Archives for April 2008

Why do busy people get more work done?

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

– Nolan Bushnell

I attended a conference last week and a number of people asked me the same question, “How do you find the time to post a new article on your blog each day?” Even some members of the trade press asked me this question.

The simple answer is, I schedule the time to write the articles. You can never “find the time” to do something. If you really want to get it done you must schedule it.

For example, If you say, “Let’s get together soon,” you will never get together except by accident. You will not “find the time” to do so. You must say, “I would like to have lunch with you next week. Do you prefer Tuesday or Thursday?”

There is an old saying:

“If you need to get a job completed, give it to the busiest person that you know.”

There is also a corollary saying: ”

Your most productive day at work is the day prior to your vacation. You make more decisions. You delegate more tasks. You leave your office with a clean desktop.”

Patsi Krakoff  of “The Blog Squad” has a terrific article on this topic – “Blog Writing: How to find the time…”I recommend that you read it, even if you do not write a blog. Patsi explains why we are attracted to activities that give us an immediate response. And why we delay activities, such as writing a blog, that do not offer the same immediate gratification. Here is a short excerpt:

“I don’t think time is really the issue. It’s seeing results. You don’t have to “find the time” for something that’s important for business. You certainly find time to deposit checks into your bank account, so why would you wait to post “when you have time?”

I think the issue is not seeing the potential payoffs from blog writing because they are long term and subtle.”

I realize that maintaining a daily regimen of posting on my blog is important to my business as a speaker, trainer and consultant. Because I place a high priority on delivering relevant content on a daily basis, I schedule the time to research and write my articles. I am successful at doing so – for the most part. I do not always have enough material planned in advance for those days when “stuff” intrudes on my life. But I am learning to make improvements there.

I picked up several good ideas last week at the conference. But if I am going to take action on these ideas, I must schedule the time to beging to implement them.  As Nolan Bushnell said, I must be “the person who gets out of the shower, dries himself and does something about it who makes a difference.”


10 Tips for Engaging Your Customers

“The customer only wants two things – show me you care about me personally, and tell me what you’re going to do for me now.”

– Jeffrey Gitomer

I recently discovered Chris Garrett’s Blog“The Business of Blogging and New Media.” His recent post, “Engaging Readers,” could just as easily been titled “Engaging Customers.” And the same principles apply whether you are writing a blog or operating a retail business.

So, by adapting Chris Garrett’s article, here are 10 solid tips for engaging your customers:

  1. Motivation – When you clearly understand what each of your customers want, they will eagerly buy what they need.
  2. Attraction – Engage you customers on as many levels as possible: how your store looks, feels, smells. What “vibe” do you generate. How “open” is your store. Are your customers magnetically drawn to visit your store or website?
  3. Incentive – As Jeffrey Gitomer says, your customers want you to “tell me what you are going to do for me now.”As in an “internet-minute!”
  4. Encouragement – Ask questions that encourage your customers to talk about the thing they love the most – to talk about themselves. To talk about what they need. To talk about what they want.
  5. Interaction – Remember – you, too,  love to talk about yourself and your products. Don’t do this! Involve your customers – see point #3.
  6. Value – How much value do your customers receive from your business? Remember, your customer defines what is valuable – to them! Ask them. What do they find to be most valuable? Least valuable? You may be surprised.
  7. Community – People do want to be connected with others who share their interests and values. What are you doing to encourage this connection. What events  or social gatherings have you scheduled for your store? What are you doing to reach out to the larger community?
  8. Loyalty – Read Jeffrey Gitomer’s book, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless.”
  9. Connection – Do a self-assessment. Do you still love what you are doing? If not, it will be difficult to be “present” for your customers. How “visible” are you to your customers? Are you interested in your customers? or … merely interested in your customer’s business? Do you show them that you care about them personally?
  10. Experience – View your business from your customer’s point of view. How easy is it to do business in your store? How friendly is your staff? How well do you exceed your customers’ expectations?

OK – whether it is your blog or your business, remember:

A blog without readers, isn’t.

A business without customers, isn’t.

Engage your readers. Talk with them, not at them.

Engage your customers. Show them that you care about them personally. Make it clear what you are going to do for them now!

Why did we choose this restaurant?

