Lessons From My Grandfather

“Relationships are everything.” My grandfather has told me this thousands of times, ever since I first understood what it meant to be personable. When it comes to doing business, my grandfather has bestowed in me valuable lessons about how two people should conduct themselves and find success in what they are trying to achieve. Whether it is a formal meeting behind a desk, or a lunch meeting on a Friday, the way you present and handle yourself is everything. My grandfather, who is now in his 90’s spent his whole life since he was 16 doing business with others and building great relationships on top of it.

Being 22 & fresh out of college, there is nothing I appreciate more than wisdom from a man who has seen life from not only a different generation's perspective, but also from a different world. He was born and raised in Vienna, Austria until he and his family immigrated the United States - but not before living through the Nazi invasion. While his family was not Jewish by religion, they were by blood, which prevented my grandfather from ever graduating from high school. Starting at age 15, he worked at a service station until one day the owner told him that he was taking a job elsewhere & gave my grandfather full responsibility for operating the station. Even at such a young age, my grandfather took over the service station, and managed it until he came over to the United States in 1939, when he began working at a lamp factory in Cleveland.

This was only the next opportunity for my grandfather, and while working at the factory in his new land, he began to learn English - and even found love. Only two weeks later, fate led him to my grandmother. A short time after that, he enlisted in the U.S. army and became a member of a mysterious, elite team that was so secretive in its mission, it was known only as PO Box 1142. My grandfather's team was responsible for listening in on conversations of German Prisoners of War who were stationed there. No one else knew what PO Box 1142 did - it was all highly confidential because the work was very important to the war effort.

After leaving the army, my grandfather worked for the Motch & Merryweather Machinery Company and then left to join Pesco Products, a division of Borg Warner Corporation as a Senior Buyer. Ultimately, Picker X Ray asked him to provide non-magnetic stainless steel tools for the MRI. He and a German business acquaintance went into business together and became the sole importers of such products; 2 years later, his partner developed the only titanium tool line available, and they successfully sold that product for 15 years.

My grandfather’s valuable knowledge and wisdom that he shares with me to this day helps me strive for great relationships with everyone that I do business with now and in the future. I owe much of my personal and professional demeanor to my grandparents and one day I will be able to pass that along to my own children. I personally believe you cannot do good business without showing others your own commitment to and strong belief in what you are selling. Even today my grandfather takes me with him when he meets with different people, just to prove how right his statement is. Relationships in business may start with a simple handshake but end with a partnership for years to come.

ethan gpa

Me & my grandfather at my recent college graduation.


Contributed by Ethan Tanney. All photos are the author's own & may not be reproduced without permission.
Unknown

 

Feeling “Sew” Creative!

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Image found on pintrest.com.

I have worked at RSVP for 12 years now, and I still love my job (not many people can say one of those things, let along both of them - I'm lucky!). Every day is a little different. Over the years I have been fortunate to wear many hats in the business: bookkeeper, salesperson, general manager, etc. One of my favorite hats was that of graphic designer. I wasn't awesome at it, but I wasn't terrible, either. I did pretty well for myself, and not only did I enjoy having a break from the dollars & cents I normally focus on, I also found it was a fun creative outlet. Our business has grown in the years since I wore the graphic designer hat, and we now have an amazing graphic design team that handles our increased artwork load, which means I have fewer & fewer opportunities to be Jodie Hook, RSVP Graphic Designer. That has allowed me to focus on what I am best at, but I felt I had lost my creative outlet.

That is, until recently.

This past November, I decided I didn’t like any of the pajama options out there for my 9 month old baby. She's big for her age, and the stores' offerings were just not cutting it. On a whim, I decided I could make some for her. I had taken sewing lessons one summer in middle school. It was something I excelled at but didn’t make much time for; I made a few Halloween costumes in college, but nothing since then. I moved forward with Operation: Baby Pajamas. I found a pattern with a zipper online, and I even modified it to add fold-over cuffs. I felt a real sense of pride after I finished this first project.

jammies

The pajamas that started it all!

 

It felt so right, and I knew that I had found my true creative outlet & passion. I started waking up early & staying up late to work on sewing projects for my kids, challenging myself with more difficult or intricate work each time.  My kids were amazed - granted, one of the great thing about kids is that they are easily impressed.

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An outfit I made as a birthday gift for my youngest child.

