Archive for September, 2008

What to do with your business during the economic meltdown?

Make good use of your down time by:

1) Create or update your business plan.

2) Take a look at your marketing strategy. Do you have one? When was the last time you updated it? Are you making the best use of free/nearly free social networking venues like LinkedIn, facebook and the various discussion boards of online communities? Everytime someone views your profile, your website or your blog, you have marketed yourself.

3) Now create a marketing plan. This is an actual agenda of events you’ll take part in, periodicals you’ll advertise in, press releases you’ll send out, workshops/conferences/etc. that you will use as a vehicle to get your name and your business out there.

4) Customer service. Have you followed up with your best clients lately? Who can you send a card to say thank you, happy birthday or I miss you to? Your past clients would love to hear from you and know that you’re thinking of them. While it’s quiet, take the time to thank them for their business and welcome them back. Follow up with your newest customers, too. How is the product or service they purchased from you working out? Also, consider going the extra mile and providing some advice, tips, encouragement for these new customers to make them glad they purchased from you rather than your competition.

5) Something new: Consider brushing up on some new area of your business. What can you learn? Can you find out more about a new product line, or learn some tricks with new technology that can support your clients? Is there a new product/service/strategy that would help free up your time for you to spend doing the thing that makes you successful?

6) Become an expert on what your competitors are doing. Don’t reinvent the wheel; research your competition and look for some new ideas that you could bring to your customers. If it worked for them, it will likely work for you.

No doubt the crazy economy has many entrepreneurs, business owners, well heck–nearly everybody–a bit nervous about what’s coming next and worried about how to survive while the pool of money to spend on our goods and services is shrinking. It is critical for businesses to focus on their top priorities and spend some of their down time doing actions that serve those priorities.

When business is booming, we seldom have time to create or update the foundational systems of our business that keep us growing and running smoothly. There’s no better time than the down time to check in on these systems and fill in any gaps. The suggestions above are a good place to start looking for what needs to be updated.

One note of caution: Before you start filling your down time with classes, research, writing thank you notes, networking, catching up on the latest technology, etc., remember to consider your top priority. If your #1 goal for the next month is to get new clients to generate income, do the actions that will lead to this result first. These are called “high pay-off actions” (HPAs). Do these actions first everyday or every week. Perhaps you spend two hours each morning attending a networking meeting or calling on some old clients. Once you’ve done your HPAs, then you can allow yourself to take on some of the other actions. Always do your HPAs first.

What are you doing with your business during your down time? Have a strategy or an idea you’d like to share with others? Want some feedback on whether or not an idea you have makes sense? I’d love to hear from you and will respond to all comments. Good luck!

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Do you consider Palin to be a role model for women?

In the same vein as Hilary Clinton, a woman near the top of our political structure causes quite a stir (gross understatement). There are those who will laud her efforts to stand for what she believes in, to go after her dreams, to make a difference in the world, all the while raising a (very large) family. Others will see her political ambitions as running counter to the most important job of motherhood, and question a woman’s ability to take on such a significant role when her family clearly needs her to remain at the helm.

Given the role of primary care-taker, can/should a woman effectively lead in business and politics? I am less interested in the political debate such a question can arouse (which I admit, is pretty much unavoidable), but rather how her role is causing us to consider various conventions.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Amazing kids

About a month ago I was invited to speak to a group of “at-risk” high school students in the metro Detroit area. These students had elected to be part of a summer-study course to learn about Global Trade Markets, and ultimately, to learn what it takes to get a job in today’s global economy.

I was floored when I met these students–mostly minorities of one sort or another, with bonus points for unconventional hairstyles, clothes, piercings and tattoos.

But their appearance wasn’t what surprised me. They were doing the work of entrepreneurs in this four-week long seminar, looking for problems and creatively collaborating to engineer money-making solutions. They were studying the cultures of our overseas neighbors to better understand the challenges and pitfalls that could occur when doing business in a global model. They were taking ownership of their model “companies” and doing what it took to get their ideas to work. These kids were motivated, creative, ambitious, willing to learn and dedicated.

