Friday, May 31, 2013

Rules for Life!

Today is Friday. I start out every Friday giving thanks for all the blessings I have. I also take time to ensure I am not breaking any of my life rules. Yes, I have life rules. These are rules I follow to be successful in business and within my personal life. Judging by my record they have worked so far. Let me share them with you.

#1. Love your own ideas. Embrace them! Never quit. Don't worry about the outcome, worry how you're going to make the idea work. People who don't believe in themselves will not allow anyone else to invest in them, either.

#2. Don't be so optimistic that people think you're nuts. I'm a positive thinker. You should be one too. But, don't ignore warning signs. Reality is reality. You have to make the best of any situation, but don't overlook it.

#3. Take a vacation each and every week. Ok, you're probably thinking I'm nuts now. Listen, most business people have become acclimated to our 24/7 technological culture. We're constantly working. I give myself a four hour block, mid-day, one day a week. I shut down all of my electronics and allow myself to watch a movie, go for a walk and/or get ice cream without checking emails, responding to people via Twitter, taking client calls, and so on. We need to let our brains rest in order to be more productive. So, take mini vacations once a week to help clear your mind and to unwind.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Twyla

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Worst Businesses to Start Mid-2013.

For some reason business owners love starting companies in the summer. It has been a trend for the last ten years. If you're getting the itch to expand your business resources and grow your entrepreneur portfolio then read carefully. I've listed the three industries you don't want to invest in come this summer buying/ start-up season.

1. A “deal a day” website. Merchants have become familiar with the margin trick and are no longer willing to give up over 50% of profits to gain customers who won't return for future offers. Discounting is a great way to earn business, but it shouldn't be the only way. Get creative with your promotions and stick to social media to offer contests and deals. Don't start a daily deals website.

2. A book store. Book stores are not making money anymore. Everyone is on eBook or buying hard books through Amazon.com. Local book stores, although charming, are not making money. The markups can be beat by using online options. It is like opening up a CD store right now, it just doesn't make sense.

3. A frozen yogurt shop or specialty cupcake store. The food industry is tough enough. Buying in on a trend, especially a fading one, is going to suck up your money and do so quickly. There are frozen yogurt and cupcake stores almost on every corner these days. Don't invest your money here.

My best business pick this year is personal transportation. Right now Uber is leading the way. But, it hasn't caught on via the west coast. So, if you want to run with a business that I see growing, and rapidly, think about personal transportation.

Until next time,
Twyla

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Top Business Books to Read!

Most of you know by now that I have one book completed and another on the way. As I go into the final edits of my Homeland Security book, and then my life's story, I wanted to share my favorite business books with you and the reasons why.

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley. I like this book because it offers real advice. It is engaging and doesn't read like stereo instructions. The advice plays to everyday business situations.

Always Know What to Say by Peter W. Murphy.

I like this book because it helps business owners know how to approach and pitch people. Sometimes brilliant ideas never get off the ground because people feel awkward in pitch meetings or at networking event. This book offers real advice on how to overcome social moments and shyness.

Goal Setting Success Secrets. How To Revitalize Your Life. Setting And Achieving Your Goals The Smart Way. By Raymond Le Blanc.

I adore this book because it addresses why some people have goals but very few reach those goals. Goals are important in life and in business. If you don't have goals and reach them, you will not be able to run a business.

Start by reading these three books. You can learn a lot about yourself and business. I will update this blog with other business books I like- but start with these three first.

Twyla

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Your Salary... How to Define It.

This blog is primarily reviewed by business owners. However, I have noticed a recent trend of executives and hourly staff reading this blog to improve their plight in business. That's why I decided to cover the sensitive topic of salary today. One of the toughest questions you will be asked when applying for employment is about your salary expectations. This question is feared because it is a deal breaker. Answer too low and you'll short-change yourself. Answer too high and you won't get the job. So, how do you answer it properly?

