Category Archives: Business

5 Business Lessons From The Walking Dead

Yes, I’m a Walking Dead fan. A big one! And this week’s mid-season finale, Too Far Gone, was a teeth clencher. Without giving any episode spoilers – in case you’re just catching up on this great show – here are five things we can take away from the show, and apply to business:

  1. Sometimes you have to be brutal – Rick was. Then he wasn’t. And if you watch the show you know that it doesn’t work out so well when he isn’t. Leaders have to make the tough decisions, even when they’re not fun, in order to keep their businesses alive and thriving. (And sometimes that means getting rid of people.)
  2. Know who you’re following – I’m pretty sure the Governor’s last group wish they had. Don’t follow blindly – research who you work with, trust your own gut and ensure that any boss or leader you have has the same core value system that you do.
  3. Ego gets in the way – If only Rick and the Governor could have worked out their differences, ya know? The only reason they couldn’t is because of ego. Try to recognize when yours is getting in the way and might cost you something that in the end, is probably worth putting aside a little pride for.
  4. Exercise matters – in their world, it’s to stay in shape to fight off flesh-eating zombies. In business, it’s to keep your head straight and relieve stress. Both very important to doing your best and finding a happy work/life balance.
  5. Have a contingency plan – things get messy. People lose their way. Make sure you have a backup plan for how to get everyone back on track and working together well if things don’t go exactly as you planned (because most of the time, they don’t).

Feeling Grateful For A Tremendous Network

It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the U.S. – a day where we signify our gratitude for our blessings in life (originated as a day to show gratitude for a good harvest). I’m feeling especially grateful for my own “harvest” of sorts – that of a tremendous network of industry colleagues and friends. In the last few weeks I’ve been given such selfless gifts from my business network and I’m feeling really blessed to know – and have the respect of – so many very smart people.

People have given me their time, advice, new ideas, referrals and references that have really wowed me. I only hope that I can return the favor in some way now or in the future, if I haven’t already paid it forward in the past.

Take care of your network – lend a hand, an idea, an hour to brainstorm. Give when you don’t need something. The rewards will come to you when the time is right.

Thank you to those who have helped me recently with a phone call, product review, advice, connection, referral and more. Marc, David, Kevin, Steve, Parker, Sue, Yan, Chris, Si, George, Carter … you know who you are, and I’m grateful to know you.

Boston Entrepreneurs #Unpitch VCs

Securing funding for your startup can be both daunting and difficult. The plethora of crowdfunding companies and those claiming to connect you with VCs – for a price – don’t make the landscape any easier to navigate.

A few folks in Boston are collaborating with New England Venture Capital Association in hopes of making the process easier for startup entrepreneurs, via December 11’s first “Unpitch.” A free event, #unpitch is “a new event geared to entrepreneurs interested in connecting with investors.”

I can vouch that there are some pretty credible names involved in this endeavor, from both the organizational side, as well as the VC side. So why not take your chance and “unpitch” your business? Caveats are that you need to be willing to talk openly about your idea – not just to VCs but in front of the other chosen entrepreneurs. Game? Here’s how to apply. (Deadline December 1). Good luck!

Thank You For Voting Me A Small Business Top 100 Influencer Champion

I had a great time at last night’s Small Business Influencer Awards Event in New York City. It was a nice opportunity to meet others who champion the small business community. From accountants to social media mavens, journalists to CEOs, the room was full of lively people, stories and camaraderie. (Ramon Ray, host and producer (among other things) was especially inspiring and energetic!)

I encourage you to look through the list of other Top 100 Champions – you may find new customers, partners or vendors – or maybe just a great mentor. I can personally recommend, from experience, Constant Contact (for email newsletters), AMEX Open (community and resources), Dropbox (for storage and backup), Hootsuite (for social media management like a pro!), Vistaprint (great printed collateral), and many of the individual Pros like Aliza Sherman, Brian Moran and Ted Murphy who give their time, insights, advice and counsel to many small business entrepreneurs daily.

I’m honored to be a part of such a supportive community, and proud to be a small business owner myself (for 15 years and counting)! If I, or my agency, can help you in any way – business plans, digital content, marketing/pr, sales and marketing materials, training services, social media management and training, etc. – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In the meantime, support small businesses in your area!

Will The Sharing Economy Last?

