Mission Accomplished

30 days ago I was issued a challenge. To create and write 30 blog posts in 30 days.  The overall goal of this was to help create some legitimacy toward the website.  I have also like the idea of being able to actually demonstrate some of the things I have been able to experience both professionally and personally.  

The last 30 days have been more challenging than I could have ever imagined.  I have a newfound respect for people who write for a living.  Writer’s block is a real thing, and coming up with new content on a consistent basis was a unique challenge.

I do want to say, that I overall I have enjoyed this excursion. I was forced to really dive into all of my experience to think of things that I could write about with any sort of knowledge. I was able to speak about my times in social media management, management, sales, marketing among many other things. I was forced to analyze different situations.  I took another look at how I handled these situations, and I even was able to gain some more insight on how I will handle similar situations in the future. I would strongly encourage anybody that wants to improve themselves professionally, to issue themselves a similar challenge. There are really only good things that can come from it.

I tried to keep my personal blogs to a limit.  Sure I could talk about why the designated hitter is great for baseball (and I still might do that), but things like that weren’t my goals for this website and this challenge. Overall I tried to keep my personal blogs somewhat related to my professional goals, and experiences.  In the future, I might tinker with this idea more, and you all might get a better idea about the kind of person I am away from the office.

The fact that I have achieved this goal does not mean that I am done from posting to this website. I must say that I won’t be posting at near the pace that I have over the past month. However, I do understand that just because I have accomplished one goal, I can’t just sit back and relax.  I will create a new goal and work towards accomplishing that one. Thanks for reading.

Tips for Settling in a New City

A unique fact about me personally is that I have moved around a bunch in my life. Right now I am 25, and I have already lived in 10 different cities, and 5 different states. Most of them before I was 18, but ultimately I am glad I have been able to have so many different experiences. I got to experience what it was like to live on both coasts and in the flyover states of this awesome country.  Obviously, every move is tough, but there are certain things that are important to keep in mind to help you settle into your new home better.

If there is anything I have learned from moving around a lot, is that every place has its positives.  When I moved from Indianapolis to Los Angeles, I was afraid everybody was going to be fake, not true. When I was told I was moving from California to North Carolina I was afraid I was going to be surrounded by hicks, not true.  When I was told I was moving from North Carolina to Kansas City, Missouri, I was afraid I was moving to a flyover state with nothing going on, not true. Every move has its challenges, but I was so glad that I was wrong so many times.

First of all, reach out to real people. If you went to college, or have worked in a somewhat big office, it is inevitable that you know somebody that has lived in the area, or is currently living in the area you are moving to. Reach out to these people on LinkedIn or Facebook.  They will be able to give you a tremendous amount of insight on the city.  They will be able to tell you about the culture, the people, the cost of living, and so much more.  Also I have found that people love bragging about the city they live in or have lived in.

Second do some research online. This one is fairly obvious, and it might have even been your initial instinct.  Look into websites like Citysearch or Yelp.  By doing this you can read what others have said about the key features of the city.  You can find out the best places to eat, the best places of entertainment, or things like that. Of course, there is no substitution for actually experiencing something yourself, so go out and actually try these places in question, early on in your move. I have just found that websites like this are usually a good start.

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to get out there and make new friends.  Make new friends in your job or school that have similar interest. You will never fully learn the city if you spend all your free time on the couch watching Friends reruns.  Also, don’t be afraid to pick up new hobbies or reacquire old ones.  When meeting new people it is all about finding a common ground that you can go out and try new things. There is no way that you are moving to a town that has nobody with some of the same interests as you, just go out and find them!

You won’t meet anybody by just sitting around your new house, so take any opportunity you have to get out there.  You will have to probably take some initiative to meet new people and fully appreciate your new home, but don’t stress about it. As with most things in life, if you have an open mind and a great positive attitude, you will soon find yourself fully immersed in your new city.  Thanks for reading.

Some Ways I Conquer Writer’s Block

The blank page is very intimidating. That might be putting it lightly, it is terrifying.  It seems like the harder you try to create some content, the harder it is to come up with ideas.  To help with the legitimization of this website,  I decided to undergo a challenge. I decided to write 30 posts in 30 days.  This sounded a lot easier than it is.  After the first week, I found that I was stressed, trying to find things to write about. I having a running document of ideas of things I might try to write about. The current list is sad and desperate.  Nonetheless, I am committed to keep churning content for this website and accomplish my goal. So today, what I am going to write about is a couple ways to get over writer’s block.

