To Boldly Go

January 27, 2015

I ski.  Every time I hit the slopes I am struck by several thoughts.   The first of course is the breathtaking beauty around me from the blue ski to the majestic mountains.

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Inevitably I’m amazed that this ever became a worldwide sport.  Some brave (or crazy) individual strapped a couple of boards to their feet and decided they could slide down a mountain that way!  I don’t leave the cozy comfort of our condo if the conditions aren’t perfect so naturally I’m in awe of the early skiers.  These sturdy souls didn’t have the benefits of chair lifts, snow cats grooming trails or modern gear yet they made it possible for me to sip champagne at a posh resort after a day on the slopes.wpid-20150125_131307.jpg

 

 

Don’t think you have the strong stuff to be a pioneer?  You are likely a leader without even realizing it.  There is something you mastered; a skill, a new technology,  something where others who know you view you as a trailblazer.

We all are role models in our own circles.  This is both a compliment and a responsibility.   Even if you don’t feel you have power or authority – you can still be a leader and those around you NEED you to lead!

Empowering your own life – join us at the Empower Women’s Conference near sunny and warm Palm Springs, CA, the weekend of February 27th-March 1st. This powerful conference will provide you with the tools and motivate you to see your current business position as an opportunity to become the architect for change in achieving your personal success in the workplace and at home.  Sunny Kobe Cook is a featured speaker at the conference.

Resolution Check In

January 23, 2015

Did you make New Year’s Resolutions?  How’s that coming for you?  If you’ve already given in to chocolate cake or an extra glass of wine, you’re not alone.  Statistics show that only 8% of us are successful in our resolutions.

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Does that mean we shouldn’t even make resolutions?  No, not at all.  The same statistics also show that people who make resolutions get better results than those who never make specific resolutions.  Why?  Because having goals is good.  But having a plan to meet those goals – that’s even better.

WeightNot surprising – the number one resolution is to lose weight.  But what was interesting to me is how many on the top 10 were things such as “Living Life to the Fullest” and “Helping Others in their Dreams”, even “Spending More Time with Family” made the list.

While I can’t be of much help in the weight loss department – I struggle there myself – I have figured out a few simple ways to accomplish some of the other more interesting items on the list.  When I speak, I share with audiences some very simple techniques that yield BIG – LIFE-CHANGING results.

To be successful we need both a plan and a support network to help us achieve our goals.  Do you have friends or family you can turn to for encouragement?  Today I want you to go through your contacts on your cellphone.  Scroll through your Facebook friends.  Create a new group called: Positive Influences.  To make constructive changes in your life – no matter what that happens to be – you need to surround yourself with positive influences.

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Sometimes the people we talk to most often, or whose posts we see are negative, whiners and complainers.  Those people are TOXIC and you need to limit your exposure to them.  You can adjust your social media settings so you see only posts by people in your Positive Group and you can select to only have that group see your posts as well.  Then when you post your fears, concerns and struggles – the feedback you will get will uplift you rather than continue to hold you back.

For more of these simple, positive, easy to execute tips for empowering your own life – join us at the Empower Women’s Conference near sunny and warm Palm Springs, CA, the weekend of February 27th-March 1st. This powerful conference will provide you with the tools and motivate you to see your current business position as an opportunity to become the architect for change in achieving your personal success in the workplace and at home.  Sunny Kobe Cook is a featured speaker at the conference.

Price of Friendship

September 26, 2014

Over the years, I have been approached by family and friends to loan money.  Being generous in nature, I usually have made the loan.  Typically there was a signed legal document. In rare circumstances, I relied solely on the personal integrity of the borrower.  To date, not a single one of those people has ever repaid the loan made.  

Most recently, and the prompt of this post, is the story of J’Amy Owens.  If you Google her name, you will find countless hits noting her as a “retail guru”, a “Diva of Retail” and currently a “Meat Activist” and the CEO of a publicly traded company, Bill the Butcher.  She once graced the cover of Inc. Magazine under the headline “Sales Guru to the Stars”.  Even such illustrious credentials does not preclude one from being a deadbeat.

