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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

5 New Year_s Resolutions for Better Time Management

Some of my very first blog posts have focused on the topic of time management. I’m passionate about discovering new ways to efficiently use my time so that I can have the greatest impact on my clients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The reality is, it will always be a work in progress and sometimes I slide back into old habits that leave me feeling overwhelmed.

For 2018, I want to refresh my time management tools to make this year my most fulfilling one yet, both on the professional and personal sides of life. If you find that you’re already struggling to keep you head above water in these first few weeks of January, I urge you to join me in making five small, but impactful New Year’s resolutions. The common goal of these resolutions is to help you balance your life so you’re doing more of what you love, and being mentally present in the moment to fully enjoy it.

Take this resolution with me! In 2018, I will…

  1. Start my morning with a clear “inbox”

Several years ago (once my kids were finally on good sleep schedules), I began to wake up one hour earlier than the rest of my family. I used this time to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and clear out my inbox. By the time everyone else was waking up, I had handled many small tasks and outlined the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I could then close my computer and enjoy those morning hours with my family.

By the time my husband and sons were off to their respective locations for the day, I could again open up shop and jump right into my core tasks. I found this single hour in the morning gave me so much more patience and peace of mind to be present with my family. While there may be some mornings I choose to hit snooze, I resolve this year to use this “power hour” at least 3 times per week, or as needed.

  1. Keep an organized to-do list for each day

I have always kept a rolling to-do list of every task on my plate at a given time. However, this year I resolve to take things up a notch and organize this a bit further. I find that by placing my to-do’s on a list on my computer, I no longer carry around the mental weight of trying to remember it all. I also love the satisfaction of deleting something from my to-do list.

This year, I plan to keep a daily to-do list where I can spread out and prioritize my work tasks over the course of the week. In doing so, I know that I merely need to accomplish what is on today’s to-do list to stay on track. One long list can be paralyzing to tackle. Rather, a list that breaks it down by day and order of importance is far more manageable.

  1. Manage other people’s expectations of my time

This is an important one! Typically I try and complete work tasks as quickly as I can for my clients, often giving them same-day service. While this has helped to build up a great book of business, adhering to this standard every single day is neither reasonable nor necessary. Rather, this year I resolve to manage people’s expectations of my time, both professionally and personally. I plan to assign a realistic deadline so everyone is on the same page and so that it works into my workflow without causing undue stress. I anticipate I will often deliver tasks in advance of the deadline, which is all the better for building a good reputation with clients! But having a deadline as my buffer will help me retrain myself that many tasks can wait while I prioritize other things in my day like relaxation and family.

  1. Block schedule my time

Another secret to getting the most out of the hours in my day is to use a block scheduling strategy. On days when I have one out-of-the-home meeting scheduled, I try to schedule a few others as well. There are a few reasons for doing this. First, I know I will already be out and about and professionally dressed (not always the case when working from home!). Second, having just one meeting during the day really breaks my concertation and work flow. If it’s going to get broken anyways, I may as well make it worth it by blocking most of that day out for other meetings.

On the flip side, days when I have no meetings or phone calls scheduled, I am very protective of this time and strategically plan nothing else on such a day. I know I can get into a deep concertation and plow through a lot of work tasks that would typically take me far more time if disrupted by anything else. I love these days just as much as I love my client meeting days. It’s all about balance – and something that I resolve to gain more of in the New Year.

  1. Decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on

When you spend any part of your career as an entrepreneur, you quickly learn to say yes to any work that comes your way. However, once you’ve built a solid business, you need to remove yourself from the trap of trading your time for tasks that don’t pay your market rate or that you simply down enjoy. While I have gotten better each year, I want to make a conscious effort in 2018 to decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on. This applies to work tasks as much as it applies to household tasks.

Consider what you time is worth. If you can work an extra hour or two and afford someone else to do something you don’t enjoy, like clean your home, it’s more than break even! Before you start turning down or having someone else take on work for you, get a good grip on your budget and understand your “hourly rate.” Then, gradually transition into letting other people help you get things done. After all, it’s an opportunity to someone else to make a living too!

Have you made a resolution for the New Year? Does it focus on time management or something else? Share what you hope to accomplish in 2018 by leaving a comment below!

Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2017

2017 blog postsHappy New Year! I hope you woke up today inspired to tackle your goals for 2018. Whether it’s kicking a bad habit, taking better care of yourself or going after a new job, everything starts with that first step. I hope I can offer you some motivation to take your first step toward reaching your New Year’s goals and resolutions with a special blog post. I’ve compiled the top articles from 2017 on life and entrepreneurship that you, the readers, helped to show me were among your favorites.

While today is a day to look toward the future, I want you to join me on one last look back at 2017 and the topics that inspired thousands of you to possibly join me on an entrepreneurial journey!

#10 The Benefit of Business Turnover in the New Year

In the business world, it seems like when it rains it pours. Losing a few clients back-to-back can feel like the walls are caving in around you. Will you survive? The short answer is – yes. In fact, business turnover can be a prime opportunity to restructure and rebuild an even better business model that will service you well into the future.

Read the original blog here.

#9 Five Things You Can Immediately Do To Gain More Business

Speaking of rebuilding your business, did you know there are five things you can implement right now to gain more business? No gimmicks, just honest advice. Don’t overlook the low hanging fruit that could be at your fingertips right now!

Read the original blog here.

#8 How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

I’ve planned a lot of events throughout my career and have witnessed the stark contrast between events and events designed to inspire their guests. The difference in outcomes is substantial. Whether you’re a non-profit on mission to raise funds or a for-profit business looking to give back to the community, I share my tips for planning an event that inspires guests to act.

Read the original blog here.

#7 How to Win Over a Client in the First Meeting

In business, your first meeting is like a blind date. You and the client both arrive hoping to hit it off, but that doesn’t always happen. In most instances, you are in control to make a good first impression and win over the client in the first meeting. This blog shares how you can do that!

Read the original blog here.

#6 Five Signs a Client is Not a Good Fit for Your Business

As much as you want to win over a client, you don’t necessarily want to work with every client who comes your way. Why? Well sometimes a client isn’t a good fit for your business. Maybe it’s their budget, their values or their attitude. Here are five signs a client is not a good fit for your business.

Read the original blog here.

#5 The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take

Are you a business owner/entrepreneur? Then you most definitely want to start the New Year with this two week evaluation. Find out if what you’re currently doing is aligned with what you hope to achieve. Are you happy? Satisfied? Balanced? I know I’ll be starting 2018 with this two week evaluation!

Read the original blog here.

#4 Low Cost and No Cost Business Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Use

This proved to be a very popular blog post in 2017! It seems that most business owners can relate to the topic of wanting to find low cost and no cost tools to help their business run as efficiently and lean as possible. Check out what I use and recommend!

Read the original blog here.

#3 What No One Tells You About a Career in Public Relations

I’ll be honest. When I chose a career in public relations, I really didn’t know what it was. I knew it required writing and communicating, which I love to do. However, there are some significant details about choosing a career in PR that no one told me. It’s likely they didn’t even know what this wild ride would include! So I’ve shared what I learned to hopefully educate some future passionate PR professionals.

Read the original blog here.

#2 Seven Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While owning your own business will provide you with a lot of advantages, there are a few things I know I’ll never have as a business owner. But it’s not all bad! Take a look at what you can expect to kiss goodbye whenever you take the entrepreneurial leap.

Read the original blog here.

#1 How to Create the Job You Want

And the number one blog post from 2017 on life an entrepreneurship was “How to Create the Job You Want!” I’m not surprised. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to take control of their career by creating their dream job? Yeah that sounds glamorous and easy and I caution you that it’s not. However, I share some useful and practical advice for taking the initial steps toward creating a job that you love to wake up to each day.

Read the original blog here.

Which of these top 10 blog posts on life and entrepreneurship inspired you the most? What topics would you like to see me touch upon in 2018? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

T’was the Morning of Christmas (As Retold by a Mom and Entrepreneur)

T’was the Morning of Christmas

christmas break

(As retold by a mom and entrepreneur)

T’was the morning of Christmas, when all through the house
not one electronic was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

My babies were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of toy trains danced in their heads.
Before too long, they would clamor to the tree,
to assess what Santa brought for the family.

