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Take This Page from Steve Jobs’ Playbook, and More Tips for Signshop Owners in July

Plus, how to get a higher turnover rate on your estimates.

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STRATEGY Think While Walking

1 Some of Steve Jobs’ inner circle thought his penchant for taking long “brainstorming” walks eccentric. But neuroscience research proves Jobs was on to something, with recent studies showing that breakthrough ideas occur when the brain switches modes — from its task-oriented “executive network” to a creative “default network,” or what some researchers refer to as the “genius lounge.” The two work together. The executive network sets goals and identifies a problem while the default network comes up with solutions, although it does so in a meandering, free-ranging way. And taking a walk is the best way to trigger cooperation between the two modes, said Olivia Fox Cabana and Judah Pollack in their book The Net and the Butterfly: The Art and Practice of Breakthrough Thinking.

ESTIMATING Increase Turnover

2 A simple goal always to keep on the back burner is a two-part goal, offers Meri Lindenmuth of G&L’s Sign Factory in Bethlehem, PA. Part one is keeping up with estimates. Make sure they get out in a timely manner. If you promise to have it by a certain day, make sure it’s done by then or before. Part two is following up a week or two after sending the estimate. Sometimes people forget that they didn’t respond. Meri said she gets a high turnover rate on her estimates simply because she follows up.

MARKETING Buy a Real Camera

3 Your business relies on photos for marketing, promotions and social media among myriad untold other uses, so please don’t rely on your cellphone to do it all. Yes, smartphone cameras have gotten better. Yes, some professional photographers have done some amazing projects using iPhones. And yes, you’ve had some shots that everyone said, “What a great photo!” But technology is still such that a real camera, preferably a digital SLR, is so far superior for getting images you can crop and manipulate for ads and marketing materials that no business should be without one — along with a couple of staff members whose job it is to know when to point it and shoot it.

PRODUCTIVITY Do Tomorrow’s To-Do Today

4 What do you do with the last 15 minutes of the day? Answer emails, schedule meetings, linger in the office before closing? Here’s a better way to spend the time: Draw up a to-do list for tomorrow. Be specific. It’s a great way to end the day and start the next productively.

DATA Ask Just Two Things

5 Many businesspeople like to show their acumen by commissioning customer-satisfaction surveys. Mark Hughes, author of Buzzmarketing, saves you time and money by suggesting you throw out all but two questions. “All other questions are meaningless data dung,” Hughes said. The magic questions: 1. “How did you hear about us?” (This tracks word-of-mouth and marketing effectiveness.); and 2. “Would you go out of your way to recommend our product/service to a friend?” (This measures customer evangelism, or buzz.) Getting answers to both of these questions will show you clearly whether you’re doing things right or wrong.

STAFF Don’t Hire Employees; Hire Talent

6 Do you think of your staff as “payroll,” “employees,” “human resources” or “talent?” Author Seth Godin thinks you should view them as “talent,” arguing that such an understanding holds the key to success in today’s skills-based business environment. “What if you started acting like the Vice President of Talent? Understand that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage,” Godin wrote on his blog. “Talent is too smart to stay long at a company that wants it to be a cog in a machine. Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.”

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ORGANIZATION Launch “Operation Inbox”

7 Let’s get your inbox organized, with some help from productivity guru, Dave Allen. From now on, view your inbox as a repository solely for “Active” tasks, meaning things that need addressing. Everything else should be deleted or viewed as a “Reference” matter (receipts, photos, thank-you notes from customers — and archived; you can find them when you need them). Get this done, and your life will be less stressful, and you’ll get more done. Promise.

MANAGEMENT The 10/10/10

8 When facing a tough decision, whether personal or business, Chip and Dan Heath recommend the 10/10/10 rule, which asks you to think how you will feel about the decision in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years.

“Perhaps our worst enemy in resolving conflicts is short-term emotion, which can be an unreliable adviser,” they wrote in their most recent best-seller, How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

If, for example, you’ve been avoiding a difficult conversation with a staff member, then you’re letting short-term emotion (fear) rule you. “If you commit to have the conversation, then 10 minutes from now you’ll probably be anxious, but 10 months from now, won’t you be glad you did it?” they asked. Or maybe you’ll just view it as a trifling matter not worth getting worked up about. The important thing is that you remove some of the visceral emotion from the occasion.

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