Everyone’s Got a Coach. Do You Have a Mentor?

busyI see a lot of people coaching everyone. And I mean everyone: they’re really just hollaring sunshine into the ether and giving opinions within 140 characters. Stuff that’s like, “Let’s get goin’ guys, let’s punch this day in the FACE!”

Some people make money at it, and those people, at least some of them, have something probably very real and wonderful to offer their “audiences,” as we’ve come to call them. Honestly, I think they’re keeping themselves busy sometimes and they’d like to see you be busy, too. Not necessarily rich, just busy with clients and projects and whatnot.

I appreciate all the wonderful information- tips about organizing or time management, or maybe even finances- that’s available through Twitter, blogs, and such.

So here’s my thought: what about mentors? Nothing can replace the bond of a true mentor: someone who has followed your story, knows what you want and need, and who can really work with you, not just talk at you.

Don’t have one? Find one. Do you have a boss or maybe colleague of days gone by with whom you had a close relationship? Maybe there’s a teacher you could call, or an old friend who seems to have things together for themselves. Maybe you could get a beer with them or sit over a cup of coffee and talk without specific aim to get coaching or guidance. Just chat. You’ll find with these people that you’ll walk away with unbelievable perspective that beats advice.

I realize through this that I’m kind of giving advice. I’ll relay this one last thought, so maybe you’ll know where it’s coming from: I appreciate my mentor more than anything, and though we don’t talk everyday or even every month, and even though we have never really said in a formal way that she is my mentor, I don’t know where I’d be without her. I wish that for you, too.

And for all you positive day-punchers and high-reachers, I like you too. Keep shining, people.

What will you bring to this bright new age?

mayan-long-count-calendar_mayan-system_720x500

On Friday, the odometer flipped. Nothing ended, it began over again.

I want to know what you’re doing. I don’t know about you, but the sort of strict resolutions people make with the new year kind of bring me down. They tend to be self-accusatory. They don’t embrace the good work of last year.

But big, breezy ideas like “be more peaceful,” “do more business locally,” or “drift toward happiness” seem like maybe the sort of resolutions that will lead to big solid things. And don’t forget to celebrate what went right last year to to focus on keeping up the Good Work!

Happy holidays to you, and a fantastic solstice, too!

 

Politics and Business- Should you be vocal?

AIGA Get Out the Vote Poster (Blue)

With election day right around the corner and with newspapers giving their official endorsements, it seems like it’s time to decide what side of the fence you’re on here.

Yup, you. You as a person, an individual, a business owner, an employee… you’re all these things and you’d better be voting. Apathy is not the stuff of business owners or people who succeed, so don’t be apathetic in any arena of your life, friend. Get to the voting booth.

You might also be the voice of your business, and it’s mighty tempting to use the audience you have to send a message that you feel is important. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve been cruising around Twitter and Facebook.

You know your audience better than anyone, and depending on what you’re selling, taking a vocal political position might benefit you. 

If you sell hammers for a living, you’ve got democrats, republicans, and everyone in between coming to buy your hammers. Maybe you’re not the one to take a stand politically in your social media or on your website. But heck, if you sell nature vacations or guns, you might really want to consider saying which candidates you’ve found to be the best to elect to ensure your crowd can get your product. Don’t be silent just because it seems like a good point of decorum, there are lots of cases where this would help rather than backfire for you.

There’s a lot of noise out there already. Avoid being just another yell in the cacophony. 

Have something new to say or have a personal story to add to the conversation at large? That’d be worth sending out there into the ether, because that really sounds like something we could all benefit from reading or seeing. There are already a lot of rants out there, and we’re wading in other people’s general opinions- we’re all tired out here. We’re looking for substance, we’re looking for calm, and we’re looking for intelligence at this point. Be that guy.

If you’re going to stick your nose out there, be a proponent for rational discourse.

It’s easy for all of us as voters, family members, customers and sales folk to want to blame one side or another for some of the tripe we’ve been subject to. Taking a side doesn’t mean you need to be angry or negatively impactful. Please, research your claims, say why more than you’re saying what, and give us some meaty bits to chew on.

At the end of the day, lead by example.

Tell your people to vote. Tell them to care. Respect their many and varied positions. Erase apathy, because apathy might be why they haven’t picked up your latest whatsit yet.

