Monthly Helpful Tips

Jun 15
The One Question Every Successful Person Asks

I was a guest on a radio show and everything was going well (in my case "well" means I hadn't said anything that made me to cringe) when the host said, "One last question."

Cool, I thought, already patting myself on the back. That went really well.

"You've talked to hundreds of successful people," she continues. "So tell me: What one question does every successful person ask him or herself?"

Crap. One? I quickly rifled through my mental file cards. "What is the real problem I will solve," maybe? "How can I delight customers?" "Is there a viable market?"

Ugh. All I could think of were clichés.

So I punted and stammered through something goofy like, "Since every individual is unique then every person asks different questions so there could never be just one single question every successful person asks him or herself..." and what had been a decent appearance staggered to a painful close.

I thought about it for the next few days. Is there one question every successful person asks?

Finally it hit me.

Success -- no matter what the endeavor -- is difficult to achieve. We all fail sometimes. When we do, it's easy to get discouraged and out of (however momentary) self-pity ask ourselves questions like, "Why doesn't my boss recognize my unique talents?" "Why don't I ever get the opportunities other people get?" "Why aren't my friends more supportive?" "Why can't I ever catch a break?"

In short: "Why me?"

Every successful person asks him or herself a different question:

"Why not me?"

Entrepreneurs will start a restaurant in the same location where five other restaurants have gone out of business; those other guys may not have succeeded -- but why not me? Entrepreneurs will start a software company with nothing but an idea; sure, the competition has deep pockets and a huge market share -- but why not me? Hard-working professionals will look at all the people with more experience, more education, and better networks and think, "Okay. Fine. But why not me?"

Successful people don't assume other successful people possess special talents or some gift from the gods. They look at successful people and think, "That's awesome. Why not me?"

By asking that question, they embrace belief and ignore self-doubt. They put aside any feelings that they might not be smart enough, or experienced enough, or adaptable enough.


At some point every successful person looks in the mirror and says, "Sure, lots of other people don't succeed..." and then turns the question into a bold statement, "But why not me," because more than anything, they believe in themselves.

So here's an even better question. Why not you?

May 15
5 Ways to Perfect Your LinkedIn Profile

If your LinkedIn profile reads more like a resume, you're making a huge mistake -- especially if you're hoping to land new customers.


But don't just take my word for it. I recently talked with Mike Derezin, Vice President of LinkedIn Sales Solutions (and therefore a guy perfectly placed to know what helps small businesses gain new customers and build stronger business relationships), about ways you can create the perfect LinkedIn profile.


Here's Mike:


If you're tasked with generating new business for your company -- and if you're an entrepreneur, you definitely are -- stop thinking about your LinkedIn profile as a resume and start thinking about it as a marketing tool.


Why? Prospects or customers doing research find you through a search engine or on LinkedIn. That's why you shouldn't risk having a profile that simply highlights your wins and leaves out the context necessary to paint the full picture of who you are.


Imagine you're a salesperson. When prospective customers come to your profile, do you think they want to know that you're a 'quota crusher'? That you made 'club' last year? Or that you were the #1 salesperson for three straight quarters?


No way! Take it from someone who has been on both sides of the buyer-seller game. The people who decide whether to entrust you with their money and their time aren't interested in your ability to 'crush it.' They want to find out how much you know about their business, how you can solve their problems, and who you are as a person and a professional.

hat's what your profile needs to tell them -- and if your profile doesn't present a well-rounded person, it's a huge miss.


Sure, you'll need to highlight your professional experience, but there is an art to striking a balance between showcasing your abilities and proving you can meet customer needs. Your profile is the first step, and spending a little time to make it pitch-perfect will absolutely pay off.


Here's how to do a quick makeover so it's ready for the customers you're looking for:


1. Add a professional-looking photo.


This may sound like an obvious tip, but you'd be surprised how many people use casual, blurry, or distant pictures that don't show faces clearly--or worse yet, no photo at all. According to LinkedIn statistics, your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed with a photo than without one--so why go without?


