That Would Be Great


In actuality, it probably wouldn’t be great at all. Not by a long shot.

I’d like all of us to give the word “great” its due. The Great Wall Of China is great. Alexander The Great Was great. The Great Books are great. Finding a cure for cancer would be great. Responding to an email isn’t great. It’s polite, it’s nice, and it may even be splendid, but it’s not great. Example: When we craft an email, give directives, ask favors, or request anything at all, why say something like the following when emailing a co-worker?

“…please make sure that the client gets the updated report, and it would be great if you let me know what their feedback is. Thanks.”

“Great??” THAT would be great? Really? I’m not preaching, because I’ve been guilty of this too. But if we want our words to have the impact they were designed to have, we have to stop watering them down. I’m working on this in my writing and communications too because I’ve been an egregious offender. If someone returns my email and I think that’s “great,” and I’ve communicated to them that taking this action would be “great,” then they think they just did something “great” by doing something they should’ve done anyway.

Here’s a revision of the above correspondence:

“…please make sure that the client gets the updated report. Please let me know what their feedback is. Thanks.”

This version is much better, to the point, no fluff and no killing the language.

When did returning a call, an email, or doing something that we should be doing anyway get equated with greatness?  My returning a call doesn’t parallel the discovery of the polio vaccine. So should I be thinking I’m as cool as Jonas Salk because I picked up the phone? No. But if I won the gold medal in the Olympics, that would be great.

The English language, while perhaps not the most beautiful-sounding language, is the most expressive language in the world. We have far more words–by far–than any other language in the world (approximately 1,000,000 words according to Merriam Webster). Don’t let that number daunt you. We don’t need to know them all. We just need to know the right words for the right situation, and we can go down in history as literary giants. Fun fact: In all of his writings, Shakespeare ‘only’ used about 30,000 words (which is still a lot more than most people use–and he coined about 1,700 original words. Talk about a wordsmith: he invented words!) His full vocabulary is estimated to be closer to 290,000 words that he comprehended. The average person who speaks English as a first language understands 10,000-20,000 words, but only uses 5,000! Let’s all try a little harder to leverage this amazing tool of communication better because that would be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

My English and writing are far from exceptional, so if you see errors, it would be great if you posted a comment. 😉

Thanks for reading!

Smiles Make Money!

When I was a teenager, I worked at a telemarketing company setting up appointments with homeowners for thermal window presentations. We were each given a very small cubical, a phone, a few torn-out pages of the reverse directory phone book, and instructed to call everyone up and down each street until someone said “yes.” One of the very few tools we were provided with was a mirror mounted directly in front of us, so we could see our facial expressions as we spoke with people. Underneath the mirror, there was a small sign that said, “smile and dial,” because people can indeed hear a smile in our voices. Try this with your friends. Speak on the phone with a smile and then without. Have them tell you when you are smiling. Invariably they will guess correctly. Remember, our clients can hear our smiles too!
It’s been said that a smile only has value after you give it away to someone else. That’s not just touchy-feely, tittle-tattle either; there is a plethora of hard, scientific data to back that up with facts.
A 2001 study from Jörn P.W Scharlemann shows that a smile increases trust amongst people by 10%. A 1991 study by Hinsz & Tomhave shows that when you smile, you get reciprocal smiles from 50% of people (pretty good odds!). A 1978 study by Tidd, Kathi L.; Lockard, Joan S., titled the “Monetary significance of the affiliative smile: A case for reciprocal altruism.” showed that service staff earned significantly more than their slack-faced, bovine-like peers. If you’re not sold yet, a 1952 study by Abel & Kruger suggests that smiling people outlived their forlorn friends by an average of 7 years!
The eyes are also powerful communication tools. More than that, our eyes tell people if our smile is genuine or not. A smile that engages only the mouth is forced. A smile that includes the eyes is real. These genuine smiles are called a “Duchenne” smiles, named after a 19th-century neurologist from France who figured all this stuff out. Also, make sure when you smile, that you proudly display your crow’s feet–we all have them! It’ll show the world that you are indeed happy to see them and that you have been smiling for a long, long time!
Let’s begin each day with a big smile, wear it on the way to the bank, and enjoy a longer and happier life.

Stop apologizing


I receive a lot of emails every day. Many are people are soliciting my business, and I don’t mind this at all. What I do mind is how people craft their message. Without knowing it, many people who write email marking campaigns are irritating the very people they are trying to close.

Here are two tips to NOT piss off your prospects.

