Sunday, May 31, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - A is for the Audience

I have recently been asked to advise several executives on how to improve their public speaking skills. Creating favorable impressions on an audience is important in today's age of communication.

A is for the Audience

When you are asked to give a presentation it can be a great boost to your ego. Being on the stage at a meeting, luncheon or seminar can position someone as the expert in their field and provide them with the opportunity to gain visibility in their industry. The benefits for those who are given the chance to speak regularly can be outstanding for their future career success.

Many executives spend a lot of time preparing for their speeches, knowing that they want to look good to the audience. They devote many hours creating the PowerPoint, selecting their clothing, getting a new haircut, etc.... The whole process of giving a speech can cause people to be very focused on themselves. The pressure to excelling when on the platform can make a speaker very self conscious toward all their actions around the presentation.

While your presentation, appearance and how you are perceived is important, the it is advisable to turn your attention outward and make the audience your number one priority. Think about all of the times that you have sat in a chair watching a speaker at conferences where you were an attendee. We have all sat through long and boring talks where the speaker only spoke of themselves, their company and their products. These data-dump presentations leave people feeling empty. Without meaning to the audience, they listener will quickly get board, tune out, and turn attention to their iPhone or other electronics.

Think about the motivation of the people who are listening to you, and what they expect to gain from investing their time and attention in hearing what you have to say. Are they hoping to be educated? Entertained? Enlightened? Or all three? Do the stories you tell inspire them and impact how they can do their own jobs?

Remember... they care much more about themselves than they do about you. Make sure that everything you say will resonate. Do not just talk about your own success unless it can be used as an example for others to navigate their own path. Be sure that your stories include other people, and that you are not the star of every anecdote.

While it is easy to assume that we instinctively know what an audience will want to hear, it is best to ask this of the person who invited you to present about the desires for your talk. Discover the ages, industry backgrounds, job titles, gender, and other demographics of those who will be in attendance. When you understand who will be hearing you speak, it is easier to craft an interesting message.

If you want to be an effective speaker, you must make your priority all those who are sitting facing you. We live in a society with very short attentions spans, and if people do not feel they are your motivation, they will disengage. They will know if you are speaking for them or if you are speaking for yourself.

Speak for your audience.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, May 29, 2009

You've Got The Power

You've got the power... to make somebody else feel wonderful.

A friend sent me a very positive and encouraging note following my presentation / seminar, "Smart Visibility", that I conducted this week in conjunction with the Austin Business Journal.

He said:

"I am so glad I attended yesterday. You are good, really good. ..... Your affability and presence are powerful. Love that you make your audience laugh and you have great energy. It was terrific attending. ....Well done, Thom."

He did not need to send me this email. It only took him a few minutes, but it made my whole day much more special.

It reminded me that we all have the power to lift up the people we encounter on a daily basis. We don't have to do this. We could cut them down or just be indifferent. But when we use our power to encourage and praise others, we make the world a brighter place.

Find a way today to raise another person's spirits. All you have to do is show them some respect and they will smile inside and out.

Have A Great Day.


2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards - Austin, Texas

Last night I attended the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Dinner in Austin, Texas.

This is a premier event in the local business community. The "Entrepreneurial Spirit" runs deep in this city, which makes this black tie gala a paramount celebration for the people who drive the future: Entrepreneurs.

This year's finalists and winners are an example to everyone. While others whine and complain about the recession and economic downturn, these entrepreneurs have continued to forge forward and build their companies.

And the winners of the 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year for Austin are:

Doug Harrison - The Scooter Store

Brett Hurt - Bazaarvoice

Craig Malloy - LifeSize Communications

Melvin White - Digital Workforce (Social Entrepreneur of the Year)

The evening was capped off by the annual "After Party", which was again (as always) hosted by the Andrews Kurth Law Firm. The party kicked off immediately after the awards ceremony and the fun continued into the early hours of the morning. (I am officially too old to stay out until 1 I am tired today!). I used to work for Andrews Kurth, and was in charge of this party for several years. It is a great topping to a fantastic evening. Special thanks to the partners of this law firm for continuing to support the entrepreneurial community in such a unique way!!

Congratulations of all the finalists and winners. I look forward to next year to see who will top this list!

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Leadership Austin NOW Accepting Applications For the 2010 Class

Tonight I went to a recruiting event for Leadership Austin. I was a member of the 2008 Leadership Austin Essentials Class.... and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

Leadership Austin is a phenomenal organization that exposes local leaders to government, non-profit, health care, the arts, the environment, and countless other issues that impact the future of our regions.

During my year in the program I was able to meet and establish ongoing relationships with wonderful people whom I may have never otherwise met.

Below is a video that I shot at the closing retreat from the 2008 Leadership Austin Class. The deadline to apply for next year is coming up in mid-June. More info at

Have A Great Day.