Would I remember how to slow down and soak up the view?
As a mom and entrepreneur, it’s something I don’t often do!
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays relaxing as I’ve done mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

–Adapted from the holiday favorite by Stephanie Shirley

Entrepreneur at Age 30: Life’s About to Get Good

30

Today is my 30th birthday. To the vast majority of people, that milestone doesn’t change any aspect about your career. But for me it does. I started my public relations consulting business, Bennis Public Relations when I was 23 years old. In those first few months of stepping out on my own, I also started the blog that you’re reading now.

The most fitting tagline I could think of at the time for my blog was “The World As Told By a Twenty-Something Entrepreneur.” I didn’t know where this leap of faith would take me, so I was hardly worried about what would happen when this tagline was no longer true of me or my business. I just wanted to survive my first year of taxes!

Six and a half years later, I’ve done more than just survive. I’ve surprised myself in more ways than I can count, and I’m fortunate to say the entrepreneurial journey is the path I’m meant to be on for the rest of my foreseeable future. However, this year presents me with a unique challenge. I need to take a step back, reflect on how far I’ve come, and embrace a new mindset that progresses beyond the twenty-something entrepreneur I was when I first started the business.

Bennis Inc Old Tagline

Sure, I could keep things simple and update the decade to “thirty-something,” but what fun is that? Rather, I want to share with you the thought behind what will become my new tagline and my new mantra for my personal and professional brand. I want to pull back the curtain and give you insight into how I’ve developed and re-developed my business model over the years, how I’ve had to pivot, pause, leap and stretch.

Will you join me as I relive a little of my entrepreneurial “dance?”

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

In the first year or so of starting my own business, I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. By that I mean I learned to live lean! I canceled cable and internet and worked out a deal with my neighbor to share his WiFi so we both saved on cost. I took on odd jobs in my spare time to help make ends meet. I tightened my budget in a lot of creative ways, all for the reward of starting my own business.

I may have been young at the time, but I was wise beyond my years for doing this. A lot of people don’t want to sacrifice the little luxuries of right now for the ability to afford far greater luxuries in the future. My business was my baby and I was willing to do whatever I had to do to help it grow.

Using “Young” to My Advantage

Throughout my twenties, I felt like I needed to constantly prove to people that my age was an advantage. I’ve witnessed many businesses who simply like the idea of hiring an older PR consultant because they feel as though age alone qualifies someone as being more experienced and knowledgeable in their field. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was strategic about calling out my age and positioning it as one of my greatest strengths. In my biography, on my website and in client meetings I made sure to align my youth with the concept of new energy, innovation, fresh ideas, cutting-edge technology and a different way of thinking. Again and again, I was able to build confidence in my clients and win their business over other consultants who were easily twice my age.

Learning that Responsiveness is Unique

As I grew my business, I felt like I really hit a tipping point when I focused on providing quality, reliable service. It sounds so simple, but it was a huge point of differentiation for me. Being responsive to my clients and delivering good, fast service helped me to substantially grow my book of business.

These satisfied clients turned into ongoing retainers and also my best form of marketing. Nearly 90% of my clients are word of mouth recommendations in some form. That’s powerful! Not only do recommendations result in very qualified leads, these businesses tend to share the same values as my existing clients who are a pleasure to work with.

The bottom line: If you are responsive, attentive and reliable, you will instantly set yourself apart from the majority of other businesses out there! It’s a disappointing truth I have used to my advantage.

Increasing My Value, Increasing My Bandwidth

About two years in, I had built up a good book of residual business and my brand was growing. In order to continue to take on more clients I needed to do one of two things. I needed to raise my prices or hire employees. I had no interest in splitting profits and managing employees, so I needed to re-evaluate my rates to determine what was fair to both me and my clients. It’s a delicate balance. If you charge too little for your time, you’ll have plenty of business but still be dissatisfied with your earnings. If you charge too much for your time, you’ll turn away good customers. And the customers who do hire you at this premium price will want the moon and the stars. So how did I manage this?

Every year my hourly rate goes up by $5. This becomes my new base rate for all new clients. For existing clients, I honor the rate I gave them when they initially signed into their contract. So long as they maintain or increase their level of services with me, they get the benefit of this rate. If they choose to pause or decrease services, their new contract will be at my current market rate. Make sense?

By implementing this new policy, I was able to give my loyal clients the benefit of great rates that aren’t arbitrarily raised on them each and every year. That’s way better than a box of chocolates at Christmas! In return, they give me the benefit of consistent business. My annual $5/hour raise covers inflation and the growing demand for my services that keeps me at market rate.

