Friday, May 30, 2014

Marketing – Revisit Your Department

Are you in the middle of a marketing slump? Summer tends to be a slow time for marketing and public relations efforts. This is why I tell all my business owner friends to re-evaluate marketing strategies during the summer. It is a slow time and there is plenty of space to review, plan and strategize.

Facebook and social media marketing efforts during this time are easy to A/B split test. You can review what times of day and what types of posts actually work and don’t work. You can also see what posts work on certain social media mediums vs. what doesn’t work.

Reviewing customer research is important during this time, too. When you launch your company, reviewing and studying your customers seems to be pretty important. Once customers start to roll in, revisiting your customer demographic, their buying trends, etc. seems to fall by the wayside. Don’t let this happen!

If there are two things to take away this weekend, understanding your social media efforts and who your customers are is essential and should be the main thing to revisit when it comes to marketing.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Can You Focus?

Multi-tasking is a bad thing. Once you decide to start performing tasks one at a time, practice will be needed. With social media and added daily pressures, we have been trained to multi-task. It is hard to break the cycle. So, let’s discuss how to stay strong and stay focused.

Start with an expectations list. It is like a ‘to do’ list but more generalized. It helps you look at, and occasionally glance at, what you are expected to accomplish throughout the day without a time schedule. This will keep pressure at a minimum with focus reinforcement as a main goal.

Shut down the notifications. You know how to check your phone and your email box. You don’t need constant updates about who is doing what on Twitter or that another email has rolled into your box. There is no rule stating you need to immediately respond to people, so don’t. This tiny little trick will help you remain on task.

Believe it or not these two suggested tips are ways to move in the right, and more productive, direction!

Until next time,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bad People: Homeland Security

We all have to work with one another when it comes to business. Even the Homeland Security industry, which it now is an industry, collaboration is key! Poor leadership or internal employee and sub-contractor issues can mean serious consequences when it comes to business of any kind, but especially with Homeland Security matters.

I recently read, “Bad managers are manipulative and might take advantage of situations to advance their own profile. For example, a manager could use the results of high-performing employees in his department to set himself up for a promotion.” This was in an article on how bosses use their employees to advance their own careers. Well, this is a perfect example of poor human behavior on any level.

How do you combat this from happening around you? Simple, communication and a zero tolerance policy. Now, there is hard work here. You can’t promote communication from an open door open down the hall or on another floor. You have to be in the mix of everything going on in order to be effective with your communication efforts.

I have noticed the offices with the most politics, back biting, and worst in human behavior tend to be the offices that look like cube farms or have many open doors located away from the bull pin. Improve your communication and overall performance with people better by designing an office that promotes connection and communication.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Ethical Workplace

I recently read an article on how to create an ethical workplace. I was a bit taken back because who is working in an unethical workplace? Today, it is harder and harder for people to discriminate or create hostile work environments because of better laws and social media / smartphone devices within the work place.

Don’t get me wrong, laws can still be broken at work. However, there are ways to protect your company and your employees from implementing unethical practices or being the victim or an unethical initiative (intentional or not). I’m listing my suggestions below.

1. Have a culture statement that each employee has to sign and ensure your attorney has endorsed this statement first. This statement should go over what your expectations are as an employer when it comes to ethics and how to report violations.

2. Explain in the culture statement that mistakes happen and the company recognizes this. Note there is a “no fire” policy for the first mistake (within legal limits) and that you foster an open policy. As long as the mistake is admitted to, the employee is provided the chance and the tools to correct it without an oral or written write up.

3. Note the No Tolerance cheating policy within your culture statement. This is a special section that discusses ethical conflicts. It defines them, it states how to handle specific situations or report potential issues, and it outlines the immediate actions should the No Tolerance cheating policy be violated.

While the article I read was informative, it wasn’t airtight when it comes to addressing real world issues and solutions. I’m hopeful my suggestions will help your company.

Until next time,
Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, May 23, 2014

Summer Vacations – Is Your Company Prepared?

