4 Networking Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Daily Muse, Contributor , Forbeswoman, 9/30/11

Whether you’re looking for a job or not, you’ve probably been encouraged to “network, network, network!” more times than you can count. Are all those conferences and

Photo courtesy of Jodi Womack.

events you’re attending leading to new connections or opportunities?

No? You’re not the only one. Many networking newbies have tendencies that actually inhibit building real relationships with their new contacts.

The good news: it’s not that hard to fix. Here’s what you might not even realize you’re doing wrong—and what to do about it.

Mistake #1: Talking about Yourself—All the Time

You’re talented! Eager! Ambitious! You have lots of ideas to share! And you want to make sure that every person you meet at the event knows who you are and what you do!

We get it. And yes, sharing your story with new contacts is important. But sharing your life story is overkill: Nothing can set a person off more than an aspiring professional who takes no interest in anything beside her own ambitions.

The Fix: Take Some Interest.

Stop highlighting your latest accomplishment and start listening instead. Find people with industries or careers of interest to you, and ask them questions: How did they get their start? What do they love about their jobs, and what do they wish they could change? By taking an interest in your contact, you will make her feel valued—and hopefully interested in continuing the relationship. And you’ll likely gain some new insights, too.

Mistake #2: Expecting a Job

You’re looking for a new job, so you hit the circuit of industry events every week, asking every person you meet to help you find your new gig—after all, it’s not what you know, it’s who.

Well, yes. But give people some credit: If you pursue networking opportunities purely for the job prospects, your contacts will figure you out. You will leave them feeling used, and they will be less likely to recommend you for an opportunity.

The Fix: Provide Some Value.

If you’re looking for a job, don’t ask for it—work for it. Do some research into what your contact does both in and out of work and find ways that you can contribute your time or support.

Perhaps you could volunteer your expertise in social media for the big convention she’s heading up, or offer your accounting knowledge for her non-profit. Provide some opportunity for contacts to see you in a working light, and you’ll be that much closer to a good referral.

Mistake #3: Not Saying Thanks

You attended a large event last week and grabbed coffee with one of your new professional contacts afterward. And then—the week got busy, and you didn’t get around to saying thank you. She’ll understand, right?
Maybe. But if you don’t show gratitude, even in the smallest (or largest) event, you risk leaving a negative impression—probably not the desired outcome of your meeting.

The Fix: Just Do It.

Whether you pack notecards in your purse for post-meeting scribbles, set yourself a reminder on Gmail to send off a quick note, or just insert a quick “thanks for taking time to meet with me!” at the final handshake, you must say thank you. Not only will you solidify your reputation as a courteous individual, but you won’t be leaving your contacts with a bad taste in their mouths. Always say thank you, and your good impression will last until your next meeting.

Mistake #4: Forgetting to Follow Up

You meet someone over a networking happy hour and tell her you’ll send her your portfolio. But as the night goes on, she has a few drinks and meets a few dozen more people. You’re sure she’s forgotten all about you, so you decide it’s not even worth emailing her the next day.

Bad idea. Meeting someone is just the first step in networking. In order to forge a lasting relationship (and make sure people don’t forget you), you need to follow up, every single time.

The Fix: Stay Accountable.

If you told a networking contact that you would do something, do it. Even if you’re not sure she remembers you, you can bet that she will be grateful that you took the time out of your day to send her what you had discussed. If you’re worried about forgetting, keep a pen near your business card holder to quickly scribble out what follow-up actions you have for that contact, and review your cards after the event.

Above all, keep in mind that networking isn’t about short-term gain, but about learning, growing, and forming connections. Adopt good social habits, and you’ll see your skills and comfort improve, your opportunities increase, and your relationships grow—for the long haul.

