Big Changes Coming to Your LinkedIn


If you haven’t heard yet, LinkedIn is making some big changes that may affect how you use the platform. The now Microsoft-owned business social networking platform is redesigning with the intention of making the desktop version look more like the recently updated LinkedIn app.

LinkedIn has already started roll-out of the updated platform and I recently was upgraded to the new interface. I learned quickly that LinkedIn is pushing some of my favorite tools to Premium. It has changed my approach to social selling and made my ability to locate prospects more tedious and time-consuming. Read on to learn the changes coming to your LinkedIn and ways to navigate the revamped platform.

What is Social Selling? 

Social selling is leveraging your social network to find the best prospects, build trust and relationships with those prospects and ultimately, achieve your sales goals.

Social selling, along with inbound marketing, eliminates the necessity of cold calling. It allows you to get insight on your prospect’s behaviors, goals and communication style. That way, you can communicate with them in the best way possible and provide them with solutions for their biggest problems.

A Change in Approach to Social Selling with the New LinkedIn

Old Way of Finding Prospects– Prior to the LinkedIn upgrade, I was able to easily mine through the contacts of my connections. By using the “advanced search tool” on a connection’s page, I could find contacts of my connections who could benefit from my services, by narrowing my search to a specific geographic area, job title and industry. Now, on the new LinkedIn interface, I am unable to click on “Bob Smith” and advance search his contacts for people with whom I’d like to be introduced. Advance searching on a connection’s page is now a tool for only LinkedIn Premium users.

New Way of Finding Prospects– Now, for people who don’t have LinkedIn Premium like myself (though I’m leaning towards the upgrade), the process of finding prospects is more labor-intensive.

First, start out with an advance search of all of your contacts. Be specific. Include job title and location or any other information that can really narrow your search. You can choose 2nd or 3rd connections (learn about degrees of connection here).

The biggest issue I’ve found with searching this way is I’m unable to easily limit my search to one specific industry. Since I work exclusively with business-to-business manufacturers, I don’t want to be populated with service or business to consumer companies. I only want to find manufacturers.

It’s frustrating to have to click on profiles, determine if the person fits into one of my buyer personas and then see who is connected with this person and could potentially introduce me. If you are in a sales-oriented role or HR, an upgrade to Premium may be worth it to save valuable time and money.

There are many additional changes coming to LinkedIn and the new desktop experience is expected to roll out globally to all members over the coming weeks. You can click here to view LinkedIn’ New User Interface or if you’d rather, below is a video which gives a more in-depth look at all the changes coming to LinkedIn.

An in-depth look at the new LinkedIn interface
Happy Social Selling!

Yes, I'm ready to talk marketing strategy

How to Increase Social Selling with LinkedIn

How to impact manufacturing sales and be ‘sticky’ with LinkedIn contacts


Why do you use LinkedIn? Are you trying to find new manufacturing sales prospects, trying to keep tabs on your customers or were you just told it’s the place to be for business professionals? Our manufacturing clients ask us all the time about how to use LinkedIn for marketing and generating leads.

As with most business relationships, familiarity leads to trust. People need to know you, like you and trust you before they will do business with you. Here’s a past blog about cultivating prospects and building trust, the old-fashioned way.

Sharing valuable content, acknowledging milestones; such as work anniversaries and truly engaging with your prospects profile is crucial to building a relationship. In this blog, you’ll learn how to strengthen relationships with your existing contacts by using various tools in LinkedIn. I call these the “sticky” tools, as they allow you to be genuine and ever-present with your contacts.

The three most useful LinkedIn tools I use are 1) Following prospects posts, 2) Liking milestones, and 3) Conversation starters (new feature).

Prospect Posts

To show you truly care, be the first to like and then comment on your prospect’s post. You can post a follow up question to really show you appreciated their post. Consider sharing the post as well. These simple tasks can be done very quickly. Your contact is monitoring their own post traffic and will certainly take notice of your action.


You may have notice notifications on the top right hand side of your LinkedIn profile, which notifies you of active LinkedIn users birthdays, job advancements, and yearly work anniversaries. From your desktop or just as easily the LinkedIn smartphone app, you can acknowledge these milestones. I find I can get through 10-15 milestone notifications in just as many seconds. Often, I will be thanked for noticing and then the reengaged prospect becomes that much more open to another conversation.

