What Do I Do With Business Cards I Collect

I don’t know about you, but I have drawer full of business cards that I have picked up from business networking events.  I have the best of intentions on following through and calling back, but there they sit, in my desk drawer.

Denise Beins
Denise Beins

Denise Beines with CEO Systems, LLC, is a business efficiency expert.  What does that mean?  It means she teaches businesses and business owners to use their time well.  For example, you can go to business networking events and collect business cards, but if you are like me, you have really wasted your precious time, because the cards remain in a box or in a drawer.

Denise has some great tips on using business cards to begin building a relationship, from which business relationships will build.

I was fortunate to interview her, and here is a mp3 recording of that call.

Click to play, or right click to download to your computer.

Enjoy.

TeleConference-Mike-Denise-05-06-2010

Oregon Spring is Yet to Come

Well, so much for global warming.  Oregon spring has been delayed again.  Plus we live at an elevation of 3,500 feet, so frost comes early in the year, and lingers in the spring.

The thermometer this morning reads 21 degrees F.  Clear and cold.  A major storm moved through the Pacific Northwest this week, dumping snow on the mountains.

Spring will get here sooner or later…..

I had tried planting tomatoes about a month ago, and several days later was covering the plats with plastic.  As it snowed.

Later that week I dug up the tomato plants and replanted them in pots.  So now we move the tomato plants in and out of the house.  During the night, they stay in the garage.  And we move them out to the sun during the day.

I think that I need to build a hoop passive solar greenhouse made out of PVC pipe.  I think that I can gain 2 months on the front end of the season and a month a the other end by growing plants in a solar green house.  My friends say just go to the store and buy tomatoes and vegetables.

I say, this is man versus nature!  It is a battle and I will win!

No, we don’t want to calculate the cost per pound of tomato.. we don’t even want to go there.  The objective is fresh home grown tomatoes.  It will be fun to get there!

How to Get Free Google Love

Get free Google love – build your website around a theme.  Build your website around things that buyers are already looking for. Don’t try to create a market.  Find an existing market with existing traffic, and provide in your website those things that the market is already looking for.

Result?

Traffic to your website. And money.

When Building a Website

When building a website choose function over form.

Your customers don’t find your website based on what it looks like.  They find your website because of your great content.

Oh!  Don’t have content?

You won’t get traffic.  You won’t get visitors.  And you won’t make money with your website.

Got great content?

Then you’ve got traffic and success.

Customer No Service

Poor Customer Service and Joe’s

Let me tell you a short story about customer no-service.

I bought a warm winter sleeping bag from Joe’s (formerly G.I. Joe’s) here in Bend, Oregon last year.  It is made by Columbia.  I bought the bag because I go winter camping and elk hunting, and I wanted a warm bag.  And being manufactured by Columbia, I figured that it was quality and would last me for several years.

It lasted only a few months.

On the 3rd or 4th use, the zipper stopped working.  So it went in the attic back into the box it came in.

Customer No Service

A week ago, I found the bag in its original box that I purchased from Joe’s.  I thought to myself that “Hey I buy a lot of gear from Joe’s Sporting Goods Store, I will just take it back and get an exchange.”

So I went into the store with my sleeping bag and box, and with a big smile.

Unfortunately, I was a customer.  And the NO CUSTOMER NO SERVICE sign was out – I just didn’t see it.  I smiled and explained my dilemma, and said that I just wanted a replacement.  The lady behind the no customer no service counter said that any goods after 90 days have to be returned to the manufacturer.

She turned to the other employee next to her and asked her about this.  She turned to me and told me the same thing.   She said to take it to the Columbia outlet at the south end of town here in Bend, Oregon, and they would exchange it.

AND THEN SHE TURNED HER BACK TO ME.

The was no other conversation.  I was dismissed.  I and my Columbia sleeping bag and box could just go away.  I was no longer their problem.  I was Columbia’s problem.

If I was younger, I would have been embarrassed.

However, I have an online marketing business.  And at my age and realizing that I was watching and experiencing poor customer service first hand, I just marveled at the sheer stupidity and short sightedness of these employees and the poor training by the store.

How much money I had spent over the years at Joe’s (formerly G.I. Joe’s)?  And much more money would I spend on hunting and fishing and camping gear over the next few years?  Surely the value of a lifetime customer was greater than a $75 sleeping bag.

I guess not.

I left the store feeling a little foolish.

An Example of Customer Service

I called the Columbia Outlet Store, and the manager was very helpful.  He was a bit incredulous that Joe’s had me call them, but he said to bring the sleeping bag down to his store and he would see what he could do.

I brought the bag to the store, and the manager, Mr. Bob Johnston, met me at their CUSTOMER SERVICE DESK, explained that Columbia didn’t actually make the sleeping bag, but that a manufacturer called North Pole made the equipment.  He was very helpful.

He was honest with me and said that he would send the bag in to North Pole for warranty repair, and that they may or may not honor the warranty, but it was worth a shot.

I told Mr. Johnston that I appreciated his effort at trying to solve my problem.

The Columbia Outlet Store manager gave me a reciept, and told me that if I hadn’t heard anything in a few weeks, then to give him a call.

I thanked him again, shook his hand and left.

Customer service was not dead.  It was just at the wrong location.

Thank you Columbia Sportswear Company!

