“See My New Doll House!”

 

©2015 Mark Henderson

Prologue:  This position paper is the result of a wager between the lovely and talented Wendy—and the smarter half of the Henderson Enterprises writing and editing team—and I. She bet that I couldn’t write a cogent persuasion based on this line from a 1970s-vintage made-for-TV-movie.

So, back when I was a boy, we used to gather the entire family ‘round the console TV set and howl laughing whenever a rerun of the western comedy aired called Evil Roy Slade, starring the late John Aston and about a dozen other well knowns.

There’s a scene in the movie where the main character, Roy (a.k.a. Evil Roy) wades out into a maelstrom of bullets being fired by the “good guys”(who were really not that good) to kill the “bad guy” (who was really not that bad). As Roy runs into the open, he’s clutching a book yelling, “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

Then he looks at the book—bullet storm still in full force—and asks, “Why am I pointin’ this book at them yelling, “Pow, pow, pow?”

His love interest (who was supposed to be handing him a loaded gun to aid his escape) replies, “Turn to page 9!”

“There better be a stick of dynamite in page 9,” Roy mutters, thumbing through the book amidst a hail of bullets.

“Read it. It’s a prayer book!” she yells.

“I can’t read it. All I can read is ‘See my new doll house’, and it don’t say, ‘See my new doll house,” Roy replies, the welling angst obvious in his voice.

“It says, ‘Thou shalt not kill’,” she yells back.

Roy, out of options at this point, takes the only action he can think of:  He tries to “Exit stage left, even” holding the Bible up yelling, “See this boys? It says, ‘Thou shalt not kill!’”

Of course, Evil Roy Slade gets captured to end the scene. It is a hilarious scene in a hilarious movie chock-full of hilarious scenes.

Yes, it was a 1970s vintage comedic classic, but I think Roy’s words of exasperation have become a sort of a mantra of Everyman/Everywoman today. No, not the “There better be a stick of dynamite…” line (although some have thought something similar, I am sure). No, the “All I can read is ‘See my new doll house’…” line. I am convinced that for many of us, if something doesn’t read like our version of “See my new doll house,”—whatever our version looks like—we can’t (a.k.a. don’t) take the time to read it.

Whether it’s filtering through scads of emails, scanning through documents to get to “the bottom line”, or hurriedly reading user assembly and installation guides, if we’re honest, most of us can admit to missing the “See my new doll house” for which we were looking. I, myself, am guilty and I am a seasoned (a.k.a. “old school” or old) editor! Just recently, I initially rejected a draft contract when I read their “nuclear option” clause, because I skipped over the caveat clause that made the termination clause “fair and reasonable”.

My point is this:  We—as receivers of information—need to be cognizant of the fact that we live in the Age of Information Overload, with a constant barrage of information pumped at us through all manner of media. And, as a survival or coping mechanism, our brains have learned to filter out information not germane to our mission-of-that-second. I previously wrote a corollary blog aimed at communicators called Information Overload; it highlights how communicators need to be aware of the phenomena, taking special care to present information so that their target audience will receive that information and will receive it correctly.

For us, as information receivers, we need to be aware of our filter defense systems; we need to try to be more intentional in our information filtration when appropriate; and, we need to be able to learn when it’s important to stop, drop, and roll. In other words, we need to be ready and willing to hit our internal “SLOW SPEED” button, and intentionally receive (i.e. read, study methodically, etc.) information presented to us.

Maybe then, we’ll be able to read more than “See my new doll house.” Or better, maybe we’ll be able to successfully receive our “See my new doll house” for which we were searching on the first pass.

Epilogue:  I believe I won the wager. What do you think?

WRITING: CREATIVE OR TECHNICAL?

©2015 Wendy Scheuring

Writing is the most complex type of communication we have ever known. If it wasn’t for written communication—in any form—we wouldn’t be able to pen our thoughts, walk away, and let someone else to read them the next day, or even weeks, months, or years later. Being able to communicate in this way has changed the way we will think, forever.