 

I continued sewing for my friends and family, and when I would proudly tell people that my sons & daughters were wearing something I made, I started hearing that I should sell my creations. I played with the idea for a little bit and decided, "Why not?" Why not take something I love doing, and that I am good at, and not only make a little money from it, but - more importantly - share my labor of love with others?

A fun Hello Kitty-themed craft bag I made as a gift for a friend's daughter on her birthday.

A fun Hello Kitty-themed craft bag I made as a gift for a friend's daughter on her birthday.

While I really wanted to jump head first in & get started, I also realized there was more to it than just making stuff & selling it. After some research, I discovered there were multiple law of compliance to make sure that children’s clothing is safe. After starting the process in January, I am finally ready to take the plunge!

As I start this adventure, I have a few tips for anyone else getting started:

  • Do your research. If you are selling anything, you need to make sure it’s safe, especially if it’s for children. Be sure to check any federal, state, and local regulations that apply to what you want to do.
  • As the saying goes, the only certainties in life are death & taxes, so be sure to track everything from the very beginning. This includes inventory, expenses, and the like. This will make your life much easier once tax season rolls around and you have to give Uncle Sam his dues.
  • Most importantly, make sure it’s something you love, and will continue to love for years to come. Otherwise, you’ll burn out & what started out as a labor of love will become just another chore or task you have to do, but don't enjoy doing.

I'm looking forward to the road ahead, and am excited to share my love of sewing with others!'

One of my more recent creations: a colorful bear-print t-shirt for one of my sons.

One of my more recent creations: a colorful bear-print t-shirt for one of my sons.


Contributed by Jodie Hook.
Jodie

Simon Sinek quote picture found on Pintrest.com here.

Remote Control: Is the Remote Office the Workplace of Tomorrow?

RSVP is a local business & proud of it. Our office headquarters has been located in Centerville, Ohio for all of our 15 years of business, and our employees are both familiar with & active in the communities they serve in Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington, and most recently, Indianapolis. We take pride in being small & local because we believe it helps us better understand our clients' needs & struggles. When you call our office in Centerville, I answer the phone - Hi, my name is Renee - and I help you get in touch with the person in our office who can best assist you. I also write & distribute the minutes for our weekly staff meetings, maintain client records, and manage our calendars and data gathering systems, in addition to generally trying to keep everyone else sane in the face of constantly looming deadlines.

That's not terribly unusual for an administrative assistant. What is unusual is that I'm doing all of these things from my home office in Seattle, Washington - and probably with one of my cats in my lap.

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The view from my "office" window.

I haven't always worked from a home office. From 2011-2013, I worked in our Centerville office, and as far as I was concerned, I was going to keep working in that office until they pried my cold fingertips from my keyboard. Life, of course, had different plans for me: in August 2013, just as I hit the big 3-0, my boyfriend - a talented mobile app developer - was offered an incredible opportunity to work for a large tech company headquartered in Seattle!  One month later, we sold my car, loaded our belongings into his Honda Civic, and drove across the country to start a new life in an unfamiliar city.

That's how I became one of the millions of people who work remotely. Remote employees usually work from home, but sometimes they're in coffee shops, airport lounges, and even planes themselves! The office as we used to know it has become less ubiquitous as businesses work to accommodate & respect their employees' personal lives. According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace, 39% of companies now allow employees to work remotely. A remote office is now less of an anomaly & more of an expectation, and this rings true even for small, local businesses, like RSVP. In fact, president & publisher of RSVP, Tony Sucato, recently said, "The goal is for all of us to eventually be able to work remotely."

Not everyone thinks that is something to strive for in the business world, and some companies are actively working to curtail the remote trend. In 2013, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer mandated that employees work from a Yahoo! office. Explaining this decision, Yahoo! Human Resources director Jackie Reeses said, "Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices." This, admittedly, hits home for me. I certainly miss my co-workers & the jokes we shared, or lunch runs we would make to grab mid-day bulgogi at Kabuki (P.S. if you live in Dayton or Columbus, go there on my behalf! I miss their food). Less tangible than lunch dates & inside jokes, though, are the small nuances you pick up on after sharing an office with people for years and years. When I worked in the office, I could tell if Jodie had a sick child at home, or if Heather was talking loudly because she had too many cups of coffee. Now, I am no longer privy to these details, and I miss out on the minutia. Yahoo's decision was, at least in part, motivated by a desire to re-establish an office environment & encourage the sort of daily interactions that I miss now.

