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June 2007

Strengths, Project, Principles

OK, combinations and my project, what's it all about?

After finishing step 2 in the 'Go put your strengths to work' Marcus Buckingham asks you to write down three Strength Statements: those activities/tasks (in your work - life) you are always looking forward to, those who 'set-you-alight' with joy and focus, those activities that make you feel strong. All three need to be very specific and clear. Once you see your specific three statements on paper you know (gut-feeling) you want to 'play towards' those strengths every day of the week. (The other steps in the book tell you how to 'go about this' - and there is where IMHO the Brag! book by Peggy Klaus comes in.)

Anyway, one of my strength statements mentions project management (in combination with combining ideas, tools, methods to help to give any project a flying start). To me running a business is/feels like a chain of projects - from start-up project through to enhancing systems, implementing new ideas, new tools. Of course I like to see everything as a project, it's an 'activity' that calls on many of my strengths and where I'm looking forward to to do, every week, every day even.

Now I have 'landed' this project I'm over the moon for various reasons. It's not a project that concerns our own business (OK, side-ways perhaps), I'll be managing a project for someone else (or in his own words: "You can try to 'project-manage' me").

Many a times I've mentioned the Givers Gain principle here (and there and of course here too). Our own business thrives on the Givers Gain principle; we give (willingly) free advice on the internet, on the phone, by email and in our showroom and this way we gain trust from our customers.
'Doctor' Richard Calderwood Here and also on many other blogs I've mentioned the fact how much I (and our business) have gained from the many gifts from one particular person.
How his strengths - talents, knowledge, wisdom and advice keeps me going, goal after goal, challenge after challenge. How Richard C helps me reach my/our business goals. And every time I reach a goal he's there to challenge me to set the next goal, and the next (see, there we go again: chain of projects).

Besides a Chartered Accountant Richard is an excellent Business Consultant and he specialises in helping companies 'curing business ailments, restoring profitability and cash-flow; taking the business to the top of the field'
(I like to say we're the living proof of his expertise).
I know how Richard works and I like where he stands for, his integrity and high values. And I so want to give back, but until recently I didn't know exactly how (implementing his ideas into our business and making it more profitable is his reward Richard tells me time after time) . Now I finally found a way, a good way that hopefully helps Richard reach his new goals.

Liz said two weeks ago: helping is a bloggerly thing. Although I had mentioned many times over to Richard that blogging web-publishing would IMHO be the best tool for him at this moment and although Richard had said many times that he would think about it, realising - seeing it in print - what one of my 'strengths' is gave me the perfect excuse idea to 'help-out'. Reading "Peggy Klaus' book at the same time as Marcus Buckingham's gave me the right way to 'ask' to project manage the web-publishing for Richard.

And that 'did' the trick, he said yes ;-) (Although according to him it has also to do with synchronicity)

So, here we are, one week further down the road. First project meeting done and dusted and already many decision made:

  • the title of the 'blog' (his fields of expertise as mentioned above form the subtitle, well second subtitle even - the first subtitle is another story),
  • the design and column layout,
  • the way the posts will be published without claiming too much of his time (Richard writes, I copy-paste and tweak it in typepad, for the time being)
  • the how and when of replying to comments (Richard is a busy man, so we want to make it apparent that comments are very welcome, will be replied to, but probably not instantly - we're not all like Liz who lives in our pc's!)
  • which web traffic tracker to use
  • what the content of the various 'fixed' pages will be
  • etc.

At the moment the 'blog' is up - but pass-word protected, sorry - with only 2 tiny test posts to check if everything is working; I've claimed it for Richard at Technorati; I've also put a face up for him at MyBlogLog (if he visits your blog you'll know); 'enrolled' him on TheGoodBlogs and more of those little webmarketing technical thingies I like doing and know are important.
Richard has to do the hard part: writing, writing and writing.

What his goal with the web-publishing is he will tell you shortly (and I hope you all will go over there then to say hello);
My goal is to make the web-publishing as easy and practical as possible for Richard and to make sure that when it's properly launched he'll 'hit the ground running'.

I'm convinced we will both succeed in these goals and that before he knows it Richard will start (like I and many of you do too) to think in 'blog-posts' ("Oh, that's a good story to post" or "That's a good example of... I must write about that" or "This experience can help others too, must put it on the blog right now"). I'm sure he will - we all do, don't we?

The plan is to 'launch' beginning next month, weather depending (and that is a completely different story too ;-)) and than the 'fun' part can really start. I'm already looking forward to it.

p.s. Mark McGuinness, hope this post does explain more or less what I meant in my comment on your excellent series on types and strengths.

Combinations and my project

Last week a comment by Jason Alba on my post "Combining, I love it" triggered this new post. Recently I've been reading two books at the same time - and that's part 1 of the combination bit of the title. One book I've finished now, the other I'm still 'working' on.