Notice I suggest using a "professional-looking" photo, which doesn't necessarily mean you need to get a professional photographer to take it. You just need to steer clear of bad selfies or vacation shots. If you don't have a professional-looking headshot from your company website or an event, get a colleague to take some quality smartphone pictures of you at your desk, in a conference room, or near a window with a good view.


(Quick note: LinkedIn's research shows that 35% of people aged 18 to 34 say they make an initial impression based on someone's online profile picture, compared to just 13% of those over 35. So yeah, photos matter.)


2. Be authentic.


The "summary" section of your profile is where you can go beyond your work experience and tell prospects and customers why they want to work with you. Talk about your passion for your company and the industry you're in. Talk about how you solve problems.


For example, if you're in the insurance business, share a story about how you helped a family deal with a major flood or recover after a fire.


Give potential customers the opportunity to see how you will work with them... and help them solve their problems or meet their needs.


3. Images, videos and Slideshare.

Pictures and videos add a rich dimension to your words. Take advantage of the ability to embed these into your profile as a way to show off your great work.


If you have a presentation from a conference that demonstrates your knowledge, add it. If you're in the landscaping business, show off a video or pictures of your work.


You can also include your company's latest YouTube videos; it's a great way to get more mileage from your marketing materials and bring traffic to your social channels.


4. Don't forget your contact info.

As you build out your profile, make sure people can easily find a way to get in touch with you. You don't have to overdo it with tons of links to social media accounts, but you do want people to know that you are available and reachable.

5. Get personal... but not too personal.

Prospective customers want to work with people they can relate to, and that means personally as well as professionally. So add a few details about your favorite sports teams. Or better yet, describe your volunteer efforts: our research shows that profiles with volunteer experience get 6 times more profile views than others.


Personal information helps the customer see the human behind the professional and may offer common ground that helps build a relationship. But don't go overboard with personal data -- the goal is to better connect, not distract.


Remember, today's average buyer is 57% along the road to making a purchase before ever engaging with a salesperson. Fine-tuning your profile in a way that appeals to buyer interests will make you stand out when customers are considering potential partners -- it's a simple investment in professional positioning that will go a long way in socially selling yourself and your business.

By Jeff Haden

Apr 15
7 Inspiring Steve Jobs Quotes That Just Might Change Your Life

He came, he saw, he conquered...and he left behind some words to live by:


"I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."


Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who do go there think, " one else is here...why am I doing this?" And they leave, never to return.


That's why the extra mile is such a lonely place.


That's also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.


Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment.


Don't wait to be asked--offer. Don't just tell employees what to do--show them what to do, and work beside them.


Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do...especially if other people aren't doing that extra thing.


Sure, it's hard. But that's what will make you different.


And over time, that's what will make you incredibly successful.


"My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time."


Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but usually not in a good way. Most people given two weeks to complete a task will instinctively adjust their effort so it actually takes two weeks--even if it shouldn't.


So forget deadlines, at least as a way to manage your activity. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take. Do everything as quickly and effectively as you can. Then, use your "free" time to get other things done just as quickly and effectively.


Average people allow time to impose its will on them; exceptional people impose their will on their time.


"My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people."


Some of your employees drive you nuts. Some of your customers are obnoxious. Some of your friends are selfish, all-about-me jerks.


Stop whining. You chose them.


If the people around you make you unhappy, it's not their fault. It's your fault. They're in your professional or personal life because you drew them to you--and you let them remain.


Think about the type of people you want to work with. Think about the types of customers you would enjoy serving. Think about the friends you want to have.


Then change what you do so you can start attracting those people. Hardworking people want to work with hardworking people. Kind people like to associate with kind people.


Exceptional employees want to work for exceptional bosses.


Be the best you can be, and work to surround yourself with people who are even better.


"Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations."


Ask most people why they have been successful. Their answers will be filled with personal pronouns like "I" and "me." Only occasionally will you hear "we."


Then ask them why they failed. Most will revert to childhood and instinctively distance themselves, like a kid who says, "My toy got broken..." instead of, "I broke my toy." They'll say the economy tanked. They'll say the market wasn't ready. They'll say their suppliers couldn't keep up.


They'll say it was someone or something else.


And by distancing themselves, they don't learn from their failures.