Forming Strategic Partnerships

By 2015, I found a whole new untapped potential for my business and that was strategic partnerships. Through my network, I was introduced to an advertising agency, media firm and government relations firm, all of whom are now my strategic partners on an ongoing basis. How it works is that I am often called upon to offer my public relations services to their clients as an enhancement to the services they provide. They pay me (directly) by the hour or by the project and their client in turn pays them. For some of my partners, I use their business’s email address and business cards, giving them the benefit of the appearance of a larger in-house staff. For others, they prefer me to work with all clients directly, under my name and entity. Both work for me!

Through my strategic partnerships, I am able to work with huge corporations and associations that I could never tackle alone. When we combine our resources and expertise, we provide a full menu of services that directly compete against the region’s largest agencies that have way more red tape and overhead. It’s the best of both worlds for our clients: they get everything they want under one “roof” at a highly competitive rate. And it’s the best of both worlds for my partners and me: I get a constant stream of new work at my market rate and they get to make a little off the top.

Refining My Sales Process

For many consultants, the hardest part of growing a business is refining the sales process so that it’s efficient and consistent. Personally, it was for me. I would struggle to leave a client consultation with a clear path for how to proceed. How do I structure the proposal? What if the client wants to haggle prices? It wasn’t until about the last year or so when I finally felt like I had a clear sales process that allowed me to craft quick proposals that resulted in signed contracts in a matter of a few days.

I recently outlined a lot of my tips for achieving this. Now I leave client meetings in control of the next step and with the promise to deliver a proposal to them the same-day. If you choose to embrace a similar sales process to mine, you will be amazed by how much time and energy you were putting into proposals that simply didn’t need it. If anything, all that extra “fluff” was a distraction from what you were really trying to sell them. Trust me on this one.

Planning for the Future

What does the future hold for me? I’m a PR consultant not a fortune teller, how should I know? But in all seriousness, I do have a strategic plan for my future and that’s to continue to forge more large-scale partnerships with other businesses who want to offer their clients the service of public relations and strategic communications. I plan to selectively work with fewer, but larger clients who are on annual and quarterly retainers. I plan to continue to take on one-time projects as I desire as a means to help small businesses grow. And I plan to cut back to a 3-day work week, when reasonable, and enjoy more time spent on vacation and with my family.

It’s beyond measure the amount of hard work, drive and sacrifice it’s taken to get me to this point, but at the same time I feel I was also in the right place at the right time for much of this to happen. As the philosophical saying tells us, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I suppose this quite rightly sums up my entrepreneurial journey thus far.

Having shared with you some of the most significant moments I’ve experienced in my career as a “twenty-something entrepreneur,” I now want to share with you my new blog tagline as I enter this next decade of life.

Passionately Communicating My Entrepreneurial Journey

 

This new tagline will suit me for the rest of my life. I’m passionate about communicating, in every form you can imagine. My blog is just one way in which I can give you a window into my entrepreneurial journey which I plan to be on for a long time.

Though it’s bittersweet to close the chapter on my twenties, a time in which I took risks, hustled hard and learned a lot about myself, I realize that I plan to keep doing exactly that in my thirties….forties….fifties…you get the idea.

Whether this is your first visit to the Bennis Inc. blog, or you’re one of my loyal subscribers, thank you for being here and stay tuned. Life’s about to get good!

Why Being Positive Makes You a Target for Criticism

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Smiling sunflower in summerIn the midst of so many horrific, unsettling and unnerving events going on worldwide, it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook on all the good that still exists.

The media has done an excellent job of using all of these stories to sell papers based on shock value. How scary can they make the headline? How much hype can they create within a single article? Unfortunately, the duty then falls upon our shoulders to seek out the truth and to build up our own sense of hope.

Hope – what a powerful word.

Hope, or the lack thereof, can completely change your outlook on life. Even when surrounded by negativity, feeling hopeful can keep that bounce in your step and that smile on your face. However, in thinking late one night before bed as I had just scrolled through some of the latest headlines and was reflecting on some of the conversations I had that day, I came to the conclusion that one unexpected byproduct of having hope is that it can make you a target for criticism.

