Changing One Family’s Poverty: You Make the Difference!

This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day, joining thousands of other bloggers to write about one topic for a single day. This year’s topic is poverty.

I remember three years ago driving into Mexico for my first Corazon project. I was a member of Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary and we were going into one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tijuana to build a home as one of our Rotary International projects. As we were driving to the site on a dirt road, rocking back and forth from the dips and holes, avoiding random abandoned trash piles and cars, I remember looking around and taking in the environment.

The dirt road, lined with trash, dogs running all over, and in the center a small steady stream of really dirty water I would later find out was the main sewer line for the neighborhood containing everything from runoff to human waste. Riding in the comfort of our cars was a bit surreal. We purchase our cars to drive to and from work, shuttle our kids around, or to keep up with our lifestyle, not really thinking much about it. Here in this neighborhood the cost of most of the cars in our caravan could provide five homes and completely change the lives of five families. The nice homes on this street were stone block or a simple wood design similar to what we were building this day. The average homes were made of old garage doors, wood pallets, and random materials, combined all together turning into some kind of complete structure. The worst of the homes were made of anything they could find, wood, cardboard, plastic sheets, a complete hodgepodge of materials, open and exposed to the environment around them.

When we finally arrived at our site I saw a stack of wood piled high in the center of a just set cement foundation, and a family standing to greet the group of people who were going to build a new home for them. The family is receiving their home through Corazon which has an amazing program where families earn their home by volunteering in their own community.

Our first step is to sort all of the materials so the assigned teams could start their projects of painting, cutting, and building. As the hours pass you start to see walls being formed, and then placed into position. By lunch the roof is framed, plywood is being handed up, and just as this is complete you hear the constant humming of hammers as the shingles are put into place. While this is going on another group is painting inside and out, a small counter for cooking is being tiled, and windows are installed.

It amazing to think about this process of building homes with Corazon, 50 people coming together to build a simple home, most have no construction skills, yet here we are, the day is over, and the home is finished. All of the volunteers gather around as the family has written a letter of gratitude which is now being read to the group. The last and best step to this process is handing the keys to the family for their new home.

Driving back home, slowing with the Tijuana border traffic, in front of me I have a perfect view of downtown San Diego, beautiful skyline, Coronado Bridge, all the city lights, my comfortable life awaits. Behind me, just an hour away from where I live is all this poverty, the poor neighborhood, where we just changed the lives of one family. For me I get that feeling in my gut, in my heart, in my mind, I have so much more to do. It’s not about one family for me one time per year. My path is leading me to many more experiences as I know one person in this world can make the difference to millions. I know I will positively affect the lives of millions of people through humanitarian projects I personally create, fund, or participate in. Projects like this home in Mexico are just one small step on my path, on my journey.

My last thought are for those who are most likely not on the same path as me. Follow Up Success is about attracting clients and increasing your referrals. I write about follow up strategies, marketing, sales, relationship marketing, networking, client retention, and resources for your business. Building homes in Mexico accomplishes many of these topics. It does not have to be homes in Mexico, any type of service projects in and outside of your community will help your business. By pulling clients, customers, and friends together with other people from your community you will forge strong relationships. These relationships will create many opportunities for you and your business. The benefits from helping others are endless! If you have experiences where helping others through service has helped your business, please support this post by making a comment and sharing it with everyone.

SWOT Analysis: Defining Your Strengths

In my last post, SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business, I gave an overview of SWOT and talked about a few of the benefits of applying a SWOT Analysis to your businesses or to yourself as a business professional. As I mentioned in my previous post I am part of a small group of business owners and sales professionals who have committed to SWOT exercise for the next four weeks. The format for our SWOT exercise is fairly simple. We meet each week prepared to discuss the current element of SWOT as it pertains to our business or ourselves. We then discuss our findings with the group getting valuable feedback from the other participants in the exercise.  This allows us the ability to further refine our SWOT Analysis.

Today I will review our discussion on Strengths (the “S” in SWOT) as it applies to my business as well as the 15 other small and mid size companies in the exercise. The discussion on Strengths was led by Kerry Klindtworth a realtor with Keller Williams. Kerry started out the discussion with a brief description of SWOT using sites like Mind Tools as references and discussed examples of different strengths from the site. These included the following ideas:

  • What advantages does your company have?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What unique or lowest-cost resources do you have access to?
  • What do people in your market see as your strengths?
  • What factors mean that you “get the sale?”

Kerry started engaging the participants asking them to share their strengths with group. Once they were complete the group would question, add, and help refine the Strengths of that person. Here is some of the discussion:

  • Paula Sassi, Certified Graphologist and owner of Handwriting Consultants International listed her strengths as; 28 years of experience, knowledgeable, timely response (responding to client requests within 24 hours), very easy to contact, great speaker, and entertainer for special events as well as tradeshows. Kerry added “Paula is an expert in her field”. Rufino Autus, Financial Advisor with Autus Financial Group added “Paula is a straight talker and has a unique business for her market”.
  • Justin Stewart, Customer Service Supervisor with San Diego National Bank listed his strengths as; builds rapport with customers quickly, passionate about what he does, thinks outside of the box to find solutions, privately owned local bank, 11 years in banking, and constantly expanding his banking knowledge. Rufino added “Justin loves what he does”. Jexter Isip, IT Consultant and Principal of Dedicated Network Solutions added “Justin is amazing with followup insuring his customers know he values them”.
  • Cathy Peterson, Insurance Agent with Farmers Insurance listed her strengths as; great followup, vast insurance knowledge, and a personal passion to insure her clients have the right coverage. I added “Cathy not only has great followup, she has great follow thru! Always keeping you up to date with referrals she has received”. Jexter added “Cathy has great communication during and after the process of buying insurance”.

