Tag: First impressions

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  • 07
    Jul
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    5 Ways I Messed Up Launching My Business

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    Today we welcome Sheila Smith, author of The Birthday Dragon, which she proudly self-published this year.  Sheila candidly shares her experience of launching her own business, and the mistakes she learnt from along the way.  Thanks for joining us, Sheila!  Emma :) As I prepared to self-publish my first book, The Birthday Dragon, I thought (rather smugly) that the business side would be easy. Experienced in publishing and in business generally, I wasn't going to do anything silly. Yes, that’s the sound of my forehead hitting the desk. Not only did I do it all wrong, I didn’t even do what I already knew! What was I actually doing when I should have been getting the business side squared away? Well… mostly coughing while I formatted until my eyes bled. As a one-person business, there was only me to get things done.  And I simply wasn't all there. I'd come down with the flu, which was the topper to a ghastly six months for me. So, right as I published my book (in a fever-dream), I spent a couple of weeks in a state of semi-collapse. If I could do it all again, I’d do plenty of things differently.  Here’s my top five mistakes. 1.      Don’t forget your launch plan. You need it where you can see it. Consider having it tattooed inside your eyelids, or on the forehead of your beloved. I forgot to look at my plan. Completely. 2.      Emotions are great fuel, but don’t leave your brain behind. Someone bought a copy of my book, emotion took over and my mind went completely blank. I forgot I was even launching a business. 3.      Don’t be vague. I was planning to launch sometime in June, thinking I was avoiding pressuring myself. But sometime on May 30th, while in a flu haze, I became obsessed with publishing on June 1st. This is probably how the first edition ended up with an entire scene accidentally deleted from chapter one! 4.      Even no-budget launches need marketing and PR. I made a few semi-hysterical tweets about my book’s debut. Sales went into double figures on the first day. I thought this might happen in a few months. In shock, I was convinced (in my delirium) that it would be arrogant to note who mentioned buying it. I did thank them though! 5.      Without my support systems, I was fail. I ignored my friends. Several marketing and PR lovelies sent long thoughtful emails, to which I said mostly “Argh no!”. Instead of figuring a way to use what they suggested, I had knee-jerk reactions based on my current (ill, over-emotional, reclusive) circumstances. Part of my problem was an inability to see even simple solutions, and my plan - that I wasn’t looking at - needed an escape clause written in. It’s my own fault. Excuses are symptoms of a deeper malaise. When I planned my book it was done with flexibility in mind. I even shifted my narrator from one character to the next, and the plan (with the flock of attendant spreadsheets) took it all. With inflexibility, and by ignoring good advice, I lost that golden period where a book has the gloss of ‘new release’ shining on it. I’m confident about overcoming this shaky start, but I’ve made it hard for myself, and where’s the sense in that? What lessons did you learn along the way when starting your own business? Sheila Smith, Author, The Birthday Dragon

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  • 03
    Feb
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    Maybe the problem with business is you

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    Today we welcome back Malcolm Owens to Small Business Owner. Following some recent experiences and observations Malcolm is keen to share his insights with you and get your thoughts.  Welcome back Malcolm.  Please do not complain to me about a tight market, poor sales, dwindling store traffic and reducing profits when the biggest problem in your business could be you. How do small business operators expect to succeed and make money when, in some cases, it appears that they are doing absolutely everything possible to lose the sale? Here’s a couple of examples. Example 1.  My passion and hobby is restoring classic cars. I contacted a specialist about replacing all of the rubber seals (doors, windows, headlights etc). This costs $1500+. I contacted them and asked if they have a ‘car pack’ for my type of car. They emailed back a price list and said work it out and let us know. I asked them because I didn’t know what I wanted! If they had spent five minutes cutting and pasting a list and said ‘here’s what you need’ I would have given them my credit card details the same day. It wasn’t about money. I would have paid what they asked. They deal with a specialist market and limited customers yet they were not prepared to do the bare minimum to secure a sale. I have 7 classic cars, surely I could be considered as a reasonable prospect? Example 2.  After Christmas my son had cash and wanted to buy a flat screen TV. We went off to a retailer offering ‘service, advice and the right price’. As one of the very few customers in the store that morning, we stood by the display and tried to catch the eye of one of the 10+ staff members. The first replied with ‘not my department’, the second was too busy taping up a box. I went to the counter where two young men were sitting on the counter peacocking to the girl on the register. I asked for assistance and one rolled his eyes and dragged himself off the counter. I said don’t bother and left to purchase elsewhere. For those of you that are doing a great job you can feel good that the competition is handing you their customers on a plate. For the rest I have no sympathy. Spending money on advertising is wasted if you are not prepared to do the basics correctly. Look at your business through the eyes of the customer and see what you need to improve. Most of it is easy, a better attitude and a smile, and the good news is it’s free. What are you going to do today to ensure you don’t lose your customers?   Malcolm Owens  