Now, for some reason, we, as a people, like to assign labels to different types of writing, like technical, creative, etc. as if they are, in fact, completely different types of writing, not just secluded, but vastly located parsecs from one another. Granted, these “types” of writing show up in different venues: industries need technical writers to write procedures, manuals, and users’ guides. Creative writers write books, blogs, and stories. But, what about marketing materials that sell an industrial service? Creative or technical? Blogs that discuss changes in the financial industry? Technical or creative? An historical novel that takes place during the first manned flight to the moon? Creative or technical? As you can see, it becomes more difficult to choose one or the other.

Someone somewhere sometime came up with the terms, “technical writing” and “creative writing.” Why? We don’t know. But, we suspect it might be the same person who decided to delineate knowledge into school subjects like “History,” “Science,” “Math,” etc. as if life can be neatly tucked into tidy little categories. If history is a subject and science is subject, then what about the history of science? What about the early 1900s when Marie Curie performed her radioactivity experiments? In which class should she be studied? History, Science, or Women’s Studies?

The answer is that all writing is technical and all writing is creative. You simply cannot have one without the other. Whether it’s technical documentation or a business plan, a novel, or a blog, all forms of writing need to be conveyed to the reader in an expected format; they need to follow the rules of grammar and punctuation—for the most part—and create a vision in the reader’s mind. Vision, without conventions—e.g. grammar, spelling, and format—cannot be understood. Nor can conventions without vision make a piece of writing meaningful.

Writers? You Write for a Living? That’s Weird!

©2013 Mark Henderson

Even though I didn’t realize it as a kid, I really was engineering material. My dad was a brilliant engineer. I was also gifted with an analytical mind. I liked designing stuff and testing it to see if it worked. I was so engineer. But apparently, I sucked at math, so, voila, I was placed in Pre-Algebra where I began my wandering down a life path of non-engineer “mediocrity.”

Naturally, after barely escaping high school, I ended up going to a strong engineering college…as a freaking English major! In an all-male military college of mostly engineers, Liberal Arts majors were relegated to a sub-class of sissies…and English majors were viewed as a special breed of flower-frolicking, poet-sissies. Fortunately, it was a military school, so I could “get a job” in the Army. I mean, what else was someone with a B.A. in English going to do?

After that little tour of duty, I landed smack-dab in the middle of the epicenter of the Engineer Universe—NASA—as, get this, a technical writer. Of course, even NASA or the company I worked for didn’t like to refer to us technical writers by that name, so they called us “analysts,” which was fine by me. I was still trying to erase the image of frolicking in daisies contemplating Keats. At least now I had access to cool engineering stuff. And while I still sucked at math, I was able to learn a lot over the years, as well as hone my technical writing skills.

Nonetheless, there was still a stigma of being a writer working with groups of engineers. People were nice enough and all. It just seemed like there was some unwritten Natural Law that writers and editors were…hmmm, how shall I put this…just not as smart as engineers. And while I worked hard to disprove this perception, it didn’t help matters when someone referred to us as “note-takers” or the “note guy.” Ugh.

Throughout the years, I was able to garner enough professional certifications in other technical areas and leave the writer dungeon. I thought it was forever, but alas, then came “downsizing.”

This gave me the opportunity to write my own book and start a consulting company. Doing what, you ask? Why, writing and editing, of course. Life also afforded me the opportunity to meet a fellow writer who not only became my business partner, but also my co-writer.

After no small amount of therapy sessions—not to mention successfully co-writing as ghostwriters and editors five books published in a year–I started getting okay with being a writer…especially as it started to pay enough to get me out of the “alternative employment for starving artists” lines of work, such as ranch hand, day laborer, and the like.

Then one day Wendy and I went to the grocery store where we happened upon a brand ambassador who struck up a conversation whilst trying to convince us to buy some sort of cheese and crackers, or whatever. So, she casually asked what we did for a living. With my newfound self-esteem, I confidently said that we were writers.

“That’s weird.”

That’s weird!?! What? Wendy tried to console and encourage me, knowing that emergency therapy was most likely going to be in order.

