Category Archives: Productivity

Simple Tips When You Need to Focus

Image courtesy of 55Laney69's photostream

Image courtesy of 55Laney69′s photostream

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed when considering the scope of a big project. Getting started is often the hardest part – and it can be tempting to spend time on smaller, easier tasks to avoid tackling the elephant in the room.

Sooner or later, you have to get the ball rolling. So here are some tips for buckling down when a project requires your complete focus.

•    Break it up into manageable pieces: Separate sections and develop a timeline for working on each one. For example, schedule Sections 1 and 2 on Tuesday; Sections 3 and 4 on Wednesday, and so on. For me, splitting up one big project into several little ones almost always makes the big picture seem more achievable.

This also works great if you need input from others on certain areas. If Janet’s insight would be helpful on Section 2, you can aim to schedule a meeting with her on Tuesday so her advice is fresh in your mind when you’re working on that section.

•    Block out chunks of time: I typically block out two or three hours first thing in the morning to work on just that one project. As with anything that requires focus, you want to avoid going back-and-forth between your big priority and other things – that kills momentum.

•    Limit distractions: Don’t check your email every time it pings. Don’t answer your phone every time it rings. If you get to the office at 8AM, make it a point to check your email at 11. For the three hours in between, that project is your only concern. If there truly is an urgent issue, people will find a way to let you know.

•    Take breaks: Even if it’s just a walk to the kitchen or around the block. I’m always amazed at the new things that occur to me while I’m taking a lap around the building. Something about getting up and away from my desk after working on something for a while seems to clear mental roadblocks.

•    Give yourself time to review: If at all possible, it’s always best to sleep on it before sending your work to the masses. How many times have I left the office thinking a project was close to done only to have a new idea on the drive home, or catch a huge error the following morning? More than I can count!

So build in some wiggle room for yourself and the rest of your team to take a close look and make any changes.

For more tips on finding focus, check out this article from Inc.com: 5 Tips to Help You Hyper Focus

4 Simple Steps to Keep Your Customers Happy

Image courtesy of Chris Range

Did you know it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one?  Your customers are your biggest assets. Don’t give them a reason to leave. Customer loyalty should be your ultimate goal, but it cannot be accomplished if they aren’t happy.

Are you doing everything you can to make sure your customers have a positive experience, reviews, and referrals? If there’s a chance you’re not, here are four simple steps to keep your customers satisfied.

1.    Phrases that will make your customer happy:  “It’s Everyone’s job to delight customers.” – Mark Kilens.  There are certain “magical words” that customers want to hear from you and your staff.  Practice using these phrases that will make your customer happy:  “How can I help?”, “I can solve that problem.”, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”, “I will deliver on time.”, “It’ll be just what you ordered.”, “The job will be complete.”, and “I appreciate your business.”

2.    Act on the knowledge that what your customers value are dependability, promptness, attention, and competence.  “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” –Walt Disney.  Creating love between your company and customers can help scale positive word of mouth that’s absolutely priceless. Customers loved being treated as individuals.  Remember to never argue with a customer.  Immediately take action to remedy the situation.  Don’t make any excuses.

3.    Build Trust – Alert Customers to Changes.  “Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or price to continue doing business with you.” – Simon Sinek.  It takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for 1 negative experience.  This is how sensitive trust is between a business and its customer.  Here is how approach any changes:  Heavily research any changes that would affect your customer.  Be methodical and thoughtful in how you communicate.  Keep a healthy mix of misses and things you have done right.  Find value in the feedback about from your customers.

4.    Don’t let customers forget you.  “68% quit because of the attitude of indifference toward the customer by the owner, manager or some employee.” -Michael LeBoeuf.  One of the most important functions for generating repeat business is following up.  Effective follow-up begins immediately after the sale to let them know you appreciate their business.  Let customers know exactly what you are doing for them.  Write long term customers personal, handwritten notes frequently.  Always try to keep it personal – voice mail and e-mail are easier, but the personal touch is often lost.  Instead, schedule to stop by his or her office at a designated time.  Remember special occasions like birthday and anniversaries.  Pass on information such articles, new products information, or books the customer might be interested in.  Consider any follow up calls as business development opportunities.
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Pursue Your Passion: Invest In Yourself

Image courtesy of Alan Cleaver's photostream

Whether you’re an entrepreneur attempting your first startup or a tenured member of the workforce looking for something new, when will the timing be right to take a chance, invest in yourself and start striving towards your goal? The truth is it may never be. Sitting on your couch and putting your dreams on hold for something easier, more comfortable, is always the less exhaustive route to take. But in the end, where does that really get you? Yes, this is a rhetorical question but I think it gets the point across and is well stated in the quote below from Alltop founder, Guy Kawasaki -

“The hardest thing about getting started is getting started.”

