Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mastering Press Releases For Small Business Owners

Online press releases are an increasingly popular tool for small business owners, thanks mostly to their affordability. The same process that used to cost thousands of dollars to the average business owner, is now less than $100 and the speed at which news is now internationally distributed has broken down a host of traditional barriers to entry.

Read more:  Mastering Press Releases For Small Business Owners

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow} » 8 ways blog writing is unique

There are many great writers who have unsuccessful blogs. Here’s why. They may be great writers, but they are not great bloggers. There’s a big difference. Here are eight ways that blog writing differs from how you might write in school or at work.

1) Headlines matter. A lot.

Nobody is going to sit by the fireplace with a glass of wine and relax with a good blog post. Blog readers are SKIMMERS. More than likely they are scanning their inbox or blog reader to figure out what posts are worthy. So a headline that says “My views on soap” or “Thinking back” are not going to cut it. You have to GRAB ‘em and make them read. Here are characteristics of great headlines:

Contains keyword
Tweetable (short)

Also, any headline that indicates a numbered list is going to attract more eyeballs. Busy readers like lists.

2) Write upside down

In school, we are taught to write linearly. A beginning, a middle, an end. That does not work on blogs. You have to tell the ending first. I call that writing upside down. Busy readers are going to be bored and frustrated if you don’t tell them exactly why they are there and what the pay-off is. So start with the end … and then explain it.

3) Keep it short.

This graph illustrates the amount attention given to a blog post versus its word-count:

There is no science behind this. I totally made this up. But I have also written about 2,000 posts so I have some sense about these things! You have to EARN the right to go long. If you are Malcolm Gladwell, you have earned the right to go long. If you are just starting to build your audience, don’t challenge them with long posts unless it is something extraordinary. Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words is golden.

4) Use sub headings

A sub-heading is like a mini headline – like what you see above this sentence. Subheads draw attention down the length of the blog post and breaks up the block of gray. This is especially important in a challenging reading environment like a smartphone.

5) Use your original voice

In journalism school I was taught to keep my “voice” OUT of my writing. Just stick to the facts. The best blog writing weaves your personal narrative into the discussion and lets your personality shine. When somebody wants to write a guest post for {grow} I challenge them to write a post that ONLY they could write. Dig deep. Be you. That is the heart of originality and that is the source of blogging success!

6) Keep it RITE

This is easy to remember. Try to make every blog post R- relevant, I – interesting, T – timely and E – entertaining. If you can do that consistently, you will be creating share-able blog content.

7) Be conversational.

Throw the rules out the door. Write like you speak. Even. If. It’s. Choppy. After you have written your blog post, read it out loud. If it doesn’t sound like you simply talking to your audience, lighten it up. Just tell them the story.

8) End with a question

If you want to encourage comments and engagement, you don’t have to have all the answers. You just have to ask the right questions. Although you wouldn’t normally end a whitepaper or news article with a question, it makes perfect sense for a blog. Right?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vote like your future depends on it

As I was driving down a busy street in St. Paul, Minn., recently, I noticed among the preponderance of political yard signs that one stood out. In large letters, it simply said, "JUST VOTE."

I wish to echo that sentiment.

We are in the thick of the "silly season," as the pre-election weeks are often called. The candidates and their surrogates are pounding home their messages, frequently to the point that we tune them out. Political posturing and name-calling surround us. We sift through the claims and counterclaims and hope we have the truth.

And then, sadly, some just give up. The confusion is too overwhelming. Or they get lazy. Or they don't care. Or, most tragically, they feel like their vote is meaningless.

They couldn't be more wrong.

Even if you vote for just one candidate or one issue, your vote is your voice.

I don't care whom or what you vote for; please don't pass up this opportunity to be heard. Our American system affords us a unique opportunity to shape our future.

Of course, I have favorite candidates on each slate. I rarely vote a straight ticket, finding personal qualities and reasonable positions on issues I really care about throughout the ballot.

In addition, I have a certain respect for individuals who enter the race knowing they are exposing themselves to all kinds of criticism and vitriol. Elections in the Internet age are a whole different ballgame. Given the potential for anonymous character assassination, I often wonder who would be willing to place his or her name in nomination.