According to FoxBusiness.com the best answer is as follows, "You can give yourself some wiggle room on the question by saying you’re willing to negotiate on “total compensation.” You know, the perks, such as vacation days or flexible work arrangements, that might make the job more worthwhile even if the pay is lower than you want."

As a business owner, I have to say I agree with Fox. You have to remain transparent about your prior salary. And, you should do research on the salary allowances for the company you are interviewing with. If you know they pay low, leverage vacation days or work arrangements. If you know they pay high, show your value and why you are worth an increase in pay from your prior salary to your possible new position.

The worst thing you can do is toss out random numbers and show up to the interview ill-prepared. Do your research, know your bottom line and consider trading in dollars for days off or work days at home.

Happy job hunting!
Twyla

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Impress an Investor!

You have everything ready to go for your next business venture.... that is everything except for money. So, you need to not only find an investor willing to consider your business venture- you need to impress that investor! After spending years developing my own companies, sometimes using investors, I've cultivated a few tricks to help investors give the "yes" nod.

What I've learned is business investors are looking for a good marketing plan from entrepreneurs in the business proposals. If an entrepreneur does not have a strong plan for marketing in the overall business plan, the entrepreneur might find that investors are not interested in taking a risk. Marketing is everything. If you don't research the marketing end of your business, investors will not even consider your numbers. Marketing = interest in the media and potential customers, which = sales and profit.

Investors care but don't rely upon education. Don't think your degree is going to get you anywhere with an investor. It is nice to have but some of the best business people on Earth barely made it through high-school. Keep your presentation simple, engaging and don't over pitch your education. Stick with pitching the numbers and how your product or services can be marketed and marketed easily.

Finally, be hands-on. Most investors will look at the attitude of the entrepreneur presenting the business proposal. Having prior business experience always works in favor of the entrepreneur. Most investors like to give the money to someone who has had experience in running a similar business.

I'm not writing a blog tomorrow. Enjoy your Memorial Day!

Twyla

Saturday, May 25, 2013

10 Ways to Tastefully Self-Promote!

We've all been on the other side of a bad sales pitch. While one person is spewing out details of something you don't want to buy, you're wondering when the pitch will end so you can move on to something more exciting. And, then you decide to pitch your product..... but are you making the same mistakes?

I've sat through some terrible presentations in my life time. And, I have presented some zingers too! After years of working at being classy, clever and closing-I'm sharing my top 10 ways to self-promote yourself.

#10. Don't ever promise something you can't deliver.

#9. Make blogging a high-priority. If you can't blog everyday, hire someone who can.

#8.Build your email list and rely upon it. Most important- don't send out daily emails.

#7. Distribute a press release at least once a month. It helps your website's ratings and you start to develop a relationship with the press- even if it takes a year to gain a clipping.

#6. Offer deals and discounts around holidays. Don't just promote normal pricing, promote specials too!

#5. Run social media competitions to help people learn about your company or services.

#4. Market your business using a video.

#3. Be honest and optimistic. Don't tell people why their ideas or business will not work if they don't use you, stay focused on why using your products/services can improve their lives/businesses.

#2. Use Twitter religiously.

#1. Don't give up and don't seem too desperate.

Twyla

Friday, May 24, 2013

Essential Items- Tornado Survival Kit

My tips on how to survive a tornado:

Consider the danger signs:

#1. A pale green sky is an indicator that a tornado may occur.

#2. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also advises to look out for the following danger signs: large hail, dark, low-lying clouds, and a loud roar, similar to a freight train.

Staying safe #1. A tornado watch indicates possible tornadoes in your area.

#2. A tornado warning means that a tornado is on the ground or has been detected by Doppler radar. Seek shelter immediately! If you are indoors, take cover in the cellar or a small space (a closet or bathroom) in the interior of your home. Stay away from windows!

#3. If you are outdoors, find a field or ditch away from items that can fly through the air and lie down as flat as you can. Do not stay in a car or try to drive away from a tornado. Cars can be flung about by high winds or crushed by debris.