When I was young, my folks were famous for buying my brother and I used goods. They didn’t see the point in buying us new ice skates, skis, or bikes when the used ones worked just as well. And although they did “work just as well,” we were always a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get a shiny new “whatchmacalit” of our own.

Today, not only is borrowing or buying used items back in (you can find just about anything on Craigs List), but people are sharing a LOT with total strangers. From boats to homes, bikes, toys, cars and clothes, consumers are rising up and taking matters into their own hands  – finding ways to save money in this still down economy by sharing goods instead of buying them. Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group recently wrote a really interesting post about the “Empowered People” on his blog, where he also talks about how corporations are going to have to adapt to survive this phenomenon. I think it will be interesting to watch the evolution – hopefully to include elements from businesses such as better customer service, more realistic pricing and fair business practices (especially in banking and financing). I do wonder, however, if when the economy fully recovers, will the sharing economy last? Is it a result of the current economic client or a deeper, underlying change to the human psyche? Owyang interviewed the voice of Millenials, Dan Schawbel, who surmised that this up-and-coming generation – who will soon dominate the work force – started sharing out of necessity, but who he believes will continue to do so well into the future. I’m not so sure I agree. Given their reputation as the “Me Generation,” something’s not aligning for me. Once the economy recovers, and this generation (and others) begin to make a better living again, graduating into that stage of life where they’re building their own homes, families and traditions, will sharing be as important? Or will they begin to embrace ownership and that longstanding human desire of wanting our own?

I do believe that the genesis of the shared goods idea will spawn new business practices and that consumers will once again force big businesses to change the way they interact with the social customer. With our collaborative ideas and public discussions, we’ve certainly begun to make corporations responsible for adhering to their promises. Whether it’s an “as advertised” hotel room, a product that does what the packaging says it does, or customer service that treats us like actual humans, we’ve come a long way in altering corporate behaviors. Marketers and advertisers have to align messages to ensure that companies can actually live up to them. Product development has to deliver not just on time – but right. Gone are the days of overblown promises and underperforming. The collaboration economy  will further push companies to listen to and include customers in their business strategies pre execution of product and services. And that’s good for everyone – saving resources, time and money all around.

Have you begun participating in the collaborative economy? Why or why not?

Make It Easy

Staples had the right idea with its “Easy Button” campaign. Make it easy for your customers. From shopping to getting the right service, reading and sharing your content to finding you – make it easy.

This morning I received an email requesting my participation in a book. Sounds interesting, right? But the person filled out a form on my site and in his signature, only gave me his first name. It’s not likely that I’m going to commit my time and personal brand to someone I don’t know. I’d want to learn more about this person – his career success, network – heck, even his location or company name would be a good starting point. But he hasn’t made it easy – with just a name and email address, I’ve got to go try to find a website, a Linkedin profile or other details. If he had left the correct information and made it easy for me to find additional information, I would be quicker to respond with an answer for him.

Make it easy:

  • Use informative and linked signatures, even when you’re leaving a blog post or site comment – it helps those who want to connect with you further, to do so.
  • It’s not enough to just sign up for social networks. Use them the right way: allow readers of your blog or visitors to your website to share (your content, your accounts, etc.) easily with others by adding plugins such as “Pin, Link, Tweet, Like.” Make it easy for them to share and they will be more likely to do so.
  • Believe it or not, people still do use the phone. Include your number on your site, in your email signature and on your corporate profiles in communities such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Don’t make customers who need service go through multiple steps. Let them contact you via phone with one number, and not more than one button to push once on the line. Make your customer service Twitter handle easy to find and ensure it’s responsive – outline the hours clearly in your bio. Add an option of Instant Chat on your website.
  • GoDaddy impressed me yesterday by making one of their first customer service questions, “What is a good phone number at which I can call you back if we should get disconnected?” Thank goodness they asked, as my mobile service provider dropped the call five times!
  • The instaweather app makes it so easy to share – not only by adding insta details to my photos taken in the app, but by auto posting suggested hashtags when I go to share such photos via Instagram. Smart way to ensure that the key messages they want to be associated with are out there.

Make it easy. For your customers, and for you. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? What are some ways you’ve made it easy for your audience?

Don’t Go Stale

When you leave something open on a shelf for a while, say saltine crackers, they lose their “crunch.” Technically, you can still eat them but the experience just isn’t as pleasurable as it is when you first open the package.

