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Wednesday, 05 September 2012 14:47

Back to business school

Written by Deb Neuman

I don't care how old you are or how long you've been out of school. This time of year always feels like the 'new year' to me much more than January first! It's time to get back into a school routine.

If you're a business owner, now is a great time to get back to learning. Fall brings with it many opportunities to take workshops, classes and training seminars that can help you start and grow your business not to mention opportunities to network with other like-minded business people! Smart business owners know that they don't know everything, and like most professionals they have to keep learning and advancing their skills in order to be successful.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 14:44

Breaking up is hard to do

Written by Deb Neuman

It was a late night when they checked in - a husband and wife who had booked two weeks at my inn in Bar Harbor. I knew within five minutes of their arrival that this was not going to go well. They expected service valet, restaurant, bar, pool that my property did not offer. I knew there would be no way they would enjoy their stay with me and that we would both be miserable, so I sat them down for 'the talk.' I kindly suggested they would be better off with someone else and offered to find them a room at one of the more 'resort-like' properties on the island. They agreed. I made the break up easy by returning their room deposit and making all the arrangements for them. It was the best decision for both of us.

The downside of this break up was that I found myself with a vacancy at the height of the season and I risked that they would be unhappy with me and tell others (we know how important 'word of mouth' is to business). Fortunately, those worries were unwarranted. I rented their now vacant room quickly and learned a month later that this couple wrote a letter the Bar Harbor Chamber praising me for the exceptional customer service I gave them. They had a fabulous visit to Bar Harbor and planned to return.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 14:09

White board wisdom

Written by Deb Neuman

I was sitting in a conference room in a meeting about something to do with something but not anything to do with this column! What I'm writing about is what caught my eye in the conference room during one of those moments when my mind wandered (not that I wasn't paying full attention!). This is what was written on a white board, left there from a previous meeting.

'Learn to inspire the men and women who work for you. Learn to lift them up to give them meaningful responsibility to allow them room to grow. And YES even to make mistakes! Be slow to judge.'

Wednesday, 15 August 2012 15:17

Clear Predictable Reliable

Written by Deb Neuman

I recently attended a session at a Lean Systems summit about how a city in New England is working to make licensing and permitting process easier for businesses that want to do business in the city. I was a bit puzzled when the presenter tossed a ball of yarn to a group of us sitting around a table at the session. She asked each of us to hold a piece of yarn and toss the ball to someone at the table who would hold a piece of the yarn and toss the ball again. Time and time again some of us 'dropped the ball' didn't know to whom to pass the ball and in the end we ended up with a tangled mess.

This game of 'yarn toss' was intended to illustrate how frustrating the process was for businesses in this community before they created a system that was 'clear predictable reliable' and has shortened the time it takes for a business to get their licenses in place from three months to a few weeks.

Wednesday, 08 August 2012 17:11

You're NOT on Facebook!?

Written by Deb Neuman

The looks from my friends sitting around the table were of shock, wonder and a little jealousy as my 40-something friend (we'll call him Jim) confessed to a group of my friends that he is not on Facebook. 'What?' 'You're not in Facebook?' 'Are you serious?' 'Are you OK?' 'How do you do it?' 'How are we supposed to stalk you?' 'How can we tag you in this pic we just took of you?' 'I often wish I wasn't either!' These were just some of the reactions he received when he admitted this in public. The funny thing is that my friend seems to be pretty well adjusted, social, busy, successful and active in spite of the fact that he doesn't spend time on Facebook. Or perhaps he's that way precisely because he doesn't spend time on Facebook. I'll let you ponder that.

Jim, myself and the rest of the group at the table are all busy professionals, business owners, parents, wives, husbands, active in our communities - and we're (mostly) all on Facebook. I like being there. I've found it to be a very useful and fun tool to stay in touch with my friends and family both near and far, and it's a useful tool to promote a business. But there are times when I long for the days before social media - the days when we only knew what was going in the lives of others by actually seeing them, calling them or writing to them.

Wednesday, 01 August 2012 16:11

Olympic dreams

Written by Deb Neuman

I was watching the Olympics swimming heats with my nephew, when at one point he turned to his mother and said, 'I'll never make it to the Olympics.' His Mom (aka my sister) replied, 'If you think about the Olympics, that's too big just think about your next meet and then the next and do the best you can.' I pointed out that the Olympic athletes likely started swimming in their neighborhood pools and swim clubs, and they just kept on swimming!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 15:11

For Sammy

Written by Deb Neuman

This column is dedicated to Sammy. I met her during a weekend visit to Squirrel Island off the coast of Maine. The island is a summer cottage colony where folks from Maine, around the country and the world come to spend weeks in beautiful cottages while swimming, sailing, playing tennis, lounging on rocking chairs overlooking the ocean and enjoying the best of summer in Maine. Many of the families have summered here for generations. There is a church, library, ice cream stand and post office on the island. There are no cars, restaurants, shops or stores.

I was walking to the beach one afternoon when I saw a little girl sitting behind a card table in front of the post office. She had stacks of duct tape in bright colors and she was very busy crafting bracelets, wallets and gift tags from the tape. We struck up a conversation. I learned that she was selling her wares. She showed me her price list - $1.50 for a braided duct tape bracelet. I immediately placed an order. She asked me to choose my colors. I went with purple, green and yellow. She said she would have my order ready in 10 15 minutes.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012 15:34

Weed out the bad

Written by Deb Neuman

I got a little carried away planting my garden this summer. I have flowers in beds, hanging baskets and clay pots. Lots of flowers. Now that the heat of the summer is upon us, some of them are not doing well and need to be pulled out. It kills me to pull out a plant and toss it away, especially after all that time I spent planning where to plant it, watering, fertilizing and nurturing it. Still, after all that TLC some plants are dead or dying. This leaves me with the choice to pull out the dying plants and let them go or try to bring them back to life. This is not unlike many of the tough the decisions we have to make in our lives and our businesses.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012 12:32

Don't let your degree hold you back

Written by Deb Neuman

Within the last few weeks I've witnessed two young women trying to land a job. One has been successful; the other is still looking. These women don't know each other and they live in different towns. But they share many of the same traits. Both were raised in Maine, left and have now returned. Both are in their 20s, well educated and bright. I'm thrilled for this state that they're both back to stay!

What's been interesting is how each has approached her job search. Both are hoping to work in their chosen field. Both have been networking and talking with people in their industry a great strategy. But their expectations differ greatly. One has been unwilling to accept anything that she thinks is beneath her. She has passed on opportunities in her industry because they are parttime, not in her preferred community, don't pay well enough or are too entry level. She is still looking. The other young woman interviewed for a number of positions and was even willing to accept an internship (not a job) with a company because she wanted to get her foot in the door. By the end of her first day as an intern, she was offered a permanent job!

Tuesday, 03 July 2012 16:03

Bidding the boss farewell

Written by Deb Neuman

I recently interviewed two women who made the decision to leave their day jobs to go into business for themselves. One is launching her wedding and family photography business full time and the other is a veterinarian who is launching a house call vet service. Although their business differ greatly, their path to getting to the point of submitting their resignation letters have many similarities.

Before you decide to do the same, there are a few lessons they shared with me that might be helpful to you.

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