I <3 my customers

If you know me (or perhaps, even if you don’t), you know that I love my customers. They make me so happy, and really make it a joy to come into work at Kashoo every day. Since I get to work with such awesome people (there are very few exceptions, and for that I’m very lucky), there’s nothing better than what I get to do to make our customers even happier!

A few months back at IC Opportunities in Chicago, this topic came up amongst this amazing group of thought leaders. The discussion moved to the fact that we all loved our customers, but how do we get our team members to share the love as much as firm owners do?

I have put a ton of thought into this, even creating the start of an overly elaborate PowerPoint after this talk on how to help your staff love your clients as much as you do (stay tuned, I still love where this is going, and it’ll be a fun presentation one day – soon :) ). While this is in the works, I wanted to share with you my top three takeaways:

1) Budget – a lot of employees struggle with spending company money. Or rather, spending company money in a non-typical way. Give each of your team members a $500 budget to surprise customers and make them happy. Whether they spend more or less isn’t really relevant, but it helps give some context (no car gifts, although, one day, who knows :), but a $50 gift card is a-okay. It makes the team more comfortable with random gifts, and gives them guidelines to work in (without actual “procedures” that spoil the whole idea).

2) Support – I know most of you do this (and for sure this wasn’t an issue with the Chicago group), but it’s so important that it deserves a mention. This is the fun leadership stuff: where you encourage and publicly thank your team for doing awesome stuff for your customers! There’s nothing sadder than doing something super awesome for a customer but not really having anyone to share it with (or worse, feeling that you’ll get in “trouble” for spending that $75 on them). These are the best stories, and really fun to share. And I know you’ll never forget, but making sure even the top folks are sharing the customer love is important to show that it’s a whole company value, and the way we do things.

3) I always look at it this way: what is the best possible thing that a company could do for me if I were the customer in this situation? And then, try and do that (or as close to that as possible). The plus to this is that it’s so easy to send a Get Well Soon card, or a pizza lunch to a customer working weekends, and who doesn’t love making people happy? The bad part is that you then imagine these things for yourself, and not every company is as awesome as yours and mine :)

Seriously, it is just more fun when you are friends with your customers. I think that is the best (and makes my job so much more fun) (also, it’s true!). Building relationships is more than a customer-vendor/client-firm situation, it’s about being in a relationship that helps both sides grow and be better!

And there you go! Kasey’s tips on how to help your team love your customers as much as you do. If you have any tips or fun stories, feel free to add them in the comments below.

What I’m Reading: I’m Feeling Lucky

Last month, on the advice of many friends, I picked up I’m Feeling Lucky by Donald Edwards. It’s the story of “Employee 59” at Google, and an insider’s view of the early days of the company.

Written from the perspective of one of the early marketers at Google, it tells the story of the years between start-up, and household name. In terms of the book itself, it’s an easy read – some technical details, but I found those just added to the storyline (and added an extra layer of interest for those into those kind of thing, like I was). The struggles of the company as they grew and changed, the working between departments, and teams themselves – it’s good stuff with some good takeaways.

I don’t want to give away too much of the “story,” but here are my top 3 takeaways from the book:

“Don’t be evil” is not the same as “Don’t consider, test, and evaluate evil.”

This one is a big one for me. Values matter. Saying one thing and doing another, that’s just not my style. There’s a LOT of different ways to make money, and there’s a big list still of ways to make a ton of money, but that doesn’t mean that all the things on the list are the right thing to do. To me, long-term success and happiness lie in doing something I believe in, working with and for people and clients that believe in those same things. Doing right, and making the world a better place – yes, it sounds cheesy, but making my customers’ lives better (whether through software solutions, business advice, or whatever the future may hold), and going home every day being proud of what I do and how I do it – that’s what matters.

The importance of celebrating success and acknowledging a job well done.

This one is of particular importance to me, because it’s one of my core philosophies in business (and really, in life). Before you go too far, I’m not one of those “everyone gets a trophy” kind of people, but in terms of thanking and appreciating people when they go above and beyond – I’m all over that. I take good care of my team, and I really believe you have to do that as a leader and a manager. Plus, celebrating is fun! Having fun is an essential element to success, or else, what’s the point?

Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as what you do (or what you want to become).

