Too many Options

Since so many of us have adjusted our lives due to the Covid19 Pandemic, I’ve thought about all of the choices we have. There are still local business to support, there are local restaurants that are depending on our support to keep there doors upon today and after life returns to another new normal. I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with supportive professional business owners who I am working to support during this time. While on an accountability group call, one of the participants had the clarity that we all were putting too much on our plate every day. We all think because we are working from home and in a different capacity that we have more time. We still have 24 hours a day, the same as before. Since we may be working in a different environment with different distractions its easy to be lured to try to participate in every Zoom call you can, or take advantage of learning tips and tricks of a trade simply because you think you have the time. Having a big list and seeing how many tasks are on it and not accomplishing those tasks can be overwhelming and not motivating.

If you don’t have an accountability partner, now is the time to get one. Your partner could lead you to better snack choices (we are all snacking more), or help you become laser focused on the core of your business. If you can describe your business and what it does, that’s great. If you can describe the “why” behind your message your delivery to potential clients may have greater clarity. Now is the time to re-brand, or create your true Mission Statement. Choose six tasks per day that will support generating revenue. These tasks could be indirectly related such as developing your marketing plan or your sales pitch. Incorporate “micro-wins” into your day for accomplishments. A micro-win could be something as easy as drinking enough water or sending information to a potential client. If you are overwhelmed with your tasks find an accountability partner or a coach. A partner or coach will help you laser focus your mission and get you on the right track. If you’ve always wanted to start a blog, a newsletter or perfect your mission statement or elevator pitch, I’d be happy to help with the writing part of your list.

These days are different

Things feel different, for all of us these days.  We’ve never experienced anything like this.  Yes, we’ve all had weather related events like snowstorms or hurricanes that have shown the true humanity in people.  I spoke with someone yesterday and we both said this feels a bit like post 911 when stores were empty, and you didn’t hear any airline traffic.  Before COV19 hit hard I was dealing with a parent in the hospital, an unbelievable car repair on a fairly new car and a college student 3 states away who had to move home abruptly.

 Going to the grocery store and seeing no food or supplies on the shelves was utterly frightening.  Not just a store out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  The store had no meat.  OK, there was some meat.  There was not any ground beef, not a chicken breast or thigh to be had.  My husband had a very good idea to have me buy a large turkey.  The turkey could feed our family and my parents with enough leftovers and soup to last.  I call this move pivoting.  I had to pivot in all aspects of my life: personally, financially, professionally.  My husband and I had a trip to Napa planned for our 25th anniversary.  We will have to reschedule if we can go at all. 

What I have found is there are still people in the world who are positive and ready willing and able to help.  These people are the unselfish “do-ers”.  These folks are the best of humanity, they will make a positive introduction to help you personally or professionally.  If you want to be able to pivot well become someone who is a “do-er” not, simply a taker.  If I want or need something I always offer first.  In times of adversity, others will remember that and be willing and ready to help you. 

What’s Your Bandwidth?

Yes, I too am aware that “bandwidth” is the new catch phrase. When you are juggling so much especially around the holidays how do you do it all? I learned recently that sometimes you just can’t get it all done in the way you originally planned.

Thanksgiving has been hosted in our home for the last 15 years. We have around 15 people give or take for dinner. Years ago I started a Thanksgiving spreadsheet. Sad, but true. The spreadsheet contains: turkey(s) & how we are preparing them. For instance – one turkey was cooked on the smoker/rotisserie and the other in the oven. I include both types of stuffing I will make – one being the traditional family stuffing I’ve always mad and then a second stuffing; this year it was a wild rice and roasted pecan stuffing. I include mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, cranberry chutney, macaroni and cheese and more. Why do I do this? It helps me look at the big picture in one place and focus on the schedule to complete food and table preparation.

This year I had everything planned out. I even ironed my tablecloths and napkins the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving. Then, I got the call that a family member was in the hospital. Being the only child in town I ended up spending what I thought was heavy preparation time at the hospital waiting on tests, doctors and procedures. Amazingly I still pulled off everything I had planned, with the exception of the heavy cleaning of baseboards and behind the refrigerator I do before Thanksgiving.

This experience taught me to live in the moment, take deep breaths and evaluate what your bandwidth is. If you bandwidth seems to come up short with your goals, seek reinforcements. In the season of gratitude I was grateful for my family member getting better and having great care, a very understanding boss who let me work where and when I could, a husband who did a heavy lift of preparations and my two young adult children who chipped in to play uber driver to the hospital. My bandwidth seems to have a bit more elastic than I originally thought. As I dive into my 2020 goals I’m taking a good hard look at my bandwidth and how that will support a successful year.

