Business Mindset

The "Creative"/"Suit" Spectrum

There are plenty of people for whom creativity is the main fuel for their day. Designers, marketers, artists, chefs all exist in environments that demand fluency in creative thought. However, there are a lot of jobs that center on process, routine and analytical thought where there isn’t a lot of room for creative thought. Neither extreme can lead to a completely successful career; “creatives” still need processes and business acumen to grow and market while “suits” need creativity to find new opportunities and innovative solutions that enable evolution and expansion. Most people appear naturally towards one end of the “creative”/”suit” spectrum. The lucky ones are those who incorporate their “creative” or “suit” status in their work but it is the successful professionals who acknowledge where they fall and seek ways to move towards the other end.

So, I ask you where do you fall on the “creative”/”suit” spectrum? If you’re a “suit” how do you try to introduce creativity into your work? If you’re a “creative” what ways do try to embrace process and analysis? I challenge you to determine where you fall on the spectrum and work to move yourself towards a more centered place by exploring a way of working that may not be natural but will be more fruitful.

Innovation Comes From Within: Progressive employee policies

A lot of changes in workforce management have occurred in the past decade as the economy, communication methods and technology have all done a fair amount of shifting. People no longer feel obligated to stay at the same company for decades; in fact, many workers change entire careers as their interests dictate. Yet the need for dedicated and skilled workers is as great as ever. So what are employers doing to build effective workforces? They're thinking out of the box and embracing progressive employee policies. If you're looking for new ways to improve the results you're getting from your employees consider some of the following ways other companies are shaking things up in their work places.


  • Give them room to roam; it is a well recognized fact that everyone learns in their own way. Some are visual learners, others do better if they hear a lesson and there are also those who thrive in a tactile learning environment where they can work through problems with their own two hands. The same can be said for the way people work; everyone has a particular method to be most productive. If you're interested in getting the best results from your workforce's individual skill sets then give them some freedom to find their comfort zone. If they are morning people then encourage them to come in as early as they'd like, if they work better standing up then allow them to change their desk situation. Working within the parameters of your expectations of them do your best to enable them to achieve those expectations in their own way.
  • Encourage creative thinking and allow employees to pursue their own ideas. Companies like Google and Azavea are getting a lot of recognition for allowing their employees to use 10% of their "work hours" to pursue individual projects. Their theory is that the more their employees work to build their own skill sets and interests the more they will benefit from the diversity of perspective and a staff capable of demonstrating initiative. Allowing workers to broaden their horizons can bring new ideas and opportunities to your company simply by extension of your employee's interests. This is particularly effective if you've hired people who are passionate about the work they do for your company as well as the company's overall ethos, then it is even more likely that their outside interests will dovetail with their internal projects.
  • Embrace the untraditional; identify elements of your business that are unique and build them into your employee policy. If you're an eco-friendly company encourage and enable a green work environment (provide a bike helmet for everyone who bikes to work, allow composting in the cafeteria) if you're an arts centric company set aside three or four days for cultural events like going to a concert or festival. Incorporating the company's brand identity in your employee policy is a way to not only practice what you preach but also encourage your workforce to partake of the ethos themselves.
  • Ask what you can do to make your employees' day easier. Offering small fringe benefits like dry cleaning pick up from the office, a monthly visit from a masseuse, arranging for a grocery shopping service to take orders and make a single delivery at the office are all small ways you can help reduce non-work related stress. The less they have to worry about all the things they have to get done after work the more they will focus on the tasks at hand while they're still at work.
  • Make learning accessible. The practice of reimbursing employees for going back to school while working for you has been around for a while but usually relegated to larger companies. More recently small businesses have been taking their own approach to providing educational opportunities to their workers by hiring consultants to teach their workforce about the strategy and lager business theories that drive businesses. These courses go beyond specific job training and reenforcing company policies to encompass more general business theories. Providing the opportunity for employees to learn more about their industry or business in general -trends, strategies and best practices - can improve their ability to work within your company and to understand the larger context within which that company operates. If you can't afford to hire an outside firm to provide courses (webinars, lunch and learns and face to face training are all common approaches) consider giving each employee some money to purchase business books or building an in office library.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. PortionPac, a cleaning chemical manufacturer in Chicago, sets aside one day every year to play a little musical chairs with the employees. The administrative workers go into the production center and spend the day in the shoes of the employees who actually produce their cleaning products. Shifting everyone's perspective of the company's workflow provides the opportunity to reconsider their methods. Doing someone else's work always changes the way you do your own, making this practice part of your company policy can help everyone get a better sense of their place in full workflow.

