Friday, December 13, 2013

5 Habits Mentally Strong People Practice.

Are you mentally strong? Much like your body has to be worked out to become strong, the brain does too. Many of the most celebrated CEOs and business leaders around the world are know for being "tough as nails", but this didn't happen overnight. In fact, most CEOs have to practice being mentally strong. Here are the top five habits of mentally strong people.

#1. They don't attend pitty parties. That's right, the mentally strong don't feel sorry for themselves when things don't happen as planned. They don't blame others or dwell on things, either. So, if you want to be great, brush off something that didn't work out and move on without holding a grudge.

#2. They refuse to be complacent, even when the money is good. Yes, complacent only means you will one day be outdated. Embrace change and learn new things daily.

#3. They refuse to please others. Mentally strong people have a job to do. Worrying about pleasing others or how others will react is a distraction that will cut off money and success. Don't worry about people, worry about the task at hand.

#4. Don't give up after a venture fails. Most of the known CEOs have had failures. But they're out there, spinning a new business and looking at other opportunities. If you let failure stop you, then you really do fail!

5. Don't rely on the world for anything, including breaks. The world owes you nothing, regardless of how tough you had it as a kid or so on. If you know the world isn't going to give you a break, then you realize you have to try harder than everyone else to be successful.

This is my last blog until January 2, 2014. As I leave for the holiday break, I truly hope you learn from these five practices for mentally strong people.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,

Twyla

Thursday, December 12, 2013

5 Rules for Growing Your Business in 2014

I recently was reading a trade industry magazine for business men and women. This magazine had a section dedicated to sound business advice. While a lot of the information and quotes were pretty basic, I found five quotes that really inspired me to look at what I can improve upon in 2014. I decided to share these quotes with you, and expand a bit on them, to help inspire your growth as a business owner in 2014.

1. "Never confuse activity with progress." —Ty, Boston, MA
I agree. You can be busy and still not grow. Don't be satisfied with the business you do have. Go after the business you don't have!

2. "Cash is more important than your mother." —Grace, Shanghai, China
I know this is harsh, but cash is king. Your mother wouldn't have nice things if it wasn't for your extra support (I hope). So, know cash makes the world go round and if you're not bringing it in as a business owner then you're doing something wrong.

3. "Always look for people smarter than you, and surround yourself with people who can challenge and inspire you." —Doug, Redwood City, CA

If you think you're the best then you will fail fast. Find people who know more than you and continue to learn.

4. "Hire slowly. Fire quickly." —Jenny, Seattle
I couldn't agree more. You can develop skill, you can't develop customer service. If you have someone on your team who is abrasive and not caring, fire them right away before the situation becomes worse.

5. "Getting your business launched and your first product onto the market will take you twice as long, and cost you twice as much, as you think it will." - —Dave, Toronto, ON

Well said! If you think this is easy, you're not really equipped to run a business.

I hope these quotes have inspired you to do great things in 2014.

Until next time,

Twyla

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Homeland Security; Rain Forecasts Smuggling in Arizona.

I recently read an article in Homeland Security magazine discussing how raining weather resulted in an increase of smuggling attempts in the state of Arizona. This brought me to the topic of the basic issues at hand always should be addressed first. Something as simple as a weather event can create a national security concern for our country. Why? Because people tend to slow down and not do as good of a job outdoors when the weather is compromised.

The Homeland Security magazine says "“Narcotics traffickers use any means to move their products, including strapping the drugs to their backs, cloning vehicles and even trying to use the weather to their advantage." So, how prepared are we really when it comes to weather events and security? This article implies, and I agree, that bad weather puts our security efforts in more of a relaxed state of mind. Think about it. You're less likely to be pulled over for speeding during a rain storm because the officer, naturally, doesn't want to stand in the rain and write a ticket. This is a fact. And, now, it seems the same is going on with our border patrol agents and those in the position to watch over this country during a weather event. Luckily, we are now aware of the considered advantage by those trying to trespass into this country and can prepare and respond accordingly.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this finding. Please leave a comment below.

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett of IME

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Is Your Website Fun?

I just redid my website for IME. While I loved our old flash website, it wasn't functional anymore and it wasn't perceived as fun. I had to cater to what my customers needed to know and tell them a little bit more. So, how do you engage customers once they hit your website? Do you tell them everything about yourself? Should you leave them wanting more?

Now at days, more photos and less text is more. We live in a social-sharing world where a picture is worth way more than a thousand words. White backgrounds and easy to read text fonts are important. Being clever and not overly bearing or pushing with your web content is key. Oh, and let's talk about SEO (search engine optimized content). While it is important to have SEO anchor words and phrases on your website, it shouldn't be littered with them. Make sure your content really says something about you and your brand.

Social media is really important. You want your website to show you do have a social media presence so customers may instantly communicate with you from your website and also share your website (content, photos, links, etc.) right away. Easy navigation is a plus, too. Gone are the days of hosting both header, footer and side bars. You should have easy, font-driven buttons that are direct with content.

If you're thinking about redesigning your website, go for it. You might want to also read up on the psychology of color before picking a specific theme.

Until next time,

Twyla

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fantastic Business Habits for 2014

The New Year is just a couple of week away. Boy, this year flew by fast! If you're thinking about a resolution, stop right now and read. I've come up with a few habits every entrepreneur should form in 2014 to ensure success.

Start with focusing on your life style, not a life change. People tend not to change much. Your likes, dislikes, goals- they pretty much remain the same throughout life. Goals can be expanded upon, what you dislike may soften but will always exist, your likes may go through phases but the core of what appeals to you never truly leaves. Thus, don't focus on changing your life this up and coming year. Instead, focus on how you will improve your lifestyle to pivot through life's changes.

You also want to have a resolution to be reasonable. We live in a now society. Everything has to be easier, techier (is that a word,lol) and happening in the moment. Not everything has to be done now. In fact, if you rush something- chances are it will turn out terrible. So, resolve to be patient and slow down this year. Your business WILL benefit from this small action.

Drink more water. Yes, this is my advise. Too many of us get caught up in the coffee, energy drink, Skinny Girl beverage trend and social circle drinks. But adding a glass (or one more glass) of water to your daily routine in 2014 will improve your health and alertness. It is an affordable and easy resolution to make and keep.

This week is the last week of my blog. I will be taking a two week break, and then back with you in 2014. So, send in those business questions now and I will try to get most of them answered by Friday.

Twyla

Friday, December 6, 2013

Test Your Business Ideas

I recently received a request to write about testing business ideas. While we can prepare for and plan our businesses around concepts and data, there is no real way to test if we're going to be successful or not.

There are some ways to double check if you are or are not on the right path when it comes to business. Here are my top three tips to see if you are on the right path to projected success;

#1. Focus on goals, don't just have them.

I know many people who write goals down. They have a goal for every part of their life. What they're missing is a plan. You need to have a goal followed by a plan and work at it daily.

#2. Be reasonable with your time frames. Don't plan to be a millionaire at the end of two years. If only life were this easy. Make sure you have a realistic timeline to compliment your goals and your plans.

#3. Make profit your number one goal. Don't think about expansion, second offices, etc. until you actually have a solid profit coming in. You can't just think big, you have to grow a profit to get big.

I hope this week's tips and topics have helped you developed your business plans. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Until Monday,

Twyla Garrett

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Homeland Security Book is NOW for Sale!

It's here. My first book is for sale on my website. It is dedicated to the subject of Homeland Security. You can buy it as an immediate download for $9.99 or a printed version for $14.99 +S&H.

Here is the chapter preview:

Chapter Preview

Chapter 1 The creation of the Department of Homeland Security
Chapter 2 Overview of homeland sustainability challenges
Chapter 3 What homeland security can’t do
Chapter 4 What homeland security can do
Chapter 5 How social media can help government agencies communicate disaster messages
Chapter 6 How to prioritize projects
Chapter 7 How to assess and handle natural disasters
Chapter 8 How to assess and handle threats
Chapter 9 Urban Areas Security Initiative – Overview of the 32 jurisdictions
Chapter 10 Mass transit disasters and accidents
Chapter 11 Moving on – Lions and Tigers and Grants, Oh my! How IME can help you in a variety of ways and why the next series is important for those seeking to write and win a grant!

Here is how you can buy the book today! http://www.hireime.com/#!homeland-security-book/cvrb

Twyla Garrett

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Homeland Security Issue of the Week!

I want to talk about a report recently on Forbes.com related to Cyber Security. The report stated "the DHS has its own set of cyber vulnerabilities." Yes, according to a full report by the Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security suffers from cyber security issues. So, if the DHS is exposed enough to cyber criminal activity, how do you protect your own agency or business?

Here's a list from the DHS' own website noting how to protect yourself from a cyber attack. http://www.dhs.gov/how-do-i/protect-myself-cyber-attacks However, there is no 100% bullet-proof vest for your computer system to wear- as the DHS itself will admit.

