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Multitasking works … doesn’t it?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Multitasking_web.jpgAre you a multitasker? Have you deluded yourself into believing that it is an efficient way to work? Multitasking has been proven to be an ineffective way to operate, despite the short term benefits you might appear to be receiving.

It may appear that doing two (or more) things at once is a good use of time – doing just one thing can seem almost frivolous in our fast paced society! But according to research, “Each time we move from [one task to another] … there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain … rather than saving time, it costs time … it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy sapping.” (www.psychologytoday.com).

Alternatively, doing things in batches saves the most time: send your emails all at once, write and schedule your social media posts at the same time. Because each task requires a specific mindset, once you are in that ‘space’ it is easier to stay there and get the task finished.

Doing things in batches also reduces the risk of errors. By multitasking, you may forget an important element during the time you switched tasks, or you can overwhelm your brain so that it isn’t thinking as clearly as it would when focused on one task.

Physically, multitasking can be also be bad for your health. In a research project focusing on employees who had continual access to work emails, it was found that they stayed in a constant state of ‘high alert’ and had higher heart rates. Continually interrupting tasks or being distracted can also affect short term memory.

And this last reason not to multitask is a big motivator for me: it can reduce our ability to think creatively. With so much going on in our heads when we multitask, we are constantly using up our ‘working memory’ (or brain storage), making it much harder to be spontaneous and dream.

So give your head and body a break! Reduce, or even eliminate, multitasking and start seeing the benefits.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

 

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Want to succeed? Be disciplined.

b2ap3_thumbnail_AppleChocolate_sml.jpgIf there is one thing that highly successful people have in common, it is discipline. They rarely waste time, they see every moment as an opportunity and they make plans (even if those plans are flexible). So here are some tips for becoming more like them:

  1. Look for smarter ways to work. It is easy to get stuck in the same methods and processes: we are generally all creatures of habit! Be efficient in your procedures and ensure that you are not getting distracted by unimportant tasks that can wait. Prioritise your day and stick to a plan.
  2. Watch your finances. Particularly if you are more on the creative side of business, it can be intimidating and daunting to keep on top of your finances. But ‘knowing your numbers’ will give you a great deal of useful information about how your business is performing and which direction to focus on. Make analysing your financial reports a part of your weekly tasks.
  3. Find new business. Some of us are really great at networking and building relationships with prospective and current customers. Many of us need to work at this, which takes a disciplined and planned approach. Schedule in regular face to face meetings with like-minded business people, keep in contact with your customers (and thank them for referrals) and always be on the lookout for opportunities to connect.
  4. Manage yourself. We all have times of procrastination and less productive days. However, being disciplined with our health (including sleeping and eating well) can have a great impact on our ability to be decisive or push through hard work.
  5. Sell yourself. Train yourself to see every interaction, whether it is face to face, online or via more formal marketing, as an opportunity to ‘sell’ your brand. You and your staff are the face of the business. Have a disciplined approach to consistently projecting an image that encourages customers to interact with you. As Jim Rohn summarises for us, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment."

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

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The Happiness Secret

b2ap3_thumbnail_woman_happy_web.jpgA recent article I wrote left you with the thought: “Imagine if we put the same effort into imagining positive outcomes and dreaming up solutions to negative situations”. In a nutshell, I was talking about creating happiness and a positive environment for you and your staff.

So how do we create happiness in our business?

Most ‘happiness experts’ will tell you that the first step is to be grateful. Look for aspects of your business, your circumstances and your prospects that you can be grateful for. Make a point of listing at least three things and add to this list regularly. If you have staff, ask them to do the same exercise once a week, so that the focus is not on fear, worry, anger or other negative emotions.

But of course, this isn’t enough! It also takes action. And one of the best ways to do this is to give. There is now research confirming that acts of altruism and generosity actually change the brain, increasing our peace, happiness, health and even intelligence. In the context of your business, this might be achieved by giving great customer service that is beyond expectations, or taking the time to assist a colleague without expecting anything in return. Or it might be donating your time, money or resources to a local charity. Doing any of these acts of giving fills you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

And finally, if you want to be happy, start pretending to be happy. This might sound like strange advice! But have you ever tried genuinely smiling and being angry at the same time? Your physical state influences your emotional state and vice versa, and being mindful and purposeful about ‘being happy’ actually causes you to be just that!

