Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Relaxing Birthday

Jennifer Foresythe
Jennifer Foresythe,
our angelic masseuse
On Tuesday I turned forty. The Big Four-O. The end of my youth. Middle-aged. The beginning of the long, slow decline. Over the hill and picking up speed.

One of the things that Lisa and I did on my birthday was to go to Bellanina, a local day spa, to make use of some massage gift certificates that we had. We got the certificates at the Chamber of Commerce member reception put on by Dynamic Edge a couple of months ago.

It's a pretty nice way to spend my birthday afternoon.

After filling out some paperwork, our host led us upstairs to a massage suite. On several placards in the hall were indications that it would be frowned upon to be using your cell phone. This was a quiet area, designated for peaceful contemplation and stress-free relaxation.

The original plan had been that we would get our massages simultaneously, but due to a scheduling glitch, we had to go one at a time. I think the measure of good customer service is often not only how well a business treats its customers, but also how well it recovers when an unexpected problem crops up.

Bellanina did a great job in this respect. After apologizing profusely, they offered to bring up a complimentary tray of snacks for us. A few minutes later, I was ensconced in the sitting room while Lisa was getting her massage. I had a delightful array of cheese, crackers, and fruit before me and a nice cool glass of sparkling cranberry juice in one hand. Our masseuse, Jennifer Foresythe, made sure that I was comfortable before she went to give Lisa her massage.

I tell you, just the atmosphere was enough to sooth any residual stress I might have been experiencing over it being my birthday. I actually dozed off for a while.

When it came my turn, Jennifer did just an amazing job. One of the hallmarks for me of a great masseuse is the ability to apply enough force so that you can really feel it down deep in the muscle without tipping over the threshold into actual pain. Jennifer was spot-on in this area.

After getting my massage, while waiting to check out, I had the curious sensation of being simultaneously so relaxed that I could take a nap and so energized that I felt like I could take on the world. Great job, Jennifer!

Reflecting on my birthday, I guess we have some sort of psychological need to recognize these mileposts in our lives, but there's so much baggage associated with turning forty that I could easily have sunk into a depressive funk from which I might not have recovered until I hit forty-one.

Instead, I had a pretty darned good day.

I don't feel forty (or at least the way you are supposed to feel when you are forty). I still feel like I'm in my early thirties -- maybe younger. I'll consider feeling old next year. For now I'm having too much fun.

So, how old do you feel?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Writing News and Taking a Break

Just a couple of quick announcements:

1. I just got an email in my inbox today, letting me know that I had been upgraded to "Platinum" status on The way this works is that you have to submit ten articles as a "Basic" member and have them approved. At that point you can request to become a Platinum member. The benefits are that you can submit an unlimited number of articles and you will supposedly get priority approval on any new articles. As a Basic member you are limited to only ten articles and the response time on approval for me, at least was between six and eight days.

I'll let you know if the approval time is any faster for me now.

2. I'm on vacation this weekend. Lisa and I are up in Toronto to see Cirque du Soleil -- something we do every other year or so. As such, my posts might be a bit sporadic until I get back.

Until then, have a great weekend. I know I will!

So, where did you go on your last vacation?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Helium Follow-Up

Helium logoOK, after my initial foray into the world of Helium -- an online repository for writers and publishers of articles -- I must say that I am intrigued. I'm still not entirely happy with the site, given its somewhat limited editing capabilities. Perhaps that will be addressed in the future.

What I do like is the community rating system.

When I submitted my article the other night, it was to a topic which had nine other articles already under it's rubric. At the time, I was rated 6 out of 10. Apparently it gave me the benefit of the doubt that I was in the middle of the pack as far as writing quality. The site then presents pairs of articles to those who volunteer to rate them. Each person is asked to read both articles and indicate which they think is better. Obviously, the one which is deemed to be superior rises in rank, while the lesser article drops lower.

The system presents articles from random titles, so an author can't go in and easily game the system to push their own article higher.

When I checked back today, my article had risen to 2 of 10 (not bad!). Out of curiosity, I checked out some of the articles to see to what kind of quality I was being compared. The article at #1, was quite well written. It was short and succinct and its author used a list structure which made everything quite clear and readable. I certainly didn't mind coming in second to that.