With the same Google search you will also find numerous mentions of her name in association with lawsuits between business partners, former business partners and former spouses.  There is even a lengthy report on RipoffReport from a retail consulting customer who describes being “ripped off” by J’Amy Owens.

The fact that past and ongoing relationships with J’Amy Owens seem to result in some sort of legal action being taken against her should have been a warning to me.  However, my relationship and loan to J’Amy predates her string of legal troubles.  In fact, it was at the start of these many legal battles that she called me pleading for a loan to pay her attorneys.  I viewed her as both a friend and someone who has always managed to earn a good living and therefore likely to be able to repay the debt.  So I foolishly wrote 2 checks, each in the amount of $25,000 to her law firm for her benefit.

To be fair, she did repay a total of $10,000 of the $50,000 loaned.  She has never failed to acknowledge the debt, in fact, I have dozens of effusive emails with expressions of gratitude and indebtedness such as these:

Everyone got paid (783k!) before you, my gracious highness of patience.

I want you to make money on this loan, and not feel bad, so please do NOT think I am going to do anyrhing but pay you WHATEVER YOU WANT.”

“I am seriously past due with you on all accounts and would like to meet over a bottle of something wonderful (my treat) and give you an update.

Your investment (loan of grace and mercy) is ridiculously embarrassingly- in- the- rears at this point but you should know that even though it is diliquent, it is NOT something needing writng off…….as I am occassionally pitiful but NOT a diliquent.”

Yes, she lives in a lovely apartment according to this Jolkona article.  Yes, she is proudly the CEO of a publicly traded company, Bill the Butcher, as you can see in this YouTube video– yet despite these emails and many more in the same vein, she still owes me $40,000 plus reasonable interest totally about $66,000.  When I actively began contacting her to set up a repayment plan, her silence has been deafening.  Emails ignored.  Facebook messages ignored.  LinkedIn message ignored.  Phone calls to her cell phone ignored.  Snail mail letter ignored.  Letter hand delivered via a process server from my attorney also ignored.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy reason for sharing this is to serve as a warning to others – NEVER loan money to family or friends.  You are not doing them a favor, no matter how much it seems true in the immediate.  No matter how grateful they seem at the time, repaying a debt is never a high priority and from my experience – it doesn’t happen.  Even if you have a signed, legal agreement; do you want to be in the position of suing a loved one?  Even a good job and a so called ethical reputation are no guarantee of repayment.  If you feel moved to “loan” money to those you love and value, consider it a gift.  Make it clear up front that it is a gift and never mention it again.  That’s the only hope of preserving a relationship.

As for me, I’ve learned all too well the high price of friendship. 

Holiday Hires

November 20, 2013

My first job was in retail at TG&Y, a “five and dime” in my Midwestern home town. I still recall how nervous I felt inside when I helped my first customer.  I was not quite 16 years old so being nervous was natural.  But I was a teenager so would I admit I was nervous? Of course not!

Do you have a retail store?  Do you hire additional staff for the holidays?  How old are these new hires?  What sort of previous retail experience do they have? Most malls and mass merchants hire lots of young people for the holiday season and for many, this is their first job.

Retailers and the media refer to “Black Friday”, traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving when the holiday shopping season officially starts.  I was stunned to find most front line retail workers don’t understand the significance of this phrase.

They thought it referred to the extended hours, going to work and getting off when it’s DARK.  Others thought it was just slang for how they all felt about this busy, crazy, exhausting day.  Only a couple of the most seasoned knew it actually refers to the day of the year when retail businesses typically move “into the black” – you know, profitability.

Be sure your team understands the significance of this hectic retail day and do your best to help them embrace and celebrate the madness.

Don’t assume they KNOW to wear comfortable shoes or even bring a second pair to give their feet a break.

