Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The 3 Enemies of Time Management, or, Where Did I Leave My Keys?

Whenever I see the term, “Time Management,” I laugh, ha ha, because to me, Time Management is every bit the same type of oxymoron as “Jumbo Shrimp,” “Deafening Silence,” and “Open Secret,” to name a few. (Someone suggested “Happily Married” but that one didn’t make sense to me – isn’t that right, Dear?).

There's no such thing as time management! So why should you read the rest of this blog? Because there is such a thing as self-management and that's the key to making time your ally rather than your enemy. Time really can't be managed. You can't slow it down or speed it up or manufacture it. It just IS. Time management is MANAGING YOURSELF when following some basic time management principles.

Here are all the things you need to do to become Master/Mistress of your time!

1. Find out where you're wasting time.
Many of us are victim to time-wasters that steal it.
2.  Create time management goals.
For example, you're not going to take phone calls from people you don’t recognize on caller ID between 8:00 AM and 12:00 noon.
3. Implement a time management plan.
Yeah! Right!
4. Use time management tools.
A software program such as Outlook, for instance, lets you schedule tasks easily.
5. Prioritize mercilessly.
You should start each day prioritizing the tasks for that day; if you have 20 things to do for a given day, analyze how many of them you really need to do. 
6. Learn to delegate.  
Share the load.
7. Establish routines and stick to them as much as possible.
While crises do come up, you'll be more productive if you follow routines.
8. Set time limits for tasks.
For instance, reading and answering email can eat up your whole day if you let it.
9. Be sure your systems are organized.
Are you wasting a lot of time looking for files on your computer? Take the time to organize a file management system. (Let me know when you get this done and I’ll let you do mine.)

Ok, we both know you’re not going to do any of this stuff! So here’s what you can do: Work on controlling the following three things and you’ll be more productive and less frustrated.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in “Democracy in America” in 1835, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Then marketers at Nike came along and said, “Quit making excuses, putting it off, complaining about it, worrying about it. Suck it up. Hold on tight, say a prayer, make a Plan and JUST DO IT!

One study shows it takes about 25 minutes to get back into the swing of things after you’ve been interrupted. Try to manage interruptions. For instance, before 12:00 noon, determine that you’ll take phone calls from Mom, your daughter (900 miles away in college) and 3 important business contacts AND NO ONE ELSE!


This is best illustrated thusly:

Recently, on a day off, I decide to go out and water my garden. As I turn on the hose, I look over at my car and think it needs to be washed. As I start toward the garage, I notice mail on the table that I collected from the mailbox earlier. I decide to look through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the trash bin under the table, and notice that it is full. So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the rubbish first. But then I think, since I’m going to be near the post-box when I take out the rubbish anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table, and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in the desk in my office, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the bottle of Diet Coke I’d been drinking. I’m going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over. The Coke is getting warm, and I decide to put it in the fridge to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye – they need water. I put the Coke on the counter and find the reading glasses that I’ve been looking for all morning. I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers. I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and spot the TV remote control. Someone left it on the kitchen table and I realize that tonight I’ll be looking for the remote control, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the front room where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers, but some of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote control back on the table, get some paper towels and wipe up the spill. Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day: the car isn’t washed; the bills aren’t paid; there is a warm bottle of Coke sitting on the counter; the flowers don’t have enough water; there is still only one check in my check book; I can’t find the remote control; I can’t find my glasses and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys. Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really confused because I know I was busy all day, and I’m really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Spend an Hour on November 30th with Lee Caroselli and Madeira USA

If the holidays tend to increase your sales, inspire your creativity or simply push your buttons, you may want to sit in on a webinar on November 30th. Embroidery industry icon Lee Caroselli-Barnes, whose digitizing has won her not just awards, but the adulation of the industry, will be joining Madeira USA to talk about “Threads of the Season.” Since ‘tis the season to be thinking of snowmen, stars and random sparkles everywhere, Madeira USA and Lee will team up to talk about which threads you should be thinking about these days.

Since the temperatures head south, but not all of us can, using the heavier, 12 weight threads that contain natural wool or cotton fibers, are a nice way to go for holiday designs or for customizing gifts. Madeira offers a wool blend (Burmilana) and a cotton blend (BurmilanaCo), both 12 weight threads, that are ideal for this time of year. The webinar will include how to alter a stock design, or one you may already have, to accommodate these heavier threads.