Conversation Starters

This is a very new feature from LinkedIn. I first noticed a banner on the message portion of the iPhone app. It simply said ‘reconnect.’ I clicked it and it began suggesting contacts that I had not connected with in recent months. The feature might reference a recent article they were mentioned in or a recent post. What a cool way to remind us (through their magical algorithms) just how important it is to stay top of mind. Another easy way to access this is start a new message from your desktop and click on the lightbulb idea icon. As you can see in the photo below, if you click on the idea icon, it will give you great conversation starters to break the ice with contacts you haven’t spoken with in a while.


Use the new light bulb icon to start a conversation today!

So, there you have it. Three more ways to become more than just a past connection on LinkedIn and impact manufacturing sales. Reconnect, start conversations, and be truly visible to build those crucial relationships.

Do you have a feature you love? Comment below and share.

Need Help Generating Leads with LinkedIn? Contact Us.

How to Convince Your Manufacturing CEO to Invest in Inbound Marketing

Throughout the last 2 years at Felber PR, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with and serving incredible manufacturers. I’ve spoken with many sales and business development professionals about their marketing tactics and sales process. Often manufacturing companies make targeted products that they can only sell to specific businesses. Manufacturers know their markets well and are closely watching every move their competition makes.

However, they know that they could do a better job at tying marketing and sales together through digital marketing. The problem? Their CEO isn’t convinced about the power of inbound marketing. The CEO says things like “Our customers are just not online.” or, “I do not buy online and I just think our customers do not use the web for research. They find us through referrals.” If you want to convince your manufacturing CEO boss to invest in inbound marketing, it’s essential to illustrate the return-on-investment manufacturers receive from investing in inbound.

Here are 5 ways to persuade your boss that inbound is the best way to bring more qualified leads into the sales funnel and shorten the sales cycle.

1. Demonstrate Statistics and Growth Opportunities – Before the dawn of the Internet, trade shows were one of the main ways to reach people across the nation or the globe. Manufacturers also spent money on rep firms and printed (and mailed) thousands of catalogs. Now, with the Internet, one click and you’re able to go across the world from the comfort of your desk.

Inbound marketing opens up a treasure trove of insight on where your prospective customers live and work and more importantly what, exactly, they’re seeking. Inbound and the data provided allows your company to create more targeted communications and turn visitors into prospects. Manufacturers also gain insight insight on ways to retain the current customer base and expand sales opportunities to them. Inbound marketing provides you the opportunity to monitor your competition, stay in tune with their online presence, and keep your company at the forefront of your industry.

2. Show Cost Reduction Opportunities – Let’s face it. Old school sales and marketing isn’t cost effective. Taking your best prospects out for golf to close the deal on the 18th hole is expensive and honestly, who has time for that? Attending trade shows without a set trade show marketing plan is not only costly, but also difficult to show return-on-investment. Direct mail alone isn’t going to get you anywhere. The best way to approach your CEO about inbound marketing is by showing the potential savings by reducing direct mail and the time wasted on cold calling, and replacing with SEO, lead nurturing, content and email marketing.

3. Take Down the Misconception that Your Customers Aren’t Online – Your CEO may feel like your company has a clear grasp on getting business through referrals and cold calling, but the world has shifted. According to a study done by Google, 71% of business-to-business decision makers start their research with an online search. Research shows that business-to-business decision makers are 57% of the way down the path to making a decision before performing an action on your website. This new age of buying makes it increasingly more important to track traffic, leads, conversion rates, etc. Then, your business can have a much clearer understanding of its marketing effectiveness and tailor its efforts toward what your prospects and customers need.

4. CRM Integration Ties Marketing and Sales Together – Maybe you have a CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) database but aren’t using it to it’s best advantage or your company has gotten by using multiple Excel spreadsheets. Whether you have a small sales team or a large international division, it is important to help sales track and work leads and customers. Let your CEO know that integrating your CRM into your inbound marketing platform allows for leads who database themselves through calls-to-action, landing pages, or form on your website to automatically be integrated into your CRM. This integration allows your sales team to follow up with leads quicker and more efficiently.

inbound-marketing-manufacturing-ceo5. Empower Your Sales Team with Better Insights On Leads
– Old world sales have been replaced with something greater and the age of cold calling is dead.  By creating a consistent stream of content (blogs, eBooks, white papers, emails) and a path to conversion (calls-to-actions, landing pages, and forms), you can track what pages people visit on your website, what content is interesting to them and get a better understanding of what your prospects are looking for and want.