Suggest your new hires bring extra beverages and even a sack lunch since breaks will be shorter and fewer.  Maybe even stock some granola bars and beverages in the back room for your staff.

If this is their first holiday season, it’s up to YOU to be sure they are prepared.

The customer service we deliver is directly related to how we feel. When we are tired, hungry and aching, our tone and attitude reflect it.   Have a frank conversation with your team about the demands of the first holiday weekend.  Give descriptive examples of a typical “Black Friday” and then share the comfort tips to help them be able to capitalize on this retail gift.

 

Marketing Legend

November 13, 2013

Last week the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Marketing Association paid me the honor of naming me “Marketing Legend”.  From the podium I said what I’d like to repeat here to a much wider audience.

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I felt awkward receiving such an award for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I was just an entrepreneur doing what I needed to do to build and grow a successful business.  Never did I expect to one day be known as a “Legend”.

The second reason is the most important.  I didn’t come to earn this recognition alone.  A number of very talented, creative people deserve to have their names on the trophy.  In fact, the trophy couldn’t be big enough to hold all the names.

While I did not attempt to name them all that evening and I know this list will be woefully incomplete there are a few creative geniuses that deserve a public shout out.

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Jim Bright (left) Sunny Kobe Cook (center) John Murphy (right)

The first is my longtime friend, Jim Bright who was responsible for our iconic tag line” Why buy a mattress anywhere else?”.

Next is undoubtedly Dan Voetmann of Destination Marketing.  He helped steered my business to “Legend” status.  He also accurately noted that together we set a new standard for my industry as evidenced by the imitations that can be found in countless other markets in North America.

There were production geniuses too.  People like Michael Kostov, Glenn Lorbecki of Glenn Sound, Dave Raynor and dozens of others.

Our representatives from the various media outlets such as Kerin Brasch , Catherine McConnell and Phil Mark all helped spread the message and make my name well known in our market.

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I want to publicly thank everyone who helped create “the legend”.  The true honor is not in the award, but in the privilege of working with each of you.

Innovation in Business

October 2, 2013

I believe most innovations in business come about as a means of solving a recurring problem.  A perfect example, adopting the practice of covering shoes of workers or delivery crews with paper disposable booties to eliminate complaints about tracking dirt into customers’ homes.

?????????????Being innovative in business usually starts with a question such as, “How can we eliminate this complaint?” or “How can we increase our profits without increasing our prices?”  Sometimes it’s simply “How do we attract or retain more customers?”  Each quarter, pick ONE question and ask it repeatedly.

Ask it of your team.  Ask it of your vendors.  Ask it of friends in non-related businesses phrased as “How do you do XYZ?”  Keyboard Question MarkEven ask it of the internet.  Type the question into your favorite search engine and see what you get for results.  You may find an article in an industry or general business publication with useful tips and suggestions.

Ask the question repeatedly.  Ask it at your next team meeting, tell them you will ask it again at your next meeting so they can give it some thought, then be sure you do!  Put it on the top of the agenda if you circulate one before meetings.  Collect all the ideas from all these different sources and see what may work for your business.

If the answer to increasing profits without raising prices is to cut costs, assign each person the task of cutting or saving someStarbucks-gift-card-detail cost in their area.  That may result in more competitive shopping for office supplies or business insurance.  It may include eliminating rarely used services of products.  Reward great ideas with gift cards, even $5 cards at your neighborhood coffee shop to encourage even more innovative ideas.

Innovation is not a switch you turn on by simply saying “We need to be more innovative.”  Rather it is a process.  Pick one area at a time and focus attention on it until you have found an idea to solve a problem.  Monitor results during and after implementation to insure you are getting the expected results and adjust as needed.   Often even the best ideas need tweaking which is why it’s best to tackle only ONE issue at a time.

Cloud QuestionMake a list of the issues you need to address in your business.  Prioritize them and then start asking questions!  An innovative solution is out there just waiting to be discovered!

