Wednesday, 14 June 2017

My Voicemail isn’t Working – Fabulous!

For the last six weeks, my voicemail hasn’t been working on my mobile. For a sole trader, you would think that would be a disaster. Well, I must tell you I am very happy about it.

Can it be fixed? Yes, easily with one phone call to O2. So why haven’t I spent the 15 minutes doing just that? It’s because I am relishing the tranquillity and discipline.

We have generally become too reliant on our mobiles and speedy communication. A bold statement I realise from a pretty switched-on business person but I realise for me it is all too disruptive. For instance, it is far too easy for someone to quickly leave a voicemail and think they can tick one more piece of communication off their list. All they’ve done is create extra work for me.

A lot of the time I can’t understand much of the voicemail message. There is either noise on the line or around me, the caller has spoken too quickly or rambled or sometimes the message just gets cuts off. It is so frustrating and normally means I then must phone the caller back to figure out the reason for the call and that results in a detailed conversation there and then when it isn’t necessarily the most convenient time. I also sometimes forget to call back if I can’t do it immediately which then results in another phone contact.

Often you will find there was no urgency for the call. Indeed, they can be unwanted sales calls. In my opinion, I believe an email is still the best way to communicate for business. It allows me to clearly understand the reason for the contact and provide a timely, thoughtful response.

I can hear many of your shouting that just shifts the burden to a very full inbox. I get it and, yes, I can easily get frustrated by too many emails too. It isn’t necessary to send a ‘thank you’ after you think you've completed an email communication. Overall though, I am a disciplined person when it comes to my emails and I can prioritise my responses. And I hope it ultimately provides the same to those who have sent them.

I should admit I just made the call to O2 to fix the problem. Seems it is a bit of a complicated issue and will require an engineer but I have been assured that it will be sorted within 5 days. This doesn’t mean I’ve gone back on my desire for a more peaceful voicemail-life. Even fixed, I still have control as to when to turn the message system on or not and believe I will be managing just that! If you want to get my best attention, send me an email please as the first point of contact. I thank you.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Engine is On and Back Up and Running

Right I am stepping into action again - at least that is my intention. I have not blogged for too long a time now and need to restart and keep it going. I have a load of excuses and some of them are almost acceptable but I need to do as I preach to others. Blogs shouldn't be onerous or painful. They shouldn't take long to write if it is a subject you know well or are passionate about. Goodness knows I have a lot I am passionate about.

I am slightly changing the focus of my blogging now - only a bit. I've learned a lot over the years, actually still learning, and want to write down these tidbits and pass on including what I am up to currently. There will be varying topics so the flow may not be as fluid as it could be but all these topics will be things I am personally interested in.

With that change comes a blog title update. One of my favourite expressions apparently (although I never realised I was saying it as often as I do until someone pointed it out) is that I am no 'Spring Chicken'. I think people take me wrong when I say that but I am actually being self-deprecating rather than feeling sorry for myself. I also mean I've 'been there, done that' and definitely have lots of t-shirts. So you are now reading my blog 'No Spring Chicken Pearls of Wisdom' and I hope to be providing what it says on the tin. Of course, I do have the perogative of changing this title again if so inspired - it's my party. 

I should think the topics will vary including Social Media tips and tricks (and annoyances), my life in London and my lovely area of Chiswick, the current state of the world and the nightmare currently going on in my beloved USA and my newest venture into the scary but exhilarating world of property investing.  Please feel free to join into the conversation if anything I've said inspires you to feedback or add your own experiences. No placing bets though on whether I can keep this up. Surely once a week is easily achievable - yes?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

No one listens – including me!

We are consumed by our mobiles, iPads, social media and all things digital. That in itself is not really news. What I have just realised is how much we don’t actually listen to what others are saying because we are so engrossed in our own digital worlds.

How has this suddenly dawned on me? It was because of a story my mother was telling a friend of mine. She was recanting how if it wasn’t for my aunt intervening she may never have given my father a second chance at the tender age of 16. I thought I knew most things about my parents and I am sure my mother has told that story before but I wasn’t paying attention. With so much on my mind and calls and emails constantly pinging on my devices, I didn’t listen. And now that my mother is elderly and frail, I realise just how important it is to take in all this information.

This isn’t really about just taking in my gorgeous mom’s recollections. It is a sudden lightning bolt that my attention span has been diminishing as time goes by.  How many of you have gone to a lecture or even a meeting and kept an eye on your mobile? How many of you have had lunch with a good friend telling you their problems and your phone was face up on the table? Perhaps you have answered a business call while sitting at your desk with one eye still on your emails or reading Facebook? Is your iPad sitting on your sofa next to you while you watch tv?

There are very few view people I know who couldn’t say ‘yes’ to at least one of those questions. I do know some people who shun mobiles and emails almost completely and happily but they are few and far between. And perhaps to generalise, the younger you are the less you are conditioned to listen well.

