Friday, December 30, 2005

Making (almost) Every Stranger into a Friend

It is possible you know! It is definitely possible that every person that you come in contact with can immediately be your friend.

Okay.. Okay! I know what you’re thinking! That friends take a long time to make and to get to know, that a good friend is worth more than silver.. and all of that. I couldn’t agree more, BUT… I do know that making friends is EASY.. if you just know how.

I have come to the point in my life because of trial and error that I now can meet any person on the street, any place, any time and any where and know that I can connect with them on a meaningful level. I know that anyone can do this, but it takes practice and the willingness to fail. Well, it can happen 9 times out of 10 anyway!

Today for instance, I flubbed. I got into one of those meaningless and stupid conversations. We continued to talk about NOTHING for a few minutes and I think that both of us knew that the conversation was going no where. It was boring.. or rather.. I was boring, and the conversation was one of those “do you know…” games. I finally left and vowed to have a more meaningful conversation with that lady at another date.

But mostly, the formula is fairly easy.

Realize that you are in control no matter where you go. Most people will NOT approach you… so if you want to meet people, you are going to have to have some courage and take the first step.
Connect immediately eye ball to eyeball, and coupled with a smile. It’s an unbeatable combination.
Say to the person, “Hi! How are you?” … before they even have a chance to look away from you. This opens the door for them to also offer friendly conversation.
Act friendly! That sounds redundant or corny, but its’ so true. If you ACT friendly, people will respond friendly. Its that simple.
Throw out a comment such as “Beautiful day, huh?”, or “Happy New Year”, or “Don’t you just love this place?” Whatever you say, say it with a genuine smile on your face.
· For those of you who can’t do this without a feeling of terror, then I recommend that you practice in front of your mirror every single day until you feel comfortable that you look acceptable to yourself.
· The more you practice the easier it’ll be for you in every day situations.
· Start small and start conversing with people in line at the check out counter or at work or at school.. wherever you go on a daily basis.
Compliment the person if you can, or ask a specific question such as “are you from this beautiful city?”
Speak clearly and confidently. Don’t shy away from the conversation. Be genuinely excited and happy to talk with the person and laugh if you can at some point during the conversation. It helps people feel comfortable with you!

Perhaps you’re not interested in making every person you meet into a friend. But if you are, these steps are tried and true. And in the event you meet a FEW people who you’d like to befriend, the same steps apply.

Good luck and to get started immediately.. it’s as simple as standing in front of your own mirror!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Being Ready when a Media Frenzy Hits!

The spotlights! The Cameras! The Questions… all pointed at you!!! Are you ready?

This is what I dealt with recently when I was on the plane that had the shooting in Miami on the way to Orlando. I was the one who alerted the media within minutes of the shooting since I had been at the NBC Station in Miami that morning. When I realized that we were out of harms’ way, I called my husband and told him that there was a shooting and that I was ok. Next, I called the NBC station;

“This is Mary Gardner. (Pause) I was on your show this morning. (Pause) I am on American Flight 924 (Pause) And there’s been a shooting. (Pause)”

The answer over the phone went like this: “WE’RE GOING LIVE.” “Mary, are you willing to go live right now”?

“Yes… I’ll go live”

And that was how it happened. From that moment on, I was reporting after we got off plane and I was borrowing people’s cell phones. I called and gave constant updates when I was allowed to use the pay phones. My own cell phone was dead so I couldn’t use that and I had to call my husband to get our calling card number before I could use the pay phone. I remembered that when getting peoples' clear attention, one must not rush, but speak clearly and with pauses in between statements.

As a result of my reporting, I ended up on Nightline, MSNBC, The Today Show, FOX, Geraldo, The Early Show, Good Morning America, CNN and several other radio and TV shows.

I was living on 2 hours sleep for 2 days in a row, but I knew that this was my chance to be clear, concise and report exactly what I saw. I was calm and responded to every question that came my way and every interview that was requested.

Here is how I’d coach others to deal with the INSTANT SPOTLIGHT:

Realize that your day in the sun will come. Prepare mentally for it by not shying away from cameras. When you see any type of camera pointed at you in your life, look in the eye of the camera and be focused. Whether you are smiling or talking, be clear about your intentions. This will prepare you for the REAL DEAL. Besides, you’ll learn to give good film!
Practice in the mirror. When you are getting ready in the morning, talk to yourself about the day you’re anticipating. If you’re dealing with a stressful situation, talk to yourself of how you’d like the issue resolved. Talk out loud and speak to yourself clearly. This way, you’re dealing with stress in the moment, and the more you practice, the more you’ll be ready for the moment you’re supposed to shine!
Realize it is NOT about YOU. The media could care less about what YOU do or who you are, only that you’re a credible person. Even if you’re brought in as a witness, their main concern is that you’re credible and that you’re well spoken. They wouldn’t book you if you’re not credible, so of course, work hard becoming an expert at your profession so you’ll have the credibility.
If and when a media frenzy happens to you: BE AVAILABLE. Return every call, take every interview. You can sleep later. I actually had someone else handle all of my calls while I caught an hour of sleep at a FOX studio during the day. They booked my interviews while I slept.
Be accessible. All of the producers found my CELL PHONE number on the internet. I was an easy interview. For me, since I work virtually, it was the best solution. Once my cell phone was clogged, my friends at ABC Network tracked down my husband’s cell phone from friends in NYC. He handled my calls and I called my friend who works at ABC in NYC who got me to commit to ABC first before any other network. Since he was my friend, I was happy to do that.
Establish ties and friends in the media. If you’re someone whose career is going to be highlighted at some point now or in the future, it’s best to have friends on the inside. My friends include directors, editors, producers, GM’s, Executive producers, writers, on air talent, anchors, publicists and casting professionals. When I need to know something, or meet someone, I make a few calls and usually can find the right person or gather the right information!
Relax and enjoy the ride. If you understand that your day will come, and are ready for it, you will be comfortable. Being STILL and thinking clearly for each interview takes time to perfect. Not letting the adrenaline take over in a moment like that takes practice. Sitting still with the IFP in your ear and looking right in the camera can be intimidating, but if you’ve been practicing it for years in your mirror and at home, it can just be a walk in the park!

I’m confident that the media windfall for me was a situation of being at the right place at the right time. I’ve reviewed the tapes over and over and my main concern was not only that I represented the story correctly and fairly but that I was compassionate towards the family who lost their husband, brother, and important family member. I reviewed to see if I brought my faith into the ordeal and whether or not I relayed information that would help give people support. I reviewed the tapes to see if I praised American Airlines for the way they handled the situation since they were so responsive and helpful.

At this point, I’m collecting tapes and keeping them for my archives. It’s an expensive process but well worth the cost.

And, of course, if you think that this might happen to you, you might consider hiring a coach or consultant to get you ready! I’d be more than happy to help!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Passenger Acts as Reporter for Miami Incident

I just found this on the BBC - Broadcasting and Cable Blog:

If you watched cable news networks covering the bomb scare at Miami International Airport this afternoon, you got a lot of conflicting information. In the 24/7 news world, muddy details are okay, as long as they’re explained that way, and Fox, CNN and MSNBC certainly did that.
It was fascinating as reporters strung together nuggets of information about what happened. MSNBC seemed to be the luckiest. A passenger, Mary Gardner, called the NBC-owned WTVJ Miami and gave a remarkably professional report from a bus where the passengers were sent after the incident was over. (If she's not a reporter, then she should be.)
Gardner described how an “English-speaking, blonde-haired woman, probably late 30s, early 40s” earlier was in the front of the plane speaking frantically on a cellphone before joining her husband near the rear of the plane. Then shortly before takeoff, her husband began “running crazily” from the back of the plane toward the front as Miami passengers were boarding. Gardner said his wife was running after him, exclaiming, “My husband! My husband!”
Later, it was reported, his wife tried to tell air marshals that the fellow was bi-polar and off his medication. (He was a 44-year-old American, it was announced earlier. At about 5 p.m., officials identified him as Rigoberto Alpizar.) Gardner didn’t hear him shouting that he had a bomb, but apparently he did.
Gardner had the good fortune to be sitting next to a retired pilot, who pointed out the air marshals getting into position. After a pursuit, four or five shots were fired, she said.
MSNBC and WTVJ reported he was dead by at least 3:22.No one seemed to have good information, even a couple of hours later, on if this guy had a bomb or not. But by about 4:45 it was reported that Alpizar, though still not named at that point, did not have a bomb.
A lot of other things were confusing. American Airlines Flight 924 was coming from Medellin, Colombia, stopping over in Miami and continuing to Orlando. It wasn’t immediately known if the couple was coming from Colombia or joining the flight in Miami. MSNBC, CNN and Fox did admirable reporting assembling the facts; CNN reported “another network” was reporting the suspect was dead. Fox, from what I could tell, reported that he was reportedly dead.
The reason why he was shot was a little muddy. There were some reports that he stopped when the air marshals told him to but then grabbed for his carry-on bag. Other reports said he didn’t stop but grabbed for his bag. That’s when he was shot.
Gardner didn’t know for sure if he was shot on the plane, but she thought it might have happened in first class. Later, it was reported that he was shot in the airway, the contraption that connects the airliner to the terminal.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Day in the Life of a Trend Reporter on the Road – St. Louis

Southwest Airlines has open seating. It’s pretty much first come first serve, and if you get stuck in the B or C group, you’re going to have a middle seat. I was in the B section and when I walked on the plane, I saw a sea of middle seats opened and not much else. I knew that I had a long flight ahead, and that fact didn’t thrill me. All of a sudden, an attractive woman asked me if I was traveling alone and I said YES! She had JUST moved from the isle to the middle seat next to her husband and I knew the second that I sat down that I was in for some fun. This was probably the most fun couple I’ve met in ages. They were both attractive, lively and had great smiles and personalities. I loved them immediately.

