Monday, October 3, 2011

How an Employer Might Treat a Facebook Faux Pas


It's a big deal in the world of business.

But what's the difference between sharing your opinion and violating your employer's confidentiality?  Or that of a co-worker?

Personally, I'm a fan of not burning bridges--especially in business.  If I have a gripe with someone, I generally discuss it with him or her.  Of course, there are people who choose not to participate in discussion.  So yes, I might gripe to someone else.  I'd like to believe I choose my confidantes with care.

Facebook is not one of my confidantes. Sure, I can acquire a lot of publicity via Facebook.  But I can also acquire notoriety. Big time. had a pretty good article on the subject a few days ago titled Facebook Policies Tricky for Employers, Workers you might find interesting.

Your thoughts on the subject?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How to Help Non-English Speaking Clients

We've all encountered clients who weren't born speaking the same language we speak.  If you were born in America, your first language was probably English.

For many people in this country, however, English is not the first language they learned to speak.  And while many people are bilingual or have learned to speak English, understanding the terminology and concepts in certain business industries is very difficult for them.

During the process of writing an insurance course for a client, I ran across a website that provides interpreter services for businesses and professionals who are unable to locate an interpreter to help them assist their clients.  I thought I'd pass it along as a resource:

Feel free to share your advice and tips about how to help non-English speaking clients.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Time Management - Lesson #1

I recently received an inquiry from a client with respect to managing her time at the office.

Seems her employer expects her to respond to her voice mail messages as soon as they're received and to leave an outgoing message that says she'll respond to all voice mail messages within the hour.

Personally, I don't like this method for two major reasons:
  1. By allowing only a one-hour window of opportunity during which to return calls, you're not allowing for emergencies, other clients, and ... lunch! If anything time-consuming happens during that hour, you'll break your promise--which is recorded for all the world to hear.
  2. You're setting a precedent. If you inform people that you'll respond instantly to their requests, they'll believe you ... and expect you to do it in the future. All the time. No matter what.
I prefer recording an outgoing message that says I'll return all calls by the end of the day and asking callers to return to the operator if they have an emergency or a situation that can't wait until the end of the day. This alleviates any "issues" created by #1 and #2 above:
  1. You're allowing yourself time to handle emergencies, other clients, and lunch. If you can return a call in 15 minutes, or 60 minutes, then you've not only kept your promise, you've done so in a super-efficient way. And if you return someone's call at 5:00 p.m. (or whenever your office closes), you're a person of your word.
  2. You're not setting a precedent and you're letting people know that emergencies are handled immediately and non-emergencies are handled on the same day they arise. Sounds reasonable, and professional to me.
What do YOU think your outgoing voicemail message should say? And why?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How do YOU do it? - Book Giveaway

I'm working on a project that involves the development, writing, and presentation of three customer service webinars. Of course, I know how I've done certain things in the business world during the past 30+ years.

But I'm wondering how YOU do certain things.

If you make a comment and share details about how YOU do one or more of the following, your name will be entered a giveaway for a free copy of Taking the Mystery Out of Business: 9 Fundamentals for Professional Success. Your name will be entered for each question you address in your comemnt; so yes, if you comment on each of the three questions, your name gets entered three times.

Here's what I want to know:
  1. What's the single biggest time-waster you face during your work day ... and how have you managed to overcome it?
  2. How do you manage to stay current in your business industry? Specifically, I want to know the challenges you face with inforamtion overload and what techniques you use to hone in the most beneficial resources to keep yourself current and up-to-date.
  3. How do you successfully manage the conflicting need of clients, vendors, employers, ... and yourself?
Deadline for your contest entry is 11:59 p.m. on 8/31/2011 I'll announce the winner on 9/1/2011. If you don't want to include your e-mail address in your comment, feel free to email me directly at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's Your Take on Asking for Help?

How do you feel about asking for help?
  • Do YOU ask for help when you need it?
  • How do you feel when other people ask YOU for help?
  • Do YOU think asking for help is a sign of weakness?
Once upon a time, I used to think that if I tried harder, I could be perfect. Okay, not perfect ... exactly. No one's perfect--everyone knows that. But close to perfect. Real close.

Which meant I had to do everything exactly right. And alone. Because needing help was one thing, but asking for it? That was something else. When you ask for help you admit, out loud, and in public, you're inadequate. Right?

WRONG! A wise person pointed out to me that you alienate people when you don't ask for help. People think you don't need them ... because they can't live up to your high standards. Or you don't want the help of other people because ... they can't live up to your high standards.

Here's another way of looking at it: If you do everything on your own, you're a one-man band. When the time comes to make music, you're a melody without harmony: one-dimensional, flat.

Asking for help doesn't mean you're inadequate, it means you're asking for help. It means you'd like the input and assistance of another person or persons. It means you embrace teamwork and you consider yourself to be human. In other words,  you don't poop vanilla ice cream.

People who poop vanilla ice cream alienate people all the time, don't they? They're a pain in the ... well, you get it. Our bodies simply weren't meant to store all that ice cream at 98.6 degrees.

Seriously, when you ask for help, you indicate you're open, honest, and human. Other people can relate to you and are more willing to offer you the assistance you need. They're relaxed with you because you are human ... just like them.

Yes, there are some people (and bosses) who will view your request for assistance as a weakness. I'm thinking their bathrooms double as ice cream parlors.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Calling for Help On ... Time Management

Molly and Max, Writing Assistants
I am being bombarded with discussion about Time Management lately. Of course, I have all kinds of answers (check out Chapter 7 in Taking the Mystery Out of Business) - but I'm interested in what YOU have to say.

