Friday, March 30, 2012

Tales My Mother Told Me. Tale 7 "Here Comes The Fair -Weather Friend"

"You  don't go praying at the temple without
something on your mind"

Welcome to tales my mother told me...

Tale Seven: "Here Comes The Fair-Weather Friend!"- Vinh Van Lam

You may be wondering why I’ve used the Chinese idiom which translates as "You don't go praying at the temple without something on your mind" when talking about this week’s tale "Here Comes the Fair-Weather Friend". Let me explain...

This tale took place in our factory office. I was there with Mum doing my homework then my Mum's assistant came in and told her that Mr Dong is here to see her and Dad.

"Oh! Uncle Dong, what a surprise! When was the last time he came to see us Mum? I asked.

“It must be quite a while ago.” Mum replied.

“I wonder what he wants from us this time?" I asked inquisitively.

Mum looked at me and smiled.

Then I said out loud "無事不登三寶殿"  Which translates best as; "You don't go praying at the temple without something on your mind"

Shoo! Be quiet little one... Uncle Dong may hear you, naughty boy!” Mum scolded me with a grin.

So about one hour later Mum returned to the office and I asked her "Did you give Uncle Dong what he asked for Mum?

"Not this time my little one" she replied.

Even though I loved using Chinese idioms to express what I was thinking, most of the time I did not really understand the deeper meaning of it all, or understand the context. Perhaps I was too young to comprehend fully.

I am sure you all can relate to this... For example, how often to we use phrases like "Fair Dinkum"? Or "Bob's your Uncle"? We know when to say those phrases in a particular situation, but do we fully understand why this slang is used, or where it came from?

I certainly didn’t understand the phrase, so I asked Mum to explain the meaning behind this Chinese idiom.

Here is what Mum told me...

"My little one, this idiom is often used in everyday conversation. It translates as  "You don't go praying at the temple without something on your mind". As humans we all do things for a reason, and mostly for our own personal gain.”

“The idiom suggests that a temple is not a place where people go to just hangout. People only attend the temple when the festivals are on, when they want something from God, or when they want to find some peace of mind like praying for their family, for luck, for health, or for good fortune and wealth...”

“So if people have no reason to go, if they don’t want something, then the last place they would go would be to the temple?" I asked to clarify.

“Exactly, my little one” Mum replied.

So, in Uncle Dong's case we hardly see him. He only turns up on our door when he wants something from us. This was especially true in good times, when our family business was thriving. But I remembered too that when we needed his help he was nowhere to be found.

While writing this tale I couldn’t find an English equivalent to this Chinese idiom. So I asked my partner Stuart, who suggested “Fair-weather friend”.

He also decided to post a message on Twitter and to see what others thought...

Within a few minutes we had received words like leech, user, wishy-washy, back-stabber and a couple more suggestions for fair-weather friend. But there was no real  equivalent for it.

After some discussion and contemplation we decided that "The Fair-Weather Friend" was the best match to the Chinese idiom.

A "Fair-Weather Friend" is a friend who is only around when they need you and when it's convenient to them, when there’s fair weather in other words... The minute they see the first sign of trouble (or bad weather) they will drop their friendship with you and move away.

So that’s how I came to sub title this tale "Here Comes The Fair-Weather Friend".

Now let's take a look at this tale and see how we can apply it to the business world. 

This tale is about relationships and connecting with people.

If you are running a business it is best for you to connect with the people around you regularly. The more closely you build a good relationship with others the easier it is for you to ask for help when you need it.

Take a look at Mr. Dong... Mum and Dad had helped him lots in the past and once he got what he wanted, he disappeared until he needed help again. Then he would turn up on our doorstep looking for more.

In business, as in life, there’s a balance of giving and taking. You can’t be successful if you’re all of one, or if you’re all of the other... You need to help others, and you need to be able to ask for help from others too. There’s a balance.

Have you ever tried to ask a favour from someone you haven't seen for a long time, or from a business acquaintance that you hardly associate with? The chances of gaining that favour from them would be minimal. But if you have a good relationship, and you maintain that relationship, a helping hand from them would be much more forthcoming.

Here is another example...

At our family business we get plenty of sales reps coming to see us.

Some are great at connecting with their clients. They visit regularly and get regular orders too.

There are however, plenty of Fair-Weather sales reps who only turn up when their business is slow, and when they need sales to meet their target. They are also the type of people who come in, start to complain about their business being slow, and hassle you for orders.

