Category Archives: business

Ask the right questions


Are you a master at addressing new people you meet, engaging them by asking the right questions? Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas, in their book, Power Questions emphasize that focused questions will help you build relationships and win more business.

It makes sense. Most people are flattered when you express an interest in them. When you ask open-ended questions of a new acquaintance or  of a new client, you set the stage where you can actively listen letting the person opposite you  do the talking. Listening is a powerful tool when you take the effort to absorb and synthesize what you are hearing.

Here are several useful tips from Power Questions they the authors refer to as the Socratic Approach:

Instead of “telling”, ask.
Instead of “being the expert”, encourage others to share their expertise.
Instead of “controlling knowledge”. Obtain the experiences of others.

Now for the one I like the best:
Instead of “showing people how smart you are”, “show others how smart they are.”

So, the next time, you are meeting someone new, see what you can learn about your new acquaintance by asking the right questions.


Convey Your Message in Three Minutes: the Successful Elevator Speech

In our daily lives, we all have to communicate to influence the actions of others.  Sales people in particular know this fact of life very well.  They have to gain someone’s attention and they may only have a few minutes to get beyond the introduction.  Similar, a job seeker maybe out and about trying to convince prospective employers that their skills and experience are worth paying for.  A three minute introduction might be the launching point of a expanded discussion down the road.

A while back, as a business librarian, I began attending networking events at various chambers of commerce.  At a monthly gathering I used to attend, we would stand around in a circle and each person would have an opportunity to give a 1 minute elevator (it was all we had time for).   Over time, I began to observe which speeches sounded the most effective. Clearly, many of the introductions went as follows, Hi, my name is Mary, I run a full-service insurance agency, please call me if you are interested in purchasing insurance”.  Once you heard enough of those, you tended to tune them out.

However, there were others that were creative, they were novel and had lots of pizazz.  The best ones were so memorable probably because they made us all laugh.

So, where I am leading with all this?  I recently picked up a book called, Small Message, Big Impact: the elevator speech effect by Terri L. Sjodin.

The importance of having a well-planned short and concise speech is not all you will learn. It provides great tips and tricks to help you get the foot in the door or pique someone’s interest to want to learn more about you.

Social Media for Small Business Made Easy!

 A review of Face2Face:Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections by David Lee King

Many people are quite comfortable using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in their personal lives but are clueless about where to begin as business owners or professionals. David King provides a very clear and concise approach to encourage business owners and professionals to establish dialogs and relationships in the online world. It’s a terrific resource. Topeka and Shawnee Public Library (where the author is employed as their Digital Services Director) is certainly an excellent example of how to make effective use of social media for any organization.

The Effective Manager

I generally shy away from management books for they tend to put me to sleep.  For a new manager or any manager who would appreciate some management tips, Work Happy by Jill Geisler is a one of those rare management books well worth having a look at.  If you are short on time, simply peruse the chapter headings to decide on the segments that interest you.   Even the headings are quite illuminating.

I have always believed that to be a good manager it was important to know yourself well and to be willing to face up to the good, the bad and yes the ugly aspects of your personality.  Looking into the mirror and glaring at the blemishes is surely a bold thing to do.  So, the chapter, Manage Yourself, So You Can Lead Others is a good one.  Can you face up to your weaknesses and work on them?  Are you able to see things as others do? Or, as a manager do you know that you are always on view as if in a glass fishbowl?  So, keep in mind your staff will not be very forgiving of your bad mood or bad hair day.

I must say that the very last chapter says it all.  Giesler, writes in the title of this chapter (15), For Great Bosses, It’s Always About Values.” She focuses on the values of integrity, humanity and levity.  With “levity”, we must not forget to have fun.  Lastly, what will be your  legacy as a leader and how would you like to be remembered?

To me, it’s all about the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Networking for the Sake of Networking

Are you on Linkedin or Facebook?  And, do you have lots and lots of friends or connections?  Some of us may feel the pressure to be well-connected with volumes of people online.  But, does the quantity of contacts really mean anything and what is the point?  So, with our abundance of contacts, where has that taken us, anyway?

Long before the existence of Linkedin and Facebook , we maintained business card and Roladex files.  To me,  just going through the motion of collecting names, phone numbers, and business cards without putting much thought into it,  didn’t work well back then and it really doesn’t work well even in today’s online world.  My simple brain told me years ago that someone had to have a compelling  reason to do you a favor as in returning a favor or expecting something of value in the future.

Gordon Curtis in his book, Well Connected sums it up more eloquently than I have.  Here’s the essence of it.

Curtis says, you have to target the right person and apply the right approach, . Both parties need to reach an outcome that is beneficial to both of them.  A-ha.  So, I wasn’t too far off.  He states several criteria necessary in order for networking between two parties to work.  The keywords he uses  are ” like-minded”, “obligated”, “motivated” and “able”.  Without those, it’s highly unlikely someone will do anyone else a favor or enter into a deal.

Networking to achieve results requires a well-planned strategy.  So, develop your objectives and desired outcomes. When you identify potential networking candidates, learn something about them, figure out how you are going to reach them (necessary introductions) and what you are going to say.  Down the road, even look for ways you might reciprocate in advance.

For a more detailed explanation about how to network more effectively, I highly recommend the book, “Well-Connected.”

Build Relationships for Success in Business

I came upon an article today on the website, .Inc that resonated with me. The article was 10 Great Habits of Charismatic People by Jeff Haden.  Have you ever stopped to think about what it is about charismatic individuals that make them charismatic? Hmmm.   Rather surprisingly, it’s not all about having good looks although being physically attractive certainly  doesn’t hurt.  In fact, you may find that good looking folks are not necessarily charismatic.