Do business with integrity and honesty. Dislike lots of packaging and have strong feelings about environmental issues? You have the power to eliminate as much packaging as possible from your products whether you’re clerk at a counter or a CEO. Admins- use vendors who share your views and your values and produce goods and services that do good in the world.

Still wondering if it’s a good idea for you to take a stand on something publicly? Comment here and let’s chat about it.

Altruism in Your Everyday

When I need to procure anything for business- supplies, postage, travel, etc- I look to fill that need and do some good with the money at the same time. Here are a few things you should consider doing around the office, small changes that have big impacts.

1. Buy Postage Stamps from Island Post Offices

Here in Maine, our small post offices are endangered. Sure, they don’t have a terribly huge amount of mail running through them, but they’re important to the communities on these islands. The Island Institute has this great form you can fill out for your next order of stamps. I’ve visited some of these small outposts, and I have to say, they’re really great and deserving of your support.

2. Develop a Relationship with Your Local Office Supply Dealer

In Portland, ME there’s Wigon Office Supply. In Portsmouth, NH there’s Hoyt’s Office Products. In your town, I bet you’ve got one of these creaky-floored, lovingly-maintained office supply joints. They order from the same exact catalogs that the bigwigs order from, and you can get everything you’d ever need in about 24 hours lead time. Furniture takes a little longer, but that’s no big deal. Stay with them for a little while and most likely they’ll extend you a 20% or more discount on your office supplies.

I used to call my gal up at a small place in Dover, NH back when they were an independent. Every time I moved to a new office, they’d extend me the discount at that new spot, too. The best part? I could call her for anything I needed, saying something like, “I need 300 envelopes that fit something with x, y, z dimensions but I can’t find it in the catalog.” She’d do the research, often pulling up some sale-priced thing that fit the bill and saved us tons. Relationships rule. The sale means the world to them, the service will mean the world to you.

3. Join the National Association of Railroad Passengers

NARP gets you cheaper tickets and gives you the opportunity to help rail. Amtrak provides convenient service between east coast cities in my experience. The service will only get better if we patronize Amtrak. No checked bags, no crazy fees everywhere, no weight limit to your bags, no creepy screening. GO RAIL!

4. Stop Buying Pink Crap

Please pardon this one negative item. Don’t buy that silly pink line of office products that says they’re helping to raise money for researching a cure to one of the plagues of our times. They’re not, here’s a little bit about why. A donation cup as you enter your office or perhaps a coworker team for the next interesting walk/run/bike event is better.

5. Consider Used, Rather than New, Office Furniture

So sweet on the bottom line and recycling in action. There are lots of showrooms that sell used office furniture, and sometimes you can snag a previously loved Herman Miller chair or a whole suite of matching pieces. You’ll save money and avoid throwing out more packaging into a landfill somewhere. Search it up- “used office furniture” plus your town’s name. Maybe try searching under chapter 11 clearing houses, too.

 

 

Well I hope these were helpful. I’d love to hear your tips, too!

Time to Change Your FB Tactics: Your Fans Aren’t Seeing Your Posts

Thanks to collegehumor.com for the image.I’ve always talked about Facebook like fan pages were the ultimate way you could reach people for free, as though it was going to be an equalizer small businesses, a guaranteed way to have your customers or potential customers opt in to your news feed and maybe have them sign up for your newsletters, which is where the REAL magic happens.

Well poop. Maybe I’m late to the party on this one, but those numbers you’re seeing in your admin page (___ people reached, ___%) are new and they forebode a necessary change of tactics on your part if you’re using Facebook pages to promote your business, non profit, club, or if you’re like me, your adventures. I thought they were click-through numbers, so I was excited. Nope.

According to Cinda Baxter, who felt the way I did, those numbers you’re seeing on your fan pages are being candid about your new Facebook-administered abysmal results. Even though your fans opted in and want to hear from you, Facebook’s new tactic is that they decide who gets to see your posts, basically showing your posts only to people who actively look at your page on a regular basis.

This means that some of your fans might be clicking ‘like’ and then never hearing from you again. You can PAY to have them see you, even though they opted in and want to hear from you anyhow. This seems grossly unfair (especially for pages like mine which have an audience made up mostly of our friends or for pages of nonprofits), but instead of kvetching about it, I suppose we should all come up with a strategy to make sure our hard work is seen.

