Sunday, May 25, 2008

Are you a joiner?

Student is getting face paint during the Jell-O Wars at Anderson University.
Too many people join associations as if they are buying tickets to a sporting event. They want to sit in their comfortable seats and watch others perform. When considering joining an organization, one of the first questions most people ask is, "What do I get for my membership?" That's a valid question, and most organizations list the benefits their members will receive.

Ask Not What an Organization Can Do for You

But sometimes the more important question to ask is what you can give. I am reminded of the famous words of John F. Kennedy:
"And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man."

Kennedy helped forge the idea of service with the creation of the Peace Corps; he believed that the success of the country depended on people becoming involved. Focusing on service, rather than entitlement, can be a key to our professional success -- as well as our personal fulfillment.

When you join a group, receiving the newsletter and being listed on the membership rolls will have little impact on your success. Unless you're willing to commit yourself, you'd be better off saving the dues money and not wasting your time -- or the group's.

The leading figures in most industries are consistently those who volunteer in their professional organizations. They network with others, they help organize the competitions and awards for the industry, and they mentor others in their industry.

Today there are groups whose sole purpose is to teach their members how to be successful. Although these groups may teach you how to be a better net-worker, if the only reason you join is to promote your own success, you will probably fail.

Go Where Your Passion Leads You

Success through an organization starts with matching your passions with volunteering. You can become involved in a community theater, entertain others and become known in your neighborhood. Through your involvement, people will get to know you and you will get to know others. You can join the community of faith through a local congregation, play a sport in a local league ... if you follow your passion, you'll naturally want to become more involved.

You know you're plugged into a group when others are depending on you. People will not only want you around because of what you are giving to the organization, but will come to value your friendship. They get to know you and appreciate your passion.

Looking for leaders not followers

Working with universities, I have become good friends with some of the people overseeing the recruiting. At Georgia Tech, they changed how they recruit. One of the changes had to do with the list of organizations a person was involved in; they now only want you to list your top five.

Why only five? They are recruiting the leaders of tomorrow, and they are looking for leaders -- not just members. An Eagle Scout is more than just a Boy Scout.

There are two groups I have worked with that take this concept of involvement through service way beyond most other groups. As a result, they transform those in these organizations and have a profound effect on those around them. These organizations are Youth With a Mission and Chick-fil-A.
Truett Cathy promoting his book "How did you do it, Truett?"

Truett S. Cathy

The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, can be seen even today picking up the trash around a store before he goes in. All of his managers are trained to do every job regularly. They can be seen cleaning the bathrooms. When a Chick-fil-A event is over, everyone in the organization volunteers to help clean up.

Ellis Peters was in the YWAM School of Photography 1 school this year. She is from the Netherlands and is here working in the kitchen. It is a twelve week program where they are only studying photography and every other weekend have a work duty in the kitchen. This not only helps keep the costs down for the school it fosters the servant concepts taught by Jesus.
When students enroll at the University of Nations, part of Youth With a Mission, they are all expected to work while going to school. They have found that some people are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They talk a good game and sound caring and warm, but on the job, a different person emerges. The Mr. Hyde side might believe they are better than other people; they might not want to do certain jobs they think are beneath them.

Choose Wisely

We can learn a lot about ourselves by volunteering. It can even change who we are. Volunteering helps smooth out those rough edges we all have.

Accountability has influenced most organizations today. People don't want to waste their time or money. They want to make a lasting difference.

Habitat for Humanity changes not only those who receive the homes; those doing the building are changed as well. The first family to receive a Habitat home was so transformed that each of the children went to college and became successful. Habitat has provided volunteers with the opportunity to enrich their lives while making a real difference in their communities.

Two of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have joined together to give money back to society. Their foundation's activities are focused on world health -- fighting diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis -- and on improving U.S. libraries and high schools.

Bill Clinton, in his book Giving, tells stories of people who give. These remarkable stories suggest that the act of giving takes many forms and emphasizes that offerings of time, skills, objects and ideas can be just as important as contributions of money.

We have a choice. We can watch the game of life or be one of the leading players. Choose wisely; your success -- and fulfillment -- may depend on it.

Professor and student working in biology lab at Anderson University.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Are all your eggs in one basket?

To "put all your eggs in one basket" is to risk losing everything all at one time. For me this applies to two aspects of my business.

First, if you have a niche’ market it is good to develop a second niche’. Kodak saw the writing on the wall years ago and diversified beyond making film products only. If they hadn’t they would no longer be around. For me I have my interests directing my photography. I love sports and this is really where I first started in photography. In college shooting all the college sports was exciting. I didn’t out grow this interest, but added other areas.

My faith has always been what drives much of my passion. I have worked for Christian denomination’s mission organization covering missions around the world and continue to do so today. I really enjoy things that challenge my heart the way my faith does for me.

I also love technology. This challenges my mind. I love to figure how things work and how to fix things. This has driven my interest in research and technology photography through the years. All three of these loves exist in higher education. This is why I have helped many schools, colleges and universities through the years with their recruiting and public relations photography.

There are times when each of these has peaks and valleys through the year. By diversifying a little and yet still being niche driven and not all over in my work I have been able to keep my eggs in separate baskets with my work.

The second area where I have divided up my eggs is in marketing of my services. One of my best marketing is done through networking. This is getting me involved in my communities. By joining a photography association I learn from others and plug into friends who occasionally get over booked and refer to others they know in the industry. I have joined the Atlanta Press Club because many of those who are members go to the social events and meetings that I would not meet anywhere else. I have been able to meet people who not only might hire me, but become good friends.

I have gone to the library and found every list of people in the markets I am interested in working with to build a database. This database of 3,500+ names is categorized. I have categories for family, clients, prospects, and broken into almost every imaginable group I can think of. I have phone numbers, mailing addresses and emails. Each of these is a different way to contact the people. I call them, I send postcards and I send out an e.newsletter as well as individual emails.

When someone writes me back to unsubscribe to my e.newsletter I don’t delete their name—I add them to my no newsletter category. They still get postcards and occasional phone calls.

Lately I signed up for a new cell plan that lets me make unlimited phone calls as long as I am using the Wi-Fi feature of the phone. This lets me make lots of phone calls. I am learning how to have meaningful short conversations with many people. They are meaningful because I really do care about each person. If you don’t feel genuinely interested in people you have to be one incredible actor (which I am not) to pull this off. This is why I work hard to find as many new people I can to add to my list. If you are not genuinely interested in a person, it is important to have someone else to talk to if they don’t exist.

One of the gifts I have which I have learned to use more each day is my memory. For some reason once I learn something (really learn it) I usually don’t forget. This has helped me in ways I am now only beginning to realize. When I meet someone I haven’t talked to in a long time I can remember so much about them I can almost remember our last conversation. So, I tend to ask how they are doing and how something we talked about last time is going. I know others who call a lot for business need to write down something about a person when they talk to them to remind them to do this later when they call them again. I started to do this to help me and just by writing it down once I remembered it, so when I met them again in a grocery store and not planning on contacting them, I remember to ask about how they are doing with what we talked about last. This isn’t asking like I am doing therapy and they have a problem. It usually is asking about something exciting that has been going on in their life.

When you think you have done all you know how to do in a particular niche’ in your field try to apply those principles to a new niche’. When you are trying to find a new client or knowing how to keep your present ones, remember dating. Be persistent and try many different approaches.

What’s the biggest room in the world? Room for improvement.

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