Networking Schmetworking

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When I was first self-employed I was terrified of networking and would sabotage my own opportunities to meet people by planting myself firmly beside the one person I knew and not moving.  I learned pretty quickly that that wasn’t working for me so I went completely in the other direction.  I took on a “gotta catch ‘em all” attitude to meeting people and exchanging business cards.  It took me some more time but I figured out that thinking like that wasn’t doing anything for me or my business and that there’s more to it than that.

Networking isn’t about frantically gathering business cards as quickly as you can and then calling up your new “contacts” for a favor or two. It’s about establishing mutually beneficial relationships – and to do that, you have to do more than rush yourself through a conversation to move on to the next one.

My network now consists of 1000’s of people.  It’s taken years, patience, and practice to get here but the importance that my network has to me both personally and professionally is greater than I initially understood.  Here are some tips that I’ve used over the years to help me connect with people I didn’t always know and who are now a valuable part of that circle.

  • Being strategic about the people you meet is more important than attempting to strike up a rapport with anybody who comes across your path. But don’t limit yourself to only those people more senior than you – meeting professionals at every level and across industries is critical to truly diversify your network.
  • Networking isn’t about making a sale. Don’t try to impress people with your expertise or title.  Enter into a conversation asking open-ended questions about that person and focus on listening carefully to what they respond.   You’re bound to find some similarities that will help your relationship grow with time.
  • Make the most of your networking memberships. It’s one thing to become a member but that membership isn’t going to do the work for you.  Attend networking events regularly – the more you attend the easier it becomes.  One of my most worthwhile memberships is with the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber works diligently to deliver a variety of networking opportunities that connect different people across different sectors.  You never know who you’re going to meet at a Chamber event so make sure to get out there and take advantage of your membership!
  • Be memorable. Attend network events prepared for conversation.  Whether it’s a great story, your (politically correct) take on a current event, or chit chat over something you have in common with somebody, don’t forget to smile, be engaged and communicate effectively.   Leaving a lasting impression will keep the conversation going the next time you bump into that person.
  • Get out of the comfort zone. Understand that most people at networking events have at one point been in your shoes.  Push yourself with goals and put yourself in front people that you want to be introduced to.  The more you do this, the more this becomes your comfort zone.
  • Pay it forward every chance you get. Networking has to be a two way street.  The more you invest in your network the more your network will invest in you.  Take calls, respond to emails and offer to help if you can.  This creates and maintains stronger bonds with people.
  • Have fun! Nobody likes talking to somebody who is negative or who takes life too seriously at a networking event.  Bring the fun and the fun will follow.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself surrounded by people who enjoy a good time when you choose to bring the fun.
  • End all conversations gracefully. Ask for a business card.  Make eye contact.  Shake hands.   Ending on a high note opens the door to future conversations with that person.

These are a few of the things I have learned over the years that have helped me to make the most out of networking and turn it into something I really enjoy.  Please share tips you have used to up your networking game!

Happy networking!


Great Minds Getting it Done!

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You wake up. You get ready. You look in the mirror and think to yourself: “Self, we are going to be ultra productive today!” You leave for work with a smile on your face. You arrive. You buckle down. You work. The next thing you know, it’s 11:30am and nothing is complete. You can’t figure it out. Your nose has been buried in work all morning! From the greatest minds in the world to your screen, keep scrolling to see which inspiring quotes can help keep you at your most productive:

“I have always lived my life by making lists: lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and that sequence of calls moves me forward.” –Richard Branson

Richard Branson is worth over 3 billion dollars, he was named the most admired business person for five decades by the Sunday Times in 2014 and he was knighted in the year 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II. Safe to say, the man knows about success and he knows how to get things done. Making a list gives you direction and purpose. You can make lists for everything. You can keep them in an electronic device or you can write them down, whatever works for you. The point is, make them, they work!

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” –Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey is best known for authoring The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book which has sold over 25 million copies. He’s counselled Bill Clinton during his presidency and although it was written in 1989, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People remains at the top of the heap of non fiction business books. The takeaway from the 15 word quote above? You can sit down and make lists, you can itemize everything you need to do and still manage to get nowhere. The key is to identify your priorities and create a list to ensure that every minute you schedule helps you reach your goal!

