Friday, July 17, 2015

Vote for "herd immunity". Here's how...

Maya Angelou created important writing and resulting little sayings that had the potential to change people for the good. When people are thinking good and doing good, it's like "herd immunity"as relates to vaccines. Just as vaccines can prevent outbreaks of disease and save lives, positive people can act as a "vaccine" against negative people and negative outcomes. From a medical standpoint, it goes like this:

 "When a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, the spread of disease is limited. This indirectly protects unimmunized individuals. This includes those who can't be vaccinated and those for whom vaccination was not successful. It is more difficult to maintain a chain of infection when much of the population is vaccinated." (

I'm weird, I know. Why did vaccines and herd immunity come to mind when I write about business strategy? On a recent visit to my wonderful physician, Dr. Gee, he took the time to explain herd immunity because he recommended I get a pneumonia vaccine. Although I'm not at the high risk age and I don't have chronic illness, I chose to get the vaccine to protect myself and my community. If my trusted doctor recommends it, I am going to listen.

So, who would disagree that we should vaccinate ourselves and others with positive thoughts, positive energy, and positive change?  I love possibilities, and it's highly  possible to create "herd immunity" in our personal and work communities by being vaccinated with a good attitude and spreading it like wildfire.

I can't pick a favorite Maya quote because there are so many, and I really like this one. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

The official Wednesday word this week is HELP. Not, "Help!" Rather, help as in help other people to be successful or inspired or get the job they want so badly. That kind of help.

When someone is working at it and on it, but they need a little nudge, just a little something extra, it's a lot of fun to give help. 

I suppose selfish people succeed too, but, who would want to be like them? 

Zig was spot on! There is one big fat rule to this wisdom. If you help others get what they want only so you can get what you want, that's cheating, and it won't work out well.

Work strategy: Under promise and over deliver. 

Believing in yourself and having confidence will be a great asset as you go about helping others achieve their dreams.

And, finally, I wish you a Wednesday surrounded by inspiring and generous people. People just like you.

Monday, July 6, 2015

How to remove red flag warnings - legally

If you're at the beach and see a red flag go up, do you stay in the water or make haste to get away from the danger? Of course you get out of the water fast!

 If you're traveling and come across a red flag fire warning, you certainly don't continue driving toward danger. Of course not, silly!

Yet, when running a business it's so easy to ignore red danger flags. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away. One way to get those red flags down for good is to have a well thought out strategy.

Does strategy sound too far fetched to pertain to your small business?  

Do you feel lucky to simply make it through the week without a major breakdown?

Are you wondering which challenge or opportunity of the business you could strategize around?

If any of the above questions feel comfy and live in your own head you are not alone! Being a small business owner requires so many skills, talents and smarts, and there's only so much time in every day and every week. 

Those are the very reasons it's super smart to have a strategy in place, whether it's an overall business strategy or a very focused one. For example, it could be that you don't need someone to remind you that you could do a heck of a lot more in the social media department, not to mention the idea tacked on your someday calendar to implement a customer retention and loyalty program. 

The things that remain unspoken, unplanned, or just an idea are the very things that send up a red flag warning saying, "We need a strategy." 

Having a plan and strategy allows you to relax your shoulders about this concern and provides a path to a good outcome.  Without a plan it's hit or miss and a guaranteed undesirable outcome.

So, what are you waiting for? Make running your business easier sooner rather than later by asking for expert help to create a strategy that will work. You're the expert in the service you deliver. I'm the expert in strategy. Let's get together and take down the red flag obstructing your progress!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How Hard Can it Be?

For purposes of real world application, let's say you are in the middle of an important project which requires input from others. At 11:00 compose a brief email to three people. In a matter of seconds you get one reply. In a few minutes you receive another reply. Wait, waiting, waiting. It's understandable that the third person could be in a meeting, doctor appointment, or kid's school program, so you move on to work on something else while you wait.

At 4:30 p.m. you have still received no reply. You send a text, "Hey, Mary, pls let me know about Project X asap." No reply.

The next morning at 8:00 a.m. there is still no reply. You cannot complete that piece of your project without that reply. You are pretty mad. Very mad. Because you know that Mary is not on vacation and could have answered your email by now.

Today's business communication world has advanced to the point it's possible to get a decision, question, or feedback in a matter of seconds. Texts, emails, electronic signatures, web conferencing, and social media are the norm and allow employees and executives to accomplish in a few minutes what could have required a two hour meeting in "the old days".

There are no excuses, people. Even if you cannot handle the question or project quickly it is just plain good manners to REPLY. What if Mary had replied, "Tied up til 3", then replied as soon as reasonably possible when she was freed up. Wouldn't you have felt heard?

When you don't answer, people feel ignored. It's different if that former, crazy boyfriend sent the email or text, but this is the business world example. Unless you desperately need that imagined and selfish power trip, how hard can it be to reply?

Now, get out there and be the professional that you are so others will notice!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dear Restaurants and Cafes,...May I have a word?

A restaurant, cafe, or deli, like any other business, may only get one chance to surprise us with their service, food, and cleanliness. Unfortunately, some do not make it to our "Top 10 Favorite Places to Eat" list.