 

Credit Cards Accepted Here

September 25, 2013

Recently I’ve seen several situations where not being able to accept credit cards for purchases has cost small business people money.  One was an author and speaker, the other an artist at a crafts fair.  Seriously, in this day and age, people still haven’t figured out how to take credit cards?!?  How many sales are you missing?  Could immediate payment improve your cash flow?  About 18 months ago, I posted a blog on this very topic complete with the easy – FREE solution.  Perhaps it is time for a repost!

Accepting credit cards for payment has lots of benefits for a small business.  Many consumers, like me, prefer to use credit cards for everything.  Impulse purchases are greater when a business accepts credit cards.    Immediate funds, no waiting for a check to be mailed or to clear.  No bounced checks – you know immediately if a charge is declined.

You know all that, so why are you not yet accepting credit cards for your small business?  Are the costs associated with traditional credit card terminals holding you back?  The hassle of carrying a “terminal”?  What if I told you the “terminal” is already in your pocket, briefcase or handbag?

With the Square, your smart phone becomes a credit card terminal.  Best part – the plug in to swipe the credit cards is FREE, the app for your iPhone, iPad or Android phone is FREE and there is NO monthly fee or “per transaction” fee – just a competitive 2.75% per card swipe.

Funds are deposited into your account the next day and it’s so easy to get started.  Go on-line and create your account and they will send you the card reader in the mail – did I mention it’s FREE?  If you can’t wait, go to Target or another retailer and buy the card reader for about $10.  Inside the package you will find a code to redeem for $10 when you set up your account – essentially refunding the amount you paid for the reader.

The app is very easy to use.  Enter an amount and description of goods or services purchased.  Swipe the card.  Hand your phone to the customer for an on screen signature and wait for the approval.  At the end of the transaction, you have the option of texting or emailing the receipt to your customer.  It’s fast, easy and very inexpensive – what’s not to love?

Yes, you can set it up to accept tips, calculate and add sales tax, track payments taken by more than one device and many other handy business features.  All for FREE!

I’m a professional speaker and I sell books and cds at the back of the room after a speech using my Square.

Whether you are a hair stylist, massage therapist, chauffeur, private chef, speaker, musician selling cds or performing for a party, a birthday clown, dog walker, house-sitter, window washer, house cleaner, gardener, handyman or any other service provider – you need this tool!

What would it do for your cash flow if when you sent a plumber, appliance repair person or delivery to a home  to not only leave the invoice as is typically done, but accept the credit card payment there on the spot?  No mailing an invoice and waiting for payment.

If you are in the hobby to business stage with your art or crafts, you can use Square to accept credit cards at local arts and crafts shows.

Clearing out your junk using CraigsList or even a garage sale?  You can accept credit cards using your Square!

You can also use it to let people make donations to your non-profit or to pay for event attendance to business or civic group meetings.  The possibilities are endless!

You may not think you need to accept credit cards.  You may think how you are doing business now is just fine but I can assure you that you are missing business if you do not accept credit cards.  Customers who don’t do business with you don’t typically tell you why but I know that  it’s a deciding factor for me.

Accepting credit cards is just one more way to look like you are serious about your business.  It also removes an obstacle to doing business with you for consumers.  When it’s free to get started and this inexpensive – why wouldn’t you try it?

Mobile Productivity

September 18, 2013

About 18 months ago I took the final steps that would allow me to continue to work (speaking and blogging) while living a very mobile lifestyle.  Technology makes this reality not only possible, but remarkably easy.

Even if you have no desire to work from locations with a view like this,

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chances are you could make work easier and more productive.  Are you reading this from your laptop?  Your tablet?  Your smartphone?  These devices have so many features and benefits few of us ever use.  We get a new device, set it up to do the basics and most of us stop there.  Sure, its overwhelming at first, but now that you have mastered the essentials, now its time to delve deeper.

Pick a day – maybe Sunday – and spend 1 hour exploring your device.  Click open some of those settings and explore the many options.  Don’t overwhelm yourself, just pick one new feature and try it for a week and see if it makes life easier.

