Stop Climbing a Ladder that is leaning against the Wrong Wall
There is absolutely no doubt, that with the increase in technology and communication media which are supposed to actually give more visibility and make marketing and running a business easier and smoother, many entrepreneurs find themselves today more tired, confused, overwhelmed and even desperate.
Everybody is saying “Like us on Facebook, Tweet with us, place an ad here, do some flyers, build a website, run a promotion” and the list goes on… (Believe it or not, just writing it all in this article is tiring). While all of this may or may not in fact work for you, you can end up feeling like a headless chicken if you are running around being very busy but with no idea where your busyness is taking you. I know this for sure, because I made the very same mistakes.
When you are working 12 hour days and 7 day weeks and there is no return on your investment of energy, resources and even precious “me” time, you know that something has to change but the question is what? The first question we “busy” entrepreneurs ask is, what else should I be doing? The reality is, you should be asking what am I CURRENTLY doing that is NOT WORKING?
- Stop! Mash your Brakes on ALL your busy business activities. This may be the hardest thing to do and actually the most challenging of all, simply because as business owners, we are “wired” to constantly act and feel busy.
2. Write down all the things you do daily that keep you “busy” all the time or at least in the last month in your business. I mean every single thing you do — If you know you are busy surfing the net constantly, chatting or posting information on facebook, running around doing little errands, trying to design a logo or build a website yourself for an entire week, making telephone calls and even just sitting doing absolutely nothing and waiting for a customer to arrive, lay it all out on paper.
3. Carve out some time when you can be focused with no distractions to give a careful study of your “busy list”. Check off all the activities that actually gave you some return on your time, money and energy invested. This can be easily measured by analysing and asking “by doing X, did this translate into new customers, repeat customers, new, better or important relationships, actual sales, a more competitive edge or dreadfully absolutely nothing at all?”
Important to note here is the fact that not every activity gives you an immediate return. A good example of this would be advertising. If you are advertising for visibility and awareness and it is not time bound (e.g. deadline date for a sale or registration), depending on your advertising medium, your target market may take notice of your business, but they may not be ready at that very time to use your product or services. However, depending on how much you appealed to them and continue to appeal to them, they may come to you when they are ready. (This is another topic by itself, so let’s get back on track)
4. Now that you have a list and measured your returns, decide right now which activities are definitely taking you on a journey to nowhere for sure. Put an X next to this activity and decide if you are going to either (a) reduce doing this activity significantly or (b) stop it all together. Decide there and then. Now your list should be much shorter and sadly some may have nothing remaining on the list, that’s okay as well. Now the remaining activities should all reflect activities “worth pursuing” and you should feel fairly confident about this.
5. Identifying the activities worth pursuing depends on where you are going with your business, what are your vision, goals, dreams and so on… All that you are doing now or intend to add should be taking you closer to the achievement of your desires.
6. Now if everything else around you is continuously changing, it is absolutely necessary to assess your new strategies on a regular basis to determine if they are still applicable or if they have become obsolete and no longer work for you and your business. Therefore, depending on the extent of your investment whether financially, time or energy wise, commit to reviewing this new list in another few weeks or months beginning from Step 1.
There is no worse feeling than climbing a ladder, getting to the top, only to realise that you are leaning against the wrong wall. This can be even tougher for entrepreneurs. If you measure your activities and busyness often, your biggest return will be on having the time to pursue something more worthwhile.
Dress with respect. Be clean and presentable each and every day. Follow the office dress code at a minimum—and don’t be the guy who constantly toes the line. Of course it’s fine to dress a cut above everyone else, but just a cut. Dressing up far beyond the standard sported by everyone else will come off as putting on airs.
On another style note, while you might take off your jacket and roll up your sleeves during the day, when there are visitors present in the office or you’re receiving callers, put your jacket back on and present a professional appearance that reflects well on your company.
Come to work with teeth brushed and body washed. Your co-workers are stuck with you in a small space for eight or more hours a day. Don’t make them avoid your cubicle like the plague as they gather to discuss whether presenting you with a gift basket of soap and chewing gum would send too overt a message.
