Dealing With Difficult Customers

The customer is always right. Or so they say. In order to grow your business, you need to be able to deal with difficult customers. However, dealing with them isn’t always easy. Especially if you have a type A personality and don’t like people questioning your decisions or dictating how you run your business. Most small businesses can’t handle difficult customers well enough for it not to affect their bottom line and growth rate negatively in the long term.

Below are a few things that every business owner should know about dealing with difficult customers so that they become easier to handle in the future.

Be genuine and caring.

First and foremost, show your customers that you have their best interest at heart. If they feel like you only care about the bottom line, you’ll never get anywhere and your business will never be able to grow. Show them that you really do care about them and that you are willing to work with them in order to make a mutually beneficial relationship happen.

Honesty is paramount.

Always be transparent and honest with your customers. This gives them peace of mind in knowing that they can trust you while also feeling like they can reciprocate and trust you as well. This also helps endear them to your company which helps build long-term relationships rather than short-term ones where they may not feel connected enough to continue working with your company in the future.

Know when to say no.

It can be difficult to know when a customer is being unreasonable and asking too much of your time which will put an unnecessary strain on your business, or is asking for something that you just cannot do. You might also decide that it would be better for them to find a different vendor rather than have you work with them in the long term because you aren’t able to give them what they want. However, it is important to know when there is a point where you need to say no, because if you continue to take on more projects and choose customers that ask too much of your time, it will become harder and harder for your company as a whole to grow and sustain itself in the long term.

Communication is key.

Communication is key when it comes to dealing with difficult customers. Take the time to explain your thinking and why you made the choices that you did. If they don’t agree with what you did, let them know that you can work something out. On the other hand, if they continue to be a problem for your business, then things might get more complicated for both of you.

Offer a little more than what you are currently paying for.

One of the most important things you can do for difficult customers is to offer a little more than what you are currently paying for. If you have a feeling that your customer might be demanding more in the future, offering them something extra now will make it easier for them to be willing to work with you again when the time comes.

Conclusion

You need customers to make a living, but you also need to remember that not all customers are made the same. Dealing with difficult customers can be frustrating, but it can also be rewarding. By staying open to new challenges, and knowing when to say no, you will eventually develop the customer service skills and empathy necessary for handling all kinds of customers.

Top Executives Wish They Had Known This When They Were Younger

Everyone experiences the ups and downs of life as they grow older. Perhaps you’ve been through some hard times recently, or maybe it’s been a while since you’ve felt any major lows. As we age, many things in our lives slow down or shift to a new stage that requires us to make adjustments.

If you’re anything like the CEOs listed in this article, you may have found yourself wondering what you could have done differently as an adult if you had the chance to redo your twenty’s all over again. Here are some of their lesser-known secrets — things that they wish they had known when they were younger:

How to work with people better.

It’s no secret that people are important to the success of any business. And as we age, we usually find out that some people can be a lot harder to work with than others. Many execs believe that learning how to better work with people would have made things easier in the early days of their careers.

Having confidence to fail.

If you’ve ever lost, failed, or even been in a situation where you felt like you didn’t know what to do, it may have been difficult for you. The thing is, many top executives wish they had more confidence in failure as a younger adult. They wish they had embraced their failures as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than internalizing them.

How to build teams and manage employees.

Building a team and managing employees is an important part of being a leader, and many execs wish they had known how to do this sooner. For example, when working with people who are in their twenties, some CEOs may find themselves getting frustrated because they don’t understand the way these younger employees process information or communicate with one another. To avoid this frustration, it would have been helpful to understand the basics of team building and staff management earlier in their careers.

How to deal with rejection.

When you’re young, it’s easy to think that you can change the world. But that means there will be a lot of people who don’t want to work with you. Even if you get lucky and land your dream job, there are going to be plenty of people who don’t want to make room for you on their team. Many top execs wish they had learned how to cope with rejection sooner.

How to negotiate.

Some executives wished they had known more about negotiation tactics when they were younger. Negotiation is an important skill that top executives need in order to maintain a healthy relationship with their co-workers and bosses.

The importance of personal development.

Many adults in the workforce struggle with this. It’s especially true for executives who may feel a lot of pressure to be successful at work and provide for their family. For example, you’re expected to deliver results or people will wonder if you’re capable of that. People can become too focused on their current state, which often leads to them neglecting personal development efforts. When you neglect personal development, you run the risk of becoming an ineffective leader as time goes by. If this sounds familiar, it might be worth considering taking some time off work and focusing on yourself before your next job interview or promotion attempt. It’s never too late for personal development!