Then I looked at the lower end of the range. For every good quality that #1 possessed, #10 seemed to decide to do the opposite. It was long, unfocused and rambling. The author chose to use poor grammar and "creative" spelling. Where the first was authoritative, the last was amateurish. In checking with the other pieces, each seemed to be positioned about where I would expect them if I were to try to arrange them myself.

I guess the upshot for me is that Helium is not only yet another article submission site, but it also acts as a fairly impartial judge of ones writing style in the marketplace of ideas.

So, have you checked out any article submission sites?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In Search of You

This was a banner month in my participation in the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce as an Ambassador. Last week I delivered a welcome bag to Dan Kotwicki of Dakotech, Inc. Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to deliver a second bag. This time it was to someone who can really help you be found -- Andrew Miller of Your Search Advisor, LLC.

Andrew and I met at the local Panera Bread for our chat. We spent part of the hour talking about the numerous benefits of Chamber membership, but then spent most of the rest of it talking about his business and what he does for his customers. What does he do? I can tell you're dying to know.

He helps you be found.

Andrew works on websites, but he doesn't work on the beautiful pictures and great layout like a web designer, nor does he focus on the back end programming and database support, like I do. What he does is work with you to craft your whole Web presence, from the content of your site, to your profile and positioning on the numerous social networking services around the Net. He does this all to make it easier for other people to find you.

I've dabbled a bit in the search engine optimization (SEO) area myself, but compared to what he can do for you, I would be ranked somewhere between "pathetic newbie" and "rank amateur." If you want to know more about how to make yourself more visible on the Web, you should definitely get in touch with Andrew.

When I asked him about the most difficult part of what he does his answer was pretty much what I expected. The main challenge is simply managing client expectations. In the world of SEO and SEM (search engine marketing), nothing happens quickly. It can take months for any adjustments you make to be reflected in your position in the search engine results. Especially in the "I want it now" world of the Internet, the capacity for patience can be a bit hard to cultivate.

So, the next time you are at a Chamber event, keep your eye out for Andrew. If you want to know why you can't break into the first page of search results, he probably has an idea or two.

So, when you "google" your name, on what page do you appear? How did that happen?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Helium - Another Writing Venue logoI've mentioned here that I've started submitting some of my articles to I figure that it's a great opportunity to get my name out on the Web, share some of my knowledge and experience, and potentially boost my position in the Google search results for "Greg Peters" (right now I only have one entry on the first page -- my profile).

I've sent in ten of my articles so far. As of this writing, seven have made it through the editorial process and have been approved for public consumption. The thing is, with, when you sign up as an author, you are only given the "Basic" package, which means that you can only submit ten articles. Then you have to wait to see if those articles are good enough for them to declare you a "Platinum" member with unlimited submissions.

So, while I wait for that process to drag on, I figured I would check out some of the competition in the online publishing world. Today I played around a bit with Helium.

Helium is a site which accepts article submissions and publishes them immediately (kind of). A secondary aspect of the site is to present articles with the same topic side-by-side in order that the better of the articles will be rated higher. As more people select a particular article, it rises in the rankings. The ultimate goal, of course, is to have the highest rated article in a given topic.

In general, I like the concept. I just have one or two issues with the implementation.

First, the article can only be straight text. I often like to use italics or bold to show emphasis or define logical structure in my writing. Helium doesn't allow either of these, let alone sub- or superscripts, strike-through, color, or hyperlinking.

The second issue, and this is a big one for me, is that you are somewhat constrained to write to existing topics (or "titles" as they put it). The general idea is that you search for a title about which you would like to write and add your article under that title. While I haven't actually tried it, I get the impression that Helium looks dimly on the idea of creating new titles. As much as possible, they want to have multiple articles under each topic so that their rating service can sort them out.

I've submitted one of my networking articles, just to see what would happen. I'll check back in a few days to see if it has changed position. Right now I'm 6 of 10 in my topic of choice.

Wish me luck!

So, what article submission services have you used?

