Thursday, May 31, 2007
Summer business and leisure travel schedules are starting to perk. However, the pricing policies of most hotels can leave us pretty cold. Here are a few tips I've found that help increase travel satisfaction.
I didn't pack my power cord!
Check the lost and found. Most hotels will let you borrow a charger from their lost and found. Be sure to check here first: power cords and cellphone chargers are the items most frequently left behind.
Tip the housekeeper
Be sure to meet your housekeeper and introduce yourself. People who tip are less likely to be robbed by a dishonest staffer. Also, if your housekeeper knows you, there's less of a chance for someone to break into your room while it's being cleaned and pretend that it's you.
Empty your wallet
Thieves have gotten clever. They only take one card, leaving the rest to lull you into a false sense of security. Travel only with the cards you'll actively be using. Leave the rest at home.
Book your room late
Rooms are more expensive in the morning. Better: wait until after 6pm (4pm in NYC and San Francisco), when the hotels have wiped out the reservations that weren't secured with a credit card. The hotels are eager to let those rooms go, and offer some great deals.
Call the hotel directly
The 800 line sends you to a call center where they don't have the authority to negotiate rates. If you get the 800 line, ask them to connect you to the hotel itself.
And while you're at it, negotiate everything
Parking, phone calls, Internet connection. Don't assume: ask! If the hotel is having an off day (like, the parking lot's mostly empty), they may be willing to take your offer. Be sure you're talking to someone who has the authority to act.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Microsoft has created a spanking new computer-table, er, compu-table, a computer-integrated table for sale only at coffee shops, restaurants and other commercial enterprises. This new computerized tabletop is human touch sensitive and interacts with our digital devices, like cameras, pda's and cellphones. With it, you can place your order from your table, and when it comes, you glass can activate a commercial for you to enjoy alongside you latte. Um...*
Privacy activists are already concerned that you could inadvertently get your information sucked down by just putting your purse or wallet on the table--of particular concern for use at Las Vegas casinos.
Listen to NPR's Michele Norris as she chats it up with Glenn Derene, senior technology editor for Popular Mechanics, regarding the "Microsoft Surface" or read Glenn's article.
The direct competitors for the buyers of the Saturn Aura are the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. Coming soon to a Saturn dealership near you, you'll be able to test drive the Aura...and the Accord...and the Camry, right at the Saturn dealership. Fully confident that you'll see superior quality and ride in the Aura, they put their money right where their mouths are.
I've often wondered what would happen if I told people "Let me take you to the websites of my best competitors so you can compare them to my offerings."
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I changed the listing in the phone book for one phone number for my company and have been bombarded with telemarketers and junk mail for that changed listing. Having found myself getting increasingly frosted by people calling to ask me how I like my copier, my toner supplier, my insurance, my cellphone and more, a friend sent this to me out of the clear blue sky.
They get me on the phone and just start, well, vomiting up their speil on me, whether I want to listen or not. One time, the telemarketer, frustrated with my lack of interested, suggested rather emphatically that I get a decision-maker on the line. I own the company and as President Bush says, "I'm the Chief Deciderator (sigh)."
I laughed like a goon.
Image credit: Randy Glasbergen's
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Student calls the cops and accuses Professor-Your Honor of theft.
OK, so the professor forks over the phone after being grilled by the local constables. About a half-hour later, the student emails the professor to apologize, claiming that he had urgent family matters he was attending to.
Now, people in the discussion forum on the article are spending their time on whether the judge had the legal right to remove the cellphone. Their discussion sounds kind of daft to me. It doesn't have to be against the law to be rude, self-centered and disruptive. My rights end when they infringe on those of someone else's. Besides, the professor had the right to eject the student, cellphone and all, from the classroom and dock the fellow points for his absence. Knowing my cellphone phone was apt to ring, not putting it on "silent" and sitting in the front row...all the while not telling my prof that I was expecting an urgent set of calls is just, well, arrogant and dumb.
Think about it: we do this kind of dumb stuff all the time. Oblivious of the fact that our cellphone habits are disruptive to others, we just let that little bugger ring. Our calls are important, don't you know. I've seen people mumbling into their cellphones at movies, in church, in interviews (yup, I was the interviewer) and in meetings with employees, customers, new vendors. One client, sure that this call was critical, tried to answer a cellphone call...while she was with her granddaughter...on a roller coaster...at Disney World. She just couldn't figure out why she didn't have a life.
