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Are You Really Helping Your Customers?

My husband and I are in the process of selling our house. Since this is the first house we’ve ever owned, we’re what you call “First-time sellers.” If we’d known just how much work it takes to ready your house for market, we’d never have bought a house in the first place. Buyer beware.

We are currently working with a realtor that I’ve known for years through business connections. We tried to be right upfront with him and explained this was our first home, so we are real estate newbies. Unfortunately, I don’t think he understands how overwhelmed we are feeling. While he may eat, sleep, and drink, the home selling process – we are completely clueless.

First-time sellers do not understand the process of staging: whereby the nicest objects in your home are replaced with fake items – wall clocks that don’t work, ginger pear hand soap for display only, and a fake loaf of bread that sits in the middle of the kitchen counter.

First-time sellers do not know what’s supposed be documented on the seller disclosure form. Do we list every single thing we’ve ever fixed or just the big stuff? Since it didn’t come with any instructions, it took several back and forth emails to complete.

First time sellers do not intuitively know how to use booking appointment apps. We don’t have a clue how a lock-box works and we worry about who will have access to our home 24/7. But most importantly, first-time sellers have no idea how to prepare their home for potential buyers. Lights on. Blinds open. Toilet seats down. All personal items tucked away. Fake loaf of bread in place. It’s all so overwhelming. Throw in the fact that we have two anxious dachshunds, who also have belongings that need to be removed! When As my realtor and stager rattled off a lengthy checklist for me to follow, I quickly grabbed a pen and wrote it all down. Afterwards, I typed it all up and created a room-by-room checklist.

Here’s my thoughts, why wasn’t I provided with any written instructions on how to do any of this? Don’t realtors and stagers already have a checklist on how to ready your house for showings? Why doesn’t my realtor have PDF articles on his website that offer advice on showing a house when you have pets? Why does my realtor not understand the overwhelm a first-time seller feels?

This past week I was helping one of my clients learn how to blog. They are new to using WordPress. She admitted she did not find blogging to be the least bit intuitive. To be honest, once I looked at it through her eyes, I had to agree. While I have been blogging with WordPress for years, I clearly remember when I too was a blogging newbie. When I first began blogging with WordPress I found it so hard to use. I didn’t know how to change the font size, add graphics, or apply categories and tags. I didn’t even know what categories and tags were!

Remembering how overwhelmed I felt when I began using WordPress, I could totally empathize with my client. So, I began thinking outside the box and came up with some strategies that might better help her. I showed her a much simpler way to use WordPress, made a quick training video, and provided some custom cheat sheets. The end result? My client was thrilled and felt confident she could start blogging.

I think it’s important to recognize that while something may be easy for you, it might not be easy for other people. Often, it’s not until you sit down to teach someone something… that we realize how complicated it is. Always try to step back and remember how you felt trying to learn the thing you are now assume someone else should easily understand. Locking into prior experiences from a different perspective allows us to have empathy for other people and find a better way to bridge that gap.

No matter what business you are in, I encourage you to take some time and think about how you’re treating your clients. Are you making unfair assumptions that they should know as much as you? Do you use jargon that might make them feel dumb? Are they asking a series of questions because you failed to anticipate what they needed to know? These are really important points to consider, because you might not realize just how badly your client is feeling. Nobody likes to feel stupid.

Always be on the lookout for keywords that may indicate they’re frustrated. Phrases like: “I don’t have a clue”, “this is new to me”, or “this is not intuitive”, are not a good sign. When clients use these keywords they are communicating they need your help. Your job is to always meet your client where they currently are and help raise them up to where they want to be.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Business Lessons Learned from “The Crown”

When the Launch4Life team is not busy working, we like to spend some “sister time” together. One thing we love to do is watch Netflix. Right now, we are finishing up the second season of Netlix’s “The Crown.” If you are not familiar with the show, it’s a biographical dramatic series centered on the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s current and longest reigning monarch.

While it’s true we love all things British, there are lots of reasons we are enjoying this show. The producers of “The Crown” have done an excellent job of portraying the history and politics that has plagued Queen Elizabeth II’s career as a monarch. After watching an episode this weekend, I was struck with just how many business lessons can be learned from watching this award-winning drama.

