Staying Organized & Getting Things Done

Organized-Desk

Life is very busy and it seems that there is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything we would like to, right? You have your job, your children, your church, your charities, soccer games, and the list goes on and on. I, myself, for example, currently serve on 13 various Boards and committees on top of those directly associated with the day to day operations of my job. I attend a lot of meetings and still keep up with my house, my yard, my dog, my friends, my health and my family – does this sound familiar?

A business owner recently asked me how I manage to get everything done and if I could offer any tips on time management and completing tasks efficiently – so I thought that perhaps this is a topic that others may like to hear about as well. These are the tips and tricks that I use, they may not work for everyone but I have found them very effective.

In my opinion, the most important attribute of efficacy is organization. I find that keeping a list of everything I need to do assures that I don’t “drop the ball”; I jot down every little task that needs completed. If I’m in the middle of something and receive a phone call asking me to write a letter, for example, I add it to the list so I don’t forget because I may have 10 more things to do before I actually get that email sent and I don’t want to forget any one of them in the shuffle. Ideally, I would take care of the email at that very moment but that is not always possible.

My ‘to-do’ list is an all-inclusive, dynamic document, with items being added from a variety of origins. There may be member requests, phone calls, emails, walk-ins, tasks that need to be completed weekly, monthly or annually or tasks that I acquire at meetings. I star items that I need to accomplish at the top of the agenda for each meeting and those items are then moved to my ‘to-do’ list. I take 5 to 10 minutes each day to update my list and make sure that everything from the last meeting attended has been added. I then color code the list as tasks get finished or delegated out. In my case, pink means that it is completed, yellow means that I have turned it over to someone else in my office and green means that I have done due diligence and “the ball is now in the other parties’ court”. This method is very effective because I can quickly glance at the list and see what is still “untouched” – those are the things I try to tackle first each day.

Another way I stay organized is that I try to clean out my email in-box every day. I read my emails, tend to all imminent issues, add the others to my ‘to-do’ list and then move that email to a folder or delete it. I apply this same concept to postal mail; I open it, put bills in one pile, checks in one pile, requests in another, etc. I enter all of the bills in to QuickBooks and then file them in a “Bills to pay” folder so I can easily pay them at the end of each week; the checks are also entered in to QuickBooks and entered into a “Receivables” folder so they can easily be deposited each week and everything else is tended to almost immediately; this keeps my physical in-box cleaned out as well. This concept applies to my voice mail box too – I return calls, add items to my list or otherwise handlethe matter and delete those messages too – the less clutter, the more organized I feel.

If there is a large project coming up, I keep more than one list; I have my “master to-do” list but may also have a shopping list, a packing list or a variety of other lists as well. I don’t want to boggle my mind trying to remember all of those types of details so I put them on paper and free up my mind for more productive thoughts.

Another beneficial attribute of efficiency is your ability to save time. Continually look for ways to save time by cutting down or eliminating the major time wasters from your life at work or home. Only then will you have enough time to work on the goals that are central to your success and happiness. Stay focused.

Another tip I would give is to be sure to schedule time for yourself – I block out my vacation time at the beginning of each year to ensure that I don’t schedule anything during those times; it is critical to your well-being and your productivity to be able to recharge occasionally – you will only increase your effectiveness by decompressing and coming back rejuvenated.

Different methods will work for different people and we would love to hear any tips that increase your level of productivity. Please send any suggestions that you would like to share and we will communicate them to our members! Now, back to work!

A Message from Your Director (May 2014)

We have all heard about the importance of honed leadership skills, right? There are articles, books, speakers, classes and retreats dedicated to the topic. We know that, to be good leaders, we need to communicate well, be able to delegate, have integrity, treat people with respect, be creative, and if our goal is to be a great leader, we need to be able to inspire and evoke passion. A much less discussed topic is what great leaders do not do, so we thought it would be beneficial to share that side as well.

Some of the actions that leaders want to avoid are obvious, for example, you wouldn’t expect to see a great leader whining, making empty threats or deceiving people. Nor should leaders be closed-minded, or grandiose in their thinking. Great Leaders do not ignore the truth, they are acutely aware of their reality; they do not let their own egos get so overinflated that they think their own magnificence alone can make things happen, they do not act like dictators and they do not make commitments that they cannot keep. Great leaders never say “It can’t be done”. If there is any task worth doing, they will search until they find a way to make it happen.