If you ask me, this will take the wind out of the sails for Facebook. The less effective it is for the users, the less magic it has for everyone, and the less intrinsic value it has. Maybe the new investors won’t be able to see that, and maybe this trend toward making Facebook more profitable will leave people in the cold. The very people who made it worth anything in the first place.

Have any suggestions? I’d love to hear them. Spread the word and have a look at the article below.

Here’s her helpful post on the subject. I was having trouble visiting the site, so here’s the text:

Isn’t Facebook supposed to be the magical tool that levels the playing field for small business, non-profits, and grass roots movements? Once upon a time, maybe…but not so much now.

Last week, an interesting (and by “interesting” I mean “stunning“) tidbit began appearing at the bottom of status updates posted by page admins, visible only to them—the number of people each post reached, accompanied by the percentage of their total fan base it represented.

The number shown doesn’t represent the number of your fans online at the moment; it’s the abysmally small number Facebook bothered to publish in newsfeeds.

Yeah. You read that correctly. Most of your fans don’t receive your posts. At all. In any way, shape, or form. Facebook is only sharing them with fans who repeatedly return to your page, post on your page, comment on your page, or otherwise engage on your page.

In other words, the minority.

The following day, another tidbit appeared, just to the right of the scary percentage—a “Promote” button. Tap that, and you’re asked to pay for the rest of your fans to see the post.

Uh huh. Read that one correctly too. Pay to post.

Not to advertise—to reach the fans you already have. The ones who thought clicking “like” added you to their newsfeeds.

Out of sheer curiosity, I clicked Promote, then began crunching numbers. If I want a post to reach all 90,600 fans of The 3/50 Project, I need to pony up more than $500.

Per post.

Which simply isn’t going to happen.

So how do we work around the roadblock? There’s a back door solution, but we can’t make it easily visible, since we’re barred from putting “calls to action” in the Cover photo or a pinned post.

Which is why I’m pinning this blog post, once it posts to the Project’s FB page (legit, by Facebook standards).

Click image to view larger version

For Fans: How to keep receiving posts from FB pages you’ve “Liked”

1. Find a page you’ve “liked.”

2. Hover you mouse over the “Liked” button. Which may or may not work.

3. Try clicking the “Liked” button. That also may or may not work.

4. After clicking “Liked,” try hovering over it again. This may or may not work.

(Sensing a theme? Access isn’t consistent…nor intended to be easy, I have a feeling. Please keep trying.)

5. Once you (finally) get a drop down menu, confirm “Show in News Feed” is selected.

In theory, this should put all more posts from the page back in your newsfeed.

Or not.

Hard to know, since the only way to test it is to keep visiting every page you’ve “liked” to compare their posts to your newsfeed.

(Which no one has time to do. We understand.)

Facebook’s new pay-to-post format is obviously intended to increase revenue, now that shareholders are involved. Sadly, it’s also a killer for their most fervent users—non-profits and grass roots movements who have built a significant following. Pages with deep pockets and corporate backing will be able to buy their way into newsfeeds, but those of us without endless cash reserves are already invisible, thanks to this new twist.

And by “new” I mean [fill in your favorite expletive].

Fonts Matter

While I was at South Station in Boston the other day, I couldn’t help but swoon a bit over a surprising object of affection. A Dunkin’ Donuts sign. Holy crap, right?A pretty font in an unlikely location.

I didn’t start drooling over over-sugared and over-creamed coffee, so don’t pick on me. But really, there’s something about the absence of their ubiquitous and undeniably well-recognized, overstuffed orange and pink letters. Something about the retro, jet-set letters in this bustling environment with rushing travelers calls out to me a little more than their normal modus operandi.

The lean of the letters, the boldness of them, the kerning of a beautifully set bunch of luscious three dimensional characters… and they’re throwbacks. From what I’ve seen of their anniversary fodder they were selling, it does harken back to an older logo, so it’s a bit consistent. Old school donut shop, it beckons.

Now flash over to a comic sans newsletter with neon green lettering or, Gaia forbid it, shadow effect. Then go over to (insert company here) where they paid a designer to make them a one-of-a-kind logo and maybe even a website… but then when they go to send out company material or have some logo apparel made, they don’t bother matching or complimenting those fonts.

