Category Archives: Lessons

Trade Shows – the good, the bad & the ugly

I recently attended the 2017 PRSM Mid-Year Conference in Indianapolis. The trade show PRSMwas over a 3 day period and there were a few things that caught my attention:

  1. False claims – Nearly every company used verbiage such as “the biggest”, “the leading”, “the most trusted”, “the most reliable” and of course “the best”.
  2. A lack of knowledgeable and passionate team members – Many of the booths were manned by salespeople, and some even had temporary workers who had just been brought into promote the company for the duration of the tradeshow. Although on the surface their performance was acceptable, they were found out when the tougher questions came out. We had the director of the department in question with us and this was hugely positive with great feedback received from many attendees about the knowledge and passion that she shared.
  3. Scanning your badge and collecting your contact details – many companies attend these events in an attempt to collect as many contacts as possible who they can then bug with marketing emails long after the show has ended. No effort is made to even make introductions and before you know it you find yourself being attacked by a badge scanning maniac.
  4. Receptions and happy hours – It’s always nice attending events such as this as they give you an opportunity to meet face to face with existing and potential clients, as well as meeting fellow trade professionals. It’s great to mingle and make introductions, and the food that is typically available isn’t too bad either!
  5. Education opportunities – These events are normally jam packed with hundreds of speakers-414562_960_720classes and workshops where you can learn about latest industry trends, new technologies, things that are in the pipeline and issues to be concerned about.
  6. Late starts/ missed seminars/ unmanned booths – This event was a little more challenging to evaluate attendance as the event was sandwiched in between the destructive hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, which prevented many people from making the trip to Indy. One thing that isn’t difficult to recognize is when groups of people arrive at the exhibit hall a couple of hours after everything started and spend most of their time sat down trying to drown themselves with black coffee. The biggest disappoint for me is when exhibitors just completely fail to turn up and leave their booths unmanned. This creates a very bad impression of the business in my opinion and definitely reduces the chance that I will work with them.
  7. Traffic Police – People stood out in the aisles essentially forcing you to move towards their booth where their colleague will go ahead and pounce on you. There are unfortunately many areas where companies will put the hard sale on you without even knowing what you are looking for. Again there is no attempt to find out what you need and provide potential solutions. They instead try to force their product/service down your throat.
  8. Awkward but useful – The most enjoyable, but slightly awkward, session is typically the buyer-supplier forums where both sides of the table get to drill each other with tough questions. These are very beneficial as both sides are typically closer in their opinions than many would think, and this leads to some great conversations.
  9. After the show is over – the follow up is crucial. I personally believe that the most important thing is to develop strong relationships and lay the foundation for more in depth conversations at a later date. The face to face time is a great opportunity to explore your counterparts problems and compile a way in which you can bring value to their business. I try to develop the relationship in person, and then talk more in depth in the follow up.
  10. Services vs. products – At most tradeshows there will be businesses selling both services and products. The challenge here is that many products can obviously be commoditized, but the same is not true for services, which is what my company provides. It makes the conversations a little more challenging to change your audience’s mindset, but this is something that we are expecting and have plenty of experience with!
  11. Useless junk – The marketing materials that people use to lure you into their booth vary substantially in quality and usefulness. The worst item that I saw at this show was a small booklet where you could store all of your online account details and pen-2532710_960_720passwords! This booklet was a godsend for identity thieves as there was room for the website, the username, associated email address, and of course the password! You can’t make these things up! I obviously did not take part in this offer and instead will continue to rely on my memory and the ability to make unlimited changes to my login details when I forget my credentials…. There were however some great takeaways available that I was able to load into bags and take home to my two sons. There were also some useful things for my wife and me including powerpacks, USB adapters, and of course THOUSANDS of pens!

Overall, this conference was a great experience and one where I gained some very useful information.  I learned a lot from other attendees, both what to do and what not to do and am truly looking forward to the next event!

What have you noticed about trade shows that you have found useful?  Is there anything that has worked especially well for you?  Please leave your ideas in the comments below, and as always, Expect the Exceptional every day!

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The # 1 Trait of successful people is…

It seems that everywhere you look these days, there are self-help guides, self improvement books, seminars, and podcasts all designed to help people take their lives to the next level. The list of ideas to focus on varies drastically depending on the background of the author and what they deem to be successful, but there are several characteristics that can be found across the majority of these publications:

An ability to think differently and go against the grain – Without the courage and belief of people such as Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King Jr., the world would be a very different place to what it is today. It takes a special person to put their reputation on the line and do the complete opposite of what everyone else is doing.