And kudos for great training and great hiring of capable people like Mr. Johnston, who are empowered to actually make decisions to solve customer problems.

Add REI, Inc to the Mix

And I do need to purchase more sleeping bags.  I need to buy several actually, because our older sleeping bags are not working right.  I purchased the Columbia sleeping bag with the thought that if this bag worked out, then I would buy more Columbia sleeping bags.

Alas, although Columbia had great customer service, their sleeping bag is of poor quality if the zipper breaks on the 3rd or 4th use.  And if I have only 90 days to return gear to Joe’s, then I probably shouldn’t shop at Joe’s.  And that leaves REI, Inc.  I can purchase quality equipment knowing that if I am not satisfied and/or the equipment fails, I can get replacements – and with a smile.

So, I will be buying more and more camping and sports equipment at REI here in Bend, Oregon, instead of at Joe’s.

Sorry Joe’s.

I don’t like being treated poorly or feeling foolish just trying to get a problem fixed.  My problem should have become your problem.

The moral of this story is for every business owner to remember that their greatest asset is the customer.  Not their building, their inventory, or their employees – but the customer.

Customers are a business’s asset.

And Joe’s just lost one more asset.

Don’t you lose customers over misguided short term profits.

Treat customers like gold.   Treat them like a customer for life, and they will be.

Table Plugin to Fix WordPress

I found a plugin that saved my sanity – TinyMCE Advanced plugin.

I have been using WordPress as a CMS to build a website for a client www.michaelcassidyfineart.com, using the Revolution theme which is well suited for CMS.  I needed to display pictures of the various fine art paintings that Mr. Cassidy has for sale.  He has an amazing talent, and paints South Pacific art, Surfing Art, and Hawaiian Art.

The goal was to display thumbs of a gallery on a page, and by clicking on the thumb, and using a thickbox or lightbox, the screen darkens and the painting expands to fill the screen over the current page.  Very cool effect.

I tried using the NextGen plugin to manage the graphics.  But the result was less than pleasing.  The thumbs were not aligned, because the sizes and dimensions of the paintings and thus the thumbs were so different.

So next I tried using a table to align the thumbs.  I created a table with 3 columns and 8 rows, and began entering the graphic thumbs.  Problem was, after entering the 7th or 8th graphic thumb, and saving, the entire page would disappear.

Yes, the entire page would disappear.  All the code.  All the work gone.

I tried several times first using the visual mode editor in WordPress to add the thumb, going to HTML mode and saving…and losing it all.

Again and again…

I was tearing my hair out.

So I Googled the problem “problem with tables in WordPress” and found that there is a problem with WordPress’s visual editor and tables.  The solution to this problem with the WordPress visual editor?  After searching some more with Google I found TinyMCE Advanced plugin.

What a life saver.

It adds several important buttons such as Advanced Horizontal Line, Cut, Copy, and the all important Table buttons.  You can can create a table, insert a row, delete a row, add a column, delete a column, and so on.  The important part is that the WordPress editor now understands tables!

How did it work?

Installed the TinyMCE Advanced plugin, cleared my browswer cache, went to HTML mode, pasted in my saved code of the table with 6 thumbs, and began entering more thumb graphics within the table cells.

The result?

No problems.  I was able to add all 24 thumbs within the table.  And I didn’t lose my code.

Even better, I now had graphic editing tools for the table, and was able to add rows with the visual editor.  Very cool.

My recommendation is that if you are even thinking of using tables in your WordPress website, get and install TinyMCE advanced plugin.

Highly recommended.  Two thumbs way up!

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Just got back to Bend, Oregon from a week of camping in south Central Oregon. We were camping at a location about 18 miles south of Paisley, Oregon, along the Chewaucan River.

I had just purchased a used large green wall tent. I was concerned that it was a little large. But after setting it up and hauling inside all our stuff – cots, cooking tables, wood stove, picnic tables, my wife said that it was just right….and she couldn’t see staying inside anything smaller.

I am glad we had a wall tent. The first night the temperature dropped into the teens..and every night it was in the 20’s….so the shelter provided by the wall tent and the warm heat provided by the wood stove was welcome.

Half way through the week, we all piled into the van and went to the Summer Lake Hot Springs resort, bathed in the hot mineral springs, then took a warm refreshing shower.

The Summer Lake Hot Springs is a little known secret, but well known to the locals. The hot springs bath house was built in 1927, so the inside is a little funky, but overall, fairly clean. There are changing rooms, but no security, so you best leave your valuables locked up in the car.

The water inside the Summer Lake Hot Springs bathhouse was warm – but not overly hot. The hot spring water comes in through a pipe on the side of the pool. For a special treat just stand in the water next to the hot spring water coming in from the pipe…wonderful!

I did note an interesting sign in the rafters “Stay Off Rafters”. Hmmm, I imagine that there have been some adventurous souls that have climbed into the rafters to drop down into the bath waters below….Also, while letting the tired muscles relax, look above in the rafters and check out the glow-in-the-dark plastic bugs that someone has placed there.

The cost to indulge in the mineral waters at the Summer Lake Hot Springs is very reasonable – $5.00 per person. There are also RV parking spaces, and a couple of cabins that you can rent.

If you are in the Summer Lake area, and want to indulge yourself, stop by the Summer Lake Hot Springs and bath your cares away.