Thursday, August 26, 2010

Take Action #8: Fire a Client Today

Gee I know that sounds harsh, but sometimes it is necessary. Some of us have clients that literally suck the energy from us. They are usually the small client that buys little and demands a lot. We are afraid to let them go because they do bring in income or maybe they have been with us for a while or maybe they are a friend of a friend. I challenge you to evaluate some things about those “troubled” clients.

1. Evaluate ROI: How much time do you spend a week/month with the client making them feel better, handling conflict, thinking about them, resolving a problem, giving a refund or return, following up to abstract questions they have, apologizing to other clients because they are disrupive or taking all of your time.

2. Figure out how much your time is worth - $25/hour? $200/hr?

3. Once you know how many hours it takes in dealing with this client and what your time is worth, multiply those two numbers together and you get how much that client COSTS you.

4. Determine how much revenue they bring in.

5. If the amount of time it costs you in dealing with them is MORE than they bring in for revenue, time to think about firing them.

6. Maybe the cost for handling them is LESS than the revenue. Then you need to decide if it is worth the gray hair, stress and angst that goes along with having them as a client.

The benefit to being self employed is you truly get to CHOOSE who you do business with. I had a client as an office tenant in one of my shared offices who thought he was superior to all humans. He was an inventor working on the next coolest solution to save the planet. My other tenants included sales reps, consultants, entrepreneurs, etc. He said to me one day that he needed SILENCE; he was working on something that none of us could ever understand and it was far more important than anything that any of my other tenants were working on. In the past, I appeased him – I would go knocking on the loud sales guys’ doors and ask them to keep in down. Until this day……

I got a call from the wife telling me that I needed to do something about the noise in the facility and the receptionist – she let a call go through to the inventor before screening the call which was a HUGE no-no. I decided at that moment – without doing the ROI, that life was too short and I was highly annoyed. So, I told the wife that I had a solution. I had researched my competition and the names and numbers of three other executive suite offices that were in the same price range and in the same area that would be a great fit for him. The wife gasped and said “are you firing us? You can’t do that!”. I told her that it was clear that we were not able to make them happy and that perhaps this was not the ideal environment for an “inventor” to be in. She immediately conceded and said that perhaps they were over-reacting, that they loved the staff and the location and was so appreciative of the help I had given, etc.

End of the story is that they ended up staying with me and taking on more offices when his invention came to reality and he hired more staff.  He also kept to himself and cost me very LITTLE time and energy after that.

Sometimes we allow our clients to control us. There are too many energy vampires out there and life is too short to spend any time with them. I don’t care if they are your best friend, spouse or in this case a client – get them OUT of your life as soon as possible. Better yet, challenge them and maybe they will change. In this case they did.

So today, go through your client base and see if there is any one client that is sucking up your time, resources, energy, money and confront them TODAY!

Then, go have a fabulous weekend.

Take Acton #7: Manage those Connections

Now, more than ever, we have more connections than we know what to do with. It used to be that we would collect business cards and they would create such a great looking pile on our desk or in a shoe box. If we were really motivated, we actually got the contact information from each card either manually entered or scanned into whatever database we were using. If we were really on top of things we were using a database like ACT  or Goldmine  or some other CRM  that would help us manage all of our contacts by keeping track of all e-mails, meetings, phone calls, etc.

Now, we not only have the business cards from folks we meet at “live” networking events, but we have all of those contacts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, etc. It is quite overwhelming. THEN, if you are a parent, you are on the mailing list along with 20-60 other parents for choir, lacrosse, soccer, girl scouts, etc. And although they are not “business” contacts, they are still folks that could potentially be in your database. Never under estimate the value of a contact. I hosted a workshop a year ago and invited some moms that I knew from my book club and kid’s sports. I hesitated because I didn’t know that they would even be interested. Three of the moms on my list showed up to the Goal Setting Workshop. They each had dreams that they wanted to work on and this was a great opportunity to test the waters. So I have decided to never make decisions for my contacts. If they don’t want to get my e-mail, they will let me know..

In an ideal world, if you were starting at zero and just beginning to build your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and contact list, I would tell you to add each contact’s information to your excel or CRM software as you added a new contact. i.e. Bob Smith asks you to be a connection on LinkedIn, you accept and then you add his contact information to your database. Here is why you have your contacts in two places:

You can send private e-mails to your contacts on LinkedIn and Facebook but on FB you can only send to 20 at a time and you can’t BCC – you can only CC – so when someone responds to your email, everyone is copied and it is irritating to all. On LinkedIn, you can send to 50 at a time. You may have other options as a paid member but I haven’t checked that out. You can invite people to events and send updates via your “wall” or profile. However, when you have a database that you send e-mails to – for example a newsletter, you can monitor how many are opening, unsubscribing and they can reply to you privately rather than a group.

