10 Life-Changing Ways to Become More Business Savvy

When I look to hire a new employee, one of the key skills I look for is savvy. It goes beyond education, beyond experience, and beyond talent.

Here’s Google’s definition of savvy:

shrewd and knowledgeable in the realities of life.

synonyms:

shrewd, astute, sharp-witted, sharp, acute, adroit, intelligent, clever,canny, perceptive, perspicacious, sagacious, sage, wise

People can be savvy about different things— social, political, business, tech, cultural. One of the cool things about savvy is that it can be a noun, a verb, or an adjective. Captain Jack Sparrow is fond of using the verb form, meaning “understand?”

In the entrepreneurial world, if you find a partner or employee with business savvy, you’ve struck gold. You’ve found someone who is resourceful, quick, and probably a leader too.

I recently saw a rant by Gary Vaynerchuk about why people over 40 should be more entrepreneurial, (warning there is a tiny bit of profanity in the video) and he touched on this exact quality. People with a lifetime of actual experience naturally build up savvy. They have learned to adapt to different situations because they’ve been through them. They have context.

But don’t assume that savvy is restricted to the over-40 crowd. Practical experience helps build savvy, but you can encounter young people who are “savvy savants.” Often they are referred to as “old souls.” 

How to Become More Business Savvy

  1. Look beneath the surface in any situation; don’t immediately accept things at face value.
  2. Pick up skills intentionally. Communication skills, in particular, contribute to savvy.
  3. Take note of things going on around you. Perceptive is another synonym for savvy.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go against the herd.
  5. Apply insider knowledge to your advantage (like using curbside checkin at the airport instead of inside counter help).
  6. Don’t ignore etiquette; pay attention to the details of social graces, which apply even more in business situations.
  7. Do a lot more listening than talking.
  8. Humility is important, but don’t be a doormat. Savvy people look for a win-win whenever they can. It’s not always about getting an advantage for yourself.
  9. Take time to learn about cultural differences.
  10. Be the most prepared person in the room.

Do you consider yourself a savvy business person? What qualities do you feel make someone savvy?

 

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the Hoop.la community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

 

11 Things We Forget But Should Always Remember

I forget the important things when I’m stressed. Do you struggle with this too? I focus on the wrong things and minimize the important while spiraling on the insignificant. I often need to be reminded of what’s important. So here are 11 things we forget but should always remember:

  1. We can’t ask our employees to do something we aren’t willing to do.
  2. Humility is unique and attractive.
  3. People only know what we want when we tell them.
  4. Customers are like wives – even when they seem locked-down, they still need romanced.
  5. To-do lists are important, but people are even more so.
  6. Autonomy and cooperation is life-giving for everyone. Micromanagement and dictatorship is exhausting and frustrating for everyone.
  7. A genuine thank you can impact the receiver way more than we know.
  8. Dedication is rare and precious.
  9. Simpler is better. You can always expand.
  10. Culture comes from the top but can revolutionize from the bottom.
  11. The hard is what makes it great. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it.

Life, work and business can all be hard. Even the weather seems out to get us at times. Let’s remember to pour ourselves into what’s important and care for those around us.

What are some things you remember to bring you back to what’s important?

 

Cover image info: Original, royalty-free image from Death To The Stock Photo.

About the author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino.

Is 2016 the Year Your Brand Enters New Markets?

Man Hand writing "A goal without a plan is just a wish" black ma

 With the calendar flipped over to 2016, is your brand thinking this is the year to expand globally?

Taking your business outside the United States can come with both potential benefits and risks.

For starters, you need to have a true feel for the market/markets you are thinking of taking flight in.

Know the Economic and Political Conditions

Take note of everything from current economic conditions to the political mood (especially if things are deteriorating).

Without a true lay of the land, you run the risk of entering an area or areas of the world that could prove detrimental to your brand and ultimately your financial health.

Secondly, are you going to be entering an area or areas of the world where the demographics can support your brand for a long period of time, be it a market such as http://brasilinsight.com/ or another locale around the world?

It is nothing short of critical that your entrance to one or more foreign markets prove to be locations where the long-term outlook is positive for your brand to succeed. To take the time and effort to expand to a location or locations where there is much uncertainty about long-term success simply doesn’t make sense for you on several fronts.

For example, going into locations of the world where populations are dwindling (especially for your given product/s or service/s) would be nothing short of foolish.

You want to find markets where there is room for growth, a need for your brand, and solid economic resources available for consumers to purchase what you have to offer.

Another consideration to take into account with potential expansion outside the United States is the current and projected political climates in those respective areas.

