Taking Time Out For Yourself

Time Out….are you one of the lucky ones who will manage 4 days off over this Easter break? Completely away from work. If you are, then it’s YEAH for you!

For me, it’s a combo of family time, gardening, a little bit of work and watching a TV series on Netflix, Call the Midwife, set back in the early 50’s in the East End of London. Life was definitely hard back in those days.

This morning, as I was pushing the lawnmower around, in the sweltering Darwin heat, I thought, briefly, that I should maybe consider paying someone to do my lawns.

But hey, doing the lawns is great exercise plus it’s prime thinking time for me. I like going up and down in rows, I enjoy the smell of the freshly cut grass (except if I accidentally run over a dog poo!) and it’s also great exercise. As is bending down to pull out the weeds – great workout!20160326_164842

When you’re your own boss or working in senior management, it’s often really hard to get time away to exercise – unless it’s carefully planned.

When the buck stops with you – for generating your own income, or answering to boards, it’s hard.

I know, it’s the life I have lived for many years (and I still work for myself), so I hear you!

Doing my own lawn keeps me fit. It also gives me a great sense of achievement when I look out on my garden. A totally different sense of achievement to when I complete a project, but it’s just as good a feeling.

It’s really important to make time for what is truly important in your life. In my book that is looking after yourself first and foremost.

Unless you are at optimum level, then you can’t give your family or your business the attention they both need.

Through my lawn mowing efforts, I’m combing a chore, exercise and free thinking time.

Inspiration comes in many forms and when you’re open to looking at things differently, this is when the best ideas and solutions often pop out. I get all kinds of bright ideas when I’m not actively looking for them.

How about you?  When do you do your best thinking?

Michelle

The number one barrier to your business growth

I’m an ‘80s YUPI throwback – and it shows.

Like when I was asked what Michelle and I do, and gave the flippant reply, ‘We’re business barrier busters’.   My equally long-in-the-tooth friend said, ‘What – like Ghost Busters?’, and he began to laugh and sing the movie theme song, ‘Who ya gonna call? Ghost Busters!’

Anyhow, it stuck.   I liked it, more than the dry corporate speak, ‘We’re business strategy consultants who blablabla …’   We even named one of our programs Barrier Busters.   Because it exactly describes what we do.   We help mostly small business and charities identify the barriers which are holding them back.   Then we help them bust down those barriers.

Notice the word ‘help’?   That’s because we show them how to do it for themselves. Like ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’ by Eurythmics – another 80s icon (now I can’t get that tune out of my head) – is a song all about empowerment.   We’re a bit empowerment mad (better than being power mad, right?).   That’s how we get testimonials like this:

“Prior to working with Dragon Sisters, I went to a lot of expense and effort to strategize the marketing for my business development – with no real results. I had folders full of information, but not the detail of how to translate this for my own business.

Now, I am able to get the strategic positioning, content creation, marketing and business development support, for the specific outcomes and results I want and need for my business. Within 7 weeks I could see measurable, significant improvement. Finally, someone understands me and my business!   Michelle has been the angel on my shoulder.”  Dee Waterson, Ignite Yourself

Did you notice that Michelle has achieved angel status?!Image courtesy of Prawny at FreeDIgitalPhoto.com

Funnily enough no one ever calls me an angel …

The Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ pops into my head (now that’s even older than me).

If you’re having the devil of a time working out the number 1 business barrier – not getting enough customers – here’s a FREE little ebook to help you out.   It’s called The number one barrier to your business growth.

I’m off to listen to Annie Lennox singing ‘There Must Be An Angel’, while I watch Michelle polish her halo …

Yvonne

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

The changing workplace…working remotely

Each place you work leaves its mark and shapes you in some way. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in many different environments ranging from luxurious, top-flight corporate offices in the City of London, through to run down one room dog boxes, complete with a leaky roof!

Nice offices are a bonus, but as a rule, you really don’t worry too much about the trappings of your surroundings as long as you enjoy the work. The exceptions being when it is stinking hot, freezing cold or the water is dripping from the leaky roof onto your desk!

You remember different things about each place. For instance, at Lombard Odier, I learnt the meaning of absolute confidentiality. Working at St John Ambulance I discovered how to overcome my own personal feelings and just get on with the job at hand because people needed me.

In between places, there have been other lessons learnt. You continue to learn each and every day of your life when you are open to what is happening around you. Some things are easier to learn than others.

Certainly, keeping up with all the latest technology presents challenges to folks like me, but it also presents amazing opportunities. BeforePCsThe workplace has changed enormously since the early day of my career. But the biggest change I’ve seen is in working remotely.