As it turns out, my new friends Rhonda and David were coming back from a week long business trip. Rhonda owns an advertising firm and David is a pastor. He is a lawyer but chose to follow in his fathers’ footsteps and go in to the ministry. What impressed me most was their willingness and ability to talk about everything and anything. They weren’t stuffed shirts or too religious to talk about normal things. Rhonda and I shared our individual stories of how we met our husbands, and even how difficult they can be! I found a new dear friend in her and I’m going to stay in touch with her. I have no doubt that I was planted next to her for a little encouragement, inspiration and of course to have some fun! We were laughing so much that the older lady in front of us waved to us to quiet us a few times. Neither of us liked that, so we kept having fun. We weren’t inappropriate by any stretch of the imagination. We were just two women enjoying each other and having fun in the process.

My St. Louis stay was really low key but nice. I worked out at the hotel and then went to the restaurant for dinner that was on top of the hotel that spins around 1x every 90 minutes and views the city. I asked the maitre de if he and everyone were going to point at me and laugh because I didn’t have anyone to dine with and he promised that they wouldn’t do that. Instead, I got the VIP treatment!

Michael was my waiter and he treated me to 2 glasses of Cabernet and a beautiful chocolate 3 layer cheese cake. I sat there and wrote in my journal mostly and talked to my mom and to Sway on the phone. After I was done with dinner, Michael told me how he had been a 2x cancer survivor and a bit about his family. It was a really pleasant evening.

This morning I had several hours before I had to be at the station at 2:15. I watched Mr. Holland’s Opus on HBO, worked out and basically just hung out in my room. I did the 3PM show with Heidi of “Show Me St. Louis” , a ½ hour local entertainment show. The hosts Heidi and Chris were a lot of fun and I enjoyed my trip there this time. Previously, I had been on in the early AM and there was no production assistant or anyone to help me set up. Sam, the female intern was a big help to me and we spoke for a while after.

I was fortunate enough to grab a free ride to the airport and had a few hours to kill before my flight so I decided on a Mexican restaurant. I had been there for about 2 hours and all of a sudden I saw a guy walking across the room leaving and I yelled, “DAVID… DAVID GARDNER”

OH my gosh. I have NO idea how I knew it was him. Somehow, he caught my eye and I was even yelling his name BEFORE I even knew he was in the room. It was the most bizarre thing.

I basically had to introduce myself even though David Gardner is my first cousin. I haven’t seen him in about 15 years probably but I recognized him. We were both blown away by the coincidence of that and chatted for about 15 minutes. He was flying to Chicago and I told him that I had thought about calling him and his wife Jill but just didn’t get around to it. He gave me his card and we promised to stay in touch. I invited him to come and stay with us in Florida and he said he would. He and his wife are about to adopt their 5th child so we traded stories about kids for a little bit. He asked about all of the cousins so I was able to tell him what I knew.

After he left, several people were amazed at what had happened. It started several people talking and I started chatting with the lady next to me, Lisa. She heard me talk about adoption and just TODAY she had started thinking about adoption. She has tried to get pregnant for the past 7 years with no success. I told her that the couple who had been sitting in her seat 5 minutes prior to her and shared THEIR adoption story with me to so in a span of 15 minutes I had 3 separate conversations about adoption. Lisa… there are no coincidences! You’re probably supposed to adopt!

The writing is probably on the wall for me as well. I want to adopt a baby too! That story will have to wait since it’s just an idea now, but I did call my sister today and she promised to help me locate agencies in Orlando.

A new chapter is now being written!

Day in the Life of a Trend Reporter on the Road – Baltimore & Phoenix

The cold weather continued when I arrived to Baltimore on Friday night. The passengers were buzzing as we unloaded about the disgusting thing that occurred on our flight. Apparently, 2 rows in front of me a young man was watching porn on his DVD and having his own party ON the PLANE! Of course everyone started looking for the camera crew from the hit TV show, Air Port on A& E. What a story that would have been!

When I arrived to the hotel I found a beautifully decorated lobby at the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore. It had a huge decorated Christmas tree in the middle and the whole lobby was so festive that it put everyone in a great mood. I tried to plug into the wireless internet in the room but I couldn’t get on so when I told the lady at the front desk, she allowed me to use her computer in her office. After I finished checking emails, I went up to the room and changed and decided to head to the bar for a drink before I headed to bed. The bar was completely dead so I figured I’d have a drink, chat with the bar tender and then hit the hay.

As I sat down I saw a blonde woman at the end of the bar. I said hi and we started talking. This delightful and fun lady, Lisa Marie, finally scooted over next to me so we could chat. As it turns out, she and I shared a very similar personality and it was quite fun meeting someone else who enjoyed people as much as I do. She has a little girl and was meeting a friend in Baltimore who was on his way. She was funny and fun and we talked about work, motherhood and men. Within an hour, another woman showed up at the bar. We introduced ourselves to her and the 3 of us started talking. Tazier was an incredibly bright woman who had just finished law school and was job hunting. I figured she was probably 25 years old and was shocked when she told me she was 34! She was now considering motherhood so we had a great chat about that among other things. I told her we could probably find her a job at that bar so I asked a few of the gentlemen at the bar if they were lawyers or knew any in Baltimore. I called my sister in law to see if we could hook Tazier up with her brother who is a lawyer in Maryland.

The night didn’t wind down until about 1am. It could have kept going because the people were so interesting and fun. I knew I had to get up the next morning early and get to the station so I only had 1 drink all night. I didn’t want to be tired in the morning.
My itinerary said that I was to arrive at 9am and was on the air at 9:45 in Baltimore. There wasn’t a taxi ready so I hopped in a car service and headed to the station. When I got there, the beautiful and charming guest coordinator, Carlita was waiting. She informed me that I was to be ON THE AIR in 15 minutes! They changed the time and I’d be appearing ½ hour early.

I practically ran into the studio and threw my table together with the gifts. Carlita helped me make it look presentable and right before I went on the air I told her I had gum and needed to spit it out. She actually held out her hand and let me deposit it in her hand. I was MORTIFIED but we were both running on so much adrenaline that I did it and within 1 minute was chatting on the air with Lisa, the anchor.

I told the anchor that I was wearing my niece’s scarf that she had knitted so she said, “well, let’s start with that!” So when she introduced the segment, she said, “what a beautiful scarf” and I replied that my niece, Amy from Easton had made that for me.

The segment ended and it was a success. They needed the space in another 10 minutes so I threw the gifts together in the suitcase and scooted out. While waiting for the cab, I called Debbie, my sister in law who saw the segment from Easton and she said to me when she answered, “Oh my gosh, that was incredible”. Apparently Amy, 11, was with friends and her jaw dropped when she heard me mention her on the air. Everyone was thrilled and that made me happy that I was able to do that for Amy.

I then head to the airport and got ready for the long flight to Phoenix.

I was flying South West out of BWI and there is no assigned seating. I spotted a window seat near the front and the lady on the isle greeted me with a big smile and welcomed me to sit down. Within SECONDS we were engaged in conversation and I don’t think we stopped the whole 5 hours of flight!

Meeting Dr. Judith Reisman was absolutely a highlight. She is a celebrity of sorts. She’s written several books against the McKinsey report and is an anti-porn advocate. She’s testified in front of congress and has done research for the Justice Department. Our conversation ranged from homosexuality and its development to shots that are given to infants that have been proven to develop autism in children. She educated me about the porn industry and how millions of children have been sexually abused in order to study sex. She happened to have one of her books on her as well as a book that had been writing for the Catholic Church based on her book. I bought 2 books and she threw in a CD for free. I told her that I had NEVER spent money on a plane before, but that I knew I was supposed to meet her for a reason and I was so happy she had her books with her. The young woman Natalie who was sitting in the middle seat also got an interesting education. Who would have known a flight could be so interesting!

When I arrived to Phoenix, I was feeling fatigued. My dear friend Julia picked me up and whisked me to her beautiful home. She was hosting a party at her place and she had cooked up some delicious spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. I showered, threw some clothes in the laundry, ate a quick meal and all of us took off to the parade of lights in Phoenix.

There were thousands of people lining the streets but Julia did a great job keeping us all together. We were meeting up with some of her friends and our group was about 5 kids and 4 adults. When we were almost to the right spot, Julia told her 13 year old daughter Madison to grab a seat up front and handed her a blanket. A few minutes later we were all gathered under a tent and the parade started. All of a sudden we couldn’t find Madison! Most of the kids were seated up front along the parade route but we couldn’t find Madison and her friend Jesse. Julia literally spent the whole hour of the parade trying to locate Madison. She even ran home to get her cell phone in the event Madison was trying to call her mom to locate her.

Julia was in a panic and in tears. We tried to calm her and felt certain that Madison was probably somewhere close by watching the parade. As soon as the parade was over, Madison did show up immediately. What had happened was that she found a seat that was further away from our group but had actually followed her mom’s exact instructions and took a seat when her mom told her to sit down. We then all headed back to the house where we had something to eat and drink. I finished up my laundry and head to bed.

The next morning was the Channel 3 appearance. I was on with Tess, the darling anchor that I had been on with last April. She actually remembered me and my gifts from before so I felt quite comfortable with her. She’s a really warm individual and invited me to come back whenever I can get there.

After the segment, Julia dropped me at the airport and I jumped the plane to St. Louis. Another flight, another interesting story to come!
Day in the Life of a Trend Reporter on the Road

Hartford and Tampa

The days are long and the sleep is short but life on the road for a week or two out of the year is exciting, fun and stimulating.