  1. Drink some caffeine.  Maybe it’s a placebo, or maybe coffee is the nectar of the gods.  For whatever reason, I find that my creative juices some time flow a little easier after I  down a cup of coffee.  Scientist’s have actually done studies that show that caffeine helps us with our thinking process.   It helps me more become energized and determined to conquer the empty page. 
  2. Exercise.  Sometimes I might be too energized or trying too hard.  I find that if I get my blood pumping I am able to think of some new topics.  Even during a run, I can feel my head come up with new fresh ideas and takes that I can write about.  I rarely commit to a full workout when I am writing, but a quick run or some jumping jacks can usually do the trick. After I have finished, I find that both my mood and creativity are in a much better place to write. 
  3. Do some mindless chores. There is a scientific reason that we always come up with our best ideas when we are in the shower.  We need to let our brain take a break from thinking so it can really start thinking. Staring at a blank screen for an hour will just frustrate and torture me. Sometimes I will actually do things that I used to have to be nagged to do.  I have found that when I do things like flossing, vacuuming, putting up my laundry, I will sometimes come up new post ideas. 
  4. Waste time on time wasters.  Social Media can be a bad distraction at sometimes, it can be the ultimate procrastination tool.  However, I have found that if I use sites like LinkedIn, facebook, or google plus, I am able to steal some new ideas. You can absorb what others are talking about or interested in. There are also times I watch the news with this purpose, to try to see what people are talking about. I have found that these things can be a more than welcome distraction than I once thought.

This 30-day challenge I am undergoing is the most I have forced myself to write. I am aware that having a website is far from qualifying me as “a writer.”  Nonetheless, I find that from time to time I suffer from writer’s block.  These are some of the ways I have been combating it. Thanks for reading.

A Simple Philosophy to Create a Great Workplace Environment

As I have mentioned before we live in the “Yelp generation.”  This means that people are always rating the entities that they have had an experience with.  This includes employers that people have worked for.  With the uptick of websites like Glassdoor, it is easy to see what previous and current people thought about their time with the company.

Besides that, you want to create a positive workplace experience for your team.  You want to give your productive employees every incentive to stay on board.  There are ways to go about creating a positive workplace environment.  There are also ways to do this that don’t include a hefty raise.

I have found that it was not all that difficult to create this kind’ve of workplace by doing a couple simple things.  Create opportunities to offer recognition, and accept feedback. This was as simple as extending the weekly or daily meeting by a couple minutes.  With this new way of thinking we are able to improve our workplace condition, and in doing so improve our employee retention.

How did we go about recognizing positive performance? Obviously, the best answer would be to give out raises, but we all know that isn’t always an option.  The easiest, yet quite effective way is some simple verbal praise.  You could immediately tell that this went a long way.  Make it a practice of offering words of encouragement when your employees are doing the right thing. Employees are used to hearing criticism when things go wrong, but you will boost morale if you make a habit of offering some kind words. An extension of this idea was actually creating a board of top achievers.  We would place this board in a prominent place that all the employees could see.  The public recognition will go a long way in displaying what a great job they are doing.

The second half of this approach was, as I mentioned, to encourage feedback.  This one could be a little tricky because people are probably a little scared, to be honest with you.  A simple way to address this was to create a suggestion box.  People can feel free to sign their name to it or not, that can be their prerogative.  Some of the ideas might be useful, some might not be, but at least we can get a better insight on what are employees want.  You can then be fair, objective, and transparent, on what suggestions you will employ and why.

The ultimate way to help create a positive workplace boils down to one word. Trust. The two things I talked about have a base of trust. Trust that your employees will do the right thing, I mean there is a reason you hired them. Trust that your employees know that you are actually looking out for their best interest. You will spend more time with these people that you do with your own family.  Try to create an even better environment to go to, by creating a culture of positive feedback, and some positive recognition. If you do, you will find that your efforts will be rewarded with improved performance and better retention.  Thanks for reading

3 Reason’s Everybody Should Work in Sales

I recently read a fascinating article by Chris Myers on Forbes titled “Three Reasons Why Sales People make the Best CEO’s.”  Coming from an actual CEO it had a lot of legitimacy, and I found that it was a really interesting read.  Reading this article inspired me to come up with a very similar post. The argument I am going to make is why I think every professional should be in sales at least once. If you would like to read the article by Chris Myers you can find it here.

