Archive for the ‘ living an intentional life ’ Category

Your Brand?

Just how important is it to you?

OK, we’re almost at the half-way point of the year. How are you coming on your goals?

Are you taking positive, measurable steps to increase your business? Advertising in new ways: for example, creating brochures that really jump out at your prospects, or finding new ways to get your brand name in front of your customers is a great way to do that.

You can also choose some low-cost ways to increase your brand awareness. Would a newsletter, either online or offline, be an appropriate tool for your business? If you can present a timely article for your prospects and customers, you can position yourself as an expert in your field.

Another way to keep your brand name recognizable is to make sure that your entire PR package works together. Your business cards, website, letterhead, envelopes and brochures all should have a similar look. Nothing is worse than having your business cards displaying one design and color scheme, while your website has another, and your letterhead yet another. Your entire package should be instantly recognizable as YOUR package. Your printed advertising should also have a related look, even though it might need to be a little different, according to your target audience. If you’re not sure about your package, ask someone you trust to look at everything and see if an update is in order, or if you need to do a major makeover. This sounds expensive, but just imagine if Coke (or Pepsi) were to change their logo and colors regularly. I don’t know about you, but I always spot the Coke machine simply by the distinctive red and the white “swoosh”. It pays in the long run to get a professional logo done for you. (If you need proof, next time you’re in a convenience store, do a quick scan around the building – how many brands do you recognize by either a distinctive color or shape?)

Some other ideas to get your name in front of folks:

leave a business card every time you eat at a restaurant or when you visit a nice store

“pull” two cards from someone you’re speaking to – one for you to keep and one to pass along to someone who might need their services – make sure you note your name and number on the back so they’ll remember who referred them.

when you network, don’t worry about telling them what you do – find out what the other person needs, then a few days later you can write them a little follow-up note to let them know how much you enjoyed talking with them. At that time, you can always send them a little information that you think might help them. (See, your mom did know what she was talking about when she told you to learn to write bread and butter notes!)


One last thing: remember that no matter where you are, you’re representing your business. Even if you’re at the grocery store at 8 AM on Saturday morning, in your jeans and a t-shirt, and you’ve got no make-up on (or unshaved if you’re a guy) you can still smile and be friendly. A nice happy face is the best makeup you can wear! Folks remember that smile long after they remember whether you’re made up or not!

Oh yes, and don’t forget – if you’re fortunate enough to still have your Mama, tell her you love her!

Community Cooperative

Last month, we discussed some ways to keep your brand name in front of potential customers. This month, I’ve got another concept you might find useful to you.

Most areas have a business owners’ assocation, such as the chamber of commerce. Some chambers do an excellent job of promoting each business, while others seemingly cater only to a select group of people.

If your area does not have a Chamber of Commerce or similar group, or if it is not meeting your needs, you might start your own cooperative of local business owners.

Some things to consider:

meetings- of course, your group will decide how often to meet, but what should you do at these meetings? One option is to have different members present a topic at each meeting, perhaps even having local guest speakers at special meetings. For example, when gearing up for tax season, have a local accountant speak about ways to prepare for April 15. Make your meetings open to the public, and keep the group’s name in front of the press. A write up for the local paper after each meeting is a great way to get new members, plus you will become known as public servants. You might also consider having some meetings that are simply brain- storming meetings, where members can help each other solve their problems.

meeting times- make sure you set a time that is convenient for the business owners in your area. Some folks may be able to take a lunch hour, while others might appreciate a chance to mingle after hours.

dues- you might only charge enough to cover postage expenses and other incidental expenses. Remember, this is not a way to make money, it’s simply a way to promote businesses in your area.

members- you want to invite members who will compliment your own business. For example, someone who owns a printing office might consider having a local florist as one of the members. Since weddings need both services, each business can easily refer folks to other members.


The end result should be a group that works well together, is willing to pitch in to help solve problems and will be able to refer potential customers to each other, plus is seen as a group that is contributing something back to the community.

For more ideas on how to market your business, check out one of my favorite books: Off-The-Wall Marketing Ideas, by Nancy Michaels and Debbi J. Karpowicz. At around $12 for the paperback, you can’t go wrong. It’s wonderfully full of great ideas, and it will inspire you to come up with more of your own ideas as well.

Lessons from a Fig Tree

This last Sunday, my pastor’s sermon was on “reaping and sowing” gifts and blessings. This stayed on my mind most of the day, not only in the realm of my spiritual life, but my family and business life as well.