Using shading and color blending, Lee’s specialty, will also be covered. With the ability to personalize or customize gifts, the images of the season on scarves, hats, gloves, make for very appropriate gifts. Doing up some samples and making them visible to your walk-in customers might do wonders to stir the imagination. Whether its color blending, or accomplishing shading through the use of combining matte finish with lustrous thread, it’s all about increasing your knowledge and what you have to offer your customers.

Ultimately, making an ordinary design extraordinary is the ultimate goal of this upcoming webinar. The link below will make it easy for you to register. Grab a cup of the warm beverage of your choice…turn the machine off…put your feet up…relax and see what Lee and Madeira USA have to share. Increase your embroidery know-how by adding to your arsenal of threads that you are aware of, can run with ease, and even up your price by up to 20% for the added value.

To reserve your seat for the webinar, click here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

You’re Going to Have Lunch Anyway, Why Not Take a Customer?

The Law of the Lunch

There are very few things in business that are as important as the business lunch, about which absolutely nothing can be found in textbooks, MBA programs, seminars or conferences. The business lunch is a respected institution, virtually mandatory, and universally conducted according to a fixed ritual.

He or she who does the inviting does the paying! Conversation starts and for a long while remains in the area of seemingly idle chatter (also known as “jibber – jabber” or “chit – chat”) about personal interests in recreational pursuits, entertainment media, family matters, and mutual acquaintances. And don’t forget children and grandchildren, the Super Bowl and March Madness, the weather (but stay clear of politics and religion). Business is finally and gradually crept up upon while carefully avoiding any implications that the lunch exists specifically to enhance the lunchee’s opinions about the lunchor and the lunchor’s assessment of the lunchee (do we like each other?).

The business lunch and its rituals are based on the established fact that important buying decisions are rarely made on price alone or only on technical support, customer service, delivery, technical specifications or vendor competence and reputation. The lunch exists to learn about things that aren’t said, to help to establish and strengthen relationships of personal trust and understanding, to create commercial friendships and compromises, to facilitate favors hoped for and favors given, to go beyond technicalities and legalities in getting and supporting some sort of sale.

So don’t disparage it or miss the opportunities they can present.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Thriving Industry by Any Other Name… Apparel, Apparel, Wait, What?!

Don’t look now, but the apparel industry is slowly, quietly but distinctly making its way back to the U.S., and some of our apparel friends in the Decorated Apparel Market are doing their best to move things right along. An article in the September/October issue of Textile World magazine highlights the findings of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO). As countries outside the U.S. began to be hit with rising labor costs, shipping costs and energy bills, textile production began to find its way home. In numbers large enough to export to other countries!

Last year, American-made textiles generated $56.7 billion, a five-year increase of 13.4%. Big Box giant Wal-Mart, a former leader in off-shore strategy to lower prices, committed to increase its spending with American suppliers by $50 billion over the next 10 years. Why? Fast turn-around, high quality, low risk and cost saving! And as textiles become more available here at home, apparel manufacturers are re-thinking their strategy. Take well known Gildan, for example:

Peter Iliopoulos, Gildan’s senior VP of Public & Corporate Affairs points out, “We have invested $350 million in the U.S. in the past three years. Gildan has leveraged the great quality and superior value of USA cotton with a strong base of skilled labor, low energy costs and a stable investment climate.” Drawing their line in the sand, the Gildan official goes on to state, “We believe that U.S. consumers will increasingly position their support behind brands and companies that are investing in the USA.”

And don’t look now, but jobs at Gildan have grown by 60% since 2010, not including the 700 that were added in 2016. And sales? Since 2010, net sales have increased 96%. Kind of reminds me of the good old days. And if this is a trend – and certainly the growth noted in this article that is documented through the last 10 years – what a great bellwether for the embellishment side of the industry!

