Posts Tagged ‘business’

You Hear Me, But Are You Listening?

Refs

Many people use the terms hear and listen interchangeably; that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Hearing is done with an organ in your body.  Listening is a whole different animal.  It requires some thought and action.

One of the most frustrating conversations that can take place is a one-sided one.  You’re trying to tell someone something that you’d like them to know.  They hear you, they’re just not listening and you know it.  Sometimes we wonder why we talk to them at all.  Eventually we may just stop.  What will the cost be to them?  In business it could be huge.

If you don’t recognize this type of person, it could be you.  Some telltale signs someone is not listening:

  • Expressionless face– couldn’t care one way or the other about the conversation taking place
  • Mouth half open –ready to jump in the second you take a breath
  • Far-off gaze–maybe trying to perfect their first sentence or repeating a point in their head so they don’t forget it
  • Actually interrupting you or speaking to someone else who may walk past
  • Texting or emailing while the other person is talking

Think you could be guilty or just want to be a better listener?  Here are some ways to better engage in conversations:

  • Ask questions and really listen to the responses
  • Make eye contact, don’t look around the room for other people
  • Pause for a second or two before your responses
  • Put yourself in their shoes rather than trying to one-up them

Maybe a heavy dependence on social media has lessened the practice of being a good listener.  But in business you have to listen to build relationships.  Because ultimately people come and go; people change jobs or companies.  If you’ve worked to build those relationships and can listen to what a client wants, you’re more likely to get the call than someone who cannot hold a conversation.

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Writing Through the Change

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover

November first, where did the year go?  I mentioned last week that there were big changes coming for our business, Wilmes Hospitality.  It took a lot of discussion and debate over the last few months, but we have decided to shutter the Fresh Air Lodging green certification program.  As of today that is no longer under the Wilmes umbrella of services.

As I said in the last post, change is inevitable.  We thought we identified a need, or better yet, a niche.  So we jumped with both feet out of our comfort zone and plunged into the icy waters.  It was a huge step, and many said we were crazy—you know, that internet thing is never going to catch on.  But we knew if we didn’t at least try the Fresh Air concept we would spend the rest of our lives wondering “what if”.  That is not how I want to live.

What did we learn from this?  Well, we learned many things about starting a business, branding, and working together in a family business.  It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun, too.  And I think we learned a great deal about ourselves in the process.  Jumping in takes nerve and perseverance.  Some days we looked to each other to buoy ourselves through the rough waters.  But in the end, it was a great experience, a learning experience.

So what’s next for Wilmes Hospitality?  Well, we are still looking at what will stay under our umbrella.  Consulting is always an option, and that has been on the docket since we started.  But since my time was spent in the promotional arena for Fresh Air Lodging, I am pulling on a different hat, but in the same style.  I will continue to write, and hopefully as a hired pen.  But rest assured, faithful subscribers, I will continue to post, just on a wider arena of topics.

And since it is November, it is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  I am again taking the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  I did it last year, and frankly it wasn’t nearly as hard as I anticipated.  So today I am embarking on a writing journey, hoping to pound out a decent draft.  The book is about the late jazz violinist Stuff Smith and his widow, who just happens to be my friend.  Fifty thousand words…Go!

Winds of Change

Small Spray

Change.  Small word, big fear.  Well, for most people anyway.  I try to look at it as inevitable, the only other sure thing in this world besides death. I also believe that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.  In other words, if something’s not working for you, it’s up to you to make the adjustments, don’t just try to ride out the wave.

Curlers

Last week we had a doozie of a storm on Lake Superior.  Living near the largest body of freshwater in the world has some pros and cons.  But one thing is certain, the weather is always changing.  When the sky turned gray I grabbed my trusty Canon and headed for the beach.  As the daughter of a Great Lakes Captain, I have always looked to the water; for solace, answers, comfort.  I appreciate the many moods and changes, and have much respect for its great power.

Rocky Foreground

I’ve heard in the past that wherever a person is, whatever their situation, it’s because that is what they want.  I think that’s kind of over-simplifying things, but for the most part fairly true.  Life is all about choices, and the choices we make move us in one direction or another.  You know, like hurtling at break-neck speed toward a cresting wave with only a camera for protection.

Hillside Lighthouse

Whatever your feelings are about change, it’s bound to happen.  You can yell and scream, make a splash, but it’s still going to come.  Big changes are coming for us next week.  What will it mean?  Ride the tide?  Crash the rocks?  I guess you’ll just have to hold on tight until next week!

Splashing Rocks

**All pictures taken by author.  They are all original full color and untouched by computer programs.

3 Lessons in Saying No

SalesmanIf you’ve ever taken a tropical-type vacation, odds are you have seen something like this picture.  Local people take their wares from resort to resort along the beach looking for sales.  I’m sure it seems harmless enough, and it looks like a pretty physical occupation, but if you’ve ever encountered this you know they are fairly adept in their sales tactics.

