Clean Up Your Mess! 5 Articles You Should Read (A Lamont C Blog Post)

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Cleaning Up Your Mess

What is your reputation like where you work and play?

If you have a good, be sure to keep it that way!

But what if you have a bad reputation?

You need to change it pronto buddy!

But what if that bad reputation was built up over many years? Decades even?

Well, my friend you have a task ahead of you, so you better get to cleaning!

I was working with this one organization that had a very poor reputation in the community in which it conducts business. This reputation has been festering for years. They like to fancy themselves as a “business”, but unfortunately that isn’t entirely true. If they were a true business, they would have gone out of business many years ago. But that’s a different story for a different day.

So people within this organization say they would like to change this bad reputation they have. I made the simple suggestion of going out and sitting down with each of their stakeholders and having a candid conversation with them while letting the stakeholders know they want to build new bridges. Apparently connecting with people and building relationships isn’t on their radar. They prefer to have “Big Brother” force these relationships to happen.

Uhhhm, okay.

Regardless of what you think, mommy, daddy, nor big brother will fix your relationships, YOU are going to have to clean up your own mess! It may not be easy, but it will be well worth it in the end.

I know it is a daunting task to clean up a mess, and you may not even be sure if you have the skills to clean, mend, and build, but have no fear because there are plenty of people who can help you!

If you are faced with similar challenges in your work, or play, here are five articles you should read to provide you with better tools on how to clean up your mess. (The titles are hyperlinked, but I’ve also included shortlinks too).

Start With The (Wo)Man In The Mirror!

First things first, we all need to look in the mirror…

10 Harsh Truths That Will Improve Your Life Instantaneously

http://bit.ly/1EsVK28

By Lolly Daskal (Follow her on Twitter @LollyDaskal)

Useful Tip From The Article:

Many things you can’t choose, but you have a choice in everything you do.

You can make excuses, blame others, embrace the toxic and wrong–or you can follow a brighter path. It’s up to you

BONUS: At the end of the article you will find a 9 minute video…

How to Stop Your Past From Dictating Your Identity – Best-selling author Marshall Goldsmith describes the experiences that shape your identity, and how to create a new one

Time For Change

Okay, so now that you’ve done some reflecting, it’s time to start redefining…

 6 Steps To Redefining Your Brand In 2014

http://bit.ly/192uP05

By Jason Cieslak

Useful Tip From The Article:

START KEEPING THE PROMISE BEFORE YOU MAKE IT

Historically, rebranding programs include developing the strategy and communicating it to an external audience. However, the best organizations recognize the importance of internal communications and training. Communicating to employees is the first step. It’s important is to ensure that employees know how to deliver on the brand promise.

Gone, But Not Lost!

Okay, so now that you’ve done some reflecting, know that once your ‘customers’ are gone, it does NOT mean they have to be gone forever. Learn how to get them back…

How to Win Back Lost Customers

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242394

By Dave Mattson (follow Dave on Twitter @Dave_Mattson)

Useful Tip From The Article:

Request an exit interview

Ask for a meeting with the client to debrief you on the relationship. What were the factors that have gone into the company’s decision?  

Don’t be defensive. Take responsibility and apologize, if appropriate. Use the meeting as a means for improving but also as a basis for learning more about your client’s needs. 

 Get Out There And Connect With People

 3 Best Practices For Effective Business Networking

http://bit.ly/1F0c9dl

By Sophie-Charlotte Moatti (Follow her on Twitter – @scmoatti)

Useful Tip From The Article:

Networking is an art, not a science, and it’s hard to measure—or even define—its effectiveness. So we often have a love-hate relationship with it. Thankfully, there are ways to network effectively. Here are best practices for three common situations: at an event, online, and with mentors.

 Get Real Life Likes

 Because we all worry about whether people will find us interesting….

