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Lunch is Not a Strategy

When it comes to business development I am constantly working with our partners to help them develop stronger relationships with centers of influence, prospects and, of course, current clients. When I ask what the next “touch point” with one of these contacts is, a common response is “we are getting together for lunch.” Lunch is great, don’t get me wrong, but purely scheduling a lunch with someone isn’t enough. People are busy and sometimes their lunch hour may be their only free time all day. As a matter of fact, some people suggest never asking an important person to lunchand instead invite them for a quick coffee first thing in the morning, or drink after work. So, if someone is indeed willing to give up their lunch hour to spend it with you, you better make sure it is worth their while. Here are some tips to set up, host and follow-up from a successful lunch meeting. Notice that the lunch itself is not the only component and the initiation and follow up are critical as well.

1- Have a purpose. This seems simple, but I think it is often times abused. Make sure there is a reason to ask someone to meet with you. If it is a current client “touching base” is fine, but make sure to bring additional value to the conversation. Maybe an article you read that would be relevant to them or a new idea that they can implement. Always make sure you have a goal for the meeting.

2- Keep the invite concise. In a recent Radicati Group study, it was found that in 2014 people will send and receive an average of 191 emails per day. That is a lot of messages. In order to be respectful of a person’s time, keep your email brief and to the point. I suggest three sentances tops. First, a casual greeting and introduction if you have not yet met this person. Second, the reason you would like to get lunch and third, suggest a few times and dates. Here is an example:

Hi Bob- Got your email from Sandy Smith, she told me about your current project at ABC Corp. and I’d love to learn more. Would you be willing to grab lunch and discuss how I might be able to help you move this project forward? How about 9/14 or 9/15 at noon at a restaurant convenient to you? Look forward to hearing from you soon.

3- Confirm. If the meeting is accepted, send a confirmation the day of the lunch. This shows courtesy to your guest and also helps remind them in case it was not top of mind. Something as short as this will work:

Hey Bob- Just wanted to confirm we are still on for lunch today at noon at Ruth’s Chris. Looking forward to speaking with you soon.

4- Have an agenda. No, I don’t mean you need to have a physical agenda in front of you, but have a specific idea of what you would like to discuss at the lunch. Once you get there and share a greeting and some small talk, it is very helpful to tell your guest up front what topics you would like to discuss and reiterate why you asked them to lunch. It helps you stay on task and shows the person you are with that you have thought this through, are prepared, and respect their time. You can always add more topics, but setting out the major goals for the lunch up front helps create a framework for the discussion. For example:

Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to grab lunch with me today, I really appreciate it. Like I said, I would love to learn more about your background and ABC Corp. Then, I can tell you a little bit about what I do and how I might be able to help you with your current project.

5- Show genuine interest and listen more than you speak. Normally, when you ask someone to lunch you have your own objectives and motives for the meeting. However, make sure you put their interests first. Ask questions and listen more than you speak. This isn’t a sales pitch.

6- Pay. If you are the one who initiated to lunch, regardless of age or gender you pick up the bill. Simple as that.

7- Say “Thank you.” After the meeting, make sure to tell the person thanks again in person for having lunch with you. Once you get back to the office, send an email thank you and recap any “to-do’s” or discussion points that require follow up from either party. If it was your first time meeting a person or if you are looking to cultivate a new important relationship, a handwritten thank you is always a nice touch as well.

8- Follow Up. Do whatever you said you would do after the lunch meeting. One of the quickest ways to lose credibility is to say you are going to do something and not follow through. Make sure to complete the tasks you said you would do and email your guest to close the loop.

If you follow these steps from initiation to follow-up, your business lunches will be a better use of your time, and more importantly more valuable to your contacts. Remember, a lunch meeting is just one tool in your overall strategy to build and cultivate meaningful business relationships.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know your best strategies for scoring an important lunch meeting and then making the most of it.

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How to Make 6 Figures in 60 Seconds a Day

I am guessing if you’re reading this that you are a person who would like to be really rich and successful. To hit that magic six figure income, all you need to do is follow these easy, quick and really vague steps and you will get there no problem.