The Voice on the Radio

As I mentioned last week, I showed up on the local radio station -- WAAM 1600 -- for the Chamber of Commerce Business Buzz. I still haven't gotten the official audio from WAAM, but, thanks to my lovely wife, Lisa, and her trusty clock radio, here is a recording of the radio show that I was on last Monday.

Personally I can't stand listening to myself. My voice just sounds funny to me outside my head -- if that makes any sense. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the show.

For those who care, I don't show up until about 2 and a half minutes into the recording.

Original audio file (13.5 M)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Writing for Fun

writingI've written a few posts here about writing. Blog posts, ezines, articles for newsletters and for -- all venues which I've sought out to practice this craft.

Today I was finishing up my ninth article for EzineArticles (one more and I'll have to wait until they upgrade my account). As I was writing I suddenly realized something -- something that as an indifferent student of the non-sciences horrified me to the core.

I love to write.

I know, I know. It was hard for me to come to grips with the whole thing myself, but there it is. I guess my only choices are to enter some sort of twelve step program or to keep on doing it.

OK, there doesn't seem to be a chapter of writers anonymous in this area so I guess I'll just keep on writing. After all, as my hero, Scott Ginsberg always says, "Writing is the basis of all wealth."

So, how did you get bitten by the writing bug?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Finishing the Job

Job well doneI always love that day when the project is complete. You get to look back on everything you've accomplished and feel a certain amount of pride in a job well done.

I had one of those days today.

You might remember me mentioning that I got a consulting job with AJ Boggs & Company, a local eBusiness solutions provider. I met the president, Jim Anderson, when we were classmates together in the Leadership Ann Arbor course.

Working with Jim and his people was a good experience. We took an old program that his clients had been using for years and made some adjustments to make it more robust and a more seamless experience for the user.

After months of work, we installed everything last night. We worked late so as not to disrupt the client's normal schedule. I finished the upgrades at 3am this morning. Matt Sebenick, the system administrator, put everything into production this morning and for a whole day we heard exactly what we had hoped...


When you install new systems, no matter how much testing you do, you always worry that there was that one catastrophic bug that you missed. So far -- knock on wood -- so good.

So, for tonight at least, I get to sit back and rest for a while. Maybe I'll even pop some popcorn and throw on a DVD. I think I received "The Guns of Navarone" the other day from NetFlix.

So, what projects have you completed lately? How does it feel to have them done?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Quick Announcement: Leadership by Bo

Many of you remember when I talked about Seth Godin coming to town a few months back. Well, now some of the same folks are having another "book club" gathering. This one is about leadership as taught by Bo Schembechler -- the storied coach of Michigan football fame.

Since Bo passed away this past year, he obviously won't be speaking. Instead, John U. Bacon, the co-author of Bo's book, "Bo's Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership" will be presenting the information.

The Ann Arbor event will be held on Tuesday August 28, at Zingerman's Roadhouse at 2501 Jackson Ave. from 7:30 – 9:15 AM. For more information or to register, go to the Connect Ann Arbor website.

This sounds like an interesting presentation if you are going to be in or near Ann Arbor. Ordinarily I would probably attend, but the presentation happens to coincide with my fortieth birthday and I've already made other plans.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

High Tech Success

Daniel Kotwicki
Daniel Kotwicki, President
Dakotech, Inc
I was out yesterday in my capacity as an Ambassador for the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce. My goal? Deliver a welcome bag to one of our newest members, Daniel Kotwicki, President of Dakotech, Inc.

As I usually do when I'm going someplace where I'm not completely confident of the locale, I plugged his address into my GPS-enabled cell phone and off I rolled.

And stopped about 3 minutes later.

It turns out that Dakotech is based in Daniel's condo, about a quarter mile from my own home. In fact, Lisa and I have walked past it almost every evening this summer, never realizing that behind his door is the one-stop shop for all of your computer and network support needs.

While Dakotech's headquarters benefit from the comfortable, homey feel of a residence, it's operations are every bit as professional as other IT support firms. Daniel has come up with an ingenious way of keeping things as efficient as possible, saving himself and his customers time and money. Instead of having a main office where his technicians show up each day to get their assignments, he does the whole thing remotely.

