Tag Archive | "business"

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The 5 Secrets of Effective Multitasking

Posted on 10 February 2017 by cradmin

By Anne Bachrach

You probably realize that your success is riding on your ability to maximize your time and performance to the highest optimal point possible. You can only handle so much in any given 24-hour day, and unless you’ve found a way to add more time to the clock, you have to do more in less or the same amount of time without running yourself into the ground.

We all have 168 hours in the week, and it’s all about how effectively we use the time we have.

The five principles outlined below are not difficult, but they do take discipline – and that’s what efficient multitasking comes down to. Multitasking shouldn’t make you feel like you’re in the middle of a cyclone; there is actually a way to apply effective multitasking principles that will help you keep your sanity AND add time to your day.

Here are five secrets of effective multitasking:

  1. Give your full attention to the task in front of you.
  2. Set specific timeframes for task completion.
  3. Become effective at switching gears for similar activities.
  4. Prioritize high-payoff and low-priority tasks.
  5. Honor thy calendar.

The first 4 items listed are components of item no. 5, so let’s review the base of each principle first.

  1. Give your full attention to the task in front of you.
    This is sometimes an easy thing to overlook but is often the reason why our tasks take longer than we estimate. We allow ourselves to be distracted by what’s around us, and next thing you know you’ve started three projects and completed none. When you set a clear rule that you will focus on only one specific task at a time, you increase your efficiency dramatically. Not only will you become quicker at completing tasks, but you will improve your accomplish rate by finishing more tasks even quicker. This is a base principle in multitasking efficiency: Learn to focus on the task at hand and ignore distractions.
  1. Set specific timeframes for task completion.
    Multitasking includes time management. It’s amazing how focused we can really be when we have a deadline or a short amount of time to get a task completed. If you have 15 minutes to complete the task, focus on setting the intention that you will get it done within that amount of time so you can move on to your next task. However, you don’t want to complete something within the time allotted and have it done poorly.
  1. Become effective at switching gears.
    This is where a lot of people get tripped up. They finish one task and move on to the next, only to still be thinking about the task they just finished. When a task is complete, all emotional energy related to that task should be released. Look at the completion of your tasks as an emotional release. It’s done – finished. You no longer have to think about it. You’re moving on. One big key is to try and keep similar activities together so you don’t have to mentally make big adjustments between tasks. It wastes precious time when you have to switch between unlike activities.
  1. Prioritize high-payoff and low-priority tasks.
    Concentrate on prioritizing your tasks from high payoff to low priority. At the top of your list should be the high-payoff items with the low-priority items at the bottom. Emailing a friend to tell them about your date last night or your golf game and score does not qualify as a high payoff activity. Following up on referrals, returning calls to current clients, generating leads, etc. are tasks that qualify as high payoff activities. Generate the business first because that is what generates income. Everyone knows this but for some reason, we just don’t always focus on it and make it happen.
  1. Honor thy calendar!
    Effective multitasking also relies on effective time management and that means, whether you like or not, working from a calendar. Without having to keep everything in your head, complicating your already busy life – you can write it down and let it go to some extent. You don’t have to stress about forgetting it because it will be in your calendar. Honoring thy calendar can actually provide a lot of relief and control in your life. Try it. You will be glad you did.

Schedule EVERYTHING – even showers, eating, drive time, working out, etc.
Through trial and error, you will learn the best time for you to do certain tasks. Take exercise for instance; some people work out in the morning while others prefer the evening. Schedule your tasks for time optimization. You can even color-code certain tasks for easy, quick-glance reference.

If you are like me, you might have a tendency to schedule more than you can handle. To avoid feeling like you’re always running behind, schedule your tasks and add buffer time to each; say 15 or 30 minutes. If you actually do finish before the time allotted, then you have the gift of getting ahead on your schedule. If you are like me, there never seems to be a shortage of items on my list, so getting ahead feels really good.

If you have several activities that are alike or similar, do them all at the same time. This will help cut down on the chaos of the day and avoid the excessive need to change hats more than necessary. Consider setting specific times you check your email throughout the day instead of checking it constantly. When you can focus your energy on similar activities, it maximizes your effectiveness. You can even go as far as only taking client calls at certain times throughout the day, instead of answering the phone every time it rings. Have someone answer the phone, or simply set up your voice mail to explain what time you pick up messages and when the caller can expect a return call. An even better way to handle this would be to schedule a phone appointment to ensure time efficiency.

Calendaring may take some getting used to, but it really does make your life simpler by maximizing time and performance. You will feel in control of your life and enjoy it even more. With improved efficiency and great time management, you will get more done in a shorter amount of time – all with less stress.

“Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last.”
JACK NICKLAUS, Legendary Professional Golfer

About the Author

Anne M. Bachrach is known as The Accountability Coach. She has 23 years of experience training and coaching. The objective is to do more business in less time through maximizing people’s true potential and ultimately leading them to an even better quality of life. Anne is the author of the books, Excuses Don’t Count; Results Rule! and Live Life with No Regrets: How the Choices We Make Impact Our Lives.

Copyright©2017, Anne M. Bachrach. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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Surviving Uncertainty in Today’s Market: 6 Secrets to Keeping Your Balance, Business and Humor

Posted on 15 December 2016 by CRadmin2

By Julie Escobar

What you may not realize is that uncertainty can be a good thing. It can force us out of our comfort zone and propel us to get creative, get resourceful and, most importantly, take action.

If you’re ready to loosen the grip of uncertainty on your career, then I invite you to adopt the following six secrets. Attitude is everything. Well, almost everything, anyway. Consider the study recently conducted by Harvard Business School, which reported the four key elements for success in life:

  1. Experience
  2. Knowledge
  3. Intelligence
  4. Attitude

Stop and think for a moment how you would answer that survey if polled. How would you rate each of these factors in order of importance? Harvard found that experience, knowledge and intelligence comprise only 7 percent of the elements for success. Attitude represented a whopping 93 percent. Imagine that! The most critical facet is also the one we have the MOST control over. So, take control. Rid yourself of the negative and empower yourself with the positive, and you’ll be well on your way to keeping uncertainty at bay.

