Archive for the ‘Small business’ Category

I am a human being, not a robot

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A client told me recently she wrote a review of us on Google but I never saw it.

Typically, when one of our clients takes the time to post a review, I get notified, usually within 24 hours, so I can reply back in a reasonable time frame. It occurred to me, if her review wasn’t visible, were there other reviews that were “lost?”

I did everything I could to try and resolve the issue by myself.  I reviewed all the FAQ pages and help pages. Nothing worked. My client was kind enough to repost her review but I still could not see it. I realized I would have to speak with a live person at Google who could address my issue. I know some of you are laughing right now or mumbling, “good luck with that!”

The Help page kept circling me back to the same FAQ page with answers that did not address my particular issue. Crazy-making to say the least!

There is nothing more frustrating than needing help, attempting to seek help and not getting help.

A long time ago, an old boss told me I can get things done like “a dog on a bone.”   Eventually, after much digging,  I found a page in Google where I could request a call back. When that the call came in, I was was transferred twice. Each time I had to explain the issue again. Finally, I spoke to someone who took ownership of my concern and explained what he would do for me. He also said he would follow up with an email so I would have his contact information.

Almost immediately, I received his email response.  It included a case number and not surprisingly, it included the usual boilerplate response – “we know how important reviews are to your business, blah, blah, blah. Try this. Try that.” But at least now, I was able to check in periodically, by email, to get a status on what had happened to my missing review.

One of those absurd suggestions was to ask recent clients whether or not they had submitted reviews?

Big companies often request “feedback” after every interaction. I find this incredibly annoying.  As a solo, woman-owned business,  reviews from our clients do more than attract new customers. They help others know what we can do for them.  They create awareness that our type of service even exists. I value them tremendously but I never directly ask for feedback let alone ask for it repeatedly.

At LET’S MAKE ROOM, we wait till the project is done and simply ask if they would consider writing a review. If they say yes, I send them a link. They are not committed to anything.

Customer service has become so much worse. I’ll go out on a limb and say, I don’t think I’m alone here.

Here are the ways I would like to see every customer service interaction play out:

  1. Treat me like a unique human being. I am not a robot.
  2. Acknowledge our relationship. Here are some examples: “I remember, we organized your garage in 2018 so your new car could go fit there. Is it time for a refresher?” Or, “We helped you move into your new home when your kids were just infants, how are they?” Or “I managed your long-distance move. How are you enjoying your new life?”
  3. Say it. Mean it. Do it. Give me a reason to trust you.
  4. Make me glad I’m your customer. Of all the other choices I have, thank me for choosing you!
  5. Exceed my expectations. Go the extra mile.
  6. Treat me like a respected relative. Convince me that you have my back.
  7. Stop apologizing for the inconvenience you caused. It doesn’t help. Take ownership of the issue and fix it.
  8. Respect my time. Don’t assume I will bother to review you just because you did your job.
  9. Make getting in touch with a live human being easy. 



Why you shouldn’t “get organized” in 2014

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2013 2014 in SandJanuary is the perfect time to plan your personal organizing and productivity goals but like most people you’ll probably never do anything about them.

Forgive me if that sounds a bit cynical but over the years I have realized a lot of people say they want to get more organized but don’t.  That’s because they realize it’s boring and tedious, which it can be unless you are naturally organized.

After all, who wants to think about organizing a garage or the year’s tax receipts when it’s all you can do to get out of the house in the morning?

Instead of resolving to “get organized” this year,  think about what positive change you want in your life and then connect that change to something you can control.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you want to do a better job at saving money.

Start by examining the ways you spend your money now. There are numerous and easy ways to do this. One of the simplest is perusing your bank account over the past year. Many banks provide a “quick view” of where your money went by category such as groceries, mortgage, gifts, utilities, tuition, etc.

Look for some of the hidden ways you spend money. For example, I had a client who owned four identical blouses, two with their price tags still attached.  Her clothes closet was so cluttered she didn’t remember she owned them.

After organizing her closet, she could easily see everything she kept stored.  No more time wasted looking for things she couldn’t find. No more getting late to work every day. No more money spent on duplicates.

When you discover how and where you spend your money, it becomes easier to adjust your budget and your spending.

Did you resolve to get healthier this year? Try losing a few clutter pounds.

I guarantee, when you let go of unwanted things in your life it actually makes you feel lighter. When you feel lighter you feel like being more active. The more active you are, the healthier you will be and feel.

I had a client who felt so much lighter after our work together organizing his home office, he started a regular jogging routine. Eventually he started running and last year he entered and completed his first marathon.

Is 2014 the year you change your job or career? Be innovative.

Keep your mind active any way you can. Whether that means taking dance lessons or organizing your model car collection. Make connections and start connecting the dots. What kind of people or ideas attract you?  Take small risks like joining a networking group (if you’re shy).  Do something productive.  Bake a cake.  Write a poem. Fix a broken appliance. Organize your closet. Anything so long as you can see and experience the result.

I know a woman who was unhappy at her job. In 2008 at the start of the recession, she found herself unemployed.   She spent the next few months doing all the things she had wanted to do while she was working but didn’t have the time or energy to do. She read books, took classes, did volunteer work and one night she organized her bathroom cabinet, just because she felt like it.

Four months later she started her own organizing business. That woman, by the way, is me.

So when you are thinking about your resolutions for 2014, don’t include “get organized” unless you know why you want to get organized?  Instead, consider what you want to accomplish and see if it’s something you can get by doing what you do naturally. 

Life is short.  At the end of your life, chances are you won’t wish you were more organized. If, however, getting organized gives you what you want, helps you save money, advances your goals, takes away your stress or gives you more peace of mind,  then by all means, do it.

Still feeling stuck? Come back next week to get some quick-start tips that will help you start your year off on the right track.

Confronting our monsters

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At 8:00 this morning, I had my own private celebration. It took place in my head.

An hour earlier I was driving and thinking about how terrifying it must be for some of my clients to do the one thing that scares them the most; To finally confront what’s kept them from moving forward in their lives because they feel overwhelmed and stuck and it’s showing up as piles of papers, boxes and who knows what else, on their desks, on the floor, in their drawers, everywhere.

I was thinking about what it means to do the one thing that scares you the most and to have the courage to do it anyway because you know you have to. Because you know not doing so will have far greater consequences.

For people who are chronically disorganized, the consequence of not facing their fears can be enormous.  For some it’s a loss of control over their lives. For others, it’s isolation. I know people who have lost their children, their spouses and their very security because of their inability to face their fears head on.  I also know people who have shown great courage and have discovered the meaning of making room in their lives.

My fears are about public speaking. And yet, as a small business person I know the value it brings to others in the form of information and sometimes even inspiration. But I do it quite frankly because I have to. Working with people in their homes and in their offices or helping them move is tactical but it’s also very personal. I know that if people see me and feel I am someone they can trust, and recognize I  have the expertise to help them, then they often will remember me when it comes time to organize their offices, or their bedrooms or help them plan and oversee their move to a new home.

The Paper MonsterThis is what I was thinking at seven o’clock this morning, on my way to speak to a group of fifty small business owners and entrepreneurs about how to face their fears, specifically about how to confront their own Paper Monsters.  I did this presentation a few weeks earlier and it had not lived up to my expectations  – perfectionism, my monster, rearing it’s ugly head, yet again –  and now I was getting ready to face him again.  Was I scared? Petrified, which is why at that moment I started thinking about my clients.

“If  they can have the courage to hire me, then I can damn well find the courage to face my fears as well, ” I thought.  And so I did. And it went fine. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. And that’s good enough. But to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. At least for today I can celebrate.

Tomorrow, I do it again.

My ‘Isaac Newton’ moment or how a bottle of antiperspirant made me what I am today.

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Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of small business owners about organizing and how I became a professional organizer.   Curious? Watch this short video and get a taste of how I work with different organizing ‘personalities.’  Have a comment or question?  Include it below.

How An Anti-Socialite Became a Joiner

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The famous comedian, Groucho Marx once said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

I grew up with a family of non-joiners. This got passed down to me in many ways. I never was a Girl Scout (or a Brownie) as all my friends were. I didn’t attend Sunday school.  I never played team sports, except one summer when I joined my camp’s co-ed softball team and they put me in left field hoping I’d never have to catch a ball.   I never joined clubs in high school. I didn’t even attend my high school graduation, although once I volunteered to MC a high school fashion show but was  replaced by a young Puerto Rican kid who wore jeans with sharp creases that I envied. My mother never ironed any of my jeans. She was too busy working a full-time job as a copywriter.

So when I started my own business, I learned quickly that getting business meant I was going to have to renounce my family’s anti-social culture and become ‘a joiner.’

The first group I joined was the one for my industry, the National Association of Professional Organizers also known as NAPO.  I have been a member of NAPO for almost three years.  Just learning  there was a group for organizers was a huge relief. It meant that I wasn’t crazy to think I could make money helping people avoid or at least reduce chaos in their lives.  I was always good at this, but getting paid for it? Sign me up!

Joining NAPO was a great way to embody my new organizer identity and meet other like-minded professionals who, like me, discovered their passion for helping people find the space in their homes, offices and lives to focus on what truly mattered to them.

After NAPO, I joined another related group called the Institute for Challenging Disorganization or ICD.  ICD started as a subgroup of NAPO in 1992 but eventually split off to become it’s own organization. It’s focus is education and research about chronic disorganization, more popularly known as “hoarding.” Their mission is to help people with chronic disorganization, but they are also a great resource for professional organizers and other related professionals such as mental health counselors.  ICD offers its members free teleclasses on a variety of subjects related to the understanding, treatment and support of people who have been impacted by this sometimes crippling need to acquire and hoard. For me, as an organizer, it has helped me better understand my clients tendencies toward disorganization as I believe the seeds of hoarding exist in all of us.

I am also part of a group called EBUG. For months I couldn’t remember what the acronym stood for so I just called it East Bay Uncommon Girls. It’s actually East Bay UNITED Gals though I’m not sure exactly what unites us other than we are all women looking to have some more fun and friendship in our lives.

EBUG, which currently claims about 200 members, was started by a group of four friends so they would have more opportunities to socialize and feel less isolated after a long day’s work.  EBUG is known as “the book club without the books.” It’s perfect for someone like me who hasn’t read a piece of fiction since Clinton was in the White House. EBUG meets roughly once a month for all kinds of interesting and fun member-led events such as chocolate and wine tastings, kayaking, outdoor hiking, palmistry and Tarot card readings, movie nights, barbeques and belly dancing.

I originally joined thinking it would be a great opportunity to network without the usual pressure to collect business cards but it’s turned out to be so much more. I’ve made some great new friends (who thought that would be possible in mid-life?) and after nearly 25 years of living in California actually feel part of a community, not a geographic one but a community of smart, savvy, fun-loving women. Now that I think of it, maybe that’s why it’s call United gals.

Earlier this year, I went to a networking event sponsored by the Mount Diablo Business Women, or MDBW,  a group whose mission is to enhance it’s members “business, social, professional, and personal well being.” I first learned about this group from someone I met at EBUG.

I confess,  I went initially because it was held at a really nice hotel.  I figured if the meeting was a bust I could still walk around the elegant, marble-floored lobby and pretend I was a guest. Instead, what I discovered was another great group of women, only these women, had taken the plunge to start their own businesses, like me.   MDBW is not so much about exchanging business cards as it is  about developing relationships and learning new skills and perspectives as fellow travelers on the road to success.  Besides, that the food is really good!

Then, this past September you could say I really drank the Kool-aid. I joined BNI.  BNI stands for Business Networking International.  It is the networking group of all networking groups. Their whole philosophy can be boiled down into their two word motto, “givers gain” or to give it a more street interpretation, ‘I watch your back, you watch mine.’

According to it’s website, BNI generated business referrals resulting in $2.8 billion worth of business for its’ members in the past year. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner, an author, columnist and networking guru.

I joined BNI for one reason. I wanted more business.  The meeting format is not for the faint of heart. Some have even called it ‘cult-like.’ I prefer to think of it as enthusiastically supportive. Each group works on a one-profession-per-chapter model to eliminate competition or the perception of it within each group. Before I joined, I almost joined. Two years earlier I had learned about BNI from someone I knew through EBUG.  I submitted an application (yes, one needs to be approved by the individual chapter members) then subsequently withdrew it because I just wasn’t ready.

Membership really depends on your ability to make referrals, and that requires knowing people and being in situations to know more of them. It also means being a serious business owner. The cost to join is steep (about $1000 a year) for a sole proprietor but I expect to make back my investment soon.   So two years after I almost joined,  the stars aligned to let me know I was ready this time around.  It came in the form of another organizer who told me there was an “opening” for an organizer at my group, which by the way, meets at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. every Tuesday. Still, I have to say that I am really glad I joined. Partly because I genuinely like the people – people’s true colors are vivid that early in the morning – and partly because they have a great track record of upholding the ‘givers gain’ model.  It’s like knowing you got the best seat in the house or got picked to play on the winning team.

Having never been on any team (with the exception of that camp softball league) I have to confess, in spite of my anti-social upbringing, I like it.  With all due respect to Groucho and my family, being a joiner, afterall, ain’t that bad.