What can YOU do in minute?

I’m an avid reader of business books, magazines, blogs and anything else that provides insight to some corner of the entrepreneurship world that I have yet to explore. One of my favorite publications is Success magazine, but what I look forward to most isn’t the cover story or any one of the entertaining columns by some industry leader or titan of business.

I love the “In a minute…” feature.

It’s just a small little box found in the corner of one of the front sections, and it lists a half-dozen things you can literally do in a minute. It always brings me back to the basics; the simple things I do in a day that may not only benefit me, but benefit those around me – my team, my clients, my friends, my family…

So, in the spirit of “In a minute…” I thought I’d start my own running list of things that can be done in 60 seconds or less. Feel free to steal from it, share it or add to it!

  • Send a quick, “Hi! How ya doin’!” email to an old friend.
  • Send a small congratulatory gift to someone who has achieved a goal (I’m a fan of LittleThings.com).
  •  Give my assistant the afternoon off.
  •  Register for a yoga class.
  •  Zip an article of interest to a prospective client.
  •  Pick up the banana instead of the cookie at the snack counter. 
  • Give my dog a belly rub.
  •  Compliment someone.
  •  Upgrade my usual medium hazelnut latte to a large, just because.
  •  Apologize to someone. (Admit it…we all know someone who may be a little miffed with us!)
  •  Tip an extra $5 at the restaurant.
  •  Make a referral.
  •  Publically proclaim what excellent service I received from (fill in business) on my Facebook or LinkedIn profile.
  •  Say “No,” once in awhile.
  •  Invite my best friend out for dinner.
  •  Send a thank-you note. In an envelope. With a stamp.
  •  Order a new business book for my office library.
  •  Download a podcast.
  •  Close my eyes and visualize my next vacation.
  •  Add a new picture to my vision board.
  •  Get a little fresh air – and a fresh perspective – with a walk around the building.
  •  Giggle at a memory.
  •  Change the radio station to one I wouldn’t normally listen to.
  •  Take a candid photograph of someone.
  •  Ask the always-friendly guy at “my” convenience store what his name is (and remember it!)

These are just a few things that popped into my head in a matter of minutes. What can you do in a minute that might improve your day, or that of someone you know?

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Shoulda, coulda, woulda

Awhile back, I was fired up to be asked to be a guest on a local business radio show. It’s hosted by two very well-respected women in the business community, and every night they feature high-level executives and other community business leaders on their show.

I was, admittedly,  nervous about going on air. I’d never done radio, so my former life in print media didn’t help. At all. Not even a little bit. But, facing daily challenges big and small is par for the course for a business owner, so I chalked it up to one more thing I’d force myself to face and, eventually, overcome.  I figured it would be kind of like facing my fear of Quickbooks.

The show itself is meant to introduce listeners to a local business, an emerging industry, or a newsworthy person. As you can imagine, it’s generally not intended to be highly charged with controversy or conversation that’s too difficult. It’s friendly banter between hosts and guests, with a little education thrown in for good measure.

Imagine my surprise when the host of the show was this close to actually grilling me.

   “Why do you think you can charge so much? I don’t think I’d pay that much for an assistant.”

   “Who would pay for such a service?”

   “I don’t think I’d entrust my creative development to someone else. Where’s the confidentiality?”

   “How do you know who’s really in business? Are you incorporated as a company?”

Don’t get me wrong. These are all good, legitimate questions. In fact,  I happily discuss this stuff with people all the time. I just don’t talk about these things in 15-second sound bites, with someone sitting across from me giving frantic “Wrap it up!” “Finish your sentence!” “Stop talking RIGHT NOW!” signals.

Turns out, my natural need to think before I speak and my tendency to speak too fast when I’m nervous  makes me a crappy candidate for radio.

After the interview, I drove back to my office with the same three words screaming at me. “You shoulda said this!” “You coulda said that!” “If you woulda said this, it would have explained that! ”

Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.

Three words I hate. By their very nature, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about shoulda, coulda, woulda. They remind us that an opportunity just passed us by. They infuriate the perfectionist in all of us. They haunt even the most confident among us. There are entire bookstore sections dedicated to avoiding the shoulda, coulda, woulda … it’s called the self-help section.

