Category Archives: CONTRIBUTORS

AUTHORS, CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH, WELLNESS

Why You Should Run in the Rain

Literally. I don’t mean this as a metaphor (“Run in the rain so the shiny rainbows of life sustain you in the darkness where you light your candles as a beacon … ”) or in the completely non-literal sense of how we apparently are using the word “literally” these days.

I mean that if you’re a runner, or a cyclist, or a walker, or a hiker, you need to still do your thing when it’s raining. Or when it’s snowing. Or cold. Or dark. Or you’re tired.

If you’re building a habit in pursuit of a goal, it’s a habit in pursuit of a goal. Not a fair-weather habit that will get you started maybe on a half-assed goal. Your habit needs to literally (and I mean literally) be an all-weather, all-circumstance goal.

Just Make a Decision?

It sounds like I’m saying is that all you do is make a decision and then you do the thing. Of course it’s harder than that or we’d all have done everything we ever decided to do. There’s a strategy in changing behaviors (which is what habits are). The Fogg Behavior Model created by Dr. BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, identifies three elements to creating a new behavior: motivation, ability, and trigger.

Ability is a function of whether something is easy to do or hard to do. I’m able to get up and run in the rain on a Saturday morning because it’s easy for me to do. Well, the actual running is always very hard, but one you’re out there, what are you going to do? Quit? In front of my team? Which is another way I’ve painted myself into the commitment corner, but that’s another topic for another day.

The Hardest Part

The key is to find out exactly the smallest bit that is the hard part. For most of us, getting up, getting dressed or changed when you get home, and getting started is the hard part. How many times have you struggled to get yourself up and to the gym, but then felt great once you got there and got started?

If the hardest part is starting, then find a way to make that easier. I’ve made it easier by not even having it be a decision I have to make when it is the actual time to make it. I decided long ago that I was running on Saturday mornings. And then I run in the rain because I’ve made the decision in advance. The rain becomes irrelevant.

It’s Saturday morning. I run. That’s what I’m going to do. I don’t have to spend any brain power that morning talking myself into getting up and getting out the door. I decided that yesterday. I actually decided it about two years ago – so I’ve also had some practice.

Make Fewer Decisions

If you’re trying to get an exercise or better eating or more writing habit going, the fewer decisions you make at that point of doing or not doing, the better. Deciding whether you’re going to do it is a big decision. Given the choice of running in the rain or not, my in-the-moment brain says “I’m warm and dry. Why would I even want to go out in this?”

Instead let your decision-making brain decide impartially in advance and set your schedule so it doesn’t matter what your right-now brain thinks. You’ve got a plan and now you don’t even need to think. Isn’t that what a job does for you? No, not make us stop thinking, but makes the decision for us that we’re getting up and getting started on our work. There’s no decision to make. It’s why I highly respect those who work for themselves and don’t procrastinate. Maybe they have applied this same strategy to their business and there’s no longer any question about whether or not they want to get the work done! They work “in the rain.”

Puddle-Stomping Fun

We haven’t had a lot of rain here in the last several years. Now that the Pineapple Express (the weather phenomenon not the movie or the “sativa-leaning hybrid”) is rolling through, I’m tempted to get some galoshes and just stomp through puddles. But, I do still like to pretend I’m an adult, so running in the rain is the next best thing.

There’s a slightly naughty sense of freedom. Defying fate to give us our death of cold. When you see other people out walking or running or riding in the rain, too, you want to give them a knowing wink. As if to acknowledge that feeling of getting away with something.

Since I’m not a witch or a little girl made of sugar or spice, I’m certainly not going to melt. On the contrary, I’ll come away from the run in the rain with a pile of wet laundry, stronger legs, and a greater belief in my own mental toughness.

Here’s to another rainy run!

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CONTRIBUTORS, HUMANITY, PERSONAL GROWTH

Your Declaration of SELFHOOD!

I have a fascination with the challenges and opportunities of life cycles. As a business women and leadership performance coach I have observed, engaged and challenged myself as well as other leaders around the dynamics and consequences that life cycles present to us. This can range from considering where we are with the launch of a business venture, a brand’s development profile or the germination of a new breakthrough idea and what needs to happen to fuel it forward, navigate its progress or manage the downside risks.

Life cycles are generally predictable when you are consciously mindful of them (start-up, growth, maturity and decline) and they are even more dangerously predictable when you are seemingly oblivious to them until they strike you between the eyes by surprise (yikes…should have seen that one coming, what a lost opportunity….maybe next time we will be more prepared).

The same, of course, is true of life stages though their impact on us is profoundly more personal and impactful. Life Stages as we know them are typically broken into 2 major categories: childhood and adulthood. Of course there are mini-stages embedded in these such as your teenage years or distinguishing between early and late adulthood that mirror what we would recognize as a more generalized life cycle as mentioned above.