Monday, May 25, 2009

"Fear" Is NOT Invited Inside

I was tipped off to a blog post on how fear can hurt your business (by Tech Industry giant Eric Ries) from a blog post on the same topic by my favorite European VC, Nic Brisbourne.

Eric will be speaking at TEXCHANGE in Austin next week, and while I have heard of him, I had not before read his blog, "Lessons Learned".

Both Eric and Nic had messages that resonated deeply within me about how fear will slow you down. I am charging hard with my own "Startup Life", as I am following the dream of being a professional speaker / author and working to grow the New Year Publishing family of products. While I did not choose the timing of my leap (can you say: economic downturn and layoff), I have been aspiring to cultivate my own entrepreneurial path for some time.

It has been six weeks since I left the world of full-time employed worker-bee. My wife pointed out that during the first week she thought I was in denial, during the second week she thought I was lying to her.... but now she sees that I have no animosity about making my own way in the world. In the past she had witnessed me entangled in the grip of fear when facing the unknown, but this time I am not perplexed. It just feels right, and I instinctively know that fear will slow me down and ruin my focus.

Eric Ries says:

"Fear is an emotion that slows teams down. It makes us more cautious. It makes us over-invest in prevention. It makes us less willing to trust, to communicate openly, and - most painfully - to take risks. It is the dominant reason I see teams fall back on "best practices" which may not be effective, but are at least reassuring. Unfortunately, these actions generally work to increase the batch size of our work, which magnifies the consequences of failure and therefore leads to more fear. Reducing fear is a heuristic we can use to judge process improvements. Anything that reduces fear is likely to speed up the fundamental feedback loop."

Nic Brisbourne adds:

"Fear of failure is, of course, not limited to developers and these thoughts apply right across organisations. The most effective individuals in startups are those who experiment heavily and when they fail make sure they do so quickly and inexpensively. That way they put themselves in the position to be lucky. The same is true with startups which usually need to try many different options before they hit on the winning product feature/marketing campaign/market niche/business model etc.etc.

Operating like this requires a confidence that comes naturally to some people and needs to be fostered in others. Those of us that are involved in the management/direction of startups will do well to seek out people to embrace this modus operandi and to encourage the development of environments that allow others to fear less and move more quickly.

Life in a startup can often seem like living in a pressure cooker and the pressure to deliver short term results can often take the focus away from the bigger picture of building value over 3-5 years – which is enough time to absorb some mistakes."

While fear is a natural emotion, I see too many people who are paralyzed in business (and beyond) in this bumpy economy. I am finding there are plenty of audiences interested in the message of the power of business relationships and how to navigate the "Relationship Economy", and thus I need to keep on truckin' forward.

I am also excited about the upcoming July release of book number five, "Batteries Not Included: 66 Tips to Energize Your Career" (New Year Publishing, 2009).

Alas, I am focused on the future. I know there are some tough patches ahead, but I also know that there are some great victories waiting to be won!

My two cents about fear: It is lurking out there, but I am NOT inviting it inside.

Have A Great Day.


P.S.- Eric Ries will be speaking at TEXCHANGE in Austin on June 3, 2009. While the organization is usually "Members Only", if you are an entrepreneur or a Tech Industry executive and would like to attend, this meeting will have some open seats. CLICK HERE for more information.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Belveders Barber Lounge

I am not one who pays much attention to things like haircuts. If my wife did not tell me "time to get your haircut" on a regular basis, I would look shaggy.

I rarely return to the same place twice. I like cheap haircuts (think SuperCuts prices), but you get what you pay for, and I am never impressed with the $14 doo.

I often get my haircut while "on the road". If I am in Dallas, Denver, Seattle, Chicago or another city to give a keynote speech or other presentation I often find that I some available time in my schedule, since I make it a point to arrive a day early before taking the stage (just in case the airline or weather give me travel hiccups). Thus dropping in for a haircut when traveling works out better than working it in while at home in Austin, Texas.

This brings me to the reason for this blog post: Belvederes Barber Lounge on Congress Avenue in Austin. I have been back three times in a row. Different people have cut my hair (I walk in with no appointment when I have an unexpected opening in my schedule and Sara has informed me about the bushy appearance of the hair), but every time I have been pleased. I am getting older and thinning hair requires more skilled cutting than you get at SuperCuts! The price is higher than the cheap-o places, but not so expensive that I cry.

This place has been open for about a year, and has had three changes to the subtext part of their name.

They opened as Belvederes: A Gentleman's Salon. People thought it was a strip club.

Then they were Belvederes: Men's Day Spa. Most guys just are not into going to the "spa".

Alas, they have become Belvederes Barber Lounge. By George I think they got it! I like the sound of a "barber lounge". Sounds low key, relaxed, masculine, and speaks to "hair cuts" and nothing fluffy!

I have to give them a special shout out and a thumbs up recommendation as I will continue to keep going back. Rare thing for me, the non-fashion conscious dude, to care about his haircut.... so I thought I should share this with others.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, May 22, 2009



--James Allen (Author of As A Man Thinketh)

Are You Part of Something Special?