Occasionally, something completely outside our control will cause us to fail. Most of the time, though, it's us. And that's OK. Every successful person has failed. Numerous times. Most of them have failed a lot more often than we have. That's why they're successful now.


Embrace every failure. Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.


"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."


Don't know what you're passionate about? No problem. Pick something interesting. Pick something financially viable--something people will pay you to do or provide.


Then work hard. Improve your skills, whether at managing, selling, creating, implementing...whatever expertise your business requires. The satisfaction and fulfillment of small victories will give you the motivation to keep working hard. Small victories will motivate you to further develop your skills.


The satisfaction of achieving one level of success will spur you on to gain the skills to reach the next level, and the next, and the next.


And one day, you will wake up feeling incredibly fulfilled--because you're doing great work, work you've grown to love.


"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."


Ideas without action aren't ideas.


They're regrets.


Every day, most people let hesitation and uncertainty stop them from acting on an idea. (Fear of the unknown and fear of failure are often what stop me, and they may be what stop you, too.)


Think about a few of the ideas you've had, whether for a new business, a new career, or even just a part-time job.


In retrospect, how many of your ideas could have turned out well, especially if you had given it your absolute best? Would a decent percentage have turned out well?


My guess is, probably so--so start trusting your analysis, your judgment, and even your instincts a little more.


You certainly won't get it right all the time, but if you do nothing and allow your ideas to become will always get it wrong.


"Bottom line is, I didn't return to Apple to make a fortune. I've been very lucky in my life and already have one. When I was 25, my net worth was $100 million or so. I decided then that I wasn't going to let it ruin my life. There's no way you could ever spend it all, and I don't view wealth as something that validates my intelligence."


Money is important. Money does a lot of things. (One of the most important is to create choices.)


But after a certain point, money doesn't make people happier. After about $75,000 a year, money doesn't buy more (or less) happiness. "Beyond $75,000...higher income is neither the road to experience happiness nor the road to relief of unhappiness or stress," says a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


And if you don't buy that, here's another take: "The materialistic drive and satisfaction with life are negatively related." (In layman's terms, "Chasing possessions tends to make you less happy.")

Think of it as the bigger house syndrome. You want a bigger house. You need a bigger house. (Not really, but it sure feels like you do.) So you buy it. Life is good...until a couple months later, when your bigger house is now just your house.


New always becomes the new normal.


That's because "things" only provide momentary bursts of happiness. To be happier, don't chase as many things. Chase experiences.


Someday you won't remember what you had...but you'll never forget what you did.

Mar 15
How to Control the Damage When Making Unpopular Choices

It's an inevitable part of running a company--so here's what you can do to avoid pissing everyone off. Launching a company is tough, but it gets even tougher when you have to do the odious things--announcing layoffs, reducing benefits, missing your kid's school play--that haunt every founder. New companies force you to decide between your success and your reputation, friendships, and family. "We either toughen up so we can just get through it, which can come off as being a jerk, or we fall all over ourselves trying to be nice," says business coach Beth Buelow. Chances are good you will never make everyone happy, but there are things you can do to minimize the pain.

1. Be collaborative and transparent

Facing a hard call sucks, but dropping a bomb, and running, makes it worse. "If you just say, 'This is the news; deal with it,' people will fill the gap you give them with the news they want to make," says Peter Shallard, a psychotherapist who specializes in entrepreneurs. Instead, actively share your rationale. Cash-flow problems prompted Naomi Poe, founder and CEO of gluten-free-flour maker Better Batter, to search for many cuts, including coffee and health insurance. She gathered employees, showed them the financials, and invited them to choose what should go. When she needed to reduce salary costs by half, Poe had each of the company's five employees explain how much income he or she needed to meet obligations. "I asked people, 'If you could draw this up, what would your solution be?' " she says. In the end, she took a big pay cut herself. That approach allowed her to retain all employees and "has paid off in terms of loyalty and productivity."

2. Take the inevitable blows

When creator and Legacy Publishing CEO Steve Anderson changed his business model, he needed to lay off half the company. So, after the announcement, he let the punches fly (metaphorically, of course). He engaged with employees who challenged the new business model, and in some cases, he shared additional information to help them see the bigger picture. Sometimes, he just listened, recognizing that not everyone wants an explanation. "You don't want to put people out who are angry and disgruntled," Anderson says.

