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Tip Sheet

What’s the Title of Your Autobiography? And More Tips for April

Plus who doesn’t like a party? Especially when the ‘gifts’ are positive reviews for you business.

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planning Be an Idea Machine

Write down 10 ideas a day. “Do it for six straight months and see what happens. It actually turns into a super power,” says serial entrepreneur and author James Altucher. To collect his ideas, Altucher buys 1,000 waiter’s pads at a time from restaurant supplies websites (10 cents a pad). “They’re great for meetings because I have to keep concise lists, and they’re always good conversation starters.”

marketingThrow a Party

What month was your company born? Throw a birthday party and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways around to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site For Business.

managementThe Power of Perspective

When somebody gets down over a minor setback, ask them something in the vein of, “So that’s what you’re going to title your autobiography? I Had a Slice of Pizza and Spent the Rest of My Life as a Fat Blob?” And while sarcasm can motivate, best if you follow up with, “Hell no, you get back on track the next day as if nothing happened.” Our thanks to the Reddit diet community.

operationsDon’t Make It Weirder

Sign seen on the door of a store in Vulcan, Alberta: “No soliciting. Seriously, don’t make it weirder.”  Hat tip to Sarini Fine Jewellery for telling it in a tone that would warm the heart of Dr. Spock.

managementWhat Can I Do for You?

Once a month, make it a practice to individually ask each of your employees “What one thing can I do better for you?” After listening to and acknowledging the employee’s ideas, then tell them the one thing that they can do better for you that month. This helps build better communication, and keep both of you focused on continuous improvement, says Bob Nelson in 1001 Ways to Energize Employees.

salesNumbers Game

If quickly working out percentages, such as a 4% discount on a $75 item, trips you up, keep this hack in mind: It’s often easier to flip the sum, i.e. 75% of 4 (for which the answer is — and even we got this — 3!) 18% of 50, 14% of $300 (50% of $18, 300% of $14) … it’s a doddle, right?

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communityShare the Ride

April brings us Earth Day (April 22), and if you’d like to do your bit to encourage a more sustainable way of living, take your cue from McCulley Optix Gallery in Fargo, ND, which gives credits to people who show a receipt for ride-share expenses to get to their office.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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When to Let That Questionable New Employee Go and More Questions for October

Plus its all fun and games until someone gets drunk at the company holiday party … how to protect your business from potential trouble.

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How do you know when a new employee can’t be saved? How much time should you give someone?

When you have coached someone carefully and repeatedly, invested large amounts of energy and they show no signs of improvement, that’s a solid signal you probably need to act. The clincher comes when their co-workers start showing their frustration and stop trying to help the person. This is often at about the three- or four-month mark. A lot of bosses will let it drag on past that, but it’s really in everyone’s interest for both parties to pursue new opportunities.

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

I’m planning an end-of-year company party, but one concern is that somebody could get drunk, have a car accident, and I might get sued. Got any advice on protecting myself?

These days, the Grinch must be a lawyer. Concerns about liability for alcohol-related incidents, sexual harassment, and workers’ compensation claims have led many companies to forgo holiday galas entirely. You don’t have to. But if you’re really afraid, lawyer Anil Khosla, writing in Inc. Magazine, suggests the following steps to reduce your liability: “1. To distance the business from the party, make it an entirely social event, don’t invite clients or vendors, and make sure employees know that attendance is voluntary. 2. Plan accordingly. Hold your gathering off-site, if possible. That may shift some of the potential liability to the hotel, restaurant, or caterer. If you must have an on-site party, hire an independent caterer. Don’t permit anyone from the company to serve alcohol and instruct bartenders to stop serving anyone who seems inebriated. Lawyers advise avoiding an open bar — or, at the very least, limiting it to the first hour. Also, close the bar at least one hour before the party ends. 3. Consider providing transportation to and from the event. Make sure that cabs will be available and appoint someone to suggest cab rides home for people who have had a few too many.”

I haven’t got around to writing a will yet. What would happen to my business if I died unexpectedly?

When there’s no will, state law (“interstate succession” statutes) usually takes charge of your estate. “Each state has precise laws about who gets what when there is no will, and there are differences among the states,” says Norman M. Boone, MBA, CFP, a nationally renowned financial adviser. “In California, for example, the spouse inherits all the deceased spouse’s community property, but the separate property is shared with the children. In New Jersey, your spouse gets the first $50,000 of your estate and one-half of the rest; your children get everything else. If the children are minors in either state, then the court appoints someone to manage their property (including your business), and then supervises their activities, which involves more intrusion and more expense. The children receive their inheritance at age 18. For singles, the assets are parceled out to relatives in an order determined by state law. Usually, children, parents and then siblings are first in line. Friends, lovers (even domestic partners) or charities are left out.” Without a will, there is always a chance the estate will be fought over by the above claimants, a process which can drag out and potentially ruin a business. Don’t like those prospects? What are you waiting for? Write that will!

