Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Most Important Words You Can Say

Thank you! You've made me so happy! That was so nice of you! Thank you for returning my call! You're so sweet to remember me. Your kindness is appreciated!

When was the last time you heard any of these words?

Here's a better question: When was the last time you said anything like this?

Lately, I've been noticing a trend in business and in life. Maybe you have too? When someone goes out of their way to make someone feel special, the recipient tends to take it for granted and not acknowledge this gesture with the least little bit of gratitude.

Today, on Twitter and Facebook, many posts on my wall have been geared to gratitude. Jeanie Marshall said "Gratitude is a powerful healing agent for the one who is grateful, thankful, or appreciative." Crane.com posted this quote: "No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks." — James Allen. These powerful words ring true!

Gratitude is a favorite topic of Oprah's. She's come a long way, and had many people supporting her in her rise to fame along that path. But, she is quick to say Thank You, and her notes are legendary. Princess Diana was also famous for her selfless kindness. Folks kept her thank you notes as souvenirs, as she filled them with simple love and heartfelt appreciation. Even Julia Roberts, in her role as "Vivienne" in Pretty Woman, went from saying "Yeah, so?!" to "Yes, please! And, thank you!" She showed us that class and grace comes not from Rodeo Drive, but from within.

In business, I was shocked to find recently a lot of sales people who give great mouth-service, but without the customer service to back their promises up. Why folks in the business of providing a service won't return a call for that within a short time period (if at all) blows my mind! When a phone call is returned quickly, it lets the customer feel valued and important. It also shows the customer that the business will provide great service and accurate billing. And, a thank you on top of that will put most company's reputation over the top, and the sales person's name will skyrocket into the stratosphere! Great customer service will make your reputation & your good name legendary in business circles!

In life, I believe there is nothing more important than saying "Thank You", especially in a prompt fashion. It shows gratitude and humility. Writing a thank you note gives me the opportunity to give praise, appreciation, and kindness in return. When else in life can something take as little time as 5 minutes, and as few sentences as 3 or 4, to return love and kindness?

Need help? There are a variety of great books and websites, including:
The Bride's Thank-You Note Handbook by Marilyn Werner (available on Amazon.com)
www.thankyounotewording.info/wordsofgratitude
www.my-thank-you-site.com/
www.emilypost.com/
www.etiquettehell.com (great stories!)

Thank you all for reading my blog! And, thank you for your support!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happiness or Success?

It was Spring 1988, and I was anticipating graduating from Colorado State University within a few weeks. The Fort Collins Collegian was the "must-read" for all the students, with the greatest comics and editorials, not to mention the personal ads! The paper always had a quote of the day, and I'll never forget one: "Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get!" It struck me as profound, and I cut it out and put it in my photo album, awaiting the day when I would truly understand it.

Fast forward 10 years or so, where I tried my hand at owning a cottage industry, worked in a variety of Financial District buildings in San Francisco, moved back to Colorado, on to working for Villeroy & Boch, Coach, and Nordstrom; then on to Atlanta and finally back to Denver. No matter where I was, or what I was doing, I was always trying to follow my heart's desire to be successful.

For me success was wearing a navy suit and high heels, carrying my Coach briefcase and portfolio. I was hungry for the elegance of wealth, the carefree attitude that I thought would come with success. It all looked so lovely, and I was dying to have some. Was it celebrity, fame, wealth or just the big dollars that I was missing? I never seemed to feel successful enough. I had a hard time making rent and whatever it was, it never seemed to really make me happy.

What it did make me was a stressed-out wreck! A frequent-flying sales manager hungry for the next deal, but with bad case of indigestion and 7 missing copies of the same Dan Brown novel. I felt like another rat in the rat race, but this one had bad phone manners, no time to wait, no patience, just a drive for success. I thought I was happy, but I had a knot in my stomach and jet lag.

Luckily, I got a clue.

It isn't in working that you will find success. Success in found in a life filled with happiness. If I'm too busy to be happy, then success will elude me as well. Ah, clarity!

Then I lost my job in the economic downturn. I thought, well, kiss success bye-bye. But, in truth, the opposite happened. I found a very supportive husband, family and friends eager for me to do what I wanted to do, and be what I wanted to be. I found former colleagues keeping in touch and not writing me off. Most importantly, I found time to do and be and have fun! I redesigned and overhauled our backyard garden, staying in budget and time constraints. I cleared out and reorganized files and my office. I attended events to network for the sake of networking and meeting great people along the way. I learned a new skill, and applied it for friends, thereby making us both happy! I said "yes" to volunteer work and new opportunities.

My happiness is a husband who likes me even for my flaws and faults. Most importantly, I found happiness within myself. It wasn't my job, my title, my office location, or my travel schedule. It didn't come from the praises my bosses used to sing. It wasn't in a shopping bag or a jewelry box. It seemed to bloom like that "volunteer" black-eyed susan that we didn't plant in our garden, and grew just as quickly. Happiness indeed, is wanting what I have.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Seasons of Change...