So here are some tips to help you steer clear of becoming a fear-weather business owner:
1.      Have a 90 day marketing plan:
·         Plan out your communications with your stakeholders: e.g. customers, suppliers, employees, etc.
·         Determine how regularly you want to communicate with your stakeholders: e.g., weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
·         Select the best communication channels: e.g. Email, newsletters, visitation, phone. Social network, trade shows, etc.
·         Select the products or services you would like to feature or promote. This gives you a real reason to connect with your customers.

Ask yourself with these questions:
·         When was the last time you connected with your audience?
·         How did you feel? What went well for you?
·         What were the challenges?
·         What would you do different next time?

Tune in for next week tale eight...  "Confidence & Competence"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The value of a Hobby! -by Marie-nicole

Freshly picked produce

As creative types we often turn our hobby into an income-earning venture. But does this mean we no longer need a hobby? 

When I started my photography business it was because I had a passion (and still do) for capturing the beauty of living, but the reality of running that business meant that in order to sustain my micro business I had to work ridiculous hours. When I turned thirty I went through a quarter life crisis as I was working myself into the ground trying to make a living from doing what I loved while supporting a young family, but I somehow never found that right balance between working and living. So I started to feel the strain of how turning your hobby into an income-earning venture could drain the joy out of the activity. Towards the end, photographing became something I did to make money. At that stage in my life I was not wishing to celebrate the so called milestone age as I felt more like a failure than anything else.

At thirty-two I had an awakening. I decided to change the direction of my career, starting on the journey of ‘creating beautiful products for everyday living’ using skills I had learned through my studies, whilst still enjoying the art of photography. For the first time in a long time I decided I wanted to celebrate life, so we invited a bunch of friends around for dinner and a jam session. We did not tell them it was my birthday, this was simply a celebration of life; one should not need an excuse for a good party. The irony of this was that I had not played an instrument since I was in high school. We’ve always had instruments in our home and encourage our children to play or sing. My husband plays the piano and he would often play while we sang along, tapped on a djembé or shook maracas. So here I was asking everyone else to bring along their instruments and musical skills to jam with us. It was a fantastic night… they all worked out the timing lined up with my birthday so they brought presents too.

Very much the learner - and loving it!

Several years have passed since. A couple of years ago a friend picked up a guitar that needed restringing for me at a garage sale. I had mentioned to him I’d been wanting to learn to play for a number of years now, but had not put the time nor effort into doing so, being too caught up in ‘earning an income’ from other passions. So even though my new business venture stimulates and challenges me and has enable me to grow as an artisan, this year I decided that in order to maintain that balance I did not quite achieve in my previous business, I needed a hobby, one that is entirely separate to what I do to earn an income. It allows me to set aside thoughts relating to my business altogether. Even though I am very passionate about what I do, I think it is very important to be able to escape and simply loose yourself in something that nurtures your playful side, on a regular basis.

Last Christmas we bought our eldest son a guitar of his own, as he too had said he’d like to learn, we’ve restrung mine and have started learning together. We meet with a tutor once a week. Paying a tutor has meant that I have someone monitoring my progress and holding me accountable, which means that I feel a greater need everyday to pick up that guitar and practice rather than skip it because I have work to complete, deadlines to meet, financials to update etc… Learning to play the guitar has not only allowed me to switch off from work, it clears my mind, after playing I feel refreshed and ready to engage in work activities with a new sense of enthusiasm.

You may have other interests that you’ve put off engaging in because you are too busy working. But I’d like to encourage you to take the plunge, indulge in a hobby, do something that is not about earning money, and for sheer enjoyment. My husband is passionate about gardening and farming even though he earns his income through teaching. His hobby is maintaining a micro farm here at home, with a vegie patch, chickens & ducks, he studies and experiments with different farming principles in order to get the best out of our little plot while providing our family with fresh & nutritious produce to enjoy. The point is that it is different to his everyday income-earning venture and allows him to escape, leave work behind and simply indulge.

Don’t dismiss the value of a hobby!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is your Website Mobile Friendly?

Did you know that by 2020 (an article in the Oct. 8, 2011, edition of The Economist) there will be over 10 billion mobile connected devices? Bear in mind that the world population has just reached 7 billion in October last year. This means we will have more mobile devices than human beings on earth by the year 2020. By next year the most common way to access the Internet will be via a mobile device. This means more and more people are going to expect you to have a mobile version of your website.