Do you believe in "quiet time" at the office?

Do you download your e-mail every 5 minutes, every 20 minutes, or once an hour?

What does the outgoing message on your voice mail say?

Do you use To-Do lists?

How often do you plan: daily, weekly, monthly ... or not at all?

How do you prioritize? DO you prioritize ... or do you just talk about it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

What Makes a Good Salesperson?

Books have been written on the subject. In fact, the second book in the Taking the Mystery Out series will focus on sales and marketing.

I won't attempt, in this short blog post, to provide you with all the ingredients required to create a superb salesperson. I will, however, focus on what I believe is the single most important quality a salesperson can possess: integrity.

Webster defines integrity as being a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; the quality or state of being complete or undivided.

I, personally, embrace the second portion of the definition--being complete or undivided.

Have you ever met with a salesperson who constantly interrupts you? Or worse, who's constantly looking over your shoulder to see who else is in the room? How about the salesperson who talks incessantly about himself and doesn't know how to listen when other people speak?

Okay, I admit, if a salesperson spoke incessantly about himself no one else would get a word in edgewise and the salesperson wouldn't make a sale. But you know what I mean, don't you?

If a salesperson is complete and undivided, he's on the same page as the person he's talking with; he's focusing in on the goals of his customer or prospect instead of his own interests.

I was chatting with someone last week who mentioned a mutual acquaintance. She believed this mutual acquaintance was a terrific salesperson. I don't agree with her. Why? Here are some facts; let's connect the dots:
  • The salesperson is bringing in lots of new customers each week.
  • The business' client base is growing quickly.
  • An increasing number of clients are displaying payment issues.
  • An increasing number of new clients are dissatisfied because the product they bought doesn't contain all the benefits and features they were told it had.
  • An increasing number of new clients are upset because the pricing of the product they bought differs from the price they were quoted.
It's easy to schmooze with people and make promises. It's easy to be smiley, and friendly, and nice. What's not so easy is maintaining a good reputation when people find out you break your promises.

Being complete and undivided is the same thing as following rules or adhering to a code of values or ethics. Professionals do the right thing. They do it the right way and for the right reasons. Making yourself--and others--happy in the short term is NOT the right thing to do unless it also makes everyone happy in the long term.

Integrity is the foundation upon which all professional salespersons build their success.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What's so Wonderful About Speaking in Public?

Most people hate the prospect of standing before a group of people for any reason, let alone to talk. Their stomachs seize, their hearts race, and they imagine all manner of catastrophe.

That doesn't happen to me anymore. Instead, I get killer migraines about three hours afterward. Seriously, I do.

So, you're wondering, what's so terrific about getting migraines instead of stomach distress?

It's all about making a difference. Sharing a perspective. Facilitating the communication in a room filled with people so that everyone enjoys themselves and the majority walk away from the event with something more than they had when they arrived.

Personally, I don't much care for lectures. I'm sure it stems from the fact that I'm more of a participant than an observer. How much fun does a participant have when someone else stands at the front of a room talking without seeking input from the audience? Sure, I've benefited from listening to lectures. I've learned important information.

But I've had much more fun, and learned more, from presentations made by speakers who engaged the audience and encouraged them to participate. When a speaker seeks input from members of the audience, everyone in the room has the opportunity to share: perspectives, information, enjoyment.

As a speaker, I realize not everyone in my audience is going to like me. And that's okay, I don't always like everyone in my audience. What makes the migraines worthwhile, however, is the fact that after I make a presentation, the majority of my audience walks away feeling they're better for the experience: either they had a really good time or they acquired information they didn't have beforehand. Or both--that's really terrific.

I made a two-hour presentation at an insurance convention in Las Vegas earlier this week. Wanna know the best part? Afterwards, someone said to me, "Mary and I thought you rocked!"

Yep, the migraine was well worth it.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Latest Review by Carl Brookins

This review is from: Taking the Mystery Out of Business (Paperback)
The author debuted her first mystery fiction novel, "Second Time Around," in 2010. Now she's drawn on her years in business and training, as well as her understanding of the language and structure of genre fiction to put together a brief but complete handbook for almost anyone at any level of business activity.

Whether one is a COO, a CEO of a multi-layered organization, or a single entrepreneur, this slender volume has sage advice and clear understanding of both the limitations and the values of this kind of self-help effort. Written in a breezy direct style, the work offers frank direct ideas that, if taken in the heartfelt manner in which they are presented, can lead to successful business undertaking. Moreover, if it should be widely adopted, one might discover a plethora of business success driving our current recessionary circumstances into oblivion.

At first blush I didn't see how this slender book would be of much use to authors in the Crime Fiction community. But developments in publishing and rereading now lead me to suggest there are several fundamental aspects business here addressed which would be of considerable benefit to independent publishers and authors.
You can find Carl Brookins' other Amazon reviews here:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rotten Apples

My word for the day is ROTTEN.

Why? Because that's the first "R" word I thought of. Not because I'm negative, mind you, but because it brings to mind something I said to someone today when we were talking about salesmanship.

I've been in sales practically my entire life. And one of the things a lot of salespeople think is absolutely necessary in sales is to quote "apples for apples" when trying to win a customer from a competitor.

Personally, I hate the theory and think it's a bunch of crap. Someone (I think it's Jeffrey Gitomer) has this to say about the apples-to-apples mentality: "What if the other guy's apple is ROTTEN?"