If your company is already using some innovative employee policies let us know. We're always interested in how businesses are evolving.

"Good Customer Service Is Good Social Media Marketing"

I came across this phrase in one of Tamar Weinberg’s posts about using Facebook for business & marketing and it really stuck with me. This statement captures a unique point where traditional and progressive business mindsets find harmony. I am a huge proponent of providing high quality customer service, subscribing to the old business philosophy “it’s easier to keep an existing customer than find a new one” as a founding principle for my work. However, a lot of business owners I have spoken to are so caught up in marketing to new customers –increasingly using social media- they have overlooked providing their existing customers with impeccable service to maintain their business. Weinberg’s philosophy though, brings attention to the potential relationship between marketing and customer service in a social media world. In the age of “Yelping,” “checking in” and “liking” marketing and customer service are becoming more and more mutually inclusive.

Establishing a traditional customer service approach – follow up calls, service support, frequent user incentives – can now result in the customer expressing appreciation on social media sites like Yelp, Facebook or Twitter. A positive review or endorsement on any of these sites can help build new customer awareness of your products and services. Or, you can incorporate customer service initiatives in your social media marketing strategy – promote incentives for people who “check in” to your store, maintain a Twitter presence to monitor Twitter feeds to address anyone’s complaints, create a Facebook page that encourages customers to provide feedback (good and bad) – all of which can strengthen your relationship with existing customers; ideally, a satisfied customer will then spread their praise to friends continuing the mutually beneficial relationship.

Good customer service is good social media marketing; keep this in mind as you continue to pursue new customers and provide stellar service to your existing customers.

Take A Curiosity Break

Earlier this week I came across an excellent article about the link between curiosity and living a happy healthy life. It outlines the ways being consistently inquisitive can contribute to healthier brain activity, IQ and relationships, as well as, increased happiness and personal satisfaction. I am a huge proponent of creative thinking and would like to think curiosity has fueled some of my more inspired moments so, the correlation presented in this article weren’t a huge surprise. However, the article did get me thinking about the benefits of incorporating “curiosity breaks” into a personal workflow.

New Business Opportunities:

Allowing yourself a bit of time each day/week/month dedicated to pursuing new interests or random thoughts may lead to the new business opportunities you’ve been attempting to discovering through more traditional channels. Learning about a new hobby, culture or experience can reveal a new industry/audience in need of your products or services or a new solution you can adopt to expand your offerings and attract new clients.

Reinvigorated Approach To Existing Business:

Exposing yourself to alternate environments and processes can shake up the way you approach your existing projects and customers. We all tend to fall into a pattern of thinking about how we do our work and the methods we use to solve problems. Investigating new topics – as assorted as they may be- can break up cyclical thinking and unconsciously new context and mindset can sneak in, breathing fresh life into a stale routine. Even something as simple as observing someone else do their job in an entirely different professional sphere can inspire new ideas for improving your own work. A “curiosity break” could also be the fix for a mental rut, those periods – sometimes weeks long- when you can’t seem to operate as productively as you’d like. Allowing yourself the leisure of curiosity replenishes mental creativity and energy.

More Enlightened Holistic Perspective:

On a larger scale embracing curiosity can help you become more satisfied with your life & work. Building your knowledge and familiarity with an assortment of activities, cultures, hobbies, place or wherever your interests lead brings more opportunities for enjoyment into your daily reality. The more you engage your mind and it’s curiosities the more energized your overall outlook will become. Investing in an intentional curiosity practice and truly integrating creative wonder into your routine will unleash a ripple of fulfilling satisfaction through your entire perspective.

In the process of writing this post I have reminded myself how important my varied professional interests have been to creating a rich, dynamic and satiating career. I would encourage you to start making time for “curiosity breaks” in your routine.