To be honest, before watching this show, I really had no idea what it took to be the “Queen of England.” To put it lightly, it’s a lot of work. When she was only 25 years old, Queen Elizabeth II became the head of state of not only England, but also the United Kingdom, and many other countries and territories around the world. It’s almost as if she became the CEO of  global company than a divine-rule monarch. For the past 60+ years, she has provided an excellent role model of a strong global leader. I almost see her as more of a CEO of a global conglomerate, than a divine-right ruler.

So with that in mind, here are a few of the business lessons I learned from watching “The Crown.”  I believe these lessons are timely and relevant to any entrepreneur or self-employed business professional.

 

Everyone Needs A Mentor

Queen Elizabeth II was limited in her educational upbringing. If you can believe it, she was primarily homeschooled. When she ascended to the throne at a young age, she felt she lacked the education to serve as an effective leader. To help fill in the gaps, she secured the services of a private tutor. In addition, she sought the good counsel of those around her. The queen never makes a rash decision. Instead, she seeks the advice of others, weighs the pros and cons, and makes that final decision herself.

As entrepreneurs, it is important to continually invest in our education. We can do that by reading books, attending workshops, and signing up for classes. Sometimes we need to seek out one-one-one mentoring, which is why it’s so helpful to work with a coach. Lastly, it’s vital that we have a good support system in place that includes a wide range of business colleagues. It is for that very reason that so many solopreneurs seek out business communities to join.

Belonging to a Mastermind or Membership group aligned with your industry can provide a whole slew of mentors. While sometimes it may feel overwhelming to know all there is to know to run our businesses, it’s important to learn from the wisdom of others. You owe it to yourself to always be learning and you owe it to your company and customers. You have a responsibility to be the best that you can be.

 

 

Let Us Be Frank

Watching “The Crown” we discover that Elizabeth strives to be open and honest in her communications. Whether she is butting heads with her Prime Minister, palace staff, or members of her family, the Queen never minces words. She always seems to speak simple and direct. Even better, she is always open and honest.

It is important for business professionals to display candor with their clients. Contrary to public opinion, the customer is not always “right.” When they are wrong, we must be frank with them. There have been times where we have had to be brutally honest with our clients.  For instance, when we provide a marketing audit we never sugar-coat the results.  Instead, we give our clients a full analysis of everything they need to do to better market their business. Although, we do always like to point out what they are doing “right” as well.

 

Balancing Work & Family is Hard

The most dramatic episodes of “The Crown” revolve around the conflicts the Queen is experiences with her own family. She is constantly struggling with a husband who seems threatened by her leadership. She painfully suffers the consequences of putting the needs of monarchy before the needs of her sister. And worst of all, her daily responsibilities get in the way of spending time with her children.

You don’t have to be a monarch to know that juggling our personal and professional life is a constant challenge. It seems even harder to maintain that balance when you are self-employed. Unlike employees, the majority of us don’t clock out at 5pm each day. Instead, with a home-based business, the start and end of work day can become grey. There is always the temptation to just keep working.

When we focus all of our time on running our business, we can easily neglect the special people in our life. For this reason, it’s vital to carve out some downtime and make your family, friends, and yourself, a priority. We must find ways to maintain that balance. Which is why Janet and I, like to take time out and watch Netflix together as “sisters.”

 

So those are just a few of the takeaway’s I got from watching “The Crown.”  I highly recommend you check out this awesome Netflix series. It’s a great show that will not only entertain you, but teach you a bit of history, and provide some great lessons on business and leadership.

 

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Cultivating Better Communication Skills

My son recently graduated from college with a degree in Computer Science. Last month, while he was applying for his first full-time job, he needed to put together a 12-minute introductory video. In the video, he was required to discuss his educational background and professional experience, as well as “say a few words” about himself. While this task wouldn’t be easy for most people, it was even harder for him because he’s an introvert. Yet despite the difficulty, my son put together a really good video. Even better, he did it so well that he landed the job. Hurray! Later, he confided that he could not have done it without the help of Toastmasters.

