Monday, May 18, 2009

New Blog, New Opportunities

It was in March 2008 that I started posting blogs about the joys and challenges that are common to all who are involved in a small business. Meant mostly as encouragement, they were intended to help us recognize that the key to our success is finding the balance of profit and peace. The joy of accomplishment and the joy of life. A killer instinct and a gentle spirit.

Today, the focus of my writings has expanded to include specific topics related to the publishing of email newsletters and my company, davemail. Over the coming years, it is my intention to use my new blog, located at www.mydavemail/daveblog, to cover those areas but also include the stories I love to share about the blessings in my life and how they reveal truths to me in a variety of unique ways.

I hope you will migrate over to the new blog and continue sharing with me as we work on the balance of work and life together.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

‘Thank you, Mr. Fiore’

Last weekend, I treated my Valentine to a wonderful dinner at Bella Bella, a quaint Italian restaurant tucked away in midtown Tallahassee. While the ambiance, service and food were thoroughly delightful, what impressed me most was a three-second exchange we had as we were leaving.

Still glowing from a slice of almond cake that we quickly regretted deciding to share, we were walking out the door when the greeter thanked us by name for coming. Granted, we had reservations (avoiding the walk of shame we witnessed more than once by couples who thought a table might be available), but that was almost 90 minutes earlier.

Even my wife commented that the young lady was treating us like we were someone important. “Does she think you are a food critic or something,” she asked me as we laughed on our way out to the minivan to call and check on the kids before proceeding to our chick flick.

Whether she did mistake me for someone important or just treated everyone like that, it reminded me of two things. One is that every single person we have the privilege to serve is important, because within seconds I could have twittered, blogged or facebooked about my experience. Gone are the days when I would have to run into someone at Publix to swap stories. So better that I be impressed than disappointed.

Secondly, I was again reminded that it takes such a small amount of effort to impact someone. A kind word, timely follow-up call or simply keeping a promise can elicit confidence and motivate an enthusiasm for your business that can quickly become viral.

Oh yeah, and it’s the right thing to do.

So think about how you might surprise your customers with unexpected attention and see what happens. I bet they will be telling people about it, and then they’ll come back for more almond cake.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Want to Make the Sale? Bring the Kid.

A couple of months ago, I was charged with the task of selling a few Chick-Fil-A calendars for my daughter’s band. Not an unusual parent assignment or a seemingly difficult one, especially for such a keen marketer as myself.

I knocked on the doors of the other companies in my office building – extolling the benefits of the calendars, including their clever illustrations and money-saving coupons. The reception to my sales pitch was rather tepid, however, and one guy even spent five minutes looking through all 12 months and laughing at the pictures only to say, “Naw, I don’t think so.”

Why couldn’t I close the deal? You can get most of your money back after using just one coupon, for crying out loud. I gave the unsold calendars back to my wife in disgrace and hadn’t really thought about them until this week. One afternoon, one of the guys in my building knocked on my door. He came in with his tween daughter carrying a box of those $1 candy bars, and for extra good measure, his wife came too.

Are you kidding? The family? How do you say no to Hannah Montana? I bought three candy bars that day and was reminded of an important sales truth.

To make the sale, you have to make it really hard to say no. And just in case it is inconvenient to drag your children on sales calls, use something equally as powerful. A clear benefit. A strong value. An advantage over the competition. A promise of over-the-top customer service.

In today’s economy, there is no time to be subtle. You just need to be direct and powerful – like a child with a box of candy bars.

P.S. I still have a few calendars left if you want one. Seriously.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking Out for No. 1?

The pre-holiday, new business window was quickly closing and a slow few weeks were on the horizon. At least that’s what Jeanne Alexander thought. The owner of Advertising Specialties & Art Unlimited saw that her calendar was far less crowded than usual and decided that she had a couple choices as how to spend her pre-Christmas work time.

The first option was to just pack it in and wait for the new year. And given the overall economic climate both here and elsewhere, I bet there would have been a less-than-festive mix of worry, self-doubt and apprehension involved.

Option two, she said, would be to step back, take the focus off herself and see what she could do to help the business people she knows through her extensive network of contacts -- a network I watch her carefully and skillfully nurture throughout the year.

Not surprisingly to anyone who knows her (or senses that this topic would have far less impact otherwise), Jeanne decided to make calls, connect people she thought might benefit from each other and execute her own economic stimulus plan the old-fashioned way. And she did it simply because she thought it was the right thing to do.

That’s it. In the face of economic upheaval, Jeanne remembered that being successful in business is about more than bolstering your own bottom line – it is about serving others when possible to build a community of success that benefits everybody. Putting others before yourself. Not a bad concept to hang your hat on.

The funny thing is that those three weeks Jeanne was looking forward to spending in relative calm turned out to be slammed with business. Her business. She never ended up with a break at all.

Jeanne shared this story with our Chamber Leads Group last week to encourage us in networking and generating referrals for each other. She inspired us, and I hope it inspires you.