For some simple ideas on how to start feeding your curiosity refer to "The Power Of Curiosity"

Be Here Now: A Practical Approach To Starting A Social Media Strategy

Everyday a new report on social media is published; many seeking to provide the definitive, albeit elusive, answer in the search for best practices in social media. Using survey responses, case studies and analytics to support their claims they attempt to shine light on the strategies and tactics that lead to greater brand recognition, more web traffic or more business opportunities. What few reports or observers fail to emphasize is the fact that there is no one way to successfully navigate the social media waters. The technology and user familiarity are moving too fast; methods and tactics used today may be entirely obsolete in two weeks. Additionally, depending on company size and vertical focus the strategy is – and should be- very different. While patterns may be deciphered from this early research the best way for you to start building your social media is to be here now. 

While it is wise to do a little research into how companies have previously used social media streams the best investment of time and brainpower is in staying in tune with your daily social media activity and returns. At the very outset of your quest for social media relevance identify three or four attainable goals; for example, increase web traffic 10% or acquire two new actionable sales leads per week. Then use these goals to dictate your daily use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever your preferred service may be. Each day be mindful of how your social media actions may influence your goals. Note any response or feedback you get in a spreadsheet. You will find yourself adopting a social media rhythm based on the behaviors with the best results and over time you’re notes and hyper awareness will build an organic sense of your company’s social media niche and potential.

Obtaining a sense of purpose and direction within your social media activities provides a solid foundation on which you can build a more complex strategy. Being present in the ebb and flow of your brand’s social media relevance may reveal opportunities unique to your company and audience. It is that dynamic conversation that makes social media such an exciting new territory for business development. Immediately investing a great deal of time and money into a more advanced social media campaign may overlook the more nuanced relationship your company has – or could have- with a wider audience.

Keep in mind, this is just a starting point. Eventually, if your social media efforts prove successful, you will want to expand your strategy; incorporating the basic information you have gathered with higher-level tactics. But, when you’re just starting to explore the social media waters keep it simple and stay tuned in to where you started and how you’re progressing. It will make it easier for you to determine the directions you want to pursue. There aren’t any secrets to social media that you can’t figure out if you dedicate yourself to a mindful daily practice. 

A Follower Revolution

In life and, in particularly, in business heavy emphasis is placed on becoming a leader. From a very early age we are told to lead by example; we are groomed to think like a leader; act with the confidence of a leader; constantly seek the leadership position etc. Every once in a while the importance of teamwork is highlighted however, even in those situations the teams are often composed of a bunch of people who have been raised to believe they are truly “leaders;” the ego often becomes a hindrance; leading to ineffective or imbalanced efforts and/or output. They have lost sight of the importance of all the followers that are required to support a successful leader and ultimately to realize a shared goal.                                        

The more time I spend in the “professional world” the more I notice the negative effects of this sense of leadership entitlement. Projects are often derailed by a wide variety of ineffective followers; saboteurs, dispassionate contributors, frustrated collaborators; people who have become so fixated on only wanting to be the one in the lead they overlook the importance of being an equally productive and quality follower.

There needs to be a renewal of follower pride. Schools, organizations, businesses need to reemphasize the value of every person that contributes to the whole of a successful endeavor. Culturally we need to focus on patience, shared accomplishment, genuine support and widespread hope for betterment. There is no one person who can affect great change or create revolutionary products. These things are only achieved when people work together.

I am not saying people should no longer aspire to leadership positions nor that good leadership will no longer be essential to navigate difficult projects. I am simply asserting we need to reestablish the characteristics of an excellent “follower.”


  • Quality listening needs to be emphasized just as much as quality speaking. Collaborative efficiency weighted as much a astounding results. 
  • A great leader will not only have once been a follower but will welcome the opportunity to once again contribute as a follower on future projects. 
  • Great followers will realize that, while this may not be their time to lead, the experiences and lessons taken from following will ultimately make them a better leader when their time comes. 

Schools, organizations, businesses need to reemphasize the value of every person that contributes to the whole of a successful endeavor. Culturally we need to focus on patience, shared accomplishment, genuine support and widespread hope for betterment. There is no one person who can affect great change or create revolutionary products. These things are only achieved when stellar leaders AND suburb followers work together. So go out and start the follower revolution. 