Enacting these three steps regularly and authentically will alter your happiness levels and teach you that happiness is a choice. Life and business will still have its ups and downs, but ‘practicing happiness’ will lead to happiness being your default state.


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

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Is it just a dream?

b2ap3_thumbnail_woman_flying_crop.jpgYou are probably aware of the famous quote: “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star”. I completely agree with this. There is no point aiming low because the best you can then expect is mediocrity.

There is a caveat to this assertion though! When dreaming big with your business ideas, your goals and aspirations have to also be grounded in reality. That is, you need to ensure that what you are aiming for is actually achievable and that you have the resources to achieve it.

Your brilliant invention might be something that you think is useful, but have you conducted research in the ‘real world’? Have you asked a range of people (or the niche market to whom it relates) whether the product or service really will change their life?

On one of the last episodes of Shark Tank, one of the pitches was for a hotel in a regional area where guests could check themselves in. It was aimed at business people, because as the owner of this business idea surmised, there is a lack of nice accommodation in regional areas, plus business people get tired of the time spent checking in and out when they travel regularly.

There were a few potential flaws that the ‘sharks’ pointed out to him. The first was that he had never run a hotel. The second was that the first hotel he proposed to build only had approximately eight rooms, so long queues were not going to be a factor. The third was that his margins were quite low, although fairly standard for the industry. Which meant that it would take a long time before he would see any profit and therefore no growth. In summary: he really had not done his research well, even though it was a nice idea and seemed to be meeting a need.

So don’t stop dreaming! But do make sure that you create a firm foundation for your dreams based on fact, not fantasy. Remember this quote from Colin Powell: “A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

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It’s the Little Things That Count

b2ap3_thumbnail_giving_crop.jpgLast week I received a call from a lovely gentleman who wanted to tell me how much he appreciated my article from last week, and how ‘spot on’ he thought it was. He spent a few minutes sharing his story and encouraging me in my pursuits as well.

I shared this occurrence on my personal Facebook page, and one of my friends responded with “So lovely! For someone to go out of their way to encourage another is a challenge for all of us to do it more!”. She, and the gentleman who called me, are exactly right.

It is amazing what simple, seemingly ‘little things’ can do for your business. I have had a few clients say to me recently “I tell everyone that you always reply quickly to emails”, because it impresses them that I do so as a matter of course.

Going out of our way to encourage, thank or assist people is something every business can do. However, let me state clearly: if your only motivation for doing something ‘nice’ for clients and colleagues is because of the benefits you expect to receive, think again! While you can integrate these things into your processes (and while they may benefit your business), unless it comes from a genuine motivation they are not likely to respond positively. That is, they will see through the charade!

An example of a gesture that I think is questionable is the ‘personalised’ birthday card from a large corporation, who you know has no personal contact with you, they simply have your birth date and name on file. Do you hang those birthday cards alongside the ones from family and friends? Probably not! Whereas a handwritten card from someone you deal with directly on a regular basis is much more likely to be taken for what it is: a genuine gesture. So any small business operators reading this, take advantage of your ‘smallness’ and do the little things that big business cannot do.




Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

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They Said You’d Never Make It

b2ap3_thumbnail_Girl-with-Megaphone_sml.jpgWhen I was nineteen years old, I told my parents I was going to travel overseas by myself. They laughed a little and said “no you’re not”. Their lack of agreement with my plans came not from thinking I wouldn’t have the confidence to do it, but because I had no job and no savings at the time. As parents should, they were looking at the practical aspects of my plan and concluded that it wasn’t feasible.

But this just made me more determined to find a job and save every cent. I managed to get there via some creative means (and borrowing the final portion from my parents!) and credit my three months travelling solo with building maturity, tenacity and resourcefulness.

When I started my business, there were similar naysayers about the longevity of my business plans. It was either viewed as a hobby or wouldn’t last beyond a few years. Some of these opinions were innocent and uninformed (not intended to belittle me, but just stating the ‘facts’ as they saw them), while others (from potential competitors) were a little more sinister in purpose. Regardless, I took all these comments as fuel to prove them all wrong – and ten years later I think I have!

