Colleen Hannegan

Finding the words....and the perfect pair of glasses.

small business consulting

Mi$take$. The le$$on$ we never forget.

FeaturedColleen HanneganComment

Never leave a box of eyeglass frames on top of a trash can. This was a $1000. mistake I made during my first year in business.

“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” Pearl S. Buck.

I had just opened a large order of brand new, beautiful designer frames UPS had delivered that morning. As I sorted through the three large boxes, I set one box containing twenty Christian Dior frames aside,on top of the small trash can underneath my front desk. I set about pricing and entering the other two boxes of product while answering the phone and assisting clients at the same time. The day ended before I could complete the order process. I thought of finishing up the order entry but decided to wait until the next morning, not telling my business partner about my plan.

First thing the following morning, I was ready to open the third box and continue pricing and inventory.

I turned towards the spot I’d set the third box. The trash can had not moved, but the box of frames I’d set on it was gone. After ten minutes of  double-checking my work to see if I’d already accounted for the frames yesterday and searching my office for the missing frames, I asked my co-owner if he’d seen the third box and set it aside.

“You mean that empty box that was sitting on top of the trash can?” My stomach was feeling the squeeze of panic.

“It wasn’t empty. It had the rest of the inventory from yesterday’s order, in it! I set it on top of the empty trash can because it was handy while I was going through the order!”

He had taken out all the trash last evening before heading home. The full box on top of the trash, looked no different to him than the boxes of frames I’d emptied and had set aside to discard.

I ran out to the dumpster in hopes  trash pick up hadn’t arrived yet.

No such luck. $1,000 worth of new inventory lay underneath tons of garbage on its way to the dump.

The $1,000 le$$on I learned was so excruciatingly simple it pains me still, 23 years later.

Trash cans hold trash. And don’t ever expect anyone to think differently. Or that co-workers can read your mind.

I made other mistakes over the course of 22 years running my retail business. Everyone’s best lessons are learned from the mistakes we make, than from the victories. Being successful in business means  the victories out number the mistakes! My advice is don’t live in constant fear that you’ll make one, because you will.

“I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be my worst business mistake if I don’t.” Steve Martin.

Just pay attention and take your time in handling your daily details.

And breathe.

Remember your P's and Q's

FeaturedColleen HanneganComment

Please and Thank you! For 32 years in store management and ownership of my own optical dispensary, I kept a small, wire-bound notebook at my front desk. In it, I wrote down the name and phone number of every patient who took home a pair of new glasses.( I never counted how many small notebooks I filled in all those years!) It included the type of frame and lenses purchased so when I phoned them a week later to be sure they were happy  and satisfied, I could discuss the details of their purchase.

Sometimes they had a problem with the new prescription, or they were still getting used to the fit, and I would suggest they return for an adjustment or solve an issue over the phone. But 9 out of 10 clients were pleased with their purchase and doubly pleased with the follow up call.

Two things happened.

1.Problems, (if any) were nipped in the bud before they got too big or client became annoyed.

2.The clients second impression with their optical store was as good as their first impression. Somebody was listening to them. And appreciated their business. They felt special.

Every client who referred a friend or family member, received a hand written thank you note with two tickets to the movies or a gift card from Starbucks. Or they were  compensated with a discount on their next pair of glasses. It’s fair to say that thanking my best clients for their loyalty kept me in business during a few lean years. They appreciated being recognized for their support in keeping my business going.

Today we have newsletters and social media, FB, LinkndIn, Pinterest, blogs,  miraid ways of reaching out and keeping in touch with new and potential clients. I watch all things automated in offices today, appointments made on line, customer satisfaction surveys sent to their emails. Quick, quicker, fast, faster, no need to talk to anyone, or ask questions, it’s just you and the keyboard. If you don’t fill out the survey, the eye doctor’s office or retailer you purchased your new running shoes from, won’t know if you are happy with your purchase or not. They will be too busy being automated and SEO experts to want to take time to phone your home. I understand. It’s a bigger world today than when I started back in 1981.

But just in case you want to stand out in a”www” world and you think calling a few clients on the phone and asking about their recent purchase might be an idea whose time has come “back”, don’t be discouraged if they don’t answer the phone. Not many people do anymore. They only want to text.

But go ahead and leave a thank you message anyway. Tell them you appreciate their business and referrals and leave your number. It’s your best positive second impression.

“You glance at an email. You give more attention to a real letter.” Judith Martin “Miss Manners”

Want to see more sales? Create better client relations?

Get your clients attention. Way too many emails out there. Way too few thank you notes!!

“What if” Doomsday or Possibilities?