I just started my second tour of the year of introducing holiday gifts of the season to the viewers of local TV stations around the country. People are fascinated by my tour and so as a result, I am again meeting some really interesting and fun people.

Again, I prayed that God would send angels my way, and so far the trips have been easy and people have been helpful so I imagine God is keeping my request in mind. The tour has just begun so who knows where the angels will show up.

The first two appearances have gone really well. The folks in Hartford, CT were really great but the segment was short, a mere 3 minutes. I have so many fun presents to show this season that it was difficult to get all of the ideas across in the allotted time. I’m showing jewelry from TJ Maxx, Cashmere from Marshalls, the latest, hottest technical product of the season, a digital camera the Finepix F10 from Fuji Film, a software kit from Epson that makes a cute coffee table book, and flowers from They also have sent cookie tins for me to share with my guests. They are chocolate covered oreos that are so delicious!

Last night on the plane from Hartford, there were 2 groups of men traveling from CT to Tampa for a golf trip. The energy on the plane about tripled as soon as the men started boarding the plane. I was soon to find out that this was a yearly trip and every year the group got bigger and bigger. There were corporate heads from Wachovia, ESPN, Car dealers, motorcycle dealerships, professors and the like. They were heading south to indulge in some fun for a long weekend. About ¾ way through the trip I got up to stretch and started chatting with a few of them. By that time, they were feeling pretty good because they cleaned out the whole plane of alcohol. There was a lot of laughter and telling on each other. Each guy was introduced as a different name each time with different professions each time. I never knew who was who or what they did. It didn’t matter, the whole plane was enjoying the entertainment that they were providing.

I left the hotel early because there was a big convention of the Southern Baptists so they were booked solid and I couldn’t get a later check out. So I opted to hang at the airport instead of visiting a nice mall next door. My bags are already 50 lbs a piece so nothing new is going to fit inside my bags so why even go shopping? Now, I’m sitting in a restaurant /bar ……listening to 80s music and writing on my laptop. I’m totally content to hide in this corner and listen to the music and record my fun travels. I’ve even had a few informal coaching sessions with friends as I’ve sat here. There is never a dull moment in airports!

I’m going to pack up and head to my destination. Much more to come I’m sure!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Successful Career Woman’s Guide to Landing and Keeping a Man!

Many, many women I know are self sufficient, successful and capable. They spent many years getting a degree or advanced degree and are now in a very successful and rewarding career. They’ve bought houses, gone on trips and own businesses, they’re beautiful and are amazing human beings.. but they have no idea why they can’t get a man to stay!!!

I’m not talking about the women who don’t WANT a man in their life. They’ve been there and done it! I’m talking about the woman who WANTS a man, a companion and a friend to share their life with. And I don’t mean a gay man!

Many of these women are teaching in universities, running businesses or partners in a law firm. They’re content on the outside, but very much would like to have a man at their side. They’ll NEVER admit it to anyone, because they’re often teased about being single and are always showing up to events with friends and not a companion. They’re tough on the outside, because they’ve had to be.

But when they get together with their closest friends, or their coach, they confide in each other and this is what they’ve shared:

They don’t NEED A man.. but they WANT one.

I’ve learned so many amazing things from being around these women. They are truly incredibly self sufficient and can run their house better than most women I know. But there is one thing they lack and it’s what I have taught them:

Warmth with people and of course.. the all important FLIRTING SKILLS!!!

Now before you go and stop reading because I went and wrote something so incredibly basic, let me ask you this:

*When did you last make the person you were talking with, feel good about themselves?

*When was the last time you let the person you were talking to, know that they were needed?

*When was the last time that the person who was talking to you, walked away with a smile on their face?

If the answer to any of these questions was “I don’t remember”… then that was TOO long ago! If the answer was “just yesterday”.. then you’re doing a good job!

Today’s world is so busy, that we rush through life just trying to squeeze all of the necessary things in. Often times we don’t give the actual people we come in contact with a second look, let alone a thought.

When I’m working with the people who want to develop warmth in their life the first thing I do is to send them out with a different set of eyes. When they go to the store, their ASSIGNMENT is to greet the people behind the meat counter or cash register and make THEM feel special.

How is a person supposed to do THAT you ask? Two days ago, I decided to make Cuban Sandwiches for lunch. So, I went to the 17 year old boy behind the counter and started asking for his recommendations… for meat, for condiments, and for cheese. Before you knew it, he was telling me OTHER dishes he wanted to make or had made recently. We were having a terrific conversation and when I left, I told him this: “I can guarantee that you’re going to make a great husband!” When I left, I knew he felt great.. and I did too.

Practicing in low risk situation is always the best. So when you’re in that situation of really wanting to show a person of the opposite sex that you’d like to get to know them BETTER, then you’ll have LOTS of practice of making a person feel special.

Okay, yes, flirting does also involve dressing up a bit, using the long linger of the eyes, glancing sideways at the person you admire and quickly away with a smile, and all of those little things that we can do when we like someone. To some people, these come naturally, but to others, they have to learn them all again.

Other suggestions for the ALL IMPORTANT flirting are to briefly touch the man on his arm, laugh at all of his jokes, and keep your body very casual, not so professional, stiff and unrelaxed. He’ll REALLY get the drift if you say something like, “oh my gosh.. you’re so silly” while you laugh with him and give him a little push on the arm just for good measure!

But the best one is to really make a person feel special and NEEDED. If you’re incredibly self sufficient then GREAT. But don’t let your “being a complete human without a man” side of you forget that MEN NEED TO BE NEEDED. They want to feel and BE special to that special woman, and they want to know that to the outside world, you’re competent, successful and beautiful… but at home?

All you need is HIM!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

ACcepting Yourself for WHAT and WHO you ARE

This morning I think I shocked some people. Every single day when I drop off my son for school I am dressed in jeans, sweats or something extremely casual. I usually have a baseball cap on and sunglasses on, so I go relatively unnoticed.

Many of the mommies at our school could win a beauty pageant! They’re the country club set who show up in their tennis gear ready to go play a game. What makes it even worse... is that they’re all incredibly nice!

This morning, I had my TV face on, ready to publicly meet the students, parents and teachers of our school for the first time. I dressed up, did my hair and even put on a suit. I rehearsed my speech that I was going to give to the school to raise more money for our Technology fund raiser.

When our principal announced that a mom had something to say, I took the microphone from her and loudly greeted the students, faculty and parents: GOOD MORNING ST. MARGARET MARY!!!

(The movie Good Morning Vietnam was my model!)

For that next minute or two I engaged the students in banter about the upcoming event! I told them that Friday was going to be filled with MUSIC, GAMES, FOOD and FUN!!! Then I shared WHY raising money for technology was important! I challenged the school to get a VISION for technology and that we all had to work together!

My message was LOUD and CLEAR! WE NEED MORE MONEY!!!

It was more like a pep rally than a speech.

I think I scared some people….they weren’t used to having someone be that loud. They weren’t used to having someone so boldly ask for money. It may have made some people uncomfortable, but it’s important and we’re behind in our goal. They needed to hear it! And I think we got the energy going!

I’ve finally come to the conclusion about me. I’m different. I’m not a wall flower. I’m not someone who is calm, cool and collected all of the time. I used to wish I was. I used to want to be one of those incredibly beautiful, perfect women who make it all look so easy. I’ve finally realized, that’s not me… and now I see some advantages to being who and what I am.

I can get in front of a school full of people, shake them up, and get them to take ACTION!

What about you? What are those things that are different about you? Are you someone who is comforted by taking a back seat and supporting others? Are you one of those people who can be organized all of the time and love nothing better than reading a good book? Are you someone who can see a room and know that if you added a bit of color and a few accessories that the room would really come to life? Or are you someone who loves creating things on the computer that challenge your mind?

I’ve come to realize that our roles in life are here so we can work together to support one another. All of us have different gifts and talents and in order for us to have happiness in life, we have to be using our gifts to benefit others!

We all have weaknesses too. That’s why we NEED each other. None of us can exist solely on our own. I know that a person like me NEEDS the organized person to keep me on track, to do my books and to keep my desk clean. I can’t do that very well and it’s bothersome of course. I am blown away at how some people make THAT look so easy.

Accepting yourself isn’t easy. It’s hard to be different when you’re a young person. No one wants to stick out like a sore thumb and be considered an oddball for looking, acting and feeling different.

It’s time to celebrate the differences that we all have. Let’s start acknowledging those around us who are different. Tell them that it’s GOOD to be different. Thank them for being HONEST with themselves and others when they show up and are authentic.

And remember, when you see the others who look prettier, funnier, snazzier, smarter, sharper, more articulate, richer, or skinnier than you… remember that they CAN'T do what you can do!!! Tell them that they’re great.. and then go and do your thing! The world NEEDS you to express your talents and to use them to help and support others!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Planning for the Holidays

If you’ve been to any store lately you’ve seen that the holiday decorations have hit the stores. It’s the time of year that puts everyone in a good mood until the time that the family arrives on your doorstep. Then of course, the rush is on to get it all done in time. If you’re anything like me and my family, there are always last minute trips to the store to get everything that is needed for the dinner and the delivery of presents.

Now is the time to plan out your whole event. You should know now whether you are traveling to a relatives’ for the holiday or even just for dinner. It’s a good time to start planning your menu’s and your presents for the people on your list.

Here are a few things to make your holidays run a bit smoother:

Write a list of each person who is to receive a present. If you need to draw names, make it happen via email this week. Then select a budget for each person and draw the cash out and put it in envelopes. Make a vow to stay within the budget you’ve set.

