Monday, February 26, 2007

A Biz Disaster Can Strike with the Stealth of a Stroke

I'm writing this from the public computer in the ICU waiting room in Lafayette, Indiana, about an hour's drive from my home in Indianapolis. Got a call this afternoon from my brother, Perry, the cop. That tone of voice was unmistakable--like the voice I heard two years ago that told me to get home right away and break whatever land-speed records it took to get there. This was another call like that. My Dad had been admitted, unconscious, to the ER with, what they feared was a stroke.

What really worked, amidst the flurry of packing (I think I put out food for the cat--yeah, she's taken care of...) was the simple stuff I did that put my business "on hold" temporarily. Here's the scoop...

I use a tele-secretary and virtual office service, Intelligent Office. They manage my phones when I'm away for vacations or on business, giving a personal "face" to my callers (who love Anna, by the way). Here, they're telling callers that I'm out for family business and, if I need them to, I can make a call to them and have them cancel or re-schedule my appointments. Letting them know I was going to be out for a family emergency, they will appropriately and professionally give the people I authorize more or less information. When my mother was hospitalized and passed away, they did things for my business I didn't even think to ask for. I just told them what was happening and they did the rest.

My calendar is online, so the people at Intelligent office can help manage my calendar. This is a simple function that's included on Microsoft Outlook. Remind me and I'll provide some screenshots so you'll know how to do this on Office 2003 (until then, here are the instructions for how to do it on Office 7). Here at the hospital, I can check appointments and figure out which I can handle by teleconference when Dad can see the light at the edge of the woods and which ones I need to re-schedule.

Contacts. Gotta love 'em. Also, gotta be able to find 'em. In additional to Outlook (into which I me AOL email into--a special mailbox on Outlook separate from my company email so I can read it all in one spot...and no stuff outta any of you for still having that email address. It was my first and I'm sentimental), I use the Accucard service bundled with my CardScan Business Card Scanner. When I get a new business card, into the card scanner it goes, then it synchs with Outlook seamlessly. Occasionally, it sends a friendly greeting to the people on my list, asking them to update their contact information if needed and synchs with Outlook again. The important part is that there is an online copy of my Outlook contact list I can access, say from the Home Hospital ICU waiting room.

There's more, but what's important is that I can now focus on "that which matters most," my Dad (doing much better now than when they broke down his door to collect him).

More soon!


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nice Mac Spoof (Internet Marketing)

Nicely done spoof.

I think that marketing is one of those things we aren't doing as well as we could. I've had clients who have created a web presence with no thought to how well their webworks carried their message. I use CardScan Executive Business Card Scanner (love it!) and am astounded, for example, by how little thought people put into determining whether their logos, colors and designs fax and scan (or turn into "mud").

One-off actions won't work.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Climbing the Corporate Ladder (with real rope)

I liked this report from Cash Peters of Marketplace on the behind the scenes success of the JanSport backpack line. I have several of these packs and use them for everything from carrying books to presentation supplies to items for an outing with my nieces.

Here's Cash Peter's short version of his interview with co-founder, Skip Yowell, for those of us not fascinated by all things backpackery: "Boy meets girl. Girl, boy and second boy invent backpack. Backpack makes everyone incredibly rich. The end."

Love it.

What I found most useful in the report is how the combined the their passion for the outdoors with their pursuit of fun. I'm going to grab Skip's book, The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder & Other Mountains: How JanSport Makes It Happen. Sounds like a great read. I'll let you know as I read it.

Listen to this story

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Housecall for Your Computer

As you know, I love my laptop (and any other gadget within five feet of me). Love it. However, last year, it got clobbered with a hijacker virus. It was terrible. I'll spare you the details of what it took to get it taken care of (it involved the sacrifice of some chickens), but in the process, I discovered a great free service. TrendMicro, which offers PC-Cillin also offers a very in-depth virus, grayware and malware scanner called PC HouseCall. It takes about an hour to run (so go get a bagel), finds everything and fixes it.

