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!

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.

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:

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!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Self-Sabotage- How Ugly It Can Be!

Have you ever met someone who has all the opportunity in the world- who also self-sabotages? It happens often. I've know very smart people who are on the brink of making it big- and then a scandal happens or they find a way to crush the opportunity. Have you ever been the victim of self-sabotage? Yes, I said victim because there are people out there who make a decision to self-sabotage themselves without knowing it.

Mike Tyson's interview today on the Today Show show how someone can be so accomplished, yet still self-sabotage them self. I've posted it below in case you missed it. The interview truly is an amazing example of self-sabotage being identified.

Here is how to over come self-sabotaging behavior.

1. Ask yourself if you feel motivated. If no, ask yourself why. Write these answers down.

2. Identify why you're not accomplishing anything based on the answers you wrote.

3. Ask yourself if the reasons why you're not accomplishing anything are really true or just assumptions. Ask yourself if you've tried to overcome these feelings or beliefs in the past.

Stop believing your own lies. Your internal dialogue isn't always right. If you feel unmotivated or are not making enough money, it isn't because they money isn't there or the opportunities aren't coming your way. No, other people are making money right now and there are always opportunities. You have to identify what your self-sabotage thinking is. Address what is fact and separate what is fiction. After you make these distinctions, you can develop a step-by-step plan to get yourself back on track.

It's never easy overcoming self-esteem issues, which is really why people self-sabotage. I've had to do it. My mom was very abusive to me. In fact, she told me I wouldn't amount to shit. Learn from your past. Identify when you are setting yourself up for failure. Move forward.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

3 Ways You're Failing Customers

It happens. We get busy with how to run the business, growing a business, developing our brand, etc. that we forget why we are in business- our customers. I'm listing three ways to tell if you've lost sigh of your customers' needs. If so, ask yourself what you can do to correct the situation at hand.

1. You half-ass tasks. Sorry to be so blunt, but it is true. If you perform at your highest level upon first signing a client, but months or years later you could care less if the product/service is amazing or of quality then you've lost focused and are denying your customer what he or she is entitled to.

2. You believe the customer is always right. Um, no. The customer may think he or she is always right, but they're not. You wouldn't sell a standard kitchen oven to someone who wanted to open a bakery would you? No, of course not. If you see a client making a mistake and you don't step in- you're failing that customer.

3. You avoid the evil client. If you ditch a client because he or she is too demanding than you might not be up for the challenge of expansion. Try your best to handle evil clients and resolve inner-conflicts before giving this type of customer the boot.

Dealing with customers isn't always easy. You are not going to have easy clients in life. There will be difficult clients and situations. Remember these three tips and make sure the problem isn't you.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sending an Impressive Email

I received a question yesterday about email. The person wanted to know how to send a business pitch via email. My first question was "why email?" The response explained how this person couldn't get the decision maker on the phone. Yes, this scenario does present a challenge. Inspired, I decided to jot down a couple of tips on how to write an impressive email. I hope this helps!

Step 1: Get to the point. If your email borders beyond two paragraphs - it is to long for an introductory email. In fact, ideally you want to keep the email within a paragraph. Be direct and don't go on and on and on and on about yourself. Explain what you need, why you need it, and how the other person can problem solve and/or benefit.

Step 2: Write to one person at a time. The mass email is impersonal and unprofessional. Yes, you are going to have to cut and paste the body of the main email and then write each person's name as the introductory at the top of the emails.

Step 3: Your subject line is an ad. Keep it simple, compelling and make it scream "open me first!" People tend to browse their emails early in the morning. They usually open what looks important first and will wait until the end of the day, if not tomorrow, to open up the other non-important emails. Write a clever subject line for your email.

There is no secret to getting past the cold call or cold email. However, these three simple steps can improve your chances!

Until next time,


Monday, August 26, 2013

Customer Service 101

I tend to blog a lot about how to grow your company and treat your employees. Today, I want to talk about customer service. You see, customer service is a challenge- especially in today's social media society. You're not going to please all the people all of the time. The key to dealing with difficult customers is knowing how to identify a problem before it happens.

