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Mike Brubaker’s Blog

Mike Brubaker’s Blog 2017-06-19T15:03:45+00:00
806, 2016

Why Following Up is a Differentiator

It shouldn’t be, BUT it is!

Think about it. If most of you are honest with yourself, you frequently tell people, “I will call you” or “I will email you dates to get together.”  The bottom line is: most of us make a follow-up statement then DON’T do it.

That is why great and consistent follow up is truly a differentiator. 

When someone says to me, “let’s get together to talk” at an evening reception or a chance meeting during the work day, then I get a note from them a few hours later, I am always impressed. I think, wow – this is a person that follows up, or better said – this is a person of integrity. (This person does what he/she said they would do and selected the right pathway to do so). This is how you build relationships and, more importantly, trust.

I have hundredss of passive conversations each week. Many of those have a clearly stated follow-up or an implied response, I have (still far from perfect) developed a very simple technique of carrying a 3×5 card and pen with me. As soon as I make or I hear what may be interpreted as a commitment to talk later, I take my card out and write it down. Many times right in front of the person. (I learned this from a dear friend in the PA Senate).

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The next step is critical.  If you are fortunate enough to have a staff person that can execute, give them your cards everyday and ask them to send a note that same day. If you don’t have a person assigned to this critical function, make it priority in your daily wrap up, make it a part of your end-of-day routine.

I promise you, if you do follow up exceptionally well, you will highly impress away the people that are currently or will be important to your success. Never give up and follow up are two great pieces of business advice you should undoubtedly follow.

306, 2016

5 Areas of Your Business to Invest In

Whether you’ve recently launched a startup or you’re decades into a thriving enterprise, one thing is for sure: there are certain areas of a company that owners and executives can’t afford to overlook. Those areas aren’t just limited to the  bottom line. As you strive to ensure your financial sustainability and continued growth, be sure to also invest in changes and implementations that will have a substantial impact on the company as a whole. Below are five places to start.

  1. Build Employee Loyalty

From employee development programs to making the office a comfortable place to workyou can’t afford to not spend money on your employees’ satisfaction and engagement. Ideally you want to hire employees who won’t jump ship in a year, leaving you to go through the hiring process all over again. Instead, putting a system of employee development in place signals to employees that you are invested in their career growth.

Not only do you want  workers who are more capable and productive thanks to development initiatives, but you also want employees who simply feel heard, appreciated and genuinely respected.  Little office perks go a long way to fostering this “I see you, I appreciate you” connection with your workers.

This doesn’t mean you have to go out and invest thousands of dollars in an office game room or a huge shipment of bean bag chairs. Small, affordable perks are great, too. Buy a used ping pong table on Craigslist or visit BJ’s or Sam’s Club to buy sodas, juices and water in bulk to stock in the refrigerator every Friday. Employees also value when companies offer extra time off around the holidays or unlimited paid time off (though unlimited time off may seem counterintuitive, anecdotal research shows it boosts productivity) because they promote work-life balance.

  1. Improve the Work Environment and Office Culture

But employee perks alone don’t define a workplace culture. If your company has a crummy culturethere’s usually no ifs, and’s or buts about this; you know when your culture needs a makeover—then you mustn’t turn a blind eye and hope that the culture will fix itself.

One tip to try today: Implement the three Cs: Collaboration, Creativity, and Community.  “Combine the excitement and camaraderie of a start-up with the solidity and reliability of a mature business,” writes Forbes.com contributor Kate Harrison in the article “4 Tips to Improve Company Culture.”

Mike Brubaker online

  1. Establish an Authentic Web Presence

A meaningful web presence doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive website. You can build a unique and relevant online brand just as easily when you create a free or affordable website along with well-executed and frequently updated social media profiles. Remember that your web presence isn’t limited to your webpage; it’s about the content of your search results.

  1. Master Project Management Software

What company doesn’t need or want a productivity booster? When it comes to delegating,  organizing, and executing tasks large and small, project management software provides a helpful solution. There are a wide variety of project management software packages, including web-based applications. Last month, PC Mag released its own list of the 10 best options of 2016.  

Mike Brubaker office

  1. Document Business Operations

“No one wants to actually spend time documenting what they do. It’s time-consuming and you could actually be ‘doing’ it rather than writing it down,” writes business writer and entrepreneur Janine Popick for Inc.

The biggest reason you should invest the time in documenting your business practices is this: As valuable as your employees are, your business exists beyond your workers. When your employees aren’t  around you need to be able to pick up the pieces yourself or hand the pieces over to the next worker.

Also, with documentation come best practices and best practices are what great businesses are made of.