Now, if you’re on the beach in this scenario and are not interested in what they’re selling, it’s easy enough to just close your eyes and pretend to be asleep until they pass.  Saying no back in the real world requires more than just not making eye contact.  Sometimes it means taking a hard line and standing your ground, but it can be done with respect.

When I was in operations in the hotel business, my staff was great at screening my visitors.  “No appointment?  Nope, she’s out.”  There, done.  The sales person went along his way and (unaware to me) I stayed on the in limbo list because I never gave him a real no.  This meant he would continue to attempt to reach me.  I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by turning them away, but here’s what I learned as the shoe went on the other foot:

  • I was afraid that if I said no the salesman would come back with a counter and browbeat me into submission, finally getting a yes out of me.
    • Truth—If I just would’ve said no, they most likely would have left me alone and moved on, saving us both precious time and frustration.
  • You’re saying no to the product, not the person.
    • Truth—Do not feel guilty telling your friend that you don’t need yet another candle, lipstick, kitchen apparatus, etc.  They are offering you an option.  If you’re not in the market for it, politely tell them no.  Don’t avoid them and make things awkward, trust me.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re offered a product or service you don’t really understand.
    • Truth—Just because you want more clarity doesn’t mean the sales professional will pounce on you!  If someone is offering you something, they believe it will help you in some way.  If you don’t see the benefit to you (or your business), tell them so.  They may have more information that makes things clearer.  If you listen to this and still are not convinced, tell them your issues and just say no.
    • Truth—If this is a start-up business, you may be helping them work out a few kinks in their product or in the promotion of it.  If multiple people are arriving at similar outcomes it could signal a fatal flaw.  The earlier they catch this the better.

I hope I’ve helped you become more comfortable saying no.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for your time management.  Do it for the sanity of the sales professionals.  They’ll thank you for your sincerity, take you off their list, and you won’t even have to pretend to be asleep.

Partnering For Better Business

BW SirenThis week we had the opportunity to meet with a group of colleagues from Best Western–you know, the world’s largest hotel chain.  Anyway, we were invited to attend a co-op meeting of Minnesota and Wisconsin hotel owners and general managers and give a little schpeel about our business.  It was really great for us, because we have worked for many years with a lot of these folks and it was nice to see them.  But what else was good is the way they work together.

The group is made up of various ages and skill sets, some operators and some corporate folks.  What struck me as impressive was the partnering that was taking place.  Even though they were often competing for the same customers, these people were willing to come together and share their knowledge.  Gone were the days of secrecy and unwillingness to express ideas for fear that someone else will copy you and steal your business!  These people were discussing what they’d learned in their decades of experience in order to try to prevent others from repeating their mistakes.

So that’s the lesson I came home with; work together.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a corporate-type or a more relaxed, leisure-type business, we are all on the same page.  Jumping in and partnering with other people can help you both by expanding your marketing reach.  Sharing of best practices aids newer members of your company.  And since we all have the same 24 hours in a day, you can get more done by creating partnerships and working with people rather than against them.

A New Kind of Normal

Boy Helping Girl Use ComputerI think it’s finally happening; I’m becoming my mother.  That’s not a bad thing mind you, my mom rocks.  But every once in a while I catch myself saying things about “kids” I know, kids in their thirties.  Then I got one of those emails about what it’s like to be in the youngest generation—where they don’t know what it’s like to only have three TV stations, what “Rabbit Ears” are, etc.  That got me to thinking about our business and how expectations have changed.

If you look back a decade or so, you’d see the hospitality industry beginning to make changes toward more sustainable practices.  We began recycling things, changing our light bulbs to fluorescent, and instituting laundry policies to save water and energy.  Now if someone tells you they are recycling, it’s not such a big deal; we expect that.  It’s kind of like the old signs that used to advertise air conditioning and cable TV.  The public is moving on.

So what are these new consumers expecting from businesses then?  Well, our research tells us it has morphed beyond the traditional “green” practices.  They are looking for community involvement, social responsibility, and a spirit of volunteerism in the companies with whom they do business.  Purchasers want to associate with people who live and work like they do.  If an establishment’s values (real or perceived) do not align with these shoppers, they’ll find somewhere else to spend their money.

And it’s not enough to do these things and advertise about it.  Gone are the days of shameless self-promotion and tooting your own horn.  Today’s skeptical buyers are looking for peer verification and approval before they make any commitments.  People have no problem putting their experiences and opinions all over social media.  Those comments are passed along faster than an old-fashioned game of telephone.

The upside of all of this?  Everybody can win here.  Through more local involvement and volunteering we can have stronger communities.  With the increase of social media usage and decrease of delayed gratification, we are destined to reach higher levels of customer service.  Maybe it’s not so bad to have this new kind of normal.