1. The customer is always right. I hate this thinking. No, the customer is NOT always right. However, the statement holds true as to what your customer is thinking- that he or she is right. So, you have to identify these know-it-alls and figure out a way to make them feel like they are right while still understanding your position. Try to view the customer's point of view, put personal feelings aside, and figure out a way to excel within the situation. Chances are that no matter what you do, this type of customer will never be happy and you will not see a piece of repeat business from him or her.

2. The negative naysayer. This type of customer resents spending his or her money in the first place. This customer wants to find, even create, problems. The easiest way to deal with this type of customer is to convey your empathy, explain you understand him or her and then redefine the terms of the purchase/contract, and finally- figure out a way to end the conversation on a positive note.

There is a lot to customer service. I'll be posting more throughout the month of September. In the meantime, happy Monday everyone!


Friday, August 23, 2013

The Art of Oprah's 'Pivot'

I try not to quote Oprah often. She does what works for her- and there is no doubt that it works well. This said, Oprah's life and my life are two different things. What she wants, does and how she operates isn't for everyone. In fact, I never recommend modeling your life after what Oprah does. It isn't realistic and you're setting yourself up for failure. You have to be you!

I will, however, talk about the art of Oprah's Pivot. So, what is Pivot anyway? Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, coined the term pivot. This term means to change the direction of a company (essentially to avoid disaster) without alerting employees or clients.

The Oprah Pivot: Here is what she said. “Let me just say, we have made the pivot,” Winfrey said today on “Good Morning America.” “It’s been really an exciting challenge and I am really so happy to announce to the world, ‘We have made the pivot.’”

Here is what really happened: Oprah was losing her ratings. Her almighty show was on the brink of cancellation. She was left with three choices. 1. Allow the show to be cancelled and accept public humiliation that she really didn't have viewership she was projecting. 2. Retire while she was on top and let her employees find work elsewhere why her brand sailed into the sunset. 3. Reinvent her company to meet the demands of the audience she did have. Basically, rebuild from the ground up without letting her audience know the company was in trouble and her show was failing. Oprah opted for option 3- the pivot!

Steps for A Successful Pivot:

1. Get your team on board without creating panic. In fact, create excitement and talk opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. People talk. Employees talk. No leaks can be risked as to what really is going on with your company. Even with top executive management. Stay positive and get that team of yours talking up the next move for the company!

2. Keep money coming in while you plan your pivot. You need money to make money. Don't pause one business model or business effort to focus on another. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

3. Hire someone who knows how to pivot to help you the first time around. There is no shaming in the pivot- again, look at Oprah. I can help you, other business consultants can help, write Oprah a letter- do whatever it is to find the one special person who can help you pivot. You will need support!

There is no shame in learning how to pivot. The world changes. Demographics change. Your company is going to change. If you know how to pivot then you can change while making money and developing a stronger brand.

I hope this blog leaves you inspired as you head into the weekend,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Finish What You Started!

Every day tasks can be time consuming. Policies and procedures take up so much time that sometimes it is hard to get major projects done. I've come up with a few tips to help you better finish what you may have started but are unable to complete.

First, dedicate a block of time. Schedule yourself time to work on the project. During this time hold your calls, shut the cell phone off and try not to glance at your email. Focus only on the project for the block of time. This simple step is a major step forward in the right direction.

Find a coffee house to work at. Why? Working in your office means people coming in and out of your office, regardless if you blocked time as busy or not. And working at home allows too much of a temptation to do other things. The coffee house will be your dedicated 'project' place and there isn't much temptation to speak with coworkers or watch TV.

Finally, break the project into chunks. This will make the task less stressful. Don't try to accomplish everything in one day. You will be worried about deadlines and rush the project. Focus on the quality of your work and give yourself room for creativity or unexpected schedule interruptions.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Become A Better Boss!