His techs, scattered throughout the metro-Detroit area, receive their marching orders before they even leave home in the morning. This allows Dakotech to cover much more area than would otherwise be possible. He can also change those orders at any time. A client may suddenly need them right then and there. Daniel can re-route his techs on the fly so that the least amount of time goes by before they show up like superheroes, ready to solve the clients technical problems.

He says that his next goal would be to have all the techs tagged by GPS so he could actually keep track of their current locations on a map on his computer -- easier and more efficient.

Daniel seemed pretty excited by all of the opportunities to which he has access now that he's a Chamber member. If you see him at any of the networking events, be sure to stop and ask him about how he can help you with your recalcitrant IT infrastructure.

So, have you ever had recalcitrant IT infrastructure?

Monday, August 13, 2007

We're On The Air!

Lucy Ann Lance
Lucy Ann Lance
Today was my big break into the world of radio. I don't have the audio ready just yet. Hopefully that will be coming in the next couple of days. I know some of you must be a little curious about what it's like to be on a radio show, so here's my experience. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what to expect should you find yourself in a similar position.

So, what happened?

Well, the show was set to start at 7:35am, so I, being of the "better 30 minutes early than 5 minutes late" set, arrived at the WAAM 1600 station at 7am. I actually hadn't intended on being quite that early, but I didn't realize exactly how close it was and I forgot that there wouldn't be much traffic at that time of day.

I walked into a tiny lobby -- dark paneled, with just enough room for a couple of chairs and a display table. Much of one wall was taken up by a window looking in on the producer's station. Drew Priebe, the producer, saw me as I came in and waved, but obviously had to keep his mind on the show. I settled into one of the chairs to await my "co-stars", Cheryl O'Brien, the Membership Director of the Chamber of Commerce, and Jesse Bernstein, the President of same. I was also working hard to get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation.

Cheryl arrived about ten minutes later. We sat and chatted about Chamber business until Jesse showed up around 7:30. He's apparently done this so many times that he was feeling pretty relaxed about the whole thing. For Cheryl and I it was the first (though she had actually met Lucy Ann before).

Suddenly, the door to the studio opened and Drew was there to beckon us in to the broadcast booth, where our host, Lucy Ann Lance, was waiting for us. My doom was approaching, as I was certain that as soon as I opened my mouth on the air, something idiotic was bound to come out.

OK, first of all, at least on first impressions (and from what I've heard, those impressions are completely accurate), Lucy Ann is one of the sweetest, kindest, most generous souls you ever will meet. She was a complete delight getting us seated and making us feel right at home with a little small talk. She asked me a few questions about myself -- this was all off the air -- and joked around with Jesse whom she obviously knew quite well.

For the next twenty minutes or so, broken up by traffic reports, weather, and the occasional commercial, we had what felt like a private chat with Lucy Ann. She would be a great addition to any social gathering because she has the wonderful ability to draw a person out and make them feel like they are just the smartest, most interesting, and most important person around. I was further amazed by her ability to do all of this while signaling to her producer to do a variety of things that I'm assuming involved the technical aspects of running the show.

Twenty minutes literally flew by. I couldn't believe it when it was suddenly time to go. Lucy Ann thanked us and said goodbye as we filed out the door. Out in the sunshine of a beautiful summer morning, it all felt like something out of a dream. Honestly, I'm not even sure what I said, for the most part. Lisa assured me that I didn't sound like an idiot, so what more could I ask?

So, let me say, if you ever have the opportunity to be on the radio and especially if your host is Lucy Ann Lance, be sure to show up and be assured that you have nothing to fear. In fact, you'll probably have a great time.

So, have you ever had a chance to be on the radio?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Quick Reminder

Just a quick reminder that I will be on the radio Monday morning at 7:35am on WAAM 1600 in Ann Arbor. If you aren't here or are already on the computer at that time, you can listen to their live audio feed from their website.

I've also been told that I will get a copy of the interview which I will post here.

Networking: Unexpected Benefits

Big family groupIf you've been reading these posts for any length of time, you'll know that I do a lot of networking in the pursuit of my business. I attend a lot of Chamber of Commerce events. I meet with interesting and interested people regularly. I've taken classes on how to network. Even my blog and my ezine are designed partially to maintain my connections with my growing list of contacts.