Remember Jessica Watson, the Australian woman who at age sixteen sailed solo around the world? Although Australia now claims her as a great success story, many criticisms were aimed at Jessica, and even more so at her parents for letting their daughter do something so risky.

I imagine that while some of the comments hurt, they also spurred her on to prove them wrong. But more importantly, Jessica had her own intrinsic reasons and motivation for undertaking the journey. She stated that “I wanted to challenge myself and achieve something to be proud of. And yes, I wanted to inspire people. I hated being judged by my appearance and other people's expectations of what a 'little girl' was capable of.”

So ignore those who say ‘You’ll never make it”. Remember why you started your business, and listen to your own voice rather than any negative ones around you.
 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

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Common Courtesy

b2ap3_thumbnail_opening_door_web.jpgEvery now and again a story will pop up on social media or television, asking ‘is chivalry dead?’. Generally when we think of chivalry, we think of men opening doors for women and other acts of polite behaviour towards the opposite sex. Although as a woman I appreciate if a man holds open a door for me, I don’t have an expectation that it should happen. On the other hand, I think common courtesies should transcend gender: that is, if I have an opportunity to show courtesy or give assistance to anyone, male or female, I should.

It is interesting how not everyone thinks this way! A few years ago I was moving some heavy items from one location to another. Someone I knew walked alongside me as I did this, chatting away to me with coffee in hand. At the time I thought that maybe he was just a little distracted and didn’t think to ask if I needed assistance. But that incident has stuck with me as an example of how as a society we seem to have lost common courtesies as a normal part of our interactions.

Sadly this has translated into business as well. I often see friends remarking on social media about their complete surprise at having dealt with someone at a large company who was helpful and gave them the answers they needed. In contrast, most of us seem to be met with people whose only goal is to ‘tick the boxes’ and get to the next customer. Customer service is increasingly being viewed as a lost art and in some industries, we almost expect to receive poor customer service, such is our past experience.

For those of us in small business, practicing common courtesy can give us a huge advantage. We all appreciate when someone goes the extra mile or even simply provides ‘service with a smile’. So think about ways that you can show your customers you care. They will in turn become your biggest advocates and will spread the word about what a pleasure it is to deal with you.

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

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Back to Basics

b2ap3_thumbnail_lightbulbs_sml.jpgThis week I watched the TV show Shark Tank, as I do every week to see how budding entrepreneurs succeed (or not) in presenting an attractive prospect for the panel of investors. I have been amused (and sometimes shocked) at the number of businesses that seem to lack understanding of the basics of business.

I have heard the ‘sharks’ say a number of times “know your numbers”. There are many who come to the presentation with a good grasp of profit, turnover and margin. But there have been too many who give approximate numbers, who don’t understand the financial questions asked of them or who have unrealistic projections on their turnover. Even if you never seek investors, knowing your numbers is essential for understanding how your business can grow.

In this week’s show, a business owner was asked if her business name was trademarked. Not only was it not trademarked, it was obvious by her reaction that she had no idea that this was essential, nor did she know if it was possible to trademark the name. In this case, possibly for a number of reasons, the business name was changed when the investor came on board. But this is an important reminder for everyone in business: registering your business name with ASIC does not protect you from anyone else using the same or similar name. It is imperative that you trademark it.

The final area that quite a number of businesses appearing on Shark Tank are lacking in, is research. It is one thing to have a great idea, but if you haven’t checked thoroughly for same or similar products and services, your ‘unique’ idea may not have quite the cachet you thought it did! Your research needs to include an analysis of who could easily ‘invade your space’. This doesn’t mean you should squash your idea if an issue is identified. But it does mean you need a contingency or a strategy to combat it.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Are you spreading your business too thin?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Woman_exhausted_web.jpgI am sure you have heard from business experts that your business should be adaptable and versatile. If those experts are referring to being able to quickly evolve to meet changing needs in your industry, then this is good advice to heed. But there are some of us who interpret this as needing to provide a diverse range of products or services in order to gain enough customers.

