Real You: If you snark, make sure you're right

Ok, let's face it. Not everyday is sunshine and puppies and ice cream. Somedays, it's just one of those days. You've gotta snark. But if it is one of those snark days for you, make sure you don't turn it into one of those days for someone else - UNLESS she deserves it!
Here's the story. A communications person from an organization that I respect - that will remain nameless because I like most everyone associated with it and what it stands for - emailed me today to tell me I was being replaced on a panel coming up during New York Entrepreneur Week in April due to lack of payment of my dues. Now, I didn't know until two weeks ago that dues were, well, due. I found that out when I checked my spam filter - I've mentioned my new Canadian spam filter here before - and saw the membership renewal in there.

Here was her email today: I apologize for this oversight, at the time of this opportunity you were recorded as a member, however now we have recorded that you are unpaid and a former member. Because of this I have to give this opportunity to another member.
I don't think it's just me who would consider this snarky. Picking me for a panel in January, and then plucking me from it in March after just notifying me dues were due - and like this - isn't really great customer service. And so I wrote back, saying I had just received the renewal for membership two weeks ago, found it in my spam filter, and was having it processed. But now, with this, I'm just not so sure it's the right organization for me. (I was perhaps a bit snarky, but I was mad and disappointed. I love panels.)
Her reply: Certainly not my intention to upset you. We have in our records that you have not paid since April ’08, we do give a significant amount of time before recording a member as former. I was not attempting to assume, simply stating what we have in our records. I’m not sure how the hard copy mailing made it to your spam filter, but I’m happy you were able to find it.
Now, she's doubting me and calling me a liar. A DOUBLE SNARK.
Final irony? I checked with my accounting department. Check for $850 was processed and mailed on June 6, 2008; however, it was never cashed. I had no idea. How would I? I guess my check got lost in their spam filter.

Self-Bailout Contest for Small Businesses

Survival of the smartest! Office Depot is awarding more than $1,000,000 in prizes in the Office Depot—Adopt a Small Business Contest. 500 small businesses will win more than $2,000 in prizes!

Want to enter? Upload a two-minute video about what your business is doing to survive during these hard times and how Office Depot can help you get through the challenges. The entry deadline is 11:59 PM EDT on July 31, 2009. Click here to enter.

By entering the contest, you have a chance to win $1,300 Office Depot gift card, one year of Tech DepotTM services tech support ($599.00 value) and $110 gift card toward copying, printing and shipping services. Gotta love free tech support and gift cards. For official contest rules, click here.

Good luck!

Mastering Phone Interviews

So, you’ve scored your first interview with a reporter. Woohoo! I know that feeling. It’s exhilarating the first minute; the next is filled with panic. Don’t worry. It’s time to get serious and start preparing.

  • Do your homework. Check out the reporter. What beat do they cover? What’s their style? What companies have they covered in your industry?
  • Nail down the key messages you want to get across. Put together your talking points. What are your three main points and supporting facts?
  • Consider all questions you may be asked. What’s the worst-case scenario question? Make sure to do a mock interview with a teammate to help you get comfortable.
  • Stand up during the interview. It sounds odd, and people walking by might chuckle, but it helps you get focused. You’re less likely to go off on a tangent in this power stance.
  • Nix distractions. Shut down your computer and turn off your phone. The less distractions, the easier it is to deliver a clear, concise message. Speaking of phones, use a landline instead of your cell phone if possible.
  • Don’t market yourself through the interview. Journalists despise this, and being overly promotional may ruin your chances of getting interview No. 2.
  • If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Be frank and tell the reporter you’ll get back to them with the information.
  • Remember, there is no such thing as “off the record.” End of story.
  • Post-interview, feel free to thank the journalist via email. But don’t send them gifts. They’re not allowed to accept them, and they’ll just wind up in a closet somewhere.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be prepared for a knock-out interview. Go get ‘em!

Are you inspired? Feeling good? In control? If not, take action!

If you're not feeling happy, why not? Here are your options: you can lament increasing unemployment, a shaking economy, a cold winter, a New Year's resolution not met, a kids' bad report card, a gray sky, and any number of other depressing mid-winter realities. Or, you can change your mindset. You can decide to live a positive, optimistic life. That doesn't mean Pollyanna or rose-colored glasses. That means you are in charge, and at the center of your life. You are standing in your power with confidence over the things you can change - and with acceptance of the things you cannot.

Fearful about losing your job? You aren't alone. In Ohio, where I live, our state just reached 7.8 percent unemployment, a number not seen since in decades. It's scary. But it's not immobilizing. You cannot be the one who sits frozen with fear. Those are the folks who go down with the ship. This is a time for action. To decide what it is that you, the Real You, wants to do, and who you want to be. Perhaps it is the time to start the business of your dreams, on the side for now, as you wait to see what happens where you are. Or maybe, instead of waiting for something to happen to you, you'll make a plan and take action for yourself.

Perhaps in this time of great uncertainty you'll step into the center of your life and take charge. Sometimes, when the going gets tough, the tough start their own businesses. As odd as it may seem, now probably is one of the best times in history to go for it. Back in the recession of 1991, there were record numbers of people starting businesses. In fact, in the last two recessions, 77 percent of the net new jobs created in the country were created by micro enterprises - businesses with five or fewer employees, according to Women's Economic Ventures in Santa Barbara, California.

It's OK to start small. If you dream of becoming your own boss, and you are passionate about what you want to do, now may be the perfect time to turn a hobby into a business. There is a concept that originated in the Great Depression called the "lipstick factor" - that people will still indulge in small luxury items such as cosmetics while they cut back on big luxury purchases. In fact, employment rose in the cosmetics industry during the last two recessions, even as it fell in all other segments. And of course, there is always a need for the other basics: food, babysitting, household products, green anything and the like.

Inspired? I hope so. Instead of feeling out of control, start dreaming. Look around at the marketplace and see if you could fit into it with your own business. I know, many small businesses fail, but many others succeed. And hey, if you can make it in this economy, just imagine what will happen when happy days are finally here again.

Add excitement and laughter to your business

The thought that all businesses must be strict, ridged, dull and lifeless is not outdated. Business owners should not be afraid to fill their business with laughter and fun. Consumers and employees are looking for an enjoyable experience. Adding life and personality to your business welcomes consumers and keeps them coming back for more.

I always say go for the laughter. As adults, we often let the laughter escape from our lives—and that’s a huge mistake. Much has been written about the health benefits of laughter. From relieving stress to boosting the immune system, it’s a one-way ticket to promoting good health.

In a work environment, having a little fun promotes camaraderie, and that’s critical for building an effective team. This is one time when it’s a good idea to take a cue from the kids in your life. They haven’t forgotten what it’s like to laugh, play and have a good time. My advice to you—and your colleagues—is to loosen up, laugh and play a little, too.

How do you add excitement into your business and work day?

Which Book Won a 2008 Best Book Award?

Real You Incorporated did!

The 5th Annual National Best Books Awards, sponsored by USA Book News, announced the 2008 winners, and Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs won the “Business: Entrepreneurship & Small Business” category.

The book was also a finalist in the business categories of "Careers", "Management & Leadership" and "Motivational” and in "Self-Help: Motivational".

I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this possible. Your support of me and the book have not gone unnoticed. It is your words, actions and inspiring stories that keep me going.

So, again, thank you. It is an honor to know that my book is helping to energize women’s lives.