If you don’t know where you want to go, you’re going to have a tough time getting there. A bit of folk-talk to start this one, but it’s true. Creating goals and finding your niche, knowing who your customers are (and who they’re not), are key ingredients to being successful – in business, and in life (one of my favourite things, I don’t think things necessarily apply to only one or the other. And, for me, they’re really the same thing :) ). Setting boundaries isn’t a bad thing. No one can be everything to everyone, and being able to do what you do better than anyone else – that’s the good stuff.

Definitely a recommended read, whether you’re a start-up fan or a Google groupie – check it out!

 

What I’m Reading: The Power of Habit

The summer of reading continues! This week, after much recommendation from collegues, I’ve started reading The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.

While only a third of the way through, I wanted to share some early thoughts.

Part One: The Habits of Individuals

The timing of this book is perfect. I’ve gotten back into a more frequent training schedule (I’m running my third half marathon in October), so I was definitely in the right state of mind for an inspiring kick in the ass. A lot of the this section is topics you’ve heard before, it’s about replacing bad habits with good. The great thing about Habit, is that it takes things a step further. As I’m sure we all know, it’s not as easy as replacing a chocolate sundae with an apple (if only!), but rather, it’s about a Cue > Routine > Reward system.

Finding a way to make decisions automatic, and taking the “thinking” out of good habits, so they’re something you just “do.” Keeping track of your bad habit triggers, and replacing coffee for your afternoon cookie – that’s all things that I know I’ve heard before. The underlying lesson is the important one, and thinking beyond “I wish I could lose 5 lbs,” to something more, something bigger. It’s something I’m thinking a lot of as I read through this book.

Aside from that, one of the things that stuck with me was the whole life influence of bringing one small, good habit and change into your life, and the positive effects that can carry though to other areas of my life. It tells stories of the person who quit smoking, then started eating better, sleeping better, being more productive at work, exercising more often – all without thinking. While making the one change to stop smoking, the examples showed, the positive effects often carried over into positive habits across the person’s life.

Something to think about. I know when I’m on a running training schedule, the rest of that good stuff does seem a little more automatic. I sleep better, eat better, and just generally feel better!

About a third of the way through the book, and I’m eager to learn more. Have you read it? Would love to hear what you think!

 

3 questions

My colleague, marketing inspiration, and perhaps even friend (I will have to ask, haha)(eta – I checked, friendship confirmed :)), Saul Colt posted these three questions from Jelly Helm recently.

This post has come for me at a good time – a time where I’m realizing how important it is to sit down and really think about who I am, and what makes me happy. It’s so easy to go through things, day-to-day, and before you know it, months have passed and you’re still in the same spot. Discovering what I love to do, what I need to be happy (being healthy & having quiet time are my recent realizations) – these are the discoveries that are going to make my life better for me.

Without further ado, the three questions (with my answers). Will these change in a year? Perhaps, but it’s exciting to think about.

1-What do I love?

I love being up against a challenge. I love taking on something new, scary, un-attempted, and seemingly impossible – working hard on the plan, the strategy to succeed, and putting my all into making things happen.

2-What do I see that no one else does?

I see an opportunity to smile. Actually, bigger than that – I see opportunity. Not in the cheesy, negative way, but in a more optimistic way. In every situation, there are options. To make the best of the situation by making the best choice, whatever that may be – I see opportunity.

3- What do I do?

I do things, I get stuff done. I don’t sit around talking about making stuff happen, I make things happen. This has been an especially important realization for me. Knowing that the actions, the results, the lessons learned (through success, or failure), are what make me happy are important to remember as I make choices for the future.

And there you go. My 3 questions for 2011. Definitely a good exercise, and always good to take some time to reflect, plan, and focus.

Running

This past Sunday, I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon in downtown Toronto. With 22,000 other runners, I headed out on a windy fall morning, to take on a huge personal challenge, one I didn’t even know I wanted to do only a year earlier.

To back up a bit, I have never been an athlete, or even remotely athletic. Growing up, I would choose a book over soccer every time, and I did. Towards the end of high school, I started going to the gym, but that was more in vain (I’ll admit), and nothing I’d call physical excellence.

Last summer, that all changed. After some amazing encouragement from some colleagues and friends, I started running. Slowly but surely, with Couch to 5k as my guide. This summer, I took the plunge with a friend, and we paid our $90 and signed up for a half-marathon. Prior to this, my longest run *ever* was 10k.