I decided to expand upon a few of these topics. For example, one tip is to NEVER click on links sent in random emails. Well, this is pretty obvious. However, you don't have to receive random emails in the first place. You can set up personal and professional accounts to not accept emails sent from people other than those on an approved list.

You should be more concerned with malware than emailed links, too. Accrding to the DHS, "Destructive malware has the capability to target a large scope of systems, and can potentially execute across multiple systems throughout a network. As a result, it is important for an organization to assess their environment for atypical channels for potential malware delivery and/or propagation throughout their systems. Systems to assess include:

Enterprise Applications – particularly those which have the capability to directly interface with and impact multiple hosts and endpoints. Common examples include
Patch Management Systems,
Asset Management Systems,
Remote Assistance software (typically utilized by the corporate Help Desk),
Anti-Virus,
Systems assigned to system and network administrative personnel,
Centralized Backup Servers, and
Centralized File Shares."

My company, IME, can help you take a comprehensive look at your current cyber setup and possible issues. We can help rectify many issues, too. Will you be 100% safe and secure? No- that's impossible. Even the DHS has private waves of computing that are hackable. However, you will be more prepared to prevent and respond to cyber security attacks and threats.

Until tomorrow,
Twyla

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Your Marketing Message.... Is It Believable?

I received an interesting question the other day. An email arrived asking me how to make a marketing campaign more believable. Well, I don't think there should ever be dishonesty in marketing and advertising. You should sell what you know and sell honestly. However, you can improve how you market your product to gain more attention.

The first step to do this is to clarify your thoughts, services and/or products. Don't use too much text on any packaging. It will bore people. Don't forget, we live in a virtual world now where many brands only have 140 characters to get their point across. Be direct.

Next, you want to avoid over used descriptions. Never deem yourself or your products as "the best", "hot", "on sale", or "amazing." Instead, get creative. Use terms that create an emotional connection and aren't a part of a sales pitch.

Finally, don't be a sales person. Don't write to sell something. Instead, sell something by writing marketing content that is relatable and not after a customer's wallet. I promise you this approach works better than any sales page out there!

Keep those great questions coming. Remember, tomorrow's blog is on the topic of Homeland Security so be sure to tune in.

Twyla Garrett

Monday, December 2, 2013

Starting A Business in 2014? 3 MUST Tips for Success.

So, you're going to open a business in 2014. Congrats and welcome to the real world of entrepreneurship. You will NOT be rich over night and you're going to have to work more than you think. I'm going to share three MUST do secrets for success to help you during your first year of business.

1. Don't have offices if at all possible. I mean cubical farms or inner-offices where people can close doors on one another. You should promote and open work space where everyone can look at, talk to and see what others are doing. This promotes less slacking off for your employees and also generates better communication skills and sales results.

2. Don't buy t-shirts and other branded items for customers or employees to wear or use outside the office. This is a huge waste of money. Make sure you are spending as little money as needed on things that are not actually needed. In other words, don't buy into the hype of owning a business. Know what you can and can't spend.

3. Don't listen to your customers. If you know what you have will sell, and it isn't selling, change your marketing strategy- not the product / services based on the opinions of those who aren't buying. Change your marketing, change your market, but don't change your entire product or services. You will find your customers, you just have to stay consistent with your branding.

Running a business is going to be one of the hardest, yet most rewarding, things you can do. Make sure you stay focused, on budget and strong.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Signs You're A Terrible Boss

Do you think you're pleasant to work for? Do you often inspire your employees to do better and grow with the company? While we all might say 'yes', this can't be true 100% of the time. That's why I am posting how to tell if you're a terrible boss. OK, here we go.

Do you promise things that never materialize? If so, you're a terrible boss. What a great way to keep people from wanting to work for you. This happens over and over again in business. "You'll all get bonuses if we meet this month's sales quota." Once the quota is met, no sales bonus and a really bad reason why. If this sounds familiar, it's time to start rethinking your motivation for making empty promises.

No follow up. Nothing irks me more than a leader who sets up goals for the company and the employees engage and each the goals. Why does this irk me? Well, it irks me when the leader doesn't lead by example. No follow up, shows he or she doesn't take the goal(s) serious, etc. If you're too busy to follow up or meet a goal, don't ask your employees to do the same thing. Lead by example.

Well, it's that time. Thanksgiving is in a few days. I will not be blogging again until next Monday. Stay safe, stay warm, stay grateful!

Twyla

Monday, November 25, 2013

2 Ways to Kill Your Business This Holiday Season

It's time to start winding down. It's the holiday season. WRONG! Most people believe because there are many holiday celebrations between now and January 1st of 2014 that this is an excuse to call in your workload and do nada. Well, this belief can kill your business. This got me to thinking of the top two business killers.

1. Thinking the customer is always right.

This will kill your margins. Reducing costs, giving away freebies, comping things.... all of these practices will put you out of business. The customer isn't always right. While you want to try and smooth things over with an annoyed client, you don't want to destroy your business in the duration. Think about how to resolve a problem with value added services, not discounts or freebies.

2. Toxic employees.

This should seem obvious but toxic employees can cost you customers and turn off great employees. Bad HR practices will hurt your company. Even poorly behaved contractors can ruin your company. Avoid this problem all together by looking beyond experience and more at attitude. Remember, external customer service starts with internal customer service.

Don't let these two things ruin your company or potential growth. Know that the customer isn't always right and that your employees' bad behavior will hurt your profit margin.

Twyla

Friday, November 22, 2013

3 Ways to Keep Customers Wanting More!

I talk a lot about customer engagement on this blog. I was asked a great question recently. "How do you keep customers coming back?" It's a good questions because once you offer a product or service, how will you engage that customer to buy more? Well, here is what works for me.

1. Get personal. Stage 5 clinger personal. Follow your customers online. Interact with them. Make follow up phone calls. Always be in a state of reminding them you're around and that you care.

2. Be consistent. Don't do right by your clients some of the time. People love paying $5.00 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks not because it is the best coffee in the world (in fact, it's been proven otherwise), but because the staff makes it their business to be personal and to be consistent.

3. Reward people. Who doesn't love getting rewards. Again, think Starbucks. They have a Gold card system that is awesome. Buy 12 drinks and get anything on the menu for free. There is no minimum, either. If you buy twelve cups of regular coffee, your free drink can still be a Venti Frap or you can get a chicken salad sandwich- whatever you want. So, think of a way to reward your customers that actually presents value and not percentage discounts.

Next week I will only be posting a blog on Monday and Tuesday. I'm taking a break from blogging the rest of the week for the holiday.

Happy Friday and I'll post more on Monday,

Twyla

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Secret to Getting Your Customer's Attention!

Here's a challenge, a client pays you and then doesn't respond or is too busy to provide additional information. Or, worse, the client is too involved and telling you how to do your job. How do you deal with these situations? By getting your customer's attention.

Your customers hired you for a reason. Now, you just have to get them to listen to you. Not tell you what to do, not be unresponsive- but actually listen. Start by eliminating a lot of jargon. Be direct and simple. Instead of using big, fancy works every two seconds, just say what you need from the client (or what you're doing) in a sentence or two. Long emails will lose your clients. Even if you have to send a bullet list with a "let's meet" note at the bottom, do it. Don't ever send too much information or overused copy at once.

Explain things as if you're talking to a five year old. I know this sounds condescending, but if you use the right technique, your clients will appreciate it! Clients don't need to know how your office works, just that projects are being worked on or your products work. Again, simplicity is key.

Finally, if you have a difficult client over the period of a year, fire the client. You don't need to spend a lot of time on a client who needs extra hand holding or who is unresponsive. Instead, put your energy into finding a better client who is easier to work with.

Until next time,

Twyla

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Homeland Security ; The Mall!

Every Black Friday we come across one or two tragic stories. This happens each and every year. Is it a surprise masses will gather, and push there way forward, for great deals on electronics? No. So, why are we constantly watching people get trampled at Walmart on the news? Well, frankly, the answer is a lack of serious planning and procedures.

This actually is a homeland security issue, too. You have mass crowds in a confined space with almost no real security to prevent an issue. Beyond the tragic acts of people getting trampled on Black Friday, terrorists are presented with an opportunity of lots of people combined with poorly trained, seasonal security. We can do better than this. We owe it to one another to do better than this. Spending the extra money to have a company like mine (any company really) come in and identify potential issues before they happen is worth its weight in gold, and human life!

Right now is the time for malls and major department stores to be conducting lock-down drills and testing their security cameras. "Each of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 56 field offices is meeting with local police and security personnel at area malls and shopping centers this month", said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. But, mall operators and retailers have to be proactive about security year around and especially two Fridays from now.

