Business Management

Tools of My Trade

I’ve made a 4-minute video for you of the various pieces of equipment I use in doing my writing, podcasts, video, and audio creations. I thought it might help to see what I use and that I might give you some ideas if you’re in the market for any of this type of equipment.

I’ve also had the video transcribed if you’d rather read than watch and listen.

And, I’ve included a list of all the equipment with links. Many of the links are Amazon affiliate links, by the way. I hope you enjoy and that you find it to be of some value.

Go here if you cannot see video.

Transcription of Video Voice-Over

*Equipment List Follows

00:00:00          Bob:  Hi, everyone. Bob Poole here today, to share with you some of the Tools that I use here in my Office. One of the first things that I really love, is I use two Monitors. I have been doing it, probably, for about six or seven years now. And, I find them indispensable, they just make life a whole lot easier. So, if you ever go to using two, I do not think you will ever switch back.

00:00:19          I use a split keyboard also, for ergonomic reason, I can type better and faster on it. I also have a mouse that positions my hand vertically. You can find some more information about that in the Notes.

That is a typical couple of lines phone, but I use a headset that allows me to walk down three flights, go outside across the street. I can get my mail all while staying connected.

00:00:43          I also have blue USB Podcast Microphone, that is it right there, that I used for Podcasting and recording, even this voice-over that I am doing right now.

This might be something that you have not seen before. It is called a Square and this has taken the place of my Merchant Account. This is actually a little Credit Card Processing Unit, I guess, you would call it. It fits right on top of my iPad. And, I can run a Credit Card right through that. It will also fit on any kind of Smart Phone. I like it on the iPad, and I really like using the thing.

00:01:20          I have a couple of good Studio Monitors for my sound, because, I am going more Video and Audio. Here is a Mixer that will record right to an iPod that I can plug in there. And, I have another microphone setup that will allow me to record to that. So, if I wanted to do Interviews here in the Office, I could do that.

00:01:42          I have an Epson Printer that prints CDs and a Scanner, which, I think is indispensible these days, especially since I do not use a Fax anymore. This is a large Epson Photo Printer. I use it to print photos, because, I still do some of that work, and enjoy doing it. If it is not work, then sometimes just for play and for creative reasons. That is some prints that just came off.

00:02:10          They are sitting right now on top of a table which is really my Shipping Area. This is where I can weigh books and send them out. There is the infamous Fax Machine that is not even plugged into anything … so … I am not sure why I have that.

00:02:25          And, you always have to have a least two dogs in your Office. This is Max, we call him “Max, the wonder dog,” he is the white one. And, over there the little tiny black dog, is named “Sambuca,” he is going to say hello to you. And, besides having dogs, you should also have the Office Cat. This is “Toby”, the Office Cat, sitting in his own chair.

00:02:47          I keep a couple of these lights. These are cool lights, and they are used for Videos, so I can light things when needed. And, I also have a Stereo Digital Recorder. If I want to record tracks and add them to Video, I can do that.

00:03:03          So, that is really it. This is, kind of, a sweep around the Office there, to give you an idea of where I work.

I do use a little Dymo Label Printer that you saw there, which I really like a lot. It saves me a lot of time. I still have a Laptop that I take out once in a while. But, I find that the iPad really does a great job, when it comes to taking its place. I have a little portable keyboard, which I take too.

00:03:26          So, that is about it, we have a couple of other Computer Stations, some printers, and of course what would an Office be, without your Office Mascot. So, here he is – so thanks for being here with us today, taking a look at the Tools of my Trade. Take a look at the Equipment List for more details. Thank you very much.

00:04:07          END OF AUDIO

Equipment List

Dual Monitors – I have both a ViewSonic and a Dell flat screen monitor connected to my desktop computer. The desktop computer, by the way, is one I had custom made for me by a computer wizard who lives near me. It runs Intel Core i7 CPU’s at 2.80GHz with a 16.0 GB solid state drive for the applications and another 1 TB of storage. The reason I have monitors manufactured by two different companies is that the Dells I used to have had continuous problems – usually right after the warranty expired. I love ViewSonic and have experienced no problems.

Keyboard – is a Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite. It took me a little bit of time to get used to it but once I did, I found it to be more comfortable and I type faster. I’m also missing the end of my left index finger and had to learn to type without it years ago and for some reason the shape of this keyboard also helps with that left handed stuff.