Microphone_1See that Microphone symbol?  Have you tried it?  I write many of my blogs on my phone and I often use this “talk to type” feature.  On my Android device it works surprisingly well.  All thumbs typing on your tiny keypad?  Could this feature improve your productivity?
Are you using a cloud service?  I use Carbonite.com as my on line back up service.  Not only do I have the peace of mind of knowing everything is backed up – even my phone – but I can access any file stored anywhere from any of my devices by using the app.  How often do I need that?  More often than you may think.  If you’ve ever said “I’ll get that to you when I get back to my office”, this is for you!  No more reminder notes or worse,  forgetting!  That’s both productive and customer responsive.

SkyrocketTechnology is continuously evolving.  To do business in the ever-changing world, we need to continue to evolve as well.  Grab those tools you’ve invested dollars in and invest a bit of time to be sure you are getting your money’s worth!

Unintended Consequences

September 11, 2013

The plastic bag ban went into effect in Seattle a little over a year ago.  I’ve read a number of articles on the unintended consequences of the ban. They include people “borrowing” the plastic small baskets from stores to take their items home and then “forgetting” to return them; people using their reusable bags to shoplift; an increase in small item shoplifting (easier to stuff in a pocket than hassle with a bag); and of course, the spread of E. coli in germy reusable bags.

This is my own personal account of how – and WHY – the bag ban has changed my shopping habits and it is NOT good for retailers.

Plastic bagFirst, I HATE plastic bags.  No, not for “environmental reasons” The lack of body has meant that the bag doesn’t stand up, all my purchases fall out,  roll around in the trunk or under the seat in my car.   I always asked for paper bags when grocery shopping and use them to hold my recycling paper, bottles and cans at home.  The built in recycling bin in my kitchen cabinets exactly holds a grocery store paper bag.  So I’m not lamenting the loss of flimsy, annoying plastic bags.  The mandatory 5 cent charge for paper bags doesn’t bother me either.

So why have I, a former retailer and dedicated shopper, moved to nearly 90% on line shopping as a result of the plastic bag ban?

RememberBags368x552It’s the way I’m treated because I refuse to become a slave to reusable bags.  The question used to be “Plastic or paper?”  It indicated I, the consumer, had a choice and the retailer we there to serve me by giving me whichever I preferred.  Now I’m frowned upon, “You didn’t bring your bags with you today?”  I feel like the kid who forgot her homework!  The scorn of “You don’t have your own bags?” is so great that I’m going out of my way to shop in cities who have not yet adopted these pointless bans.

Yes, I’m out and about, I think “Oh, I need XYZ at home.  I’ll stop while I’m out.”  Then I think, well I better stop while I’m near my dry cleaners, hair salon – places NOT in my own neighborhood – because they won’t hassle me about needing a bag.  If my usual route that day doesn’t take me by a “no bag drama” municipality and I don’t have to have whatever it is TODAY, I’ll pop on the Amazon app on my phone and order whatever I need JUST TO AVOID THE BAG ISSUE!

I thought I was alone.  I confided this to a couple of friends at a party recently and learned, I’m not the only one!  Person after person, no, let me rephrase that – retail customer after retail customer said they were doing more shopping on line because the whole bag thing was just “too much hassle”.  One of my friends said they recently were at a drug store with 18 items and the cashier said “Didn’t you bring a bag?”  My friend said no and felt he needed to explain, he had only stopped in for one thing and then saw the other items and thought, why not, I’m here,  The clerk then said “So do you think you need a bag or not?”  Seriously – 18 items?!?  Does anyone with a brain think he’s going to carry all that in his arms and then what, dump it in the front seat of his car, find it all later after it’s rolled around during the drive home and then gather it all up in his arms again, juggle the keys to open the front door? Impulse purchases are the lifeblood of any retail store.  Unique displays are created to encourage such buying.  Having a cart full of purchases for every customer is a retailers dream!  Bags were intended to eliminate the hassles and encourage shopping!