“I can’t believe we were just told that being writers is weird…by a brand ambassador, no less!”

That’s when Wendy’s comedic genius began to shine.

“Maybe we should have told her we had some other more normal occupation?”

“Like what?”

“Maybe sewage treatment plant screen cleaners…or tribal shamans. What about bush pilots?”

“Sled dog mushers,” I added. “Abalone shell divers.”

And so, after years of being relegated to the proverbial back of the bus of the academic and working worlds, we have been shamed to change our weird occupation as writers to something far more non-weird like tribal shamans or bush pilots.

Mark & Wendy are currently co-authoring a humor book in between writing jobs that actually pay the bills. For more on Mark & Wendy’s weird writing business, or other less weird gigs, such as tribal shamans, check out their webpage, MarkAndWendyWrite.biz

9 Ways You Can Unknowingly Sabotage Your Book Project

©2015 Wendy Scheuring

Have you already sabotaged your project before you’ve even started?

Here are nine self-checks to consider!

1. Not really having a story.  Have you told yourself you ought to write a book someday? Have your friends and family suggested the same? How do you know you have enough of a story to write a full-fledged book? Is there depth to your story? Is there a universality with which readers will connect? Seek out others that you trust early in the process to see if there is interest in your story and listen to their feedback.

image courtesy of ponsuwan, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2.  Are you skilled enough to write a book yourself? Renowned author Ray Bradbury suggests writing small before writing big. Write short stories, blogs, or articles before delving into that bigger project. If you need further help, talk with a professional ghostwriter or writing coach who will often offer a free consultation, or consider hiring one to help you throughout the process.

3. Not having a deadline. When do you want to finish your book? Do you want to self-publish? Traditionally publish? Do you want to find an agent? To make it all happen, you’ll need to establish a deadline, a reachable goal, so that you can develop a manageable timeline.

4. Not sticking to your schedule. Schedule? What schedule? Sure, you might think of yourself as a free spirit, but to get a book done, you need to be disciplined. Draft a plan, including a weekly or monthly schedule, including goals.

5. Not valuing the importance of building a readership and relationships with other authors. Are you offering excerpts of your book to others via social media and your website? How about friendly advice? Research how other authors reach their audiences and build relationships with authors whose work you admire. Other authors may offer to do a beta read of your manuscript or a book review. You, in turn, can reciprocate, or be the first to offer.

6.Thinking the competition out there is tough. Each book is unique, and readers often like to read like books on the same subject. The writing has to be good, though. Remember, for avid readers, there’s no such thing as having too many good books to read.

7. Not having a platform. What is your vision? Why are you writing this book? Is it only for book sales? Is it to help people better understand a problem or to find a solution?  Is it to help others, offer advice, tell a story no one has ever heard? Is it to build your reputation or expertise? Think of your book as part of a movement, not the be-all-that-ends-all.

8. Thinking you can do everything by yourself: editing, cover art, publishing, marketing, etc. Are you at least willing to get a professional opinion?

9. Asking the advice of too many people, like family and friends, who don’t know the business. Get advice from people who have shown their professionalism and expertise, and/or have a substantial following.

If you can avoid these nine pitfalls, then you are well on your way to making your book dream a reality!

Is Your Website Unseen?

©2015 Wendy Scheuring

If you’ve got the type of business where you’re trying to reach the folks at home, or you’re seeking a broader client base than just the neighbors in your backyard, your website is where you want to roll out the red carpet. Think of your website as being the place where you’ll make your first impression. How do you want to come across?

Establish your personality.  Sure, someone is always going to have a bigger and better website with all the fancy graphics, videos, and cool music, but so what? Define who you are and what your business does. What is it about you that makes others want to visit your business or hire you?  Do you have that small, neighborhood appeal, or do you reach out to the big guys?

Always stay positive. Yep, maybe the other “guys” don’t do a good job, but leave that up to the customer to decide. Never put someone down on the web. Instead, be positive about what you do. How can someone benefit from hiring you?

