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formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC
“Social media is the word-of-mouth on steroids.” Dana Pethia
Yesterday I attended a Small Business Event hosted by Constant Contact and the Thurston Chamber. I had signed up specifically to hear Dana Pethia and to learn more about Constant Contact as an email service for Professional Project Services and a couple of professional organizations that I support. What I came away with was also a wealth of best practices in email and social media marketing to share with my consultant and small business friends.
Having an email list allows you to send information to those that have indicated an interest. Email is a way to establish a relationship with the customer and let them know your services, accomplishments, and ways you can help them. It keeps you visible so that they remember you and your services. Email has an added benefit of being easy to forward making it easier for subscribers to refer you to their friends. An email service makes establishing, maintaining, and distributing to your email subscribers easy and efficient.
This is timely information as I start thinking about my next monthly newsletter. I now have some improvements and changes to make. In the meantime, please join my email list to get my monthly newsletter, discounts, and goodies. Thank you!
See the event flyer for more information on sponsors and speakers of this great event.
Disclaimer: The workshop was hosted by Constant Contact. There are other services available that provide similar functionality including MailChimp, AWeber, Your Mailing List Provider, and more. This is not intended to be a specific endorsement of Constant Contact.
My brother, Vance, is a typical small business owner. Ask Vance what he does he will respond he “styles hair.” Fair enough. He does do that and has for over 20 years. His expertise is hair. He also does marketing, scheduling, client relations, bookkeeping, and taxes. No small business owner only does that thing that his business is. He must understand and be able to do all the administrative stuff to succeed. There is more to know than ever before as the Internet creates a world of greater sophistication. Access to quality information in these areas is limited. The limitation is not in the information, but in the small business owner’s ability to find, sort, and apply what is useful and beneficial. The good news is that there are many small business owners whose expertise is marketing or scheduling or client relations or bookkeeping and taxes, and so on. Business to business education is one way to help fill the gaps.
Professional Project Services is offering a business-to-business education opportunity in the Olympia area. Lunch to Learn is a series of workshops by small business for small business. We will offer a new workshop each month with practical information to make the administrative functions of your business easier to manage and more productive. Attendees will walk away from each session with a tool, concept, or action to support their business.
April is Social Media month. Mathias Eichler of Einmaleins will be providing information on how to use social media to grow your small business. Participants will walk away with basic information on the major social media networks, including their strengths and weaknesses. For Vance, he may want to concentrate on Facebook as a way to share pictures of the latest styles, tools, and techniques he has available. A freelance writer may be better off with LinkedIn, which has been described as “your resume on steroids” to share accomplishments. Mathias will help unravel the myths, benefits, and drawback of various social media platforms so that the small business owner can step further into the world of social media with greater certainty.
Phil Christensen, CPA will be presenting small business accounting and tax information in May. This is a topic that I have held very dear after having experiences with two different clients from a previous business that owed the federal government significant amounts of money simply because they didn’t understand how Federal withholding worked. Phil will offer the basic information that small business owners need so that they compliant with local, state, or federal findings and fines. Having a hired accountant is great. Having a basic understanding yourself is even better.
Please visit the registration website at http://pps-lunch2learn.eventbrite.com/ if you are in the Olympia area and are interested in more information. Sign-up for the “backstage” pass to get a discount code goof for 25% off. Not in Olympia? Check with your local chamber of commerce, economic development agencies, or local community education providers for similar opportunities in your area.
Lately, the word “focus” has come up repeatedly as essential to identifying and achieving business success. I know I struggle in this area in starting Professional Project Services. There are so many fun and exciting things to do, who can pick where to start?
Last Saturday I made the right decision on where to spend my energy. I saw the date for an event creeping up on my calendar and had a hard time getting excited. I hoped that it turned out to be an inspiring morning and happily, I was not let down. The National Speakers Association Northwest event was a four-hour seminar lead by Mark LeBlanc on Growing Your Business When You are the Business. I walked away with two simple strategies involving “focus” that will help me become more profitable with my business in less time.
The first strategy is to focus on the single “profit center” that will most help you meet your financial targets for the month.
