Sunday, July 19, 2009

Explanation for lack of posts

Hey guys, you're probably wondering why I haven't been posting regularly. That's because the Gravy Train is about to leave the station.

In other words, exciting things are coming soon! So stay tuned! The birth of something great is very close! ;)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guest column: Dress for Success

My good friend over at the Biased Cut was generous enough to write a guest column on the importance of keeping a good image. As we all know, especially to entrepreneurs, image alone can sometimes make or break a deal.

Yes, I know I was supposed to post on Sunday...but hey, at least I'm fashionably late, right?

Without further adieu, here begins the guest column. It's a great read:

There are a couple things this post won’t do. First is to discuss how to appropriately dress for an interview. That can be done here. And here, here, and perhaps best of all, here. Second is to preach about (or even presume to know about) the latest fashion trends. For that, go to any one of the infinite fashion blogs in syndication today.

For entrepreneurs, there is a more generalist approach that needs to be taken, one that can be applied to and understood by every demographic in the budding-business world. To the extent that everyone has their own personal style, and every situation is unique, there is no perfect advice for how to truly “dress for success”. Because, as entrepreneurs, you may be meeting with high-powered Wall St. financiers in one hour, then, in the next, pitching to the mechanics at the local repair garage about the benefits of installing a new electric car plug-in station. What it ultimately boils down to is awareness: awareness of audience, awareness of setting, awareness of personal style. And, of course, understanding the affects of dress on each of these.

Nearly everyone appreciates the value of dressing appropriately. But too often entrepreneurs are unsure, or even sorely mistaken, about how to outwardly present themselves. To me, it all starts with observation. Wherever you are, begin to observe the setting around you. Who are these people, and what are they wearing? What does their choice of dress convey? How does each individual fit in with the larger group surrounding them? Training your mind to consciously think of how other people are physically expressing themselves is essential to managing the perceptions your audience makes when subconsciously sizing up you.

First, understand the setting. Clearly, suits are de rigueur in the boardroom (unless it’s your boardroom – then anything goes). But what about that alumni happy hour coming up where you hope to score potential customers? Or maybe you’re canvassing neighborhoods this weekend, and don’t know how professional to look?

Next, think about the audience. This often runs in parallel to the setting, but not always. Just because you’re going to a manufacturing plant doesn’t mean you won’t be meeting with senior level management. Also, understand the other person’s dress style, and consider shifting your own style tendencies a little closer to theirs. It helps to build comfort in a relationship. But maintain the integrity of your own image – who would you trust more to fix your computer, Bill Gates dressed as Bill Gates, or Bill Gates dressed as David Beckham?

Finally, think about yourself. What do you want to convey? What is the purpose of this meeting, presentation, conversation? What fits me well (figuratively and literally), and what styles / clothing should I avoid?

Unfortunately there is no universal piece of advice for each and every situation. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a personal wardrobe specialist (or a significant other that makes these hard decisions for you), you’re going to have to use your best judgment. And the only way to build that judgment is to educate yourself. Begin by observing. Learn what works, and what doesn’t work. If you want to become more ambitious, start reading up on the latest fashion. Whether you want to simply improve your corporate wardrobe or you’re seeking to spot the next best trend there are resources out there.

As entrepreneurs, you don’t need to be reminded again of the importance of first impressions in marketing. So be sure to put lots of thought into each and every one of yours. Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to be different, but in the business of sales, you MUST be aware of what image you portraying.

Post courtesy of the Biased Cut

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Always set concrete deadlines

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” - Douglas Adams (British comic)

The term "deadline" has always been a grim term. We've all had to deal with them, whether it was back in our school days or at work. I mean heck, it's even got "dead" in it. However, many of us take a deadline's importance for granted in our general lives. Without deadlines, business as we know it wouldn't function properly.

Deadlines are an extension of the simple universal law that dictates that everything that has a beginning must have an end. We deal with deadlines all the time, which is why we take them for granted when we need them for ourselves. The fact is, whenever we are given a predetermined deadline, we work harder to make sure all the work is completed by that date.

Imagine, if you will, that you knew you were going to die in 6 months. I am willing to bet good money that 99% of us would try even harder to live life to the fullest before our "deadline" approaches. The problem is, all of us don't know when our own "deadline" looms, and so we become complacent and comfortable. When it comes to our own lives, most of us don't set deadlines for our goals and/or dreams. As such, we find ourselves drifting from day to day, month to month, constantly deferring what we need to do until "later." However, there's only so much time you can use to defer something until it becomes too late.

It is the ability to predetermine an end that separates successful people from the rest. Any entrepreneur who planned for their business seriously has made religious use of deadlines (i.e. a launch date). Any goals you've set for yourself must be specific not only in nature/amount but also specific in terms of a timeframe.

Here are some tips in setting deadlines:

  • Make them specific. In other words, don't put down "a month" Make it "July 31, 2009"
  • Don't be generous in the timeframe, but be realistic too. Don't give yourself too much time to achieve your goals. Saying that you'll, for example, travel to Europe within 10 years is MUCH too generous. To borrow a term from the "4-Hour Workweek" you should set impossible deadlines. Reason for this is that you will work that much harder to make sure your goal is achieved.
  • Set a deadline for each critical task that needs to be done to achieve your goal. Every journey has its milestones. That's how you keep progress, pace and most of all...motivation.
Deadlines can be used for all aspects of your life. Use them religiously. In fact, use them on your loved ones...and you'll get your grilled cheese sandwich sooner than you thought! How it's delivered to you though...well...that's up to you ;)