Why Cooperation and Collaboration is Essential in Today’s Workforce

There are many career fields now where men and women are integrated together. And, when you stop to think about it—even if there’s a career field where it’s predominantly one gender or the other, there is gender overlap either when buying products or services from vendors or serving customers. The way to reduce gender conflict is by focusing on strengths. By intentionally becoming aware of how to use both masculine and feminine communication skills you can give not only yourself, but your company as well, the advantage over your competition when it comes to productivity and creativity. Rapport building is a great way to foster cooperation and collaboration within your company and to obtain repeat customers.
As an individual reading this article you are becoming more cognizant of how masculine and feminine communication skills can be used interchangeably, by both sexes, for greater cooperation and collaboration. Becoming aware of the social skills involved, and then mindfully choosing to use both styles of communication will help you be a better communicator at work (and at home!).
Today we’re focusing on how to build rapport, a skill set women often acquire more naturally due to social conditioning and because they tend to communicate, commiserate, show compassion, and connect with others when under duress based on their physiology. In fact, physiologically, women produce their stress-reducing hormone, oxytocin, when they do just that—connect and nurture relationships with others.
When both men and women focus on beefing up their rapport with others, then the entire group (both employees and customers) benefit. Value is placed on what often makes or breaks a company—turning a product or service into profit. This is because the focus is on people enjoying the experience of working to sell or buy the product or service.
Building rapport is a skill that both men and women can benefit from in the workplace. By taking a moment every day to check-in with one another the workplace climate can change from friction and one-upmanship to one that’s more team oriented. This is critical in a workforce that employs both men and women. Put it into context with a young child picking up a toy strewn room. If you’ve picked a room up with a child, you know it is more about picking the toys up together, rather than putting the toys away that makes them feel accepted and like they did something well. When anyone feels like they matter, then typically their performance increases because peer pressure revolves around connection and positive reinforcement.
Women tend to ask others for their input when making decisions, because to them it is important to hear and value what other’s think and feel about the situation. Even in a quick-paced working environment where seconds count, eye contact, nods of the head, can mean the difference between if someone has your back, and if everyone’s on the same page or not.
You build rapport by actively listening to others. Be genuinely interested in someone—whether it’s how potty training is going with their daughter, how they’re coping with a sick parent, or how the work deadline caused them to miss their anniversary—listen with interest. This does not mean a fifteen minute or even a five minute chat every day—it’s a quick check-in as easy as asking, “hey, how is your day?” Stop. Listen to the answer. Respond by rephrasing or repeating back what they said and using empathy. Then, get down to business.
You can also build rapport by observing and responding to nonverbal body cues. Quick check-ins with my Marines as a Marine Corps Officer was invaluable when time was critical. I knew my Marines body language, their moods, and how to motivate each one as individuals. Instead of forcing my will or decisions, I relied on my strength of listening with my ears and reading emotional moods to make decisions that were good not just for the end result, but the people involved as well.
As my yoga teacher challenges us each week with mindfulness homework, let me do the same with you. Your homework is a two-fold challenge. In the next week notice how building rapport benefits the quality of your productivity and creativity. Then challenge your company to do the same. Hire a Mars Venus Coach to go over gender strengths and do DISC profiling with your company for your professional development training, or if there isn’t a Mars Venus Coach in your local area have employees take the online eWorkshop: Mars and Venus in the Workplace. It’s not enough just to read about gender intelligence, you have to put the knowledge into actions by interacting in better ways with others.
Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd
Mars Venus Coaching
Corporate Media Relations

Power Connects People

Side Effects of Holding Power

When you think about people who are strongly driven to acquire power, what kinds of things do you imagine they are after? Is power about having: influence over others, money, status, glory, independence, self-confidence?

Popular stories in our culture like to distinguish power seekers from relationship seekers—people whose primary motivation is to foster connections and intimacy with others. The power and relationship motives are usually depicted as incompatible, where power is achieved at the expense of having relationships. As prime examples, think about the main characters in films like Citizen Kane, Scarface, and The Social Network. These stories tell us that power seeking is driven by self-centered ambitions, and as long as this motive is strong, the relationship seeking motive will be weak.

We forget that the rewards of power and the rewards of relationships overlap. We forget that power connects people to one another, and the more powerful person usually reaps the rewards of these relationships. Having power means having favorable connections to others.

Imagine a typical power imbalance in the workplace. A company hires two people to run a newly-created department at the company: Mr. Alpha is brought in to head the new department and Mr. Beta is hired as second in command. Mr. Alpha is given the power to fire and/or promote Mr. Beta, making Mr. Beta dependent on Mr. Alpha’s approval. Their jobs have established this connection between them, and we can be fairly certain that their interactions will be more pleasant for Mr. Alpha than Mr. Beta. Mr. Beta will be more accommodating, deferential, and experience more anxiety about saying or doing the wrong things.