Keep things pleasant with your co-workers. Unlike friends, if things get awkward with your co-workers, you cannot choose to stop seeing them. No, cause an uncomfortable rift with a co-worker, and you’ll have to look at their contemptible face each and every day for months, and maybe years. So keep your relations with them pleasant. This means not delving too much into your private life, avoiding discussion of topics like religion and politics, and typically choosing to ignore annoying habits, rather than calling attention to them (although every man has his breaking point).
When it comes to dating at work, don’t risk it unless she’s someone you truly connect with. And if you do pursue something with a co-worker, review your company’s policy on such relationships and let HR know what’s going on.
Keep company secrets, secret. Our Wiki-leaks-loving generation tends to scoff at the notion of keeping anything secret. And yes, your company’s secrets may seem so boring or unimportant as to not even be worth the effort of keeping them under wraps. But no matter—they’re still nobody’s business. Even if the spilling of secrets doesn’t cause actual harm to your company, doing so will still make you look careless.
So keep your files tucked away when receiving visitors, guard your end of the phone conversation when a visitor is standing nearby, and if outsiders ask you questions that might reveal company secrets, simply give intentionally vague answers–never volunteer any information they could not have otherwise been gleaned from the news. If information is truly confidential, don’t send it over email. There’s no such thing as a “private” email; they can be monitored by your company, and sometimes retrieved long after they’ve been “deleted.”
Finally, don’t volunteer more information than necessary: “Dan is not in today,” not “Dan’s not here. He’s meeting with the head of mergers at Dyna Corp.”
Work with your boss—not against him. Keep him informed. Let him know when you’ve made a mistake so he doesn’t paint himself into a corner out of ignorance. Back him up–if you have concerns about something, let him know in private instead of airing your grievances at an open meeting.
When you use the last of something, replace it. Whether it’s the last paper in the copy machine or the last cup of joe in the coffee maker, don’t just walk away—replace the paper and make another pot. Ditto for copy machine paper jams—don’t whistle as you slowly slink off. Fix it.
Treat your underlings with kindness and respect. They keep the office running. And you never know if that lowly clerk will one day be your boss.
Respect the chain of command. Both up and down. Don’t step on anybody’s toes. Don’t go over your boss’s head without permission.
Hold the door for people approaching the elevator. Don’t hide in the corner while secretly wishing for the doors to close as quickly as possible.
If you’re using speaker phone, let the person(s) you’re speaking with know who else is on the call with you before you begin the conversation. That way, they will not be confused when another person’s voice suddenly pops in later on.
Bring donuts or bagels to a meeting every once in a blue moon. This is not expected of you. But if you do it, you’ll be a hero.The Don’ts
Pass the buck. Generally, making excuses reflects more poorly on your character than admitting the mistake would have on your competence. If you blame an underling, you reveal yourself to be a mediocre leader, for you should have seen to it that the job got done correctly. If you blame an equal, you simply look like a whiner and run the risk of souring your relationship with someone with whom you’ll likely have to continue to work. And if you blame a higher-up…well common sense dictates that it’s not a good idea to anger the people who hold your job in their hands.
Come late to meetings. Your late arrival is disruptive and may prolong the meeting if they have to wait to get started until you get there or if they have to catch you up on what has already been discussed.
Linger at someone’s desk. Nothing wrong with stopping by to say hello to your cubicle buddy. But, if after some brief chit-chat, your co-worker shows signs of trying to get back to work, move on!
Eat other people’s food. The crime that launched a thousand passive-aggressive notes.
Eavesdrop on co-workers’ private phone calls. Now obviously if someone is having a conversation a cubicle over, it’s impossible not to hear what they’re saying. But you can certainly pretend like you don’t hear. In other words, if Bob just got off the phone from having an argument with his teenage son, don’t saunter over and ask, “What’s the problem with young Johnny, Bob?” If your co-worker wants to bring up the topic with you, then let him initiate that conversation. Otherwise, consider what you heard to be off-limits.
