Planning for Success

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  

Greetings New Mexico prospects and clients!  I’m pleased to announce that The Story Muse has relocated to the incredibly beautiful high desert of Albuquerque having built an adobe nest in the quaint village of Placitas.  I enjoyed 10 years of living in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon) but I must say it is wonderful to be able to dry out and enjoy consistent sunshine than I’ve experienced in over a decade.  Too bad the Twilight movie series has come to an end; I would have made a great extra.
I didn’t have much time this year to blog as I would have liked to.  2012 was a busy year – and I hope 2013 proves to be increasingly more productive.  Many of this year’s clients were nonprofit organizations which kept my brain buzzing and my fingers blazing since besides making sure your grant application and its’ content is impeccable, making sure you meet those deadlines is imperative. Otherwise you miss the boat entirely and will have to wait until the following year for the next grant cycle to commence.  Twelve months to wait for money that you need pronto is not going to propel your organization forward at the speed you would desire.  Keep in mind how many underfunded nonprofits are vying for the same grant awards.  Submitting your application even by one day matters; the early bird gets the worm, or at least, plucks the prime ones.  I advise all my clients to shoot for one week prior to the deadline to avoid any delays that are out of their control; the Post Office is a prime example.  Send those grant applications out Priority Mail, as there is a much lower chance of it getting lost in the giant package shuffle that goes on behind the Post Office front counter. 
Regardless of what type of business you have I believe on of the biggest keys to success is to plan, plan, and plan!  Get yourself one of those jumbo dry-eraser 12 month calendars and put it in your sales area, conference room, or wherever the troops gather, and utilize it.  Assign a different colored marker for each specific action/person.  Of course you can use on-line shared documents or software, but I’m old school….keeping the calendar up for everyone to see on a daily basis ensures people won’t forget to check their computer generated calendars.  For grant writing purposes, after you have identified those foundations whose focus areas match yours – get them up on the board.  Depending on how much information you have already compiled (financials, history, success stories, goals and objectives) draw a timeline and put a big fat red circle around the DEADLINE date….again, I suggest giving yourself a week’s lead time.  This calendar can be archived and later updated for next years because even if your proposal is declined the first time, you have another opportunity to dazzle them next year. 
Another handy tool that is especially effective for start-up companies or new projects is to develop a simple spreadsheet that would include a start date, the person, or persons, in charge of a specific function, and the projected date of the next step/completion.  Bring this sheet to every management/planning meeting and go down the list asking each participant to provide an update on their task including the next action needed and/or anticipated date of completion.  It might look something like this:
 Julie/Marketing     Education Brochure   11/30/12        Mark/Finance        Budget    12/05/12            Jane/Materials        Quotes/COG               11/30/12


This helps keep the group organized and informed as to what their team members are doing and helps hold them accountable as to their prospective role/s in the project so there are no unwelcome surprises down the road.  “What do mean you forgot to send the final copy to the printer?”
I don’t want to bog you down with today’s blog, so let’s all get back to work.  My plan is to figure out how to best introduce myself to the ABQ metro area businesses, and your plan might be to mark “call this woman who calls herself The Story Muse and see how she can help us” on your calendar.  Works for me; I look forward to the potential of working with you towards increasing your success. 
My rates are reasonable, fair, and I will work as if I own a stake in your organization.  I might even be willing to partially barter for some good green Chile salsa.  So please, consider giving me a call.  I’ll bring the chips.

“Well done is better than well said.” – Ben Franklin

Eleven years ago I moved to Portland for a job and found myself exploring the westside suburbs looking for housing. As I was driving through Tigard on Hwy 99 I suddenly hear a loud “tap, tap, tap” coming from the front passenger tire.  Luckily, I spot the large Yellow, Red and Black Les Schwab sign and roll in seeking assistance with my tiresome tapping tire, praying they are not going to try and con me in to buying two new tires which typically has been my experience with any type of auto repair shop, and, I was solo this time.  A woman with no Man-Stand-In to ensure they don’t take this woman to the rubber cleaners.

Turns out I inadvertently ran over a railroad nail and was informed they could actually plug the offending culprit and was told my tire would be as good as new.  Perhaps, they suggested, I might kill some time reading in their waiting room as the repair would only take about 15 minutes.  Groovy, I think to myself, give my feet some time to dry out and I always pack a good book for emergencies like this.

Fifteen minutes to the second a stout and suspiciously clean-looking, optimistic technician appears waving my keys around as if I’m driving the lead float in the Rose Parade declaring “she’s ready to roll!”….tire humor, no doubt.  Smirk-smiling I reach for my wallet asking what I owed for the repair and I could have sworn I heard him say ‘Oh, nothing’?  “Oh nothing my damp left foot, what’s the catch?” I queried.  “Les Schwab is grateful you thought to stop in and ask for our help.  There is no charge for today’s service.  We hope that in the future you will return to Les Schwab for your tire repair needs.” Mr. Clean chimes back.

My mother’s voice echoed in my head “Julie, shut your mouth before a fly takes up residence” because I’m 98% sure my mouth gaped open a good five seconds before I was able to fully compose myself “Wow, that’s terrific.  Let me give you a tip.” “Ma’am, we don’t work off tips, this is a tire store.”  Red faced I make my exit, and don’t visit them again for another two years – although I retell this story to any non-Oregonian who will listen, and here I am, spouting it off again.

Over the past 11 years I have purchased new tires, snow tires, received free snow chains, aligned and balanced wheels and observed with utter amazement Les Schwab’s consistent demonstration in their commitment to all customers, big and small.   Seven years later I witnessed them helping out a struggling young man who drove in with an older car (one we might call “a beater”).  He could only afford a used tire, and it had to be under $50.00, his total cash in hand.  The Les Schwab team not only called around to find a used tire that would meet his needs, they threw in a comparable second (albeit used) tire, so he would be “balanced”…all for $43.78.  Additionally, they treated this young man with the grace, charm and respect one might assume would be reserved for the “newer car” crowd, or those with more than $50.00 in their pocket.

Last year I replaced my Man-Stand-In with a real life husband (who also restores classic cars) and in seeking tire sales he insisted we take our car to Costco since their price beat Les Schwab’s by a whopping $22.00.  Real husbands, unlike the Stand-In kind, like to take control with the car repair stuff and I’m usually OK with that.  Unfortunately for real-life-man I had been having a 9 year emotional affair with several of the Les Schwab services centers so there was no way I was not going to honor them with the same level of loyalty they extended to me.

Loyalty is not purchased, it’s earned.  Give something away, it will come back.  Call back when you say you will.  Treat small fish as if they are big fish.  Say “Thank You, Come Again”, and actually mean it.  Let your customers taste, touch, feel and hear you.  All prospects are potential customers.  Customers are always listening, question is, are you?