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.

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