As it happens, Mr. Alpha has relocated from across the country to take this job, and feels isolated in his new city. Mr. Alpha’s not a bad guy, but he insists that he and Mr. Beta take all their coffee breaks and go out on all sales calls together, just so Mr. Alpha can have the interpersonal contact. Mr. Beta goes along without complaining. After a few weeks Mr. Alpha begins to feel less isolated in his surroundings, having established some camaraderie.

In power imbalances, the more powerful person can usually set the terms of the relationship and build rapport without much resistance. This may not create close authentic bonds, but don’t underestimate the appeal of casual interactions with people who are courteous and attentive to you. These interactions should be especially appealing to men, who tend to be more satisfied with shallow relationships than women.

The point is that these relationships can be rewarding, and ultimately strengthen the allure of power. For some people, the promise of social connections may even be the hidden force behind their desire for power, especially for people who have trouble establishing connections under normal circumstances.

So even though the search for power and relationships are often portrayed as competing goals, it’s rarely that simple. Selfish goals may navigate the pursuit of power, but the motivation to connect with others is stronger than it seems, stronger than even the seeker realizes.

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Published by Ilan Shrira

 

How to Have an Awesome Work Career

I was reflecting on my work career (past, present, and future) this morning and came to the realization that my job is “awesome.” OK, that word is overused, but I have young adult and pre-teen daughters, so I think I understand the different meanings it has, but I’m talking about the old definition of “awesome.” In others words, I enjoy almost every part of what I do for a living, and there is research in work psychology that explains why that is the case. So, here are the elements that make up an “awesome work career,” and some tips on how to get more of those elements in your own work life.

Meaning. An awesome job is one that has meaning. There is a purpose to your work, and you have to find that higher purpose. There is a scene in the movie Cedar Rapids, where Ed Helms’ nerdy character makes insurance sales sound like an uplifting career (“we are the heroes on the disaster scene, working to rebuild lives…”). Even mundane jobs, like customer service can be viewed as having meaning (e.g., helping clients, giving customers a great experience). If you can’t find the meaning in your current job after looking hard, it may be time to look hard for a new career.

Accomplishment. Choose a career where you can accomplish things, take pride in those accomplishments, and celebrate them. I take pride when I publish a paper, give a great lecture, or finish a blog post. The pride comes from readers and students who comment favorably on my accomplishments, and I’ve been known to celebrate with a glass of wine.

My friend Carlos makes car-racing accessories. He takes pride in the fact that he can build better quality accessories, and do them quicker, than anyone else at his company. I tell our college students to accomplish something at their summer internships – a project, a report, or helping run a successful event. If their internship doesn’t require it, I suggest they talk to their supervisor about taking on some extra, challenging project, perhaps one that the supervisor hasn’t had time to complete. It makes for a better internship experience to accomplish something that makes a distinct contribution, and the same goes for every job.

Positive Relationships. Nothing can make a career more awesome than working with terrific people, and building strong and rewarding relationships with them. I’m fortunate to have amazing, talented, and (yes) awesome students. I get to meet and network with wonderful clients in my consulting work, and I have some of the best research collaborators anyone could hope for. And, I try to steer clear of the bad relationships – those that can make your job an ordeal, and make you question yourself and your career choice.

Research clearly shows that relationships at work can be the greatest source of pleasure or the most tormenting source of pain and stress. Cultivate positive relationships and work hard to avoid the bad relationships (previous posts offer help in dealing with bullies and bad colleagues and bosses).

Balance. Very few people can have awesome careers if their lives revolve entirely around their jobs. An awesome career is one that allows time for family, friends, and the ability to pursue non-work-related interests. I often talk to people who are unhappy because their jobs consume all of their time and energy. Some of them change to careers that allow greater balance and flexibility, and although there are tradeoffs (e.g., less money, prestige, or a slower ride up the ladder). I rarely hear any regrets from them.

