Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#BizGold Vol. 2 - What To Do For the Unhappy Customer

One of the most basic aspects of entrepreneurship is of course dealing with customers. It's a privilege, but it can also be rough. Hopefully, every client you interact with will love the product and service you provide, but inevitably, a product will arrive late, will break, or (heaven forbid) will not live up to the customers' expectations. I've learned it happens to everyone and that an unhappy email usually shows up in your inbox when it does. That's a hard thing, but what's sometimes worse is when you get no email at all.

When I was just beginning my jewelry business, I had a long conversation with a woman who was an experienced jewelry designer and business owner. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was to go above and beyond when fixing a problem for your customer. If something breaks, replace it for free. Pay for shipping both ways. Throw an extra gift in the box. Do more than they expect you to. I have since had occasion to use that advice (thankfully, only twice), but I would add something else to it:

Go to the unhappy customer before they come to you.

A couple of months ago, one unhappy customer bypassed my inbox and went straight for the review page... I received a notice that someone had left a review on my shop, and upon opening it, found 3 out of 5 stars winking at me (they were smug, those stars). The necklace the customer received was adorable, she said, but it broke after wearing it for a brief amount of time. 3 out of 5 stars changed my shop review as a whole from 5 stars to 4... and I began to panic. 

In a perfect world every customer would go to you first when they have a problem, instead of writing a bad review, but often that just doesn't happen. In that case, you fly to the customer. I quickly responded to the review and told her that I would send her a replacement the next day for free. She immediately changed her review to 5 stars, and I started breathing again. When I mailed the replacement piece to her, I stuck a discount code in the box and a note reminding her that I was always available to fix issues for my clients.

I walked away from that little experience knowing that if I had not been so quick to respond, the customer would probably have forgotten to change her poor rating (disaster). (Being extra quick is the best way to guarantee the customer stays your customer.) But I also learned that going above and beyond to serve the customer means going to them. You can't guarantee that once you put your product into someone's hands, they'll follow up when something goes wrong. Whether it's with a comment card in the actual box, an email asking them how they liked your product, or a prepaid means of returning your item, communicating with them first makes them feel like they're free to communicate with you.  People need to know that there's a human on the other end of the transaction, not just some company that doesn't care about them.

What are some of your customer experiences and have you taken measures to anticipate disaster? :)

If any of you bloggers have a business-related post that you would like to share, feel free to link up by following the instructions below. #BizGold takes place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month. Next up is April 14th!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

7 Books for Growth (My Current Reading List)

 Lately, I've been eager to get my hands on as much information as possible about growing a small business. Here are 7 books I have high hopes for, that I believe are not just for small businesses. Most of these look great for anyone looking to improve the way they operate in the world. I'll let you know what I think of them as I knock them off...

 Make It Happen by Lara Casey. I got this one free for being a member of the Influence Network. We've been going through Lara's book in the very laid back Influence Network book club, and so far it's resonating with me in many ways. You'll be inspired to stop living for your own purposes, and bravely live for God's.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is one I've been wanting to dive into for a while now. The title is pretty self-explanatory and pretty well-known. I think I'm afraid of this one, to be honest. :)

 Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath was recommended by Whitney English in a class that I took a few months ago. It is supposed to be helpful for developing your personal brand and knowing what tasks to delegate.

Good to Great by Jim Collins was another one recommended to me. How does an average business become a great one? That question is supposed to be answered in this red book...

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was recommended by my mother! The title of this one always used to bother me, but I really think it's more about understanding and working with people, not manipulating them. :)

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is a recent addition to my list. How does something become popular? What small factor creates a trend? The theories in this sound invaluable for anyone with a product to sell.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber was a Jess Lively recommendation. This has been on my list for quite some time. From the description, I'm expecting a business handbook for a non-business person. Gee, I hope I'm right.

Have you read any of these? Would you like to? :)


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#BizGold Linkup Vol. 1 - 4 Keys to Brand Success

 I'm so excited to launch my first linkup today! If any of you have a business-related blog post you would like to share, feel free to link up by following the instructions at the end of this post. BizGold takes place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month. Next up is March 24th!