Think of how much you are missing out. In an age of information overload, try simply taking in the things your family and friends are telling you. That goes for work colleagues and customers too. Listen well, listen intently and you may just be surprised to hear what you’ve been missing. I’m learning to walk away from my mobile and computers for a number of hours a day. Maybe baby steps but it feels good to realise I haven’t actually missed anything really important in that time. It also means I am starting to slowly absorb the small stuff I have grown to ignore. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Must you be Perfect or is Close Good Enough

So what do you think is more important for business? Speed to market or getting everything exactly right before taking action? I wouldn’t proclaim to have the absolute answer but it is something I run across a lot lately.

I do have an opinion. I think, to coin a very old phrase, the early bird catches the worm.  I have yet to find a perfect website, social media campaign or youtube video but so many still hit the spot and get a response and that’s what counts. If you spend so much time looking for the 100% right words or the perfect photo, you will lose time gaining business.

Being in the digital age means everything is manageable. If you aren’t happy with some of the copy, change it. That’s why God invented the CMS. I often tell my clients that 95% is pretty damn good when it comes to getting their new website ready. The rest can be updated as you go so get it out there. If the odd mistake is noticed, then thank the bearer of the news and make the change (you could say they won the prize for first spot). The fact that someone took the time to look at the website in the first place and notice the error means you’ve won. Another old adage – any publicity is good publicity.

I have also spotted many slip ups in Twitter and Facebook. That could be something as simple as sending out publicly what you thought was a DM or private message to just plain bad spelling (the curse of the predictive text – I have done my fair share of funny posts). Well there again the beauty and speed of social media channels means you get a second slice of the pie. You get the chance to update or do a second mea culpa message. You may get noticed but isn’t that really what you want?

There are a few things I do find hard to excuse such as using lower case ‘i’ when referring to yourself or apostrophes where they don’t belong. I slightly despair at what texting and social media has done to our grammar and spelling especially with younger people. I can understand how it happens but wish more care was taken or at least considered.

Overall, my advice is get out there and get selling yourself and your products or services. Spending a lot of time and money for perfection at the beginning of your journey is a luxury few SMEs can afford. There is plenty of time to update. Your website and marketing should be an ever-evolving thing.   

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Saying ‘No’ can be a Good Thing

In my many years of working and being in business, I had always thought that you never say ‘no’ to any customer or potential customers (apart from the most ridiculous requests). I think I married that along with the ‘customers always right whatever’ philosophy in my psyche. Last year, though, I thought I would try a few ‘noes’ and the result was I lost no business but gained a bit of professional happiness and confidence.

Very often the more you give, the more someone takes. I don’t blame anyone for that for it is the person giving that has allowed the situation to happen. If you are worth your weight though then your clients and friends will take whatever you give. I don’t suggest you short change anyone but I think it is fair to set boundaries and keep to them.

Take for instance after hour or weekend calls and emails. I used to jump on all emails no matter when they came in. I always seem to have my mobile or iPad to hand even when I am relaxing in front of the television or reading the newspaper. Last year I decided that my limit to replying was 6pm and anything after that time would get a response in the morning. Lo and behold, no one seemed to mind.

The same goes for meetings. I started telling new clients a few years ago what my hours of availability were and they did not include nights and weekends (without prior agreement for the odd time). That set my boundaries and hasn’t affected business one bit.

One of the hardest ‘noes’ is turning down a new business opportunity. I find saying no to anyone asking for my help very difficult but realistically you do need to understand what business you want to do and what that is worth. I have taken my fair share of work on that just doesn’t pay so I am learning the fine of art of turning down work. It isn’t always easy saying no in this case but when you do, it can be very empowering.  

All this goes a long way to achieving a better work-life balance. We all deserve our own space and me-time as well as contentment for what we do. Clients will understand this as long as it is clear from the outset. And think of it as doing them a favour too as you will be in a better place to help them and not waste time – you might also be teaching them the idea of doing the same.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Resolutions or Just Get My Act Together ?

I think I need to skip making resolutions this New Year. I go in every year with gusto and the best intentions and then I get to the end of the year and feel bad because I didn’t manage to keep to my resolutions. So this year, I think I shall try and simplify things and cheer myself on by thinking ‘Come on Jeannie, just do better’.

Last year’s resolutions included a few practical items along with some professional and personal things. I was determined to get my British Nationality and my British Driver’s License. Got one out of two so not a complete failure (I am a Brit now - hurrah). The elusive driver’s license remains a goal for if I am to stay in the UK, I need wheels to enable me to consider a move out of London. But I refuse to say I will definitely get that license in 2016 – it has got to be because I want it bad enough.

Professionally well that was hit and miss. From the routine of doing a regular blog (fail) to finding and doing something new and exciting (tried but no cigar), I can’t say it was a great year for me. I have very itchy feet at the moment in terms of my businesses and have no regrets about trying new things but still searching for the one ‘thing’ that makes me happy and makes some money.