I did some research and found a website with really great consumer advice for staying safe on Black Friday. Here's the link: http://www.moneycrashers.com/black-friday-tips-for-safe-shopping/ In the meantime, retailers are welcomed to connected with me at HireIme.com for further info.

Stay safe out there,

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Two Types of Entrepreneurs

There are many thoughts on the "types" of entrepreneurs walking around the business world. Some people say there are five types, other say there are four, and some people believe we are all cut from one rigid, opportunist cloth! Well, I believe there are only two types of entrepreneurs in the world.

The "I Can, I will":

This type of entrepreneur is goal-orientated and goes into every business investment or bootstrap concept with very clear goals and expectations. This is the type of person who likes to collect, review and rereview data before, during and after specific business milestones.

The "Let's Go Get Them":

While data is important to this type of entrepreneur, it isn't going to make or break her dream of starting or investing in the right company. This person relies more on innovation and the promotion of the business then data that may predict failures or success. They are more street smart than book smart. They have a vision and they will do anything to make it happen, regardless of what any data sheet says.

There isn't a right or wrong type. In fact, the world is infused with both types, making "I can, I will" and "Let's Go Get Them" entrepreneurs resilient and also reliant on one another!

What type of entrepreneur do you think you are and why? Let this be your thought of the day.

Twyla Garrett

Monday, November 18, 2013

5 Questions to Ask When Measuring Social Media ROI

You blog; You Tweet; You use every social media outlet out there.... you don't see more customers coming through the door. You're frustrated.

Don't worry. Social media ROI takes a while. You need at least a year or two to start seeing real traction. I know social media is updated every second, but the ROI isn't. In fact, when was the last time you purchased something because of a Tweet? Or you read a person's entire blog based off of a Facebook post? Exactly. Unlike popular belief, it takes a long time to build a substantial and attentive social media following where simply reading the post makes a person actually click through and engage with their wallet.

So, when measuring your social media efforts over a long period of time make sure you ask yourself these five questions;

1. What are my goals?

2. Are my goals reasonable to who I am and what my brand is?

3. How much content can I put online each and every day?

4. How will I measure offer-based content vs. non offer-based content?

5. How do I turn my views into email address subscriptions?

If you have an answer for all give of these questions, you can then measure your social media growth based on your answers. Yes, it is this simple. Using the answers to gauge growth, along with Google analytics , truly helps you see how many people are engaged and buying after a year, two years, or longer!

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett

Friday, November 15, 2013

Save Time ; Outsource

Time is worth its weight in gold. The problem is many business owners run short on it daily. Don't do a bunch of things with partial attention to detail. Instead, do one thing and do it well. You want to live by this rule. I suggest hiring virtual personal assistants to take care of anything and everything for you. It will free up your time, make you pay more attention to detail, and you will be less stressed out.

Now, you can hire cheap or you can hire American. Many website are dedicated to providing virtual assistants as low as $3 dollars per hour but you're not getting American help. Other websites will provide you will American virtual assistants but the pay starts around $8 to $20 dollars an hour. Do what will work for you and within your budget. Note: If your company banks itself on hiring American- stay consistent with this belief.

The rule in business is you will close 20% of pitches. If you free up more time, you can bump this number to 30%!

Try to spend this weekend thinking about this and the benefits it can bring.

Until Monday,

Twyla

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Texting Clients- Why You Shouldn't!

I was recently asked if it is ok to text a client. My answer is always going to be 'no' and for a variety of reasons. First, let me say that office phones are still a must. I don't understand people who give their personal cell phone numbers to a client to close a deal and then become annoyed when the client texts or calls him or her. If you give your cell phone number to a client, you are giving him or her permission to call or text you anytime of the day, holiday or night! You can't become annoyed when they use the number after you made a sale.

Second, if you send a text to a client from your phone, you are opening up Pandora's box. Autocorrect's inability to work properly can result in the loss of the client or, in extreme cases, a lawsuit. Second, if you send or respond to a text, you're going to work outside of your designated hours. If you're not ok with this, don't respond or text the client.

Some people love texting their clients, but there is a lack of boundaries that comes with this practice. I say, to remain professional, refrain from texting your clients or providing them with your cell phone number in the first place. Use Twitter instead.

Twyla Garrett

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cyber 9-11 | It IS Possible

Today's post is dedicated to the topic of homeland security. My company, IME provides homeland security services, such as computer forensics. This brings me to the topic of a cyber 9-11. In a couple of weeks, this country will celebrate cyber Monday. A time when people spend the Monday after Thanksgiving shopping online and sharing personal information. Oh, and retailers receive a large amount of cash via the internet. So, is a cyber 9-11 possible? The answer is yes.

Many retailers are not aware there is a cyber security issue until the attack has occurred and already performed damage. Any business with a heavy web presence, especially one that collects data or money online, needs to have a reliable back-up plan should an attack occur, new approaches to identifying potential security breaches should be sought after, and we as consumers and business need to practice vigilance against potential threats. Cyber security and hackers should be taken seriously. Identify theft through cyber security tasks can help mask terrorists and transfers of cash can help fund plans- never a good thing!

While the majority of true potential internet risks surrounds our military data when it comes to security in cyber space, we should always be aware of our security systems and our weaknesses online.

Have questions on this topic? Let's talk! Join me on Facebook or Twitter to ask questions, notate examples of training, etc.

Twyla Garrett of IME

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 3 Worst Business Credit Cards

Here's my opinion on business credit cards - don't use them if you don't have to. You should be self bankable, but I know this isn't always the case. If you do need to obtain a line of credit for your business then avoid the business credit cards offered by Wells Fargo, HSBC, and U.S. Bank.

Why?

I did my research on the worst credit cards for businesses on the market today. What I found was the repetitive ranking of Wells Fargo, HSBC, and U.S. Bank's cards within the top 3 lists of several other financial bloggers. This prompted me to do a little more digging. Not a single one of these cards adheres to the CARD Act protection clause and none of them have open and transparent policies regarding their credit reporting practices- or any of their practices for the matter.

Basically, the three banks mentioned above aren't looking for a long-term partnership with new business owners. Instead, they're looking to make a quick buck and not tell you how they are going to do it. Stay away. There are plenty of great credit cards out there. In fact, there are so many available that I'm not going to list them. Just don't accept any credit cards from the above mentioned banks!

Again, if you can stay away from putting any business expense on a credit card- do it. If not, select a card that reports your good payment history and has open and honest policies when using the card.

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett

Friday, November 8, 2013

Recommendations - Growing Your Business

There is a restaurant in New York that has been around as long as the city has- ok, that's a stretch. But the deli I'm referring to has been around for what feels like forever. This deli hasn't paid a single dollar for ad space or PR pitches. So, how is the business thriving? I asked the owner. He simply stated "treat em' like family."

The more I thought about the owner's answer, I decided he is a genius. Imagine if everywhere you went, you were treated like family. Starbucks practically thrives on this concept. Think about it. Most of us pay $5.00 a day for coffee because the cups are adorned with our names and most of the time the man or woman making our coffee calls out our name with a friendly smile.

If you really want to "treat em' like family" then you have to start within your own office. I watched the deli owner talk to his staff as if they were his brothers and sisters. If you can create a family-like environment at your office then your internal customer service will float outwards.

Think relationships more than business deals if you want to have a family-atmosphere within your business. If you treat potential customers like potential profit then you're dead in the water. Treat potential customers like you would a sister or brother-in-law. Be cordial, be genuine and talk about what both parties have to gain from a long relationship. Don't just go after a person's dollar, go after their recommendation and continued business.

Finally, be respectful of everyone. The deli owner I mentioned has a customer who comes in every morning and buys a single two dollar coffee. He sits in a booth (taking up three seats versus a single seat at the counter) and he stays for hours. The waitresses aren't annoyed and the owner sits and talks with him daily. The owner could say something about the money he is losing on each cover that walks out because a booth isn't available, or how there is more than a coffee minimum to sit at the booth, but he doesn't. He appreciates the business and the brand loyalty. In fact the owner told me this about the man in the booth, "I don't know his full story. I don't know why he comes here for his coffee. I'm glad he trusts us enough to serve him coffee everyday. We could lose the two dollars to the expensive franchise down the street. I rather have customers I know who like what I'm serving then fight over numbers with the competition."

As we head into the weekend, think about how you can treat your customers more like family.

Twyla Garrett

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Entrepreneur Life Test

Do you have what it takes to own a business? I'm not talking money or ideas. I'm talking grit and getting your hands dirty. Not sure if you have what it takes? Take my test. Answer yes or no if you agree or disagree with each statement below and see what I have to say at the end.

1. You believe you can balance work with a personal life.

2.'Fake It To You Make It' is the best advice you ever received.