Over-Prepare. What happens when you know for a fact that you are ready for anything? When you’ve done your homework, practiced, drilled, rehearsed, dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” on your to-do list? Over-preparing for your next job will fill you with the confidence and CERTAINTY you need to win. Our company president always teaches the importance of going those extra steps to be practiced and prepared. So much so, that even if someone were to wake you in the middle of the night from a sound sleep and asked you, “Will you cut your profit?” the words and mannerisms would flow from you naturally and effortlessly with your profit intact!

Market Statistics. There’s never been a more important time to know your numbers than right now. The people who succeed in today’s market are masters of information. They bring to the appointment table all the ammunition you need to prove the quality and prices of your products and services. This affords your clients peace of mind and satisfies two extraordinary essentials for surety and success: confidence and credentials.

Stick to a Schedule. Without it, it’s simply too easy to get off track and find yourself in a rut, and nothing can fuel uncertainty quite like a good old-fashioned rut. Put yourself on a clear, concise, tight schedule, which includes that all important, must-do prospecting time each day. A precise and practical approach to working ON your business not just IN your business will allow you to not just be more productive but also eliminate a great deal of stress in your days. Prioritize your to-do list and keep those “money” activities such as prospecting, presenting and closing on the top of that list.

Master Your ABCs. In today’s market you must always be closing. Our market is quickly changing, shifting and making adjustments, and now is the time to help your customers make the right decisions rather than play the procrastination game. To close is to ask, and to ask is to list. Ask to accept. Ask to reduce. Ask to buy. Sound simple? It is. So go ahead – ASK!

More Is More. Times have changed. The cheese has moved. The economy is shifting. All of these are factors far beyond our control and all represent the change we are all feeling today. It’s all right though. That’s the nature of the beast. Nothing lasts – not the good or the bad – but certainly, how we react to change plays a large role in whether we survive, thrive or find ourselves looking for “a real job.”

The not-so-secret secret here is to do more. Be better. Get stronger at your skill sets. Master your dialogues. Do your homework. Start earlier and stay later when you have to. Readjust your calendars. Create more value for your customers. CONSISTENTLY stay in touch with your sphere of influence. Commit to learning, fine-tuning and crafting your presentations and your presence. Challenge yourself to step outside what “you’ve always done” and seek to go further than you’ve ever gone.

I found an interesting quote today by Ilya Prigogine, “The future is uncertain, but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity.” What a great reminder that is for us to ignite our ingenuity. Tony Robbins tells us that one of the most defining factors that control and shape what we do and how well we succeed is not resources but resourcefulness. In other words, it’s not your broker, not your colleagues, not the market and certainly not the new stationary that determines your success or failure. It’s that deep down emotion that allows you to REALLY want something that powers your resourcefulness to make it happen.

Keep Your Humor. Finally, keep your sense of humor about you. If you truly implement these ideas, you are bound to feel some change, some growing pains and, uh-oh, some uncertainty. Roll with it. Laugh out loud with your friends and your family. Let your hair down, and gift yourself with the medicinal power of laughter. Whether you are a “Jack” or a “Jill” – all work and no play makes for a dull life and a sure case of burnout.

I hope you’ve picked up a secret or two to help you not just survive but truly thrive in this industry. By the way – they aren’t REALLY secrets, just reminders, so feel free to NOT keep them to yourself. Share with the people you care about, the new guy or girl who’s just starting out, that old-timer in the corner who can’t seem to get out of the rut and anyone else who could use a little “shot in the arm.”

One of the best ways to create abundance in your life, financially, emotionally, spiritually and in your career, is to share the wealth. The capacity in which you’ll find it boomeranging back to you is extraordinary.

About the Author

Julie Escobar
Copyright© 2016, Julie Escobar. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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First Impressions in the Countertop Industry

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First Impressions in the Countertop Industry

Posted on 27 October 2016 by cradmin

This video created by Paxton Countertops in Michigan is both amusing and makes a good point about the importance of first impressions, customer service and safety in a countertop business. It shows both the don’ts and do’s for a fabrication business (and many businesses in general) when it comes to customers.

Any employee of any countertop fabrication business could benefit from the reminder issued here (and the humor helps make an impression).

You may also be interested in this article about ensuring customer satisfaction.

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Building a Sum Even Greater Than Its Parts: Why It’s Essential to Create a Cohesive Sales Team

Posted on 28 July 2016 by cradmin

By Becky Wenner

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” Henry Ford, one of the great industrialists of the 20th century, said that about the importance of teamwork and of how it applies to businesses of all sizes.

Today’s economy is more diverse and more fiercely competitive than ever before, yet Ford’s insights still ring true today. Whether you are leading a small sales team, managing a large sales department or are part of a group of sales professionals, your personal success is going to hinge on building an ambitious, motivated team that can work together towards a common objective.

Even where sales targets are met individually, they are meant to be assigned to all members of a team. A team that meets and exceeds its combined targets is far more valuable than one where only a few succeed and the rest fail.

Work together for sales and against the corrosive effects of disunity. Infighting or squabbles with other departments isn’t just bad for morale, it also leads to lost business. Here at Engage Selling, we once worked with a company that had lost a quarter of a million dollar account because the sales and the engineering teams didn’t trust each other enough to communicate properly.

That’s a tough loss for any company. Worse still, it’s entirely preventable.

Ensure your group keeps meeting and exceeding their sales targets. Implement the following five tips on creating a cohesive sales team.