The main thrust of his sermon was that many times we reap blessings that others have sown (like when my neighbor brought me a huge bag of snap beans from her garden – I didn’t ask for them, I had nothing to do with raising them, but I sure was glad to get them, and they are going to taste great!). We get so used to the idea that we don’t have to sow our own “seed”, that we learn to depend on others providing for us. We never learn to sow for ourselves, so we can bless ourselves, our families and those around us. This reaches out into all areas of our lives.

Then later Sunday afternoon, I was walking in my yard, checking out the bird feeders and looking at the flowers, when I came up to one of our fig trees.

The tree was full of unripe fruit, just waiting for the sun and the rain to help it finish it’s job for the year. It just stood there, soaking up the water and the sun, turning those little green knobs into delicious fruit that can be made into all kinds of good things to eat.

The more I thought about the sermon and the tree, the more it made sense to me. That fig tree stands there, during rain storms, droughts, high winds and hot days. It keeps on being a fig tree, just doing it’s job, not letting the sun or the wind or the heavy rain change it’s mind.

We need to be that way. We need to get up every morning, and be who we’re supposed to be. We don’t need to wait for someone else to do things for us. We need to be pro-active, which means that we can no longer say, “it’s not my fault”. We need to own our own problems and challenges, and learn to do something about them. We need to take our problems, which is anything that will try to keep us from being what we’re supposed to be, and figure out a way to overcome those challenges and be a better person. If you can’t do it by yourself, learn to network! Ask your peers or colleagues how they would handle the challenge. Don’t do it in a complaining way, just ask for general advice and see what comes up – you might be surprised!

And one last thing. We can look at these things as problems, or we can look at them as challenges. I know this sounds like a pat answer, but think of it this way. Would you rather tell someone you’re working on a challenging last minute project, or you’re having a terrible problem at work trying to finish your boss’s new outline? I’d rather have a challenge than a problem…. Think about it.

More Productive Meetings, Pt 1

1. Do you know when you are most productive? It’s worth taking a look to see if you’re wasting your “prime time” in meetings or doing “grunt work”. Take a quick survey of your work habits and see what part of the day you shine. Most office settings insist on setting meetings for mid-morning or right after lunch, which might sound good, but if that’s during most of the participants’ best working time, the meeting’s a waste. If you don’t believe me, think back to the last meeting you attended. How much of the meeting did you spend thinking about what you needed to be doing at your desk? That’s because your brain knows that you could have been far more productive there. If you have influence on when meetings are set, try having them on Friday afternoons. Most folks are not going to be thinking about work that late in the week, so it’s a natural time to have meetings. And make it work for you – when you finish, let everyone leave early if they’ve contributed!

2. And speaking of meetings, do you have problems getting folks there on time? Set some fun “fines” to those who are late. Anyone who runs late has to sing a song to everyone else. Or the last person there has to take minutes. Or to really get their attention, the last person through the door has to be in charge of the next meeting!

Do You Really Need a Website?

Below are some questions you should consider if you think you need a web site. Only you know the answers to these questions, and obviously, the final decision will be yours.

Of course, I’d love to help you get your web site up and running, and I pledge to make sure that you’re happy with it, and that it will meet your needs. Just in case you have any questions about basic web terms, I’ve created this page to explain them in everyday English.

Okay, now on with the test! Remember, be as honest and thorough with your answers as you can.

1. First of all, will your site be a personal or business site?

Let’s look at family sites first. They’re great for several reasons. Family members who are living far from each other can keep up with what’s going on using a web site. Different family members can be correspondents for their part of the family and can be responsible for sending information and pictures in to be added. It’s also a great way to learn more about family genealogy. My dad’s family has a web site, and we’ve heard from folks all over the world who may be related to us, however distantly. To help learn even more, we also subscribe to several genealogy sites that help us get in touch with other families who may also be connected to us.

Besides family sites, there are also simple personal sites. If you’ve got a hobby that you’re very involved in, you might want a site that can let you share it with others who may also be interested. For instance, there are many music sites, where someone has gone to the trouble of transcribing songs they like, adding guitar tabs or sheet music, and then they post it for other musicians to enjoy. Some other good examples include cross-stitching or related needlework, or poultry raising. Just go to a search engine like Altavista or Mamma and type in cross stitch, and see how sites are listed – it’s amazing!

Then we come to business sites – there are just as many business sites as there are personal sites, if not more. Think of any type of business you can imagine and run a search – when I searched for “antique book stores” on Altavista, I got 53,161 results, and each search engine will give back slightly different results, according to how they are structured. And next week, if I search again, the list will be different. The internet is constantly changing – more sites are added, sites drop off or change their address, or some simply quit updating and then drop off the search engines. (No site should ever, ever remain completely static.)

If you’re interested in having a personal or family web site., then your next step is to find someone who can make sure you get the site exactly as you want it.