For instance, are politics dominating the news in one or more of the countries outside the U.S. where you are thinking of expanding to?

Yes, there is oftentimes lots of political talk in the U.S. and abroad, but there is a clear line between good political discussion/events and trouble brewing on the horizon. If the country or countries you are thinking of expanding to are in fact in the latter group, think twice about how best served you would be entering such a market or markets.

Finally, going into new markets bring with it some uncertainty, but the bigger question is do you have the will and financial means to stomach some challenges that may arise?

There could very well be some rough roads ahead when you enter new markets, so make sure you have the financial backing to weather such times.

You also can’t just enter a market and then bail if things get dicey.

This is all the more reason why proper analysis and planning of any foreign market you are considering entering is crucial to your long-term success, allowing you to bypass myriad of mistakes.

There are foreign markets out there for your brand to thrive in; finding the right ones to enter is your challenge in 2016 and beyond.

Photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business and marketing topics on the web.

A Commitment To The Commitment

It’s the season of crashing and burning on new year’s resolutions. Left and right people are falling off the wagon and going back to whatever they vowed against.

Sometimes what we need is a commitment to the commitment. Instead of committing to eating better, maybe we need to commit to the commitment of eating better. That way, when we fail once, we don’t fall off the wagon and end our resolution in January, we instead try to eat better again at the next meal. We all mess up, but those who don’t quit on their commitment are the ones who create sustainable change.

It’s like marriage, you make a commitment to your spouse for life. When things get weird or hard or you have a fight, you don’t peace out. You’re committed. And so it should be with all the things you’re trying to improve.

But there’s something bigger amiss here. We know we can stay committed to something and do it half-way for a while. But why can’t we create sustainable momentum on what we resolve to do? It’s because we can’t create sustainable change by trying to change a behavior. We can create sustainable change only when we deal with the beliefs that drive our behaviors.

Do we fear that there won’t be enough? Do we stress about the future of our businesses? Do we worry about all the things? We need to ask ourselves why we do what we do.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What drives my stress/fear/behavior?
  • Are my worries/beliefs founded?
  • What can I do to change things?
  • Does the worry help?

Our well-intentioned resolutions aren’t just for us, right? Maybe you want to be healthy to ensure you get to walk your daughter down the aisle someday. Maybe you want to restrain your spending so you’re able to give more to others. Or maybe you want to streamline your workflow so that you can better serve your clients. We should seek to do the hard work of dealing with what drives us, not just for us, but so that others’ lives are better as well.

Imagine if we committed to learning about and dealing with what drives us. Then, instead of making a bunch of small commitments (like eating better, stressing less, etc.), we would consistently be improving due to our singular commitment to dealing with all the worries and beliefs that drive us.

We all long to create sustainable change in our lives, our relationships and our businesses. Committing to the process and dealing with what drives us can make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of those around us.

 

Cover image info: Original, royalty-free image by Roman Pohorecki.

About the author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino.

What Your Silence is Saying

The first time I had a boss check-in with me, just to see how I was doing, I was a little freaked-out and I worried that something was wrong. I was relieved and surprised when she spent time with me just to show me she cared. Since then, I’ve had several bosses who checked in with me regularly to see how I was doing and if I had the resources I needed. And I’ve always appreciated that they’ve cared enough to check in.

But this shouldn’t be an extraordinary occurrence. We know this is just good leadership.

But what about when we’re too busy to check-in with employees, colleagues and co-workers? If we’re not saying anything, at least we’re not hurting them, right?

Wrong. Our silence speaks volumes. It tells people that they aren’t worth our presence and time. It says that we are fine on our own and we don’t need them. It says that we don’t respect them enough to ask for their input on decisions.

But they are worth our time and presence, we do need them and we do want their input. So we need to communicate it. Silence is never going to tell them we care.

And keeping in touch can be easier than you think – a simple email, phone call, or 3-minute conversation may be all it takes for you to serve them well and let them know you care. So make it a habit to care for your employees before another business woos them by doing it better.

Let’s make sure we’re checking in on the regular. Let’s not let long stretches go by without caring for the people around us. Let’s not let our priorities get out of whack. Because if we don’t care for our people, we may find they don’t stay around long.

 

 

Cover image info: Original, royalty-free image by Alejandro Escamilla from Unsplash.com.

About the author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino.

The Night Before Christmas (Marketing Style)

Apologies to Clement Clarke Moore…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the web,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a Blab;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Seth Godin soon would be there;

The marketers were nestled all snug at their stand-up desks;

While visions of viral videos danced in their heads;

And the CMO in her ‘kerchief, and I in my hipster cap,

Had just settled our brains for a 10 minute power nap,

When out on the landing page there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.