What is unique in the life stage process, however, is the exciting potential for experiencing a stage few people reach. This stage simply requires a choice and a declaration for entry. It is a magical stage of life called SELFHOOD. The choice is to be undeniably conscious and certain of who you are (not what others want, hope or wish for you) and the declaration you need to make is your own personalized answer to the following “I am here to………in this life time”

Mark Twain said “the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

Let’s explore this a bit further…….

Childhood, whether a smooth ride or a confusing time for you, is heavily influenced by your surrounding adult role models (parents, teachers, friends and family) who share their views on life and while doing so are actively or passively setting up expectations for you that may or may not feel aligned with your own internal desires or natural hardwiring. Ultimately you will face how to handle these potential challenges as you mature and make your own decisions, though childhood is often the place your initial agreement or dissonance begins to surface.

The fact is that you can be and become anything you want in this lifetime. Our predetermined hardwiring for our true purpose, however, is often found in a soft voice inside of us if we can only quiet ourselves enough to listen to its clues and follow its lead. For some of us there are early and undeniable signs regarding our gifts and contributions. For others, it is the journey of self-discovery and piecing it all together that waits for us. Both paths lead can lead us to our own life stage of SELFHOOD. Unfortunately few of us arrive.

Our childhood is a toggle between safety and security on the one hand balanced against risk and adventure on the other. Parents have the challenging role of keeping us safe while also giving us space and time so we can explore what our true purpose is. How our parents and role models initially set this stage for us in childhood can dramatically affect the timing or potential opportunity for us ultimately reaching SELFHOOD. We must all come to learn however, that regardless of our obstacles, we alone always hold the power for our choices.

Enter now the challenges of adulthood. If you are mindful, reflective and brave you might discover on the brink of early adulthood who you are and where you want your passions in life to take you. If you are like most people, however, you might be overly influenced to emphasize the safety and security aspects of your journey as you now add the typical adulthood expectations and pressures of defining success in your life. Success is an illusive, variable concept that is difficult to define, but something you will nonetheless feel compelled to pursue. So whether it is a degree from an esteemed institution, a title next to your name, a role you play or a targeted monetary figure you hope to earn or save, you will seek to cross some finish line to declare your success especially if you are unsure about your purpose.

Your prize will be an affirming declaration that….I am a doctor, a lawyer, a CEO, a father or a member of the 1%. Impressive and yet, unfortunately, not the declaration required for arriving at your life stage of Selfhood.

Now don’t misunderstand me, being any one of the above is not a bad thing! In fact, many would color their lives amazing having achieved any one of them. The issue is that we are not products with titles, labels and values. We are people. Here to engage, build relationships, impact lives and make a difference for having been here.

The beauty and magic of SELFHOOD is that it can be found at any time you choose. Yes, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ we too can declare our SELFHOOD when we realize it is all within our control. Part of this realization is that safety, security and success (our metaphysical lion, scarecrow and tin man) are already within us.

Our journey to SELFHOOD is to find our significance by being clear about our unique contributions and most importantly where we can be in and of service to others during our lifetime.

The term SELFHOOD is not about being selfish, self-absorbed and self-centered. It is about being centered-in-self so that you can be a well-tuned instrument willing, able and ready to serve your highest purpose by sharing your gifts. It is primarily about giving and not receiving, although it is impossible to not experience pure joy and fulfillment when you are living your life on purpose!

So as you ponder the start of this New Year and where you are with your own stages of life, ask yourself if you are ready to now enter SELFHOOD? It is your choice to make after all at any time you choose to declare it.

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

Are you Change-Ready for 2017?

So here it is and here we are….AGAIN! A new shiny year with great expectations for how we are going to change ourselves and the world around us. Some of us have already made the usual to-do lists and promises of lofty and inspiring goals. Finally the year we will lose weight, get a new job or overcome that behavior we don’t like in ourselves. If I can just nail this goal I will be happy and the world will be “great again.”

change-readyThere are just 2 problems with this perennial approach we all seem to take each year. The first is that we always consider the output we want more than the input or throughput it will take to get there. So we usually fail quickly or get bored when our patience for immediate gratification runs out (anywhere from 3 days to 30 days for most of us☺). The second is that we tend to think of our goals in insolation instead of in the context of a system with environmental dynamics in which they actually exist.

So how can we make this year different?

1. Getting the Sequencing Right!

Part of the challenge with realizing our goals is that we just jump into them without planning. You know the common phrase “ready, willing & able?” Well it is out of sequence! If we don’t rearrange this concept before we get started we are going to run into problems. The correct sequence is “willing, able and ready” and here is why:

Willing – means you have the mindset of discipline to do the work! Without this contextual framework and emphasis on cognitively acknowledging that you need to actually “do the work” it’s game over pretty quickly. Just writing things down does not count!

Able – means that you are aware of and have set up the environmental conditions to assist you in approaching your challenges on the way to achieving your goals. Everything works in a system so you must enable or disable the system around you to ensure success. This can range from scheduling that gym time in the calendar along with your exercise goals for the day, to getting some targeted coaching on that specific behavior you want to work on or even scoping out the homework or networking plan to explore that next career opportunity before you go to an event and start randomly meeting people.