Choose people whose team skills even the balance.  When hiring sales professionals, be sure to look for people who demonstrate more than just a healthy competitive streak. They need to show they have team-oriented skills, too. These are not contradictory qualities. All proven sales people have the motivation and the tools to succeed on their own, but the truly exceptional ones are able to help others on their team succeed as well.

Open the communication channels in-house. Ensure you are communicating cross-departmentally on a regular basis. Bring in your engineering teams, your implementation teams and your customer service teams so you can have meetings that inform each group about what the others are doing in the common pursuit of serving the customer.

Eliminate ambiguity. Within your sales team, ensure everyone is clear about the sales structure and about how they are being paid. Sales teams can quickly become dysfunctional when staff is expected to perform well while dealing with unanswered questions (e.g., “Is that my lead or yours?” and “Do I get paid for this service I’m providing?”). Fill in the gray areas. Create well-defined sales agreements and compensation agreements.

Don’t compete against your own team. If you are a sales leader, make sure you are not selling directly to the customer. Some of the most dysfunctional sales teams I have coached got that way because the sales leader was competing directly against his own sales team. Your job is not to sell directly. It’s to help each sales person close more business.

Celebrate success. Dysfunctional sales teams stay that way because all they hear is bad news or negative feedback. Granted, a sales person’s commission is a fine motivator on an individual level, but what I am talking about here is what you can do to show that money isn’t the only reward for hard work. Good sales professionals leave organizations when they feel they’re not being recognized. So celebrate big wins. Ensure that every team member feels like they are contributing. Ask for their opinions. Celebrate when a new hire wins a new customer. If customer service or engineering has also helped in that win, make sure you include them in the congratulations as well.

A happy, motivated sales team that knows how it is going to be paid and communicates throughout the organization is the team that’s going to help you meet and exceed your sales goals…year after year.

Copyright ©2012, Becky Wenner. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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Need New Talent? Hire a Veteran

Posted on 23 May 2016 by cradmin

HireVetsFirst2If you have positions open in your shop or office or you are planning on expanding, you may want to consider hiring a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces for the job. According to the Veterans’ & Training Service (VETS), veteran unemployment has dropped 23 of the last 24 months to reach a low of 3.9 percent, but that still leaves more than 752,000 able-bodied veterans still unemployed. Many veterans still have a difficult time landing jobs, but plenty of resources as well as tax incentives are available for employers who can help these hard-working Americans earn a decent living.

Where to Find Veterans

Many employers across the country have stated that they would prefer to hire veterans over most other job candidates, but they simply don’t know how to find them. However, several resources are available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), other government agencies and several nonprofit organizations.

A great place to start searching for veterans in need of jobs is through the Department of Labor’s dedicated website for veteran employment: Veterans.gov. This program provides one-on-one assistance to veterans through 2,500 American Job Centers in local cities and communities throughout the nation.

In addition to other services for job seekers, the website also provides resources for employers. You can make a public commitment to hire veterans and receive a free hiring toolkit titled America’s Heroes at Work. You can also post job descriptions and current opening and connect with a region al employer outreach specialist who can provide local resources for hiring veterans.

Other resources that could offer assistance in locating veterans in need of work are as follows:

Incentives for Hiring Veterans

The U.S. government provides several incentives to employers who hire veterans, which are detailed in the Guide to Hiring Veterans published by the White House in 2012. While some of the tax incentives in the guide are slightly outdated, a tax guide for 2016 was recently published by Military.com. The primary credit available is the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides an incentive of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans, and a credit of up $9,600 is offered through the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit. Other credits may also be available through the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration.

It is also possible for employers to be reimbursed for training some unemployed veterans through the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services. This program pays qualified veterans half of their salary for six to nine months while in training in addition to the tax credits. Finally, you can take part in a non-paid work experience program. In this program, participants are not paid a wage, but they receive a monthly subsistence allowance by the VR&E.

This Memorial Day, consider doing something more to show our veterans you care by offering them the jobs they need to support themselves and their families.

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Seven Habits of Diversity-Conscious Managers

Posted on 07 July 2015 by CRadmin2

By Lenora Billings-Harris

Think of a leader/manager in your life who really motivated you to be the best you could be. What attributes or characteristics describe that person? What habits did he or she have that worked for you? Over the past few years, I have asked hundreds of leaders that question. Here is a sampling of the most frequent answers.

My motivating leader:

  • Was fair and respectful toward others
  • Had high personal standards
  • Believed in my abilities and potential
  • Helped me believe in myself
  • Encouraged and stretched me
  • Led by example
  • Mentored and coached effectively
  • Asked for and appreciated different points of view
  • Listened
  • Criticized objectively
  • Had integrity; was honorable
  • Helped me solve my own problems
  • Had a vision
  • Developed a trusting environment

The specific word diversity was rarely used when people described their best, favorite or most effective manager. However, fairness, respect, objectiveness and the ability to listen recurred frequently. Clearly, these are key skills for managing a diverse workforce.

The attributes mentioned above describe an effective manager and leader. The challenge within a diverse environment is to be able to practice these behaviors with all contributors, rather than only with employees with whom you are most comfortable. Developing the diversity dimension of leadership requires a commitment to demonstrate the following behaviors consistently:

Identify Professional Aspirations

Learn the professional aspirations of all team members and support their efforts to achieve them. Many organizations have some type of career development or succession planning process. In order to make these programs more effective within a diverse environment, be sure that you are talking to all of your staff about their career aspirations. Even if your organization does not have many opportunities for individuals looking for upward mobility, your interest in their career and your assistance in their development will be greatly appreciated and will usually motivate people to do their best work. If there are no opportunities within the organization and the employee ultimately leaves the company, you then have a positive ambassador in the overall community.

Create Opportunities for Positive Exposure

Create opportunities for highly talented employees to be exposed to leaders who may not otherwise interact with them. Perhaps they can present a report, attend a meeting in your place, or conduct various other activities whereby they can interact with leaders in the organization who, if impressed, can impact their career in a positive way.