Start by perusing the catalogs. It’s an easier way to shop. There are so many catalogs on line now so shopping on line will help you stay away from that crazy holiday rush.

Shopping in one place certainly saves time, and places like TJ MAX and Marshalls are old favorites and do carry affordable items for the whole family.

Once you’ve gotten the shopping done, it’s time to start the decorating. I usually purchase a few magazines specifically for the holidays and do one art project that will last. It’s been fun to see my projects through the years that took a day to make, but have been in our family for years. If you’re “crafty” enough, then these items make excellent gifts for your friends and neighbors. Presents like pinecone wreaths or candle covers are easy, fun to make and last for years.

Next, comes the cooking! This is the one that seems like it should wait, but in realty it’s a great time to start right now! We still have a few weekends before Thanksgiving and those early Saturday mornings are a great time to bake up and decorate holiday cookies and bars. In addition, homemade jellies and jams make excellent holiday gifts to share. My personal favorite is Hot Jezabel. I make it with pineapple and apricot jelly, horseradish, dry mustard and black pepper. It is delicious on top of cream cheese with crackers. Put in a cute jar, with a box of crackers, the recipe in a basket makes an affordable and delicious gift.

Get your kids dressed and head to the nearest hotel lobby for a beautiful holiday picture! Sure, you can go to a studio and spend upwards of $100, or you can get dressed and go to a nice hotel where you can take a picture that is classy and will impress your friends! Get them printed at Walmart and you’re good to go for your holiday newsletter and card!

Last but not least, understand that the holidays are some of the most stressful times of the year. If you have a family and are traveling or entertaining, you need to schedule some time for relaxing without doing anything. Book your manicure ahead of time or a fun cookie exchange evening out with the gals in advance.

Then kick back and enjoy the time this year. If you plan ahead this year, like you SAID you would last year, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the holidays creating memories, instead of stress!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Stress Hits 3 Months after Tragedy, Change or Trauma

Think about all that has happened in the world in the past few years: 9/11 and thousands losing their lives, terrorists who live and breathe to take away freedom, hurricanes that have completely taken away the foundation of several states, mud slides that have wiped away houses, floods that have killed and ruined, earthquakes that have swallowed up entire cities, riots and gunmen who have terrorized people, the war that haunts us every day and the list goes on. Hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted and have been forced to move elsewhere to get on with their lives, and millions are dealing with a more stressful world.

As someone who has lived through several crisis’ such as having a baby at 28 weeks after laying in the hospital for 4 weeks upside down, living in NYC during 9/11, losing my business as a result, and 2 moves out of state in the past 5 years, I know a little bit about surviving a trauma and dealing with the stress.

It’s hard. It shakes you to your core, but it can be done.

Here is what to expect: I’ve guessed it can take up to about 3 months for the numbness to really wear off and for the stress to hit. It creeps up on you as a sense of overwhelm, and then the nerves start taking over and then POW. Full blown TENSION.

I remember when the people in Oklahoma were on TV counseling the residents of NYC after 9/11. They said that they weren’t worried about them immediately following, but up to a year later. I remember hearing that and didn’t exactly know what it meant. Then, I lived through it. The Christmas immediately following 9/11 was the worst one in history for everyone I knew. After speaking with my friends in NY, everyone admitted that being with family that holiday season was full of anger, fights and lose tempers. Everyone seemed happy to go back to their own nest after the holidays. I remember that one too. My sister and I had the biggest blowout of our lives. My parents had to mediate and I remember regretting several things I said.

The stress hits the families hard. The parents fight, and the kids suffer. The kids bring it to school and it affects others. Since we are all connected somehow, it’s hitting everyone in some capacity.

First of all, recognize that everyone is going to go through their own personal trauma. Explain it to everyone that has gone through something difficult that it IS going to happen. Warn them to not be caught off guard.

Next, seek encourage those who have gone through a change to seek counsel. If it’s from a friend, a professional, a priest or rabbi, whomever, get HELP. It helps to talk about what has happened. When a person can say the words out loud, hope can be established. The worst thing is to try to handle the stress and pressure internally. THIS is how people snap! They let the stress build up and then they POP. It’s natural. Think of a balloon. It can only handle so much air until it breaks. People are the same.
Hard exercise should be a part of every day. Getting out the aggression by running, walking, lifting weights or punching a bag is a very therapeutic thing to do.

And most importantly, spiritual support is the most important. We know that God understands our fears, our hurts and our pains. When it’s too much for us to handle, reach the scriptures that can give so much comfort, then give it over to God. Then release it and have the faith that He’s working. He can give us ideas that can help solve our issues. He can bring people into our path that can help us with our needs and even think for us when our brains seem to be frozen.

Our world is at a boiling pot right now. People’s relationships and lives are in danger of dealing with too much. It’s time to reach out to others if you’re blessed with comfort and peace right now.

All you have to do is ask your neighbors, “how are you doing?” If you do that to the people you see, you’ll find people who are in need. Then God can begin a good work through you.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Coaching Celebrities

I’ve kept the same cell phone number for the past 7-8 years. I’ve lived in NYC, NC and now Florida and in all that time, I’ve never changed phone numbers. Nor will I. Sure, it’s inconvenient for my mom who lives across town to have to dial a NYC phone to get me and I’m only a few miles away, but for me it’s worth it.

I have clients that still call me periodically for coaching that used this cell phone years ago. They like knowing that I’m just a call away if they need me. Several of these clients would probably have names that you might recognize, and don’t use a coach on a regular basis, but if the need arises, they know I’m there.

I’ve spent a large part of my career working with and for celebrities. Whether I marketing for them, do PR for them or consult and coaching with the them, I’ve made a part of my career working in that market. As a result, I’ve gotten to know many agents, publicists and Event Planners.

I also coach individuals in business. Right now, it seems that a large bulk of my clients are in new jobs, businesses or about to make a transition. I don’t work by contract, only on an as needed basis. Some of my clients show up every week. Others are clients that are only once a month. I’m flexible because my clients are busy. So am I, and I’m fine with them rescheduling with me a day in advance.

I started coaching this way because the high profile clients that I served couldn’t meet on a regular basis. They were traveling or unavailable at normal business times so I made allowances for them. As my business and experience grew, I found that working with high profile types was going to be different than a traditional client that may be.

I work on a project basis with many of these high profile types. Some of them are high level executives, besides celebrities and I’m there as a personal consultant that they call upon for many different issues. Most of them found me through the communication coaching that I provide and we’ve kept the relationship going through the years. Whenever they call I merely write it down and keep a log. I usually bill once a month. On projects, I’ll estimate a cost for the project and always try to come in under the estimate.

I have clients that will fly in for the day and for that, my fees are a bit higher than on the phone. It’s a concentrated coaching session that can deal with family issues to creating a work out schedule or recreating a brand or speech. We’ve discovered projects to create that they can market and we’ve written the outline of books.

I noticed right up front that celebrities are keenly aware that people try to make a buck off of them so I actually charge them less in some cases. Regardless, overestimating the bill is the way to go, and they always appreciate the financial break. I learned this early on when I had a repeat customer and I sent a bill that she questioned. She didn’t feel that I had put in that much time with her so I told her that I had struggled with the bill myself because the project was so “off and on”. So, I told her to rip up my invoice and to pay me what she thought she should. I got a nice check in the mail that was just a little bit less than I had originally charged and it had a nice note attached. It was definitely the right decision because I’ve continued to coach this person here and there over the last many years.

Coaching high profile types are a great gig if you can get it. But don’t make the mistake of holding to your exact requirements or you might lose a client in the process. The ones that I know appreciate my willingness to be flexible with my schedule and to reschedule if something else comes up. I’m fair with the money and I always try to deliver more than promised.

I love the coaching people who are successful, energetic and ambitious. They never refuse a challenge and they’re always up for new ideas. They appreciate others who are hard working like them.

That is why I keep my cell phone number the same. Being available to these people is the name of the game.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Celebrities have to Deal with Nerves Too!

Have you ever seen how cool they look? Every hair is in place and their outfits are usually just perfect. They look so cool, like they don’t even have to try. It’s the celebrities that I’m talking about! Those perfect people who end up on our TV screens while we sit back and eat popcorn and drink beer, they’re sipping on Champaign and looking like they don’t have a care in the world!

Okay.. stop it RIGHT there. That’s absolute NONSENSE! I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several celebrities and I can tell you from experience, they are JUST like you and me! They fret, they sweat and they worry about the tiny wrinkle on their forehead. They also have the luxury of having other people dress them, do their hair and makeup, their manicures and their pedicures, pick out their accessories and adorn them with so much praise that no WONDER they look like they’re on top of the world!

The reality behind the scene is a bit different. As a coach who has been there to hand-hold several celebrities through acceptance speeches, award dinners and shows and personal appearances, I can tell you a thing or two about these people.

First of all. They’re REAL. They have real concerns in their lives such as family problems, work issues and relationship woes. Most of them worked extremely hard and long to get to where they are in their career. The celebrities I know are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met in my life. They’ll work all day long, jump the red eye back home and work the whole next day.

Second of all, they get nerves just as bad as we do. Many celebrities just won’t give speeches because they can’t face the world without having a script memorized. Remember Barbara Striesand? The woman with one of the most beautiful voices in the world was terrified that she’d forget the words? Her nerves got the best of her and it cut her public singing career short. What’s so sad about that, is that her singing is God’s gift to the world.. not just to her. She sings for pleasure of course, but we listen in awe. Her voice is for US.. the people. It’s a lesson that many celebrities know. They’re grateful for their lot in life.