#4. If you have evacuated, do not return to your home until it is deemed safe to do so by local officials.

#5. Do not seek shelter under a highway overpass. If you do stay behind the wheel, don't try to outrun the tornado — drive at a 90-degree angle away from the storm.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why & How to Snack at Work!

We spend so much time at work that eating is necessary. I've never understood people who refuse to take a lunch or a break to eat. It isn't healthy and the time away from your desk can actually increase productivity. I did some research and discovered the top three foods that you SHOULD eat when at work.

Flax improves brain function, but it helps reduce inflammation and improve circulation. Flax also helps lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar, making it a great supplement to include in any diet. Sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flax seeds to oatmeal or add a tablespoon of flax oil to smoothies or salad dressings. Flax is inexpensive and has so many benefits. I also like to add it to my yogurt as I review emails.

Chocolate is rich in flavanol antioxidants that increase blood flow to the brain, helping to protect brain cells. But the percentage of cacao is important--the darker the chocolate, the better. I always keep dark chocolate near my desk. I have a small piece at 10, 2 and 4 o'clock to help keep my mind sharp and my energy levels up.

contain flavonoids--antioxidants that have been shown to help improve your ability to learn and enhance motor skills. Flavonoids also help prevent degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. I love freezing my blueberries the night before I bring them into work. It gives them a bit of bite that is perfect during times of stress!

Take the time to eat your lunch and enjoy snacks during your breaks. I know it is hectic out there, but eating right CAN increase your productivity and keep you sharper as you age.

Twyla

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The 3 Rules of Selling

You're going into business for yourself. Congrats. Before you start taking meetings, you are going to need to sell something. That's right. Start getting customer commitments as soon as possible. So, if you want to sell but don't know how- follow my lead.

Start with advertising what exactly sets you apart from your competition. What makes you different? If you have the same products as your competitors- consider what can make you different. Is your return policy better? Do you offer your customers better perks? Find your angle.

You should also know who you need to sell to. I once knew a guy who performed horrible as a sales person. It wasn't that he couldn't sell, it was that he didn't know who to sell to. Make sure you are always pitching to decision makers. Don't waste time pitching secretaries or even company owners. Pitch to the people in charge of buying and making decisions.

The last thing you should do is deliver the goods. The key to sales is repeat sales. If you do what you say you are going to do, are friendly and prompt- you should have no problem gaining your customers' loyalty. So, make sure you thank everyone for their business and provide the products and services when promised.

Twyla

Monday, May 20, 2013

Oklahoma Tornado Resources

To say I'm heartbroken about the news of 91+ people deceases as a result of today's Tornado in Oklahoma is an understatement. As a woman who owns a Homeland Security firm, I am familiar with the response to a disaster (including weather related)and I thought I would share some resources. My prayers are with the families of today's victims.

Please click on the name of each service / entity to reach each webpage.

Fema Twitter

Red Cross

National Weather Service, Oklahoma Specific

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management

Family Disaster Plan

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sir Richard Branson.... one of my heroes.

I have many heroes. So many peopled helped me on my journey this far- both professionally and personally. One person, who I haven't met, that really inspires me is Sir Richard Branson. I recently watched a video of him. He stated many would-be business owners suffer from "analysis paralysis". He is so right. I consult with many business men and women. I talk with people who have great ideas and they never get them off the ground. They are so busy analyzing what could happen that they fail to attempt to make anything happen. Don't let this be you!

It is always good to assess risk. Heck, I do this for a living. But there comes a point where you have to just go for it. Richard Branson started Virgin with $200 invested in the concept. Talk about just going for it. He had every reason to fail, but didn't. Why? He went for it. He had the passion to ignore what could happen and just made it happen. We need more business people who overlook the odds and invest in their passion, not the data!