All things being equal, the interview I did actually went fine. In fact, the perceived “grilling” was probably mostly in my head and, if you were to listen to it, you’d probably think “It’s fine.”  But, that’s just it. It’s fine. Not good. Not great. Just…fine.

That’s the problem with shoulda, coulda, woulda. It results in “It’s just fine.” Greatness is not achieved with “just fine.”

In fact, I accepted another invitation to be on another business-focused radio show a few weeks later…just to see if I could overcome the shoulda, coulda, wouldas that evidently come when I do a live interview.  When the day came, I walked into the studio with  my talking points rehearsed, determined to think fast and talk slow, say what I mean in 15 words or less, and end each sentence before the “wrap it up” signal.

Nope. Still not cut out for radio. 

I once again caught myself thinking slow and talking fast, rambling on when I didn’t need to, and making the guy in the booth give me an “Any time now…” signal every few minutes. More to the point, I again wandered away thinking about all the things I should have, could have, and would have said given a second chance.

Every so often, things arise that require you to act before you think (in both our professional AND personal lives),  and shoulda, coulda, woulda sneaks up on you, taunting and torturing you. But I also think it does have its purpose … it’s an extremely effective reminder to not be afraid to grab opportunities by the horns, if for no other reason than to spite the shoulda/coulda/woulda voice in all of us. 

Next time I’m asked to do a live interview, I plan to be more preemptive.  I should be OK with the fact that I’ll never be good at them, then I could save myself from any post-interview chastising, and I would be a lot happier.

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Celebrating love … business-owner style

This month marks my second anniversary. It was just about two years ago that I closed my eyes, held my breath, and took the leap. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, except I was in love.

That’s when my business was born.

I think it’s fitting that my firm’s anniversary falls in February. As a sassy, single, 30-something, it’s not only nice to have something to celebrate on Valentine’s Day, but I get to honor a relationship that I have complete and total confidence in … the relationship between me as a person, and me as a business owner.

I’ve learned in the past few years that these are two very different people. In fact, in any other circumstance, I wonder if they’d even be friends. I’d like to think so….

One prefers to sit back and chill out, while the other is constantly chasing challenges. One needs to think before she acts, while the other doesn’t always have that luxury. One can easily live in faded jeans and hiking boots, while the other is way more comfortable in pencil skirts and high heels. One is introverted and shy, while the other can work a room at a networking event. One is happy to let someone else take the lead once in awhile, while the other wouldn’t dream of handing over the reins. To anyone. Ever.

Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs. Sometimes I want to throttle myself when I’m not giving myself enough attention or feel I’m taking myself for granted. I don’t hesitate to holler in protest when I have to concentrate on what needs to happen at the firm instead of ducking out early to get a jump on the weekend. Don’t even get me started when I have to walk away at the end of the day simply because I promised me I’d be home at a decent hour for a change.

But, when push comes to shove, amazing things happen when we work together. When we score another big client, celebrate a record-breaking revenue month, or enjoy the freedom to cut out in the middle of the day to go to a nephew’s ball game or a niece’s choir concert, I know we’re in it for the long haul. I’ll never doubt that I’ve got my back, and I know every decision is in the best interest of me, myself and I.

I know quite a few small-business owners, and I think something we all have in common is the love we have for what we do. We’re absolutely nutty over the clients we serve, we’re head-over-heels crazy about the process of growing a company, and we don’t hesitate about the sacrifices we make to feed our entrepreneurial spirit. We all work hard to balance who we are with who we want to become. We’re forever stumbling, which I’m sure has some wondering if the struggles are worth it. But, ask just about any business owner, and the answer will be a resounding “Yes!”

As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, I want to give a heart-shaped shout-out to business owners both large and small. Whether you run a one-person shop out of the corner of your basement or work out of the top floor of the high-rise building you own, I celebrate you and the love you have for your business. It’s truly a relationship worth celebrating.

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From handshakes to hugs

j0406204-main_FullLast week I attended a customer-appreciation event  for one of my clients. He owns an accounting firm that has been growing by leaps and bounds the past few years, and every year on the anniversary of launching his business, he hosts a great party at one of the local restaurants for all of his clients, friends and colleagues.