HELLO! If someone is unhappy with his service provider, and he's shopping, something is clearly wrong with the relationship. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean the service provider must be the person with the "issue;" we've all had customers we'd like to give away... But it's a red flag.

I believe in giving my customers what they're looking for and it's seldom the exact same thing someone else has given them. Apples are okay; rotten apples are not.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How do you like your training?

Workplace training is essential. Yet how can you conduct (or receive) training in a productive, efficient manner?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that people learn and communicate differently:
  • Visually,
  • Auditorally, or
  • Kinesthetically (hands-on).
How do you think it's going to go when a trainer communicates and learns visually and is responsible for training a newbie who communicates and learns auditorally? For example, the trainer will hand the newbie a procedures manual, a video tape (or video to be viewed online), and instructions to get back to her after the newbie completes his reading and viewing. Unfortunately, the newbie would rather get his hands on whatever projects he'll be tackling and jump right in, learning along the way.

I'm, primarily, an auditory communicator and learner. My second choice is to do things kinesthetically. I do not like PowerPoint presentations, brochures, charts, or graphs. I'm simply not visual. If you toss a bunch of pictures at me, I'm not going to enjoy my training--or learn as quickly or as completely--as I would if material is presented to me during conversation or a hands-on exercise.

If you're a trainer, don't make the mistake of believing your trainees will learn if they listen to you, or do things the way you do them. The primary responsibility for a learning experience lies in the hands of the trainer--the person with the superior level of knowledge in the area in question. In order to be effective as a trainer, you need to communicate in a style your trainee receives ... and understands.

What are some of your biggest challenges when it comes to training ... either as a trainer OR as a trainee?

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Friendships Affect Businesses

I've always been a believer that my personal and business lives should remain separate. On the other hand, I'll do business with friends and relatives and I'll be friendly with clients. But there are certain relationships and behaviors I've always avoided when mixing business with pleasure.

Why? Because once you allow your personal feelings to enter a business relationship, it colors how you think, feel, and act. And if, for someone reason, mixing your business and personal lives doesn't affect how you think, feel, and act--it darn sure will for someone else.

Everyone knows how office politics and relationships are affected when a failed romantic relationship between two co-workers ends. But what about the more subtle nuances of other relationships?

Over the years, I've trusted many people. I've also learned that some of those people weren't trustworthy. The major reason I've been surprised by my misjudgment of people in business is because my personal bias (i.e., emotions and feelings) blinded me to actual facts.

Seriously now, think back to any occasions where someone--in your business life--cheated you or did you wrong. Did you see it coming? Was it because you had a preconceived opinion about the person, i.e., he was a good friend, she was a long-time client you thought you knew, he was a relative, she was smart/held a prestigious position/was referred by a friend?

The Huffington Post published an article on the subject recently and offers some detail and resources that support my belief that it's usually better, professionally, to keep your business and personal lives separate.

You're thinking: But didn't she just say she'll do business with friends and relatives and be friendly with clients? And yes, that's what I said. When I do business with friends and relatives, I always have a business associate around to monitor conversations and transactions. And when I'm friendly with clients I'm warmer with them than I am with other clients, and I may see them socially (as in sharing a meal at a restaurant) but seldom personally (as in attending the wedding of a client's daughter or attending the clients 4th of July BBQ at his house).

Relationships, after all, are the foundation of our professional success. But allowing ourselves to make business decisions based on personal feelings is a no-no. What do YOU think about mixing business and pleasure?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Work Life Balance - How do YOU do it?

I'm a workaholic. I admit it. I even blogged about workaholism last month ( In the past, I've found finding a balance between my work and personal lives difficult.

I'm facing and overcoming that challenge at the moment--but your suggestions and advice are certainly welcome.

You know the old adage When it rains it pours? Well, that's my life right now: it's pouring. Mostly good stuff, but a deluge is still a deluge, right?

Part of my problem is my love for all the "work" things I do: insurance, writing, insurance writing, speaking, insurance seminars, etc. How can I say "no" when someone wants to hire me for a project when I'll absolutely LOVE doing it? Keep in mind that the hiring part involves the forking over over $$ - it's tough to say "no" to that, too.

On the other hand, how can I keep saying "yes" to these wonderful jobs that involve work I love, when the adorable faces of my granddaughters pop into my head--along with the realization that I can to see them whenever I want? Or that I have a handful of friends who would all like to add my name to their dance card? Or that the weather's terrific for walking the dog, or exploring Boston with my daughter, or hanging out with my son, or shopping with my other daughter, or having dinner with Dad, or ...

You get the picture.

How do YOU find a work-life balance?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thank you to Deirdra Eden Coppell for awarding the Taking the Mystery Out blog with the Creative Blog Award.

You can find her blog at:

You can find her website at:

Saturday, March 19, 2011


photo courtesy of
 I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be generous in the business world.

None of us achieves success operating from within a bubble despite the belief of some people that it's possible. A professional in an online group of which I'm a member insists he's achieved success by NOT being a team player. All I can say is: guess how much more successful he'd be if he played nice, made helpful comments online instead of being demeaning and critical, and worked with others instead of competing against them all the time?

I visited with Matt Medeiros recently, who's a web professional and co-owner of Slocum Studio in Dartmouth, MA. I haven't seem in him about 7 years (although we've "chatted" online and befriended each other on Facebook, Linked In, etc.). When he was in college, he started his own business and I was his first client: the computer he built me lasted for 7 years!