Inbound empowers your sales team to pick up the phone and have the knowledge of what the prospect wants and how your company can help them. Start learning about your prospect in a whole new way and you will be amazed what they, through inbound and analytics, tell you about what they want to buy from you.

Interested in discussing how to bring your old-world manufacturing company into the digital age?

Contact Us

Why Developing Buyer Personas is Invaluable for Manufacturers

Attract Ideal Customers to Your Website with Buyer Personas

You are a manufacturer, which means most days, you are swamped between responding to customers, managing inventory, solving a technical issue and the list goes on and on. You may think you have a clear understanding of your customer base but do you really understand their behaviors, goals, challenges and demographics?

To create a sound content marketing plan, it is essential that you take the time to identify your ideal customers. This process is called creating buyer personas. Buyer personas help manufacturers identify their best prospects. The profile of your best prospect and how they buy is the buyer’s’ journey.

Note: Manufacturers should conform to the “buyers” way of purchasing and not the other way around. If you are quick to send literature or conduct a product demonstration, you’re using your process, not theirs. With 71% of B2B research starting with a generic search, manufacturers need to reach prospects digitally and engage in a completely new way.

buyer-personasWhat Are Buyer Personas?

Semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on select educated speculation and real data about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.

How to Create Personas:

1) Day in Their Life Scenario– Creating a day in the life example for your persona can help you better understand your customers challenges and motives.

2) Demographic Behavior– Identify the typical age, income, education, and location of your buyer personas.

3) Identify Goals– Knowing your persona’s goals and dreams is crucial. This helps you craft your content, products and services to help them achieve these specific goals.

4) Discover Their Pain – Does this persona have certain pain points in their day-to-day operations? Are there ways that you can reduce business interruption or bring new products or services to this person to eliminate these pain points?

5) Information Search Process– How does this person search for information? Are they at a desk or on mobile? Do they switch off their phone at dinner or are they working 24/7? You need to know how and when to contact based on their specific behaviors not how you operate.

6) Common Hesitations or Objections- Manufacturers overall are very careful and risk-averse by nature. Are there common hesitations or objections they typically have working with a company like yours? If you identify their hesitations, you can better prepare a solution to counter them. This will be an invaluable asset to your sales team.

7) Create a Story- I know, I know. You’re a manufacturer, not a writer. The idea of writing a story is daunting.. But trust me, it’s invaluable. By writing about your persona in a story format, it is much easier for everyone in your organization to recognize people that fit under that persona and it’ll provide your sales team with the skills to communicate with prospects in the way that best suits them.

Daunted? Here Are Some Ways to Make the Process Easier

  • Look through your CRM to discover trends about how your customers find and take your content (Are they at their desks or on mobile? Are they more receptive to a quick email blast or an in-depth white paper?)
  • Interview customers about what they like about your products and services.
  • Create forms on your website that capture information about that individual’s buyer persona. (Example: Size of the company, Title, Biggest 3D printing challenge, etc.)
  • Talk to your sales team. They have intelligence on your sales cycle and the customers that work best with your company. Ask them what generalizations they can make about the various customers you serve.

Buyer personas provide structure and insight for manufacturers to nurture leads through the sales process. A detailed buyer persona helps determine where to best spend your time, guide product development, and empowers your sales team with knowledge to better communicate with prospects. Then, you will be able to attract the most valuable visitors, leads, and customers to your business.

Need Help Creating Buyer Personas? Click Here.

Top Tips for Cold-Calling Prospects on Your Website

cold-calling-websiteCreepy Crawlers on Your Website or Your Next Sale?

The scary sales call is not just for Halloween..

Let’s face it, technology from George Orwell’s 1984 is alive and well on Halloween 2016. We’re a mobile society; we buy stuff with one click from Amazon and react when online retailers offer other products to go with the one we just purchased. So, why would we not want the technology to help business to business manufacturers? Yes, the “sale” is different and the cycle may be dramatically longer; but, the relationship needs to start somewhere.