I'm not saying failure can't or won't happen. Even I have had to shut down businesses. You move forward. You keep going. You don't stop or talk yourself out of starting anything. You have to be a man or woman of action or you will never know the taste of success.

Twyla

Friday, May 17, 2013

Investing Small Money 101

You don't have to have tons of cash to invest wisely. You can use "small money" to become wealthy. There are a few tricks. Make sure to consult with your financial adviser before making any rash decisions with money. However, I am listing my tricks of the "small money" trade below.

Start with paying yourself. We all pay bills and have financial obligations. But, we often forget to pay ourselves. Take 17% of your net pay or profit and put it aside for yourself. Don't touch this money. It can help you gain a line of credit or act as collateral later down the line.

Look into buying stocks using Dividend Reinvestment Plans ("DRIPs") or Direct Stock Purchase Plans ("DSPs"). These plans are easy to use and only require $50 dollars to start. You also want to seek out mutual funds with a low minimal purchase. Some mutual fund companies will allow investors to start investing with small deposits, but you'll have to agree to an automatic investment plan whereby you let them deduct a fixed amount from your bank account every month for the purpose of buying additional stock.

If you can afford to set aside a thousand dollars (or more) consider a CD. This stands for Certificate of Deposit. The concept is to loan your money to a bank. The bank has a certain amount of time to pay you back with a higher interest rate. It is like a savings account but you can't withdraw the money during an emergency. The plus side is the interest on a CD is larger than that of a savings account.

You can use "small money" to grow major wealth for yourself.

Until next time,
Twyla

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Do You Travel? How to Stay Productive.

I'm always traveling. I practically run my business from my laptop. That doesn't mean I am not present when it comes to my company. In fact, it means just the opposite. Traveling no longer means you have to be disconnected from the office, or your staff, thanks to technology.

The key to traveling productively is to stay on schedule or prepare for delays. I use Tripit to keep my travel itinerary organized and my team informed of the details. The app itself is easy to use and it allows me to stay ahead of the game when it comes to traveling.

I also like packing my own portable printer. It saves me tons on cash and often comes in handy. But my biggest tip is the travel list. I developed a travel list that is divided into three sections. Packing, Presenting, Post-Packing. Each section has a checklist of items to bring and things to do. I keep it as a standard doc on my computer. I print a hard copy two days before each trip. This way, I have a routine of things that are staples and things I can buy and do when I arrive at my location.

I also promise myself an hour of veg-time when traveling. Working too much can cause your business brain to stale. I allow myself one hour to sit in-front of the hotel's television, or at the bar in the lobby, and do nothing but stare at the screen or converse with those around me about anything BUT business. This does help you become more productive.

Happy Traveling,
Twyla Garrett

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Business is Magic?

Men and women come to be every day asking what the magic secret is to becoming successful. There is no secret and it depends on what YOU consider "success". I was thinking about this phrase recently, "Magic secret" and became intrigued. It is funny to consider business and magic as one. And the more I started thinking about the two concepts, which should be completely opposite of each-other, I noted (sadly) that in today's business world they often aren't.

Many business owners use smoke and mirror tricks to make a sale, some try to mislead - gently of course- their employees to help promote a false message. The examples can go on and on. What a sad state of affairs for some businesses. Magic has nothing to do with success, ethics and helping promote a business within a community. Talent, if there ever were to be a secret, is essential to helping a business grown. Sales people who can pursued without lying or over-promising are what is needed in today's business culture. No one wants to be the victim of an illusion, yet it happens all the time.

My point is that we as people in business need to stop seeking out shortcuts and start getting our hands dirty. If you want a magic want to rake in success and money- then your intention within your industry is wrong. You need to be passionate. Yes, money is great but doesn't it feel better when it is earned and not the result of a sales or "magic" trick?

I'd love to read your opinions. Please share them with me and I will respond.

Until next time,
Twyla

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What you need to ask your employees.