The Importance of Leadership During a Crisis

Crisis management is something that many leaders don’t understand. It requires more than just being charismatic, having lots of business contacts, and delegating to staff. When a real crisis hits, teams need someone to lead them through the chaos and give them a sense of stability. Someone to provide guidance and reassurance. Someone who will give them direction and clarity on what they should do when faced with adversity.

Here are four tips to effectively lead your team through a crisis.

1) Be assertive, confident, and decisive.

When a crisis hits, your team needs to know where you stand and what you plan to do. They need to know that you are not only capable but willing to take charge and make things happen. The best way to demonstrate this is by leading from the front. This means being ready to face whatever challenges come your way instead of hiding behind others to do it for you. You must be prepared to step into the role of leader and provide direction and clarity.

Managing a crisis may seem overwhelming at first, especially if you’ve never been in a similar situation before. Just remember that you are in control and you can handle this. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or an employee. In any situation, leadership comes down to two things: knowing what needs to be done and doing it.

2) Communicate with your team.

Communication (both verbal and non-verbal) is the foundation of effective leadership. Without it, nothing else matters. When you communicate clearly and honestly with your employees, you build trust. Trust is essential in any organization because without it, people won’t follow you when it matters most.

In the face of a crisis, you need to be able to listen to your staff and coworkers so that you can develop a firm grasp on the situation you’re facing, synthesize all of the facts and circumstances, and be able to clearly and effectively communicate your plan to address it. Remember to keep your tone positive and reassuring — your job is to guide your team through the crisis, not cause more uncertainty or panic.

3) Always have a plan.

Managing a crisis begins long before one actually happens. Do the research ahead of time. Gather industry data on best practices and case studies, and then use those insights to develop your own plans. Formalize them, put them in binders, and make sure all members of your leadership team are familiar with them and know where they are.

4) And always have a backup plan.

To be an effective leader you must think ahead and plan for contingencies. If you aren’t able to anticipate problems, then they will catch you off guard and derail your entire operation.

Plan for worst-case scenarios. Prepare for every eventuality. Always have backup plans so that you can react quickly and confidently to unexpected situations.

How to Dress for a Networking Event

Networking events present great opportunities to meet new people and expand your professional network, regardless of whether you are new to your industry or an established name. But deciding what to wear to a networking event can be difficult. If you dress too casually, you risk coming across as unprofessional or sloppy. On the other hand, if your outfit looks like you just came from a board meeting, you could be seen as stuffy or unapproachable.

Finding a way to balance two completely different styles can seem impossible, but it’s essential when you want to leave others with a great impression. Below are a few ideas to help you strike that perfect balance.

1. Plan ahead.

We’ve all done it: You wait until the last minute to pick an outfit, and then realize you’re missing a piece, or part of it isn’t clean. Since every networking event has the potential to change your career, you owe it to yourself to be prepared. If possible, plan your outfit at least a week before the event. You might realize that you don’t have the right color tie or shoes, so this buffer time will give you some breathing room to find what you need. (Bonus tip: Choose a backup outfit in case something comes up and you need to go to plan B.)

2. Consider L.O.T.S.

When planning your outfit you’ll want to factor in several key aspects of the event: Location, Occasion, Time, and Season. For example, a winter evening gala at the Ritz? Tuxedos for men; dresses for women (and layering for everyone). A summer daytime retirement BBQ at the park? Think lightweight and airy, such as shorts and a casual button down for men; sundress for women. A spring morning mixer at the vineyard? Outdoor casual.

Knowing those four details will help narrow down your options while ensuring that you’re properly prepared.

3. Find your fit.

Your outfit might consist of several well-fitting pieces, but all it takes is one thing to ruin your entire look. (Exhibit A: blazer with sleeves too short.)

To nail that perfect fit, make sure that nothing restricts your movements. Test it out by walking around in it, touching your toes, raising your arms over your head, and twisting your torso. If you’re able to do all of that without struggling, it passes the test.

Next, walk over to your full-length mirror. Do any pieces look baggy? Check the closet for substitutes that might work better.

Lastly, do you feel good with your look? Being uncomfortable at an event can affect your confidence, mood, and body language — so make sure that you’re happy with your look before leaving the house.

4. Keep it simple.

While your attire can certainly help you make the right impression, you want your personality and social skills to be what people remember. Avoid wearing anything that might distract others from your conversation, such as flashy jewelry, bright colors, or bold patterns. When it comes to networking events, safe and traditional > avant-garde.

5. Don’t overthink it.

There’s a lot to consider, and a lot on the line. But if you plan ahead, properly prepare, and consider all the event details — you’ll feel less stressed, and more confident about your choices.