But the ballot is rife with capable candidates and compelling issues. The choices are pretty clear-cut. Even though our choices may not be the ultimate winners, we have a duty to exercise our right to vote.

I have a theory that a large voter turnout screams to those who are elected: "We all cared enough to vote. We will be watching you to make sure you don't let us down."

But a small turnout sends the message that people just don't care. That is when representatives start to think no one is watching. Our government is based on majority rules, but passing on voting means the minority wins out.

The ancient city of Athens, Greece, may well have been the birthplace of what we call civic spirit. When he reached voting age, every Athenian was obligated to stand in the public square -- before his family and neighbors -- and take this oath: "We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public sense of duty -- so that we will make this city greater, better and more beautiful than it was when we took this oath."

What a tremendous example! There are few opportunities to express your opinion with such impact. Voting gives you a voice in your government, from the people who represent you to the issues that affect the way you live.

In other words, if you don't exercise your right to vote, you might as well forfeit your right to complain.

To put it more eloquently, I'll borrow the words of American statesman Daniel Webster: "Impress upon children the truth that the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not incorrectly trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing in the interests of others as well as on his own."

We have a duty to another very special group of patriots: our veterans. Do we really understand the sacrifices they have made, that they fight for our right to be free? Voting is a fundamental demonstration of gratitude to those who have risked and even given their lives for us. It is perhaps fitting that we celebrate Election Day and Veterans Day so close together.

Your vote is sacred, it is secret and it is important. It is much more powerful than you might suppose. It may seem like nothing at the start, but it carries tremendous and widespread aftereffects -- like the future of our country.

Mackay's Moral: To me, VOTE stands for "Voice of the Electorate." Be heard.

Read more: Vote like your future depends on it

Monday, October 22, 2012

Leaders different from managers

It's election season, and one of the greatest privileges we have in America is selecting our own leaders. While we might have varied opinions of who should win, the fundamental characteristics of good leadership remain constant.

A sociology professor from one of the country's major universities spent his life studying leadership by tracing the careers of 5,000 former students. Asked how you spot a leader, he said, "I have come to the conclusion that the only way one can determine a leader is to look at the person and see if anybody is following."

Leadership is a difficult skill to measure, but it is certainly easy to determine when leadership is not present in an organization. Click here to find out more!

In four years of executive seminars conducted by Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group/Learning Systems, more than 5,200 senior managers were asked to describe the characteristics they most admire in a leader. Here are the top 10 characteristics, as reported in Management Review magazine: honest, competent, forward-looking, inspiring, intelligent, fair-minded, broad-minded, courageous, straightforward and imaginative.

Three of these characteristics are particularly significant in my opinion: forward-looking, inspiring and courageous. The others are also necessary ingredients for an effective leader and for every employee.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say, 'We did this ourselves.' " He made that observation more than 2,000 years ago. Some things never change.

Good leaders listen to the people who work for them. They pay attention to what people are telling them and take it very seriously.

Good leaders use their power to implement ideas that workers bring forth; they are quick to give credit to the person who had the idea. Then comes the action that really sets good leaders apart: They are willing to accept the blame and criticism when mistakes are made. They don't abandon their employees.

Warren Bennis spent much of his life researching leadership and has written several books on the subject of what makes leaders.

Bennis is a distinguished professor of business administration and the founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. In 2007, Businessweek called him one of the 10 business-school professors who have had the greatest influence on business thinking.

Bennis traveled around the country spending time with 90 of the most effective and successful leaders in the nation -- 60 from corporations and 30 from the public sector. His goal was to find these leaders' common traits. At first, he had trouble pinpointing any common traits, as the leaders were more diverse than he had expected.

But he later wrote: "I was finally able to come to conclusions, of which perhaps the most important is the distinction between leaders and managers. Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.

"Both roles are crucial, but they differ profoundly. I often observe people in top positions doing the wrong thing well," he wrote in his book "Why Leaders Can't Lead."

I tend to think of the difference between leaders and managers as the difference between those who master the context within which they operate and those who surrender to it.