In April Kent Blumberg wrote a review on Go put your strengths to work by Marcus Buckingham. I'd read two other publications by the Gallup Organisation already ("First, break all the rules" and "Now, discover your strengths" - the last one resulted in starting the Stop/Start blog) and since I recently released myself of my very strict new business book diet I'd ordered this book (and two others) beginning this month. And I'm glad I did. And I'm glad I'd ordered that combination of books (although, the third is still in its wrapping).
The other book had been recommended by Jason: "Brag! The Art of Tooting your own Horn without Blowing it" by Peggy Klaus (and I'm still 'working' on that one, using the JibberJobber career tool to 'assist' me with it).

And to be honest, what's the chance of finding these two books together? One is about your strengths - talents, the activities - as employee - you love doing and you are good at; the other is about personal branding.

The one enhances the other, the other gives more and better meaning to the one - that's my opinion anyway after reading them both at the same time. In his review on the book Kent suggest 4 steps you can take to test the power of a strengths-based mindset for your life, I want to add another in-between step to his list: when you reach the week 2 assignment, start reading the Brag! book. (I did, by 'accident')

In order to 'properly' brag - read Peggy's book, it is filled with why, how and when tips - you need to know your strengths, so you can effectively brag about those activities you want to do more of, not?
And vice-versa: in order to 'put your strengths to work for you' - read Marcus' book, it's a 6 week plan to find, clarify and confirm those 'gut' activities playing to your strengths - you need to know how to 'toot your own horn without blowing it' in order to convince not only your team-workers and manager but also yourself which activities/tasks/jobs you really should be spending most of your time on.

Ultimately it also brings me back (again) to my first and most important foundation block of any business: "Good to Great" by Jim Collins and Co, specially the Hedge-hog concept: keep doing what you do best.
Because if you don't know as company what your strengths are (hedge-hog concept), and if you don't know how to play to those strengths constantly how on earth can you make clear (brag!) to your customers/clients/patrons/buyers what makes it worth buying from you, staying with you, even tooting your horn as ambassadors?

Bragging (branding) about yourself, your personal strengths or about your company, your company's strengths starts with finding, discovering these strengths - talents, putting them to work in everything you do and making sure those strengths are what is best known about you.

What has all this got to do with the project I landed at the end of last week? Everything ;-)
Read more about that in my next post (otherwise this combination post is turning in a whole rambling epistle)


In preparation for a Dream Project I landed yesterday (lots more will follow on that project later this month, but boy, I am over the moon!) I've been rumbling around typepad again and finally got round to 'switch' on the "Allow limited HTML" (If selected, commenters will be permitted to use HTML to format their comments) feature in the comments.

So, now you can make bold statements, go Italic and if needed even underline the importance of your comments ;-)

(Had to go through all 247 comments made already to tweak all included links, if you see one I'd missed, please let me know and I'll tweak some more)

On a side-note: what was that with 22 June 2006???
Yesterday I had to sing happy blog-birthday three times ! !

Happy blog-birthday turtle friend Bob at Middle Zone Musing

Happy blog-birthday to the Jibber Jobber Guy Jason Alba

And Happy blog-birthday to Char at Essential Keystrokes

Anyone I forgot? Must have been something in the air last year!

Combining, I love it!

Don't you just love it when various ideas and IT tools (or certain features of software), when combined create a better idea, or a more efficient practice?
I know I do, and (reading "Brag! The Art of Tooting your own Horn without Blowing it at the moment, so be prepared for some 'bragging' - or 'personal branding' - what's the difference? ;-)) I'm pretty good at it too.

Now, over at JibberJobber just launched a brand new feature in the JibberJobber software program "the complete Online Career Toolset": interview preparations. It's a handy, well call it notebook, you can use to jot down any "Me in 30 seconds" statements; any Power Statements and even all possible answers to questions that can be asked during a job interview (or other presentation for that matter).

Jason Alba also suggested I read the Brag book and in it is the Take 12 questionnaire to help you create brag bites and bragologues.

What tool you think I'm going to use intensely to help me with the answers?

Right in one: the new Interview Prep tool, because I'm in front of my pc most of the working day and I just can go to my account at JibberJobber to write a new "Me in 30 seconds" or "Power Statement" whenever I find an answer to one of the 12 questions (and my thoughts are very random and come and go ;-))


One way to keep customers

Burns Waring, chartered Accountants and Business Consultants, Canterbury and MaidstoneYesterday I had my monthly lunch-meeting with Richard C (another new, rich and valued tradition, Liz ;-))

One of the topics we discussed was the question "Why customers leave your company".

  • Price?
  • Influence of friends/family/colleagues?
  • bad service received?
  • locality?

Of course, on average customers leave you sooner than anything else when your service isn't up to their expectations. They can base their expectations on how you treated them before, or what they have heard from friends/family/colleagues about your great level of service. Price normally doesn't come into the equation (or the price-value perceived is way off - and that goes both ways, too cheap can costs you too).

(Side-note: because we - as Wood You Like - are very unfamiliar with the concept of loosing a customer, we gain more customer through recommendations by friends/family/colleagues regardless of our prices, the only reason I could come up with was locality. Not ours, Charing is right in the middle of East Kent, with easy access from both motorways and A-routes, but theirs as in moving home outside the county.)

