Technology is my friend?

I have just spent the last hour trying to successfully synchronize my Blackberry to my Apple laptop…..and technology is supposed to help us. Anyone who has spent hours trying to figure out what should be the simplest thing can relate to what I am saying.

Almost a year ago, I purchased a Mac laptop after almost 15 years as a PC user. The switch was easy and after a few days I was praising the intuitive user interface, the integration between the different programs and the lack of curious shutdowns. To this day, I am still amazed at some of the features that this thing offers.

However, anyone that tells you that it is easy to integrate anything Mac with anything PC must be on something. I run a couple of programs on my Mac (MS Project and Quickbooks) that are not available in Mac format, so they run on a virtual machine within my Mac operating system. What a nightmare! But the biggest issue I have is syncing my Blackberry to my Mac Address Book using Missing Sync software. I have never seen more software glitches in my life. Names are curiously deleted from my device and calendar entries are repeated. If you can believe this, my device says that my Address book has 839 entries but there are only 617 on my laptop. How does that happen?

Long story short, technology used to be my friend, but the more we hang out, the more I want to break up with her. I invite you to share your thoughts.

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Success revisited

What is everyone talking about these days? How successful will GM and Chrysler be coming out of bankruptcy? How about all of the banks that received bailout money? What about those people who lost their jobs and their life savings? Iran? North Korea? There are so many things to worry about these days that we need to ensure that we focus on what we can control, our own success.

There are lots of industries that are doing well and looking for investments and good people. Healthcare, government and resources just to name a few. Not to mention some of the banks (especially in Canada) that are reporting strong results. We will come out of this economic turmoil and there are a lot of opportunities for success.

If you lost your job, take this opportunity to reinvent yourself.

If you lost your investments, find opportunities to make them back.

We will come out of this a stronger and better economy so make sure that you will be one of the people looking down from the top of the wave.

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The secret of success

I recently completed Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, a book on the Story of Success. It was fascinating to read about some of the people profiled in the book and how they became successful. The common theme was that these people worked very hard, but that they also had a set of circumstances surrounding them that helped them to be successful. It is not that these people, like Bill Gates or the Beatles, were so much smarter or better, it is that they worked harder than everyone else and their circumstances lined up to give them an advantage.

It made me think about how the recent economic turmoil can be a springboard for success. Some products and industries as we know them will be changing significantly. The auto industry will never be the same. Reading Outliers made me realize that I need to do everything that I can to position myself now to take advantage of the future. Invest now and it will reap rewards in the future. Reach out to new customers now when people are looking for some direction. Be positive when everyone else is focused on doom and gloom.

Work hard, recognize your circumstances and take advantage of them, that is the secret of success.

Communication skills-what does that really mean?

Everyone talks about how important communication skills are, but what does that really mean? I was speaking at an event the other day, and the feedback I got most often after the session was that I was a great speaker. So I asked people what they meant by that and the common response was that I was able to articulate my advice in a way that was clear and concise. It made me think about what is so important about communication skills and why are they essential in today's world. It all goes back to the comments above.

We need to be able to articulate the message that we are trying to convey, regardless of what that message might be. This does not mean that we need to use $10 words to sound smart, but we should be using words that best convey our point. The best leaders are ones that can quickly convey  their message with ease and that message is not only received by others, it is understand. The key is finding ways to do this with different groups with different stakeholder interests, but conveying the message should always be the focus.

Your ability to convey your message concisely and intelligently will increase your chances of success in anything you do.

Leveraging your competitive advantage

A few days ago I wrote about understanding your competitive advantage. Today, I want to briefly touch on how to leverage your competitive advantage. This of course assumes that you know why you have an advantage.

Don't be shy in communicating your advantage and why customers should choose you. Never insult your competition, but have no shame in identifying how you can service your customers better. Use case studies, stories and examples of how you have been successful with clients. Get testimonials from customers raving about how good you are. People want to be associated with success, so if you are perceived as the best, then people will come to you. Provide them with emotional connections that they can relate to and you will see sales grow. Be creative in the way that you reach out to new customers, use social media effectively.

I know this was a bit of a laundry list of things to do, but it is because I am a little tired, yet still wanted to ensure that you were able to get value from what you are reading. Comments are always welcome.

Membership has its privileges?

I was speaking with a colleague recently about how an association he is affiliated with asked him if he wanted to pay $10,000 to gain access to their membership. I have had the same experience with some associations that I am affiliated with. The concept blows my mind. Last year, I joined a manufacturing association for $500 so that I could attend events and network with some business owners. I suggested that maybe I could put on a 1-2 hour workshop for their members that would provide tremendous value for the attendees of the session. We agreed on the topic and there was consensus as to the value it would bring. That was when they dropped the doozy on me…"this program sounds great, so how would you like to pay the $1,500 sponsorship fee?" My jaw dropped to the floor. They were asking me to pay $1,500 in order to provide THEIR members with a session that would benefit their businesses. Is there any logic in that? I refused outright and ended the conversation abruptly. I also asked for my money back on the annual membership dues.

This epitomizes what is wrong with our associations today, they are all looking for short-term cash grabs. The focus of an association should be to provide the best opportunities for their members to learn, to grow and to share information to improve their lives and their business results. What I suggested to this organization was that by putting a price on speakers and forcing a sponsorship fee, they were not ensuring any quality or value being delivered to their members. Imagine one of the members asked how the association found the speaker…."oh, they were willing to pay the $1,500 sponsorship fee." If you were that member, wouldn't you have preferred to hear "because they are the best at what they do." Using a fee to determine who speaks to association membership is short-sighted and just plan stupid. It disregards the value that members get because the fee does not correspond to value for members. In a time when associations are losing members at a regular clip, you would think they would smarten up and raise the profile and the quality of the events they put on and base their session decisions on the credentials of the speaker and not their ability to pay a silly fee.

Take a break

As I look over the sun setting over Lake Simcoe, I realize how important it is that we all find ways to recharge our batteries. Life is always so hectic that we need to find things to help us unwind. For me, nothing beats sitting on the porch at the cottage, looking out over the sunset having a nice glass of scotch. It is moments like these that you realize that life is too short to worry about everything. Enjoy life, find things that you enjoy doing and live well.

We all need to recharge once in a while and we should never feel guilty about that. Relaxing and enjoying life will make us more productive and more fun to be around. Don't let life pass you by because you are too worried about the little things. Focus on the things that make you happy and the things that make you a better person. If you do that, success will come.