Ready – Okay now armed with the mindset and environmental framework of what will be required, its time to get out there and start working! On what exactly you might be asking…..on being Change-Ready!

2. Being Change Ready!

Every goal we have ever reached has been over time as we have taken one step and then another. For many of us, we have most often done this unconsciously and out of need rather than want. When there is an urgent or pressing need our ability to persevere and be resilient is usually not a problem. It’s when it is more of a want without immediate consequences where we have our bigger challenges of maintaining conscious discipline.

Being Change-Ready requires that we apply conscious discipline to do 2 things over and over again to ensure traction & momentum forward:

a. Facilitate Progress
b. Facilitate Aligned Action

When we facilitate progress we are not just acknowledging that an action is required, we are in fact acting on a step forward. It can be one step or several that creates some traction toward our goal. So schedule gym time in your calendar with a note on whether today is a cardio or weight day and ensure you have enough time to get there and enjoy the experience. Or perhaps, print out your resume and start reading it over with a pen, circling those areas you know need updating and adjustment before you can start some serious networking conversations. These small steps create the energy of forward momentum. It is YOU, however, that must initiate the facilitation of progress with the first step and commit to practice taking these first steps everyday continuously!

When we facilitate aligned action we are setting up our new system to enable success or disable obstacles that can derail us. So clean out the refrigerator and pantry before your new dieting approach is scheduled to start, don’t schedule networking events when you would normally go to the gym and let others know what your goals are so they can be supportive of you vs. sabotaging you unconsciously!

Make 2017 a year of being Change-Ready! All goals can be achieved when we are willing, able and ready to “do the work” by facilitating progress and aligned action on a daily basis! Good luck this year!

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, MARKETING

10 Steps To Make Your Marketing Dollars Work Smarter

As marketers in the B2B space, the challenge is in allocating marketing budgets strategically to ensure the highest potential return. Moreover, marketing should be considered the effort of creating awareness for your business. It’s how prospective clients are exposed to your business and ultimately evolve into buying clients.

According to Forrester’s “Focus B2B Marketing Budget Gains on Business Outcomes to Succeed in 2014” report, B2B product and service marketing budgets range between 13% and 6% respectively. Interestingly, B2B companies with less than $25 million in revenues represented the higher end of the scale with 13.9% marketing spend.

Regardless of where you lie within this scale, the important thing to note is allocating a marketing investment budget is absolutely essential to create awareness and relevancy. Current marketing investment trends continue to evolve but within those executional tactics the tried and true remain which include the following: content marketing, mobile marketing, social media marketing and allocations to upgrading websites.

Here are 10 Ways to Make Your Marketing Dollars Work Smarter:

1. Upgrade your website:
Your website should be considered your marketing homebase. It is essential that it is “viewable” on all digital platforms like mobile, desktop, laptop, etc. What used to be recommended is now required. In fact, companies are not guaranteed to have a presence in search results, done via mobile, if their website is not mobile friendly. An investment in an adapative and responsive design for your website will ensure that your website will show up in the search results when someone is looking for your solution.

2. Invest in cohesive branding
Think of how we easily we recongize major brands by their logo: The swoosh? Nike. Golden arches? McDonald’s. We even connect colors with particular brands, such as green and gold with John Deere tractors. Regardless of your love or hate relationship with these brands, they show up cohesively across all customer touch points in a professional manner. Remember that a professional appearance not only builds recognition online and offline, but also builds trust. An additional benefit to having cohesive branding is the ability to build brand equity overtime, one that could be monetized in multiples of your revenue.

3. Content marketing strategy
According to Smart Insights, who polled more than 600 marketers, the lionshare of focus for marketers in 2016 is on content marketing (53%). Providing quality content online to build apparent authority and expert insights is the objective of content marketing. The name of the game is adding value, which builds subject matter expertise; something your customers and prospects love.

4. Community Management / Social listening
An often overlooked component of marketing is community management and social listening. Monitoring what is being said online is critical to not only protect your brand but also to create engagement with your customers. Additionally, by closely monitoring you can mitigate the compound effect of bad press. Instead you can turn that into an opportunity for client recovery, a very powerful strategy to help gain visibility that you are a brand that cares. But the most important reason for managing your reputation online is because many people take their customer service issues directly to social media.

5. Video Marketing
2015 was the tipping point for video marketing as the go-to medium for engagement. Daily video playbacks on Facebook totaled 4 billions videos per day in early 2015. By the end of that same year, views had doubled. There is no doubt that incorporating video into your marketing outreach is an effective way to create engagement.

6. Strategic Partner Marketing
A strategic partner plan offers the ability to cross promote and potentially accelerate market penetration. Partnerships come in a variety of ways whether it’s financial, marketing focused, supplier relationships, etc., The optimal scenario is where you complement your strategic partner to the extent that you gain a competitive advantage with your aggregated offering.

7. Guest Blog Posting
Blogging is still a relevant way to find your audience. Guest blogging is a great way to drive traffic back to your website, increase sales, and grow your brand. The important thing to remember is that your guest blogging outreach should be carefully targeted towards blogs that your perfect customer is likely to read, and that are credible.