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  • 18
    Jan
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    Business Cards from the Edge.

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                                                      Hello, my name is ...   Our business card discussion (Cardinal Sins) attracted more visitors than any other post. Given this interest, I thought I’d update you on my quest for a non-crap business card.   Heaven Must be Missing an Angela The very kind and very smart Angela den Hollander is redoing my business card. She began proceedings by sending me a design brief. I’ve sent similar tools to my clients for years. But I’ve never answered one myself. Now that I know how much effort (thinking) they require, I can see why some clients freak out about them. But because I had some time on my hands during the break, I was able to knuckle down and push through. I’ve tabled our Q&A verbatim, so you can see what’s involved. You’ll also be well qualified to judge what Angela comes up with. Here we go! Angela’s red. I’m blue.   Design Brief What is your registered business name? The Feisty Empire Do you have a tagline? Fighting Words What’s your goals over the next 12 months? Get more work from current clients. Convert word-of-mouth referrals into new clients. Restore losses sustained during the GFC. Increase revenue to retire debt and gain freedom. Does your business name have a specific meaning? It’s an indulgence. Feisty is my nickname and this is my Empire. Full story here. Logo and stationery specific questions What are the three most important things you would like your logo to convey? I’m a top-notch expert in my fields. I’m original, highly creative and not run of the mill. Despite the above, I’m also extremely professional and ‘safe’ in corporate settings. Your preferences - likes and dislikes Please send samples of at least 3 logos you like and tell us why. You can forward these via email or send us their web site urls. Lufthansa. I like the elegant lines and the stylisation of the bird. It’s simple, graceful and effective. Bentley. I like the old world charm of this logo. The B is nice and bold and the wings are lovely to look at. It suggests elegance and style (neither of which I possess). Pontiac. I like the metallic sheen, the sharp edges, the red colour and the pointy bits. I feel it suggests grace, elegance, efficiency and speed – all qualities I value highly. Please send samples of at least 3 logos you don’t like and tell us why. Pepsi (new). I find this logo meaningless. It’s out of whack and it just looks completely lame. I can’t make head or tail of it. And I hate companies who don’t use capital letters. Encore Pizza. I find this logo too busy, bitsy and scruffy. The colours make me think of how a pizza would look if it came back up. Entirely the wrong kind of ‘encore’!* LG. I find the face in this logo contrived and alienating. The left colour (what is it?) is yuck and the grey is dispiriting. And life is not always good. Who the hell are they to tell me how life is?! What is the exact wording for your logo eg. ABC or ABC - Australian Business Company. Remember that the logo can be a simplified version of your business name as long as we write out your full business name on any materials we produce such as business cards, letterhead etc… The Feisty Empire What is your ABN? 18 003 653 664 What names and titles do you need on your business cards? Paul Hassing. Writer. Editor. Proofreader. Blogger. Photographer. Founder. Do you have any qualifications that you’d like to mention and what are the correct post-nominals? B.Bus, M.A. (Melb.) What is the main office phone number? 03 9417 3663 What is your mobile phone number and do you want this on your business cards? 0409 334 789 Yes please. What address would you like on your business cards? Supplied. Do you want your social media addresses on your business card, if so, what are they? Twitter: @PaulHassing Are there any other ‘must-haves’? W. http://www.thefeistyempire.com/   E. paul@thefeistyempire.com  F. Supplied. I’m very fond of the current font. While not wedded to the red ‘sun’, I worry that I’ll have to redo all my collateral if I lose it.   Your View Well, what do you think? Do you like Angela’s questions? Do you agree with my answers? Do you think I’ll get a good result from this process? Did you do something similar for your logo? If not, how did you go about it? Let’s play logo pogo! :) * Turns out I was totally wrong about Encore. When everyone else was closed at Christmas, Fonnie and I had two of their pizzas. They were significantly better than the three parlours we regularly use. I’ve relearned not to judge a business by its logo!   Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire

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  • 05
    Oct
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    First Impression

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    Today I'm pleased to introduce Helen Robinett, Director of Image Quest.  Perceptions are very powerful and this simple fact provided enough drive for Helen to turn a passionate interest into a full time personal image advisory service that helps people be the best they can be. Today Helen shares some of her insights with us.  Naomi :)   You never get a second chance to make a first impression in small business.    Interesting fact that people only ever do business with people they like and trust.  So for small business owners, that means enhancing and increasing your likability factor.  As human beings are highly visual creatures, it makes sense that your visual image is up to scratch.  Perceptions are reality and we do believe what we perceive to be true.   Top five tips for small business owners to improve your image: 1.  Be consistent – this is about aligning your branding.  Your website, business card, marketing message and you personally (image and behaviour) need to be in sync.  So if you are in a service based industry,  you are here to serve.  Get it? 2.  Be current – seriously now, if you are wearing gear that is dated and tired, what is that saying about your business?  Freshen up sunshine.  Spring is here.  Time for an injection of a few new pieces that will serve you moving forward. 3.  Step up your grooming – All communication in business happens around the face.  Human beings are attracted to connecting with those who are healthy and energised.  Notice this week how you feel when you connect with a misery guts or the guy who forgot to attend to his hair.  Probably doesn’t work for you does it?  Clean, moisturised skin, hair that is attended to and clean, pressed garments and shoes are the order of the day in business. 4.  Use high contrast – Great tip for your first client meeting or presentation.  This is about creating a high contrast close to your face.  You can do this with a light coloured top and a dark coloured jacket over it.  Women may choose to use accessories to create a high contrast – light top and dark necklace.  All you need to remember is the combination of light/dark close to the face.  Easy.  Creates the impression that you are sharp and on top of your game. 5.  KISS – keep it simple stupid!  Eliminate distraction and keep your image simple.  Too many pens in your shirt pocket, noisy bracelets and make up overdone is distracting.  You really don’t have to spend a lot of money or complicate things to get it right.  Simple is best, chuck out the rest!   Interested to hear what works for you in creating a great first impression.   Helen Robinett, Director, Image Quest 

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  • 27
    Jul
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    First Impressions