All this while living in a home where important basics were missing: one or more parents, proper supervision, love, a healthy, safe environment, the list goes on…

I challenged them in my presentation to take the entrepreneurial strategies and skills they were using to create global businesses and apply them to their lives. I asked them to consider themselves CEO of a company called Your Life, Inc. As they were getting ready to finish school and begin calling the shots in their lives (where currently many of them were surviving circumstances no one should have to), this challenge shook them up a bit.

They had already demonstrated to themselves that they could do everything it took to give a company a successful vision, to figure out their biggest obstacles and create a plan to overcome them, and to keep themselves focused on their end goals until they reached them. So what would keep them from doing the same to accomplish their own dreams?

The students were very engaged, asking questions, offering examples, sharing their ideas. I was totally inspired by their openness and willingness to take responsibility for their lives and go after what they believed in. I would love to teach this concept/strategy to other high school students so they walk out of school and into the world with the knowledge and power to achieve their goals.

My heart’s delight…

So today I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

I’ve put it off for a long, long time.

I’ve told myself I’m not good enough, that I don’t have the time, that there will be time to do it later, when I get all that other stuff I have to do done.

I’ve been scared to try to do it, since if I try and then I fail, I’m scared I’ll feel even worse than I would if I just continued to sit here, quietly, and deny that I really want to do it.

So tonight, I’m going to audition for a women’s singing club. Because I love to sing. And I’m not that bad, actually. And it will make me happy. And I promised myself I’d sing in public by the time I was 40. And I’m 38 and 3/4, so I’m going to fulfill on my promise to myself.

Sweet Adelines, here I come!

Woo hoo!

The first day of school…and other firsts

There was no sound and no light. I woke up this morning two hours earlier than I usually do, and what I felt was anticipation. While the rest of my house was asleep, I began creating my Action and Project lists for the day in my head, with my eyes still closed, organizing and rearranging them according to priority and the time I had to accomplish them. When I couldn’t tolerate lying in the bed while my head was so active, I got up and made my way through the dark, down the stairs and towards the coffee.

Today was a special day. My first-born, Charlie, started First Grade (or Grade One as they call it here in Canadaland). I bet the other parents out there who are reading this don’t really have to read any further to know what I’m going to say. It seems there’s some sort of coding in our genes that causes us to experience certain things in certain ways. I thought I was going to be exempt from being emotional about my son going off to his first day of school. Ha!

I did the usual things to ready myself and the family for the day: made breakfasts, lunches, prepped backpacks, showered, dressed, gave instructions to the kids and dressed the baby. Then we sent Dad off to work and left for school. It’s a short walk–even with the ridiculously large backpack the kids carry these days, loaded down with all sorts of school supplies they are required to bring on the first day. Dang thing was almost as big (and heavy) as my six-year-old.

We walked the whole way holding hands. (I used my other hand to pull the wagon carrying my two younger kids.) When we reached the playground behind the school, several of Charlie’s classmates from Kindergarten started showing up and chatting. One of his best friends, Faith, stood beside him the whole time. She is the type of girl who always looks out for other kids. She noticed another of their friends was standing by himself, and suggested to Charlie that they should go stand with him.

Charlie agreed, and in that instant, the two of them grabbed hands and started heading towards their friend. I asked Charlie if he was going to tell me goodbye. He said, “Bye, Mom.” Then turned his back and walked away from me and towards Adolescence. All of a sudden I couldn’t swallow, which made it hard to breathe. I stood there watching him walking away, not looking back, holding his friend’s hand in a completely unself-conscious way, not needing me to be there with him.

My younger son was repeating something like, “Mom, can we go now?” several times as I stared at Charlie’s back. I was having a hard time hearing as well as breathing. I briefly thought of walking over to my First Grader and telling him I’d wait with him until the bell rang. Instead, I made myself turn around, without looking back, and pull the wagon towards home.

It is not a slight blow to feel my child needing me less. But the salve that soothes it is watching him be happy, confident and ready to face the first round of firsts in his life. Oh, so bittersweet.


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