Many people ask me about leadership. They want to know how to lead their team to overwhelming sales and branding. Well, to be a great leader you have to be an amazing boss. This means starting with bossing yourself around. The best way to start being a better boss (and leader) is to say thank you and mean it. I try to practice this daily. When someone completes a task for me, even though it is expected because he or she is my employee, I say thank you. It is important to let people know when they are appreciated.

I also try to hold monthly meetings where I can ask employees if there is something I can do to make their work environment better or if there are tools needed to do the job. Knowing what the challenges within the office are, and where your own short falls stand, will help you assess what type of boss you are and take action to improve.

Random food. Who doesn't love free food? I try to surprise my employees with lunch delivered to the office when they least expect it. I will never schedule this regularly but if I know we're having a slow week, I order lunch. It gives the office time to talk, share ideas and brainstorm what tasks can be completed.

You don't have to be mean to be a great boss. In fact, being harsh can backfire. Try using one of these suggested steps this week to become a better boss.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The First Impression... How to NAIL it.

I'm about to give you one trick that you can use for the rest of your life. This trick is very valuable. It will win you fans, favors and sales. You have to master it or it will not work. What is it? It is the way to make an ultimate first impression on anyone and at anytime.

Stop selling people on who you are. They don't care- that is unless you're Iron Man. Sell people on who THEY are. Yes, your first impression shouldn't be about you. You need to make the other person feel like it is all about them. Even if you say very little, if you can make the other person meeting you for the first time feel like they are the only human on planet Earth- you will have a fan for life.

Don't try to make a sale. Don't pitch yourself in anyway other than minimally. Learn about that person, be polite and helpful. Make the other person feel famously special. Once you do- you have nailed the first impression.

It is important to practice this technique. Sometimes it can come off as condescending or not genuine. You don't want this to backfire.

Try practicing the next time you meet someone. I promise you that with practice- this secret will help you better navigate your personal and professional life.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Social Media Tricks

Everyone wants to know the secret to social media success. There is no secret to social media success other than showing up. Yes, the secret to social media, and life, is showing up. Who knew Keanu Reeves was so wise? Lol!

This said, it is important to note key opportunities on social media platforms to help your brand gain respect. You can have tons of followers on Twitter and not be respected. In fact, you can have lots and lots of people following you on Twitter hell bent on harassment. So, if you want to use social media in a way that engages your customers and potential customers, try using these tips:

1. Respond to everything. This means don't only respond to direct messages about your company, respond to messages about your industry. Follow the hashtags that are related to your industry. If you are a chef, you want to follow hashtags that read 'cooking', or 'needchef'... if you're a mechanic, you want to respond to hashtags that read 'deadbattery' or 'carissues'. Your goal is seek out your audience and engage them.

2. Don't sell anything. Everyone on Twitter or Facebook watches their numbers like crazy. And then they get upset when the phone doesn't ring. Social media isn't an immediate ROI. If you think it is, you're wrong. Social media solidifies your reputation and brand. People will hire you because of a referral or a great rating. People will think of you because of social media. It is important to showcase your brand as much as possible without selling anything on social media. People don't respond to blatant pitches for business on Twitter. However, they will use Twitter to form an opinion about your business.

These two tips will get you headed in the right direction when it comes to using social media.

Remember, social media is like Keanu's baseball game.... you have to show up!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Don't Make the J.C. Penney Mistake!

Today I want to talk about the J.C. Penney mistake. Marketers will use the J.C. Penney brand for years to come when teaching students what NOT to do. So, what is the mistake and how do you avoid it?

Well, the first thing you need to learn NOT to do is apologize for change as a company. Yes, you should apologize if you provided a service that wasn't up to standards or made a mistake. But, you should never ever apologize for going in a different direction or rebranding as a company. J.C. Penney did this and it was a disaster. Shareholers were mad, the public didn't care about the change but more that they had to hear about it so many times (apology included), and so forth. Companies change, it happens. You shouldn't ever apologize for moving into a new direction or going with a new look or logo.