If, after all of that, you’re still feeling unsure or overwhelmed, think about clothing brands that market business casual fashion and try replicating one of their looks with items you already own. Need visual examples? Run a Google image search for your type of event. (Example: “summer cocktail attire for women”.)

Getting The Most Out Of Your 401(k)

(Last updated on May 16, 2022.)

What will your life be like in twenty years? Ten Years? Next year? How far are you from retirement? Do you feel comfortable with your existing retirement planning strategy? Do you have a 401(k)? When was the last time you looked at it?

These are all important questions but, for many, are often overlooked. We tend to see retirement as something far off in the future, something that there’s plenty of time to prepare for — not at all like those pair of pants in the back of the closet that have always been just a little too snug. This year, why not make room on your to-do list for your 401(k) plan as well?

Like any goal you set out to achieve, getting the most out of your 401(k) plan requires a strategy. So how can you make your savings strategy work for you?

1. Tax Breaks

With the new maximum contribution amount increasing to $20,500 from last year’s max of $19,500, there’s an extra $1,000 you can put to good use for your future. By managing to put this extra money away (an extra $83.30 a month), your gross income will be lower this year.

2. Catching Up

Are you behind on your contributions? While things might seem scary, you do have options. For workers aged 50 and over, you are eligible to put away an additional $6,500 a year, bringing your annual maximum to $27,000.

3. Avoid Costly Penalties

This one may seem obvious but it’s still important to note.

For example, withdrawing money from your 401(k) early could result in a 10 percent penalty. However, withdrawing your contribution money too late could trigger a 50 percent penalty if you choose to not take out the minimum distribution amount six months after your 70th birthday.

4. Get a 401(k) Match

For workers under the age of 50, you’ll need to be able to contribute $1,708 a month to max out your yearly contribution limit (or $2,250 per month for those over the age of 50). While that may be possible for some, it’s certainly not the case for everyone.

If contributing the maximum annual limit to your 401(k) isn’t possible, ask your employer if they offer a match amount. If they do, not taking full advantage of it would be the same as turning down free money.

5. Consider a Roth 401(k) Option

While traditional 401(k) plans allow you to defer paying taxes on your retirement savings, many employers offer a Roth 401(k) option as well – which would enable you to pay taxes on your contributions now and avoid paying them when you withdraw the money.

6. Direct Deposit Is Your Friend

The easiest way to not spend money is to not have it. Keep this in mind when you sign up for a 401(k) and choose the amount that should be deducted from your paycheck and deposited into the plan. You should also factor in potential bonuses or raises when determining your contribution amount.

Saving enough money for retirement doesn’t happen overnight, but there are a number of financial tools, advisors, and plan types available to help you make the most of your savings and help you plan for the future.

How to Limit Distractions While Working

Do you ever get distracted while you’re working? According to a recent study from Mopria Alliance, “today’s employees experience 77 distractions a week on average, or one distraction every 31 minutes,” leading to lower productivity levels and negative impacts on mental health.

When we are engaged in something, we tend to ignore other things around us — because our brains are hardwired to focus on the present moment. When that focus is broken, a distraction occurs. It’s important to be aware of these distractions and deal with them immediately. If you don’t limit distractions, they’ll eventually take over your entire day.

Here are some tips to help you stay focused and productive while on the clock:

1. Identify your triggers.

Distractions can come from many different sources: incoming phone calls/texts, emails, meeting notifications, coworkers, family members, social media, and even pets. It’s important to know what kinds of situations are most likely to divert your attention. Once you are able to identify those situations, it will be easier to either troubleshoot their impact or avoid them altogether.

2. Turn off your notifications.

Constant pop-ups and audio notifications can pull your attention away from what you’re working on, thus making it difficult to focus. Notifications from personal devices and accounts should be turned off when working — you can always turn them back on later.

3. Create a workspace that works for you.

It’s important to set clear boundaries between your working and personal spaces. You may not be able to completely eliminate workplace distractions, but you can certainly minimize their impact. When working in a noisy environment, try to close your door (if you have one) or use noise-canceling headphones.

4. Make a list of priorities.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of tasks that need to be done. To help manage your workload, create a list of priorities based on the most important projects first. Then, prioritize your remaining tasks using the same method.

5. Break bigger projects into manageable tasks.

When you have too much to do, it’s tempting to just start doing everything. But that approach won’t lead to success. Instead, try breaking big projects into smaller pieces which will help you stay focused and make your workload more manageable.

6. Avoid multitasking.

Multitasking doesn’t work well in today’s world. In fact, research shows that people who frequently switch between activities perform worse than those who stick to one task at a time. So if you want to maximize your efficiency, don’t multitask. Focus on one thing at a time.

