Life in Bloom

 

           It’s finally here – spring! We waited through a winter full of varied weather, thinking it wasn’t too bad. Then came the late season, heavy snowstorms of April. Yet today, we look out upon a shimmering bay and see more sailboats each day, anchored and ready for summer sailing. Spring flowers are triumphant and glowing and cherry orchards are ready to pop out their fluffy blossoms. These gifts of nature in springtime are our rewards for living through the cold winter months.

            Great things are worth waiting for, and worth working towards. What are your challenges and aspirations? Spring is a perfect time for reevaluation and making plans for change. A change in lifestyle perhaps. Time for more biking and hiking – the weather is no excuse now! Time to throw off winter’s cozy yet anti-social coat and reach out to friends and family. Make plans for an outdoor gathering, bonfire or meet up for trivia night.

            With your business or other entrepreneurial venture, what new actions and ideas will motivate you to give your clients the best, or push your own endeavor to new levels? Now’s a great time to plan a business open house, meet the community and offer a package deal or discount for new clients. A creative, promotional ad would help support local media, whether it’s in a local paper or on the radio, as well as raise awareness of your business. Get your name out there and reinvigorate your passion for the work you do. Take a workshop or read a book in your field of expertise or interest. Or maybe it’s time to pursue a passion you’ve been putting off. Coaching a sport, pursuing art or photography, or volunteering for a cause close to your heart are all ways to jump start your life this spring.

            Whatever it may be, remember: there’s no time like the present, and time itself is a present. Happy Spring!

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A Little Smile Goes a Long Way: The Importance of Good Customer Service

After a recent experience, it seems timely to talk about the impact of customer service. How do you like to be treated at the checkout counter…with a smile or a sour face?

Quite simply, customer service is, “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.” A receptionist represents the “face” of a business and gives the first impression of how that company or store does business. Are they happy to see you and appreciate you? Or are you an inconvenient nuisance to that person’s texting or daydreaming?

The recent experience mentioned above was not a good one. Encountering a receptionist who was either having a bad day or just shouldn’t be the face of the company, her attitude was one of being irritated. Maybe she should reconsider her career choice.

What we project to others does leave an impression. After all, here it is, days after encountering the grouchy receptionist, and the thoughts linger. It may sound trite, but a little smile can go a long way. You just may be the only person to share a smile with someone who really needs it. No one wants to feel invisible or that they are a bother.

As we are now in the thick of the holiday shopping season, consider the customer service you’re receiving. Do you leave the store or business feeling glad you came there and happy to support them with your dollars?

For those in the customer service business, don’t underestimate the impact your attitude can have on shoppers or clients. Everyone has frustrating days, gets impatient or just wants to be somewhere else. But what many don’t realize it that smiles – both giving and receiving them ­–  leave a good feeling inside, and happiness can be contagious. It is in your power as a receptionist, cashier, or sales associate to spread warmth. After all, it’s already cold enough outside!

As a business owner, don’t overlook the importance of sharing with your employees the expectations you have for giving your customers a positive experience. Included in any new employee orientation should be very specific guidelines to follow when it comes to customer service. You may think it’s obvious that people hear a smile over the phone, but do your employees know this is true?

Lastly, a customer left with a bad impression after walking out your door is more likely to share their negative experience with others than their positive one. News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience, and it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative encounter. As a business owner, ponder that, and make customer service a priority.

 

 Connecting with a smile leaves a good impression and is the easiest thing you'll do all day.

Connecting with a smile leaves a good impression and is the easiest thing you'll do all day.

A List for Santa- and One for Yourself

It has arrived again, the Christmas season and all it entails: the anticipation of get-togethers with family and friends, shopping for special gifts, and the festiveness of holiday lights and decorations. Along with the holidays, however, can come the occasional frustration – long lines and impatient shoppers, indecision on what to buy, and perhaps trepidation on those very get-togethers that signify the season.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed or worn out and just can’t find that Christmas spirit, consider the following “time-out.” This short and easy exercise in appreciation will honor your feelings while keeping you focused on what really matters.  

Grab a piece of paper or open a new document on your computer and revel in those grouchy feelings. Make a list of your complaints, whatever they may be. Anything goes – body aches, venting over that reckless driver, the snail’s pace of the checkout line – it’s all valid. This is your opportunity to get it all out in a safe, non-judgmental way. The only feathers you’ll ruffle are your own!