1st tip: When expressing why we are reaching out to the recipient, it’s best not to use passive language like:

“I wanted to see if you are interested…”


“I just wanted to check up to see if you had any questions…”

Do not make apologies for reaching out. Don’t preemptively dismiss your proactivity. You have nothing to defend.
Instead of writing an email that says:

“I just wanted to touch base and see if you were interested in…blah, blah, blah…”

Write this instead:

“Your time is valuable, as is mine. If you are interested in learning more about my offer, let me know. If you have no interest, please let me know that too, and I won’t bother you anymore. We are both too busy to spin our wheels. Thank you and much success.”

Stop apologizing for striving for your success. Frankly, it pisses off people who have their act together. I want to know you are busy and I want you to value your time as much as I value mine. Grow a set and talk to me like an adult and not like a scared child. If I don’t respect you, I’m not giving you my business. Don’t apologize for reaching out to me!

2nd tip: Do NOT put “Re:” in the subject line on your first email. If you think your prospect is stupid, then do this. If you treat your prospect like a 12-year-old, they will act accordingly. When I see “Re:…” in the subject line when I know I never emailed this party, I want just to hit ‘delete,’ but I take the extra step of opening the email, unsubscribing and blocking the sender. How dare you put “Re:..” in the subject line when I didn’t email you first.

I want you to succeed, and the best way to do this is not to piss off your prospect.

Thank you for your interest.


GAME OVER (guess who won?)


The type of people who win at life, never change:

  • Those of us who are unafraid of not belonging to a group.
  • Those of us who celebrate rugged individualism.
  • Those of us who lead and don’t rule.
  • Those of us who are keenly aware of sowing and reaping.
  • Those of us that set goals.
  • Those of us that have contingency plans, yet rarely need them.
  • Those of us who would rather be on the giving side of charity than the receiving side and make a point to be.
  • Those of us who tithe.
  • Those of us who reject the pretense of anyone who hasn’t walked the walk on which we are embarking.
  • Those of us willing to share our life-learnings with those who are ready to learn.

There is nothing new under the sun and the rules of winning are constant and evergreen. Don’t reinvent the wheels of success; only refine them and improve upon them. Even as they are, they will serve us well.

For more information about winning at life, please visit me at:
Thank you!

Keep Going!

1My good friend and coach, Dave LaRue, shared a phenomenon with me that is common to many achievers:

“That worked so I well, I stopped doing it!”

At first blush, the statement seems whimsical or quaint, but it’s exceedingly profound. The lesson is consistency. Don’t let your drive to succeed be modulated like the AC/Heat on a thermostat (on and off and on and off, etc.). If something works, keep doing it and don’t stop doing it. Too many of us close the deal, lose some weight, achieve the goal, get the girl (or guy) and then stop doing the things that made us achieve those things. If we want to keep closing deals, keep the weight off, achieve more goals and keep the girl (or guy), we have to keep doing what got us those things in the first place, or they go away. Jim Rohn reminded us years ago, that if we don’t use something, we lose it. Disuse equals loss; every time. Personal development means growth and in order to grow, we can never go back to what we did in the past if it didn’t serve us. But if it worked, by all means, keep doing it and keep finding new ways to improve upon it!
For more information on Dave LaRue and his philosophy, click here:
For more information on me, click here:

Thanks for reading!

Turn Gate Keepers Into Welcoming Parties


Here’s a great way to get past the ‘gatekeeper’ at any business when paying them a visit in person.

Assume that the very first person you see when you enter the place of business is either the owner, manager or the one in charge. Even if it’s completely obvious to you that this person may ‘just’ be the receptionist, or an employee, never ask this person if you can “see the owner or manager, etc.” We do this for two reasons:

  1. No matter what they look like, they very well could be the owner, manager, or the one in charge and you’ll be doing a lot of damage to your case for not recognizing that. Even if the person is in overalls and changing a lightbulb, they could be the main contact. If we ask this person something like, “is the owner in?” they will not be happy to have to tell us that they are indeed the owner. Always assume you’re speaking to the key contact and they will appreciate that you made this assumption.
  2. If you really are just speaking to an employee of the key contact, invariably they will get a ‘kick’ that you thought they were the owner or manager, etc. They will respond with something like “I wish” with a big, broad smile. But in the back of their mind, you have created a bond with this person; you thought they were special and they will like you for it. You have recognized this person’s potential for growth and greater things. If this person is a receptionist or a secretary, they will very likely let their guard down for you when it comes time for follow up visits and the like; they won’t be a gatekeeper anymore; they will be a welcoming committee.

Try this the next time you call on a prospect and you’ll see a marked improvement in how you are received at businesses you visit.

Note: this works on the phone too!! When someone picks up the phone, ask: “You’re the owner, right?” You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well this works!

