False Frontery

Baking bread this morning. I use paper towel to dry my hands when I wash them, so I’m not clogging up a dish towel (and subsequently the plumbing or someone’s laundry) with gooey glutinous flour. I use ’em for wiping up the counter between loaves, too. Especially if my hands are still covered with gooey dough.

The kitchen trash is under the sink; not my favorite arrangement but it’s not my house. Went to pull the cupboard door open to toss the paper towel, and there’s no handle. No knob. It’s one of those cupboards where you have to grab the edge of the door to pull it open. I hate them. Invariably at some point during every meal prep, I slip and bend a fingernail on the edge or get a door open just far enough to bang when it slips shut. I hate sharp loud noises.

Why don’t the cupboards have handles or knobs?

My years in construction and architecture tell me it’s either for looks or to save money, or both. Bad reasons to make something that works poorly.

We all worry about appearances. Do you ever find yourself doing what looks good; what makes you look good, instead of doing what’s right?

If doing the right thing is gonna make you look bad, that’s a serious problem. But I’ll bet that the embarrassment you think you’re going to feel or the bad press you think you’ll be facing from saving face is all in your head. Putting on a front is time and effort wasted. Your true fans want to know the real you, flaws and all.

You can’t get away with incompetence, but you’d never do that. What you can get away with is being human, flawed, imperfect. In fact, your fans would much rather you were flawed like them than for you to be superwoman, never letting the cracks show.

If knobs make the cabinet work better but they don’t look as good . . . well, you know what to do.

Why Aren’t Business Ethics Ethical?

While studying real estate I stumbled across the difference between business ethics, and ethics in the real world. They’re not necessarily the same.

Many industries, like real estate, have created a code of ethics for their members; a firm set of rules by which they must abide. And, as long as the follow those rules, they are officially ethical.

Thing is, two 6-year-olds on the playground know the difference between right and wrong, between fair and cheating. If your industry has a code of ethics, its purpose is not to provide loopholes, to let you get away with sleazy behaviour because it’s not officially sanctioned by the code of ethics.

Don’t ever misbehave just because there’s not a rule saying it’s wrong. Ask your 6-year-old. Or mine. They’ll tell you what’s fair.

Music and the Rose

Today I thought I’d share a bit about me personally. I feel it’s very important to find out something personal about our prospects and clients and thought you’d enjoy learning something personal about me. Now I’m not advocating we get nosy with prospects and clients. But knowing a bit about what they enjoy doing, reading, the type of music they enjoy listening to, or hobbies they enjoy, can help you develop a meaningful relationship. And relationships is what business is really all about. So here’s something about me and my husband Joel.

My favorite flower is a rose. When I was very young my favorite books were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She named her daughter Rose and that’s one reason why I like roses. In our yard we had a huge rose bush with white flowers. My favorite color rose is actually more yellow – not bright yellow but a very pale yellow. I like roses so much that our six-year old’s second middle name (yes, she has two middle names) is Rose.

My husband’s favorite thing, after me, is music. He loves music! He’s dedicated a whole website to music. Joel is constantly listening to music – at his desk with his headphones on, in the car listening to CDs, while taking a walk and yes, even all night long. We have our MP3 hooked up to the stereo so we never run out of our favorite music to listen to each night.

So now that you know something about us, we’d love to hear something about what you love!

Building Relationships by Networking

There’s all this talk about networking, online and in person, and building relationships. What does it mean? How can it benefit you and your business?

Networking should be a vital piece of your marketing puzzle. But the point of networking is not just to have lots of contacts and build your list. You want to build relationships with people so they can get to know and trust you. You also want to get to know and trust them so you can confidently refer them to people you know. Because one of the best ways to get word of mouth referrals is to start giving referrals yourself.

Building relationships means more than just connecting on Twitter or Facebook or emailing someone whose business card you received at a networking meeting. You need to take further steps. Pick up the phone and make a call. If they are in your local area arrange a time to meet and talk. Visit their website and other social networking sites to learn something about them before you approach them. Ask them about what they are interested in before you start telling them anything about yourself. Show a real interest in the other person.

As you start building relationships you will find there are key people who you are drawn to and are drawn to you. They may start referring people to you and vice versa. These key relationships are ones you want to strengthen and maintain.

Take a few minutes and make a list of the top four people in your network that you want to build stronger relationships with. Think about why these four are important contacts. Are they easy to work with or get along with? Do they send you referrals regularly? Are they good listeners with good ideas? Note that information down along with their name.

Now think about what you’ve given to that particular relationship. Do you spend time on their blog or connecting with them on a regular basis on Twitter? Do you send them referrals regularly? What do you do for them to help them achieve their goals?

Next think about the last time you had a meaningful exchange with that person. Schedule time each month to connect in a meaningful way with that person to continue growing your relationship.

As you take time to build these relationships by networking you will find that there is an increase in your satisfaction. You may also find a measurable increase in the number of referrals you give and receive.

Who are you going to contact today in order to continue building a relationship?

It’s Not Just Women

Mother and daughter team Barbara and Shannon Kelley write a fun and opinionated blog called ‘Undecided‘ in which they discuss challenges specific to women in business.

One point keeps nagging me, far in the back of my mind. Today’s post, about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, nailed down what’s been niggling.

The Kelleys say “For generations, men’s roles have been predetermined, and unquestioned” and comment on the challenges of a woman who’s trying to find the balance of being herself while fitting into what was, until fairly recently, a man’s role.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been doing that my whole life. Well, switch the roles, but in a lot of ways, I’ve never been fully comfortable with what the stereotypical man is supposedly like. I couldn’t care less about sports. I’m much more interested in talking to a woman than staring at one. (I’m generally more interested in talking to a woman than to a man, too.)

My business model has always been focused on relationships, communication, emotional connections. I do not ‘close’ sales. I don’t go for the jugular in business deals. I tend far more toward kind and gentle than sharp and assertive.

I deeply appreciate the struggle women have had to achieve anything near equality in a seriously unfair world. I know, a little, how it feels.