When we see visitors to our website it’s now more data than the anonymous IP address traffic of the past. We see what pages they visited, what content they downloaded and just as important, who they are and the company they represent.

So, is it creepy to call immediately or really good proactive sales? If I was lost on a city block and someone offered to direct me, I would be grateful.  The same goes in searching for a solution for your business or a new product. People want information and to come up with a solution as soon as possible.  This is why you should call your possible prospect while they are actively searching for answers. Manufacturers work hard to attract visitors and hopefully future customers to their website. We use many tools, from search engine optimization and keywords to public relations and email marketing to attract qualified traffic. When they arrive, they should get a warm greeting.

Are you concerned your prospect will find your call creepy or be amazed at your use of technology? When making the call, we find it easy to quickly dispel this concern and address it head on.

If communicated with humor, an introduction like this example quickly melts the ice.

“Hello Mary, I hope this isn’t too creepy — I saw that you were visiting our website and thought I would give you a call to address any questions you might have. What were you looking for help with?”

Our experience is your prospect will laugh, but then quickly discuss what they were looking for when they found your website. Take the leap, call your prospect and do it today – within minutes of their visit.

Have fun selling!

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I Don’t Work In Manufacturing So Manufacturing Day Doesn’t Matter

It’s October, which means it is the season for fall colors, clambakes and football. Additionally, it is Manufacturing Month, kicked off by Manufacturing Day on October 7, 2016. Founded in 2012, Manufacturing Day is an annual national event that “has been designed to expand knowledge about, and improve public perceptions of manufacturing careers and manufacturing’s value to the U.S. economy.”

Participants of Manufacturing Day use the hashtags #MFGday16 and #MfgDay to join the movement and support US manufacturing as a whole, with people and businesses around the country.

Admittedly, I am the last person you want building anything. I am a firefighter part-time; I know how to break stuff with fancy tools. But fix or manufacture something….not even.


Manufacturing Day Ohio and preparing for Crain’s M Power #MFGday16

So, why am I writing about manufacturing? Our region, our country for that matter, was founded by builders, makers, and innovators. While many of the old-school steel mills and factories that we grew up with are gone, many have been replaced by a new-age of manufacturers that are creating parts and products with cutting-edge technology and 3D printing.

Manufacturing and all those that support the process are what Manufacturing Month is all about. Manufacturing goes beyond the young engineers and safety personnel at a factory. There are so many companies (like our agency), that are also employed because something needs to be built.

Sales people who start the process are an integral part of the manufacturing process. I often say, nothing happens until someone sells something. Let’s not forget about the financial folks who are instrumental in finding the fuel to acquire the machinery and raw materials. Website designers and writers, journalists and hotel operators. And the list goes on and on. We are all impacted by the manufacturing sector.

Download Your Free Trade Shows For Manufacturers eBook

Our mission at Felber PR & Marketing is directly supported by all those who manufacture. We’ve been here too for 23 years – rolling up our sleeves, donning safety glasses and doing our part to promote manufacturers in all sectors, from roofing to flooring, fasteners to 3D printing. That’s why we say We Get Manufacturing. Later this month we will sponsor, for the third year in a row, Crain’s [M] Manufacturing Assembly, on October 19th, 2016. Want a chance to attend for free? We’re giving away tickets to the event.

Please join me in supporting manufacturers. Northeast Ohio is home to some of the most incredible manufacturers work hard. Tag us, @FelberPR and we’ll share your manufacturing month posts and amplify your message with our network. Last year our campaign went national! Want to see how we have celebrated in the past?

However you support the manufacturing process, we salute you.

Relay For Life and The Power of Giving Back


committee relay for life photo

Rob and I along with the rest of the Relay For Life Committee

A couple weeks ago, Felber PR & Marketing participated in Twinsburg/Nordonia Relay For Life. One of the great privileges of working at a  small business is being able to give generously to charitable causes and to the community. While giving back to causes near and dear to you feels good, it also has some business advantages as well. According to a Cone Communications and Echo Research study, 82 percent of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) when deciding which products or services to buy and where to shop.

Here are four things to consider when incorporating charitable work and community involvement into your business plan.

