Monday, September 29, 2014

KISS is the Best! Are You Listening, Apple Computer?

Keep it Simple Stupid... how many times did I hear that in high school? We'll distill this down to keep it simple, period. I'm not a fan of calling anyone stupid -- although some moments warrant the descriptor or moniker depends on how you use the name. So here is my real point. I've been learning our back-end systems at 3L Publishing, which includes the remittance functions for our vendors. Money is important after all. So in my intrepid exploration of the systems, I have constantly run into Apple-related (I won't be kind because honestly they earned it) stupidity. I am specifically talking about their two silos, which should be one system (take a hint from Kindle): iTunes Connect and iTunes Producer. First, let me express my disappointment that any Apple-related product be this disconnected and "dysfunctional". I'm a Mac diehard since the Mac resembled an over-sized lunchbox turned upright on my desk. I use all Apple products. I'm a fan.

I am NOT a fan of iTunes Connect or Producer! Why you ask? For the very point these two systems are silos. Why? Kindle is one system -- yaye! Nook is one system -- yaye! Oh, but noooooo! Not iBooks. No, Mac enthusiasts some "stupid" person at Apple thought this was clever somehow. "Hey Shyler (can't use a traditional name here for a geek), let's make the system not one BUT two!" "Makes sense to me Fredo." So not only do I have to work in two systems -- one to upload titles and another to manage -- BUT and get this one: I have to FIGURE out their sales system. Could they have just made a simple reporting feature? You know a list: you sold this many (named) titles for this much... not hard, right? Oh no again. Not if you're Apple iBooks. You sold this total. No list. No this title for this much. Nope! Someone at Apple who also probably ranked genius somewhere said, "Hey, Berryessa I think we should be brilliant. Just give the people a total!" "Clever, Sanford let's do it!" Now let's go back and smile about Kindle and Nook! Their less-than mad scientists did exactly what the KISS theory commands. One list, title, month, and holy smarts Batman, the total. And here we are. Me praising the competition and scratching my head over my all-time favorite product maker. Apple! Hello! What the heck were you thinking? Oh, yeah ... you were over-thinking. KISS!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Morning Musings: "You Don't Know What You Don't Know"

It's Friday so I need to amuse myself. Oh so serious all week. A little levity is required. I've decided my brain is in overload with too many details. I misspelled my client's last name in a pitch ... Carol SHAVER not SHAFER. Carol gamely pointed it out to which I chuckled, "brain fart". A few of those this week. Fart! Fart! Fart! You know sometimes there really IS a devil in the details.

I'm writing a training manual for my new operations manager -- this after I realized a simple explanation would not suffice. I've got a Catch-22 though. I am doing operations because she's not trained and that means I don't have time to write the manual which I need to do so she can do operations. Now I understand where the phrase Catch-22 came from ... well actually that's a book I read once that I remember thinking, "Do I understand this?"

It's funny how our brains develop, and a book we read at age 20 we don't necessarily understand vs. reading that same book at 40. I know all 20-year-olds think they do know it all ... but truthfully experience is the biggest teacher on the planet. I've coined a new phrase that I adore, "You don't know what you don't know," and that especially applies to life and experiences you think are either super bad or amazingly great. Until you've truly had either of those experiences (and I mean this to extremes) you just can't say so. The only two phrases that apply are: This is the best experience of my life ... or ... this is the worst experience of my life. The key words are "my life". Until you've had the real deal (let's say it together), "You don't know what you don't know." And that's my Friday Morning Musing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Setting Boundaries and Maintaining Them

In business and life it's really important to set and maintain boundaries. The key (and this is important) you can't fold on your boundaries and move them. I've had it explained to me like this, with children they need consistency (they crave it). Consistency shows them the lines. When you show them the line and give them consequences for walking over it, they come to understand that line has meaning (consequences) that are negative. Without boundaries adults have the same problem. If you set a boundary and move it, adults don't know where they stand: what you say has no meaning. When you have a situation, especially one that involves, for example, substance abuse, and you let the abuser continually walk over your boundaries, they will keep right on doing and never hit rock bottom. If you have a worker than fails on his or her job, but she gets to keep her or his job anyway, nothing stops the behavior. Even if it's the two warning principle: do it once and I warn you, do it twice and you're fired. I don't believe in the three warnings because by the third time it's useless. When you act on your boundary it shows people the rules, it shows you mean the rules, and they come to understand (and here is the kicker) AND respect you because you held the line. Sometimes though it's hard because holding the line may require you remove that relationship from your life. It's not always easy to let someone you love go, but if this person doesn't respect you then it's an unhealthy relationship anyway. I've been through many, many different situations in my life. And I've learned all of these lessons the hard way. So I know what I'm sharing works whether in your professional or personal life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Put the Lime in the Coconuts"