Beyond employee relationships, Yahoo's Mayer was also concerned about out-of-office employees' ability to be productive and ignore the many distractions working remotely may present. Writing for Forbes, David Sturt & Todd Nordstrom note that, "[p]ets, children, television, and the refrigerator can all be distractions for people who work from home," and that remote workers who travel frequently face additional challenges, including noise, chatty co-commuters, and unpredictable work conditions. Still, I am not convinced that the distractions I now confront in my home office are any different from those I had in the RSVP office. Well, OK, granted, this wasn't likely to happen in the RSVP office:

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Captain Morgan, my CFO (Chief Feline Officer)

But something like this?

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Ongoing construction outside our apartment building in Seattle.

Now that type of distraction is totally possible. In fact, I remember when we had the roof replaced at RSVP and had to brush plaster off our desks because the work was so intense above us. We couldn't even use the office phones because of the noise! How is that in-office distraction worse than, say, having a cat hop up on your desk for a quick nuzzle at the home office? I'm honestly not convinced that it is. Additionally, studies have often shown that employees who work from a home office are more dedicated and productive, logging an average of 4 extra hours of work per week & cranking their productivity up by as much as 13%. Remote office employees even report being more engaged in their work than their in-office counterparts.

Still, remote work is not for everyone - businesses & employees alike. Large companies like Yahoo!, whose bloated infrastructure hindered growth in recent years, need to maintain control over many facets & departments chock full of employees, and an easy way to do that is to encourage in-office work. Further, some people are simply not cut out for remote work; the distractions prove too many, or they simply use the office to create a physical separation between their home lives & their professional lives. Sturt & Nordstrom encourage those considering remote work to do it for the right reasons, and believe it comes down to personal preference. According to them, "it may soon be possible that everyone can choose the work environment that suits them the best." That is, remote office workers can work remotely, in-office employees can stay in the office, and businesses can reap the benefits that come from a happy employee base.

Even though I miss the camaraderie of the office & the convenience of being physically close to our central location, I am glad I have the opportunity to work from home. Working from home allows me to keep a job I enjoy with people I like at a company dedicated to excellence - and those factors are important enough to me that I'm willing to work across space & time (thousands of miles & a 3-hour time difference).

Now if you'll excuse me, Hemingway needs to see me for my annual purr-formance review.

hemmy

"We really need to focus on catching the red dot this quarter."


Contributed by Renee Pugh.

ReneeWeb

 

 

 

 

 

 

All images are the author's own. Unauthorized usage without proper credit is prohibited.

Goal Setting for Home, Life & Work

What impact can goal setting have on your business and your life this year?

A year ago we tasked our staff with not only setting business goals but also share something at our first staff meeting of the year that they're shooting for in their personal life.  We followed the SMART formula:  SMARTgoals

The goals were varied - some focused on weight loss, financial success, household projects, getting your first place, and even making and honoring time commitments with family. The experience of sharing weekly updates on progress has been eye-opening.  To speak that goal out loud each week and be accountable to taking one step closer to that goal led many to accomplishing their mission.

For 2014 we introduced our “personal best boards.”  It’s a simple two-sided acrylic picture frame.  On the front are our business benchmarks and stretch goals.  On the back is visual representation of our individual goals – usually a collage of related or motivational pictures.

I'm so proud on the progress of our team!!! Just four months into the year many have accomplished their first goal and had to create a new goal for 2014.  We have a fitter, happier success focused staff.  They encourage and praise one another, and even look for opportunities to help them accomplish their personal goals.

"If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes." --Andrew Carnegie

Experts will tell you to speak your goal out loud like a mantra.  Visualize yourself completing your goal and how you will feel.  Walking a mile begins with putting 1 foot in front of the other…

Reaching the goal is a combination of small but important steps.  Be honest with yourself.  Are your goals written down? Are they just dreams or do they have deadlines? What actions are you taking today to make this your best year yet?

Contributed by Heather Craaybeek.

Heather

A Marketing Budget Is A Terrible Thing to Waste: Part 2

Posted by Renee Pugh and Jeff Vice

A Marketing Budget is a Terrible Thing to Waste: a Three-Part Series That Will Save You Money – Part Two

Welcome to the second part of our three part series on how to STOP wasting your marketing money on ineffective advertising. Our first part introduced the idea of the cluttered “kitchen sink” ad, and explained why this ad is not conducive to driving business; you can catch up with part one here (link).

Today we move on to part two, but first we want you to remind you of the premise we suggested you keep in mind throughout the series:

An advertisement should do at least two things: educate your prospects about what you sell/do, and move them to do business with you.