 

106, 2016

We Are All Farmers

I had the grand opportunity at a young age in life to work with my Father at his fertilizer business. I was young … Only about 14 when I first started. Quickly I became drawn to farmers. People that work the land, tend to livestock, and ultimately feed the world.  But there was something different about them…. Farmers.

I couldn’t figure it out for an entire summer.

Then when I went back to work the following summer, it hit me. I knew what was different between a typical farm family and most of the non-farm families I was acquainted with. As I started to think more about it, many differences emerged. Here are some of the differences I couldn’t help but notice:

Work: There were always jobs to do on the farm and farm parents expected their kids to work – there was no arguing it. And they worked a lot! That was why so few farm kids participated in sports. There were a few tasks to do in non-farm homes, but taking out the trash once a week isn’t quite the same as milking 40 cows twice a day.

Family Time: Unlike all the other families I knew, farm families ate three meals a day together (without exception), and worked side-by-side with their brothers and sisters. Most farm families had 5-9 children, whereas my non-farm friends had 1-3 children.

Faith: A lot my non-farm families had faith…. The farm families somehow showed it more in how they spoke, how they prayed, what books were in the home, and how they acted.

Now – you may be wondering why I titled this blog, “We Are All Farmers”. Well, here’s what went through my mind:

Farmers, among their many other tasks, plant seeds which grow to a mature plant which is then used to feed livestock (called feed) or humans (called food). You see, metaphorically, we all plant many seeds everyday.

And make no mistake about it – there are seeds that grow to ‘feed the world’ and provide healthy, strong, mentally sharp bodies and minds, nutrition, and recovery… But there are also weeds which reduce the harvest of the plants the farmer intended grow. Weeds also come from seeds.

And to top it all off, there are poisonous plants. Poison ivy which makes you itch, and Eastern Black Nightshade which, if consumed, would kill you.

You see, seeds for good – seeds that reduce the quality and quantity of good harvests, and seeds that kill and destroy. Think of every word coming from your mouth … Think of every thought racing across your mind as a seed being placed gently into freshly tilled soil. (Think of freshly tilled soil as other people’s minds, hearing your words or seeing your actions)

We are all farmers.

We all plant 1000’s of seeds everyday, but most of us have not looked at our thoughts, words or actions as seeds. Now that we do, I hope and pray more corn, potatoes, wheat etc., will be planted around the world in place of weed or poisonous plants which destroy our harvest.

We are all farmers.

2605, 2016

Do’s and Don’ts If You Must Attend a Networking ‘Social’

I have attended more of networking events than I can count in my 35 years in business. It is one of the toughest environments to come across, in my opinion, so I thought I’ve give some advice on how to get the most out of work socials:

Do:

Arrive early, but don’t walk in early. Find a corner or even stay in your car and get your mindset ready! Double check your business card supply (you should never be without a card if someone asks).  Put your smile on, suck it up, and greet people like you like them and want to get to know their work world better. Because the truth is, you should.

Don’t:

Drink too much. If alcohol is present, your limit should be zero or one. If you are in an environment where you feel you need a drink in your hand to ‘fit in’ go with a club soda and keep the slice of lime on the glass.

Do:

Follow up. Anyone that offers you a card should get a note from you that night. That’s right, don’t go to bed until a hand written note or email is sent. I carry 50 note cards with me with stamps already attached to the envelope. After an event I go to my car, write a note to everyone that gave me a card, then find a mailbox to send them in and head home.

Mike Brubaker photo - do's and don'ts of networking 2

Don’t:

Go too far. One big mistake is taking business too far. A business social function is usually just to meet and greet. When you get into a conversation where it is clear the person you’re talking to WANTS to do business …. STOP. Instead, tell them you are highly interested in a higher level business conversation, but frankly this is not the right environment. “May I call you tomorrow and set a time that I can visit you in your office?” is a response that almost always works.

Do:

Smile. Yes, smile. It makes all the difference in the world. If the environment is loud (and almost all socials are, thanks to the loud talkers, which I sometimes can’t stand) you may be squinting or crunching your face to hear. Believe me, not your best look. Show interest and ask questions about the person you’re talking to. Many people enjoy talking about themselves – so make them happy and emphasize how much you want to listen.

Don’t:

Appear scattered. It’s the worst possible offense and it happens all the time. When you’re talking to someone keep your eyes on them and don’t be scanning the room. Key word here is FOCUS on the person you’re talking to. The easiest way to piss off the important person you’re talking to is to be scanning the room. You give them the impression that others are more important. Keep this in mind, you want the person to say to themselves after your brief introduction, “wow… that was a really nice person, I can’t believe how interested she was in me, my company, and my product line”.

