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Diane

Brand Refresh–Time for a Makeover?

Is it time for a make over?

I’m in the middle of a “brand refresh!”  Since May, I’ve worked on a new demo video, a new logo, new pictures, and a new website.  The new website is just in the design mock-up phase, but to give you an idea of the change here is a screen shot of my current home page next to a new website mock-up:

Brand Refresh
So, why am I doing all this?

It’s an investment in my business.  I feel that making these changes will pay off in new business.
The new video has already paid for itself many times over, and those results encouraged me to make more changes.

In 2010, as I developed my initial marketing, I did the best with the resources I had at the time.  My logo was one I designed myself on PowerPoint.  My first pictures were taken at a neighborhood studio for $50.  I wore a jacket I had purchased for $3 at the Salvation Army. My husband recorded my demo video.

Is it time to up your game? Time to invest in yourself?

You don’t have to change everything all at once. And, your changes don’t all have to be business-related. My change catalyst was weight loss.  I lost 45 pounds last year and that gave me a boost in self-esteem in part because I looked better (and bought some new clothes!), but also because I achieved a goal.

You can have your own brand refresh.  Maybe you will have a life makeover.  Pick something and just get started!

Free Ebook! The Respect Virus: How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus
Limited time! Get your free Kindle version (US linkCanadian linkUK link)You can create a culture of respect at work and at home through practical strategies and techniques taught in this book. From learning to take other’s perspectives to creating a personal engagement plan to moving from gridlock to dialogue, you can be a carrier of respect.

“Treating people with respect and valuing them is a universal language. Culture trumps strategy.”—Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO

Written in an easy-to-read conversational style, this short book will inspire you to spread respect far and wide.

It’s free on Kindle through Wednesday, April 16, 2014 (after that, it’s only $3.99).No Kindle?  No problem. Get a free Kindle reader app (for phone, tablet or pc).

The book is also available in print format ($8.00).

If you have a chance and can leave a review on Amazon, I’d appreciate it!

Writing and Self-Publishing Ebooks

iStock_book-with-mouse

It was July 30, 2010 and I sat across from Mark LeBlanc, a business consultant and former National Speaker Association National president.  He looked at me with his hound dog eyes and said, “You need to write a book. And you can do it next month”  It wasn’t a suggestion.  It was a “demandment.”

I stared back at him, thinking: I have no time.  I have no money.  I have no knowledge.

I had no time.  I worked two part-time jobs and had three teenagers at home, one of whom I was homeschooling.

I had no money.  We had a failing technology business.  Later that year we would be filing for bankruptcy.

I had no knowledge.  I didn’t know the first thing about self-publishing.

So with those thoughts swirling in my head, I said: “I think I can do that.”

I don’t know where those words came from, but if Mark thought I could do it, then I believed I could.

Three months later, I had self-published my first book, Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success.  And now, three and half years later, have a total of 5 self-published books and one co-authored book published by McGraw Hill (Diane’s Amazon Author Page).  I bring in passive income of about $1000/month from Amazon sales.  And, the increased credibility has led to speaking engagements (and back-of-the-room book sales) and media interviews.

I learned that I didn’t need much time because I could use content I already created.  Four of my books were originally blog posts and one was curriculum for a class.  After the first book, I published my books in less than a week, including both print and ebook formats. For the last book, which I published only as a Kindle ebook, the total time was about 5 hours (and that including cutting and pasting content from my newsletters, writing an introduction and a conclusion, and formatting).  For that first book, I carved out time from 5:15-6:15 AM Monday-Friday, about 20 hours total, to massage blog content and add a few chapters.

I learned that I didn’t need much money.  My first book cost about $800 to self publish and that included buying a block of 10 ISBN numbers for $250, and hiring out editing, formatting for both print and ebooks, and cover design. Most of the subsequent books cost $30 or less because I did everything myself.

I learned that I didn’t need much knowledge.  I still haven’t read a book on self-publishing. For the first book, I googled “how to self-publish” and learned as I went along.

If I can do it, you can do it.

You don’t need a lot of time. You don’t need a lot of money. You don’t need a lot of knowledge.

I can’t do anything about your time or money situation, but I can help with the knowledge, at least to give you an orientation to self-publishing, with a focus on ebooks.

Click here for a 2-page overview “Writing and Producing Ebooks for Speakers.”  (applicable to non-professional speakers, too!)Self-publishing ebooks

And, then . . . Just do it!

Top 10 Ways You Know You Might Be Suffering from “Empty Nest Syndrome”

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(note:  First draft for a stand-up comedy routine to be performed at the Humor Mill Toastmasters 9th Annual Stand Up Comedy Night on 1/16/2014.  I’d like to make it funnier, so please comment with ideas)

Any empty nesters out there?  Looking forward to someday being an empty nester?

After 25 years of raising kids, our last child has left the nest.  Just on Monday–Air Force Basic training.

As I dropped him off at the hotel, as he walked away, the memories came flooding in and I thought . ..

“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

No empty nest syndrome for me!

Did you know that there is an actual condition “the empty nest syndrome”?

It’s a feeling of grief and loneliness that parents feel when their children leave home.

Grief?  Loneliness?

Heck, no.

But, I’ll admit that adjusting to an empty nest takes some time.  Here’s my top 10 list of ways you know you might be suffering from the Empty Nest Syndrome:

10.  You’re still surprised when you come home and the house looks the way you left it.

9.   On a bad weather day, you still check the list of school closings

8.   For that special “couple time” with your spouse, you still lock the bedroom door

7.   You still think of eating out as going through the drive through at McDonalds.

6.  You set the table for one too many people.

5.  You are shocked when you get in your car and the radio is playing your station

4.  You still walk around your car, checking for new damage

3.  You find yourself walking into your child’s room, giving it the “sniff test.”  I’ve heard of some moms going into their child’s room and smelling their children’s clothes.  Gag me.  I needed industrial strength cleaner to get rid of the stinky feet, old pizza and general locker-room bouquet.