We are headed into vacation season. Your employees are happy but you are probably concerned. We need, as business owners, people to be motivated and present during a slow season. Why? It is a time to catch up on small tasks and prepare for the busy season, as well as generate new ideas to keep the company growing. However, people will need to take time off in order to be refreshed and productive. So, where is the balance?

Well, first – think about a real slow month / week that is coming up. Make attendance mandatory during this time. No one can go on vacation and everyone needs to be in the office. Why? This is a time to setup meetings / training / brainstorm new ideas, etc. Allow people to go on vacation but not during this specific and designated week. This will be your “go” time to create plans and address outstanding issues.

Next, create a vacation plan. Make sure you schedule people off in intermittent periods and not at the same time. Then, designate who is taking over specific duties for whom and ensure everyone is aware of the plan (and agrees to it) before vacations start rolling out. This will ensure a seamless transition during a slow time and it affords cross-training opportunities.

Well, speaking of vacations – Memorial Day is Monday so my blog will not be back up until Tuesday! However, keep your questions rolling in.

Until Tuesday,
Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Basic Communication

I realized the other day that basic communication skills are becoming a lost art in today’s social media and texting world. We can’t afford to ignore the basics, etiquette included.

There is something to be said when it comes to using a person’s name, even in social media. For example, if you write ‘Thanks for the follow’ on Twitter – it is the right thing to do but it can be improved upon. The right thing to do, for effective communication, is to write ‘Thanks for the follow, Steve.’ I know this sounds simple, but using someone’s name when addressing them shows you are invested in the conversation.

Basic communication also includes saying exactly what you mean. Too many people try to sugar coat things or use other people as a tool to communicate something they find hard to say in person or online. Don’t be this person. Communication is about being direct. People will appreciate your honesty. Remember, it isn’t what you say but how you say it. You can be polite and direct at the same time.

The basics of communication include using a name and being direct with the other person. It is difficult to comprehend how these two simple steps have become so lost in today’s culture, but they have. Let’s correct this together.

Twyla Garrett

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Homeland Security Headquarters Over Budget

The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, billed as critical for national security and the revitalization of Southeast Washington, is running more than $1.5 billion over budget, is 11 years behind schedule and may never be completed, according to planning documents and federal officials.

Now what? This is the question the mind of many reporters today. It has been announced that “The entire complex was to be finished as early as this year, at a cost of less than $3 billion, according to the initial plan. Instead, with the exception of a Coast Guard building that opened last year, the grounds remain entirely undeveloped, with the occasional deer grazing amid the vacant Gothic Revival-style structures. The budget has ballooned to $4.5 billion, with completion pushed back to 2026. Even now, as Obama administration officials make the best of their limited funding, they have started design work for a second building that congressional aides and others familiar with the project say may never open.” – At least this is the report the Washington Post put in the paper today.

There isn’t much we can do about the spending at this point. It is like building a house one cannot afford and then being stuck with a half built house that can’t be sold in the middle of everything. We do need the space for the department and then again- we don’t. Heck, we have been functioning without it all this time, right? This brings up the question of “was it ever needed in the first place?” And then the onslaught of even more anger of budgets and projects, etc.

I wanted to talk, briefly, about this issue today because it is important. While no one has an immediate answer, we should address the elephant in the room.

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Direct Mail Campaigns are Still Alive.

Someone recently asked me if direct mail is still an option. Of course! We aren’t 100% stuck on the Internet all day, every day. The problem with direct mail marketing campaigns is they can be costly and you have a lot of other junk mail to compete with. You need to get noticed between the second someone peeps in their mail box to the time it takes to trash (or recycle) what hasn’t been requested.

If you are planning a direct mail campaign, keep reading. There are some tips and tricks you can do in order to stand out and get noticed.

I highly recommend using the shock and awe method. Marketing writer and genius Craig Simpson recently wrote “This marketing method is an elaborate package that you send to people who have specifically requested information about your products and services, and/or have already placed an order with you. The idea is to exceed their expectations, engage their interest, and build their loyalty--and perhaps even a sense of obligation to you--by sending them a package of materials and goodies that's unexpected and so impressive that it takes their breath away.