Give it a try


Indy ASQ Presentation: Change or Die!

First, thank you for your warm welcome last night. I appreciate your attention and your interest in the subject matter.

I'm providing this blog entry as a reference point for your questions and comments--particularly on how you're attempting to apply what you've learned. Further, if you find additional resources you'd like to share, you may do so here.

Also, if you find others who would like to hear elements of my talk, please let me know. I'd be happy to meet with other groups.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Oh, I Like This Service!

I'd heard about this service quite a while ago, but, traveling down the road looking for a phone number, I thought I'd give it a try. The service, 1-800-free411 (1-800-373-3411), is offered just like it says: free. Call from a land line, you pay zero. Call from a cellphone and you just have your regular airtime charges to deal with -- a far cry from the buck or two you can pay for just one regular 411 call.

How can they offer this service? Here's the scoop: like network TV, 1-800-free411 has commercials. Dial in and an automated service will ask you for the location and name of your party and then provide you the number. While you're waiting, you listen to the very brief offer. Do nothing and the offer is declined. A great part of the service is that you can press a button and have the number you're seeking "texted" to your cellphone (if that where you're calling from). Very handy if you want to save the number to your contact manager.

Cleverly, the second time I used it, I'd forgotten the number (and even more cleverly neglected to have them text-me the number). When I called back to get the number again, the nice automated voice asked me if I wanted the service to repeat the last number I called about.

I was in love.

Concerned about privacy (like anyone needs cellphone spam), I read their Privacy Policy. Except for the fact that your number is visible to every 800 service (even if you have it blocked) and that, if you have the service forward you to the party you're seeking, they don't capture your cellphone number at all. There's more on the site, so be sure to read it before you decide.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

LNB #037: Messy, the New Neat (organization & productivity)

Neatness makes my head hurt. Really. Turn on the TV and you can see show after show wherein an "organizer" will show up and begin the military march towards organization. Too many nick knacks? They've gotta go? Old paintings that remind you of a former, more creative time? History. What I initially found so unnerving is how they would whisk the home or business owner out of the scene of the crime and then, when they returned, they would have a beautiful new space...and be left there to try to get something done based on what someone else thought was workable.

Jeremy Caplan, in Time magazine article "Messy is the New Neat" says is plainly: "neatness is overrated."

I once had an organizer attach herself to me at a gathering. She asked me about the piles and clutter which, according to her, must be busying-up my space. Didn't have any. Then she went to work, peppering me with questions about where I may be accumulating "stuff" I didn't need. Finally, after several interminable minutes, she pounced: "Icons! Your clutter is in your computer!"

Rather than asking me if what I was doing worked, she started with the assumption that it simply couldn't...and then began offering her services to me in earnest. I found myself blinking at her over my raised soda and lime, trying to remember the quickest way to get my coat and head to the door.

Truth is, I've been a neatness Nazi with my husband, Garland: I just didn't like how he worked. In an early fit of newlywed togetherness, I'd insisted that we share a home office. That lasted about 2 months before his piles of stuff began their blob-like trek towards my shrinking corner of the room. That stuff was alive, I swear it.

On the other hand, I'd been the training partner of another consultant, Rick. He was notorious for only working on one thing at a time and having only those things he needed immediately on his desk. We despised him. Fast forward and there I was, eyeing Garland's stuff like it was a disease.

Looking with an eye towards workability, Garland's way of working works for him, just as my desktop full of icons works for me and Rick's polished desk worked for him.

Where did we get it that there was one way to organize? Peering into Garland's office, there is a logic to the piles that take up every corner of his space. He's crammed in his electric train run, tools, a bookcase that's full, two desks, a file cabinet and then there's the closet. He seems to defy my every attempt to straighten it up, but talks about "getting it together" almost every day.

It's just how he works.