These do not have to be big things. In fact, Mark says he rarely spends more than an hour a day working on his three baby steps each day. Just do three things that will support generating new revenue in that area.
The other strategy is the idea to reach out to connect with one contact in support of your primary business each day. Mark recommends that this be a phone call and I can see how much more meaningful that phone call will be compared to an email or social network tools. I have written in earlier posts about how powerful a connection can prove to be without any insight and or idea of what benefits they can bring. You help make sure that your connections remain your connections by reaching out to – remind them that you are out there with the services you offer and gain insights into where you could be of help in their lives.
I have many ideas when it comes to what I want to do in my business and often feel like a pinball in deciding what to work on each day. My 3-5 year vision is that I am on the speaking circuit and writing books to help project professionals and leaders realize the greatest success in the projects they take on. My project experience tells me that greater success comes from focusing on the activities that will bring the biggest benefit to my business. What brings me the biggest value five years from now is not what is of value to build my business and reputation as I work toward that long-term vision. Instead, I need to ask myself, “What is most valuable to me today?” Hearing Mark’s strategies is what has convinced me I need to adjust my short-term focus. Each day I will do three things, plus make one contact, that help me book technical training events for project managers and business analysts. My other business strategies will benefit from this focus and help me to achieve my vision.
Have you experienced this? You buy a new car, a make and model you had not paid any particular attention to in the past. All of a sudden, you see your new car everywhere. That is what has happened to me since I had this Mark inspired epiphany on my business. Yesterday I ran across an article on Harvard Business Review that talks about how Steve Jobs turned Apple around by making them streamline their product line and focus on what their consumers needed most. Then today again, I get my highly anticipated CBSNews email and find an article on Three Key Mistakes to Avoid in Setting Goals. Can you guess what number 2 on the list was? That is right, too many goals. We need focus.
You can help. I am looking for opportunities to go on the road to speak. I would love to come to your local PMI or IIBA event to a present any of my one-hour presentations. I am working on solidifying the curriculum on a program specifically designed for Business Analysts. I will offer this BA training in your local area as part of my travel plan. I may ask for a little help in marketing the program in your area as well.
Just one more tiny favor to ask. Please check out Mark’s website and found out how he can help you or your organization.
I recently read The 2 Most Important Words in Business (forbes.com) and liked the idea that two words describing my philosophy will help shape my business and help others understand me. When it came to thinking of my words, I fell flat. My initial thought was “better” and “value.” While it is true that I want to provide better value to my clients (small local business, government and corporate clients, and students of project management or business analysis alike), it is not the definitive description of me. It was a personal struggle that made me take a second look. What I found is that the values I appreciate most in others are what drives me in my everyday interactions when these values are lacking.
Empathy is not just the ability to imagine yourself in the other’s situation, but also the ability to think ahead to possible situations. This means that before I provide you information, I am going to ask myself “how would I take this information?”, “knowing what I do about the person, how are they likely to receive it?” This does not mean that all information I pass on will be welcomed. It is important that I be able to share any observation or recommendation so that I can provide you benefit as your consultant or coach. Being empathetic means that I will think through options, provide additional information as to why, and support the other person in whatever action they must take.
“Say what you mean, and do as you say.”
The other day I was heads down in my computer when I glanced at the calendar on my phone and realized I was 10-minutes late to meet with a potential business connection. WOW! How I missed the reminders for that I will never know, but I did. I called her immediately, apologized, and told her I could be at our meeting spot in 10 minutes. She had already given up and left but thanked me profusely for the call. I felt horrible about missing our appointment time and still do. This is so rare for me. I have since added more reminders tools on my laptop and phone in hopes that it never happens again. I share this story to let you know that those rare times where I make an mistake I am quick to own up to it, apologize, and try to make things right.
I am always truthful and candid. Bad news makes for better decisions then sugarcoated news. Sugarcoating is for cereal! I deliver bad news empathically and truthfully. It may mean additional research into options to present, or simply lending an ear to the receiver to help work through the problem.