We've been linking to each other's blog posts and websites, retweeting each other, and simply singing each other's praises (sincerely, folks, sincerely). Anyway, we met last week, shared details about our businesses, our plans, and our goals and we decided to partner in our efforts to promote ourselves and our businesses. We will probably also work together to present career development workshops in the future.

LESSON: Never overlook an opportunity to be generous or to help someone out. Cliches are so popular because they are true:  "What goes around comes around."

In what ways can YOU help other people promote themselves? How can promoting other people help you?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's Your Take on Leadership?

Webster defines leader as a person who has commanding authority or influence. Webster's definition of lead has multiple components but the one most of us accept is to guide along the way.

Clear as mud, like many definitions. Guide, or lead, implies being at the head of a line composed of people who follow. I get that. But who picks the leader? What's the way? Is there only one way? Who gets to determine the way?

Are leaders simply born, knowing intuitively they are chosen to guide the line of followers? Are leaders built, created, developed? And what about followers? Are they born with the follower gene? Can someone be a leader without positioning himself or herself at the front of the line, on the stage, or at the top of the mountain?

When I think of the leaders I've known personally, they seem to step naturally into leadership roles. They're the people who don't hesitate to offer up suggestions or answer questions. They're the people with vision and passion. They're also the people who seldom hesitate to stick their necks out and take risks. Most of the leaders I know elicit three specific emotions from other people: trust, awe, and envy.
Jeffrey Gitomer posted an article on his website recently ( and he discusses his take on leadership--which prompted my little rant. He goes into a bit more detail than I do, and has a longer lists of the characteristics of an effective leader.

What's YOUR take on leadership? What qualities do you think define an effective leader? What type of person do you want to follow ... or NOT follow?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's the Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Attention?
I've always had an issue with business people and businesses that believe customer service is something you provide AFTER a sale, AFTER receiving a complaint, or AFTER a drop in revenues. In fact, I dislike the phrase customer service because it doesn't have a universally accepted meaning--not any more.

What's service anyway? Webster says it's the act of serving. Yep. Clear as mud. Webster then goes on to say that the verb serve means: to be of use, to prove adequate or satisfactory, to wait on customers, to furnish or supply with something needed or desired, to answer the needs of, and several other things.

Kind of milquetoasty, eh? Sure, customer service representatives are of use--some to a greater (or lesser) degree than others. What are the standards? I really hate the description, to prove adequate or satisfactory. I don't know about you, but I don't want to just squeak by in life. I want to excel, be special, make a difference, and stand out. Ordinary is not an adjective I'd like appearing before my name in a sentence. To wait on customers--that's a good one. Some people think that if they smile when a customer walks in the door, their face will break in half. Or that if they answer the phone with a cheery tone of voice the caller will be more inclined to chat or make a request.The remaining examples (to furnish or supply with something needed or desired and to answer the needs of) are more in line with my personal definition simply because they focus on the customer.

As a customer, when I walk into a place of business, I want someone to acknowledge my arrival. If I call on the phone, I'd like a human being to answer. Of course, most businesses and professionals don't care what you or I want or, if they do, they care more about conducting business in a fashion that generates income and is convenient for them. After all, business is business, it's not philanthropy, right? Businesses exist to earn $$ for the people who have ownership interest in them.

I can't help but believe, however, that not a single business (or occupation) would exist if it weren't for the customers and clients who provide the $$ coming in. Shouldn't the people responsible for the INFLUX of money be more important than anyone else? Shouldn't they be appreciated/ Don't the people providing the influx of money deserve ATTENTION instead of SERVICE? And don't they deserve the type of attention they want how and when they want it?

Sure, some customers are a pain in the neck. But you don't have to begin or continue a relationship with any customer (or vendor or supplier, for that matter) if you don't want to. If you want to KEEP a customer, however, you have to treat him or her fairly, kindly, and as if you care. Translation: providing them with attention how and when they want it.

Here's a link to a terrific online article about folks who provide the pinnacle of customer attention--it's called The Secret to Great Customer Service.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Want Some Sales Tips?

Every business needs an influx of new customers on a regular basis to offset customers lost by a number of things:  attrition, moving away, death, and (oh no!) disappointment with their relationship (aka poor customer attention).  Acquiring new customers is also a very nice way to build revenues and grow a business, which is why so many businesses spend a great deal of money each year on marketing and advertising campaigns!

Still others hire salespeople to focus expressly on acquiring those new customers.  But a lot of businesses don’t have salespeople on their staff and, those that do don’t always know how to go about training them.  Salespeople, in my opinion, are essential.

Here, in a few words, are some tips for you and your salespeople to follow:
#1 – Read sales books, listen to sales tapes, attend sales seminars.  Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers (among other books) is a terrific motivational resource AND he’s right on the money when it comes to perspective, relationships, and the entire process of selling.  (  I’ve been in sales for over 30 years and I’m still learning.

#2 – Be sure to utilize multiple prospecting sources (like at least half a dozen), including, for example:  networking groups; direct mail letters with follow up phone calls; cold-calling; contacting current and former clients, neighbors, business associates, fellow members of civic and business organizations.  Salespeople who rely on only one prospecting method (even if it’s within their comfort zone and they are successful with it) seldom have as much success as salespeople who put themselves in front of a variety of people and solicit customers from a variety of sources on a regular basis.

#3 – Spend at least 50-70% of your time on prospecting activities.  Because people would rather buy than be sold to, and they generally only buy from someone they trust, your salespeople need to constantly position themselves so they’re visible, likable, and able to inspire trust and confidence.  It isn’t who your salespeople know, it’s who knows them.  The most successful salespeople are those who spend the most amount of time out in the field, talking to customers and prospective customers, offering assistance, and letting the world know what nice guys and gals they are.