For example, when I started my graphic design business, there was almost no type of print design work that I would reject. I was doing everything from business cards to wedding invitations and my marketing materials covered pretty much everything I could think of! But I soon found that by narrowing my niche, I gained more clients.

Think about how you seek expertise: if you are looking for an accountant for your business, you are more likely to retain a firm that specialises in small business, than one that focusses on tax for individuals. Or if you were looking for someone to make a wedding cake, you are unlikely to choose someone who creates children’s cakes. You want the experience that comes with the understanding of a specific product or service.

So how do you work out what to focus on in your business? One way to help this decision is to choose the areas that you most like to work on. You are going to be much more motivated to improve your skills and become the best at what you do if it is something you actually like doing! The passion you have for your niche will be evident to clients via the way you promote and the manner in which you engage with them about the product or service. You should combine this with researching the needs of your clients, to find out what they may need. You will begin to establish yourself as an expert, and are likely to find that people are happy to pay more because they know they are getting quality results.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Are you a ‘woe is me’ kind of gal?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Woman_Stop_sml.jpgThere seems to be quite a few people I come across who cannot help but view life as ‘hard’, and they bring this view with them into their businesses. I am not referring to people with genuine hardship, or serious health issues or any number of difficult circumstances. I am referring to people who generally expect the worst from the world and view any positive as a stroke of luck.

I am going to let those people in on a secret: if you expect the worst, you are more likely to get it! Not because there is something or someone out to ‘get you’, but because you will be too busy wallowing in your own negativity to see opportunities when they come to you.

And here is the second part of the secret: people who seem to always come across great opportunities are not sitting back waiting for them to arrive. They are actively looking for opportunities, and in fact, probably have a hand in making those opportunities arise.

We all have days where we would rather stay curled up in bed because the thought of facing obstacles or continuing to push through hard times is too much to deal with. But allowing yourself to stay in a place of negativity and letting ‘what ifs’ to fill your head instead of ‘why nots’ is a sure fire recipe for business failure.

As women, we tend to be worriers: many of us spend a lot more time than men worrying about what might happen. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found that eighty-five percent (85%) of what we worry about doesn’t happen. How astounding is that! We get stressed and tired over things that haven’t happened and aren’t even likely to happen. As John Lubbock said “A day of worry is more exhausting that a week of work”. Imagine if we put that same effort into imagining positive outcomes and dreaming up solutions to negative situations.

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Decisions, Decisions

b2ap3_thumbnail_Decisions_sml.jpgMaking decisions for your future can be really difficult, can’t it? When it involves a degree of risk, a substantial amount of finances and/or the possibility of failure, it can be hard to make a decision.

Much of the angst around decision-making is because we want to make the ‘right’ decision. We want to make sure we ‘cover all bases’ and have answers for every possibility to reduce the risk of failure.

But have you considered that perhaps there isn’t always one right decision? Quite often, there could be a number of directions to head, and more than one of them will be the ‘right’ thing to do. Sometimes, it may be that a decision you made ended badly, but the lessons you learnt from it, and the direction you took because of it, resulted in a much better outcome than your original idea. Often it comes down to taking action: indecision can be more crippling than a ‘bad’ decision.

A tried and true method for decision making is to list the pros and cons of your decision: what will I gain if I do this? What will I lose if I don’t do this? When you have done this, ask a trusted person to read your list. There is a high likelihood that they will look at some of the disadvantages you have listed and challenge you about them. Often what seems like a big deal to us, is not so big when viewed in a wider context.

If some of the items on your ‘cons’ list are related to fear of the unknown, you need to cross those ones off immediately! Letting fear dictate your decisions will result in inertia or poor decision making. Talk to the people who can give you all the practical information you need (for example, your accountant) and then weigh up your options. Listen to your gut instinct: it has gotten you this far in business and it will take you further again!

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Over Achievers Anonymous

b2ap3_thumbnail_GirlGradCap_sml.jpgMost women in business are high achievers – or over achievers depending on how you want to frame it! Frankly, if you don’t fall into this definition, then you’re unlikely to be in business long term. So it’s a good thing, right? That internal motivation that drives you to build something or that determination to see an idea take fruit and succeed: they are positive traits to have and not to be taken for granted. Your business would not be where it is today without that.

