Friday, August 28, 2009

What Is Your Story

Received a call late yesterday asking if I would mind being the guest speaker at our networking group meeting next Thursday. Well, as one not above a bit of shameless self promotion of course I said yes.

Then came the tricky part. What to present about. Clearly as a learning consultant and performance technologist there is no shortage of subject material. The question is not so much finding something to present but narrowing down the field to a specific topic. Will not divulge the topic chosen here because some of you who are going to hear me on Thursday may be reading this and don't want to spoil the surprise.

However, this led me down a path of thought regarding presentations at groups where everyone is comfortable. Generally in a networking group that meets regularly, you get to know what each person does within a couple of months. Perhaps six months if the meetings are not weekly or every two weeks. This often results in each person delivering the same presentation meeting after meeting.

The repetition of a presentation has both good and bad points. First the good. The more anyone hears a consistent message the easier it is to remember. Thus when a potential for referral comes up your message may be front of mind.

However, it is also true that the more you hear the same message the less you listen to the message. Each of us has a hundred different things going on in our lives and if we can tune out a presentation while attending to some other "urgent" thought, we will do so. As a result your message falls on deaf or semi-deaf ears losing that repetition value.

The key is to keep your message clear, concise, understandable and exciting. Keep them on the edge of their chair each time you present. Think about it, were the presentations at your last networking meeting better when a guest was present. Of course they were. There was someone new to listen to the pitch.

The moral being that you have to have a story to tell for sure but the more ways you can tell that story the better the chance of it being heard.

So, before you present your ideas to another group of potential clients or people who you want to refer you to clients ask the simple question. What is my story? And, who cares?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That "Senior" Thing

As mentioned in my last post, we went to the CNE last Saturday. The fellow at the parking lot entrance asked if we wanted to purchase our tickets there while paying for parking. Of course we said "yes". He then asked how many children, adults, seniors. Not being sure I asked what a senior was. His response, someone over 60.

As it is both my wife and I fit that category so we took two seniors admittance tickets. However, it raised the issue of exactly what a senior is. For some purposes a senior is anyone over 65 years of age. For others, I.e. the CNE, it is 60 years of age or older. In yet other places, take Denny's for example, it is anyone 55 years of age or older. It really can get quite confusing.

Add to this the latest wrinkle in my business life. CSTD (Canadian Society for Training & Development) has offered a new way of being certified as a CTDP (Certified Training & Development Professional). This being through completion of an application as a Senior Practitioner. Here, depending on how old you were when you entered the field, you could be as young as say, 35 - 40. This is because you will have the minimum of 15 years of experience.

Not complaining about the benefits for sure, just wondering if perhaps there is a need somewhere to standardize the identification of a senior. Perhaps it is as simple as using a variety of labels, E.g. mature, experienced, elderly, or just plain old.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Through A Child's Eyes

I must admit it has been a few years since I visited that event often identified as the grand old lady by the lake. AKA the CNE. Not sure exactly why that is as it seems to be the thing to do for those who live in the GTA.

Perhaps it is because I am older and the thought of going on a lot of rides does not stimulate me to action. Perhaps it is because I have become somewhat jaded in my opinion of the odds of winning at any of the carnival games. Perhaps it is because the vendors at the Direct Energy Centre seem to be selling things I either don't want, don't need or can't afford.

Anyway, this year was different for me. My son and 3 1/2 year old grandson were down from Barrie. So, we decided it would be nice to take him to the CNE.

Well, what an experience. To see all the CNE has to offer through a fresh set of eyes. Everything was exciting to him, from the animals in the farm area to the games of chance to the interactive areas and rides in the children's area.

Truly this gave me a new view of something that had become quite bland. Another, same old same old, kind of event.

This got me to thinking about how many of us have taken that same approach with many other areas and events in our life. When was the last time that something was new and exciting to you? Perhaps it is because you know exactly what to expect and as long as that is there you are happy. Perhaps that is because you are looking for certain aspects of an event and as a result overlook other aspects. I would be the first to acknowledge that kind of bias in many areas of my life.

So what do we do about it. Well,perhaps the best thing we could all do is to start to look at our life events and activities as a child would. What would they see if they were experiencing this.

Who knows, out of that observation we may find the secret to greater happiness.

Who knows, out of that observation we may find the key to that problem that has been so hard to solve.

Who knows, out of that observation we may suddenly realize that we have a pretty darn exciting and good life all things considered.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Replace Society

What is the most common reactions we have today when something fails to work properly. I believe it is to simply throw it out and get a new one. After all, the cost of repair more often than not is greater than the cost of a new unit.