3. You can't wait to be rich, which will be soon since all business owners have tons of money.

4. You can have a day job and run a business at the same time.

5. There is nothing to fear about employing other people. It is great to have people work for you.

6. You're going to be loved by everyone because you have a business and your business will take off right away.

7. You believe a mentor is important.

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you don't have what it takes to be a business owner. The above statements are all myths and some of the most popular reasons why businesses fail. Grand ideas, assuming riches will happen overnight, faking knowing how to provide a service or products, etc. are all big red flags in the business world.

If you answered "no" to any or all of the questions above, pat yourself on the back! You're a true entrepreneur.

Twyla

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homeland Security Blog: Drug Tunnel Shut Down Near San Diego

Drug tunnels are a homeland security issue. While many people might thing the drugs being brought into this country don't possess a threat to their daily lives, the opposite is true. Drug tunnels can facilitate the transport of more than just drugs. In fact,these tunnels are also often used to facilitate smuggling of illegal aliens and, potentially, terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. This can potentially impact everyone, not only those buying or selling the drugs.

This past Thursday the DHS announced they had discovered a newly completed tunnel that connected a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico with a building in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial park stretched the length of nearly six football fields. The tunnel was equipped with lighting, ventilation and an electric rail system. It was described as “the largest, most sophisticated tunnel uncovered along the southern border in two years.”

While the discovery of the tunnel is great news for our country (since we could now close it and recovered the drugs), it isn't that great of news for the DHS. These tunnels are popping up all over southern California. How we assess various issues related to the war on drugs and illegal immigration can impact our national security directly related to potential terrorist threats. This leads to my next question... "are we doing enough to prepare and prevent?"

I might do a webinar covering how one non-national issue can lead to a national disaster. Preventing tunnels from forming is impossible, but we can decrease the rate of which they are forming. The issue itself is too complex to cover in this blog, which is why I have a homeland security book coming out shortly.

I am interested in your thoughts on this discovery and how you think we , as a country, can prevent further tunnels from forming.

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Best Business Habit to Have!

I recently met a woman who wouldn't tell me how she failed in business. She insisted everything was perfect. I insisted she was wrong and did a little digging. My results? The woman had failed in business several times- which is to be expected, not something to be ashamed of.

I couldn't figure our why she tried to hide her business failures. Everyone in business has failed at one time or another. In fact, business leaders don't even refer to these events as failures anymore, rather they are called learning experiences. The best business habit someone can have is to flaunt a failure, not try to hide it. Here's why;

There are two types of people in this world. The kind who accept failure as a signal to give up and the kind who will not accept failure as their destiny. Giving up distinguishes wanna-be business men and women from true go-getters. Flaunting your failures and showing how you rebooted and had the umph to go at it again really is a character attribute. Hiding your failures, or lying about them (as in the woman's case) also tells a lot about who you are. So, which side of the fence would you want to be on?

I'm going to develop a series of books dedicated to this topic. In the meantime, connect with me on Twitter and let's discuss your failures and how you overcame them!

Twyla

Monday, November 4, 2013

3 Not So Fab Customers!

Where's your next paycheck coming from. If you own a business, you might not know the answer. I received a question over the weekend dealing with customers and payments. When do you let one go? Well, I have some answers. First, you don't turn down money -ever. Instead, you screen potential money vs. people think they have money. Trust me, everyone does this when providing services. Next, know who the customer is and then decide if you want a relationship or continued relationship with him or her. Here is how to tell.

1. The Sour Puss. This is a customer who is happy with you for the moment, but not loyal. If he or she could find cheaper- they would. This type of customer is dangerous. Why? He or she can be unhappy for one small reason and will forget all the major things you have done to help him or her. These customers sour pretty fast and don't hesitate to write nasty things all over the Internet about you and your company. If you'd bidding for a contract with a sour puss, pass. If you have one now, don't renew.

2. Oz The Not So Powerful. Every have a client remind you ten times a day how much money he or she is spending at your company? Well, that is because he or she has no authority in every other aspect of their lives and will use whatever they pay for as a chance to try and command power. This type of person is a pain in the butt and not worth the money they will pay you. They are seeking a chance to flaunt authority more than anything else. Don't renew this client if you have this type of person as a customer.

3. The Check Was Mailed Mama. Have a client that doesn't pay on time or needs payment arrangements? Pass! If they can't afford you, find someone who can. The second you lower your rate, give a break on a late fee penalty, etc. know that you're sending a message that your time and payments aren't important. Ditch this type of client.

Doing business with people isn't always pleasant, but it doesn't mean you have to be a doormat. I say never turn down money but these three types of people are the exception to the rule.

Happy Monday!

Twyla

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ask Your Clients The RIGHT Questions

I overheard two businesses owners complaining about their clientele the other day. It can be frustrating, just like you- clients aren't alike. You will have clients who require extra hand holding and you will have clients who you never hear from, refuse to give you direction and then expect the world from you. Regardless, your clients pay your bills and you have to honor their work style just as you want them to honor yours.

To get a sense of the type of client you will soon be working for, and how to approach him or her, ask these questions:

1. What are your priorities and goals and what are your timelines.

Asking this question will help you understand what is important to your client and how fast the client expects you to work. This question series eliminates a lot of guess work.

2. What is your preferred form of contact.

I knew a lady who hated phone calls. Every week, on Friday, her servicing contractor would call her. He told me she always seemed annoyed but would insist on finishing the call. Finally, after this went on for months, the client asked him why he always found time to call her in the middle of her pedicure. The contractor assumed the client wanted phone calls and he assumed the date and time of the phone calls. Don't assume anything with clients. If you don't know, ask.

If you implement these two questions when starting to work with a new client, you will have a more positive working relationship.

Happy Friday and a new blog coming up on Monday!

Twyla Garrett

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Creative Business Myths

Happy Halloween! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. While on the subject of tricks and treats, I thought I would share some insight about tricks or myths in business. Many business owners have to be creative to solve specific challenges not taught in school. But creativity isn't always easy to come across. We all have bad days, right?! I've heard people speak, throughout the years, pertaining to overcoming writer's blog, creative problem solving, etc. There are a lot of myths out there. Like the Ghostbusters, I'm here to help you decipher what advise is the wrong advise!

1. Most great ideas don't appear in thin air or with some magical sequence of events. You usually have to come up with many bad ideas before striking gold.

2. Creativity is not genetic. I can't say this enough. Think about how many singers have children who can't sing. I won't mention Miley Cyrus here. Don't rely on genetics to get you by or solve future issues.

3. You don't have to be weird or the lone wolf. Creativity doesn't mean you're unpopular, just look at Lady Gaga. You don't have to suffer to be brilliant. In other words- stop trying to hard and let your own, natural creativity pop!

Until next time,

Twyla

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Homeland Security: Information Disconnect

One of the major issues I discuss in my up and coming Homeland Security book is the topic of information disconnect. One of the largest issues I see happening over and over again is a serious disconnect in the flow of information from some states to their local emergency responder organizations. And this isn't a political beef (for the most part) either... it is a financial crisis.

The lack of communication and information can be identified by a lack of funding, which is and isn't preventable. Below are the issues as to why.

Issue #1. Emergency management training sessions are either federally-sponsored or tuition-free. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Many states and municipal agencies will not participate in these programs because it costs money to allow the staff person taking the training time off. Yes, having to pay for PTO and then a placement person to assume the job duties of trainee during his or her absence is a major challenge. There are funds to help cover these costs, you just have to know where and when to look. If you don't know about these funds, you don't seek them out and then training sessions are missed.

Issue #2. This broken link: https://www.firstrespondertraining.gov/content.do?page=pageMoved. Yes, have you even decided to take up a course or seek out help only to land on a broken link. Why bother searching for the new page, right? Well, broken links to federal training programs are really preventing the flow of information and other homeland security training issues. How do you overcome this? I know it is annoying, but you will have to play detective and track down the right information and find key links. Don't give up when you arrive on the broken page. BTW- here is the PROPER link (yes, I played detective) for the training programs: http://training.fema.gov/

My point is there always will be challenges. Don't think you can't change things. Seek out information, seek out resources and don't get stumped by broken links. You have to be proactive the be preventive!

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Set Yourself Apart From the Competition!

I always hear people complain that they aren't getting the sales they had hoped for. First, we would all love to close 100% of our pitches 100% of the time. However, it isn't a perfect world. But you can increase how you close deals easily. Here's my secret. Don't talk too much. Yes, talking yourself out of a deal happens more than one would think.

I've witnessed people pitch me a product and then downplay their own abilities in the same meeting. Why would I buy services from someone who doesn't believe in him or herself?

All you need to know when selling a client a product or service is what makes you different from your competition. If you would focus on this aspect, instead of pricing, you would have more sales. All you have to do is explain who you are and what you're selling. Add how it can solve a customer's problems. That's it. Keep the pitch simple, short and compelling.