According to the referenced article, personality probably trumps good looks in the charisma department.  Rather, charisma is about taking a keen interest in others. They are good listeners. They are not solely focused on themselves and tend to be humble. Above all, they like to make others feel good about themselves.  In my opinion, the last bit is paramount.

How is this relevant to being a small business owner or someone pursuing a career?  We all need to establish and build relationships to be successful. In business, it’s about focusing on the customer and being interested in his or her needs.

Similarly, whether you are looking for a job or you wish to be successful on a job, one needs to focus on building relationships.  In the book, “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You”, the author, Peter Leibman says, “Stop Looking for Jobs and Focus on People”.  This simple statement really clicked with me. I have long believed, in order to be successful on the job, the most important element is getting along with people (although you also have to know your stuff).

So, focus less on yourself and develop a greater interest in others!

Startups on a Small Budget

Are you tired of looking for a job or are you tired of the job you have? Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup cites numerous examples of successful startups that involved very little capital to start. He provides an interesting roadmap for anyone who is ready for the challenge of a new adventure.

It’s chock full of real examples of successful startups based on simple ideas that were launched with a modest amount of money.  Each chapter contains a concise summary of the key points covered which is perfect if  you would like to thumb through the book quickly.

I really enjoyed reading Chapter 2, “Give Them the Fish.”   When the author began discussing the concept of providing “value”, initially, I said to myself, “Oh no, how many times have I heard this one.”  But, alas, it sounded way better than what I had expected.  Simply put, “value” is about helping people.

Above all give people what they want rather than what you think they should have.  Hence, “Give them the Fish”.

Your appeal should be at the ground or emotional level.  Aim to better people’s lives.  There is nothing wrong with that.

It’s Better to Give Than to Receive!

Remember the old saying, It’s better to give than to receive?  That simple expression can apply to so many  aspects of life.   

I believe it can even apply to the practice of networking these days.  We all know that networking in business circles is the rage in the quest to find contacts and leads to grow a business.   Anyone can work a crowd by going around saying, “Hi Joe, my name is Mary, I am the sales manager of XYZ.  Need any widgets, these days?”  Admittedly, such an introduction sounds a bit crass and you might not win many friends  with a line like that. I am sure you can picture the stereotyped used car salesman whose only objective is to close the sale and run.  The shortrun is all that counts in that situation.

Instead, a better strategy is to focus on establishing a rapport and even forming a bond with someone you may have only  just met.   That’s just a start.  Then, share information, offer expertise, and provide suggestions. It will should show that you are more interested in goodwill than making a quick sale.   Remember,  the saying, It’s better to give then to receive”. 

It can even apply to the management of a business web site, or blogs, Facebook and more.  The practice of  sharing helpful  information with  customers or contacts will go a long way to establishing meaningful relationships.  When used effectively, you will very likely gain even more customers and more business.

Find Opportunities with Linkedin Groups

I am a big fan of joining Linkedin Groups.  To me, it’s one of the best features of Linkedin.  For one thing, it’s the quickest and easiest way to build a network.  When you join a group, your network of contacts will instantly expand for you will be linked to all of its members.  Then, whether you do an advanced search for people in a particular company or simply search by job title or keyword, it will be easier to identify people with whom you are already connected.

That’s not all. For job seekers, group sites all have a jobs’  link. Unlike other online job avenues, employers can add a job posting for free.  For employers, posting job opening on Linkedin makes sense. Postings publicized through groups cost nothing. Sites such as Monster and Careerbuilder, etc. , charge handsome fees for each listing.  From the job hunters’ perspective, many more people are searching the job boards than are using Linkedin groups to hunt for postings, hence the competition could be less (depending upon the size of the group).

Linkedin groups can be great sources of information about an industry or field.  Have a look at the discussion tab, to see what people are talking about.  Ask a question or post a comment.  You may even learn something new!

Now, for Questions and Answers.  At the top of the Linkedin page and under the heading, “More”, you will find a list called, “Answers.”  From here, you can either ask or answer questions.  When you answer questions about your area of expertise, it’s an opportunity to publicize your knowledge.  Here is an easy way to demonstrate what you know and in a setting that’s far less intimidating than an interview.  Not only will it show up within this section, it will appear in your profile. 

So, go ahead and make the most out of your Linkedin account!

Social Media and Small Business

If you are running a small business, taking advantage of social media tools can be the great leveler between you and the big boys.  Can’t afford expensive ad campaigns on television or radio? No problem.  Channels such as the Internet combined with mobile technology should be your friend. The beauty of an online presence is that a well-designed web site and its trimmings can make your company appear larger than it actually may actually be. Who can tell a “mom and pop” operation from the behemoth anymore?  If your company is internet-based, who knows if you even have a warehouse full of inventory. The manufacturer or distributor can be carrying it all for you.

About social media. Develop a dialogue with your customers. That’s what it’s all about today. By establishing a direct communication link between you and your customers, you learn about their likes and dislikes.  They will tell you what they like about your products, your customer service and more.  Isn’t that what you should want anyway? Your customers can help you hone what to sell and improve your level of service with the feedback they provide.

So, develop a conversation with your customers through the likes of Facebook and Twitter.  Let them know about promotions with a Tweet.  Enable your customers to post comments on Facebook.  Why not share your expertise by writing postings to a blog linked to your web site.

If you don’t know where to start, there are lots of books out there about social media and small business.  The more you read and observe how others are using it, the more it will make sense.  One book I recommend is the Complete Idiots Guide to Social Media Marketing by Jennifer Abernethy.  It’s fairly comprehensive and easy to follow.