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doug sandler

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How Social Are You?

The average person has 5 social media accounts and spends approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing those accounts every day looking for likes, shares, followers and connections. Additionally we spend another 2 plus hours browsing, commenting, and continuously searching for ways to add value to our lives. Think about the following statements:

"Stop chasing likes and do more likable things." Peter Shankman - I had a conversation with the founder of HARO (Help A Reporter Out), talking about the benefits of building relationships over searching for social media accolades. We both agree being likable far outweighs likes.

Focus on RonR, not R.O.I. - Social media influencer and expert Ted Rubin says that you should focus on engagement and building relationships and the financial results will come. Create and add value to your relationships. These values aren't reflected in the balance sheet and they can't be counted on an income statement. Although not leveraged financial assets, these relationships will pay huge benefits.

Stop chasing likes and do more likable things.
— Peter Shankman

Instead of looking for followers, be worthy of being followed. Stop turning around, wondering if anyone is following. Be your best self, the authentic you and share yourself with the world and people will gravitate organically toward you. Looking for more keys to boosting your self worth, check out this post I wrote about improving your self worth.

Share the ideas of others and worry less about your ideas being shared. Spread the messages of others, adding value to your relationship with them and show others you have an interest in helping them be successful. Help others get what they want and you will get what you want. Jeffrey Hayzlett is a believer in the step and repeat process. Find something that works and repeat the same action. Sharing other's ideas is an idea worth repeating. 

A small network of engaged individuals is better than a large network of disconnected robots. Bigger is not always better according to Carlos Gil . Build your network with others that have similar interests, keep them engaged and stay interested in what they offer as well and your network will grow.

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Biggest Networking Fails

Networking has its challenges, the biggest of which is probably you. It's okay, personally I feel the same way about networking meetings as I do about my twice annual visits to the dentist (sorry Dr. Ben, you know I love you) -- I know I need to go, but it still makes me nervous, even though I've been many times. And I still sit in my car and feign an excuse to go home. I think the biggest hesitation I have when it comes to networking is my low expectations of what will happen,  is this a waste of time,  and what is it exactly that I am supposed to be doing? And how much will this hurt? A few thoughts about our expectations, actions and solutions when it comes to networking:

We expect too much from networking. Networking meetings are not a time to try and close deals.  Depending on the event, it may not be possible to schedule appointments either. But, it is a great time to start building new contacts and new relationships. Take the pressure off yourself, if you walk out of a networking meeting with one solid new contact, you are winning.

Talk too much. Want to blow it completely, just keep talking. Was your goal to make a new contact or was your goal to puke product? Listen more, talk less. You already know everything you need to know about yourself, give your tongue a break and put your ears to work, you will be glad you did.

Talk to too many. This is not the time to collect a stack of cards, pass out a bunch of cards, rush back to your office and send out a bunch of sell sheets. Find a friendly face in the crowd or pre-plan a meet-up with a networking insider that knows the crowd. The organizers of the meeting probably know many in attendance. Ask them to introduce you to a few of the attendees that potentially would be of interest to you. Do your homework if you want to make the meeting time a good investment of your time.

No follow up. Here's where most people drop the ball. Do yourself a favor, if you plan on skipping the follow up step, don't go to a networking meeting at all. The magic is in the follow up. Handwritten notes work like magic, are rarely sent and will set you apart from others met at the event. As a bonus, mention a few pieces of personal info that you remember from your encounter. I promise they will be impressed.

Elevator speeches don't work. This might be against the grain,  but I hate elevator speeches. Here's my philosophy, I know what I do and probably can describe it in a sentence or two, maybe even a word or two. The pressure of remembering an elevator speech or canned monologue of my body of work seems so nonsensical, forced and static. Plus, I like living an unscripted life. Have I lost a gig or two as a result? Maybe, but I've gotten a gig or two being unscripted as well. And I have nothing to remember. (See "Talk too much" above).

