 aspects of business success in honor of the 4 leaf clover. We’ll first take a look at the 3 things that appear on all clovers (in all businesses) and then we’ll look at one that only appears on the 4 leaf clovers:

People:
However you want to look at what you offer, without someone to buy what you offer, there’s really no point to being in business. It’s essential that you take care of all your people if you want to stay in business, let alone become one of the few beloved companies who lasts the tests of time.

Product/Service:
Every business needs at least one product or service that has value, addresses a need or solves a problem for people. Once you’ve got the concept for your product(s) and/or service(s) you have to decide what type of quality you will provide, and whether to differentiate yourself by price, or serve only a specific location or try and reach the masses among other things.

Marketing:
Once you’ve got a product and/or service you’ve got to tell people about it! There are tons of ways that you can market your business and what you’re offering from social media to blogs to newsletters to TV ads to radio ads to joint ventures to affilates. Marketing today has evolved from just product/service awareness to creating experiences, educating potential customers, and interacting with them in real time all in addition to product/service/brand awareness.

Purpose/Mission/Vision:
As I said, most businesses do their best to attend to the first 3, like any clover, but some business go the extra mile and give the extra effort to do things on purpose and with purpose. I had a business owner ask me recently if they really needed to have a purpose/vision/mission because they were “just selling a shirt.” Yes, you can differentiate on the exact product you sell, price and marketing you do and the people that fit your niche, but if you really want a tribe, if you want people to come back again and again and have a passionate investment in your business you need to have and follow a purpose/mission/vision.

So what about you? Are you just working to sell a product or service, or are you working to create an experience for your customers, one that they want to invest in, be part of and share with others?

Time for Changes

In thinking about Daylight Savings Time that the US adjusted to this past weekend I thought we might talk about the idea of it being time to make changes. I never can quite remember which way the clocks are supposed to go when they switch, I’m very thankful for technology that does it by and large for us now. Sometimes change is like that: we just feel the need to make changes but we’re not really sure which changes to make. So today I thought we’d take a look at some changes you can make if you’re not sure what changes you’re in need of, and until you’re certain of what changes need to be made in your life.

Clean and organize: many of us are blessed to have lots of stuff and lead busy lives, but with lots of stuff and busy lives it doesn’t always leave a lot of time to clean and get organized. Many of us just do the minimal to get by each week and end up one day with a big pile of stuff that needs to be gone through and more dust bunnies than real ones hopping around. Cleaning and organizing is one way to clear out some of the old and make room for the new, a symbolic welcoming of whatever changes your life is bringing.

What you eat: there’s never a bad time to make a decision to eat healthier, and today is no exception. But you don’t just have to change to healthier food, you can choose to change and try new foods and recipes too. There’s nothing wrong with having some go-to foods that you love, but it’s often fun to try new foods and recipes and mix things up a bit. Maybe it will give you the chance to learn a new cooking technique or try an ingredient you’ve always wondered about but never really knew how to put it in a dish, and this would be the chance to do either or both.

Consideration for others: one of the biggest areas of our lives that could use some changes for most of us are the relationships we have and ways that we interact with others. Maybe you’ve gotten in the habit of being on your phone at the dinner table, you think or say really nasty things about the other drivers on the road, you talk with your mouth full, you don’t give your significant other much of your attention, you ignore employees under you or belittle them, or you haven’t made time for making new friends and relationships or learning about other cultures. It’s not about being best friends with everyone but about respect, learning to listen, being open to others being different than you, and doing better at sharing the space we all live in.

What changes are you feeling inspired to make in your life?

Weathering the Storm of Success

Just a few days ago the Northeast experienced a snowstorm like I haven’t seen in some time. We had more snow than I’ve seen (and shoveled) in quite a few years (we had about 2.5 feet), and as beautiful as it was it made for some big issues. Yes, I grew up with some bigger storms and I know that some people deal with way more snow than what I did on Wednesday and Thursday morning on a regular basis, but whether you’re used to lots of snow or not, when mother nature takes control things in our human world often go wrong. So today based on some of the issues that I saw, I thought I’d share a few lessons that business owners could learn from for the next time they’re faced with a crisis or the unknown.