From time to time I get asked about what business owners should be looking for when it comes to their employees. There isn't a perfect answer. Every situation is unique and every business owner's set of expectations is different. I think the best way to gauge an employee is by starting to ask the right questions before he or she is hired.

Asking someone how they heard about an opening with your company can lead to a lot of information. Does the candidate rely on a social group to connect with others? Is he or she constantly on the computer aggressively tracking down leads? Is he or she seeking a job or a career? Starting with the basic question of "How did you hear about us?" will tell you a lot about the person.

My next suggested step is to ask an employee what they liked about the job (the one you gave him or her) when they started. This will give you insight has to how your company is really viewed and what is being said about your company. I believe in maintaining a friendly but firm workplace. If someone tells me they liked the ability to socialize with their co-workers or "joke around" the best, I have a problem. So, ask questions before someone is hired and throughout their employment.

We all get busy. Knowing about your employees' perceptions can help you hire better people or promote the gems that you already have.

Until next time,
Twyla

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tough Economy Vs. Your Business

I can’t tell you the number of times I hear or read “touch economy” in a single day. Yes, the economy isn’t what it use to be. But, that’s not an excuse to fold your cards and call it a day when it comes to your business- or starting a business.

There are some things you can do to offset how the economy is impacting your business. You don’t have to thrive during a recession, but you do have survive. I know there are some circumstances that don’t warrant keeping a business alive. I’ve been there. But you have to give yourself a fighting chance. Here’s how:

Starting with re-researching your competitors. Don’t rely on old data. Your competition is feeling the impact of a touch economy just like you. This is why it pays, literally, to check out the competition weekly and see what perks they are offering and what price adjustments have been made. After doing this you can make an educated decision on how to adjust your own pricing and business efforts.

The next thing you want to do is review your budget. Small changes can mean big savings. If you have a water service delivery to the office three times a month, cut back. Ask for twice a month delivery service. If you are using premium pens because they write better- switch. Go to the dollar store and buy pens and pencils in bulk. You will save money. Review your budget and see where cutbacks and substitutions can be made.

Last on my list is sending hand-written Thank You notes to your existing clients. It seems like a small thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. Your customers can get your products or services anywhere. Don’t believe me? Google your industry. They are your clients because they like you and your work. Let them know they are appreciated and you want to keep them as clients.

There is never going to be a perfect set of circumstances in business. You will be able to survive, and then thrive, by adjusting your plans according to client need and the economic culture.

Twyla Garrett

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Are You An Angry Business Owner?

Being a business owner or executive isn't easy. Sometimes we can crack under the pressure. So, how do I maintain my cool? Well, it takes a lot of patience and practice- but I do. I'm sharing my advice below. However, I would love to read your tips. Please share them with me here on on Twitter.

My key to remaining cool is to make yourself extra aware of the situation. It sounds simple, it's not. When you start to feel overwhelmed the best thing you can do is excuse yourself. Walk away from the situation. Look at your watch (or cell phone) and give yourself ten minutes to NOT think about the problem(s). Grab a coffee or a snack and just breath. After ten minutes, think about the situation. Ask yourself if it really is "the end of the world" or take an inventory of possible solutions and why they will or will not work. Whatever you do- don't take immediate action and don't react with hate or anger. You will make brash decisions and ruin your reputation.

You also want to tell yourself to "Calm down." You will need a reminder. It is ok to repeat the phrase to yourself until you can reasonably review the situation and consider the action you are going to have to take- if any at all. Sometimes I feel it is best to walk away from certain challenges. If someone is getting under your skin that day, shut your door. There doesn't always have to be a confrontation.

I hope this advice helps you. I know it has done wonders for me.

Until next time,
Twyla

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Debbie Downer..... how to shut her up.