Featured, Spirited Work, FearlessnessColleen HanneganComment

In working with business people, both management and those they manage, I’m discovering so much of the overwhelm is based on “what if”. Hidden within the what if, is the fear of the unknown.

And isn’t fear all about the unknown, what might happen if I don’t make it into work today? What will my bosses think if I don’t agree with them? What will my employees decide about me when they learn I’ve made a mistake? What if this business doesn’t  survive and I lose the money I’ve invested? What will my family think of me?

BFO (Big freak outs).

I have been attuned to the concept of fear at many various stages  of my life. It can keep you wide awake at night and make you eat too much or not enough, wondering what if?

But when I sit down with clients and listen to their fear story, the very act of talking it over with an experienced advisor dissolves most of the shortness of breath that carrying it all by themselves creates. Looking at the NOW truth, what is really happening right at this very moment reality, puts a positive pause on the panic button of the “what if” bomb.

“What if’”s are more effective when we seek enlightenment for ideas instead of options for catastrophes.

“What if we gave client’s more than what they expect?”, is more productive than, “What if we don’t get that contract signed by Friday noon????”

Fear is not real. It’s a thought, a feeling. It doesn’t show up anywhere except your thoughts. And we know the overwhelm that builds condo’s in there!

David Whyte, one of my favorite poets and teachers said in his seminar I attended in January, “You don’t have to overcome your fears, you simply have to know what you are afraid of.”

Knowing you are afraid of the dark, you reach for the light switch.  Allowing what is, to just be, opens the space for you to make good and right decisions based on a calm and clear mind, not one overwhelmed and stuck in a pretend world of maybe. True leaders and valuable employees open the door to fear and the windows too when it arrives and lets it pass right through. Fear is an invitation to recognize uncertainty and create a plan of action (sometimes non-action) that can break down the perceived hugeness of the problem into more easily managed pieces.

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” Pema Chodron

My sister Molly is an ultra runner She deals with fear when she stands at the START line at her 50, 100 and 135 mile non-stop ultra-races in the high altitude Himalayas, during flash floods in the Sahara desert stage race, storms so strong the rescuers called off the finish of a race in the “rocky mountains” of New Zealand. She was in Utah preparing for a 50 mile race last weekend and we had a wonderful conversation about fear.

“I’ve learned to be comfortable with fear.” she explained. “I’m able to put my mind into a higher plane of problem solving. I become more aware and alert.  I also prepare well for my adventure but there’s always the element of surprise and danger.” I’ve known my sister for over 56 years. Her adventures in being fearless began 6 years ago.

“My ultimate freedom is feeling my personal power beyond comfort.” Like the time she was lost in the dark at midnight during a 100 mile race and had to call out for help until another runner came to her rescue. Molly runs into her fear literally, and then just keeps on running right through it. She’s  made friends with it.

I’m not suggesting we become ultra-runners to fight fear and embrace courage. Sometimes I have to dig deep for my fearlessness when the line in front of me at the grocery store is stalled over too many coupons being scanned and my hypoglycemic is kicking in because I skipped a meal and I feel like showing my frustration by griping.

Michael Carroll, author of Fearless at Work says that often times the biggest act of courage is to be still. If just for a few moments. To face it and let it be.

Dealing with an upset superior or facing the boredom that can be a day in the office requires a calmness from deep within. To be fearless is to step closer to the truth as Pema Chodron suggests, to run through it like Molly does or to stand calmly in line and just be with it.

As soon as I relax into it, the last coupon gets scanned and the line moves forward.

Happens every time.

Enjoy this clip from Michael Carroll from his timely book on addressing fear in the work place,Fearless At Work.

I’m enjoying his workshop this week on the subject. http://vimeo.com/52172345

I read Forbes but I don’t care

Featured, Spirited WorkColleen HanneganComment

The recent March 2013 issue of Forbes cover informs us that there are 1,426 people who control the world. They are billionaires. Their combined  net worth is 5.4 trillion dollars. Give or take a billion. Now what does this mean to you and me, small business owners happy to cover expenses and put some money in our savings account each month? Nothing, really.  I find it interesting reading to get a feel of the work pulse on where we spend our money and how the finances of the world shape our ideas, dreams and vision.

But the idea that less than 1,450 people control the daily lives and choices of 7+billion people had me thinking about my own life. And your life. Who is in control? What choices are ours alone that determine the quality of our lives and of our loved ones and not determined by 1,426 strangers from across the globe?

As an independent business owner, or entrepreneur if you prefer, our daily waking goal is to maintain our lives controlled by no one but ourselves. Yes, I understand how we have no choice about gas prices to fill our tanks, other than choosing the gas station closest to our home or to drive over to Costco to say $1.75 a tank. Someone, a BIG someone is controlling gas prices. But we can control where we buy gas and how well  we organize our trips in the car.