Scary thought?

Perhaps, but it doesn't need to be... It could be exciting! There will be more business opportunities for you. All you need to know is how to participate in the mobile world.

So, is your website mobile device ready?

If you are serious about your business and would like to take it to the next level, now is the time for you  get your website ready for the mobile world. It's definitely a worthwhile investment.

Everywhere you go you see people playing with their mobile phones... On the train... on buses... in waiting rooms... heads down, walking down the street... Virtually everywhere. The mobile phone has become our best friend. And now it could become the tool we use to run our business lifestyles.

So if you are thinking of getting your website mobile ready, here are some tips to consider:
  • Do your research - Have a look at some other websites that are mobile devices friendly. How does the site look and feel? What about the functionality, key features, and number of pages too? Now view your own site on a mobile phone. Do you have difficulty reading the column headings and the text? Is your site is too large to fit into the screen of your mobile device? Is it difficult to navigate? Remember to, that people feel themselves to be "time poor" and are looking for quick, easy to read information and functionality that saves them time.

Find a qualified web developer - A good developer/designer can transform how your site is viewed on a mobile phone. These are some of the features you could consider in your mobile site:
  • 1.    Look and feel - First impressions count so you need to make sure your mobile website is as clear and as easy to view as your main website (standard PC Website) is. Ideally, the information in your mobile site needs to be presented stacked vertically unlike your standard PC website is horizontal columns (see above images). Your logo and headline appear centered in the top row. You can discuss the look and feel with your developer to make sure what it is that you want to show on the mobile site. This is a crucial stage.
  • 2.    Text and images - Think about how your text and images could be shown clearly to the user. Particularly if you have shopping cart! How can you make it easy? If you don't have clear features you audience will drop you and go to a competitors site that does offer a better mobile website experience.
  • 3.    Install a browser re-direct feature onto your website - Ask your developer to install a re-direct feature so that if your customer is using a mobile device it will automatically take them to your mobile device site.
  • 4.    Redesign key pages - Identify the key pages that you want to show on the mobile site. Highlight pages like "About us", "Services", and "E store" etc. You'll want your services and products displayed on a website to be viewed in the clearest manner possible no matter what viewing device the consumer uses. The best way to get started is to find a developer who can convert your current site so that it can be seen clearly on different mobile devices. Your mobile device site is a "mini version" of your stand PC website.
  • 5.    User experience - A good website not just looks pretty and colourful, it also needs to have great functionality and friendly navigation in place. You should have a call of action too so that you generate sales and leads for your business. Ask yourself this question... What is the main purpose of my website?
  • Investing for the future - It is worthwhile for you to invest in a mobile device website now? It may cost you now however you will see the great benefit for your business in the years to come.
  •  Follow best practice for your mobile device site - Check out Google. It have a list of the best mobile marketing best practices that you could learn and apply to your mobile website.

    So if you're asking me if it would it be worth it to spend money on a mobile device website, I'd say yes, it would. And it is worth it for your to invest now as there is already a huge audience using mobile devices right now, and that will only increase in the years to come.

Want to learn more about how to build a mobile website?

It’s as simple as 1... 2... 3...

2: Come along to the ArtSHINE workshops in Sydney:

3: Contact Vinh for a no cost, no obligation coaching session on 8060 9321, or 0410 636 138.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Does Your Website Have A Purpose?

Every website must have a real purpose. To put it another way... what do you want your website to do for you and your art and design business?

Remember to, that your website is a representation of both you and your art and design business.

The purpose of a website could be anything... anything at all... So, just as long as you know what that purpose actually is, you'll be able to test and measure to assess the success of your site as you go along.

From our experience working closely with our creative clients we've identified some common reasons that people decide to establish a website for their businesses:
  • To have online presence,
  • To build a strong brand online,
  • To generate leads,
  • To generate online sales,
  • To generate offline sales,
  • To connect with, and build relationships with both existing and new customers online,
  • To improve and enhance customer service,
  • To give out or share information,
  • To attract site visitors in order to generate advertising revenues.
You may say this list sounds quite obvious. But a lot of small business owners with a website have simply over looked the real purpose to having a website in the first place... 