I remember when people had the odd day of working from home, but working remotely is a different kettle of fish. It’s definitely changed the workplace environment.

Working from remote and distant locations that are outside your traditional offices such as home, local coffee shop or even a hotel room is continuing to gain more and more traction thanks to the ever-expanding information technology capabilities. Don’t you just love wi-fi and smartphones? I do!

I love working remotely – so much so that it’s become the bulk of my business – and I really strive to master the technology that makes this possible for me.

There are heaps of benefits, but there’s also a downside. The pros and cons from my perspective are:

Benefits
1. There is increased independence. If you’re working from remote and distant locations—away from the traditional office—you won’t be distracted by others and there is less chance of becoming involved in the usual office politics.

Lack of distractions should mean an increase in your productivity, but it’s easy to get sidetracked.

2. Increased flexibility. If you are a working-from-home parent, or a caregiver to someone ill or an aged parent, you can organize and schedule your commitments around family obligations.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It does require discipline, but it can definitely be achieved.

3. As an employer, you can have a pool of workforce talents from diverse geographical locations as opposed to conventional working.

I love working with my remote team of VA’s! With the time zone differences it means pretty much round the clock productivity and fast turnaround times for clients.

4. There is a massive increase in savings on several fronts.

– Travel costs, travel time, vehicle running costs and parking fees.
– Clothing and dry cleaning bills as you have a more informal dress code.

ID-100125904
Image courtesy of Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

BTW – adopt a routine of getting dressed rather than sitting at your desk in your PJ’s all day! Make a point of getting up, showered and dressed every day that you are ‘working’. You don’t want to get caught short if you have to dash out or someone drops by!

– If you have a Virtual Assistant (VA), you only pay for the hours they actually worked. No issues with leave, superannuation, workers compensation and so on.

Disadvantages

1. It’s not easy to develop a relationship with other team members. Not everyone thrives on working alone and some people actually need personal interaction with colleagues.

2. The technology may fail. A backup plan is essential! That means using regular, automated backup for all your work, and having a second device to access Skype, internet etc.

3. It can be challenging to provide oversight and give clear instructions to remote workers as there is no direct supervision. I use a handy little tool called “Snag It” when I need to send visual illustrations of what I need – it’s magic!

4. Family and friends need to be educated that you are ”at work” and cannot be disturbed just because you are at home.

My Conclusion
The bottom line is that it very much depends on the individual, the business and the personalities involved.

Some of us thrive on remote work whilst others really struggle.

On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoy working remotely with my global team and the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Strong self-discipline is an absolute must!

Of course, nothing can beat face to face contact. It’s important to make sure to schedule a regular get together with your team, and that you get out and about to network.

Michelle

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

A version of this article was originally published on Simple Team Meeting as Pros and Cons of Working Remotely

Memory Monday #1

Yesterday saw Michelle diving through our photography archives (fancy word for old hard drives) looking for a photo to use in the blog that was posted on her personal blog. 

There were so many wonderful memories in there, both personal and professional moments, that we’ve decided they need to come out and be shared. After all, it is the past and our experiences that shape the people we’ve become.

Looking into the vaults of our memories serves several purposes:

  • to remind us of the past
  • to inspire us to take action moving forward
  • to relive magic moments and just get that general feel good vibe that stays with us through the day
  • To give us a giggle at some of the hairstyles and clothes!

So, we’re initiating Memory Monday and this is the first entry.

Camino 2013

This particular photo today, is from a magical experience walking the Camino. There’s a whole series of blogs on the trip here.

We hope you’ll enjoy the journey down memory lane with us. If you’ve got comments, we’d love you to post them here – especially if you have been a part of the journey 🙂

Michelle & Yvonne

PS If you’re interested in registering for our next Dragon Sister adventure – just drop us a note and we’ll pop you on our mailing list.

4 Reasons Why You Should Always RSVP – apart from being good manners!

Don’t you just love the feeling of slicing open an envelope and carefully sliding out a personalised invitation with your name on it? Even better if it’s vellum, gilt-edged or embossed with a crest!20160225_141748-1

Even after all these years, and countless invitations, I still love that moment as the sharp opener slices clean the envelope to reveal its contents.

Those little moments of using my letter opener are becoming rarer and rarer.

Have you noticed an increased propensity for invitations to arrive by email?

Even wedding invitations turn up via email!

You can call me old-fashioned. I know electronic is better for the planet and more cost-efficient, but in my book, you can’t beat paper.