Does good fortune play a part in someone having an awesome career? To some extent. But it is more likely that people have to plan, make tough strategic career decisions, and work hard to make their career awesome.

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Published by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.

5 Most Common Ways People Ruin Their Work Careers

How to prevent failure at work.

Even the most successful executives and leaders can suddenly “go off the track” and ruin their careers. Research on executive derailment has clearly identified the factors that cause previously successful executives and professionals to fail. Watch out for these in your own work career.

1. Poor Interpersonal Style. Although technical competence and successes may initially pay off, as one moves up in an organization or profession, interpersonal skills become more important. In our study of firefighters, technical competence was the key to getting promoted to captain, but lack of social skills prevented captains from going higher in the chain of command.

Having an abrasive or arrogant style, being insensitive to those around you, or coming off cold and aloof can lead to derailment of managers and supervisors.

2. Over-Controlling and Inability to Delegate. In today’s team-centered work world, it is critical to be able to work successfully with others to get the job done. Managers who try to do it all themselves, who micromanage, or who are unable to build a team, are likely doomed to failure.

3. Inability to Adapt. Change is the only constant in organizations. Workers who fail to adapt will become obsolete and fail. In one engineering department, the manager was unable to master, or even understand, the new design technology. Due to his own insecurity, he refused to let the new technology be used in his department. The result: they fell further and further behind on projects and produced inferior results.

4. Lack of Transparency. Dealing openly and honestly with those you work with is the key to success. Even if you are justified and fair in the decisions that you make, you need to let people know why and how important decisions (such as promotions) are made.

It goes without saying that unethical behavior is a key derailer for anyone’s work career, so the best way to avoid temptation is to be transparent in the decisions you make and strive to be virtuous in your behavior.

5. Inability to Think Strategically. All too often, we get bogged down in the day-to-day work that is in front of us, and focus too much on short-term goals. However, career success requires constantly looking at the big picture, and thinking strategically about where we are headed. Strategic thinking helps us anticipate problems, recognize new opportunities, and build a track record of accomplishments.

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by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. in Cutting-Edge Leadership

Does Gender Bias Against Female Leaders Persist?

[Quantitative and qualitative data from a large-scale survey]

The present study of 60,470 women and men examined evaluations of participants’ current managers as well as their preferences for male and female managers, in general. A cross-sex bias emerged in the ratings of one’s current boss, where men judged their female bosses more favorably and women judged male bosses more favorably. The quality of relationships between subordinates and managers were the same for competent male and female managers. A small majority (54%) of participants claimed to have no preference for the gender of their boss, but the remaining participants reported preferring male over female bosses by more than a 2:1 ratio. Qualitative analysis of the participants’ justifications for this preference are presented, and results are discussed within the framework of role congruity theory.

To read the survey in its entirety: http://m.hum.sagepub.com/content/64/12/1555.abstract?sid=ab886a07-1048-41d5-a51f-4564a3a0db0b

Then click PDF (2nd button in upper left corner).

Article Notes

  • Kim M Elsesser is a research scholar at the Center for the Study of Women at the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to her PhD in Psychology from UCLA, Elsesser holds graduate degrees in management and operations research from MIT. In her business career, she was a principal at Morgan Stanley where she co-managed a quantitative hedge fund. More recently she has consulted on large-scale national studies relating to gender and work, and her research interests include gender and leadership, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, cross-sex friendships and social support in the workplace. Her most recent work appears in Human Relations.

  • Janet Lever is Professor of Sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. For the past 40 years her research has focused on wide-ranging issues related to gender studies and human sexuality. Since the early 1980s Lever has collaborated with mass media both to popularize academic scholarship and to harness its power to create data for later scientific analysis. After leading teams of researchers that designed the three largest magazine sex surveys ever tabulated, she came to ELLE to lead a series of surveys hosted on both the health and the business sections of msnbc.com. Her Office Sex and Romance Survey (2002) and the Work and Power Survey reported on here are among the largest surveys on these workplace topics. As with the magazine surveys, each of these internet surveys has been reanalyzed for social science, management, health, and medical audiences.

