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Opportunity

§ September 6th, 2011 § Filed under small business § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , § 2 Comments

Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them. – William Arthur Ward

I started my business in April 1999 as a desktop publisher. I had a contract with my former employer to write and layout newsletters and search for and write grants.  As I met more people, I discovered a niche in writing, training, and desktop publishing for small businesses as well as non-profit organizations and government agencies. That morphed into doing consulting for small businesses, especially with their marketing plans.

But now, an opportunity has come along that has me truly excited.

Starting September 19, I will be a Business Advisor for the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Small Business Development Center (UTSA SBDC.)

I am thrilled about this chance to do much of what I already do under the umbrella of one of the most respected organizations for small businesses. I get a chance to work with small business owners to help them start and grow their businesses. I can help new business owners figure out whether their business idea is feasible, guide them in putting their business plans together, and work with them on their financing options. I can work with existing business owners to determine their next steps in increasing their size and scope and whether it is time to add employees. In addition, I can help businesses figure out the best way to market their products and services.

The fantastic part of this is that I get to do what I’ve done, but I won’t have to charge for my advice and guidance.  The one-on-one confidential business advising is at no cost to the business owner. The local SBDC is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and UTSA. The services are highly effective. Business owners who use the SBDC show sales growth that is three times that of the average Texas business.

I have long been a staunch advocate for the SBDC and have been a client as well. It will be an honor to work alongside people whom I so completely respect.

So I need a favor from my loyal readers. If you know of anyone who is starting a business, or anyone who needs advice on growing a business, please refer him or her to me. I’ll be at my desk at UTSA Downtown on September 20 and ready to meet with clients soon after. Please contact me.

Being Social

§ July 5th, 2011 § Filed under communication, marketing, small business, training, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , § 11 Comments

There’s always a price to be paid for doing, being, and having more, and it has little to do with working harder or knowing the “right” people. In as few words as possible, “get out more.”  – TUT… A Note from the Universe (Mike Dooley)

A few events lately have convinced me that it is time for some comments on social media. This is not designed to be a list of rules. One of the things I love about social media is that it is still in flux. We’re learning “acceptable” behavior as we go along. I’ve come up with a few suggestions, though, and would welcome your comments.

To the extent that you would keep your personal life and work life separate, keep your personal and work social media separate. I have two Facebook pages – one for business and one that is personal. My personal page is primarily a space for connecting with friends, although many of my friends are also business acquaintances. I only become “friends” with people I have actually met (with a few famous exceptions), and all are people whom I would invite to my home.

I started with two Twitter accounts, but am starting to meld those into one.  I accept everyone at LinkedIn, because I view that as a business network only.

I don’t think there should be any rules here, except to think about what your purpose is for the particular social media channel before you start accepting friends, following, and linking. Let that purpose guide you. Just stay civil online and be sure to proofread. Remember who has access when posting your location or any updates.  If your friends have photos of you in compromising positions, well, that’s another whole issue.

Please remember that just because you are good at connecting on social media does not mean that you are sociable. Sometimes the skills that make a person truly excellent at social media are not the skills that make him or her personable or well-mannered. Both venues require a bit of “walking in the other person’s shoes,” but the in-person interaction can be more difficult for people who are introverted. If you feel more comfortable online, you may need to work on your face-to-face manners. Make sure that you smile, make eye contact, act courteously, and follow through on commitments. When you are with someone in person, stop texting and updating, and be present.

Finally, the more social media you participate in, the more you need to connect in real life to balance yourself out. Recently, I joined a new friend for lunch. We initially met through a #BMPR event and started following each other on Twitter. We know each other more based on what we Tweet than an in-person connection. As I approached her, I realized that I was visualizing her name with an @ in front of it.

That’s when you know you have spent too much time online.

What guidelines would you like for social media? Join the conversation – post your comments here.

Presenting Without Panicking

§ May 4th, 2011 § Filed under communication, marketing, small business, training, Uncategorized § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”  – Jerry Seinfeld

Does the very idea of presenting to a group of people strike terror in your heart? What is it about a group presentation that makes most people so nervous?

Most business people have no problem talking to one or two people at a time. At networking gatherings, only the shyest among us will do what I call “hovering over the hors d’oeuvres.” We tend to feel comfortable soon after engaging even complete strangers.

Add a few people to the audience and our blood pressure starts to rise.  It turns out that Seinfeld was wrong; public speaking is not the number one fear, but for anyone who is nervous about presenting, the fear certainly is in the top ten.

Why are we so afraid? Usually, the anxiety goes back to childhood. Something happened, usually early in life, that made us feel judged and embarrassed, and we have carried that forward to our adult lives. When we can pinpoint that first event, we usually can work through the fear.

I know this is true for me. I was at a dance recital as an “overdeveloped” 11 year old. I won’t go into the details here, but I heard people in the audience laughing at me. I had my suspicions confirmed when one of my neighborhood friends told me, “Crystal, they were laughing at you.” I swore that I would never get up in front of a group of people again.

In school, I dreaded anytime I had to deliver a report in front of the class. In college, the panic was worse. It took a long time to work through my worry. At one point, I remember my knees actually knocking.

Once the belief about yourself takes hold, especially if it happened in childhood, you align with that belief. Your experience becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Your current experience does not cause the emotion. It is just the opposite – the feeling causes the current situation.

Think about that first event. What were your feelings at the time? Was it really the event itself that caused the fear? Or was it something that happened during the event that you now have control over? If that had not happened, would you have been embarrassed?

If you can look honestly at the root cause and understand the difference between then and now, you’ll be well on your way to overcoming your nerves.

If you need more help getting over the fear or simply want to refine your presentation skills, please join me at Presenting without Panicking. (See Lunchbox Workshop.)

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