I was excited to tell a friend about my expanded role with New Year Publishing, a company that I co-founded four years ago. My friend and business partner has been running the business, and it is great to be working closer with him on a regular basis as we expand the company.

NYP's first book was also my first book, "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" (Available all the time at, but over the years the company has grown to produce more than my products and we now have over a dozen titles in our catalog.

The company helps executives, entrepreneurs and professional speakers complete there books and make them available to the world -- creating a phenomenal marketing tool to extend the reach of their products, services and brand.

A survey by the Jensen Group showed that 87% of people imagine writing a book. I professed that "being the catalyst for the fulfillment of other people's dreams brings great joy".

My friend replied "Wow, how wonderful to be part of something special".

I realized he said this with a tinge of sadness, as he looks at his job as a job, working for a company where nothing is done to challenge those who work for the organization to strive for anything more than the bottom line.

I spent the day yesterday with some very savvy and motivated entrepreneurs as part of the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator Program. (If you are an entrepreneur and are not familiar with EO, you should discover the local chapter in your city). Each one of these dedicated business owners is looking to create something special for themselves and their employees.

Is this creation of an exceptional place to work the exception or the rule? I talk with too many people who feel they trudge off to the workplace everyday for nothing special.

Are you part of something special? If you own a business, do you know how your employees would answer this question? If they would say "no".... or you haven't a clue as to how they would answer.... how does that make you feel? If it doesn't make you feel like crap then what went wrong?

Most entrepreneurs start their companies with lofty goals of hosting a special environment for all stakeholders, but for some these ideals get lost along the way.

I have been talking and writing a lot lately about surrounding yourself with amazing people, and it does matter (this is why I joined the EO Accelerator Program!). I see the benefits in my own life, both at New Year Publishing, in my professional speaking career, at home, and with friends. Having people who challenge you to do more than you could ever do alone is what makes your world special!

Have A Great Day


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The economic crisis has many complexities. Job security and career paths can be turned upside down, leaving many people feeling unsure about their future.

In times like this it is important that we get back to the basics. In good times and in bad, all opportunities come from people. Having a network and establishing a clear personal brand will make a difference.

People are NOT a commodity. You cannot just assume that if you go out and meet people that they are part of your network. Real relationships take time to cultivate and establish a mutually beneficial purpose. Social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can help you, but they are not "instant friend machines". No matter how you establish connections, you must be dedicated to the relationship if you want it to produce results.

If your interest in others is purely self-serving, you will be discovered as a fraud. You must have a genuine interest in helping others succeed.

You never can know from where an opportunity will come, but to be exposed to opportunities you must take actions. Sitting at home hoping for something to happen will lead you nowhere. You must put yourself out into the world and intentionally create your reputation.

I once heard it said that you are the sum of the five people with whom you spend the most time. This means that it is important that you surround yourself with amazing people. To surround yourself with low achievers who are engulfed in self-pity will lead you to the same fate. Seek out people who are constantly looking for ways to improve and you will also excel.

If you are looking for a job or trying to advance in your current company, discover the answers to the following questions:

  • Who am I and what can I contribute to my industry?

  • How much am I willing to help other people succeed without a direct pay off for myself?

  • Why do I network?

  • What does my boss (or future boss) need to look good to his or her boss?

If you know the answers to the above questions you can start making choices that will lead you toward the success you seek. Keep it simple and treat all people as unique gifts to your world.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Leaders Inspire

Managers "hire and fire" -- Leaders "inspire". I think one problem we are having in this economy is that we have too much management and not nearly enough leadership!

I had an interesting breakfast today with a friend who asked NOT to be named on my blog.

He shared that he is encountering few companies with CEO's that are true leaders. He is frustrated at seeing so many experienced and intelligent business professionals who are "hoping" for an external recovery instead of going out and taking risks to create their own successes.

In good times everyone appears to have leadership skills, but in tough times the curtain is removed and few have the foundation on which to draw strength.

He thinks that most folks are so scared of making a mistake that they are doing nothing. Companies are trying to save their way to success by not making any financial expenditures.... and thus it trickles down the line so that everyone is paralyzed.

What do you think? Are you surrounded by leaders or managers? Ask you co-workers if the boss has inspired them in the last month. If they look at you like you are nuts, you know the answer!

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lawyers and Career Uncertainty

In the last month since I began working for myself I have been contacted by several attorneys to help them with their long term visibility, networking, marketing and business development plans. With the continued slow down in the economy, lawyers are feeling the pressures. Mid-level associates and new partners are especially under pressure to bring in new clients.

With little or no sales training or a history of their firms encouraging them to participate in their community, some feel abandoned in the foreign world of business development.

While I am not exclusively focused on coaching attorneys and speaking at law firms, my experience inside professional services firms (including two Am Law 100 law firms) have lead me to working with many in this profession.

