Friday, September 30, 2011

How To Attract Paying Customers

How to attract paying customers: Try saying "Hello!"

I was just in Rome, Italy. Intrigued by some attractive handbags, my friends and I walked into a leather shop, looked at merchandise, and the clerk (or owner?) just kept reading his paper.  No greeting. Nothing. We walked out.

Later, seeking lunch, we looked at a menu outside a tiny restaurant on a side street. The owner came out and said, "Buongiorno!" He invited us in, and we followed him. Then, he even suggested what we should eat. He closed the sale.

Great lessons learned!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Four Lessons From Irene

A week ago, we began our recovery from Hurricane Irene. Since then, I've been thinking of the business and life lessons I have drawn from the experience and have decided to share them with you:

1. Think creatively, make a plan and be ready to execute it. With dire predictions of Irene coming our way, I knew if we lost power that I would not want to open my freezer or refrigerator for at least 24 hours. That way, the insulation of the appliance would keep everything safely cold and frozen. So I planned meals I could serve without the need of the fridge. I didn't buy more food that could perish. Instead, I baked banana bread for a tasty breakfast, made sun tea and left it out, had bottled juices ready, as well as shelf-stable food I could cook on the grill. The plan worked really well. By the time I finally (and very briefly) opened the fridge, the high-cost items were still partly frozen. And we used them as they began to thaw over the course of three days -- yes - three days.

To wash the dishes, I put pots of water in the sun and heated them with "solar power". Worked like a charm! And I used a Girl Scout trick of adding a little Clorox to the rinse water. (Prior to the storm, we also stocked up on cash, filled the cars with gas, took inventory of our candles, batteries, flashlights, and bought a car charger for my cell phone - a very wise choice. After the storm, we used as little hot water as possible - reserving it for very short showers.

2. If you can help, give it. If people offer help, take it. When our neighbor's tree fell into our yard and partly blocked our driveway, he came over with a chainsaw and worked with my husband to remove enough branches so that we could get our car out.

We actually didn't lose power during the storm, but when our other neighbor did, we took in her food. However, the following evening, the electric company's tree workers were removing a tree from downed wires and knocked out our power in the process. As we cooked up our defrosting food another 24 hours later, I offered some to still other neighbors who couldn't cook. One gratefully took it. Since he had a generator, he gave me ice, which I used to preserve some of my food. Still another neighbor who had power took in my food which by then was in real need of refrigeration. I gave him some tomatoes from my garden.

These were good deeds and trades that came naturally. It showed me how kind people can be.

3. Take advantage of local resources. We discovered that our local public library has a huge generator and offered to stay open until 10:30 pm just to accommodate people. It became the center of our town. It seemed like the entire population of Darien descended on the library to use its computers, electricity and wifi. The library even serves coffee and snacks from a small coffee bar. What a God-send! Always remember the library is one of your greatest resources.

Before the storm, the town kept the dump open and supplied piles of sand and bags to enable residents to make sandbags. After the storm, they stayed open late to allow people to dump brush. And the high school became a shelter for families who had to evacuate their homes. Sometimes a government can do good things.

4. Keep a positive attitude. As we saw the pictures of devastation from all over the northeast, people in our neighborhood kept saying how lucky we all were. We came out of our houses and checked on each other. We allowed the storm to bring us together.

Count your blessings. Help others. Be creative.