You should always keep the customer's perspective in mind. Another hole that J.C. Penney has to climb out of is ignoring what their customers wants and desires were. The company has spent the last two years focused on their needs and not the needs of the customers. This means the needs of the customers were not met- perhaps why their customer database has shrunk by such a large margin.

When you're in business there are going to be times when you need to change direction, rebrand and ask yourself if you're making decisions based on your needs or that of your customer. Try to spend today pondering these points and addressing on what side of the fence you currently stand.

Until next time,


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Get Me A Meeting With......

Let's talk business for real. The hardest thing in business is getting your foot in the door with the right people. Not everyone starts a business with a pocket full of contacts who are willing to help, buy or network. So, how is this done? Well, like many things- it is an art that has to be practiced. I have some key pointers to help you get started to obtaining a meeting with almost anyone!

First you need to know what NOT to do. Don't ever send an email or make a call and ask to have coffee. Coffee is code for 'I'm going to pick your brain, steal some ideas, and take a shortcut to figuring this all out myself...oh, and your help is only worth the price of a cup of coffee.'

What you want to do is start with having something to offer. Business owners and decisions makers can buy their own coffee without having to listen to an hour long pitch or how-to session to get it. But business owners and decision makers are curious by nature. They are always looking for ways to improve and the next big thing. Use your knowledge as a trade off. Make a call, or send an email, stating you have something that he or she can learn from. Explain it isn't a pitch. Explain you have been using this tactic (remember to find your angle) and you just thought he or she could benefit from it. State you're having a casual lunch at this place on this time and he or she is free to join you- no RSVP needed.

Your next step is to show up to the pressure free lunch. You have an 85% chance the other person will show to. If he or she doesn't, don't worry. Send a follow up email or call and talk with them over the phone. If they do show-you're in. Have a nice lunch. Don't be pitching or over bearing and don't ask him or her any questions. Just share our angle. But Twyla, I need something from this person! I know what you're thinking. Ignore your need on the first meeting. Present your value and your insight. Why? Well, the person on the receiving end has now taken up YOUR time gaining something from you. He and she is put into a position where they have to now respond to your follow up meeting request.... and guess where that is going.

Getting a meeting with anyone is easy when you're able to help him or her. Getting a meeting when you need the help... well that isn't so easy. So, if you flip the tables and put the other party into a position where they owe you, well that meeting is a piece of cake!

Until next time,


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

3 Self-Descriptive Words That Make Yourself Look Stupid!

One important part of networking is being able to describe yourself within a minute or less. But, describing yourself is an art. If you say too little about yourself- you appear weak and not confident. If you say too much- you're a jerk. I know the secret to making a great first impression and I'm not afraid to share it with you.

There are three words you don't want to use-ever- when talking about yourself. What are they? Well, they are more than simple words- they are how you use the words. Keep reading.....

#1. Taking credit for your obligations. Any word or series of words that describes yourself doing something that you're suppose to be doing is wrong. For example, 'I'm a great parent' or 'I'm a manager who likes to respond to problems'. No one wants to hear you praise yourself for doing what you are suppose to do. Stay away from this ego trap.

#2. Innovative. Just saying that your innovative shows that you're not. Not everyone has to be innovative. This term drives me, and others, crazy because it is a cop-out phrase. Think about it... 'My name is Mark and I'm an innovator'. Really? Unless you've impacted the way I live-you're not an innovator. On the flip side, if someone uses this term to describe who they are to you- call him or her on it. Ask them how they are an innovator and watch them get stuck!

#3. Unique. This term is so generic. Describing yourself or your business as 'unique' is a turnoff. How about coming up with ways to show why you or your company is better than your competition? Try it, it will work for you at your next marketing event!

Self-descriptions are hard. Don't take credit for your obligations and don't use the words innovative or unique at your next marketing event and you will have more success- I promise!