Leaders don’t wait for other people to do things for them. Nothing stands in the way of accomplishing their goals, certainly not excuses. They are people of action. However, they do understand when it is good to be patient and when it is time to go forward. They also understand the value of delegating. No one can do everything all of the time; delegation is vital to great leadership. They just make sure that those to whom they delegate can actually get the job done.

Leaders don’t let the fear of failure stop them. The average leader will fail many times before he or she succeeds. They are undaunted by failures and view them as golden opportunities to get closer to their goal. Leaders understand that failure is not the end of something hoped for, but a chance to learn to do it better next time.

Great leaders have a variety of personalities and styles. They do not strive to become a copy of someone else. Individuality is important to leadership. While strong principles are important to the integrity of leadership, so is their unique vision.

Leaders never stop learning and growing. I will shamelessly promote our leadership program now… The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce offers an annual leadership program entitled “Leadership Mecosta” and registration is now open for the 2014-2015 class. The program lasts 9 months, participants meet one day per month and enjoy an overnight opening retreat. This is an exciting program, with an incredible heritage and benefits that will last a lifetime.   If you’re a new or existing leader, a business owner, or someone who just wants to learn more about the MecostaCountycommunity, this program is for you. If you believe that your business or organization would benefit from the strengthening of your employees, send them too! After all, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” – Jack Welch.

Scott Barger, Executive Director of Cran-Hill Ranch, will be serving as the facilitator for the leadership program; Scott is also a Special Appointment Professor atCornerstoneUniversity,Grand Rapids, teaching in the MBA and MM Graduate Programs teaching courses such as Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Management, Marketing, Entrepreneurism andTeamBuilding.  Scott owns his own consulting business, working with businesses, non-profit and government agencies throughout theMidwestregion as well as developing organizational boards and mentoring and coaching several management executives; he is also a certified DiSC personality profile facilitator for individuals and corporate settings.

We are thrilled to have Scott facilitating this year and are excited about the direction of the “Leadership Mecosta” program! If you are interested in registering or would like more information, call the Chamber at 231-796-7649 or visit us at mecostacounty.com.

Exceptional Customer Service. Keep them coming back!

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You’ve heard the old adage: “A happy customer is a return customer” and when you’re in business, the more return customers you have, the better, right? Are you doing everything in your power to keep them coming back? When you think about your last dining out experience, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Hopefully, you remember a delicious meal. What about the last time you went in to a store to purchase something you had been wanting? You probably remember the options that were available, the prices, the quality and those types of details, correct? When is the customer service you received your first thought? Customer service is usually noteworthy when it is really good or really bad. Many times customers will not return to a business if they were treated poorly, even if they were happy with the products offered.

Business owners know that the attitude of their employees is vital to the success of their business but I would like to reiterate some of the best practices that can benefit not only business owners, but anyone in a service profession or anyone that works with other people; let’s face it, there aren’t too many jobs that don’t cater to other people in one way or another.

I have already mentioned attitude; customers appreciate a friendly employee that is willing to help them without excuses or negativity. One of the most important aspects of customer service is listening to what the customer wants, really listening. If a customer wants something specific, help them find it, if they don’t know what they want, help them figure it out. If they are just there to bounce ideas off someone that is skilled in a specific area, discuss it with them – even if they are not there to buy at that moment, your willingness to help will stick with them when they are ready. If a customer purchased an item or a service and has an issue with it, help them resolve the issue upon their return – how you or your employee handles those types of situations are the interactions that people talk about and those instances can determine if that employee is a return customer or not. If you have an employee that acts in a manner that is offensive, the customer may tell their friends, family, post their experience on social media sites or a host of other outlets that can do major damage to your business and / or your reputation. Word of mouth is everything in the service industry.

Another aspect of customer service that is very important and often overlooked is the turn-around time it takes to resolve an issue for a customer; customers want to feel that they are a priority and people are very busy so they don’t have time to wait on a solution, they may just move on to another company that is willing to help them in a more timely manner. Returning calls has a direct relationship to dependability and dependability is the cornerstone of good customer service.

People’s expectations regarding courtesy vary. Learn to take your lead from your customers. Quiet, reserved people tend to appreciate a more reserved and dignified sort of service. Loud, spirited people often like to know that the person they are dealing with understands them. Use good judgment always, but be ready to stretch a little to make your style better match your customer’s expectations.