Sales has this certain stigma attached to it, that it can’t seem to shake. Sales wasn’t my first choice.  The only reason I ended up in sales is because at the time I didn’t have a lot of professional experience or skills and that was the only thing I could get an interview for. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed sales, and I was even more surprised that I was somewhat good at it.  When I thought of sales I thought of that ever intimidating telephone and getting yelled at all day.  Spoiler alert that isn’t a reality.  Sure sales is hard, but it is also super rewarding.  I for one am thankful that I was backed into sales, I think everybody would be better off if they gave sales a shot.

First and foremost, it teaches you how to deal with failure. This was a huge learning curve for me.  I hadn’t experienced a ton of failure before I got into sales, and therefore I was terrible at handling failure.  Here’s another spoiler alert, in sales you will fail, and fail a lot. At first, I didn’t handle these failures very well.  Being in sales has forced me to not be afraid of failing anymore.  If I fail, so be it, I will learn what I can from the experience and then move on to the next opportunity.

Second, it’s the quickest way to see your hard work pay off. People say they want to see their hard work pay off, well in sales that principle is true.  The idea of getting paid on commission is something that terrified me at first, but I soon learned to love that concept.  In sales, the highest earners are always the hardest workers.  Sure I will give you some people have more of a natural knack for sales than others, but overall, the hardest workers will see the highest paydays. Another great thing to add on to this idea is how immediate the fruits of our labor will pay off. In a traditional workplace, you have certain time benchmarks that it is considered proper to ask for a raise.  I guarantee you that these time periods aren’t near as short as the ones you can create for yourself in sales. You want a raise? Good, prospect for an extra couple of hours this week.  In sales, you have this wonderful opportunity to be proactive and create your own luck.

Third, you will get to learn how to create relationships.  The fun part of sales is that every day you will be creating new relationships, or cementing current ones. I can’t  even begin to go into all the numbers of interesting people with interesting backgrounds I have been able to meet and learn from as a byproduct of this fact. You will also actually become better about relating to people in general. You will learn to listen to people to understand their concerns.  You will learn to read people’s voice and body language.  Skills that will go on to benefit you even in your personal life.

Some people are reluctant to jump into a sales position, I was even reluctant at first.  I am a strong believer that everybody should at least give it a try once in your life.  Even if it doesn’t work out for you, you will undoubtedly become a better person from the experiences you had and the skills you attained.  Thanks for reading.

Quantity or Quality in Your LinkedIn Network?

If you have read some of my recent blog posts, you know that I have some experience in social media management.  This meant running companies Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other pages.  It also meant running personal LinkedIn accounts for some of the professionals I worked with.  While I was doing all of this, I ignored my own personal LinkedIn page.  For me, Linkedin was only something I visited when I was looking for a new opportunity. I Would go months at a time without even logging in. The result of this was a sad profile.  

I have recently updated my profile as a part of my process that I am embarking on to round me out professionally.  I have updated my experiences, replaced the blurry profile picture with a better one, and even improved my biography.  There is still one glaring weakness on my profile. My network is embarrassingly small.

I’ve never been one to put much stock into my personal social media numbers. On Facebook, I rarely sent out friend requests.  On Twitter, I have found I would much rather follow Cam Newton than the guy I had a philosophy class with 5 years ago.  I carried this mentality over to my LinkedIn presence, and my profile has suffered from it. Sure every once in a blue moon when I did log in I would have 1 or 2 network requests, but when I was working with people I never went out of my way to make sure we were a part of each other’s networks.  

This brings me to my dilemma, I am far away from getting that coveted 500+ icon on my profile.  But is that number really important? Or is it the quality of people that you actually know that matters?  After all, these are the people that could actually vouch for you to their hiring manager. After a lot of thought and research, I realized the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

There are ways to grow your network without actually adding people you personally now.  To do this search for LIONs. No, not the king of the jungle.   The acronym L.I.O.N’s stands for LinkedIn Open Networkers.  The people that have this designation somewhere in their name or profile are saying that they will connect with any request that they might get. I looked into this for myself, I even sent out 5 requests to 5 random people (in my industry).  While this was able to get me a little closer to that coveted 500+ mark, did it really do anything to help me? Maybe, maybe not.  Having a bigger network will add some legitimacy to your profile, but overall I think it is a shortcut that won’t help much in the long run.