2. For your business site, there are several things to consider. First, is your product something that will have a fairly wide appeal?

If your product is not something that would have a market more than a few hours’ drive from your business, then you might reconsider having a web site. After all, if your customers can drive to your business and pick it up, why should they shop on-line? However, if you want your product available over a large area, or 24 hours a day, then you might need a storefront web site. After all, it would be great to know you can be making sales even while your “real” store is closed. You also will be able to make sales without having to pay someone to man the store. Just make sure that you have ways for your current and potential clients to contact you and ask any questions they may have. Customer service should be the most important thing you give your customers – if you treat them well, believe me, they will continue to use your services, and more importantly, they will advertise for you.

Next, is your web site going to be an extension of your store, where customers can buy online, or do you want a more simple site that piques your audience’s curiosity, so that they’ll want to contact you? Either way, your web site always needs to project the personality and mission statement of your business, as well as you. When your target audience visits your site, they should get an immediate feel for what you represent. An antique store that specializes in French Provencal furniture shouldn’t “feel” the same way a bookstore that keeps thousands of X-Men comic books in stock. Each place has it’s own target audience, and each audience has different expectations. Just imagine going into Books-A-Million, where there are lots of folks sitting in comfortable chairs, looking at their favorite books. The folks there know that they’re being invited to browse the books, have a cup of coffee and stay for a while. That atmosphere has been purposefully created to make them stay as long as they want, and more importantly, buy as much as they can!

3. Now that you’ve decided whether you really need a site, and what kind it’s going to be, what is the next step?

I’m very glad you asked that question! Your next step is to get some basic ideas about what you want your site to do. There are several questions you’ll need to ask yourself as well. Will your site sell items or services, or will it be for advertising only? Do you have a color scheme in mind? What is your target audience? (And no, the answer to that question is NOT “everyone on the internet”!)

Everyone has some ideas about what their web site should look like, and one of a web designer’s main jobs is to help you find out what your ideas are. When you hire a web designer, your main job is to make sure you find someone who will honor your wishes, and make sure the site looks it’s best. Web design can be complicated, fun, and exciting, but most of all, it’s got to be a team effort. Make sure you find someone who wants to play on your team!

Managing Your Time

I don’t know about you, but I am not a naturally organized person. For example, as I went through my work day, I might start on some graphics for a website. Then the phone would ring and someone might need me to take pictures. When I got back, I’d then have to upload the pictures, and since I was already working with them, I would go ahead and process the pictures so they’d be ready to publish. As I finish the pictures, I would also check my email and then I’d realize I haven’t checked on a self-study I’d been working through. I also needed to write letters to some prospective clients and do some followup phone calls.

Your day may be like mine used to be, jumping from one task to another, not every completely finishing anything, and working on lots of things. At the end of the day, I used to look back and wonder what I had done all day that made me so tired.

Would you like to get organized and make sure that you get some things accomplished, and have some concrete way to “show” yourself what you’ve gotten done?

There are lots of ways to get and stay organized: some people like to use a PDA, other folks use their computer software, such as Outlook or ACT!, to stay on top of things, and some people (like me!) prefer written lists.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a time management seminar by Franklin Covey, and they supplied me with my first datebook/organizer. Of course, there are many time management seminars you can attend, or you can find tutorials and books that would be very helpful, but the basics are this:

1. Decide what type of system you’re going to use. Any type of tool is going to basically work the same way, whether it’s paper, technology or a combination of both. The system you choose will depend on how you work – are you mostly at your desk during the day, working in your area? Your computer might be the perfect tool to use; you’re already using it and adding another piece of software should integrate well into your day. If you are working between several areas, or if you spend a good bit of your day on the road, either a paper system or a PDA, which would sync with your main computer, would work well.

2. Devote a block of time to get things started. Enter all the information in your system: contact information for all important people, birthdays, days off, vacation time, other important dates such as family get togethers, etc. Also make sure you have a section for on-going goals. To reach those goals, make sure you keep them in front of you. What are you doing now to reach them? Set small steps towards your goals every week. If you don’t have some concrete goals written down, you are only dreaming. Set some goals and put dates on them!

This is also a good time to write down a mission statement for yourself, if you don’t already have one.

3. As you go through your day, enter information as you get it. For example, if I spoke to my insurance company today about an incorrect charge on my bill, and the person tells me that it will definitely be taken care of by end of the week, I’m going to make a note to myself on Friday to check back online to see if the correction has been made. In that note, I’m going to include who I spoke to, what time we spoke and any other pertinent details. If I’m given an assignment that’s going to be due at the end of the month, I’m going to set checkpoints for myself before the due date to check on the progress of the assignment. And if others are involved, I’m going to make sure I check with them.