Listen to radio/music/Youtube videos without headphones. Not everyone shares your affinity for Enya.
Let your personal life get in the way of your business life. Always maintain a business-like attitude. This doesn’t mean being cold or aloof from others. What it means is that your personal life should very rarely interfere with getting work done. Not that you can’t leave early because your kid got sick, but that you don’t come in late because you got plastered the night before, you don’t ask the boss for a raise because you just had a baby, and you don’t spend half your time at work arguing with your ex-wife about alimony payments.
Come back and visit your old office. And now we return to the point made at the beginning of the article: the business world is different from the social world. In the social sphere, when you make close relationships, the expectation is that those relationships will last no matter where life takes you. At the office, you might develop relationships that feel very close with your co-workers, but once you move on, those relationships typically do too. When you leave a company to take another job elsewhere, don’t come back to your old workplace expecting to be heralded as a long lost friend. People will find the situation a little awkward and you a good deal lame.
- Jim Rohn” —
A recent study found that 9 out of 10 women break things off with a guy after the first date because he looked like a jackass while ordering wine. Okay, I made that up. But it certainly feels like that could be true. First impressions mean the world, and ordering a bottle of wine at dinner is often a guy’s opening salvo. Doing so confidently can make you look and feel like a champ, setting the stage for an evening that unfolds suavely. Failing to do so can set the night’s expectations to awkward and fumbling.
Fortunately, there’s no need to worry. There’s a fairly standard procedure for getting a glass of wine that will go well with your meal—and you don’t have to be a wine snob for it to work. If you want to impress your date and augment the enjoyment of your dinner, simply complete the following objectives.Do Your Homework
Goal: Get the lay of the land and find out what’s available.
Ordering wine at a restaurant might not be so bad if you weren’t put on the spot. Take the pressure off by finding out as much as you can beforehand. Make your reservation during an off-peak hour so the host or hostess has time to answer some questions about the wine list:
Do you serve wine or is it BYOB?
There’s nothing worse than showing up at a restaurant only to find out that they don’t have a liquor license. Sometimes, you can get a restaurant’s wine list off of their website. If you make your selection beforehand from the online wine menu, be sure to mention it when you call. Ask if they can reserve the bottle for you when you call, since wine lists are often outdated and/or seasonal.
If it is BYOB, what is the corkage fee?
Going BYOB, (bring your own bottle), even if the restaurant does serve wine, can be more affordable and less stressful. You avoid the restaurant markup and you can choose a bottle at your leisure without everyone watching you. Just two things to keep in mind: expect to pay a corkage fee of $5 to $25 (ask when you call) and don’t bring a wine that they have on their wine list. You could even get the best of both worlds by bringing an accessible red for the meal and ordering a glass of white for sipping as soon as you sit down.
Will there be a wine specialist available?
Later, I’m going to recommend that you ask to speak to a wine specialist. At some fancy restaurants, there will be a dedicated sommelier (sum-all-ee-ay)—the person who actually put together the wine list and knows it the best. This is ideally who you’d like to speak to. Your next best scenario is talking to the proprietor. If nothing else, it’ll make you look important in front of your date. In some cases, there will be no wine specialist except for your server. It’s best to know this ahead of time. Otherwise, you’ll look pretty goofy asking to speak to the sommelier if there isn’t one.Get and Read the Wine List
Goal: Establish your price range and narrow down your top choices.
A good wine list will include the price, the producer, the grape variety and/or region and the vintage for each wine. There may also be an item number on the wine list. You can refer to this if you can’t pronounce the name of the wine. Wines labeled NV are nonvintage meaning they are a blend of different wines, and thus can’t have a vintage. Wine snobs will turn their noses up at nonvintage wine, but don’t rule them out. Wine producers make nonvintages for the sake of consistency, meaning that they can often be safer bets than a vintage wine that was made during a climactically shaky year.