Today I discovered a surprising benefit of all of this networking: Meeting my own family.

I attended a family reunion out in New Baltimore, Michigan at my Aunt Anne's house. In attendance were a number of cousins whom I'd known for many years. There were a number of others, though -- great-aunts and uncles, second cousins, etc -- whom I had never met or whom I hadn't seen more than twice over the last couple of decades. Of course, my lovely wife, Lisa, was even less likely to know who they were. She's pretty good with the immediate circle of relatives, but these folks were all new to her.

At first I waited for others to introduce us. Unfortunately, they seemed unaware of our predicament. So I decided to take the situation into my own hands. I treated it like any other networking mixer. I said hello, shook hands, smiled, and asked questions. Before long we were all seated out on the deck chatting and comparing stories as if we'd known each other forever.

What could have been a long and uncomfortable day ended up being a lot of fun. Lisa and I drove away feeling much closer to the family than we'd ever been -- all thanks to networking techniques which worked as well for family as they do for my fellow Chamber members.

So, what business skills have helped you out in your non-business life?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Writing a Name for Yourself

ink penI finally got around to submitting some articles on

For those who are unfamiliar with the service, it provides a repository where authors can upload articles which can then be used by anyone to provide content to ezines, print publications, and even websites. While the authors don't get paid for their work, they do get to claim two benefits from the association. First, by being published by others, they become known as experts. Second, part of the publishing agreement includes printing the author bio, which, in addition to the basic author description, can also include links back to the author's website.

The process is pretty straightforward. First, of course, I had to register for an account. This is the same process I've had to go through on dozens of other sites. There is no charge to join as an author, so this didn't slow me down much at all.

Once I had registered, I went to submit my first article. I've written numerous articles in the past, both for my ezine and for other publications. They needed to be retooled for a general audience, but that wasn't too difficult. I filled out the appropriate fields, and with a click it was off to the EzineArticles editorial staff.

Should you decide to investigate the possibilities, here are some things to consider that will make your adventure a little easier than mine:

  1. Read the editorial FAQ. This will speed up the submission process tremendously, It's well-written and clear, so you have no excuse not to obey their rules.
  2. Before you start submitting, first fill out your profile, including uploading a photo, if you so desire.
  3. Write up your author bio. If you already have one ready before you start your first article, the submission process goes a lot faster.
  4. Check out the list of categories and subcategories so that you have a good idea where your article belongs. Be sure to read their requirements regarding where things should be categorized. You may disagree with them, but irritating the editorial staff (who will be the ones giving the final yea or nay) probably isn't your best course of action.
  5. Read over the article three or more times and do the preview with the spell-checker on. If you have to, read it out loud to make sure the words are saying what you think they are. No one will want to read your masterpiece if it is full of typos and grammatical mistakes.
  6. Find a good keyword generator. One of the fields you must fill out for submission is a list of keywords to help people find your articles.
As of this writing, I've now submitted six articles, mostly about networking. So far two of them have been approved (it takes about a week or so for each article). Right now I'm a "Basic" member. After you've had ten articles approved, they consider you for Platinum status. From what I understand, that means that your articles pass muster and they give you a higher priority when it comes to approving your pieces.

I just checked and the two articles which have been approved have been viewed 4 or 5 times each. I'll let you know if anyone actually decides to publish my work.

So, do you have articles on or one of its competitors?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Distraction of Your Choice

Email envelopeI might have mentioned that I've been reading "The 4-Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferriss lately. In it, the author recommends clearing out those parts of you life which don't actually contribute to your goals. This mirrors the advice from my Karate teacher, Professor Hafner. He says that sometimes, to achieve what you love, you must give up that which you like.

In Ferriss's case, some of the things he recommends cutting out aren't even the things we like all that much. Sometimes they are just the things we allow to consume our time -- things which make us feel like we are being productive when in reality we are only keeping busy. Reading blogs, reading the newspaper, watching the news, and, yes, even reading and responding to email fall into this category. Ferriss himself checks his email once a week, each Monday at 10am.