The same concept can go for your business or your career. For example, you may have clients who have been with you for many years and you keep doing the same things for them year after year. Perhaps those things are technically working – and the client is satisfied – but they’re certainly not innovative. Without trying new things and pushing the envelope a bit, your relationship can become stale and eventually, the client will notice. Even if some things still work – the crunch (the spark, the “aha” feeling, the excitement) is likely missing.

Your career can go stale, your relationships – even your parenting. When we put things on auto pilot and don’t attend to them – asking ourselves how we can improve, what can we do that’s unique and different, how we can keep the romance alive, what questions should we push our children on, etc. – things can go stagnant. And by very definition, “having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence,” stagnant is not a good thing.

So even if you’re comfortable – ask yourself how you can rock the boat a little. Get things moving again. What new things can you try? When’s the last time you brought up a new idea for consideration? Push others out of their comfort zone by stepping out of yours. It’s the only way to keep the crunch.

Be A Duck On Water

In my experience in the client services business, I have trained a lot of managers who are responsible for leading both internal teams and external client contacts. One of the most important and useful tips I’ve given is to be like a duck on the water – even when you’re going mad trying to handle multiple demands, requests and needs, look calm. Lead with confident assertiveness – even when you’re unsure. It’s vital to make your team – both the one you manage and the one you service – believe that you’ve got it all under control.

Be a duck on water – it’s fine to paddle furiously underneath, but look calm, graceful and in control above the surface. You’ll be surprised at how well this technique can help you become a better leader.

Find Your Quiet

The world is a noisy place. Ringing phones, beeping texts, demanding children, TV-in-your-face gyms, traffic-laden commutes and walks on city streets. And you can’t really go anywhere without some form of marketing in your face – even if, in the “age of content” – you may not realize that it is marketing (if it’s good, that is). From billboards to your phone, dressing rooms to grocery carts, it can be hard to turn it all off. Have you ever stopped to notice the amount of quiet time that you have? It’s probably not a whole lot.

Quiet time is important for our minds to settle on what we really need. Quiet time allows us to sit with ourselves and find the best answers to life’s variable challenges. It can make you a better worker, leader, friend, parent. It’s important to find your quiet, even when it seems impossible. Put down the phone, take the dog for a walk, sit on the beach alone or take a drive (turn off the GPS, the phone, the radio). Try a meditation/yoga class (even if it feels weird), cooking (alone) or jumping on a real bike for a spin.

You might be surprised at what you discover when you find your quiet.

The Power of Yes

I often get questions about how I’ve organically grown a network that includes some pretty heavy hitters. I’m no name dropper, but I do have the privilege of being connected to some folks on both coasts – and across the pond – who are way smarter than I am, and whom I can personally contact and ask a favor of when I need to. I’ve also been able to build up relationships with some really great people who I consider unofficial mentors – they give me advice, answer questions and allow me to come visit their cool offices when I’m feeling the need for some inspiration outside of my own head.

There’s no magic to it, really. I don’t have a secret formula, I don’t buy followers. I don’t make promises I can’t keep. I try not to brag too much – although there’s always a fine line between celebrating and sharing your successes and coming across as narcissistic. I never want to be seen that way – it’s one of my pet peeves.

What I do is say “yes.” I say yes when someone wants to talk about their job search or career frustrations. I say yes when near strangers ask me to make an introduction to them to someone on Linkedin (after checking with the other party, of course). I say “Yes!” to others’ work – by sharing and celebrating it, commenting and engaging with them on it. I say yes when people ask if they can “pick my brain” – as often as I can, anyway. Sometimes they want to “do coffee” and I’ll move it to a brief phone call – capping the time and setting expectations ahead of time that the phone is much more efficient unless we already happen to be in the same vicinity.

When I say “yes” to someone, they remember. It’s a gesture, an extra step in showing that this relationship – this connection – matters to me. I’m not just building my network numbers, I really want to help you if I can – and in turn, hope that you would do the same for me when the time comes. This is what helps me to build – and sustain – a powerful (not the biggest) network.

Saying yes is helping. It’s supportive, it’s positive and it’s easy to do – even when you’re saying no. But more on that in my next post.

What – or to whom – have you said “Yes!” to lately?