7. Take breaks.

If you find yourself getting distracted throughout the day, take a break. Go outside, stretch, walk around the office, or grab a cup of coffee. Taking regular breaks helps you refocus and recharge so you can continue working effectively.

 

You might not be able to ignore every distraction that comes along, but with practice and a little trial-and-error you’ll be able to focus on the tasks that matter most to you.

Creating a Stellar LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn was created with the goal of connecting professionals through a network of social media profiles. Today, LinkedIn boasts over 500 million members worldwide and has become the go-to networking site for professionals looking to advance their careers.

Creating a professional profile on LinkedIn isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Follow these steps to create a powerful profile that will help you stand out from the crowd.

1. Start with your headline.

You need to be able to capture someone’s interest within the first couple of sentences. Think about the headlines that get shared on Facebook or Twitter. They tend to be short and sweet, but still grab attention. Make sure you use keywords that match the type of person you’re trying to attract. Use words that describe who you are and what you do.

2. Craft an interesting summary.

Your summary should tell people why they should care about you. It’s where you introduce yourself and what makes you different from others who may apply for the same job. Include keywords that match the job description.

3. Highlight your experience.

Your profile should include at least three pieces of information: your education, skills, and experience. For each section, think about what differentiates you from others.

4. Put specific accomplishments under past jobs.

The best way to show off your accomplishments is by listing them under past jobs. For example, “I worked at XYZ Company for three years as a product manager” or “I was the lead developer on project X for two years.” This makes it easy for recruiters to see what skills you have and what projects you’ve worked on.

5. Use a professional photo.

A professional photo can really set you apart from the competition, and is one of the most important things you can include in your profile. Avoid using casual non-professional photos; you don’t want that pic from last month’s toga party to be the first thing a recruiter sees.

6. Keep it simple.

People who look at profiles spend less than two seconds scanning them before moving on to the next one. So it’s important not to over-complicate your profile. Use bullet points to break down key information into bite-sized chunks. Avoid adding too many photos to your page, as they take up space and people don’t have time to click through them all. Instead, use a few high-quality images that speak for themselves.

7. Be honest and genuine.

The best way to attract new connections is by being yourself. Don’t try to fake it—you won’t fool anyone. Instead, focus on building relationships based on mutual interests and values.

8. Start making connections.

The first step is to connect with people who share similar interests. One of the easiest ways to do that is by joining groups related to your industry. Groups are very important part of LinkedIn—they can be a valuable source of industry information (everything from news to sales leads) while providing you with a great opportunity to expand your network. Lastly, don’t forget to ask your personal contacts to follow you on LinkedIn once your profile is complete.

 

These suggestions are just a few helpful tips on creating a great LinkedIn profile. It can help to have a friend or two review it for spelling, grammar, and helpful suggestions. After you finalize it, make sure that you revisit it frequently to update any new accomplishments, skills, or experiences.

Traveling in a Post-Pandemic World

The economic effects of COVID-19 are still being calculated, but virtually every industry has taken a hit. The pandemic has been especially difficult for travel, with events canceled, fleets grounded, and hotel rooms left empty. (The aviation sector alone lost $370 billion.) How will all of this impact travel for you and your family in the coming year?

International vs Domestic Travel

Many countries are still trying to determine how and when to adjust the international travel guidelines enacted in the early stages of the pandemic. While a few have relaxed their restrictions, others, like Australia, are still following strict regulations and are even considering keeping their borders closed until mid-2022.

With so many uncertainties relating to international travel, domestic travel is expected to surge this year. Researchers are predicting a boom of road trips this summer, as many people are feeling safer in their vehicles than confined to airplanes, trains, or buses.

Environmental Impact

Global lockdowns and quarantines meant less travel. Less travel meant less fuel usage. And less fossil fuel combustion resulted in a drastic reduction of air pollution levels. This phenomenon gave a boost to the environmental awareness movement. In a recent survey, 60% of respondents said they have been making more environmentally friendly purchases since the start of the pandemic. And on the corporate side, many travel-based companies have responded by rolling out their climate action plans for the future of decarbonizing their businesses.

New Norms

According to a study by Travel Plus, 70% of survey participants want to travel in 2021, and 68% want to avoid people and crowds. It appears that social distancing guidelines may have sparked reminders that personal space is a valued commodity. Certain protocols such as enhanced sanitation and contactless check-ins may be here to stay.

While it may be a few years before the travel industry fully recovers, airlines, hotels, and destinations are starting to get back to business. If you’re getting ready to plan your first post-pandemic trip, don’t forget that ABN members receive special discounts on hotels and entertainment tickets.

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