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The Business of Living in 2010

By Paul Johnson

598 words. Abstract: Work-life balance is elusive. Maybe you could benefit from going back to something as basic as your definition of success. Do you have one?

It’s the time of year to celebrate, and our culture celebrates success. What successes of the past year do you have to celebrate? What did you DO with your life this year?

Sometimes it can seem that one year looks just like any other. You spend five days of every week at your job, and then jam chores, family, and friends into the weekends. You mix in a few holidays and take a vacation or two (yet one-third of Americans don’t take all their vacation days, forfeiting 4 of them). If this seems too familiar, I’m betting you’ve accepted someone else’s definition of success instead of creating your own. Perhaps it’s time to challenge the idea of what success looks like for you, and then make going for it your business in 2010.

Need ideas? Here are some ways others have defined success.

  • Success is a journey, not a destination.
  • Success is the achievement of something planned, desired or attempted.
  • Success is… making a difference, loving your work, financial freedom, independence, contentment (pick one).

When England was facing its darkest days during World War II, Winston Churchill redefined success so he and the British people could keep their spirits up and press on to victory. His definition: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

And then there’s this one: “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

The late Earl Nightingale notes this: “Everything that’s free to us we place little value on. Everything we have to pay for we value. The paradox is that the exact opposite is true. Everything that’s really worthwhile in life came to us free. Our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family, children, and friends, our country – all these priceless possessions are free. But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time. A good man can be completely wiped out and make another fortune. He can do that several times. Even if a home burns down, we can rebuild it, but the things we get for nothing we can never replace.”

Do we really need a bigger house, a newer car, a higher-status title on our business card? Or would we prefer to know that we have helped another, that we have been kind to our planet Earth, that we gave reasons to be remembered after we’re gone?

Maybe we make success too complicated and expensive. My son spent several weeks in Kenya living among people whose homes were made of dung, who found it futile to shoo flies away from their eyes and lips because their homes have no windows, and whose monthly income for the family was much less than $100. Yet my son remarked that these people were the happiest, most carefree people he’d ever met. It’s hard to imagine that a family living in a dung hut might have succeeded in being happier than you or I.

Perhaps success isn’t a measure of how much we have, but of how little we need.

Take an active approach in defining what success means for you, and then work toward that in the coming year. Stop letting others define success for you. Who cares if the Jones’ DO live next door? The business of living is your own business. A year from now I’d like you to be able to look back on 2010 knowing that you succeeded in taking care of some really important business: your life.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson is the keynote speaker who gives teams the courage, motivation, and insight to overcome obstacles and create breakthrough growth opportunities at http://TroubleBreaker.com. Learn about business growth topics at http://Paul-Johnson.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: What have you gotten for free that you now regard as priceless?

Posted: under Managing Change (Leadership).
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Comments (0) Dec 01 2009

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Ditch Coupons Before Customers Ditch You

By Paul Johnson

714 Words. Abstract:  Sales promotions are with us to stay, but you might do better if you make coupons go away. Learn about the right and wrong ways to promote your business through coupons and special pricing offers.

Every shopper wants to feel like they’re getting a good deal. Merchants often attempt to capitalize on this desire through coupon offers, rebates, and “special discounts.” Coupons have become the promotional drug of choice to woo more business from new and old customers alike. Unfortunately, coupons can destroy customer relationships almost as fast as they are made.

The worst coupon abusers are merchants who set a relatively high list price compared to the competition, and then use coupons or other incentive plans to discount it so buyers feel like they’re getting a good deal. I had a fabulous customer service experience derailed by such a pricing blunder.

A Hitch in the Pitch
I was looking for a new dry cleaner and discovered FC Cleaners (not their real name). When I walked in, they discovered I was a new customer, handed me a “Passport” book, and explained to me that I would routinely receive a significant discount whenever I presented the book with incoming dry cleaning orders.

I wasn’t impressed until I picked up my order. All of my shirts now had bar code labels. The computer-printed labels attached to the neatly hangered and bagged clothes described each article in detail, right down to my neck size. They truly knew how to use technology to manage a relationship! I also knew I could go to any FC Cleaners in Atlanta and be instantly identified by my bar code labels.

Soon I returned to have more cleaning done. I dropped off the clothes, and then remembered I had forgotten my Passport. Oh well, I’ll just bring it with me when I pick them up. As planned, I returned in a few days with my Passport. My enthusiasm for our relationship disappeared when they explained, “Sorry, you’ll have to pay stupid people prices since you failed to present your passport when you dropped off your order.”

Of course, they didn’t explain it that way. They cordially explained that their “policy” prevented them from giving me a discount. As Dr. Martha Rogers of Peppers and Rogers Group says, “Policies treat everybody like nobody”, and that’s exactly how I felt. When I dropped off the clothes, their computer could tell them who I was, where I lived, the details of all my garments, and my complete transaction history. But it couldn’t — or is it wouldn’t? — tell them that I was a Passport discount buyer. As a result, I was forced to pay retail and fork over an extra ten spot. From a goodwill perspective, they would have been much better off without a list price discounting program.

Bait and Snitch
Sometimes I’ll be in line at a store when the person ahead of me presents a coupon to the cashier and immediately gets a discount. I have no such coupon. It looks like I’ll be paying stupid-people prices again.

On occasion a friendly cashier has offered to give me a coupon on-the-spot. Very thoughtful — but maybe not.

  • Does this mean their merchandise is really overpriced?
  • Do they really have a consistent pricing policy?
  • Does this store have any integrity?

My assumption is that, for some reason, I don’t look like a sucker today.

Switch to Enrich
If you want to use coupons for promotion, consider making them an integral part of your pricing strategy. I recommend to my clients that they only offer discounts, including coupons, for one-time irregular (preferably non-repeating) events. Examples might be first-time orders, year-end closeout of a particular model, or cleaning off shelves in preparation for inventory. A new product launch would qualify. However, end of the month discounts don’t hold water, nor does the lame excuse, “I need another deal to make quota.”

Coupons are useful to get people in the door and give you a try, but you need to have a way to track repeat buyers. Don’t train customers to never show up without a coupon. I won’t buy a pizza without one. Instead, honor them with a “frequent buyer” program that rewards them with lower prices or — better yet — additional services when they come back time and again. Show them you know they’re not stupid, and they’ll know how smart you are. The goodwill you generate will result in good business for you.

© 2005, 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:

Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results LLC collects business shortcuts and shows people how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Learn how to become a niche marketing expert at http://NicheExpert.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When has a coupon been a costly experience for you?

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).
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Comments (0) Aug 01 2009