Anymore, if you don’t give in to fueling the hype machine with your responses to casual conversations about politics, wars, healthcare or the weather, people tend to criticize your motive for doing so. Want to see this point proven first hand? The next time someone asks you “So what do you think about [insert negative topic]?” Respond with, “Oh, I’m really not concerned. The solution is in good hands. And it’s still a beautiful day, right?”

The criticism you’ll receive, either by verbal rebuttal to continue the conversation or by a strange look and an awkward silence to end the conversation, will fall into one of three categories. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.

You don’t care enough

Myth: If you’re hopeful that things are okay or will all work out on their own, you simply must not care enough. Not true. You care, you care a lot. This is why you’ve taken on the challenge of cultivating a positive outlook at a time when it is the default and the easy way out to be negative. Regurgitating the mass media’s opinion takes little care whatsoever. It’s the positive people that truly do care about the greater good by maintaining hope.

You are naïve

Myth: If you’re not worrying, it’s only because you are too naïve to understand the gravity of what’s really going on. Not true. If anything you have a better understanding of the topic than most people which is exactly why you’re choosing not to worry. Either you know it’s something not worth worrying about or you know that worrying does absolutely nothing to solve a problem, even if it is of concern.

You are not doing everything you can to help

Myth: If you’re holding on to hope that the solution is already in good hands, you aren’t doing everything you can to personally help the situation. Not true. Pertaining to 99 percent of the world’s topics of concern, you personally can’t do much more to help than to remain calm and positive. By not contributing to the hysteria or spreading around exaggerated facts to scare people further, you’re doing one of the most important things you can be doing – spreading peace and hope.

It’s a tough topic, but one that I think is very important for us to give some thought to. Are we the hopeful ones being criticized into today’s frenzy of negativity and fear or are we the ones fueling it? Don’t let the risk of criticism stop you from cultivating hope in your own life!

In what ways have you experienced criticism for being positive? Share your own stories by commenting below!

What I Learned From My Accident

Bandaging armAbout a week ago I was out for a morning run. This is pretty routine for me as I love starting my day with some form of physical activity. However, this particular run would be anything but a routine experience.

About half way into my 10k, I tripped and fell just about face first onto the cement. After I regained my bearings, I assessed my injuries – two skinned knees that were already starting to bruise, a banged up elbow and a bruised and scraped chin that was beginning to swell. My right wrist was tingly and sore, but I figured I got off pretty easy considering the intensity of the fall. I made the decision to finish my run, battle scars and all.

It wasn’t until I was in the shower did I realize something about my wrist was definitely not right. It couldn’t bear weight and just hung there. I had to compensate with my left hand for just about everything. Okay, I thought, let’s see how the morning goes and I’ll decide if I want to put myself through the additional suffering of an urgent care experience.

I managed to get myself dressed, make breakfast, shoot off a few emails and head to a client meeting. By the end of this meeting, my elbow and wrist were swollen with fluid and things were getting worse, fast. I knew urgent care was inevitable, so after spending two and half hours of my time (and who knows what the bill will be), I was told I fortunately didn’t break any bones, but badly sprained my right wrist and elbow. With my arm in a sling, I got myself home and called it a day. By this point my fingers were ice cold and it hurt to move my arm the slightest. This was the worst it could get, right?

Friday night was horrific. Little to no sleep due to the dull pain and inability to get comfortable in any position. By the morning, my arm was at its worst and so were my emotions. How will I cook breakfast for the kids? How will I make the bed? How will I dress myself? How will I change a diaper? How will I do anything?

I am fortunate to have a loving and patient husband who calmed my panic and quickly stepped into action. Over the next days of healing, there were life lessons to be learned. As much as I was inconvenienced by this injury, something tells me God was giving me a crash course in some wisdom I needed to gain. Here is what I learned…

Things may get worse before they get better.

I was foolish to think the extent of my injuries were what I felt immediately after my fall. My body was in shock and still responding to the trauma. Rather, about 24 hours later the real effects set in. Bruises had developed, swelling took place and the pain was at its height. I was so discouraged to wake up the next day to find I wasn’t yet on the road to recovery. Healing takes time and so does the hurt. Things have to settle in before you can respond, and this applies to emotional hurt too. Too often, we are quick to respond to a traumatic situation when really we need to be still and process all that’s going on before taking the next step.

