A Better Mouse Trap

Lessons from the Edge:

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) juvenileWe have mice. They live behind/in our stove. Seems like it would be a nice place to live; warm, lots of insulation and easy access to a steady supply of food. I catch and release them.. and so far this year I have caught about 6 of the little cuties. My husband reminds me often that, “No, we cannot just build a habitat and keep them.” In my fantasy I put together a maze habitat with a tube with a one w
ay door from the stove through a box like space with stuffing and food and then more tubes leading around the kitchen. My inclination is to just embrace the presents of our mice and keep it managed in a way that makes us both happy. They get to keep living in a safe warm place, and I get to keep them off my counter tops and out of my cereal… seems like a win, win to me. However, I know that they carry insects, diseases etc.. and that it is not ok for us to share a kitchen.. so I catch and release.

As I was walking today to the park with our dog to release yet another little Stuart I thought about this as a parable. It occurred to me, that in general, there are always multiple outcomes for every opportunity. Finding the right solution, not only can look very different from what you initially imagined, the solution for today may not be the solution for a week/month/year from now. Also, hitting on the right resolution for today requires consideration of all parties and compassion for all the positions, it’s only then that every interested party carries similar responsibility and reward. In the case of my mouse: I have to catch and then walk them to the park, the mouse is taken to a foreign, cold place, my husband has to hear about yet another catch. In the end we all get something we want too; my counters stay clean, the mouse lives and my husband does not have to live with a colony of mice. Longterm this is a better, healthier solution than my049dfb37633f93e29cb609d29d6db6f1 imagined elaborate maze. Eventually, we may need to borrow the neighbors cat…

Oops  .. just caught another one..

Bottom Line: The best solutions are ones that include consideration of all the invested participants.

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Paying our share

Lessons from the Edge

There is a lot of news out there about who paid what taxes. I would like to say that my personal position on this is definitely Alt-Left.. So if that is going to offend your fantasia of free markets, stop reading now.

I am a small business owner. By all rights the creator of jobs and builder of the middle class. We hire employees, put money into the economy both directly and by hiring people, pay taxes and contribute to the over fabric of our collective society and economy.

As a small business, we pay an awesome amount of taxes. The State and Feds almost punish us for existing. There are taxes for being an entity, for payroll, and of course income. God forbid you own property too, commercial real estate taxes are, well, obscene. This is of course on top of everything else being more expensive for a business; business accounts online, business banking, Insurances (there are usually a few kinds), legal support, and more complicated tax preparation. There is more I am sure I am forgetting.

On the whole I do not mind “paying my share”, as the pundits like to say. I actually feel privileged to be able to pay into my employee’s Social Security and Medicare. In fact we do our best to bring all our freelancers and vendors on as part-time employees so we can do this for them and our community.

Income and property taxes going towards public services, like education, is all good with me. I wish it were a better system, but more on that later. A well educated electorate means less crime, more prosperity and a better hiring base for small business and beyond.The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994.jpg

So, forgive me when I say, f’ck the guy who doesn’t pay up. Not only because usually that means at some point the rest of us will have to compensate, but by not paying in, they are opting out of our entire democratic system. By cheating on our society, they are not investing in it’s future, it’s long term prosperity and security. Immediate gains are exchanged for the rainy day security of a stable economy and nation. Doesn’t anyone remember the Aesop tale if the Cricket and the Ant?

We as a country seem to have lost the long term vision of that shining city on the hill and are focused solely on creating Ebenezer Scrooge’s. I sincerely hope greed and selfishness become unfashionable soon, for all our sakes.

Building Castles

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Castle in the Clouds by KatieRuckerArtwork

 

  • Work Hard.
  • Do what you love.
  • Leave every place and person better than when you found them.
  • We are all in this life together, moving toward the same end.

These are my values. The four pillars that hold everything else up. I assume I get them in part from my parents although they were just among the few who raised me. Countless teamsters, carpenters, wardrobe supervisors, chorus girls, production assistants, Sandra, and Unca Mark make up some of the village that raised me. The patchwork of ethics, values and morals is very … colorful. I certainly learned that people and life are kaleidoscope early.