Store closingSo to all the City Councils who have voted for these bans for whatever reasons, did you accomplish your goals?  What about the bigger – long term goals for your cities?  Do you have a thriving retail community providing jobs and oh yes, tax revenue for your community?  UPS HomeHave you helped the environment when now, instead of a simple bag I’m using a box and packing materials because I ordered on line instead?  How’s my “footprint” with that a big delivery truck  coming to my house daily – sometimes several times a day – just so I can avoid the negative customer experience at the checkout stand?

Retailers – what can YOU do to woo me back?  I realize the City has mandated you charge me 5 cents for a paper bag.  I don’t care.  It’s not about the 5 cents!!!!  It’s about the way you ask me about the bag!  Go back to the same TONE you used when the question was “Paper or plastic?”  Instead it’s “Paper or your own?”  Say it with a smile, not a head shake.   It’s been over a year now, we are used to the 5 cent charge.  Ignore it and go back to making me feel “served” rather than scorned and I’ll gladly bring all my business to you.  In the meantime, I have to go grab those Amazon boxes just dropped off at my front door.
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Speaker Magazine | 5 Times When ‘Faking It’ is Better Than Authenticity

August 28, 2013

Randy Pennington‘s piece for Speaker Magazine which I have linked here has some meaningful advice for ALL business people.  While not directly applicable to all the managers and business owners who regularly read my blog, I felt there was enough worth featuring it here.  In particular, the comments about being scared, tired, personal issues and why to NOT share with employees, clients and vendors.  Hope you find it useful.  I certainly did.

Speaker Magazine | 5 Times When ‘Faking It’ is Better Than Authenticity.

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There have been times when I have put on an act for my clients and audiences. And, contrary to the conventional NSA wisdom about always being authentic, I contend that faking it in those moments was the absolute best thing I could do to serve my clients.

Here are five times when I’ve faked it in front of a client:

  1. I have been scared about my business. You’ve been there, right? You can’t remember the last time you had a prospect or lead. You show up for your one date this quarter. The worst thing we could do for that client or our long-term prospects for getting additional clients is admit how scared we feel.
  2. I disliked the audience and the audience disliked me. The client booked me for a 45-minute talk after a short dinner with a 15-minute open bar. I took the platform 60 minutes late after a 90-minute open bar in a room with terrible lighting, sight lines and sound. My introducer said, “They booked a speaker tonight, so here is Randy Pennington.” The feeling wasn’t personal, but it was mutual. And, I faked it. The audience finally liked me when I asked after 15 minutes, “I think I’m about done. What about you?”
  3. I was so tired that I couldn’t think straight. Imagine doing 29 two-hour presentations for a single client over 10 days. That’s stupid, right? But, we’ve all done stupid before. My client actually appreciated the fact that I faked my energy when I could have been authentically tired.
  4. I wanted to be anywhere but on the stage. The world doesn’t stop with the death, illness, or significant event of a loved one. And, there are times when canceling or finding a replacement isn’t an option. We do what we are hired to do, and recognize that it isn’t always appropriate to share our authentic pain with the audience.
  5. The show had to go on. We have all told an audience that we will never forget them. When it comes to my audience on May 3, 2011, that is absolutely true. While walking into a manufacturing plant for a presentation, I tripped over a crack in a sidewalk and did a face plant. Forty-five minutes later (and 10 minutes late from the official start time), I took the stage with a huge knot on my forehead. I probably could have canceled, but there were over 100 people in the room waiting for me, and the client had gone to considerable expense capture the engagement on video. Authentic would have been okay, but faking it was better.

There are things that you never fake—like your integrity and belief in your message. But, there are times when you are paid to be something different than your completely authentic, in-the-moment self. The mark of a true professional is having the audience think that your world is fine even when it isn’t.

You can learn more about Randy Pennington here.  For more tips aimed at professional speakers and presenters, here is the link to Speaker Magazine, a monthly publication of the National Speakers Association.


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