 5 Ways to Always Be the Most Interesting Person in the Room

http://muse.cm/1aVgp2x

By Amanda Berlin (Visit her at  amandaberlin.com)

Useful Tip From The Article:

Be Interested

How to be interested? Ask questions, listen closely, ask more questions. Engage people in talking about their passions.

And once you finished checking out those posts, don’t forget you can always read a couple of timeless books such as How To Win Friends and Influence People (amazon link – http://amzn.to/1A4HdCk) or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (amazon link – http://amzn.to/1NxheNP)

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The Ugly Truth About Self Publishing

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Regardless of what you may hear or read elsewhere, self-publishing is here to stay! Independent authors are finding a lot of success self-publishing, and the entire field of self-publishing seems to keep evolving. A field that was once ruled by the big publishing houses, is now being more and more even thanks to internet marketing, eBook publishing, and social networking sites that have allowed self-published authors to get their books in front of potential book buyers.

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But alas, everything isn’t all unicorns and rainbows in the world of self-publishing. You should be aware of the pitfalls that are around so that you can do as well as possible. When self-publishing, your success is squarely in YOUR hands.

So instead of sugar-coating everything, here are some of the things you should definitely be aware of…

Self Publishing Is Easy!

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What’s so ugly about “easy”? Well, it’s so easy that everybody, and their mommas, is doing it. This means that you may face a ton of competition in whatever genre or niche you enter. It also means that there are a huge number of crappy books out there as well. But that may actually be a good thing for you if you take the time to polish your book and give it enough shine to stand above the trash.

It’s a Numbers Game…And The Odds Are Against You

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So while there are all of these bad books being put out every second, there are also a lot of good ones that you will have to compete with. And just because a book is good, this includes yours, it doesn’t mean that it will become an international best seller. Everyone won’t become the next 50 Shades of Grey. It’s more likely that you may sell less than 50 books.

Just know that it isn’t a matter of how good the book is. There are very bad books that sell 10’s of thousands of copies, while excellent books toil in obscurity. The main thing what will help turn the odds in your favor is MARKETING. Remember, you are a MARKETER who just happened to write a book. You need to make sure that you are constantly finding ways to publicize your book. Books do not just sell themselves.

Self-Publishing Can Get Expensive

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If you decide to self-publish and you find that your skills are lacking in certain areas, you will probably end up hiring someone else to do it. What is “it” that you are hiring people for? Well, maybe you want to hire a ghostwriter because you don’t have the time to write. Or maybe you need a developmental editor to help your book along. There is the copy editor who you need to go through your book and make sure everything is formatted appropriately. Let’s not forget the proofreader to catch all of those typos. Did I mention the graphic designer for your book cover? There are fees for ISBN and copyrighting. Once all that is done, you probably want to pay folks to review your book (yup, people PAY to have their book reviewed), and of course we have to pay for marketing and advertising. I think my calculator just exploded.

Okay, let me not get carried away. While many of those things are necessary to put out a good product, if you do your research you can find low cost/high value ways to get them accomplished. You can end up paying a few hundred dollars to get your book out up to tens of thousands. If you have more time than money, do your research and you will come out on the low end of the scale. If you have more money than time, then you can pay to get the best services available to you. Just know you will pay one way or another.

Don’t Be Afraid, Just Be Aware

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Let me reiterate, none of this is meant to scare you, it’s meant to inform you. The better informed you are the better you can prepare yourself to enter the world of self-publishing.

Have you written and self published a book? What tips would you share with would be self-publishers? Are you writing a book? What questions do you have about self-publishing?

Do You Play Well With The Other Children? ( A Lamont C Blog Post)

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Do You Play Well With the Other Children?
(Be sure to follow my blog right there on the left side. It takes all of 20 seconds to do it…done? Thanks!)

We all are children at heart (or at least that’s what I’ve been told). And what do most children like to do? Go run around and play on the playground!

Your playground may be different from mine. Some of us own the playground. Some of us are leaders on the playground (or at least are expected to be). Some of us are just there because we have to be there.