That’s why I have decided to try to grow my network the hard way.  I am going to be meticulous about adding people on LinkedIn soon after I meet them. In addition to that, I will be tracking my growth on my website for all of you to see. Right now my somewhat embarrassing number on LinkedIn is 58.  58 people that I am connected to. By July 1st I hope to hit the 100 mark. I don’t know if I will ever get to 500+.  I don’t know if it matters if I ever get to 500+.  I do know that only good can come from growing my network that natural way though.  I think this new focus I have on improving my online image can only go on to benefit me.  Thanks for reading.

Be SMART About Your Goals

Setting goals is a crucial part of developing professionally.  In addition to that, everyone loves a good acronym. It’s inevitable that every time you go through an orientation process with a new company, you will get a list of acronyms that are supposed to help you achieve some sort of success in whatever field you’re in. Of all the acronyms I have been told to remember, the one that I find that I think about most is probably SMART.

SMART is an acronym to help you when you are creating goals. More than that it helps in creating realistic, achievable goals.  SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable/attainable, relevant, and timely. I think of these words every time I force myself to sit down and think about goals.  Following this process has encouraged me to undergo goals that have resulted in me bettering myself, and I think they would do the same for you. 

Specific.  Specific goals have a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general one.  It’s important to be able to define your goal to be able to attack it.  It should also be clear to you, and anybody else that might share this goal, what it is.  When creating a goal try to focus on small picture things as well as big picture objects. 

Measurable. It’s crucial to have goals that you that you can measure.  This way, you can track your progress and continue to stay motivated in accomplishing that goal. In marketing, this is easy, just about everything we do gets measured, and that’s part of the reason we love marketing. When it comes to goals, however, it helps us stay focused, and win the little battles that will help towards the overall goal.  Plus it is such an exciting feeling to see when you are getting close to achieving your goals, you will be able to finish strong. When you establish concrete criteria for measuring progress towards each goal you set, you will increase your chances of succeeding.

Achievable/Attainable.  Maybe the most important part of building a new goal is making sure that the goal is realistic.  If you create goals that are too crazy or farfetched, you might become discouraged and give up on your goals.  A goal should be challenging, and stretch your abilities, but still remain possible.  We need to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel in order to continue to push towards our goal.

Relevant. This one is probably the most self-explanatory of all the words, but I will devote a few sentences to it nonetheless.  This step will ensure that this goal matters to you. This will be the driving force behind your motivation.  Knowing that achieving or failing this goal will affect you is a great way to ensure that you stay on top of it.

Timely. Every goal needs a target date, otherwise, it is just a wish or desire. Without this time frame, you might find that there is no sense of urgency.  You can continue to put off your goal until another day, but why not get to work on it now? This is also a great way to not allow the everyday tasks we have not to take a priority of our long-term goals.  I have found that creating a deadline or a target day seems to almost unconsciously kick my mind into motion to begin working on the goal.  It’s important to find an accurate target date.  Too little time and you might feel overwhelmed and give up.  Too much time and you are ultimately putting off bettering yourself, you might even lose track of the goal altogether.

Of all the acronyms I have heard, this is the one I put into practice most often. When you outline your goals, remember SMART.  It is a simple way to go about creating and ultimately achieving goals. Thanks for reading.

Reach Prospects Through LinkedIn

I try to categorize all my blog posts into one on the categories on my website. I try to limit the professional things I write about into one of the categories I would consider my strengths.  I will be categorizing this article under “marketing”, but I could have just as easily categorized it under “social media management.”  What I am going to talk about is how to use Linkedin, to make your first call a warm call.

I am a huge fan of eliminating the complete cold call if at all possible.  Now there are times in sales that this just isn’t a possibility.  You will have to eventually pick up the phone and make some cold calls. However, I like to do as much research and prep work on a prospect when possible. This is when Linkedin can be such an important tool.  I’m going to go through a couple strategies we tried in the past that worked out well for us.

First is to ask for an “introduction.”  Surely you have prospects that are connected to a current client.  When I was in the financial industry, I found that this was almost inevitable.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to your current client to ask for an introduction to a prospect.  We did this all the time, especially with some of our longer tenured clients. Type up an email like “Hello ____ I noticed you are close acquaintances with ______.  I really think he/she could benefit from our services.  Would you mind sending them a brief message saying who I am and what I offer? If you feel comfortable with it, this is a template.”