Happy selling!

Twyla Garrett

Monday, October 28, 2013

Are You In Control?

You might have a title that says you're the boss, but are you really? You might not realize it, but there are a few things you may be doing right now that give up your authority without even being aware that you're doing this. So, what are these actions I speak of? Well, keep reading!

Laughter is a big one. If you have a nervous tick, such as laughter, don't be fooled... people WILL notice it. Excessive laughing, smiling, coughing, etc. is a dead giveaway that you don't trust yourself in your decision making capacity.

Do you raise your voice to a higher than usual note? If so, it sends a signal to others that your title might say "Executive" but you're not self-assured. Try to maintain an even tone at all times.

You are buddies with your employees. Why? I never understood this tactic. Someone has to be in charge, why not you? If you're busy trying to be liked then you're not being the boss. Change this!

If you're in a position of authority, you need to act as if you are in charge.

Until next time,

Twyla

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beating Business Anxiety

I'm about to reveal a business secret that will upset many executives and entrepreneurs. What is it? Anxiety! Yes, anxiety. While people may appear to be tough as nails, men and women in business are usually driven by the fear of failure and a ton of anxiety.

If you suffer from anxiety, know that it is common and an opportunity for success. You see, most successful people are plagued by anxiety attacks. I mean, they have a lot on the line and take huge risks to achieve success that doesn't arrive overnight. In order to beat business anxiety you have to identify it. What terrifies you as a business owner or executive? Don't just think it right now- write it down. Tape it to your computer screen. Remind yourself of it. Make it so commonplace that you are forced to face it more than you want. Let yourself see the words of what you fear daily. As you get more use to seeing and reading your fear, you will become less bothered by it. Seems simple? Yep. Does it work? Yes!

You also want to understand that you have to be willing to suffer greatly for success. Your life will be about sacrifice. You will have a terrible schedule. You will lose potential mates because of it. You will face anxiety daily. In the end- it is worth it. So,keep your eye on the prize and gear up for discomfort. Face your fears by writing them down and glancing at them daily. You will beat them!

Happy Friday,

Twyla

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Homeland Security Cyber Tips

My company, HireIme.com, specializes in providing Homeland Security service. Starting today, every Wednesday I will post a topic related to Homeland Security. Today, I want to cover how to protect yourself (and your company) in cyber world when it comes to Homeland Security.

Cyber criminals will target any computer system (big or small, non-profit or for profit) if it is vulnerable. Here are some steps to take to ensure your system(s) is safe;

Set strong passwords and change them every day. Don't let employees pick their own passwords, either. I still know CEOs who use "password" as their password. Why?! Make sure you use a combination of letters and numbers not related to anything personal that can be obtain through social media research.

Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates. Most people still ignore updates that popup on their computer systems because they are afraid the updates are viruses. Not true! Those updates are there for a reason. Please install them.

Limit the privacy settings for your company. Your employees should have limited accessed to the Internet and no download capability for things directly derived from the Internet or unknown email contacts.

What if you suspect fraud or criminal behavior? Report it!

Most people believe "it's the internet, I have no recourse." This is a myth. There is a group called the Electronic Crimes Task Forces and Working Groups. You can lodge a complaint or report a concern with the group. Here is a link to their page. http://www.secretservice.gov/ectf.shtml

So, remember to stay safe in cyber world. Don't use obvious passwords, don't allow employees to chose their own passwords or download files from the Internet and, most importantly, use common sense.

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett

Monday, October 21, 2013

2 Ways to Sell Yourself (or your products).

I hear pitches all day long as a business owner. People want me to buy anything and everything. While most stuff pitched to me I don't need (or already have), there are some things I do buy that I didn't know I needed. Why? Great pitches. Plain and simple. In fact, most people who buy things they don't need is because of a great sales pitch. But that isn't a secret. What is a secret is how to create an actionable pitch. I'm sharing two of these secrets with you today and for free!

You want to start by recording yourself. Oh, I know it is scary but do it. Record yourself pitching to a friend if you want to make the experience even more terrible. This helps work the nerves out of your pitch and it allows you to fix serious presentation issues. Record it, walk away. Watch it four to five days later and not a second sooner. You will see what I mean here and thank me later!

Talk to a seven year old about your product or services. If you can keep the child's attention for more than a minute, you're good to go. Even better? If the child can repeat the basic idea behind your pitch in his or her own words- you have a winner!

I promise you these two tips will help you sell more of yourself or your products to anyone and anywhere in the world.

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett

Friday, October 18, 2013

Business Lie Dector

It isn't that everyone in business lies.... but most people do stretch the truth. So, how can you tell if your peer or consultant is stretching the truth? I've come up with some amazing business lie detecting tips!

1. I need time to thing about this.

This isn't a lie- but it isn't the truth either. When someone says this to you it means he or she is still looking at other candidates and you're not their first choice. If someone says this to you, pass on any re-interview offers, opps. to lower your rate as a consultant or re-pitching your services. It is a waste of your time.

2. I need to know I'm your only, or most important, client.

All clients are important. How you answer this will help people determine if you're a liar. So, if you don't want to fall on other people's BS meter- be honest. Try saying something like, "Our clients are like children. We don't have favorites and try to help each one grow. However, some children need special attention. Our special child pays us double what you're paying now for this service. Is this something you're willing to do?"

3. Talking too much. People who tend to over explain things tend to stretch their capabilities. Direct, short answers usually are an indicator of someone telling the truth. Always keep this in mind in every sense of your personal and business dealings.

Until Monday,

Twyla

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2 Bad Ways to End A Business Meeting

I attend many meetings, both with clients and my own staff. There are two things about ending a meeting that really bug me and other business owners. No matter what your status is in a company, don't commit these "meetings crimes."

1. Lack of Follow Up.

This drives me up a wall and back again. If you say you're going to do something in a meeting, do it. You shouldn't be prompted by clients or peers of what needs to be done or for a status check. As soon as you leave your meeting, delegate your calendars to reflect when items are going to be started, when they are due, and what dates you're going to send out progress emails to all involved. A lack of follow up shows that you're just attending the meetings, but aren't really interested in any real action.

2. Not Ending A Meeting on Time.

This drives me crazy! If I'm inviting people to a meeting, I understand they are taking time away from their other responsibilities to attend it- even if they are my own employees. When I set up a meeting I note a time frame. I always tell the attendees that the meeting may go an extra 20 minutes longer and to schedule enough time for this to happen. This way, if I do go over- no one is upset. And, if I get to 20 minutes past the end time- I allow the people in the room to vote on if the meeting should continue or should be continued at a later date. Ignoring someone's schedule requirements is just rude. If you schedule a meeting, note the timetable and stick to it.

Business etiquette is a big part of your every day life. Make sure you follow these two rules to keep customers and peers happy.

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Office Politics - Are You Playing the Game?

Some people swear office politics are just a fact of life. Well, that isn't really true. In fact, office politics have brought our country to a standstill. So, how do you know when office politics and the game playing are falling on your shoulders? Well, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to more than one- you're playing the game and it is time for things to change.

Does your company lack in vision? In other words, are your making a profit without really knowing where you are going or why?

Forget team meetings, do you hold a lot of one-on-one meetings?

Do you speak of others more than you speak to them?

Are you constantly questioning your employees and/or peers and their motivation for everything they do?

Do you get what you want from people by manipulating them opposed to just asking them to do something for you?

Are you not involved within your organization on a personal level? I mean, do you have your assistants send emails on your behalf, call people on your behalf - perhaps even sign the holiday cards?

You can "undo" office politics- but it is going to take work. If you answered yes to more than one question- shoot me an email and let's talk! If I get enough responses, I may hold a free webinar on undoing office politics.

Twyla Garrett

Monday, October 14, 2013

Your Desk ..... A Vacation Spot?

If you're like me, you spend hours at your desk. Probably more time than you should! Well, if you are burning the midnight oil, know that taking a break is essential to your productivity. Working long hours without interruption actually can lead to more mistakes and less creativity.

When I get overwhelmed, I use one of the three factors below to help me relax at my desk and to take a mini-vacation.

1. YouTube. This is actually a great distraction. I use YouTube to find funny videos or watch a bank I love perform a favorite song live. Maybe I just spend a 1/2 hour browsing some of the website's most popular videos. Either way, YouTube is a great distraction and a way to fit in a mini-break.

2. Stretching. OK, you might have to shut the door for this one. Yes, stretching at your desk (or even doing Yoga) is a great way to unwind and feel as if you are somewhere else. You start to move your muscles and release dopamines and tension. If you can do stretches at your desk, do them. If you're in a place where the public can see you- try deep breathing exercises. These have the same impact.

3. Call a friend. Nothing says "I'm on break" like a personal phone call. But in reality, reaching out to a friend is a way to take a mental break from those long working hours. Even if you have to use Facebook or Twitter, reach out to friends to catch up quickly.