  1. Create Relationships Within Your Community– When deciding where to invest your company’s efforts, take a deep look at your community to see what is important. Does the local animal shelter need donations? What are the major pain points people are talking about at your local chamber of commerce?  Is the school district struggling? Our blog on community involvement gives tips on ways to identify areas to donate your time or ways to create a community involvement program. Choosing to volunteer our time to Relay For Life Twinsburg-Nordonia was second nature, as Rob’s twins we both co-chairs of the entire event (at just 16 years old), and we both had many family members affected by cancer. We were happy to take the time to give back to a great cause and volunteer in the community that has been so good to us!
  2. Get Employee Buy In- Providing employees with the opportunity to give back is important to boost morale and build a stronger and more collaborative team. Instead of having employees meet for drinks after work, it’s better and more fulfilling to give employees volunteering opportunities during work hours or the option to participate in service based activities after work. Involve your employees in brainstorming fundraising ideas and ways to give back! Volunteering also has the added benefit of providing leadership opportunities for employees, which can lead to increase staff performance, fulfillment and overtime, increased productivity and sales. 
  3. Customize Your Volunteer Plan Based on Employee Strengths- If you read our blog Why You Need StrengthsFinder for Employee Engagement,  you’ll have identified yours and your employee’s strengths. We recommend when creating a volunteer plan for the business owner to look at employee strengths and select volunteer activities that draw upon those strengths. Really take the time to review your employees’ strengths and the strengths of your business as a whole. Identify how much time your employees are able to volunteer annually, taking into account your operational demands. 
    team relay

    Team Cures R Us show their spirit at Relay!

    I was the Online Chair for Relay For Life, and managed social media and email communications. Rob was the logistics chair and was excellent at on-boarding people in the community to volunteer and getting vendors to volunteer their time. We both used our unique skills during Relay and felt great giving back to a cause near and dear to our hearts, as well as the community in which we do business!

  4. Tell Your Customers How You’re Giving Back- Once you’ve implemented your volunteering plan, tell current and prospective customers know what you’re doing. Share it on social media and blog about it! Your customers and prospects will appreciate that you’re the company that “pays it forward”. Also, when potential employees are scrolling through your company’s website, social media, and blog, they will be impressed by the fun features on your company giving back, rather than pages filled with typical sales messages about how ‘great’ your think your company is. Giving back to the community is not only a great way to highlight your company’s culture, but also separate your company from your competitors!

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Why You Need StrengthsFinder for Employee Engagement

During college — a time when myself and my peers were trying to “find” themselves and realize their true career potential — I was required to take an online personality assessment in my senior capstone, called StrenghtsFinder. Over the years, I’d taken a fair amount of these personality assessments– Myers Briggs, The Five Love Languages, The Colors Tests, you name it. Although I enjoyed taking personality assessments, I always felt like they told me what I already knew about myself. To my surprise, StrengthsFinder was entirely different and allowed me to view myself in an entirely different light. It was by far the most valuable book I read during my college career and is one that has helped me tremendously, both personally and professionally. Below are the top 5 reasons you and your colleagues should take the Strengthsfinder assessment.


  1. Focuses on Talents Not Tendencies– StrengthsFinder, was developed by Gallup’s team of scientists and positive psychologists to help people “uncover and develop their natural talents.”  While it’s an assessment you can take in 10-15 minutes and a book you can read in one sitting, it is a tool that you can use for years to come. Most personality focuses on your personality tendencies (introverted/extroverted, thinker/feeler.) This assessment is different because instead of focusing on your basic personality traits, it focuses on what makes you unique and special. Once you take the assessment, it will list your top 5 strengths in order (Gallup has identified 34 strengths.) The assessment not only focuses on “typical strengths” like “analytical” or “communication” but also on strengths most people don’t focus on in work and educational settings (ex: one of my strengths is “Positivity”, something I never viewed as a “strength”.