8. Podcasting
One of the newer outreach methods is podcasting. There is a very low barrier to entry if you are interested in starting a podcast about your niche. You can create a platform where you offer expert advice. By including a social syndication backend to your podcasting you can ensure that your content will circulate through the web on a consistent basis. Don’t want to take on another marketing task like podcasting? Go on a podcasting tour, researching the top 10 podcasts in your field. It’s a great way to connect to influencers in your space.

9. Google AdWords
Google AdWords can be a great complement to your social media strategy. By leveraging keywords, specific to your industry, you can be the solution to your perfect customer’s problems. One of the big benefits, is that unlike direct mail or print, Google Adwords results can be closely monitored and measured.

10. App Marketing such as Quora
Resource apps like Quora are a great way to establish credibility. There you can do searches for keywords in your industry and provide answers to your prospect’s most challenging situations. It is also a good source for market research as a way to test a potential idea or marketing campaign.

Tapping into the power of Digital Marketing, a B2B company can gain relevancy that is not only cost effective but can also leave a blueprint online to further build brand equity.

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Best selling author Pamela Herrmann & Patty Dominguez are the Co-Founders of CREATE Buzz, committed to helping small businesses get customers and keep customers by taking the overwhelm out of technology and online marketing. Pamela is the author of, “The Customer Manifesto – How Business Has Failed Customers & What It Takes To Earn Lasting Loyalty”. They co-host The Morning Would Show bringing the latest in marketing tips and strategies.

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE

The Intrepid Guide to Flying On Commercial Airlines

While I am not a billion mile flyer, I do travel more than the average person, and over the years, I’ve accumulated a few basic rules of common sense and basic courtesy that all should follow.

Frankly, I shake my head at what some people do on airplanes. And don’t excuse it because they do not fly very often – a lot of these guidelines are just common sense.

And if you follow these, you’ll enjoy your flight more, the passengers around you will too, and won’t want to smack you with a brick!

Flying On Commercial Airlines: The Guidelines:

Flying Commercial AIrlines1. Don’t recline your seat. The person behind you is in a sardine can already. Why be thoughtless and selfish?

2. You are sitting behind me, yes. But that doesn’t mean you are allowed to use my seat back as a means of pulling your fat ass up from the seated position. You do realize you are sling-shotting me into my coffee, right. And every now and then, pulling my hair.

3. Why do you have to eat food in the plane before we take off? Can’t you eat in the terminal before boarding? Especially stinky food. Really?

4. Middle seat patrons gets both armrests. Period. End of sentence.

5. Go ahead and sleep. But if you know that you snore, be mindful. If you do, I will Instagram your face when you drool all over yourself.

6. Who in the hell farted? Jesus-age-of-Christ-on-a-popsicle-stick. Really?

7. It’s bad enough that TSA makes us take our shoes off at inspection. But don’t do it on the plane. Your feet smell.

8. Enjoy your music. Just don’t make ME “enjoy” your music. #VolumeControl

9. When the flight attendant walks up and down the aisle to gather refuse, this is not license to empty all the crap out of your backpack.

10. If I’m wearing headsets or reading, it means that I don’t want to talk to you.

11. Kids are going to cry and fuss on a plane. That can’t be helped. But the parents better make an effort to try.

12. Don’t kick the seat in front of you. You’d bitch if someone did it to you.

13. Don’t invade my personal space. Your elbow, shoulder, or belly is NOT allowed in my space.

14. If you’re boarding and wearing a backpack and you turn and smack my head with it, I may stand up and smack you right back.

15. When you are the last zone to board, don’t be surprised and don’t complain if you have to check your bag. #Reality

16. When the TSA agent says “Keep nothing in your pockets,” it means the following: KEEP NOTHING IN YOUR DAMN POCKETS.” No keys, no ID, no wallet, no coins and change, no pens, no candy bars…NOTHING. It’s actually quite simple…

17. Why do you wait until the last possible minute to get yourself ready for the TSA X-ray and bag scan process? As in, don’t wait until you get scolded by the agents to remove the STUFF FROM YOUR DAMN POCKETS.

18. When you put your carryon in the overhead rack, can’t you take an extra second to position it so that others can utilize the space too? That overhead bin isn’t your personal, private storage rack.

19. When deplaning, don’t stop immediately after exiting the jetway – and in the middle of the exit area – to check your connecting flight info. There are 200 people stacked up behind you. Get your head out of your fanny, and get off to the side.

20. If it is an evening (or early morning) flight, and you AREN’T reading or doing anything that requires it, please turn off your overhead light. That damn thing is bright.

21. A little hack I’ve devised over the years: If I am assigned to Row 20, I don’t wait until I get to Row 20 to see if there is space in the overhead bin. If I notice available space on my way back, say at Row 10, I’ll go ahead and put my carryon right there, and just pick it up as I deplane. Simple.

22. If you have an assigned seat, sit in the damn thing. Almost every flight I take, someone sits in a different seat. And every time, this causes stress and a commotion.