Don’t try to sound too important. When people do that, they tend to inflate their verbiage into extraneous interlocutions and seamless strategies.  See what I mean? If you don’t understand what you’ve written, don’t expect someone else to. Write like you talk and then take it up a notch.

Offer friendly advice. Think of your blogs as free advice you’d give a relative or friend on how they can get rid of that possum in their yard, or entertain at a dinner party.

Produce sound, quality content. Don’t even think about keywords, although they are important in your metadata, permalinks, and keyword density on your SEO. Produce content that rocks, without repeating the word “exterminator” every 5 seconds.

Post something new to your site every week. If you can’t think of anything new to post, then try revisiting some of the old topics and giving them a new spin. Plus, if you take the time to listen to your customers, you’ll have plenty of topics to write about. What do they need help with? What are their concerns?

Make sure you don’t have any speling or grammatikel errors or completely confusing and totally run on sentences that don’t make any sense or drive people crazy or try to fit everything you do on your home page?

And lastly, brand your site. Make sure the pages on your site use graphics that say what you do without words. Create a logo, color scheme, or quote that defines your business, and use it!

Best of success!

8 Steps to Writing a Better Business Book

©2014 Wendy Scheuring

 

STEP 1:  Show Your Expertise

Are you a CEO who wants to tell his or her business story?  Are you a professional speaker who wants to give his or her audience a new perspective? Are you a small business owner who wants to get more paying clients or customers?

You are an expert in your industry.  One way to show this is by becoming a published author!  Once you’ve authored a book, you’ve branded yourself as an expert.  However you decide to distribute and market your book—whether it’s by signing your book and giving it away at speaking engagements or promotional events–using it as a “big business card,” or just selling it, your credibility will soar!    Imagecourtesy/arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“YOU NEED to self-publish if you are in business, a blogger, a writer, or in any profession (essentially all professions) where you want to stand out versus the competition,” says James Altucher, who has published 7 books in the last 8 years.

Publish it and they will read it, to put a spin on an old adage.  Susan Berkley, author of Speak to Influence:  How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice, sold more than 14,000 copies of her book, originally published in 1999, which is now in its second printing of its second edition, according to an About.com blog on Money and Entrepreneurs.

STEP 2:  Go Fishing For New Clients and Keep the Old Ones Happy 

Have you got a great business story to tell?  Maybe even a personal tale of triumph that may be business-related?  What types of problems might they be experiencing? Can you can offer solutions?

Start by offering some free advice to potential clients to reel them in.

When you offer free and friendly advice, they’ll be calling you to make the tougher solutions happen!

STEP 3:  How to Get Started:  Develop Content That Matters. What will others learn from your business story?

Dig deep for real content. List your top 20 business successes and failures.  What did you learn from these experiences?  What do wish someone would have told you?  Now, cross off the top 10 and focus on the last 10, which will most likely be your most unusual and memorable experiences.

Paint a Picture.  They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words.  People relate to and remember what they can visualize.  Name actual events, examples, stories, details, descriptions of what worked and what didn’t, and why.

Connect the Dots.  Readers need to be able to find common ground, a connection between their own lives and the story you tell them.  They need to be able to be able to relate to you. It’s all about connections, and that’s what you want to develop with your readers.

STEP 4:  Who’s Your Daddy? We just wanted to say that.  What we really mean is, “Who are you writing for?”

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to People. Find out what they’re thinking, what they’re concerned about. Be open-minded.  Sometimes we become prisoners of our own perceptions.  It’s invigorating to learn other views.  You don’t have to change your mind based on what you hear, but you’ll be better informed about what people are thinking.  And, you might even gain some insights that you never imagined.

Zoom in on your audience.  Who are you writing for and why do they need to hear what you have to say?  How will what you have to say make a positive impact and lasting impression in their lives?  If you can’t yet answer this question, go back to step 3.

STEP 5: Be a Photographer.  Now, zoom in on your subject matter. If someone asks you what your book is about, can you summarize your book’s premise in one or two sentences?  If you can’t do this succinctly, chances are you’re not focusing in on your topic.  You can’t write a book if you’re not sure what you really want to say.  Whittle down your premise until it’s as streamlined as mechanical pencil lead.