You can always count on me to keep my commitments. I will let you know as soon as possible if I find there is a chance I will not be able keep a deadline or appointment. The thought of wasting somebody’s time is comparable to wasting his money and is not acceptable. The best way to avoid wasting others’ time is to be early or on time. The second best way is to provide ample time to the other so they may adjust their plans.
PPS delivers information with empathy and integrity to those who seek to understand better ways to achieve their goals.
You have probably heard the expression “a jack of all trades, a master of none.” It is not a compliment, so hopefully nobody has said this about you. Generally, this comment is about those people who try to do everything, even things they may necessarily be skilled at. I recall when my dad and a “buddy” decided to take down a tree in our back yard and it landed in the middle of Ruddell Road. Luckily, no cars or people were hit.
As small business owners, we want to be a jack of all trades to save money. But does it work that way? Two factors to consider are the value of our own time and the risk that something could go wrong. Think about it. Do you change the oil in your car yourself? Do you clean your own teeth?
How much is your time worth? We never seem to have enough time or money. Do you know how much money your time is worth? If you are deferring billable time for that other task, then your charge rate applies. For every hour you are working on administrative tasks, such as your company books, you are losing that money. Admittedly, we probably are not doing the books in place of work that we can bill to a client. We are spending our “off time” doing these administrative things. At what cost? Do you have enough time for your family, friends, and yourself? My housekeeping is seriously neglected as a result of my “off work” work. Don’t expect an invite to my home office for a meeting.
There are many factors to considering when putting a price tag on your time. Hours spent doing client work, time available and spent with family and friends, the amount of sleep you need to function well. What I found helpful is to a put a dollar value on every hour of my work. Only you can decide the dollar amount. I recommend putting that thought aside until I can finish my case here.
Here is how it works. My time is worth $50 an hour to me . That means I am willing to pay myself $50 for every hour I save. I now have a task for developing a flyer for an upcoming Lunch to Learn series for local business. I can probably pull something together that I am happy with within three hours, add another hour for editing after proof and the cost to me for the design is $200. A quick search on the internet tells me that I can expect to pay at least $500 to have one designed. At first glimpse, it appears designing my own brochure is the best way to go.
This is where risks of something going wrong has to play into the decision. Several things could go wrong
The point in doing a brochure is to market a service. All of this time will be a complete waste if the result is not people reading the brochure and deciding to take part in the event. That is a lot to lose. Hiring a design professional will cut these risks and give a better quality product in the end. I know this first hand from a past job. I designed a brochure to promote a service my then employer offered. I spent a lot of time on it and was pretty happy with the result. When I shared this with management, they liked the idea and the content, but insisted on sending to their graphics design firm. The result was amazing. Instead of feeling that someone had taken over my project, I felt extremely proud to have contributed to a fantastic marketing tool. In truth, the money spent on professional design was time well spent and gave the company a better image.
Here is another quick example for you. I knew I needed a logo when I first went into business myself in 2010. I didn’t know any graphics artists and I assumed I wouldn’t be able to afford one even if I did. I set off to design my logo. I found an online tool to help develop a logo. Developing the logo through the site was free, but downloading a printable copy cost $25. I spent about 5 hours playing with various looks and colors and ended up downloading two versions, total cost $50. I ended up not pursing my business until a year and a half later. I cringe when I now look at that logo. I know many more people today than I did then due to extensive networking. I contact Kraken Design and said, “I need a logo”. One quick meeting, two weeks, and about $500 later (prices may vary), I now have a new logo. Can you tell the $50 logo from the $500 logo?
Preston Porter of Kraken Design is a master of graphics design. I clearly am not. If I want to look like a master in consulting then I need to rely on people like Preston and their expertise so that I can be credible in my community by looking good as well as save valuable time. I can put this new-found time growing my business in other ways, such as writing this article.
When you need help in the administrative functions of managing your business you will bring much more value to your company by hiring a master to help you. Network to meet wonderful web designers, graphic designers, accountants, legal help, organizational development help, human resource experts, and others who have become a master in their trade and want to do great work for you. You might even score some new clients or leads in the process.
Hint – the orange round logo is the $500 one.