My town is a pretty small town in terms of small-business owners. You don’t need to be on the networking circuit very long before you start running into the same people at local business  events. From there, it doesn’t take long for some of these folks to morph from introductions, to passing acquaintances, to referral partners, to full-blown friends. I’ve seen it happen in three events, tops.

This point was driven home at my client’s party last week, when I recognized one of the guests coming through the front door. Instead of walking up to each other with hands outstretched for the perfunctory handshake, it was a big smile, a friendly hug, and questions about her family.

What’s interesting is that I never hang out with this person outside of the professional realm. I’ve never seen her house, met her husband, or even know where she went to college. We’ve gotten to know each other strictly through networking events, shared associates, and business functions.  In fact, we’ve probably never had more than a 10-minute conversation at one time.

But the friendship stars aligned and, within a few business events and one cup of coffee, we seamlessly went from handshakes to hugs.

This particular exchange is indicative of what I see happening every day in my little corner of the world. The number of hugs I share at every event I attend is steadily growing the longer I’m in business and the more involved my firm gets in the local business community. Friendships are quickly forged over cocktails and coffee,  tales from the small-business trenches are shared, and we all seem to share a single, primary goal … to make our mark as successful businesses.

I freely admit that this has become a most unexpected perk of what I do. I mean, I fully expected to be active in the business community and work tirelessly to make the right contacts, build my professional network, and partner with like-minded folks to continue growing our respective organizations.

What I didn’t expect was to see formal handshakes turn into hugs…and how I’ve realized that we need these friendly exchanges just as much as we need the formal introductions to the decision-makers. 

These brief exchanges with newfound friends at some local event allow you a moment to catch your proverbial breath, smile at someone who is out there working as hard as you, and who isn’t expecting to hear your 30-second elevator pitch. You get five minutes of friendly banter with someone you probably never would’ve become friends with had it not be for the fact that you’re both out there fightin’ the good fight for your business.

So, think about that next time you share a friendly hug or pat on the back. They don’t want to hear your sales pitch; they want to hear about your family.

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When the Winds of Change Blow

Every few months I get my hair cut. Not a big deal, really. But, every 6th or 7th cut usually means it’s time.

I like to go to the salon early. I relax with a cup of tea, feel the soft beat of the new-age music piping through the speakers, and mindlessly flip through last month’s tabloids and beauty magazines. Not to mention, I shell out a healthy amount for a hair cut a few times a year — it’s about the only splurge I allow myself, so I want to get my money’s worth.1309478197_a68036ec41

Every few years, I’ll be wading through the usual stack of hair magazines on the table and I’ll unexpectedly run across a picture that will have me wondering if I could pull off a particular look. I show the picture to my trusted stylist and, next thing I know, the long, thick hair I’ve been sporting is a distant memory and I waltz out of the salon with a sassy new bob.

While I’m usually happy with the new ‘do, it’s inevitable that I’ll spend the next few years saying “Just a trim, please. I’m trying to grow it out.”

I guess my point is – you never quite know when the itch for change will strike.

I’m no stranger to change, and I am generally not thrown off by it. In fact, given my short and irritating-even-to-me attention span, I need change to keep the juices flowing. But, don’t let that fool you. With the exception of the occasional impulsive hair cut, I generally spend an inordinate amount of time planning, gauging, preparing, deliberating and thinking before making the leap. But, inevitably, I DO make the leap.

Thanks to my parents, their parents, and their parents before them, this particular corner of my personality is bit of a paradox. Not only am I a staunch creature of habit, but I’ve also inherited equal parts impatience, restlessness, curiosity, caution and a need for security. My good friend Sarah said it best. “You’re like a gypsie who craves an organized office.”

I’ve met quite a few people who are deathly afraid of change. They are afraid of the unknown, of what might happen if they stray from their norm, or what they might miss out on if they change direction and head this way or that instead.

But, what I’ve learned about change is this. If an opportunity for change presents itself, it’s for a reason. You just have to be open to seeing it. Sometimes it’s admittedly hidden behind cloaks of insecurity or the irritating little voice that says “You can’t do THAT! It’ll take way too much energy to be worth it.”