Create Cross-Functional Teams

As organizations have downsized, right-sized and re-engineered their businesses, many management positions have been eliminated, thus requiring groups to work together as teams in order to complete the necessary tasks.

When cross-functional teams work effectively, ideas flourish. People are exposed to each other’s ideas and discover that different departments have different viewpoints. That exposure is beneficial to the overall innovation potential of the organization. When creating these teams, remember that putting people together does not automatically make them a team. Training is needed to help develop that group of people into an effective, trusting team. Without training, diversity collisions because of stereotypes about age, tenure, communication styles, as well as ethnicity and gender can be divisive to the team’s effectiveness.

Delegate Fairly

Sometimes leaders have a tendency to delegate to the same people all the time because they do good work and things will be done well. However, if you are going to truly develop all team members, regardless of their packaging, you need to identify projects, tasks and responsibilities that could further develop their skills. Once the task is delegated, be sure to coach, and be clear regarding your expectations about updates and results.

Do not Tolerate Inappropriate or Disrespectful Behavior

Communicate and support intolerance of inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. This practice relates to “led by example,” and “was fair and respectful,” as descriptors of effective leaders. This must be an ongoing behavior on your part, one where you are constantly looking for opportunities to teach tolerance and respect within the workplace. This skill is one of the most difficult diversity management skills to perform well consistently because most people do not know how to provide negative feedback constructively. If you are silent or laugh nervously at “dumb blonde” jokes, for instance, your behavior may perpetuate the inappropriate actions of your staff.

Evaluate Performance Effectively

Most employees really want to do a good job. The problem is often they do not know what a good job is because the clues from their leadership are unclear. The clues frequently differ based on superficial or stereotypical judgments regarding age, gender or ethnicity. For example, what is considered acceptable or superior performance for a woman engineer is often different from the standards for her male counterparts because of unwritten expectations. If the skills and expectations for the job are clear, the measurement criteria is clear and the feedback is continuous, then it becomes easier for you to be fair with each employee.

Consider Individual Needs

Consider individual needs when enforcing company policies and guidelines. The idea is to be fair. However, fair does not necessarily mean the same. There are times when you must decide how to implement policies without showing favoritism while recognizing the different needs of your staff.

Coordination of work schedules is an example. Although within a department, and within the same job category, everyone is probably expected to arrive at the same time and leave at the same time, it would be appropriate, when necessary, to allow flextime. Be sure to clarify the requirements.

You may have noticed that nowhere have I suggested that effective leaders manage based on ethnicity, gender, disability, age and the like. Effective leaders realize that everyone in the organization contributes to its success, when people are treated as individuals rather than just members of various groups. The more you are able to relate to individuals, the more you will be able to create an environment that causes them to produce at their highest level, regardless of their packaging.

Actions that Make a Difference

  1. Make time to talk privately with each of your employees on a regular basis. For example, if you have 10 employees, provide each with 30 minutes every two weeks where they have the opportunity to share with you whatever they wish. They can ask any questions or give you ideas, and you have the opportunity to get to know them personally and coach and counsel them as necessary.
  1. Ask your staff, individually, how they would prefer to be managed and how they would prefer to be rewarded. Often, we assume money is what everyone wants. This is not necessarily true. When you ask an employee how he or she wishes to be rewarded, you may discover personal interests and professional aspirations that you can be supportive of. For example, perhaps one employee might be most motivated by having the company pay part of his or her child’s tuition. A childfree person may be most appreciative if the company provided additional vacation time so that she or he could visit a favorite place.
  1. Take your staff to lunch every now and then – just to chat. The more actions you take to demonstrate sincere interest in the individual, the more likely your staff will want to go the extra mile. The challenge is to make the time. Once you see the real person, instead of just their “packaging,” the benefits to you and the organization will abound. Their differences will then be an asset instead of a barrier. The opportunity is there. You can make a difference.

About the Author

Lenora Billings-Harris, CSP is the author of The Diversity Advantage: A Guide to Making Diversity Work.

Copyright© 2015, Lenora Billings-Harris. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at [email protected].

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The Four Keys to Doing Business Online

Posted on 12 February 2015 by cradmin

by Bill Ringle

Articles and reports have saturated our collective consciousness with how the Internet is revolutionizing business, I’m told by participants at our “How to Grow Your Business Using the Internet” seminars. But, perhaps what you’ve read up to this point has been lacking in specific details that would allow you to gauge the depth of your company’s website for creating the best conditions for doing business.

On the way to the tips, let’s first shatter two fundamental misconceptions that commonly distort the perception of doing business on the Internet.

The first fundamental myth is that any company can make big bucks selling over the Internet. It is true that some companies such as Amazon.com, Compaq and Lands’ End are making millions of dollars via e-commerce. Hard to find items, computer software and hardware, and high-quality/low-risk items have done very well for a select few companies.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of thousands of companies are using the Internet to save money on operational costs and to strengthen relationships with their customers. That’s the easier path to follow and the recommended course of action.

For example, look to how the leaders in the fabrication industry educate their clients about countertop materials, fabrication processes and installation. Nowhere on their websites do they offer or suggest making online transactions. Instead, they set a tone and develop an atmosphere for their clients to learn more about industry trends.

If a monthly newsletter costs $10,000 per issue to produce and mail to a client base and you can reduce that to a quarterly newsletter that supplements daily updates to a web site, you’ve improved customer contact (with a rising percentage of your audience) while positively impacting the budget.

Here is a key point to remember: Look first to save money on the Internet before you look to make money from transactions. Your Internet presence can show a healthy return to the bottom line simply by reducing costs from other areas.

The second fundamental myth is that doing business online is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either you’ve got a company website or you don’t. Those that do, win. Those that don’t, lose.

