SAVVY SOURCES FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Think back to your office days when a bunch of people would meet at the water fountain, gossip, discuss the ball game, and talk shop. Then someone would say something, and a thunderbolt would go off inside your head. A brainstorm!
You learn from your co-workers' experiences. They stimulate your thoughts. They inspire you toward greater heights.
Are you fertilizing your mind with new ideas in your home office? You can if you follow these steps: Listen to audio cassette tapes on business topics. Join professional organizations. Attend educational seminars. Share ideas with a colleague over lunch. Talk to a customer every day.
Audio cassette tapes cover such business topics as goal setting, time management, motivation, coping with difficult people, and sales. These 1-to 3-hòur audio programs are informative and convenient. You can listen to an entertaining and thought-provoking discourse on a favorite topic as you drive to an appointment, jog a mile, or take a shower.
An inexpensive way to listen to the best business audio tape programs is to subscribe to The Personal Progress Library (818-242-9583), a lending library of more than 600 tapes covering management, communication, negotiation, sales training, time management, and marketing. Its authors include Ken Blanchard (The One Minute Manager), negotiating expert Roger Dawson, telephone communications guru George Walther, management author Peter Drucker, and customer service visionary Michael LeBoeuf.
The $199 annual fee entitles you to borrow an unlimited number of tapes. You must pay a $7 postage charge for each tape program. This is a small price compared to what you would pay to buy the tapes.
One of the largest and most diverse collections of business and motivational tapes is offered by Nightingale Conant (N-C, 800-323-3938). If you've ever listened to the taped interviews and motivational speeches on airplanes, you've heard N-C authors, including Zig Ziglar. The most recent catalog features the audio cassette adaptations of such best sellers as Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens, Thriving on Chaos by Tom Peters, What They Still Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack, and Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey Mackay. Each sells for $59–$69 and lasts about four hours. The catalog features many original self-help tapes to improve memory, avoid procrastination, manage people, promote a positive outlook on life, sell real estate, and be more creative. N-C also has two tape-of-the-month club offerings: Sound Selling (120 minutes, $12.25 per month) and Sound Management (60 minutes, $13.90 per month).
If you don't have time to read the best-selling business books, you might consider Fast Track (800-257-8345). It offers 40-minute abridgements of two books each month plus 5-minute interviews with the authors. An annual subscription costs $132 a year, a bargain compared to the $720 you would spend for two books a month at an average price of $30. Recent titles include Megatrends, Confessions of an SOB, and The Wall Street Journal on Managing.
Employing a self-study approach complete with tapes and workbooks, The American Management Association (518-891-5510) features approximately 100 programs on business topics such as marketing, finance, service organization, and manufacturing. You can learn how to write a business plan, plan your business's cash flow, write marketing plans, and analyze the competition. Prices range from $79 to $249, with minor discounts for AMA members.
To increase your expertise and get different perspectives on business, join a professional organization or general business group, such as the Rotary Club or the Chamber of Commerce.
Through community colleges, training companies, and numerous professional organizations, you can learn how to design newsletters, supervise people, read a balance sheet, or troubleshoot computers. Prices range from $95 to $895 a day. Many courses offer discounts if several people from the same company attend a session. Fred Pryor Seminars offers day-long seminars for $99 on a variety of subjects all across the country. Call (800) 255-6139 for information.
Nothing beats face-to-face contact. Take a colleague to lunch or breakfast. You can learn from each other's experiences. Don't worry about giving away your trade secrets. The expertise you bring to your work will differentiate you from the others. After all, a competitor can't steal your creative style and personal panache that win clients. Meanwhile, you can pick up invaluable tips that can save you time and money.
Want to do your job better and prepare for the future? Who knows what your customers want better than your customers? Call a customer or prospect every day. Don't try to sell, however. Talk to learn. Ask customers: What trends are shaping the industry? What products or services will be hot in the future? What do you like or dislike about my service?
You'll be amazed at what you learn from others.