Managing Expectations: One of the keys to success and happiness


©2010 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

Not managing expectations is at the root of most failings when dealing with people; both in business and in our personal lives. If we’ve ever been burned in business, it’s because our expectations weren’t met. If our hearts have ever been broken, it’s because our expectations weren’t met. Something was supposed to—or not supposed to—happen, or someone was supposed to do—or not do—something. In either case, the expected result was not what the outcome ended up being. The consequence is always the same; disappointment. It’s not usually the end result in and of itself either; it’s that the expected result didn’t come to fruition.

Think of our own experiences in business. Whenever we got more than we bargained for, the memory is a sweet one. Whenever the converse is true, the experience can sour a business relationship enough to end it. Unfortunately, this happens very easily and it’s not necessarily because of malice. It’s usually because the entity making promises unrealistically set the bar of expectations too high. The ability to manage expectations comes with experience.

What does it take to manage expectations? In a nutshell, it comes down to only taking on what you can effectively execute with the resources at hand. If a business is a new one, very often the proprietor is anxious about securing business and will sometimes agree to something before resources are secured to execute; be it in personnel, equipment or specialized knowledge. But this can also happen to the seasoned business professional who may be hurting for business and will agree to, or say anything to secure the business. These folks may think that everything will fall into place once the wheels start moving, but very often it doesn’t. Whether you’re new or experienced; don’t ever fall into this trap.

At my company, the rare times something hasn’t gone right in the eyes or our clients is because we as a company didn’t properly manage their expectations  (I’m very grateful those occasions have been few-and-far-between). The reasons for this can often be traced back to working with a third party who made promises we weren’t aware of and as a result, we had a hard time reigning in those expectations when proposals and big plans were being made without us being present, either by the first or third party. Sometimes expectations are set in brain storming sessions which is a mistake. That’s an environment where all ideas are on the table. That’s where concepts are born, not where the executional minutia is established. The problem manifests when those sessions are revisited without an objective review of how the viable expectations can be set and established. Of course everyone would like to meet all expectations and every company does their best to do this, but it’s a good idea to sometimes lower expectations. It’s been said that it’s best to under promise and over deliver.

My company produced a conference for NRC (now called Avid) back in 2004 and the keynote speaker, Paul Cardis, CEO of NRC cited an excellent example of managing expectations (for those who don’t know this company, they are basically the J. D. Power of home builders here in the States). This portion of his talk covered a somewhat common phenomenon in home building; as a new house settles, the foundation will sometimes crack. This is an important customer service and public relations issue for builders. If enough people file complaints to the Better Business Bureau about cracked foundations in new homes, it could potentially sink a home builder. How should a home builder address this? By managing expectations. Mr. Cardis told his audience that home builders shouldn’t hide the fact that foundations may crack. Instead, he urged builders to preemptively inform all home buyers that not only can their foundations crack—but that they WILL crack! Does that come as a shock to you? It did to me. Even though all foundations won’t crack (most don’t), is it a good idea to tell someone who just gave you perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) for a new home, that the foundation is going to crack? Apparently yes. The reader is probably quicker than I, but just in case you need some clarification; if you don’t disclose everything to someone who’s just made perhaps the largest investment of their lives, and something like a foundation cracks, you’re going to have trouble. If however, you preemptively tell them that it is going to happen, you have properly managed expectations. Put yourself in the position of that home buyer. While you are being shown the property, the agent tells you something to the effect;

“This is a new home which was built on cleared land. The ground under the home was formally a corn field and never supported anything heavier than a tractor.  After all the tons of concrete, wood, bricks, roofing, windows, flooring, etc. are piled on top of the ground, it’s common & expected that the foundation will crack with settling. We of course take all measures to prevent this, but most of the time, it will. If and when it happens, we of course will come and fix it free of charge for the first 5 years of ownership after which time, the home will have settled properly so as to prevent this from being a chronic condition.”

Now you as the home buyer, have been prepared for your foundation to crack. If and when it does, you take it in stride because your expectations have been managed properly. If however, the builder chooses not to disclose this information to you and if and when your foundation breaks, you’re calling 60 minutes or John Stossel and the builder has a big problem and an even bigger PR issue. Let’s say the foundation never cracks (which is the most likely scenario), now this customer is telling everyone within earshot how great their house is and how amazing it is that the foundation didn’t crack. That represents new business for the builder while the former scenario represents lost-and never-to-be-had business. Use this example & think of the dollar value of managing expectations properly in your business. If you are in fact a home builder and the median home price is $165,000 (in 2011) a lost sale based on profits of 50% is $82,500 and a sale made represents this same figure written in the ledger with black ink; all by managing expectations. Whatever your business is, think of your average transaction, and do the math. Not just with that client, but with all the word-of-mouth that client will either generate or forever keep at bay.