I'm not advocating you use work time to hang out on social media all day, but there are some benefits to using it for a half hour or less during long work days.

Happy Monday everyone,

Twyla Garrett

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Ask for A Raise!

So, you need more money. You deserve more money. You are afraid to ask your boss for money. It is a tough position to be in. With the economy being what it is, and now the government shut down, asking for more money can mean more than a simple "no." In fact, it can lead to you being fired. But it isn't easy to survive with everything becoming more and more expensive these days? So, how do you ask for a raise without getting fired? Easy!

Ask early. Don't ask for a raise at your review. Instead, ask for a raise a month before your review. State that you know your review is coming up and you wanted your boss to know that you will be seeking a raise. Do this as professionally as possible. This gives your boss a heads up that there is an expectation of money on your end in advance so the meeting isn't awkward when you arrive.

Gather data. Yes, prove how much you are worth to the company by showing your boss how much more another company will value you. You can do this during your evaluation or a month before when you state that you will be expecting a raise.

Expect objections. Go in strong but accept whatever they are willing to give you. Hey, the economy is tough right now. So, if you are asking for five thousand dollars more a month, accept at least half. Some money right now is better than no money, right!

Keep your head up too. Things will get better.

Twyla

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Auto Payments & Your Business

I know of many people who start a "subscribe list" and then think they're going to be wealthy based on a subscription service. Well, that's easier said than done. Netflix is offering unlimited streaming of their movies plus four hard DVD rentals per month for eight dollars. And consider that Netflix offers and at the price. Now, what are you offering and at what price?

Advertising and giveaways kind of work, in the sense that ad money stimulates growth to your list, but are people buying? People in the subscription business have to justify their products / services value, especially in today's economy. Charging to a newsletter is not going to make you any type of a profit. I knew someone who started a subscription service to receive his "insight" newsletters on today's business world. The cost? $14.99 per month.

Well, no one was buying. He lowered the cost to $1.99 a month with the thought that once he showed value, he could raise prices in six months. And, hey, some money was better than no money. He thought five hundred subscribers at $1.99 a month was still a great profit. The problem was there were no subscribers.

His "insight" wasn't as valuable as he thought, especially since people can read business news online for free or subscribe to their favorite online publication through an assortment of other, cheaper resources.

My point is don't put all your eggs into the subscription business until you have a demand that is growing. If you have to prove your value to people, you don't have the demand.

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Government Shutdown.......

I usually write my own blogs. Today, however, I read a great piece by writer Jeremy Quittner. He is a writer who works for a variety of publications, including BusinessWeek and American Banker. I loved his piece so much, I've decided to share it below. Let's talk about this via Twitter.
- Twyla

Right-wing House Republicans engineered a shutdown of the federal government, by demanding that the Democratic Senate approve a spending bill that would have delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a demand they knew would not be accepted. Non-essential government activity ceased as of midnight this morning. It's the first such closure of the U.S. government in nearly two decades.

Global markets fell and business owners reacted with anger and alarm. The legislative impasse threatens the fragile economic recovery and could set the stage for a potentially catastrophic default on U.S. Treasury debt later this month.

"This is an absolutely outrageous scenario enabled by inept lawmakers who are bogged down in their own private and unnecessary [interests]," says Larry Miller, founder and chief executive of BNL in Lovettsville, Virginia, which provides systems engineering and program management to the Departments of Defense, Treasury, and the Veterans Administration, among other agencies.

Bracing for Weeks Without their Biggest Customer

Miller's BNL, which is No. 391 on the Inc. 500 this year and has had a three-year compound annual growth rate of more than 1,000 percent, and $6 million in revenue in 2012, prepared for a shutdown that could last as long as a month. Miller reached out to his 55 employees weeks ago and told them that they will not be laid off or furloughed, and that he will do what it takes to get through the tough times.

Miller will offer employees time off, or the option to redeploy to work on project infrastructure, such as process engineering and documentation, updating the process documentation library, and maintaining reference data and materials.

Practically, that means Miller has to continue paying salaries, health care costs that amount to about $1,200 per employee per month, and other benefits at a time when revenue is not flowing.

"Most of our contracts are fixed-price cost accounting standard," Miller says. "There is a high risk we won't recover the cost."

Some Entrepreneurs Stalling Hiring Already

The budget crisis and looming government shutdown will likely force Michael Lin, owner and chief executive of LinTech Global, to put off hiring an employee he wanted to start October 1.

LinTech, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, does enterprise software consulting, systems integration, and help desk and network support for federal agencies as well as commercial entities, is No. 412 on the Inc. 500 list. It had revenue of nearly $3 million in 2012, and has experienced a compound annual growth rate higher than 1,000 percent in the last three years. He was expecting a new federal contract to get signed this month, but that's now in limbo.

"We may have to delay hiring . . . until the project gets the green light," Lin says, adding that, luckily, most of his other projects have already been funded for the year.

More than anything, Lin says he is dismayed by the budget crisis. "By now I am used to this, but it seems to happen every year with the debt ceiling or the government shutdown, it is always in discussion and we have to play it as we go and adjust our strategy," he says.

Razor-Thin Margins Only Getting Thinner

For her part, Joni Green, founder and chief executive of Five Stones Research in Brownsboro, Alabama, says the government shutdown will dramatically affect her business this year. Like Miller, the costs for her contracts are fixed.

"This will put us in negative profitability mode," Green says. "If we ran the business like the government, we would long ago have shut down."

Green, whose company is No. 421 on the Inc. 500 list for 2013, has 51 employees and had revenue of more than $5 million in 2012. Though the company also had a compound annual growth rate of more than 1,000 percent in the past three years, Green thinks her $9 million revenue forecast for 2013 may drop.

Green, whose company provides engineering, logistics, and information management to the Airforce, Army, and Navy, says the sequester from earlier this year has already forced her to operate on razor thin margins.

"We have been driven by the budget cuts and cost slashing so much this past year that the management reserves on our contracts are minimal," she says.

Green says 13 of her contracts, or 80 percent of the total, will be delayed by a government shutdown. Five Stones Research also bills on a monthly basis for the prior month, which could hurt its accounts receivable collections for months, particularly if the shutdown lasts for several weeks or more.

She adds that uncertainty about the debt ceiling, the budget crisis, and lingering questions about pricing for health care next year are like neon blinking question marks making it next to impossible to budget, which the company usually does three years out.

The uncertainty interfered with Green's hiring plans, too.

"We are only hiring if absolutely necessary," Green says. "I would have thought by this time this year, we would have hired three more [employees]."

The Longer-Term Implications Economic experts say the government shutdown could haunt small businesses and their growth prospects for years to come.

In the future, owners seeking funding from bankers or investors will have to explain why they weren't able to meet their budget expectations.

"When you have a funding event, you have to talk about your history and you cannot just use the excuse of the government, because everyone knows it is harming everyone and it just ends up looking bad for entrepreneurs," Laura Gonzalez, professor of finance and business economics at Fordham, says.

BNL's Larry Miller concurs. Speaking as if the shutdown were already a foregone conclusion, he says: If we were able to avoid a shutdown, "we would have been ahead of valuation, and our EBITDA would have been much higher, and banks would have been happier," he adds.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Be Willing to Hear the Truth!

I spent the weekend reflecting on how my business has grown. I am in the middle of writing my personal story. A lot of reflection went on in my home this past Saturday and Sunday as a result. While looking back, I realized a major lesson in life and in business- you have to be willing to hear the truth in order to expand. I know many great people who owned failing businesses. Why? Well, they all had one thing in common when running their former companies- the inability to listen to the truth.

You may not like what you hear, but I promise you will learn something from it. In order to hear the truth, you need to surround yourself with people willing to tell you the truth. People see money and often forget to say what is really on their mind. Isn't that convenient! They are usually afraid to speak up out of fear of losing a paycheck or cutting of the gravy train. You don't need these types of people around you. They will sink you and then swim away.

Find people who are honest. People who can contribute constructive criticism to your life and business. Cherish them and don't be easily offended. The most valuable thing someone can do for you in life, and in business, is bring you down to reality.

Twyla Garrett

Friday, September 27, 2013

Leadership Types

There are four main types of leaders. I compiled a lot of information on each type. See if you identify with any of the personality types below to discover what type of leader you are.

1. Do you love to help employees develop their long-term goals and also have them coincide with company growth? Do you love to mentor employees but find you spend to much time on people who don't want to be coached? If so, you're a coach leader. The key is to surround yourself with other people who love to motivate and be motivated.

2. Do you give your employees a lot of freedom? Are your employees very loyal to you as a result of this freedom? Do you sometimes find yourself dishing out praise even when it really isn't deserved? If so, you're a team builder! Surround yourself with people who are tougher than you have no problem dishing out the truth when needed.

