At 6PM last night, all I wanted was Chinese food. Some veggie lo mein, an eggroll and some miso soup and I would have raped a polar bear to get it. Thankfully, my Twitter followers came through in spades to recommend a joint just a wok, skip and a jump from my lily pad. A phone call, quick car ride and a dishing-up later, I was back in front of the computer to work and get my Chinese fix.
And it was very quiet.
I have two three-year-old dogs. Hippopotamus (55 lbs) and Penelope (12 lbs) have free run of the house and I leave the back door open so they can do what they will. When they’re quiet, it freaks me out.
I got up from my office chair and walked out into the living room to find Big Dog and Small Dog on the cream-colored mid-century modern vintage sofa with a organeish-pink smear in front of them. They’d scored a cup of sweet and sour sauce. <insert expletive here>
Silence. It’s the number one sign that trouble is brewing in your business. We bitch and moan about our inboxes filling up and incessant phone calls, but here it is: that deafening silence? A sure-fire bet that you’re about to be hosed. When the clients stop asking questions, when the new business inquiries stop coming in, it’s likely a function of something you’ve done.
Or more importantly, not done.
And to some extent, we’re all a bit afraid of the phone ringing and emails pouring in, because they we have to figure out how to deal with the noise. I’m no different – there’s an Oh Shit factor attached to every one of my communication devices. But here are some ways I’ve come to welcome and deal with the noise, because the longer I deal with it, the more it begins to sound like a killer Etta James tune than a jackhammer outside my window:
- Flag Football: There’s a flag football game going on in my inbox. If I can’t get back to something immediately, I flag it with the goal that I don’t close the computer for the day until I deal with my flags. And while sometimes that doesn’t happen, I can sort my inbox by flagged items at any time and see where I can eat crow and get back to people ASAP.
- Program Your Phone: I try to get every one of my client phone numbers into my cell phone as soon as possible. Why? Because sometimes I have to ignore a call and I’m diligent about returning calls. Know who’s calling. Call them back. This keeps the phone ringing and also makes use of valuable car time. On the road? Call a client to touch base. Say hello. It’s the human side of your relationships (and the side that is often the most fun).
- Get Help: Dear business owner – You cannot do this alone. How many times do I have to say this? Amber Naslund had a great post earlier this week about email management and I admitted that I sucked. One of my followers contacted me that she’s a wiz with organization systems. BAM. You’re hired. She logs into my computer via LogMeIn when I’m offline for the evening and is getting me sorted out. There are a lot of things that I outsource so that I can pay attention to the parts of my business that keep business rolling in. And yes, they cost money. But it’s a small price to pay for sleeping at night, going to the gym in the morning and having ME at my beck and call 24/7.
- Manage the Asks: I met up with my colleague Doyle Albee earlier this week and he talked about The Levels of Ask. (And my friend, I can’t remember the blogger you mentioned who pioneered the concept, but weigh in down below if you can.) Lots of people will ask for your time. Favors. Access to your connections. Resources. You have to weigh these asks and sometimes, the asks are out of whack with the relationship level. For instance: if you’ve just met or have never met me and want to take me to lunch…that’s a HUGE ask. That’s time and intellectually intensive. However, if you drop me a two-line email with a simple question, I’m probably going to respond even though I’ve never met you. Different level of ask. You can’t give your time to everyone though everyone (quite simply) deserves it, so managing the asks will help you feel less shortchanged and make you, ultimately, more helpful. And some people just don’t know how much of your time they’re asking for. What seems small to them (coffee/lunch) might be a huge ask in your eyes.
There are times I love silence at they are usually ones that come when I’ve closed the MacBook and I get to pay attention to The Real World. But that’s my personal time. Silence in my business? Never a good thing. It means you’ve left something on the counter in Big Dog’s reach and you’re about to walk out and find a hot mess on your sofa. Polyester blend upholstery or not, cleaning it up is a bitch. Do what you can to keep momentum. Keep the noise coming. And soon enough, you’ll hear the rhythm in the chaos. It’s soothing, I assure you.