So how did I do in this process? What are the strengths of Alan Underkofler, Blogger for Follow Up Success, Consultant on followup strategies for your business, quickly becoming a go to person in the world of Social Media, Speaker, and soon to be published Author. Like everyone else in the process I took time to really reflect on my strengths in regards to my business. The strengths that I listed were; simple tools, unique solutions, cost effective, ease of implementation, 12 years of marketing experience working with both Fortune 500 companies and brand new at home startups, passion for followup, and enthusiasm to help clients achieve desired results. The group confirmed my strengths and added passion and enthusiasm.

Passion and enthusiasm have been strengths of mine for a long time! Passion and enthusiasm has always propelled me to my next challenge in business. Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to go after clients that everyone said were impossible to get, I was blind and deaf to the reasons they gave me! Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to commit to writing inventory and category management software that was unprecedented in our industry, I was blind to the fact that this was not possible! Passion and enthusiasm is what pushes me now… Right now! Pushing to be a blogger, pushing me to complete my book, pushing me to be a better speaker, pushing me to be a top producer in everything I do! I am blinded by my passion and enthusiasm! For me passion and enthusiasm allows me to be blind to failure and negativity, when you can’t see failure or negativity you can’t fail and you have no choice but to be positive! No choice but to be positive!

Obviously I got a bit more out of this than I ever expected! Hopefully you did too! This last paragraph was not about this post. It was about me and what I needed to hear! So, thank you for being a part of it!  What are your strengths, what inspire your passion and enthusiasm, what propels you to succeed?

Look for next week’s post as we take a closer look at Weaknesses (the “W” in SWOT).

Are You A Multitasking Follow Up Extremist?

In an effort to follow up with new contacts and customer requests I often find myself multitasking, I am sure you can relate! Managing multiple projects and tasks is not new to me by any means. As a Sales Professional either in a corporate environment or as a business owner multitasking becomes an art! I find myself always exploring new ways to get more things done!  I tend to create new habits to squeeze just a few more minutes from my day. As with all new habits and processes we create to achieve more, sometimes it’s good to reflect on the cost these new patterns have.

Yesterday I found myself driving down the road talking on my cell phone, answering a text, switching to my email to respond to a request and just for good measure checking in on Twitter! All of this reminded me of a recent email forwarded to me from Harvard Business Publishing regarding texting while driving!

Is texting while driving really worse than driving under the influence?

A recent study by the RAC Foundation based in London found the average reaction times slowed by 35% while writing or reading texts!  Compare this to the 21% slower reaction from those who had taken cannabis and 12% slower among those who had drunk to the legal limit! A January 2007 survey by U.S.-based Nationwide Insurance suggested 19 per cent of motorists said they texted while driving.  I am sure among my network of friends and colleagues this number would increase to well over 50%!  Are you thinking to yourself…  “this is great but I am an amazing multi-tasker!”? Look at this video of Richard Westcott testing the effects of texting while driving using a simulator.

Take a moment and really think about the urge to read or respond to a text while driving.  Is it really worth the cost?  Can it wait until you arrive at your next destination?  I am all about great follow up and have definitely been known to be an extremist but even I am rethinking some of my habits in regards to multitasking.  Having reviewed the study, I think about a few close calls I have had over the last year while driving on the phone and texting, reading emails, and checking twitter.  For you this might be checking the news, sports, stock market, or the weather.  Whichever other activity you are choosing while driving, hopefully this post will allow you to reevaluate the possible cost!

Take a moment and really think about the urge to read or respond to a text while driving.  Is it really worth the cost?  Can it wait until you arrive at your next destination?  I am all about great follow up and have definitely been known to be an extremist but even I am rethinking some of my habits in regards to multitasking.  Having reviewed the study, I think about a few close calls I have had over the last year while driving on the phone and texting, reading emails, and checking twitter.  For you this might be checking the news, sports, stock market, or the weather.  Whichever other activity you are choosing while driving, hopefully this post will allow you to reevaluate the possible cost!

Successful Networking: Mastering YOUR 60 Second Commercial

Yesterday I visited a Business Networking International (BNI) group in Del Mar. BNI is a group of business professionals who meet weekly to exchange business referrals. I was asked to come and fill in for one of their members Rick Itzkowich owner of Productive Learning and Leisure and writer for the Xtraordinary Living Blog. BNI requests members to have a substitute when they are not able to attend the meeting.

