Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom

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Five Steps for Making Every Moment Matter

Bracelets_of_powerSo, I think about relationships and leadership a lot.  After all, any kind of selling – whether you’re selling to businesses or people – is really about building a relationship.  Relationships are founded on milestones: your first date, taking a trip or buying your first car.  Yet, relationships are forged on the moments that come in between.  It’s the small things that you do such as smile a special smile, sharing a joke or opening a door, that speak to who you are and how the person with you feels when they are around you. Now, every business person today has heard from industry “experts” that loyalty is dead.  Gen X and Y folks may have eight or more “banking” relationships.  They don’t care about what make and model of car they drive etc.  According to many, the days of loyalty are fading fast.  Do you buy into that?  I don’t.  Take a look at your favorite sports team.  Take a look at their fan base.  Among that loyal fanbase – the jersey wearing face painted nation – are people of all ages.  Heck, my 5 year old can recite Kobe’s stats and recently schooled me on Metta World Peace.  And my house is part of the Spurs Nation.  What happened there?

So why aren’t more of your current clients, loyal clients?  Are you making every moment matter?

Now, I’m from a small town in South Dakota where you don’t lock your doors, where you know everyone (and their business) and where you go to the same store to purchase whatever you may need every time.  People still wave and say hello when you coast on by.  And if you burn a bridge, you probably just burned that bridge with half of the town as word spreads quickly.  Every moment matters. In today’s hypercompetitive economy, technology keeps people with us all the time – kind of like that same small town.  People you haven’t seen in decades “wave” as you pass by on Facebook, and one bad review or relationship turns into a thousand if not properly tended.  Today, you must always be aware, providing better and faster service to improve loyalty and keep your clients happy.  There are always opportunities to make magic moments each time you work with someone.

Tell Your Story
Every time you speak with someone, reinforce why your service is the best and what sets you apart.  After all, you work where you work because you believe in the greater purpose or mission.  It’s a basic human need to believe in something.  Share proudly why people should believe in you.
Show How Much You Care
Find sincere ways to show your clients how much you value them and how your product or service helps protect and care for them.  Every product is designed to meet some basic need.  What need does your product satisfy?  What problem does is cure?  How important is it to you personally that they are protected?  Make sure they know.
Everyone Walks Away With A Smile The path to happiness is a short one.  It starts with you being happy.  How happy do you feel when you sit down across from someone?  Is anything getting in the way of your good mood?  If so, get rid of it.  Is your desk cluttered?  Perhaps your mind is cluttered.  If you’re in a bad mood in the morning, find a token to remind you to change your frame of mind.  Mine is a set of rubber bracelets I picked up at a conference last year.  I call them my “Bracelets of Power.”  They tell me that “No Negativity is Allowed” and “Success is My Duty.”  I glance down at them, get a reminder, and put a smile on my face.  No matter how long someone has known you, every time they see you again, there is a tiny little adjustment in how they view you – a tiny judgment.  Make sure it’s a good one.  (Thanks to Grant Cardone for the token.)
Meet People Where They Are Most of your younger clients today grew up with both in person and digital relationships.  They’re comfortable in that space, and they expect you to be too.  Why ask them to go out of their comfort zone to meet you?  You’ve just added another hurdle to your success.  Just like the Country Doctor (AKA my Dad) did back in South Dakota, go to your client instead.  Do they want to meet in person?  Great.  E-mail?  Great.  Text message?  I’d bet a lot of people would appreciate it.  That’s what I prefer, and the fastest way to reach me frankly.  Then, great.  Getting outside of your comfort zone and into theirs helps build that elusive loyalty factor.  You’re placing their needs first.
People Remember Mistakes: No matter how good you are, sooner or later, you will let someone down.  Don’t let one bad experience ruin someone’s opinion of you or your Company.  Mistakes usually happen when you are distracted, whether it’s in multitasking and emailing while you are on a call or just a bit of mental drift near the end of a long day.  Remember, every moment matters.  Focus on the here and now when you are with someone.  Everything else can wait.  People have long memories in small towns and online, the world’s biggest small town.  And if you don’t have people that believe in you, you won’t have a business.  When you do make that dreaded mistake, please apologize.  Yes, it’s good manners.  Yes, it should be natural, but often we may get defensive.  Ultimately, that never helps.  A sincere, heartfelt and humble apology will go a long way to rebuilding a damaged relationship and creating a raving fan instead.
Make every moment matter.  It’s hard work, but it’s good work.  And it’s work that pays dividends both professionally and personally.
So how will you make it matter today?



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Building Your House, One Brick at a Time

Every parent knows the story of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, and has probably recited it hundreds of times.  Three brothers go out into the world, build their homes and get ready for the future.  Then, the Big Bad Wolf comes a knockin’, and you know what happens.  Homes of straw and sticks crumble, but the brother who really prepared – built a sturdy foundation – was able to withstand the storm and triumph.

Fairy tales are often built on common truths, and this tale is no exception.  Looking beyond the rhythm and rhyme, it’s a story about business and life: don’t take short cuts, be disciplined, and build a strong foundation of processes and knowledge as the unexpected will happen sooner or later.  When the Big Bad Wolf or another competitor comes knockin’, will your business stand strong or buckle under the storm?