“You can do anything but you can’t do everything.” –David Allen

David Allen is an extremely successful productivity consultant who is best known as the creator of the time management method known as “Getting Things Done”. This quote represents a widely known fact but is rarely practiced. Let’s be honest, you aren’t good at everything. No one is! So why do we try to do everything ourselves (including the things we’re not good at)? Usually it’s because we think we have to. Focusing on leveraging your strengths means that you’re going to be at your best and your business will have a better chance at succeeding.

Identify your natural talents. You can do this by thinking about what types of tasks you enjoy the most. More often than not, the things we enjoy are also the things we are naturally good at. For the tasks you dread, think of someone who can help. Delegation can save your company and it can save your sanity! Find another person to help you or have them complete the task themselves. This enables you to spend the majority of your time working within your strengths and allows other people around you to work within theirs – the ultimate win/win.

If you want to get productive, you need to focus on getting things done. Make lists, lists that matter and then determine who can help you get it done.


How to Create a Holiday Greeting Card Using Canva

The holiday season is right around the corner…and if you know me, then you know that Christmas is my favourite holiday! The music, the lights, the decorations, and the Christmas movies that endlessly stream on t.v every night are just some of the reasons why I’m always filled with Christmas cheer!

I thought I would switch up my usual blog post this week and give a step-by-step tutorial on how to create holiday greeting cards using my favourite photo editing tool—Canva. You can email the finished card to your friends and family or have them professionally printed. Best of all, they’re free to design!

  1. Visit and create an account. When you get to the homepage, either sign in via Facebook or Google, or  create an account in seconds with your email address.S1
  2. After you have created your account and are logged in, you will see the landing page that encourages you to create a design. The landing page will also show any designs that you have created. Canva has created templates with standard sizes for many types of designs, such as Facebook headers, post cards, social media posts and more. Click on the + sign at the top of the page to view more design options. Scroll down until you see the “Events” section and click on “Card” to create a design that is 4 x 6 inches in size. A blank canvas will appear. The white canvas is where you will create your design. What it looks like on the canvas is what it will look like when saved and printed, so make sure everything fits and looks exactly as you want it to.s2s3s4
  3. Canva works with many graphic designers to create stunning preset templates. If you wish, you can easily click one of the preset designs located in the left column that are marked “Free”, otherwise you can use a credit card over their secure server to purchase a pre-made design for just $1! s5s6
  4. If you are using a premade design, just hover over the elements (such as text, graphics, etc) to change them to fit your style. For the template I chose, I decided to change the background colour, wording, font, and the colours for the graphics. Below is my finished design! 2015
  5. If you want to use a photograph of your family/friends, there are a few preset templates that you can choose from where you can add your own image. An example is shown below. s7
  6. To add your own image, click on “Uploads” on the left toolbar. Next, click on the green button that says “Upload your own images”. A popup will appear showing you your computer’s files. Navigate to where your picture is saved, click on the picture and it will upload to Canva. Once the upload is complete, a thumbnail of your image will show up in the “Uploads” portion of your screen.s8s9s9b
  7. Next, click on the image you’ve uploaded, drag it over the photo template on your canvas and the image should click into place, overlaying the existing image. Once your image replaces the template image, you can click on your image to change the filter if you wish to. Again, change any of the other elements you’d like to in order to make it your own! Below is my finished design! Below is my finished design of a pug I found on Google! 2015 (1)
  8. If you really want to get creative and create your own image from scratch, you can do just that! With a blank canvas, choose any tab from the left menu to change that element for your design. Click “Background” and choose a design you like. When you click on the thumbnail, the background will automatically update on your canvas. If you like the pattern but want to change the colour, then click on your canvas. A new menu will pop up with various options. Click on the circle with the colour swatch to bring up more options. If you want a really specific colour, click on the + sign and use the colour picker to select a colour that works best with your design. s9cs9d
  9. To add graphics, click on the “search” button on the left hand side of your screen. Different categories will show up with tons of elements that you can add to your design! A good place to start would be the “Holidays” category where you can find many Christmas graphics that would be perfect for your card.  Alternatively, you can search using the search bar located above the categories. Use generic keywords to bring up the largest number of results. Type in “Christmas” to get started. Your results will show up right under the search bar, so scroll through them until you find graphics you like. Simply click and drag them onto your canvas and rearrange and resize them as you see fit. Once the graphics are on your background, you can click on them to see more options. You can only change the colours on some graphics. Just a reminder, choose graphics that are free, otherwise you’ll have to pay $1 each. s9es9fs9g
  10. Next, click on the “Text” icon on the left tab to add some wording to your image! Different text options will appear in your menu. Click on one of the font styles you like and it will appear on your canvas. If you do not like any of the preset styles, you can click on “Add a little bit of body text” which will give you a simple line of text and you can customize the font however you please. You can always resize and rearrange the text whenever you wish. Once the text is on your image, double click on it and start typing to change the wording. A menu should also pop up allowing you to change the font, font colour, size, as well as other style options such as making the text bold, underlined, etc.s9h
  11. If you ever make a mistake and wish to undo an action, simply click on the arrow at the top of the screen beside “Share” and “Download”. This will undo your last action. Keep clicking on the button to undo as many actions as you need to. The text that appears to the left of that arrow is your file name. When you are happy with your design, click on the file name to change it, and click on “Download” to save your image to your computer. Below is the design I created!s9i
  12. Browse the different categories under the “Search” tab in the left menu. You can add borders, lines, frames, shapes, icons, photos and more! If you are looking to add your own photograph in a frame to your design and you do not like the preset options as mentioned in step 6, simply click on the “Frames” category under the “Search” tab. Select a frame that you like and follow steps 6 and 7 to add your own photo to the frame.
  13. If you’re looking to email the card you created to your friends and family, simply attach the saved picture into a new email. You can also visit a print centre and have your cards professionally printed so that you can mail them out!

