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Wednesday, 26 September 2012 17:20

Life's marathon

Written by Deb Neuman

I just completed a half marathon and now I hurt. So why do I do it? Why do I put myself through the pain? The answer is simple, yet apparently contradictory. I run because it makes me feel good. I like what it does for my body but mostly I like what it does for my brain. I swear that running clears out brain crud. Many of my most creative and best ideas came to me during a run. I also like to push myself beyond what I think I'm capable of.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012 16:02

You never forget your first day

Written by Deb Neuman

You never forget your first day on the job. Much like your first day at school, it can be a success or a complete disaster. No doubt you have good stories and bad stories. I've heard them all - most recently from a new employee who was given a desk and sat there all day with no idea of what she was supposed to do. Her new boss swung by for a moment to say he was off to meetings and they would catch up soon. 'Soon' never came. He never took the time to welcome her and orient her to her new workplace or job duties. As a result she soon left for a better job in a much more welcoming environment.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 14:54

Sales tax can be taxing

Written by Deb Neuman

Sales tax may not be the sexiest of business topics, but it's often the topic that causes the most confusion for business owners especially new ones. Take myself for example. I recently launched a new business making jewelry and accessories and selling them online. I assumed that because I was selling online only and didn't have a retail store in Maine that I would not have to collect sales tax. But I wasn't sure, so I called Maine Revenue Services in Augusta and they set me straight. Let me first say that they were very nice and helpful, and I would strongly recommend that if you have any questions call them!

It turns out that, because I live in Maine and do business in Maine, I do in fact have to collect sales tax on items shipped to Maine residents. If a Maine resident orders and wishes to have the product shipped to another state, I do not need to collect Maine sales tax. I thought to myself, 'I should know this stuff!' Then it occurred to me that if I was easily confused, there are likely many of you who are as well. So I set out to learn more.

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.

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