If you retain your current customers and provide them with what they want—especially the type of relationship they want—they’ll help you tremendously in your efforts to acquire new customers.  Don’t hesitate to solicit testimonials from them, using their genuine appreciation to convince potential customers that they should be doing business with you instead of your competitor.  You should also solicit referrals from your customers.  This is such an easy thing to do and, if you phrase your request in such a way that it fits your personality, it will not be viewed as aggressive or as begging.

Think of it this way:  if your customers are really happy with you and the service you provide, don’t they want their friends, family, and co-workers to be just as happy.

Don’t hesitate to shoot me an e-mail with any questions you might have in the area of building your business through sales.  It’s something I’ve been doing forever and ... I do a lot of sales trainings.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How's the Employee Morale at Your Workplace?
Morale of employees in the workplace is essential to the smooth running of any business.  More importantly, it is essential to the well-being of both employees and customers.

I was talking with a fellow recently about the disintegrating morale in his workplace.  Here are the details:  Doug, in his late forties and married, is one of three customer service reps in a hardware store.  He’s been working there for about a year.  Scott, in his mid-thirties and married, has been working at the store for about five years.  Neal, not yet twenty-one and single, has been working at the store for about four years.

Neal, who does a great job and actually produces more sales than Doug and Scott combined (when he shows up for work and is in shape to do his job), has some issues.  He calls in sick a lot.  Some excuses he’s used during the past six months are:  food poisoning, the flu, stomach viruses, and a car accident.  (The car accident excuse is the only one Doug knows for sure is true:  Neal had the staples in his head to show for it.)  He’s also had a DUI that required quite a bit of time off from work.

In addition to all this, Neal has a regular Wednesday night social gathering with his friends.  He invariably shows up late on Thursday smelling like a brewery, subsequently praying to the porcelain god all morning.  The store manager has supposedly “written Neal up” for some of his offenses, which include not showing up for work on several Mondays after holiday weekends, not calling ahead when he knows he’ll be late, and not showing up on several of the Saturday mornings he’s been scheduled to work.  The store manager took Doug and Scott out to lunch for the specific purpose of obtaining their input abut Neal and his behavior, which he claimed was “out of control.”  Seems that some of the customers reported noticing Neal’s repeated tardiness, absences, and alcohol use.

 Doug and Neal are frustrated.  So are the customers.  I’m sure the store manager is extremely frustrated.  It’s the store’s busiest time of year:  firing an employee, especially the one with the highest sales, will seriously impact everyone.  But the store manager’s decision to send Neal home for a day or two without pay to think things over after pulling one of his stunts doesn’t seem to be a significant enough form of discipline to convince Neal to change his ways.

I see this entire situation as a nightmare with the potential for a number of serious negative consequences.  The store has an employee handbook, which clearly outlines the penalties of unacceptable behavior.  If management isn’t following through with procedures as outlined in the handbook, they’re leaving themselves wide open for a number of things.  First of all, mutiny.  Other employees aren’t going to appreciate the special treatment Neal is receiving.  It seems that bad behavior is being rewarded and good behavior is being overlooked.  Then, there’s setting a precedent:  not disciplining an employee per written procedures.  This could result in a lawsuit if, at a later date, management disciplines another employee for an offense that Neal—or anyone else—committed and wasn’t disciplined for.  Someone needs to take the store manager aside and convince him to look into the future when handling employee issues rather than handling them based upon what’s most expedient at the moment.
This article was originally written with a different ending but I decided to revise it after a conversation with Doug yesterday afternoon.  He and Scott were supposed to work together yesterday morning (a Saturday).  Ten minutes after the store opened, Scott called in sick, claiming to have received food poisoning the night before at a local restaurant.  Doug immediately recognized the excuse as being one of Neal’s favorites.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But Doug seems to think that Scott decided that if Neal can get away with calling in sick, he’ll try it too.  Double-negative-whammy for Doug, who doesn’t play those games.

Oh, did I mention that Scott has season tickets for the local university’s football season?  And that yesterday there was a home game?  Still believe in coincidence?

Morale at this hardware store is going down the tubes.  What began as one young man’s absorption in himself and his social life has now escalated to the point that a number other people are being significantly affected in unpleasant fashion.  The team-building efforts the firm prided itself on have eroded to the point that it’s every man for himself.

Everyone winds up losing:  (1) Neal, who is receiving the false impression that all employers will put up with his behavior; (2) Scott, who’ll eventually wind up getting reprimanded or fired when his behavior escalates.  Management might put up with their top-producing employee’s bad behavior but they won’t be able to afford to do the same when the second of three employees follows suit; (3) Doug, who does his job but hates the injustice--and who’s on the lookout for a new job; (4) Management, who, it now appears, will wind up having to replace three employees instead of just the one.

If you’re in the position of Doug or Scott, there isn’t much you can do about a situation like this.  If you’re Neal, and someone gives you a figurative kick in the butt, maybe morale can revert back to a time and place when it was good.  If you’re the store manager, you need to look closely at your workplace policies and how you treat your employees.  Is your turnover high?  Are your people unhappy?  You might want to do some research.  This store manager did his research but didn’t follow through by doing his homework.  Will you make the same mistake?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Free Business Advice: Telephone Tips

How many of you hang up the moment the person on the other end of the phone begins to sound like a telemarketer?  How many of you use either Caller ID or your answering machine to screen your calls for the purpose of avoiding telemarketers?  How many of you have to make phone calls for your job and just hate it when the person on the other end of the phone hangs up on YOU?  (Or worse, gets nasty or verbally abusive?)