I know I am being blunt right now. It is necessary. We all know a Debbie Downer. She is someone who takes the fun out of everything. She isn't positive and her spirit crushes any sense of ambition. Well, I have devised three ways to shut the Debbie Downer in your office up. Here they are:

#1. Start with isolating the problem. If Debbie Downer complains at every company function, put her (or him) in charge of something. Keep that person busy so their negativity doesn't impact the rest of the team's fun and productivity. Have Mr. or Mrs. Downer check in people, be in charge of the open bar tally, or take notes at the meeting. After a few functions of busy work, and not having an input with the actual group or company, Debbie Downer will be forced to figure out that she has been isolated and needs to become more positive to be part of the team.

#2. Address him or her. If Debbie Downer hasn't figured out that he or she has been isolated for a reason, or the behavior gets worse, then you have to be forward and address them. I know confrontations are hard but a negative person can drag gown your company's moral and profit margin. Be polite, but be firm and to the point. Express that the negativity isn't going to be tolerated.

#3. Fire Mrs. Downer. If you address the negativity issue with an employee and the behavior continues- fire him or her. Don't stand around requesting change or hoping for it. Instead, change the employee for someone who is more matched with your team or company's culture. Steps one and two are strikes one and two. Remember, third strike and you're out!

Until next time,
Twyla

Monday, May 6, 2013

Looking to Spend Money? Try Investing in the Food Industry.

Ok, I know it sounds crazy. In the past, investing in the food industry sounded crazy. Banks, investors, family members- they all would discourage it. The rate use to be for every 10 restaurants started only 1 would still be standing a year later. That 1 restaurant standing also had a 60% chance of closing before making it to its second anniversary. Well, things have changed and the food industry is booming!

If you're looking to invest in a business then I would suggest you highly consider thinking about a bar or restaurant. You should, as always, check with your legal and business adviser before taking any action- but considering this industry is worth the extensive look.

In 2012, "Venture capitalists poured $350 million into food tech companies last year, an increase of 7.6 percent over 2011, according to research firm CB Insights. Not only that, but the number of deals increased by 37 percent, including robust activity in international markets," according to Steve Tobak of Inc.com. People are demanding more types of healthy, on-the-go foods. As a society we are working longer hours, traditional groceries are starting to cost the same as eating out every night, and there are more and more food allergies and food-lifestyle choices to cater to. Gourmet restaurants and healthy to-go joints are blooming and succeeding more than ever.

Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and dozens of other markets specializing in natural and organic foods, there are thousands of farmer's markets popping up in cities big and small across the nation. People are demanding better food and yet they have less and less time to dine-in. This is an advantage for anyone who is seeking to open a restaurant. To-go orders are easy, they require less staff and less start-up money. So, when someone asks me where I think their next investment should be, I say in the food industry! Five years ago I would have went through a long list of cons before listing the long-term, yet still rewarding pros. Now, not so much. And, I have been in the food industry as a business owner. I know how hard it is and how quickly money can be lost. I closed a restaurant. But, believe me when I say, things are changing. Do you due diligence and seek out viable options for restaurant investments.

Until next time,
Twyla Garrett

Saturday, May 4, 2013

How NOT To Network!

I get invited to several events. And, I attend as many as possible. On a recent trip, I was invited to a networking event. I went with a friend and acted as an observer only because the event was not related to my industry. I learned a lot at this event. Not so much about networking, but more on how people behave and how not to network. Let's start with working the room. Oh, I could see people running once they made eye contact with a shark. You know, a shark is the type of person who wants to ABC (always be closing) with you. You're either a shark's prospect or you're not important. This led me to think about sales pitches and most of us business owners (and everyday employees) have to sell something. Are we all sharks? No. But there difference is only in the approach and not the purpose.

"Remember six degrees of separation? With the introduction and widespread use of social media and other technologies, a study from 2012 shows that these days, it's more like four degrees. The more people you know--really know--the more likely you are to make that important connection you need to take your career, company, or venture to the next level," via Inc.com.

