You Weren’t Made to Fit a Mold

You weren’t made to fit a mold, and that’s okay.

Growing up we would play puzzle games where we earn points for finding the perfect fit or for matching jewels to the same colour, and were taught to fit circular objects inside circular spaces, and squares inside square spaces. The idea is that everything should fit and conform.

We are in an age where individuals are thriving on finding their irregular edges, the sides of them that don’t conform, that don’t seem to fit the mold, and it’s actually exciting.

Take myself for instance. I am a business owner of a marketing agency, non-profit leader and advocate to create equal opportunities for females in the workplace, and fashion stylist.

You could be an Accountant or Risk Analyst or Programmer/Developer by day, and run a side business baking cakes, creating a ceramics line, or magazine columnist.

You don’t have to be artistic OR academic in this day and age – in fact, most of the new people I met are supremely multi-faceted and it’s fascinating. In 2017, you can be artistic AND academically inclined. For those who have read the book A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink – I believe magic happens when you develop BOTH sides of your brain, the ability to see the abstract and to think in logistical, rational terms lets you strategize AND implement. Be a thinker AND a doer.

So if you are a Financial Analyst and have always wanted to become a freelance Graphics Designer, there is nothing stopping you from doing so. In fact, you will probably find that developing this new dimension of you helps you achieve balance and progress.

So give it some thought today – what do you want to be?

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Dare to Explore

Resting on a long weekend Monday for me means letting my mind explore.

A business idea has been brewing in my mind for a few months now and so far I have prototyped it, did some initial interviews with vested parties (groups that would use the service) and gotten back some great questions, feedback and support. Of course there are opinions from the consumer end as well, and not all were approving.

Some comments:

  • This isn’t for me
  • This isn’t for the XYZ market
  • I could see value for this for ABC market, but not the mass market
  • How long will this last, the market won’t be hot forever

All these points are well taken, but here’s the positive spin on it.

  • Great – it means it’s not for you but for somebody else.
  • Great – not for XYZ market means it could be for ABC market – a product/service should have its lovers and haters or else you would be sadly, nothing.
  • Great – as long as there is a way to make the service profitable for a niche market, it’s still a win.
  • Sure – but when is it hot forever? I can apply this comment to every single business out there but hey, we’re all still working every day right? Might as well work to earn all that we can so that when the market isn’t hot anymore we can feel safe from all that we have saved, earned from NOW until then.

So – if you have an idea, at least explore it. Talk to parties about it, do your research, and commit to a small investment that would tell you whether the market would respond to your proposed product/service. A small pilot would do, but it still takes time and effort. The point is, don’t stop at the first negative comments that are thrown at you, get the service out there and see what the market says to a tangible product/service.

If they hate it – move on. If they love it – keep at it. You might have hit something big!

Beware Overpromising

We have all heard it a millions times. Seriously.

One of the rules of marketing is to underpromise and overdeliver, and it is always amazing to me how some salespeople overpromise in order to close the deal or inflate the value of their “network”.

I have an acquaintance who would inflate details and overpromise what they can deliver in order to close deals or give the perception that they are more connected than they are.

For example, an angel investor in their words might become a venture capital investor. $10 million in capital might become $100 million with their framing.

This is setting yourself up for no repeat business, because you will always underdeliver, leaving customers disappointed and wanting to look elsewhere. It is people like these who give marketers and salespeople a bad name of overpromising.

If you are currently utilizing this practice, I urge you to rethink whether this will bring you sustainable wealth and revenue streams in the long-term; my speculation is that it will not.

What Happens When Your Company is Fueled by Sheer Laziness

A lot of times as your company grows, it’s impossible to micro manage and see what happens at every branch of your company, and the bigger the company gets, the majority of them move slower.

Even more unfortunate is the layer of staff who try to get by without doing much; even worse is when that energy and experience is passed on and delivered to your end customers.

Case in point: I am traveling back from Brussels to Vancouver via Montreal. The connection time is tight with a one-hour window. During this one hour connection time we have to pick up our checked luggage, clear customs, and go through security again in Montreal to board our domestic flight.

Concerned that we would not catch our connection, I asked the counter staff at Air Canada (it is a miracle they are still operating as they seem to be in the business of coordinating delays rather than flights) whether they could assist by switching us to the next flight out of Montreal to Vancouver as I am 99% sure we won’t make the connection. At this point our flight leaving Brussels had already been delayed by close to an hour.

My conversation with the staff:
“Will we be able to make the connection and if not can you switch us to the next flight?”
[converses with each other in French]
“We think you may have to hurry but it should be OK.”
“Ummm..Ok.”

Needless to say as our plane touched down in Montreal, it was the same time our flight to Vancouver departed. We then had to make an extra visit to the counter to get arranged on the next flight which meant an additional 4 hours of lost productivity.

Luckily for me I am able to work somewhat remotely, but how about for others who actually depend on airlines to be “on time”? In an industry plagued by delays and cancellations, it has become the norm for travellers to expect the worse.