Here are four takeaways to help realize your professional dreams:


  1. Stop talking and start doing: It’s easy to talk about all the great things you want to do. It’s even easier to never take action on your dreams, letting life pass you by. Find your action items and get started today. The longer you wait to take that first step, the farther you are from realizing your goals. Set goals, be accountable, be passionate and maybe most importantly, be realistic about the outcome. The more honest you are with yourself the more room you have to grow.
  2. Invest in yourself: It’s often thrown out in conversation that someone is investing in themselves. This kind of statement can seem fictitious, and very may well be. But don’t think for one second that great entrepreneurs like Larry Page, Mark Cuban or Jeff Bezos didn’t take a chance on themselves in time or money. Remember, not only is it important to have liquid assets when starting a new venture, but knowing the value of your time and recognizing that your time has worth is just as important when push comes to shove.
  3. 3.    Take the good with the bad: Undoubtedly there will be bumps along the way; financial woes, unpredictable clients and difficult employees. Be prepared for them all but don’t expect to have all the answers. There’s something to be said about learning along the way. Not only will it help build character, these experiences will help you develop an approach for future encounters with similar situations. These types of situations will also give you the confidence to ask for help. Find solace that you aren’t the first person to come across a difficulty in business or personal development. Let this be the catalyst to build a personal network of like-minded individuals to help you through the struggles.
  4. 4.    Pursue your passion: Whether your passion is brand communications, insurance or financial management, keep that passion as your driving force. Or maybe your passion is a lifestyle business where brand communications is a means to an end. That’s ok too but be cognizant of that fact. Be self-aware, be genuine and be accountable. But above all find what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to invest in yourself!

Don’t Miss This Chance to Make a Great First Impression

Image courtesy of Zach Taylor's photostream

Image courtesy of Zach Taylor’s photostream

I once started a new job, on a Friday, at 2:30 p.m. Mind you, this was a typical Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. There was no explanation given on the somewhat odd start day and time. When I showed up, no one seemed to remember I was coming in. My desk was dusty, did not have any supplies and there was no plan for an orientation. I was walked around the building for about an hour and told that I could leave.

That should have set off red flags about the type of employer and the value that was placed on employees, especially during the on-boarding phase. True to that first impression, the company had a do as I say, not as I do approach that resonated from the top levels down to the front line. It is no surprise that turnover was extremely high and departments did not work well together.

Here are five tips to create a great first impression for any new hires.

1.    Schedule the person to start two hours after you plan to arrive: This will give you time to get settled and put out any fires so you can devote your time and attention to the new employee when he or she arrives.

2.    Provide a new hire FAQ, before the first day: Be sure to cover if you will be providing lunch or if lunch should be brought, dress code, parking and smoking policies. Nothing makes people feel more uncomfortable than if they do not fit in on the first day, simply because they didn’t know.

3.    Ensure a welcoming environment: Alert the receptionist that a new hire is arriving or be visible when he or she is due to arrive. Make sure a work space is cleaned and stocked with standard supplies. Post a welcome sign, including his or her name. Introduce the person to the team. And be sure to point out things like the coat rack, closest restroom, employee break room, copy machines, etc. Also, plan ahead so an email address is setup and any other necessary logins and passwords are ready.

4.    Have downtime activities planned: In most environments, new hires will need direction and guidance for most of their tasks. Have other things planned for the employee to do when he or she gets “stuck” and you are not immediately available to provide guidance. This may include industry publications to become familiar with, training manuals, websites to review and depending on the role, it may even be appropriate to include filing or other non-urgent but important tasks.

5.    Consider asking for their help: If employee onboarding has not been a focus in the past, consider asking the employee to help in documenting procedures, checklists and manuals for future new hires. Use a fresh eyes approach to help you prepare for the future.

Showing all your new hires that they are valued and appreciated from their very first day will create the right environment for them to be a trusted ally for you and the company as a whole.