What are your challenges when it comes to networking? I'd love to hear from you.


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Myths Busted: Great Customer Service Starts Here

I’m a fan of the Discovery series called MythBusters. Every episode Jamie and Adam (et al.) work to prove or debunk a myth (or myths) through a series of experiments involving trial and error, advanced exploration and communication. What fascinates me is the high relatability factor of the myths they present. It may be a statement of the obvious, but this is why they became myths in the first place. With customer service being my focus, I explored the myths believed to be most prolific in a wide variety of industries for companies big and small and developed a hit list of five myths related to providing great customer service. Following each myth I provide additional insight, personal observations or explanations for common misconceptions.

MYTH - Great customer service starts with understanding the customer is always right.

BUSTED - Companies that score extremely high marks in customer service go well beyond the philosophy of “ the customer is always right.” Unfortunately, the customer may always think he is right, but in reality, that just isn’t the case. It’s the perception of being right that draws the customer back to a company’s brand to solve a problem, make a demand or request a response. Regardless of whether the customer is right or wrong it is extremely important to acknowledge the query, to be open to the dialogue exchange (face-to-face, phone, email or social), to not get defensive, and to have a clear understanding that although the customer is not always right, being human and understanding their perspective will go far with every exchange.

The most important thing for every human is to be heard, effective customer service is letting your client know you hear them and will therefore do your best to help them.
— Shirley Impellizzeri, Ph.D., QME

MYTH - Great customer service is about being quick to resolve problems.

BUSTED- It’s about great communication. Everything starts with communication. Do not wait until you have all of your solutions lined up, neat in a row and presenting your findings to your customer. Great customer service is about keeping your customer in the loop, staying open and being honest with your communication. Some problems take awhile to resolve, and that is the reality of problems, especially problems that are unique. I can recall a problem I had traveling with Southwest Air from Baltimore to Seattle. The Southwest gate employee explained there was a delay due to not having a complete crew. Rather than leaving it at that, she explained (over the microphone) that the crew scheduled for our flight was flying in from the midwest had a delay, but was about 30 minutes from arrival. As time drew closer, she continue to update us every 5-10 minutes. As we got closer and closer to the time for the crew’s arrival she started to tell us a bit about her experience with these specific crew members. Finally, when the team arrived, we (the waiting passengers) felt like we knew them. We actually applauded for them when they arrived, excited to meet these famed crew members. Although the problem took longer than expected to resolve, Southwest kept the communication open and honest. They took a problem and made it part of a positive experience that I will remember for years to come.

MYTH - Great customer service is about being responsive to customers.

BUSTED - Silence is the customer service killer. I’m talking about customer silence. Over 70% of clients that have a problem or question will not call, post or reach out to your company for information or resolution. Exemplary customer service is about being proactive and reaching out to your customers to find out how their experience has been with your brand. Don’t assume because you do not get a complaint or questions from your customers that all is ok. The philosophy of “don’t stir the pot,” is like putting your head in the sand. A silent customer is not always a happy customer. Routinely reach out to your customers on a variety of channels to see how their experience has been with your brand. This can be a double edged sword. Don’t try to be on every channel unless you plan on having the manpower to be visible on every channel. If you do encounter a problem while communicating in a public space like social media, don’t be so quick to take it private. People are watching your every move. Here’s your opportunity to really shine so don’t go on the defensive. Work the situation to your advantage and the public forum you used to resolve your problem will become your stage for problem resolution.  

 

Excellent service is putting your employees first and building a culture that has them putting the customer first.
— Micha Mikailian

MYTH - Great customer service is about putting the customer first.  