To Launch Your Business – Embrace Risk Taking

By learning what makes veteran entrepreneurs adept risk-takers, aspiring starters-up can get closer to taking the leap

By Monica Mehta

To evaluate the merits of their startup dream and strategize about its future, aspiring entrepreneurs can sweat out business plans and huddle with experts. To prepare for the emotional roller coaster of venturing out on their own, though, there’s little to do in advance. They must launch and learn on the fly. For those struggling to decide when to launch, insight from seasoned risk-takers and researchers who study them could speed the decision-making process.

For Andrew Ullman and Hayward Majors, co-founders of New York’s CollegeSolved.com, an online expert network for college admissions, taking the leap did not come easily. After hatching their idea in 2008, they kept their day jobs in corporate law and finance, conducting research and seeking industry input in their spare time. By February 2009, they had a well-researched business plan but lacked the confidence to pursue the venture full-time. “Despite having an opportunity in hand and some financial stability, it took the validation of creating a beta version of the website and raising capital from outsiders to get us comfortable with the [lifestyle] change,” says Ullman.

Like countless others before them, Ullman and Majors were adept at identifying risks but hadn’t learned to take them. “When it comes to taking risks, knowledge is a highly overrated motivator. Otherwise, we’d all buy low and sell high, and our kids would eat their vegetables,” says Dr. Frank Murtha, a behavioral psychologist in New York City who works with traders and specializes in financial risk-taking. He suggests that seizing opportunities when they arise and rolling with the punches requires a skill set few have mastered.

Chemicals in the Brain

In 2008 researchers at the University of Cambridge studied the risky decision-making abilities of entrepreneurs and corporate managers with similar IQs and experience levels using a battery of neurocognitive tests. They found (paywall alert) that the entrepreneurs consistently took riskier bets. The results show that risk-taking is both behavioral and physiological. The entrepreneurs not only scored higher on personality tests that measure impulsivity and flexibility; they also experienced a chemical response in the reward center of the brain that the managers did not.

While we have little control over our natural programming, it is possible to change behavior over time, as most therapists advocate. To offer aspiring entrepreneurs steps to take immediately, I compiled these tips:

Socialize with other entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship rubs off. A study from Babson suggests that children of entrepreneurs are more likely to start businesses, as are those who know other small business owners. The inverse also holds. Risk aversion can be contagious, as Ullman and Majors experienced. “We always wanted to be entrepreneurs, but we were locked into lucrative jobs that were deemed acceptable by family and friends,” says Majors. Most large cities offer business meet-ups and other networking events where like minds gather.

Set yourself up for small successes. “Our brains are motivated by success to greater success,” says Dr. Richard Peterson, a psychiatrist and PhD of neuroeconomics who has written two books on financial risk-taking. Immediately after experiencing a victory, our neurons process information more effectively, we become sharper and learn faster. Set small goals, no more than three months in length. Even incorporating a hobby that sets you up for small successes can make a difference in your professional life. A personal aside: I’ve just given hubby the license to play World of Warcraft to sharpen his risk-taking prowess.

Have a whiskey sour. Who hasn’t attended a cocktail hour feeling intimidated by a room of unfamiliar faces? A drink can stimulate the impulsive side of your brain’s reward center and give you the courage to strike up a conversation. More isn’t always better when it comes to playing with brain chemistry, of course. For purposes of productive impulsivity, stick to just one.

Or skip the drink and try channeling your inner Richard Branson on your own. We are groomed to seek information when making decisions. Break the habit by practicing by yourself in an environment where your decisions will have few meaningful consequences. Order what instantly comes to mind in a restaurant, for example, then graduate to other arenas.

Have faith. “As much as knowledge is overrated, religion is underrated,” says Murtha. Taking a leap of faith is something every entrepreneur must do at some point or another. Having faith that everything will be O.K., whether it is derived from a spiritual belief or elsewhere, contributes to the willingness to be adaptable.

Choose a partner who possesses skills you don’t. If impulsivity and adaptability aren’t your strong suits, find a partner who already has what you don’t. Of course, don’t bring on a partner unless he or she adds value to the project beyond being able to roll with the punches.