The days of snail mail envelopes are almost gone. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, they will be entirely obsolete.

Anyway, I digress.

No matter how an invitation arrives, it nearly always has RSVP on it (répondez s’il vous plait) and date to reply by. Of course, electronic invitations can get trapped in your spam filter or the junk mailbox, so you’re often none the wiser till it’s too late!

Responding is just plain good manners.

Yep! I can remember my grandmother always used to insist on Basildon Bond stationery to write RSVP’s and thank you notes. But, aside from not wanting to appear rude, there are other less obvious reasons why you should always RSVP.

#1 – Someone has thought enough about you to place you on their guest list. They want you at their event.

Give them the courtesy of knowing you appreciate being thought of. That’s the RSVP.

#2 – When we look at the business scenario – invitations are a way of saying “Hey, we value you. We’d like your company”. You’re being invited, you’ll be giving or gaining something from your presence at the event. Hopefully, you’ll do both!

Your RSVP, whether you’re accepting or declining, means you respect the business relationship.

#3 – If you repeatedly fail to respond, you could well find yourself scrubbed off the database permanently. When that happens, if you’re in business, it means the networking opportunities become more limited.

#4 – When you RSVP promptly (by the due date at the latest), you’re showing that you respect deadlines and value the organisers time.

Your appropriately timed RSVP is affirming that you’re a responsible and reliable person to deal with.

When sending an RSVP, if you need to decline, there is no need to go into any detail about why you are declining. A simple ‘regretfully unable to attend’ is usually sufficient.

If you are in the public eye or a position of seniority, you may well find yourself flooded with invitations.

Just because you’re invited does not mean you have to accept. It’s perfectly okay to decide what you will and won’t attend. Just make sure you RSVP to every single invitation that arrives with RSVP on it!

The easiest way not to forget is to do it immediately, or at the very least make a diary date and flag so you don’t miss it. It’s all too easy to forget when you get busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday living.

Michelle

P.S. Emily Post has this to say on RSVP’s

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

 

 

The 4 Top Reasons Referrals Are Essential To Your Business

Referrals are a great source of business and despite the deluge of social media advertising some traditional methods still very much have a place in today’s business world.

4 Reasons referrals are essential

  1. Customer acquisition costs are a bare minimum.

Your happy customers are doing the marketing for you. Of course, this only happens if you give good service and are attentive to your customers’ needs. This means going above and beyond what is expected.

Satisfied customers are more than likely to bring in more customers to your business.

  1. Customer retention rate is higher.

If people are happy with your services, they are most likely to keep doing business with you. It is important to maintain contact and listen to customer feedback.

  1. The market place is generally crowded. This makes getting your message to stand out from the crowd difficult.
  1. Conversion rates are higher. A prospect introduced to your business by someone they trust is far more likely to convert into a new client/customer.

Knowing when and how to spot a potential referral opportunity is a good way to kick-start your referral system into gear. When a happy, satisfied customer comes along and gives good feedback, grab the opportunity to ask the customer to spread the good about your business.

Conducting after-sale interactions lets your customers know they are valued and not everything ends immediately after the sale/job is done.

How Referrals Work

When was the last time you went to a restaurant because a friend kept on raving how great the food or the service was?

I bet it was pretty recently. In fact, just today, I went to brunch at a new place because a couple of friends recommended it.

Have you ever asked a family member/friend to recommend a reliable plumber/electrician to take care of your dripping taps or broken fans?

I do this on a regular basis because good tradies are hard to find! Similarly, doctors, dentists, web designers, accountants and a myriad of other professionals.

If you’re like me, then you probably like to give your business to, and place your trust in, someone that comes recommended by somebody you know and trust.

If you haven’t got a system in place, it’s not too late to start! When you keep your eyes open it’s surprising at how easy it really is.

I’d love you to share your feedback on how you handle referrals and what systems you are using.

Michelle

PS Enjoyed this article? Sign up for my newsletter every Wednesday – direct to your Inbox – to help you connect, convert and sell!




Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

My 7 Top Tips for Maximising Your Business Day

I’ve always got a pretty packed schedule, so maximising my time is absolutely essential.

Here are my top tips for maximising your business day.

iosphere

1) Checking emails – have designated times for checking your emails. First thing in the morning, midday and before I finish for the day works well for me.

If possible, shut down your email between those times. If you need to refer to information in your emails, set it to offline mode. This will allow you access to all your information whilst also ensuring you do not constantly feel the need to look at what is coming through.

