Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

Don’t bother me, Just pay me

In Author: Lisa Canning, Customer Service, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Health & Wellness on June 5, 2009 at 2:31 am

The past few months I have been seriously trying to get to the bottom of some long term issues with my health. While I have always had a lot of energy and eat healthy ( no greasy food, limit the sweets and white flour opting for salads, whole grains, lean proteins and fish), I have, since I was ten, struggled with my weight. One of my 2009 new years resolutions ( remember those you made back in Dec/Jan?) was to try and take whatever steps were necessary to make the lifestyle changes I need to reduce my weight to improve my health.

So to honor that resolution I have been working out with a body builder for the past three months three times a week for an hour and a half, mixing weight lifting up with cardio, as well as making the changes to my diet the body builder is encouraging, hoping to get my metabolism moving.

While my physical strength is improving daily, my weight has not budged. Being born into a family with horrible genetics ( obesity rules in greek families) I decide it might be a good idea to go to the doctor and rule out a thyroid problem being at the root of my difficulty.

So I went to see my general practitioner and had a number of blood tests. The tests indicated my insulin levels were higher than they should be for sure, but not high enough to label me diabetic.The doctor put me on pre-diabetic medicine and asked me to make an appointment with an endocrinologist. (Hypothyroid can look a lot like a pre-diabetic condition.) Eager to address my problem, and hoping it would help me improve my health, I called the referral my doctor gave me.

Quickly I discovered where my eagerness to consult with an “expert” about my health fit into the value system of both of the endocrinologists I was referred to by my physician.

The first I tried calling 4 different times. It seems they rarely keep office hours and never answer the phone. Each time I called this was the message I heard: ” Dr. XXX is currently not available. Our office is now closed. Don’t page the doctor, Don’t ask us when we are not open for a refill or an appointment and Don’t leave us a message unless you are willing to wait 24-48 hours for a return call. If this is an emergency call 911. Beep.”

The second endocrinologist I called won’t see me at all until I send over my blood tests and they decide if THEY are willing to set up an appointment to see me.

It seems endocrinologists are in such demand, according to my general practitioner, that they feel they don’t need to be bothered– unless they feel like it. Of course when you go to see them, they will not let you past the front office until you have signed a waiver guaranteeing to pay them and/or providing them with insurance information they accept.

It seems that these doctors have forgotten that the services they provide is a business. They have forgotten that where there is demand lies opportunity and that customers (or in this case patients) have a choice about who they see and what they tell others about their experiences.

Every profession is a business and every business has an opportunity to recognize opportunity to provide superior service that translates into a thriving enterprise and happy repeat customers.

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Jump Start Your Life- I have the spark plug

In Accounting, Art, BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Customer Service, Employees, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on January 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm

dreamstime_3139037One of the reasons I want to write books is because books, art, poetry and film, as examples, all intrinsically are built to last. Their very form offers easy “spark-creating-experience” access, like a hand full of nourishment going right into our mouth. Love that rush of energy that follows, don’t you? You know, the part before you get tired?

While it is impossible for a memory to replace the actual real time experience of ephoria, or intense joy, anger or sadness– only the kind a work of art can deliver, it can be waiting eagerly for you on a shelf, if it’s a book, or hanging on your wall.

What a basic concept entrepreneurship is for artistry, and yet without this simple “must have”, generations upon generations have defined who we are and what we are capable of creating for others in life, through a very narrow, confining, and as I see it, rather destructive single lens.

In honor of the power of the written word to enlighten and transform, here is my recommended reading list to jump start your very best you in 2009.


Do You Want to Become More Entrepreneurial?

* Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, by Bo Burlingham

* The Art of The Start by Guy Kawasaki

* Awakening the Entrepreneur Within: How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Companies,
by Michael Gerber

* Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, by Richard Florida

*The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live, by
Scott A. Shane

*Bounce!: Failure, Resiliency, and Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success, by Barry J. Moltz

*Birthing the Elephant: A Woman’s Go-For-It Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business, by Karen Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman

Marketing Maven
* Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin

* The New Marketing Manifesto: The 12 Rules for Building Successful Brands in the 21st Century (Business Essentials) by John Grant

* The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

* Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say by Douglas Rushkoff

* Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

* The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing by Emanuel Rosen

* The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott

Organizational Development
* The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market by Michael Treacy

* Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

* The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky

*First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham

* Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham

* Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

* The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Financial Health Check
*The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical & Spiritual Steps So you Can Stop Worrying by Suze Orman

* Finance Your New or Growing Business: How to Find and Raise Capital for Your Venture by Ralph Alterowitz and Jon Zonderman

*Conscious Finance: Uncover Your Hidden Money Beliefs and Transform the Role of Money in Your Life by Rick Kahle

*The Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life by George Kinder

*The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life by Lynne Twist

Reaching for Greatness
* The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

* This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love by Tama Kieves

* Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland

* The Everyday Work of Art by Eric Booth

* The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer

6 Tips for Using Free On-line Business Tools

In Accounting, Art, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Customer Service, Employees, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on January 6, 2009 at 1:33 am

January’s Entrepreneur Magazine offered these six tips on using free on-line tools:

#1
Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it. “Because there’s so much out there, businesses have a tendency to be like a kid in a candy store,” says Drew McLellan. “Start with the strategy of what you want to accomplish, and then find the tool that will allow you to do that.”

Adds Mike Whaling, “It’s a matter of figuring out which tools are right for your business. Know your audience, and then go to where they are already having conversations.”

#2
You don’t have to figure it all out by yourself. McLellan suggests doing a simple Google search on a tool or task you want to accomplish. “You’ll find people talking about it,” he says. “And people are incredibly quick to share what they know.”

#3
Don’t lose your company’s brand. Using a variety of tools can lead to an inconsistent company image and voice. Says McLellan, “Run it through the litmus test of ‘Is this right for my business? Does it portray my business the way I want?'” Whaling also emphasizes thinking about what your business’s name will be associated with because many free tools are ad-supported.

#4
Push your preconceived notions aside. MySpace and Facebook aren’t just for the kiddies anymore. Says McLellan, “There are a lot of people conducting business on [these sites].”

#5
Does the tool have staying power? For every successful blog, video website or social network, there are dozens that won’t make it. So, again, talk with people online and discuss their experiences with the tool to gauge its stability and reliability.

#6
It may be free, but you still need to invest. Just creating a profile won’t cut it. Making the most of these tools requires time and effort, says Whaling. “There’s an investment in reading other people’s blogs, commenting on posts, getting involved in the community and building relationships.”

Can you get someplace in life for nothing?

In Accounting, Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Customer Service, Employees, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, Theater/Film, Writing on January 5, 2009 at 1:25 am

Is it ever possible in life to get somewhere for nothing and have it be somewhere really good? Over the decades, we certainly have heard that “there is no such thing as a free ride” and that “if it’s too good to be true, it likely is”.

But these days, thanks to the internet, there is lots of FREE stuff online, much of which supports the entrepreneur and a start-up venture.

According to an article which appeared in Entrepreneur Magazine this month, Gary Vaynerchuck, co-founder of Wine Library, has been taking advantage of free business tools for nearly three years to grow his 11 year-old wine retail business. Using a combination of web-based tools, such as social networking, blogging and video, he’s taken his company to annual sales of $50 million. One way Wine Library uses these tools, is to notify his friends of daily specials by using MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, in place of email. His success with these tools has even landed him two book deals and regular speaking engagements across the country. “Building brand equity and connecting with your consumers through these social tools has a global impact on your business and your brand,” says Vaynerchuck, 33.

Alison Boris, 38, and Kathi Chandler, 31, have also been capitalizing on free tools since nearly the beginning of their LA based hand bag boutique, called AllyKatStyle. Besides a MySpace page, they also have profies on Digg and StumbleUpon, which are community content sharing sites, to grow their business.

All these free tools also mean that for even a small business, the “little guy” can look a whole lot bigger, not to mention more sophisticated. With a price tag of FREE, it’s hard not to want to take advantage and get on the ride to somewhere great.