Mouse – Evoluent VerticalMouse 4 – wired – USB. This thing saved me from carpal tunnel surgery. You can read about it here and make up your own mind. Again, some people might find it takes getting used to it but it only took me a few minutes and I was mousing away with no pain.

Phone – GN Netcom 2 line with a GN Netcom 9350 wireless headset. Jabra now owns GN Netcom and the most recent wireless headset is the Jabra GN9350 DECT 6.0 Wireless Dual-Functional Office/VoIP Headset System with DSP Technology. It is not the least expensive one but I have found it to be the best I’ve ever used. It just works flawlessly. You’ll need a remote handset lifter to be able to have the wireless headset pick-up and set the handset back down automatically. The phone itself is a good one but no longer made. You can use any phone with the wireless headset and remote lifter.

USB Podcast Microphone – Made by Blue and is the Yeti model. It’s simple to use and the quality is superb.

Square – Start accepting credit card payments without all the hassle and expensive of a bank merchant account. It plugs into the headphone jack of your smart phone. Payments are automatically deposited to your bank. And, the fees are less than any merchant account I’ve found.

Audio Monitors – Mine are M-Audio Studiophile AV40 Powered Monitor Speakers. I love the sound and they are shielded so they don’t cause a problem with the computer or other equipment.

Epson Printers – Both of my printers have been replaced by newer models. I got the small one because it also prints CD’s. A good replacement seems to be the Epson Artisan 50 Color Inkjet Printer. The large photo printer is a 4800P which was replaced by the Epson 4880. I’ve had good success with Epson products and don’t hesitate to recommend them. All the inkjet printers cost too much to operate. At the price of ink the printers should be almost free.

Scanner – Mine is an Epson model 3170 photo. It has been replaced and there so many models of scanners I would suggest you get the best one in your budget that gives you great resolution. If I was replacing mine today I’d buy this one. Epson Perfection V600 Photo Color Scanner.

Dymo Label Printer – my model is out-of-date. If I was buying a new one (and I will when this one dies) I would purchase the Dymo 450 Twin Turbo Printer. It holds two sizes of labels so you can do stamps on one side and address labels on the other without having to change labels.

Digital Shipping Scale – Ultra Ship Model 75 is what I use in my mailing area. I like it because it will weigh up to 75 pounds in .1 ounce increments. The display is a remote with a 3 foot cable for weighing large items and it will hold the weight. It’s also programmable.

Sony PCM-M-10 digital recorder – it is a 24-bit stereo recorder. I use it when I want to record high-end audio to add to my videos or for anytime I want to really be able to control audio recordings. It’s a  great piece of equipment.

Lighting Equipment – I have a lot of lighting equipment from my professional photography days. But, you don’t need pro equipment for video. I like using a couple of inexpensive softboxes with cool fluorescent lamps. Throw in a couple of stands and you have a pretty good setup. Here’s a kit that will give you everything you need. Photo Basics 403 uLite 3-Light Kit.

Audio Mixer – I have an Alesis iMultiMix 8USB. It is a mixer and recorder that has 24 bit-digital effects and an integrated iPod dock to direct-to-iPod recording.

A couple of things I didn’t mention in the video that I use are the:

Logitech 720p Webcam C310

Azden WMS-PRO Wireless Microphone System

Audio-Technica ATHM40FS Precision Studio Headphones

Kodak Zi8 Pocket Video Camera

Dogs and Cats – You’ll have to find your own but I recommend visiting your local shelter or other organizations that adopt animals.

Small Business Sales Secrets


There are many, many secret for sale success for small businesses that I’ve either learned from a Sales Wizard over the years or through my own trial and error. The first secret for small business success is to remember you are a small business. Don’t try and act like a large one even if that is your goal – at least until you’re ready. Thing big but act small. Here are some more that should be present in your small business.

  1. You’re nimble. You can make decisions quickly and change directions on a dime.
  2. You can keep costs low. Your start-up is much less costly than what it cost not too many years ago.
  3. My favorite is you engage in collaboration and not competition.
  4. You’re not surrounded by naysayers with different agendas.
  5. You’re more innovative than 99% of large companies.
  6. You can quickly become a leader within your tribe and community.
  7. As typical non-conformists you are superb idea creators.
  8. Your leader is involved in client interaction giving you a tremendous advantage over faceless large companies.
  9. You don’t engage in CYA as the buck really does stop with you so you can think big without the fear of making a mistake.
  10. You can create openness throughout the organization.
  11. You can create, participate in, and track remarkable – even extraordinary – experiences for your customers.