Ullman and Majors quit their day jobs in September 2010 when it became clear investors were willing to commit. They closed the round in December, raising enough from friends and family to sustain the business for about two years, and finally launched CollegeSolved.com in early April. “After more than two years of planning, we thought we’d experience a huge relief post-launch,” says Majors. “But the party is only getting started.”

[Monica Mehta is managing principal of investment firm Seventh Capital in New York City. She has advised hundreds of small businesses over the past 15 years. .]

Mars Venus Coaching

Corporate Media Relations

Effective Planning Is About What to Leave Out

posted by: John Jantsch

Today my staff and I are taking the entire day to create a strategic plan for the coming year. The process, and its ongoing nature, is something I call Commitment Planning. This is a practice that I highly recommend, but perhaps not for the reason you may assume.

But first, the rules

  • No one has a specific role today
  • Let brainstorming be brainstorming – possibilities and ideas
  • Be present
  • Be judgmental tomorrow
  • Remember, you are planning for the entire year

And, then my requirements

  • Food and drink should be awesome
  • Leave lots of time and space for physical movement
  • Make it easy to capture everything

Lots of companies completely neglect the need for planning and some that do it consistently view it as a way to determine new things they want to address in the year ahead.

To me, the greatest benefit of any planning session is to decide what not to do.

There’s always more to do than you can possibly get done and what happens all too often is that we give a little attention to a lot of things and effectively water down what should be our priorities.

When we plan the right way, we look long and hard at what makes us money and (hopefully) find ways to focus on doing more of that better, rather than thinking up more of something to divert our attention.

I recently hired my own business coach and one of the first things we’re focused on is getting me to stop doing things that don’t make sense and start spending more concentrated time on my highest payoff activities.

This idea holds true for entire organizations as well and one of the best ways to get to the heart of what’s holding you back is planning.

The first planning principle you must embrace however, is that the goal of the process is to help you limit what you are going to do and do well. Instead of creating a laundry list of wants and dreams, your charge in the planning process is to create a very small list of objectives and goals grounded in the overriding purpose of the business. Everyone in the organization then must commit to this list. From your small list you can carve out a requisite number of strategies and tactics that support these business objectives.

In fact, your aim is to create a total plan outline that fills no more than one sheet of paper. (No 6pt type allowed.)

Note also that we’re not spending the day to make a business plan or create a marketing plan – plans aren’t the secret, planning is. It’s the continuous process of planning, acting, measuring and planning that moves the organization in the direction of its goals.

Using and teaching a continuous planning process like this is one of the ways you empower your staff to know they are taking right action on the most important things at all times and knowing this brings a confidence that in itself is a commitment generator.

Commitment planning is a management style that frees your people to be creative instead of forcing them to be bound by a process only system driven activity.

Planning is not a one-day event or even year-end activity. Sure, there may be certain time bound planning periods that occur naturally, say at the end of a quarter, but the real way to keep commitment alive is to live it through a creative process that allows everyone to focus on the things that matter most.

Ben McConnell, coauthor of the Church of the Customer Blog and principal of management consulting firm Ant’s Eye View, has written about a planning process he calls OGST (Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Tactics.)

What I love about McConnell’s framework is that he uses each of these planning words in ways so simple as to actually create a useful set of definitions for these ridiculously misused terms.

Go get this visual representation of OGST and I think you’ll see what I mean.

As you can see, a planning process like this can help the kind of simple clarity that is so often missing in the “what should we do next” business management style. We borrow heavily from McConnell’s framework add some of our own magic to help put the focus on results and bust through constraints.

No matter what exact process you use for planning, with a one page plan full of your committed priorities in hand you can analyze any idea in about two seconds and determine if you should pursue it or dismiss it. Focusing on your strengths and finding ways to turn them into even greater assets is how individuals and organizations realize their potential.

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Provide constant celebrations of your client’s successes

Stan Mann, Success Coach stan@stanmann.com

Welcome to secret number 5!  You have learned how to be in the right frame of mind to create a 7 figure business and a free life filled with bliss; how to have prospects compelled to call you and meet you; how to easily without selling share your unique service offering; how to WOW your customers and now you are ready to provide constant celebrations of your customers success.