I know the background might not be that interesting (to anyone but me), but I think it’s important to explain how I felt this Sunday morning. Standing in my purple corral (the slow one, no shame here), I was brought very close to tears more than once. It’s amazing to be in this crowd of encouragement, of cheering, of support, with people who you’ve never even met before. Running through the course, the cheers from strangers brought a smile to my face, and helped me push myself even further. I ran faster and stronger than I had ever run before. Now, keeping in mind I’m not a fast runner, or even a fast jogger, this meant a lot to me.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. It’s hard to explain the amazing feeling that running this half-marathon brought. I guess what’s I’m trying to say is this:

It’s unbelievable what you can push yourself to do.

The feeling of overcoming a huge challenge is worth all the hard work, and only pushes me further.

You should run a race like the Toronto Waterfront. It is beyond words what a great event that is. (thank you to Scotiabank and the sponsors, as well as all the organizers, volunteers, and supporters who cheered me on. Thank you.)

With sore muscles and a medal proudly around my neck, the only question now is… what’s next?

STWM 2011

What I’m reading

Nothing better than a relaxing morning at home with a huge cup of coffee, reading and getting stuff done.

Today’s reading is all about goal setting, reflecting, and new year’s resolutions. If that’s your cup of tea, or your feeling inspired as 2010 ends in only a few hours, check out these links:

  • 11 Weird Things To Do In 2011 I’m a huge personal finance geek. I’ve been reading Dave Ramsey for awhile now, and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything 100% (who does, really), he has some good points and great stories to keep you focused. “When you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
  • A quick glimpse of 2010 – I love reading people’s year in review posts at this time of year. That’s actually what got me started a few years back in really putting my goals into writing and making stuff happen. Here’s a post by Will (who I often refer to as Will from the subway, after a FB party a couple years back), with some amazing accomplishments, and really brings home the message of focusing on the positive and what comes next.
  • The Only New Year’s Resolution You Will Have to Make – Some great tips by my friend Andrei about how to make your new year’s resolution stick. He’s a fitness guru, and if you’re like me with some fitness focused goals, definitely a good read.
  • 2011: My Year Without Frivolous Spending – I LOVE Red’s blog. She’s a great inspiration for personal finance and budgeting, and so relatable and easy to read. In 2011, Red’s going a year without spending, as my Dad would say, “on crap.” I really admire what she’s doing, and am getting inspired to work out something like this myself – I love a good challenge.

That’s what I’ve been reading this morning, and doing a few things around the house too (finally getting out that glue gun to help the reindeers from falling off their stand), and working on this site :) A few design things I want to fix, but so far, so good!

Hope you have a great New Year’s Eve and hope you have a rocking 2011 :)

5 Tips: How to plan for 2011

For those who know me, you already know that I’m a huge planner. I love being organized, and making a plan to meet my goals and succeed. How else do you get to success if you don’t make a plan to get there?

That being said, I was able to write a post on just that – planning tips for 2011 – for the FreshBooks blog recently. As today is New Year’s Eve, there’s no better time to repost that than right now – check it out:

http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2010/12/17/5-tips-of-how-to-plan-for-2011/

One of my personal favorite times of year is just around the corner. Not only for the turkey and elaborate decorations, but that the end of the year gives me a chance to reflect on the year, and set new goals for the next year.

With that being said, here are my top 5 tips for planning your goals for 2011:

  1. Where do you want to be at this time next year? This is the most important question to ask yourself. Figure out where you want to be – everything from revenue numbers for your business, city you’re living in, number of pushups you can do – they all have a spot in goal planning. My goals? Double my personal contribution to FreshBooks, run 10k in under 2.5 hours (that’s my current speed), and double my retirement contributions from what I’ve done in 2010.
  2. Next, organize. Personal goals and business goals, just like your business and personal bank accounts, should be separate. They’re both important, and it’s worth spending time in each area. For this post though, let’s first focus on business goals and prioritize. I know it can be tough, but it’s important to set yourself up with a list of must-dos and nice-to-dos.
  3. We’re almost there! Tip 3 is where things get specific (or interesting, depending on your point of view). Take the first most important goal that you’ve set for yourself for 2011. What are the things you need to do to get there? Write them down, and they’ll be easier to check off when you’re done (and who doesn’t love the feeling of checking things off a list?).
  4. Next, set timelines, and PUT THEM IN YOUR CALENDAR! Google, iCal, Outlook, paper, iPhone, whatever you use, put those deadlines in writing! This makes it MUCH easier to keep on track and succeed!
  5. DO IT NOW!!! Either open up your favourite writing program (mine is notepad for stuff like this – no distractions) and get going! Now, I know entrepreneurs are busy folks, so I’ll give you a second option – open up your calendar and book some time now. Trust me, this hour of planning is the first step in the start of a great year.

goal setting and planningI’ll end this post with one of my cheesy but true life mottos – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. (Who knew that 6th grade agenda book was right?) Here’s to a happy and successful 2011!