If you’re a small company and you don’t see all of these ten in your business it’s time to reassess if maybe you’ve lost sight of why you started your small business and where you’re headed.

This is the beginning of the small business sale success secrets that I and the Sales Wizard will be sharing with you over the coming weeks. Let’s make it a two-way conversation and share your sales secrets too. Remember openness is key for us.

Your Call Is Important – Unless We’ve Pissed You Off – Part 2

This is Part-Three of a Five-Part Series on Customer Service. Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s including some updates about Avid Technology. Why not sign-up hereto get the rest of the series delivered to you by email? Thank you.

 

 

Difficult to Believe!

On Saturday I got an email from Avid Technology asking me to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Really – I’m not making this up!

Even More Difficult to Believe!

You may remember from yesterday that I was waiting to hear back from both Avid offshore support and a gentleman whose name is Adam from Avid Social Strategy | Corporate Communications in Burlington, MA. I assumed that Adam was still working on the problem and that’s why I hadn’t heard from him yesterday. The offshore guys had promised they would get back to me with a solution Thursday or Friday. I’m pretty sure they meant last Thursday or Friday but I started to wonder if we had a communication problem.

Then finally last night, I got an email from offshore support. I thought finally I’ll have my answer. Here’s what it said:

We have not heard from you concerning your request for support in the 5 days since we sent you a response.
Consequently, we have changed the status of your question to SOLVED

At this point in the story you have GOT to be laughing with me.

I couldn’t take any more craziness so I forwarded the email to Adam with a note that asked the question, “Are you embarrassed by this?” To Adam’s credit, he called my office and left a voice mail last night around 9:30 letting me know he had received the email, that he is still working on the problem, that he apologizes for the delay, and he left his mobile number so I can call him anytime if I have a question.

So Adam is one of the good guys. The question is will Avid let Adam deliver the kind of exceptional service that Adam obviously wants to deliver. I hope so. Not for me but for Adam. He deserves better.

On to the last name in our Customer Service Hall of Shame.

  • AWeber Email Marketing – I’m shopping for a new Email Marketing partner and since AWeber is in my back yard, I thought I’d check them out. The first thing they told me is they would have to run an confirmed opt-in on mine and my client’s email addresses to make sure they are all permission based. I had already explained I have a large, active list that gets mailed regularly and they are all permission based. I even told them what email services provider I’m with now.

I also told them “we” were not going to be doing a confirmed opt-in because I know for a fact that 50-80 percent of the people on the list just won’t see the email and then they will get dropped from the list. Then we will spend months answering their emails when they ask why they aren’t getting their newsletters, blogs, reports, etc. And, remember we do this for clients and not just our company so our clients will definitely be unhappy.

AWeber responded by asking me more questions. Okay so far – sort of – although I felt like I was working hard to become a customer.

Their next response was to ask me a lot more questions that all had to do with them asking “Are these permission based emails?” And, it was work this time as I had to gather a lot of statistics from my current system reports.

The last email (and the last email forever with AWeber as far as I’m concerned) was from Chase the Import Specialist who told me he wanted my login and password for my email service provider account at my current provider so he could see the data and history for himself that I had just sent him – much of which was cut and pasted so he could see it came from their system and not mine.

At first I considered sending the login and password to him along with my date of birth, social security number, long-form birth certificate, passport, and the encrypted pass-code to every login and password I have. Then I thought, “On second thought, I think I’ll find a different email service provider.” One that doesn’t approach potential customers with the attitude that they are obviously lying since this is how AWeber left me feeling.

There is a lot of irony here too as AWeber managed to lose their customer list database to hackers not once but twice in the past couple of years.

And, Chase, the Import Specialist, has lived up to his name and chased away a new potential customer.

I could go on with more examples and I know you have plenty of your own. Feel free to respond in the comments as you already have yesterday. The point isn’t to take these companies to task. That would be too easy. My concern is that too many companies still believe they are the ones in control of their customers when this is absolutely not the case anymore.

And, that is a wonderful thing for all of us!