A willingness to fail – Some of the most successful people in the world failed on numerous occasions to get the success that they are now famous for. One of the most famous examples of this is Michael Jordan whose commitment to failure quote is known around the world:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

The ability to set and pursue goals – Successful people have to be excellent multitaskers and must possess the ability to prioritize their tasks. Each will have different methods of doing this, but the majority of successful people will discuss the way in which they set out their goals at the start of the day and work through them in priority order.

They are ambitious – They are hungry, driven, and want to succeed. This fuels their fire and makes them a relentless competitor with the desire to grow and thrive.

They are responsible – They take ownership of what they do, and do not push blame and failure onto those around them.

The ability to network and connect – There is no possible way for people to accomplish all of their goals without support from the people around them. They have an ability to surround themselves with successful people and are able to leverage their network to help them achieve their goals.

They don’t procrastinate and wait for “the right time” – with many things in life there are typically no perfect times to do something, apart from when it comes to crossing a road, where poor timing can be deadly… Fear of failure is what holds most people back, but successful people will see the reward rather than the risk.

They are focused – They understand that there are a lot of distractions around them, but there is the need to focus on what truly matters and what is important. How good are you at prioritizing and how does this help you to achieve your goals?

There are many other qualities that people discuss when it comes to the characteristics of successful people, but in my opinion, one of the most underrated traits is that of resilience and refusing to give up, no matter how difficult things become.

All of the above strengths are pointless if you don’t have purpose and passion to fuel your fire. One of the best examples of resilience that has inspired so many people over the years is the “Tyson Is Back” fight from 1990. 42-1 outsider Buster Douglas managed to overcome the then undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson, in one of the biggest upsets in sporting history. What allowed Buster to experience this success? Resiliency and purpose. Watch the video below to find out more about this incredible story.

 

How resilient are you? How do you react to those punches that make you feel like you just can’t carry on? What keeps you going when you almost reach the point of no return? The resiliency and drive that successful people have is something that motivational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins has spent his life exploring. It’s a fascinating trait and one that would make you a fortune if you were able to bottle it and replicate it.

We are keen to get your thoughts on what makes people successful. Do you disagree with any of the items listed here? What did we miss? What “superpower” do you possess that makes you successful? Looking forward to reading your responses! Until next time, Expect the Exceptional in everything that you do, and be resilient!

Tricks when traveling with children

After our recent overseas trip to visit family in England, I once again realized how incredibly difficult it is to travel with children.  What is already an exhausting journey is multiplied 10-fold when you are joined by young travel-mates.  I thought I was prepared for this adventure, but there were some things I didn’t think of that I wanted to pass along in the hopes that it will help someone else!  Here are a few tips that I have either tried, or wish I would have tried!

(1) Take snacks with you – this is obvious, but I would recommend finding some snacks that you are allowed to take on board that actually provide some sustenance to your kids.  I packed a ton of suckers, but thankfully my mom packed a travel bag for the boys with yogurt raisins and a surprising favorite, beef jerky.  Snacks were at times the only thing that would calm them down and I felt terrible constantly feeding them pointless sugars.

(2) Give them their own suitcase or bag to be responsible for – we tried to limit our carry-Resized_20170305_084239on luggage this time around, but we did have my son’s small suitcase on wheels that held our extra clothes.  He was in charge of pulling this through the airport, and not only was it adorable but it gave him something to do that distracted him from wanting to be held.

(3) Pack a car seat – If you need a car seat at your destination, take yours with you!  The first year we traveled with our oldest, we requested that the taxis taking us to and from the airport have a car seat.  The ones they provided were very outdated and the cab drivers had no idea how to install them.  Needless to say, I was very nervous while in the car and we decided never to do that again!

(4) Pack extra clothes – there has been more than one occasion where our luggage was delayed or “misplaced” and we were left scrambling for a few days, washing the same clothes over and over, as well as purchasing new clothes to hold us over.  I now make sure one of our carry-on bags includes extra outfits for everyone, just in case.  Also, when you have children, there is always the chance the clothes they are wearing will be destroyed and it’s nice to have extras if you need them!

(5) Remember sanitizing wipes – I recently read that your tray is the dirtiest part of the airplane.  Which is gross, as this is where your food goes!  I brought along wipes and made sure to clean off the trays as soon as we sat down.