4. As you meet new contacts, enter them into your system as well – anything and everything you can think of about them. Where do they work? What contact information? What are their interests? Anything that will help you know more about that person will be helpful. You never know when you might be able to pass something along for that person, and believe it or not, that’s the basis of networking. Some folks believe that networking is all about “what’s in it for me”. WRONG!

5. Take 15-30 minutes once a week to organize your week. Remember to enter any appointments you’ve got, and any goals you’re working towards. You also should review your goals, mission statement, etc. Then your first task for the day, each day, is daily planning. This might take only a few minutes, but you should review your tasks and goals for today. Then put priorities on the items you’ve got. As you are assigned new items, you add them to your list.

6. The best part of all? As you start on an item, put a small mark beside it – if you get called away, you’ll be able to find your place on your list. Then when you finish something, check it off. You can see what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve missed as you go through your day. Anything that doesn’t get done today, either gets moved up to another day, or it can be deleted.

As you can see, getting and staying organized is work, but the small amount of time and effort you invest results in huge benefits – you get more done in less time, and you’re less likely to miss anything important!

Is Your Website Working for You?

Let’s talk turkey. No, I don’t mean the turkey that you’ll be carving later this week. I mean one of the most important parts of your business PR campaign – your web site.

Does your website really do you justice? Let’s look at a few things and see…

-Your site’s navigation – is it easy to move from one page of your site to another? No matter what type navigation you have, moving around your site should be easy for your visitors.

-Contact information – do you have at least one way for your visitors to contact you? At the very least, you should have an email link and street address listed. Even better, have a contact form on your site – this is especially nice for those visitors who might not have email capability on their computers, or who might be using someone else’s computer.

-Call to action – does your site invite visitors to interact with you? Using a form, you can take a poll, invite reviews or suggestions, take orders or even ask them to sign up for your newsletter.

-Mission statement – don’t make your visitors guess what you do – tell them! Now this may seem silly, but how many times have you landed on a site, and had no idea what it was about? The design of a site is very important, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the underlying message.

-Your personality – your website can have a professional look and feel, and still show your visitors who you are. After all, that’s what makes your site unique – the fact that you own it. If your business is just like everyone else’s, why should anyone buy from you? That’s where your personality and individuality comes in. There is something that you do better than anyone else – and the key is to have your website show that off. If you’ve got the best prices in your area, or if you offer excellent customer service before and after the sale, then your site should show that. Give your guests (read potential customers) a reason to do business with you.

So, take a cold hard look at your site, and see if it says “you” – if not, talk to your webmaster and let them make some suggestions that will spice up your site!

By the way, if you’d like to have your site reviewed by professional web designers, you can submit it to The Design & Publishing Center ( – look for Web Design Review and Critiques in the menu on the left. They’ll do a great job and tell you exactly what might need to be changed.

Be What You Want To Be

What direction are you going? Do you have goals that you are actively working towards, or do you get up every morning and just sort of drift in what you hope is the right direction? As I said last month, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend some very good time management seminars, and they’ve made a huge difference in my life, both personal and professional.

One of the best things I learned in these meetings was how important a mission statement isfor everyone, no matter what your business. It doesn’t have to be long, involved or fancy, but you need something written down that you can refer to (and edit as necessary) so you can know if you’re on track with where you want to be.

So how do you write a mission statement? The most important thing you can do to begin is look at your own life and really see what’s important to you. Make a list of things you’d like to accomplish. Think about what folks will say at your funeral (I know, it sounds terrible) – what type person will they say you were? Will they say what you’d like for them to say? If not, what do you need to change about yourself? What legacy do you want to leave your family?

All these things, and more, tell you who you are. If you are concerned that your kids be well-adjusted, successful people, what can you do that will help them achieve that? And if you want to leave a large sum of money to your local homeless shelter, what type of arrangements do you need to make now? These are the type things you’d write in your mission statement.

After you’ve decided the type person you are (or want to be), then you need to set long-term goals. Don’t just think about them. Get some paper out and write them down. Then (and this is the hard part) figure out what you need to do to reach those goals. Brainstorm until you’ve come up with every single thing you can do to reach that goal. Is your goal to pick up ten new clients? OK – so what have you got to do to get them? Some things might include handing out business cards to everyone you meet, join a local civic group that would allow you to meet new people, learn how to position yourself as an expert in your field (for more information on that, contact me).

After you’ve got your list of goals done, with all the things to reach those goals, then what? Hold yourself accountable by putting dates to each item, and add them to your datekeeper on those dates. Then, most important of all, DO THEM!

I know this sounds tough, but remember, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.