When going through your emails, if there are some that you can deal with via a quick response, do it immediately. It’s quicker than flagging for follow-up and then having to come back to it later.

2) Social Media – this is very much a part of business today and we can’t do without it. However, we do need to be aware of what a time waster it can be. I’m guilty of getting sucked into reading funnies, articles, etc., so willpower is essential.

The solution I’ve found is to apply some rules, just as with emails. Unless you work in an occupation which requires you to be constantly on, then a similar schedule to email checking works very well.

Create a system for posting and checking your pages and stick to it!

3) Mute your phone and set your Skype to offline– this will avoid interruptions and allow you to concentrate so much better!

I actually have my Skype set to offline for the vast majority of my workday.  I also only answer my phone at set times. If you answer your phone when you’re busy on another project, you often end up losing focus and worst of all, you fail to give the caller your full attention.

If it’s necessary to have your phone on for the family, it’s a good idea to have a totally separate mobile number that is exclusively for very close family.

4) Keep a notepad handy – this is perfect for scribbling down any thoughts that pop into your head at random moments.

Have you found how when you’re not thinking about a particular area, a thought will suddenly form? I often find when I am working I’ll have an unbidden thought of what I need to buy at the supermarket, or a great idea for a client blog, etc – I don’t want to lose the thought, so my notepad allows me to get it down on paper. The act of writing it down, then frees my mind to continue to concentrate on the task at hand.

5) Break times – Set yourself designated break times and stick to them. Leave your desk, and if possible go outside into the fresh air.

Don’t eat at your desk, take the time to chat to colleagues or read a magazine/chapter from a book, listen to some relaxing music or whatever appeals to you.

This is not wasting time, it’s actually setting you up to be more productive. It’s amazing how much more clarity you have after a short break – even 15 minutes can make a difference. You’ll work more efficiently – guaranteed! I didn’t always used to do this, but once I started to implement this technique, it’s made a huge difference.

6) Make Life Easier – there are lots of great tools out there that can help make life easier.

Trello is a great tool for keeping all kinds of stuff organised, kind of like a virtual pin-board. I use it to put up task for my VA’s and pop my ideas that need to be “parked” so I do not get hit with Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)

7) Set aside the last 15 minutes at the end of your workday for  review.

Use this time to:

  • Go over your emails
  • Delete and file anything you don’t need
  • Check your trusty notepad for the days unbidden thoughts
  • Look over your calendar and add in/delete/accepts as appropriate
  • Transfer any outstanding tasks to tomorrows
  • Finalise the next day’s priority list

I’d love to hear your feedback and of course please share, in the comments below, any tips you like to use to get more out of each day.

Michelle

This post originally appeared on Simple Team Meeting as 7 Simple, Proven Tips to Immediately Get More Out of Your Day.

Who wants Uber Marketing?

Answer: Who doesn’t?!

I got this from Powered by Oxford Dictionaries • © Oxford University Press as the definition of ‘uber’:

“… denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing … ”

Maybe you are an outstanding expert in your field.
Maybe your business is a supreme example for your sector.
Maybe everything about your business is totally uber – except the un-uber state of your customer engagement.

Did you see the post we shared on Facebook this morning that digital disruption has already happened?
Old Digital Marketing(1)It’s something many B2B and B2C clients are trying to get a handle on.

We know, because they ask us to help with this more than any other single Business Barrier Busting need.

The biggest challenges are:
1. What do you put up – or put out there – as your marketing messages?

2. How do you engage the interest of prospects and customers?

3. What will set you apart from the multitude of product and service toting businesses?

The answer to this is Strategic Content Marketing. And it’s not rocket science.

We do it every day, usually in the form of ghost writing, for just about every sort of platform – articles, email shots, blogs, webinars, Snagit, LinkedIn, Facebook, newsletters, advertorials etc.

Is that an unashamed plug for one of the Dragon Sisters services? Well, I am a sales person at heart, so what do you think?

This isn’t a plug though. Rather, I am sharing what I really think is a great article by Brian Honigman which explains a lot in terms of ‘how to.’ So if you’re in the mood for a Sunday read, check it out.

Hope this helps you with your marketing.
Have a super uber Sunday!
Yvonne

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

Understanding A Sales Meeting

There are meetings, and there are meetings (very often too many of them!), but one thing every meeting should produce is measurable, achievable and progressive outcomes.

As elementary as this sounds (My Dear Watson) it’s sometimes quite astonishing how often meetings fail to produce this result.