Hard truth for you here if you’ve been doing this: You appear to be higgledy piggledy.

YES, PEOPLE NOTICE. LIKE WHEN THEY NOTICE YOU’RE YELLING IF YOU’RE TYPING IN ALL CAPS. or that you’re laid back in the company of friends when you don’t use any caps at all. i do have a fondness for the e.e. cummings approach, but it’s not necessarily professional, unless it’s your branding. And it can be.

Don’t just say you’re aware of all of this, really think about it and look at your materials. I mean, they’re doing research about the emotions elicited by font size for Pete’s sake, you might as well take stock of your font fortune.

Define what fonts are acceptable for company documents, and limit them severely. Honestly, your company (no matter how small) should settle on one font. Go ahead and also set what font sizes you’d like in different situations (headers, the body of documents). Have seniors in the office? Maybe everything should be in 12 or 14 point. Have a sans serif font that appears in your logo? Stay consistent- choose a sans serif font for that flyer or announcement that compliments it if you can’t use the exact font.

Remember this- you work hard. Whether you write a newsletter or put a cup of coffee into the world with some writing on it or if you make widgets, you’re proud of that work. You want people to know it’s your work and come looking for you to get some of that thing you make. This is one way to make sure people know you like a neighbor, feel comfortable with you and recognize your work right away.

And, if you’re like me and consult people in the ways of these things, you need to steer them right even if it’s uncomfortable. It’s what they’ve paid you to do.

I’d love to hear where you’re at with your font-health and your branding. Think you don’t have time for it? Do tell.

 

What do you want your days to look like?

I have lots of aids to help me remember what I need to do any given day. I’m sure you do too. I’m interested in hearing about other people’s methods, because seriously, you people have your stuff together. Woo!

I’ve tried Evernote, glanced at Springpad, made a good college try at Batchbook. I’ve attempted to use my calendar as the Center of Everything… but still at the end of the day, it’s my little brown Moleskine with the graph paper pages and my trusty gel pen that really get it done. Little pocket for slips of paper or things to mail. Stamps if I need them (I write a lot of letters these days). It’s an object that I enjoy holding and using.

Flexible. The pages are unformatted and my note-taking is allowed to evolve. Right now I’m doing this great thing where I account for all of my time during the day. Above it is my to do list I wrote first thing in the morning, below I just bang out a ticker tape of blocks of time and what I did during them. If I screw off, I write it down. It’s ok to screw off a bit, but if I see an hour chunk where I didn’t do anything but sit at my desk and enjoy the internet, maybe I need to change that.

Meditative. Writing is doing, and for me writing is also memorizing and meditating. When I write down a to do list, I’m able to feel that word come out of the pen. The time it takes to complete that task becomes real for me in that moment. I might realize that it’s more important than something else, or that I can get it done quickly and first so it’s out of the way. I might also realize that it’s completely unimportant and I can let it slide to the next day. No big deal.

A client of mine writes herself notes, and her notes have made me change the way I write my notes. They’re here and there on post its, but they’re not to-do necessarily, and they’re not your run-of-the-mill reminders causing clutter. She writes work down in other places, like dry erase boards and an ever-open paper calendar, but those other notes are really something. They’re more like big ideas. “I want fun profitable work,” one says. Another reminds her to get outside and play, and even says how much time she should spend doing that every day.

And so I’ve adapted my lists too, because she’s on to something big. I don’t just write my work stuff down because I’m not two people. I’m one person who needs to play and pay bills and do fun work and maybe pick up a few groceries. So I have one notebook for everything. Dinner parties? In there. Reminders for me to invoice stuff? In there. Big thoughts like “Get Awesome?” In there.

If you’re writing two or three lists in a bunch of different places for all those people you think you are, maybe consolidating your goals and things to do into one list is better. You’re one person with 24 brilliant hours in which you need to garden, play, run to the bank, find new customers, walk the dog, write a blog post, research something… and for me, I’d like everyday to be fun, productive, full, manageable, and profitable. I want to waste less time and get to gettin’, whether that’s gettin’ more yoga in or gettin’ projects done for clients.

You know what doesn’t make the list? TV. Angry Birds. Thumb twiddlin’. No wait, I do have some time blocked out tomorrow for thumb twiddlin’. I also have something down here for whistling and looking innocent. It’s slated to happen right after I eat some cake. Ha!