They operate with nary a clue that (1) they're being rude, (2) that there are others in the room trying to pay attention to the goings-on (or to them) or (3) that their attention is needed elsewhere.
Aside from whether we have the legal right to use our cellphones when we want (we may), we certainly need to be concerned about our reputations--how we're viewed. And how we're viewed comes, largely from how we leave people feeling. People thrive on feeling like they're important. Splitting our attention, while we firmly believe (despite all evidence from brain science) that we can pull it off, is a less-than-optimal way to operate. In multi-tasking, we don't give any task 100%. With each additional task, our overall task effectiveness drops further and further towards the "negligible" category. I've never felt good with a provider who says they're giving me 100% when it's clear that this isn't the case.
Clearly, if the student had a family emergency (and given my recent history, I'm not one to talk about being emergency-free), he could have still exercised better communication skills. If you're expecting an important call, center stage isn't the place to plop yourself. We've seen people take a call from smack-dab in the middle of the action in a seminar and talk and chat (loudly) out the door while others wait for them to get-gone or hush up.
Telling a customer, vendor, supplier, prospect, referral resource or employee that you're expecting an important, brief, unavoidable call (and that it's the only one you'll take during your meeting), is a sign to them that they're important and that you'll use your time well.
Better still: Don't interrupt your work with another because you're emergency-driven. You may squeeze in that call, while foregoing ever being able to call on that person again.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
First, thank you for your warm welcome. I appreciate your attention and your interest in the subject matter. I particularly appreciate the efforts of Shana Oakley in helping me design a presentation that best suited the needs of the Indy Chapter of the American Society of Women Accountants.
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.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Please follow the train of thought, here. I'll make sense soon, I promise (oh, you trusting souls).
Last week I sent a package of lupins to my brother, Rodney in Atlanta. He's been calling me Lupins since saw the Monty Python episode on Dennis Moore he was 10 an I was 13. He laughed like a goon when he opened the envelope.
Yes, the flower Lupins. See, in these sketches, the fictional highwayman, Dennis Moore, a kind of moronic Robin Hood, who steals lupins to give to the poor. The poor, on the other hand, want food, medicine and money.
(Here's the tricky part where I connect this powerfully to the business of being in business...um, here goes....)
Have you ever noticed how clueless we can sometimes be with prospects? They may want something we don't sell, but, by gum (and I do so know what that means), we're going to find a way to foist off on them something we sell.
We're just not in their world, instead happily lazing about in our own particular orbits. I remember the first time I really listened to the answer when I asked a new associate I was meeting at a networking event "Where are you challenged and how can I help you?" To be frank, it took several passes at the question before he realized that I really wanted his answer (note: not the answer I could have set him up for). First, he said he wanted more money. Knowing that most people really aren't motivated by money, I kept asking. His answers surprised both of us. He wanted his newly-widowed mother to be safe. He worried about her at work and it was effecting his performance. She lived far away and he didn't want her to be lonely.
Now, instead of leaping in to tell him all about how I could help him, I did something completely different. I found someone who could help him with his mother, a family concierge who did errands and companion services for the otherwise-healthy elderly and arranged a three-way call to get them together.
Unlike Dennis Moore, I didn't offer him lupins when he wanted his mother safe.
He was delighted. Later, he surprised me by asking me for help on something I could sink my teeth into and referred me, generously, to others.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
So, my man, Garland, was hiding the fact that his chest goes thump-ouch when he walks up stairs, works out, walks too long or does yardwork.
He does these things a lot.
A good egg, Garland is (He's gorgeous, too). He knew I was worried about my Dad and he didn't want me to be worried about him as well.
He mentioned the thump-ow-y thingy to his doc, who sprang into action suggesting that he have a treadmill test whenever he got around to it. Well, Garland sprang into action with a, um, faster spring (I'll work on that), getting his test set up immediately and, one nitroglycerin tablet later was on his way to get his arteries reamed and a stent installed (kind of sounds funny).