**I just stumbled upon this TED talk by Derek Sivers about First Followers. It seems the revolution has already begun.  

The Loyalty Investment

This past year many of our clients faced cut backs that frequently resulted in either reduced or, in some cases, lost business for us. We, like so many other small businesses, are accustomed to quickly adapting our services and business development approach to our customer’s needs and the larger economic climate. Whenever a project was cut loose we would usually reassess the customer’s initial needs to see if we could propose a modified solution that fit in to their new budgets. If the interest was still there we often revised the project scope and deliverables – shortening the length of a course or restructuring ancillary materials to be more multifunctional- so that a slower economy didn’t also mean suspended business development for our clients.

Why, you may ask, did we not simply turn around and pursue our client’s competition? They would surely be interested in services and content which would help strengthen their market position. Well, the answer boils down to loyalty. We have always tried to work with companies and individuals whose ethics and goals are complimentary to our own. We like to dig in and really understand their business in order to determine how we might best serve them. This is much easier to do if the people are just as curious and hard working as we are. It is also a much more sound investment of time and effort to develop quality relationships with our clients if we know that by providing them effective and loyal service they will continue to bring their work to us.

When the economic climate shifted dramatically and our clients’ budgets drastically reduced it was not as though that professional investment also took a dive. In fact, if anything the spirit of alliance was only strengthened. These were people and businesses that needed our help to keep their eye on the long term; needed to improve their workflows, continue their training and adapt their business development/marketing plans. 

Yes, we could have probably made more money last year by abandoning this sense of loyalty. But, we chose as a company not to panic and begin taking business from anywhere. Instead we decided the greater potential for long-term profit was in continuing to invest our loyalty in long time customers.

This isn’t to say we didn’t pursue any new business. In the instances when a project could not be afforded and the lost revenue needed to be supplanted we took it as an opportunity to explore new verticals and expand our services. We found opportunities in new arenas, like marketing and higher ed, that were conducive to our existing services. We also mined Bizucate’s current employee skill sets and identified new services –social media consulting, for example -- which we could offer to our clients. Both of these exercises carried the unanticipated benefit of reinvigorating our company’s core passion for embracing chances to learn.

We know this level of flexibility is more often the luxury of small businesses –- especially those well versed in ways of bootstrapping -– and that, at the end of the day, practical needs (payroll, accounts payable etc) need to be met. However, the basic philosophy behind remaining loyal to your client base is one that can be exercised on a number of levels. Whether it is the decision to give a little of your time “off the clock” to provide advice or to serve as conduit for information or introductions that could help a struggling customer where you can’t companies large and small can benefit from the loyalty investment.

As we start a new year (with some cautiously optimistic forecasts) we have already seen a slight return on the loyalty investment from clients who have reinstated previously suspended projects and have expressed interest in the new services we added to our roster. By keeping our focus on the larger picture we will continue to grow our business ethically. 

The Way We Were: Social Networking

There once was a time when "social networking" meant getting out into your community and building relationships. Before phones became ubiquitous, emails the standard, SMS professionally acceptable the main channels for making those connections were civic associations, religious organizations, political groups, hobby clubs, sports teams etc. The motives for participating in these social streams were the same as those that drive users to social networking 2.0 - abate loneliness, grow business opportunities, meet others with shared interests, further your cause, learn more. The methods were rudimentary and shaped largely by social etiquette but at its core social networking was a face-to-face endeavor dedicated to fostering the relationships from which greater institutions, businesses, movements would grow. 

While the invention of tons of new technology and processes have made it easier and faster to build a vast social network they have greatly negated the simple value of face-to-face conversation. Making conversation with the person who serves you your coffee in the morning or asking that person you see everyday in the elevator how their weekend was are all starting points for building out your social networks. 

Don't get me wrong, I rather like all the new bells and whistles that have brought a good number of people into my world who otherwise would have remained strangers. But, I think as things become increasingly virtual it is important to reexamine the art of the conversation. Twitter, Facebook, blogging, emails, phone calls are all great ways to enhance a conversation but taking the time to really get out there and practice your "hellos" and "how ya doin's" will keep your social networks rooted in reality. 

So, before you sign in, boot up, call in or log on have one simple face-to-face conversation. Extra points if it's with someone new. Just relax, engage and see where the network goes.