Facebook does have the ability to create lists. I have lists for family, close friends, parents, corporate folks, networking folks and 10 other groups including one called “I don’t know these people” Although this comes in handy when you want to set up your privacy settings, it doesn’t help with sending any kind of bulk messages because FB doesn’t let you send to more than 20 at a time and some of my lists have a couple hundred in them.

One solution is: if you have a Yahoo account, you can scoop up the e-mail addresses from your contacts in FB assuming their e-mails are public. It gets you the names and e-mails but then you have to resort.

Why all this fuss? Our contacts are the most valuable asset we have. They mean money in some cases or a future connection to people we can help or people who can help us (for jobs, recipes, volunteers, donors, clients, etc). So if you can find a way to manage the contacts, you are a super star. Ideally you would have a MASTER database that has every contact you know. You would create various categories to help with sorting your contacts. The Categories include the “group” they would belong to – some contact may belong to more than one group.

For example, you could have a group called Family, a group called Party, a group called Networking, etc. One person could be in all three groups. Your Uncle Bill would be in Family but since he owns a business, you may have him on the Networking list because you want to include him on your newsletter and future business events and then he is on the “Party” list because you want to make sure that he is always invited to your parties.

You will want to have a column/tab for how you met them, first name, last name, phone, e-mail, address, city, state, zip, male/female. Then if you have a more advanced CRM, you may include a notes section, follow up section, dates that you made contact, their birthday, anniversary, etc. The way to break down the list is endless. You want all these categories so that you can sort. For example, sometimes I host a woman-only workshop, so it would be great if I could send an e-mail to only and all of the women in my database. I can’t do that unless I have been categorizing them like this along the way.

Also – something to keep in mind is that LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook and others OWN your information. So if for some reason you are booted off FB for spamming or something happens to FB – you could lose your contacts.

Overwhelmed? There are workshops and how-to’s on setting up your database and a woman I have known for about 6 years, Lori Feldman, is a master at databases. In fact she is an ACT guru and calls herself the Database Diva. Visit her site to see when her next workshop is or to have her help you.

Your Take Action step today is to enter those business cards into some kind of database, CRM or spreadsheet.

Happy Connecting and share your ideas on how you manage your contacts.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Take Action #6: Make Meetings More Productive

We have all been there – sitting in meetings for hours on end not knowing what the purpose of the meeting was. OR doing nothing all day except have meetings which include: conference calls, one-on-one meetings, group meetings, online, face-to-face, etc. Then you end the day having 8 hours of meetings and absolutely NOTHING accomplished.

You can’t control how other people manage their meetings, but you can Take Action on your own meetings by making them specific, timely and productive. And you can help other people have more productive meetings by asking them pertinent questions before having the meeting.

When hosting a meeting, save yourself time by:

  • Inviting only those people that are critical to the outcome.
  • Define what you want the outcome to be – i.e. a decision, action item
  • Prepare an agenda with any useful notes/information to help your attendees prepare for the meeting. Be sure to tell them that they MUST read the agenda/notes before the meeting because it will be assumed that everyone is on the same page. It is THEIR problem if they are not prepared.
  • Create a timeline and stick to it.
  • Tell your attendees at the beginning of the meeting how long it will take and assure them that you will keep it moving and apologize in advance if you cut people off or push people along. One of the biggest disappointments in attending meetings is when the person running the meetings lets people just keep running their mouth off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the purpose of the meeting.
  • Keep the meeting short. People will love you for it.
  • Tell them at the beginning of the meeting what you want to accomplish so everyone knows what has to happen to get out of the room. For example, before we leave here today, we will have a date for our Fall Convention and the names of 5 potential speakers that we will be researching.
  • Save all handouts for the end unless they are pertinent to the content of the meeting – otherwise you will lose everyone to reading the packet.
  • Have people send you their questions BEFORE the meeting so if anything needs to be researched or it requires someone with the answers to be in attendance, you can be prepared.
  • Have a follow up meeting or e-mail scheduled. So when you end this meeting, you can say: “our next meeting will be Friday at 2:00. If you have any issues with this time and date, please e-mail me after the meeting.” (This way you don’t have a bunch of people telling you their schedule for the next few weeks)