Time to celebrate your girls with a proper sense of humor about it. In my first book, California Girl Chronicles, our intrepid heroine who is trying to break into Hollywood as a screenwriter naturally doesn't immediately get that first job. So, she ends up working in a bikini shop and ... she gets to wear this gem of a phrase on her chest. You know, a girl has to do what a girl has to do. You can own your own T-shirt by clicking here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Down-to-Earth Wisdom

I have had this said to me now enough times that I think I'll comment. A common comment people make to me is that (for someone who looks the way I do ... which I don't connect with the idea that looks give you any entitlement ... if DNA blessed you over someone else that is good fortune) for someone who looks the way I do I'm down to earth and so nice and kind. All right so this is the "lecture" of the day. Looks or good looks or anything related doesn't give anyone a ticket to treat other people badly. If I hadn't had so many people make these general comments about me enough times I wouldn't have thought much about it. But after a series of comments, I did start to think about it. After at least a dozen people having made similar statements, I pondered "skin deep" and just got turned off at the thought of women using their looks to get things or manipulate others. Your looks don't give you a hall pass to abuse others or take advantage or act "better than". As noted, let's start with one basic premise: that I got great DNA that helped in that department -- fabulous and my good fortune. Anything I achieve in life I want it to be based on skill, expertise, education and just overall drive and ambition to succeed. Being kind and courteous to others (to me) is a requirement in decency and goodness. Being rude, entitled and generally arrogant or ego-driven is a major turnoff. We're all human beings. And we all deserve respect until we do something that is disrespectful. Being kind, thoughtful and generous to others is about acting decent. And acting decent should have everything to do with what's on the inside and the outside is maybe just a prettier wrapper.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Has anyone seen my sense of humor?" Vendor Relations Gone Awry

Always able to make jokes even during stress or giggle certainly at inappropriate times -- yes, that's typically me. If there is one thing you learn in business if you can't deliver, what is the point? I've said that phrase a few times this week. Thus, my sense of humor seems to have fled the office. A project in particular in which the client has an urgent deadline seems to be fraught with delays. It's Murphy's Law in action. I've never liked vendors who screw up and make excuses. So I like it even less when I have to make excuses about vendors who have not provided excellent service. Vendor selection and who I work with reflects back on me. So a vendor's excuse is not going to fly with me nor do I expect it to fly with my clients. I do like though something that my husband said, "You're only as good as your last book," which applies to the movie business, too.

I don't consider myself a control freak by any stretch of the imagination. I do try to live on the low end of stress. So it's even more important to me that my vendors do their jobs right. Babysitting vendors is no pleasure of mine. The fact that my current eBook conversion house just screwed up begs the question: will I give them another chance? They pretty much screwed up twice on the same project. What's the old adage, fool me once ... so in the middle of yet another transition to new operations I now must examine my conversion house's capabilities. They did very little to assure me of their desire to straighten it out.

So ... let me know if you find my sense of humor!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Three Lessons for Marketing Your Business

Common mistakes I see business owners make are valuable lessons for the rest of us. Here are the most common mistakes I see all of the time.

No follow-up mechanisms. Most business people know they need to relationship build and network. They go out and network and/or speak to groups. They take business cards, enjoy a few conversations, find some prospects, and then what? About 75% of the time they return to the office and fail to follow-up. Do you realize that is like throwing money away. Creating opportunities and failure to follow-up is the same as walking to the nearest trashcan and tossing money in. Always make sure you have a follow-up system whether it's a pledge to email or call the person right after the meeting.

Spending money on marketing tools and then not using them. Is your signage being used? Are your information sheets being passed out? Are your brochures given out? Do you hand out business cards or leave them in your pocket, wallet or purse? Do you have a newsletter template and service you never use but pay for anyway? If you've answered yes to any of these questions you wasted a lot of money to have these items created and then never used. Again, throwing money away and (even more important) not effectively marketing your company.

Flying by the seat of your pants and failure to prepare. Many busy people are on the go. They perhaps have a speaking opportunity, but they're so busy right up to the event then when it's time to do it, they just fly from work to the event. They often don't find time to organize and properly prepare. It's common for working parents and entrepreneurs with so many responsibilities to not fully prepare and leverage their opportunities due to lack of time for proper preparation. It's an understandable problem, but there are solutions.