23. And if you are assigned a window or middle seat and take my aisle seat, don’t ask me if I want to switch. I specifically requested that aisle seat.

24. When getting your luggage from baggage claim, don’t jump all over me and step on my foot to grab your bag. I promise, it will come around again.

25. For gate attendants: We know that you cannot control weather delays, crew issues, or mechanical problems with the plane. But, for God-sakes, I beg you, please get on the PA system and keep us informed. That’s all we want. Well, and a cocktail.

26. When you arrive at your seat during boarding, don’t stand in the aisle for ten minutes extracting all the crap you’ll need for the flight. Get out of the way, there is a long line of people trying to get to THEIR seat too.

27. You don’t get to cut in line just because you are running late. We’re all dealing with tight flight schedules. Manage your time better.

28. Build in some time at the airport pre-flight. Why wait until that last minute? If you have time to kill, so what? No stress, and you’ve got time to grab some coffee or cocktails, and read a book.

29. When we are waiting to deplane and we are ALL standing in the aisle waiting to get off the plane, be sure to scan the area before you blindly open the overhead bin door and smack some poor bastard in the head as it pops open.

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This is BY NO MEANS a complete list. And I will continue to add and revise as time passes, and as new experiences inform new rules and guidelines!

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP, PERSONAL GROWTH

Activity rules success

When I began in sales, I sought my own form of certainty as I entered the very uncertain prospects of the world of business – a world that was foreign to me. Sales was an uncharted, vast, and unknown territory. I didn’t have a compass, but I did have a direction. The “North Star” of my future map appeared from the belief that “Activity Rules Success”. No matter the talent level of the artist, actor, or sales agent, the more purposeful, directed activity generated, the more opportunity we can bring to successful fruition.

All life is forward process or it is in decline. Life demands we risk – initiate change or adapt to it when necessary. Change is scary for some, but it is the way forward, through the fields of fear and uncertainty, into the new light of expression.

Business is a living organism comprised, directed and engaged from the minds and hearts of people. The following, from Always Forward! Discover the 7 Secrets of Sales Success, will shorten the distance and lessen the pain from where you are now and where you are determined to go in the future. It is the way through fear, and a “North Star” for increase in life:

1. Think and Do – the shorter the distance between a deliberate thought and a decisive action, the greater the chance of success in the endeavor – the opposite is also true. Some think too long and don’t do, opportunity vanishes, someone else does the taking. Some do without thinking, rush in, and fail. The victory goes to those who think and then do with decisiveness, conviction, and alacrity.

2. Time waits for no one – it is inelastic – we can’t retrieve the minutes, the hours, the days, or years we squander. Stay engaged in the present, don’t live in the past, learn from it and influence your future by applying the lessons from the experience.

3. Find a way or make a way! Resilience is the stuff that overcomes the impediments and obstacles that will appear as a challenge to our forward motion. Think creatively, act decisively, don’t quit, think and apply a new strategy, approach from another plane of the thought, and always move forward!

4. 33-1/3% of people won’t buy us, our persuasive portfolio, our sterling personality, or our product. It’s a rough-hewn law of mine that hedges against the inevitable occurrence of rejection. Rejection is a part of the game – it’s part of the bargain to move forward, but if 33-1/3% of people will never buy from us, for their reasons, that leaves 66-2/3% ripe for the approach, and perhaps open to the message. If 66-2/3% will entertain the messenger, they will listen to the message – the more activity we generate, the bigger our base of 66-2/3%…

5. Walk Away Power – don’t push a bad position, learn to walk away from a negotiation. A bad position is anything that would make you lose your self-respect. Money is often recoupable, it can be bargained away from a bad position, or risked from a bold undertaking. But, giving up your self-respect is a choice only you can make.

6. YCDGBSOYA – You Can’t Do Good Business Sitting On Your A** – you have to get out and engage with people, push away from the plastic keyboard; don’t send an email when an in person visit will tip the balance in your favor. Go with your gut feel! If it feels like you should meet with someone, then “Find a way or make a way” to get in front of them.

Remember, try not to take rejection personally. It’s a numbers game! It’s like politics: Some people will always vote with the Blue States, some with the Red – you need to win the middle and your preferred Blue or Red states. If you generate planned, directed activity consistently, turn thought to action, and find a way or make a way to move your value proposition forward, you can begin to build a forum for success. Learn when to walk away from a bad position and know when to meet with people and create the interpersonal dynamic that makes all the difference from those who win the deal and those who take home the silver or bronze medal.

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Game ChangerBill Wooditch is a keynote speaker and peak-performance business training coach. He is a mentor and advocate for those who actively seek and are determined to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

He began his career with $200 to his name, a suitcase, one corduroy suit and two ties. Retreat wasn’t an option; there was only one way – Always Forward! His purpose, energy and conviction fueled his meteoric sales success. In two years, he “found a way and made a way” to become the top salesperson at Liberty Mutual – a company employing over 19,000 people at the time. Ready for the “next challenge”, he was recruited by and joined the 6th largest broker in the world, Corroon & Black (currently the Willis Group), where, for two consecutive years, he earned the distinction as the top producer in the company.