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      We know first impressions are crucial to human relations. (Just ask Helen.) By extension, they also impact our business dealings. Having just visited Bali, I now know first impressions are powerful enough to skew an entire world view.   Hard Landing We’d been warned to take US$50 for our on-the-spot entry visas. As we sweated in one of the immigration queues, we learned why. Each visa was US$25 or AUD$31, but the officials neither gave nor accepted change. Thus, an Aussie tendering $40 or $50 paid just that, while anyone with exactly $31 was told to round up to the nearest note. These rorts triggered angry scenes in the lines. We felt this was a poor start to our inaugural Bali adventure. Then again, we were First World dinks* in a Third World locale. Perhaps this wealth redistribution was reasonable and necessary. Pondering this, we drifted through the airport wondering where to go next. The queues around us were long and confusing. Just as panic panged, a man touched my arm and said ‘Come here please’ in a clipped voice.   Official Warning Startled, I strove to take in his uniform and Airport Security badge. My thoughts tumbled like suitcases from a blown cargo bay. Was he: Asking if we needed help? Guiding us to the right queue? About to check our visas? Picking us for body search? My list was truncated as he bid us to follow him. We skipped to keep up as he shepherded us, walking and speaking fast. Then he asked for our passports. At that moment, Fonnie reminded me of Bali’s fake luggage handlers - who seize bags and demand cash for their return. We looked at each other and finally asked what the man wanted. ‘Immigration. There long line. You give me now I stamp stamp stamp. Three minutes only. Finish!’ We still weren’t sure, but he herded us on. Down a free lane. Past hundreds of perspiring travellers. ‘Very fast stamp. Three minutes.’ Could this be a shakedown? ‘How much for very fast?’ I ventured. ‘100,000 Rupiah.’ Now I saw. Or did I? Was it a sting? Getting us to bribe a government official so we could be thrown in jail? Would it cost us millions to get out – and our holiday?   Bad Joke Suddenly we were beyond the queues in an alarmingly empty space. With every eye on us. I looked at my hands; our passports were gone and the man was speeding to a distant door. I failed to summon the courage to protest. Then I noticed a knot of Caucasians a short distance away. Fonnie and I approached them and quickly ascertained that they’d been similarly ‘handled’. I smiled grimly and joked, ‘Wish I hadn’t watched Midnight Express last week.’ It went down like a fart at a coronation. After three of the longest minutes of my life, the official returned and handed over our stamped documents and indicated it was time to pay. In full view of the terminal, I pulled two 50,000 Rupiah notes from my wallet, which he viewed with proprietary interest. ‘No! 100,000 each!’ Not knowing how, I replied, ‘I agreed to 100,000’. To my surprise and intense relief, he took my cash and vanished.   Chain Food I fumbled with our papers, trying to ascertain if they, and he, and we, were legitimate. Utterly rattled, we found our luggage, battled past the ‘porters’ and emerged to tropical sun. Then the taxi driver ripped us off by feigning lack of change. Thus bitten by both ends of Bali’s food chain, I wondered if everyone in between would behave similarly. What a way to start a stay in ‘paradise’!   Foreign Climbs I’ve always gone to pains to optimise my new clients’ experiences. Having endured this dreadful first impression, I’ll be taking more care than ever. When new clients come to you, do they know the drill? Or do your systems and language startle and bewilder? Do you brief them on what to expect and guide them when they arrive? Or must they fend for themselves in your native land? Your feedback is sure to impress.   * Double income, no kids.   Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire

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  • 01
    Jun
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    Driven to tears

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                                                           Delivery drivers.                                              What do you think of them?   Most businesses use couriers or delivery drivers at some time. We hear plenty about rude, tardy, sleazy, unfit, dishonest and incompetent drivers. Yet little is said about their situations or challenges. Here, then, are my observations – from both sides of the fence. I hope you’ll add yours.   Heat stroke One summer afternoon, a delivery driver came to Empire House. It was 45 °C (113 °F) in the shade. As he heaved my monthly grocery order onto the porch, I compared the chilled bags to his flushed face. He looked so wrung out that I offered him a cordial, which he downed in one draught. I asked about his day. He said he had many more deliveries to make. When I said he must be looking forward to regaining his air-conditioned truck cabin, he snorted. ‘The groceries are refrigerated, but I am not!’ There was no cabin air conditioning. With peak hour building, he wouldn’t even get moving air from an open window. I found this extraordinary.   Cold snap Next month, I met a hot driver from a different supermarket. This man’s van had cabin air conditioning, but with a catch. With the engine already struggling to refrigerate deliveries in the back, there wasn’t enough power to cool the cabin too. Any time the driver flicked the switch, the van became too slow to maintain his tight schedule. The image of this harried porter was far from the smiling, clean-pressed pics on the store’s website. I wondered how a company could have such little regard for staff so pivotal to its supply chain.   Grim picture I was surprised again when a driver delivered my new camera on Saturday. He explained that working on his own time was the only way to keep up with his employer’s crushing schedule. He concurred that our city’s fast-growing population was making deliveries ever harder. This reminded me of the day Flip Shelton had to triple park and hoick a box of her muesli over my fence, because she hadn’t a second to spare.   Licence to kill If you ever find yourself in Taxi No. 1007, get out. As the worst driver in my owner’s fleet, I always got the crappest car. It had no mirrors, fuel gauge, spare tyre or air conditioning. The boot was held down by an octopus strap. Sometimes. The seat was so skewed, I had to drive with a street directory stuffed behind my back (which still got wrenched). I hated that gutless, reeking wreck of a cab. But it did make me more circumspect about taxi drivers.   Verdict Though some may consider drivers ‘little people’, they can deliver a profound brand message at a customer’s door. Do you drive or use drivers? Do my views mesh with yours? If not, why not? Let’s get this debate rolling.   Paul Hassing    , Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire

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