Get creative and have fun!


The Power of Social Media

Social Media (1)*DING* “Katie tagged you in a photo”, 3:36AM.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all heard that *ding* that lets us know that we’ve been tagged in a photo or a post for everyone to see. The thought that usually passes through my head is, “Oh no… What if my mom sees this?” But what about the thought, “What if my boss sees this?” or “What if this ruins my chance of future employment?

To think that employers don’t review your social media prior to allowing you to represent their company is naïve. Many companies have policies in place that require all candidates be checked out online prior to hire. Be prepared for employers to review your social media avenues, whether that be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr etc. Once a Tweet or photo is posted, consider it to be a lifelong representation of yourself. Even though you may have deleted the post from your wall or feed, it is still possible for others to find.

Social media, and the Internet as a whole, is shaping the way that the public perceives companies and the services that they offer. Although your social media is YOUR business, it becomes EVERYONE’S business if your privacy settings aren’t high enough. Even though you are an employee, the image that you create for yourself as an employee will have an effect on others’ perceptions of the company. If the company that you work for or you are applying to were to deem your social media activity inappropriate or harmful to their reputation, there would be nothing standing in the way of them denying or terminating your employment.

Tips to avoid popular social media mistakes:

  • Clean up your feed.

Always be sure to clean up your news feed. Go through your photos and untag yourself from anything that could be perceived as inappropriate. The same goes for your posts and shares! If there is anything that could be seen as crude or questionable, delete it.

  • Increase your privacy settings.

I personally have my Facebook settings quite high. I don’t allow my friends to post on my wall, tag me in photos or tag me in posts without it being approved first. Those who aren’t my friends can only see limited information on my profile. It only takes a few minutes to be sure that you aren’t revealing any information that you shouldn’t be!

  • Start from scratch.

If it’s too much work to go through your current profile, delete it and start over. Create a profile that you will use professionally and not personally. If you are looking to use it for both, be conscientious of what you post. Be sure that the content is appropriate and acceptable according to your company’s standards.


Do’s and Don’ts of Leadership

A Leader.jpegThe other night while on the phone, catching up with an old friend we got on the topic of one of our favorite and most respected managers we have ever worked for.  She is a very strong, goal oriented, assertive woman with amazing problem solving skills, classy to a fault and great with people.  It was an absolute pleasure to work for her.  After some time was spent reminiscing I began to wonder why there aren’t more people like her; why so many other people in leadership roles get it so wrong, and yet she makes it look so effortless!  I started to think about all the things I have learned from her, from other managers I have had, and feedback I have received from individuals who have worked for me and put together some do’s and don’ts when it comes to taking on a managerial role.