This oversimplification of the issue can cause damage to your company’s reputation on three fronts: failure to improve the content, failure to take advantage of new technologies and failure to address the culture changes within your organization.

On the Internet, content is king. However, nowhere else is its reign so short! In my presentations, I challenge participants to think in terms of information freshness, expiration dates and half-lives when submitting articles for their webmasters/content teams to post. Without this dimension, a site that, upon its launch, seemed vibrant and cutting edge soon becomes another cobweb site with a diminishing audience.

Keep abreast of technologies and adopt the ones that support your mission and goals. If a server-side Java applet allows you to add an amortization calculator to your site and that fits with your goals, great. However, avoid the trap of becoming technology-driven rather than outcome driven. Technology is a wonderful servant but a horrible master, in spite of what the IT journals claim.

Having a checklist mentality about your company website misses an important force for transforming your business internally, which is developing new processes for improving collaboration, productivity and learning. In my experience with corporations, it takes groups anywhere from three to 12 months to adopt a new system and take their corporate consciousness thinking to the next level.

Here is another key point to remember: Business website development is a constant, iterative process. You must be vigilant to stay on top of new information in your industry as well as new technologies that will serve your purposes. Always look at your Internet/intranet offerings from the perspective of your target audience, whether they are external or internal.

Now that you’ve sidestepped the two biggest potholes on the business lane of the Information Superhighway, let’s discuss four measures of success for a company web site.

1) Information rich

Remember King Content? Well, here is where you build the palace. Your visitors want information that is timely, accurate, well written and substantial.  Remember that your well-informed opinions are a key differentiator: Online prospects and clients want both the basis and conclusions of your analysis to compare against their own judgments. Whether you are a  a full-service house or run a specialty firm, you want visitors to your site to leave with the insight that you offer information that can be found nowhere else.

2) Interactive content

Static web pages are text-based and they do not change from one view to another. Interactive content takes advantage of special HTML codes on the server software to display different sets of information under different conditions. A simple example is to have a countdown timer to a special event. When sites become information rich, a keyword search engine becomes a necessity for navigation. Even better interactive content really endeavors to involve the visitor. In addition to being well designed and implemented, it provides useful feedback that builds the user’s confidence in the company.

3) Individualized experiences

Internet software provides the ability to remember each individual who visits a website, remember their preferences, interests and goals and offer the most relevant news, products and services upon each return visit. Are you taking advantage of that yet? It’s taking the interactive ability to look up stock quotes to the next level where a user profile is stored so that upon each visit the current share values as well as overall portfolio value is automatically calculated. Individualized experiences are one of the fastest ways to build brand loyalty online.

4) Integration with the business

By now you’ve realized that a website cannot succeed at the highest levels if it is isolated within a company, but you’d be surprised at how many people I come in contact with through my seminars and consulting projects that are still grappling with this point. It is critical that a company web site have ongoing input and interaction from all departments, from front-line sales to senior management. An IT person may be responsible for managing and maintaining the site, but educating the rest of the company on the opportunities and capabilities is a larger responsibility that can leverage your technology investment


About the Author

Bill Ringle, president of Star Communications Group, is America’s Internet business coach. He advises corporate executives who want to make better decisions about technology and small business owners who want to use the Internet to grow their businesses. Clients include MetLife, DuPont, Apple Computer, Pitney Bowes, Women in Communications, DaraTech, PRODN, CAMA, the National Speakers Association, University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. He is the author of TechEdge: Using Computers to Present and Persuade.

Copyright© 2015, Bill Ringle. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email [email protected]

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Your Team Is Your Most Important Asset

Posted on 16 September 2014 by cradmin

by Ellen O. Brownell

“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world … but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

–Walt Disney

A friend recently required a half-million-dollar liability insurance policy before he could execute a contract for an important kitchen renovation job, and time was of the essence. Based on a recommendation, I contacted Joni Ginno of State Farm, and she instantly moved into overdrive.

Within an hour, she had located a policy that would fulfill his specific needs. Within what seemed like only moments, her staff had completed all the necessary paperwork and by days end, he had verification of the required coverage. Impressive? Yes! The staff was friendly, eager to respond to questions and genuinely concerned with his needs and issues. It was also apparent they worked well as a unified team. After the dust cleared, he had a long talk with Ginno over the phone about how she had developed her business and staff in order to provide such exceptional service.

Through the years, Ginno found that in order to succeed, she would need to create a positive team and customer service approach to business. She realized early that the quality of her organization’s customer service must match exactly her vision for the business. Ginno would only succeed at accomplishing her business vision and mission if all of her staff members were in the loop and working well together. To accomplish that, her staff became her number one priority.

When she discussed the various steps and techniques she used to develop her cohesive team, she shared the following:

Create an action plan together. Every business must have a mission, a vision for the future and an action plan to make it happen. It is important that everyone be involved in the development process. People want to know their opinion matters. When staff is involved in the decision making process, they buy-in to making it happen.

Modify your plan regularly. Action plans will not do a business any good unless they are constantly reviewed and updated. What may be applicable today, very well could be outdated six months from now. Be willing to make your action plan an ever-changing working draft that is reviewed by everyone each week.

Create a positive work environment. Let the staff provide input and make choices that directly affect them. It can be as simple as letting them select the radio station or music you listen to. Request their input when selecting office furniture, equipment for a job or a software system. They will probably be using it more often than you will, and it is important they feel comfortable in the environment they spend more waking time in than their home. Creativity and positive customer focus are all by products of a positive work environment.

Hold staff meetings off-site. Take a break. Meet for breakfast at a local coffee house. Go out to lunch together. Don’t allow staff meetings to become mundane. New surroundings stimulate creativity and out of the box thinking.