For those of you unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it’s an international organization dedicated to helping people cultivate better communication skills. When my son first started college, he quickly discovered how uncomfortable he felt giving class presentations. While he had no problem putting his thoughts down on paper, speaking them out loud felt awkward. One night my son decided to come and check out my Toastmasters club. After just one meeting, he could see the members of my club would make excellent mentors. Several years later, everyone in the club has helped my son gain more confidence in his speaking ability. While my son is still an introvert, he is now totally comfortable whenever he’s asked to “say a few words.”

While Toastmasters is a wonderful organization for introverts, it’s also great for extroverts. At Toastmasters, members learn that becoming a better speaker requires evaluations that identify your strengths and weaknesses. In order to be a good evaluator, you need to become an active listener. Being a better listener can help every business professional better serve their clients.

Toastmasters has been around for a long time. The organization was founded in the United States in 1922. Today, Toastmasters is now an international organization, comprised of 352,000 members in over 141 countries. Most Toastmasters clubs meet weekly, or every other week, for 1-2 hours. Using a system that helps individuals learn-by-doing, club members help one another advance their public speaking and leadership skills.

Here are the reasons I think every business professional should consider joining Toastmasters:

1. Overcome Public Speaking Fears
The most positive and supportive audience in the world is a Toastmasters club audience. Speaking regularly in front of a group will help calm your nerves and communicate more effectively.

2. Become a Better Public Speaker
Club members progress through a series of speech projects.  Each project is specifically designed to help improve the ability to write and deliver speeches.

3. Become a Better Listener
By watching other members give speeches and evaluating their performance, you’ll become a better listener. Evaluating speeches forces you to pay attention and listen carefully. In addition, meetings include a grammarian report where word usage is scrutinized and everyone’s “ahs” and “ums” are counted. The reports help you become aware of using distracting filler words.

4. Gain Leadership Skills
Leadership and communication skills are related. As you gain more confidence in your ability to communicate effectively, your ability to lead will also improve. In addition to improving their speaking skills, Toastmaster club members can elect to take on leadership roles within the club. These opportunities help strengthen and grow the club.

5. Think Fast on Your Feet
During each Toastmasters meeting, there is a portion known as “Table Topics.” During this part of the meeting, club members respond to questions on a general topic. This impromptu speaking opportunity helps prepare you for the times in your life where you need to “speak off the cuff”.

6. Expand Your Network
Toastmasters is an excellent way to meet new, interesting, and successful people. Each club has a diverse range of members, ranging from young adults to retiree, from students, to working professionals, to business owners, and retirees.

If this sounds interesting, I urge you to visit a club near you by searching the Toastmasters club database online. If you live in an urban area, you may find you have several clubs to choose from. Instead of signing up with the first club you visit, be sure to shop around and choose the club that best fits your schedule and/or personality. Every club is unique and different. I like to visit new clubs when I’m traveling. It’s a great way to meet new people – anywhere in the world.

Once you find a club you like, signup and become a member. You will find that the membership dues are very reasonable (less than $100 a year). There really is no other public speaking program out there that will provide you with such an incredible return on your investment.  Best of all, Toastmaster meetings are fun to attend, which may be the greatest reward of all.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Do You Know What This Person is Thinking?

How Do I Have a Winning Communication Experience?

I have just come back from a Thanksgiving family reunion.  Everyone came happy and excited to be with each other and have fun.  You have seen enough Movies to know how that goes.  You can always expect there will be some friction and some heartache.  Why?  Because as much as we all love each other, we have communication breakdowns.  Why?  Because we don’t always communicate in a way that the other person knows or understands.

Sometimes we don’t understand what was said, or we don’t understand their facial expressions.  What am I, a mind reader???Family is one thing.  Even if we have fights we all love each other.  We will have a few tears, maybe even some angry words, and then we hug, and say “I love you”.  We make it all better.  We forget the bad memories and come back for the next  family reunion.

 

Business, however, can be another thing.  If you are having this interaction at work or if you are trying to network with someone for business or you are having a one on one with a customer, that is another story all together.  There is no bond of love and friendship that will keep you together.  What do you do?  Even if you think you are the best communicator in the world, if you have a customer that is not a good communicator, your whole presentation or engagement could blow up in your face.  How do you overcome that?