I remember speaking with one female celebrity whose name of course I’d never mention. She asked me to come and watch her speak and she was terrified for being ripped apart by so many of the people she had to appeal to in her job. As I watched her, I saw a woman who had put it all on the line. She had children and would take care of the kids in the afternoon and would be up until midnight doing work. She was beautiful yet she wondered what they were thinking of her age as it crept up.

When she was done… I applauded. I said, “I’ll tell you what the people are thinking about you when they see you”. They are watching in amazement, who a woman who has done so many things with her life and still manages to have a personal life. She has the guts and the gall to get up in front of audience after audience to put it all out there… and they sit there wishing they could do the same. Then I told her some words I’d later regret: “ you don’t need me. You are perfect exactly how you are.. don’ t change a thing”. Of course I was serious and she did move on. Fortunately for her, she went on to greater and greater success. She just needed a little boost to her ego and I was the right person at the right time.

I’ve had many celebrities call me for a simple reason. They have nerves that creep up and practically paralyze them. With these folks, I get to know them in person so they feel comfortable with me. I am able to show them at their greatest potential and I show them their weaknesses. If they are too perfect, I get them to be more vulnerable by sharing a personal story. If they’re relying on reading a speech, I stand before them and ask them questions about the reason they are happy about the award or the event. I force them to think on their feet in an uncomfortable position, and they go home to practice that over and over and over.

I ask them to visualize their speech or the event. I ask them to go there in advance if possible so they’ll have an exact idea of what its going to look like in their mind. I create a visual for them standing in front of 50,000 people in an arena and face them all eyeball to eyeball. It freaks people out at first but it slowly warms them up to the idea that its not PEOPLE that make you scared, it’s facing your own self that is scary.

I get them to laugh… at themselves and at the world. We discuss the fact that their moment on stage has to be fun too.. not so serious. I give them physical exercises to calm their nerves before hand. With so much variety, we enjoy our time as we prepare for the big event. Practice makes perfect of course so I continue to follow up with them until the second before and after their gig.

I remember seeing the comedian Carrottop on stage one time when he impressed me more than the other dozens of times I had seen him. He was doing a college show and in the middle of his act, he froze on stage. Then he said to his audience, “OH MY GOSH, I had a panic attack.. I had a panic attack on stage JUST NOW… can you believe it?” Then he laughed it off and went on with his routine.

I retell that story every time I’m working with a person who has to hide their nerves and act as if they’re the cool and collected professional the whole time. He was completely comfortable with being uncomfortable and that is the best place that any performer can be.

So next time you’re sitting on the couch and watching an awards show or at an event where you see a celebrity, don’t go feel sorry for yourself thinking that they have all the luck and you’re not destined for stardom. Your time WILL come. You’ll be the one on stage and people will be watching you.

So put your best foot forward, practice, visualize and of course.. have fun with it. If you create a fun space for your audience, they’ll have no choice but to enjoy their time with you!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

When People Don't Return Calls

Let’s face it. People aren’t very good at returning calls these days. If you don’t have something they want right then, often times the calls take a back seat to the more pressing matters at hand.

In business, it seems to be less offensive than in one’s personal life. In business, if someone doesn’t return calls it is usually because the person isn’t quite ready to do business. Perhaps they haven’t made a decision or they are working on another project. Perhaps they don’t want or need your services and so they’re saving face by not returning the calls. Casual persistence is the best way to handle these people. And dropping a hand written note with valuable information is always a good tactic. Sometimes, by adding enough value you are able to charm the person into returning or taking your calls. A rule of thumb though is to NEVER, EVER make them feel guilty for not returning the calls. It’s best to pass it off and never mention it again. It’s past history!

In personal life, the “not returning calls (or emails) syndrome” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s personal, and it hits you more at a core level. It’s YOU they are rejecting, not your BUSINESS!!!

Lets say for instance that you’ve talked about getting together socially with someone for quite some time. Finally, you offer up a few days and expect to get the time set up and meet within a short amount of time. Yet, the email or call never comes back and you begin to wonder, “What did I do?” Potentially you mentally rehearse your last few conversations to see if there was something that could have been misconstrued. Then your mind starts playing tricks on you and sometimes leads you to believe that something you said wasn’t communicated correctly, or perhaps the person ran into someone else who told them that you were talking about them. Or, perhaps you were too scatterbrained when you last spoke and the person no longer wants to be friends. You are bound and determined to put forth a good face to them “next” time, even though your life is crumbling apart.

Ahhhhhhh!!! Now the obsession takes over and you can’t stop thinking about it and wondered what you did wrong?


Isn’t it funny what our thoughts can do to us? They can rip us to shreds quicker and faster than anyone else can imagine. They can pull us down and force us to spiral downward that leave us in a heap of mental dysfunction.

Okay, there are times that a friendship will be put on hold due to some of the choices we make. And there are cases that a friendship is over due to the differences in values that people have. But normally, it doesn’t happen like this. Normally, there is something else going on.

For instance:
The other person had a death in the family and is having to attend a funeral.
Their brother or sister, or both… ended up in the hospital.
Their kids are having problems at school.
Their kids are having projects at school.
They are having company in town for a week.
They are in the process of moving offices or homes.
They are looking for a job and it’s taking every second of their time.
They aren’t getting along with their spouse and don’t feel up to getting together with anyone.
They are having some financial issues and getting together for lunch or dinner is not in the budget.
Their child needs some sort of therapy or counseling and their mind is on that.
They are going out of town for the weekend and trying to get ready.
Their husband and son are taking a camping trip and they need to prepare the tent and camping equipment.
They are competing in some sort of sporting event and they are practicing extra.
They’ve started taking classes and are now studying for the class and upcoming tests.

Okay, you now get the picture! People are BUSY. Taking it personal that someone isn’t calling or emailing you back is probably natural, but not practical. We are living in a different day and time now and the old days of everyone returning calls immediately has now changed to, “I’ll call you back when I can.”

People are BUSY and we can’t and won’t all fit into each others’ lives at the same level that we’d like. Children and family takes priority over people with small kids, and work loads and other responsibilities come first before an active social life. Often now, the conversations have to be cut short and continued later. It’s nothing now for people to stop a conversation midstream only to promise a later get together. Interestingly enough, people seem to be fine with it.

I know that I’ve been unable to attend to a few personal meetings as of late. I’ve not been able to be up with my work load or return calls and emails promptly. I know that it can look bad to others at this point. I can talk a good game, but I can’t back it up right now. It’s just where I am at this point in my life.

I had to tell an old friend recently who commonly makes me feel guilty if I’m not checking in regularly that he shouldn’t expect any phone calls from me in the next year. I currently do not HAVE a social life and don’t intend to have one in the next few months or year at least. My plate is full. My child is my sole focus right now. If I’m not taking him to Occupational Therapy, then I’m taking him to the park or on a bike ride. If he’s at school and I have an extra hour, I’m going to be reading about things that will help him. I will NOT be nursing my social life. It’s just where I am right now and I requested that he just understand that I don’t have anyone outside of my immediate family as a focus right now. I wish things were different but they’re not. I was as nice as I could be, and I think it helped him understand that I can’t be an attentive friend right now.

On the flipside, I’ve also been on the other side where I’m obsessing about people not returning MY calls. I soon found out though that they were out of town or had another amazing excuse that I didn’t know at the time. So I’ve had to forgive others of these minor offenses just like I’m hoping others are forgiving me. I have found however, that if you drop a note to the person saying you can’t respond right then because of some personal issues, people are completely fine with that.

Returning calls and emails is the polite thing to do. My dad once told me to always be the last one to write or call and to never leave people hanging. It’s great advice and it’s advice I share with others. But I also have tolerance for others when they are slow to move as quickly as I am at that moment. My life responsibilities have interrupted my social life more than once and I’m sure it will again.

I just want to make sure that my SOCIAL life, doesn’t interrupt my DAILY life. That is where I am right now. My close friends will understand and the others will just have to wait. And meanwhile, I’m wishing you all love and blessings in your life!!! We’ll all be together again!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Teaching Children that being Different isn’t “Special”

How many times have you stared at a person who looked different? The person could be largely overweight, have some sort of physical deformity or be too tall or too short….. but whatever it was about them, they were different from you.

I have to admit, I used to stare at people different from me. That was until I spent time with someone very close to me that got stares all day long. I realized that this person dealt with more uncomfortable situations in a day than most of us deal with in a lifetime!

In our house, the word “fat” is a naughty word. So is “big”. So is anything that could be potentially uncomfortable for anyone else. With a 5 year old however, there is always going to be a situation like what happened a few years ago when we were in line at the grocery store. The pimply young cashier intrigued my son and Jeremy yelled out, “he has OUCHIES on his face”. Well, what can you do?

Today was an opportunity for a good lesson regarding special needs children. I took my son to the Doctor for a physical and being flu season there were several children there with physical and mental disabilities that are considered “high risk”. Right across from us was a man with his son in a very elaborate wheel chair. The chair secured the boy who probably couldn’t sit up on his own. The boy spoke very slowly and was severely mentally and physically challenged.

But his eyes lit up when I asked the daddy if I could introduce my son to him. Jeremy had been staring at him and told me he couldn’t talk so I asked the dad if we could meet him. The dad seemed happy too so I crossed the room to sit down right by him and asked the boy his name. He said “Tim” . I said, “hi Tim, this is Jeremy” . Then I asked, “How old are you Tim?” He said, “Ten”. While I talked with him I rubbed his leg gently and I could see he was trying to put his hand out for me to grab it. I asked Jeremy to tell Tim how old he was.

The conversation was short but sweet. The nurse then called them in and the dad looked at me and thanked me and we said goodbye.