Creating space for grievances after you've explained yourself is a smart move. "People want to be seen and heard; that can go a long way in retaining trust," says Buelow. "You don't have to have all the answers."

3. Mitigate and apologize

As founder of public relations automation platform Crowdbuilder, Joy Schoffler was upset when she realized she had to fire a friend whom she'd hired to lead several projects. "I didn't need her for the role I had initially hired her for," says Schoffler. She did everything she could to ease the pain, including giving the friend lots of advance notice, explaining it wasn't her fault, and paying her severance out of her own paycheck. The friendship is not as close as before, but Schoffler believes she did everything she could.

Realizing what you can and can't control is vital, says Buelow. You want to be "empathetic and caring--but without taking responsibility for the other person's reaction."

4. Do a cost-benefit analysis

Choosing work over important family and friend events can earn you the title Biggest A-hole. Learn to do a cost-benefit analysis: Some events are too important to miss. Identify and attend those events, says Shallard, no matter what. When you really can't, don't hide from the disappointment you've caused. Agustina Sartori, co-founder of GlamST, a virtual makeover and cosmetics site, had to miss a friend's wedding in her native Uruguay because of venture capital meetings in Silicon Valley. She explained to her friend how critical the meetings were, and she Skyped into the pre-wedding preparations. The friend was still upset. Over time, friends have seen Sartori's devotion to her business, and things are getting better. "They don't agree with me," says Sartori, "but little by little, they understand."

By Alix Stuart

Feb 15
7 Tasks Successful Leaders Never Delegate

I’ve made the point before that knowing when and how to delegate is a trait of good leaders. It shows trust in your employees and ensures that you are focusing your own time and skills in your zone of genius — the tasks that only you can do.

But I’d like to argue that there are some things that should never be delegated because they will make you too far removed from your team, open you up for criticism, or ultimately paint you in a bad light.

If you’ve delegated any of the following tasks, I suggest you move these back into your zone of genius:

1. Core functions or responsibilities

Neither a company nor an individual employee should ever outsource their core competencies — the tasks that add the most value. As an employee, if you outsource these tasks, your boss may wonder why he needs to keep you around at all. As a company, you may find yourself held hostage if you outsource and your partner leaves or demands more money.

2. Praise and discipline

These tasks are two sides of the coin. People will naturally trust and be more loyal to the person who doles out praise and incentives, and the higher up you are in a company, the more important it is to do these activities yourself. Likewise, while disciplining employees is possibly a manager’s most unpleasant task, it shouldn’t be passed off to a subordinate. Don’t name some underling to be the one to have to pass out the pink slips; if it must be done, do it yourself.

3. Team building and talent nurturing

Perhaps a manager’s most important job is building, training, and nurturing his or her team, which is why it’s vital not to completely outsource these tasks. Bringing in the right talent, putting together a team that works well, and understanding which members need training, mentoring, or incentives are the tools for success.

4. Fundraising and investor relations

Especially if you’re a CEO or entrepreneur, you can’t completely delegate these tasks. Investors want to hear from the person in charge whether the news is good or bad.

5. Mission, vision, and company culture

As with team building, you can’t outsource the core values that bring you together as a team. Whether you are the CEO or a team leader, maintaining the vision that drives your team cannot be forgotten or outsourced.

6. Crisis management

No matter how big the crisis is in the grand scheme of things, your presence is required. It’s important to show all parties that you are monitoring the situation and involved in finding a solution. It doesn’t matter whether your organization is negotiating a hostage situation or trying to salvage your biggest account; a wise leader will be present and involved.

7. Traditions and etiquette

There are just certain situations that require your presence out of politeness and tradition. It would be unthinkable to send your assistant to the funeral of an employee’s relative or a team member’s wedding. Go or don’t go, but don’t delegate this one.

The most powerful leaders in the world understand the power of delegation. But the best leaders will make a point of keeping these items on their personal to do list, no matter how important or powerful they grow to be. What tasks would you add to this list? Have you seen or experienced egregious examples of leaders delegating the wrong things? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.   By Bernard Marr