Away to the Chrome window I flew like a flash,

Opened a new tab and refreshed the page.

The analytics on the breast of the returning visitors stat,

Gave a lustre of success to my blog post, like that,

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a big traffic spike and 5000 emails,

With shares and retweets so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be a REDEF pick.

More rapid than eagles the readers they came,

And commented, and Tweeted, and called us by name:

“Now, Buzzfeed! now, HuffPo! now HBR and ReadWrite!

On, TechCrunch! on, Medium! on, TheNextWeb and Reddit!

To the top of the list! to the top of the feed!

Now approach away! approach away! approach away leads!”

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the front page the readers they flew

With the sleigh full of clients, and Mark Schaefer too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the listening post

The prancing and pawing of each little web host.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney Liz Strauss came with a bound.

She was dressed all in fur, from her head to her toe,

Because the weather in Chicago is cold, there’s snow;

A bundle of clients she had flung on her back,

And she looked like a boss, just leading the pack.

Her eyes—how they twinkled! her dimples, how merry!

Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry!

Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the hair on her head was blonde, as you know;

The cap of a pen she held tight in her teeth,

And the ideas, they encircled her head like a wreath;

She was very tall and had mischievous eyes

That danced when she laughed, you might be surprised.

She was quick and intuitive, with a razor sharp wit,

And I hugged her when I saw her, in spite of myself;

A wink of her eye and a twist of her head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

She spoke not a word, but went straight to her work,

Shared lots of wisdom; then turned with a jerk,

And laying her finger aside of her nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney she rose;

She sprang to her car, to her team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard her exclaim, ere she drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Remember To Look Up

A week ago I went to a local arts and crafts fair and connected with a woman who I hadn’t spoken to in years. She is a local pottery artist that owns her own shop. It was pleasant talking to her and she said I could come to her shop for more pieces if I wanted.

So this past weekend I went down to her shop to look for Christmas presents. She had the place stocked with beautiful items and I noticed she was at the cash register. As I went to check out, she barely looked up. She seemed busy and stressed. She didn’t recognize me, well I’m not sure she really even looked at me, as I checked out.

And that was it. And I left feeling very unseen. She was calm and relaxed when I had seen her a week ago. We talked about various topics and she was kind and attentive. But she was someone else entirely this past weekend. And though I understand that she was very busy and preoccupied, it was disappointing.

Our personal touch with customers and clients is what solidifies healthy relationships with them. But if we are so consumed with the work that we forget to look up, we miss out on deepening relationships with them.

Often times we think caring for people is antithetical to making money when in reality, the more we care for people, the more likely they are to stay customers. And it’s a well-known fact that it costs far more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.  So it’s vital to our businesses that when we are serving current customers we remember to take our eye off our work and look up and see them.

It gets crazy this time of year. Even if you’re not in retail and you’re just closing the year out, there’s still a tendency for us to check out or burn out (after all, those days off are coming). But we can’t forget that our customers are people and every interaction matters.

We need to remember to look up. Put a sticky note on your laptop so that your eyes actually leave it when someone comes to ask you a question. Put a note on your cash register. Put it on your to-do list.

Serving people is what makes our work worth it. There will always be work to do. But if we forgo chances we have to look up and serve people, we’ll find those chances dwindling. None of us wants that. So let’s remember to look up.

 

Cover image info: Original, royalty-free image from Death To The Stock Photo.

About the author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino.

How You Say Goodbye Matters

This past weekend, my husband and I went to the gym to cancel our membership. We had never been to this particular location before, but when we went in, we were surprised by how much nicer it was than others we had been to. We spoke with the associate at the counter, let’s call him Rich. When we had a question, he called someone to make sure he had the right answer for us. He was very courteous, easy-to-talk-to and he served us well. He put no pressure on us to stay and he didn’t try to sell us on a different level membership.

My husband noted to me how nice Rich had been to us. I agreed and considered not canceling our membership. I considered this only because of the kindness of Rich and how nice this particular location looked.

I was struck by Rich and how kind he was. He treated us as if we were signing up instead of ending our relationship with the gym. How he treated us changed our view and made us consider staying.

Have you ever broke up with someone and they treated you so badly afterward that you knew you made the right choice?

It’s because of this – how you say goodbye matters.

It always matters – from when you’re saying goodbye to friends who are moving away to when a customer is leaving your business.

If we treat people with respect and seek to serve them at all their points of contact with us (beginning, middle and end), they’ll naturally gravitate toward us in the future. It’s hard to lose customers, but if you end relationships with customers bitterly or coldly, they’ll be less likely to come back.