There are other differences, as well, and they are enormous and crucial. Bennis details them in his book "On Becoming A Leader," and they include:

The manager administers; the leader innovates.

The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

The manager maintains; the leader develops.

The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

Mackay's Moral: Good leaders develop more than good employees; they develop more good leaders.

Read more: Leaders different from managers

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Put wishes in writing to help survivors

Where there's a will, there's probably a contented soul.

One of the greatest gifts someone can make to his or her family is to detail final instructions on financial and medical matters for legal purposes, say experts on aging and the law.

Pay a few hundred or a few thousand dollars now to create a will, trust, living will or advance directive, and you can ease the burden that your death would create for your loved ones.

That's something Glendale resident Bob Dionisio did about 26 years ago, after the birth of his son. The goal is to have "wishes acknowledged" and priorities understood, he said.

Getting his papers in order has helped him feel more settled, said Dionisio, 57.

"When it's completed, it's like a check off your to-do list. You feel like you did the right thing for your family," he said. "You have the opportunity to plan for the unexpected."

He first wrote a will and a few years later created a trust, a legal arrangement in which you choose someone to manage your assets. A trust, which can cost from $1,500 to tens of thousands of dollars for a complicated estate, can help your heirs avoid dealing with the court process of probate, which works to distribute assets and handle debts.

A will, which can cost a few hundred dollars, does not keep your estate from probate. In many cases, probate simply requires filling out paperwork with the court to proceed with administering your wishes.

Die without a will or trust in Arizona and your estate is considered "intestate."

Before survivors go to court, saying their loved one didn't leave behind a will, families should "try and make a sufficient investigation,'' advised Lindsey Jackson, associate attorney with Gammage & Burnham in Phoenix. Search the house and go through personal papers.

While you're doing that, gather records of the deceased person's assets. Arizona allows you to stay out of probate court if the estate is small -- that is, if the personal property (art, jewelry, vehicles) is worth less than $50,000 and the real estate owned by the deceased is worth less than $75,000.

"In Arizona, there's a lot of people where probate is not required because so many people are underwater on their homes," Jackson said.

Arizona has rules for the distribution of assets if there is no will.

"A lot of people think, 'I don't have an estate plan, I don't have that much,' but if you don't have a will or trust, the state of Arizona gets to decide for you,'' Jackson said.

If there is a surviving spouse with no children outside of the marriage, the estate goes to the spouse.

If there is a surviving spouse and the deceased has living children from another relationship, half goes to the surviving spouse and the other half is divided among the children.

"We warn people all the time to have at least some sort of basic will, or these things will happen," Jackson said. "We tell people when doing estate planning, you're not doing it to benefit yourself; it's for the benefit of your family. It can be a very emotional time after a death."

If there is no surviving spouse and no children, the property will go to the deceased's parents. If they are not alive, it goes to siblings.

And if no close, living relative is found, the search continues along the family tree. Finally, if no living relative at all is found, the estate goes to the state of Arizona.

Generally, the search will continue for two years, long enough for any creditor's claims on debts allegedly owed by the deceased to expire.

With a will, administration fees for probate are generally about $300. If a will is not specific, someone might challenge it. A contested will can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Jackson said.

For Baby Boomers, the issue of getting legal documents in place is a subject to consider not only for their heirs but their parents. Boomers may want to help their parents as they decide on financial or medical directives.

David Harowitz, an estate-planning attorney with Nussbaum Gillis & Dinner in Phoenix, estimates that 60 percent to 70 percent of people have no estate planning completed at the time of their death.

"People just don't get around to it," he said.

There are three times in life when people often feel the need to complete a will: when their children are very young, when they are empty nesters and the children are gone, and when they have had a parent die and they've been beneficiaries and gone through probate.

Although people can handle their own wills through online programs or kits bought in stores, Harowitz said there's a risk that your wishes could be misinterpreted. And many attorneys in private practice have standard will form books or software that may not be able to be tailored to meet your needs. He suggests finding someone who specializes in estate planning, which can be helpful when an estate is complicated or you own a business.