STEP 6:  Do Your Homework or Hire Someone to Do It For You.  Research, research, research.  Find out what others are saying in print and in the media about your industry.  Find out what books have already been written, what bloggers are saying, what’s trending on the internet.  How can you put a spin or take a slightly different direction so you just don’t repeat what others have already said?  What makes your story stand out from the others?

STEP 7: Hire An Image Consultant.  Your appearance is crucial.  That’s why you professionally cut your hair or tailor your business attire.  You hire professionals to make you look good. Did you know that 70% of nonfiction books are ghostwritten?  Most people do not have the time or the skill set necessary to write a full-length book. A ghostwriter or a writing coach will help you look your best in print or on the electronic page. Writing coaches and ghostwriters are professionals who will help you tell your best story.  They’ll also tell you when some things should be left unsaid.  They’ll make sure you’re not tarnishing your professional image.

STEP 8: Don’t be a kamikaze.   This is your story, so don’t bring on self-defeat by writing it in a vacuum.   You and the professionals you hire are part of your writing team.  You may have done the actual writing or hired a ghostwriter or a coach.   But, for your writing project to shine, you’ll also need to hire an editor, a professional set of eyes on your work.  You’ve worked hard throughout this process, so this is not the time to shortchange your book. One typo or grammatical error will tarnish your credibility.  One gap in content will leave readers wondering what you’re trying to say.

Now you’re on your way.  These 8 steps will get you on your way to writing a better business book, but Step 8 isn’t really the end of the road.  You’ll need to think about how you’ll publish your book and how you’ll market it.  To make sure you’ve covered all of the bases, take our quiz, “Are you Ready to Publish”?

 

 

 

 

 

Writer Experienced with Forklifts Wanted

©2014 Wendy Scheuring

 

A while ago, I came upon this online ad for a writer:

Writer Experienced with Forklifts Wanted

 I am looking to hire the services of a freelance writer who has some form of experience with forklifts.  The writer will showcase his or her knowledge of operating a forklift by providing unique and informative articles. Please reply with details about your experience.

Compensation:  Negotiable

At first, I let out a laugh because the ad was so limiting.  Immediately a couple of funny scenarios came to mind, such as bakers needing nuclear engineering experience, or scuba divers needed with cosmetology experience.  I surmised that it would be quite difficult to find someone with expertise in two unrelated fields.

But then I came back to the premise of the original ad:  that writers with specific experience in a subject area are more qualified than those who don’t.

But, is this necessarily true?

Having experience in a given area could be a double-edged sword. Those with knowledge in a certain field may already have formed their own opinions about the subject matter and be less open to what the client actually wants to say.

And, the underlying assumption that writers who know their subject matter ignores one simple thing:  That the act of writing is not actually the first thing that a writer does!

A writer listens before he or she begins writing to “get the story.”

Then, as the process continues, the writer begins to shape ideas into words as he or she confers with the client. It is an ongoing process where writers must constantly adapt as they sift through conversations and interviews and written documents and research to mine the most important facts and details.  That’s when the client’s ideas begin to blend with the writer’s gift of verbiage, creating a truly collaborative work.

So rather than looking for a writer with forklift experience, or a horseback rider with tree cutting experience, or a sea cucumber gatherer with skiing experience, look for a writer who knows how to ask questions, a writer who knows how to connect the dots, a writer with discernment, and most of all, a writer who understands who you are and what your message is, and will not be afraid to write it!

 

“Finishing” a book is a big word! Have you finished yours? Take our quiz to find out!

 ©2014 Wendy Scheuring

You have just finished writing your manuscript, and you think it is ready to send to you publisher or printer. But, do you have everything covered? Take our quiz to find out.

1)      You’ve just finished writing your manuscript, and you’re wondering if you should send it to your publisher or printer without editing or invest the time and money to hire an editor. Internally, your mindset is:

A:  I’m a great writer, so my manuscript probably only needs a proofread for typos, grammar, and punctuation.