These packages should include as many items, and as wide a variety of items, as possible. You want it to be exciting to go through and look like there's a lot going on there. Whatever you put in your package should be branded with your name and logo. You want the recipient to think of you every time he or she uses your mug, looks at your imprinted calendar or reads through the materials you sent.”

Some people do believe in sending out letters that look like money is included or creating envelopes that look like they have been hand addressed. I don’t like using these tactics because it is almost a bait and switch tactic that may anger some people. Instead, use vivid colors and rely upon a strong message and a compelling image to make your case up front.

Happy mailing,

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, May 19, 2014

Phone Calls, How NOT to Hate Them.

I met this one woman who was in sales. The problem was that she dreaded cold calling. I first questioned why she would pick such a field if she hated cold calling. Next, I tried to figure out a way to help her. I thought about her problem, my company, and what is often needed to make a cold call. Here’s what I came up with – it helped her so I’m hopeful the pointers will help you;

Like anything in life, have a plan. The more prepared you are (in any aspect of life or business) the less scary something is. If you spend time developing a plan for your phone calls, they will be easier to make.

You have to feel successful, too. Envision success. Don’t anticipate all your phone calls going poorly. Instead, visualize the calls going well and a percentage of failures. If you have a visual number of ‘no’ phone calls or hang-up calls in your head- when they happen it isn’t going to be devastating to your ego.

Finally, don’t worry about a script. You should plan an outline of what you will say but don’t be stuck like glue to it. I hate scripts because the person on the other end of the phone is unaware of the script and will not stick to what you have thought out in your head.

I truly think these three easy pointers will give you a strong start in the field of phone sales or phone calls in general.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stand Out 101

I received an interesting question recently. Someone wrote me asking how they can stand out from the crowd. Well, this is a pretty broad question. I am assuming this person was referring to their professional career. I thought about this long and hard and I do have some answers.

If you want to stand out professionally then make sure to be involved with people. You want to be part of a group in order to stand out from the group. Start by thanking people for answering questions, listening to stories you rather ignore, liking their social media updates, etc. By becoming an alliance in a group, you position yourself for further networking opportunities in which you can later shine.

Once up build up your network of people (see above), understand the Devil is in the details. If you send a thank you card to someone, include a Starbucks gift card – even if it is for five dollars. Find small ways to make mundane tasks extra special. Your signature should be remembering small details people tell you at parties, in emails, etc. so use whatever app you can to track this information and apply it later.

Also, be a giver. In order to standout, you have to give time, money and support to others. So, when these opportunities come across your desk- don’t hesitate, take them! I promise you they will pay off in the long run. People will think of the nice thing you did for them or their organization and this will also make you stand out!

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Best Marketing Advice - Ever!

Here’s the best way to beat your competition regardless of what your marketing budget is or isn’t. So, what is it? Talk to your customers. I spend hours on the phone, sometimes from 6am until 9pm, speaking with my customers. Why? They know me!

There is something to be said for developing relationships with your customers. Big companies may have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars invested in marketing campaigns. This said, the bar for customer service and knowing their customers on a first name basis almost doesn’t exist. If you know your customers’ names and their preferences – you are in. You are golden!

To do this, you have to speak with your customers daily. They may find out of the blue calls to check in odd, so what. Be in touch. Be available. Be interested. It will pay off!

Until next time,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Immigration – Driver License Appearance

I want to share a story with you that I recently read in the San Francisco Gate. In fact, covering immigration and Homeland Security issues are a staple on my Wednesday blogs. These posts are the most popular topics I cover.

The reason I am reposting the article is because I had a Tweeter say I’m not sharing both sides of the story. Well, that simply isn’t true. I write a Homeland Security blog. My vested interest is Homeland Security in relation to the issues at hand. I often mention the other side of the coin and that there is never going to be a perfect scenario for either party as an actionable item. I am, however, open to hosting a conversation. So, if you continue to agree to disagree, I don’t mind. Keep reading, keep responding and let’s see if we can come up with a comprise on illegal workers, immigration and Homeland Security.

Twyla Garrett

It was a long and difficult battle to win state approval for immigrants' driver's licenses. Now, California finds itself in contention with the federal government over what the licenses can look like.