When you need someone to help, let them do it their way.

My husband made my healing process possible. Had I been left to care for my young sons (and myself) with a sprained right arm, I don’t know how it would happen. I couldn’t do much for myself, let alone anyone else. He assumed all chores and became my caregiver too. He washed my face and attempted his best to put my hair in a pony tail (a picture of that will NOT be shared).

There were several times I got overwhelmed by my inability to help around the house. While my husband was taking care of all the chores, he wasn’t doing things the way I would do them. In a moment of wisdom he told me “I’m going to take care of things, but they might not get done the way you would do them.” He was right and it was unfair for me to demand my methods over his. I learned to let go and in doing so, he was empowered to do things he doesn’t normally do. From this experience, I think I’ll do a better job of letting him help with more of the tasks that I needlessly stack on my plate.

You can’t do it all, but you can still do something.

In cleaning up breakfast on Saturday, I could see a laundry list of tasks that needed our attention. There were dishes in the sink, the countertops needed wiped down and there were crumbs on the floor that needed swept up. Usually I would tackle these while my husband was changing the kids and making their beds. But in this moment I felt helpless and frustrated. I started to see what I could accomplish with one hand. Amazingly, I was pretty good at cleaning the countertops and sweeping the floors left-handed. Being able to accomplish even these small tasks lifted my spirits, made me feel empowered and gave me hope that very soon things will start to feel “normal” again.

Look on the bright side, because there is always a bright side.

As I kept replaying my fall in my mind, and as I had to explain the story to my concerned friends and neighbors who saw my injuries, I realized time and time again just how much worse it could have been! Foremost, thank God for no broken bones. At first glance, urgent care thought I would surely need a cast over my elbow. Imagine the inconvenience of that! Next, I feel fortunate, given the major bruise to my chin, that I didn’t break a single tooth or completely crack my chin open. Finally, I’m grateful that of all the many, many runs I have been on, to date this is the only one that “tripped” me up. There are so many people every day who are in horrific, permanently life-changing accidents. Who am I to feel sorry? I feel lucky!

It’s won’t be like this forever.                            

As I quickly regained strength in my arm, the most significant being in the first 48 hours, I realized I’m going to be back to good health in about one week. While those days of pain and healing were significant, they are the smallest blip in the overall timeline of my life. Yes I’ll surely have other injuries in the future, but I hope I will remember this important life lesson – that whatever you’re going through right now feels like the biggest and most challenging thing in your life (maybe it is), but when it’s over, the years to come will fade and soften this memory with things far brighter.

Has life ever thrown you a major curve ball? How did you respond and what were some of the lessons you learned? Please share your wisdom!

 

How to Fix America’s Broke and Broken Healthcare System (Guest Blog by Kent Anthony)

The following post comes to us from Kent Anthony, president of Anthony Insurance, who writes this article based upon his 40 years of experience in the insurance industry.


broken glass

I am a small business owner and employer. My expertise is in the Property/Casualty Insurance field, but, I am also licensed in Life and Health Insurance. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a call from someone that asks for a good Health Insurance plan that is affordable. Sounds simple, right? What if that elusive question has no answer? What do I tell people who trust me and need my help? Who has the answers? Government? Private Industry?

I read a recent Pew Research study that indicated 60% of Americans said that the government has a responsibility to ensure that every resident of the United States has health care. That means to me that the majority of Americans feel it is a “right” to have the coverage. It also means, I think, that they feel that private industry is ripping people off by not giving them what they want – free, unlimited coverage.

Reality check, people: Our founding fathers set up a system of checks and balances that requires compromise in order to get laws passed. What is “broke” is that there seems to be no such thing as any type of compromise today. If it is a Democratic plan, the Republicans hate it and vice versa. To complicate things further, factions within each party make compromise impossible as they all have to have it their own way. Obamacare is a perfect example. Mitt Romney, a republican who ran for President, essentially set up the same program as Governor of the State of Massachusetts. If Mitt had been elected, I am firmly convinced that the Democrats would have been against his health care plan on political “principal” alone. National organizations, such as AARP, the AMA, Drug Companies and all of the affiliated Hospital organizations, unions of all types, you name it… force the political process to grind to a halt when they exercise their influences. They all want it their own way.