So what is that ‘better’ I'm looking for? I'm not very sure but I do know I need to get a few things on track and keep to them. The first is getting fit which I say every year but don’t necessary admit to it in writing. Well here we go and we’ll start off by buying a Fitbit with a gift card I've received. Watching my diet and generally moving more needs to be on the agenda.

I also need to be better getting my business ambitions right. One positive lesson I did learn this year was the art of saying ‘no’ and that felt very empowering. If it isn't right, just say ‘no’ and move on. I shall continue doing that. This new year I've also got to learn to also say ‘yes’ and ‘why not’ before judging something isn't for me. So for those people who have reached out about new business ideas and opportunities, I may just say let’s go for it – nothing ventured etc. And anyone who has an idea, happy to hear all about it.

So in 2016, I will try to do better and get my act together. I will certainly tell my family and friends how much they mean to me and I will keep my spirits high no matter what. I wish all of you a very Happy and Healthy New Year and may you all have a go at doing better. It is something we can all do.

Monday, 6 April 2015

To Tweet or not To Tweet (but if you do, do it well)

Every now and again, I feel the need to update my twitter rules of engagement. I say ‘my’ because it isn’t official of course but as someone who has been tweeting for a very long time and tries to keep up with twitter trends, I hope I can inspire by my experience.

Twitter evolves and while some have predicted its demise for a long time, I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, I think it is still getting stronger.

So here is my 2015 twitter rules of engagement or ‘Think Jeannie’s Guide to Twitter’.

·       -  Short and sweet in the name of the game. If you want to get a RT, you need to leave room in those 140 characters for the letters ‘RT’ and for your twitter handle to show (so at least space for 19 extra characters for a RT)

·       -  Make sure your tweet content is a mix of things. Try some RTs of facts & figures or interesting research. Throw in some personal tweets (bad lunch, family time, my rubbish football team lost etc). Other tweeters want to know something about the person/people behind the account.

·        - Never be too ‘salesy’ on Twitter. It is not a selling channel. If your tweets are interesting enough, you’ll get someone to your website where you should be selling like hell.

·       -  Please don’t send a DM to thank someone for following. That’s a waste of a DM and not the purpose of it. Thank yous should be done in a public tweet. You want to let your followers know that ‘you & I’ are worthy of following each other. It is not a secret society.

·        - Do use a DM if you are a business who has a genuine ‘twitter’ offer for following. For instance, if I follow a restaurant, you are more than welcome to thank me in a DM by sending me a voucher for a free glass of wine or discount. If you do that, make it a genuine decent (but easy to fulfil) offer.

·        - Make sure your twitter profile is creative & short (max 160 characters). Also make sure your banner is the right size (you don’t want pixilation). Remember only a certain middle bit of that banner shows on mobiles & tablets.

·        - And your profile shot should be either a distinctive, clear logo or your picture.  It’s a very important part of your profile.

·        - Say thanks to someone who has retweeted one of your posts and do it publicly (not in a DM).

·        - Hashtags are powerful but don’t overuse them. They are great when tweeting about trends or for an event you are organizing (communicate ahead of time to attendees what the event hashtag will be).

·        - Hashtags are also good when complaining or moaning about service (mentioning the ‘offending’ business name in the hashtag). A good business or organization will be on top of those # and respond accordingly. You can right a wrong by being responsive. So check often & then let the tweeter know you’ve heard them (don’t force a DM conversation – the complainer has been public for a reason).

·        - Automate as little as possible. Genuine tweets = genuine followers.

·        - If you don’t have the time to tweet regularly, yes that means a couple of times most days, then don’t tweet! If you’re a business, Facebook & LinkedIn may just be a better avenue for your social media.

·        - Do not swear or be rude. Having a strong opinion is fine but you don’t have to insult someone and everyone’s intelligence by using expletives.

·        - Don’t carry on with too long a ‘private’ conversation or joke in the public eye. Switch to DMs where you can chat away. And don’t forget, phones and emails still exist!

·        - Quality not quantity is the name of the game for followers. Clean up your followers list often (try Justunfollow ) and get rid of those who look like spammers or those who haven’t tweeted in ages but are still following you (like those who have automated – see #13).

·        - To get followers you have to follow too (‘if you build it, they just don’t automatically come’). Look at terms that are of interest to you & see which tweeters come up. Never hesitate to follow someone that strikes your fancy – shyness doesn’t exist on twitter. All businesses are created equal on twitter.

·        - Remember twitter is not private – you may think you are speaking to a closed audience of your followers but you are not. And you may just lose your job over it (HR people now regularly monitor employee twitter accounts). Don’t call a sickie then talk about the great party you went to last night. Not clever.

·        - Weekends and nights rule. I used to say you could do less tweets during that time. That wouldn’t be good advice now. People spend more quality time on twitter on the weekends and evenings (who really has the time during a busy working day).

It may only be 140 characters but it shows the person or business who you are so use the opportunity and time well. Twitter can be such a powerful tool!