Many, many years ago, I went to a two-day Communications course to learn how to be a better communicator.  We learned how to be good listeners.  But somewhere in translation, I didn’t quite grasp how to engage with people that are terrible communicators.  Trust me, there are plenty.  Now add to that, the additional issue of trying to communicate with someone while on a mobile phone.  That was not in that training, because mobile phones didn’t exist.  Here is a personal example: I was having lunch with one of my sons recently and I was sharing a story while he was doing something on his phone.  It became apparent to me that he wasn’t listening to anything I was saying.  I asked if he was listening.  Being honest with his Mom, he sheepishly said “no”.  Now what if that situation was with a customer.  They would have probably said “of course I am listening” and be totally lying.  Then whatever I said, would have been missed.  At least I was able to repeat my story with my son, or if it just didn’t matter in the big scheme of things, moved one.  But if it is work related, you can’t move on, you want to be sure they received your message.

Here are some good suggestions that I have learned from painful experiences:

  1. Make sure the person you are conveying your message too, wants to hear the message.  (Otherwise going to deaf ears.)
  2. Don’t try to have that important business conversation when there are distractions like loud music or other chitchat around you. Otherwise they may only hear every other word.  They will nod their head that they are hearing you and understand you.  But in reality, you know they haven’t a clue what you have been saying.  They are just being polite.
  3. Body language. This is critically important and probably my worst pet peeve.  I hate it when people respond to me with a face cringe or bobbing of the head and think I know what that means.  Try and ask questions that will elicit a response of a statement rather than a “yes” or “no” answer.  Otherwise, you may get a bobbing head and not get the answer you need. Some people may be afraid to answer your question as they are not ready to make a decision at that moment.  Asking questions that require a statement rather than a yes or no, will be more helpful.  Or that encourage them to ask a question back to formulate that decision.  That might allow for a better dialogue eventually giving you the response you need.  As hard as it might be, we need to ask gentle questions, so they don’t have the feeling of being interrogated.
  4. Try to allow that person you are engaging with to feel comfortable to speak and let you know what they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes, that just means “shut up” and “listen”.  Bite your lip if you have too.  Depending on your personality style that might be a little hard, especially if you are an extrovert like me.  But believe me if you want an introvert to respond, you have no choice, you have to give them the space and time to feel comfortable to answer.

Try this exercise: next time in a work discussion whether it is an associate or customer, look at their body language.  Do they look comfortable, or do they look anxious?  Use that intuition to decide how to “be” with that person so you can have a winning engagement.  Is it their personality or are they dealing with an issue that is making life tough right now?  You might have to ask some warm up questions to know the answer to that before you delve into your business conversation.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Same time, next year, better equipped.  Have a better customer experience.

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist

Launch4Life

janet@launch4life.com

Summer Fun, While Making a Difference!

Summer is officially here.  Hurray.  During the long hot summer months, many of us like to go away on vacation, or stay home and have a little down time.  Right now I am in Las Vegas, Nevada, on vacation.  Since it’s really hot here, I find that I’m staying inside more than I’m going out.  To keep myself amused, I sometimes kick back and play a game on my computer.  It’s one of my guilty pleasures.  However, I have found a computer game that is not only entertaining, but is also making a difference in the world.  Let me introduce you to FreeRice.com.

At FreeRice.com you are given a series of trivia-like questions to answer.  Quiz topics range from: Vocabulary, Grammar, Literature, Famous Paintings, Flags of the World, Countries on a Map, World Capitals, Math, Chemistry, and Language Learning (German, Spanish, Italian, or French).  For each question you get right, the UN World Food Program will donate 10 grains of rice to help end hunger worldwide.  Ever since the game launched in October 2007, thousands of FreeRice players are responsible for feeding millions of people.  FreeRice.com is a non-profit website that is generously backed by a number of different sponsors who pay for the free rice.

While playing the game, you can set the level of difficulty of questions, which allows people of all ages to play.  So, if you have children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren, this is great computer activity to do together.  I especially love the “WARNING” on the website:

WARNING: This game may make you smarter.  It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance, etc. 

Freerice.com reminds me of a wonderful children’s picture book, One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale.  This was a book I loved reading to my boys when they were little – many years ago.  This book not only was a really good story but was a great illustration of exponential growth – think compound interest!