Sharing isn’t Always Caring

In the past week, I attended five networking events.  I observed an interesting phenomenon.  Maybe it isn’t a phenomenon, actually, I’m really hoping it isn’t becoming one.   On several occasions, I experienced networkers providing unimportant information to those around them that they were recently introduced to.  Let me provide you with a few examples.  First of all, I met a young lady that appeared to have herself well put together and presented the preface of her business well.  She decided to share that her family is going through some “stuff” and I believe brought this up as an excuse for not meeting deadlines.   If you are at a networking event you should be putting your best foot forward and representing your business in the most professional way.  In airing your dirty laundry in front of others they may not want to hire you for their next project or whatever it is you are selling.

There was another individual who very loudly stated that he had to get to the gym.  If you are more focused on getting to the gym perhaps the building muscle is a priority over building your business.  Lastly and the most surprising of “over-sharing” was at a woman in business networking event.  One of the board members loudly told those who would listen that she was leaving the board for some personal reasons involving another board member.  When you are perceived as a complainer instead of a solution guru why would someone want to hire you?

I really think the new rule of networking should be – if this event is not the most important thing you can be doing and your heart is not in it then sit this one out.  Present yourself and your business in the very best light you can.  This means dressing appropriately, having business cards with you, being able to talk about your business without the pitch and asking genuine questions of those you are meeting.  Once you determine if you have a synergy or a referral source set up a one on one meeting to discuss further.

Where were you on 911?

Eighteen years went by in the blink of an eye.  Many of us remember what we were doing when our country changed forever.  America has had many “where were you” moments.  Our relatives may remember where they were when Kennedy was shot; when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor; when Richard Nixon was impeached. All of these events shape our country.  I read someone else’s comments on remembering September 11th; they said that it marks the day where the worst of humanity was shown but the best of humanity prevailed.

At the time the first tower was struck I was hosting a networking meeting.  I remember the moment someone came in and announced that the first tower was hit.  We all looked at each other in disbelief.  How did this happen?  Little did we know that minutes later the second tower would be hit followed by the Pentagon and the plane that was detoured miraculously to a field in Pennsylvania.  As the events were unfolding there was a stillness that took place.  It may have been that all air travel was suspended and the skies were literally silent.  The other stillness was not knowing what to do other than call your loved ones to hear their voice or watch the television to see the horrific events unfold.  I had an eight-month-old baby and a four-year-old and had such a strong feeling that I needed to see them to know they were ok, even though I knew they were fine.  My strongest memory of that day was walking into the babysitter’s house and seeing my daughter sitting in the highchair feeding her little chubby face, blissfully unaware of what was unfolding in the world.  I burst into tears of relief, sadness, and a feeling of connection and disconnection at the same time to the events developing hundreds of miles away.

Today our memories of this day flood our minds.  We feel sadness and compassion for those who lost loved ones or are continuing to suffer the ill-effects emotionally and physically of that day.  May we continue to come together in a depth of healing remaining the pillars strength for those who need support.

Is it Time to Make or Break a Habit?

We are all such creatures of habit.  What kind of habits do you have?   Do you have some good habits, like exercising five times a week or committing to a specific number of prospecting calls weekly?  Or do you have some bad habits, like staying up too late or spending too much time on social media, or saying yes to tasks that won’t make money for your business?   Some experts say it takes approximately 2 months (closer to 66 days) when new behavior or habit becomes automatic.  Another good rule to follow is to commit to 3 weeks or 21 days.  If you have followed your goal and it feels like a habit commits to another 90 days.  We often utilize this plan at the beginning of a year in New Year’s Resolutions.  We decide we want to work out more so lose those extra pounds that have piled up during the holidays, spend time with family, or learn a new language.

Habits are easy for our brains to recognize, habits are comfortable.  How often do you get into your car and end up at your destination but, you don’t remember how you arrived there? That’s because your daily route is a habit.   How do you successfully make or break a habit?  Spend some time thinking about how you are motivated?  Are you a visual learner, will photos of the vacation you want to take or the outfit you want to wear after your diet motivate you?  If you are visual then have photos where you will see them daily; in your car, on your mirror, on the front of your refrigerator.   Do you feel inspired by listening to a Podcast or a Ted Talk? Listen to an inspirational story related to the habit you are looking to make or break.  Do you learn or are you motivated from being hands-on?  To elevate your success, make sure you schedule hands-on experiences.  An ideal example of this would be developing an exercise routine.  Do you like to read inspirational articles or quotations?  A simple “you can do it” message can be very effective.

These are all great ideas but how do you elevate your level of success?  Start with the end in mind.  A dream without a plan is just a wish.   Map out on your calendar for the next three weeks a daily time slot to either spend time on your habit that you are working to make or, fill the time you would normally spend watching television and schedule yourself to read or take a walk.  If you are visual then write it out on a calendar, auditory then make yourself a recorded reminder that you can listen to.   If you simply plan your “work” then work your plan for at least three weeks you will successfully have mastered making or breaking a habit.