 

By giving up control and allowing the customer to have control, companies can get instant feedback from many sources on the web as to how they are doing and they can put out any fires before they get out of control. That’s why Adam at Avid is monitoring Twitter. He can get positive and negative feedback instantly. Now if they only let him act on it the way they should Avid will be on its way to a big change in customer service. By the way, so you know I’m not picking on Avid, this is the second time I’ve had this type of experience with their offshore support. Last time it took a product manager in Germany to jump in and find the solution.

While product managers should get constant feedback about their customer base it is not a good use of their time to be first-line support. That’s why companies have got to continually invest in the quality and education of the people who deal face-to-face, phone-to-phone, etc. with their customers.

Customer Service should not be an entry level job which too many companies consider it to be. And, Customer Service should potentially be on a career track to anywhere in the company.

Who do you think knows more about your customers, products and services – your C-Level executives or the people in customer service?

Now where will you invest your company funds, raises, and bonuses this year?

Your Call Is Important to Us – Unless We’ve Pissed You Off.

This post turned out to be so long I have turned it into two-parts. Part-two will be available early Wednesday morning. Or, why not sign-upto get it in email?

 

You’d think with the economy as slow as it is right now that companies would be doing all they can to retain their customers. It is a fact that it is a lot more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain the ones you have.

But, it appears that once again that the Sales Prevention Department in many companies has reared its head. Instead of investing in the people who communicate with and serve the customer; companies are using this economic downturn as an opportunity to cut-back on customer service.

Instead of doing everything possible to thrill and retain their clients companies are outsourcing their customer service, using half the number of people they need in front-line, customer-centric jobs, and refusing to upgrade both support infrastructure and employee education.

And, when things go to hell and the customer is mad as a wet hornet, the company often uses the economy (or in the case of one company – the heat) as an excuse for the problems of their own making.

Here are a few of my recent personal experiences:

  1. Nature’s Prime Organic Foods – I became a customer in March. Well, I tried to become one. I bought a coupon through Groupon for Nature’s Prime. I placed my order and I also spent another $100 in addition to the $80 Groupon. The first thing the company did was charge my credit card for the entire order despite the fact they were not shipping for a couple of weeks. Those couple of weeks became months.

During all this time Groupon was fantastic. They were also embarrassed by Nature’s Prime’s communication and inaction. As the weeks turned into months, Nature’s Prime refused to communicate with me at all. NONE! They just ignored all requests. And, once again, that is what they did to many, many more customers.

Groupon finally gave up after they missed two more delivery dates and told me to file a dispute with my bank credit card. I sent that message to Nature’s Prime and suddenly got a call. The young lady was much harried and I could tell she was probably getting an earful from customers every minute of her day. She refunded my purchase.

Some companies will never learn they are not in control of their customers. Natures Prime Organic screwed over hundreds of people this year by not shipping their orders after immediately charging their cards. Most of this was part of a Groupon deal. Even Groupon could not get them to comply.

Yesterday the CFO posted on their Facebook Fan page “very pleased to announce the signing of lease for retail outlet/dist. Center in Melbourne Fla.” Fifteen people immediately responded with complaints.  I posted that they might want to consider investing in their people and customer service instead of brick and mortar for distribution. They responded by
removing my and some other posts. Then they took away the ability for people to leave them comments. The obviously believe customer communication is one-way and they are in charge.

I guess they never heard of Dell Hell. Here are some links I quickly found of people posting complaints.

http://natures-prime-organic-foods.pissedconsumer.com/nature-s-prime-organic-foods-groupon-scam-20110712248458.html

http://www.ripoffreport.com/directory/Nature-s-Prime.aspx

http://www.yelp.com/biz/natures-prime-organic-foods-chaska

By the way – they are the company using the heat as an excuse for not shipping. I’m sure the heat has been a problem in shipping at times this summer. But it wasn’t a factor all year. And, the heat wasn’t a reason for not returning calls, emails, and following through when they said they’d do something. And, when you have this many problems turning the conversation into what you think is one-way is a recipe for turning the internet into a megaphone blasting out your  actions.

  • Avid Technology is a large, publicly traded, international audio and video company. One of their divisions is Pinnacle. I’ve used Pinnacle products for a few years for video editing, creation, etc. so a few months ago I upgraded to their latest product called Avid Studio. I’d love to let you read the entire log of emails over the last couple of weeks between their first-level, offshore support and me. You’d either die of laughter or from crying.