If the server doesn’t hand you the wine list when you sit down, ask for it right away. You want to order your wine at the same time as your food so you have a glass when you start to eat. Once you get the list, go ahead and crack it open.
Now, this is where many neophytes buckle under pressure. Wine lists are some of the most arcane, inconsistent and sometimes misleading documents on the planet. But don’t let it get to you. Just relax. You’re not a contestant on The Price is Right. You’re not making a make-it-or-break-it intuitive decision here. There are very few “wrong” choices here, and as long as you ask and answer the right questions, you’ll be steered well clear of them.
The worst thing you can do at this point is to snap the wine list shut and say, “We’ll just have the house white.” (More on this later…)
As you’re looking at the wine list, you’re just getting your bearings, surveying the list and narrowing down your choices to two or three bottles of wine. You’ll present these to the server or the wine specialist before making the final decision. But for now, let’s focus on nominating your top candidates.
Here’s what you need to decide:Red or white?
Nailing this down will eliminate half the wines on the list. The best way to do so is to simply ask your date what she likes. If she hates reds, then you’re in luck, since a good red one is generally harder to choose.
If she doesn’t care, then ask her what she plans on ordering for her meal, then follow these guidelines:
- Drink white wine with light fish dishes (cod, tilapia, etc.) and shellfish, go with a light-bodied white wine. Safe bets: Pinot Grigio, Sancerre or Sauvignon Blanc (California, South Africa, New Zealand).
- Drink red wine for light meat and poultry dishes, salmon, meaty dishes, and heavy tomato sauces. Safe choices: California Red Zinfandel, California Pinot Noir, Bourgogne Rouge, Barbera, Dolcetto.
- Drink white wine or sparkling wine with spicy foods and pastas with a vegetable or cream sauce.
These, of course, are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Don’t focus too much on the type of meat, since the sauce and preparation matter far more. In general, the lighter the food, the lighter the body of wine you want. Salty and well-seasoned foods pair well with bigger red wines, especially oaked wines. Off-dry or sweet wines are better with spicy food and dessert.How much should I spend?
Your first instinct may be to choose a wine based on price. Resist it. This has nothing to do with coming off as a cheapskate, since many modestly priced wines are indeed quite good. Likewise, a bottle of wine won’t go well with your meal simply by virtue of being the most expensive on the list.
There’s really no formula for determining how much to spend on wine—just spend what you feel comfortable with. Part of the reason why you’re choosing two or three choices is to communicate to your server what your price range is. Even if they don’t recommend one of the wines you choose, they’ll know what you’re willing to spend.
If you are trying to keep the tab low, avoid ordering the house wine. The house wine is selected for profitability, and is usually a poor value for you and your date. And oftentimes, it’s not even the least expensive on the list. This is true for most U.S. restaurants, with a few exceptions (e.g. wine savvy restaurants in wine regions).
On the other hand, if you are trying to impress by being a big spender, don’t get the most expensive bottle on the standard wine list. Ask for the reserve wine list. But you had better know what you’re doing if you pull this one!
Tip: Unless you want a different type of wine with each course, go with the bottle. A bottle holds four to five glasses which is perfect for a couple to split. Plus, it’s almost always cheaper than buying four or five glasses individually. Dating a lightweight? Ask if they serve half bottles or 375 ml carafes.How adventurous am I feeling?
The way I see it, there are two main approaches to ordering wine. You can look for a wine that is familiar and accessible, i.e. a safe bet that won’t wrinkle the nose of your picky dinner date. If this is what you’re in for, just look for a wine you’ve had before and order it, or, ask for a similar wine that will pair well with your food.
Or, you can be more adventurous and order something completely foreign to you. To pull this off, you shouldn’t act like you know what you’re doing. You won’t fool anyone. Instead, embrace your ignorance and seek enlightenment. Find something that piques your interest, either because you recognize the producer from an article you read or it just has a funny sounding name. Be forthcoming with your server about your willingness to learn more and experience something new. “I’ve never heard of Frappato. What can you tell me about it?”
