Monday, September 24, 2012

What's your story?

Do you have a story that needs to be told? Did you create your business from nothing and build an empire or at least something cool? Maybe you have a personal story that you'd like to share or a personal hardship that you need to share. 

I now have five books to my credit. The first one was the hardest. Not that it was hard to write emotionally. In fact, writing it was an awesome experience. It was a book of stories about my brothers and me growing up in Huntsville in the 1960s. Every story ignited a flood of memories and great feelings. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a book that started out as a project with my dad to digitize our old family photographs. Some were in photograph form and some were slides. I took the old black and white photographs and started scanning, cropping, and trying to improve the image with color correction and other image enhancement tools. After doing this for a few months, little by little, I decided it would be fun to write funny captions under the pictures and assemble them into a booklet form. Before I knew it, I was writing whole stories. One thing let to another and I wrote a whole book. 

My other books are all business related. I wrote them for different purposes. The first one was a resource for start-ups. The second and third one were more for money. The fourth was mostly for business development purposes. I co-authored two of the books with my partner at Ad4!, Felica Sparks. 

We have put together packages to help others get their story out. Whether you have a business story, a personal story, want to get a load off your mind or generate credibility from being a 'published author', we can help you make it happen. We have professional management, editing, graphic artists, web guys, public relations, and marketing strategy. If all you need is a professional cover and a little editing, we've got you covered. If you can't write a lick and need the whole package, no problem. 

Huntsville is rich with stories of biology, music, religion, history, space and just about every other field imaginable. If you have a story, give us a call to see if we're the right partner for you. Contact me at or 256-425-8787. And check out our press in The Huntsville Times.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

...or how to keep from spending your time chasing shiny objects down rabbit holes!

If you made it to the September Valley Business Network luncheon at the new Madison Holiday Inn Express, you heard me talk about Visioning Success. One of the keys to success it keeping a Singularly of Focus. As entrepreneurs, we generally have many opportunities to consider. I get asked to review business plans, look at ideas, get pitched on a plan or idea. It's usually very easy for me to take a pass at those opportunities because they don't seem viable, they require too much cash, or I don't understand the technology well.  Another reason I can easily pass on these opportunities is they typically just don't interest me. If you're going to start a business, you should have a little passion for the enterprise. It takes lots of time and energy to get a business off the ground, so it's nice if you actually have interest in the idea.

In all these cases, it's really easy for me to immediately say no. But in some cases, the idea is viable, the cash flow turns quickly, the technology is easily understood and I really like the idea. In those cases, I still need a filter for determining which ideas to dig into further, without wasting a huge amount of time chasing shiny objects down rabbit holes. That first filter I call my Rules for Success. I've written about this before, but since I spoke about this last week, I caused me to update my rules. I like to review my rules every couple of years to tweak my rules based on my new knowledge, where I am in my life and that sort of thing. Being on the downhill side a prostate cancer and recovery from surgery last October, I thought this was one of the 'where I am in my life' times that required a rule re-tweaking. Since I did that last week, I'm going to share my newly tweaked rules with your here.

Chris' Rules for Success

1.       Give glory to God in all you do.
2.       Never gamble with things you can’t afford to lose.
3.      Decide what’s really most important, and never lose sight of it.
4.      Define the end result. Make a plan and take action.
5.      How you think is everything.
6.      Don’t do business with dishonest or unpleasant people.
7.      Surround yourself with the best people and professionals.
8.      Create value for others in every relationship.
9.      Never quit learning.
10.   Remember The Golden Rule.

I review all opportunities based on my Rules and if it can't pass this test, I don't look back. The only way to do something that doesn't pass my rules is to change the rules, and I rarely do that. I tweak the words from time-to-time, but I don't really change the them hardly ever. 

Do you have rules for success? If so, why not share them here.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Law Firm Marketing

Ad4! announces the release of Law Firm Marketing, the second collaborative business book by Felica Sparks and Chris Gattis. Following the December 2011 release of Marketing Plan Template, Felica and Chris apply their marketing strategies model to the legal profession. “We were doing research for a lawyer client and it just hit us; lawyers really struggle with their marketing,” said Gattis. “When we looked for successful marketing strategies for attorneys, we just didn’t find much. We knew we’d hit on a great application for our marketing strategies model.”

Law Firm Marketing uses the firms’ proprietary market strategies program that is used successfully with local and national clients. “We just applied our model to lawyers. Most of them are afraid of looking negative or hurting their reputations, so they just do nothing. In today’s competitive environment, that’s not a good option” said Felica Sparks.