These are just a few customer service suggestions that can improve your customer’s experience; if you would like to hear a nationally acclaimed, best-selling author speak on the subject, please join us at The Holiday Inn on April 19, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. to hear from Tony Rubleski on the topic “Exceptional Mind Capture Customer Service – Referral magic: How to keep your customers coming back again and again”.

The cost to attend the event is $25.00 for Chamber members, $35.00 for non-Chamber members and $10.00 for anyone with a valid student I.D. Please contact the Chamber for more information @ 231-796-7649.

And smile. People like when you smile.

A Message from Your Director (February 2014)

Hello!

When I think February, I usually think of Valentine’s Day and all of the lovely things that go with it; this year, I sat down to write this article and couldn’t think about anything other than generosity and compassion – let me tell you why….
You may have heard about a local family that has gone through several devastating events in the past few months, the Beagle family. Their story has been in the Pioneer and their church organized a benefit to help them with medical expenses. Jon and Shawna Beagle own and operate Beagle Fit, a 24-hour gym in Big Rapids. In July, while the couple was expecting their third child, doctors discovered that Shawna had a brain tumor and she immediately went in to surgery to have it removed. The night after her surgery, she suffered a stroke that took the ability to speak from her, to make matters worse, the test results showed that the tumor was a rare form of cancer. Jon and Shawna welcomed their baby boy to the world on December 27th and discovered that he needs heart surgery within his first six months of life.

It seemed that this family has had their fair share of hardships so when their insurance company told them that they were required to have an automated external defibrillation (AED) machine, and needed it ASAP, people started talking. There was a buzz amongst a few of the regulars at the gym, this was something that they could help with. Because of the high cost of the machine, I was approached with a request to see if I could find a place that would offer a machine at a discount so everyone could pitch in and make this one less thing that the Beagle’s needed to worry about. I contacted Tom Hogenson from Spectrum Health Big Rapids and asked if he had any thoughts, he immediately started asking around and got me the contact information for a few companies that sell the machines.

I called the companies and explained the situation and just like that, Curt Zondervan from Physio-Control out ofGrand Rapidsreturned my call and said that they would be happy to donate the machine to the family and that they did not seek any recognition for their donation. Curt said that if any recognition was to be given, give it to the Emergency Medical Technicians – they are the real heroes! Dan Grabill and Tim Guild even showed up to present the machine and offer training assistance (pictured). These are the types of things that make this community such a great place to live and work!

I thought this story was a great example of kindness, generosity and the power of networking; I hope it warmed your heart on this cold winter day. If you are ever in need of anything, please do not hesitate to ask – there is great power in working together!

In other news, Plans are currently underway for the Taste of Mecosta (March 4), The Community and Family Expo in conjunction with The Great Start Collaborative and Big Rapids Public Schools (April 26), The Pioneer Chamber Golf Outing (May 21) and The Dam Festival (July 19), if you are interested in joining one of these or any other of our other committees, volunteering, becoming a sponsor, reserving booth space or would like more information, please let us know.

A Message from Your Director (January 2014)

As we move in to 2014, I am proud to look back on all that we have accomplished in this past year! We have implemented a three-year strategic plan for the Chamber, partnered with Connect Michigan to earn designation as a ‘Broadband certified’ community, developed “A Taste of Mecosta” cook book, advanced our members accessibility through the use of Mychamberapp, held the first Easter Egg drop at Robin Hood Airport, held water safety assemblies (in conjunction with the Sherriff’s Department) in schools throughout the county, offered several educational opportunities for businesses, assisted with the development of the Community Garden project, revamped the Chamber newsletter, hosted several successful community events and improved referral services for our members – just to name a few of our successes. We would like to sincerely thank everyone that contributed to all of these events and activities! We could not do it without your support!

We have undergone many changes in the past year and feel that our Chamber is stronger for it. We have got an enthusiastic staff that is always looking for ways to improve our organization. Loretta Heiney, my executive assistant, is very dedicated and is always available to discuss any needs that may arise and our newest employee, Alicia Moreno, had been serving her internship with us and has officially been hired on as our administrative assistant; she is also happy to help with any ideas or concerns! If you have not met Alicia yet, please feel free to stop in and introduce yourself, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of her! Looking forward, we will continue to create programs that will benefit our members and serve as an innovator for the business community. If you have any ideas or suggestions that you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact us, we are always here for you!

We are excited to see what 2014 has in store for us! Let us know if you are interested in participating in any of our programs and/or events and as always, please let us know if there is anything that we can do for you!

We wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!