On the way home, I was able to explain to Jeremy that Tim has feelings just like any kid who wants to fit in. He wants to have friends and experience life and love his family. He doesn’t want to be laughed at or pointed at just because he is different. And he doesn’t want to be “special”. He just wants to be “normal”.

I felt good about having the opportunity to introduce Jeremy to Tim. I want him to feel as comfortable talking with someone in a wheel chair as he would anyone that was able bodied. I want him to know that everyone, no matter WHO they are or what their circumstances, wants to be acknowledged and not ignored, talked with and not stared at, and they want people just to be comfortable and not intimidated.

I don’t know if it made an impression on Jeremy today, but I feel that it did. We’ll continue to speak with whoever comes along our path no matter how different they are from us.

Teaching our children not to stare is probably impossible. But teaching them to share a conversation with people who are different is truly remarkable!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Family Comes First

I started a new full time position as a headhunter a few weeks ago. I went through extensive training and got into the flow of working every day. And two days ago, my goal of being employed full time came to a screeching halt.

My son is having difficulties in school and is going to need a few days of occupational therapy every day. In a moment, nothing else mattered but my son.

I discussed the options with my husband that night. We discussed that there was no amount of money and no other person in the world that could hold a candle to our son. We heard from the counselor at school that our son needed some special attention and so I made the decision that night to resign my position effective immediately.

I went in the next day and my employer was incredibly understanding. He saw the whole thing develop and knew what a strain it was on my family. He told me I have an open opportunity to come back whenever I could. I have a feeling though that this new adventure into learning how to work with my son, is going to take up the next several years. Somehow, I feel a new chapter developing.

As I become more and more of an advocate for my son at his school, I’ll be learning new information about an issue I didn’t know existed until recently. It’s called Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Jeremy has difficulty processing transition from one activity to another and has other behavior issues that cause him stress. Each child has different symptoms but it is a deeply misunderstood issue and often causes problems in school.

So, I resigned from my position as a recruiter and am now connecting with doctors, the insurance companies, the school counselor and writing notes every day to my son’s teacher. It’s a full time job in itself.

Being an ambitious career woman has now taken a back seat to making sure that my son is getting the assistance he needs. I’m still the scrappy, creative, outgoing person who loves meeting new people and bringing in fresh energy wherever I go. I’ll still maintain my coaching clients and consult for individuals and companies when I can. But my major job will be educating myself and those involved with Jeremy on how to work with him with the least amount of frustration possible.

Family comes first. You always hear that, but it’s mostly when we’re tested that we are able to prove it. I will be proving it to myself every day for the rest of my life. I hope that I can learn to be successful in this role as I have been in others.

Only time will tell.

Jumping Back in the Work Force After a Break

You’d think that in our society there would be allowances for people who chose to take off some time for one reason or another. You’d think that when they were hunting for a job that people would understand some of the personal issues that people have to deal with which interrupts their career flow. Things like having a baby, staying home with children, dealing with a sick parent, taking time off after the sale of a house that provides a nest egg or divorce are a few that I’ve heard lately. Yet, the people who are trying to get their career back on track after taking a break, tell a different story.

One lady that I coached lately is dealing with a former family business for the past 20 years. She raised her kids and worked full time with her husband. Her whole life was wrapped up in her family business. Later, after her husband cruelty left her and spread rumors about her, she was unemployable. This was even after she’d updated class work within her industry. All of her former customers were still with her ex husband so even references were impossible to obtain. She felt completely at a loss of where to start.

Another client, who sold his biz and made millions during the process still has the desire to be employed. He took off some time and doesn’t have the need to make money, but he was much too young to sit around and watch the stock market every day. He wanted to get back in the market to start working again. He was best in a structured 9-5 environment and didn’t want to build another business from scratch. But speaking with potential employers was nearly impossible once they found out he wasn’t “hungry” to work anymore. They perceived he didn’t NEED the money so he wouldn’t work as hard.

I asked a friend recently who owns an extremely successful real estate firm if she’d consider selling her business. She practically shouted NO WAY, and asked “what would I do all day?” I have seen that happen time and time again to successful people too.. that they’re bored to death after the sale of their business. What do they do? They end up harassing the lecture agents to book them more speeches! They WANT to work!

So what can a person do if they find themselves in one of these positions? It doesn’t matter if they end up unemployed because “life happened” or because of a windfall of money. They are still “unemployable” to the hiring manager.

Here are a few things that these clients have done.
Take a job at a temp agency. Even though you’ve run a company before, go in and take the typing test and the computer test to evaluate where you are. This is a great place to get started. You can meet several temp agencies to get your name out there for a job. Once you get introduced to some new companies you’ll be more likely to gain self confidence, be dressing up for work and eventually get hired or meet someone who wants to work with you.
Get business cards printed! This can work miracles. While you’re looking for work, create a sideline business of consulting of some sort to get the pipeline of customers going. You can even work for free if you’re on unemployment and no one needs to know. But, it’ll get you in work mode and create opportunities for you.
Show up at public lectures. Anytime people gather to support an interest, there are going to be others just like you also attending. Strike up conversations with people around you and be sure to ask the speaker some intelligent questions. People are more attracted to individuals who “put themselves out there”.
Create a public workshop. Gather what you know, put it in workshop format and start TEACHING. There is NO better way, besides writing a book, to get noticed quickly. If you’re in a city that has opportunities for speakers such as The Learning Annex, that’s great. Otherwise, libraries and community college continuing education departments are a great place to get booked.
Network with friends. Print up business cards and tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. You’d be surprised what you will find. If you mention it to someone, they’ll know someone who knows someone, etc. When you call and use someone’s name as a referral, it’s called a WARM LEAD and people are more than willing to help.

Lastly, keep your spirits up during the process by taking care of yourself. Meet with friends and family who are supportive as often as possible. Write in a journal. Work out a few times a week to get your blood flowing. Take a walk near the lake or ocean to bring a sense of tranquility. Read old letters and references about how great you’ve been in the past. And most of all, support other people who need help too. It’s the best way to know that you bring great value to the world.

Bringing value is what it is all about. Find a place where you can start bringing value and know that it can lead to something better or more suited to you. It doesn’t have to be the RIGHT job. But it can be the job for RIGHT now.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sticky Conversations

Can you just feel the sickness in your stomach right now? That feeling when you know that you have to have a conversation that you are NOT looking forward to, but know you need to have. It plagues you for days before you have to face the inevitable and then the moment arrives when you make contact with the person, and there they are.. waiting for you to initiate conversation.

Usually, the conversations start friendly. You talk about the weather or your weekend or something work oriented that you both can agree on. This is a great tactic.. to find something that you both agree on BEFORE you attack.

Okay, attacking is NOT a good word here. That is exactly what you don’t WANT to do. But, it is going to be your natural instinct. You have probably been steaming on the inside thinking of everything wrong that your opponent has done. You’ve been thinking of what he or she is going to give you as a rebuttal and you have every cleaver answer ready to go.

But instead of attacking, you need to PRACTICE exactly WHAT you are going to say. And even though you can barely CONTAIN yourself and want to just blast the person, you MUST REMAIN CALM. You MUST remain in a place where an equal exchange of ideas can take place. You must tell yourself that you HAVE to stay calm, and agree to listen with out interrupting.

Visualizing being calm is helpful and visualizing yourself having a good conversation is even better. It can help pave the way for a fruitful conversation. Then, after you’ve finished the small talk, and that awkward silence takes place, then it’s up to you, to ask a question: “so, perhaps we should discuss this issue at stake?”

Remember at this point, whoever ASKS the questions controls the conversation. If you ask the question, “can you tell me what happened from your point of view?” then you are off to a good start. Then, follow up by taking notes and asking MORE questions. Do this so your opponent can see that you are really listening to him or her and value what you have to say. The most controlled person is going to want to JUMP in and add their two sense, but you MUST not! You must just listen, look them in the eyes with all of the sincerity you can muster up, and you must listen to his or her complaint about you.

When they are done with their 15 minute monologue that may or may not be salted with epiphanies about yourself that you were dying to know, then you HAVE to take a breath, a deep one and then… WAIT.

YES… WAIT. Let the clock tick. This is essential for letting your opponent know that you are giving serious thought to the assaults that you just endured. You are carefully considering the awful things that you instigated, and then you are thinking carefully about how to respond.

Then you do. You might want to throw in one or two more questions to gain clarity just for good measure, but more than likely, you’ll have the major complaints listed and are now ready to respond.

But.. before you respond… do you need to apologize? Do you need to tell the person that you’re sorry that you hurt their feelings, damaged their reputation, embarrassed them in front of others, or ANYTHING else. Apologizing is an EXCELLENT strategy for gaining respect from an opponent. If you don’t have any apologizing to do… then FIND something to apologize for. It’s VERY important that you take some of the blame.

Next, thank the opponent for opening up to you and sharing with you. Tell them that you want to gain their respect and trust and want to word everything as carefully as possible.

Then you start your rebuttal. Tell the person that you want to do a good job. You both have the same goal at stake of keeping the company growing and moving in the right direction. (or list a common goal that you both share) and it’s obvious that you are both passionate about the topic.

Then start slow, and talk about how you arrived at your decision. Do NOT point fingers. Just talk about the goal of making your company great.. or how you arrived at your decision. If you are giving a rebuttal to a serious allegation that is true, then confront your fears and tell the person that you are working on this issue and ask for them to be patient with you. Most people will understand human error and give you a break – if you admit it. If you defend yourself completely and take no responsibility, then you might as well hang up your gloves. You are going to lose respect and probably in the long run, you’ll lose the game.

Sticky conversations are not fun to have, but they can further the action faster than anything else. Rather than people sitting around stewing all day long, gossiping in the halls about each other, then having those conversations can challenge people to come to the table with ideas, conversations and new solutions.