Have I gotten your attention? Good, then let’s get you started:

Communication/Email
Dimdim ( dimdim.com)- open source web conferencing application; free basic service
Jott (jott.com)-voice-to-text service for creating notes, lists, e-mails and text messages; free basic service
Oovoo ( oovoo.com) -video messaging, chatting and conferencing
Paltalk ( paltalk.com) – Group IM, chat and video call application
Plugoo ( plugoo.com) -direct chatting with any blog or site visitor
YouSendIt (yousendit.com)- send files up to 2GB; free basic service

Content, Media, Video
Audacity (audacity-sourceforge.net) Open source software for cross-platform audio recording
Blip.tv: (blip.tv)- Video blogging, podcasting and video sharing service; free basic service
BlogTalkRadio (blogtalkradio.com) radio network for users to host their own shows
DropShots ( dropshots.com)- Video hosting and photo sharing
Feedburner ( feedburner.com)- media distribution services for blogs and RSS feeds
Fix My Movie ( fixmymovie.com)- Video enhancement service; free basic service
Paint.NET ( getpaint.net)- image and photo editing software
Phixr (phixr.com)- picture and photo editor
Seesmic (seesmic.com)- Video conversation platform
SlideShare ( slideshare.net)- Share and embeded slideshows. Powerpoints and PDF’s into web pages
VideoSpin ( videospin.com)- video-editing software

Financial
BizEquity ( bizequity.com) – company valuations
Mint ( mint.com) – personal finance, money mangement, budget planning and financial planning software
MyBizHomepage (mybizhomepage.com) – financial dashboard for small business Quick Book users
QuickBooks (quickbooks.com) small-business accounting software; free simple start 2009 download)
Wesabe (wesabe.com)- Financial advice, analysis and planning

Marketing, Networking, PR
Wordpress (wordpress.com)- Blog publishing tool
Craigslist ( craigslist.org)- Online classified and job posting network
CollectiveX ( collectivex.com)-Create social networking and collaboration sites for groups
Digg (digg.com)- content sharing site
Linkedin ( linkedin.com)- Business social networking site
Pligg ( pligg.com)-Open-source, community-centric site for discovering, rating and sharing content
PolicyMap( Policymap.com) -Geographic and demographic information system for creating custom maps, tables and chartes; basic free service
YouNoodle ( younoodle.com)-Netowrking for startups and valuation with Startup Predictor
YourPitchSucks (yourpitchsucks.com) PR pitch reviewing and advising
Stumble Upon ( stumbleupon.com)- Content sharing site

Office Productivity, and Organization
Adobe Buzzword (adobe.com)- Collaborative word processor application
CutePDF Write (Cutepdf.com)- PDF creator; free basic service
Dabble DB ( dabbledb.com)- Create, manage and share online databases; free basic service
Doodle (doodle.com)- Schedule, and coordinate meetings and other appointments
FreshBooks ( freshbooks.com)-Invoicing, time-tracking and expense service; free basic service
SurveyMonkey ( surveymonkey.com)-Create and publish custom online surveys; free basic service
ThinkFree Office ( thinkfree.com)-Office productivity suite; free basic service
WuFoo (wufoo.com)-HTML form builder for creating interactive forms;free basic service

Project Management, Collaboration
Remember the Milk (rememberthemilk.com)-Task management solution and to-do lists
Socialtext (socialtext.com)- Wiki and website collaboration; free basic service
Team Task ( teamtask.com)-Collaborative project management and community website builder
Yugma (yugma.com)-Web meeting and collaboration service

Web
Google Alerts ( google.com/alerts)- E-mail updates on choice of query or topic
KickApps ( kickapps.com)- platform of applications to integrates social features into a website
Microsoft Office Live Small Business (smallbusiness.officelive.com)- Create a company website, domain and email; free basic service
Synthasite ( synthasite.com)- Web hosting and building
Weebly ( weebly.com)-Website and blog creator
Widgetbox (widgetbox.com)-web widgets for various applications
Woopra ( woopra.com) -Web tracking and analysis application; free basic service

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

In Accounting, Art, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Current Events, Customer Service, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Artist Contest Contestants, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Clarinet Shop, The Entrepreneurial Artist Competition, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on December 23, 2008 at 3:04 am

f91ddde14399af3663324567dfa4My wish for you, ON CHRISTMAS DAY,
will be for you TOO, to keep the GRINCH at bay!

But if by chance, you simply cannot,
Band mighty together, as a great big Who-Ville lot!

WWHHYY????? Smarty-Arty, I hear you say?

BECAUSE, with all your JOY stirring together,
the grinch who came to visit, just might feel a WEE bit better.