Now, he admits that you have to do some adjusting in your life and that it takes a while to get to that level. What he does recommend to start, is to limit yourself to checking only twice a day, at noon (or right before lunch) and at 4 (or right before you leave for the day). Answering it more often or (shudder) whenever it comes in tends to cost us too much time. It takes a certain amount of time to get into a project and each time we break to check our mailbox, we have to pay that price again in order to get back into the process.

So, I decided to take the challenge. I've been trying it now for about three days. No checking email in the morning when I get up. No checking it before I go to bed at night. I'm trying to do the same with the blogs that I read.

OK, this is tough.

Email has a siren song which beckons to me. What is an important message just came in? What about the answer to the question for which I've been waiting? You can think up a plethora of completely reasonable-sounding rationalizations for why you need to check. Today I didn't do so well.

Do you suppose there's some sort of twelve step program for email users?

So, how often do you check your email?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tegner Track Down

Bruce Tegner
Bruce Tegner
From the "Technology Brings Us Closer Together" file:

I mentioned in the July 17 issue of my ezine that I was working on a documentary of Bruce Tegner, one of the first people to de-mystify the martial arts and bring them to the attention of the rest of the world. I talked about some of the tools that I would be using, especially those with online sharing capability so my partner, Peter, and I could collaborate without being co-located.

I was looking for more information about Tegner using Google search. Through it, I found a series of forums where two or three of his former students posted about their memories of him. I dropped a line to each of them asking if they would be interested in contributing a phone interview and maybe a scanned picture or two to the effort.

Today I got my first response.

Chuck Arnold trained with Tegner when he was in college. When he sent a response to my request, he included a full page and a half of reflections on his experiences and his impressions of Bruce as a person and a teacher. He also told me that he would be happy to provide me with some pictures (if he could find them) and a phone interview.

Now, I've been around the Internet since the days of the dinosaurs. I'm continually amazed by how easy it is to come in contact with interesting folks whom I would never have a chance to meet otherwise. Whether it's exchanging emails with my buddy Scott Ginsberg (the Approachability Guy), dropping a line to Jesse Bernstein (our Chamber President), or contacting a brand-new friend like Chuck, the Internet, contrary to the doom-sayers of the world, has actually made the world a smaller place and brought us all a little closer.

So, who have you met through the Internet that you might never otherwise have known?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Run, Angela, Run!

Angela De Smet
Angela De Smet,
Running Fiend
I got a message tonight from Angela De Smet, one of my dear friends from Leadership Ann Arbor. Angela works for Vintage Financial Services as a Senior Financial Planner here in town.

The point of her message was to tell her family and friends about running in a charity fundraising run called the Big House Big Heart 5K Run (so-called because it ends up on the 50-yard line of the Michigan Stadium - the "Big House"). She's representing a great charity, 826 Michigan, an organization which tutors school-age children in creative and expository writing. If, as my friend Scott Ginsberg is wont to say, "writing is the source of all wealth", then you can see how valuable this group is.

The challenging aspect of this activity for those of us who know Angela is that, well, she doesn't much "appreciate" the act of running. OK, she pretty much hates the idea. Still, from challenges great things do arise and her love for the 826 Michigan organization is her inspiration.

She's decided to blog about her odyssey to becoming a running fiend. She's just started, so be sure to cheer her on in the comments area. As someone who just returned to running this year, I can appreciate some of the challenges which she is facing.

And, should you decide that 826 Michigan is a worthy organization, be sure to click through to give whatever you can.

So, what challenges have you overcome recently for a good cause?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Setting Your Limits

clockMaybe you've got this time management thing all figured out. If so, then I congratulate you. Personally, I always feel like I get to the end of the day and there are all of these things which didn't get done -- some of which had the potential to generate revenue! Where did all that time go?

I picked up a book from the library a few weeks ago called "The 4-Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferriss. He espouses a lot of ideas, tips and techniques in the book, some I'm more comfortable with than others. One that caught my attention, though, was the idea of setting "unrealistic" deadlines for yourself.