2. Teaches You How to Maximize Your Strengths– Even for the person who feels like they have a strong understanding of who they are, Strengthsfinder gives people the validation that they are exceptionally great at something and also gives suggestions on how people can hone in on their strengths and work to their fullest potential. Once you take the test, I highly suggest you take it a step further and read StrenghtsFinder 2.0. In the book you’ll find:

  • Your top five theme report, built around the Strengths Insight descriptions
  • 50 Ideas for Action (10 for each of your top five themes) based on thousands of best-practice suggestions we reviewed
  • A Strengths Discovery Activity that helps you think about how your talents, investment, experience, skills, and knowledge work together to build strengths
  • A Strength-Based Action Plan for setting specific goals for building and applying your strengths in the next week, month, and year

3. Gives You Focus to Reach Your Full Potential– Traditionally, we’ve been taught that if we work really hard, we can do better at anything. While I truly believe in the power of hard work, it is obvious that some people have certain aptitudes that others don’t. For example, I could try my hardest to improve my basketball skills. I could practice every day, I could join a team, I could get one-on-one practice sessions in with a coach, and I could practice my free throws every single day. I would improve but I will never have a WNBA player level of talent. Instead, it’s much better for me to focus on my unique skillset and bring my strengths to the table, in both my personal life and in the workplace.

4. Stronger Team Building and Camaraderie– Strengthsfinder is an excellent tool for team building. It is great not only for staff to take on the individual level to learn their own individual strengths, but it also an extremely beneficial tool for management and allows you to see the strengths and potential in your team.  I suggest everyone take the test prior to reading the Strengthsfinder book and then read up on their specific strengths, learn them inside and out. Then, I suggest management read about all the other strengths in the book. Yes, you only get 5 top strengths but there are 34 uniques strengths in the book that your co-workers or employees may possess. Learning about the other strengths allows you to better identify other people’s potential and work better with and assign projects that people will thrive doing and be happy doing.

5. Happier Employees Leads to a Stronger, More Productive Workplace

According to a study by University of Warwick Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, happier employees are more productive. The experiment showed that productivity increased by an average of 12% when they were happy. The study stated opportunities, professional growth, and recognition at the workplace as some of the main factors in overall employee happiness. Strengthsfinder is an excellent stepping stone to give employees the recognition they deserve and opportunities to grow in their careers.

Allie’s Strengths

  1. Achiever
  2. Learner
  3. Input
  4. Individualization
  5. Positivity

Rob’s Strengths

  1. Empathy
  2. Responsibility
  3. Restorative
  4. Arranger
  5. Woo

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How manufacturers can make content marketing picture perfect

Rob Felber’s article in the Crain’s Cleveland Business Akron Edition

Photos are a critical element in content marketing for manufacturers. Whether your story is strictly online, being used for a media article or your own collateral, a picture does tell a thousand words.

But what if the words are wrong? The following are key factors to consider when staging, using or choosing just the right photo.

The first and often most important factor in photo use is resolution. Most print publications require at least a minimum of 300 dpi. Not sure how to get the highest resolution on your digital camera? Simply set your camera to capture the highest resolution, or put it on a “raw” setting. This will ensure you have the depth, pixels and, ultimately, the resolution publications require. Just because it looks good on a website or on Facebook does not mean the photo file is large enough to be used in print or even with your trade show booth display

buckeye man drilling

Client Buckeye Fasteners’ photo showcases process of making their parts.

When taking a photo, it is important to feature what you want to show, but also what you do not want to show. Often, we might see great photos of workers getting the job done. What is often overlooked is safety.

Are the workers on a roof tied off properly and wearing Occupational Safety and Health Administration and industry-standard safety equipment? Your photo runs the risk of being rejected if your facility and workers are not up to industry standards. Even worse, if the photo gets published and others notice your workers, with logo-emblazoned helmets, prominently displaying an obvious safety violation, you could greatly tarnish your brand and reputation.

During the photo-selection process, ask yourself, “Are we giving too much away?” Look carefully at not only the subject of your photo, but the background. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Is there proprietary equipment in the background?
  • Are secret processes able to be seen in photo?
  • Is the environment messy?
  • Are there people in the scene who are distracting?
  • Are customers featured, and do you have their permission? Be cautious about tipping off your competition.


    Buckeye Fasteners photo showcases American-made values and unique boot hanging ceremony for retiring employee-owners.

When pre-planning your photo shoot (please tell us you just didn’t charge your iPhone and wing it), make sure to review your company’s branding and messaging guidelines. Try to capture photos that support your brand.