This happens for a variety of reasons, though it’s safe to say that the main two reasons are (a) that there has been a lack of understanding, and (b) that there has been a lack of commitment. Both issues arise from the incorrect positioning of the dialogue.

The giveaway is in the title. If the meeting does not produce sales resultant outcomes – budget, orders, market share, etc. – then it has no business calling itself a Sales Meeting. As they say, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … well, it’s a duck, not a Sales Meeting.

Understanding a Sales Meeting
Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been a party to sales meetings my entire working life, as a participant and as a manager. The most common failing of many sales meetings is that the chair does not understand the basics of running such a meeting.

Naturally, every sales meeting is about performance and sometimes there is a distinct lack of understanding of how to successfully translate this objective into meaningful, dynamic, real time, meeting outcomes (sales!!).

For example, if the meeting revolves simplistically around looking at last month’s figures, berating those team members who haven’t hit target, lavishly praising the team star and worst, kicking the team trailer (while she’s down) what you have is a Head Kicker Session not a Sales Meeting.

Similarly, if the meeting is all about what the company needs and wants with no substance (dialogue) as to how the team individuals can actively go out and achieve this, you might just as well send out a memorandum directive email. That’s not even a meeting!

The absolute worst sales meetings have been those where the boss expounds at length on a particular individual’s poor performance or that of a few non-performing team members.

That’s not a sales meeting. That’s a performance review. The reason (other than HR legislation) that those are done in private is that if there’re performance issues to address these should not be aired in public. At best you’ll end up with one shattered, humiliated individual (and how great is his performance likely to be then?!); at worst you’ll end up with the entire team thinking you’re a complete bar-steward, eager to stick the knife in at the earliest opportunity. The ‘sales meeting’ then moves on to projections for the new month, often in similar vein.

Too often the finale, in the guise of Any Other Business, degenerates into a whinging session or the boring minutiae of office housekeeping, e.g. the admin staff have again complained that no one is washing up their lunch dishes. Be still my beating heart! Boy is this going to project your team like so many sales-seeking-missiles out of that meeting room ready to wrest the best out of the day’s opportunities – not.

There are two things any chair must get out of the Sales Meeting:

  1. The team’s understanding of how to achieve their target
  2. The team’s commitment to achieving their target

We’ll talk about how we achieve this next time. Meantime, watch out for ducks!

Yvonne

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

This post originally appeared on Simple Team Meeting on 3 June 2015

Success – A Different Perspective

WINNER1 cmpThis blog post was, in part, inspired by the speech Michelle gave almost 12 years ago as the 2004 Telstra NT Business Woman of the Year. It was first posted on Simple Team Meeting in April 2015.  We believe it is just as relevant now as it was then.  Wishing you every success in 2016.

Michelle & Yvonne

 

When you hear the word success what do you immediately think of?  Wealth, status or fame? I suppose the most common is the trappings of wealth but this is purely external.

Success, at least the monetary kind, and happiness do not go hand in hand. For numerous reasons. Sometimes individuals have a tendency to push themselves so hard to succeed that they do this at the risk of loosing everything else around them. This includes health, family and even themselves.

The more pressured your job is, the more important it becomes to take the time to ensure you are succeeding in all aspects of your life.

In my eyes you are a success when you are happy with where you are. In other words, being happy in the moment. That is not to say you should not have ambition, goals and dreams, rather it means accepting and enjoying the present as opposed to constantly looking ahead to the future, the next goal.

Now this may sound a bit strange to some, but based on personal experience, I believe this is absolutely the case. The epitome of success is allowing yourself to appreciate the present.

Accept and give yourself a pat on the back for what you are achieving at the moment.

Do not pay too much heed to what everyone else considers or thinks is appropriate.

Living in the moment means taking the time to enjoy what are often the very simple pleasures of life. I embrace moments when I walk to work. I admire the scenery and absorb the little details like the blossoms unfolding , the birds cheeping,  and the way the light changes in the sky at different times of day. I enjoy allowing my mind to wander where it chooses.  I take the time to appreciate the walk and see it as an exercise opportunity rather than a drudge. It is my choice to see these as a pleasure moment and it sets me up for the day with a positive mindset.

We are each responsible for our own success, for our own feelings.  It does take some time and effort to achieve the skills to be able to live in the moment, but it is definitely a skill worth developing.

Developing awareness of living in the moment is a skill which accompanies us through life. It gives us the power to embrace success in all its forms and allows us to experience the greatest success of all in life, personal happiness.

Michelle

PS – love to hear your thoughts on what represents success. Leave a comment here.

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.