Once you have decided what the job you want your website to do for you is, and it could be more than one thing, then it becomes a much simpler task of creating it... Like most things, knowing the goal or the outcome you seek, BEFORE you commence, will bring you much more focused results. Having a clear idea of your purpose will help you to make concise and constructive decisions for your creative business, right now, and into the future.

Before rushing into building a website here's a short list of ideas that could help you form a better foundation for your site:
  • Research. Research. Research. Dedicate some of your time to do research. 
  • Look at your competitors' websites and make some decisions about the paths that they've taken. Are you planning something unique and different, or something the same?
  • Surf widely and look at other sites that you like. And they don't have to be in the same industry, or field either... So be creative!
  • Look at the functionality of each website that you visit and define what you like and don't like about them. 
  • Look at those websites that have a similar purpose to yours. Focus on the features that they have, and the benefits that they offer. Decide what's relevant for you and your site, how you'll be the same, or how you'll be different.
  • Make yourself a "Wish List" by writing down all those ideal features or functions that you come across that and may like to have for your own website.
  • Don't try to have too many things going on with your website. Focus on your real purpose for your site,  not the flash animations, or clever tricks.
  • Think deeply about who will use the site and how they'll use it. Will it be easy. clear, and straight forward?
  • Be very clear about who your "ideal customer" actually is - how you define them, and how they define themselves.
  • Have a budget in mind. And consider the potential for generating income from the website too. Have you made some sales projections to help you understand the appropriate budget for your website, its marketing, and how it will pay for itself over time?
  • If you're not planing to build the site yourself, or start with a blog, then make sure to shop around for a web designer. Get at least three quotes. Gather all your research together and have your clearly defined goals with them. 
And what if you've already got a website? 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my website reflecting the purpose of my creative business?
  • Is my website working well for me ?
  • Which areas of my website are not working so well for me?
  • If there are three things that my website could do better, what would it be.

Remember keep your website purpose consistent with your own values, and with those of your design business too.

Tune in tomorrow we'll talk to you about your mobile website.

Is your Website mobile devices friendly?

Want to learn more about how  to build your website with your creative purpose?

It’s as simple as 1... 2... 3...

2: Come along to the ArtSHINE workshops in Sydney:

3: Contact Vinh for a no cost, no obligation coaching session on 8060 9321, or 0410 636 138.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Inspirational Quote of the Week

"The only time you ever run out of chances is when you stop taking them."

-Patty Labelle

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tales My Mother Told Me... Tale 6: "The Magic Pen"

Welcome to Tales My Mother Told Me...

Tale 6. " The Magic Pen!"

This tale is about me when I was in year three at primary school. As a child I loved writing and I recall that even when I was not ready to attend school, I loved to pretend I had homework to do  and hung around my sisters and brothers while they were doing their own school work. At the time I was fascinated by, and admired people who had beautiful hand writing. I remember wishing that, one day when I got older and was attending school, I could write beautifully just like them.

Even till today, I still treasure the “magic pen" story that my Mum told me.

The story starts when I came home one day from school frustrated and Mum asked me "What is the matter my little one, why are you not happy today?  Something happened in school?"

"How do you know mum?" I said with a sad voice.

"Of course I know. You normally come home happy like a sunshine and have so much to tell me about your day at school. Now tell me what happened at school today." said Mum.

So I started to tell Mum that I was very disappointed because I was not selected to enter the school hand writing competition while two of my friends had been selected. I started to complain that I was not good enough and that I will never get selected because my writing was ugly... blah blah blah!

"Calm down and don't cry my little one” she said. “Don't be too hard on yourself, there will be another competition in three months time. I know you can get yourself ready for that one."

"But how mum? My writing is so ugly and I don't know what to do... it will take me forever to learn..." I said.

Did I tell you about the magic pen that your grandma gave me when I was your age?” Mum asked.

Where it is mum? May I have it please? Is it why you have beautiful handing writing? I needed to know.

"Now let me see where I left the magic pen". Mum mumbled as she went through the drawer.

Once she found the box she gave it to me and asked me to open it.

Now the box was full of all kinds of pens, and Mum told me that one of them is the magic pen. One of them had the power to make me write beautifully. All I had to do was to find it.

"How do I know which one is the magic pen?” I asked. There are so many pens in the box Mum, which one is it?"

"Why don't you start writing with those pens and find the magic pen that way?" Mum suggested

But how will I know when I've found the magic pen Mum?

"You'll know my little one... Just be patient" Mum said as she smiled.