Your brand is the defining, aesthetic voice of your business and finding the right one is a big deal. The dictionary definition of "rebrand" is to "change or update the image of (an organization or a product)." It would be awesome if we could slap an "image" on an organization or product and it be good enough for all eternity, or if we could find the perfect branding for our product and/or services right from the outset. But, I've come to realize that it usually takes quite a while to nail down just the right look to represent your business. Today, I'm talking about the four things I've found to be vital in a brand. If you're missing one, it might be time to rebrand like me. :)

1. Personal Significance: 
When I initially chose the name Banana Grove Designs, it had personal significance but wasn't really at the core of who I am. I think it's important for the name and voice of what you're doing to really have weight. It should "have legs", be build-able and really resonate with you. That's not self-indulgent, it's just a guarantor that you're going to want to get out of bed in the morning. (I'm gonna geek out for a moment, and tell you that I compare this to a patronus (Harry Potter reference, sorry). It has to be powered by a strong memory to have the desired effect.)

2. Strong Purpose: 
In addition to having personal significance, it's also important to have a definable purpose. Much like a mission statement, can you put into words why you're doing what you're doing? Granted, almost all of us are in business to make some money, but if you want your business to be meaningful to people...it needs meaning! :) There should always be a purpose for what you're pursuing in your life. Make sure you infuse your career with it.

3. A Cohesive Aesthetic: 
You have a pretty product, yes? What kind of pretty? Are your color choices, logo design, fonts, and name the same kind of pretty? For me, I feel like the tropical name Banana Grove Designs captures a few aspects of the jewelry I sell, but it doesn't quite fit everything I'm going for. It doesn't capture the elegance and simplicity of what I'm trying to make. It's important to me that everything make sense to my customers. I want them to "get" what I'm trying to say through the few visual messages I'm allowed.

4. Buzz Worthiness:
Is your brand dynamic? Can you get people excited about it? Does it have possibilities and opportunities attached to it? Any and all buzz is good, y'all. You don't have to feel "un-buzzworthy" because people don't talk about you as frequently as they talk about Coca-Cola (dare to dream, though if that's what you're shooting for) but the customers you do have should want to tell their friends about you. Try to get people excited about you as a brand, not just as a product.

If you're missing one of these keys, it doesn't mean you need to scrap everything  and start over, it's possible some mere tweaking would do the trick. Or, you might find that your current brand is all wrong and you need to do a complete overhaul. There's no recipe. But, I do feel like these are important if you're going to continue moving forward. Show up in the comments if you have branding experience or an idea you'd like to share! :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Biz Gold Linkup Intro

Have you heard of the personality test that matches people with the animal that best represents them? There are four specific animals to cover all the people in the world (a dog, a beaver, a lion and an otter, in case you're curious), but I feel like the blogger and online creative could be represented by a totally different one! Can you guess which? Not a lion, tiger or other vicious feline, not a smart and savvy fox or a bold, energetic monkey. I think the animal that best represents all online business people is...a duck.

Friend, consider the duck. It gracefully and calmly glides across the water's surface with nary a care. Everything's peaceful, pretty and smooth. But, stick your head under the water and you'll see the duck's little webbed feet paddling furiously away. So, it is for the online creative. There's so much fury and frenzy in trying to reach a goal or merely stay afloat in the online marketplace, but the job more or less requires everything to look calm on the surface.

It can be hard to live like that, especially when it keeps you from recognizing that you're not alone. That's why it's been so great for me to find community with other people working towards the same things online, and that's why I'd like to have you join me next week for a brand new linkup I'm hosting called Biz Gold.

Some of you are creative entrepreneurs, some of you run a moneymaking blog, some of you are seasoned and some of you are just starting out, but you ALL have business knowledge and experience! Pop some of it into a blog post and link up with me and other business gals next week. Share what you learned in a recent project, your social media expertise, a victorious moment, "how-to's," a fateful story, a behind-the-scenes look, whatever you'd like to cover on the topic of how you do what you do! :)

Biz Gold is set for the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month and begins next week on March 10th. If you can't join then, I'd love for you to join another week, but make sure you come check out the wisdom and stories of the participants next week. :) We're all paddling away furiously, we might as well share what we're learning and be in community with each other!

 See you back here next Tuesday!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Where Is Banana Grove Designs Going?