Second reality check: This stuff isn’t free. I am amazed by how many people honestly think a magic wand can be waived and that we can just pass the bills off to the “rich people.” Maybe the rich people are tired of the “jam it to the rich,” class warfare or socialistic approach to their wallets. They have tremendous political influence. Are they ready to allow themselves to pay more?

Last reality check: Obamacare was designed to fail. Whether you think it is a good or bad program, there simply isn’t any funding to pay for it. It was designed to get something in place and worry about who and how it would be paid for later. Private industry was promised reimbursement by the federal government for their losses for the first 3 years if they participated, knowing that the worst health risks would be signing up right away. The last statistic I read is that they have only been reimbursed 12.3% of what they are owed! No wonder they are bailing out of the program.

What are “fair” answers?

Compromise has to be obtained for a lasting solution. Everyone has to participate; no opt outs. All Americans have to be enrolled and pay something. Insurance, whether it is car, home, business is about spread of risk. The healthy young, the poor, the rich…everyone has to pitch in to pay. The Heritage Foundation calls it “individual responsibility.” By having people pay something we may be able to end the cycle of entitlement. We can’t have people thinking everything is “free.” It isn’t. Actuarial tables exist that show what people should pay. Subsidize disadvantaged groups if necessary, but make them pay something.

Allow the health system the legal ability to negotiate costs of drugs, hospitalization, etc. We have cost control right now in Pennsylvania for auto, medical billings and workers compensation payments. Prior to those controls, the billings were totally out of control. This has to be in place or any system will spiral out of control. I have read that doing this will lower costs 30-60%. We have to make premiums affordable and save taxpayers on Medicare programs.

Finally, I would love the healthcare industry to be mostly privatized. We have seen how government gets too tied up in politics, crippling the system. I have to point to the inadequacies, bureaucracy and cost overruns of Medicare to make a simple point: Is Government really able to run anything the way the American people need it done? Allow free and open competition, with cost controls, and you will see a system that innovates and provides incentives to be better, rather than bloated bureaucracies that are too subject to politics to provide the services that the American people want and deserve.

What has been your personal experience with health care? Do you have an opinion on how we can improve things? Share your ideas by leaving a comment!

Kent AnthonyAbout the Author: Kent Anthony is president of Anthony Insurance, an independent insurance agency headquartered in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. Kent has more than 40 years of experience working in the insurance industry, specializing in both personal and business insurance. Learn more about Anthony Insurance by visiting them at www.anthonyinsuranceinc.com.

 

 

 

7 Tips to Stop Procrastination

Woman in computer room with feet up thinking

It’s funny how procrastination works. It feeds upon insecurities, negativity and frustration. Procrastination quite literally makes mountains of molehills. Would you believe I found myself procrastinating writing this very article? Sometimes writing comes easy to me, other times I am distracted by something as small as dust floating by.

I don’t think there is one person who hasn’t experienced procrastination at some point in their life. This inspired me to share a few tips I often use to stop procrastination and to start getting things done. Here they are!

Be realistic with your time

One of the biggest reasons why people procrastinate is because they underestimate the time it will take to complete a task. They lead themselves to believe it will only take an hour or two, when realistically it’s an all-day assignment. In return, this causes you to become overwhelmed by and frustrated with the task at hand. Be realistic with the time it will really take. Maybe it is a 3-day project, but knowing that will allow you to properly manage expectations and to get in the zone to get it done.

Choose a smart work environment

Another good piece of advice to stop procrastination is to pick the right work environment. This will depend upon your personality, so think about the setting where you tend to get the most, uninterrupted work done. For me, this is a calm and completely silent setting. There’s no background noise, the lights are dim and there are no other people. Did I mention I’m an introvert? This isn’t ideal for everyone. I know a lot of people who can’t work when it’s silent. They actually need background noise, bright lights and other people to drive their energy. To each their own! Learn what works for you and replicate that work environment the best you can when you need to get in the zone.

Put it on your calendar

Next, pick a specific day and time that you plan to tackle the seemingly insurmountable project and put it on your calendar. Block out time that you can dedicate solely to this task and make it a commitment. If you can treat a project like a meeting or conference call, meaning you don’t schedule something else during this time and you show up on time, you will have a far better shot at knocking it out in one fail swoop.