This has had me thinking about the other things in my business and those around me that we're ignoring, hoping that in time they'll go away. Peut etre ("maybe," for those of you who didn't take college French or are we still replacing "French" with "Freedom"?) we should be springing into action on this stuff before it KO's us.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Santiago emailed wanting to know how to strengthen his business enough that he could quit his full-time job and strike out on his own. Last episode (Like Nobody's Business: How We Want to Work...and Live: LNB #039: Ready! Set! Go! (starting off on your own), we discussed the 4-quadrant business planning sheet to get him focused on what matters most. Now, we focus on generating a full pipeline of prospects using the power of your Raving Fans.
At www.totalteamsolutions.com's whitepapers page, you can find the whitepaper "Create Your Kitchen Cabinet," which details how to create an advisory council. Use it to help you find additional customers and key business contacts.
Find and read Raving Fans (One Minute Manager) for more information on how to use the power of people who know, like and trust you to more easily generate new business.
FIND HIM AND CONGRATULATE HIM
Scott Forgey's the gentleman I was referring to on today's show. He's a former attorney and lead large group format workshops on personal and organizational transformation. He's started a new consulting concern, Corporate Training Professionals. Send him an email to wish him well.
One of the things I've learned in being in business is to expect the unexpected--the kind of thing that never crosses your fevered mind while you're sipping a latte in the bank drive-through line. I've met people who had a great business idea and should have been rich, but weren't. I've met people who stunned me with how little they knew about being in business, and by how much success they'd garnered.
I like hanging out on the skinny branches where anything can (and usually does) happen.
One actor epitomizes the unexpected: Christopher Walken. He's a much-lauded, talented and prolific actor with a creepily beautiful face. His movies have grossed over $1 billion in North America alone. He's been an angel, a video game character, a whacked out vet and an evil genius and then some and won't walk away from a part unless he just doesn't have the time. And then there's this music video ("Weapon of Choice" by Fatboy Slim):
Here's what I've learned from Master Walken: Try anything, don't stand on ceremony, be willing to see yourself differently, go broad, and then try going deep. Transform yourself in the service of what you love.
This has had me take several runs at my consulting business over the years, working on projects about which I knew little (like the country and western music video Internet project...ask yourself how much I knew about C&W or the Internet, for that matter, 10 years ago).
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I've been here and there with regard to VOIP/Internet telephony. At one time, thinking that it was very very cool (read: inexpensive) thing, I signed right up.
And then the worries began.
Mostly, my issue was bandwidth: I was using Vonage on a Comcast Cable Internet line. Late in the afternoon and on weekends, there would be periods of low service--kids were getting home from school or waking up on the weekends to use the Internet. The cable company just didn't have the bandwidth I needed to prevent the poor quality of service that I experienced.
Also, there was a feature I needed that I couldn't get: the ability to turn off call waiting, preventing the annoying "BOOP!" during client calls that came into my line. I could turn off the service on outgoing calls and I could turn the service off completely. But I couldn't turn it off for a single in-coming call. This was important to my as I charge a significant hourly rate and my clients wanted to speak to my without interruption.
However, being one to make lemon chiffon cake out of lemons (fah! on lemonade), I've been lining up my little duckies until the bandwidth and service issues are sorted out. Until that time, I've been looking into Bluetooth enabled phones I can use and easily store in the PC Card slot of my notebook (no cockroach in my ear, thank you very much). Kensington has a VoIP Bluetooth Internet Phone that looks very promising. It supports Google, MSN, Skype and Yahoo telephone, boasts 4 1/2 hours of talk with 30 hours of standby time and weighs a whopping 1.6 ounces. The sound is clear (yay) but the compatibility with Vista isn't (boo).
It won't replace my cellphone, but the VO200 is state of the art cool.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Lindsay swills the first cuppa joe at home as she races out the door for a 7 am (who's bright idea was that) meeting at the local LePeeps. Then it's coffee break time, a jumbo iced tea at lunch, two meetings at Starbucks and dinner with a Diet Coke. She finds she can't sleep.
Wonder why. If she were taking her speed in pill form, we'd say girlfriend was "tweaking."
Schedules are more java-fired than ever with people drinking enough caffeine to rev-up a flagging Little League team. We're overworked, to be be sure, and now we're sleep-deprived, needing more caffeine to get us started. We find ourselves cruising for a buzz the way a newly-minted non-smoker hovers of a full ashtray.