Well kids, I’m happy to report that there are methods and ways of using the telephone to your advantage so that you aren’t hung up on during those first few seconds.  There are also ways to GUARANTEE the other person will hang up on you.  The fellow who prompted this article provides me with a perfect example. 

The name of my businesses is Faulkner Education Services.  One day, I answered the phone, “Good morning, Faulkner Education.”  The caller asked, “Is Mr. Faulkner in?”  Well, since I’m Mrs. Faulkner—and Mr. Faulkner has absolutely nothing to do with my business other than being very happy it earns income—I replied, “There is no Mr. Faulkner.”  What do you think the caller did?  Yep, he hung up in embarrassment.

When calling a business, do NOT expect the person you’re calling to be of a specific gender.  Neither should you assume the receptionist will put you right through to the “owner” or someone else when you ask for the person by title instead of name.  In fact, you SHOULD assume the call WON’T go through if you do that.  Why?  Because you just signaled that you don’t know the person you’re calling and you’re either a sales person or (worse) a telemarketer.  No one wants to talk to sales people or telemarketers and the receptionist has been instructed not to put those types of calls through.  Regardless of how badly you want to speak to your prospect, the receptionist doesn’t really care.  She works for them, not you.

Here are some tips to avoid that conundrum and a few others:
·         Check out the R.L. Polk Directory (it’s in the reference section of the library and can be purchased directly from that company); it includes certain business information along with the business listing—usually the owner’s name and the number of employees.
·         Call in advance to ask for the name of the owner.  Have a legitimate reason for wanting the info—no lying—in case you’re asked the reason for your request.  (You might want to have a co-worker--or your teenager--call on your behalf to avoid the receptionist remembering your voice when you make your call.)
·         Know what you’re going to say, but don’t sound like you’re reading a script!  Sales people/telemarketers often use scripts; good salespeople/telemarketers don’t sound like they’re using scripts.  The key to success in this regard is rehearsal:  repeat what you’re going to say over and over so that it comes naturally and—if you don’t repeat the script precisely—you’re comfortable enough to ad lib.
·         The first thing you should ask when you reach the party with whom you want to speak is, “Have I called at a good time?”  Telemarketers and people with lousy phone skills never ask that question.  It’s a sign of respect and signals that you care about the person you called—even if you don’t know her/him.  If s/he says it’s not a good time, apologize and ask when would be a good time for your return call.  Nine times out of ten, you’ll get that information and will have a pleasant phone call when you reach the person.

Care to share any of your telephone tips?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stress: What Drives YOU Crazy?
I just read a terrific article in my most recent issue of Romance Writer's Report (which is available to all RWA members). In it, the author explains that stress is anything that causes you or your body to tighten up. Webster defines stress as a constraining force or influence (yes, I looked it up).

Which got me thinking and doing a little research. Consider the following:
  • Stress is the body's response to a stimulus; a stimulus can be:
    • Real or imagined; and
    • Physical; psychological, cognitive, or behavioral.
  • Stress manifests itself in three steps:
    • Alarm is the first step, which usually causes the body to produce adrenaline and, in some cases, cortisol (aka fight-or-flight response);
    • Resistance is the second step, which causes the mind and body to develop methods of coping (i.e., eating, drinking, screaming at loved ones, etc.); and
    • Exhaustion is the third and final step, which causes severe biological results, such as ulcers, migraines, depression, and other medical conditions.
POSITIVE things can cause stress. Yup, your daughter's upcoming wedding, next week's date with that guy you've been ogling at the gym for months, the birth of your child (or grandchild), etc.

We all know that negative things cause stress, so I don't need to give you examples. Perhaps you need to be reminded, however, that while we can't control the positive and negative things that happen around us, we CAN control how we respond to them--both physically and mentally/emotionally.

I've experienced a number of significant changes in my life in recent months, which include relationships (both personal and business), the sale of one of my insurance businesses, and my increase in freelance writing jobs. Not to mention the darned lousy weather that continues to mess with my plans.

Having and utilizing effective plans to reduce stressors and our responses to them is an important part of achieving personal and business success--and getting done all the things we want and need to do. I've implemented a plan to reduce MY RESPONSES to the stressors in my life. I know what drives me crazy ... now I'm working on methods to avoid the crazy part.

Now I want to hear YOUR advice, suggestions, and tips.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why you should quit worrying...

Here's a blog post I stumbled upon via a Tweet from my Twitter friend, Matt Medeiros. It's titled: Why You Should Start Writing, Stop Hiding, and Quit Worrying About the Competition:

The blog is titled The Sales Lion and has EXCELLENT marketing and sales information that all businesses and professionals will find helpful.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's in an Attitude?
 What kind of person are you: is your glass half-full or half-empty?

Which of the following two poem excerpts is the REAL you?
  • The Optimist - author unknown
    • The otimist fell ten stories, At each window bar he shouted to his friends, "All right, so far!"
  • The Pessimist - Ben King
    • Nothing to do but work, Nothing to eat but food, Nothing to wear but clothes, To keep one from going nude.
When researching Taking the Mystery Out of Business, I stumbled across scientific fact that proved a personal theory of mine: Being, and remaining, positive is harder than being, and remaining, negative. It also nets better results.

Our human brains contain what is called a Negativity Bias. It responds more forcefully to negative stimulus than it does to positive or neutral stimulus. Why? Because, in an evolutionary sense, it has been far more important to our survival to take note of negative events than the positive.