BUSTED - Great service starts with happy employees. A management team that leads from the top down, putting the customer first and having little consideration for their front line has sadly misaligned priorities. A company that puts their employees first, creating a positive work environment, encouraging a positive, happy culture and designing programs that are “employee-centric” will also be putting the customer first. Companies that place importance on employee’s feelings will create staff that are happy and take more ownership in customers’ feelings as well. If you create an environment where you say the customer always comes first, you may be establishing an adversarial relationship between the customer and the employee.  If the customer wins the employee loses. More money spent on the customer is less money spent on the employee. If however, you put the employee first, making them happy, everyone wins, including the customer, the employee and your company. Winning companies, through action, that show the employee comes first (empowerment programs, better training, creative incentives, great work environment), will be rewarded with employees providing great customer service.

MYTH- Great customer service starts with having a governing set of policies and procedures specifically establishing how your company should respond to customers.

BUSTED - While having specific policies established to address customer needs is a good start, empowering your employees to make decision is crucial in providing exemplary service. Emphasize philosophy over specific tactics when engaging customers, getting to know their needs. Management that says they empower their employees yet doesn’t provide enough decision making power to them is putting on a stage show complete with ventriloquist and dummy. I regularly consult with companies, associations and organizations that claim they give their employees power to make decisions but in reality pull the plug when they have an issue with decisions made. It’s important, just like a parent raising a child, you give guidelines to your staff, but that you let them experiment and let them fail (or succeed) on their own. If you have provided proper training, they will recover, handle the issue and most importantly, they will have learned a lesson. Keeping a rigid set of policies and procedures is no better than having a robot on the other side of customer communication. There is no place for robots in customer service if your customer is a human. Human beings have feelings, emotions and needs that do not fit neatly in a policy manual.

Have a myth that you want proven or debunked, please reach out to me in the comments section below and let’s work on it together.  I have a FREE e-book being released in less than 30 days on Providing World Class Customer Service:  Can't Miss Steps to Creating A Great Experience . If you would like to get an advanced copy of the e-book, click the box below and I will send an email to you along with bonus input from over twenty industry experts on the "how-to's" for great customer service.

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Know Your Nicettiquette

Challenge yourself to make this world a nicer place. Print out the flyer below (in landscape mode) and add it to your fridge. Don't put it on your desk, it will get lost in all the work you are doing. Don't make this work, make it a something you do personally, from your heart. Imagine how wonderful the world would be if we all just did these 5 simple things. If you have children, help them understand the importance of being NICE. Never underestimate the power of NICE. 

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12 Worries Every Entrepreneur Has (Or They Are Lying)

Photo by alphaspirit/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by alphaspirit/iStock / Getty Images

Worry. Does it hold you back or does it motivate you as you build your business, make plans for your future, and follow your dreams? That's the million dollar question. Depending on your perspective, as you approach a problem, worry could paralyze you or it could be your sixth sense, like an advanced warning system, keeping you sharp. Whatever the case, we all worry, but instead of having worry stop you dead in your tracks, learn to manage your worry and turn worry into its distant cousin, intuition (a.k.a. gut instinct), and use it to your advantage.

The following are 12 worries all entrepreneurs have:

1. Will I ever make another sale? The sale that I just made, will it be my last one and why isn’t my phone ringing? Is my internet connection down and why is every email I get spam? Did I go out of business and someone just forgot to tell me? These are just a few insecurities that go through my head, even after 30 years of being in business. And it’s normal if you have them too. The point here is to manage your worry, either let it wash over you and manage it or let worry keep you sharp instead of paralyzing you with fear. Yes, you will make another sale, and no, you are not going out of business. Instead of worrying, take action and look at the big picture, settle into the steps needed to reach your goals. Don't focus on the loss column, keep yourself facing forward, stay positive and keep your head in a good place. Baby steps forward, focus on the tasks at hand and you will make another sale, and another, and another.