The Department of Homeland Security has decided that California's proposal to distinguish the licenses for drivers who have not achieved legal immigration status from regular driver's licenses doesn't go far enough. It demanded in a letter to the state that the new licenses "must clearly state on the face and in the machine readable zone that it may not be accepted for official federal purposes and use a unique design or color to alert federal agency personnel that it is not acceptable for official purposes."

The state had proposed distinguishing the licenses by placing a simple "DP" instead of "DL" on the front of the card (right before the license number), in compliance with AB60, the license bill that was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. There's a wide variety of reasons why California legislators want the licenses to be discreet, but the most important one is also the simplest: Assigning undocumented immigrants licenses that scream "undocumented" would leave them open to unnecessary harassment and exploitation.

It's should not be all that hard for a trained federal employee to read a driver's license and quickly assess immigration status under the California plan. As 19 members of California's congressional delegation reminded the Obama administration in a letter, the purpose of the license is about public safety - not stigmatization.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Are You Shy? How to Network.

If you are shy, don’t fret. People who are introverts tend to hate networking events and not because they don’t like people- they just are not comfortable with communicating in-person. Well, I’ve decided to put together a few networking tips to help shy people network.

The first thing you need to know is how to plan. Don’t show up to a networking even ill-prepared. Have an idea of how you are going to introduce yourself and be armed with a politically correct joke to help fill up any awkward silences.

Go to the event with a time limit. If the event is an hour, plan on only staying twenty minutes. You can use the time limit as an excuse to merge slowly into networking events. For example, state “I have to leave in a few. I’m meeting a client, but it was nice meeting you and I will email you later.”

Finally, bring goodies. Nothing serves as a better ice-breaker if you show up with gifts. I use to buy a hundred dollars worth of Starbucks gift cards in five dollar increments. I would go up to someone I would like to meet, hand them the gift card and introduce myself. Trust me, you can not talk at all and still make a great impression with this trick. The downside is this tactic can get expensive.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, May 12, 2014

3 Life Lessons that Grow Business

There are life basics that many of us have been taught. Growing up, you probably thought why do you have to clean your room, stand up straight, or share. I mean, when you get older no one really is going to check to see if your bedroom is clean, no one truly is going to make you stand up straight, and you don’t have to share. Well, the truth is these life lessons will help you in business.

Standing up straight sends an unsaid cue to other people about how you regard yourself. Great posture helps people respect you more. If you are slumped over, you seem unsure. So, standing up straight is a good lessons to keep with you throughout life.

Cleaning your room teaches you to be organized and neat, an essential in business. If your office looks like you don’t know where anything is- you probably don’t know where anything is. Be messy at home if you have to (try not to), but keep your professional life as organized and tidy as possible.

Finally, share. How many tasks do you perform a day where you are required to interact with your peers? Chances are you have to share a common goal, meetings, work space, etc. If you don’t know how to share in life then how will you share at work? Cooperation is essential when working or employing others.

Until next time,

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, May 9, 2014

3 Reasons Why You Need To Be Cheap

Financial mistakes and misspending can kill a business. It is important that you are a cheap CEO or business owners for the first three years of your company. Now, don’t scale back your advertising budget or your PR budget. You will need it. There are ways to scale back costs and I’m listing them below.

First, you don’t need a fancy office. Be cheap with your office space. Rent virtual offices or work from home. You should get an office you can afford now and find a better one later when your business is actually bringing in money. Cut a major expense out by only obtaining the office rental you need, no the one you want.

Next, don’t travel like a king or a queen. Keep your business expenses down by staying at the Holiday Inn. Yes, traveling on the company’s dime when you own the company still isn’t a reason to go all out. So, make sure you travel right by spending as little as possible and flying, driving and staying in economy-class. This small change can save you up to 60% on travel expenses yearly. A bed is a bed, right? Right!

Finally, don’t call your lawyer for every hiccup. Legal fees run an average of $500 an hour. Why! You do need your lawyer for specific items. However, setting up the legal structure of your company can be done for a lesser expense on LegalZOOM.com or alike websites.

Until next time,
Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Are You A Financial Sinner?