And let us know what your plan is for 2011 in the comments!

Three Things I’ve learned about Client Management by doing “Sales” at FreshBooks – A post from the FB Blog

The only “real” blogging I’ve done recently has been for the FreshBooks blog. It’s a great resource for small business owners, and really, anyone interested in a sneak peak of the fun stuff that goes on behind the walls at FreshBooks.

Here’s one of the first posts I wrote at FreshBooks – check it out!

http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2010/07/06/three-things-i%E2%80%99ve-learned-about-client-management-by-doing-“sales”-at-freshbooks/

Hi! I’m Kasey, one of the (very) Small Business Consultants here at FreshBooks. Just over a year ago, I joined FreshBooks as one of the newest members of the “Sales” team and I’ve learned a lot about client management since then. Through a mix of asking good questions, getting to know our customers, and having fun, I’ve learned how to (almost) always satisfy my customers.

  1. Asking why. Sometimes, what the client describes as the problem isn’t the real problem at all but just the symptoms. By always asking good questions – you can find out, and solve, the real problem – a win for both you and your client.One particular example where this proved very helpful was one winter afternoon when I got a call from an upset client. He was frustrated, confused, and overall, having a pretty bad day. He was requesting his invoices formatted in a particular way, something that it didn’t look like we could do. So, I listened to him explain his case, and paused for a moment to figure out what (if anything!) we could do to solve his problem. I asked him why he needed his invoices like that – was there a particular reason that would help me understand his situation better? It was then that the real story came out – he had been dealing with a difficult client, and this was the third time he had sent them an invoice for the same work. He felt like the client was just stringing him along, trying to find ways not to pay him! He then asked if what they were now requesting was common, and I admitted I’d never heard a request like that before. In the end, he just needed someone to talk to about his situation, and give advice as to what constitutes a fair client request. Through asking why, I was able to better understand his situation, help him out, and give my client the confidence he needs to take hold of the situation.
  2. Get to know people! Be curious about your customers’ business, their clients, their projects, and even how the work you’re doing for them might apply to other areas of their business or their daily lives. Getting to know your customers gives you important context that you can use to help you better explain what you do in a way that connects.One of my favourite clients (not that I have favourites…) is a photographer, who travels the world taking amazing photos in all sorts of exotic locations. After we’d gone through the basics of FreshBooks, learning about the basics of how she works with her clients – I started asking more questions, really, just because I was interested in learning more about Thailand (I’ve always wanted to go there!). I then learned she had spent the last few months traveling across Asia, sending articles and photos back home as she goes. Although I didn’t intend for it to end that way, I mentioned the Expenses feature in FreshBooks, and how that might help her track her travel bills to determine the costs for each job (and, the profit!). It turned out to be a great fit for her business, and I was able to hear some great travel stories as well.
  3. Have fun! Even though you’re running a business, you’re allowed to have fun with your customers. In fact – they’ll appreciate it! It makes for a much more enjoyable experience for them, and, better still, for you too.Having fun is a tough thing to explain, but let me give you one of my favourite examples, from not too long ago.

    I get to work with the awesome team at rtraction, a team of developers and strategists who work with their clients using FreshBooks. As we walked through how they’re using FreshBooks, not only was I able to develop a much deeper understanding of this customer, but I learned so much more about this type of customer. Our conversations felt like talking to an old friend – casual conversation with lots of laughs. Sometimes getting out of “business mode,” and just having fun with your customers is what it’s all about. Better still, I learned so much from them, and every time I talk to a team customer in the future, I have a better understanding of how they work inside their own company, as well as some best practices to pass on. Nothing is better than being able to pass on real advice from the field that you know works. And, to say thanks, I sent off a box of stylin’ FreshBooks shirts for their team. It was fun to work with them, and even more fun to make them so happy :)

Those are just some of the great experiences I’ve had so far at FreshBooks when working with clients. Make your clients love you by asking why, getting to know your clients and having fun. Do you have any amazing client stories and tips?