In the last several months thousands of lawyers at firms of all sizes have faced lay-offs, pay reductions and the word of shrinking annual bonuses. Many who had graduated from top schools (with top grades) and landed careers inside prominent law firms mistakenly believed they were forever recession proof if they simply did good work.

Being a good lawyer is not enough, as too many have learned in recent times. Law is a business, and like in millions of other industries, owners of companies are facing tough decisions.

For those lawyers who are nervous about their job security, they cannot afford to just sit on their butts. While it is always best to have dedicated the time to create your personal brand long ago, it is never too late to take the steps to help shore up your eroding job security. While it many not save a position that is already on the chopping block, it can help you prepare for your next opportunity.

Four Ways For Lawyers (and others) to Navigate the Uncertain Economic and Career Climate

1. Have a career game plan. If you do not know what you want from your career, how can you make the tough decisions? Everyday you will encounter choices (large and small) and you can evaluate decisions on if they bring you closer to or farther from your goal. Too many lawyers (and others) just show up for work everyday with the plan to do their "job" without any concern for how they are being perceived by their bosses, co-workers and clients. In these tough economic times you are being watched and evaluated at all times. Just doing good work will not make you stand out from the crowd.

If you do not know where to start, hire a career coach to help you define what you are trying to accomplish in your career. Then develop a personal brand and business development agenda. If you are ever asked by a partner to provide a "biz dev plan" and you look like a deer in the headlights, you are toast. Instead you want to immediately produce your plan (that was put together months earlier) and show how you are executing on the the steps toward accomplishing the goals.

2. Know your numbers. How do you compare to others in your firm in regards to billable hours and client origination. When the partners are making the decisions on who will stay and who will be fired, they will look closely at the numbers. Who is bringing in the most money for the partnership and who has the most potential to do client development in the future.

While other things will factor in, those with the ability to assist the firm in overcoming the finacial crunch are valuable.

3. Communicate inside the firm. Talk to the other associates, partners, and staff members. Treat everyone with respect, and be interested in them at a personal level. If you are aloof and grumpy towards others inside the firm, you could put a target on your back when cuts are being made. No matter how good you are as an attorney, if your co-workers think you are a jerk they will rejoice in finding an excuse to let you go.

4. Network like you career depends on it (because it does). Knowing a lot of people in your business community whom can benefit the firm will make you more valuable to the partnership. A good network will help you make connections that can lead to new business, and will keep you aware of other job opportunities (should the need arise). The thing to remember about networking is that people are not there to ONLY help you. It has to be about mutually beneficial relationships and therefore to be successful you will have to make people a priority. No matter how busy you are, you can find 15 minutes a day to devote to assisting others. Too many lawyers hide behind their hectic schedule to avoid thinking of how to impact others in their network, then they wonder why nobody is helping them. You have to give long before you get.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Beshoff MotorCars Adds Style To A High School Couple's Prom!!!

I wrote here and here about my nephew's search to score a cool car to drive to his Senior Prom. Well last weekend was the big day, and thanks to an entrepreneurial Mercedes dealer, Beshoff MotorCars of San Jose, California.... He and his date went to the dance in mega style.

To find his transportation, Dan created "" and pleaded the case of why he did not want to drive his beat up old car or his mom's Honda Pilot for this special evening. He was about to graduate and wanted to end the year with a little pizzazz.

Sure, it was a long shot.... but the kid is enterprising, and he knew that he had nothing to lose, and everything to gain if he "made the ask".

Life is full of opportunities, but they do not come to those who sit back and wait. His only chance at glory was to take the risk.

He got some local publicity from his website, and caught the eye of Ray Beshoff, President of Beshoff MotorCars.

To be a successful luxury car dealer in the Silicon Valley, Mr. Beshoff himself has to have an overdose of entrepreneurial spirit. He met with Dan and decided to lend him a car for the prom.

The rest is family history. It was a wonderful evening for Dan and his girlfriend, and they will never forget their "Cool Prom Car".

This is just a great story.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Smart Visibility - Breakfast Seminar May 28th

In today's challenging economic times, nobody can ignore their personal brand and professional network. Intelligently building your reputation in the business community and utilizing all information resources to discover opportunities is paramount to success. Competition is more intense than ever, and decision makers are bombarded with choices. If you are looking for your next customer or your next career, how you cultivate your network and present yourself can make all the difference.

Please join the Austin Business Journal and local author & professional speaker Thom Singer for this interactive and informative seminar and breakfast.

Topics will include:

- Networking
- Creating a personal brand
- Learning how to uncover business opportunities
- Following up and establishing ongoing conversations
- Making a difference

When: Thursday, May 28, 2009
Where: 111 Congress Ave 8th Floor, parking is available at parking meters or Austin Convention Center Parking Garage for $7.00
Speaker: Thom Singer
7:00 to 7:30 am Registration, Networking & Breakfast
7:30 to 8:30 am Smart Visibility Seminar

Reservation deadline is May 26 at 5:00 pm CST.

CLICK HERE to sign up. Space is limited.