3. Does everything and everyone have to be perfect? Do your employees really meet your high-standards? Do you love to micro-manage? If so, you're a general! It might be hard, but try to listen to the ideas more. You might hear a great one!

4. Do you focus on the big picture? Are you results driven? Do you love to show others how smart you are? If so, you're a visionary. Try not to explain to people what your vision is. Instead, have them help you get to your vision!

Have a great weekend! I'll blog more on Monday.

Twyla

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Become Wanted

The best asset you can create for yourself in business is to become wanted. Even if you are just starting out, creating a mystique for yourself as a "must have" product creator or service provide will sell itself. So, how do you become "wanted?"

Easy. Well, sort of. I've put together three tips to help you gain the mojo to drive clients and potential clients crazy and sales onward and upward.

1. Curiosity. I can say this enough. A curious quality if a profitable one. Be curios. Ask your clients questions. Have a desire to need more. Get people to talk to you about themselves. They will find you an endearing service provider or product manager and will be coming back more and more and more.....

2. Be positive. People don't want to be around other people who are negative or gossip. People want to be around people who lift them up with a positive attitude. Even if you feel terrible, slap a smile on your face and pretend all is ok.

3. Be kind. Offer to help. Offer to correct problems. Volunteer your time. Make a donation. Do whatever you can to be considered as helpful and/or kind.

These three tips are pretty basic, but they work wonders. Tomorrow is Friday. Get out there and try using each one of these tips at least once throughout the day. I promise you it will change how people view you.

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cut the Corporate Cord!

I meet people everyday with amazing business ideas. These people are a few steps away from becoming millionaires. But these people are afraid to take the plunge. Many of them are executives for companies other than there own. And these positions do come with security. There is nothing secure about starting your own business, so I can kinda understand their fear. Well, if you have a great idea, but you're afraid of walking away from the security of your corporate job, let me say this to do you- life is change!

Nothing is "secure" in this world. Your regular paycheck can be gone tomorrow for a wide-array of reasons. People saved money via investments thinking it was "secure" when in walked Bernard Lawrence "Bernie" Madoff. While he was sentenced, the money wasn't returned.

You are not secure. So, why not be happy? If you have a great idea- have confidence in it. Say yes to it and yourself. There is nothing more rewarding then earning your own money and keeping it! Sure, there will always be Bernie Madoffs in this world. You will always have fear when walking away from a steady paycheck. But if you believe in yourself, and you should, the fear will quickly turn into profit. The hours of working for yourself are going to be longer. You may not make a dime the first one to three years. Your family will barely see you.... but in the end, you are in charge of your destiny and the reward will be great.

If your having fear today to explore your business idea- don't. The worst that can happen is you fail. I've failed. You always gain knowledge from failure and then you can pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and move on to the next idea!

Ask yourself where you are at today. Are you a yes person or a no person?

Twyla

Monday, September 23, 2013

You Said What!

Customers are funny people. Many of them are loyal, even if they have a problem. But almost all of them hate the next two words I'm about to toss out.

"Sorry" and "But" are the two words.

Customers hate these two words because they both signal disappointment and lack of accountability. Saying "sorry" means something went wrong and you can't or are unwilling to fix the issue. Saying "but" usually is a way to sneak an alternative offer or change the subject. Customers hate these words.

"Sorry, we don't have any more ham sandwiches. Did you want a turkey sandwich?" -Um, most people ordering a ham sandwich don't want turkey. Sorry only means you're not willing to take responsibility for the issue- even if you're the waitress delivering the message. A better way to handle this situation is as follows;
"We are out of ham for the day. We have everything else noted on the menu. Did you want to review other choices and I can come back in a few minutes?" While you're still saying there is no ham, you're giving the customer power over the situation. He doesn't have to accept turkey and he can chose his second favorite item. You're also not apologizing for something out of your control and that you can't do anything about.

"It is going to cost you a thousand dollars to fix your breaks, but the resale value will improve." - The but in this sentence doesn't need to be added. The cost of the item is what it is. If you can't justify the use of breaks to a customer, he isn't worried about resale value!

So, most of the time customers aren't upset by mistakes or disappointments. They are, however, more agitated by the way things are presented to them. Leave out the words "sorry" and "but" and you will have happier customers.

Twyla Garrett

Friday, September 20, 2013

The X Factor of Business

I've discussed this topic more than once. The key to running a business isn't solely based on book smarts. You also have to be street smart savvy. This requires possession of charm, or as I like to call the 'X Factor' ability. Not everyone is born with it, but you can mirror some of the aspects.

What are they?

1. Appearance. Don't be off trend and don't go for trend setting clothing. Find a wardrobe that expresses class and pay attention to the details. Paying a lot of accessories, beautiful manicures (yes, men too) and keeping your hair clipped and colored will signal that you care how you present yourself to people- a charmers first secret to success.

2. Eye contact is everything. Don't stare at your phone, other people, or the floor. Stay focused on the person you are speaking to or who is speaking with you. Engagement is a big factor when it comes to charming another person.

3. Command a crowd. This takes practice. First, you need to know what it is you're talking about. Don't just speak about your opinions- back them up with facts and by citing the occasion opposing view. Second, use humor to keep peoples' attention and not to sound boring. If you're a great story teller, you can sell anything- including yourself!

4. Other people are more important. This is the biggest part of using charm to help your business grow. All you have to do is listen to other people talk about themselves. If you do this, they will look forward to your company!

Have a great weekend!

Twyla Garrett

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Business Advice from Twyla Garrett

There are a lot of entrepreneurs running around in today's business culture. Everyone has these larger-than-life plans to succeed. Their focus is on social media and getting the best rates to help increase a profit margin. However, many entrepreneurs are failing to provide a key element to customers and potential business partners/investors. What is it? Basic marketing materials.

That's right- most of today's entrepreneurs are so involved with Google rankings, SEO reports, etc. that they forget to develop a strong brand and print hard marketing materials. This oversight can cause failure to launch.

CEO of Eyeflor Phil Laboon recently said "Sales pitching, handshaking, and business-lunching are the behind-the-scenes reality of a growing start-up." His advice couldn't me more on the money. Business cards, brochures and flash drives have to be memorable. It is a part of your growth strategy- at least it should be! Laboon went on to say "business cards, brochures, and other promo items are the face of your company when you're not present, so spending top dollar to make these marketing tools professional and memorable is money well spent. These materials are what get people to return phone calls and schedule meetings. When customers sees a nice marketing piece, they have confidence in your business and remember you later on. Budgeting for analog advertising materials should be a priority rather than an afterthought."

There are many printing website that make cookie-cutter brochures and business cards easy to obtain and at inexpensive rates. Skip these websites. You should be developing custom logos and branding for your materials. Don't print on crappy stock either. Yes, I said crappy. Nothing is worst than meeting someone who has a flimsy business card. It sends a message that the owner ins't willing to invest in him or herself and neither should you! Budget to do things right the first time. Spend extra money on your marketing materials and it will pay off in the long run.

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's Easy to be Negative!

Hard work never harmed anyone. Yet, I find that people tend to make excuses and negative remarks when it comes to challenges rather than own up to them and work hard. Why is this? A little elbow grease isn't going to hurt you! Putting in effort takes more energy and work than simply being negative. It is a sad state of affairs when I think my peers rather be negative and not accomplish something versus overcoming the challenge itself. So, if you find yourself being negative today- try the following two steps and start working on the challenges!

1. Change the way you talk.

If you feel the urge to say something negative, don't. Make a mental note to not repress the statement either. Simply find a way to rephrase your thoughts or feelings in a more positive tone. This exercise does wonders for the subconscious.

2. Say no to criticism.

If you tend to comment on what people are doing, without the comment being nice, then don't say anything at all. This is harder than you think. We, as people, tend to talk with each other about each other. If you head out with your girlfriends, observe how many times the topic of other people come up. If the person isn't in the room, don't say anything negative about him or her. It seems easy, it's not!

Changing how you think and how you speak will change how you take on challenges. I promise you more will get done, even hard tasks, when you alter your outlook and the way you talk.

Until next time,

Twyla

www.authortwylagarrett.com

Friday, September 13, 2013

Focus On One Thing

Every business owner and CEO will face a time of panic. It is going to happen. How you handle this panic will determine if you survive and thrive or fail and sail. You can't do both. I wanted to dedicate today's blog to one thing. Yes, focusing on one thing. You see, this concept is rare. Our culture is built to be multi-taskers. Our society embraces technology that helps us multi-task. But, in times of crisis, multi-tasking can overwhelm you and cause you to fail where you might have succeeded.

If you're thinking of quitting something or find yourself engulfed by challenges that are too hard to handle- don't give up. Remember you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. Don't look at the big picture in times of crisis. Instead, try to consider one element at a time. Work on one problem and then move onto the other. If you focus on more than one thing at a time then you're likely to fail at whatever the challenge is.