Home prices, mortgage rates, rents, leases, price of pork bellies; in the hands of someone else. BIG someone else’s.  Yes, THEY control that.

But in my life and  in you life, dear small business owners, your world’s daily choices in creating your own plans, productivity and profits lie within your own power. The richest people on earth are not all listed in Forbes issue this month. Even if Forbes says they are.

The richest people on earth are the people who follow their dreams, love easily and find purpose in all they put their hands to.

I live in a world of the brave, the talented and the creative breed of small business owners who face each day believing in the bigness of their heart and the unlimited riches of possibilities and purpose and watching it grow into beautiful realities they can deposit into the hearts and their bank accounts.

I don’t care about how many billionaires “control the world.” But I do care about the choices I make for myself today that control my world and make it the best place to live for me. And I care about your choices and that you are thinking smart and happy for your own net worth.

Be your own thrillionaire. Nothing stopping us there.

Or controlling us.

You’ve got 3 seconds! How are you making that first impression?

Featured, Spirited WorkColleen HanneganComment

Walking into most retail store these days, you are often greeted with “Hello.” It appears management is well aware of the need customers have for feeling welcomed and recognized when they enter. They could be sitting at home ordering those office supplies, two new blouses, running shoes and golf clubs on line, but instead have taken the time and  gas to drive through traffic, find a perfect parking spot, and walk themselves into the possibility of buying from you. Even if these potential buyers, are showrooming, comparing your prices to prices of your competition by phone, right in front of you; they are potential buyers if you know the 3 things they care about more than anything when it comes time to pulling out the plastic and cash. It begins before Hello.

As a small business owner, I understand the dark cloud of big competition that may hang over your head like a thunderhead waiting to drown your business progress. After running my own retail business for over 22 years, sometimes single handedly, I absolutely understand the worry. But this is what I know about customers and saw its’ results for myself, over and over again. And it’s how I beat the big competition, daily.

1. It begins before Hello.

Consider how your potential customer  first makes contact with you. Is it by phone? Are they checking over your website? Or have they decided to walk into your store and check you out in person? In the first three seconds of making contact, your customers subconscious mind has already signaled a positive or a negative message to their conscious mind. When they phoned the store, was their call answered within 3 rings, by a welcoming voice and message? Or were they promptly stuck on hold while three other callers vied for attention? Positive or negative, you’ve got 3 seconds.

Is your website up to date with current store hours and easy to find phone numbers and information. Would you feel welcomed by the appearance of your website introduction if you were a customer?  Step back and be objective or ask trusted friends and customers. Updating your site when necessary, is a sound investment and doesn’t have to be expensive.

BEFORE, they walk into your store, as they approach the entrance, does it invite them in? Is it swept of debris? Are your windows cleaned routinely? Are there fingerprints and smudges on the front door or is it wiped clean as needed? Is there a welcome sign? Is the entrance free of clutter and your hours of business are easy to read and replaced when worn? Is your front entry telling your potential customers they are expected and welcomed? Are they picking up “warm and fuzzies” before the door swings open or do they instantly feel  they may be just another inconvenience to you because they don’t feel welcomed. Because, dear hard working, small business owners, that is where you make your sales with your customers. In their heart, where they feel pleasure in purchasing your wares and services. Because you make them feel good within 3 seconds. You initiate trust. It’s safe to do business with the those who really care about how I feel.

2. Secondly; they want to be acknowledged.

“How can we help you?” becomes the invitation to explore how you are going to take care of them. “Can I help you?” Only leaves space for yes, or no. Invite them into the wonderful possibilities of doing business with you. Find out what they want and need. Show them you’re listening.

3. “May I know your name?”

“My name is  (you) and I can take care of you today” Ask permission to get to know them so you can start a conversation that’s worth both your time. A gentle hand on their shoulder or forearm melts resistance and offers a safe place to solve their problem. Dialog is a boring ping pong game of words bounced back and forth that have no feeling or desire. When you offer to have a “conversation” you open the space between the two of you to get to the heart of their need. “A conversation of equals……inside the intensity of creative originality,” so writes David Whyte in his book, “Crossing the Unknown Sea, Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.”

Pay attention to their name. If you practice deep listening and repeat their name and use it throughout the sale, 8 out of 10 times you will have a new customer. There’s always the 2 that got away. But they make good practice and help sharpen your skill of listening.

Test out these principles next time it’s your turn to be a potential customer. Start paying attention to how your subconscious mind is making you feel and directing your choices. Where do you love to shop? Why? Where do you avoid having to walk in?

Understanding these 3 crucial needs of your customers can revolutionize those 3 seconds in your favor and chase that dark cloud of big competition away, forever.