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Tip Sheet

Aim For Busy, Not Rushed and More Tips for October

And this bonus season, let them eat cake!

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time managementAim for Busy, Not Rushed

How should you feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research undertaken by the University of Maryland found this is when people are happiest. And when you’re happiest — meaning engaged and in the flow, as opposed to giddy with joy — you invariably do your best work. So, start creating realistic schedules, stop checking your email every 15 minutes, take breaks to exercise, and stop letting other people set your deadlines (yes, you could finish the job by tomorrow, but Friday is best for everyone).

SELF IMPROVEMENTWhat Gets Measured…

There’s much to be wary of when it comes to business advice out of Silicon Valley. But the tech mecca’s obsession with measuring data can be useful in a surprising number of areas, such as getting home for dinner in time to eat with your family. “It’s great to know how to recharge your batteries, but it’s even more important that you actually do it,” venture capitalist Vinod Khosla told Fast Company. “I track how many times I get home in time to have dinner with my family. Your company measures its priorities. People also need to place metrics around their priorities.”

MANAGEMENTBonuses? Let Them Eat Cake

Bonus season is on the way. If that includes your business, something to think about: When unequal rewards are given out there will be less dissatisfaction if they aren’t actually countable, says Kellogg management professor Neal Roese. Research showed people who received less cake than their counterparts weren’t as dissatisfied as those receiving less cash, focusing more on what they received than what they didn’t, he writes in Kellogg Insight.

MARKETINGBirthday Cheers

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, won’t be sending you a Christmas card this year. He concentrates his energies on birthdays. Why? Hundreds of businesses send Christmas cards to their clients. Few send birthday cards. And, says Ferrazzi, “Everybody cares about his or her birthday!” If you’ve got a limited marketing budget, consider skipping Christmas this year. Instead, try hand-writing birthday cards to your favorite customers … and including a cash-off coupon. Or call them. Or leave them a voicemail. Your customers will be gratified you remembered the day of the year that’s truly theirs.

SELF IMPROVEMENT Rekindle the Joy

Do one thing every day that you loved as a kid. “This is usually the fuel that can power your life,” writes entrepreneur and business author James Altucher on his blog.

ADVERTISINGCall Other Advertisers

If you’re an infrequent advertiser and are now planning your holiday ad buy, IdeaSiteForBusiness.com’s Mary Gillen suggests doing a little research first. If you’re considering a regional or local newspaper, look at the other ads in the section where you may be placing your ads. Call the companies who are already advertising there to find out how their ads are performing.

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Tip Sheet

Spend an Hour a Week Making Decisions and More Tips for September

Plus the two most powerful words to add to your sales pitch and the power of ‘Polish.’

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CUSTOMER EXPERIENCEPolished Hand-Off

Twice a year the team at Uptown Eyes Eyewear Gallery in Fayetteville, AR, meets for a “Polish,” time dedicated to role-playing every scenario of patient care that allows staff to brainstorm a better experience for patients. “One great addition that has come out of our Polish is our in-exam room hand-off between doctor and optician,” says owner Megan Baureis.

CUSTOMER CARESome Don’t Like It Hot

Like children or bags of frozen shrimp, eyewear shouldn’t be left in your car on hot days. Although it’s easy to forget them in those built-in holders that sit between the rearview mirror and the roof, don’t. “To avoid crazing your AR or melting your frames, try to take your eyewear with you,” says sales rep Graham Haak in a Facebook post. It’s a good reminder to pass on to your patients during these dog days.

SALESWhich Means…

Two of the most powerful words you can add to any sales presentation are “which means …” when delivered after a product feature has been identified. “You can add these words verbally, or you can add them silently, but this habit will bridge you into language the customer can see in their mind,” says Wizard of Ads Roy H. Williams in his weekly marketing column. Williams offers this example: “This blade is made of Maxamet steel, which means you’ll never have to sharpen it.” Fill in your own vision-related example.

MANAGEMENTDecision Hour

Once a week, spend an hour making choices. A lot of things masquerading as “things you have to work on” are really decisions you need to make, notes Steve Chandler in his book Time Warrior. Many can be made now; the notion that you need more info is often just avoidance.

STRATEGY“How” Is the Enemy

Something all true entrepreneurs know: “How” is the enemy. “We always want to know how things will happen,” says Claudia Azula, podcaster and co-author of the Power of No. “But how is the enemy because it blocks the possibilities that open up when we are willing to not know. When you don’t know about tomorrow…[you] focus on doing your best today.”

TECHNOLOGYRoster with Ease

Looking for a tool to make rostering easier? The team at Focus Eye Care in Hackensack, NJ, recommends the ‘WhenIWork’ app. “This tool lets us post staff schedules right to their phones,” says co-owner Vlad Cordero.

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