It was a lively group at 6:45 a.m. and they were very welcoming. As the meeting progressed we arrived to the presentation portion. BNI typically has a few members speak more in depth about their business and the type of referrals they are looking for. At this meeting Riley Cardwell, a business coach and BNI Director for San Diego was attending so the leadership skipped the member presentations. Riley did however do an amazing presentation on creating your successful Sales Manager Minute (SMM), or what to say when you are at a networking event in 30 to 60 seconds. Here is what Riley discussed:

 

Part 1

Your Name

Your Company Name

What you do

 

Part 2

Briefly describe ONE of the products/services you offer

BNI calls this your LCD or Lowest Common Denominator. What you want to do is break down your service or product into its most basic from (LCD).

A plumber might talk about replacing old piping in the house, a financial planner could discus the value of an IRA, Real Estate Agents may talk about how they work with first time home buyers.

 

Part 3

What will your product or service do for the referral you’re looking for? Why do they buy this from you?

What you really want to describe here is the benefit of your product or service. Telling a brief story is often very helpful. Riley asked a few of the BNI members what their benefits were.

  • Suzanne Rhodes with Proforma Pepper Promotions offered employee retention as a benefit.
  • Bob Johnson with Coronado Catering talked about the joy of experiencing your party by allowing Coronado Catering to handle all the work.

 

Part 4

Do the Ask!: “The referral/introduction I’m looking for today is…” What to look for (WTLF); be extra-specific.

Tell your sales force what action to take for you. Give them a “conversation starter” What to say for you (WTS).

The idea here is to ask for the contact at a specific company you are trying to meet or when someone is at a party with friends you want them to know what to listen for which may lead to the referral.

  • Cal Campbell owner of Cal’s Plumbing, Inc. said to listen for people complaining about lack of hot water.
  • Gretchen Seitz, L.Ac. owner of Seitz Acupuncture told the group to listen for people who are suffering from migraines.
  • Dr. Rhonda Lilien a Chiropractor with La Jolla Integrative Health asked the group to look for people who had difficulty turning their head.
  • John Naviaux, Registered Investment Advisor Representative with Western Financial Advisors offered the group a (WTS), “I know a financial advisor that has access to a lot of investment options”.

 

Part 5

Your Name

Your Company Name

“And Remember… (memory hook)

A memory hook is something you say at the end of your SMM that helps people remember who you are. Most times these are catchy phrases that relate to what you do. Here are some examples:

  • Promotional Products: If you want them to remember you, then remember me!
  • Plumber: If your pipes don’t flow you know where to go
  • Caterer: Little or small we cater them all
  • Chiropractor: When your spine s in line, you will feel fine!
  • Financial Planner: Doctors save lives, I save lifestyles

Why not take a moment and review your 60 second commercial to insure you are covering all these parts. A successful Sales Manager Minute or 60 second commercial can easily double your referrals in your networking group. This process will increase the number of referrals you are receiving as well as make your networking group far more dynamic.

Twitter: Engaging Participants at Your Next Workshop or Seminar

I am relatively new to Twitter having just set up my account a few months ago. I started using it in conjunction with my Facebook account for status updates. I remember thinking what could I possibly do with a micro blog where I can only post 140 characters? It seemed like I was using two social media platforms for no good reason but I was committed to search out the value of Twitter! Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send and read other users updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 character in length. You can find out more about Twitter on Wikipedia.

The value of Twitter seemed to really present itself when I arrived at Blog World Expo. Twitter was used heavily throughout the entire conference. The organizers of Blog World created a hash code (an event code) and instructed everyone to label their micro-blogging with #bwe08 when twitting about Blog World. This was an ingenious way to keep everyone at the conference informed about schedule changes, social events, lunch, event details, and even real time class participation. (Not to mention a great marketing tool for the following year’s conference because not only could this year’s participants read the twits, but anyone on Twitter around the world could also participate. Talk about wetting someone’s appetite for future conferences. People from all over the country and world were weighing in and asking questions about sessions they couldn’t attend and didn’t pay for. How cool is that?)

So how did this make such a big difference? With everyone micro blogging using the #bwe08 you were able to search Twitter and bring up all the posts regarding Blog World. This gave me a running feed from people attending the workshop I was in as well as the many other workshops I could not make. It was like I was attending multiple workshops at the same time. On top of that most of the workshops had the feed up on the screen or created a new hash code for the workshop we were in like #cred.

As the expo continued the twitting evolved to an entire new level. Attendees started adding value to each workshop with comments, questions, and posting links to sites being discussed. The speakers and panelists of each workshop were reviewing the tweets as they showed up on the screens during the discussion. Many speakers would answer the questions real time and go into more detail based on what they were seeing.

Additionally, I can now go back and search these twits and use them as notes to remember what I learned in each session.

The end result was an amazing interaction at each workshop. A truly enlightening experience for me on how new media can make a big difference. I can’t wait for the next workshop or seminar I attend where the organizers are using twitter to interact with the participants.

I have discovered many additional uses for Twitter, future topics will include:

  • Using Twitter to enhance the customer experience
  • Large companies using Twitter to connect with their customers
  • Following up with new contacts on Twitter

How are you using Twitter? Are you or your company using Twitter to interact with clients or prospects? Become part of the conversation and add a comment on your experience with Twitter.