It's All In The Process... Well, Most Of The Time

Stevemartin190_2(I knew that would grab your attention. No need for a double take, that's Steve Martin. I found this photo in the New York Times book review section. The photo credit goes to Sandee O.)

What does it mean to be a Renaissance Man?

After some intense thought and brief research, I found that a Renaissance Man is thought to be a man or a woman of many accomplishents.  The success of these accomplishments is in part due to the Renaissance Man's proficient knowledge in a wide range of fields.

Where am I going with this?

I came across Steve Martins' Born Standing Up earlier this year and it really got me thinking about processes. This book is an autobiography, but reads like a biography because it's a
step-by-step take, by Steve Martin, on how he accomplished his success.

In business terms, Born Standing Up is about the process. It's healthy to ID what customers need and then give it to them, but having a process in place on how to accomplish giving the customer what they need is stellar. Do you know your process?

Beth Schneider over at Process Prodigy has nailed the topic and has created a business based on processes. It is my understanding that in order to be successful in your deliverables for the customer, you have to have a process (system) in place to be sure it happens the way it's supposed to happen, every time.

What's your process for keeping your customers?

Send me a comment, I'd like to know. And if you've read the book, what are your thoughts about it?

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Keep In Touch This Summer

The hot summer months are officially upon us and despite the fact that there are less hours worked and more time outdoors, make it a point to keep the networking going. The summer offers endless 62308 possiblities of squeezing some "getting to know you" moments in. For instance, weddings, picnics, conferences, camping trips, get togethers, vacations, family get my point.

I read an article by Buzzy Gordon over at about the power of meeting new people, finding out what makes them tick, things they need help with, and making an offer to stay in touch. Creating a system on how to follow-up, well, that's another post, but check out the article here.

Let me know your networking plans during these hot summer months. I know I'll be out and about making new friends and exchanging contact info. 

Keep the learning going...pass it on!



Going For The Discount During A Recession

Are you a bit confronted or tempted to cut your prices during this economic downturn?

J0400966 If so, you are not alone. Professional services companies are faced with this reality, too. Today, I'm here to spare you the anxiety of possibly cutting prices. Freddy Nager over at
Atomic Tango, a creative strategy agency, gave these reasons why cutting your prices could do more harm than good:

1. It sends the message that you've been ripping your customers off all this time.
2. It means you'll have difficulty increasing your prices to "normal levels" when the economy starts jamming again.
3. It kills your profit margins, so you won't have the cash to do what might really make a difference to do during a recession: better marketing.

Freddy's blog also shares the importance of marketing the value of your services. Which leads me to my next point...

Yes, times are tough in this country, but don't lose sight. Remember who you are, what your product or service brings to the market, and how it's making a difference in the businesses of your current customers. It's time to visit Sales 101. Don't let a prospect pigeonhole you into lowering your prices, instead gently remind them of the customers your product or service has already helped (name-drop) and stick to your story.

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What's A Cup Of "Joe" Worth To You?

J0438525_2 Have you ever stopped to wonder about that? When you meet with a prospect at the local coffee shop,
that eventually turns into business...what's the dollar value of that cup of Joe?

Before I go there, I must say that getting to that cup of coffee has a lot to do with what you said yesterday, last week or last month that even got you the meeting. What you used as your pitch plays a HUGE role in how you plan to keep the pipeline full of prospects/business. The key to keeping that script fresh in your mind is to rehearse it as often as possible. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Look beyond the $4.85 Vanilla many of those Lattes led to a new account? It's all in how you look at it. In fact, if you stopped reading this blog and went to your local coffee shop right now, you'll most likely see business happening all over the place. Those conversations you'll witness are far more than coffee.

Having a perfect elevator pitch isn't about big words and confusing jargon, it's about truly understanding your target market and having the ability to tug at their core emotions in 30 seconds or less whenever you're asked the coveted, sometimes dreadful, "What do you do?"

I found a useful tool to help hone in on my elevator pitch.  Practicing what you're going to say allows you to break away from the unneccesary information and get to the point of the message.       

If your coffee talks are down, maybe it's time to take a look and a listen. Grab a buddy, pitch and ask for feedback. Your pitch is your ticket to getting more time over coffee and in turn, greatly affecting your sales goal.

Keep the learning going...pass it on!