Bartering in Business – It’s Back!

Have you ever wondered if bartering would work for your small business? In today’s competitive economy when everyone is striving to do more with less, bartering is making a big comeback. In fact, it may be just what you need in these challenging economic times.

So, how exactly do you barter with another business? Well, find out what the business does and how it may be able to utilize your products and/or services. Then, discover how that business can help you. Remember, to be effective, bartering has to have mutual benefit for both parties involved. After all, if there is no benefit, why would someone be interested in trading services or products with you?

Here’s an example of how I bartered a few months ago. Someone that I have known for several years contacted me about developing a new resume. She works at a printing company, so instead of charging her my usual fee for writing a resume, she agreed to print 1000 business cards. The bartering system worked perfectly! The mutual benefit in this case equaled a shiny, new resume for the client and 1000 brand-new business cards for the resume-portion of Feather Communications.

That experience proved a great point – sometimes it’s not about the money you make from your services or products – it’s about what you can barter for in return. The irony? I have gathered more clients and compliments based upon those business cards than the money I would have made if I would have just invoiced the client and collected payment.

The next time a situation arises when you think there may be a mutual benefit involved, ask about bartering. You may be surprised at what people are willing to trade if it means a long-term payoff.

Power of Thank You

Do you know the power of thank you? I thought I did, but recently I realized that saying thank you does really  mean a lot to people–especially clients.

I tend to send thank you notes to all of my clients, whether they are individual clients that needed a resume or a business that needed a press release. A handwritten thank you note is something that most people do not see in today’s busy world. It makes your company stand out among the competition.

Even when I send e-mails to clients, I typically begin with something that includes, “Thank you for choosing Feather Communications for your business writing needs…” A recent client from New York City commented that it was so nice that I always started my e-mail communication with the words “thank you.” This was interesting to me, because I had never thought twice about saying thank you to any of my clients. I am thankful for them and for their business. However, it was so out-of-the-ordinary for this particular client that she took time to comment on it.

So, remember those two little words in your life and in your business communication. Although it may seem like a small gesture, communicating that you are grateful may mean more than you will ever know.

Four Tips for Successful E-mail Communication

With the frequent use of e-mail as a communication method, it is important to remember to remain professional and not fall into the trap of being too casual. Here are four easy ways to ensure your e-mail communication stays professional:

Tone. Re-read your message to be sure it conveys the tone you want to set. Is the message urgent? Congratulatory? Questioning?

Conciseness. Businesspeople are busy. Don’t add extra words if they are not needed. Keep your e-mail messages brief and to-the-point.

Pre-empt questions. Think of your message from the recipient’s point-of-view and try to answer questions before they are asked.

Use specific subject lines. Rather than title an e-mail “Question” or “Response,” be specific with the subject line. Your recipient will be more likely to open the e-mail if he or she knows what it is about.

Utilizing these techniques on a regular basis will put you in professional e-mail mode. Eventually, they will become just another part of the e-mail process and you will be deemed a successful e-mail communicator.

Motivation through The Treasure Box

Knowing what motivates employees and realizing that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune are the first steps to developing a motivation program at the workplace. When I became a Customer Service Manager at a company, I knew that something needed to be done to increase motivation within the department.

I eventually decided to implement something called “The Treasure Box.” Obviously, there wasn’t real treasure (or money) in the box. And, to be honest, the box itself was a recycled box that had originally contained company envelopes. However, I did fill the box with decorative sticky notes, gel pens, interesting pen/pencil holders, fancy-shaped paper clips, and other miscellaneous office supplies.

“The Treasure Box” turned out to be a great motivator for our department. When we set a weekly goal on Monday, everyone knew the goal and was striving to achieve it throughout the week. Then, the following Monday, anyone that had achieved the goal was allowed to pick one prize out of “The Treasure Box.” Goals included items such as who brought in the most jobs during the week, which service representative received the most customer compliments during that time, and who billed the highest jobs throughout the week-long contest. By changing the target goal or task, it gave almost everyone a chance to win at some point during “The Treasure Box” reign.

For many people, money is not the greatest motivator. In addition to money, many people work because they enjoy being around others, they may enjoy the camaraderie of an office setting or they actually like what they do. Remember that different things motivate different people. Employers should take the time to get to know the employees and tailor the motivational tools to their specific work environment. When you discover that a gel pen is the greatest treasure for your employees, take that idea and make motivation happen within your department.

Merging My Two Worlds: Business and Writing

For those of you that know me personally, you know that I also work as the Business Program Chair at Globe University in Eau Claire. I have an undergraduate degree in Management, an MBA, and have just completed my coursework (exams and dissertation are all that is left) for my PhD in Organization and Management. When I am able to merge my two worlds of business and writing together, my day feels like it is perfect.

One of my clients is the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC). This is an organization that promotes the Chippewa County area for business development. Many of the articles I write are of a business nature; I have been fortunate to meet many local executives and entrepreneurs while writing articles for the CCEDC newsletter. What more could I want than to learn about businesses that are making a difference in the Chippewa Valley and have the ability to write articles about them?

The latest newsletter discusses the Critical Core Manufacturing Skills (CCMS) training consortium, which is a joint effort of CCEDC and Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC). Several local businesses have taken advantage of this program and are finding that it gives their employees added skills to assist them in the workplace.

Realize that opportunities such as the CCMS may be available for your company or in your community. Seek out organizations like CCEDC and discover how they can help you achieve your professional and business goals.

Read the article “CCMS First Year was a Success!” that starts on page three of the newsletter. You will discover that there are positive impacts occurring in the Chippewa Valley and you will see how my two worlds merged with this particular article.

Writing Articles and Changing Lives

People often ask me why I started Feather Communications and how (in the world!) I can enjoy writing so much that I would begin a company based upon it. To be honest, it has worked out quite well—I like to do something few others like to do—and I can get paid for it. It is honestly my dream job.

Because I write articles for many different publications, I am fortunate enough to learn about various topics. From learning about clothesline bans, celebrating local women entrepreneurs, focusing on home building tasks, and a story about locally grown food, I have met many wonderful people.

However, a recent story that I wrote focused on domestic violence and how it can affect people; it appeared in the June edition of Her Impressions magazine. This is one of the most memorable stories I have written in the three years I have operated Feather Communications. The story focused on local shelters, how they help domestic violence victims, warning signs of domestic abuse, and how to help someone that is being victimized.

The story took a very personal turn when I was able to correspond with someone that had been abused in a previous relationship. Although I never met the woman in person, I felt that I got to know her through the intimate details she shared. She was willing to share her story simply because she wanted to help any other victim that felt like there was no way out of the situation.

Writing this story and seeing it published reminded me why I write articles. Writing is an individual task, after the writer has gathered all pertinent information. However, I write because I like the sharing portion of the job; I’m hopeful that an article such as this will help readers and may give domestic violence victims a chance to see they are not alone.

Although I get paid for writing, the simple knowledge of knowing I have helped someone with a story means more to me than a paycheck. It means I have (however small) made a difference in someone’s life. If you get the opportunity to read the article, please do so. I promise you will be touched by the story. Section: Her Impressions June 2011