Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Volunteering Will Jazz Up Sales & Make You Enchanting

Building a successful small business includes volunteering in your community. Even if it's just a membership in your local trade association or Chamber of Commerce, you will want to join a group that can help you learn more about your industry and connect you with possible customers.

Working on fundraisers and community service events is a great way to network. Serving on a Board of Directors or an association committee is a great way to gain a reputation for being a hard worker and to let people get to know you and your business. Plus, it makes you feel good to help others!

I recently read Guy Kawasaki's new book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. A section of his book is called "How to Enchant Volunteers." As a long-time community volunteer who has had my share of good and bad experiences, I loved what he had to say. He lists 8 rules of enchantment for volunteers. Here are my favorites:

  • Set ambitious goals. Volunteers want to know what they are doing is important and that they are making a difference. Set challenging goals so you don't waste their time. The only thing worse that overusing volunteers is underusing them. Amen to that!!

  • Enable them to fulfill their needs. Why did you join a nonprofit organization? I joined Junior League so I could meet other women who liked to volunteer. I joined a trade association when I worked for an elevator company so I could meet potential customers and hang out with existing customers. I volunteered at my church because I felt an obligation to help. Reasons that people join nonprofit organizations are: duty (I should help at my kid's school), belonging (I want to be part of a group with similar jobs or values) or mastery (I want to learn a new skill). Fulfill these needs to enchant volunteers.

  • Give feedback. This is especially important with volunteers because they aren't receiving money as a feedback mechanism. Let your volunteers know how they are doing and recognize them for the hard work they are providing.

  • Ensure the paid staff appreciates them. Volunteers often give their heart and soul to organizations. Be sure your paid staff honors their commitment.
Kawasaki goes on to say that these tips for enchanting volunteers can also be applied to your employees. So true!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dumb Rules That Make Customers Mad

Tom Peters calls it "a failure to overcommunicate." I call it "dumb rules that make customers mad."

Here's the story: Last week I was in Half Price Books with a handful of books to resell. (Don't you just love Half Price Books? I feel so "green" shopping there.) When I dropped of my books at the resale (or is it resell?) counter the rep asked for my driver's license and told me she'd call my name when my books were ready. I told her I was going to walk next door and get lunch and would be back shortly which prompted her to say in a booming authoritative voice,


I explained that I would be back in a few minutes and that I would just be next door to which she repeated,


I then explained that I was on my lunch break and wouldn't have time to wait in the store and then get lunch. I needed to get lunch while I waited on the books. And again she said,


At this point I felt like a 3rd grader getting in trouble for talking in class (which I did get in trouble for in 3rd grade). The sales clerk was talking so loud in my face and other customers were staring. I picked up my books and left.

I'm a rule follower by nature. And I respect rules. This situation brings to light that it's important not just to train your employees on rules - but to train them on the reasons behind the rules and how to explain them to customers. Clearly, this clerk was doing the job the way she'd been trained. She was determined to follow what seemed to be a dumb rule to me. All this sales clerk had to do was communicate to me why it was necessary for me to remain in the store. Instead, she really made me mad.

Just so I could get closure on this dumb rule, when I got back to my office I called the corporate headquarters of Half Price Books and asked why it's a store policy for customers to wait in the store after dropping off books. Guess what I was told? "No, it's not a company policy. It must be something that particular store does." I'm still trying to get closure on this one.