That same drive and determination can also mean that you involve yourself in many activities. You are more likely to be the person that is asked to coordinate or kick start something, because people have learnt that you are someone who ‘gets things done’. And you enjoy doing those things!

I recently took stock of how many ‘hats’ I was wearing. Over the past few years I had gradually added different responsibilities and tasks to my non-business time. In addition, I was juggling two very different companies and trying to put in 100% effort and commitment to both. All of the areas I was involved in were not ‘chores’ – I had gladly volunteered and committed to undertake them.

Most high achievers are also perfectionists! So I was becoming quite unhappy and stressed when I wasn’t able to complete tasks to the standard I know I am capable of. And the many late nights I found myself working on both business and non-business activities were having a detrimental effect on all areas of my life. I made the decision to start reducing the number of commitments I had, and started to say ‘no’ to new offers, despite how tempting and enjoyable they could have been!

This quote from Barbara de Angelis is pertinent: Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away. If all our time is spent ‘doing’, the balance in our lives will shift, and we will end up burnt out. Take stock, work out your priorities and take action to bring more balance and a healthy business (and personal) life.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Seeing the Forest Despite the Trees

b2ap3_thumbnail_Forest_sml.jpgMost of us started our business with a vision. Most of us who have continued in business have done so because we have the personality type to dream big and reimagine that original vision. Do you realise that this is a valuable trait to have? And how few people have it?

In recent discussions with a variety of people, I have been reminded of how often people bemoan their situations but aren’t willing to do anything to change it. Or how some people have the ‘vision’ but aren’t prepared to take the risk or the leap of faith to make it a reality.

Most people spend their time worrying about what might be lost in the process of change, rather than what might be gained.

Others are waiting for the perfect solution to come along before they will change direction, and are content to use outdated methods or processes while they search. Although this can feel like the ‘responsible’ action to take, it generally ends up costing organisations a great deal of time and money, not to mention the effect on staff morale.

Every business has obstacles (i.e. the trees) that can make the forest (i.e. the vision) difficult to see. There is no point pretending the ‘trees’ aren’t there – if there are problems, they need to be addressed. But the key to a successful business is to acknowledge the areas that need to be overcome, without losing sight of the bigger picture.

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE Electric put it this way: “You've got to eat while you dream. You've got to deliver on short-range commitments, while you develop a long-range strategy and vision and implement it. The success of doing both. Walking and chewing gum if you will. Getting it done in the short-range, and delivering a long-range plan, and executing on that.”

So keep looking up at the forest! Don’t get bogged down in the short-term tasks or the obstacles. Remind yourself of your vision and take bold steps to make it happen.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Uncommon Common Sense

b2ap3_thumbnail_GirlOnChair_sml.jpgThe older I get, the more I realise that in many instances, ‘common sense’ is not ‘common’! What seems logical or reasonable to me, is not to others. And I see this in business circles just as much.

The most obvious examples I have witnessed are in marketing and promotion. Recently I was attempting to register for an event via a company’s Facebook page. They had set up an ‘event’ page which had a number of posts on it asking people to ‘join us’, ‘register now’, ‘book your tickets’. The problem was, the link to buy tickets was nowhere to be found on that event page! I eventually found the link via their main business page, but I am guessing that many others would have given up and decided not to book.

Attention to detail is vital to ensure that you communicate important information – it is often the most obvious details that are forgotten. Wherever possible, particularly if you know you are not a ‘details person’, get someone else to read over your communications before finalising them.

It is so important, as the saying goes, to ‘put yourself in other people’s shoes’. You need to write all your business communications as though the reader knows nothing. Which also means that it needs to be written and laid out in a logical and sequential fashion. If you take too long to get to the point, or the ‘point’ is lost amongst other less important information, you will lose opportunities to engage people.

A big lesson I have learned over time (and still have to remind myself of), is to never assume. For example, if you were to write an email on Friday saying “Let’s meet next Tuesday”, you run the risk of someone assuming you mean Tuesday of the following week when you meant Tuesday this week. A simpler way in this example is to write “Let’s meet on Tuesday the 21st of April”, that way there is no ambiguity or assumption.