Are you proud to be union and American-made? Look for opportunities to take photos that support that image. Do you profess to have associates who roll up their sleeves and get the job done? Choose a scene and personnel that show just that.

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to capture and use the perfect photo.

Read the full article here.

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Business Owner Interruption and Staying Out of the Quicksand

One of my favorite movies is The Replacements with Keanu Reeves. The story line is about a bunch of football players brought in by the owners to fill in for the striking spoiled professional players. There’s a scene where coach (Gene Hackman) is trying to talk about player fears. After a digression about spiders and bees, Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), the team’s quarterback mentions his fear of quicksand. The whole team turns to listen to their leader. What he is referring to is that while you are playing football and think all is well, one mistake can have a spiraling effect where it becomes another mishap after another. Before you know it you are up to your neck in quicksand.

As a business owner, you are depended upon by many people. Clients and employees, as well as vendors, your family and maybe even your community. In a small or medium sized business, there may not be many layers in your organization. You might be the rain maker, accountant, deliverer of services and even the janitor. You have shed the shackles of large corporate life, with the layers of support staff for the thrill of building something of your own. One day (or for me an evening) your find yourself in quicksand.

rob leg

Rob home after first ER visit with newly bandaged leg.

My quicksand adventure and what I am calling business owner interruption came 20 minutes into my men’s league evening soccer game. It wasn’t a heroic play, or even a foul by me or the attacker. I simply made a stick tackle and caught turf and my opponent’s foot. A quick turn and I hear the unmistakable sound of celery being snapped. That was it. Broken and torn up ankle with fractures in my leg in two places. As I lay on the field, with my left foot headed south, I realized that I was immediately dependent. Dependent on my teammates, the paramedics (as a certified paramedic myself, I assisted with own splinting and refused an IV and pain meds) and my family and neighbor to retrieve my car. Once in the ER, I saw no less than 12 people in and out of my room. That’s when I knew it was bad.  I now lay on the ER bed helpless, accept for my smartphone. Who needed to know?  Company staff, my business partner at one of my companies, my fire department chief to cancel my shifts, my colleagues and administration at the school board, my assistant coaches in softball and the list goes on. QUICKSAND! The impact of what I had done started to fill the room with sand, buckets of the stuff.

Fortunately through the injury, two reductions in the ER and ultimately surgery, I remained pain free. What transpired next is pure business interruption. Most of my ability to prospect in person for new business, attending networking events and volunteer committees went out the window. My “fear” of keeping business flowing and the ability to pay bills was more coarse sand in the back of my throat. For nearly three weeks I was dependent on people to drive me. I had to plan each move, from handing out diplomas at high school graduation as school board president, with the administration’s fear I might trip students with my cast, to simply getting downstairs, out the door and into my office. The lessons learned were many.

First, I had to understand people truly wanted to help. Harder, for a type-A CEO is to actually ask for help. Learn to ask. Whether it is being picked up for work, carrying your computer or simply getting you food. Crutches were my equalizer as I could not carry anything not already on my back. One of my clients and a wise man told me that people want to help. It’s our privilege to allow them to help us. Let people help you.

Second, be ready for the down days. You thrive by being involved, being everyone’s go-to person. When that is gone, as I found out, you can easily get depressed. For me, the endorphins from running or being active were gone. I truly believe that chemical need impacts your mood. Add in feeling like you are letting everyone down and not being with any of the teams you love make it even darker. I saw the same thing with a child we had to remove from contact sports due to concussions, but did not understand how feeling left out really impacts the psyche. Get up and take back control of something, anything. Whether getting dressed without help or finding a way to go to an offsite meeting, it will boost your spirits.

Third, can I prepare for this better? Having computer and server access helps. What files and procedures can be in the cloud? Who can you train to maintain critical operations? While I was the only one to pay bills, I was able to let my assistant take a greater role in client communications. Make sure you know how to allow access via passwords, where important files are located both physically and on computers. Role play today what you would do it you could not get to the office for a week or more.

Lastly, know that clients will understand. You’ve spent years building trust and proving your dependability. They will understand that meetings might be delayed and accommodations for alternative communications might be needed. Do not be afraid to tell them your condition. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by their support. While I still have a long road of physical therapy ahead, I now have a better handle on some of the critical tasks in my organization.

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