Ever read an article like this? I come across at least several of these “get rich quick” sounding articles every week. They have tempting headlines that draw in the reader, but most don’t give great advice or an actionable road map to achieve what the title promises. The last article I read like this on “How to Make Six Figures A Year At Almost Any Age,” starts off by talking about the five things you need to achieve this goal- effort, knowledge, optimism and personality. Thanks, that is super helpful. The article ended with the really great advice of going to a good college and then being smart about your finances and credit score…seriously. Not only was I not any closer to bringing in more cash after reading this article, I had wasted five minutes of my life I’d never get back.

The truth is I can’t tell you how to make six figures in sixty seconds a day (no one can) because it isn’t possible. Reaching financial success or any other worthy goal takes a lot of hard work and in most cases a lot of time. I’ve seen a lot of negative press about Millennials and younger generations expecting to get things right away- great jobs, promotions, lots of money, ect. But maybe, the reason they think this way is because they were raised in a society that promotes how “easy” and even expected it is to have the best of the best right away. Regardless of what magazine or television is telling us, we need to realize you aren’t going to get a five star meal out of a two minute microwave lunch, just like you aren’t going to get six pack abs in six minutes a day. You aren’t going to achieve overnight business success by waiting for it to happen. Here is my non-sexy, non-attention grabbing advice to be successful. Work your ass off every day. Keep doing that and when things don’t work out, try new things and don’t give up.

Here are a few more action steps you can take today that won’t make you six figures by tomorrow, but will get you going in the right direction:

1- Be clear on your goals and write them down. Studies have shown people who write out their goals and review them on a consistent basis are more likely to reach them. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many new goals. Aim for 3-5 monthly goals, short term goals (6 month time frame) yearly goals and long-term (5 year time frame) goals. Also, try to think even longer term (maybe 20 or 30 years) what success and happiness in life would look like to you. Make sure those things are a priority in your daily life and are reflected in your shorter term goals.

2- Do one thing to better yourself each day. Success is a compound effect. It is achieved over time by continuously improving and building on what you have already done. It is easy to get wrapped up in daily tasks and events that life throws at you and to lose focus of what is truly important to you and what your goals are. Make it a point each day to intentionally do something that will get you closer to a goal. Get a workout in, sign up for a course that provides professional development, turn off the tv and read a book. It doesn’t matter the size as long as it helps you get even the slightest bit closer to reaching one of your goals.

3- Take time to appreciate the journey. It sounds very cliché, but it truly is important. Always having your eye on what’s next, helps you grow and improve, but you don’t want to lose sight of what you have already achieved. Practice gratitude daily and you will be a much happier person. Every morning, think of three things you were grateful for in the previous day and write them down. When something doesn’t go as planned or you have a set-back, this is a great resource to look back on and realize things aren’t as bad as they may seem. You will always be able to make more money, go on bigger trips, be in better shape, be more successful, but if you only focus on what you have yet to achieve, you will miss out on all the greatness you already have.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know your “tricks” (that might not be so tricky) for success.

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Three Life Lessons from Robin Williams

I was shocked and saddened to hear yesterday that Oscar-winning actor and comic Robin Williams had taken his own life at age 63. He starred in some of my favorite films growing up including Good Will Hunting, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji to name a few. If this guy couldn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what could. For everything that happens, I think it is important to try to find something you can learn and look for the good in even the most negative situations. I think the life and death of Robin Williams can teach us many things, but here are the top three that jump out to me.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Robin Williams was an expert at his craft. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times and received an Academny Award for Best Supporting Actor. He received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.Even with an incredible resume, he wasn’t shy about being over the top and doing whatever it took to make people laugh. There were many accounts of Robin doing outrageous things in real life situations. Comedy wasn’t just acting for Robin Williams, it was his personality, it was who he was. Whether he was on set or at a lavish dinner party, he was constantly making jokes and doings things to make others laugh with him and sometimes at him.

Laughter can sometimes be the best medicine. Although in the end his sickness was too strong to be cured by his incredible talents and comedy, Robin provided hope an inspiration to millions of people throughout his career by making them laugh. He was known to perform and numerous charity events and for U.S. troops stations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He supported St. Jude Children’s hospital and was a part of Comic Relief fundraising efforts to help raise funds for those in need- particularly America’s homeless. Charity work was a huge part of his life. By sharing his talents and making people in even the worst of situations smile and laugh it helped give hope and let people imagine better days to come.