B:  I want to save money, so I’ll look for someone with an English background to look over my manuscript free of charge.

C:  I’d like to have an editor look at my manuscript, but I’m concerned that my book might be stolen.

D:  I’m considering hiring a professional editor who will review my manuscript not only for style but also content, and make suggestions for revisions.

2)      What does the word “revision” mean to you?

A:   Rereading the manuscript and changing a sentence or two, maybe tweaking some of the content

B:   Using spellchecker and grammar checker to detect errors

C:   Asking a friend or family member to read the manuscript and make recommendations

D:  “Re-seeing” the manuscript as a reader would and making sure that the content is not only clear, but thought-provoking and insightful

3)      When it comes to book covers, you think that:

A:  The cover isn’t that important.  It’s the story that counts.

B:  You’ll save money by having a friend who is a graphic artists do the design work.

C:  Packaging is important: the cover definitely sells books, so you’ll be hiring a professional graphic artist (who specializes in creating book covers)

D:  You will take a shot at designing the cover yourself.

4)       Your acknowledgements page should be:

A:  Short and simple

B:  List every person you’ve ever known

C:  Write a detailed thank-you to all those who inspired and helped you

D:  Not include an acknowledgements page

5)      You’re considering self-publishing because:

A:  It’s easy and cheap.

B:  The book will be published more quickly than it would with a traditional publisher.

C:  You want total control of your book: price, cover design, edits, and marketing plans, and, most importantly, profit.

D:  Your book is written for a niche audience.

6)      You’ve are considering publishing your book with a POD (Publisher on Demand) because:

A:  It’s free and everyone is doing it.

B:  Your book will sell more copies if it’s available for purchase on an online bookstore.

C:  You don’t require any print copies of your books, or are willing to pay a fee to have them printed.

D:  You‘re okay with the POD retaining rights to the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), book cover, and formatting of the manuscript.

7)      Your idea of a marketing plan is:

A:  I don’t need one.  I’ve written a great story, so it will sell.

B:  I’ll be telling all of my friends and family and acquaintances about my book.

C:  I’m targeting my book to a very specific audience and have researched the best avenues to reach them.

D:  I have a website, I blog regularly, and I post to social media about my upcoming book.

Answers:

  1. “D” – 10 points.  Get in the front door with agents and publishers by not only submitting an interesting story, but also a clean, concise, and error-free manuscript.  If you’re self-publishing, a professional edit is vital.
  2. “D”—10 points.  “Re-seeing” the manuscript is crucial to the revision process.  One way to objectively revise your manuscript is to set it aside and then review it with fresh eyes at a later date.  Then, rework the piece, even if it means you’ll need to do extensive re-writing.
  3. “C”—10 points.  Unless you’re a graphic artist who specializes in creating book covers, hire a professional who can produce an eye-catching cover that also reveals the message of your book.
  4. “A”—10 points.  A short, sweet acknowledgements page is the best way to give credit to those who inspired and supported you throughout the process without taking up too much space and boring the reader.
  5. “D”—10 points.  “B”—5 points.  If you’re writing for a niche audience, a traditional publisher might not market your book in target areas.  If you do not want to secure an agent, nor work with a traditional publisher (a process which might take up to two years or more), self-publishing may be an option for you.
  6. “C” or “D”–10 points. Some “Publishers on Demand” retain the rights to the ISBN, cover graphics, and interior formatting.  Oftentimes, acquiring print copies for book signings and cover designs, etc. may result in additional fees.  Research and double check the fine print.
  7. “C” or “D”—10 points.   Before you launch your book, learn about your target audience.  Generate pre-launch buzz with TV and radio interviews, news articles, social media, a website, and/or a blog.   Offer a discount for pre-ordering and ask reviewers to post endorsements on your website.

70 points – You are ready to launch your book!  Best of success!

50-65 points – You are almost there.  Refer to our checklist to see what steps you need to complete to “finish” your book!