The idea of this goes back to the concept that a project grows in scope and complexity in proportion to the time you allot for it. If you have 24 hours to complete a 10-page research paper, you can probably get it done without too much difficulty. If the time span becomes a week, the project becomes more involved and might require several days of research. Allow yourself two months and the your mental image becomes something akin to Mothra attacking Tokyo.

As a self-employed businessperson, I often have work I would like to do on my business. I have no specified deadline for them, so you can imagine the internal resistance I have to working on them. I decided to try to apply this concept to see if it would work for me.

One of the things I've been meaning to do is start posting articles on I figured that I could just repurpose some of the many articles I've written for other things over the years. I knew it would take me a while to do this, though, as I'm not a particularly fast writer. So, with my first article, I decided to allot myself 3 hours to do the rewrite. Then I decided to become "unrealistic." I made it 20 minutes instead.

They say a deadline has a wonderful way of focusing the attention.

I missed that first deadline. It took me 22 minutes.

So, I'm figuring that this might help my business a little. I'm starting to apply it not only to my own projects, but also to those for my clients as well. I'll let you know how it goes. Give it a try yourself. I think you'll be surprised.

So, what time management tricks and techniques do you use?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What You Do -- Once More, With Feeling!

This is an article that I will be submitting to Let me know what you think!

Who are you?One of the most challenging questions we all receive in any networking opportunity is the seemingly obvious, “So, what do you do?” Well, of course, you know what you do, but communicating it to others in a way that doesn't make them stare at you blankly can be a bit more of a challenge. The trick, of course, is to elicit some sort of emotion from your listener. The other trick is that you must continue to work on your presentation. You may even need more than one!

By the way, you'll recognize those who have chosen not to work on this. At a networking event they're the ones who say things like “I'm a real estate agent” or even the (slightly) better “I find people homes”. Bo-o-oring!

The first step in the process is to ask yourself why people would buy from you or engage your services at all. I'll give you a hint: It's not the widget you sell – it's what your customer gets from the widget you sell. Take for example our long-suffering real estate agent. As I said, “I find people homes” is a start, but I think we can get a bit more emotional than that. What images does the word “home” evoke? Magical family gatherings around the holidays? A safe, warm place to hide when the storm is raging outside? How about a source of light and laughter that your children will carry with them no matter where they go?

Any one of these would get my interest more than "I'm a real estate agent”.

To make this truly effective, you've got to use it and let it evolve. Personally, as a Web programmer, I know for a fact that even a whisper of the technical jargon with which I deal on a daily basis is enough to make my audience's eyes glaze over. So, I made it my goal to be understandable when dealing with technical topics. My path started with “When you're dealing with the Web, I'm the geek who speaks”. Not particularly “emotional”, but it was at least fun. With a little work, I came up with “Clearing up the Confusion on the Web” -- not bad, but not what I would call a real “grabber”.

Hearing Scott Ginsberg speak one time really brought things into focus. After hearing him talking about personal branding, I decided to push the envelope a little. From that point on, when someone asked me what I do, I told them that I am the international superhero known as “The Webmaster”! And what does such a champion do?

I rescue people from their own websites.”

Since I've adopted that phrase, it never fails to get a laugh. The best thing, though, is it also gets folks to ask for more. And, really, in a networking situation, what more could you ask than to be memorable and to arouse people's curiosity?

So, put in a little effort. Be brave. Pull out the emotion -- whether laughter, worry, or curiosity. The worst that can happen is have that other person look at you and say “Huh?” But at least they're talking with you!

So, what do you do?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ann Arbor Radio

Radio microphoneOK, so here's a surprising result of my networking. My good friend Cheryl O'Brien, the Membership Director for the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce, called me up the other day to let me know that she was going to be visiting the local Monday morning radio show to talk about the Chamber's new membership structure. She was allowed to bring one guest and she said that I was the first one to come into her mind.

It's probably because of my radio announcer's voice. ;-)

Anyway, I will be on WAAM 1600 during the Chamber Business Buzz segment of the Lucy Ann Lance in the Morning Show on August 13 at 7:35am. For those who aren't local, they broadcast live on the Web, too.

Wish me luck!

So, what was the most surprising benefit you've received from your networking efforts?