Communicate regularly. More often than not, organizations fail to complete their vision because communication between the owner or administration and the frontline staff is poor. As issues or items come up, address them. Don’t wait for staff meetings. Keep your door open and always be ready to listen.

Remind the staff how important they are and express your appreciation. A verbal pat on the back is always welcome and much appreciated. Reinforce your appreciation with a few extras now and then, such as pocket flashlights, donuts or pizza for lunch.

Create mutual trust and respect. If you expect the staff to have respect for your customers, then you must provide an environment that will help them develop this skill. Respect is created and developed when you are supportive, honest and accountable for your actions, decisions and mistakes.

Provide incentives. Establish monthly goals as a team. If team members complete and accomplish their goals, then give them something special. It can be a gift certificate, a round of golf or concert tickets. Make it something they want so they become excited about completing their monthly goals.

Support their professional growth and development. Staff development is just as important for the frontline as it is for management. An investment in your staff’s professional growth is an investment in your organization. Establish training needs with the staff on a regular basis. Make completion of training programs an important part of their annual evaluation.

Honor individual strengths. One staff member may be particularly skilled at dealing with irate customers while another has exceptional telephone skills or skills performing a difficult fabrication task. Realize that each employee has special natural abilities and strengths they bring to the job. Capitalize on those strengths by shifting leadership for projects or to handle specific client needs.

Solve problems together. For the most part, people want to be challenged. Employees want to be part of the solution process. By involving staff in the problem-solving process, you indicate you trust their judgment and respect their opinion.

Develop shared accountability. High-performance teams establish high standards and goals and hold themselves accountable. People are willing to set those standards if they feel everyone is working together and toward the same vision in a supportive environment. People are more willing to help each other when goals are shared and the environment is supportive.

Ask questions often. As a manager or business owner, it should be your objective to constantly ask questions in order to improve the working conditions and the chances of your team to accomplish your vision.  Some of the questions you need to ask include the following:

  • What can I do to make your work life better?
  • What if…?
  • Have we considered…?
  • What are your suggestions regarding…?
  • How can we change to better serve the customer?

Set an example. A team is only as good as its leader. An owner, executive or manager must constantly set the example of how business is to be conducted. How you treat your staff is how the staff will treat the customer. Be positive, upbeat and care about your staff. After all, they are your most valuable assets.

Have fun every day. People want to work in an environment that is not only challenging but fun as well. Add humor to situations when it is appropriate. Encourage the circulation of comic strips that emphasize a point. Be willing to laugh at yourself. It indicates to the staff you also make mistakes and establishes an environment that encourages staff to risk without fear.

Often, businesses and organizations fail to develop and invest in their most important asset, their employees. If you hire well and spend time developing your staff and creating an environment that encourages creativity, risk taking, trust and respect, then your customers will ultimately benefit. Your employees are your most valuable assets. Remember to respond to their needs just like you would a client in order to develop a climate that resonates with customer care.


About the Author

Eileen O. Brownell is president of Training Solutions, a Chico, Calif.-based firm. For more than 25 years, Brownell continues to be noted as the ‘high-energy’ speaker and trainer who captivates her audiences and makes learning a lasting experience. Her expertise is in the areas of customer service, conflict resolution, communication and team development. She is licensed to use the Carlson Learning Products that enhance the learning process. Cable television stations have shown Brownell’s educational programs. She can be found in Who’s Who in California, American Women, Professional Speaking and Outstanding Young American Women. “We cannot choose the challenges that confront us. Nevertheless, we can pick our attitude and how we react,” is her philosophy.

Copyright© 2002, Eileen O. Brownell. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email [email protected]

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Time Management

Posted on 18 August 2014 by cradmin

By Dr. Tony Alessandra

Time is nature’s greatest force. Nothing can stop it; nothing can alter it. Unlike the wind, it cannot be felt. Unlike the sun, it cannot be seen. Yet, of all nature’s forces, time has the most profound effect on us.

Time remains constant, but our perception of it changes. When we focus on it, it slows down. When we turn our backs on it, it speeds up. Our illusion makes us think it is something tangible. We arrange it, divide it up, give some to our friends. Sometimes we feel it is precious; at other times we waste it. We give it the power to heal when we say, “Time heals all wounds.” It can also kill, as when we live stressful lives because we never seem to have enough time. On a day-to-day basis, nothing is defined and redefined in our minds as much as time. It’s a wonder we can still recognize it!

Herein lies our power: Because things are as we perceive them, we can choose to see time as a manageable commodity and live our lives according to that assumption. This is one of the secrets of successful people – they work at shaping those things that others think are uncontrollable.

Efficient Vs. Effective

In discussing time management, some people argue, “What we need is to be more efficient with our time!” Other people claim, “Let’s not worry so much about efficiency; let’s be more effective!”

Efficiency means doing things right. Effectiveness means doing the right things. Working efficiently is doing things with the least amount of wasted effort. Efficiency gets you from point A to point B via a straight line. Inefficiency goes in circles. Effectiveness means doing the things that yield results.

Many people, when learning about time management, ask the question, “Which should I work on first, efficiency or effectiveness?” In theory and practice, the best answer is to improve your effectiveness first. It’s much better to aim your sights at the result than to worry about the process. Too often, we get bogged down in the means and lose sight of the end.

Eliminating Time Wasters

Time wasters come from the people around you as well as from within yourself. Some time wasters are unavoidable but reducible nonetheless. Identify the most frequent sources of time wasters in your day. As a means of comparison, we’ve included a list of them here. Many researchers find the same handful at the top of their lists, which indicates that they are problems common to all of us:

  1. Scheduling less important work before more important work
  2. Starting a job before thinking it through
  3. Leaving jobs before they are completed
  4. Doing things that can be delegated to another person
  5. Doing things that can be delegated to modern equipment
  6. Doing things that actually aren’t a part of your real job
  7. Keeping too many, too complicated or overlapping records
  8. Handling too wide a variety of duties
  9. Failing to build barriers against interruptions
  10. Allowing conferences and discussions to wander
  11. Conducting unnecessary meetings, visits and phone calls
  12. Chasing trivial data after the main facts are in
  13. Socializing at great length between tasks

Setting Priorities

When setting your priorities, there are two famous laws to remember. The first is Parkinson’s Law. It states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for its completion. Parkinson’s Law makes setting priorities twice as important. If you don’t know what your priorities are, your other work will expand to fill in the extra time. It will take longer for you to accomplish less.