Be kind to everyone, you never know the personal battles they are fighting.Robin Williams seemed like a man who had everything. He was successful in his career, rich and famous, was married and had three children whom he loved dearly (in fact his last Instagram post was about his daughter Zelda).

However, he still battled many personal demons. He had struggles with drugs, alcohol and severe depression. On the outside he made millions of people laugh and smile, but on the inside he was having a difficult time. Just because people paint an image for the public to see on the surface, doesn’t mean there isn’t things they are struggling with as well. Treat others with kindness and always be willing to give a helping hand- you never know who might need it the most.

Today, pause for a moment and take a deep breathe. Things that are causing you stress aren’t as bad as they seem.”

Be thankful for everything you have and the people in your life. Call someone important to you today and tell them you love them and that you appreciate everything they do. Small gestures can make a huge impact and you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know what you are going to do right now to seize the day.

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Are you highly successful? Try this.

The beginning of 2014 was a very busy and challenging time for me. I got married, bought a house, continued to lead our fairly new young professionals groupCONNECT Madison, worked full time, played in three sports leagues, and also participated in several other projects.

It was getting difficult for me to balance my professional and personal obligations. After talking with some peers at work, at CONNECT Madison, and with friends at other organizations, I realized that they were all facing similar challenges. So I did what any typical millennial does when he or she has a problem and needs more information: I Googled it.

I always try to be open to new ideas, so I decided to take action and dig a little deeper. I figured if I was going to test out this “life coach” thing, I might as well go with the best. I contacted Madison’s number one life coach (according to Isthmus), . I explained to her my situation and goals and asked if she could help me. She said, “Absolutely.”

To be honest, I was still a little skeptical about the whole life-coaching concept, but I decided to give it a shot. We started with a two-hour, in-person initial discovery session.

She laid out our objectives and the foundation for the coaching relationship and then gave me time to talk about my current situation and what I was looking to achieve in the future. I also filled out a questionnaire that helped give her a better understanding of my background, areas where I wanted to improve, and future goals. After the initial session, we scheduled two 45-minute phone sessions for the next two months.

During the meetings, we talked about my goals for the coming weeks, struggles I was having, and options and ideas for overcoming those hurdles. It was great to have a non-biased person to talk with about different situations and to get feedback and advice.

Darcy ensured me that everything we discussed in our conversations was strictly confidential, so I felt comfortable sharing things with her that I wouldn’t with anyone else.

We also set up a system in which I would email Darcy every Friday with progress toward the goals we had discussed. It was a really helpful way to get motivated and be held accountable for finishing tasks even when things got busy in my life. I was forced to look at problems and situations in new ways and was encouraged to move things forward.

As a millennial who sometimes needs a little extra structure and guidance, I think a life coach is a great option.”

In the beginning, I felt that asking for extra help, whether from a life coach, parent, therapist, or mentor, could be a sign of weakness. What this process taught me is that trying new things and asking for help is actually a sign of strength and leadership. As Darcy told me,

Coaching is all about creating positive change, and acknowledging you want help to improve in any area of your life is the first step.”

So how do you know if a life coach is right for you? One sign is that you are struggling to juggle many different priorities and goals. Another is that you are a high-achieving, successful person but feel unfulfilled or are concerned that you don’t have balance in your life. Coaching can also be a powerful tool for teams that experience conflict.

There are plenty of other times a coach can help you achieve the next level of success. If you have a question about whether it would be right for you, send a coach an email or give him or her a call. According to Darcy, people receive the best return on their coaching investment when they are fully committed to the coaching relationship and want to take action to see positive change. If you are looking to take your career, relationship, or life to the next level, there is no better time than now to take action!

Your Fast Track Action Items:

  • Evaluate all the things going on in your personal and professional life and make a list of your top three priorities.
  • Say no to things that do not align with these priorities.
  • If you are struggling with keeping everything organized, or are facing challenges that you haven’t been able to work through on your own, consider looking for a life coach.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below and let me know your best tips for staying focused on your priorities and staying organized during busy times.