 0-45 points–Keep going!  You’re on the “write” path. Consider hiring a writing coach or ghostwriter to help you with the writing process!

 

Is Your Story a “Diamond in the Rough”?

©2014 Wendy Scheuring

When a writer asks me to read his or her manuscript or listen to his or her book proposal, the first thing I do is look for the story. We’ve all heard the expression “diamond in the rough.” That’s exactly what I’m seeking. Sometimes that story is just waiting to be discovered, like a priceless diamond hidden deep beneath the earth’s mantle.  Like a diamond, your story might just be waiting to come to the surface. But is your story so overtly described that it deprives the reader the thrill of experiencing the journey?  Is there even a diamond there, or is there only a thick chunk of volcanic rock, sending the would-be “miner” on a dead-end chase?

So, the question is, how do you know if you have a diamond in the rough?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we’ve written that it’s hard to see our story from a sojourner’s eyes. We’ve shaped and re-shaped that story to the point where it becomes a deep and intimate part of us.

And, as the author of that story, you see things that others can’t see and hear things that others cannot hear; you make connections that seem to blend together the story. But, what speaks harmony and resonance to you might be a dissonant chord or a dull ping to a foreign ear.

Even when authentic diamonds are expelled to the earth’s crust through a furious flow of magma, they haven’t yet been deemed valuable. They need to be cut and polished by an expert diamond cutter who will determine their shape, size, and worth, and value to others.

Do you have a diamond-in-the-rough that can be cut into an exquisite jewel to be treasured forever, or is it embedded in a dull, dark piece of black volcanic rock?

Call or email Mark & Wendy, accomplished authors and full-service editors and ghostwriters, or shoot us an email. We’ll help you find your “diamond-in-the-rough” and cut and polish it, shaping it into a priceless story for others to discover and enjoy.

 

What My Cats Taught Me About Business

©2013 Wendy Scheuring

I was working the other day, trying to finish a project for a client when my long-haired Tuxedo cat Blackie plopped down on my feet. I was focusing intently on the words on my screen and not on the 20-some pounds of quite possibly the most affectionate cat in all of kitty-dom. The ability to take rejection is not one of Blackie’s strong suits, so he responded by stepping up his game.

He kneaded my toes. He stretched out. He communicated his desire to close the deal with a gentle, concise meow that expressed his sincere need to connect with me.

I didn’t give in and stayed work-focused. But, finally, he did his signature roll-over backwards, all the while keeping a keen eye on me. So, I did what any cat lover would do, I caved. I picked him up—no small feat, I might add—and put him in my lap.

PURRR. Kitty Nirvana. He’d achieved his goal. My cat has entertained me and my family with his cool cat skills and in return, we give him, well, cat love and affection. With Blackie in my lap, I started typing away again; then, I made an interesting connection between my cats and my business. My cats were actually geniuses when it came to relationships:

Ten NOs get you to the YES you are seeking: As described earlier, did Blackie quit at the first NO? Nope. He rubbed against my leg, he meowed, he purred. Persistence pays off.

Bend over backwards for your clients: While few of us can compete with Blackie’s ability to elevate bending over backwards to an art form, any good business person will work hard to delight his or her clients. However, there is a subtlety that Blackie seems to have that makes his act of bending over even more delightful. He keeps his eye on the client. It’s as if he were saying, “Look at how I am striving to delight you even more.” When we communicate the message, quietly, that we are striving to delight, we show our clients that we genuinely care about them.

Purr a little:  We humans are needy. My cats have taught me that. It’s a cold world out there, and all of us need a little loving, a little affirmation, a little caring. Sales people know this all too well, and they jump on this universal need sometimes like a dog—they jump on you, lick your face, wag their tails (dogs, not sales people). But, cats purr. I’ve seen a little 2-oz. kitten purr a man’s heart to its melting point as he was petting it with his index finger. That’s some serious business power packed in a little 2-oz. ball of fur. Our challenge is to purr a little for our clients, to show them affirmation and caring.