The second law of note is Pareto’s Principle. Pareto’s Principle, in this situation, states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Another way to look at it is that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients.

Using a To-Do List

A list of things to do for each day and week is a valuable aid to managing your time. A to-do list organizes your thinking and planning onto one form in the least amount of time with the maximum amount of efficiency. Such a list is especially helpful if it coincides with the record keeping you already do for your company. After a short time, you will find yourself handling a greater volume of work without increasing your stress. You’ll simply become more efficient.

As we mentioned before, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it. Your to-do list should, therefore, define a specific amount of time, if possible, for each activity. This will keep work from expanding.

Your activities should be listed in order of priority. Work on high priorities first. In listing the activities, it is helpful to spell out the result as well as the process. Stating when, where and what you’re going to do increases your chances of doing it successfully.

As the day goes by, check off completed activities and make any notes that seem relevant. In the evening, make out a new to-do list for the next day and include any activities you couldn’t complete the day before. Always save your to-do lists for future reference and evaluation.

Keeping Records of Time Use

The experts in time management all agree that the more records you keep, the more you will be aware of the opportunities for improving your use of time.

Through systematic record keeping, you will learn, among other things, which tasks you’re having trouble completing. You can actually chart your performance to get a graphic illustration of your strengths and weaknesses.


“Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today,” my mother has said ever since I can remember.

Procrastination is like a virus. It creeps up on you slowly, drains you of energy and is difficult to get rid of if your resistance is low. Procrastination is a close relative of incompetence and a first cousin to inefficiency, which is why their marriage is taboo. These suggestions will help you conquer the virus:

  • Give yourself deadlines. In moderation, pressure motivates. Extreme pressure debilitates. Set appointments, make commitments, write out your goals and otherwise develop the determination to succeed.
  • Don’t duck the difficult problems. Every day we are faced with both difficult and easy tasks. Tackle the difficult ones first so that you can look forward to the easy ones. If you work on the easy ones first, you might expand the time that they take in order to avoid the difficult ones waiting for you.

Many people put off difficult or large tasks because they appear too huge to tackle in a reasonable timeframe. They feel that if they start and complete the large task at one sitting, it will prevent them from accomplishing any of the other tasks they have to do on that day. The answer to this problem is to break all large or difficult tasks into their smaller subparts. Then, you can do each of the subparts of the larger project over a series of days, if appropriate.

  • Don’t let perfectionism paralyze you. This is a problem that many salespeople have when writing proposals. They sit with pad and pen in hand waiting for the right words to come out. What they are doing is avoiding the process of writing. Be prolific in your activities. You can always go back later and polish those things you’re unhappy with. Better yet, you can delegate the polishing to someone else.

Because humans are so susceptible to procrastination, you must work at building up your immunity to it. Effective action is the best medicine.

Handling Paperwork

Try to answer any correspondence immediately. After you’ve read the letter, write your reply on the back and give it to your office administrator to type. An even more efficient method is to record your correspondence and leave the rest to your administrator, if you have one.

The other mail you receive should be dealt with in the same way. Act immediately on whatever you can. If you receive a magazine, peruse it and clip out articles you intend to read. Try categorizing your reading material into three groups: articles you must read soon, articles you should read and articles that would be nice to read. Clipping the article makes it more accessible.

Naturally, there will be more than mail accumulating on your desk. Adopt a policy of picking up paperwork only once. This means you should not look at something and put it back down where you found it. It’s much wiser to take some form of action on the item. Decide what to do with it and move it along to the next step toward completion.

Telephone Calls

The telephone is, of course, one of life’s greatest time savers. It saves time over writing letters, making trips and meeting with people. It can also be a great time waster. To avoid spending more time than necessary in calling people back, follow these suggestions:

  • Determine the best time of day for you to return calls.
  • Prepare information in advance when you call back. You can pull files and gather documents you’ll need to answer questions. This is obviously a time saver to you.
  • Curtail the length of your calls when and where appropriate.
  • Be organized. List the questions or topics you wish to discuss and have them in front of you.

Relaxation and Stress Reduction

In our goal-oriented, hyper-motivated, moneymaking workday, we often deny ourselves much-needed periods of relaxation. Like a high-powered sports car, we can be very impressive at high speeds but sacrifice distance, efficiency and physical integrity in the process. Our bodies and minds are designed to work well if they are not overtaxed. Frequent periods of relaxation and stress reduction are important to the longevity of our bodies and minds.

“The person who doesn’t take time for relaxation will be obliged sooner or later to make time for illness,” said John Wanamaker.

All too often, the sacred coffee break is abused rather than maximized. People become focused on the process rather than the desired result of the break. A coffee or lunch break should be used as a time to relax so that you are more effective when you return to work. The relaxation you seek during a break should achieve three things:

  1. It should provide distraction and get your mind off the job.
  2. It should alleviate tension.
  3. It should be short enough not to severely interfere with your workday but long enough to provide you with some benefits.

There is no denying the importance of relaxation despite it appearing unproductive.

Change Your Bad Habits

“Habit, my friend, is practice long pursued that at the last becomes the man himself,” said Evenus in the 5th century B.C.

Managing your time efficiently and effectively will require some changes in your behavior and thinking. Those changes require practice.