Learn more about what Jeanne does at

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flush the Fish (all the way)

It is indeed a sad moment in a child’s life when a pet fish takes a gravel nap. Yes, the call for Dad to fetch the net can be filled with tears, but at least there is a fast and convenient way to send the little guy to a happier place. But recently in our house, a funny thing happened on the way to the water treatment facility.

We had seen warning signs for days that my 6-year-old’s Black Skirt Tetra was headed for the Nemo-themed tank in the sky. Drifting instead of swimming, ignoring food and a general aloofness allowed us to warn our daughter that his time might be short. She was OK with that. And, she was OK when the time came for me to handle things.

She was not OK with what happened next.

Early in the morning, I snuck in the room, scooped him up, dropped him in the bowl and flushed. I saw him start making concentric circles like a penny in one of those big yellow things, so I put down the lid and went to work. Mission accomplished.

It wasn’t until later in the day that I received word that my sweet daughter had woken up and trotted herself into the bathroom only to look down and discover that she was not alone. A scream, a call to Mommy and general disdain for all things Dad quickly followed. I was able to make it up to her and she forgave me – because she loves me.

But how many times in our business do we forget to make sure the job is done? Really done. Especially if it is one of those projects that has taken forever, it is easy to want it to be over so badly, that we fail to finish strong.

Never assume anything, confirm everything and make sure all expectations are met. It won’t take long, but it can make all the difference in keeping your people happy. Even if they do love you!

Have a wonderful holiday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Work More? Try Save More First

As belts tighten and budgets shrink, we are forced to make difficult decisions. For most of us, that includes looking at how much money we are making and what we are doing with what we have. Many of us have the flexibility to pursue additional income by taking on more clients, working overtime or freelancing in the evenings and on weekends. But at what price?

When my wife and I discuss meeting our obligations in times of uncertain income, my primal instincts as family provider are to do whatever it takes to make more money. I tell her about potential new clients, more networking opportunities and new organizations I want to join to extend my outreach efforts. I tell her that although I will be gone more, it is necessary to make up for making a little less than we are used to.

She responds in a manner consistent with her primal instincts as the smart one. “What if instead of concentrating on making more money, we concentrate on spending less?” she asks.

Hmmm. Sounds crazy, but it just might work. Her point was not that I shouldn’t work hard, but that maybe there were other ways to keep everything afloat that would not take time away from my family. Since that conversation, we have made changes and have been reminded that being a good steward of what we have makes sense no matter the economic climate, both at home and at work. What if instead of using everything we make, we use only what we really need and use the rest for doing good stuff – like giving to worthy causes or helping a neighbor. And even if we do use everything we make but can avoid having to work more to make ends meet – that also is a step in the right direction.

In addition to saving money (BTW – check out the coupon blogs on the list over there → if you want to get really serious about it), you often can find money hidden in your house. In fact, there is a new business in town that makes it pretty darn simple to do just that.

Cash From Your Closet, the brainchild of a smart and motivated pastor’s wife and mother of four, offers busy people an opportunity to sell their stylish but dust-collecting designer clothes without ever leaving their home. Simply e-mail her with what you have, she fires back an online quote and if you like it, she will pick up the items and hand you money at your convenience.

I am not sure how making money could be much easier than that.

She is looking for designer clothing (Coach, Dooney and Bourke, Louis Vuitton, Brighton, Prada, Gucci, etc.) as well as children’s toys and clothing (American Girl, Gymboree, Chez Ami, Plantation Shop, Amanda Remembered etc.) and even stuff like sunglasses, handbags, perfumes, toys, baby gear, jeans, coats, old toys and fun costumes. For more information, visit or email owner Susan Gilbert at

As I have said before, all challenges present opportunities for those able to recognize them. Sometimes, that means filling a new business niche, and other times it just means making positive changes in your life you might not ordinarily be motivated to make.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pride Cometh Before the Fall

Seeking ideas for the upcoming holiday season, my wife recently delved into her stash of old “Family Fun” magazines she keeps on a shelf in the garage. As she was flipping through the fall-themed pages, she came across an ad on the back page of the October 2004 issue that caught her attention.

She said, “Take a look at this,” which diverted my attention from a lame attempt to work on a story and watch the World Series at the same time.

The ad she held was striking and simple – dominated by a huge company logo on top. It was the kind of ad that rock-solid, trusted and well-branded corporations use to drive home their position as an industry leader.

The ad copy was minimal and direct.


Over $700 billion in assets, 50 million customers and 85 years of experience say we’ll be around. For her and her grandchildren, too.”

The ad was for AIG.

I guess they were unable to foresee a $100 billion federal bailout as part of the plan for keeping that promise.

Given today’s economic outlook, it might be best to promise stability and great service for only this generation – two generations tops. Long gone are the days of tradition-based arrogance. Instead, we should be focused on what we are doing now to best serve our precious customers and survive in a rapidly changing world. Kind of exciting, huh?

On a lighter note, keep those blogs coming. Send me yours or your local favorites and I will include them on this page for all to ponder.

Finally, Dave’s Presidential Poll Tracker remains open for another week. So be sure to vote. If you have already voted, you can vote again from another computer – ACORN style!