  1. Be Assertive:  Being assertive is one of the best things you can do for your team and for yourself.  People want a strong leader – not a wallflower, and some people don’t respond well to managers who seem unsure of themselves.  Send clear and concise messages to your team about what you need from them.  Using words or phrases like; “maybe”, “probably”, “do you think you could” and “might be”, is giving people the impression that what you are saying isn’t that important or time sensitive which can lead to miscommunication. You can’t expect people to read between the lines and just assume they will get it.  Some people are very literal.  So instead use words like, “want”, “we need to”, and “can we get this done by_____?”.   Outline your expectations clearly and leave your team with a clear direction and confidence in you, their leader.
  2. Stay calm:  This goes somewhat hand-in-hand with being assertive in the sense that employees don’t want to see their manager freaking out when things get tough.  As a manager, you are your employee’s support system.  I think back to my days as a server and when one of the restaurants I worked in would get “slammed”, one of my managers would more often than not, be visibly flustered and quite obviously unhappy.   If I needed help, they were the LAST person I would go to for help and I would ask my coworkers instead.  How on earth was this person going to help me if they could barely keep themselves together?  It didn’t instill a whole lot of confidence so I was left fending for myself.   So don’t do that!   You’re no help to anyone if you’re losing your cool.  I’m aware that this seems easier said than done and I agree; it’s definitely not easy but it shouldn’t exactly be hard either.  That’s your job – to handle the tough stuff.  That’s why you are the manager and not them, isn’t it?  This brings me back to my above statement; People want a strong leader, and part of that is being able to keep your cool.  How does that saying go?  If you can’t handle the heat…. and something about a kitchen?
  3. Listen:   If your team has ideas and want to express them, listen.  Moreover, don’t make judgements about their idea right away and for GOODNESS sakes don’t cut them off.  Don’t reject their idea or start pointing out flaws before they have even finished their thought.  Honestly, this one doesn’t just apply to the work environment either it should be a best practice of life – don’t be rude.  If you cut someone off or shoot them down right away there is a very high probability that you will create an unhealthy environment that makes people feel unvalued or even stupid.  If they don’t feel like they can come to you without getting their head bit off, you may have inadvertently created an office of “yes” men, and that’s not good for anyone, especially you.
  4. Don’t Micromanage:  This one baffles me to no end.  Why should you have to micro manage anyone, really?  If it is absolutely necessary that you hound your staff about the smallest of details, then it’s time to re-evaluate the situation and make adjustments as necessary.  If they are smart, proficient and capable individuals with a positive attitude, then you should leave them be.  You have enough to worry about (being a manager and all) so don’t add to your stress by smothering your team and stifling their creativity.  Check in on them of course, ask them if they need anything from you and tell them your door is open if they do.  Encourage them to make decisions on their own so they have the opportunity to grow and learn through their own ability to think critically.  If you do this and they make a mistake, show them were they went wrong and offer a solution instead of just reprimanding them.  Guide them in a way that teaches them where they went wrong and how to correct the error for the future while still offering encouragement like telling them what they did right.  If you spend too much time tightening the collar on any person for any reason, they will naturally begin to search for freedom and try to get away from you!  Loosen the tension on the leash a little, and you will be surprised how often they start coming to you on their own for your advice and guidance.
  5. Be Humble: You are nothing without your team and it’s best if you remember that.  A great team is like a mint condition classic muscle car with a great driver.  What good is a 1967 GTO if you’re just going to do donuts and drive it into a brick wall?  Don’t act like a spoiled teenager that was just handed the keys to daddy’s car.  Acknowledge that it is your team that helps you reach your goals and that of the company.  Praise them for a job well done because everyone needs their tires pumped up every once and while.  Praise feels better than a raise, and it makes constructive criticism easier to swallow if and when the time comes.  On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo it with the gratitude; hearing it all the time is like getting flowers from your boyfriend every day – it gets old and no longer feels special.

It’s a bit of a balancing act sometimes when leading a team, especially a large one.  But, if you can keep your focus on not only your goals, but also on being a strong, supportive leader for your team you will be able to accomplish some amazing things!

Now get back to work!



5 Apps That Make Me More Efficient


Social media on smartphoneStart where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. ~ Arthur Ashe

As CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers and employees, we are all seeking ways to be more efficient. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I am addicted to apps! The fact that I can make a virtual visit to a store that provides me with tools to enhance my workday makes me smile! I cruise through the newest apps at least twice a week, and, because I am passionate about being efficient and organized, I always end up downloading the latest productivity app to see how it can help me in my day to day.