Until next time,


Monday, August 12, 2013

Who Says You NEED to Work Hard?

Ever see someone working so hard that he or she is delirious? You don't need to work hard to get many things done. In fact, you shouldn't be over working yourself to the point where you're burnt out. There has to be balance between your work life and your personal life.

To prevent work burnout do the following things:

1. Don't check your email first thing in the morning. Everyone does this and it is wrong. Email doesn't stop- it's like the mail. Imagine how stressed you would be if the mail man kept showing up to your house every few minutes with bills and credit card statements and tasks! Email works the same way, only it is connected to your hip every where you go thanks to smartphones. Only check your email at 11am, 3pm and again at 7pm. This will help you collect and organize your email tasks and leave you less stressed throughout the day. You can set your iPhone and other smartphones to run updates at this time, too.

2. Only call meetings for decisions. People tend to have meetings for everything these days. What a waste of time! Spend more time doing and less time planning. Only call or go to meetings when decisions are being made. If a meeting is setup with you as the invitee- ask if it is a decision making meeting. If it is a strategy meeting- skip it. They can find you in your office, via phone or via email.

3. Keep a running list of all items to discuss with your associates and do so all at once. It is very easy to send this list via email, text, etc. You don't have to have a meeting. Send a list via email with 'Items needed' (or alike) and accompany each item with a due date and a brief explanation of the task. Calender yourself to check up on each task one day after the due date. You don't need to micromanage your staff and become stressed out or overworked as a result. This running list keeps them accountable for their responsibilities AND you have written proof of your expectations.

Happy Monday!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Gossip- When to Fire Friends.

Here's the thing, I'm not all business. Ok, 90% of me is a business woman- the other 10%? Well, that's just a woman. I wanted to talk about how to cut friends out of your life. It is a hard subject. I know what you're thinking; "Twyla, what does this have to do with business?" Well, everything!

If you can't cut negative or self-serving friends out of your life, how are you going to run a company? How will you make it as an executive? How will you survive in the world. You don't have to be liked all of the time. And, I got news for you, even when people are smiling to your face- you're not going to be liked all of the time!

If you have a friend who plays Devil's Advocate more than the role of a friend- it is time to move on. Why? Well, these are people who love to argue and oppose you. Their nature isn't to be supportive, it is to be opposing. You want some feedback - not just a tidal wave of negativity.

You also want to remove the 'inside scoopers' form your group. If they know what is going on is a secret and they still share it with you.... you'r secrets aren't safe with them! Drop them like a hot potato before your news is all over the place. People who have the inside scoop are great. People who have to constantly share it? Well, that is called being a gossip!

Finally, the people who have emotional erectile dysfunction. What's that? Yep, not literal erectile dysfunction- but people who fail to get it up and get on with it- referring to their dreams of course. If you have a friend who is constantly planning his or her next business move or love affair or vacation or trip to the grocery store and it NEVER, EVER happens- that person has emotional dysfunction and is feeding off of your energy (well, draining you of it) without making progress in the world. Ditch him or her and find friends who play on the same team as you- remember? The Go-Getters!

Well, that is it for this week. See you on Monday!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

5 Questions to Answer Before You Start A Business!

As I guide others with business ownership, I've noticed a trend. There are five questions every prospect business owner needs to ask him or herself. These questions can help you discover if you truly should move forward with a business idea or investment, or signal if you're about to make a major mistake!

1. Where am I getting my money from?

Money is key. You need money to make money. If you don't have enough money to sustain your business expenses for a year, pay employees, pay yourself, and have money for emergencies - you're not ready and setting yourself up for failure.

2. Where will my business be located? Again, money. Are you leasing business space based on how nice an office is or how useful an office is? There is a difference. Overspending on rental space is a common mistake. We all want a luxury address but you can grow into one- you don't need it right away.

3. Who is my competition. This seems obvious but you need to research local and online competition and then make a plan.

4. Will I need insurance? Yes, different businesses require different types of insurance- sometimes multiple insurances. Finda business mentor (yes, you can hire me) and make sure you are fully insured before you open doors.