Although there will always be circumstances where others will make their own assumptions based on their own version of ‘common sense’, paying more attention to detail will reduce miscommunication and give your customers a better experience when dealing with you.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Things to be thankful for

b2ap3_thumbnail_man-with-flowers_web.jpgWhen you are bogged down in the day to day tasks involved with running your business, it can be easy to focus on frustrations and become overwhelmed. We have all had ups and downs in our businesses, but to keep pressing forward, it is important to express gratitude for the benefits and perks of being a business owner. Here are a few things to be thankful for:

  1. First and foremost, you are in control of your business direction. You can choose what projects to pursue and work in the way that best suits you (and the way you want to). This means that you can make change happen: you don’t have to wait for red tape or for someone else to decide.
  2. You get to choose who you work with. You can hire people with strengths that compliment yours and with personalities you know you can work alongside. It is far easier to achieve success with people you connect well with.
  3. You can take time off whenever you choose. Yes, I know that there are deadlines, client requirements and other factors that affect your ability to do this! But essentially, you CAN take a day off, without having to justify it to anyone else.
  4. Many of us can choose our workspaces and design them to best fit our creativity. And many of us can also move our workspaces around, thanks to technology. We can give ourselves a break from the desk and work at the beach or a café for the afternoon. This does wonders for boosting our creative juices.
  5. As a small, local business, you have the opportunity to play a positive role in your local community. You know your clients and customers by name, you can get involved in local charity events and sponsor local sports teams. You get to show people the value of dealing with local business rather than a nameless corporate giant.

Generally, the most successful business owners are not those who have the greatest monetary success, but those who enjoy every step of the way. So find ways to be thankful every day.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Inspiring Quotes from Inspiring Women

It has been a while since I’ve listed some of my favourite quotes from inspiring women but I think it is important to look to those who have ‘gone before us’ so that we can be inspired and learn from their experiences, mistakes and successes.

This quote from Mary Anne Radmacher (Author) is so important, especially for those of us who sit more on the introvert end of the personality spectrum and may feel that we have to be ‘loud’ about what we do: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”. Persistence and determination are vital to achieving any success in your business.

Gail Blanke, President and CEO, of a company called Lifedesigns, said “Walt Disney told his crew to ‘build the castle first’ when constructing Disney World, knowing that vision would continue to serve as motivation throughout the project. Oftentimes when people fail to achieve what they want in life, it’s because their vision isn’t strong enough.”. I think many of us struggle with this! We have a vague idea of what we want to achieve, but without a strong vision, we are unlikely to achieve it.

As most of us are no doubt aware, any success in business does not get handed to us on a silver platter! Madam C.J. Walker (America's first female entrepreneur millionaire), put it like this: “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”

And a classic quote from Roseanne Barr (actress) sums up the attitude I think we all have to take in our businesses: “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”.

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Turning Complaints into Positives

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How did you react the last time you received a complaint from a customer? Our first reaction to ‘bad news’ is generally not to leap for joy or respond positively! But what if I told you that in business, we should treat any complaint as ‘customer feedback’ and use it to our advantage?

The way you respond to complaints and feedback tells your customers a great deal about your business. In the first instance, you should reply to the customer within 24 hours (or sooner!), even if that reply is just to say “thank you for contacting us. We are investigating your concern and will get back to you ASAP”. Conversely, if you delay your response (or worse still, fail to respond at all), your customer is likely to get angry at your lack of response and start forming opinions about your company that may or may not be accurate. You are also increasing the likelihood of your customer ranting to others (sometimes on social media) and negative ‘word of mouth’ advertising about your business will spread like wildfire.

So the trick is to genuinely respond to every complaint, and to do so in a timely manner. Often in the first interaction, the customer will need to vent their frustration on you, and provided this doesn’t become abusive, you need to be prepared to listen and thank them for explaining the situation to you. Wherever possible, I recommend that any subsequent communication is put in writing to ensure there is no confusion about what has been said or agreed to.