As a population we have over the last 40 - 50 years gotten rather used to the fact that products have a life. Sometimes that life is a couple years, sometimes many many more. But never-the-less we consider it has reached the end of it's life and we throw it out. After all we are in a disposable society or at least that is this old fellow's opinion.

Well, my Falcon Mark V barbecue has been with me since some time in 1978. A nice reliable unit made of cast iron, not the tin of today. Over the years it has had it's share of servicing. A couple of new burners because the old ones gave up. A couple of paint jobs to make it look spiffy (is that even a word).

About 8 years ago I even went to the full extent of totally rebuilding the wooden stand and platform around the unit. It looked just like new and operated that way as well.

However, last week the barbecue just did not meet the challenge presented in cooking a couple of nice steaks. So, off to the barbecue store I go looking for a new burner and thought it would be a good idea to replace the lava rock rack at the same time.

No so fast my friend the store owner says. Your barbecue is old and parts are no longer available. Most folks have switched to generic units now. Try finding the parts on-line.

Just as I was about to give up and consider replacing old faithful, he had another suggestion. Why not drill out the holes in the existing burner. Often they just get plugged over the years and it will not hurt the burner. Also you can use just about any type of rack for holding the lava rocks so try something else that will fit.

Well I am pleased to say folks that his advice seems to have been pretty solid. Did drill out the burner (OK, so I broke a couple bits doing it) and it seems the flames are better than ever now. So, on to another set of steaks. Maybe this time tube steaks.

This got me to thinking about all the other things that have been thrown out over the past few years. Was there a simple solution like this one available for them as well.

Perhaps with the economy in a bit of a slump we should all look to fixing rather than replacing. Who knows, we might save some money and definitely will gain a sense of personal satisfaction having fixed something.

Something to think about.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Passwords - An Answer

Below is an answer provided to my recent blog on passwords. Thought a few other folks might be interested in the wisdom shared by my friend David. Thanks David.


If you are looking to keep your computer related passwords organized you can try out some of the password management software available. Programs like KeePass ( allow you to store various passwords in an organized fashion for all your accounts. KeePass is provided as open-source software so you may use it at no charge. The advantage is you just need to remember one password (the one that gains you access to the password management software).

Using a program like this will allow you to keep an unlimited amout of highly secure passwords (the program will choose a highly secure password for you if you'd prefer and will rate the passwords you enter for their security) and not have to worry about remembering them all... However don't forget the 'master password' or you really are in big trouble.

You could even keep your other PIN numbers etcetera in the program, however then you'd have to carry around your computer at all times.

Hope this helps you out,

David Mielke
FileBank IT Solutions"

Monday, August 10, 2009


Just how many passwords do we need in today's world to get things done securely. Let's look at a typical day for someone who has an email account, is on LinkedIn; is on Facebook; does PC Banking; does banking at a machine; handles finances for a non-profit group.

First, you need a password to get into your email. Once in, you find that you have an invitation from someone to accept them as a friend on Facebook. You click on the link and guess what, a password is required to go further. Having passed that portal you move back to your email.

Oops, now an invitation has come in to join someone on LinkedIn by clicking on a link in the email. Sure enough another password is required to get into that site and approve the linkage.

The mail arrives and you find your telephone bill in the box. Why go out, just pay it on the PC. But wait, a password is required to ensure you are the only one who can get into that account. Good stuff but still another password to remember and enter.

You then remember that you will have to pay cash for golf today as the club does not take credit cards. So, on the way to the course you drop by a branch of your bank and visit the ATM. You are ahead of me, right, a password or PIN is required to protect you from others getting at your money.

While there you decide to deposit those cheques the members gave you for their association dues at last night's meeting. Another bank card of course and yes, another PIN (password).

Sure you could have all the on-line passwords the same but there is a problem there. If you use the same password to get into your banking as your email is it truly safe? One other slight complication, the programmer for one site requires that you have a mixture of numbers and letters in your password. This is different than the other site that asks for a six digit alpha password only.

Recognizing the need for protection the question of course is should there not be some way that we could be protected and yet not have to strain our memories? I believe there are other ways, finger print scan; retina scan; voice recognition. All have great benefits over remembering a lot of numbers but are all available readily to the general public. Probably not.

So, we will continue to try to remember a multiple number of passwords and hope we can keep them all straight and avoid total frustration by forgetting just one. You know like the one I needed to sign in to even post this blog. Fun Wow!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Weather Conversation

One thing that seems to be the most common among Canadians is that we love to talk about the weather. Perhaps this is because of our less than aggressive nature. When you are standing at a bus stop and a stranger comes by you have two choices. Either ignore the person and make no conversation or make a comment about the weather.

"Sure is wet today with all this rain.". The thing is you will probably get an answer to this rather obvious statement. Weird I know.