Merry Christmas, my dears, what’s your ETA,
to ENTREPRENEUR The Arts, in a new innovative way.
PLEASE COME WITH ME, lets ride far, far and away!

signed your friend, an artistic missionIST, a student of Dr. Suess-a-visionIST, gliding, and sent with love.

The story of Righteous Babe

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Customer Service, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Risk, The Idea on October 31, 2008 at 7:04 pm

The story of Ani DiFranco and how she and her partner Scot Fisher built Righteous Babe is a wonderful story about building artistry through a sense of community, the creativity to do so, falling in love, breaking up and the re-birth of relationships and the company. This story appeared in INC magazine and was written by Bo Burlingham, editor at large for Inc Magazine, who also wrote a book about companies that choose to be great instead of big called Small Giants. Righteous Babe fits right into this category!

Ani DiFranco is sitting in her dressing room at the Chicago Theater, six hours before a performance, and she wants to set the record straight. Money, she says, had nothing to do with her decision to reject all those offers from major record labels and start her own business. Nor did she turn down the offers out of fear of losing her artistic freedom. So what was it, then? “I didn’t want to participate in what big corporations are doing to society,” she says. “My decision not to work with a major label was not about me. It was about something bigger than me.”

There are, in fact, quite a few things bigger than Ani (pronounced ah-nee) DiFranco. She is, well, diminutive, although she hardly seems that way when she comes charging onto the stage at the start of a performance, her brown dreadlocks flying, her guitar blazing, her body twisting and turning in a blast of energy. Legions of fans can’t get enough of that energy and the music that goes with it. And yet, for all her artistic success, it’s often her commercial ventures that get attention — much to her chagrin. When Ms. focused on her business prowess in citing her as one of “21 feminists for the 21st century,” she fired off a letter of protest to the magazine’s editor: “Imagine how strange it must be for a girl who has spent 10 years fighting as hard as she could against the lure of the corporate carrot and the almighty forces of capital, only to be recognized by the power structure as a business pioneer.”

It is, however, a designation she can’t escape. Her record company, Righteous Babe Records, is one of the few successful artist-created labels around, having sold more than 4 million of DiFranco’s records and put out CDs by more than a dozen other performers. And it’s no ordinary company. In an industry dominated by giant corporations, Righteous Babe has the look, feel, and smell of a small hometown business. Staff members, for example, respond with handwritten notes to the thousands of letters the company gets from its customers, DiFranco’s fans. In return, the company elicits a level of devotion seldom seen in business. Customers go out of their way to protect it, patrolling the Internet and reporting on websites that try to sell unauthorized recordings of DiFranco’s music. Some fans are so passionate about the business that they come from as far away as Australia and Switzerland, not to see DiFranco perform, but to visit the company headquarters in Buffalo. “I’m standing here in total awe,” wrote one visitor from Los Angeles in the guest book.

And it’s not just the fans. Talk to the company’s record distributors, its printers, the manufacturers of its CDs, the concert promoters, not to mention its employees, and you realize that DiFranco and partner Scot Fisher have tapped into one of the most underappreciated forces in business, namely, the power of community. To do that while maintaining great margins is quite an accomplishment — especially for a company whose CEO believes, as DiFranco sang on a recent album, that “capitalism is the devil’s wet dream.”

Scot Fisher is a tall, quiet, somewhat diffident man who works out of a cluttered office at Righteous Babe’s headquarters. At 43, he still dresses like the construction guy he was when he first met DiFranco. Although he is usually referred to as her manager, the term does not do justice to the role he plays in her business life. Besides looking out for her career, he is the chief architect, co-owner, and operating head of Righteous Babe and its six component businesses, including a touring company, a retail operation, a music publisher, a real estate developer, and a foundation, as well as the record label. Together they do about $5 million in sales, mostly from DiFranco’s CDs and her touring. (Profits are harder to figure but probably run a bit less than $1 million a year.) Yet another venture, a concert venue, will open next spring in a restored church down the block, which will also house a jazz club, an art gallery, and the headquarters of Righteous Babe. In addition to complementing the other businesses, the concert hall represents a hedge against the uncertain future that Righteous Babe and all record companies face these days. “I’m in the buggy business, and it’s 1905,” says Fisher. “It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”

“I’m in the buggy business and it’s 1905. It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”
He wound up in the business almost by accident. Back in 1988, he was the co-owner of a small construction and housepainting company, and he’d recently moved into an apartment that the girlfriend of one of his partners was sharing with a woman she’d gone to art school with, an 18-year-old folksinger. One evening, he went to see his new housemate perform at a local bar. “It was sort of obligatory,” he says. “Then she started to play.” Nine years her senior, Fisher soon became DiFranco’s confidant and mentor. Along the way, they fell in love. At some point, Righteous Babe entered the picture. “In the beginning, it was more of a joke than a real business,” DiFranco says. “You know, ‘Yeah, uh-huh, I got a record company. You’re looking at it.'”