Have you stopped for a moment and considered what’s it like on your playground?

Do all of the children play well together?

Do YOU play well with the other children?

It’s very likely that everyone doesn’t play well together, that’s just life, but when the children don’t play well together how does that affect the playground as a whole?

Let’s look at three or four reasons we don’t play well with each other.

CHAOS

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On far too many playgrounds there is just pure chaos. This usually happens when there is no one watching over the children. Or maybe the person who is assigned to watch the children is either weak or distracted. If the playground monitor is not respected by the children, well it really doesn’t matter what s/he says, because the children will just run around and do whatever they feel like doing. Or if the monitor is too busy focusing on things other than the important playground rules, again, the children will just do whatever it is they feel is important to them at the moment.

Until there is someone who not only thoroughly understands what the playground rules are, but they are willing to enforce those rules, mayhem will rule the playground.

LACK OF SKILLS

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What? You need skills to be on the playground?

Obviously not if you’ve been on some of the playgrounds that I’ve played on. But having skills will certainly help maintain some order.

Have you every play the “telephone game” (or the less politically correct “Chinese whispers”. It’s the game that starts with one person who whispers a message to a second person. That second person whispers the message to a third person, the third to a fourth, and so on and so on, until the last player announces the message to the entire group. The rule is you can NOT repeat what you said to the person. If you don’t understand what the person told you, tough! You just forward the message you THINK you heard.

Obviously there are errors that get passed along, and by the time the message reaches the last person, the original statement has been strangled, mangled, and destroyed. Why is the passing of a message between the children so difficult? Maybe one child was so anxious to start talking, they never bothered to listen to what was being said to them. Maybe one child was really soft spoken and whispered the message to another child who had a legitimate hearing issue (that no one bothered to check). There are always the children who change the message on purpose, simply because they think it is fun to pass on bad information. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about the ‘embellisher’. You know the kid who sees or hears the exact same thing you do, but for whatever reason there version of the story always has added twists and turns.

Improve the children’s skills in listening, fix a technical issue, or teach them why it’s important to pass on accurate information, and you will have children who play the games better.

ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER

attention-deficit-disorder
What if you were playing a team game, and your team is starting to gain momentum, but all of sudden your team captain decides to change your strategy. It’s likely you will lose some of your momentum right? But then the captain sees another team doing something then decides your team should do it too. BUT then the captain remembers something her father told her, and decides that your goals are all wrong, and now they change too. There’s no way your team will be successful.

With lack of focus, hopping around from one goal to another, or being preoccupied by what the other team is doing, your team won’t have a direction let alone gain momentum. Maybe somebody needs to take their meds…

FAT, DUMB, AND HAPPY

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No, don’t worry, I’m not about to get all Conspiracy Theory on you. We’re staying in Metaphorland here. Keeping the children ‘fat, dumb, and happy’ simply means that they are trained to be unaware and uninterested in what’s really going on. The advancement of the children isn’t a priority, because they are content just where they are since they are given the sugar they crave and ignorance is bliss.

If any of the children decide they want healthy food instead of sugar, or perhaps they decide they want to learn something meaningful those children run the risk of being called “teacher’s pet” or “nerd” or being told they’re “messing up the grading curve”. They won’t be the most popular children on the playground.

I’d love to hear what you think ‘playing well with others’ means and what some hindrances are!

There’s No “I” In Team…(but there is “M” and “E”)

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So millions of us watch the Super Bowl and the overwhelming majority of us thought that Seattle was going to give the ball to Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch to seal the deal.

Ehh, eh.

So when asked about the play, and was he surprised that he didn’t get the ball Marshawn said (paraphrasing) “No, I wasn’t surprised. We play football, it’s a team sport”.