Here is a little of our email dialogue:

Me:  I am shooting video in widescreen. I also have Control Panel, Project Settings, and New Movie format set for NTSC Widescreen. I have both tried checking and unchecking the “Detect format from first clip added to project. If we cannot detect the format we will use the format above.” However, when I drag a clip onto the timeline it will only put black borders on each side of the image filling up the widescreen. It will play widescreen movies fine that I previously made in Pinnacle using the same equipment with no problem. Your help is appreciated. Thank you.

Support’s Answer was – “I apologize for the inconvenience. Let me help you with that. That would be great also if you can provide me a screenshot of your problem for me to have a clear understanding of your case. Please give me a screenshot of the problem.”

“Screenshot!” I thought. “This is a video editing problem. How will a screenshot help?”

So I wrote back, “Instead of a screenshot which won’t actually show you what is happening, I created a video of the problem using GoView. All you have to do is go to this URL to see it. I look forward to a solution soon.

Their response – “I do appreciate the video you made. But I still need some information. Please do a right-click on the thumbnails of your videos then select ‘Display Information’ and please tell me what do you see the value of ‘Frame Aspect.’ You can actually toggle the project format and set it to NTSC widescreen or other, but for that to apply in a project, you need to change the settings first then create a new project to apply the changes made in the settings. “

The discerning reader will notice that the last sentence is exactly what I told them I was already doing in my first email.

This went in circles some more and then I asked to have my case escalated to the next level of support. They agreed and I then heard from another guy who I eventually decided sat in the same cubicle as my first support person. He asked me to send him a piece of the actual clip that is not processing correctly. I did a week ago on last Tuesday and he promised to get back to me by Thursday or Friday with a solution. I thought, “Why will it take 2-3 days more for them to respond. “ I was wrong. I’m writing this Monday afternoon and I still have not heard from them.

In the meantime, I started putting some tweets out about Avid’s customer service and looking for help. I also sent emails to two people I knew of from a couple of years ago but did not hear back from them. I did hear from a guy in their home office on Friday who follows their Twitter account and he promised to look into it and he had hoped to get back to me by COB on that day. I dropped him a note on Saturday morning and he said, “I’ll be in touch.”

Let’s stop here since the Avid story is ongoing. It’s Monday at 3:45PM EDT and I’ve yet to hear from the guys at the offshore site who promised to get back to me last Thursday or Friday. Nor have I heard from the guy at corporate who wanted a solution by last Friday but who now says he’ll be in touch. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll have an update.

Meanwhile, we all know what good and bad customer service feels like. With one you come away feeling like you just enjoyed a bite of an Amedei Chuao chocolate bar.

With the other, you feel like you just discovered you’ve run out of toilet paper and you’re in a public restroom.

Your Call is Important to Us. Please Hold.

Somebody Has to Say It!
A 5-part series about customer service.

At some point in a company’s growth phase, someone in management will present to the board what they think is a fantastic idea for saving lots of money and thereby earning more money for stockholders. Usually this person has a role in finance and their title, while not important, is often controller, director of finance or maybe even Chief Financial Officer.

The really great idea goes like this, “Let’s outsource our customer service department.” And, the majority of the time when they say outsource they are referring to offshore outsourcing.

They will quote statistics and other company’s experiences to back-up their belief that outsourcing customer service can be done both effectively and with a positive outcome if correctly implemented. They’ll probably propose that the 30% in costs that they save by outsourcing can be applied to enhance other customer service interactions.

They might even keep a straight face when they say it.

All this and more is the story third-party call centers tell the finance departments and it’s an easy story to swallow if you believe:

  1. You will also be able to reduce capital equipment costs.
  2. You will be able to fire your current customer support staff.
  3. You will have a fixed expense that will look so much better in your annual report.

In my opinion, companies that outsource their customer service don’t care much about the level of their customer service in the first place. How could they when they are willing to place short-term monetary gains over their customers’ satisfaction? Meanwhile, every single person who hasn’t been living alone in a cave for the past 15 years has horror stories of dealing with customer service that has been outsourced.

This is the first post in a five-part series about customer service.

In tomorrow’s post, I detail names and experiences that left me feeling like my pocket was picked and the thief left behind a razor blade for me to find when I went looking for my wallet.