Well, believe it or not, change is happening all around us. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day something inside us and around is changing. It can be as little as an inexplicable need to switch up your morning routine to a niggling little feeling  that has you questioning if your job is truly the right one for you. For us small-business owners, it’s knowing that if you don’t take the next step forward, your competition will be a leg up.

When an opportunity for the new and different rears its head, pay attention to what you do with it. You can ignore it, go with it, fight it or embrace it. The choice is completely yours.  Just don’t be afraid to choose because, whether you like it or not, change will come.

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What would the dog do?

Sophie

Sophie, Rescue Desk Mascot

My pup, Sophie, is the first and only dog I’ve ever had, and she’s everything I’d ever want in a dog. I rescued her from the local shelter a few years ago and, surprisingly, she came fully loaded — she’s fully trained,  fully mannered and fully loveable. She is easily the best dog ever.

She gives the same, tail-wagging reaction to both “Wanna go for a walk!?” and “Wanna go get your nails clipped?!” as long as we’re going somewhere.  She sighs with pleasure when she gets a belly scratch.  When nose-to-nose with the vet for a shot, she pulls through like a trouper without complaint. When she tags along to work with me, she’s a polite welcome wagon for visitors, calmly asking for a scratch on the head before obediently going back to her post in the corner.

I’ll probably never get her to “walk nicely” on her leash, never be able to get her attention when there’s a squirrel nearby, or never get her to stand up for herself when the cat bullies her. But, I also know she’ll stop at nothing to protect me from a suspicious stranger lurking around outside, will always give 110% trying to break the land-speed record to catch a tennis ball, and will be a loyal sidekick on any adventure.

I got to thinking about Sophie and her special dog personality, and it got me wondering. I’m pretty sure dogs provide a quiet influence on how successful their owners’ businesses are built. Hear me out on this …

Loyal
Dogs are loyal by nature. Loyalty is something we, as business owners, hold near and dear. How often do you pick up the same product brands or go to the same service stations out of loyalty? The product or service works for you and your life. As business owners and entrepreneurs, we understand this. I’m always conscious of maintaining loyalty to my clients, and I work even harder to earn and maintain their loyalty to my firm in return.

Protective
This is that innate sense that something feels off.  That inexplicable thing that gets an otherwise mellow pooch to stand at attention, tail up, knowing he may need to fight for what’s right. For us, it’s that quiet whisper in back of our heads that says a particular vendor may not be as trustworthy as he claims, or the inexplicable feeling that a prospective employee will be more trouble for your team than she’s worth. We don’t  hesitate to protect our business and our clients from injustice.

Enthusiastically friendly
With the exception of the “lurking stranger” I mentioned earlier, probably the best trait of any dog is ability to be friendly to anyone. Period. A dog doesn’t see stereotypes, net worth or job descriptions.  How often have we been a bit impatient with a salespeople doing a cold calls to our offices, when they’re just trying to do the same things we are? On the flip side, how many of us have been on the receiving end of rudeness simply because people pre-judge us or what we’re trying to do. I think we could all probably step it up a notch once in awhile in the friendly category.

Instinctual
Imagine if you could bottle the ability to completely trust your instincts without hesitation. While dogs’ instincts can undoubtedly get them into trouble sometimes, the simple ability to know — deep down — what needs to be done is enviable. Think about those times when you didn’t trust your gut and ended up burned. We all have trouble when the “Next Big Idea” for your business looks good on paper, but simply doesn’t feel right;  when instinct says “Wait!” but logic says “Go forward!”  Nine times out of ten, our instincts know how to handle the situation, but we have trouble trusting it.

Genuine
This is right up there with the best-ever doggie traits.  Dogs don’t lie. Come hell or high water, dogs remain true to themselves and their personalities; they don’t succumb to the pressure we sometimes feel to change for anyone or anything. Being genuine in business is the cornerstone to building something successful. Be genuine with your mission, your values, your team and your customers.

So, next time you’re face-to-face with a question, a challenge, or a fork in the road, it may not be too far from crazy to ask yourself, “What would the dog do?”