One of the biggest mistakes new business owners make are almost always financial. Business owners typically have a great idea but no degree in accounting, thus mistakes are made without knowing or without intent. I’m listing the most common business mistakes below in order to help you identify them and to prevent these financial hardships from happening.

Not keeping financial records up to date is the biggest headache. First, you are required by law to keep accurate and accessible financial records. Second, it is important to your P/L statement to keep the best financial records possible to obtain further capital, etc.

Inc.com states miscalculation of employee status is another no no. I agree! “This issue is becoming increasingly important as more businesses outsource jobs to contractors. It is also something the IRS has been paying close attention to, so be cautious! Misclassification can result in big fines and government scrutiny. Play it safe and classify accordingly,” according to Inc.com.

Finally, not incorporating your business. If something goes wrong, an unincorporated business puts the owner(s) at personal financial risk. An incorporated business does not. So, it is better to incorporate in most cases.

Until tomorrow,
Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Train Your Brain for Success

It is possible to train your brain for success. There is a difference in thinking between being successful and wanting to be successful. Besides taking actionable steps towards your goal, it is imperative to follow these three steps to train your brain to accept success.

First, do any creative work on your ‘to do’ list first. If you wait to work on creative tasks, you will find yourself blocked- especially if you wait until the end of the day. If you need to work on a creative project, get to it right away and make this a habit. Procrastination is not a key to success.

Next, eliminate the need to multi-task. Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking is ineffective and lowers quality and productivity. Focus on one thing and only one thing at time. Focusing on too many things means you are missing something, which isn’t a key to success.

Finally, value your time. Don’t be afraid to decline a lunch meeting here and there or to say ‘no’ to a requested meeting. Prioritize your schedule first and you are already on the right track.

Until next time,

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, May 5, 2014

Are You A Power Player?

People love to think of themselves as power players within the business world. Well, it is great to set goals and standards. Being a power player, however, is easier said than done. So, until you start breaking the bank with million dollar deals a few positive words can make you appear like a power player. I’ve made a list of power player words for you to use. It’s listed below:

1. I can

2. I will

3. Expect the best

4. Commit

5. I know

6. I will make the time

7. Positively

8. I am confident

9. I do believe

10. All things are possible

Thanks to Lee Colan for the inspirational list.

Until tomorrow,
Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, May 2, 2014

How to Quit A Job

I normally gear my blog to business owners. Today I want to talk with aspiring business owners who are still employed by someone else. There will be a point when you will quit your job to launch your company. However, don’t think this a moment to brag, boast or be rude to your employer. There are some rules to live by when quitting job. I’ve listed them below:

1. Make sure you have customers already lined up. If not, you haven’t properly researched your company and the right resources / elements are not in place.

2. Always give a two week notice, or more, when leaving your job. You don’t want to burn any bridges. Not only can your boss write a bad letter of reference should you need it in the future, he or she may be able to refer business to you.

3. Be humble. Don’t boast about your ability to quit your job to other employees. Instead, invite them to try your services / products for free as they can be your best advocates, especially starting out.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, May 1, 2014

3 Sure Fire Ways to Success

Here’s a secret… there is no secret to success. A lot of drive, sacrifice and ambition is required to be successful and sometimes, yes even sometimes, being at the right place at the right time makes all the difference.

After much thought, I wanted to share three tips to push success in your favor. These steps are listed below.

1. Say goodbye to expectations. You will fail to meet many of your own expectations and people will not often live up to your expectations. So, instead of expectations set up milestones.

2. Treat everyone with respect. No one is better than anyone else. Period. Since everyone has something special to offer, everyone is equally worthy and you need to ensure you are treating everyone with the same respect all of the time.

3. Give back. Whether it’s to a charity, a cause you believe in, or a stranger who could benefit from your help, there are immeasurable benefits to thinking of others. For one, you’ll become a better and more attentive listener. You’ll focus less on your own shortcomings. Plus, there are tax benefits involved which is always nice.

These three suggestions seem pretty simple but they are easier said than done. So, for the sake of success, try setting up milestones for people and goals – not expectations. Be sure to treat everyone you meet with respect and give back with joy.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

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