Customers and Sharks


When company policy leaves your customers feeling like you’ve taken advantage of them – you’ve jumped the shark.

When you allow your financial officers to determine how your customers are treated – you’ve jumped the shark.

When you sell to your customers before listening to them – the shark has you in its jaws.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

A little over five years ago, I signed up for a merchant account with my business bank to process credit cards. I had resisted getting one as I had bad memories of fees and rules that turned me off when I first had one over 35 years ago. I had managed to do without it for years by only accepting cash and checks. But, the world changed. I tried PayPal for a while but they were still in their early days and had too many problems. I do believe a lot of that has changed and they are not a bad option these days.

But, there’s a new sheriff in town and I think this one is going to clean up the mess the payments industry has made of itself. It is called the Square. You may have already seen it advertised or even run into it as it has been in the market for a year. Yesterday Square launched a new update to their app that is available on the iPad and comes with new features that makes it easier for customers to buy from small businesses and for small businesses to sell to their customers. You can read more about it here.

Let’s get back to my merchant account experience. My bank happens to be PNC which is no worse than most and better than many of the giants. But, when it comes to merchant accounts all banks act like loan sharks or clueless simpletons dependent upon which role suits them when you try to get answers to questions about your account.

I was paying three different fees each month plus a lease fee for the POS terminal from First Data Global Leasing. First Data Global Leasing seems to be managed by the worst customer centric people on the planet. Don’t ever do business with them unless you want one of the worst experiences possible when it comes to service and communication. Sadly you won’t have a choice if you have a bank merchant account as nearly all of them seem to use First Data (the parent company) as an entity whose name must not be spoken based on the fear they seem to strike into the hearts of bankers. But  it is unlikely you’ll ever deal with them directly. They, along with your bank, will take a piece of every dollar you’re paid by your clients that goes through a credit card payment.

With the merchant account, it was almost impossible to determine what rate my total fee would be in any given month including the hated and totally not understood interchange fee. There was even a higher rate fee if I processed a payment without adding in sales tax. However, in PA customers don’t pay sales tax on everything including some of my services. But, that didn’t matter to the bank, Visa, or the company whose name must not be spoken. I got charged more for following the tax laws! If I asked the bank about the fees they blamed Visa or that nebulous entity.

In short the entire experience and payments processing industry is in FAIL mode. Square means to change that. Not only with its square dongle device where you can swipe a card or input the card numbers without the card being present but with a feature called Tab where you can open a virtual tab (like a bar tab) at businesses so you don’t even need to bring your credit card. Your information including your photo can be stored with your permission so future purchases are one touch.

Businesses can enroll for to become a participating merchant. That’s what I just did and it didn’t cost me any fees for enrollment, etc. And, I pay a flat 2.75% transaction fee. I’ll also get great analytics. I’m so happy right now I want to jump up and click my heels but I’d probably break something.

The bottom line is Square wants to transform the entire payments industry to make is friendly and simple. Visa is running to catch-up with their own virtual wallet.

Want to bet it isn’t as simple or friendly for businesses?

Do yourself a favor and check out Square and the new Card Case.

The Business of Creativity

Do you love your clients? You should. We do here because we know that they could have gone to thousands of other consulting firms and sales and marketing coaches. I get all excited when a client chooses us because I know they found something out before they invested in our services that made them love us too. And, so we do our absolute best to deliver really great results and value to them.

If you’re in any kind of service – especially creative services – then you know that a client relationship has many of the same elements as a marriage. You may not always agree on everything and there will be times when you want to stomp out of the room and sulk but ultimately you come together as a team for your mutual benefit. And, when you do work as a team and also share respect and caring about each other then most often magic happens in the creative fields. That’s when you shift into feeling and creating and forget about contracts and fees and all the stuff that all business owners face.

Often I talk to sole-practitioners or freelancers who find themselves always worried about being successful. They worry constantly about the business side of their business because they have identified that’s their weakness. This worrying and fear ends up taking away from the creative side which then affects the business side and round and round we go – usually in a downward spiral.

The truth is that not everyone who lives a life of creativity can be a successful business person too.

But, you can partner or team up with someone who has the business skills. You can find someone who already understands the business side and make them your partner. You can hire someone who specializes in what you need and make them a permanent part of your team. They’ll make you money because you can now focus on the creative side.

