Blogs

What networking groups should I attend?

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked.  Sometimes it's asked in the form of a statement:  "I don't know any networking groups." and sometimes people just ask me where they should go.  The short answer really depends on two other questions: 

1) Do you get clients by referral or directly?  If you get clients mostly by referrals (Not the ones from existing clients - we'll talk about how to generate more of those later), who are your best referral partners?   This question leads directly to the second question.

2) If you get clients directly, who are they and where do they go?    If you get clients through referral, who are your referral partners and where do they go?

This leads directly to the answer:

You network where you are most likely to find prospective clients or referral partners.  Period.  It's really that simple. 

Ideally these are also things you enjoy doing as well.   If you hate golf, don't join a golf club just because you will find prospective clients there.  There will be should be enough points of common ground that you and your best prospects and referrals partners share that you will enjoy the time you are spending networking.   Otherwise, you really need to look at who your best clients are - if you don't have a lot in common with them, they really aren't your best clients and there's a whole other group that would be a better fit.

If you're not sure how to figure out who your best clients are and what they do - check out my blog posts on how to identify your ideal client.   If you don't have any clients who fit what your idea is, find some people who do and ask them what they do and where they go.  If you're not trying to sell anything most people are delighted to give you a few minutes of their time.  Note that this is also a great way to start developing a relationship.  It's a win-win.

Don't limit your definition of networking groups to traditional business groups like LBN, BNI or chambers of commerce.  There are also philaphthropic and development groups like the Rotary Club, Optimists Club, Toastmasters, Lion's Club, Kiwanis, etc.  And any social group where you interact on a regular basis and get to know the other members can be considered a networking group.  Examples of this are country clubs, golf clubs, tennis clubs, hockey clubs, the PTA, Church and Synagogue groups, nonprofits where you are an active member and serve on a committee can be great places to network as well. 

If you regularly work in the same coffee shop and it's a busy place, that's a great place to network too.  Before we moved, I always made a point to work one day a week at the Coffee Beanery near where I lived.  It was a busy place where a lot of small business owners congregated and I regularly saw a lot of colleagues and prospective clients that way. 

Look for other benefits besides meeting prospective clients in the networking groups you choose.  The more enthusiastic you can be and the more you enjoy your time there, the more your networking efforts will pay off.

Dealing with the Discomfort of Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone In Your Business or Any Other Area of Your Life

"Learning any new habit is like starting an exercise program: It can be painful at first, but as you exercise that particular muscle it becomes stronger and supports you better.  Over time the pain gives way to tolerance, tolerance to satisfaction, and satisfaction to exhilaration as you see the results of your commitment and persistence" -- C.J. Hayden

Your business is like creating a new habit - it is new behavior.  Any new behavior forces you outside of your comfort zone.  It may be just a small bit ouside, in which case the discomfort is very small and far outweighed by the benefits.  It may be far outside your comfort zone - in which case the discomfort can be very painful.   How well you deal with the discomfort will really determine how well you do in your business.   If it's only a little bit of discomfort -no big deal, your current coping strategies will probably be just fine.  If it's a  lot of discomfort, it's a very good idea to work on strategies to deal with the discomfort of the change as you make the change.   It's not realistic to say, expand your comfort zone -  that usually happens after you make it through the discomfort and discovered it hasn't killed you. 

So what can you do to make it through the change process of developing a new behavior?   I believe that there are several things you can do:

  1. Recognize and accept that there is going to be discomfort or pain and it is not necessarily going to be easy.  We live in a world of instant gratification that doesn't teach us patience or persistence, so we don't learn growing up how to deal with discomfort.  That is part of the reason so many people quit diet programs or regain the weight they lost (95%).   If you accept that there is going to be discomfort, then you can come up with ways to deal with it.  If you aren't prepared to deal with pain or discomfort,  it will derail you. 
  2. Create healthy ways to deal with discomfort or emotional pain before you experience it.   Practice them before you need them so they are available when you do.   You learn to fire a weapon and practice with it in basic training or boot camp, not in the middle of combat.   Combat is when you need things to be automatic.  You need to create new automatic behaviors that will help  you achieve your goals, not derail them.  Here are some good ideas:
    1. Practice meditating daily.
    2. Use EFT (emotional freedom technique).  A good resource for this is www.tapping.com.
    3. Exercise.   It's a great stress reliever.
    4. Schedule play time.  You need to recharge to keep going and having down time is an important part of being productive.   I ride my horse 4 - 5 times a week.
    5. Get a good night's sleep.  Everything looks worse when you're tired.
    6. Eat good, healthy food.  Don't skip meals.
    7. Create a visual representation of your goals and look at it in the morning and before you go to bed.  You could even create a vision board if you want.
    8. Laugh and be silly.  
  3. Set realistic expectations.  We often have very unrealistic expectations of how long things take.  Losing weight, developing a skill, or starting a business or practice are all excellent examples.  People don't get to be olympic athletes or millionaires overnight.  There's typically a lot of hard work and effort that goes into it that we don't see and the movies don't show us.  If you develop a realistic expectation of when you can reasonably attain your goals, you won't be disappointed when you don't see results immediately.   I usually tell my clients that if they can't believe in the goal, there's no way they can reach it - a good way to handle reason and desire is to use the words "at least" so that you are leaving room for better performance than you expect but you are aiming for what you can reasonably expect to achieve.  Here are some examples:
    1. "Lose at least 20 pounds in 5 months."
    2. "Make at least 10,000 per month by the end of next year."

It's a lot easier to persist through discomfort or emotional pain if you expect and plan for it, until you reap the benefits of your behavior change.

So what can you do to create a new habit that will help your business grow?

Which Is More Effective - A Mail Newletter or an Email Newsletter (E-Zine)?

It's a good question - suprisingly so.  Most companies have switched to only sending out electronic newsletters because of the expense.  It can be quite costly to send out a printed newsletter between the printing and postage.  Electronic newsletters, in comparison, cost less than a penny per newsletter.

Sounds like a great deal, but how many people are actually reading those newsletters?  The statistics can be quite misleading.   Direct mail is usually measured in response rates, which means that the recipient has opened the newsletter, read it and taken action on the contents.  The average response rate for direct mail is anywhere from 1% to 1 1/2%. ( I checked various different sources for both including aweber.com, Gallup, the AMA, etc.)    The number of people who have opened and read that newsletter is much larger, but unknown.

Electronic newsletters are usually measured in open rates, which means that the recipient has opened the email.  It does not mean that they have read it or taken action on it.  The open rates I saw on the web for electronic newsletters, or e-zines, were all over the map (try googling "average open rate electronic newsletter" and you'll see what I mean).   Most came between 10% - 25%.  Now this sounds much higher, but remember that it's an open rate, not a response rate.  Of that 10% - 25%, how many actually read and take action on the newsletter?   I couldn't find any statistics on that.  One thing I noticed was that all the statistics were somewhat old - and yet the rate of spam increases exponentially daily.   I have a hard time believing that most people even open or see e-zines anymore.  A lot get buried in an inbox filled with junk emails or caught by a spam filter.  I'd be suprised to find that the open rate is much more than 1% - 2% now.

So what to do?   Direct mail costs a lot, but you've got a better chance of someone reading it.  Newsletters are much cheaper and easier to send, but not as likely to get read.

And then there's blogs and twitter, just to add to the confusion and noise - how do you get your message out without it costing a fortune or getting buried in the general din?

I would recommend doing a mix of as much as your time and budget allow.  I'm pretty sure very few people read my blog, but it's enough that it's worth it to post weekly.   The same goes for my monthly newsletters.   With the low cost,  only a few people have to read them to make it worth it.

I use direct mail for personalized individual messages and the occasional printed newsletter (maybe once a year).  I do a lot more personalized notes than newsletters.

What will you do?

Dealing with Personal Loss

I had to put my dog to sleep Tuesday.   He was 14 1/2 years old and very sick, so it was expected.   It had just been a matter of time and how to handle it with my son, who is 4 1/2 years old.    It finally got to the point where we had to make the decision.   

