The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
Not getting a reply to an email, especially an important one, is frustrating. The frustration ramps up the longer you wait and it increases if you send a second email and still don’t get a reply. At that point you are likely to go through a wide range of emotions depending on your personality. Your feelings might range from thinking the person must be terribly busy and understanding how difficult it must be for them, to being furious that they are obviously ghosting you and they should be shot. The reality is almost certainly somewhere in between. Some people are simply more efficient than others. The email browsers of others are bulging with thousands of unread (and therefore obviously not replied to) emails. There are businesspeople that literally have tens of thousands of messages in their browser and have no hope of ever getting on top of them. These people answer the loudest emails – the ones that keep popping up demanding attention. The bottom line is that everyone is not just like you; you may answer every email that arrives, every day, but you are probably in the minority.
The world of business emails is like a dark hole; if you are going to find your way through it and be seen and heard through a tsunami of emails you have to outsmart all those other communicators fighting to be heard.
Let’s take a look at a situation where you have emailed your boss, a client, perhaps a supplier and all you are getting is silence – and this is not the first time. The email was important, you need a reply, and for one reason or another a telephone call is not going to be acceptable. It is day three and no reply and you are sitting there stewing. You decide to send a follow-up email. You have a number of options, you can come across as being offended, angry, sarcastic, rude, humorous, solicitous, or constructive. The first thing to do, is calm down and don’t write anything in anger or out of frustration. If you are feeling those emotions write the email but don’t send it for several hours, or better still send it (revised) the following day.
The first thing to consider is the subject line. You could show your frustration by saying “Reply Required!” “Please Reply!” “Urgent!!!!” or, “Need your answer now!” Or, you might try something less inflammatory such as “Following up on last email” which sounds okay but the recipient might then read into it that you are displeased that they didn’t respond sooner.”
The better way to go may be to use something that refers to moving the project or conversation forward such as, “Next Steps” or “Project Alamo - How Can I Help?” or perhaps, “Additional information re: my email of April 1st.”
One other, more surreptitious, way to overcome the non-reply is to send the original email again, with the same subject line as in the original email and say something like, “I’m resending this as I realize that sometimes emails can get lost in the mix and thought you might appreciate having it at the top of your list,” or, “I’ve had some trouble sending messages from this email address so am resending it from a different address in case you didn’t get it first time.” The latter may be a white lie but it does give the recipient an honorable way out for not replying the first time.
Whatever you do, never be rude. The one time you are, two days later, you will discover that the person in question has suffered a bereavement and has been out of the office for a week. Coming back to your harsh email will not help your relationship nor the situation. Whatever the reason the person has not replied, being offended, angry, sarcastic, or rude will not help the situation one iota.
Flexibility in a Changing World
It seems like every day the world is changing. One day there are hopeful signs we are straightening the pandemic curve, the next there is an uptick. Sometimes you feel hope for your business and the next there is a setback and your very survival is in question. Reading the newspaper, an online news brief, the CBC news, or listening to your favourite radio station can change the way you feel about the future and your business. Then there is changing technology that seems to be travelling at warp speed, opening up new opportunities while at the same time changing the way consumers shop and even think about the way they purchase.
Never before have you as a businessperson needed to be more flexible. This is not the time to dig yourself in and try to wait things out. The old ways may work, or they may not – all bets are off. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow or the next day. Here are a few tips that will help you keep ahead of whatever is coming down the track.
- Review your corporate vision. Does it hold up to scrutiny under current circumstances? Does it fit the world as it is today? Share it with some of your customers and ask them what they think, and how they see dealing with you in the future.
- Create a new vision with goals, objectives, and an action plan based on your reality today. Set quarterly goals and break the objectives down into quarters with set action points and deliverables. Review your performance at the end of each quarter.
- On the first day of every month, review your previous month's performance and then reassess your goals, objectives and action points. This is a reset day – remember, being flexible will keep you ahead of the game. Create action points (a to-do list) for each week of the month.
- Every Monday, review what you expect to achieve that week. Think about each item on your list and think about whether it is still realistic given current circumstances. Remember flexibility is your secret weapon. As a small business you are able to make quicker navigational changes than your bigger competitors. Be realistic, but aggressive.
- Don’t have a daily to-do list, it puts too much pressure on you and makes you less flexible. Review your weekly list every morning and see what will make the most impact. Do not simply pick out the easy things on the list, or those you prefer to do – think strategically. Take a few minutes every morning to check in with yourself and the world around you and remind yourself that you have the power to decide what will work best today in your business.
Every day is a new day, don’t get trapped into a plan you created when the world was a very different place – and that could be as recently as yesterday. The more you understand how the world is changing and developing in the long term and the short term, the better you will be at keeping your business on the leading edge.
Coach's Corner - What's Your Company's Purpose?
“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” ―W. Clement Stone
In today’s world, you will often find that people and companies are looking for a purpose. Employees look for some meaning in their jobs, and therefore often want to work for companies whose purpose and values match theirs. Similarly, customers often seek to align themselves with organizations that share their view of the world.
Why does your company or organization exist? What is its purpose for existing? How is it serving customers, staff, and community? If yours is a well-established and/or larger organization, what was your founding purpose? And does that purpose hold up in today’s environment? Does it need updating?
When you reflect on the purpose of your organization, you are looking to see how consistent that purpose is with the beliefs of both internal (staff) and external (customers and beyond) observers. You may find that the organization is continuing to be true to its purpose, and that it is not just talking but walking the talk. Or, you may discover it has lost its way a little and there is work to be done.
“Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.” ―John D. Rockefeller
You know the importance of having mission and vision statements for your company. They define what your organization is trying to achieve and look like for its stakeholders and the world at large. In addition, however, it is important for you to create a purpose statement. A purpose statement may be separate or combined with your mission statement. Whether separate or combined, this statement ties your loftier purpose with your defined goals. The question is, how can you create a purpose statement that is aligned with your mission and vision?
“If you can tune into your purpose and really align with it, setting goals so that your vision is an expression of that purpose, then life flows much more easily.” ―Jack Canfield
It is important to note that developing or vocalizing your purpose statement is not a marketing or branding tool. It stands on its own. However, if authentic and true, your purpose statement will create engagement with both staff, customers and the public at large and may define your company in a way that sets you apart from your competition.
To be a trusted brand, a company needs to live up to its purpose, to provide a meaningful contribution for the good of society and mankind. This may be seen in the service or products it provides, or how it contributes beyond its core business. What is your organization’s purpose?
“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.” ―Winston S. Churchill
Paul Abra, Motivated Coaching