When focusing on one specific thing, pour all of your energy into it. Determine what the issue is, how you're going to handle it and how you're going to recover. Don't worry about the next twenty problems flooding you at once. Take life one step at a time and you will survive and thrive.

Happy Friday!

Twyla

Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 Reasons Customers Pay More!

No matter if you sell services or products, you will have to raise your rates at one point or another. SO, why would your customers continue to buy and not seek out a competitor? Well, I've got the top 5 reasons!

1. Ease. Customers will pay up to 30% more than a competitor if your products/services are easier to obtain.

2. A "Must-have" feature. Showing value to a customer is easy when you have a "must-have" feature. Figure out an angle and sell-it!

3. Customer service. If you have a great customer service and/or loyalty program- you're in like Flynn.

4. Growth. If your customer's business is growing so quickly that he or she doesn't have time to cost compare- they will likely stay with you even though you've raised rates.

5. Personal relationships. A customer has to like the experience of buying products or services. Who would have thought people, in today's economy, would continue to buy $4.00 cups of coffee at Starbucks? People love the experience of Starbucks, which is why the company just raised rates and no one flinched.

It is very possible to increase costs during this time. You just need to know how to do it.

Happy selling,

Twyla Garrett

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Customer Service- The Key

Have you ever been irritated by poor customer service? It is bound to happen a few times in life. We all have to provide customer service in one way or another. I've come up with two no-fail ways to provide outstanding customer service.

1. Ask how you can fix the issue. People love to talk about their experiences. So, why not let them? Instead of just rushing to fix a problem how you see fit, take a second to listen to the customer's complaint. Then ask him or her how you can fix it. If the request is reasonable- do it. If the request is unreasonable then suggest what you can do.

2. Respond. Ok, this seems like a very simple and obvious step. I have run into issue after issue where corporate executives fail to respond to me. I know I make phone calls. I know I send emails. I often hear nothing back from the addressee. YOU need to handle any and all issues that come before you- this includes following up with the customer once the issue has been resolved.

These two easy steps for customer service act as the key to client happiness. If you can maintain this strategy, you will always have happy customers.

Twyla Garrett

Monday, September 9, 2013

NO!

Here is a word most people don't know how to say "no"- that's right, "no!" Most business owners think turning down business or saying no to anything will kill their companies. Actually, saying no can help grow your business. Always saying yes can make you grow too fast too soon. Always saying yes might mean you're taking on tasks you know you can't complete- this leads to unhappy customers. Don't be a people pleaser, be someone who is honest and able to control his or her situation.

Anytime I am about to purchase something I monitor how many times the sales person can debunk my doubt with a "yes I can" or "we can do this for you"- doing everything to not turn my business away. I can count, however, the number of times the "yes" turned into disappointment. If someone said no in this situation, I would have respected him or her more. My point is that you shouldn't be telling people yes all of the time. Don't be afraid to say no. No can help your company. No sets boundries. No allows you to sell extra features for additional profit- not as favors. No allows your schedule to be respected.

Today, as Monday comes to a close, try practicing saying the word "no" and Tweet me with your results!

Twyla Garrett.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Your Personal Business

Business people need to have great habits. There have been books and conferences about this topic. While there is no bad habit seminar out there, there are few essential habits that you need. If you have read the other books and attended the seminars about good and bad habits- yet still don't feel compelled, try forming these two habits. I promise you they will work wonders for your business.

1. Exercise daily for 20 minutes- even if it is walking. Being in business is stressful. It can drain you and harness your ability to move forward. No matter what, if you exercise daily for 20 minutes, your stress will reduce and your productivity will increase.

2. Make certain people a priority. Don't you love being invited to a dinner or lunch only to have the other person busy attending to business. Isn't this annoying? Don't be this person. If you make a commitment to attend an event with a person, or you schedule a meeting with someone, be present. Don't check your phone, don't constantly interrupt , don't engage in anything else during your time with the other person. After all, you wouldn't want these things done to you!

Well, that's it. Two very simple habits that will help you grow personally and professionally. Being it is the weekend, start tomorrow. Get up and go for a jog. If you have to attend an event with someone (even if it is coffee) keep your phone in your pocket at all times.

Until Monday,

Twyla Garrett

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Creativity.... Yes, You CAN Develop It.

Most people believe you're either born creative or you're not. Well, this isn't 100% true. While some people are great at gardening, others might be good taking care of a single houseplant. The houseplant people may not know they are great gardeners. What's my point? Well, you might not think you're creative- but you might well be. You just need to learn how to develop your creativity.

Put 30 minutes aside today to try this exercise;

1. Sit somewhere that is distraction free. Make sure your cell phone is nowhere to be found.
2. Have a lined piece of paper and a pen- no pencils. Self-doubters use pencil.
3. Write down five ideas on how you can reinvent the concept of Starbucks.
4. Don't hesitate when you write down these ideas. Write down the first five concepts that enter your mind.
5. Scrunch the paper up. Toss it in the trash. Walk away.

Ok, you might be thinking this is crazy. It's not. This exercise is designed to get you analyzing business from a more creative perspective. If you do this every day (picking a different business each day) it really will help you within your own life and industry.

Happy reinventing!

Twyla Garrett

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

PR Basics....

Love or hate Donald Trump- there is no doubt in my mind that you know who he is. Why do you know who he is? Really, think about this. He inserts himself in the middle of the media on the constant. Behind his brand is a company that has had more failures than Elizabeth Taylor had marriages. So, why is Mr. Trump considered media relevant? Because he says so.... yes, this is the reason.

If you don't have an aggressive publicity plan, you need one. Here are some basic tips to get you started;

1. Say what is on your mind... all the time. Don't wait for the media to come to you. Instead, start a YouTube channel. Once a week make a video post commenting on the most trending story of the week. Put your personal spin on it. Go ahead, have an opinion. Trump does and it doesn't prevent him from being in the media- in fact, it helps him get rebooked. Political correctness isn't for the media savvy.

2. Prepare to have enemies... and then engage with them. Yes, talk to your enemies on social media. Keep your cool but stay consistent. The media loves to comment on public fights... don't shy away from the enemies you're going to make giving your opinion.

3. Be charitable. I say this for a million reasons plus one. There are many benefits when it comes to giving back. And, your company's reputation can't be hurt by giving a little or a lot!

Until next time,

Twyla Garrett

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Failure.... Why It's Great for You!

I have a series of books coming up regarding the topic of failure. People are so afraid of failing. They are concerned what other people may think of them. Really, failure is a beautiful thing. Failure allows for growth. Personally and professionally- having a failure is needed to expand and increase profits. That's right- you really do have to learn from your mistakes.

Failure makes you become a patient person. You have to learn patience when you fail, which is a needed lesson in today's quick-to-act social media culture. Not everything needs an answer NOW!

Failure also grounds who you are. Your job is not all that you are. Most people believe this. It isn't true. You are not one sided. Failure allows you to push yourself forward and enhances the creative process. Without failure, you are only your job. With failure, your possibilities are endless.

If you're not seeing my point here- you have never failed in life or in business. It will happen. Just make sure failure doesn't defeat you when it happens. Oh yeah, failure teaches persistence!

Twyla

Friday, August 30, 2013

Essentials for the Virtual Office

More people are working from home or running their businesses out of their homes. It seems easy, it's not. At home you have more distractions. You're easily tempted to take an early lunch, chat up the mailman or watch Dr. Oz! If you create the perfect virtual office, you're more likely to stay on schedule.

1. Hire a virtual assistant. You can't do everything all of the time. You will need this assistant, especially as you grow. Even if you work for someone else, the virtual assistant can be your dirty little secret to staying on task and focus. I like this website (AskSunday) because the assistants work and are affordable. How affordable? Prices start at $130 a month! http://www.asksunday.com/services

2. A dedicated virtual office phone. You don't want one of your kids grabbing your business phone, right? I really enjoy the services of Grasshopper. Here's the link. http://www2.grasshopper.com/

Why I like Grasshopper;
A. Call forwarding to mobile phones - work from anywhere
B. Voicemails via email
C. $12.00 a month!

3. Obtain a professional mailing address. You don't want clients to think the packages they sent to you are sitting around on the dining table, do you? Even if this is the case, presentation is everything! I like Virtual Post Mail. Here's the link: http://www.virtualpostmail.com/tour/online-mailbox

This service collects your mail for you, allows you to preview it via email (great for those who travel often), and forwards the mail to your home address. The address is not a PO Box, which looks great on any business card or website. Pricing starts at $5.00 per month.

These are the basics for starting a virtual office. If you have more questions, or need recommendations, please get a hold of me via Twitter.

Happy Friday & I'll talk with you again on Monday!

Twyla

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