Most companies provide family leave of a month or so for illness in your immediate family and usually 3 days or so if a person in your family has passed away.   If you own your own business, you get nothing - the business suffers or grows depending on how focused you can be.  And even if you work for someone else,  grief doesn't fall into a proscribed time period.  And when you're grieving, your entire life is affected.  You are affected both physically and mentally.  Grief is very draining phsically and very distracting mentally.  I've mentioned The Grief Recovery Handbook before as a very useful tool for dealing with grief, but you still have to go through the process.  You may or may not be back to work and your full productiviy within that 3 days.  

If it's a close family member, you may not be.   Sometimes pets are closer family members than your relatives.   I've grieved far more for my pets than I did for some of my relatives and their deaths affected me more. But the death of a family member, expected or unexpected, is usually much more complex than the death of even a beloved pet, which makes it much harder and a much longer process.  

So how do you deal?  "Life goes on..." as they say.  We're people, not robots.  We can't just turn our emotions on and off like a switch.   Grief and loss are normal parts of life and so are the emotions that come with.   I don't think I have any answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Be extra kind and caring for yourself.  Grieving takes a lot out of you, so be patient and take extra good care of yourself for a while.  Remember you must take care of yourself first, before anyone or anything else.
  2. If you work for a company, have a talk with your manager.  Be honest about what you are going through and work with your manager to find solutions to your workload together until you can be 100% back to normal.    Don't pretend you're back to normal when you're not.  Either your job or your health will suffer in the long run. If you own your own business, advance planning is key.  The time to figure out how to keep your business going in the case of a personal emergency, whether death or disability, is before anything happens - when everyone is healthy and productive.  Having people you can delegate to and trust is important.   Maintaining good relations and open, honest communications with clients is also key.   Your good clients will be very understanding and willing to work with  you in times like this.  It's up to you to keep that relationship good so that they will be supportive when something happens.
  3. Deal with your grief and related emotions (anger, sadness, loss, disappointment, relief, etc).  Don't ignore them.  Emotions don't go away until we accept and express them.  It's like trying to put a lid on a boiling pot without turning the heat down.  It just keeps boiling until it explodes.  Often we can't necessarily express our grief whenever we feel like it.  Sometimes you have to set aside time to let your feelings out when it is safe to do so.  
  4. Get support.   Don't isolate yourself in your grief.  Grief shared is grief lessened. 
  5. If your life is affected and you don't seem to be getting better, get help.   There are professionals who specialize in working with grief and loss.

I'm still grieving but I'm dealing pretty well.  My dog's death was expected, so I had lots of time to prepare, and it wasn't complex. 

 

Networking Horror Stories

I spend so much time talking about what we should do, that I think it's time to take a break.  I want to know what some of your worst networking experiences are, or your funniest. 

I have tons of them, but the most recent is probably also one of the shortest networking conversations I have ever had.  I was introduced to several attorneys and we were discussing business (shocking, I know).  Not 3 minutes into the conversation, she (yes, "she") looked at the wedding ring on my finger and declared that I did not have to support myself because I was married.  Another whopper followed that, that I was not responsible for others.  I wrapped up that conversation pretty quickly!!  

How about you? 

Taking Responsibility for The Circumstances of Your Life

My friend Linda Anger came to my NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) group Wednesday and spoke about the power of perseverence.  It was a great talk and I really wanted to highlight one of the things she said.  It was a question that I think is critical:

"Are you willing to take 100% responsibility for the circumstances of your life?"

You wouldn't ordinarily expect a question like this from someone like Linda - she's talking partially about her experience with cancer.  So how could she be responsible for her cancer?  Most of us equate responsibility to blame or fault.  The cancer is not her fault, nor is she to blame for getting cancer.  NO ONE is ever to blame for getting cancer.  There are things like diet and lifestyle changes that you can do to improve your chances of preventing some types of cancer, but there are no guarantees. 

However, what about responsibility?   My answer to that is "YES!"   