(6) Pack refillable cups – after our apple juice was sent flying, I decided it was time to pull out the water bottles I had packed and use those for the remainder of the flight.  I asked the flight attendants to fill those during drink service and no longer had to stress about spilling.

(7) Try to stay calm – the first time I flew with a young child, I was so worried about what everyone else was thinking.  If he made the slightest noise, I would try to quiet him downbaby-215303_960_720 and it just made me so much more stressed than I needed to be.  This time, I just focused on my boys and their well-being and it made for a much happier flight.  When my 21-month old was crying, I focused on comforting him and remembered that he was exhausted, instead of worrying about what the people around me were thinking.  That being said, you shouldn’t let your child run wild and do things that are purposely disturbing others, like kicking seats or throwing food.

(8) Look for free seats – when flying with a lap child, an extra seat is like gold.  The first time we flew with our oldest, the man checking us into the flight let us know that he switched our row so we could have an extra seat for the baby.  Laying him down in the seat next to me while he slept almost brought tears to my eyes, as it was so difficult for him to sleep in my lap.  This time, we kept our eyes peeled and before the flight had even taken off, my husband had checked with the flight attendant and found a free row of seats for half of the family to sit in.  The flight was so much more enjoyable for everyone with a little extra breathing room.

Hopefully these tips will help make your life more convenient as you travel to your next destination.  If you have any more ideas, please include them in the comments below!

Staying Healthy at Home

In today’s economy, more and more people are being asked to go above and beyond the expectation of working 40 hours per week. Kids’ schedules are becoming increasingly complex, family time is being continually squeezed and unfortunately people’s health is frequently one of the first things to be sacrificed. This is rather unfortunate as this makes all of the other responsibilities even more challenging than they already are. Staying physically and mentally healthy are of critical importance for an enjoyable and productive life. Are you taking care of your health or have you let other things take over?

Last week we looked at ways that you can take care of your health in the workplace. Today we are going to look at ways in which you can take care of yourself at home. Hopefully some of these will help you along the way to improving your health, or will give you alternative solutions to what you are currently doing. We would love to hear of any other ways in which you stay healthy, either at home or in the workplace, so please leave your ideas in the comment box below!

The first thing to do is to work on separating work from family.  This is an ever woman on computer in bedincreasing problem where parents and spouses are in the same room as their loved ones, but they aren’t actually present. More and more people are working remotely due to technologies that are now available to us. This is great in many ways, but can also be problematic as your home is now your place of work, and you can get trapped in “the office”.

Try to separate your work from your home life by having a designated room where you go to work. Keep all electronics and other work related items in here so that you truly can separate work from play. Try not to fall into the trap of having your computer or phone with you at all times where you are constantly connected to work, and miss out on the time with your family. We all need downtime to relax, have fun, and keep our stress levels under control. Make sure that you aren’t overdoing it, because it will catch up with you at some point. Here are our 10 most important factors when it comes to all-round health.

NOTE: We are not medical professionals and this list is just a collection of ways in which my family and I try to stay healthy. If you are concerned with your personal health you should set up an appointment with your doctor to discuss solutions.

(1) Diet

  • Eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Limit portion sizes
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay hydrated – take your weight and divide it in two.  That is how many ounces of water you should drink in a day.

(2) Grocery shopping

  • Try to visit your local farmer’s market when possible to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Stock up on healthy snacks
  • Have a refillable water bottle on hand for when you are on the go
  • Limit purchases of high sugar, high fat foods so that they aren’t easily available
  • Try to spend the majority of your time in the store on the edges – protein, dairy and produce – and less time among the dry goods.

(3) Financial health 

  • Budgets – meet with a financial adviser for professional help in this direction. There are also some great financial trackers out there including Mint and EveryDollar.
  • Establish 529 college funds for your children’s future education expenses
  • Pay down credit card balances and avoid interest charges
  • Regularly contribute to retirement funds to take advantage of compound interest
  • If your company provides a 401k match, take advantage of this “free money” at least up to the amount that your employer provides

(4) Exercise

  • Choose activities that you enjoy. Walking, dancing, gardening, and playing in the yard with your children are all great ways to exercise.
  • Try to create a regular schedule so that your exercise becomes a routine
  • Work out with someone else
  • Perform other tasks at this time – for example you can read while on an exercise bike, or listen to a podcast as you complete a run or bike-ride.