If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can’t be solved.
— Zen saying

2. Can I make a living at this? Give your ideas time to grow. In the beginning everything seems so delicate, vulnerable and fragile. It may take some time to grow roots. But stay with it, believe in your ideas, and you absolutely can make a living at it. Your ideas will become reality. Over time, the roots of your ideas will grow deeper and stronger as you develop your ideas into products and services. Tell everybody and anybody that will listen what you are up to. Become a student and learn everything there is to know about your idea. Welcome passion into your life and become an expert at your passion. The world will eventually beat a path to your door to learn from you. That being said, be patient and do not rush it. Always keep in mind in order to get what you want you have to help others get what they want. In order to become successful, never lose focus on helping others solve their problems.

3. How will I ever find the time to do everything on my plate? It will seem like 24 hours is not enough time during the day to get everything done. Do your best to prioritize, manage, and delegate, all the while keep moving. Failure to move, take action and develop systems will keep you on the hamster's wheel. Get beyond the wheel by sticking with only those ideas that contribute to your main goals. Learn to say no when something crosses your desk that is not in your plans. By nature, you are an ambitious person, uniquely qualified and capable of many amazing feats. Remember, you will never be short of ideas, just short of time to accomplish every one of them, so learn to manage your time effectively.

Once moving flywheels keep things moving. 

Once moving flywheels keep things moving. 

4. How long will I have to keep up this pace? Not forever! My good friend Strickland Bonner (co-host on The Nice Guys on Business Podcast) always reminds me of the mechanics behind a flywheel. The flywheel is a large wheel-like object, requiring a disproportionate amount of energy to get started, but once moving keeps a steady pace of continuous energy going. In the beginning, as you start building your business and you crank into action, lots of effort is required just to get the flywheel started. Because it’s only you and your idea, it can seem lonely, daunting, intimidating and tiring. Once you experience the taste of a sale, or a positive word from someone, your actions will be fueled by your success, helping you crank that flywheel, building momentum. Think back to all of the things you did for the first time - tying your shoes as a child, balancing your checkbook as a college student, getting your social media legs as an adult, they were all a challenge to you, but you practiced until you got to be an expert at each of these tasks. Now, they are all a given. Things will get easier over time, (or so it will seem because you will no longer need to put so much energy into many of the tasks that are second nature to you. Your flywheel will zip along, powering your business.

5. Why do I feel like a fraud? This is a feeling that many entrepreneurs have at some point during their journey. Most often it happens during the first few years of building your business. You will be going in a thousand directions, not 100% sure of up from down. You will be called upon as the "expert" in your industry and you will be overcome with a feeling of insecurity. You will have thoughts like this, "Why are they asking me this question or want my point of view? I barely know what the hell it is I am doing, so what makes me an authority." Whenever this feeling hits me, I take a deep breath and think about all that I have done to get me to where I am in my journey. I remind myself of all of the triumphs, wins, successes and glory-filled moments. You are worthy of being titled an expert because you have worked hard to get to the point that someone calls upon you for your input. Think like an expert and you will become one.

Why do I feel like a fraud? I barely know what the hell it is I am doing, so what makes me an authority.

6. How can I stay current and up to date with my products and services? Time marches on and you need to stay current. Embrace change and allow it to become one of your best friends. The best way to do this is to listen to your customers. Hear what they say, listen to what they are asking for and do everything you can to provide it. A guaranteed way to fail to to stick with your old ideas and to ignore the march of time. In a recent interview I did with Jeffrey Hayzlett, former Chief Marketing Officer and V.P. of Eastman Kodak talks about Kodak’s inability to change with the times, eventually leading to Kodak's failure. They thought they were in the film business, when in actuality they were in the business of preserving memories. Years before their collapse they were presented with opportunities in the digital camera arena but refused to get too deep into it because they thought they were in the business of making film. Be ready, willing and able to change with the times and to make adjustments to your business.