You may be saying to yourself, “I already do that”, and maybe you do. That’s great. May I suggest that you go a step further and tell your clients to expect something negative when the odds flesh out that it hardly ever happens? I’m not suggesting that you stretch the truth here. If a potential scenario has never happened before and in all likelihood won’t, don’t present it as such. But if the potential scenario has been demonstrated to have happened in the past with some degree of consistency, then present is as something to be on the look out for. It’s always best to under promise and over deliver. Remember, that negative scenario may end up happening after all. This way, you’ve covered your bases.

In the promotions industry, we often work with two or more parties when planning events. It’s vital to our reputations that we stay on top of the expectations of the party paying the bills. It’s a balancing act to be sure; reassuring the client that the outcome they want is something your company can deliver (so they do in fact do business with you) and not overselling yourself (which ensures a one-time-only-transaction and countless lost revenue and bad blood). As promotions professionals, we must exercise due diligence with these third parties. If they are promising the world to the client and they then bring you in as the fall guy, who takes the fall? We do. It’s vital to be included in on all conceptual & planning meetings. I can’t tell you how many times we have been brought into a project that should never have left the brain storming session it was originally brought up in. A perfect example of this was with one of our best clients. I’m not going to disclose which client it was or where it happened because we fortunately sill do a great deal of business with them and they don’t need the embarrassment. In the interest of giving you, the reader very important information whilst protecting the reputation of one of my cherished client, I’m changing names, places and details, but not changing the gist of the lesson I learned the hard way.

A number of years ago, this client approached us with an ambitious project of decorating a large number of their prominent stores with holiday decorations. We had been working with this client in many areas of the country for years and already had a solid relationship. As a result, we were recommended to this particular region for the project which we were initially grateful for, but later lamented. We flew out to meet with them and the project (as it was presented to us) seemed to be only in need of a vendor to execute it (us). Little did we know that internally, the expectations of this company’s brass had already been raised to unrealistic levels by well-meaning marketing folks who, to say the least, hadn’t taken legal ramifications or their own operational logistics and risk management into consideration.

The plan was to cover their stores top to bottom and in and out with holiday lights. The effect was to be over-the-top; the same way a certain someone in your neighborhood goes the extra mile when doing their holiday decorations on their home. It was to be grand. It was to be news worthy. It was to be spectacular & we wanted nothing more than to deliver the goods. The challenge was though, was our client hadn’t cleared any of this internally before bringing us in. No legal counsel, no operations, no risk management, no facilities—nothing and no one. In hindsight, we weren’t really given the job of executing this event as it was planned; we were given the job of reigning the entire scope of the project in. Right away, we discovered that no one had bothered to check to see if the stores had enough electrical service to support all the lights requested (they didn’t. Not one store had the reserve power). Even if the stores could have all the lights on them without blowing every circuit in their breaker boxes, the lawyers wouldn’t allow any lights to be installed on the stores that could be reached by customers or their kids (either deliberately or accidentally). The end result was that we lined the cornices and roof lines of the stores with strings of lights; something that the property managers at most of these properties did anyway at no extra charge to the tenants as a part of their lease.

Guess who ended up looking bad? Who ended up looking like they couldn’t do what they were brought in to do? Who ended up representing the complete failure of a project that should never have the left board room? The lawyers? Nope. Risk management? No, guess again. Facilities? Try again. The good-intentioned marketing people? You get one more guess. That’s right; our company. We were tarred and feathered, black listed and had the door of future business in this region slammed in our face. And why did that happen? Because we didn’t manage expectations properly. In essence, we didn’t tell them that their foundations were going to crack and they did—big time. What makes this all the worse is that we did everything we possibly could have done to make this promotion a success—except manage the expectations. I can’t put a dollar figure on this blunder, but based on the volume of business we get from other regions that this client serves, its many hundreds of thousands of dollars. More often than not in our industry, we only get one opportunity at bat.

This was a hard lesson and was the impetus behind a check list that we now use whenever strategies are established, or we are brought into a project that has already been planned without our input. It is the best way to ensure that no one is disappointed and more importantly, that your client is happy and will reach out to you for future projects. Of course you should customize this list to reflect your services or product offering, but it’s a great start. Whatever you do, just be sure you manage all expectations—your clients and your own.

Expectation checklist:

  1. What are the current expectations?
  2. Who established them?
  3. How many parties were/are involved in the planning?
  4. Who are they?
  5. Who set the budget?
  6. Are current expectations possible to execute within given parameters?
  7. Has legal counsel been retained for this project?
  8. How much creative time has already been invested?
  9. What logistical work has already been done?
  10. Establish roles & responsibilities.
  11. Lower expectations & under promise.
  12. Over deliver.