Law Firm MarketingHow to Promote Your Law Firm Without Looking Like an Ambulance Chaser

Law Firm Marketing and Marketing Plan Template are available at Amazon.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Are you more productive at home or the office?

I read an article recently about a large Chinese call center company that did an experiment with it's employees (no, not that kind of experiment!) letting them try working from home. They assigned half of their employees to continue working in the office and the other half worked from home. They found that the home working employees were more productive than the office working employees. Plus, the employees didn't have to commute to the office saving money on gas, work clothes and so on. The company found that the home working employees were 13% more productive. 9.5% of that productivity came from fewer sick days that were taken and 3.5% from actually taking more calls per hour.

Two very different conclusions from this: 1) people are less likely to be 'sick' if they work from home. Even if you do feel less than optimal, if you're at home, you can still get most of the work done. 2) I'm not at all surprised that people get more work done at home. Maybe it's not the same for everyone, but I like the quite atmosphere without all the phone calls and general office interruptions. I work at home and am very productive when I'm there for extended periods of time. 

Some folks are very distracted by the home atmosphere. I spoke to one friend who said she could never work at home. She'd be too tempted to do laundry or clean house. Ha! I'm never tempted by that. When I'm in my home office, I work. I have way more to do each day than I can possibly do anyway, so I have to prioritize and do the most important stuff. I never actually get to the bottom of the stack of things I'd like to do. Once the actual paying work is done, there's marketing and promotion work that awaits. 

Some people aren't as self-motivated as others. They perform better in an office environment where their surroundings are controlled. Is it tempting on a nice fall day to hang out on the patio in the sunshine and watch the birds and read a book. Sure. But that doesn't pay the bills, so you work. 

Do you have any tricks for staying on task and being more productive? If you do, why not share them with us?

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Monday, September 10, 2012

How does company culture impact your success?

A 2012 Deloitte study "Culture in the Workplace" as reported in Inc. magazine reveals interesting findings about workplace culture. The study suggests a strong correlation between company culture and workplace success:

  • 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success
  • 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company's success
There were additional stats that suggest that executives and employees don't necessarily see eye-to-eye about whether their company has a great culture.

There's no denying that company culture is a big draw for a company like Apple. This awesome company culture allows Apple to have their pick of the tech world talent. Is their corporate success a result of that great talent pool? No doubt about it. Having a visionary leader is a good thing, but it's the actual employees that create the products and services, not visionary leaders, dead or alive.

Company culture, at the other end of the scale, can be a killer for attracting top talent. I've known many companies with a poor company culture  that can't hire the quality of employee that they need. Success suffers and the better employees who always have options, leave. The organization that's left is just a shell of what could have been. 

What's the state of your company culture? Do you actively work on improving the environment and creating a place where the best and brightest want to work? Or do you assume that an awesome company culture will grow itself? Well, it won't. You have to be proactive in creating an environment where employees are engaged and feel empowered. I've said for years that employees just want an environment where they can take pride in their work. But that's a lot easier said than done. It requires an owner or manager who can  create goals and set objectives, then get out of the way and let employees do their job. A company with a micromanaging owner or manager can never have a company culture that truly engages and motivates employees. By definition, a micromanaging owner sucks the life out of workers.

What are some of the basic things a business owner can do to create a great company culture? 
  1. Stop micromanaging your employees. If an employee can't do the job, get one that can. If they can do the job, let them do it. It sounds so simple, but it's amazing how many owners and managers think they are the only ones smart enough to do the work.
  2. Do your own job. As business owner, your job is to set the direction, create goals and objectives, hire good people, and set the example for customer focus. Do your job and let your employees do their job.
  3. Hire the best employees you can afford. Another trait of micromanagers is their tendency to hire average to below-average employees. Most times, a micromanager is afraid of having an employee appear smarter or better able to do a particular task.  In reality, the best managers know that awesome employees do awesome work and make you look great.
  4. Make employees feel like an important part of the process. Nothing kills motivation like corporate processes that make employees feel like what they do has no bearing on the bottom line, or customer satisfaction. 
  5. Listen. When employees make suggestions for improving processes or products, give them an opportunity to express their thoughts. Give the employee an opportunity to develop the idea and/or do a feasibility analysis.
This is by no means a complete list. In fact, creating a great company culture is not so easy. If you have some other ideas, why not share them.

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