Even after-work networking meeting see us drinking Bud Extra, Van Gogh vodka. Red Bull has become our idea of a nice mixer or a great chaser. There are Buzz Donuts (is nothing sacred?). And even lip balm has been spiced up with a jolt of Vitamin Caff. That last one is just wrong.
This is the funny part: in 1674, coffee was seen as a "newfangled, abominable, heathenish liquor" by those in polite society. Men spent more time in coffee shops than in bars, raising the ire of their genteel wives.
I remember my introduction to coffee. I was about 4 when Momma gave me my first cup. It was mostly milk, with sugar and a little vanilla. I can still smell it--warm and sweet. When our neighbors (French and Greek) offered me a cup (I was visiting, a small quiet child with wide eyes), I just knew I had to have it. They even had these beautiful Lita-sized coffee cups and saucers. They were espresso cups and the coffee was Turkish. After listening to me tell her every thought that had ever been in my tiny noggin at any point during the first five years of my life, my Mother took me back over to the neighbors house and explained that they could keep me until I came up for air and stopped talking.
The neighbors are still scarred.
I have to admit: I've got a tea jones going. Chai's my thing, with the anise, cinnamon, clove and black peppercorns. Served over hot soy milk (Lewis Black contends that this isn't "milk" but soy juice--just doesn't sound as good, though) and lots of honey. I have a wonderful travel mug, a Commuter, Double-Shot, Stainless Steel French Press. I can load up enough loose tea (or coffee for you other people) into the sealed compartment at the bottom, and then all I need is hot water throughout the day. Gives me enough for 3 cups of steaming joy.
My point? Hmmmm...
Coffee -- good! Sleeplessness -- bad!
Yeah (sip). That's the ticket.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Seth Godin (Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, The Big Red Fez: How To Make Any Web Site Better and other bovine and color-coded biz books), in his blog posed an interesting idea: You can end a conversation--any conversation--by asking "May I help you?" Weird.
I've heard a man explain that he went shopping for a new freezer. His was broken and his frozen goods were steadily thawing in the garage. He and his wife went to the appliance store--not shopping, but ready to buy. When they walked into the store, a cheerful sales rep asked "Can I help you?" His wife's response? "No, just looking."
"Huh?" he thought. He's still wondering what had his wife, who needed to make a quick purchase to save hundreds of dollars of meats and other pricey perishables, refuse service that would have expedited the sale.
I hear prospects complain bitterly about what doesn't work in their organizations. "Ain't making the money I want" "Takes too much time" "Not as much fun as it used to be" and more.
Ask them to take action to change it and they balk.
What gives? For some, I think there's a certain joy in bitching. Now, you know what I mean. We all have a girlfriend or associate who has really bad relationship that's eating the life out of them. Ask them to consider changing it or leaving, and they offer their excuses for why it can't be any different. Others would gnaw off a limb before accepting an offer to help or to effect a change. Still others are afraid that your solution will work where their didn't.
Gladwell suggests, without saying it out loud, the use of open-ended questions, the kind that give people the change to give a rich answer, instead of leading questions that herds them between, sometimes, untenable positions ("When was the last time you beat your wife?"). Nasty.
Aside from open-ended questions, there's the matter of treating people like widgets. Open-enders give people the chance to think, providing answers that are richer than those given when asked "May I help you?"
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Starting your own consulting firm is not for the timid. One must think like an entrepreneur. Here are a few key areas of your business you should concern yourself with:
- Administration: As I said, the tedious bits of your business that include your phone system, your location, your clerical support, your relationships with bankers, insurance firms, attorneys and accountants
- Research & Development: How you develop your new offerings
- Marketing: Key demographic information about your customers (or proposed customers). What they want, who they are, where they are, how they want to get it and how much they want to pay for it. Includes web, referral and other marketing systems.
- $ (sales, sales support and product/service delivery): What you'll do to close the sale and delivery of the product or service is needed
Some very helpful books:
- Consulting for Dummies by Bob Nelson and Peter Economy: Helps with a general picture of your business endeavor.
- Consulting on the Side: How to Start a Part-Time Consulting Business While Still Working at Your Full-Time Job by Mary F. Cook: How to transition from a full-time job to part-time consulting. Good for people who need a stop along the way to full self-employment.
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber: A great take on the mindsets necessary for successful entrepreneurship