Giant strides, when looked at closely, are made up of many small steps. In overhauling your management of time, you, too, need to take small steps. Start today doing those things that will make you a better manager of your time. After you’ve improved in one area, choose another and so on.

How about taking a moment, right now, to list the ideas you’d like to implement? Review this article and circle or highlight the items of most immediate value to you. Then put them on tomorrow’s to-do list for action. Remember this: If it is not affecting your actions, it is doubtful you believe it.


About the Author

Dr. Tony Alessandra, CSP, CPAE has authored 13 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.  Dr. Alessandra is recognized by Meetings and Conventions Magazine as “one of America’s most electrifying speakers.”

Copyright©  Tony Alessandra. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email [email protected].

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Lampedusa’s Razor: Distinguishing Good Change from Bad Change

Posted on 18 July 2014 by cradmin

“Beware of con artists!” is good advice, especially if they can jeopardize that which we value. How good are we at recognizing a scam when it crosses our path? Here’s one that’s making its way through business corridors:

“Change is good, and resistance is bad.”

Unquestioning acceptance of that advice will get you into deep, perhaps catastrophic, trouble. Not all change is good, and resisting bad change is more than a good idea, it’s the act of a responsible business owner, executive or manager.

This is the great trap for those who embrace the idea that we must change or die: Unless we find some way to distinguish between good and bad change, we are compelled to change when faced with each and every innovation. In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, there is a sad character known as the White Knight who’s taken the advice “change is good” too literally.

The White Knight believes in embracing anything that’s new. His mistake is to accept that all change is mandatory. His sturdy horse is festooned with gadgets. There’s a small box in which he keeps his sandwiches, but it’s turned upside down “so that the rain can’t get in,” he says proudly. Until Alice points out that the sandwiches have fallen out, he was totally unaware of this significant flaw.

He’s also attached a beehive to the horse in the hope that bees will take up house and provide honey, not realizing bees never set up house on a moving horse. Then there’s the mousetrap he’s strapped on the horse’s back to keep the mice away, and the fancy anklets on his hooves to keep away the sharks – both of which seem to be working…

Yes, we must change, otherwise our organizations fall so far behind the competition that we lose effectiveness and fade into obsolescence. On the other hand, to embrace every change is the path to chaos.

Our problem, despite the many dinosaurs lumbering in the tar pits of yesterday, is not the lack of recognition that change is necessary. It is that there is far too much change to choose from. We suffer from an abundance of choice and a shortage of judgment.

Organizations must become adept at three seemingly contradictory skills. We must become brilliantly effective at resisting bad change, equally effective at embracing good change and wise enough to decide between these two alternatives.

In case you missed my outrageous statement, I’ll repeat it in its pure form:

Organizations must become brilliantly effective at resisting Change.

We should not, and must not, embrace all the change placed before us.

“But we must change!” is the cry from the back of the room. Yes, I agree. We must change, otherwise the world will pass us by, but the statement “Change is good”, does not advise what type of change is good… it even suggests that ‘all’ change is good. And that’s the problem. “Change” is not by definition “good.” It merely represents a difference between what was and what is. A better restatement of this mantra might be:

“Some Change is good, and sometimes resistance is necessary.”

Or… if you value a quote more when it comes from someone famous, here’s what Viscount Falkland had to say about this:

“When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

All of this is fine, but there’s a snag. How do we distinguish the good from the bad? Since I’ve been using quotes to power this article, let’s try another one. Giuseppe di Lampedusa was a part time astronomer and Sicilian prince. He stated,

“If things are to remain the same, things will have to change.”

This humorous and seemingly self-contradictory quip contains more wisdom than is apparent at first glance.

To better see the idea snuggled inside Lampedusa’s quote, it is worthwhile dissecting it a little bit.

“If things1 are to remain the same, things2 will have to change.”

things1 – Refers to that which is important to our mandate. These are the things that are of value to our constituents, our superiors and us.

things2 – Refers to all the other stuff that surrounds us, stuff we might have become attached to, but which in the final analysis, contributes little to the achievement of things1.

That’s the key. By slicing the status quo into those two categories, Lampedusa provides us a means by which to examine the value of any change in front of us. Does the proposed change reinforce, support or extend a previously established organizational objective? If it doesn’t, then enthusiastic acceptance is incorrect, improper and ill advised. To paraphrase Lampedusa:

“To embrace what we value, we must release what we don’t.”

These then are the two steps towards rational change. Identify what is valuable to us, and then measure every proposed change against what we have found.

Identify, as clearly as possible, why we’re here. What exactly is the role of our organization and what must we do to continue fulfilling that role? We can give this a variety of labels, from “Statement of Purpose” to “Vision Statement” to “Services Offered.” It doesn’t really matter what we call this as long as it becomes something we believe in, and against which we can measure all proposed changes.

The second step is to determine how the proposed change will fit into the context of our organization. In other words, what must change in order to protect what we value? If you’ve made it this far, then you are well into the first stages of implementing the change.

You now know why the change is necessary, i.e. what core values it is designed to protect, support or extend. This knowledge, properly communicated, will go a long way in reducing resistance to the proposed change, especially if you are willing to make public all the information that went into your decision. Nothing is more effective at reducing resistance to change than full disclosure… except perhaps being involved in the actual decision making process itself.

You now also have some idea what impact it will have on your organization, i.e. what will have to change to accommodate this change. With all of this in hand, changing shouldn’t be too difficult.

The issue of change is tricky. On one hand, you cannot avoid all change; on the other hand, you cannot embrace all change. This means we must resist the bad, embrace the good and know the difference.

Good luck.


About the Author

Peter de Jager is a change management consultant, seminar leader and speaker. His presentations use humor to challenge the myths surrounding our understanding of the change process and the benefits of technology.

Copyright© 2014, Peter de Jager. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond by email at [email protected]

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