There was a time when organization was considered a sign of an organized, disciplined mind. Clutter on the desk: clutter in the mind. Not so. Moderate mess is an indicator of nothing important about a person's character. Note: I said moderate. I'd been asked to help a woman from my hometown with a criminally messy house (yes, the police were involved) -- it wasn't safe for her or her small children and was an unfortunate sign of a serious mental condition. We threw most of what she owned away (it was all irretrievably soiled). That's something altogether different...and frightening.

People don't think the same way and they don't organize the same way. Me? I think in parallel, keeping several projects going at one time. Others, like Garland or Rick, may keep several things out, but only work on one at a time.

Caplan talks about effectiveness and how well people perform. Banish, the article suggests, the two hours a day straightening up. Use that time, instead, to be with family or advance your business or career. Authors Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman point to an example of serendipitous dot-connecting through paper desk clutter that lead to a Nobel prize winning scientist seeing a connection between cells and hormones. Their book, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder--How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place touts the benefits of relaxing schedules, foregoing compulsive filing, making friends with laptop clutter and, generally making peace with clutter.

I'm not a fan of one size clothing or solutions. If you love to straighten and it energizes you, allowing you time to think problems through in new ways -- have at it. If it becomes one more thing on your "to do" list, consider dropping it.

Listen Now: 17 minutes, 17 seconds

MP3 File

Monday, February 12, 2007

LNB #036: Truth Telling While Selling

This episode includes an interview with the fabulous Toni Nell of Springboard Consulting.
Toni Nell of Springboard Consulting is a player. She’s worked with A-List clients (like Morgan Stanley) and been the go-to-gal for such business luminaries as Jim Horan (The One Page Business Plan) and Michael Gerber (The E-Myth Revisited). In her own right, she’s seen and done about everything in a sales context.

Focusing on one of the key steps in her "Stop Selling Like a Man" program, she helps us understand the importance of truth-telling while selling. Now, that doesn't seem like it should be something you'd need to be told, but you'd be surprised (or maybe even surprise yourself) when you think about how quickly the truth can sashay out the door when it's close to month-end and the cupboard's almost bare.
What she’s learned is that selling is truly about understanding and moving into the world of your prospect or client – lock, stock and teardrop. Your PowerPoint presentations and glossy brochures be damned. Key steps to being your ever-so-wonderful, authentic selling self include:

  1. Relaxing At a sales call, there may be nothing for you to DO, except be fully competent and ask, “So why am I here?” Your curiosity makes you powerful.

  2. Show up

  3. Listen without agenda

  4. TELL THE TRUTH (this episode)

  5. Let go of the outcome


Stop Selling Like a Man Teleclass: 27 February, 9 Pacific/12 Central.

Check back here or at Toni’s website for more details.

Listen Now: 23:42

MP3 File

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


There are people on my roof. Well, not exactly now -- it's a wee bit below zero outside, but trust me. There have been people on the roof. Lots of them in the past several weeks.

First, there was the roofing tornado -- a team of 8 or so who yanked off the old roof and replaced it with these great dimensional shingles. Yeah, I had to figure out what the pickles a "dimensional shingle" was, too. Here's a sample of a dimensional roof in our new color.

Then, there was the ceiling and dormer team. They painted the cathedral ceiling above my SOHO (small office/home office) and fixed the dormer. Again, lightening speed.

This last pass is the gutter crew. Gutters, now, we've got. Downspouts? Well, that's another matter....

I was on the BzzAgent team for Seth Godin's book, The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable. In it, Seth and the Group of 33 regale us with stories of remarkable businesses -- people who do the sometimes small things that make them memorable. In one story, a bicycle repair service is discussed. Every time a bike job was completed, the owner would add or do one small, special thing -- handlebar ribbons, an oiled chain -- something that would be a unique contribution to the customer.

