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Short articles, tips and ideas you can reprint for your publication or website

All the articles below are brief - 250 to 400 words

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Index of Short Articles
All the articles below are brief - 250 to 400 words

How to Have Better Meetings
3 Ways to Prevent Learning
Will Speak for Profit
Got Referrals?
The Tank's on Empty
Your Personal Strategic Plan
Think Strategically About the Year Ahead
Developing your Verbal Logo
Get Better Clients

How to Have Better Meetings

How do business people spend about 17 hours each week? You guessed it; in meetings. Sales meetings, project meetings, staff meetings, quality meetings and so on.

Our modern workplace now demands that people, teams, and sometimes different organizations pull together to obtain the desired results. Complexity of problems and opportunities require the collective input of various sources and backgrounds to find unique and highly effective solutions.

When people work together, one inevitable event occurs that causes a collective groan. The "Meeting" is the worst, least popular time waster of them all. What's with this aversion to meetings? Just what is a meeting? Are they necessary? If necessary, how can we improve their effectiveness?

To make your meetings more productive and effective, incorporate the following four phases into the plan for each meeting:

1) Determine a clear focus and be action oriented -- what do you want to accomplish?
2) Make sure that all necessary resources are available including advance information, the proper people, and adequate facilities.
3) Stay focused during the meeting by following your timetable, and accurately record all decisions and follow-up actions.
4) Evaluate the process -- have the group discuss and identify good and bad aspects before they leave the meeting.

Statistics: Meetings are necessary -- but poorly run meetings are a terrible waste of time. A recent survey of American business people provided us with this statistic: people spend an average of 17 hours each week in meetings. This is not necessarily an excessive amount, but respondents said that 5 of these 17 hours were wasted time. this is an average of one hour each day wasted! Poorly run meetings are one of our biggest time wasters, so make sure your meetings are focused on your agenda.

Meeting Maddeners: Most frequently mentioned problems include:
1) late starts;
2) run too long;
3) lack of focus for the meeting;
4) straying off the subject;
5) inviting the wrong people to the meeting; and
6) lack of closure or clear decisions.

Solve these problems and you will have better meetings in half the time!

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3 Ways to Prevent Learning

Learning in today's fast-paced and ever-changing environment can't be left to chance. We must make a conscious effort to capture our experiences and learn from them or be doomed to repeat our mistakes. Worse yet, we may habitually keep doing those things that always worked for us in the past, while our competition is actively seeking new ideas, innovation and growth to meet the changing needs of the marketplace.

Many times, without thinking, we shortcut the learning process. Usually, this prevents any learning from taking place.

Some examples are:

* Jumping to conclusions. We don't take the time to review and think about what really happened. This often leads to false conclusions about what we should do next.

* Analysis to paralysis. Nothing ever happens. We review, then conclude, review, conclude, and so on without planning or furthering our experiences.

* Quick fix. We take the experience, then immediately move to the next step without reflecting or drawing conclusions about what just happened.

Don't prevent your learning and improvement. The competitive advantage of the future is your learning speed.

** NOTE **
The message above is an excerpt from my new book, "The BizSuccess Strategy Book". Here is the step-by-step blueprint for business success that you've been looking for. Now you can get over 175 pages of practical, proven techniques that I've been using with my clients for twelve years.

The BizSuccess Strategy Book will help YOU to grow your business, make more money and have more fun.

Check it out.

To get the details by automatic email, send any email to:

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Will Speak for Profit

For most business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals, attracting clients is paramount. The more you can make yourself known, the more likely your prospective clients can find you. Yet, public relations can be expensive and time consuming.

What's the answer? Give presentations and speeches about your area of expertise. When prospective clients see you in action, talking knowledgeably about your industry, they have an opportunity to buy from you. At the very least, they will associate you with your specialty. This means they will think about you. When they think about you, your odds of doing some business with them increases.

First is getting yourself booked to do the speech. Who do you want to speak to? Which associations include these people? Call the association and offer to be a speaker for an upcoming meeting. They're always looking for speakers who will give their members good information. Also, consider the Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce. These organizations and other similar community organizations also look for speakers to present to the business people who attend their meetings. In a nutshell, volunteer to speak to any gathering of your prospective clients.

Remember, these groups are interested in practical ideas that will save them money, make them money, improve their businesses, reduce their workload and so on. They do not want a thinly disguised sales pitch. Contact the organization's program director and tell them what you can offer.

Once you've been booked, start analyzing the expected audience. Who are they? Why will they be there? What are they interested in? How much do they already know about your subject? Ask these questions until you are clear about your listeners. The more you know about them, the more comfortable you will be with them.

If you offer a free report, a "tips" sheet, a newsletter or other small incentive, people will line up to give you their business card. Put these people in your prospect database, mail to them, follow up with them and nurture this relationship. After all, you're no longer a stranger to them. The likelihood is high that you could do business with them or get referrals from them.

Bottom line...
Making public presentations can be profitable, rewarding and fun.