7. How do I know where to invest in my business? Should you put money into advertising, marketing, technology, systems, education or somewhere else? Like any business, you will have to stick to a budget. At every stage of building your business, you will need to prioritize where money should be invested. Have open and honest conversations with others in your industry that you respect and look up to. Keep your business as lean as possible, especially in the beginning stages. There is nothing wrong with building your business out of your basement or spare bedroom. You should be busting at the seams before you take on the responsibility of paying rent or hiring staff. Keep in mind your best investment is you. Educate yourself and put money into getting around other successful people (conferences, mastermind groups, etc). Avoid "idea of the month" mentality. Develop a solid plan and stick to it. Most businesses fail because they run out of capital or they don't manage the money that is coming in properly. If you are working for someone else while you are building your own business, hold onto your job as long as possible, because lean times will make it very challenging to pay the bills unless you have plenty of reserves in the bank.

Will I ever make another sale? Did I go out of business and someone just forgot to tell me?

8. Why is everyone in my industry killing it while I am failing? Not the case. Don’t believe everything you see on Facebook. People frequently post their wins and very rarely post their losses. My wife, Danielle, often reminds me to stop comparing my beginning to someone else's middle. We all grow at different rates and grow to different levels. If you need a reminder about how far you have come, just look at all you have accomplished over the last few weeks, months or years. Document your progress as you go and you will be amazed at how far you have actually come. Also, leave the pity party now, the pointy hat doesn't look good on you AND you are much better than that.

9. Who can I trust to help me? Building relationships will be a key component on your way to success. You will not be able to succeed without the help of others, so invest wisely in these relationships. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your message and truly want your success. Find partners that you like and that you feel comfortable with. A great way to build relationships in business is to find others that you can help as well. As I continue to build my speaking and podcasting businesses, I am always on the lookout for businesses that also need something that I offer, so we can work in trade or barter. Many of those relationships have evolved over the years and the owner of those businesses have become my most trusted sources for information, knowledge and business. Give out what you are hoping to get back in return. If you start by being a trustworthy entrepreneur, you will find others in a very similar space.

10. Should I rely upon others or do it myself? Most entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking that the best way to get something done is to do it themselves. And while that may be true for some things, it will not be true for everything. We all start by doing our own books, marketing, invoicing, selling, social media posting, blogging, and so much more. At some point you will need to let go of the control of many of these responsibilities, otherwise you will be limiting the growth of your business. Some tasks should be automated, others will require bringing team members into the mix (on-site or virtually). Whatever the case, keep an eye on others that specialize in what you specifically would consider a support task. The key thing to remember is your goal is to work on the business and not always in the business.

Most entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking that the best way to get something done is to do it themselves. Not true!

11. What systems should I have in place? Systems are a way of life, there are systems everywhere you go, helping you do everything from raising a baby, planting crops, developing your network and to help you grow your business. Regardless of it's complexity or simplicity, you will need a system in place to manage your customers, marketing, accounting, prospecting and that’s not even taking into account systems in place to manage inventory and help you further explore the products and services you develop and provide. Start with your biggest tasks, look for ways to make more efficient your processes. Time is your most precious resource and any systems you put in place should help you become more productive and more efficient, saving you time and money.

12. Are my customers happy? The best way to determine the happiness of your customers is to ask them. Don't be afraid of the answers they give you and always hear what they have to say. Your customers will tell you everything they love about you but work hard to find out what it is that you and your company need to improve upon. Growth will come when you fix the things that are wrong with your business. Don't get defensive or play the blame game when you have issues. Shoulder the responsibility, fix the problem, report back to your customer and check their temperature again. They will appreciate you more when you are imperfect, human and open to their suggestions. Never argue with a customer, even when you win, you lose.

Running a business can be very challenging. Add into the equation a beefy dose of worry, plus a dash of self-doubt, and pretty soon paralysis sets in. By keeping yourself focused on your goals and narrowing your goals into smaller, bite-size pieces, the bigger picture will often times be much more clear. I have found that clarity and specific action steps will help ease my worries and let me focus on the tasks at hand, allowing me to grow my business, with a few less worries.



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