Most of all, he recommends that people talk to family members about their wishes, especially if they don't plan to distribute assets equally among children.

"It's best to address it ahead of time and help them understand," he said. "Perhaps a child is on drugs and it may be foolish to leave your assets outright."

Talk with your heirs about who might want certain items of personal property. After a death, some people don't react as well as they normally would, Harowitz said. "It's not an uncommon situation. Say, the mom dies and one of (the) adult children gets in town first. Suddenly, there's no jewelry. There can be distrust."

Once you've created the documents, where's the best place to store them?

"The safest place is in a safety deposit box, but many clients don't like having to pay for the box forever," Harowitz said. "Plus, it's inconvenient."

A second option is to buy a good fireproof box. "I stress fireproof," he said.

Or have someone else hold the original documents, in case your house burns down and you're killed in the fire.

From 100-year-old dishes to photos and guns from the Civil War, "you never can imagine the personal property that needs to be protected," said Lynn Keeling of the Keeling Law Offices in Phoenix. "Say your mom was a nurse, and she has her RN pin; who is that going to be important to?"

Talking about personal property can be difficult because it makes the prospect of dying real, Keeling said.

"Ask family members, whether children, grandchildren or siblings, to write you a letter and tell you what property they're interested in," he said. "It can save hurt feelings."

by Connie Cone Sexton - Oct. 12, 2012 The Republic |

Put wishes in writing to help survivors

Monday, October 8, 2012

A business requires trust in order to succeed

"Trust flows from individuals, not organizations." That's the best summary I can provide of David Horsager's book "The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships and a Stronger Bottom Line."

Why is this book so valuable? The topic couldn't be timelier. In my opinion, the most important five-letter word in the English language is spelled T-R-U-S-T. It's so critical, publisher Simon & Schuster's Free Press has made "The Trust Edge" its leading business book this fall, with a publication date of Oct. 9.

I know Dave Horsager, and I trust him. He is the perfect author for a book on this topic. He has been studying the topic for 10 years, and we can all benefit from his research.

Let me give you a sample of his wisdom: "Trust defined: Trust is the confident belief in an entity:

To do what is right.

To deliver what is promised.

To be the same every time, regardless of circumstances."

I can't imagine a person staying in business very long without trust from every angle. Your customers have to be able to trust you. Your employees must trust you. Your vendors must trust you. Even your competitors must trust you. It's that simple. If any of those relationships breaks down, close your doors and find another way to make a living.

Horsager says, "Without trust, the transactions cannot occur. Without trust, influence is destroyed. Without trust, leaders lose teams. Without trust, organizations lose productivity, relationships, reputation, talent retention, customer loyalty, creativity, morale, revenue and results."

As he was studying top organizations and leaders, Horsager found that some had a clear advantage over others.

"Those leaders or organizations that could weather storms, charge higher prices, maintain respect with customers and clients, and foster long-term growth were special," Horsager writes. "The greatest leaders and organizations of all time have had the same competitive edge. They were trusted."

He confirms what I have learned over my decades in business: Trust doesn't happen overnight.

"While it may appear to be static, trust is more like a forest -- a long time growing, but easily burned down with a touch of carelessness," he says.

Several years back, I wrote about a study by Forum Corp., which Horsager also cites as evidence of the importance of trust. Using hundreds of salespeople from 11 companies in five different industries, the researchers found that the unique trait of top producers was honesty -- not charisma, ability or knowledge.

For as long as I have been in business, I have believed that the most charming, most educated, most technically astute sales- and businesspeople will be abject failures unless all those traits are wrapped in honesty.

When we trust people, we are optimistic not only that they are competent to do what we trust them to do, but also that they are committed to doing it. They will be totally honest with a customer even when it is difficult or potentially costly. Their reputations are more important than any deal.

In that spirit, Horsager has identified the eight pillars of trust that are key attributes of successful leaders: clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution and consistency. He includes terrific advice and even study questions to drive home every point. In other words, as Horsager says, "'The Trust Edge' is the competitive advantage gained when others confidently believe in you."