Professional Project Services
Olympia, WA 98502
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Vicki James
Professional Project Services announces small business consulting in Olympia and surrounding areas.
Professional Project Services is pleased to announce that help is now available to small businesses in the South Sound. Whether your requirements are wide-ranging or more specific, Vicki James, Principle, is well-prepared to meet your consulting needs.
Diagnosing the Pain
Is work keeping you up at night? Do you need a hand in figuring out what is causing you the biggest headache? Are you looking at making a change with your business? Perhaps a new location, technology upgrades, new point of sale system, alternative marketing methods, or other growth is in store in 2012. Vicki can help you find the cause of your pain, explore options to treat the source, and evaluate each option so that you understand the impacts to decide the choice that bring you the greatest business value.
Vicki will design and lead activities to carry out change effectively. This includes thoughtful planning and communication with you, your employees, and your customers to create an atmosphere of cooperation, collaboration, and excitement for what is to come. Vicki has a wide range of tools available to make any transition smooth, painless, and effective for your organization.
Along with 12 years’ successful experience providing consulting services to support changing business needs, Vicki also holds certification in both business analysis (CBAP) and project management (PMP). Her prior six-year experience as a financial analyst means she understands the bottom line. Vicki has the skills you need to help you achieve your short-term and long-term business dreams.
Visit the Professional Project Services Small Business Pain Reliever page for more information. Here you can preview a sample Options Analysis Report and sign up for your complimentary, no obligation consultation (https://project-pro.us/smallbusiness). Vicki is always happy to refer you to others in her large professional network if she sees that there are better options for your situation.
Professional Project Services is located 60 miles south of Seattle in Olympia, Washington. Vicki can meet with you personally from Marysville to Portland, and offsite services are available anywhere.
I once suggested that a company I was working with to consider joining the local chamber. The response was that the chamber members were not their target audience for sales. It is such a shame because of the opportunities they missed out on. Don’t let this happen to you.
Reduce cost of operating
As time went on I saw more and more needs for this organization crop up that they might have been able to receive cheaper if they had providers in their professional network. Printing, video production, marketing, computer network support, and catering are all examples of the small local businesses that can give real benefit to a company of any size.
Information and access on local services
Oh my, all the things I have learned from networking with local business folk. I didn’t know we had a local video production company in town let alone that the cost of a 30 second web video was comparable or less than design and printing of a business brochure. I now know that there is local business that provides office space, conference rooms, and all the needed amenities to small business owners at a reasonable price. I can’t wait to see what I discover next.
The hidden referral
So maybe the local caterer is not going to need professional custom software development. They may know someone who now, or in the future, who does. My favorite story came to me from Dave Sisk of the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce. This is the story of a small business man who received a referral from a contact to help out a local franchise store with security cameras in the parking lot. The chain was so happy with what he was able to do that they offered him a significant maintenance contract for all the stores. It’s not always who you know, but who you know knows that can lead to the next big gig.
There are many opportunities for local networking. Local chamber of commerce is a good place to start. Also look for more informal and cost-effective events as well. Keep your eye on local business publications to learn more about these.
In Thurston County, Washington:
There is a phenomenon at the poker table that helps to understand one aspect of breakdown in team communications. Often the action (or play) will get held up because someone does not check, bet, or raise. They simply sit there. Everyone at the table assumes this person is thinking about their options. Only this person is wondering who is holding up the action. The general rule is, if you don’t know who is holding up the action – it is you.
Here are some thoughts to consider next time your team is experiences problems due to poor communication.
Great team communication starts with you!
Sender – Focus first on what you know or are doing that might impact anybody else
Receiver – In getting information from others
Team member – Working toward a team goal
Share this post with your team members to encourage introspection for better team communications.
This is the final of a three part series following my time at the 2011 PMI North American Congress. This part is dedicated to my experience as a first time conference presenter, both in presenting and observation of others.
I love public speaking. I’m not sure why, but it’s true. It’s not something that I enjoyed in school. Getting up and talking about something that I minimally searched was a fear instilling activity. However, somewhere in my professional life I discovered that I was good at presenting things that I knew well. I have a strong voice, sense of humor, and ease in talking about things that I understand. I had done public speaking a handful number of times, but the idea of speaking to an international audience was huge to me. On October 24, 2011 I presented Effective Project Sponsorship: A Collaborative Journey at the PMI North American Global Congress in Dallas, Texas.