First, weather is tricky because even with all the technology we’ve got the end result is still really a guess. Add to that the variable of humans and their interpretations, and you’ve got some serious questions and unknowns. It’s frequently said that the weather industry is the one that you can make mistakes in and not lose your job over it. While it’s probably not OK for you to be frequently wrong and give your customers a less-than-perfect product or advice that’s not helpful or accurate, there has to be some margin of error considered and understood. The weather people have good enough technology that they can tell us when something is likely on the way, but they can’t totally provide how much or what everyone is going to get or exactly how a storm will play out.

How does this apply for other businesses and industries? It starts with something as simple as being honest with your customers and letting them know that you’ll always have them and their needs and their best interests at the forefront of what you do, and always strive to bring them the best experience and products/services possible.  But also that you’re not perfect and sometimes things are outside of your control, and when those things happen you’ll be up front with them and let them know what’s going on, and do your very best to rectify the issue as soon as possible. Which brings us to the second point.

The second thing to consider is with regards to communication. Sometimes I feel that things are very well communicated, and other times I wonder what people were thinking! The issue that business owners really need to consider is the fact that there are so many free resources (and other resources) they could tap into to provide the very necessary information to the general public and the specific people who need those updates, yet they weren’t being used. There were lots of electric road signs on the highways that could have shared updated information about the roads ahead yet all they did was warn of winter weather and to drive safe. There are free social media accounts, emails/newsletters, blogs and websites that could have been used to post updates about power failures, garbage/recycle pickup, blocked roads, detours and openings/closings, providing information in a timely manner and all in one place, but they weren’t. These updates don’t take a long time to do, and don’t have to be extremely detailed, but they can be invaluable to people.

For businesses, yes, you should post that you’re open or closed or if there are weather related issues, and you should be in communication with your team so that they know what’s going on. You should also communicate with your team when it comes to serious weather about the policies that you’ve got for whether you’re open or not and if there are people who are specifically willing to work in serious weather if need be. Weather challenges also provide a reason to have an online presence and to sell something online if possible. With countless people stuck inside instead of out doing their usual activities, they’ve got time to read emails, peruse websites or apps and shop.

While I don’t think you need to be perfect or communicate every little detail about your businesses (although sometimes that can be fun!), especially when things are challenging or dangerous for people it’s important to be on top of your communication and not only give specific instructions regarding what to do now and during the danger/challenge/storm, but also be in communication about what comes next. What have you learned for your business from weather challenges?

Secrets to Success: Change

The path to success isn’t always an easy one, and sometimes there are things that conspire against people in becoming successful. One of those things for some people is gender. While women have made great strides over the years, many women still struggle to be successful and have difficulty growing into positions that have been traditionally held by men. With this Thursday being International Women’s Day I thought we’d talk about one of the steps that has been key to women having more success: change.

Off and on over the past two months we’ve taken a look at some important steps that can help anyone get to success, and in many cases if you want to be successful there has to be changes made. In many cases what got you to point “A” won’t get you to point “B” let alone point “M.” And the only way that women can lead more companies or be paid better or be more respected or not feel so much pressure based around their gender is change.

There are many reasons why we shy away from change including that it can be difficult, in many ways we like what we’ve got, we’re not sure the changes will really be worth it, and we’re not sure we have the capabilities to change. Change can also be challenging because even if someone wants to change, the changes they want to make will affect others and others don’t necessarily agree with those changes. A prime example is politics, one group wants certain changes to happen because they think they would be very helpful, while the other group definitely doesn’t want to see those changes put into action. What’s one to do?

In the case of personal change the first person to think about is you. As long as the changes you plan to make won’t hurt yourself, your kids or partner or immediate family and friends, then you should go ahead and work on those changes. If the changes you want to make will have an affect others beyond your immediate scope of influence then you have to think about if there will be more wins as a result of the changes or if the future won’t be a better place as a result. In the case of women being able to gain positions of power in companies or getting paid better or being more successful, I would say that in most situations it’s a good thing, especially with regard to the pay aspect because there are more single moms than there are single dads who are trying to care for a family on only one income.  As far as success goes, I think anyone should be able to reach whatever level of success they dream of and are capable of achieving. I don’t think we should limit someone’s success based on their culture or gender or if they have a family or not.

Are you so focused on seeing things in only one way that you can’t see the benefits of change, especially when it comes to success? If so I encourage you to open your mind and do some research about the people, both men and women, who are achieving success today throughout the world. You may even learn something that can help you be more successful.