You know, that old flight-or-fight reflex? Well, it's more advantageous to notice an evil beast hiding in the bushes (and run away) than it is to admire the sweet fragrance of the roses growing on said bush.

If you want to read some interesting information about the Negativity Bias, I've provided you with two links (there are tons more on the Internet):

On the other hand, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Principal Investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, developed the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions to explain how positive emotions are important to survival.

Studies show that all emotions lead to specific action tendencies and Dr. Fredrickson's research shows that people who continually experience positive emotions  and thoughts exhibit higher levels of creativity, long-term resilience, growth, and development.

Which means that making a conscious decision to think and feel positive thoughts and emotions offsets the power of negative thinking--when not running away from the beast hiding in the bushes, that is.

What are YOUR thoughts and feelings about negativity versus positivity?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review from School of Business, University of Montana, for Taking the Mystery Out of Business

Janel Queen, Director of Career Advancement, School of Business, University of Montana

Yes, Clueless is a dangerous place to be!  That’s why, regardless of whether someone is a budding entrepreneur, a new graduate just getting started, or an experienced professional, Linda’s book is a must read!

For those who haven’t run a business or managed people, it might save their career or their business. For those who’ve already been at it for a while, it’s a gentle reminder of important concepts and good business practices. Her customer service stories and principles are outstanding illustrations of what to do and not do.

The way Linda writes makes reading her book enjoyable and memorable – which makes it very useful as well. Her examples help make it real for newbies so they don’t have to learn the hard way and gently reminds veteran business managers, as well. Linda’s book really is an arsenal of tools and resources to help managers and their businesses succeed.  I can see myself referring back to the book regularly--I’ve been at this a while!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thanks, Missoula's Barnes & Noble Booksellers

Thanks to all who braved the blinding snow in Missoula on Sunday to join me at my book signing for Taking the Mystery Out of Business.

Despite the snowstorm, we had a wonderful turnout - as I had yesterday at the Missoula Businesswomen's Network's 6th Annual Women's Symposium.

Another 5-star review on Amazon for TMoB!

Today was wonderful! I spent the day at the Missoula Businesswomen's Network's 6th Annual Women's Symposium. Not only did I sell a bunch of books there, I also met some new people and reconnected with friends and acquaintances I've had for years.

Then, I got home to find another 5-star review on Amazon. Today just got better!

The review begins:  This business book "delivers the goods" exactly as promised. I've seen textbooks that weigh in at 20 pounds and contain the same information, but in less palatable form. As a current business owner, I discovered ideas and concepts I wish I'd known from the start.

To read the rest of it, click here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Network to Sell Books ... or Anything Else, for that Matter

Missoula Businesswomen's Network's
2011 Women's Symposium

I am here to offer you an answer to your prayers ... assuming you've been praying for years to come up with a miraculous way to sell more books without having to transform yourself into a fish oil salesman.

Thus begins the blog post I wrote over on Author Exchange Blog on Friday.  Check it out!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A 5-star Review for Taking the Mystery Out of Business

5.0 out of 5 stars Do more, earn more, and enjoy more with your small business, January 27, 2011
Alain Burrese, top 1,000 reviewer on Amazon, gave Taking the Mystery Out of Business a 5-star review today!

Here is an excerpt from his review:  If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner who wants some suggestions and tips as how to better run your business and succeed, Faulkner's quick read will motivate you and set you in the right direction. The book may entice you to learn more about the topics she covers, and that would be a good thing too. But, just taking her advice to heart, doing the assignments at the end of each chapter, and especially keeping that good attitude, will assist you in doing more, earning more, and most of all enjoying more with your small business.

He also says:  I think one of the most important things that comes through with this book is Faulkner's positive and optimistic outlook and attitude. In fact, mental attitude is the first thing she writes about, and she starts out chapter one with, "Attitude is the single most important element of success." This chapter especially is relevant to much more than just business, but to life itself. Faulkner's positive attitude comes through in this book just as it does when you meet her in person, and I do think that is one of the keys to her successes.
To read this review in its entirety, and to read other reviews by Alain, click here:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Communication & Learning Styles

Training. Employees say they’re not getting enough of it and employers say their employees don’t take advantage of what they have to offer. What’s the real scoop on training?

After having spent over thirty years in a highly technical field, my experience tells me that both employees and employers are right on the mark. How can that be? There are three major factors:
  1. Most employers don’t make the training process either convenient or enjoyable,
  2. Most employees resent being taken away from their jobs to be trained, and
  3. The actual trainers (for whatever reason) don’t spend enough time doing the training.
Let’s take factor #1 first, because factors #2 and #3 hinge on it. The majority of training takes place between new employees and their trainers. At this stage of the game, neither the trainer nor the new employee know much about the other: communication styles, learning styles, or expectations. Failing to determine all three is a huge oversight and one of the biggest contributors to both the trainer and employee feeling that the training experience is either wasted or not as beneficial as it could be.

Communication is conducted in one of three ways: passive, assertive, or aggressive. Learning is processed in one of three ways: visual, auditory, or hands-on. Most people communicate and learn predominantly in one of these three fashions, while using all three at varying times and to different degrees.

When communicating, a passive communicator tends to defer to the other party, minimizing his or her own opinions. An assertive communicator tends to behave as if both parties are equals, valuing both opinions. An aggressive communicator tends to be forceful and more focused on his or her opinions and less apt to compromise.