The staff in Brussels could have done something for us instead of acting out of sheer laziness and passing the responsibility onto their colleagues in Montreal.

Little details such as this translates into poor customer experience and the culture of procrastination permeates throughout the organization. So far it’s evident Air Canada suffers from this “disease”.

The takeaway is to manage your company’s culture as it grows to avoid the slow-moving, lazy tendency of a corporate giant. I will close with a quote on the topic:

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Does Your Company Host “Sincere” Sales?

Do you host sincere sales or fake sales that don't even cover the cost of tax?

Do you host sincere sales or fake sales that don’t even cover the cost of tax?

Does your company host “sincere” sales?

What do we mean by this? How many times have you walked by a storefront lured in by the sign that says everything including the cash register is on sale and you walk in to find hilarious savings of…10%? I have been on both sides of the fence buying and selling so there is no bias here. When I propose a 10% discount off on retail customers say it doesn’t even save the tax – and I agree with them.

Don’t treat your customers like idiots.

Let’s take the most recent Black Friday Sales as an example. For those who frequent the mall once a month, you would notice that some stores continually have sales like 40% off your first item, Friends and Family sale 40% off, 30% off your entire purchase throughout the month of October and November. Come Black Friday, which is THE major shopping day for the US (and now apparently Canada), when your sale signs are $20 off $200, $30 off $300… of better yet, 30% off select items…if your store is one of these then don’t expect people to stroll in and open their wallets on Black Friday.

Don’t complain about slow sales on THE shopping day of the year if you can’t offer sincere sales. Remember! YOU HAVE COMPETITION! If customers see that you have sales every week, or even every month that are roughly the same as your Black Friday offer, then don’t expect us to waste time shopping your store on the big sale date, because other stores who don’t usually have sales, are making us a better offer.

Here’s an example. ZARA never has sales. This past Black Friday ZARA was 30% off the entire store. Where did a lot of people go to spend their money? ZARA. TOPSHOP rarely has large discounts. They had 50% off outerwear and sweaters on Black Friday.

The point is, YOU condition your customers. if you have sales every week, NO ONE will ever buy your items at full price (and they won’t believe your products carry the full-priced value). If you never have a sale and you have a decent offer (this means 30%+ off) then you can expect heavy sales traffic. I know this all depends on “policies” from headquarters, but if you are an independent store who has control over when to have your sales and what sales to offer your customers, please show your customers some sort of sales planning so we are happier when you do throw a sale and are more willing to shop with you.

How to Lose a Customer (Banking Version)

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Given my past business in online currency exchange competing against the big banks, you may think I’m biased when I discuss the matter of bad service at a bank. However, there is a silver lining, where I switch my business over to a bank that does deliver on its promise.

Let’s start with the bad news, the bank is an example of how to lose a customer. This big 5 bank markets itself to be focused on small business accounts, with a competitive business account offering. when I first started my business the low priced business account and security of a big 5 bank spoke to me and I opened my account with them. Flash forward 3 years later they have done nothing for me in terms of small business service. They are basically earning (a minimal amount of) interest on my business earnings sitting in their account. I had tried several times to meet with my account manager, which kept switching and I wasn’t really sure who could give me advice I could trust; none of them seemed convinced of their own service offerings, and didn’t have any good ideas on helping me manage my free cash flow and how to grow my wealth.

Now let’s talk about the good news – the bank that will now get ALL of my business – TD bank. Their small business manager took care of opening my account, setting up my business credit card, setting up my business investment account, all in one meeting. He knew his numbers, knew how I could benefit and knew what mattered to me as a small business and analyzed my business needs based on the types of expenses incurred. I felt safe placing my hard-earned money into this bank because I sensed there was real expertise there. Honest to god most bankers have the level of financial understanding similar to a first year finance student. Would you trust them with you money?

What’s the key takeaway if you are managing a brand or doing marketing for a corporate brand?

Deliver on your marketing promises.

It’s as easy as that. The first bank failed to deliver on their promise to take care of small businesses because of the lack of knowledge at their account manager level to make value-add recommendations. Delivering on a brand promise is a combination of every touch point with the customer, it has to be consistent. I cannot stress that enough. Having a great product but bad service that is inconsistent will take you halfway with the customer (and they will drop you).

Think about this and see if there are any touch points with the customer you can improve on!

Why I can’t sleep and why you shouldn’t sleep

This is why I can’t sleep tonight; I read this article on Facebook: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/butterfly-child-dreams-of-the-northern-lights

I commend the bravery of the butterfly child in living his every day. Even if he’s not so-called living it to the ‘fullest’ (between managing pain and painkiller-induced drowsiness it’s tough to do any living at all).

It makes me think why I am not making the most of my time when I am able to live it to the fullest. We should be grateful we are even given a chance to choose to live life to the fullest.

So this is why I can’t sleep, because it choose to spend more time being awake and doing things I love whether it be drawing, reading, whatever it is you wish to do… just enjoy being alive and healthy – that is already a privilege and a gift.