Project Plans Help You Avoid “Brand Overwhelm”

Posted on Mar 19, 2015 | 0 comments

The amount of time and money it takes to launch a brand can be intimidating, especially for small business owners who already have a hand in so many aspects of building their businesses. Your brand’s presence is woven into every facet of your business, making it difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to spending money on getting your brand out there. The endless list of branding to-do’s (logo, business card, web site, social media pages, conference materials, etc.) can seem insurmountable if you don’t have an endless supply of cash. It’s enough to make many businesses pull back and avoid building any real brand presence entirely. I call that getting stuck in “brand overwhelm.” But “brand overwhelm” is completely avoidable. It’s just a symptom of not having a project plan in place to guide you. When we create a project plan to help our clients boost their brand presence, we ask the following four questions: What opportunities/events/goals are on the horizon for your business in the next 3 months, 6 months, or year? What SPECIFIC brand expenses can we plan for in response to those opportunities/events/goals? Can we price out each expense in advance? How can we best align these three areas so we can pick and choose which ones to invest in and when? These questions help our clients develop a deeper understanding of how specific branding expenses begin to make a positive impact on the realization of concrete business goals. Working from a project plan like this helps you avoid costly spending mistakes that stem from reacting to the opportunity in front of you, instead of building your vision systematically in alignment with the RIGHT opportunities for your business. A simple project plan like this will help you eliminate the guesswork of branding, spend with confidence and clarity about your desired results, and leave you with the time and energy you need to focus on all the other aspects of building your business.   In our upcoming webinar The 5 Pillars of Transformational Branding, we will share more insights on creating powerful project plans, as well as other branding secrets. Plan to join us March 27, when will explore storytelling, tribe building, place making, as well as the other essential elements you need to build a brand.   Share...

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Get Centered, Get More Done

Posted on Jan 6, 2014 | 3 comments

As a creative agency dedicated to making peoples’ work lives better we strive to make work work for us. Sometimes that means we work off-site, or on the patio overlooking the creek at the back of the office. Usually it just means you’ll find us running around with no shoes on, hopped up on Starbucks, and jamming out to Miley while we work. In an effort to keep things fresh last week we installed a mindfulness browser plug-in from the Plum Village monastery. Every hour it chimes to remind us to breathe in and breathe out three times. It took us a while to stop giggling when we’d stop mid-conversation to breath, but we quickly came to love this minor adjustment in our workdays. Yesterday, the chime went off during a client call and rather than ignore it, I explained to our client what he was hearing and asked if he’d like to take advantage of the reminder to stop and take three deep breaths in and out. Much to my delight, he did! So there I sat in my sock feet meditating with a senior human resources manager halfway across the country. The meeting reconvened with laughter and gratitude. We wrapped up the remainder of our call having covered all of our agenda items with fifteen minutes to spare! Who’s to say that the chimes were responsible for getting us off of our call earlier? I don’t know that they can take full credit. It’s certainly not the first time a client call took less time than we had planned. But I can say that the rest of the call was effortless. We both found ourselves agreeably divvying up our tasks and responsibilities and eager to move on to the next agenda item. This week I’m meeting with all of our team members to talk about their intentions for 2014. This is NOT a performance review. This is NOT a goal-setting session. It is NOT a “check-in” or a “touch-base.” It’s a sacred time that we’ve set aside just to envision what each member of our team wants in the year ahead. It’s our way of taking a deep breath and getting in touch with what makes work work for us. What will you do to get in touch with what makes work work for you? If mindfulness is at the top of your list (or if you just want to giggle at how silly it makes you feel to close your eyes and focus on breathing every hour), you can download the Plum Village Mindfulness Bell here. Share...

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Can working LESS yield HIGHER productivity? Oui, perhaps.