Now, with the bad stuff aside, start another list on a new page. Take a few minutes to shift gears and consider what you’re grateful for. What has gone right with your week? This could be a positive outcome at work, or the satisfaction of finding the perfect gift or recipe to share with the receiver. Maybe it’s as simple as feeling invigorated after a daily walk. Think of everything, even if it may seem insignificant.

This second list is a gift to yourself, a reminder of the advantages you benefit from. Who are you thankful for? What or who has helped you or given you a new perspective? Even breezing through the checkout line at Meijer is cause for celebration! You may find the process of creating this second list to be a mood-changer.

Lastly, take one list and put it in a drawer. You get to pick which list goes where. Picking your list is possibly the most important thing you'll do all day.

Take the other list and tape it up on your bathroom mirror. Read the list in the drawer once a week, month or once a year, just to remind you that it's safe and sound. Read the other list every day.

The daily list will determine what you notice, how you interpret what you see and the story you tell yourself about what's happening and what will happen.

Where will you choose to focus your attentions?

Our wish list for you this season is to enjoy all the gifts the season brings, material and otherwise.

 

 All about perspective: Do you see treacherous roads or beautiful scenery?

All about perspective: Do you see treacherous roads or beautiful scenery?

Veteran's Day Reminiscences

Despite playing Taps at Veterans Day observances as a high school band member, and growing up in the household of a WWII naval officer who participated in many of that horrific conflict’s South Pacific island invasions, Veterans Day had over the years become just another perfunctory national observance.

Until last weekend that is.

In New York with family and touring the air/sea/space exhibit on the Hudson River, I was the recipient of an unexpected jolt of patriotism and gratitude.

People of all ethnicities and backgrounds, and speaking different languages, flooded the exhibit, most of them in visible awe of the aircraft carrier, submarine and huge space shuttle on display.

Snatches of prideful conversation among U.S. veterans, many of them aged, could be overheard. And the retired service men and women who staffed the exhibits, patiently answered questions and told stories about their time aboard these now dated displays of America’s efforts in the defense of freedom and world peace.

Seeing all this through the eyes of our grandchildren made me especially aware of the sacrifice countless men and women have made.

As an antidote to the seemingly inane and pointless politics of today, might I suggest a conversation with a Veteran? Or maybe a visit to one of the memorials our country has enshrined to remind us that freedom is not free.

We owe an unpayable debt to those who have served. Marking Veterans Day is a small reminder of that.

Semper Fi!

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Finally, time to design your website

After months of planning and strategizing, making lists and spreadsheets, targeting keywords and gathering images, we were ready to build a website. (Read about the first steps of planning here and here.)

We sent out RFPs, asked around and talked to multiple designers. One proposal stood out because it suggested using SquareSpace. What better way to get to know a content management system than to use it, right? Well, we love it. We have clients on multiple CMS, which makes for a varied day at the office, but so far we’ve enjoyed all of them. SquareSpace doesn’t have storage for images, like WordPress and its media library. It also uses “blocks,” for images, text, etc., but they’re very adaptable.

We met with our designer, Joe Mielke, settled on a cost and schedule and let him get to work. Phone calls, emails and updates were common and useful and we checked in regularly against the schedule we’d drawn up.

Changes ensued, naturally. Pages that we envisioned didn’t make sense anymore and pages we hadn’t planned on suddenly seemed like a good fit. We kept referring to our theme of “Simple, Yet Beautiful” so we wouldn’t lose sight of what we wanted.

One part of digital marketing that we embrace is its fluidity. We aren’t locked into anything because we can change it. So, if that time comes that we want to add another testimonial or change a picture or add pages or … well, you get the picture.

How to plan a website redesign

This redesign took time. And work. And thought. It was creative on our part, technical on our web guru’s part. It was fun to see our ideas become reality. And we learned a few things along the way too, especially about planning. Redesigning a website, it turns out, is a lot like painting a room. Most of the work is before you actually put that final color on the walls.

Collateral damage

Collateral, those sales support tools that wind up in space-taking file folders that you’re never able to find when you need them, are office collections we all share.

Brochures, leave-behinds, sell sheets, media releases, newsletters, fact sheets … They all fall into the category of collateral.

Freshen up

It’s that time of year. Even the heartiest of winter fans are feeling a little bit of cabin fever. The antidote? Bust up that routine.

The same is true in the office. Grinding away day after day will just slow you down over time. You’ll become less effective and your creativity will suffer. And, oh yes, your clients will notice it too.