The same thing goes for client development which is a euphemism for selling. You have to sell yourself, your company and your services. And, you have to put yourself in front of enough people who are interested in purchasing services like you offer so you can tell your story. That means spending a lot of time marketing, prospecting, and selling. Once again, not everyone can do that. You may be the best animator or designer or copywriter in the country. But, if you can’t market, prospect and sell it won’t matter unless you plan on working for the man all your life and even then you’ll be expected to do a fair share of all three of these jobs.

The solution is the same as above. Why be a lone wolf when you can be the leader of a pack? Almost all the creatives I meet that tell me their story of going it alone and struggling or failing are not the types of people who would prefer to live in a cave by themselves. Most of us humans have a deep need to belong to a community, team, or tribe.

Why be a lone wolf when you can be a leader of a pack? Build a team. Build a family.

Photo compliments of Brandon Carpenter

It Will Happen to You Too

loose lips sink shipsI have a secret to tell you about people. They don’t always tell the truth. And, some of them will wish you the best of success while thinking of ways to overtly or covertly mess up your plans.

When you’re getting ready to start a new business or launch a new product you’ll get all excited and probably even a little scared. You’ll want to tell people all about it before it’s time and that will sometimes backfire on you. Or, people will wish you the best of success while actively working to sabotage you.

For example, when I started my first photography studio in the early 70’s in my hometown, I chose to purchase all my equipment and supplies from a local camera store instead of from one of the big professional dealers. I paid at least a 20% premium on most of the equipment but I wanted to support the community and buy locally.

About nine months later as I was moving the studio to larger and better space and I needed more equipment. I happened to be talking to another local businessperson and told them my plans. They asked if I still bought from the local store and I said, “Yes, of course.” Then he told me that I should know that the manager of the store (not the owner) was always “bad mouthing my work.” I was shocked as I was still very young and very idealistic. I thought “Why would someone do that when I am giving them more business than any other place in town?”

It doesn’t matter why he did it. The not-so-secret-secret is that people will betray your trust and support. Your banker with whom you shared information about a commercial property you are going to buy will tell someone he knows who has been looking at it and that someone will buy it out from under you. It will happen to you too.

You’ll share your idea for a new venture with someone you think of as a friend and they will tell someone who will tell someone who also thinks it is a good idea. It will often be inadvertent. People like to tell secrets. It makes them powerful or it gets them needed attention. It will happen to you too.

A motto during WW II was “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships.” It’s not a bad one to consider before you launch your ship. You wouldn’t want to see it never set sail or sink at sea. And as far as dealing with the type of person like my camera store manager take my advice and when you can verify that someone is working against your success – write them off. They’ll never ask you why you quit doing business with them. They’ll already know. It happens to them all the time.

Image compliments of Ajay Tallam

I’d Rather Set My Hair On Fire

Have you ever had a telephone conversation with someone while also catching up on your email or surfing the latest news?

Have you ever been on the phone trying to talk with someone only to realize they aren’t paying attention but are instead reading from the screen in front of them?

Nobody disagrees with the importance of really listening to each other. In fact, I’ve tracked it on Twitter and you’ll see that thousands talk about the importance of listening. If that is all true then why do so many people do just the opposite?

To listen – truly listen to someone you have to tune everything and everyone else out.

This is one reason I don’t understand why so many companies insist on having telephone conference calls that last for an hour or more. Most of them are usually scheduled for one hour and it seems like whoever is leading the call always feels the need to fill that time. As a result, the majority of the people on the call have a speaker or headset on while they read their mail, check out their favorite blogs, clip their nails and groom the dog. And, what is even more amazing to me is how many people have to attend these calls every day and sometimes multiple times.

Yikes! I’d rather set my hair on fire!

I know that’s easy for me to say but you get the point.

You’ve probably played the game where a group of people get together and someone leads off by whispering to the next person a statement that is written down. Then that person tells it to another and one-by-one the story is passed down the line. By the time the final person at the end of the chain states out loud to the group what they think they just heard the entire initial story has changed and often so much so there isn’t any resemblance to it.

If this can happen when you know you’re supposed to be listening imagine what the outcomes are of corporate decisions dependent upon team conference calls that last for hours where your attention is less than focused.

Managers love these kinds of calls.

Leaders detest them.