Have A Great Day


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Respect For Schedules - Don't "Better Deal" People

I just got "Better Dealed" for the second time in two weeks.

A gentleman who is a very aggressive sales professional, whom I know and admire, canceled on me twice for coffee. Both times he said that he had to reschedule because "the opportunity to meet with a big prospect popped up". Thus, the importance of my time in setting up the meeting seemed to have zero value in his view of the world. I guess he figured I had nothing better to do during the time we had planned to connect.

Does this ever happen to you?

How does it make you feel?

Now look at it in reverse... when you move a meeting at the last minute, do you consider the other person's feelings? By canceling at the last minute are you showing respect to their calendar? Did you waste their time?

Moving a meeting not only pushes that meeting out into the future, but it leaves a hole in the calendar where I could have met with someone else.

The person rescheduling clearly sends a message that says "Someone more important than you has requested my time".

I understand that things come up and people need to move meetings. It happens for very legitimate reasons. Being flexible is just part of being in business. But being conscious of others is also part of the equation. If you look at time as yours to possess, that is selfish. Once you are on someones schedule, you are co-owners of that appointment.

From time to time this happens to everyone (I have done this... rocks... glass house... I know). You cannot be in two places at once. However, if the same person moves a meeting twice in the same manner within a few days, it is a red flag about the relationship. Clearly he does not see me as having much value in his circle of influence. That is okay, as not everyone will like me or value my being part of their network.

But now the awkward third meeting is scheduled. My opinion of this person now leans toward his being self-focus and not someone who would be a mutually beneficial resource. So why are we even meeting?

In establishing a network, we need to be careful, as the perception we give others becomes their reality. I am, however, an eternal optimist and look forward to meeting with this person. I hope that I can find a way to bring him value in his quest to succeed. I am fairly certain that he is "too busy" to ever read this blog, so he wont know of my frustration.

Besides, sometimes the meetings that are the toughest to pull off have the greatest long-term value. We might become wonderful referral sources that will influence each other's future.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Congratulations Lee Leffingwell - Next Mayor of Austin, Texas

While I was in support of Brewster McCracken for mayor of Austin, I would like to congratulate Lee Leffingwell on his victory.

McCracken announced, by email, earlier today that he would not be challenging Leffingwell to a run-off election (Since no candidate received 50% of the votes, a run-off between the top two would have been the next step). While only 13% of the voters showed up for the local election, Leffingwell had a 47% lead over 27% for Brewster. Success for McCracken in a run-off election would have been a difficult and costly undertaking. Even less people would have come out for yet another trip to the polls, and those would have been more of the "traditional voters" who overwhelmingly supported Leffingwell.

I am a believer that when an election ends, citizens must show support to the victor. This is how a democracy works, and to go with anything other than a hope for a united future undermines the whole process. The culture of hate and distrust that permeates politics is one of the reason that everyone stays away for politics in the first place.

I am disappointed in the fact that Austin, like most other cities, has such little participation when it comes to choosing our leaders. Our future is left in the hands of "the usual suspects" who are known to go to the polls. We need to do something to change this or we all lose.

From a city like Austin, Texas I expect more than apathy from the citizens.

Lee Leffingwell is a good man (I have never met him, but have friends who do know him) who will work hard for the success of Austin. I wish him well in his tenure as mayor and I will continue to do everything in my power to support the City of Austin.

Have A Great Day.


Eric Hoffer Award For Indepenedent Books

Each year, independent publishers (academic, independent, small press, and self-published authors) release extraordinary books to little or no recognition. The Eric Hoffer Award for independent books recognizes excellence in publishing with a grand prize and various category and press type distinctions. The results are published annually.

The 2009 winner of the "Best Business Book" is "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women" by Marny Lifshen and Thom Singer.

We are very proud of this book, and honored to have received this award.

Here is the list of other winners.

Have A Great Day.

honors and

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blogging As Part of Self

I find writing this blog to be very good for my soul. It allows me to voice my thoughts, opinions, pontifications, ideas, points of view, advice (solicited and unsolicited!) and observations. It enables me to share a part of myself that would not otherwise exist. It has become part of how I discover who I am.

In my youth I imagined I would have it all figured out by 40. Turns out that we are always learning -- about the world and about ourselves. I feel sad for those who do not look at themselves and seek improvement. It is through this work on myself that I discover more about humanity.

My hope is along the way my writing has an impact on others.

I never worry about if people read my blog. The number of readers continues to grow, so I assume that most of it must matter. If you do read it regularly, THANK YOU. If I ever offend you on occasion, then I AM SORRY. If I ever help you, I AM HONORED.

When someone criticizes me or this blog I pay attention. I enjoy hearing feedback (positive and negative). I see this blog as a work-in-progress, as am I as a person.

While criticism hurts, it is never un-welcomed. Life is a journey down a river that takes many turns. This blog helps me navigate the rough patches. I make mistakes and I can course correct. I want to become more tomorrow than I am today.