While Marshawn is probably one of the few people in the world who isn’t surprised that he wasn’t given the ball, his answer is indicative of who he is as a player. Marshawn could have went all Keyshawn on us and said “Just give me the damn ball!” or he could have thrown the coaching staff under the bus, but by all accounts Marshawn is a great team player.

Great Teams Are MORE Than Just Great Players

Great teams aren’t made up of just great players, but they have to have great team players. If all you have on your team is a bunch of all-stars who only care about their own stats, then you won’t have a great team. No one will care about winning, they just want to make sure that they look good in the highlights, or they look good when their numbers are reviewed.

I’ve been on a number of teams, some of them winning teams, some of them losing teams. The clear difference was between the two was how well the people worked together.

The previous team I was on (a winner) while all of the players didn’t always get along, we knew how to play well together, and as a team we consistently scored high. My current team, well let’s just say that my assistant and I call it the 1999 Los Angeles Clippers. The team is in disarray, and unfortunately everyone wants to play for themselves instead of as a team. You can play in the same building with the champions (1999 LA Lakers), but you won’t win unless you play with the same culture as the champions.

The Making Of A Great Team

Here are five things that winning teams do that losing teams don’t:

  • Know your role – Whatever your position is, make sure you know how to do it better than anyone else can. Everyone can’t be the star of the show. You may not get a solo but every voice in the choir matters.
  • Trust each other to do their job – Where there’s no trust, there’s no us. You simply can’t build a successful team if you can’t trust or be trusted.
  • Understand the team vision – If each person simply works for what they believe should be done, then you’ll have a bunch of people set out on a bunch of different paths, with very few of them ever meeting.
  • Inspire each other – Shit happens. Mistakes will be made. There will be setbacks. But when the chips are down, teammates should be there to pick each other up and remind them of what they are working towards.
  • Reward each other – Even when your team has their eyes on the prize, they need small reminders along the way telling them “Good job on what you just accomplished”.

You may be wondering why I didn’t include “Good Communication” on this list. Well, because good communication weaves it’s way through everything on that list. ALL of these things, and more, make up good communication.

What other things have you seen and/or experienced that have created great teams? I’d love to hear your responses!

An Obsession Gone Too Far (A Lamont C Blog Post)

 

The 2014 college football season ended last night with a crowning of Ohio State as the champs. Congrats.

NFL season is winding down with Seattle v Green Bay and New England v Indianapolis happening this coming weekend in the NFC and AFC Championship games.

Maybe it’s the area of the country I live in (D.C.), but with the Dallas Cowboys losing this past weekend, it seems like the amount of trash talking that went on over social media was at an all-time high!

I have no problem with rooting and/or jeering these teams, and yeah I understand “the refs suck”, but some people go too far. Like the people who ruined this referees life.

Lesson from A Bronx Tale

Have you ever seen A Bronx Tale?

It’s an awesome movie!

I mention it here because there is one scene when the main character, Calogero, was talking with Sonny about the New York Yankees losing in the World Series. The conversation went like this:

Sonny: So you must be pretty upset after the Yankees lost?

Calogero: Bill Mazeroski, I hate him. He made Mickey Mantle cry. The papers said the Mick cried. 

Sonny: Mickey Mantle? That’s what you’re upset about? Mantle makes $100,000 a year. How much does your father make? If your dad ever can’t pay the rent and needs money, go ask Mickey Mantle. See what happens. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you. Why care about him? 

Calogero: [narrating] After that, I never felt the same way about the Yankees.

That scene pretty much changed my perspective on sports as a fan. I had to question myself on why I was “living and dying” on if my favorite sports team won or lost that week. They didn’t give a shit about my ups and downs. Or whether I was living like a prince or a pauper.

But far too many people take sports far too seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love sports. I still ride with my teams (N.Y. ’til I die). But you won’t catch me rubbing it in someone’s face because my favorite team beat his this weekend. I don’t even care when someone decides to gloat by posting some silly comment on my Facebook page. It’s all fun and games to me.

But that just me.