Posted on May 21, 2013 | 0 comments

Monday was my first day back in the office after a ten day vacation in France. We spent the weekend and Monday in Dordogne. We knew the region was rural and it might be slim pickings for dinner options and souvenir shopping, but we were completely baffled by the fact that no businesses seemed to be open – EVER. Later, in Paris, a very special scarf caught my eye in the window of a shop near the apartment we had rented. But the shop was closed – at 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. I kept a keen eye on the shop for the rest of the week—plotting my victorious return to the states with the world’s most beautiful scarf. But every time we walked past the shop, it was closed. It was either too early in the day, too late at night, or conveniently some time during the traditional two hour lunch breaks that the French are notorious for. The lack of opportunities to throw away my hard-earned-dollar-turned-€uro was beginning to tick me off. When we were in Dordogne, it was literally an issue of survival. If you can’t buy a baguette, then how is your ignorant American @$$ going to eat?!?!? The whole experience left me wondering just when the French people actually DO work! So I did a little research into the standard French work week when I got home. A little Googling quickly revealed that the French: MUST take 5 weeks of vacation per year; work a 35-hour week; are not ALLOWED to work overtime; and typically take a leisurely two-hour lunch break. Remind me why I came home again? While I pondered adopting this new better way of life upon our return to the states, my partner quickly pointed out that the French economy just recently slid back into its third consecutive recession since 2007.  I won’t ignore that our economic systems and governments are completely different, thus setting the stage to allow for such remarkable differences in our work-styles – but I can’t help wonder what the happy medium might be between these distinct approaches to work. Because the fact remains that the French GDP ranks 5th in the world (teetering neck and neck with the UK for the spot). Why? Because when the French people actually ARE at work, they are HIGHLY productive. It seems the secret to productivity lies, at least in part, in spending LESS time at work! It about killed me, but I forced myself not to grab lunch and bring it back to my desk yesterday. Instead, I holed up at my favorite lunch spot and played Candy Crush Saga on my iPhone for thirty minutes. Hey, it’s a start! Maybe some day I’ll get to that enviable 35-hour week. In the meantime, I’ll try to commit to more leisurely lunches. So, take a break today. And if your boss gives you crap about it, tell them you’re just trying to boost your productivity.   Share...

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Boo Hoo at Yahoo!

Posted on Feb 26, 2013 | 0 comments

I literally almost fell off of the treadmill when I saw the news this morning—Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo! announces that the company will be ending its work from home policy in June of this year. HR managers around the globe gasped. Did you hear them? The new turn taken by Yahoo! is widely viewed as a productivity killer that will hinder the company’s ability to attract new talent. The policy will also likely jeopardize the employment of anyone working a considerable distance from their nearest office. And the media buzz surrounding the announcement will only fuel employees’ fears and frustration unless the company gets out in front of the buzz to address how it plans to support employees in this 180 degree change in direction. It’s especially surprising that a web company would shun the very product it’s peddling as a means of improving its own workforce. I’m still reeling from this excerpt from the memo that was sent to Yahoo! employees this morning: “the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.” Wow. Not only do you need to come get chained to your desk, but try not inconvenience us with your personal errands either. This change seems like an edict from a by-gone era. Any competitive company in today’s modern market knows that flexible work options are at the top of the list when it comes to attracting top talent. We want to know – what are your thoughts on working from home? What are the pros and cons? Should it be an “all or nothing” policy? Tell us in the comments below. Share...

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Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Bail on 2012