For the last few weeks I have been writing about "new things," "changes coming" and "exciting stuff in the works" for Banana Grove Designs. Vague, vague, vague! To be honest, I don't feel comfortable sharing some of the details until they're nailed down a bit more. But, today I want to give you a peek at where I'm going:
  • I am "rebranding" my jewelry business. What do I mean by rebrand? New logo, new website, new everything. The aesthetic and pieces will be the same, but I'm setting up an online shop sans Etsy (which, is kind of freaking me out!). Etsy will still be around for a while, at least, but this new step should solidify my presence as a business. I'll be relaunching everything at the end of April!
  • The blog and jewelry shop are breaking up, so to speak. They'll be under separate names, which will allow me to pursue writing in a different way. I'm very excited about this!
  • In March I'm launching a new business-related link up. If you have a blog or a business, stay tuned!
  • And starting next week, I'm sending out a fun batch of links, inspirational messages and other goodies in my new weekly E-NEWSLETTER. You can sign up for it here!

The biggest change in all of this is a refocus on PURPOSE and wanting everything I'm doing to reflect His glory into the world. Thanks for walking this road with me! There's more on the way!

Proverbs 16:1-3


Friday, February 13, 2015

The Most Important Lesson I Will Ever Learn About Business

That title sounds pretty epic, yes? THE MOST IMPORTANT. EVER. Pregnant words. But, I mean them because the lesson I learned at the beginning of the year was life changing for me as a business owner and a person and will, I believe, be the key to my success.

For Christmas, my parents gave me a membership to the Influence Network (something that might need its own blog post later), and when looking at the free classes that new members can choose from, I picked one called "Cast Vision for Your Best Year Yet" taught by Haley Morgan (co-founder of the network). I was hopeful that it would give me some great ideas for setting business goals in 2015. Haley began the class by breaking down the process of goal setting into steps, but to my surprise, before she got to the actual "goal setting" step, she emphasized that the first thing we should do is submit our plans to God.

I was sitting there watching the class recording thinking, "Oh, right, yes of course, that's what we should do, absolutely, mmhmmm, let's make sure we submit first," nodding along, but knowing full well that that's the last thing I was thinking of doing. After all, it's my business. If I submit it to God, who knows what He'll do with it...

As if she read my mind, Haley went on to say that those of us who struggle with submitting should examine our hearts and ask for healing from the Lord before we make goals. "Cause if you can't believe that God wants good for you" Haley said, "than the rest of this is probably an exercise in futility. Otherwise I think you'll find yourself working all of it out in striving, and you won't be able to rest in God's strength because you won't be trusting Him."

There were tears after she said that. Talk about conviction.

For the next month, I examined my heart. I set no real actionable goals for my business because I wanted to focus on getting myself right with God. And in the midst of that heart examination, He taught me so much.

He taught me that my fear of Him somehow "sabotaging" my business was unfounded in any kind of truth. He gave me this work. He called me to be productive with these skills. Why would he "sabotage" it?

He taught me that I am merely a steward of any and all of my gifts and projects. I'm not sure how I've been walking around for the last two years "running a business" as a believer without sincerely acknowledging that it's HIS business!

He taught me that He is the best CEO I could ever have. I changed my view of God from "lofty Father in Heaven," to active and interested leader. He is just as invested in my life and career as I am. And He knows EVERYTHING about business. He'll lead me down an unbelievable path of success as defined by Him.

He taught me prayer is powerful. I have been praying over my business regularly for the last 2 months now, bringing decisions large and small to Him and asking for clarity, and He's giving it to me. I have never felt so calm and purposeful and en route to good things.

He taught me that He wants my good. Ultimately, this mindset of handing over my heart's desires to God comes down to whether or not I trust Him, and it applies to all areas of my life. But, my education, my relationships, my career, my health...none of it compares to the good He has already done in giving me my salvation. Christ's death should be enough proof that He wants good for all of us.

That is the most important lesson I will ever learn about business: Trust God. Then, pray over the work, acknowledge Him, use Biblical principles when making decisions, submit it all, and don't skip that important first step.

At the beginning of this week, I sat down and followed the rest of the steps Hayley talked about in goal setting. There are some big changes coming for this little business, and I can't wait to share them with you! My hope in the midst of it is to bring glory to my incredible leader by committing my work to Him and seeing His work unfold.

I would love it if you followed along this year to see it, too. :)


photo credit

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Throwing Kindness Around Like Confetti...The Real Life Struggle

 At the start of the year, I mentioned that one of my goals for 2015 was to be more intentional in practicing kindness and I used the oft-quoted "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" (I wish I came up with that) to express what I meant.