Sometimes they would say no, they didn’t feel comfortable doing that, but we never lost a client because of this.  On the other hand, we were able to win a couple of the new opportunities we were able to create through this opportunity.  Having an introduction by someone they trust, gives you immediate legitimacy on your first call, and makes the call less cold. This was the ultimate no-lose situation for us.

The other strategy we employed sometimes was getting multiple referrals at once.  We would send a message to a client and say something like “I have a list of a couple people that you happen to work with.  I was wondering if I sent you the list, would you be able to tell me who might be able to benefit from our services.”

This was easy because there was next to no work for our customer to do.  They would just spot check the list and send back an email saying “Most of these would probably be a good fit.  I don’t think ___ or ____ would be ideal because….” You can then call these prospects and lay down some jones effect.  Letting the prospect know you work with their colleague and they thought you might be a good fit for our services.

As I mentioned, Linkedin is a powerful tool in turning a cold call into a warm call.  It can be even more effective when you are correctly using your network to your advantage. Thanks for reading.

Project Management Software: A Wise Investment

I don’t trust myself to remember things that are important on a day to day basis. When I first started working I had a terrible and outdated system for staying on top of those things.  That ineffective system was me always have a pad of post-it notes with me throughout the day.  As I was assigned tasks, or thought of things I needed to get done, I would simply write down the action on a post-it note, shove it into my pocket, and let them pile up until then end of the day, when I could them type them up. Not a very organized system at all.  Lucky for people like me, there are programs out there designed to keep us organized. 

I have always been a huge fan of the written to-do list. I love the process of looking at the things you need to get done, and that gratifying feeling that comes along with crossing something off after completing a task. I never imagined that there were systems out there that would accomplish this for me, in a much more efficient way. You can manage your business, and manage your employees through a software that will keep things from slipping through the cracks.

I found one in particular that worked out great for me and my team. We were each able to add daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks.  Every day the first thing we did was log into this system, and then we could quickly get to cranking on our day. This was a great way for our enterprise to stay organized.

We are all human, We forget things. We schedule meetings and calls at wrong times, we forget to check our voicemails, these things just happen.  I think all companies should take advantage of the systems and tools out there to help organize our hectic day. There are hundreds of companies that have products designed to do just that. I would suggest any company, no matter the size to look into one of these products. I think you’ll find that it is a smart investment that will quickly pay off. Thanks for reading.

A Few Tips on Public Speaking

Glossophobia- the fear of public speaking. I’ve heard a lot of crazy stats about this topic. In my research, for this article, I came across a statistics that claimed that up to 75% of Americans have some sort of anxiety over speaking in public to an audience. While I ultimately believe that number might be stretching it a bit, it is definitely a popular fear. There are a couple ways to get around this fear. A combination of practice, being prepared, and keeping a couple hints in mind will help you get over this anxiety.

I must admit, a couple years ago, I wasn’t crazy about giving presentations to any group more than two people.  You get in your head and psych yourself out. It is an important step in professional development.  A step that you will have to inevitably face.

As I mentioned the first thing key to public speaking is being prepared.  I am so much more confident about a presentation if I know that I have put in the work, there is no such thing as over-preparation. However, if you don’t do your homework, it gives you one more reason not be confident about speaking in front of others.  This also relates to practicing your speech beforehand. You will feel more comfortable after a couple of dry runs.  I can’t tell you how many times my poor dog had to listen to me fumble through one of my dry runs. 

There are also a couple of hints that you could probably google, that always helped me to keep in mind during a presentation. First to speak with your hands.  If you do this I think it helps divert some of your nervous energy into something productive. Second talk slow and breathe.  This is something I still struggle with. Especially early on in my presentation, I tend to speak quicker, and less eloquently. I think it is important to take a deep breath before you begin, and if you feel yourself start to speed up.

My most important piece of advice is to actively seek out opportunities in which you can practice your public speaking.  Personally, I took on some speaking responsibilities at my church. While I take my religion very seriously, I am probably nowhere qualified as some sort of theologian. However, I took this as an opportunity to improve my public speaking. I’m not leading the sermons every week mind you, but I do play all small somewhat regular role in the services.  It quickly made me more comfortable with the public speaking and giving presentations.

These are just a few of the things I keep in mind before I give a presentation.  Be prepared, take your time, take deep breathes, and look for every opportunity to improve this skill. If you do this, I think you will quickly find that you are much comfortable about the idea of public speaking. Thanks for reading.