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Got Referrals?

Ho-Hum. Another day at the office, waiting for a potential customer to call or come in. Hmmmm.

What would your business be like if your current customers were enthusiastically rounding up prospective customers for you? How difficult would it be to close those sales?

So why aren't your current customers bringing you referrals? Perhaps it's because you have not instructed them, motivated them, made it easy for them, asked them or initiated the process.

Getting referrals requires planning and preparation. Start by making a list of all the people who might be a referral source for you. These may include people you do business with, such as your banker, accountant, attorney, printer, consultant, broker, and so on.

You'll have better results by developing stronger relationships with a few referral sources rather than shallow relationships with lots of sources.

In order to help your Referral Partners give you good, qualified referrals, you need to get crystal-clear about what you are looking for. What types of people/organizations make the best customers for you? Are there any geographic limitations? How about size or volume requirements?

Your Referral Partner has surely developed valuable relationships over the years and will be most reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize those relationships. A simple, step-by-step process that shows how you will represent yourself (and your Referral Partner) will provide assurance that the potential customer will be treated with respect and dignity.

Next, discuss the specific actions you want from your Referral Partner. Do you want them to call the potential customer? What do you want them to say? Would you prefer they arrange a three-way appointment? Often, people want to give you referrals, but don't know exactly what to do or how to do it. Train them; coach them; help them get clear on what's expected of them.

Once you get a referral, be sure to show your appreciation. Behavior that is recognized tends to be repeated. Showing your appreciation is not only the polite thing to do; it is also a smart way to encourage more referrals.

Bottom line; developing and implementing an effective referral strategy can produce a steady stream of new business for years to come. You can achieve your professional goals faster and easier through effectively targeting referrals. Start today.

Got referrals?

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The Tank's on Empty

Remember the last time you were driving down the road and noticed that your gas tank was on "empty"? How did you feel? If you're like most of us, you started feeling just a little anxious.

You probably began thinking about how and when you would find a gas station. You might have even wondered (just for a few seconds) what it would be like if you ran out of gas. If your imagination were in high gear, you would have visualized yourself trudging on foot to the nearest gasoline station, buying a can of fuel (including the can!), then hiking back to the car. What a trip!

Now switch scenarios. Recall what you felt like when you just filled the tank. You are confidently driving with an ample reserve of gas. No worries about fuel; no anxiety about running out.

Having a reserve of fuel for your car is very similar to having reserves for yourself. When you are running on "empty" with regard to time, money, space, love, faith, satisfaction, or companionship, you will feel the same negative emotions you felt when driving with an empty gas tank.

So, what's the answer? Build reserves of all these things you need in your life. Identify the things that are important to you, then set out to find ways of having more than just the bare minimum of these things. Do what you have to do to create more than enough love, attention, space, time, money and so on.

Let's get something straight first. Building more than enough of something you need in your life is only one part of the puzzle. The other piece is to identify what is draining your reserves. If you're pouring into a leaky bucket, you won't make much progress.

Start today to plug the leaks and create ample reserves for yourself in all the areas where you have needs. Some suitable candidates may be time, money, space, safety/security, ideas, opportunities, friends, love, attention, self-esteem, confidence, energy, and fuel in the tank.

Fill the tank!

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Your Personal Strategic Plan

Corporations do it. Entrepreneurs do it (well, some of them). Many successful businesses develop a strategic plan to help them get clarity and focus.

For years, I've been helping businesses develop their strategic plan. A few years ago, it occurred to me that you could have a personal strategic plan that would help you individually get clarity and focus on your own preferred future.

Set aside a couple of hours this month to contemplate your Preferred Future for the next 3 years. Don't get hung up on the small stuff. Look beyond today and this week and this month.

For this breakthrough strategy, identify the six or seven aspects of your personal life that are seriously important to you. Generally, we see categories such as:

spiritual journey
social involvement
intellectual growth
financial health

In each of these areas, develop a crystal clear vision of where you are going with this. Describe as best you can what it looks like and what it feels like when you have reached the point in each of your key result areas where you are happy with each. This represents a picture of your future as you prefer it to be.

If you can articulate a clear vision of your preferred future, focusing on those areas that are important to you, that vision becomes the picture on the lid of your life's jigsaw puzzle. That clear vision allows you to set goals in the direction of your preferred future. That vision provides motivation, energy, purpose and direction. It certainly helps you to communicate with the people around you.

Many people continuously work on personal tasks that are leading nowhere. I believe Thoreau could have been referring to those people when he wrote:

“the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”.

Many others have made financial objectives their sole concern and have paid a heavy price for their success - poor health, failed marriages, neglected friendships, no personal development in any area except business.

By developing and pursuing your own personal strategic plan, you will increase your energy, motivation, and your sense of satisfaction. In other words, your happiness. It’s your choice to make. Most people are as happy as they choose to be.

Get busy developing that for yourself... Get a Life!!