To read this article in its entirety, click here.
To learn more about the NCTO, click here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

An Open Letter to My Next Waiter/Waitress, or, Good Customer Service is about Anticipating your Customers’ Needs

An Open Letter to My Next Waiter/Waitress, or,
Good Customer Service is about Anticipating your Customers’ Needs

With 50 years of experience providing service to customers in the business consulting field and decorated apparel industry, I thought a blog on the subject of customer service would be a good idea. The initial step to writing this blog would be to define, just what is Good Customer Service anyway?

In my mind, I differentiate between “Can you match color number X1234 to Madeira Polyneon,”… “Are there any specials,”… “What’s the difference between polyester and rayon,”…“What size needle should I use,”… “I just bought a machine, what do I do now?” etc. These, to me, are examples of marketing Customer Service situations.

“What is the tracking number,”… “I ordered white rayon and got black,” … “One of my cones arrived broken,” etc. to me are problem-solving Customer Service  situations. If they can’t be avoided, they need to be handled. The former circumstances are critical to growing your customer business, while the latter situations are critical to keeping those customers. Both situations require that answers be delivered in a timely, accurate, timely, friendly, timely, professional and timely manner.

Here’s what I mean. I don’t travel as much as I used to, but I still eat in restaurants around 5 or 6 times a week. (When I was your age I ate 15 or more meals in restaurants each week). I don’t like to wait to be seated while the host is watching one of the TV screens. I don’t care what my server’s name is. He or she is a 17 year old high school student who won’t be there the next time I drop in, nor do I care what her 17 year old taste buds find appealing on the menu.

I do want my server to quickly scan the table top to ensure that everything is there that needs to be and that all items are unsoiled. I am interested in what specials they may have but my server ought to know how they are prepared and what they cost without going to check. I do mind when they have to return to the kitchen to find out what green vegetables they have.

Stick a bottle of ketchup in your apron! Anticipate my need! I, for one, put ketchup on everything except corn flakes and I hate to have to wait (while my food gets cold) for the ketchup while my server stops to take an order from that table for six (I know, the ketchup thing is crazy, but my father swore he once saw a guy putting mustard on a banana). I want my food while it’s still hot; if the plate is as hot as my food, it’s probably been sitting under the heat lamp.

I appreciate being asked to cut into my meat or fish to, “Ensure it’s prepared the way I want it.” Don’t ask me if I want more water, just fill the glass! But DO ask if I want more coffee because what’s left in the cup may be at the exact temperature I like it. Don’t hover, but please keep an eye on me in case a need arises. Before you set down the check, make sure it’s the right one and don’t get lost.

I’m going to pay my check quickly and then leave. If the service is good, you get a 20 to 25% tip and a positive comment to the manager on the way out. If the service has been bad, you get a 20% tip (I don’t want to be responsible for you not getting a needed textbook) and a negative comment to the manager on the way out. And I’ll probably think twice before going back, at least in the short term. (I may sound like a Grumpy Old Man, but like I said, I eat out a lot).

So let’s relate my example to your business: Your customer is not calling or stopping by to “shop;” they have specific needs to complete a project, so just attend to their needs quickly and accurately and let them get back to work. If time and opportunity allow, then highlight the specials and do some cross-selling.

Research shows that customers’ impulse to punish bad service plays out dramatically in both phone-based and internet interactions, which are most companies’ largest customer service channels. In those situations, customer loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic promise, to deliver quality products, quickly and accurately, rather than how impressive the service experience might be to fix a problem.

There is an observation called The Bad-Service Ripple Effect, which indicates that service failures not only drive existing customers to defect—they also can repel prospective ones. Research shows:

  • 23% of customers who had a positive service interaction told 10 or more people about it, while
  • 48% of customers who had negative experiences told 10 or more others.

So, you need to define for yourself what constitutes Good Customer Service for you and your customers. It might be answering the phone on the first ring, a super-duper website, very knowledgeable order entry people, etc. You should periodically survey your customers to ask them what the key items might be and how you measure up.

In the end; get it right the first time! Know your customers’ needs! And the results will be:
  • Return business – the next time your customer is in need of a solution that matches your products and services, your company will be the one that they call.
  • More business – more than just customer retention, deeper penetration within your existing customers’ organizations is a powerful motivator to provide excellent customer service
  • New business – the reputation of your customer service, combined with excellent products and/or services, creates new customer opportunities.

Thank you to Harvard Business Review for inspiring these thoughts.