(5) Sun

  • Steer clear of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m when the sun is at it’s most dangerous.
  • Wear hats, long-sleeve shirts and sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher.
  • Don’t use sunlamps or tanning booths. Try self-tanning creams instead.
  • Wear sunglasses to prevent damage caused by exposure to UV rays
    pexels-photo-61129

(6) Minimize vices

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Avoid risky behaviors such as speeding, gambling and dangerous driving

(7) Staying mentally healthy

  • Keep your mind limber – reading, completing puzzles, enrolling in a class
  • Rest and relaxation – take time out of your schedule to pursue your passions, and spend time with your loved ones
  • Sleep – adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep daily

(8) Setting goals

As is the case with many things in life, there is a need to set SMART goals when it comes to your health. This might be a target weight that you want to reach, a size of clothing that you want to be able to fit into, or the number of glasses of water that you want to drink on a daily basis. Whatever your goal there are multiple apps that can help you track them including Fitbit, Samsung Health and My Fitness Pal.

(9) Annual health check ups

These are frequently covered by your health insurance policies and you should definitely take advantage of them. They are great for collecting baseline data, reviewing past medical concerns, and catching potential health issues before they become too problematic.

(10) Prioritize your health

We saved the most important for last: Make sure that your health is always at the top of your priority list!

Until next week, stay healthy, and Expect the Exceptional in everything that you do.

When you’re searching for a new job…

Pay attention to these warning signwarnings!

Finding a new job is a daunting task, and sometimes desperation kicks in causing people to accept positions that may not be a great fit.  When you are interviewing for a new job, pay attention to your surroundings and ask questions to make sure it is the right place for you.  The following are some ideas for things to look for and ask about:

  1. Employee handbook: Make sure there is an employee handbook available for after you are hired to help answer questions you may not think to ask.  This is a great indicator of the company’s organizational tendencies as well.
  2. Employee benefits: Always a plus, and in many cases, the law.  At least for the time being, companies with a certain number of employees must offer insurance so do your research and make sure the company is doing the right thing.
  3. No organizational chart in place: It’s important to know who you are reporting to.org chart  If a company tells you that “everyone is the captain of their own ship,” that may sound great in theory.  No boss!  Hooray!  But ultimately, if you don’t have one person guiding the ship, you will be pulled in many different directions and not much will get accomplished.
  4. No infrastructure in place: If a company feels it’s OK to purchase a used, $50 computer for their employees and expects great things to come from it, it’s probably not the company for you.  Because chances are, they will end up having to replace that computer with many, many more computers every time it breaks down.  Make sure that the company you are looking to work for has everything you need to successfully get your job done.
  5. Are focused purely on making money: You don’t want to work for a company without a social conscience.  Money is great, it’s why you work, but at the end of the day it’s also important to feel good about yourself and how you are spending your days.
  6. Accountability: This is related to the org chart mentioned above.  It is so important for companies to hold their employees accountable for their actions.  If you have a coworker that constantly rolls in at 10:30, while you’ve been there since 8:00, chances are you won’t be able to accomplish much together.  It is not your job as an employee to call your coworkers and wake them up; that is up to management, and if they are not doing their job that is a big red flag.
  7. Cleanliness of the building: Most office settings these days hire someone to clean for them, so this is usually something that you would not even notice.  But if you do see that the bathrooms look a little gnarly and the carpet is loaded with bits of paper and dust, chances are this company does not have someone cleaning on the weekends.  Which means A) you will be working in an unsanitary environment or B) you will be asked to assist with the cleaning.  Either way, ask about this at the interview before you find yourself cleaning toilets instead of getting your work done.
  8. Attitude of the owners/ executive team: What time does the boss get into the office?  What time do they leave?  If the owner of the company is putting in as many if not more hours than their employees, that’s a great sign.  It shows they are invested in the company and their employees.  If the owner has decided that they want to hand the reigns over to an under-qualified employee in order to spend more time at the lake, you probably want to look elsewhere.
  9. Longevity of staff:  What is the turnaround?  Look for a company with employees who have been around for many years and only leave to retire.
  10. Longevity of clients: If the company does indeed have clients, how long have they worked together?  If the clients hang around for many years, then it’s probably a great company to work with and therefore a great company to work for.
  11. Look for reviews: Facebook, Yelp, Google +, Glassdoor, and any industry specific forums all have a section for reviews. You may encounter upset former employees who want to go down with all guns blazing, but you should be able to get a good idea of the company given the comments that you read.