So, you might want to check this book out as a gift for a child you know… or even for yourself.  After all, smart entrepreneurs need to fully understand how everything around us can grow beyond belief – one grain of rice at a time.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Touring Google Headquarters: A Great Business Model

The Launch4Life team had the recent pleasure of touring Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA. It was an awesome and eye-opening event.  While it is true that Google is a really big business, we learned that its a very cool company to work for.

The first thing we should tell you is that it’s actually very difficult to get a tour of Google HQ. When we learned that we’d be in the Santa Clara area, we thought it would be awesome to add on a “field trip” to Google. So, I began looking into how to set up a visit. Well, it turns out that you can ONLY tour the silicon giant if you have a prior invitation, or, if you know someone.

Matt gave us the most awesome tour of Google and we so appreciated all the time (hours!) he spent with us.  He took us from building to building, explaining Google’s philosophy, work environment, and why everyone loves working there.

Janet in the stress-relieving employee ball pit

Gillian riding one of the Google campus bikes

Here are just some of the reasons that makes Google a very cool place to work:

  • Free carpooling buses (with free wifi) that allow people to commute easily from San Francisco.
  • Dog-friendly workplace that encourages you to bring your dog to work & sit at your work station.
  • Complimentary bikes that any employees can hop on and ride across the Google campus. A great way to encourage exercise and having fun.
  • Giant team meetings with the Google executives where everyone and anyone has a voice.
  • Ongoing education & inspiration with industry experts. They just had Tony Hseih from Zappos, talking about his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.
  • Dining room that offers free food (awesome variety and very healthy) to all Google employees 24/7.

Janet & Gillian in the Google Cafeteria where employees eat for free 24/7

At the end of the day, we walked away with the appreciation that one of the reasons that Google’s successful is that it takes care of its people. They are a great business model because they are proving that a fun and nurturing place to work makes happier employees… which in turn makes excellent products and services.

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Experts Academy With Brendon Burchard

We recently attended Brendon’s Burchard’s Expert Academy training in Santa Clara, California. To get a good feel for what this was all about… think Boot Camp for Online Marketing. Expert’s Academy is a four-day event where 800 people plus, from all over the world, get together to learn the secrets needed to market your expert knowledge. Whether you’re a speaker, author, coach, or business professional, you’ll learn everything you need to know to promote your products and/or services at an even higher level.

Brendon Burchard is a high-energy trainer and day-after-day he never disappointed. He was like the energizer bunny… never running out of batteries. He truly exceeded expectations with the value and knowledge he shared.  During the four days, Janet and I met, and worked with, a ton of interesting people. It really gave us a bigger vision of just how many people have the goal of building an online business. What was especially interesting is the everyone had a totally different niche market. I don’t know if we met any two people doing the same business. Each participant was unique with the “expertise” they wanted to share with the world.

We enjoyed that there was a strong focus on how to market your products. Whether you wanted to publish a book, online courses, coaching services, membership site, or whatever. Brendon provided a lot of information on how he personally launched many of his products and how he used joint venture partners. For those of you familiar with Jeff Walker’s “Product Launch Formula,” you can tell that Brendon is one of Jeff’s students.

Here is just some of what we learned:

  • What is an Expert?
  • 5 Skills Needed for an Expert Empire
  • Facebook Best Practices
  • How to Package Your Expertise & Advice
  • Creating Evergreen Funnels & Relationships that Sell
  • Promotional Partnership Best Practices

Janet and I both thought Experts Academy was a really great seminar.  We were also impressed by the high caliber of people that were attending the seminar too. Everyone seemed so positive and upbeat.  As well as hungry for success. However, what was nice is that it seemed that instead of us all being competitors, we were instead, on a mission together. Nice.

One especially cool thing about Brendon Burchard’s programs is that his mom always attends as one of his “helpers”. We had the great fortune of meeting her and speaking with her for a bit. Wow, what a wonderful woman she is.

At the end of the program, Brendon acknowledged his mom and had her come up and join him on stage. I don’t think there was a dry-eye in the house. How do you not admire a man that pays homage to his mom?

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com