Thanks for reading.

Have A Great Day.


Making Referrals - Just Do It

A friend called me the other day and said she had wanted to recommend me as a keynote speaker for her company's annual conference... but she did not know how to make the appropriate introduction.

As we talked, I uncovered the following trepidations that were perplexing her desire to put me in touch with someone who could hire me to speak inside her organization:

Who should she call? Should she send a link or brochure? Would the person feel she was sticking her nose into things out of her area? Since she had never seen me speak, was it appropriate for her to make an introduction? How much did I charge? (as if it was too much, what message might that send to her co-worker?), Would my message work inside her industry? How far in advance of the meeting would be ideal for an introduction? Would I be upset if they did not hire me?, etc...

Wow, I appreciated that she had given so much thought to recommending me as a professional speaker for the conference.... but she was clearly "over-thinking" the whole situation.

This made me realize that often it is not that people do not want to be a referral source for others, it is that they do not know how or where to begin. They over-think the introduction and rationalize too many reasons to not do anything.

Being a connector is easy. You can help your friends and you company when you bring them together for mutually beneficial opportunities. This could be a new vendor (like me as a speaker for an event) or hiring a key employee.

Here are five ways to refer someone into an opportunity at your company:

1. Just do it. Do not worry about the details, just reach out to the person who handles the decisions and tell them you would like to introduce them to a candidate who might be ideal for their need.

2. Do not pre-judge. Let the folks you introduce know that their areas of expertise are outside of your own, and thus you are not sure if there is a "love connection" in this meeting. Better to make an introduction that leads to nothing, than to skip it and miss a huge win / win for the other two people.

3. Do not try to sell the person (or their product or service) to your co-worker. Just make the introduction and let them work out the details. If you try to sell them you might miss the key points and lead your co-worker to having a preconceived notion (positive or negative).

4. Stay out of the way. After you have made an introduction, get out of the mix. Do not pepper your co-working or the other person with questions about their business dealings.

5. Do not over do it. If you make occasional recommendations to people when you instinctively sense a great resource for your company, you will be viewed as an asset to the organization, and you external network will be viewed as an asset. If you consistently pimping your friends as vendors or future employees, you might become that "annoying" employee who is sticking their nose in others business.

When you want to help someone else, do not over-think the process. My friend made the introduction to the sales manager who is planning the meeting. We had a great conversation. He already has a keynote speaker for his event this year, but we are going to talk later about other opportunities.

Have A Great Day.


Austin Mayors Race Has Embarrassing Low Voter Turn Out Numbers- No Winner

Everyone who knows me is aware that I have been a supporter of City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Brewster McCracken in the race for Austin Mayor.

In yesterday's election no candidate received the required 50% of the vote to claim the office, thus the top two candidates will face a run-off election on June 13th, 2009.

It was surprising to most to see that candidate Lee Leffingwell garnered 47%, while Brewster only pulled 27% in this three way race (Carole Keeton Strayhorn got 21%) between five people on the ballot.

Leffingwell's campaign is proud of the huge margin, based on percentage of those who voted, and from the way the TV news reported this... is claiming some sort of fictional mandate of the Austin voters.

The real story here is NOT about the percentages, it is about the HORRIBLE and embarrassingly low turn out of the registered voters. In a city with over 500,000 voters, just over 30,000 people voted for Leffingwell, and over 20,000 for Mr. McCracken. Instead of bragging about the percentages who favored them, both candidates should be appalled that they were part of an election where NOBODY cared enough to show up and vote.

This is embarrassing and every citizen in the city of Austin should be ashamed. The four city council members who were elected last night should not have been having victory parties to celebrate, but should be wearing black arm-bands to signify that they really have no support of their constituency. Theirs are dead-victories.

Every elected official in Austin should be disgusted with this low turn out. (But they are not, because a small turn-out with the "usual suspects" insures the same folks repeated victories). All of them should express REGRET that they do not make enough of an impact on the lives of the people who live in the city.

"Get Out The Vote" should be the rally call of our leaders. Anyone who hopes for low turn out has no business in public service!

I want to see Brewster McCracken and Lee Leffingwell take on this cause of increasing voter turn out during the month that will now lead up to the run off election.

While I will continue to support Brewster McCracken for Mayor of Austin, I am more concerned with the real numbers of voters than I am with who wins the race.

Come on Austin. We are better than this.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek

Okay, it is true.

I am a Trekkie. I have been since 5th grade when my teacher, Mr. Moorhead, would discuss the daily Star Trek reruns on KTLA Channel 5 (Los Angeles) with the class. (Yes, see what they teach you in public schools!).

I have seen every episode of the classic Trek. Same is true for "Next Generation", "Voyager" and "Enterprise". I have seen all the movies (yep, odd numbers sucked, even numbers rocked!). Had there been action figures when I was a kid, I would have had them.