How many restaurants are in your city? Or in a city that you are planning to visit? Which one will you recommend – without hesitation. Or should I say, which one would you make a reservation for?

What makes one restaurant stand apart from the others? Is it the food? The ambience? Or the people?

This afternoon, my wife & I were finishing up our trip to Boston. We had our minds – and appetites – set on sitting at an Oyster Bar and slurping away. We took a cab downtown only to find the restaurant closed because of a natural gas leak.

To put it mildly, we were greatly disappointed.

But just a few bloks away was Hanover St. – a street filled with Italian restaurants. We had dined on this street earlier in the week and thought that we should try another one of the many Italian restaurants crowded in this area of town. But which one to choose?

Our choice was made for us! By Guilio- a wonderfully vital 70-year old man. He saw us looking at the menu from the street. And then … he just appeared and said,”If you come into my restaurant, I promise that you will have a wonderful experience.” And it was!

Guilio sat us by the window and quickly said, “Michael, come over and take care of our new friends!”

Both Guilio and Michael took very good care of us. Lots of good-natured banter; lots of insider tips about the menu; lots of personal care. The food was great. But Guilio and Michael turned this into a truly memorable meal – one that my wife and I will recount to our friends and colleagues for many years to come!

We will send them lots of business based up our recommendation. Wouldn’t you like to have lots of unsolicited referrals for your business?

You can – just delight your customer. Make thier experience with you a memorable one. Those memories will turn into stories told. Those stories will in turn become referrals for your business. The best advertising you caan’t buy – word-of mouth recommendations!

The best part of the day with Guilio & Michael? Easy!

My wife wanted to take a box of Cannoli’s back to our family. There is a great Italian pastry shop up the street from the restaurant. But there was a problem – a line of 25 people waiting to get inside to join another line to order some Italian pastries.

That’s when Michael took charge of the situation. He took my wife by the hand and said, “Come with me.” He went into the pastry shop and went right to the front of the line, He whispered a few words to the owner. Within a few minutes, he presented my wife with a perfectly wrapped box of Cannolis – specially packaged for the plane trip home.

By the time they returned to the restaurant, I had already decided that Michael was going to receive a very large tip from me. And my recommendation that all of my friends patronize his restaurant.

The food was great. The ambience was warm. But it was the people – Guilio and Michael who made the meal memorable. You can bet that we will return there soon – and often!

Face Your Fears

I’m back posting after a few days hiatus. As I wrote in my last post, I was asked to substitue for the keynote speaker at a conference last week. Unfortunately, the scheduled speaker’s father passed away the day before the conference opened.

The audience was pleased with my talk. The board of directors of the conference was relieved – and pleased- that I was able to come through for them. I, too, was pleased with my talk.

Even though I did not have much time to prepare for this talk, I had plenty of material pre-planned for several talks. I have been an emergency substitue speaker before so I always have a few talks ready to go. So, it was simply a question of selecting the appropriate material, asking enough questions about the audience, and putting it all together. And then I could concentrate on delivering the keynote address.

Sounds easy? It is – for me. For most people – no, they would run away – as far and as fast as they could.

So many people live in fear of speaking in public. They are paralyzed by this fear. They do not realize how this fear is holding them back – from advancing in their careers and from developing relationships.

You can learn to face your fears. You can make a decision. You can decide to remain a prisoner of your fears. Or you can decide to face your fears head-on and take the first step towards conquering your fears.

Last night, at the closing banquet, a good friend and colleague of mine was honored for his years of service to our association and our industry. Great choice! Well deserved. And, a great model for the message of this post.

Early in his career, Kevin was paralyzed with fear of speaking in public. I vividly recall meeting Kevin more than thirty years ago, when he could barely say “Hello” to someone he was meeting for the first time. Some of my colleagues muttered, “He won’t last. He doesn’t have what it takes. He’s too shy”

Kevin must have heard those comments. He realized that he had to face his fear of speaking in public if he was “going to last.” He knew the steps that he needed to take in order to prove that he had what it takes to be successful in his business – and in our industry.

His first step was to enroll in a Dale Carnegie Training class. He enjoyed the experience so much that he now is a Dale Carnegie certified trainer. His is a story of success. And he is a real role model for anyone who wants to learn how to overcome their fear of speaking in public.