At one point Richard told me a story about another accountant. Besides excellent Businesses Consultants Burns Waring are Chartered Accountants with clients ranging from one-man-bands, SME's and Internationals. Many of their new clients come from WoM - BW has many, many 'ambassadors' among their existing clients.

For some companies switching accountants seems to be a problem. Not becoming a new client of BW, but leaving - i.e. firing - their existing accountant. The main reason for leaving your existing accountant is (once again) not having received the care and/or service you expected. I can imagine that informing your 'old' accountant of your intention to 'break off' the relationship is not something many of us look forward to, but it has to happen, that conversation must take place.

One accountant in the region seems to have a 'knack' of keeping reluctant and eager to leave clients. Every time she's told the client wants to leave, she burst into tears!
(And all you tough guys out there, tell me you wouldn't change your mind at the exact moment a lady starts crying!)

That's one way to keep your customer: emotional blackmail!

Would you 'surrender' to it? Or would you resort to this method to keep your 'leaving' customer?

Progress episode 4: products to buy on-line

We're on a roll ;-)
(And on schedule too, promised myself everything - well everything? - for our "DIY with a Difference" would be up and running end of this month.)

Wood You Like Osmo hardwaxoil2Yesterday I turned the first on-line download file with the 58 High Resolution Interior Pictures 'life' (2 downloads already!)

Next step was launched today: one of our ranges is now available to BUY ON-LINE (chose the most simple product range for this: Fitting and Finishing materials)

We wait and see what this will bring us (and in the meantime work further on the 'logistic' headache some of the products still give me.)

Dutch stories about food (some in double Dutch)

Jazz weekend in our home town is over again for one year. We had 4 very pleasant days, lovely weather, lovely music - any style of Jazz imaginable was present - and good company.

On the Saturday we has some remarkable marketing encounters I must tell you about:
One of the first things my partner and I always do when we arrive back in our home town is to find the nearest 'snack-bar' for Dutch fries and fried snacks. (Dutch fries are different from French fries, just simple frites - frietjes in Dutch - and much better than what the English call their chips). It's just one of those things we miss since moving to the UK.
Snacks This time we had English guests with us, one with specific diet requirements: no yeast. Frites are not a problem, but various snacks are.

So, as typical English persons, they wanted a fried egg with chips. And fried eggs (omelet) were on the menu-card. Only, they came with three slices of bread (with or brown). Could we change that to just fries? Anyone seen Jack Nicholson ordering omelet on wheat-bread? That was what came to mind. No, omelet comes on bread, not with fries.
OK, can we have a burger without the bread bun than? And some fries added to the side?
Jack Nicholson all over again. In the end we ordered two regular hamburgers and a medium extra portion of fries and left one of the bread buns uneaten.

I know, a simple solution, but one the owner of the snack-bar could have offered himself, not?

Rijsttafel That evening another favourite food was on the program, also one we miss dearly: Indonesian Rijst-tafel (rise-table). We were with 7 in total and hungry! Only 2 of us had never eaten this splendid and varied traditional 'colonial' dish.
Besides our guest with the no yeast diet requirements we had one vegetarian, two who don't like fish and three omnivores. As we sat down at a large table we asked if it was possible to order various set rijsttafel menus and then just swap dishes among each other. The waitress suggested the kitchen could combine various menu's themselves, add some extra vegetarian dishes (always on a rijsttafel menu anyway), reduce the number of fish-dishes and have the nasi (fried rice) and bami (fried noodles) without the normal ham (bacon).
In 1 minute everything was organised! The ordered drinks arrived 2 minutes later and 10 minutes later a whole parade of dishes were brought to our table: each and everyone with an explanation of what was in it.
The food was excellent, varied and plentiful. We loved it, everyone did for that matter, every 'diet-requirement' was catered for - without any fuss! Hats off (as always) to the kitchen and waiters of Indonesian Restaurant "Bali" at the main square in our home town Bergen op Zoom.

One day, two restaurants, two very different experiences.

What I learned from a power-cut

Turtle friend Robert Hruzek started a new Group Writing Project beginning this week: "World of Work". I like group writing projects but feared (due to the world of work) I wouldn't be able to find time to send in/out my contribution. Fate decided differently ;-)

"What I learned from a power-cut" (hmm, this fate must be a dead give away)

I had lost to do this week, trying to catch up with work after our short 4 days break last weekend. Yesterday I was all set-up: papers, lists, everything at the ready to give it a big boost. Then 11.00 am came: power cut. Effecting the whole area in and around our village.

Nothing, absolutely nothing. No radio, no fresh coffee, no email, no internet, no pc, no telephone. Just me, a flask of coffee - made at around 9.00am - and a book (Rosamunde Plicher's Coming Home). Street noises outside, sound of children playing across the street on the school grounds, birds twittering in the trees and bushes.


No lists, no boxes to tick. A stolen moment of pleasant quietness in a busy life.

Rejuvenating! I learned there is a time for everything and not feeling guilty: a time for work and a time for quiet-time.
And for power cuts. (From 11.00am till 9.00pm - finished the book ;-))

(Addition 11.06.07: Robert has posted "All entries: What I learned from the World of Work" on his Middle Zone Musing blog today)