Part 2: Minimizing Impact & Results with the Minimalist

A quick note before we dive in: minimalist ads can work if done correctly. Such ads require both a strong visual and either a strong brand – think of ad campaigns by companies such as Apple, Absolut Vodka, and Volkswagon – or a strong message. See here and here  for some examples of striking and effective minimalist ads; both galleries contain sexually suggestive material, so please use caution when clicking. You will see that it is possible to produce a successful minimalist ad, but bear in mind that these ads are often intended to build awareness (educate) and not necessarily encourage direct action.

Yet, business owners still produce these ads in hopes of drumming up business NOW. The minimalist is the opposite of the kitchen sink method from our last post. Where the kitchen sink ad overwhelms prospects with a glut of information, the minimalist ad barely gives prospects enough information to even make them take notice. These ads typically include the business’ name, address, and phone number – with the occasional website address or haphazard visual thrown in for flavor. While avoiding the issue of clutter that beleaguers the kitchen sink ad, minimalist ads provide little or no information on the products or services offered and give prospects no reason to call.

This another easy mistake to make; you spend nearly every waking moment building and nurturing your business and know it like the back of your hand. Chances are, your immediate friends and family share this familiarity with what you do, and it becomes easy to live in a bubble where your business’ name is directly connected to what you offer. Remember that advertising requires that we think like consumers, not business owners – and consumers live outside our bubble! It’s OK to test the minimalist waters, but at least start by adding a little something to your ad that will make prospects give you a call. It is as simple as adding a basic offer to your ad – this will be your call to action. It is what makes consumers act upon your ad, and it is also the third and most common way business owners blow their marketing dollars.

Join us next time for our third and final installment in this series, “Sealing the Deal Like the Godfather: How to Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse.” Ring-kissing is optional!

RSVP Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana

888 958-7787

www.rsvppublications.com

https://www.facebook.com/rsvpohio

A Marketing Budget Is A Terrible Thing To Waste: Part 1

posted by: Renee Pugh and Jeff Vice

A Marketing Budget is a Terrible Thing to Waste:a Three-Part Series That Will Save You Money – Part One

Here is the worst-kept secret in business: business owners everywhere are currently wasting money on marketing. These bold entrepreneurs aren’t throwing their hard-earned dollars away on purpose. In fact, these men and women are most likely acting very purposefully. They approach marketing with the same vigor and spirit with which they approach other aspects of their business. This is admirable – but it is a mistake! Marketing requires that we approach our business not as an owner, but as a consumer.

This three-part series will explore some common advertising mistakes and help you avoid wasting money on marketing that simply won’t work. The first two parts in the series look at two types of ads – “the kitchen sink” and “the minimalist.” We will explain the problems with each ad type, and discuss how to improve these ads so that they generate revenue for your business. Our third and final part in the series will explain how to create “The Godfather” clause in your ad; that is, the offer that your prospect can’t refuse.

Before we move on to begin our discussion with “the kitchen sink” ad type, we want you to keep the following premise in mind throughout the series:

An advertisement should do at least two things: educate your prospects about what you sell/do, and move them to contact you to do business.

Part 1: “The Kitchen Sink” & Overwhelming the Consumer with Your Ad.

This ad type is called “the kitchen sink” because it has everything – literally! It has each product and service you offer, before-and-after pictures, blurbs from satisfied customers, the addresses and phone numbers for each of your five area locations, multiple discounts enclosed by dashed lines, and even a picture of your children with your pets topped with a giant yellow starburst on the front that screams out DARE TO COMPARE!!!

What does an ad like this accomplish? They’re certainly informative, which helps educate consumers, and the discounts may be enough to bring business your way – assuming consumers can find them amidst the clutter. And that is the problem with these ads! They are so overwhelming that prospects don’t know where to look or what to think. There is no clear message, aside from the desperate plea of PLEASE, PLEASE BUY FROM ME. PLEASE. And a business relationship is similar to a romantic relationship, in that desperation is a complete turn-off.

This mistake is easy to make; you have worked hard to build your business, and every aspect is important to you, which makes it tough to trim the fat from a busy ad. But trim you must! Instead of featuring every product or service, pick 1 or 2 to highlight; include one or two images – and leave Junior and Fluffy out of them; only list your main location(s) and website address; and above all, keep the design clean and easy-to-read. The best ad is the one that gives the consumer just enough information to make her curious without sending her into information overload.

What happens when you trim too much? Find out in our next installment in this series: “The Minimalist” is coming up next!