No matter what event you are attending, networking isn't about prospects and non-prospects. I learned this first-hand. You have to engage people. Introduce yourself and gracefully pitch what you have to offer. Not everything is a hard-sale or cold-call. You can stand out in someone's mind without being overly aggressive or making him or her feel as if they serve no purpose to you. The best way to network is to be honest and genuine. After all, you're not selling a produce or service, you're selling yourself. I have a five day rule with people I meet at networking events.

My 5 day rule is as follows. First, treat everyone you meet equally. You never know where or who is going to send a referral your way. Take everyone's card and be as honest as possible. Next, ask questions. Learn more about the person you are networking with. Let him or her do most of the talking. Last, promise to follow up. If you feel you have a strong lead, or potential business referral resource, tell that person you want to get together for coffee within the next week. Follow up, via email, the next day and invite him or her to meet for coffee within five days. If they don't respond, can't make it, or cancel- move on. People who are serious about growing their networking database will make the effort to take an hour out for coffee- especially since you're treating!

The worst thing you can do at a networking event is be a hard-seller. Don't lie, don't exaggerate your capabilities and don't be obnoxious. Be yourself, do your follow-up, and always thank people for their time.

Speaking of which........
Thank you for YOUR time,

Twyla Garrett, owner of IME.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tips for Leadership Success!

I hear people come up with the best excuses as to why they can't lead. That's ridiculous. Leaders don't ask for permission, leaders take charge. If someone is "holding you back" from being a leader- you're not a leader. It is this simple and that cut and dry. If you know you're a leader but need a little guidance as to how to prove it- check out my tips below.

#1. Know how to let people work. Real leaders care more about what is getting done and not how it is getting done. In fact, leaders expect people to be creative and resourceful when accomplishing tasks. If you want to lead, do so. Communicate with your team what you need done and when you need it done. Define your expectations as to what they need to accomplish and how much you are or aren't going to be involved in the process. If you have an excellent support team, which you should, then there is no need to worry!

#2. Answer your own phone. I learned this lesson from Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie Cosmetics, a nail-polish company based in New York City. Essie refuses to have a secretary even though her business does $150 million in retail sales a year. She answers her own phone so she can address problem, take suggestions and gain valuable feedback about her company. Essie leads by example and being hands-on within her company.

#3. Walk around your office. Leaders need to be involved with their employees. Don't micromanage, but show a presence. Walk around the office and say hello to people. Ask what they are working on or take the time to discuss what you're working on. Make people aware of what you are doing and become involved. Leaders don't bark orders, leaders help execute tasks and are aware of employee issues or project challenges.

Being a leader is something you are born with. You can refine how you operate for added success. Do you have specific exercises that help you lead? I'm interested in learning about them. Let's discuss on Twitter.

Until next time,
Twyla

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Is Your Office Productive?

Harvard Business School recently did a study on distractions in the workplace. They found that office decor and the use of colors (along with which ones) cause productivity to calm to a screeching halt. Moving desks away from windows or lobby areas can help increase productivity. Sunny days also makes people slow down when it comes to accomplishing tasks. In addition, a study of office workers at a Florida insurance company, conducted by Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, found that as office temperatures increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees, typing errors decreased 44 percent.

To increase your company's productivity and employee accuracy placement of desks, loud colors and temperature all play a major role. I know several business owners who expand into larger offices because productivity is going well. They get into the new office and productivity plummets. Beautiful offices with lots of windows, a view of a lake or pond, and excessive use of non-beautiful colors can cost higher rents and you may lose work value.

I always tell business owners to look for cheap but workable when investing in office space. Look for an office that doesn't have many windows, uses lots of neutral green colors or employs grey and white decor. Have an open snack area if possible. Many people hide their employee kitchens. This can be a distraction too. Employees can get "lost" in kitchen / snack areas, decreasing productivity. If you keep the snack / kitchen area doorless and near the boss' office, trips become less and less frequent.

You're running a business, not a spa. The goal is to be productive, not comfortable.

Until next time
Twyla

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