It's even worse when a favorite eating spot disappoints. No business is perfect, but all businesses should strive for perfection. If 100% satisfaction is not part of the business culture there's already a problem, and it's only a matter of time before that pothole becomes a sinkhole!

Food service business owners are some of the hardest working people I know. Many times they go into this business because they love to cook or love to be around friendly people. Yet, understandably, they may fail to realize there's so much more to making this business successful, even beyond the financial risk.

So, what can food service businesses do to win total devotion?
Here are my personal Top 10 things it takes to win my heart:

10. Include plans and training for customer loyalty and leadership in your overall 
      business strategy. Customers can spot the ones who do not.

9. Terminate any employee who is not 100% committed to your business culture. It 

     only takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel.

8. Have a mobile friendly website that contains what a customer might want to know. 

    Seek advice from an expert with proven experience.

7. Provide convenient parking and accessibility.

6. Be philanthropic and community minded. Your community will thank you in

    countless ways.

5. Create a culture of happiness and 100% commitment to serving.

4. Provide superior training to waitstaff and all others who interact with customers.  

    It's not just about the proper serving of plates.

3. Prepare delicious food. Your customers are the judges.

2. Realize that cleanliness is next to Godliness in food service, so keep the place very
    clean. This includes the restrooms. Please.

1. Deliver platinum customer service. That is, if you want to make money.

If you're an owner I know what you're thinking. It goes something like this:
"What??? There's no way I can do all of this. I can tell this writer has never owned and operated a restaurant or cafe. Too bad. Customers who expect all this can just find somewhere else to dine!!!"

Okay. I sure will. You are right about one thing. I have never owned a food service establishment. But, here's what's really important: I am a customer, and I am the one who keeps your refrigerator as well as your cash register running. Or not.

You cannot take short cuts on any of the Top 10, and each one requires a dedicated strategy and tactics to drive success and make life easier on owners, managers and employees.

Remember #5? That one is really a part of #1. If you're one of the brave, hard-working souls who owns and operates a food service business, I know you can do this! You have the grit and determination it takes, so let's see you show off. We will be devoted fans forever.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How To Create a Short List of Your Gazillion Wonderful Services

If you are a professional services business you may find it difficult to explain all you do. Unless you can specifically say, "I clean houses" or "I am a dentist" or "I am a massage therapist", it can be daunting to describe the realm of benefits you can bring to a customer.

Always remember this: Clear communication is key to every successful business. 

Here's an example of a recent communication dilemma.  One of my clients offers advice on financial planning. I noticed his list of services included 9 categories containing 58 items. My job was to refine his message of services to be more clear and help him more easily market his primary services.

It is true that he can assist people with that many categories and items, but how in the world do you explain that in the few seconds or minutes you have with a client or potential client? 
Here are 6  steps you may find helpful to narrow down your services message:

    1.  Make a list of everything you can do for a client. Everything.

    2.  If you have a long list of more than 5 things, determine a few categories.

   3. Now, start adding each of your extra items under the appropriate category.

   4. Determine if you personally provide the service or if you outsource the service. If you            outsource the service, put an line through ones that are usually outsourced.

  5.  If you have more than three items under some categories, eliminate or re-word those            to reduce the number. Make sure you have -0- duplicates on the page. It is ideal if you          end up with -0- items under each category. Brief is brilliant!

   Your work should look similar to this when you have finished:

My Services  
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Marketing & Brand Identity
  • Strategic Planning
  • Leadership Development 

Now you are ready to create your elevator message, that "thing" you say to let people know how you can help them. Stay tuned for the next blog post for easy tips on getting your elevator message just right!

Image credit

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Substitute or Use The Real Thing?

In life and in business there are times we substitute for the real thing.  Sometimes it works fine, but you never have a 100% guarantee that the substitute will work as well as the real thing.

Take automated voice recordings that some companies use instead of a human for answering a phone call. Press 1 for English, Press 2 for Spanish, followed by 5 more requirements in order to get to a customer service representative who has put you in a queue behind number 9.

This morning I set out to make a blueberry cake from a recipe given to me by my mother-in-law. I don't often bake, so it was my hope that this cake would turn out well.

We have our own blueberries, so I picked enough needed to make blueberry pie filling. I had no trouble finding a recipe for the filling, and I was missing only one ingredient: cornstarch. So, I went to the faithful internet to look up a substitute for cornstarch to save myself a trip to the grocery store. Here it is:

"Though a home cook can't make cornstarch at home, it's possible to make a good substitute: potato starch. Use an equal amount of potato starch in recipes that call for cornstarch, including soups, sauces, gravies and custards. To make potato starch, grate potatoes into a bowl and add some warm water. Strain out the starchy liquid by wrapping the gratings in cheesecloth and squeezing the liquid into a bowl. Refrigerate the liquid for four hours, then pour off the top layer of water that has separated from the starchy liquid at the bottom. The starchy potato liquid can be used directly or dried to a powder."

Me? Do all that? Not happening. Too many steps and too much work.

I tell this story to say sometimes you need the real thing, the real deal, and nothing else will do. The real thing may cost a bit more more or be a little inconvenient or it may not. 

I made the trip to the nearest grocery store, purchased the corn starch for $1.49, and it worked just as I knew it would.

I recommend using the real thing whenever possible. Sometimes a substitute just won't make the cut.