Today, he is the founder, CEO, and president of The Wooditch Group, a privately held risk management and insurance services firm. The Wooditch Group provides client-centric solutions and comprehensive risk management programs for domestic and international clients whose revenues range from $10 million to over $3 billion. He is also the founder of Think Next, Act Now!, a company that trains and mentors tomorrow’s entrepreneur today.

He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Purdue University and his Master’s degree in Public Administration at Penn State.

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH, SIMPLE LIVING

The Simple Rule For Decluttering

There is one simple rule for decluttering your home, office, and life:

Get rid of one thing. Every day.

I don’t care how trivial. Heck, I am cool with you discarding one pair of socks. That counts, in my opinion.

Now, it goes without saying, that the key for this rule to work? You HAVE TO rid yourself of ONE THING PER DAY. No matter what.

Removing one pair of socks over the course of a whole week isn’t going to have an impact. You need to do this EVERY DAY. One thing. Just one thing.

Here’s what you’re going to find: This will feel tremendously freeing. You will IMMEDIATELY feel the weight lifting off of your shoulders.

Even if you remove just one pair of socks per day.

And you’ll also find that you’ll build momentum too.

Removing the excess clutter from your life will be important, but what you are really striving for here is achieving that feeling of freedom.

Trust me, it is a glorious thing…

So, where did this little rant come from? My wife and I moved to Chicago earlier this year, and live in a simple, two bedroom, two bath apartment. Lots of people I communicate with (especially at our age) simply cannot imagine living in an 1,100 square foot space.

And they were amazed to hear that we recently moved from one apartment to another in four days. And I don’t mean moved all of our stuff out of the old apartment and moved all the boxes into the new, and then spent days or weeks reorganizing all the stuff.

I am talking about four days to get everything put back into its place. Four days.

How did we do it?

Simple. Over the years, we’ve decluttered. And now own only what we need and treasure.

In my view, most people are stuck in a large space because they simply can’t bear the burden of dealing with all the crap they’ve accumulated over all those years.

You know who you are. The garage is a storage unit, not a place to keep your vehicles. Attic? Full. Basement? Full of unpacked boxes from the last move. Storage units? So full of stuff you don’t even know what’s in there.

The ticket to freedom is removing one thing a day.

I don’t care if you throw the item into a trash bin. I don’t care if you load up the car with a pile of stuff to donate to GoodWill. I don’t care if you give it away. And I don’t care if you sell it.

When my wife Stephanie decides she no longer needs or wants an item, she’ll often sell it to an online boutique community. She’s sold a bunch of clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry over the years.

Where do you start?

How about the junk drawer (you know the one I mean)? Clothes and shoes you never wear? All the junk in basements, attics, and storage units (if the item was important, would it really be in your basement, attic, or storage unit…packed into a dusty box)? And what about the kitchen? Do you really need three bottle openers?

And how to handle the family heirloom you secretly don’t want, but don’t have the guts to discard? Take a photo of it, and then donate it to someone who might actually value and use it. Why a photo? Because if you are honest with yourself, it’s the memory of the thing, not that actual physical object, that gives you good feelings.

And don’t forget to discard life events that clutter up your life. Those count too!

Like what you ask: That meeting over coffee that you don’t really want to do; A networking event where you won’t really meet any people important to your business; that “friend” who only takes and never gives back; or that work colleague who asks for your help, not because they need your insight, but because they secretly want you to do most of the work.

Discard that stuff too. REMEMBER: mental clutter is as big of a problem as the physical stuff…

Here’s a final piece of advice: You will never be perfect. So stop worrying about it. Day by day. One thing at a time. An item that’s important to you today might not be in six months.

Long ago when I started to simplify my life, I tried the typical “Let me spend the weekend getting rid of everything” process.

I failed. Big time overwhelm.

But when I started to remove one thing per day, it began to happen. And you will feel just as free when you discard one thing as you will discarding an entire closet.

So get started. Slowly. You’ll find that you will look forward to opening the garbage can lid to mercilessly toss away that pair of old socks…

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

Work With Your Nature – Not Against It!

Game-changers break the rules that others fear to bend. The ultimate challenge for the inspired sales person is to become a “game-changer” – a challenge which delivers rewards equal to its requirements. Game-changers make the rules. They use their instinct to govern, their head to drive as they convince, compel and attract from both their person and their product. They create a standard of care for another that often is not in compliance with the limitations of rules.