You see people getting into bar fights (like this senseless one) over sports. People assaulting, and killing, each other (like this woman here). People getting depressed when their favorite team loses the ‘big game’ (which is common, see here). That’s an obsession that’s gone too far.

Come on people, really!!? Sacrificing your physical and/or mental well being is not worth it.  And neither is sacrificing anyone else’s for the sake a sports team that doesn’t know you exist and won’t bail your dumb ass out of jail because you upheld their team colors.

I’m not saying to root for the home team, but what I am saying is don’t be a dick about it.

 

 

Wanna Be A Successful Self Published Author? (A Lamont C Blog Post)

Want to be a successful self-published author?

Okay, good!

The first thing you need to do is define “success”.

I’m a “success” because for me success meant ‘doing something that I never really thought I would do’, which was write a book. Then I did it about 10 times over. (Check me out here)

Now I will keep it real with you, it’s time for me to alter my definition of “success”. My success was not based on sales (I have been selling moderately well) or how much money I made (I’m definitely not rolling in the dough),  BUT now that the novelty of self-publishing has worn off, it’s time I decide to make sales a priority.

But in YOUR case, you may decide that success is finally getting that book done after 20 years of procrastinating, or writing that book that will help bring attention to your business, or writing that tell all that exposes those nasty sorority girls from your alma mater for the whores that they really are! Whatever. It’s YOUR definition of “success”, not anyone else’s.

Anywho, from me to you, here are 10 tips that you should pay close attention to if you want to be a successful self published author.:

1) In addition to following this site (shameless self plug), you should join self-published and/or Indie writer’s groups both on and offline. How? Go to your favorite search engine (notice how I didn’t automatically assume you ‘Google’ everything?), and type in “Independent Writers Group” or “Self Published Writers Group” and watch the world come alive! These are the ‘doers’ of the world, and you can get plenty of advice on anything and everything you ever wanted to know about self-publishing but were afraid to ask. And you don’t need to wait until you have a book out to join! Join now…watch, ask, and be informed.

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2) I know this is subjective, but please write a good book! There is too much crap cluttering cyberspace as it is, so put your heart into your book. If you feel you have done your best, then that is all a man can ask.

a good book can change a person's life etsy

3) You need to have a good title and a good cover. Remember that last comment about cybercrap? Well if you want to stand out amongst them, do yourself a favor and create an eye-appealing, professional-looking cover. Your cover should not only look good large, but it should catch the eye when it is set as a thumbnail, because if you sell online it’s likely that people will only see a thumbnail of your book.

Book-Title

4) Have your book proofread! You can have a great book, but if it is filled with typos and grammatical errors, guess what comments will be left on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, etc.? Do yourself a favor, even if you can’t afford to pay a lot for a professional, you should be able to 1) use spellcheck and 2) ask a friend, family member, or colleague to take a look. A new set of eyes will go a long way.

Proofreading

 

5) BEFORE you hit the “go” button to get 1,000,000 copies printed by your locan printer, be sure to get a proof of your book first! Getting a proof is different from having it proofread. Once your book is finished and at the printer of your choice, request or purchase a copy of it before it goes into full production. When your proof arrives give it a thorough looksy. This is your labor of love, if something doesn’t look right, change it. Better make those changes now than having a garage full of books with your name spelled wrong.

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6) Make sure the Price is Right! No, I’m not talking about the television game show with Drew Carrey. It’s important to make sure that your book is priced appropriately. If you are using a Print on Demand service such as CreateSpace, they will kind of force your hand by telling you the minimum price you can sell your book for. This will be based on things like length of the book and if you are using black/white pictures vs. color pictures. Anything above that minimum should become profit for you. But don’t get crazy with the price. Will people really buy your $24.99 book?

 

If you are selling an eBook, keep in mind that the “sweet spot” for eBooks is usually around $2.99. You may consider starting at .99 cents, letting your book get a little momentum then gradually increasing it to $1.99, then $2.99. If you are selling on Amazon, familiarize yourself with their Royalty policy since they have 35% and 70% rates.

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7) Unlike at a bookstore or in a library, online potential buyers can’t thumb through your book so they will rely on other people’s reviews. Solicit reviews on Amazon.com. How? Well, remember that writers group I suggested you join, tap into that group. Another possible way is to send free copies to anyone who may have an interest in your genre or topic (including family or friends) and ask (beg) that they write a review at Amazon. Getting reviews will help with your book ranking. If Amazon sees that people are reviewing your book, they will rank it higher.

most-helpful-reviews

8) And no matter what site you use to sell your book, make sure that your book description and your publisher’s comments are well thought out. Potential buyers will also look to these areas to decide whether they will buy your book or not. If the description doesn’t provide them with enough information on your book, they may likely pass on it. This is especially true when you don’t have many reviews. Or even worse, if your description is poorly (or even just “okay”)written and people purchase it, they will come back and leave a negative review because it “wasn’t what they thought it was”. (Ask me how I know).

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9) Create a website for your book (or better yet, a website for yourself!), and link it to any of the places that you may sell your book. Now that you are a self-published author, you are a brand, and no brand is complete without its own website.

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Last, but certainly not least…

10) Market, Market, MARKET! How can you sell your book if they don’t know it exists? There are 1001 ways to market, so find the best ways for your book. And don’t just think online, think offline marketing as well! I’m sure I will do more posts about marketing, branding, etc. etc, but really you should market your book.

I’m glad I only said 10 tips, ’cause I’m tired! If you have any tips, please feel free to share them in the comment section!

Customer Service? What’s That? (A Lamont C Blog Post)

Maybe it’s me, but is GOOD Customer Service a dying art?

Okay, maybe ‘good’ is too much to ask for, so can I at least get DECENT customer service once in a while?

Is it too much to ask to have a cashier actually make eye contact with me with I come to the register? Or say “Good Afternoon!” or even “Thanks, come again!”

It’s clearly about the training, or lack thereof, that businesses put into their employees. For instance, I go to one supermarket around my way, Giant Foods, and they clearly don’t put a priority on training their employees on customer service. While they don’t give “bad” service, they just don’t focus on customer experience. More often than not I will only get two questions from a cashier “Giant card?” (which is really the shortest possible way of asking me to put my savings card info in), and “Do you need bags?”. I’m lucky to get a “Hi, how are doing?”, “Did you find everything ok”, or “Thanks, have a good evening.” And God forbid I get service with a smile.

But if I go to the MOM Organic Market around my way, I am certain to get all of those questions, along with “Do you need help with your bags”, and a smile. MOM clearly trained their employees on Customer Service.

I’m not going to even discuss all of the piss poor service that I’ve received from some establishments (Home Depot comes to mind as my most recent experience) because this post isn’t about being a bitch session.

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And in case you are wondering, NO, I don’t believe in the whole “the customer is always right” thing. Many times the customer is flat out an asshole. But if you have a business (doesn’t matter what type of ‘business’ it is), if you want to set yourself apart from the crowd all you have to do is give excellent service.

There are examples in every industry of companies who take situations that are  normally either unpleasant or places where you don’t get any service.

For instance, flying period is a harrowing experience. You are bound to have a bad experience somewhere along the way. Checking In. Going through TSA. Overpriced airport food. Etc. Etc. Etc. Although Southwest is a “discount” airline, what they lack in amenities, they make up for in good customer service.

How many times have you ordered something online, needed some sort of assistance, but finding, let a lone calling, a customer service department was a real hassle? Well if you were to order from Zappos and called their customer service department, you’re going to get a much better experience than you’d think.

Bottom line is if you have a business and you want to set yourself apart from your competitors, give excellent customer service. People will definitely appreciate it, remember it, and likely tell their friends.