“Life is what happens when you have other plans.”

     I don’t know who originally said this, but it is very, very true.  We are all learning to focus on building our businesses, sometimes to the exclusion of other activities.  We plan our strategies, we plan our timelines, and we plan the activities we need to accomplish to achieve our goals. We sometimes over-schedule with the belief that we are superhuman and can be all things to all people.
    But what happens when life interferes?  Do you just postpone all activities until the smoke clears?  Depending on the seriousness of the situation some people put their whole lives on hold, no business, no friends, no fun, no nothing. This can be very expensive; relationships are fragile, business can happen without you and line competitor’s pockets, you can stress beyond normal expectations.
    I think that there is an in-between place that represents a compromise in your schedule.  Recently, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to experience a series of life altering situations.  Each would have been manageable on its own, but as a group they really set me back.  And this could happen to you with any kind of unexpected crisis (is that an oxymoron?).
    My solution, which by the way is not an original thought so you can copy it freely, was to really assess, within my new time restrictions, what is really important.  I put my blogs on hold, but I did publish my newsletter on time.  I put off networking and doing any of the myriad of tasks that I had promised were “no problem.”  Except for taking care of my critters all housekeeping chores went to the bottom of the list-that one was easy. I let contacts know that I would be on hiatus for a while, but will be back soon and was still available for calls.
    You know what-the world didn’t come to an end during my voluntary suspension of life’s plans.  Nobody got mad, or even mildly upset; they all understood my challenges.  Everybody was very supportive and available if I need any help.  They may even appreciate me more for my resilience in the face of disaster.

I’m sure they are all very happy to see me getting back on track with life’s original plan.  The plan, of course, was of course modified to reflect some of my new priorities.  My schedule now includes down times, fun times, and family times. Never again will I be caught by those times when “life has other plans.”

They Won’t Bite

public speaking 2

Are you deathly afraid of public speaking?  You are in the majority; most people feel the same. Public speaking is the number one fear reported by people in the United States. Extreme      anxiety can strike at any time you have to communicate your ideas to other people. You may be afraid that they will reject your ideas, or be bored by your presentation.

You can reduce some of your anxieties if you are very well prepared.  Write out your speech completely so you have a guide to follow.  Use a highlighter to mark the key points of  your presentation.  This guide will help you stay focused. Visual aides like power point slide shows or flip charts can help you stay on course while giving your audience a place to focus instead of staring at you. It also helps to practice in front of a mirror or with a friend who can help you tune up your speech so you know it from top to bottom.

Keep in mind that your audience is not really there to see you; they are there to get the information you have to offer.  Remembering that it’s not about you is a great stress reducer. Your goal at seminars is not to sell your products or services, it is to impart practical information that your audience can use; the sales will come later.

Remember that when you are sharing your ideas in front of an audience, you are the expert.  What you have to say is more important than how you say it.  Each time you have to stand up in front of people, it will be easier; in time, you will wonder why you had so many challenges in the first place. The old adage that “practice makes perfect” is as true in public speaking as in any other endeavor.

I Can’t Afford Groceries

Why didn’t I eat more lobster when I was younger and it was affordable?  It is one of the worlds’ most delectable foods, sweet, succulent, decadent. Recently I was reading a catalog and saw lobster tails for the most incredible prices!  Six oz. tails are $51.95 a pair, 26 oz tails (monsters) are $209.00 a pair.  How can this be possible?  Maybe I can understand the scarcity of the really big tails and thus their high price, but please explain why 6 oz or 8 oz ($$115.00/pair) tails are so high.

And while you are at it, please explain why “junk” meats are now so expensive, like flank steak, short ribs, tongue, and lamb shanks. These were all economy cuts that could sustain families on tight budgets.  Today’s vast number of cooking shows on TV have shown us how to turn them into tasty dishes so they are now popular and thus nobody can afford them.

What’s next? Are we going to have to live on pasta, rice and lettuce? How sad?

After List

We have talked about the importance of using “TO DO” lists to be more productive.  It also helps to write down the five most important things you have to do tomorrow before you turn in for the night. Both of these are good tools to use to improve your productivity.

Here is another version that can really get you started on the road to success.  This works in the office, at home, and with any other activities.  Throughout the day write down everything you do.  Include all projects; big and small.  Your list may include something as simple sounding as “got up on time” to something more complicated like “made a presentation”.

You will be amazed, especially if you think you have been running in circles, at how much you really get done in a day.  Take a few minutes at the end of the day to study your list and pat yourself on the back for all your small victories.  It has been said that it is easy to move a mountain if you do it “one spoonful at a time.”

This exercise, sweat not included, has several benefits.  You will see just how much you can accomplish, you may find yourself wanting to tackle a few more projects, or you will find that you are not running in circles after all.  It will also help you keep focused and moving ahead.

Finally, make notes in your journal about how wonderful you are.

Move Over

Are you getting in your own way?  This often the most misdiagnosed challenge for a small business.  You have a vision of where you want to be, but you are using rusty tools to get there.

The business world has changed drastically in the last fifty years. Many of us are still sticking like glue to old wisdom or systems.   The internet is probably the culprit.  Ideas and lessons can now spread so quickly that it is difficult to stay ahead of the curve.

We often live in our comfortable bubbles and not taking advantage of changes.  This is not surprising since most people don’t like change very readily. Change can be a very good thing and a powerful tool for advancing your business if you embrace it. If you must question change; ask yourself “what is the worst possible outcome if I take this action?  Can I live with the consequences?”  You will be surprised how much smaller your problems will seem when you take the steam out of them.