A friend of mine always jokes that she will never play poker with me, having been taught by a teamster in Boston, it’s probably wise. There was a wealth of perspectives, values and prejudices to choose from to be sure. The 12 step tenant “Take what you like and leave the rest” has definitely been something I used to full effect. Those pillars above are what the spinner of life seems to have left as the remaining absolute truths by which I guide all my actions and build all my castles.

Working hard is what I do. I work on myself, work on my business, work at my relationships and work to try and make this world a better place. I love working hard.. In fact one of my favorite projects was re-landscaping my father’s property and doing 90% of the labor on my own. That was extremely satisfying. My Grandfather blames our work ethic on being Irish. I’m not sure.. although we are Irish. When everything starts to fall apart, my go to self help mantra is “Get back to work”. It always seems to pull me out of whatever tailspin I was starting.

Seth Godin has a good posting about this : “When you find a trick, a shortcut, a hack that gets you from here to there without a lot of sweat or risk, it’s really quite rewarding. So much so that many successful people are hooked on the trick, always looking for the next one. … There’s a meta-trick that’s far more reliable. One that works over time and doesn’t depend on avoiding being out-tricked: Make great stuff. Satisfy needs. Do the hard work that leads to growth which leads to investment on its own merit. It turns out that the trick-free approach is the best trick of all.” @thisissethsblog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/09/looking-for-the-trick.html)

Lucky for me I have built a business doing what I love to do. My dad has often said, “Do what you love and hire others to do the same.” I’ve always liked that quote. Some people love book keeping. I Know right?!? But it’s true, so why take that position away from them? “Work” is not a chore for me. This is where some people get caught up.

Work does not need to be a chore, but work is work and sometimes it is not fun. If what you have is a J-O-B and you are not doing what you love or even like then get out. There are literally thousands of options of what to be and do.. So go find it. Working hard at something you love is a gift.

The other two are the intent by which I enter every interaction. I am a populist at heart and believe deeply we have an obligation to do better in every way than our parents and ancestors. My husband and I tease our son that as long as he is talking about different things than we did in therapy, we did our job right. Everyday building on what came before us and moving toward a better world and culture, with big and small actions, is ultimately why we are all here.

  • Work Hard.
  • Do what you love.
  • Leave every place and person better than when you found them.
  • We are all in this life together, moving toward the same end.

What are your pillars? How do they manifest in your life?

Hospitality

Lessons from the Edge

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Balancing emotional connections and measurable results in your events.

Something that is being lost in the top “whatever” lists, shortcut tips and the motivation to measure every outcome is that we as event professionals are HOSTS. Yes, I said it. We host events above manage, produce or coordinate. Our field of study is in the school of Hospitality after all.

The participants are our guests and it is our primary job to provide them with not only a measurable experience, but as Andrea Driessen (@nomoreboring) says, a meaningful and memorable experience.

The more the event environment is one of inclusiveness and comfort for guests the more they will be able to absorb the purpose and content of the meeting or conference. Your audience has taken time out of their busy lives, away from familiar comforts and family. This is especially true of those meetings that are required of them like sales meetings. Hotels and other venues are often labyrinth like and alien. Coworkers are not usually the preferred “hang-out buddy” and often there are large numbers of strangers. An uneasiness is natural. It has to be our priority to anticipate and have everything in place to help reduce or eliminate this.

Take a page out of the Ritz-Carlton’s Gold Standard as a place to start:

Three Steps Of Service

  1. A warm and sincere greeting.
    1. This is not only a greeter at the door, think bigger than that.
  2. Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
    1. Personalized materials, noted room preferences, meal requirements etc. go a long way.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
    1. Again, go bigger than just a greeter at the exit.

“They (Ritz Carlton) understand that relationships precede financial results and rely on a robust data set that demonstrates the impact engaged employees and repeat customers have on the bottom line.” – Ryan Estis (@RyanEstis)

For more on the Ritz’s standards – http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/about/gold-standards

Bottom Line:

Guests who leave a meeting feeling cared for, inspired and valued will return next year gladly and tell their friends. That’s something you can measure!

Start

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Lessons from the Edge

It important just to start.. I had breakfast with one of my favorite people, Amy, the other day and after patiently waiting for me to finish describing all the things I was doing BEFORE I started going after new clients, she smiled and said, “why not just start?” Isn’t it a girl issue to wait until everything is perfect before we go after what we want? We tweak, fluff, jooj, stress and pick. However, we actually don’t go after what it is we are fussing about.