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that she would gravitate toward entrepreneurship. She’d been figuring out how to make her own way in the world from an early age. At nine, she was spending Saturdays busking at the local farmers’ market. At 12, she was making and selling cards of pressed flowers to earn money for horse camp. At 15, when her parents divorced, she moved out and lived on her own, largely supporting herself. Only once, in 1991, did she come close to signing with an established label, backing out as soon as she read the terms of the contract.

And yet, even without a contract, her fame spread. By the end of 1993, she had released five albums under the Righteous Babe label, and they were setting sales records at the folk festivals where she performed. Thanks to her constant touring, she was developing a loyal following, especially among young women, many of them lesbians who identified with her feminist lyrics and considered her one of their own. But Righteous Babe existed pretty much in name only. It had no structure, no organization, no full-time employees, and no office. DiFranco’s albums were getting very little radio airplay and couldn’t be found in most record stores. On top of that, she’d had a major falling-out with her business manager.

Into the breach stepped Fisher, who had been studying law while DiFranco was working on her music career. “I figured I could always be a lawyer,” he says. “When would I get another chance to manage Ani DiFranco?” DiFranco, for her part, had doubts about having her lover take charge of her business affairs. “In the end,” she says, “he just sort of declared himself my business manager.” Fisher says they had an understanding that he’d step aside if it turned out he was wrong for the job.

There was, in fact, little reason to believe he was right for the job. He lacked experience, credentials, and credibility in the music business. “It took [Ani’s agent] Jim Fleming a couple of years to tell me that the first time I called, he thought, ‘Omigod, it’s the boyfriend.'” Fisher says. “But I knew where I stood. I knew people didn’t respect me. I’m from Buffalo. I’m used to it.”

To read the rest of the article click here

One Secret to Getting the Gig

In Customer Service, Entrepreneurial Tool Box on November 30, 2007 at 8:33 pm

I recently have started working with a great jazz musician who has become a new client. The other day we were discussing how to get his group into some more sought after clubs to perform. We were talking about how to make contact with club owners. My client said, “I am finding the owners of the clubs I have contacted want me to come in and see them. I find myself dropping off my press kit and then being asked to come back and talk to them, even though all the information they want from me when I do, is right on my website. I don’t get what’s going on here. This is a lot of work.”

Musicians, actors, artists, and everyone else connected to the arts, need to learn good old fashioned customer service.

Club owners don’t want musicians to play in their clubs who are not going to come early, play sober and draw in an audience. Unfortunately, because most artists lack business training, smart club owners realize the only way to make sure unknown musical performing groups will act accordingly is by testing their ability to follow up and provide them with good customer service before they even consider booking them.

Why, as artists, we think that our talent should speak for itself remains a mystery. Think about it logically:

As consumers, when we go to eat at a restaurant, we never like it when the waiter never comes to take our order, or worse does and never comes with our food. We call that bad service and usually don’t go back- no matter how many “stars” are behind the restaurants name. After all, that is why we are going to the restaurant in the first place- to have someone else wait on us and serve us a meal.

When we order products on-line, like I recently did from Rugs USA, and they tell you the rug will be here in 3-5 days and 3 weeks later, and 2 phone calls riddled with unmet promises have passed and you still don’t have your rug, do you think you are going to ever order from them again? Do you think you might even tell all your friends that they too should not order from them ever? Well, I just did and I think likely you would too.

Rugs USA boasts to be a top internet retailer and that they will match anyone else’s price. Do you think I care about how great they are when they cannot meet my needs?

If you want the gigs, the order, the opportunity, then learn how to deliver great customer service to your clients they way they want it. Trust me, I know if you do, those gigs, orders and opportunities- the ones you really want- will eventually come.

And when they do, your talent will then help you keep those gigs coming.