I decided that while I knew my subject well, I needed homework on presenting. I started reading Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun a few weeks prior to the congress. This turned out to be the perfect study aid. Scott has a great writing style and sensibility that speaks well to me. The only drawback was it motivated me into wanting to speak more. Well, not so much a drawback.
I owe you some helpful ideas that I got from Scott.
My breakout session was at the end of day two. This afforded me to opportunity to observe speakers as I prepared for my own event. The first speaker I saw at the congress was Rick Morris. Rick is a fabulous speaker. He has a great command of voice, a sense of humor, and speaks candidly. It was a large audience. While technically he was simply presenting, he had the audience engaged. It felt like a conversation with a trusted friend. I left that presentation knowing my number one goal was going to be to engage the audience when it came to my turn. I set a goal then to think at the end of each slide, “how did I engage the audience?”
The next presentation was the late in the afternoon on day 1 of the congress. What I remember most about that presentation was the sense of sleepiness. It had been a long day already and listening to a speaker who was not engaging proved to be very difficult. I then had the panicked thought, “oh my, this is the time slot that I have tomorrow. Everyone will have the afternoon sleepies!” Again, I realized that I was really going to have to engage the audience to, literally, not bore them to sleep.
One session I went too had a team of speakers. The material was spot on and PowerPoint well laid out. Technically, I could not put a finger on any one thing “wrong”. However, they did not engage the audience. The subjects and information may have been the best ever, but they were losing me.
Bill Fournet was another engaging speaker. He had a huge room full; in fact I almost got turned away even though I had pre-registered for this session. The title of his presentation was effective “Herding Cats”, and he started the session with a video of cowboys herding cats. While these were great bait, it would not have been enough to sustain an hour fifteen-minute presentation. The presentation itself was also engaging.
Okay, so I have used the word (or some variation of) “engage” 8 times now in less than 700 words. That warrants a slight explanation of what I mean. I would define this as something that connects the speaker to the audience in a way to triggers true listening and learning. One of the best ways to engage an audience is to ask questions and make them respond. However, this is not always possible in rooms full of 300 plus people. In the cases of Rick and Bill, what made their presentations engaging was how I could relate what they said to my own experience, how they made me understand the material they were providing and see what value it would bring to my own life and work experiences. Maybe they provided a scenario that I could relate too, or described something that I found new, exciting, and potentially beneficial to how I see my work. In short, they did or said something that made the words they said relevant to the work I do which provided a connection.
For my plan to ask myself “did I engage the audience?” for every slide, I needed to know that I asked an open ended question, described a scenario that most could relate too, or open myself up to my own mistakes and successes that would serve as a lessons learned in relation to their positions.
Session time was coming quick. I am an introvert by nature, meaning that I need downtime to energize or decompress. I decided I would skip attending the breakout prior to my own in order to take some downtime to energize and to make sure I would make it to the room early and begin those mental preparations.
I showed up to the room early, verified the PowerPoint was on target, got set up a with a lapel mic, brought my handouts, and stayed near the door so I could meet people as they came in. My friend Chandra had traveled to Dallas with me to support my first national speaking even, as well as to catch up on PDUs, and she was ready with pictures, video, and everything else I needed (thank you Chandra!). Eventually I relinquished my handouts to the PMI room volunteer and just chatted with those who had come in. I had some strategies in mind that I used; some worked well, others not as much.
I did have the advantage of a smaller audience that made these strategies relatively easy to implement. I thought long about how I would alter the format for a 300 person room. I would probably still ask the questions, but in some cases would give participants a few minutes to discuss the question at hand with their neighbors. I look forward to future challenges in keeping audiences engaged to learn from each other as much as from me.
Interested in the presentation topic, Effective Project Sponsorship: A Collaborative Journey? More information is available at http://www.professionalprojectservices.com/sponsor-flyer.
Supporting documents from Dallas Presentation