Having had plenty of time, recently, to watch men scramble up and down on my roof, I wondered: will some kind soul pass a rag across one of the two small windows on the roof (particularly since their processes funkied-up one of them)? Nope. The first crew (the tornadoes) were masters of communication, though. Every step of the way, they told us what they were doing, how long it would take and what to expect regarding clean-up. This last crew, which was much smaller, told us they needed to go back to pick up the right "elbows" for the downspouts...and they haven't been seen or heard from since (about 8 days ago).

This has gotten me thinking about all the ways, large and small, that I can add that extra bit of value to my clients. Free e-books, special podcasts, a magazine article, some extra communication. Something I do just because they're special.

I just don't think it takes much to be remarkable. But, I'll keep you posted on what I learn.

Picking Another Autoresponder (Yay?)

The company I was using for my autoresponder service went belly-up late last year. Proautoresponder was cheap and fairly easy to use, allowing me to easily create pages in html and scheduling when I wanted those messages to go. On the down side, they were also an autoresponder of choice for spammers who didn't do due diligence in reprimanding and cutting off said spammers, so they got sued.

So, here I go, looking for another one. I found a great blog that offers one of the Best Autoresponder Reviews I've ever seen. In the article, they review several of the major players against some pretty sound criteria like: time to delivery, ISP blocking, and more.

I'll keep you posted on what I discover.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

This is Very Cool

Warning: Evidence of seething tech envy coming in 5...4...3...2...)


I have to admit that I've got it bad. See, way back in the mid-80's, while an intern at IBM, I saved up and got a Sharp PC-1211, one of the very first handheld computers. I got the printer, which it snapped into. I had to program it in BASIC, it had a whopping 2K of memory (!) and it was amazing. An early model, it was more of a handheld computer than a personal organizer, but the capabilities of this machine, at the time, were amazing (See The Evolution of the PDA by Eric Koblentz).

I could see a glimpse of the future...and I had it in my grubby paws. I used it as a calculator and to calculate my checkbook balance, among other things. Small potatoes, by today's standards. But, God was it fun! The OQO Model 02 and other microcomputers of today go far to help people be incredibly productive, while giving people access to the Internet.

Very cool.

Please be expecting more tech envy. I can't help myself.

Friday, February 02, 2007

LNB #035: The Care and Feeding of Partnerships

We spend more time picking an Ob/Gyn that will birth our babies than we do building the business partnerships that provide the income we need to take care of said babes. We know that one out of nine new businesses experience a five year failure rate and that the survivors may not be fairing all that well.

For partnerships, more attention is spent on the legal and financial positioning of the
partnership - whether it was a limited partnership. S or C Corporation, whether it was taxed like a partnership or a corporation and how the partners would get money from the partnership. Little information exists out there on how to have an effective partnership -- one where you don't continually fantasize about pitching one or all partners under the bus.

Once the structure is in place, where do we go to work?

Smaller firms tend to stay more tactical and, unfortunately, have a harder time getting and staying strategic. Business planning is a single event, usually tied to getting start-up funding needed to open the doors, but not an informative, educational process designed to help you understand the needs of the business and the needs and best thinking of the partners.

Business partnerships tend to work best when the partners have done the work of understanding each other. Knowing these things about each partner is crucial to determining how to best allocate them as resources:

  • What are you good at?
  • What can you do competently, but need support for (like, I can do the financials well, but it really takes it out of me)?
  • What do you do badly?

Now, everything in a partnership isn't always a box of kittens (warm and fluffy). Conflict happens. The question is: what do we do when we're not on the same page? Conflict, by its nature, is positional. People square off on things that really don't matter most but, instead, on old wounds or superficialities. By asking partners what they're committed to for the business, the partnership or themselves, you can begin to move towards what matters most.

Consider this book: The Partnership Charter: How to Start Out Right with Your New Business Partnership (Or Fix the One You're in), by David Gage is a good resource for putting together (or repairing) business partnerships. For legal and tax advice, of course, see a legal or tax expert.

Listen now: 24 minutes, 28 seconds