7 Small Changes to Stop You From Losing Your Mind Professionally
It is said that insanity is caused by doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results. In our professional lives, we usually have 2 responses to this dilemma: in one case, we believe we are just not trying hard enough so we redouble our efforts, working twice as hard doing the same old thing. Our other response is to knee jerk, changing everything in sight in the mistaken belief that a fresh look, start, approach, etc. is all we need to get thing rolling. Too often we take an all or nothing approach to business, going to extremes, frustrating and exhausting ourselves with the lack of client response and all our hard, and fruitless, work. How do we avoid professional insanity without going overboard?
I believe a series of small changes, 7 small changes, may have a big impact on your professional life. Each of these items is simple to accomplish and low cost so they can be utilized easily and quickly.
1. Your Business Card: Business cards may be old school but when you aren’t around, your business card is your representative. Consider your business card a sales representative that you are able to assign to every prospect you meet. Before you send out a sales rep, you make sure they are well versed on your company, your products and your information. You choose sales people that truly represent your business, reflecting your mission and philosophy. You guarantee your sales reps are well groomed and dressed appropriately for your industry. Are you a thorough when it comes to your business cards? I have seen dozens of cards that tell me nothing about the company. How am I supposed to remember what you do if your card doesn’t tell me? Some cards are so boring that I have no desire to learn more about the company. Other cards are bent and smudged like they’ve been carried in a pocket for months. Your business card needs to be the representative of your business when you hand it out and walk away. If you aren’t sure about your card, ask a friend, one who is willing to be honest, to study your card and give you a review. A new business card may give you more of a boost than you ever thought possible.
2. Your Website: When was the last time you updated your website? I know many people have to pay someone else to maintain their site. These people often hesitate to make changes because of the cost. They wait until they have a list of changes to make so they can get more for their money. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of tired looking sites on the web. I am stunned when I visit a professional site for a business and it is obvious the site hasn’t been updated in months. The calendar lists events that have been over for months. Contact information is outdated. Photos were clearly posted when the site first went up, sometimes years earlier. Now, these examples are extremes but many sites show signs of dust from lack of upkeep, simple upkeep that should be seen to on a regular basis. Do you change your photo out every month or two? Is your calendar up to date? Do you change your template, colors or format from time to time? When I visit a site, one not for a major company, I like things to look fresh and new. It doesn’t take a huge rework to accomplish this. I personally don’t memorize the appearance of every site I visit. If you make small changes on a regular basis, your site will look brand new to me. Keep the info up to date and the site fresh looking to maintain a professional website.
3. Your Network: We are creatures of habit. Not only do we tend to hang out in the same locations, we tend to hang out with the same type of people wherever we go. Many of us feel we are working constantly to expand our network but all our hard work never seems to bring us new business or new leads. Perhaps its time to examine your network and determine the demographics of the members. I thought I had a great network but it didn’t seem to be any help to me. When I took the time to examine my network, I realized it had plenty of breath but no depth. I belonged to a variety of groups but all the members were business professionals around my age. This group was not my market so their help to me was limited. I determined the groups that attracted my market and began joining those groups. Once I expanded my network to include sections of my market that I had ignored, things began to turn around. Examine your network and decide whether or not you are overlooking a ripe section of your market. Remember, this is business. You are not looking for friends. You are seeking clients. Expand your horizons.
4. Your Appearance: When Tim Russert of Meet the Press died, we began to see a lot of his producer, Chuck Todd on network television. At first, Chuck looked like a “behind the camera” guy. His dress code was “just out of college” casual. He needed a haircut and his beard was a bit scruffy. I don’t mean to sound like his mom. His look worked well for the job he held so it was fine. Over the last few months, as Chuck’s time in front of the camera increased, he began to go through a slow change, a change that lead to a more professional appearance. Now that Chuck Todd is the new White House correspondent for NBC, he has the professional look he needs. It wasn’t a major change in appearance, just a few minor tweaks to update his look and give him a more professional appearance. Does your appearance reflect your position? Do you dress in a way that makes your clients and customers comfortable or are you only concerned with your own comfort? Have you changed your look since you left college? Do you brag about the age of your clothes? Again, if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your appearance, ask a friend to advise you. Sometimes, we can’t see what is right in front of us.
5. Your Attitude: A professional attitude is never outdated. Granted, there is a certain amount of leeway depending on your profession but when dealing with clients or customers, you may need to check your attitude at the door. Of course, the problem might not be a bad attitude. Often, it is more subtle than that. I attend a number of large conventions, professional shows. I spend a lot of time on the exhibition floor. This is an easy way to find vendors under one roof. I am amazed by the attitudes I run into on the show floor. Some people act uninterested. Others just ignore me. I ask questions and receive no answers. I enjoy mentoring people, especially authors who are just beginning the process of finding a publisher. They give me their card when we meet and I send them an email as soon as possible, letting them know that I enjoyed meeting them and I am available to answer questions should they need help. I rarely receive a response. The lack of professionalism is overwhelming. It doesn’t take much to reflect a professional attitude: a smile, a greeting, following up on an email, etc. Small things that add up in business.
6. Your Approach: You may not need a new way to do business, just a new approach to your business. It the current economy, it is wise to find new ways to do business without making major changes. I read an article about a business owner who ran a gymnastics center. When the economy went south, she was concerned business would drop off dramatically. She sees her business as a “lifestyle” industry, a luxury that people would sacrifice when money became tight. I thought she needed to take a new approach to her business. Without making any changes in the services she offers, she can market the health and exercise benefits of her services for children, under-active children. She could do a series of articles for local publications promoting the advantage of gymnastics for children in the community, going into schools to give demonstrations and offering specials. By promoting the health benefits of her business, it opens a new market and opportunity for her business. Is there a new approach you can take to help make up for any business lost because of the economy? Try to look at your business from a different angle to discover markets you never even considered before.
7. Your Routine: Shake things up a bit. Do you always go to the gym or coffee shop at the same time? Vary your routine and give yourself the opportunity to meet people you never saw before. If you always go to the gym first thing in the morning, try going in the evening for a week occasionally. Try shopping in different stores from time to time. Visit different restaurants. Meet friends for drinks in a new bar. Find ways to change up your routine in order to meet new people, see things in a different light and simply bring something fresh to your life. Routines turn into ruts quickly. Ruts are just another way of saying, “BORING!”
It doesn’t take big changes in your business or professional life to keep it fresh and you sane. Working smarter not harder is the way to go in any economy.