The other advantage of receiving complaints is that it helps you to improve your business. The complaint may have stemmed from a misunderstanding on the part of the customer – but this is still worth investigating to ensure that no one else has the same experience and that your business is operating in the best way it can.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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How to Motivate Staff

Did you know that research has shown that while money is a motivator for employees, there are many other factors which can influence their productivity and loyalty? The bottom line is that staff who feel appreciated and acknowledged will in turn reap rewards for your business, as they will be more satisfied with their overall working experience.

Let’s face it, we all like to be told we have done a great job! And we are all more likely to do better next time, or aim for higher goals, if we are encouraged in our endeavours. As employers, it can be too easy to get absorbed in ‘running the business’ and forget that our greatest assets are our employees. You may be under the impression that providing more incentives and rewards will cost you money. But there are many no cost ways to increase motivation and retain your staff.

-       Offer the option for flexible work hours. In our age of 24/7 access, there are many tasks which can be done from home or outside of standard business hours. You may be missing out on some highly skilled staff if you insist on everything being done between 9am and 5pm.

-       Acknowledge the journey and say thank you. Not only do we sometimes forget to celebrate achievements, it is also important to provide encouragement as progress is made toward a goal. A simple thank you (for tasks big and small) can go a long way – especially if this is done in the form of a handwritten note.

-       Create some fun moments. This might include ‘casual Friday’ or giving staff a long lunch break once a week or monthly light-hearted ‘awards’.

We all know that finding great employees, and then retaining them, is vital not only for the costs involved in recruiting and training, but also for the impact on productivity. When you have got staff that you want to keep, make sure you do things that will make them want to stay!


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Two Gutsy Women: what we can learn from them

I had intended to choose just one inspirational woman to write about this week, but the following two women were inseparable in my mind, and just happen to both be part of the film industry and share the same (spelt differently) name.

Katharine Hepburn has always been a favourite actress of mine, both for the characters she played on screen (which were usually strong-willed women) and for her off screen actions. She would often wear masculine style clothes, such as trousers which at the time were considered taboo. One of Hepburn’s quotes I love is: "If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun."

Another more current inspirational woman is American film Director, Kathryn Bigelow. She is the first woman to win an Academy Award for a war film (The Hurt Locker). She has been quoted as saying: "If there's specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can't change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies."

The common theme for these two women is that they haven’t let other people’s expectations or gender stereotypes dictate how they should behave. It is obvious that they have both done what they naturally wanted to do, and thankfully (for filmgoers!) they didn’t succumb to pressure to conform.

Our business journey can often feel like this. It takes a particular personality type to want to run a business, and equal parts tenacity and skill to make it successful! You will no doubt come across naysayers (if you haven’t already) or people who think that what you are attempting to achieve in business is not what women ‘should’ do. My tip is simple: ignore them. And continue to ignore them as you listen to your gut instinct. As Ms Hepburn advises, you’re likely to miss all the fun if you don’t!

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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What International Women’s Day Means for Women (and Men)

Every year, it seems that International Women’s Day isn’t just about celebrating women, it also generally creates many discussions and debates about equality. Some of these discussions are not helpful and only result in widening the gap in understanding between genders (and often amongst women themselves).

It should be a great opportunity to challenge stereotypes for women in business, not only to champion the cause of women, but to also shift the consequences for men. Although stereotypes have some measure of reality, this doesn’t mean that everyone fits the stereotype. For example, there is often an assumption that men are more rational than women, or that men are the ‘strong’ ones. Being more realistic about the variations amongst men and women, which are probably due more to personality than gender, takes the pressure off both sexes.

A big part of showing what women in business are capable of (and a way of smashing stereotypes) is to tell their stories. Via this column I have showcased some inspiring women (and I plan to do it a lot more!), because role models are a powerful way of showing women what they can achieve (despite stereotypes and attitudes of others perhaps indicating otherwise).

Malala Yousafzai, despite her young age, is one such role model, whose bold actions, and subsequent speeches, have provided us with many inspiring quotes. This one perfectly summaries this topic: “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”. What a profound yet simple statement! Of course she is right: equality for women in business is not solely for the benefit of women. When women are given opportunities, and a culture in which to succeed, it benefits all of society.

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them” (Unkknown)

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142, Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mon-Thurs 9am-4pm
ABN: 88 695 161 542

Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142
Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mon-Thurs 9am-4pm
ABN: 88 695 161 542