Proof I am a Trekkie? My wife (also Trekkie) and I went to see the new Star Trek movie on opening day. The IT guy at vcfo has not even seen the movie yet. Yep, I beat the IT guy to Star Trek.

I had been worried about seeing the movie, as the hype had been huge about this flick. Usually Hollywood lets me down. But the movie was great. I wont go into details, as I don't want to spoil it... but it was great. These actors did more than mimic the Shatners and Nimoys, but instead nailed the characters.

Live long and prosper....and good luck!

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

PODCAST - "Customer Service Means Success"

New Podcast On Blog Talk Radio

"Customer Service" is not just two buzz-words. It can make or break your company.

Dawn Mushill is an author, speaker, and customer service diva who shares her expertise on how to improve your relationships with your clients.

In today's "Relationship Economy" you cannot leave your customer service to chance. Listen to this podcast and make sure you are doing things right!

Click Here for Dawn's website and information about her book.

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Winning In The Relationship Economy

We are living in a "relationship economy" where you need to have more than just skills to find success. There are many people with talent, as that is the currency you are expected to pay with to have a seat at the table. Talent and education are important, but they are not enough.

Hard work is good, but again, in the current global financial climate, everyone is working hard. There are still only 24 hours in the day. Time is the great equalizer in the current situation. No matter how hard you want to pretend you are working, others can match your effort.

Decision makers are facing hard choices in all areas and they cannot afford to make mistakes. Those selecting vendors or making hiring decisions are frightened as their own futures might be hanging in the balance. They are confused, as they have multiple options. They will use their heads to gather information, but will make the final choice with their heart.

It comes down to your reputation and how they "feel" about you. This can be your individual or corporate brand in the community, but in this "relationship economy" it is all about perception.

This angers some. One person I know with an MBA was dumbfounded when a promotion he coveted went to a co-worker who had never finished college, but had come up through the ranks in the company where they both worked. It never dawned on him that her relationships could trump his sheepskin in the world of the corner office.

A sales professional friend recently lost a deal to his competitor because an executive at the prospective client "liked" the owner of the other company. He did not even know how to compete in this arena, since he worked for a larger out-of-town corporation, thus he had no local boss.

The mistake that many people make is they put too much faith in the "USP" (Unique Selling Proposition) of their product or service, without regards to what the marketplace values. If you are selling a commodity (or if your clients can remotely see your product or service as a commodity.... remember, perception IS reality!), then you are wasting time in how you are pursuing business.

Relationships matter.

Do not rationalize your way around this.

Look at your competition. Do people know them better? Do referral sources like them better? Are they winning business? Are they opening new accounts that you are not aware were seeking your services until after the fact?

If you answered "yes" to the above four questions, or discovered yourself focused on the subjective nature of the words "know", "like", "winning" and "opening"...then you are in trouble in the new "relationship economy". I am not kidding. This is a problem.

With business environments changing, too many executives are hoping that the changes are not real. But the "relationship economy" is not a fad. People do business with those they know, like and trust. This has always been true, but now they know more people. The internet, social media and other technologies make introductions, communications and information more pervasive. "Like and trust" are now head and shoulders above "know". It is easy to be known, but harder to reach the deeper levels that are needed these days.

You cannot rely on prospective customers hearing what you are saying, as there is too much noise out there. You must enlist the community at large to help cultivate your reputation by making you part of the ongoing discussion. Both live and online, if nobody is talking about you, then nobody else is thinking about you. Out of sight is out of mind, and that equals death.

So what can you do? Make this a major priority NOW. There is no time to waste if you think your competition is currently engaged in creating strong personal connections with those who have the ear of your business community. Either you control the conversation or you allow others to dictate what is said about you and your industry.

For real impact you might need to have paradigm shifts. Who in your organization is leading the charge for your outreach? (in person and online). It does not need to be the CEO, but a person must be publicly acknowledged as the "face of the firm". This individual has to have the visible support of the company management internally and externally. They must be seen as the credible spokesperson and have the respect of their co-workers.

The effort to expand your reach has to be an agenda item at all meetings going forward. When a company makes their image and visibility a priority they will see results. If they are just giving lip service to the topic or think there is a short term fix, they are destined to fail.

Finally, you must make a financial and time investment in your plan. You cannot reach the highest levels of reputation prevalence without an entertainment and education budget. Hosting informational and social events for clients, prospects and referral sources are key to extending your reach. A combination of live events and online webinars along with newsletters, blogs, PR and participation in social media will all work together. A pre-planned schedule with mixed activities will allow you to touch everyone you desire in a variety of ways.

In the end, success in the "relationship economy" depends on your taking ownership of your relationships.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

SUCCESS! - Lemonade Day 2009

By all accounts, LEMONADE DAY 2009 in Austin was a huge success.

My kids had a great time and learned about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

They learned that location matters. They were set up in front of Fire Station One at 5th Street and Trinity in downtown Austin. The Austin Fire Department was very gracious and offered up their locations for children participating in the Lemonade Day program. This location was great because it was just a block away from the annual Pecan Street Festival, so there was heavy foot traffic during the girl's three hour venture.