Jack Canfield has a formula ("How to Build High Self-Esteem" & "The Success Principles")  that states that "E (event or circumstance) + R (response) = O (outcome or result)"     We can't change the event.   Last time I checked, the only place you can go back in time is your memory or a book.  There's no way to stop or change an event after it has happened.   So how do we change the outcome?

Responsibility is really the ability to respond to events (such as cancer) that happens.  That's where the word comes from after all.   Responsibility is the only way to we have to affect the outcome.  The more you are willing to take "response-ability", the more you can change the outcome.  Linda's outcome was great!  The treatment was successful and she looks wonderful. 

The more you want to focus on blame or fault, instead of what you can do to change the situation, the less you can do about it.  And that means your chances of getting the outcome you want go down.  

I'm not much for gambling with things I can't afford to lose, such as my health or business.   I'd rather focus on what I can do to change it.

How about you?

Hire According to Your Core Values

Each organization has a distinct set of core values that contribute to the success of the company.  These core values also help to create the company culture.  If your employees share your company's core values, it will be more successful.  If they don't, your company will find success to be an uphill climb.  You will also have higher employee turnover and reduced productivity.

It can't just be lip service either - your actions and the actions of your company have to be in alignment with what you state are your core values.  This holds true for all sizes of firms, small and large.  In a small firm, not holding true to your core values will diminish your reputation and sales, as well as higher employee turnover if you have employees and reduced quality and productivity. 

It's a lot more likely to see a bigger firm out of whack with it's core values than smaller firms.  Bigger firms often have some layers of bureaucracy that separate employees from the core mission of the company - the bigger the firm the more likely this is.   A smaller firm often can't weather the employee turnover, reduced productivity and sales that a big company can.   Employees are more likely to leave a smaller company when things get bad than a big one.  In a big company, they may have been there for many years and be afraid to change.

A company I worked with years ago had espoused people (their employees) as one of their core values.  They had literature that every manager was required to read about "The Way"  and how important people were.  They had seminars.  They had a goal to educate every employee and they succeeded.  And yet, at the same time, they demanded longer and longer hours from employees,  and started laying people off.   After a few years, no one was happy to come to work and everything people talked about was negative.  And yes, sales continued to go down so the longer hours and layoffs continued.  And, of course, outsourcing.  This was a very big company and they could continue to do this for a long time.  But as they shrank, other companies grew and came to take their place in the market.

So make sure to make your core values explicit and clear to yourself and everyone who works for and with your company - so you can continue to grow.

 

 

Date Change for Intelligent Office 7th Anniversary Party from 9/30 to 9/23


Intelligent Office Michigan is celebrating the 7th Anniversary of its Troy location
September 23rd, 2010 8am-10am
900 Wilshire Dr. Suite 202 Troy, MI 48084
Coffee, Donuts, Open Networking and Door Prizes
 
Please RSVP by phone at 248.519.2300 or by e-mail to pdipace@intelligentoffice.com.
 
Tanya Markos-Vanno is the Regional Sales Coordinator and can be contacted for questions about Intelligent Office at 248.663.4000

"Endless Referrals" by Bob Burg

"Endless Referrals" by Bob Burg, "Get Clients Now" by C.J. Hayden and "Book Yourself Solid" by Michael Port are among the core books that I use with many of my clients.   In combination, they make a fantanstic business development program for the non-sales professional.  "Get Clients Now" provides the structure, "Book Yourself Solid" provides the focus and "Endless Referrals" talks about how to develop the relationships you need to grow your business.

Bob Burg was here in June with Motor City Connect. Don't worry if you missed him.  You can find everything he talked about in his books.

All three books talk about the "know, like and trust" factor that's mandatory for anyone who sells a service, such as an attorney, chiropractor, coach or consultant.   "Endless Referrals" focuses exclusively on it.   Bob talks about how to get to know people enough to be able to ask for and get quality referrals, and maintain that relationship over time.

The first few chapters talk about building rapport, the process of developing trust.  He gives 10 'Feel-Good Questions©'  that help you get to know someone and create a connection with them.  He also guides the reader on how to adjust these questions for social events of any kind using the "F-O-R-M" (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message) method.  I highly recommend studying these questions and using them at your next networking event.  Watch your network grow as you get proficient at this process.  This is by far the clearest process of how to create connection with someone that I have seen so far.