Everything I've just described are common business problems. Solutions can be done to resolve these issues and make your business investment pay off at its highest dividends. If I were to consult with you, here are the recommendations I would make based on these issues:
  • Procure a follow-up system (Send-Out Cards is good)
  • Place on your calendar a daily, weekly time to focus only on follow-up
  • Use a networking checklist so you have all of your marketing tools with you
  • Pre-build marketing packets for networking so you can grab and go
  • Pre-build speaker's kits so you can grab and go
Making these simple changes will bring almost instant results. Effectively capturing prospect's information and following-up properly will see results. You won't realize just how much money you're losing in new business until you start to better leverage the tools and opportunities to the fullest. If you would like to hire me to write your marketing plan and consult, please send an email to info@3lpublishing.com or call 916-300-8012. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Big Lessons in Business

My associate Laura Sevigny, our new director of operations, marketing and sales, said this: "The biggest lessons I've learned were from when I failed not succeeded." I thought about that statement, and I agree. Then I considered my own biggest lessons from failure, and I wanted to share with my audience here on First Word.

I must be the "master of my domain" (a funny line from Seinfeld which has nothing to do with business). But it's true. As the CEO I should not be doing every job, but I should know how to do every job. After another "expensive education" (another Laura-ism), I decided it was time to pull back the curtain and figure it ALL out. Even though it's taken temporarily from my core work, I decided to devote a month or better to perform every task in my business down to shipping. In doing these tasks, I will now be able to answer every question firmly and without reservation. I can also gauge and understand what amount of time given to my team to do something is reasonable. Thus, if someone sends me a bill for 20 hours to do a two-hour job I can assert and question its voracity.

Rooting out deficiencies and problems and solving them. When you get your hands dirty and inspect everything in your business, you're going to discover "fact from fiction," which means finding out what has been done correctly vs. incorrectly or inadequately. This is really a quality-assurance inspection. It does absolutely no good if you have a first-rate product and a second- or even third-rate back-end solution in logistics. To have one's inventory in disarray and not accounted for is unacceptable. Upon a close inspection I discovered things that in my mission to provide excellence for my entire company, I was distressed to find were less-than-excellent and in some cases downright neglected. No excuses for sloppy work. The next step is to put things back in order. Fix the outpoints. Develop and organize proper systems and then make sure they're executed properly.

Holding vendors accountable. If you're making a vendor money by providing a product for them, then you should hold accountability on their parts, too. A vendor with a poor attitude or poor customer service needs to evaluated. The first step should be a polite: how can we help you do your job? How can we on our end do a better job? Then whatever those reasons that are hindering the vendor, make sure you step up your end. If that doesn't solve it, look to other relationships to build. 

Logistics and delivery and final sales. A beautiful product means nothing if you can't get it into the hands of customers. You have to deliver! If you can't deliver what is the point? Everything you've done becomes useless. So make sure all your systems are in place and deliver what you promised.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dropped-Off Dog (A Mostly-True "Tail")

The latest children's picture book released from my company 3L Publishing (www.3LPublishing.com) is one of my new favorites (they're all favorites), but this one stands out from the "pack" (ha, ha) because it has a strong social message. Written as a cautionary tale to guide and inform children (and adults) about the perils of dropping off animals in the countryside to fend for themselves. It's a sad story with a happy ending.

The writing by Cathy Lagorio is well-done and well-thought-out, and the story based on her dog, Steve. The illustrations by Robert Kelley are fine art and gorgeous. It's a hardcover book, too.

It's $21.95 and a purchase you'll feel worth every penny. Read it to your kids or grandchildren or even nieces and nephews, especially if they want or already own a pet. The lessons about pet ownership are invaluable. Buy it on the 3L Publishing website to fully support the author -- although it is available on Amazon, too. To purchase, click here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Inspect Your Business -- Assess Your Opportunities

After deciding it was time to fully know every inch and crevice of my business, I ran across many "lost opportunities". I found a few hundred unused and undistributed bookmarks. I found that no one had cared about my T-shirt inventory of my "Love My Coconuts" and thrown it an open container. Check -- lost opportunities. Then I noticed that my own book California Girl Chronicles had been vastly under-estimated on available quantities, which is great for upcoming book festivals -- sort of lost opportunities but really more opportunities with less overhead. I also realized some inventory that was proposed as sold out was about as far from sold out as you can get. Other inventory that was supposed to have been properly disposed -- not so much.

The lesson as a business owner is to designate at least one or two times a year to inspect your inventory. Do not solely rely on staff who don't have the same level of interest or passion in your business that you do to report back accurately. Look for ways to create checks and balances that won't bog you down. Do surprise inspections. Hold people accountable. Make sure you have accurate reporting and transparency.

These requirements are things I implicitly provide clients. The fact that I am not insisting on them for my company is my own responsibility. If you want to avoid as my director of operations and marketing, Laura Sevigny calls an "expensive education" then you better stay out ahead of your company and what's going on. Requiring reporting mechanisms keeps all your ducks in line, quacking, and making you money.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What do you want social media to say about you?