5. What happens to me if I don't make it? This isn't thinking negative, this is having a plan in place just in case. You need to ask yourself this question and create a plan in case you have to face this scenario.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Going Out of Business

Shutting down a business doesn't mean you're a failure. Hey, you had the guts to try. Businesses have to close for many reasons. When you decide to close a business you want to make sure you take the following key steps.

1. Plan your exit. Basically, think business plan but for closing your company. Make sure you have a protocol to handle each situation that may happen.

2. Visit the website for the IRS. Depending on how you have your current business classified, shutting the doors may not be the only step needed to end the business relationship with the government. LLCs and corporations have to file specific documents. The IRS offers a free checklist to help you.

3. Maintain your records. Don't close shop and burn your records. You still may need them. Keep all your files locked away for at least three years.

If you need advice on how to close a business or if you should close a business note that I'm available as a resource. There is a fee but mention this blog for a special rate.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Negotiating with Clients

If you are in a service based industry then knowing how to negotiate will be your best asset. You are going to go through stages of negotiating with new clients, negotiating renewals, and then knowing how to cut a client off. While negotiating with new clients is going to be different from negotiating a renewal service contract- they both require the same tactics.

What are these tactics? Keep reading.

1. Say no to discount requests at the 11th hour. If a client can't afford your services after you went through meetings, contracts, built in signing incentives, etc. then you don't want this client. 11th hour discount requests are a way for the client to double check that they are getting the best rate possible. If you move forward with this request it can actually be a deal breaker. Stand your ground. If the client really doesn't sign because you didn't give a deep discount at the very last minuet then count your blessings because that client had ill intentions and no money.

2. Don't stretch out meetings and don't agree to stretched out meetings. If a client contacts you for a proposal now and then replies with a "let's discuss this next month" then don't negotiate any further. Someday is not a day of the week. A week to review and negotiate a contract is plenty of time to get a ball rolling. If a client requests more time, he or she is trying to use your bid to obtain another contracted. Don't allow stretched out meetings and long delays to become a negotiating tactic.

3. Don't agree to fulfill an unreasonable request to obtain the contract. You will be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, negotiate a discount based on the unreasonable request. For example, tell the prospect client you can't fulfill the request and why. And then offer a small discount so the client can hire another contractor to fulfill the request.

Negotiating can be stressful. Remember these tactics and DO NOT cave. If clients can't pay or have unreasonable requests, don't count them as clients. Move on.


Monday, August 5, 2013

When to Fire A Client....

We've touched on this subject before, but today I want to explore why you should fire a client. Now, I know the loss of income can hurt. In fact, it will hurt. But, a bad client can also be hurtful to your brand. So, here is when and why you should fire a client.

1. The Carrot Dangle. If you have a client that sends you small contracts with the promise of larger contracts- beware! If you have a potential client who asks you on two, or more occasions for detailed proposals without a commitment or counteroffer- the potential client is picking your brain and hiring a competitor. Clients who are not greatful of your services, promise larger contracts if you take lesser amounts of money now, or those who constantly need bids without every accepting an offer shouldn't be your clients. Don't get caught up in chasing the carrot. Go where there is real money and move on.

2. Be willing to say no. In fact, learn to say no. If you can't say no when a client is being unreasonable, then you're being bullied by the client. You don't want to be bullied. Dump the client and move on.

3. Clients who don't pay aren't clients. If you have a client who is on a payment schedule and this client is always late or behind- dump him or her and seek legal action. Clients who can't keep up with their payments are not your clients-in fact, they're problems. You shouldn't be working for free. It is a business, remember! So, if you have a client who is always late with a payment or behind - say see you later and find a client who is financially responsible!

Being in business is hard. And, it sucks when you have to let go of potential money because clients are leading you on, not paying on time, or becoming too demanding. In the long run, ditching these clients now will save you a huge headache in the long run.

Happy Monday!