Hopefully this helps as you are searching for the perfect job.  Remember, just because they offer does not mean you have to accept!  Find something you will enjoy getting out of bed for in the morning, as this will have a direct effect on your happiness and well-being.  out of bed

I’m glad I did vs. I wish I had

Will you look back on life and say “I wish I had” or “I’m glad I did”?

Taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves is crucial to our success journey. We shouldn’t shy away from opportunities that require us to step out of our comfort zone, yet we often do. Are you the kind of person who is a little more reserved race-695303_960_720and conservative, and in hindsight find yourself thinking “I wish I had”? Or are you more courageous and inquisitive, always striving for new ideas and experiences and frequently experience the thought of “I’m glad I did”?

When my husband first walked into Greg Aldridge’s State Farm office 4 years ago, I don’t think he had any idea what a huge moment in his life it would turn out to be. He was looking to get a new quote on his auto insurance and walked into Greg’s office with the goal of saving a few dollars. It just so happened that this was the first day of Greg’s ownership of this State Farm agency. Greg is a third generation State Farm agent, who had been working for the corporate office in Oklahoma, but recently purchased the book of business from the previous owner who was retiring. As my husband entered the “office” he had to stop and make sure he had gone into the correct building, as Greg had just started remodeling the entire space, which looked more like a building site than a professional establishment.

Jamie put his current insurance policy on Greg’s desk and asked if Greg could do it cheaper. Greg said that he could definitely get a lower priced policy for Jamie, but also state-farm-logosaid that it wouldn’t be worth anything if an accident were to occur. Instead of taking the easy sale, Greg offered us the chance to meet with him, and this is definitely one of the strongest “I’m glad I did” experiences that we have had. Neither of us knew anything about auto insurance as our previous policies were from online only providers and the only thing that mattered was price. This was a very naive approach to something so important, and we will forever be grateful for the knowledge that Greg has shared with us.

In our meeting with Greg, he first asked questions to find out more about our lives and what mattered to us, so that he could create insurance policies that would adequately cover our loved ones if something were to happen. We ended up leaving Greg’s office with auto, home-owners, and life insurance policies, and continue to develop both our professional and personal relationship with Greg, his family, and his incredible team. We both vividly remember Greg introducing the idea of “I’m glad I did, rather than “I wish I had” in our initial engagement, and this is something that we both frequently think about when making big decisions in our lives.

For some reason this isn’t the only time that we have experienced the “I’m glad I did” feeling in the area of 87th and Pflumm in Lenexa. On February 5th, 2010 on a cold winter’s night, I entered Tanners Bar and Grill for a couple of post-work drinks with a colleague. Little did I know that later that night I would meet the man who is now my husband and father of our two incredible sons.  I wasn’t overly excited about venturing out in the snow, and Jamie almost went to Callahans on the opposite side of the street, but for some reason we both entered the same establishment and will be forever grateful that we both made the decisions that we did. Life is full of moments where you have tough decisions to make, and my advice to you is to always think about the incredible things that can happen when you get out of your comfort zone and are open to new opportunities.

Everyone in their life frequently uses the phrases “I’m glad I did” or “I wish I had”, sometimes without even realizing it. If you think about it for 30 seconds I imagine there will be several scenarios like this that will immediately enter your mind. You might have planned a vacation and declined travel insurance, only to have to reschedule your vacation costing you hundreds of dollars in change fees. It might have been stretching the budget to go and visit a sick loved which turned out to be the last time you saw them. It might have been spending that extra $19.95 per month for OnStar which came in handy when your spouse and children found themselves stranded and needed mechanical assistance. Or it might have been that time you finally plucked up the courage to leave your dead-end job behind, and pursue your dreams of owning your own business.youth-active-jump-happy-40815

Next time you find yourself at a crossroads in your life and are faced with a difficult decision to make, think about all of the positives that could come from getting out of your comfort zone. What’s the biggest “I’m glad I did” experience of your life? What is the biggest disappointment that you have experienced where you have found yourself thinking “I wish I had”? Life is full of difficult decisions, but next time you are faced with one, think about all of the incredible things that could happen if you get out of your comfort zone. I know that you are all thinking “I’m glad I did” after reading this article! Until next time, Expect the Exceptional in everything that you do.