Whichever route you choose, your attitude and approach as you plumb for more information will make a better impression on your date than bravado.Seek Expert Advice from the Wine Specialist
Goal: Leverage the expertise of someone who knows the wine list.
There’s no shame in deferring to the expertise of a specialist when ordering wine. No one expects you to know everything about wine, and you can still come off as confident and in control by asking your server or sommelier the right questions.
To start, ask your server if there’s a wine specialist available. If you’ve done your homework, you already know the answer to this question. If there isn’t someone on hand, then you can ask your server for recommendations. Show your server the three or four choices you were considering and ask them which they would recommend for your meal. If none of the above are good pairs, then your consult will at least know what your price range is.
The sommelier or server will likely have some follow up questions for you. You’ll appear more purposeful and in control if you anticipate these. Before calling the server over, find out what your date likes and does not like, rather than handing off the questions to her as your server asks them. Then, feed this information to the server or sommelier up front. For example, tell them you want a light-bodied white wine that’s not too sweet, or tell them that you hate Chardonnay, etc.
Again, it’s important to adopt the role of an eager student. This isn’t like asking for directions at a gas station—you’re not admitting defeat. You’re seizing an opportunity to become more educated about wine from one of the best sources available. This is how you become a wine connoisseur—by learning.Surviving the Wine Presentation
Goal: Determine if the bottle of wine has gone bad.
Once you order your bottle of wine, the server will initiate the ritualistic wine presentation. This is the part that makes most of us feel like Adam Sandler when he gets bumped up to first class in The Wedding Singer. Why is he showing me the bottle? What am I supposed to do with this cork? Hey, wise guy, I’m a big kid, I can handle a full glass..
Just about everything that happens during the wine presentation feels esoteric. But it’s really very simple.
The purpose of this is to determine whether the bottle of wine has gone bad, due to improper storage or a damaged cork. This isn’t Baskin Robbins, where you get to sample wine until you find one you like. Nor are you being asked to judge the quality and character of the wine. All you’re doing here is saying “yes” or “no” to the particular bottle of wine that the server is presenting to you.
Here’s what you do:
- When the server shows you the unopened bottle, examine the label to make sure that it’s what you actually ordered. If so, say “okay,” and/or nod. If not, say so. It’s probably an honest mistake. Between the noise from a crowded restaurant and you mangling the pronunciation of the wine, it’s not uncommon for the server to write down the wrong wine.
- The server will uncork the bottle and either hand you the cork or lay it on the table. Pick it up and examine it. It should be slightly wet on the end that was in the bottle. If it’s dry and crumbly all the way through, that’s a red flag. If it’s wet and shriveled all the way through, that’s a red flag. Either way, nothing’s a deal breaker yet—you still have to taste the wine. Set the cork down when you’re done looking at it. You don’t have to sniff it. And definitely do not taste it.
- The server will pour a tiny bit into your glass. Stick your nose in the glass and take a big whiff. If you smell fruity aromas and other pleasant odors, that’s a good sign. If it smells vinegary, moldy or musty, that’s a bad sign.
- Taste it. Do this regardless if it smells bad. Just take a tiny sip and swallow. Don’t spit. If it tastes corky, musty, vinegary or just plain bad, then say so. Ask the server or your date if they want to taste it and see if they agree that it’s bad. If they do, then you can ask them to take it back. They’ll oblige without question.
- If it tastes good, just say: “It’s fine.” Set the glass down. The server will pour a full glass for your date and then fill up your glass the rest of the way. Cheers!
That’s all there is to it. Getting a bad bottle of wine is rare, but it happens, so don’t feel guilty about sending it back. If you’re unsure, have your date taste it, since it’ll be even more awkward if they notice that the wine has gone funky after the server has left. You can even have the sommelier taste it.
Once you have a good bottle of wine in your hands, then you’re in the clear. You did it! After going through the ritual of ordering wine at a restaurant a few times, you’ll get a feel for the process and what you can learn. Soon, selecting a bottle of wine for dinner will be as second nature as ordering a steak.