Thank you Kevin! Thank you for showing us that it is indeed possible to  face your fears – and conquer them.

Always be prepared!

You never know when to expect the unexpected. But you should be prepared. It is not a question of “if.” It is a question of “when.” When will the unexpected happen? When will I be called on to respond to something unexpected.

I got that call yesterday. Actually, I got 5 or 6 frantic calls yesterday. As soon as my plane landed in Boston, my cell phone rang and rang. The unexpected had happened. They wanted to know if I could respond?

“Yes,” I said, “I will. I am prepared.”

Unfortunately, the keynote speaker for this conference had a sudden death in the family. Of course he left town immediately. Wouldn’t you? I would have.

So… I will deliver the keynote today. I am confident that it will be successful. I am always prepared. I am always ready.

I’ll let you know more tomorrow….

Gone – but never forgotten

“If you think you are too small to have an impact, try to go to bed with a mosquito.”

– Anita Roddick

It sounds morbid, I know, but I begin each morning by reading the Obituary page in The New York Times. I’ve done this for years. I consider an obituary to be a celebration –  a tribute to a life well led.!  Reading it is also an opportunity for me to look forward – to ask myself, “Have you done everything that you wanted to do yet? If not, why not start today? What are you waiting for?”

Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, passed away last September.  I first became aware of her a few years ago, when I found the quotation that I use at the top of this post. What a remarkable woman! What a story! What a life! What an impact she made – just like a mosquito bite!

I wanted to learn more about her – and then she was gone…

I was too busy to comment on her passing last year. But her voice remains in my head. And her story continues to evolve.

This morning, as I was preparing to travel to a conference of small business owners and managers, I was doing some research on Anita Roddick. As a result, I came across a wonderful tribute to Dame Roddick by Valeria Maltoni. This eulogy was originally published on the Fast website.. Click here to read it. Great writing, Valeria!

And that is another benefit of reading the Obituary page – I discover great writing – and great writers! Until this morning, I had never heard of Valeria Maltoni. From just a quick look at her website and blog, I want to read more. Her voice is unique. I want to hear more!

I’ve started my day with a new discovery. How did you day begin? How will it end? Make it happen!

Empathy – Serve it to your customers

Seth Godin wrote a terrific post this morning about customer service titled, “You’re right!”  He shares his experience of writing a letter to complain about poor service only to receive a letter back from the proprietor that shouts, “You’re wrong!”

Why do business people argue with their customers?

It happens all of the time. Why? What’s the point? Who actually “wins” this argument?

It doesn’t matter who is (technically) right. It doesn’t matter that you can prove that the customer is wrong. What do you have to prove? That you can turn an angy customer into an enraged – and most likely – former customer? What’s your point?

I hope that, by now, you see that the only answer you should give is, “You’re right!”

When you manage a customer complaint by saying, “You’re right!,” you are practicing empathy. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is not admitting that you are wrong. Empathy is not capitulation to a customer’s demand(s).

Empathy is saying, “You’re right, that is frustrating.” Or, “You’re right, I can see that you are disappointed.”

Sympathy is saying, “Oh, that’s too bad,” and then walking away from or hanging up on your customer.

Empathy enables you to connect with your customer – on an emotional level. Empathy also validates the customer’s feelings. He or she is angry; they are disappointed; they did not receive what they had expected.

You are saying, “You’re right…” You are not saying, “I am wrong.” You are seeking a solution – together. Even if that solution is to recognize that you should not continue to do business together in the future.

A classic example of the latter comes from the book, “Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success,” by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg. The story is on page 269. I first heard Jackie Freiberg relate this story more than 10 years ago and it resonated with me:

A regular customer, one who frequently wrote in to complain, sent a particularly nasty letter to Southwest Airlines. The letter writer complained about their boarding process, their lack of meal service, the lack of a first class cabin, the cheerful attitude of their flight attendants, etc. In short, she complained about everything that Southwest Airlines did and did not do.

The customer service department was not sure how to handle this particular letter so they “bumped it upstairs” to Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and “colorful” CEO at the time. After carefully reading thie letter, Herb calmly wrote,

“Dear Mrs. ____, we will miss you!”


Herb Kelleher

Great story! Great strategy! Great customer service!

What’s your story? What experiences – or nightmares – can you share with our readers?