Start your day with the hardest task

I’ve written about “eating a frog” for breakfast, and by that I mean taking your least favorite task of the day and getting it done first. Why? First, it ensures it gets done even if nothing else does. Second, once you tackle the thing you’re looking forward to least, everything else seems easy. By starting your day with the hardest task, you’ll go on to conquer the world!

Shut out distractions

When it’s really crunch time and you need to get something done, don’t allow any distractions to interfere. For some people, this may mean burying your phone under a heap of laundry and turning off your computer’s wifi. You may even need to leave the office and head outside or to a library just to avoid phone calls and small talk. Procrastination will make everything in the world, but the task at hand, a welcome distraction, unless you make an effort to shut it out. Don’t rely on your own self-control; do what you can to eliminate even the potential for distraction.

Set mini deadlines

If you’re task is exceptionally large, you may need to set mini deadlines to make it less daunting. Section it out so that you create smaller tasks that build upon each other to get you to the finish line. This also gives you obvious breaking points so that you can step away, refresh your mind and come back with a renewed focus.

Get excited about it

Finally, change your frame of mind about the task. You’re likely procrastinating because you’re intimidated by the task or you just really don’t want to do it. Dig deep and put a positive spin on it, even if the only positive is that it will be off your shoulders. Convince yourself that you’re going to knock it out of the park. Get excited for the finished product and the sense of accomplishment you will soon feel. A little positive self-talk will go a long way toward breaking through that procrastination!

Have you fallen victim to procrastination? Share the tips you’ve used to overcome it!

8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

Getting Paid to Make Decisions

getting paid to make decisions.jpg

The other night I was sharing a few of the day’s successes with my husband when he pointed out a theme I never considered with my public relations consulting work. My clients value my ability to make educated and decisive decisions for them.

All this time I thought I was in the business of providing public relations and communications strategies (and I am), but the real success of these strategies is hinged upon being decisive. Essentially, I get paid to make decisions.

Maybe you can relate. In your career, do people look to you to take the lead on a project, trusting you to make the decisions needed to keep things moving? Do people often seek your advice or want to pick your brain on an issue? If so, you’re also getting paid to make decisions. Here are some key things to keep in mind while sharpening your critical decision making skills.

A Clear Yes or No

I’ve said before that a “no” is as good as a “yes” and I still stand behind this philosophy. I have been highly decisive all my life, often at the dismay of my parents. I crave a clear cut answer so I know how to move forward with a project. Action items that hang in limbo due to an unclear answer make me anxious.

So, when working toward being an effective decision maker, you not only need to provide your own clear answers, you need to pry them out of other people. Make it easy. Present options as yes or no scenarios and be clear that a single word decision is all you need. Give a deadline for the decision and follow-up, as much as it takes, to get that yes or no.

Expertise to Back the Decision

When I tell my clients either yes we should, or no we shouldn’t implement a strategy, I am quick to provide my rationale. In the instance I say no, I want to be clear that it’s not due to a lack of interest or resources, it’s a sound decision for the business. When I say yes, I want them to know I support the idea and am not just agreeing to please them. Especially when providing quick answers, show that you still put time and thought into your response by backing it with expertise and examples.

Openness to Other Options

I said I get paid to make decisions for my clients, but I didn’t say they were required to listen. I appreciate clients who push back because they feel strongly about another option. An educational discussion is enlightening for everyone involved. It builds trust and shows your relationship has reached the level where you’re comfortable speaking your mind. When a client has an alternative view on a decision, I’m often happy to accommodate their wishes, so long as it aligns with their mission and our prioritized goals.

Which brings me to….

Giving Clients What They Need

I’ve often seen clients (and really any business) get side tracked from time to time with the next shiny object which is what they want and not necessarily what they need. You know, these are the people who think every sales email they receive is the next best marketing opportunity. It takes time to fully explore these options for a client to see if it’s viable, but the result is my ability to offer sound advice that conserves the client’s time and resources.

Sometimes you need to be the parent who says “no, don’t waste your money on that” and you don’t always get a favorable response. However, I have found long-term that these clients are always appreciative and come back time and time again to pay me to make smart decisions.

Do you find that you’re in a role where quick and clear decision making is critical? Share how you provide this value to your customers by leaving a comment below!