The word "Change" has been the buzz over the last couple of years. From President Obama's campaign to "Reinvent Yourself" promotions at the gym, change is all the rage. I was laying in bed last night thinking of all the songs about change - Michael Jackson, The Cure, even Hall & Oates. It was hard to get to sleep.

At our wedding in 2005, my father's toast about change turned out to be the valuable words of wisdom that have stuck with my husband and I. With every decision you make in life, you illicit a change. It is impossible to stand still, as change is all around you.

Change is this Mary Englebreit illustration, there is the path you are on, and the one that is no longer an option.

I'm sure you'll agree that change is almost unavoidable. The last two years have brought on more change for our country than we ever expected: the economy fell, our government was rescuing businesses of all shapes (but primarily the large size), and folks were closing their businesses and losing their jobs. Not exactly the change I was hoping for. But through all those tumultuous ebbs and flows, my family was still intact and happy, and fortunately, our home was still ours. This sadly was not the case for everyone I know. Some great local stores closed. Local businesses are challenged. A dear friend had to sell her home in a less than favorable economy. There are definitely losses.

I now believe that we have "seasons" in our lives. The seasons change, trends come and go, things that used to seem vitally important now seem less so. And with those changes I find that people change too. Some friends change and grow with us through the seasons. Some, like an autumn leaf, blow away on a different course. Everyone is on a different journey in their lives. Something that is vitally important to you right now may not even rank on the "Top 10 List" for someone else. You'll continue to change with life's seasons too.

Over the last couple of years, I've found that several key people have fallen out of my life. Maybe we'll meet "down the road", and maybe we won't. I've enjoyed their friendship, and I hope they've enjoyed mine. All the changes that the seasons have brought have put me on a different path. My belief is the friends that love you and want a friendship with you, they will "travel the seasons" with you. And, those that can't, won't. This concept applies to friendships, business relationships, employment, even ways of doing your job.

As a dear friend reminded me "My role is to try and bring out the best in those around me, and be there whenever and wherever they need me."

I really believe my Dad's toast was right on the money when he said "The one thing we can count on in life, besides death and taxes, is change." For me, the way I now work and try to earn a living has changed; and the way I like to spend my free time has adjusted so that I can be with my sweet husband; and that's the road I'm traveling. I'm still me, enthusiastic Kate, but I'm changing. Then again, so is everyone else.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said "
Be the change you want to see in the world." On a more personal level, be the change you want to believe in for yourself.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What are your "Gotta-Haves" in Business?

It's Trade Show season for Consumer Products (Gift/Home Decor/Toys). Everyone has been working hard on presenting their best image, their best products and getting as many orders as possible to make a good start to the new year. No matter who you are or what role you play at the Show; Buyer, Merchandiser, Manufacturer, Distributor, or Sales Rep, there is only one question on your lips; "What's your Gotta-Have item?"

"Gotta-Have" is the thing that is new, the thing that sets your company apart from the rest. It is the product that everyone will clamor for, buy like ice cream novelties on a hot summer day! Gotta-Have is also what sets you apart, the thing that makes you different and special. It can be a unique item (remember Wine Charms were all the rage beginning in 2001), a culture (like Nordstrom's legendary customer service), or just a way of doing business that sets a standard and makes others take notice. "Gotta-Have" can also be a standard practice in business. In other words, a service goal that you just won't compromise.

So, what's your "Gotta-Have"? What's your non-negotiable in business? Do you have a standard or base line in running your business?

Here are my Top 3 "Gotta-Haves" in running business:
#1: Answer The Phone! Don't just let the answering machine be your secretary. Customers are calling you! They don't want to leave a message and play phone tag for 2 days. Maintain your hours of operation, and let your customers talk to a human. If return a call you must, do it when you said you would. Nothing is more happily surprising than to have a business call returned promptly! Remember: Time Kills Deals!

#2: Spelling! Proper spelling and grammar use on the internet shows attention to detail and builds upon your good reputation. You might possess a Ph.D., but your marketing materials will demote you to a G.E.D if you're relying heavily on spell-check. Sure, type-o's are easy to make, but uncorrected, they will destroy brand credibility. Take the time to proof-read. Ask a co-worker or friend to review your content before publishing on the internet or in print. After all, are you going to hire someone who can't use the English language effectively and correctly in their own marketing materials? Probably not.

#3: Sell what's available today (SWAT)! This is a Nordstrom adage, but true no matter what business you have. What have you done today that you can market today? What products do you have in stock to sell NOW? Promoting success and accomplishments of recent achievements will spur more success in the short run. Selling future possibilities doesn't sell anything. Make money today and sell what you've got to sell!

These all seem like easy enough ideas, but it would surprise you to find how many folks overlook these simple principles to build their businesses success. It surprised me! Please pass these ideas along. After all, success builds more success!