Recently had breakfast with a group of fellow Rotarians and the topic of the weather, surprise of all surprises, came up. It was then that I noticed something unique. Or at least to me it was a bit of a revelation.

Taking into consideration how the individual talks about the summer we have had this year, can tell you a lot about the personality of the person. If they are totally down and say we have had a lousy summer. Is it really the weather that is a downer for them? Perhaps business is slow or other personal issues are bothering the person.

If they relate to the great days we have had, are they a true optimist. Or perhaps are they someone who is willing to make the best of what is presented to them. Alternatively, maybe business has been great and all cares swept away in the past few weeks or months.

It is a lot like the question of whether the glass is half full or half empty. The half full person remembers the great days and is optimistic about their being better days ahead. The half empty person will moan about the few good days and the limited number of days left in the "calendar summer".

Now this may be my own interpretation of things but suggest it bears consideration.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


One of the things we all do from time to time is to update former associates on how we are doing. This could be anyone from the high school friend you have not seen for years or the former co-worker who you have not seen for months.

Had that very opportunity today. Met a former co-worker (OK she was my former boss) for lunch. Although it has been only about 6 months there seemed to be so much to talk about for both of us.

First, there is the family updates. How are the children / grand-children doing? How is everyone else, your life partner, parents, etc. Then of course the stop in the conversation to decide what to have for lunch. Simple thing but you want to have something that will allow you to carry on a conversation while you eat. No spaghetti here.

For anyone who has done interviewing the golden rule is to have the candidate talk 60% of the time and you listen. But what is the rule for updating a friend?

This got me to thinking about how many times we meet business associates just for a coffee or light lunch etc. Our purpose is to keep up contacts and to build relationships. However, if we do all the talking, do they want to meet with us regularly? Probably not.

On the other hand if we sit quiet and do not get involved in a true dialogue then our associates will see little value in getting together. Updating friends, or business associates is a win-win operation if done properly.

We all need to ask is what is important to tell them about us? How are we going to respond to that sigificant piece of information, someone is critically ill, they have or are in danger of losing a job?

No real answers here but believe that just giving it some thought will make us all much better at updating associates and being updated by associates.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Much to Charge

Recently attended a function where an associate mentioned he had been asked to do some consulting. Clearly this was something he could do quite easily having been a partner in a successful business for a number of years before going into semi-retirement. However, the question was one of how much to charge for this service.

This is something everyone who does consulting is challenged with. I suggested a rate of $150./hour which for an 8 hour day would work out to a day rate of $1,200. Extrapolated to a normal working year of 252 working days that equals an annual salary rate of $302,400. Not bad earning at all.

However, we all recognize that consultants do not have the opportunity to work 8 hours a day every one of the 252 working days of the year. So let's say you work only one day in three. That brings your annual earnings down to $100,800. which is still good money.

The challenge of course is to justify the rate. Here there are a few different scenarios generally followed.

Scenario One: Charge what the market will bear. If everyone else is charging a rate of $200./hour then charge that rate. The theory here is that you are only asking for what everyone else is getting paid. The problem with this approach is that not everyone brings the same skills / experience to the table. Should the first time consultant be paid as much as the one who has been in the field for 20 years? Something to think about.

Scenario Two: Determine what you would like to have an annual earnings (before taxes). Then estimate the number of hours/days you will be able to bill. Using those two numbers simply do a mathematical calculation to get your hourly rate. I.e. Desired earnings = $100,000/pa and your estimated number of 8 hour days billable = 84 or 7 days a month. Your hourly rate would have to be $100K/672 = $148.81 or $150. for ease of billing. This scenario also has its problem as you might have trouble rationalizing your rate to a client. Also if six months into the year your working days do not average 7/month, do you increase your rate to generate the revenue desired?

Scenario Three: In this scenario you base your rate on the "value add" factor for the client. For example, estimate that as a result of your consulting for a period of say 1 week or 40 hours will provide an increase of say $10,000. to the earnings of the company. The value add is then $10,000. If you charge $150/hour your bill will be $6,000. The company benefit would be $4,000. for $6,000. invested or an ROI of 66.7%. For every six dollars invested in your services the company will earn an additional ten dollars. This scenario often plays better at the board table. When you talk about a return that high, even if the estimated benefit drops to say $9,000. they are still making three dollars for every two dollars invested.

So what scenario is the best to work with as both a supplier of consulting services and a purchaser of consulting services? Clearly there is no right answer other than to say that the scenario which best meets the needs of both parties is the one to use.

Should you have the exact same charge formula for all clients? Again, the answer will depend on a lot of factors, not the least of which is your desire for referral business.