People are often turned-off by an approach that is “run-of-the-mill”, predictable and void of the creativity that bears the brand of originality. Here’s a novel approach – engage a person as a person, not a concept! Your customer or prospective customer will thank you for exhibiting behavior that is authentic and often disarming because of its honest approach. “You can’t be all things to all people,” some sage purportedly uttered… Learn your value and don’t surrender it on the altar of “I have to please everyone” – you’ll end up pleasing no one and gravely disappointing the most important person in the equation: you! (See “Always Forward!” secret # 5 – “The Rule of 33-1/3 Percent”)

Make it a personal challenge to do that which provides a relief from boredom. Boredom is that unfocused haze of distraction that casts its cloud over the average business person’s day. You may work with or for average; these people show up physically but not mentally. They do just enough to get through the day, expanding four hours of work into eight. They pick up a paycheck, go home to the blank void of fabricated distraction until the alarm goes-off signaling the start of the next day’s “walk through”.

The fun, for me and it may be for you, is found in the game – get in play; risk making those mistakes that generate growth through intelligent risk. Risk creates opportunity. Opportunity is that which we make available. Make opportunity available and seize the initiative. Forward movement, directed and managed with purpose and conviction will make you distinctive. Look around you – most people look like outcasts from a Walking Dead casting call. Now, you are going to get bumped and bruised, you’ll miss the mark at times, you may offend and the meek and mild aren’t going to “like you”. They will fear you – embrace it! People are change averse. Mention the word, and watch their knees get weak. They don’t know what the change is or what it means, but their instinct sends a signal, “Not good – not good – saber-tooth tiger – not good!” We’re hardwired to fear loss and avoid change. We deviate from this internal wiring by degree – each of us are unique, bearing our individual stamp of DNA imprint. My suggestion is to work with your nature, not against it. You either have the “stuff” to change the game, or you may want to partner with those people who do and can.

Speaking of “those who can and do” – remember this: ego with talent is confidence, ego without talent is arrogance. Be humble, be hungry, be confident. Treat people with respect, but follow your inner-rebel, the one that is imbued with ethics, integrity, manifesting the character that defines your nature.

You will grow daily as a person from the self-challenge of risk and the demands of authenticity. When you bring constructive contribution to your company’s system, you can animate that system – you will make it vibrant, it will come alive from the pulse of your personality. Your personality can bring the vibrancy of color and feel to the staid, non-descript conformity of the system. You can follow in lock-step and be the soldier in the rank and file, but we need those who push the boundaries of possibility and create new standards, fresh tracks in the snow, the path of achievement that now can be followed by others.

We need the panache and the originality of the game-changer. Game-changers spearhead innovation. They are on that bleeding edge that cuts and enables. They take the cuts, bleed, learn, adapt and grow.  They grow their personal platform and further our strategic vision. They are the ones that create those opportunities that we cash when we make payroll, pay debt, provide benefits and provide contributions, rewards and bonuses. We all flourish from the risk, the sacrifice and the results of their efforts.

Our companies need people on the support lines. We also need people on the front lines – those are the ones that feed our support teams as our support teams provide stewardship and care that feeds credibility and residual income to the front lines. Look in the mirror. Be realistic – are you willing to pay the price that each position requires? Within each position in the company, be it sales or service, YOU have the opportunity, every day to change the game for yourself, your family, your team and your company. You can be a game-changer in sales just as you can be a game-changer in service. Find a way to yes, find a way to anticipate and address a client’s wishes and needs.

It takes courage to change the game. There is risk, there is reward, there is disappointment, loss, success and gain. I think Churchill sums it up best, “Success is going from failure to Failure Without Losing Your Enthusiasm.”

Locate your inner Churchill – find the energy, the enthusiasm, marry it with self-belief and the product of the union will change the game!

Create or follow a path, make a choice, but whatever the choice may be, go “Always Forward!”

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Game ChangerBill Wooditch is a keynote speaker and peak-performance business training coach. He is a mentor and advocate for those who actively seek and are determined to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

He began his career with $200 to his name, a suitcase, one corduroy suit and two ties. Retreat wasn’t an option; there was only one way – Always Forward! His purpose, energy and conviction fueled his meteoric sales success. In two years, he “found a way and made a way” to become the top salesperson at Liberty Mutual – a company employing over 19,000 people at the time. Ready for the “next challenge”, he was recruited by and joined the 6th largest broker in the world, Corroon & Black (currently the Willis Group), where, for two consecutive years, he earned the distinction as the top producer in the company.

Today, he is the founder, CEO, and president of The Wooditch Group, a privately held risk management and insurance services firm. The Wooditch Group provides client-centric solutions and comprehensive risk management programs for domestic and international clients whose revenues range from $10 million to over $3 billion. He is also the founder of Think Next, Act Now!, a company that trains and mentors tomorrow’s entrepreneur today.

He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Purdue University and his Master’s degree in Public Administration at Penn State.

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, MARKETING, SALES

5 Skills That Create A Front Line Dream Team

Front line employees are the lynch pin to sales growth for any organization. It’s most typically the first person your customer sees when they arrive, and the last they see when they leave. They are your most powerful employees because they can influence a customer’s decision to come back, buy more and tell others.

The only difference between you and your competition is the experience your team delivers. Fortunately, the customer experience is one of the most difficult things for your competitors to copy. Why? Because experiences are wholly dependant on the individuals delivering them. The conundrum is that most often these individuals are your lowest paid employees who are only with you for a short amount of time.