Many people wonder what I mean by a customer’s success.  Let me address this right away.  When a customer hires your company or buys your products or services that in itself is cause for a celebration of them making a great decision.  I instantly celebrate their success with a letter, note, brownies and other items.  I write personal note cards as well.

When else could a customer have success?  Here are some examples in my own personal life of my success as a customer of other people where I wasn’t acknowledged and could have been.  I had an expert re-do my social media look.  When this was done a celebration was in order.  I had my attorney file my papers for my foundation and no celebration occurred.  And I reached a major medical change for the better and my doctor missed the celebration opportunity.

How many of these opportunities do you miss?  Each time you miss one you show the customer they aren’t really special, you don’t really care deeply about them and you certainly aren’t exceeding their expectations.

Today I want you to think about all the celebration’s you could be having.  Create a big list.  Include holidays, birthdays, purchases, milestones and anything else you can think of. Be a bit wild and crazy and include as much as you can.

Then pick at least one item and implement that with every customer.  In a week or so create a list of 12-24 ways you will celebrate each of your customers regularly.  The sky is the limit so have great fun coming up with these items.  When you see how much your customer’s appreciate you caring about them and again wowing them, you will be excited to do more and more celebrating.

I celebrate all my customer’s because they are my customers.  They are my extended family and I acknowledge and honor and celebrate them regularly.

 

What if your business partner wants to break up?

By Jeff Haden

Setting up a business partnership is a little like starting a romantic relationship, although admittedly the benefits package and perks are a lot different.

In the beginning stages it’s easy to only focus on the positives, but a solid partnership agreement also takes into account a number of scenarios, especially the potential for negative outcomes. If the worst does happen, your partnership agreement should protect both you and your partner.

Make sure your partnership agreement covers what will happen if:

One of you wants out. Exit clauses are standard in partnership agreements. For example, if you want out, your partner may be obligated to purchase your ownership share.

That’s the easy part. The tricky part is determining the value of the business when that happens. Business valuation is part science, part art, and different approaches often result in very different results. Whether you agree to use liquidation value, book value, or the income, asset, or market approaches, stipulate in your partnership agreement how the business will be valued and whether a third party will conduct the valuation. Then the breakup will be a lot cleaner and less emotional.

One of you passes away. Say your partner dies. Typically his or her ownership stake passes to the spouse or children. You automatically get new partners — new partners you may not want. A buy-sell agreement can allow you to purchase your deceased partner’s share, but what if you don’t have the money or can’t get financing?

There’s an easy solution: Stipulate that each partner will carry life insurance sufficient to cover the purchase of the other partner’s share. Each partner designates the other partner as beneficiary. Then, if your partner passes away, you always have the funds to complete the buy-sell agreement. Just make sure you add additional coverage as the value of your business grows.

One of you wants to change the agreement. Paul Allen claimed Bill Gates asked him to change their ownership split of Microsoft several times. Perspectives change as a business evolves, and partnership agreements can be amended as often as you like — as long as all partners agree.

Sometimes one of you might not agree to proposed changes, so stipulate how fundamental disagreements will be resolved: Mediation, arbitration, triggering a buy-sell clause, etc. Knowing how a problem will eventually be resolved if you aren’t able to agree often makes it easier to work through differences.

You can no longer get along. No matter how well you work together now, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and changing priorities can damage the best relationships. When that happens, falling back on the terms of your partnership agreement can help both of you stay objective.

For example, your partnership agreement may stipulate you are responsible for 60% of the work since your partner provided a greater share of initial capital. If he feels you aren’t doing your share, the more clearly you defined what “the work” means in your agreement, the easier it is to determine whether you are in fact pulling your weight. Whenever possible, use hours, numbers, dollars — quantifiable measurements.

Your business is already established. If the agreement you have is insufficient — or if you don’t have a written agreement — it’s not too late.

Take a step back and create a comprehensive partnership agreement. If your partner hesitates, explain you aren’t trying to change your current working conditions. All you’re trying to do is eliminate as many ways you might disagree in the future as possible.

Fortunately, talking about potential negatives with a potential business partner is a lot easier than having a similar discussion with a romantic partner. Setting up a prenuptial agreement may not be the greatest way to start a relationship, but setting up a comprehensive written partnership agreement is the perfect way to start a business partnership.