The kids pointed out three astute observations about having their own company:

  1. If you go into business with your sister, you will probably have a few arguments.
  2. Work is hard (they were exhausted at the end of the day)
  3. Good customer service involves petting the dogs, too! (Okay, this was Kate's observation, as she loves dogs!)
They had a lot of fun, sold a lot of lemonade, created a profit and were able to make a donation to the Dell Children's Hospital (Mom and Dad required them to put up 25% of their profits to the charity of their choice!).

The people who came by were wonderful, and one man paid $20 for his $1 cup of lemonade and told them to keep the change. That was nice, and I know that good karma followed him for the rest of the day!

Our family would like to thank "Prepared 4 Life", the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas and Trilogy for bringing this program to Austin. Also special thanks to Lieutenant Jim Baker and the whole crew at the fire station for their support!

Have A Great Day.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Reconnect With An Old Friend Week 2009

Reconnecting with an old friend or business contact can often lead to amazing opportunities.

I have established this week as "International Reconnect With An Old Friend Week" (May 4 - 8, 2009).

Everyday this week you are encouraged to think of an old friend, boss, co-worker, teacher, neighbor, mentor, student, etc... and find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc...

Once you have located them reach out and say "Hello". This can be done by email, DM, a handwritten note, or telephone. Just do it.

Tell them that they were once an important part of your life and that you miss them. Ask them to tell you all about their current job, family, hobbies, travels, etc... Do not lead with a story about yourself, make the whole conversation about them! Be clear that your motivation is just to reconnect and see what happens.

Come back and share your comments on this blog.

When many think of "networking" they mistakenly believe that it is just about making new connections. Mental images of happy hours with stacks of business cards in one hand and cheap beer in the other hand - all while trying to make small talk with strangers in hopes of finding new business clouds the definition of what it is to network.

Meeting new people and establishing mutually beneficial relationships is part of the deal (cheap beer is not!). However, it is not just about farming for new connections. To be successful in business you MUST cultivate ongoing relationships. People do business with those they know, like and trust. It takes time establish real bonds. It is faster to get to the deep levels of understanding and trust with old contacts than it is with strangers!

In our busy world it is easy to lose touch with those who have been important in the past. But reaching out to an old friend can be very rewarding. If you wait until you need their help, then you might be viewed as insincere or a "taker"... but to reach out just because you like them and miss having them in your life will fill them with joy.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Basic Respect For Others

With my job as a professional speaker and a business consultant I find myself working on the go. I often set up shop in the corner of a Starbucks, or other place that has WiFi. While I can be very productive working in a coffee shop, I am often amazed at the levels of unconcern that other people have for others in society.

A couple of weeks ago three families with young kids in tow sat down next to me and the parents chatted away while the children ran free. I was trying to read, and had been sitting alone... and not once did the parents look my direction.

Last weekend I was working in a Starbucks when a group of ten women came in and rounded up all the chairs to have a meeting. They even had a laptop, projector and screen. They were all around me and never once did a person say "excuse me". I left before the presentation began, and nobody made eye contact.

As I write this I am in a Starbucks. Seven women have appeared and taken over the table next to me. They took my extra chairs (which is fine, and to their credit, they asked before just taking the chairs), but in this small area they are nearly on top of me. They are very loud, and talking on and on about the Swine Flu (and other issues). They are making jokes about the possible health crisis and mocking the situation. The one woman is just back from Mexico and is mocking fake coughs toward her friends and laughing.

What I don't understand is how people can be so distracting in a public location and not take into account the others in the establishment. Especially those who had arrived first. While it is a "free country" and they have every right to have their gatherings in a Starbucks, basic respect for others seems to not be a concern.

I know, I am living in a glass house and throwing rocks. I am sure that I have annoyed people all throughout my life, but I try to be considerate of others. It is true that if I am put off by these people I can always work some other place (but I like working out in public, I gain energy from seeing other people going about their lives). The point is that we need to have concern for those around us or our society cannot function properly.

I am challenging myself, and others, to take a few moments to look around and notice others. If we do not see them, then we continue to live in selfish cocoons. This might make our individual lives seem better, it really does advance the common good.

As I finish this post I wont even tell you about the conversation I am hearing NOW. YIKES. Lets just say "Too Much Information" about personal stuff. Ummmm, beyond being disrespectful to those within ear shot by being loud, think about what you are talking about people.

Have A Great Day.


PS- When the large group of loud women left Starbucks 25 minutes after I finished writing this post, they DID NOT return their chairs that they had moved about to their original places. They just left the seven chairs in a messy circle around the table (and they left newspapers on the table!).... and they blocked the isle. It is very disappointing to see a group of obviously educated and fortunate individuals with little regard for anyone else.

I know they will never read this post, but if they did -- I wonder if they would even recognize themselves?

Observing them made me sad in my soul.