I’d love to hear what you think of this. What do you think of keeping one list for personal and business stuff? What do you want your days to look like?

How Creativity Works

Imagine by Jonah LehrerI’d like to share this Commonwealth Club of California Radio Program I heard the other day on MPBN. In it, Jonah Lehrer talks about something very familiar to us- moments of insight, epiphanies- and breaks down the science of it. When you click through to the Commonwealth Club site, look for the Tuesday, April 10, 2012 episode.

I’m not going to tell you what it should mean to you, I just know it will mean something to you. I won’t even tell you what it means to me, because it reminds me of projects past, clients present, and goals future. Too much to convey.

In a nutshell, he says creativity can have its moment when we step away from our desks and relax, not necessarily when we “chug redbull” or “chain ourselves to our desks.”

“Creativity is the residue of time wasted,” said Albert Einstein.

But Lehrer also talks about another important element of creativity and creative people- GRIT. Grit is what makes writers, composers, and scientists grind through multiple versions of their work, unwavering in their quest for the perfect answer.

His analysis of what happens in organizations is extremely interesting- that creative problem solving within a town versus within a company/corporate environment booms in one and decreases in the other. Guess which, guess why.

Oh, and brainstorming is bullcrippity. A feel-good exercise of backpatting with very little workable outcome. I knew it!!

It’s a fascinating talk, and I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think, eh?

Banging Through It: What I’m listening to this week.

I really appreciate it when people share what they like to listen while working. It’s an ever-evolving thing, isn’t it? Here are three songs that are either running in the background or running the whole show. It’s a blurry line for me.

Fanfarlo, “Shiny Things”

This one’s a no-brainer. Added it immediately to my weekly listens. It’s on heavy rotation.

Phantogram, “Don’t Move”

Off that great EP that just came out at the beginning of the year. I’m still not over it. Here’s a nice little live version for you.

Mutemath, “All or Nothing”

I triple dog dare you to try not to bob your head.

Ok now your turn. What are you listening to?

Your Library: An Asset for Home and Business

I received an email this morning from the Portland Public Library (Porltand, Maine) announcing a very helpful, informative series of talks and workshops about financial literacy, something for which many of us could use some coaching and support.

It got me thinking about my own participation, and how I’ve been lax in taking advantage of these incredible resources. I was also thinking I should share it with you, in case you’re in the Portland, Maine area, but especially if you’re from anywhere and you haven’t checked in with your library lately.

If you haven’t already, and even if you’ve got just a tiny library in your town, there are incredible events, talks, and resources available to you. I’ve seen small business seminars, talks about organizing homes and offices, and other surprising educational forums… for free. For you. Because you own the library. Because it’s there to serve your needs and somehow, creepily, they’ve got you figured out.

Not to mention, of course, the Library is a great place to work if you’re a telecommuter.

Here’s the info for that seminar in Portland. Spread the word, and if you’ve heard of some great event at your local library, do share it with your neighbors, too.

Week April 24th-27th, 2012 Join the Library in their effort to increase financial literacy and create a money smart community. The library will host the following events, sponsored by CA$H Greater Portland at United Way of Greater Portland, Women, Work and Community, and KeyBank as part of Money Smart Week. Workshops will be held April 24th through the 27th at the Main Library.

Set Your Financial Goals – Tuesday, April 24, 12-1 p.m.
Looking to set financial goals? Join us to find out how to prioritize your current finances and achieve your goals.

Keep It Safe – Wednesday, April 25, 12-1 p.m.
Join us to learn how to protect your bank account from scams. Keep your money and identity safe.

Count Every Dollar – Thursday, April 26, 12-1 p.m.
How do your spending habits impact your financial goals? Join us to look at how the money you spend today will impact your financial goals.

Credit Report Day – Friday, April 27,10 a.m.-2 p.m.
When was the last time you looked at your credit report? Your credit history (bill payments, credit card and loan debt) can impact your ability to make future purchases, qualify for employment, utilities and housing. Join us to review your free credit report and discover strategies to build good credit. Once you have your credit report, learn how you can multiply your savings with a Maine Family Development Account. Call 207-871-1700, ext. 725 to make your appointment. Walk-ins welcome upon availability.

Please call 207-871-1700, ext. 725 for further information.