It is a proven fact that this is a very common affliction for women in particular. Being right and perfect is nonsense and needs to be surgically removed from our heads – NOW!  This affects a lot of us, the anxiety of being exposed and “out there” can be palpable to all walks of life.

Mistakes will happen. It’s part of life. Double posting is something I end up doing often cause some setting is on when it should be off and spelling errors?!? .. god knows I have loads of those.

Get it out there.. do it now. Life is messy, humans are messier.

My favorite Dr Seuss quote : “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Bottom line:

Your audience is waiting for you. Get your message to them before they think you are not coming.

#Networking – Where do I go?

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Find a group or organization that offers valuable information and potential connections.

This can be a challenge, especially if you are just starting out. We struggle even now finding ones that are the right fit. Here are a guide from a previous post:

On a scale of 1-10 how influential will the speakers and/or other guests be to my:

    1. Inspiration
    2. Education
    3. Connections

If it’s 4 or higher, start planning your outfit. Even if there is a 40% chance you might meet someone who says something that inspires you it’s worth giving it a try.

  • Is the host a friend/contact/work associate?

If yes.. You are going for sure.

  • Were you invited directly?

Not by a mass email promotion, but did someone say, “Hey Aryn, come to my event.”?

Always go where you are invited. It’s a good policy that will reap huge benefits.

  • Is it in a venue or neighborhood that interests you?

Being in the events business, I like to see and experience different venues and neighborhoods. I use the event as an excuse to scout.

A few places to start:

MeetUp offers a wide variety of groups, everything from professional book clubs to lawyer’s play racquetball. These tend to be free, but check your specific ones for details.

Another great out of the box option is Toastmasters. It sounds crazy, but dedicated professionals are always looking to better themselves, and this is one of the places those people go.

Professional organizations are usually formed around the idea of networking, it’s their mission to get you connected. Reach out to them directly or search their websites for information. Depending on the costs, it may or may not be worth joining. See if the events/education opportunities look interesting to you first.

In the events world, we joined a few: Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the International Live Events Association (ILEA). These memberships are not cheap, so you will have to weigh the benefits for you. Then the key is to actually go to the events they offer.

Industry meetings and conferences can be a great place meet new connections and clients. Again these can be costly both in time and resources so choose wisely.

Here are some things to look for:

  • How big is the event? If you are comfortable standing out in a convention center filled with people, bigger is better. If you are someone, like us, who likes smaller, more intimate workshops and discussions that’s the one for you.
  • Is Networking built in? In either case above, look at the agenda. If it is wall to wall keynote speakers and lecture style breakouts, there won’t be a lot of time for meet and greet.
  • Are the speakers and subjects a fit for you and what you are looking for?

Some other ideas are; your local business district offices like ours – WHBID, Small business bureaus, your local Departments of Commerce and our favorite, start your own group on Facebook, LinkedIn or MeetUp and see who shows up.

Tip: Once you find an event, look and see who is speaking and/or attending. Look them up on LinkedIn or Twitter before the event (not in a stalkery way). Pull out some details and facts about their work to have conversation starters. Reaching out to them directly also can be great and arrange to have a drink/coffee together there.

Take a professional development class. This is a great way to meet peers, if not potential clients. There are many resources for this. Most universities have continuing education courses and most professional organizations either host classes or can point you in the right direction. Again, these can be costly, so make sure it is something you really want and /or need to do.

Our next networking post we will get you ready for your first event.

^Ax3 #Networking #Friendshelpfriends

The Boss

Lessons from the Edge

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Who is the boss?

In my business the client is the boss. The client does not however, always know what’s best, that’s why they hired you. While it’s not a good idea to pull out the creative integrity, or reputation argument too much or too soon. If the client is compromising your ability to do the job they hired you for by delaying the process to an extreme, sabotaging your relationships or other wise being truly naughty, then you have every right to stand up for your brand. Do it professionally and do it in writing. Once the situation is resolved amicably, seriously re-consider keeping them as a client in the future.

Bottom Line: Life is too short for bad business.