If you want your customers to have an exceptional experience every time, that is consistently delivered upon by 100% of your staff, then it begins with a powerful question your front line employees may be thinking, and you must be prepared to answer:

“What’s in it for me?”

WIIFM — You may be familiar with this commonly used marketing acronym to determine what would compel someone to take a desired action. When you understand the answer to WIIFM as it relates to your employee, you’ll unlock the secret to their motivations and help drive their actions to perform for your business at their highest.

What all employees want is to earn more money. How they earn more income throughout their career is by developing skill, knowledge and experience that adds greater value to an organization.

The Life Skills Toolbox Concept

If you want your employees, regardless of their pay scale, to be exceptional, then The Life Skills Toolbox Concept is one that you will want to share with them during the hiring process. It is a mutually agreed upon set of expectations that 1) You will teach them skills that will increase their value and can be added to their toolbox to be used throughout their career, and 2) In exchange, they agree to perform their duties as your brand ambassador using these skills consistently.

The following are 5 critical skills that belong in every toolbox for success that will ensure your employees are taking exceptional care of your customers:

1. Honor the hospitality zone. This is all about making the customer feel welcome and acknowledged. Smile at 10 ft. and greet at 5 ft. Speak first and speak last. Acknowledge those customers standing in line even when assisting others.

2. Personalize and enhance the experience. Individualize the experience by using the customer’s last name whenever possible, add friendly comments, offer products and services based on need. Anticipate their needs and offer upsells.

3. Communicate professionally. Take a cue from the hospitality industry and replace, “No problem” with “My pleasure”. Body language says a lot, train your employees to make theirs positive and open. Keep side conversations out of customer earshot.

4. Take ownership. If you want customers to feel like they are a priority to you then offer assistance, don’t wait to be asked. Find a way to offer options without saying “no”. The customer’s problem is your problem until you can find a resolution.

5. Protect the brand. Your employees are a direct reflection of your company’s brand. While individuality should be encouraged, set guidelines for your employees to follow so that they are proudly representing the brand. Your employees should demonstrate pride of ownership, and your store should be an environment that proudly hosts customers as your guest.

The quality of your customer experience will never exceed the quality of the people delivering it.

The Life Skills Toolbox is a value exchange that every employee should get behind, and if they can’t or worse, won’t, then they’ve just self sorted out. You don’t want that person on your team. The enormous benefit of this agreement to you is that it affords you a system to train against, a way to measure and monitor their performance along the way and your customers will immediately recognize the difference between you and your competitor.

The best way to improve the economy of your business and the economy of our country is to move low wage workers up the income ladder. Regardless of whether they are a part time employee over the summer or with you for the long haul, what employees require is skill development so that as they advance through their career, they have collected skill, knowledge and experience that gives them opportunities to add increasing value to their employers. Investment in your employees’ toolbox creates happier customers, higher profits and employees who are highly engaged, loyal and demonstrate attributes of true brand ambassadorship.

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Pam-250-x-250Pamela Herrmann & Patty Dominguez are the Co-Founders of CREATE Buzz, committed to helping small businesses get customers and keep customers by taking the overwhelm out of technology, thus creating sustainable thriving businesses that are relevant. They co-host The Morning Would Show bringing the latest in marketing tips and strategies.

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

Get used to being uncomfortable

I have a good friend going through a tough time right now. He’s just recently suffered a big loss, and despite putting out a strong front to the world, I know he is struggling mightily.

“I suck at this,” he says. Followed by “I feel so broken.”

I get it. We’ve all been there.

And then today, as I write this, I had a big business setback myself. A project I was counting on fell through at the very last minute.

“How could this have happened to me,” I yelled out loud earlier today, within earshot of my poor wife who had no choice but to listen to my frustrated rant.

I’m feeling pretty blue as a result. This despite the fact that at this very moment in my life, I’ve never been happier, I’ve never felt more optimistic, and the growth track with my business remains overwhelmingly positive.

But setbacks and losses still suck. They still hurt. A lot. And it’s easy to fall into a tailspin as a result.

Here is what I am learning: Setbacks are a regular part of life. As much as you don’t want them to happen, they do. YOU HAVE NO CHOICE IN THIS MATTER.

And instead of curling up in the fetal position, or venting through loud vocal obscenities and rage like I do, foolishly, you have to suck it up and move on.

As a new friend of mine says, you have go forward, “Always Forward.”

Business and life is uncomfortable. It just is. If you expect it to be smooth and easy, you’ll be disappointed.

But it is moving forward, picking yourself back up, taking one step forward at a time = THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP GOING.

You know this, even if you are unwilling to admit it.

All the great ones do this. You can too. I can too. And I have to, for people are counting on me.

Life is uncomfortable. And it always will be. You have no choice but to accept that, and take that on as a personal challenge, and embrace it.

The Sun will come up tomorrow, the clock will keep ticking, dust will keep going through the hourglass, and you’ll still be there…

The question is will you be wallowing in it and sucking on your thumb? Or will you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward…Always Forward?

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