Stand in front of your mirror and take an honest, objective look at yourself.  Do you see the same things that your clients do, or are you living in a different reality?  If you can’t see the differences yourself, get a coach or neutral friend (rare) to help you see reality.

It is important to review your goals, mission and vision and change them if necessary on a regular basis.  Participate in continuing education opportunities within your field.  Carefully look at the leaders and competition to see what they are doing better, what they are doing worse, and how you can do better.

Business today is run more on brain power than brawn.  Use yours to help you grow your business.

Trade Schools Save Money

It’s time to go back to school.  Not to study, although that would be a good thing, but for services.  I have just had the best experience at the dental school at University of the Pacific.  The residents do the work and are supervised by dentists; and they excel because they are being graded.

Many schools have internship programs that hone student’s skill while serving the public.  Consider having your hair cut at the local beauty school or your car fixed at the auto repair academy.  You will usually get better than average work and service at a very attractive price. The students are reliable and well supervised with the newest trends and technology.

Trade schools are a great way to get high-quality services while balancing your family’s budget.

No Man is an Island

John Donne, a late 14th, early 15th century metaphysical poet, is credited with the familiar saying “no man is an island.”  We often forget just how important this message is, especially to our businesses. Even if you are a one person business you have to rely on vendors and customers for your livelihood.  You are never truly alone, but dependent on others.

Among the tools in your toolbox should be the groups and associations that you belong to or visit often.  These meetings are often called mixers, but that is not their only purpose. Their real purpose is to give you the opportunity to renew friendships and meet new people who can help you make your business grow. These new relationships may be potential customers, vendors, resources or just inspirational .

Within your business planning should be a category for the groups that will be the most beneficial.  These may be the local chambers of commerce, a fraternal organization, or a business group that meets to share leads and information about the community. Each is going to introduce you to wonderful people who you can help and can help you. Take time to explore the possibilities.  Attending meetings that don’t relate are a waste of time.

Don’t forget that you also have groups in social media; if you don’t join some immediately.  Search through Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or other platforms to find groups that you can really relate to, or look at professional associations. Post or comment on a regular basis to stay engaged and build your relationships.  Take advantage of the fact that many of the people who join groups are ready and willing to share tips and tricks of their industry and you are in a position to share with them.

Man cannot thrive when isolated, think solitary confinement. Your groups and associations are a significant part of your success; they help keep you grounded while helping your soar. They are living things that resides in your toolbox and are always ready to help. They can make a real difference in your success.

Some Banks Save Time and Money

All is not lost.  There are banks that still pay interest on your checking and savings accounts.  There are several banks, like Voya and Ally, that are online only; they don’t have any “brick and mortar” locations.  Since their operating costs are lower than traditional banks they are able to pass the savings on to their customers. Besides paying interest on your accounts, they often pass on other savings for you; no fees or ATM charges

There are lots of pluses to these companies.  They are available 24/7 and specialize in exceptional customer service.  Yes, traditional banks are available 24/7 too, but they are not as efficient.  Because these banks are driven by space age computer networks they are able to provide your information in real time.

Online banks have become known for their innovation.  If there is a new system in banking, or changes to your accounts you will probably find it first at your online bank. Check them out for convenience, savings and great customer service.

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Park Your Ego at the Door

Park Your Ego

Are you working your tail off, 60 to 80 hours per week, at your business and not getting the results you think you should?   Maybe you have unrealistic expectations.  Or maybe you are sabotaging yourself. Maybe it is time for a reality check.

If you keep a work log for a week, no cheating, you will have a picture of where your efforts are making a difference, and where you are spinning your wheels.  Having this map to refer to you will now be able to see where your plans are working, or how you have to adjust them to make them work.

In order to accomplish your goals (you have listed them, haven’t you?) it important that you work smarter not harder.  Planning and realistic goals are the keys to being effective. You may notice that reality plays a big part in making your plans work for you. Park your ego at the door.

Among the biggest mistakes you can make is to have unrealistic expectations.  You try to fly before you can crawl and get upset if life doesn’t work out that way you will handicap yourself.

To really succeed it is important for you to park your ego at the door and become flexible. Being stubborn about how things “should” be done will bring you down, fast.

There are multiple ways to attack any challenge. Check the internet, read a book, or use a consultant to become familiar with your choices. Putting your head in the sand and ignoring other possibilities will have a huge negative impact on your success. A “my way or the highway” attitude is fatal.

When you relax a little, consider your choices, work smarter, not harder, and park your ego at the door your chances of success will be greatly enhanced.

Are You Frustrated ?

There is a new central agency that you can contact if you are having challenges with your mortgage, credit cards, or other financial product.  You can reach the Agency at http://www.consumerfinance.gov.  or toll free at (855) 411-2372.

The Agency has been created by the Consumer Protection Bureau to help those of you who are completely frustrated by your attempts to fix the problem yourself.  Banks may seem bigger than you and more powerful, but the US Government is even bigger and more powerful.  They are able to direct your complaint to the right people to get it settled.  This can be a very powerful tool on your behalf.

If you have a complaint about consumer goods or labor conflicts contact the Better Business Bureau, http://bbb.org.  They can help you settle disagreements with vendors, stores, or other companies.

Don’t try to fix it without help.  You are too likely to have problems or settle for less than you deserve.