Does it matter what that picture says about me? Does it matter what my Facebook wall image suggests about me? Are you a business owner? Are you aware that people work with people they like? So back to those first two questions: yes. It matters in a direct and indirect way in how people form impressions about you. Those prospects who are researching and trying to figure out who they want to do business with are scrutinizing you. I've had several clients outwardly admit they watched me sometimes for over a year to see what I was about. This means I want to project positive messages (because I also want to attract positive people). When I post on Facebook, here are some things I gauge mentally against as I do it.

Is this going to help someone else with insight that might not otherwise have about business or life? One of my main purposes with education-based marketing (and that is how I market) is to reach out and help other people. If I attract business from it -- great! But helping people makes me feel good about myself and what I'm doing.

Is this image or picture going to say something about me in a personal way that is positive or shares some insight into my personality? Again, people work with who they like. When I post pictures I want those images to say something: fun, adventurous, interesting, intelligent, nice, likeable, easygoing. Even my wall image this week was designed to say something about me. It's a pathway toward water. I love water, but in metaphor water is emotion. It's a metaphor of a pathway to the emotional self. See! I think about it. To me it's art, and it says a lot about me.

Never go too far. It's okay to open the door about an inch into your life, but in my opinion, an inch is enough. Drawing personal lines in the sand is good. Letting people "in" just enough without delving into super personal areas works. Clients don't need to know my personal business. They only need to know just enough about me to think, "I like her." And that's what I'm seeking. Beyond that information, I will not go. And I don't advise others to go there either. You can also inadvertently leave the wrong impression, too. I know this woman who makes comments about things that you have to figure she only knows about ... because she KNOWS about them. Funny quips about booze, drugs and sex (unless you're in a rock band) are not good for your image and say things about you that will attract the wrong people.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's my line?

I am looking forward to the book festivals getting started. The funny stories await me. People are really something to watch, and book festivals almost always supply the "moments". Speaking of the moments ... so I meet 3L Publishing author Scott D. Roberts for lunch to discuss his forthcoming book Hidden Agenda. We're both kind of wise cracks, and he comes up with the absolutely best line that is what they call in the commercial "priceless". So here is why if you're a creative person you should always either keep a notepad (albeit your cell phone works too) by your bed (you know to capture dreams) or at least keep one in your pocket. Three days later, he texts me, "What was that line again?" It's a great line and now he wants to use it in the book -- and he can't remember. I couldn't remember the exact words, which were succinct and crisp. Lesson numeral uno: you never know when greatness will strike so you better keep a pen and paper in-hand ... somewhere. Maybe your glove compartment in your car. It's like meeting a fabulous contact and not having a business card. Do you remember the days when we had to actually (gasp) memorize phone numbers?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Crying in the Closet

I had this week that could be described as H-E-double toothpicks LOL ... I used to say that as a kid because you weren't supposed to say hell lest you go to the hot place yourself. And I'm sharing this because it's really only appropriate to laugh at one's self. Not that I didn't have my "cup runneth" over this week (I absolutely drowned in the run-over part), I realized things would be a "work in progress" (love my clich├ęs) before it all got solved. So, I walked into my walk-in closet to pick out what to wear. After standing there in pure distractions for way too long, I just broke down. I bawled in the closet of all places. This makes me think of the overwrought housewife who screams infamously, "Calgon take me away." Here is the deal my many readers, you know what? Sometimes crying in the closet is all a girl can do. It's called stress management. "Release the hounds..."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just to Make You Older Folks Laugh -- Typewriter What?

This morning's adventure in the sublime and humorous -- a form in which they insisted I TYPE in the answers. Type? Huh? What? Does anyone actually own a typewriter anymore? Last I checked my IBM Selectric was sold in a yard sale about 20 years ago. I had a Royale too -- you know for term papers.

I can't imagine typing anything nor can I even think of white-out smudges. The only thing retained from the days of yore (typewriters) is knowledge of the keyboard. I am a fast typist. I can type probably 100 words per minute or better. It's a brain-to-fingertips gift. Do you even remember when rewriting required white-out and what was it? That eraser "thingy" (my friend uses the word "thingy" all of the time). I just remember how important it was to get erasable typing paper; but you better get your thoughts down right the first time. No revising for you! Revising required re-typing. Good lord and no way. My now-computer-trained brain grimaces at the thought. How in the world did the literary greats endure such hardships? Oh, yeah! They hired typists. You know some people actually still hire typists. A writer recently confessed she still hand-writes her books. My mind reeled between awe and horror. I used to have a tremendous callous on my third finger from all that writing -- and a lot of empty ink pens. In fact, my girlfriend used to marvel at my ability to completely empty a Bic pen.

Those of you who just walked down memory lane with me, I am certain are not in their 20's and maybe not even in their 30's. "Typwriter! What's that? Oh, yeah! That 'thingy' I saw in the ancient artifacts museum."