So let’s consider how we can serve customers better when they say goodbye. Here are some things I thought of:

  • Put some time into a kind and creative goodbye for customers when they unsubscribe from your email newsletters. Don’t add a coupon or a sales pitch. Just a note at the unsubscribe page that creatively thanks and respects them. I’ve enjoyed several that have made me reconsider my choice.
  • Train your employees to treat unhappy and leaving customers with care and respect, just as much as you do for potential customers.
  • Make leaving less painful. Have you ever broken up with someone and they made it so easy that you kind of liked them more for it? Me either. But how nice would that be, right? Instead of making customers jump through complex hoops to cancel services, make it as easy as it is to sign up and serve them superbly even when they’re exiting.

This doesn’t sound like typical business strategy. I’m sure there are many who would push instead for you to craft a better sales pitch for exiting customers or make it as difficult as possible for them to leave so that you keep raking in their money. But typical businesses have been missing the mark. When we start treating customers like people and do everything in our power to serve them well from beginning to end, we all win.

What are some others ways we can serve customers better as they’re exiting?

 

Cover image info: Original, royalty-free image from Gratisography.

About the author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino .

Listening for Your Customers’ Wish List

Do you like Christmas shopping? I dread doing laps around a store looking for ideas for the hard-to-buy-for people on my list. But several years ago I started doing something ordinary that has completely changed Christmas shopping for me. When I spend time with loved ones, I try to pay attention to their likes, wants or needs and I note them in my phone. Then, come December, I have an idea list so I can get each person a gift that fits them perfectly.

The snag to this plan, of course, is when I’ve been too focused on myself or my agenda to notice what someone might need. When I approach my time with others wanting to be served or as tasks to be completed, I don’t notice their needs and so, come December, I’m at a loss as to what gift would serve them best.

And in the same way, maybe we’re missing out on how to serve our customers best. When we are too busy with our agenda, we miss out on seeing others’ needs. We need three things to solve this problem:

  1. We need to listen actively.
  2. We need to note our customers’ needs.
  3. We need to follow up and work to fulfill the needs.

Odds are that our customers’ needs are obvious, but that we’re not always listening for them. We need to have our focus on serving others in all that we do, even if that means our agendas need to be interrupted for us to do so.

We may notice needs from time to time, but how can we be more intentional and practical with them? The following are some ideas I had. If you have a client-service business, you should be focused on actively listening for your clients’ needs in every conversation. Simply set apart time to note needs after conversations. If you have a retail business, you could set up a note board for sales associates to write down customer needs they’ve discovered. If you have a service-based business, you could have your employees note customer needs after each service provided.

It’s often the simple things that can make a big difference in how we serve customers. If we actively listen for needs and work to meet those needs, we may find our businesses become rare and our customers become loyal.

 

Original image from Death To The Stock Photo.

About the Author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+ .

Is Stereotyping Customers Hurting Your Business?

What do we think about our customers?

My mom was buying some anti-congestion medication this past week. She asked the pharmacy tech for the OTC version (which they keep behind the counter). My mom requested two boxes and the tech said “We’ll see.” The tech continued to make my mom feel like a criminal throughout the rest of the process until the tech finally relinquished the medication.

We know not everyone is trustworthy all the time, including our customers. But what a mistake it is to err on the side of distrusting them. When we assume the worst of our customers, we aren’t as friendly, caring or helpful as we should be. If we count them as tasks we need to complete or obstacles to accomplish sales, we will not be as successful as we could be. And worst of all, if we stereotype them as we see them, we miss out on serving them excellently.

All of this starts in our thoughts. When we see a customer what do we think? Do we think a woman is poor if she has messy hair? She could be a busy mom. Do we think a man is rich if we see him in a suit? It could have been donated to him. We all fall into it. But stereotypes don’t help us serve people best.

When we see a customer what should we think?

We should see them as human, like we are. We should think about the honor it is to serve another person. We should feel thankful to have the skills and ability to serve them. We should feel grateful we are needed to serve them.

And all that should lead us to listen to them, to make their needs the priority and to serve them the best we can.

And let’s not forget about the consequences when we continue to entertain stereotypes about customers. My mom told me about her experience at the pharmacy because of the negative emotional impact it had on her. Negative word-of-mouth is a natural consequence of poor service due to our stereotypes.

The best customer service starts in our thoughts about our customers.

What do you think about your customers?

 

Image info: Photo by Adam Przewoski, found on Unsplash.

About the Author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+ .