Imposter Syndrome

Impostor syndrome can conjure up a negative connotation.  Why would you want to be something you’re not?  Psychology uses this term to define a behavior pattern but I’m referring to a relaxed definition.  It takes 10,000 hours (6-10 years) of your life to master something.  What if you want to be an expert in your business and don’t have this much time to invest?  We all must keep a roof over our heads in the meantime.

So, how do you speed up learning all you can about a new product or service or aspect of your business?   First, we could all use a little more focus in our lives.  Who is not easily distracted by daily tasks that are not directly impacting revenue in our pocket?   Block off time on your calendar for research or what I refer to as learning time.  Do it daily, weekly, monthly or whatever schedule makes the most sense.  By adding the task of learning this new element to your calendar it creates a priority.  Once you have a base of what you need to know to make a list of bullet points.  If this list will produce a list of questions or responses have your answers ready too.

As much as I cringe as I say it you should “role play”.   Naturally, practice makes perfect and if you can practice working out any kinks in your knowledge and your delivery the smoother you will be.  It’ a cycle to follow.   Have you read the “If you give a mouse a cookie” series of books to your children? If you aren’t familiar with the plot here’s how it goes – if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk and so on.  It’s a comparable concept here.

If you spend some time starting with research and development, you can determine how to best market your product or services.   This R&D should include a market analysis of how your pricing should look and what is different about what you are doing versus everyone else working in this same space.   Once you have your glossy and pretty materials or however you will roll out your campaign it’s great to use Steven Covey’s method of starting with the end in mind.  How many new clients or current clients do you want using this new product or service?

Start with your practice round on your cat or anyone who will listen.  It’s better to practice on someone who can verbally give you feedback, so you can modify your presentation as needed.    Remember you can always make changes at any time based on several factors:  feedback, changes in the market, changes in your capabilities.  Be the imposter.  If you act in imposter syndrome long enough, you will graduate into the genuine article and no one will have noticed.

How to delegate when you are a party of one!

Every great time management book or article you read has a primary rule-delegate, delegate and delegate!  However, these articles as well written as they are, are aimed at large corporations or departments with what seems to be an overabundance of staff.  They make it seem so simple to just grab the nearest person and delegate an assignment or project over to them to handle.  But… what do you do when you are a single operation department or a small business owner or any department with a very limited staff to choose from.

First rule of thumb- stick to being who you are and do what you do best, after all this is what allowed you to be in this position and to make money which allows you to be your own boss.

Now-let’s get to the point and delegate some duties to free up your time so you can get back to the first rule of thumb above.  OUTSOURCING or in this instance called delegating.  Struggling (spending too much time) with book keeping – hire a third party CPA.  Need marketing assistance – look for a summer college intern.  Thinking that these resources resources may cost you too much? Look for a retired book keeper who simply wants to get out of the house a couple days a week.  The opportunities are endless if you get creative, use what resources are actually out there which in turn allow you to get back to rule number one – doing what makes your business successful.

Making a Good Networking Impression

I’m at the point in my career where I have attended too many networking events to count.  I always leave the event good or bad with something I’ve learned or observed.  First of all I no longer approach a networking event as a singles mixer – I’m looking for “Mr Right.”  I now look at these events as people I can meet who would be great connectors – sales people who are on top of their game.  Those elite few who value relationships and not simply counting the number of calls they make.  Those are the people I want to have coffee or lunch with.  In turn, if I have someone I can connect them with I know it will come back to me.  It may not be a quick process but it will eventually come back to me in a new contact, or a referral.   If the evening has gone well I have made a few worthwhile contacts and certainly follow up accordingly.

Although my batting average is pretty good having learned how to navigate an event.  I’ve seen a lot of newer attendees make some pivotal mistakes.  First of all  I have to ask – when did it become appropriate for ladies to wear leggings to work let alone out to a professional event?   You don’t always have to wear a suit but wear clothes that are ironed and make sure what you are wearing is put together and your shoes are in good condition.   If you look good you feel good.  One of my pet peeves is the attendees who take full advantage of an open bar.  This isn’t happy hour on the weekend with your friends.  If you are slurring and sloppy you aren’t making a good impression, decision makers will not want to do business with you.  I’ve found a new and annoying tactic from millennials I have  encountered at events – they don’t bring business cards.  I wonder – is it because your company thinks your tenure is short lived or because you truly believe its better to send me an email and show your interest first?  I could go on forever but I will close with the “awful handshake”  either way too aggressive or the limp fish shake.  Either is memorable and not in a good way.

Remember you get one time to make a first impression.  Make it a good one.