Each time you have a sticky conversation, you’ll gain strength. You’ll see that it’s MUCH better to have the conversation than let it simmer underneath the surface. Facing the uncomfortable does more than just solve an issue, it can help you get comfortable with the person, and make them into your advocate.

There is no better solution to find than to transform from an enemy to an advocate. That is the ultimate and while it might not be easy, it is simple. Just prepare in advance, be prepared to humble yourself, and in the process you’ll gain respect from your opponent, and even more respect for yourself.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Making a Cold Call Fun

If you are in business in any capacity, you’ve made cold calls. If you’ve had to call anyone out of the phone book for any service whatsoever, you’ve made a cold call.

So why are cold calls so HARD for people to make? How come people DRED making cold calls and how come there are sales classes and books dedicated directly to Cold Calling?

I’ve been in a training class all week to learn the new company’s policies and procedures. Part of what we’re doing also is learning about sales. This part for me is the easy part but for many in the class, it’s the most intimidating. One of the women shared with me that she is extremely uncomfortable talking with people she doesn’t know.


Seriously, getting a script and following by that is a good thing to do, as LONG as you aren’t READING and don’t sound like a telemarketer. That is why people hang up on people, because they sound like a telemarketer.

Here is a cold call that insures that you’ll be hung up on:

Jim: “Who is the Director of Marketing”
Receptionist: “May I ask who is calling?”
Jim: “This is Jim”
Receptionist: “Jim who?”
Jim: Jim Smith
Receptionist: And what company are you with?
Jim: XYZ Company
Receptionist: “May I ask what this is in reference to?”
Jim: “It’s a confidential matter.” Or “it’s a time sensitive matter”

Possible hang up here or:
Receptionist: “Well he’s not in, you’ll have to leave a message”
Jim – hangs up

It’s not so hard people!! Don’t make it so hard. First of all, why are you hiding? If you truly have great information and a wonderful service, people are going to recognize that. If you DON’T have a valuable service and professional product, then get out of the business until you find one!

I also know that people discriminate if your voice sounds different from theirs. If you have an accent of ANY kind, then you better be one of the most FRIENDLY people on the planet, because people are going to discriminate against you. If you are a New Yorker calling the south, people are going to think you are an outsider. If you are a southerner calling New York, then you BETTER speak fast. If you are African American and have your cultural accent, then you BETTER speak CLEARLY and professionally. If you are of foreign decent, then speak SLOWLY and call with a SMILE on your face.

I do have a word for people with accents. If you are working on a phone job, then you would do best to work to minimize your accent. My husband is from Brooklyn and we worked for a LONG time to temper his thick accent. There were certain words that were distinctly New York, such as “Yesterday”. He pronounced that as “Yes-Ta-Day” Another one was “Dollar”. He pronounced it as “Dolla”

Additionally, if you have a foreign name, it’s going to be natural for people to avoid developing a relationship with you because they are going to forget your name. If you have a foreign name AND an accent, the average response to you is going to be much worse than if you have a typical American name.

I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, I’m just stating a fact. You are going to have to be 10x better than your average competitor. Because cold calling is about establishing relationships and it’s much easier to establish a relationship with someone more like yourself.

Here is a good typical cold call:

Jim:“Good morning! This is Jim! Who am I speaking with please?
Receptionist- “this is Sue, may I help you?”
Jim: Hi Sue! Yes, I’m looking for the Director of Marketing.. could you please tell me who that is?”
Receptionist ‘That is Randy Rawls” May I connect you?
Jim: “Great. Thanks Sue. Have a great day”
Receptionist- “You too!”

People want to help people.. IF they are nice people. If they sense that someone is a waste of time, then they are going to screen your calls and NEVER help you. If you aren’t nice or pleasant to the “gatekeeper” then you’ll have problems down the road.

There is a difference of opinion in this of course. There are some people who make phone calls who try to “trick” the gatekeepers or just try to get around them. I think the majority of them are smart and just doing their job when they get phone numbers instead of connecting the calls.

My best advice is that they can help more than they can do anything else, and that making them your advocate is the smartest thing you can do.

Cold calling is nothing more than meeting new individuals to see which companies are the best match for what you are selling. People are on the other end of the phone and so the same things apply when meeting friends. People want to be liked. People want to help. People want to be good to other people. People like hearing their name.

Cold calling can be fun if you let it. Just remember that when people solicit you at home, you may not always be the nicest; so do your best to understand others when you are on the other side. Be as warm and friendly as possible. Relay a sense of confidence, that you have a product or service that can really help.

Then, when you get the client on the phone, do it all over again.

Then make another call, and do it again. And again, and again and again.

For some of us, the cold calling never ends.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

How to Engage Someone in a Lively Conversation

I have found that the best way to get someone to respond positively to you is to LIKE them!

Seriously! It is so easy!!! Plus, it works.

I’ve recently started a new position as a professional headhunter. I’ve always done professional networking and marketing for individuals but now have joined a new firm. Most of what I’m doing now is COLD CALLING. UGH..the dreaded COLD CALL.

What does it consist of? Hi! My name is Mary Gardner and I’m with GRN… who is the Director of Operations? From there I ask questions and gather information until I get the right person on the phone that might have a serious interest in my candidate that I’m marketing.

The difference that I’ve seen in my first few days is that the first day I was TERRIFIED to call. I didn’t feel ready. I felt unprepared. I wasn’t clear of the procedures and I didn’t even feel comfortable with the phone. Here is what happened: the first few calls.. people almost hung up on me. They didn’t have the tolerance for a person with no confidence.

Today, I relaxed. I committed to myself that I was going to have FUN and to make the people enjoy our encounter. I’d do that by showing them favor over the phone and acting excited to talk with them, even though I had no idea of who they were and what they did. And guess what? It worked! I spoke with numerous “gatekeepers” as we call them, or administrative people who shared all of the information that I wanted about the company. I used their NAME in the conversation! I asked how they were doing and didn’t ignore them. I asked about the weather when they were in south Florida and laughed with them when they forgot whether it was morning or afternoon in their greeting. I truly just enjoyed all of the people I met.. and guess what?

They liked me back!!! I expressed enthusiasm when speaking WITH them and TO them, and they responded in kind. It was so much more fun to speak with them when I stopped thinking OF MYSELF and my nerves, and started thinking about THEM!!!

Of course I did all of the standard things you do in small talk! I asked them questions and I listened to them intently. I asked about them, or their company or the weather or if they were having a good day, but I showed interest in THEM and their lives. That was the total key today to enjoying new people and getting them to feel comfortable with me.

I liked them.

How about you? Are you expressing interest and curiosity in others? Are you excited to speak with them? Do you show interest in their response? Do you laugh at their jokes? Do you sincerely want to show that person that they are OK in your book?

You might find what I found. A day of potential stress can turn into a day full of fun.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Is it Okay to Ask Someone's Age?

I ask you the question: Is it okay to ask a person: “How old are you?”

Because of this question, I’m going through culture shock!! I even grew up here and I’m still going through culture shock!

Today was about the 5th time in a week that I’ve been asked: “how old are you?” The first 3 times I said “none of your business” and laughed my way out of it.. but now it’s getting serious… These Floridians all seem to want to know how old I am!

Why? Do I look older than I am? Do I look younger? Is it that I’m too immature to be this old? What is it?

Okay, it might be that they might be trying to see WHO I went to high school with, that is completely possible, but then again, why not ask: What year did you graduate?

I’ve lived in various places around the country. When I lived in NYC one time I think I asked a guy how old I was and he curtly replied, “oh, how AMERICAN of you”. I think I learned at that moment NOT to bring up age. Or perhaps it was when I was commenting on my friends’ luck that her husband was 16 years younger than her and she completely derailed the conversation and made me look foolish.. that I learned.. YOU DON”T ASK A PERSON”S AGE!!!

I thought it could never hurt! Oprah proudly tells everyone her age and says its horrible that women DON”T tell their age. But it DOES hurt! People are MESMORIZED by peoples’ ages! And they treat you different because of your age, and you can lose a job because of your age. Yes you can, because I did!

When the TV station found out that I was OLDER than their targeted demographic, I was immediately bumped to the anchor desk. Now.. I’m a SENIOR staff member. Sure, the 23 year old who replaced me was quickly discovered and moved on in her career but I know that the fact that I was a particular age gave them the idea that it was time to MOVE on. I liked anchoring but liked reporting a LOT more. There was a lot more freedom, but because of my AGE, I wasn’t able to keep the same position. I also know a major network anchor that goes to great lengths to conceal her age.

So me? I don’t TELL my age. Is that so bad? I think in Florida I’m looked upon as a snob and a freak! They look at me like I’m insane when I don’t divulge my age immediately.

But what I’ve learned is that people categorize you into a certain age GROUP that says.. “they’re older than me.. they can’t do as much as me” or they’re just SO overwhelmed that someone THAT old could look THAT good.

Now that I’m here and have found out that Floridians tell the world EVERYTHING that is personal, I am caught between a rock and a hard place. I’ve been “advised” NOT to share my age, but I don’t want to come off looking like a jerk. Two women today left in a huff when I didn’t tell. She said; “but you’re in FLORIDA”.

I’m curious about YOUR community!? Is it this open? Are the Floridians being nosey, or rude or just curious?