Well, while pondering this fun, colorful, easy sounding analogy a little more recently, I came to the realization that there are moments when being kind is actually hard. In fact, to be very real with you, there are moments when I purposefully withhold kindness. I know we all do this at one point or another, but for me, it's usually for one of the following reasons:

1. To demonstrate displeasure with someone
    2. To discourage friendship with a person I don't really like
    3. To honor my ill-founded fear of offending or embarrassing 
    4. To avoid drawing attention to myself

    I am in no way saying that any of these "reasons" are acceptable, they're all pretty stupid. And yet I know I'm not the only one who finds herself switching kindness on and off like an electric light whenever it suits her. How do we make changes? What do we need to guard against in order to live life like a "thrower of kindness"?

    To address the first one listed, withholding kindness as a means of demonstrating displeasure with someone... I feel that we most often do this with the people we're closest to. When we aren't getting what we want or we're waiting for an apology, we shut off kindness so that the object of our disapproval will read us LOUD AND CLEAR.

    Not only is this tactic unproductive and manipulative, it's hypocritical. The fact that we receive kindness from a holy God who has every right to turn His back on sinners like us, makes it impossible for us to do anything but pass it on to others. In the moments when we're screaming or fuming, the only godly response is to throw handfuls of kindness in the face of negative feelings, allowing it to calm harmful emotions so that good communication can heal our relationships.


    The other three things listed are focused on withholding kindness from people we're probably not close to for two primary reasons: arrogance or insecurity.

    This may be a good time for me to describe what "throwing kindness like confetti" looks like to me. I don't picture someone running through a public place blowing kisses and screaming compliments (avoid a person doing that). When we talk about throwing something it sounds very active, but throwing confetti usually just means allowing all the hundreds of little colored papers you've tossed in the air to land anywhere and everywhere. The people that are difficult to like, the people we forget to notice, the people we're too insecure to interact with...they all require kindness, and it should flow from us in such a concentrated abundance that it lands on them all, without discrimination.

    We all want to ignore needy, awkward or inappropriate humans, but they're still humans and we're still called to love them. We all want to keep from embarrassing ourselves in front of admirable, impressive and likeable humans, and yet they're still people who need kindness regardless of our fears and insecurities. We should swallow our own selfish concerns either way. If we trust and obey God, we'll follow through with his command to be kind and allow whatever will come of those relationships to come.

    Personal Example: 
    This is a pretty tame example, but it's stuck with me, nonetheless...Years ago, I participated in a local production of the Nutcracker. I had not taken ballet for years, so I auditioned for and got the role of one of the "party moms" in the opening scene (I can at least waltz). The ballet studio was a pretty worldly place to be and I was mostly working alongside older adults, including one gentleman who was nice but a little uncomfortable to be around. After one inappropriate joke too many, I responded to him with an eye roll, a sneer and a pretty condescending facial expression. I can still remember his response because no one had ever seriously called me a snob before. I look back on that now with regret because while I didn't have to laugh at inappropriate jokes, I doubt that man felt the love and grace I am tasked to cover sins with as a Christ representative. Missed kindnesses are also missed opportunities to witness and represent Him.

     There are probably people out there who see the "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" mantra and think, "this is for those extroverted people who always know what to say and when to say it" or "I'm just not good at doing anything involving the word 'confetti.'" I read an article last summer on a study done by John and Julie Gottman, marital stability experts in New York City, who studied how lack of kindness is one of the biggest reasons why couples break apart. (Read the article, it goes into great depth on the different ways we ask for kindness and respond to one another, and it really made an impact on me.) In it Gottman says, "There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don't. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise." Those words give us all hope that the incorrect responses in our hearts can be turned around with commitment. And with practice, ALL OF US can consistently offer kind words, small gifts, smiles of encouragement, generous attitudes, and peacemaking ideas to the people around us.

    The bottom line for this little phrase "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" is that kindness should be the cheapest thing in the world. It should be as easy to come by as paper. For 2015 I'm going to be busy trying to spread and reflect His kindness and generosity to every human that comes across my path. 

    Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Are you also striving to make this a part of your thought process? Tell me. :)

    What God says about Kindness:

    Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32

    Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. - Proverbs 12:25

    But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. - Luke 6:35

    Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” -Acts 14:17

    Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. - Psalm 138:6


    pic cred