At the time I was so excited and couldn’t wait to find the magic pen. So of course I decided to try all the pens in the box.

I remembered during that time I kept swapping and changing pens to find the magic pen.

Every day after school I got into the box of pens and started to copy a chapter from my text book into an exercise book. I kept writing everyday as I was determined to find the magic pen. So the process went on for almost three months.

One day at school I was talking to my two friends. We were going to decide who had copied out the most chapters from the book. We showed each other our exercise books. We were going to compete with each other to see who had written the most chapters from the text book.  Then one of my friends spoke out loud. "You did not write that! You got someone else to write that for you!”

"No!  I wrote them all myself! I didn’t get anyone to help me write". I replied.

"Then why is your writing is so different? Who did you get to write it for you? It's beautiful writing, so it can’t be your hand writing" said my friend.

"I don't know why you said that, it’s my own writing thank you" I was getting upset.

So I reviewed the whole exercise book and started to realise my writing had changed dramatically .And yet I did not even realise it myself.

Then it struck me!

The first thing came to my mind was that I had finally found the magic pen! I couldn’t wait run home to tell Mum.

"Mum, Mum! I've found the magic pen" I was panting with excitement as I ran into the house.

Mum smiled and said "That's great my love, show me your magic pen."

"Here it is Mum, I am so happy I finally found it." I said jumping with joy.

"Now why do you think this is the magic pen?" she asked.

"Have a look at my exercise book Mum. Look at my hand writing from a couple of months ago and now look at these pages I wrote a couple weeks ago. It's magic. I tried over fifty pens to find this Magic Pen Mum." I said.

"My little one, I am so proud of you. Your writing has transformed. I know you have found your magic pen. Can you do this for me please? I would like you to select any pen from the box and I want you to write a paragraph from your text book.

I looked at Mum strangely and asked "Must I use one of them? I already found my pen."

"Please do it for Mum" she said.

So I picked up one of the pens and start to write. To my surprise my hand writing did not revert to the old style. I couldn’t believe it, so I picked up another pen and started to scribe again. The results were just as good as the magic pen.

Mum looked and me with a big smile and said this to me; “My little one, there is no magic pen. You are the one who created the magic. The reason your hand writing has improved so much is because of your focus, determination, dedication, and perseverance. I saw you working really hard all those hours after school. And the results speak for themselves. Your writing has now transformed. It's just beautiful. The idea of a magic pen was to inspire and motivate you, to give you a  real reason to challenge yourself, and for your destiny.”

"Practice makes perfect!" said Mum as she kissed me on the forehead.

So how do you apply this tale of "the Magic Pen" into your business?

As a business owner you'll face many challenges. Sometimes you will need to step out of your comfort zone and also to embrace changes in your life and business.

What if you choose not to and choose to keep performing below the line?

Would you business grow? Would you grow as a person?

As Business LifeStyle coaches we see some clients stuck in these two zones. we call them:

1.      "Effect" rather than the "Cause"

Being in Effect is rather easy, you don’t have to take action, just blame your circumstances on the other things around you. It’s never YOU. This also means you often feel like you are disempowered by your life's events, and not in control. 

However, if you choose to be in the "Cause" side, it really is a decision and an action. You take full responsibility for your destiny. It can give you more choices and opportunities as you will explore different options to improve or change your situation right now. In other words, it has the effect of actively empowering you to create your life in each moment.

"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. 
We ourselves must walk the path". -Buddha

Making excuses rather than choices happens regularly to us too. Like not following through with what we want to do, the fear of failure, or success. Or lacking clarity... like the 'Real Purpose" behind why you want to achieve your goals. 

As a coach working with clients every day, we firstly help them to define their goals. Then we help them to see the value of making good choices, and not making excuses. 
Real Purpose will stop you making excuses and getting caught in the procrastination trap. In fact, it will empower you to do more as everything you do will have a real sense of purpose in your life.

The more you achieve your goals, the more confident and competent you will become. As you start to recognise and enjoy these accomplishments it will also give you a wonderful sense of well being.

And one more thing...

My Mum was right! There is no “Magic Pen”...

nor “Magic Pill” either...

It will take work, sometimes it takes lots of hard work .

Don't ever wait for a miracle to happen.  You BE the miracle and make things happen for yourself.

Where there is a real purpose and specific action, your goals can, and will, be accomplished.


Pure Leverage

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