So, I’m in the automotive industry, which is booming now.  Many industries are doing well.  But sooner or later, a storm will come and you need to be prepared.  One of the most basic bricks we can use to build our professional houses is building out your business and referral network.  Now, us marketing folk frequently talk about the importance of networking and the “how to” of it.  But marketing really is just about being human.  Human beings have a basic need to connect emotionally through relationships, and relationships can only be cultivated over time. You can’t build a relationship if you are sporadic in your marketing or networking, if you only “fit it in” when your phone isn’t ringing.  Building a relationship requires time and investment, perhaps a change in your thinking and actually doing things for others so they in turn will do things for you.  Ultimately, you are building your brand as you market.  In our business, to be successful, you should always be marketing – always be on.  You never know when you will meet someone special who just may change your life.  Marketing can happen every day via the phone, email, a blog and more.  Here are a few suggestions to help you expand your business network, and ultimately gain more trust and more referrals.

1. Get to know your industry well and share information.  Have you read a useful article or tidbit lately?  Share it.  If you want to succeed, become both a humble student and also an expert.  Constantly seek knowledge and spread it.

2. Send a thank you card or small token of appreciation that shows thought. I’m a big believer in handwritten notes.  E-mails are fine, but personal card takes care and time.  Even if you have said “thanks” in the past, don’t be afraid to say it again.  We have a saying in our family: “Practice an attitude of gratitude.”  I’m sure you have something similar at home too.  If you preach it at home, you certainly can put it into practice at work too.  The currency of business relationships is in the relationship itself. Build it with authentic care.

3. Take advantage of the opportunity to network inside and outside of your industry.  I was fortunate to attend a major auto industry event this week and rub shoulders with thought leaders from my industry, Google, Facebook and more.  That opportunity was a result of a long term relationship, and I am immensely grateful.  And earlier this year, I networked with CMOs from other verticals – Mattel, Disney and more.  It’s always an investment of time, and sometimes of your pocketbook, but the investment pays dividends.

4. Always carry cards.  Having your business card with you at all times is a given.  But how about carrying a few cards from those business contacts that you trust from another industry?  It’s an opportunity to help those who help you on a day to day basis.

5.  Follow up immediately on every referral.  I can’t stress it enough.

6. Volunteer your time and industry expertise for a project outside the scope of your normal business.  Get out there, get uncomfortable and get it done.

7.  Ask for referrals and cross-sell.  There is always more business than you are getting, and more referrals than you are receiving.  Make sure you share your story and successes with your partners, and ask for the opportunity to do more.

8.  Reach out to dormant accounts.  I’m going to wager that every one of you has at least one – if not more – “dormant” accounts. There may be reasons you’re not getting that referral, but you’ll never know unless you make that call.  You may need to apologize for not keeping in touch, but the relationship may well be redeemable and may have been “lost” purely because someone (or you) forgot to ring them.

Building a strong foundation in the good times will protect you if and when the Big Bad Wolf knocks on your door.  Get started today.

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The Pebble in the Pond

2013 Groundbreaking Kids Only

So yesterday, I was at a groundbreaking event for a charity that my company supports.  It’s a fantastic program bringing seniors in need of care together with young children who lift their morale and, in turn, teach the children empathy and kindness.   This is one of my favorite parts of my job.  There were tons of people there: sponsors, dignitaries, parents, seniors and much to my surprise, an old acquaintance of mine.Ann came bouncing up to me with a wide smile on her face and gave me a huge hug.  I was happy to see her again.  She worked for my company six or seven years ago, although only for a few months.  I remember her as bright and talented; we’d missed her when she left.  It turns out that Ann works in community relations for the charity we’d supported; what a small world this is.

After the pictures were taken and the shovels did their work, Ann made her way back over to me to tell me a “funny story” that she just had to share.  Two days before our meeting, Ann was presenting in front of a group of local business leaders hoping to generate financial support for another arm of the charity, helping at-risk teens.  During the event, Ann mentioned that she used to work for my company.  One of the gentlemen there asked Ann if she knew me.  Of course she did, said Ann.  She told him that I had been her trainer way back when – that I’d taught her how to speak in public.Now, this was news to me.  Way back when, I was an Account Executive and Ann was a new hire.  As I recall it, Ann and I didn’t have much interaction at all, although we did spend two days together out marketing – training some branches and meeting some people.  It was part of a normal routine to me, yet to Ann it was a lot more.

Ann continued her story.  She is extremely happy today, living out a dream of helping make the world a better place.  She told me that she never imagined she would be able to serve her community as she does today… never thought that she could be the face of an amazing charity, and that she learned how to do it from me.  Ann thanked me for making a difference in her life, one that makes a major difference in the lives of thousands who so desperately need help.

Yesterday was a humbling morning.  I am no public speaking guru.  I love my job here in the auto industry, but have often wondered if I should be doing something more – something that changes lives.  I found out yesterday that I had, but I just didn’t know it.My boss often likes to speak about the “pebble in the pond” when it comes to business.  That tiny little pebble creates ripples that become wider and greater the further they travel, and it’s our job as leaders to see those ripples.  We drop many pebbles in our everyday lives.  Two short, almost forgettable days in my life a long time ago changed Ann’s life in ways I never could have imagined.  And Ann saves lives every day as she fights for homebound seniors, disadvantaged youth and working parents.  I never knew how wide the ripples I unintentionally had made would become.

What you’re doing today may seem routine, part of your job or almost forgettable.  And you may be changing one life – or many – as you do it.  I’m going to remember that the next time I say hello to a new hire.  I hope you do too.