Posted on Dec 19, 2012 | 0 comments

Congratulations! You’re in the home stretch. 2012 is coming to a close. The office is shutting down for a couple of days around Christmas and again for New Year’s Eve. People are taking those last few vacation days before they lose them at the start of the new year. With so much going on this time of year it’s tempting to throw your hands up and say, “I’m so glad THAT’S OVER!” But before you run out the door, take some time to honor your hard work this past year and prepare to build upon it in 2013. Before you leave for the holidays, ask yourself these three questions: What were my proudest moments in 2012? Taking time to honor your hard work is important. As you look back at your proudest moments in 2012, think about the projects, co-workers, team dynamics, skill sets, work-styles, and any other characteristics that contributed to making this moment stand out. By knowing what brings you joy in the workplace you can begin prioritizing more opportunities like these in the future. What are my company’s top three priorities for 2013? If you’re not sure what your company’s priorities are for the coming year, now is a great time to start asking. If your company hasn’t sent any end of year updates, or held any meetings to prepare you for the coming year, start asking around. Imagine your CEO’s surprise at your foresight when you ask her about the company’s priorities for the coming year at the holiday party! You might also look at last year’s priorities, make note of any special projects that got positive attention throughout the year, and review the focus of internal communications (especially the most recent ones). How do my priorities support the company’s focus for the coming year? Consider the projects that brought you the most satisfaction this past year. How did those projects contribute to the company’s success? Which of those projects were most important to your manager or other key leaders in the company? It’s the intersection of these two areas that you want to be mindful of as you plan for the coming year. Here’s a simple tool to help you visualize these intersections: Make a list of your priorities for an ideal project in one column. In a second column, list your company’s priorities. Wherever you’re able to draw a direct connection, you will find greater likelihood of job satisfaction, recognition and success! Now, take some time to actually write down your responses to these questions. In our age of emails and streaming information we are prone to skimming and dismissing. Don’t dismiss your success. Take a beat and honor your hard work by preparing to build upon it in the coming year. Share...

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7 Tips for a Clean Break from Work for the Holidays

Posted on Dec 16, 2012 | 0 comments

  A few days off from work always sounds nice in theory. The holidays give us a break to reconnect with family, travel, and relax. But the days leading up to our time off are often packed with stress! Vacation brain sets in and it seems harder and harder to get those last minute tasks checked off your list before you rush out the door with your fingers crossed hoping the whole place doesn’t implode while you’re gone. Follow our simple tips below and download your “Vacation Preparation Checklist” here, to help you square away the details and walk confidently out of the office for a few days of relaxation and renewal.   Play by the Policies Do you know your HR Policy regarding requests for time off? Take advantage of the holiday season, beginning in November (before Thanksgiving) to refresh your memory by digging up your company’s policies on requests for time off. These policies are in place to help the company staff the office with some degree of predictability. Managers, email the policy to your employees and add it to your next employee meeting agenda so that you can all discuss it together and be sure that you have a mutual understanding of what the policy means. If your policy requires advance notice for requests, be sure to provide a final date for any holiday requests and schedule an email reminder to help employees get those requests in on time.   Prepare Early I always feel a little like Chicken Little whenever I’m preparing to take a day off. I run around squawking “I’ll be out of the office on December 21.” I’ll be out of the office starting next Friday.” “I’m only in the office four more days this week.” Sharing your plans for time off with your co-workers seeds the expectations that they may have an increased workload during your absence. It also helps them work with you to accomplish more while you are still in the office and possibly lighten their workload while you are away. Managers, be sure to build time into your weekly meetings to discuss any absences on your team and how this impacts productivity and shared deadlines.   Communicate Clear Boundaries As technology makes us more accessible via email, texts, and cell phones, more and more employers expect their employees to be available around the clock. This can be especially problematic during the holidays if expectations of accessibility are not mutual. While it may be appropriate to text Jim on his work phone when he’s traveling on business, he might not appreciate your work questions while he’s sipping eggnog and reading the Christmas story to his kids on Christmas Eve. If necessary, it might help to set hours when you are available for work requests to avoid any confusion and undue stress. The real key here is having a conversation about it in advance so that everyone feels heard and taken care of.   Create a Backup Plan We’re never going to wrap up every project to the mutual satisfaction of our clients, our managers and ourselves before we leave for vacation. It just doesn’t happen. Your vacation doesn’t mean that everyone should sit and twiddle their thumbs until you come back to save them from their ignorance. And if it does, then maybe you should look for a new job or new clients. Here’s a quick check list to help you rally your team around the tasks you need help managing while you are away: Make an Active Projects and Sub-tasks List to help your co-workers keep things moving forward...

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