The next few things Burg focuses on are how to ask for referrals so that you actually get them.  Most people just aks if you know "anyone."   I have news for you - there is no one by that name.  It's not likely to get you referrals because it's too general.  He shows you how to narrow it down so that you make the frame of reference manageable for most people without making it too narrow (Tina Morrow at XYZ Company).

Burg also talks about how to get a testimonial that actually supports your business.  I really appreciated that section, after receiving some testimonials that were either unreadable or not what I do. I'm sure you've gotten a few of those too.

I would go to other resources rather than "Endless Referrals for information on internet and other business development strategies, but there is nothing better than "Endless Referrals" for how to build trust and follow up. 

"Endless Referrals" is not the only book you need for your business if you provide a service, but it's a good place to start. 

Dealing with Business or Job Loss - Allow Yourself to Grieve

I have talked to a large number of people who were laid off over the course of my career.  One thing I have consistently noticed is that the vast majority have not yet moved on - they are still emotionally stuck in their previous job.  And, yes, I am deliberately using the words "laid off."  I believe that 'in transition' is a euphemism that doesn't do anyone other than the company who laid off the person in question any good.  It's an effort to shield you from the pain or stigma of being laid off.  In other words, any effort to avoid dealing with the emotional consequences of being forced out of a job you didn't choose to leave.  The same holds true if your business failed.  My guess is that you would have chosen to have it succeed.

Yes, some people take classes and change careers, but even most of those do so out of reaction - not from the basis of desire.  Do you think this is a very powerful way to live your life?   More the opposite.  What you choose out of fear isn't very likely to be what you really want.  It's either going to put you right where you were before you got laid off, or in an even worse situation.

Not only that, but when you do go on interviews, you take all the emotional baggage of the last job and how it ended with you.  Trust me, this does not make for a good or exciting interview.  It will also make it a lot more difficult to get said job.  Even if you don't say anything, you will still be projecting and filtering based on that previous job.  It's a lot like going on date with someone right after they broke up with their significant other.   Might be not be bad, but not someone you'd want to get into a relationship with. 

Allowing yourself to to through the full grieving process after a job or business loss allows you to process all the emotions and thoughts that come up so that you can move on and base your future and your planning on what you want, not what has happened in the past.  You will be able to be excited and interested in what's happening instead of what's in the past.  The last job or business is like last week's lunch.  It may have been a great meal, but you don't necessarily remember what you had.   Wouldn't you rather be excited about your future?

No one really talks about grieving in relationship to job or business loss.  Generally people are just expected to move on immediately.  Here's the rub - we're not robots, we're human.  Your relationship to your job or especially business may have been more long-standing than your relationship to your spouse or children, and just as close in many ways.   And not only don't we talk about it,  most people haven't a clue HOW to grieve and move on.  We're not taught deal with grief effectively in most cases when it comes to people and pets, much less jobs.   Has anyone ever told you "Don't feel bad, there's other jobs"  or something similar?   It wasn't particularly helpful, was it?

The best resource I've seen yet for dealing with loss (whether it's a job, a pet, a spouse, etc.)  is the Grief Recovery Handbook by John James and Russell Friedman.  It actually defines grief and forgiveness and walks you through a fairly straightforward process for dealing with loss.    I came across it through the book When Children Grieve, also by John James and Russell Friedman.  I checked When Children Grieve out of the library to help my son deal with our dog, who has cancer.  I  knew that what I learned about loss and grieving from my parents was not helpful to me (it basically consisted of "Don't talk about it") and I wanted to do better with my son.   When Children Grieve was immensely helpful in giving me some tools to work with my son, but it was also invaluable to look at where I hadn't dealt with loss in my own life.   

I highly recommend purchasing the book or checking it out of the library.  I can't do justice to the full process in a blog post.  You can also visit the website at www.grief-recovery.com.

My advice is work through your job or business loss before moving on to what's next.

 

 

Syndicate content