When learning, if a person was told a

If both trainers and employees understood the communication and learning preferences of the other, the training process would evolve much more smoothly and effectively. Everyone would also be more quick to understand the other party's expectations and assimilate into the work environment more easily. The more relaxed people are, and the more important and understood they feel, the better they’ll perform. If something positive is being accomplished in training, even if it’s simply getting along better, employees will look upon future training, and their trainers, more favorably.

Now on to factors #2 and #3: they won’t exist if factor #1 is taken care of properly. This discussion is, obviously, very brief. If you are interested in learning more about communication and/or learning styles, a huge assortment of resources is available on the Internet and your local personnel office likely has others, as well. Feel free to comment and I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have.
story and then asked if he understood it, a predominantly visual person might say, Yes, I see what happened. A predominantly auditory person might say, Yes, I hear you. And a predominantly hands-on person might say, Yes, I feel your pain. Understanding both communication styles and learning styles is an essential part of training. If the trainer is communicating in one language and the employee is learning in a different language, how much positive work is being accomplished?

Friday, January 21, 2011

TV Interview on Montana Today, 01/21/2011

My sincere thanks to Monte Turner and Megan Angelo at the Montana Today show on KECI TV, Missoula for allowing me to visit this morning to talk about Taking the Mystery Out of Business.

If you'd like to see the 3-minute interview, here it is:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Marketing Tips

I was a guest blogger at Maryann Miller's It's Not All Gravy blog earlier this week and a number of her readers asked some very interesting questions about marketing.  Although most of her readers are writers, I found their questions to be the very same types of questions other business people encounter:
  1. What's the biggest marketing mistake most business people make?
  2. How can I market so that I stand out among my competition?
  3. What's the most effective way to get word out about a new product?
Answer to question #1 is a toss-up:  Believing marketing is not part of their job description or not understanding precisely what marketing is.  No matter what your job function, you MUST promote and sell yourself and your product or service.  If you're not telling people who you are and what you do, how are they going to you even exist let alone do business with you?  Even if you hire a marketing firm or publicist, YOU still need to take a serious role in your own marketing.

Answer to question #2:  In order to stand out among your competition, you must first KNOW what it is your customers want.  Too many business people gear their marketing plans and programs toward what they THINK their customers want or to satisfy their own personal preferences.  Neither of these approaches is different; their both lackluster and common.  Once you KNOW what your customers want, you must present yourself as the unique and special person you are, and the ways only YOU can give them what they need.  This usually takes a lot of time and consideration.  But once you nail the message, it should be effective.

Answer to question #3:  This is going to depend upon who you are, what your product is, and a bunch of other things.  Primarily, however, you need to tell as many people as you can about the fact that the product exists.  Yes, if you can target the ideal group(s) of people who will benefit from using the product, that's a good idea.  But oftentimes, if you have a strong enough customer base, even if a particular person isn't interested in your product, if they like and trust you, and have confidence in you as a business person, they'll help you spread the word.  If they're invested in you and your business, it's more of a cinch that they'll help spread the word.

Feel free to pipe up if you have any of your own marketing questions.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

First Review is in for Taking the Mystery Out of Business!

Maryann Miller, an editor, journalist, and columnists for over 30 years, has just posted a wonderful review of Taking the Mystery Out of Business. 

In part, she says:  "I highly recommend this book for all writers. Linda has the background and expertise  to be totally credible, and the book is written in a comfortable, easy to understand style."  To read the entire review, you can visit her blog, Its Not All Gravy, where the review appears today.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Question About Time Management
 A fellow who commented on my interview over at the Writers in Business Blog wanted to know if my tips on Time Management--which is one of the 9 Fundamentals for Professional Success--focus on traditional work hours or the entire 24 hours in a day.

I believe that a person has to manage his or her entire life and that compartmentalizing, while it may be easy and effective in the short-term, only creates problems long-term.  For example, some people like to keep their business and personal schedules separate.  Here are the pros and cons to doing so:
  • PROS:  You can see, at a glance, which of your activities and commitments are business and personal.  You can also prioritize IF your business or personal commitments are ALWAYS more or less important than the other.
  • CONS:  You have to constantly flip between both schedules because they are not integrated.  You have to spend extra time keeping the details separate.  You spend more money keeping two separate schedules.
Newsflash, folks:  You have ONE life.  You have ONE day, just like everyone else, and it contains 24 hours.  You have ONE body and although you may segregate your schedule into compartments, your body can't be segregated the same way.  Creating one or more separate schedules takes MORE time and generates MORE stress.

Another thing to keep in mind:  If you follow the same tips and guidelines for organizing your time on the job, off the job, recreationally, or with the kids, you actually make things easier. 

And for those of you who really, really like to segregate portions of your life, or separate them when scheduling, why not use a color-coding system?  I do this in my Outlook e-mail.  I have five different e-mail accounts (3 for my writing, one for business, and 1 for personal).  Each of them is color-coded so that when e-mails appear in my Inbox, I can tell by the color I've assigned to the e-mail account precisely which of my business or personal "hats" I need to wear.

What tips can you share for effectively managing your time?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Interview on Writers in Business

Brigitte Thompson interviewed me over on Writer's in Business. 

Check it out:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Zig Ziglar's Three Sides to the Story

Remember that when an employee or co-worker reports an "incident" to you, it's being told from that particular person's perspective.

In addition, if the person telling the story wasn't actually present when the action occurred, it's all hearsay.

Very good article in Zig Ziglar's newsletter on January 4th:

Time Wasters

Here's a great blog post over at BetteBoomer about eliminating time wasters: