Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Battle of the Bulging Inbox

It has been a month now since I cleaned up my act – email wise – and I am proud to say that I am still managing the flow of emails. In fact I have become quite competitive about it – with myself and others in the office, and have taken to bragging about how few emails remain in my inbox.

Guess I’ve become a bit like the former smoker – nothing worse – with little tolerance for others who have not seen the light and changed their ways. But you have to reach rock bottom (6,500 emails did it for me) to recognize that something has to change.

However, the real test will be when I get back from vacation. Two weeks away and I will have to navigate my way through hundreds of emails. Having shed the weight of all these emails, I am determined, like the weight-watcher, to stick with it, because it is freeing and I feel tons lighter with all those emails gone. Forever.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's a numbers game

Last week’s Fifth Annual Journey 2 Success Conference seemed to be all about numbers in a way. First it was a sold-out event, with over 208 women participating which thrilled us, as the conference is expensive to put on and so every year we take the risk and just pray we will get the numbers.

Our first speaker, Dr. Elaine Dembe, spoke about the ten characteristics of resilient people, while Dianne Buckner, host of Dragons’ Den, shared her observations on the top ten traits of successful entrepreneurs and we ended the day discussing the eight tenets of leaders.

Sandwiched in between, we heard from a panel with Julia Hanna, a businesswoman who has owned four successful restaurants, all of which are still running in an industry where 90 percent close in the first year.

Nadja Piatka, on the other hand, built her food manufacturing business, as she says herself on adversity, with only $500; baking muffins in her kitchen. Today she has a multi-million business selling her products to McDonald's and Subway.

Our third panelist, Lesley Andrew had also beat the odds, turning her learning challenges into a successful creative career, and when she sang It’s a Wonderful World in her beautiful soprano voice, there was hardly a dry eye in the room.

Back in school many of us may have struggled with math. Today likely many people have the same quandary with social media. What’s Twitter? How do I link-in? Isn’t Facebook just for young people? With only thirty minutes, Lisa Kember was able to give us a quick overview with some great tips, but it still raised more questions than answers for newbies in the crowd.

So when I announced that we were launching Techie Tuesdays in the fall, when the women can learn hands-on, there was a lot of interest in the crowd. Just like math, it’s important we grasp social media because it is the way of the future. And talking of numbers, the good news is that the price is right – most of it is free.

No matter what your business is – it truly is a numbers game. Number of customers, how much money you have invested in your business, your cash flow, and in our case, numbers of bums in seats. It is all a risk, but when you know your numbers, when you pay attention to them, you stand a better chance of succeeding.

The date for our next conference has some interesting numbers too – June 12, 2012 - a date to remember. Hope you will join us.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Please Be Seated

There’s been a real buzz this week about our conference and with the flurry of last minute registrations, it’s clear that women really want to be there. And they are coming from all over the province from Sault Ste Marie, Haliburton, Peterborough to Ottawa.

This is our fifth conference and I have to say everything has just fallen into place. We know what we are doing, have a system in place and it has, touch wood, gone like clockwork. Of course, you can never tell what can happen the day of the event but by that stage it is more a case of going with the flow and making it work.

As I sat with the seating plan, trying to make sure that with each change in seating (there are three), no one was sitting with someone they had already met, I felt like the wedding planner. I am not sure people realize how much planning and consideration goes into making events like weddings and conferences work so everyone gets the most out of the experience.

I used to do the seating plan for the annual ATHENA Gala, and would spend hours trying to make sure I’d grouped people appropriately. Now that was often for 400 people and I have to confess towards the end, I would start to question why I was making such an effort. Then I would hear back from people that their table was special, and it seemed all worthwhile.

Same with the conference. I started off trying to assign people to groups where I thought there might be some synergy, but the closer we got to midnight, the more I began to rationalize to myself that someone was in that group because they were meant to be, nothing to do with my engineering the connections. After all, it’s up to every participant to make the most of the experience.

So three more sleeps and it will be all over for another year. I always find myself on a downer the day afterwards. It is such an anticlimax – months of work and preparation and it is over in a flash. But hopefully the knowledge, learning and connections the women gain through the conference will carry on for months to come.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Stretching the Truth

There are some business lessons to be learned from the two recent cases of people who stretched the truth on their use of the HOV lane.

First there was the pregnant woman who claimed that there were two passengers – herself and her baby. She was certainly sort of telling the truth, but it was a very generous interpretation of the rule. The second case was much more devious and the man was charged. What did he do? He had a blown-up, dressed doll in the car. To me this was a blatant attempt to beat the system. He just wanted to reach his destination faster.

But it didn’t really pan out the way he expected I am sure. When we try to take short cuts, stretch the truth or exaggerate about what we have achieved or can do, we run the risk of getting caught out and bringing discredit to our reputation. Honesty is the best policy.

In business, I’ve met people who oversell what their product can do, or what benefit they can bring to an organization. Plus you never know who knows who. I never forget reading a resume in which the person claimed to be the lead in a certain project. She wasn’t to know that I would be reading her resume but as the person who HAD been in charge of the project, I could quickly attest that this wasn’t true, which caused us all to question what else was false or a stretch of the truth.

The English language is a persuasive tool that can be used to mislead others. We hear what we want to hear, rather than the actual truth. Over the years I have been nominated numerous times for the Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award. When you say it quickly, it might sound as if I actually won it, but I never have. It is those sorts of interpretations which yes, can work in your favour but you have to be careful.

When you exaggerate about what you do, or give off a false air of self-confidence, it can come back to bite you. I’ve noticed that I will chatter on about my accomplishments when I am feeling insecure or feel the need to prove myself, but afterwards I regret it. I now really try to catch myself before I get caught up in that cycle of insecurity.

Having said that I am a big component of faking it until you make it – but it has to be done with honesty, not by totally misleading the other person.

Yup, honesty is the best policy. Be who you are, warts and all. People will respect you for your authenticity. Taking short cuts doesn’t always mean that you reach your destination faster. Sometimes it can derail your plans.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


How many email are lingering in your inbox? That many? If I had to answer that question at the beginning of the week, my answer would have been 6,500. Yes – six-thousand-five-hundred. Now ask how many I have? Ten – one-zero.

It took me all day. I closed my office door and hunkered down to sort through them all. Many were deleted, others transferred to the appropriate folder and some were replied to, with great apologies for the delay.

Every year around this time, I declare war on my inbox, but I can honestly say this is the first time I have systematically worked my way through them all. One year I started off, grew impatient and just deleted them all. Error. A step I later regretted when I was looking for a crucial email.

So this time I am literally starting with a clean slate. How long do you give me to keep this up? My challenge is I get hundreds of emails a day, so it is hard to keep on top of it all. But I am competitive with myself so maybe this time it will work.

And if you haven’t heard back from me – don’t worry – you are on the list!