I’m sticking with the “I’m 29 and holding” statement that my mom used to say. That way, I can watch my friends grow old, and I’ll stay young forever!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bad Customer Service Turned Around

It’s all in who you know…. Or can get to Know!
(Bad customer service turned around)

Yesterday I had a customer service issue that warranted my immediate attention. I had ordered a product that I desperately needed that was now about 6 weeks overdue the original back ordered date. I had made numerous calls to both the local and the national vendor over the past few weeks and had received different answers every single time. I had gotten the run around from corporate, from the local vendor, tried to make complaints on line and their server was down, and had left phone messages that had gone unreturned. I had been strung along, lied to and ignored. I was livid by the time I got them on the phone to let me know that it would now be another 10-14 days.

I told the woman that I trained in customer service and sales and that I also wrote and spoke nationally about companies. I told her that I was able to get this organization that I’m ordering through to cancel them as a vendor, but that I heard they had been very responsive towards some of the hurricane victims which I applauded. But that their service was unacceptable and that I was appalled they’d let someone fall through the cracks like they did. I asked what they were going to do for me to help ease my annoyance. She came back to the phone telling me the manager authorized a $5 gift certificate!

WHAT?? A $5 gift certificate? You think THAT is going to pacify me after waiting an extra 7-9 weeks for this item that I needed 8 weeks ago? I told her to please tell her manager that what would make me happy would be to order me two new free items. I told her that I’m not the type of customer that will go away; that I’m the one who will make sure there is change in the company. I told the lady I knew it wasn’t HER fault, but to please pass along to the manager that I expected her to compensate me MUCH more for my loss of time and frustration.

After I hung up, I steamed for a bit. I was outraged that a national company would treat a customer in such a manor. Before long though I got my bearings and figured that the national customer service manager would be the one to call. He is located out west and so I called and politely explained to the lady who answered that I had been given the run around for the past 7 weeks and was completely fed up. I said I needed a manager because now I was past the point of no return and I needed someone to really step in and help me.

Along came Jeff. Jeff had a deep and booming voice, was friendly from the start and listened to my concerns without arguing. He apologized to me and said it’s happened before, it unacceptable and then explained to me WHY they had had such problems. He said there was NO excuse but told me about the manufacturing back ups they had had, the short staff, the new customer service telephone system and how it was working and how it was still in the trial phase. He even mentioned that I probably didn’t NEED to know all of these details but just wanted to let me know that they WERE aware of the problem but that no one should be treated like I was.

I offered some suggestions to him about changing their voice mail, to ask for people’s patience during this time of transition. I said that people are more than willing to be patient if they know that there is a problem that is in the works of being fixed. If you IGNORE the problem, then the customer feels like they’re the ones being ignored, or the only ones falling through the cracks. Imagine if thousands of customers felt like that. That would make for one UNHAPPY customer service department!

Jeff listened, thanked me for my suggestions and then offered me to credit my account. He promised that he would personally take on the responsibility of getting my items to me. He gave me his personal line and told me to call him any time I had any problems. I thanked him and felt gratified.

I hung up and felt like I had been taken seriously. I felt like someone listened, and I felt happy that he compensated me for my frustration and at least part of the time I had spent chasing down their product that I desperately needed.

I wonder what would happen if each employee had the power to do what Jeff did? I wonder if they allowed all of their employees to “personally” take care of every customer with a complaint? Better yet, what if they tried to exceed EACH customer’s expectations BEFORE the problems?

But since they were attempting to catch up with their problems and rectify them, I had to give them a break. I hope they realize though in the interim, that they can educate the customers to what the issues are, and invite them to remain patience during this time of transition.

As a customer, I was ready to go to town getting their whole account cancelled from the organization from which I belong. I know the president of the organization who I might be able to convince to change vendors in the long run. That would have been literally thousands and thousands of dollars that the company would have lost.

Instead, I got the RIGHT guy on the phone who knew how to make me happy. He quieted me down, he compensated me for my frustration and he gained my respect along the way.

Sometimes, its all in who you know, or can GET to know that matters!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Anchors are Slanting the News

I’ve had to turn the TV off! I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of hearing the anchors on the news slat the questions against the Bush administration!

“Why do you suppose the Federal Government wasn’t ready?”

“Do you think it’s because New Orleans is full of blacks and not an affluent class of people?”

The questions go on and on. I saw one reporter ask Rudi Gulliani from NYC that this administration is getting deeply criticized and he got praised during his crisis, what should they have done differently? Mayor Gulliani gave a terrific response and said that now is the time to work, not to point fingers.

If you find out the real facts, you’ll find that both Governors of LA and MS were offered assistance BEFORE the floods and both turned them down from the State of Texas. They didn’t have any of the busses in place for them to bring people out of the state. And, the mayor of New Orleans HIMSELF gave 500 police officers and their families FREE vacations to Las Vegas just after a couple of days after the flood when numerous people STILL NEEDED TO BE SAVED!

Talk about BAD LEADERSHIP. Give me a BREAK. Do you think that Rudi Gulliani ever asked the Firefighters and police officers to go take a break in the weeks following the tragedy in NYC? As a person who lived in NYC during 9/11 and saw our own firefighters around the block still work when 15 of their brothers had been killed, I can tell you they were still ON THE JOB.

Maybe no one is blaming the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi because they’re both minorities! One is African American and one is a woman. Perhaps people are treading lightly because everyone ELSE is blaming the federal government and they refuse to report the REAL news… I wish the producers at CNN, CNN Headline News, NBC and the other networks would at LEAST be fair and tell BOTH sides. Stop leading the people down a path of destruction. You’re instigating hatred in our country instead of trying to heal the wounds.

I’ve been watching FOX & FRIENDS and I find that they show BOTH sides. They have presented the failings of the local government just as much. They’ve talked about how they didn’t even have a PLAN in place. They didn’t get the bus drivers of the bus’s, they didn’t have alliances with other states. They didn’t want anyone infringing in their territory, and now they yell at everyone else. And the media continues to support them.

It’s mind-boggling!

The news media is filled with adrenaline junkies. I know, I was one of them. It’s exciting to bring controversy and to get people on edge. That’s their JOB. In the news room, it’s who can bring the best scoop, the latest dish, and the most heartbreaking story to the table wins that day. THIS IS THEIR JOB. They’re there to find people to blame, and to shock. They’re sitting at their desks calling thousands of people to find the ONES who will be OUTSPOKEN and articulate.. and have an opinion that will shock and scorn. Trust me, I know, tons of my friends are and were producers.

The news directors that okay the news are there to make sure their stations get the ratings, so they can get the best advertisers. It’s a balance they have to meet, because they can’t be swayed by the advertisers. Yet, they have to support their jobs by the sales dept. selling advertising.

If you want to truly get the real news, make sure you don’t watch just one station. And do yourself a favor and turn on Fox and Friends at least once a day to see what they are covering. They’re not a bunch of blaming anchors interviewing people who are pointing fingers. They bring stories of hope to the people of America. And they present BOTH sides, not just ONE Side.

But better yet, just turn the TV off, and find your OWN way to help the victims. By now, they are making their way into all of our communities. A few toys, some gift cards and a home cooked meal is what they need now. Not people telling them how bad off they are.

Let’s look to the future and help those who need it now. And in the long run, when we’re struck by another catastrophe, we’ll remember how we all came together as a UNITED country, and not a DIVIDED one!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Learn to anticipate your Customer's Needs

This morning I was having breakfast with my good friend Diane at one of my favorite breakfast nooks. I enjoy the atmosphere there although I’ve been less than pleased with the customer service so far.
This morning when we decided to go to breakfast, my mouth started watering for their delicious scones. They usually have 3-4 kinds available such as chocolate chip, blueberry and cranberry. I have shared these with my mom a few times and always love it with raspberry or strawberry jam and a “spot” of mint tea and honey.
This morning was no different. I knew exactly what I wanted when I got there. When it was my time to order I asked the waitress to bring some jam with my scone. Her answer totally put me off and I got defensive. She said: “well, we might have some jelly, but most people want raspberry or strawberry and I’m not sure if I can find any, so you might have to have orange”.
The hot prickles hit the back of my neck and I got ticked! I’m the customer after all, paying you and I don’t care if you have to run down the street to get the right jelly, I know you have it.. so FIND it!
My answer surprised her. I said, “oh NO, that won’t do. I don’t eat orange. You’ll have to find me some of the other jams that I like”. (I think I even said I HATE orange... to be extra dramatic! Okay, so it's a little over the top... but I didn't WANT orange! )
Long story short, she found the jelly. But we were both a bit upset throughout the process. I was upset because I’m a regular customer and I know what the restaurant offers. She was upset because I challenged her and strongly suggested that she serve me what I wanted… which meant she was going to have to work a bit harder.
Learning to anticipate your customer’s needs means that when you find out that customers like a certain service, or a certain product more than others, then KEEP IT ON HAND. If they don’t like a certain system or they don’t like something that you offer, be willing to listen to the complaints and solve the problem first if you can. If you can’t, then sympathize with the customer, explain and offer a different solution! Never just say “no” to a customer if you want to keep them coming back.
For the waitress this morning to be effective, she’d have to go the extra step and tell her management that she’s noticing that they’re running low on Strawberry and Raspberry jelly. She’d have to request that the manager order EXTRA of those and keep them on hand at all time. She would have needed to handle me by saying that she'd do WHATEVER she could to find the jam I requested, and if she was unsuccessful, she'd figure something out. (If it came down to that, then she should offer me free scone or something of that nature.)
Pleasing her customers will bring bigger tips and what else? The all important returning customer!!! The 80-20 rule is always in effect: 20% of your customers will give you 80% of their business. That means that you HAVE to learn to know what the customers LIKE so you can be ready.
What about you? Are you ready for your customers? Do you know what they’ll complain about or what they want more of? Can you prepare in advance so you won’t be caught off guard?
Learning what your customers want is important. But learning what they will want NEXT is the sign of truly outstanding customer service.