"The Trust Edge" is extremely well organized, with terrific and easily relatable examples, providing convincing support for his points. Useful features like tabbed pages lead you to specific chapters and sections and also remind you on every page of the eight pillars of trust.

This book is arriving not a moment too soon for the trust crisis we are facing in the world. Developing and cultivating trust is fundamental to a successful business, personal relationship or even a functional government. Trust me, if you follow David Horsager's advice, you'll have an unbeatable edge.

Mackay's Moral: Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing to do.

Read more: A business requires trust in order to succeed

Clark Gable's '55 coupe going on Barrett-Jackson auction block in Scottsdale

The Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. has announced it will sell Clark Gable's 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe at its Scottsdale auction in January.
The vintage car, one of 1,400 that Mercedes built from 1954-57, will be part of the auction's Salon Collection, which includes the rarest and most expensive automobiles.
"Gable's 300SL is a stunning vehicle on its own, but it's the pedigree that comes with it that really makes this Mercedes one-of-a-kind," said Steve Davis, Barrett-Jackson president.
Read more: Clark Gable's '55 coupe going on Barrett-Jackson auction block in Scottsdale

Be a servant leader, not a self-serving leader

Ken Blanchard believes corporate America is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. And I couldn't agree more.

Ken is a walking management encyclopedia: He's written 50 books with more than 90 contributing authors. His blockbuster book, "The One-Minute Manager," has sold 13 million copies around the world. He has a practical, no-nonsense style that I love.

Ken has been a good friend for years. In fact, I owe a lot of my book-writing success to Ken because he's the one who asked me to write a book with him before I decided to author "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive" back in 1988.

While most leaders think leadership is in your head, Ken thinks effective leadership starts in the heart. Your heart controls your motivation, your intent and your leadership character.

I invited Ken to speak to my round-table group of 30 CEOs. His memorable message was that the No. 1 leadership style around the world today is "seagull management." He explained: "Managers might set goals and then disappear until you screw up. Then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody and fly out. They think that's great leadership."

He compared what he calls self-serving leaders with servant leaders and mentioned three main differences.

The first difference is feedback. If you've ever tried to give negative feedback up the hierarchy of a self-serving leadership team, you know the difference. You get destroyed.

Self-serving leaders thrive in critical environments, whereas servant leaders prefer supportive environments.

Ken said: "I travel around the world, and I'll say to people, 'How do you know whether you're doing a good job?' The Number 1 response I still get is 'Nobody's yelled at me lately.' "

He went on to say that if he could teach only one thing, it would be to develop great relationships. He advised that to develop great organizations, you have to wander around and catch people doing the right things and then praise them in front of everyone.

The second major difference is that self-serving leaders don't want anyone else to look really good, while servant leaders want to build leadership in their group. They have no problem with someone rising up. They don't mind sharing leadership.

My philosophy is you'd be amazed at how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.

The third difference is ego. "Self-serving leaders are caught in the trap that they think their self-worth is a function of their performance plus the opinion of others," Ken said. "They have this scorekeeping system. The only way they can keep going is they've got to get more. Their scorekeeping centers around three things: accumulation of wealth, recognition/power and status."

Ken advises that there is nothing wrong with accumulating money, getting recognized or having some power and status. "What's wrong is if that's who you think you are, because then your self-worth is tied up there, and you're going to have to keep on performing," he said. "That's why people have to keep on accumulating more and more and take huge bonuses when that money could be spent in other ways."

Servant leaders define self-worth differently. They are comfortable in their skin. Ken cautions that this doesn't mean they don't have some weaknesses. They know that their positions are not a given. Their job and possessions are on loan and can be taken away at a moment's notice.

Our egos can interfere in two ways, Ken cautions. One is false pride, when you think more of yourself than you should. The other is self-doubt or fear, when you think less of yourself than you should.

The antidote for fear and self-doubt is self-pride and self-esteem, whereas the antidote for false pride is humility, which Ken believes is another important characteristic of a leader.

"A lot of people have this image that people who are humble are weak," Ken said. "People with humility don't think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less. That's really a powerful thing."

Mackay's Moral: None of us is as smart as all of us.

Read more: Be a servant leader, not a self-serving leader

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