Do:

Dress Appropriately. You know what that means. You want to gain attention 1:1 with your interest in the other person, not shake the room up with your style selection. Keep it simple and keep it classy.

Don’t:

Stay until the end. That is when the over drinkers start to perform, and nothing ever happens productively in that situation. Always end your night on a positive note and leave at an appropriate time with confidence that you’ve met some great connections, because chances are you did!

2405, 2016

5 Morning Walk Lessons

I try to take a walk every morning. I started doing this because a good friend told me I needed some exercise.  Well …. 3-5 miles most mornings does indeed offer some exercise that I do think is important – but not important enough to make my top 5 list of the value of a morning walk. And that is my BIG REVELATION I want to share with you today, my top 5 list that I didn’t know came with a morning walk.

1) Solitude – I walk alone most of the time. That quiet outside time when all you hear is nature, breezes, wildlife, (one of my walks contains lots of livestock).  I realized In my busy rushed world, I don’t have enough time by myself, breathing in clean country air, listening to nature (or in my case, God). I realized it’s important to spend quality time alone so you can reflect on the beauty of things around you, and the beauty of your own life without having so many distractions.

Mike Brubaker morning walk photo 2

2) Fast Paced Life – I walk 4 different routes, some with more traffic than others, but what REALLY surprised me was how fast the cars go.  (I am sure I drive just as fast if not faster then most). It dawned on me that people (and I’m included in this) are just plain TOO BUSY. Rush Rush Rush.

On my walk, it is exceptionally rare that a motorist appears to be ‘in no rush’…. And Heaven forbid if you slow them down even for a brief moment because you are too close to the shoulder of the road.  As a result of my walks, I TRY to leave early for appts so I have the luxury of taking my time in transit to my meeting. Once you start doing it, you’ll see what a difference it makes. I arrive much more relaxed and ‘in control’, with time on my side.

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3) Solutions to Problems – during my walks, a solution to a problem or an issue I’m facing will frequently surface, surprisingly even if I am not thinking of that problem (or maybe I should say especially if I am not thinking of that problem). If I am able to ‘relax my mind’ it generates useful information I would not gain if sitting at my office desk. Who would have guessed that fresh air and morning dew would help you become a better problem solver?

Mike Brubaker morning walk photo 4

4) Priorities – on my morning walks, the important things in life come into perfect clarity. Whereas in the rush rush business world finishing a project that is not due becomes more important than meeting your family for dinner on time. I don’t know why this is, but Life Priorities are clear on morning walks. Therefore the need to take that walk almost every day is strong, and has become one of my treasured priorities.

5) Making a difference – I find asking myself on my walks if my personal and professional life really improves the lives of others. Can I do better? (of course). What do I need to do today, to improve someone’s life?

I now see sunrise walks as an imperative part of my life which I never want to give up. Mornings really are a miracle! A chance to start fresh, and the best part is that they come every 24 hrs. Sunrises to me are the epitome of optimism, hope and joy.

Mike Brubaker morning walk

I would love to hear from you after your morning walk… Or better yet after your third consecutive morning walk. But please keep in mind, if you don’t think you have time for a morning walk, the benefits will not follow. You must make the time. That means earlier to bed and earlier to rise…. But as the saying goes, that is what makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

1705, 2016

10 Ways to Keep Up with Politics

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or CEO of a large company, keeping up with the political policy discussions can help you make informed decisions about your business. Learning about political leaders, their leadership style, and their positions on important Policy positions might even help you develop some important business management and communication skills. In today’s hyperconnected world, it’s easier than ever to tune in to political debates, learn about issues and policy positions and find information about political leaders and organizations 24/7. Here are 10 easy ways to keep up with the world of politics:

 

1. Tune in to Trusted News Outlets

You’ll find plenty of coverage of the latest political debates and information about presidential campaigns on major news channels and even on the radio. However, some channels are politically biased and may only report certain types of information. Seek out trusted news outlets like The Economist, the BBC, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal to get your facts sans bias.

 

2. Subscribe to Email Newsletters

If you don’t have time to surf the web each morning and sort through the wealth of information about politics each day, subscribe to a newsletter to receive headlines right to your email inbox. The Wall Street Journal and many other publications offer blog newsletters with a recap of the day’s political climate and other newsworthy items.

 

3. Subscribe to News Magazines

From Time to Newsweek, you’ll find plenty of information in glossy magazines published weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. This coverage often takes a longer-lens view of the political climate in relation to the economy, so it can bring a helpful second perspective to your daily news sources.You can have magazines delivered to your door or pay for a digital subscription to read on your Kindle, iPad, and other mobile devices.