Remember, people dig cool cats, man:  Each of my three cats (Make sure to stay tuned for my upcoming blog on what defines a “Cat Lady”) have very different personalities and ways of getting things done. But there’s one trait they share:  Individually, they each possess a very high cool factor. I don’t know how to describe this; I just know that it works. People just dig cool cats. I suspect that if you read this, and get it, you already have a high degree of cool—and the lesson is to just remember the lesson. Cool is a business attribute, a trait to which people (a.k.a. clients) are attracted to like bugs to a light.

Think outside the box:  Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely loathe meaningless clichés? I absolutely do, and that “think outside the box” has got to be one I hate the most. But, I will say that my cats taught me a genuine, meaningful business application of truly thinking outside the box.

I have a screened-in pool enclosure for my pool. And, because of the Florida weather being what it is, I get to spend a lot of time out there on the patio. My cats also share my penchant for being outside on the patio, protected from bad critters and the occasional flying vermin.

I “rescued” these cats from a swampy area in a land called East Texas. Mark claims I cat-napped them. Whatever. My point is that I rescued three lovely cats from packs of yapping dogs and owls looking for dinner.  But, as the saying goes, “You can take the cats out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the cats!”

When poolside chillin’ no longer suits them, it’s time for them to break out! They mosey around the edge until they find a spot and–voila!—they make a door (a.k.a. hole) where there was none. I am constantly sewing shut and blocking off previous “doors” in my screens—we do have rules here, you know!—but to little or no avail. The take away is that when they want out, and there is no apparent way out, then they break out. We need to look at our businesses that way:  Sometimes we like our little boxes of protection, our rules, our comfort, and we often justify our reluctance to break out because there’s no door. My cats have taught me there’s always “a door.”

Lock onto your goal and run after it and do not be deterred:  Remember that country cats in the city theme? Well, my suburban kitties go to great lengths to shake the civilized moniker and prove that a country-cat can survive… They hunt, and too often bring me trophies as proof that they still have mad cat skills, despite my efforts to civilize them. How and where they catch everything from lizards to mice to bunnies, I don’t really know. But, I did witness it once—at first to my alarm, but then with great interest.

I was out searching for Tiger kitty and found her, but stopped as I saw her stalking something. I froze as I watched, peering, but seeing nothing. Then almost simultaneously, a rabbit leaped up and Tiger kitty sprang like a heat-seeking missile. It was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in real time. The rabbit darted and sprinted, but Tiger was right there. I didn’t know who to cheer for, but it was amazing—and Tiger was FAST!  I ran over and Tiger kitty let me have the bunny. It seemed relatively unscathed and I released it. Tiger seemed cool with it, as she was pretty nonplussed about the whole ordeal. She’d won; game over. But during the hunt, she was a different animal—more like her namesake than a domesticated house cat. The lesson she taught me was to be patient in the hunt, relentless in pursuit, and keep a laser-like focus on a fast-moving target.

Chill a little:  After a day of pursuits, break-outs, bending over to delight clients, we all have to just be chill. My cats have this down to a science. Even in our everyday workings and growing our business, we still need to enjoy our work, our clients, our mates, and our lives every day, throughout the day.

Give back to the community:  Now if I know anything about our readership, we have some smart folks wondering how cats can teach us about giving back to the community. I mean really, we all pretty much know that cats could really give a rat’s (intentional pun) patoodie about giving back to their communities.

Well, it’s in their frequent returns where they unwittingly give back. Whenever I have visitors, whether it’s a plumber repairing a toilet, or my friend’s kids coming over for a writing lesson, my cats are right there in the action.  They’re very curious about who is popping over and they make sure that they are part of the social group.

My point is that my cats never wrote a check or picked up trash on the beach, or built a suspension bridge in a third world country; but, in their way, with their own cool cat gifts, in their home playground, they make people smile. No headlines. No accolades. No treats. Our kitty takeaway should be obvious—in our business and in our lives–we should all be doing little things that put a little pep in someone else’s step, a little warmth in someone else’s heart, and a smile on someone else’s face, wherever, and whenever we can.

©Wendy Scheuring, 2013