 If you are the one attending the meeting, here are some things you can do to prepare yourself:

  • If an agenda has not been sent, ask them to send you one. This way, if the leader has not prepared one, they might now do that.
  • Ask them if you need to be in attendance for the entire time. Say you are working on some deadlines or have catch up and are trying to make the most out of your time. Who knows, he/she may say – actually I just need you in the meeting for the first 10 minutes.
  • Prepare yourself if you have a company call or web-ex where you will be listening, others talking. In other words, the only thing you need to do is listen for an hour. If you work from home, use this listening time to get something else done: folding laundry, filing, weeding, etc. You aren’t slacking, you are being productive. As long as you aren’t doing anything that requires brain work, you can listen and do something else. I realize that listening takes your brain but responding takes more.
  • If you are at the office and can’t fold laundry, prepare yourself by saving your filing for during conference calls, clean out your purse or wallet, get your receipts together, make copies. Save all the little stuff for during these times where you just have to listen.

Please share your tips on how you TAKE ACTION when you Host a meeting or call.  In the meantime, here’s a great document for how to make meetings more productive. Make Meetings More Productive


Monday, August 23, 2010

Take Action #5: Not Sick or Dying? Then visit someone who is!

Don’t know about you, but this is one of those areas where I used to tell myself that it was just “not my gift” to visit sick or dying people. "I’m just not good at it and they really don’t want a bunch of people around anyway…. " It was a good story I told myself, but here’s the truth.

If the “someone” that is sick is the mother of a friend of yours or your ex-mother-in-law or your bosses’ wife, then don't go visit until they start feeling better.  Most really sick people just want family and good friends close by.  My dad was asking that only his daughters and wife see him those first few days after the ICU because he didn't want to feel like he needed to "behave" or "entertain."  There are only a few people in life that we feel brave enough to ask for help from and that is usually those closest to us. I have had the “opportunity” to hang with some not-so-well people in the last couple of years. So just about the time I said that “it was not my gift”, God gave me some opportunities to serve in that area.  I've gotten to help my grandma get dressed and take her to the ER, helped a friend bathe and get dressed, sit with my dad for hours and do crossword puzzles....

My grandmother has not been well for the last 6 years. In fact, she is pretty much home-bound for the most part. She has 31 grandchildren and great grandchildren and 6 children. You would think that she would have 1-2 visitors every day even if everyone took one day a month! But no. I am the oldest grandchild and probably see her or talk to her only every 3-4 weeks and my cousin Jane sees her about the same. The other 29 grandchildren? I don’t know that they get by but every couple of months and mostly at family get-togethers. It only takes an hour out of my day but for whatever reason I can’t bring myself to visit every week.

My dad has been sick the last several months. When he was in the hospital, I visited every day. Now that he is home, I go there once a week. Why is it such a challenge? He still needs help. I have a good friend/neighbor who had surgery on her rotator cuff and needed help. She was easy to visit because she was 2 blocks away and she was great at asking for help. Most people don’t ask for help. It is amazing that if you ask them “what they need” instead of “do you need anything”, they will always come up with something.  "Do you" warrants a Yes or No.  "What" means there must be something.

Old, dying or sick people do not ask for visitors because they know everyone is busy. However, if you just place yourself in their shoes for a minute and feel what it would be like to have so many friends and family, yet no one comes to see you, it will propel you to TAKE ACTION. Not sure what to say when visiting a sick person? Read the article "How to Visit a Very Sick Person."

Also, I learned something from a friend who lost her husband to cancer. When you are visiting the “dying”, you are actually there for the “living”. The dying have already had their peace and many times there is nothing else that can be said. However, it is those they will leave behind – children, parents, spouses that are the ones who need compassion, time, visiting and perhaps meals.

Not sure what to say to someone who is dying – this article has some good ideas.

Earlier I mentioned waiting until the sick are feeling better to visit.  That sounds a bit crazy, but it is usually those first few days that are the hardest and they just need to be with those that are closest.  However, you could ask a family member if they are "up for" visitors or if all else fails, send a card or note or flowers.

So your job today is to call, visit or send a note to a sick or dying friend or family member. You will feel better. They will feel great about your reaching out and you will have Taken Action on something important.

Take it a step further and let us know who you visited or called!