2.  You start having more conversations at home, especially in that cutesy baby-waby tone of voice . . . with your cat.

And the #1 reason you know you might be having trouble adjusting to an empty nest:

1.  You get panic attacks that your parenting has scared your child for life.  You envision your child as a failure, living on the streets, making an appearance on the Jerry Springer show.

I’ve got some advice on that last reason. In fact, I’m even thinking of writing a book on parenting called, Parenting: It Doesn’t Matter What you Do.

So, chill out and embrace your freedom. . . before they boomerang back!

A Mouse Tale of Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture CodeOnce upon a time in Mouseville, there were two cheese companies:  Big Cheese Company and Little Cheese Company.

Corporate giant Big Cheese had been around for generations. Upstart Little Cheese was new in town.

Both companies were ramping up seasonal hiring, getting ready for the holiday influx of orders for cheese balls, cheese logs and cheese platters.  Big Cheese had higher starting salaries, slightly better benefits and served wine and cheese at job fairs.  But much to Big Cheese’s consternation, Little Cheese, which humbly offered prospective employees macaroni and cheese, was hiring all the top applicants. Even more troubling for Big Cheese was when some of its best employees decided to switch to Little Cheese.

Big Cheese then spent big bucks hiring a consultant to tell them what to do.  The consultant designed, analyzed, and suggested programs and best practices based on an employee engagement survey and industry data.  This took months to do.  But nothing much changed.   Big Cheese’s lackluster fourth quarter earnings created panic among the top mice in the company.  Big Cheese’s CEO rallied the ranks, “Smile.  Say ‘cheese!’” Managers squeaked to their groups:  “Must. Work. Harder.”

Meanwhile, Little Cheese’s profits grew so much that the seasonal workers were kept on.

All of Mouseville marveled at the minor miracle of Little Cheese’s success.

Why was Big Cheese floundering and Little Cheese flourishing?

In desperation, Big Cheese’s CEO, Gorgy Zola, invited Little Cheese’s CEO, Monty Jack, to the Hole-in-the-Wall Bar.

“Monty, there’s enough mice here to support 10 cheese factories,” said Gorgy.  “I don’t want to steal your business, but I’m hoping you can share some ‘best practices’ for how you have had such success in hiring and keeping your employees.”

“Best practices . . .” mused Monty.  “We haven’t been in business that long!  Our business has grown too fast to always be looking to the past for best practices.”

Gorgy’s whiskers drooped.   “So, you don’t have any advice for me?”

“Well, Gorgy, I do, but you might not like it,” said Monty.

“It’s OK.  If I keep on doing things the same, it won’t matter in a few months,” said Gorgy.  “I won’t have a job.”

“It’s good that you realize you have to change,” said Monty.  “Probably the biggest challenge with looking to the past to decide on the future is that you are never really present in the moment, looking at what is and what could be.  Maybe you need a brand new corporate culture code. Mice, especially the younger mice, want different things now from work:  purpose, meaning, flexibility, great coworkers.”

“Entitlement.  That’s their attitude!” squeaked Gorgy. “In this economy, they should be grateful for a well-paying, steady job with good benefits.”

“Well, you maybe can attract some workers with those things, but you might not keep them.” Monty paused, looked Gorgy in the eye.  He slowly smiled.  “Plus, if money and benefits are the only reasons they’re there, they probably won’t work at their highest level.”

“What else do they want?  Recognition? More training? Free lunch on Friday?” Gorgy asked. “We are pushing employee engagement, but it’s not having the results we had hoped.”

“Maybe that’s the problem, you’re pushing too much and not pulling enough,” said Monty.  “You’ve been so focused on the goal of retaining and hiring workers that perhaps you have forgotten to inspire them, to energize them with your vision, and then empower them to accomplish it.”

“You know that sounds good, but I don’t know what I should do differently,” said Gorgy.

“I can hazard a guess that one of the big differences between your company and my company in terms of employee engagement is simply a matter of size,” said Monty.  “You have more levels of management and bigger teams—that adds layers of communication and process that can be frustrating.  Maybe Big Cheese needs to think more like a small company and have smaller teams.  That’s one possibility.  Why don’t you ask your people? And, why not try asking from the bottom up?  Ask the maintenance mouse what he likes and doesn’t like about his job, and if he were the top mouse what he’d like done differently? You might be surprised at what you find out.”

Gorgy squinted at Monty, “Me, the CEO, chat with the maintenance mouse? What could he possibly know about running the business?”

“Just give it a try, Gorgy,” said Monty. “As you said, you have nothing to lose!  Go back today, give it a shot and call me next week to let me know how it went.”

A week later, Gorgy called Monty.

“Monty,” said Gorgy, “Thanks for your advice!  I actually did start with the lowest position at our company—the new intern in maintenance.  She had an idea involving our factory lighting that will save us thousands of dollars in the next year and it should improve productivity to boot.  And, you know what? I could tell that she felt valued that I sincerely wanted her input.  I told the VP’s about the experience and they’re doing the same thing—talking with people in their departments.  I can feel the increased energy throughout the company.  I know it’s just a start, but it’s a good start!”

“Glad things are going better for you,” said Monty, “I guess my old-school advice on simply talking to people wasn’t cheesy!”

Gorgy laughed, “that’s a gouda one!”