 

4. Get Involved at the Local Level

If you’re passionate about local politics and government initiatives, volunteer your time to show support for local candidates, participate in volunteer programs, and connect with other people at Meetup groups and other social events to discuss the politics affecting you close to home.

 

5. Download a Mobile App

If it’s election season, there’s no shortage of apps that help you learn about different candidates and take quizzes or play games around different political topics. You can keep track of campaign trails using apps like Politifact or keep up with the latest news with BriefMe.

 

6. Join an Online Forum

Engage in political debates and find people with similar viewpoints in online forums created for discussions about politics. You can even stay anonymous if you just want to share an opinion and read other people’s opinions, responses and reactions on a particular subject.

 

7. Read Books By Political Leaders

Keeping up with current events is important but you can also increase your knowledge about politics and get a taste of history by reading books written by political leaders from different generations. Head to the library or check out Amazon.com for some new titles.

 

8. Subscribe to Blogs and Websites

Sites like Politico, Boing Boing, Daily Kos, Think Progress, and Talking Points Memo are some of the leading online hubs for the latest content about politics. Bookmark your favorites or subscribe to the site’s blog or newsletter so you get fresh content in your inbox.

 

9. Join Brigade

Unlike many other political apps that simply serve up information, Brigade works as a network to connect you with other voters so you can set up time to meet or organize social events in the area. You can use the app to find people who are passionate about the same issues as you are and also share your views about different topics.

 

10. Get On Facebook

Avoid heated discussions about politics with friends and family members on Facebook and branch out to dedicated Facebook Groups and ‘Like’ a publication’s page to keep tabs on what’s happening with your favorite party, current events, and interesting news.

 

From subscribing to newsletters from major online publications to using apps that will connect you with area voters, there are many ways to keep up with politics or simply brush up on facts. Use these 10 tips to keep up with news about politics you can use in business, and beyond.

 

205, 2016

How Staying Up to Date with Politics Can Help Your Business

Whether you work in real estate, retail, or the technology sector, what happens in the world of politics can have an impact on your business operations. Staying up to date on the latest political news, candidates, and changes in local or national laws can help you make informed decisions for your business and also give you some insight on your market. Here are some ways staying up to date with politics can help your business, regardless of what industry you are in:

 

1. Understand Tax and Interest Rate Changes

Many political decisions will affect your business’s bottom line, especially when there are any major changes to taxes or interest rates. When the government increases or decreases the interest rate, for example, you need to make a sound decision on whether to move forward with a business investment or take out a loan. Keeping up with politics can help you make an informed decision when managing the financial side of your business.

 

2. Learn Marketing Strategy From Political Campaigns

If you’ve been following the presidential races in recent years or keeping tabs on political campaigns, you’ve probably figured out that these are some of the best examples of marketing in action. Take some time to review a campaign’s reach and impact on society — everything from social media activity to billboard advertising — and you’ll discover that these campaigns are extremely successful because they follow key marketing principles. If you are looking for ways to increase your reach or launch a new business, studying political campaigns could spark some ideas for marketing your business successfully.

 

3. Maintain Financial Compliance

When the government introduces new regulations or corporate laws, your business may be affected by the changes. For example, any changes to accounting laws or new requirements for compliance can change the way you do business and trigger some shifts within your organization. As a business owner, you need to make sure you are staying up to date on these changes.

 

4. Better Understand Your Market

Whether you are in the business of selling real estate property, consumer goods, or are a service business, you need to have a solid understanding of your local market in order to succeed. Some communities may have a political bias which means you may need to take a different approach when marketing to this segment of the market or introducing certain products and services that appeal to them. Knowing what the local and regional political climate looks like can help you make informed decisions as a business owner or entrepreneur getting ready to launch a new venture in a particular market.

 

5. Keep Up with Employment Laws and Changes

Any major changes to employment laws can affect your business’s hiring strategy and human resources decisions. Whether you are a small business or a larger company, you may be in a position to hire candidates from overseas or sponsor non-citizens to work for you. When you are hiring people from around the globe, you need to follow very strict rules and comply with national laws. Keeping up with major changes in employment laws can help you stay compliant with federal laws and reduce the risk of fines, penalties, lawsuits, and bankruptcy.

 

No matter what industry you are in, staying up to date with politics can help you make sound business decisions and give you a chance to understand successful business and marketing strategies. Take some time to tune in to the local, regional, and national political climate so you can manage your business most effectively.

Mike Brubaker