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Think Strategically About the Year Ahead

This is the time of year when business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals begin procrastinating about doing their annual planning.

Why is this such a daunting task? For many, it's because we imagine annual planning as a huge, time-consuming and difficult chore. What if it was easy and quick?

Here is a simple process for you to plan for next year. It is relatively easy and can be done in a day or two.

Phase one is self evaluation of the enterprise. Here, you'll look at what's important to you, where you're going, what are you all about and what's your prime purpose. Identify the five or six key areas that are important and essential for your business - cash flow, customers, employees, image, growth, productivity and so on.

In each of these areas, describe as best you can, in writing, what it looks like and what it feels like when you have reached the point in each of your key result areas where you are happy with each. This represents a picture of your future as you prefer it to be.

Phase two is about making choices. To do this, use a scale of 1-10 (10 is wonderful and 1 is lousy) to rate each of the organizational value areas as to how well you are currently living up to that value when compared to your vision of your preferred future.

Phase three is to establish priorities. The hardest and most vital part of thinking strategically is accepting the simple truth that we cannot do all the things we want to do or even all the things that are important.

Use the completed ratings to select one or two areas where you have the greatest opportunity for improvement in the coming year.

Phase four is to develop the action plan. Get clear about who will do what and when. Start with brainstorming all the possible actions which could move you closer toward your preferred future.

Group the action items into categories such as marketing, communications, facilities, employees, etc. Usually, 3-5 categories will cover them all (it's OK to have a "Misc." category). Now, go back through each action item in each category to assign a person to be accountable for that action, and to determine when that action item will be complete.

Phase five is implementation. Each person must have a clear understanding of his or her individual accountability. If it's just you in your one-person company, you, too, must get clear on how you will accomplish your assigned tasks.

Once or twice a month, stop to review your progress. Celebrate your successes and the progress you are making.

The process of thinking strategically about your business can be one of opportunity and excitement. Through this process, everyone in the organization can understand and commit themselves to a consistent system of values and vision for the future.

The payback is a high return on your investment of time and commitment to the process. An enterprise grounded with a clear direction and a plan to get there will have both focus on what is important and the flexibility to respond to new opportunities.

Here's to a successful year for you and your business!

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Developing your Verbal Logo

The next 30 seconds may determine whether you get your funding, make the sale or establish your point-of-view!

In this faced-paced, mile-a-minute world, you often have only a few seconds to get your message across. Where could you use an effective 30 second commercial message about your business? These mini-messages are ideal for investor meetings, networking meetings, trade shows, interviews, sales calls or anytime where you need to quickly promote your business.

How do you develop these messages effectively? Think in terms of "sound bites". Prepare your brief message just like a speech, with an opener, the content and the closing.

The Opening

The purpose of your opening is to grab attention. You must assume that your audience is generally as busy and preoccupied as you are. So you need to first get their attention with a question, 'grabber' words, humor or an interesting visual.

The Content

Once you have their attention, it's time to relate your main message. Since you usually have only three or four sentences, you need to craft this message carefully. The most effective message is the one that states what your business can do for the listener.

The bottom line is that your listeners don't care what you do. They care about what you can do for them. Talk in terms of results, feelings, benefits, outcomes, ideas. Imagine your listener with a sign on their forehead that reads "So What? What's in it for me?"

The Closing

Here is where you ask for action. As a result of your 30 second commercial, you want your listener to do something or think something. Also appropriate is your catchy tag line. The closing may be the only part of your message that your listener will remember. What do you want them to remember?

So, there it is. In our MTV world of excessive sights and sounds and experiences, you can make your point and get your message across in a well prepared, well rehearsed 30 second commercial. Think of it as a brief speech.

Mix preparation with inspiration and you'll get a standing ovation.

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Get Better Clients

Have you ever noticed that some people make you feel good just to be around them? These are the people who give you energy when they are near you. These special people seem to unlock your creativity and stimulate your thinking. Wow!

On the other hand, there are probably others you can think of who drain all the life out of you. Which clients would you rather have?

I don't mean to sound rude, but most businesses take on any client who steps up with the money. Don't get me wrong; we all know that a paying client is indeed very valuable. My point is that you consider the cost to you for dealing with the people you serve.

So how do you upgrade your client base? Let's acknowledge that even the worst client who pays is still a paying client, after all. I do not suggest you take that lightly. On the other side of the balance scale, recognize the opportunities for you if you upgrade your client base. Before you run off your not-so-pleasant clients, try training them, and yourself, to recognize what is happening.

Start with being honest with yourself. Is it possible that your clients are mirroring your own behavior? To attract the kind of people you want, be the kind of person you want to attract. If you want them to be pleasant, be pleasant. If you desire to be around positive, forward-thinking people, take on that role for yourself. It is not always easy to admit, but often, we are the catalyst for what is happening around us.

Have better clients. You deserve it.

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Gary Lockwood is Your Business Coach.
Grow your business, make more money and have more fun.

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