Add your comments below.


The Original Garage Band

danny-w-variations-comboWhat a blast from MY past! Last night I got an email from one of my old friends – Bob, the guitarist in this (ancient) photo!

He was in a nostalgic mood and decided to “Google my name” to see what came up. Lo and behold, he found my website and sent me an email. I’ll bet that it has been over 40 years since we last spoke. This is a photo of our combo, “The Variations,” playing an 8th grade dance for my elementary school back in 1964. That is me on the (amplified) Accordion! Jimmy on Sax and Rick on Drums. Seersucker sports coats and blue pants complete the costume! Unbelievable!

Our group broke up during my Junior year in High School and that was the last that I ever heard from any of the guys until Bob sent me his email last night. I went searching through my archives to find a photo – here it is – VINTAGE!

We used to rehearse in the basement at my parent’s house. We usually played one or two gigs each weekend – everything from a Bowling Banquet to a Wedding Reception. My dad would transport us to th job in his Plumer’s truck.

I later “upgraded” to a Farfisa (portable) organ with a Leslie Speaker. Still – we never had a Bass Player. Either we were “too cheap” to split the pot 5 ways or I was that good at adding the necessary bass lines – I doubt that!

We played “cover versions” of the hits of The Beach Boys, the groups from The English Invasion – Dave Clark 5, etc. The showstopper in those days was “Wipeout!” So 60’s. So much fun! Such great memories!

Bob writes to tell me that he is still playing – down at the Jersey Shore and at over 1,000 weddings. Way to go!

Hey maybe we should reunite and enter into another “Battle of the Bands” contest. I remember that we got 2nd prize in one of them back in Philadelphia, PA- at the (long defunct) Lit Brothers Department Store. I remember that our prizes were a box of chocolates – 1 box for each. I remember giving my chocolates to my mother. It was “Mother’s Day” that weekend – How convenient!

Do any of you have similar memories? Anyone still playing in a group? “Wanna Play?”

Share your stories with our readers. add your comments below.


When prices force you to move your business

Yesterday, I wrote about how technology is changing the textbook publishing business. Today, it is time to shine the spotlight on the an endangered species – the independent neighborhood record store.

Click here to read The New York Times’ article, “Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing,” by Ben Sisario. Here is a brief excerpt:

“The hole-in-the-wall specialty shops that have long made Lower Manhattan a destination for a particular kind of shopper have never made a great deal of money. But in recent years they have been hit hard by the usual music-industry woes — piracy, downloading — as well as rising real estate prices, leading to the sad but familiar scene of the emptied store with a note taped to the door.”

So, if you thought that it was difficult to compete against “Free!” – as in illegal downloading and file sharing – try to compete against 300% rent increases:

“Rent is up, and sales are down,” Malcolm Allen of Jammyland said as he sold a few Jamaican-made 45s to a customer last weekend. “Not a good combination.”

One strategy for survival is to diversify the range of merchandise that you offer for sale. Another is to sponsor more in-store community events – concerts, meet-the-artists, lessons, clinics, etc.

One such (nation-wide) event took place yesterday – April 19, 2008 was proclaimed “Record Store Day.” And an impressive roster of artists, record labels and community organizers joined forces to create fun events to give visibility to the value of the neighborhood record store. Continue reading “When prices force you to move your business” »

How to price yourself out of business

Let me start by saying, “I love books!” I love to read them. I maintain a large collection of them. I mark them up while I am studying them. I prefer learning by reading books to learning from audio presentations or a video. I am a “hands on” learner.

Oh – and I spent most of my career working in publishing. So I understand the cost structure to produce, market and publish a book.

So, this article from American Public Media on the price of college textbooks caught my eye – “Textbook costs getting hard to cover.”  

“One big and growing chunk of that tab is textbooks. The typical undergraduate book bill is $900 a year and growing. So today, a group of college professors went public with a call for low-priced and free texts online. Congress is trying to ease the book burden too.”

OK – what price isn’t rising these days? Tuition costs are skyrocketing so why shouldn’t textbooks prices do the same? Should congress get involved in this? No, no, no!

Who – or what – is to blame for this? Here is one former publishing executives explanation – blame the “used textbook” market: Continue reading “How to price yourself out of business” »