I could probably rhyme off 100 apps that are great but instead, I’ve decided to list my favorite 5:

  • TurboScan: This app quickly scans multi page documents and then converts them to PDF. This app is essential for anyone on the go who is required to fire off paperwork of any type. I use it to send forms, contracts, financials and meeting notes when I don’t have a copier or scanner available and sometimes, even if I do!
  • Mynd: I have easily tried 15-20 different calendar apps in the hopes of finding the right one for me! Last month, I lucked out. I stumbled upon Mynd. Mynd is not only aesthetically pleasing, it syncs to your calendar and alerts you before a meeting to tell you when you should leave (taking current traffic conditions into consideration). Beyond providing typical features (how many events left in my day, list view or daily view), Mynd also tracks your KMs on a daily basis. This is by far, the best calendar app I’ve ever used!
  • Todoist: I am a list person! Everything is categorized on a list, whether it’s personal or professional. Again, I’ve tried and tried to find the perfect app for my lovely and abundant lists. I admit that I purchased the premium version of the app once I discovered its potential! You can create notes, add reminders, add task notes to projects, attach files, record voice messages and add custom labels and filters. It’s simply the best application for lists that I’ve had the pleasure of trying.
  • Evernote: The absolute BEST app for a creative mind! It’s like a vision board on your phone! Create a notebook and then go crazy: add notes, create checklists, snap photos, leave voice memos all on the same note. Basically, if you have a meeting and you come up with a brilliant chart or drawing depicting something of value, snap a pic and add it to that note. If someone said something great, repeat it in a voice memo and attach it to the notebook. You can then share this notebook with anyone.
  • CamCard: When you attend networking events, it’s easy to lose those little business cards you eagerly collect along the way. I had a vast collection and it was getting cumbersome! Finding the app that could scan, save and categorize business cards AND offer decent accuracy when scanning was a challenge. CamCard is the one that I prefer and I use it regularly.

In today’s work world, apps can make you the most efficient you’ve ever been. Visit the App Store, experiment and be more productive than you ever thought possible, I dare you!


Tricks of the Trade

tricksYes, trade shows come at a cost. You need a booth/display, you need swag, you need to spend a little to leave a lasting impression. All of these things cost money. If you don’t invest the time and energy to make sure every detail is perfect, it can easily turn into an expensive waste of time.

This is your trade show! You’re showing off your brand, your vision, your product. The key is to know that it’s not an expense, it’s an investment! Get out of that negative space and use all of your brain power to come up with how you’re going to make this investment count! We’re heading to our first tradeshow on Sunday! We’ve been scouring the internet, seeking advice and taking it all in to ensure that we have the best experience with the best results possible. We’ve put on booths in smaller venues but this will be our first large trade show. It’s time to get our big girl pants on and time for you to benefit from our experience!

This is part 1 – the plan. Part 2  – the results – will follow next week with a report on what worked well and what we could have done better!

  1. Set goals. You’re spending on travel, accommodations, actual conference costs, the trade show booth, swag and marketing materials. Your first measure should be your ROI. How many people visited your booth? How many people provided you with additional information (email/phone number). How many people were you able to qualify, demo to and book follow up appointments with? We’ve established solid goals and we plan to measure the success of our attendance by those goals.
  1. Be memorable. Do you really want to put a booth together and sit behind a table hoping and wishing that people will come up to you to find out what your about. Make sure that you’re booth is interactive, looks fresh and avoids that tired, outdated feel. If you’re 2 attendees, have one person out networking with delegates and driving them to your booth. This is a chance for you to connect directly with customers in a sector you’re obviously interested in (otherwise, why are you there?).
  1. Do your research. As a vendor, you should be entitled to a map of the event listing all other vendors. Find out who they are. Who else is promoting their product or service? Are there competitors in the room? Is there anyone you should research to determine how your service or product is different or better? An even better list is the list of delegates! Imagine knowing exactly who you will be shaking hands with before the event even happens. You can add to your goals: meet Mr. Smith. I know I have a few people on our list that I plan to go out of my way to meet.

If you’ve got some trade show booth tips and tricks, feel free to leave your advice as a comment!  We still have 3 days to implement novel ideas!!!