Monday, August 27, 2012

The Importance of Client Contracts

Whether you are just starting out in a business or a seasoned "professional" you should have a contract when doing business - if not for your own safety, but for the safety of your clients.
Not a day goes by that I don't hear horror stories about misunderstandings on projects that could have easily been prevented with a simple contract.
Simply, they state the work you are providing and the cost involved. They should also indicate what is not included, such as incidental material costs and excessive copy changes, etc. Always put into writing your intent and email it to the client.
His or her email response, along with the "deposit" is an contract of the agreement. For added security, have them sign a copy of the contract and mail or fax it to you. My policy is that I do not begin any work until the down payment has been paid and the contract is signed and delivered. This not only protects my business, but also shows me that the customer is serious about his or her intents.
When you have developed a good, solid relationship with your client, then monthly billings are the norm. But until then, 50 % down is not unheard of. After all, you are taking a risk doing work - and more often than not, monies owed are not paid based upon the client "not liking the design."
Remember, you are hired to do a job - and it is up to the potential client to research your design ability and make the decision to hire you, based upon the findings. You are not hired to "make them happy."
Now that may sound cold-hearted, and I care about each and every one of my clients, and the work I do for them. However, when I am hired, for example, to do a logo - I am hired to design a logo - based upon their specifications. After a reasonable amount of time, if they just don't like the designs I come up with - they are still obligated to pay for my service. I do attempt to rectify the job and pinpoint the "problem", but unless the client can somehow convey their desires, I just haven't perfected "reading minds."
And I do expect to be paid for my effort. But a Professional Designer will be able to work with the customer, and eventually, completing the project to the clients' satisfaction. In the 23 years I have been providing marketing and design, there have only been 3-4 instances where I just wasn't able to design the project to the satisfaction of the customer - and on one occasion, they refused to pay, as they decided to close the business. I eventually had to sue for the $100! Can you imagine, tarnishing your credit, not to mention your reputation, over such a small sum of money!
The main reason I was able to collect the money easily is because I had a written and signed agreement for the project. I also had documentation that the logos were delivered - it was basically "no contest".
I was able to satisfy the other clients, by hiring outside of my office. I found a compatible match for their needs and all were happy in the end. And that is your ultimate goal: Satisfaction and service.
In closing, remember art is relative. You cannot be everything to everyone. And not everyone is going to like your design style - but many will. So, remember to be professional, and confident in your work. Have a portfolio of samples to display your design style, and above all, have a contract ready for the signing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hurdles to Cross Cultural Business Communication

International businesses are facing new challenges to their internal communication structures due to major reforms brought about through internationalization, downsizing, mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures.
Lack of investment in cross cultural training and language tuition often leads to deficient internal cohesion. The loss of clients/customers, poor staff retention, lack of competitive edge, internal conflicts/power struggles, poor working relations, misunderstandings, stress, poor productivity and lack of co-operation are all by-products of poor cross cultural communication.
Cross cultural communications consultants work with international companies to minimise the above consequences of poor cross cultural awareness. Through such cooperation, consultancies like Kwintessential have recognised common hurdles to effective cross cultural communication within companies.
Here we outline a few examples of these obstacles to cross cultural co-operation:
Lack of Communication
It may seem obvious to state that non-communication is probably the biggest contributor to poor communication. Yet it continues to prove itself as the major problem within most companies.
Lack of communication with staff is not solely due to lack of spoken dialogue. Rather it relates to access to information.
For example, not giving feedback (negative or positive), informing staff of decisions and actions that will affect their roles or failure to properly communicate expectations are all ways in which information can be withheld from staff. This will eventually result in an alienated staff base that feels divided from management and superiors.
If managers are too selective in providing information, this can cause suspicion and jealousy among staff and will eventually result in internal strife instead of cohesion.
A management which does not and will not communicate and interact physically with staff demonstrates a lack of interest, trust and respect.
In the West it is often the case that communication lines are vertical. Staff report up to managers and managers up to senior levels and so on. Ideally lines of communication should run both ways. Those with a subordinate place in the communication process tend to feel estranged, indifferent and possibly even belligerent.
Lack of communication in all its forms is unhealthy. Companies and managers must be aware of how, what and to whom they are communicating.
Communication difficulties through language come in two forms:
Use of inappropriate language
Language carries with it subliminal meanings and messages transmitted through vocabulary, stress and tone. The wrong use of words or emotions hidden behind phrases can send messages that affect staff self-perception, confidence and attitude. Critical language causes poor interpersonal relationships and low self-confidence whereas supportive language and tones has the opposite effect.
Foreign Languages
These days, offices may have native speakers of over 50 languages all under one roof.  It is important that the main language of the office is established, whether it be English, French or Spanish. Once this is constituted all employees should only converse in the main language. This avoids exclusion of staff who can not understand other languages. In addition, a company should ensure that all its employees are fully conversant in the main language. Language tuition should be seen as a necessity not a luxury.
International businesses with a highly diverse workforce in terms of nationality and cultural background face challenges from the differences in language, values, belief systems, business ethics, business practices, behaviour, etiquette and expectations.
Cross cultural differences can negatively impact a business in a variety of ways, whether in team cohesion or in staff productivity. As we have seen above, different methods of communication are just one area in which cross cultural differences are manifested.
In such multicultural companies, objective help may be needed through a cross cultural consultant who will show teams and individuals how to manage communication and work together more cohesively and productively.
Company Culture
Company culture pertains to the internal culture of a company in terms of how it is managed. For example, does the company view its different departments such as sales, production, administration and HR as closed or open systems? A closed system is one in which a total lack of synergy exists between a sales and production department due to the structure and communication lines between the two. A consequence of such compartmentalization is that managers of departments have a tendency to become territorial. It is vital that team work, team building and team spirit are encouraged in order to create open systems.
Such measures are especially valid in joint ventures and mergers whereby co-operation between two or more companies requires their total commitment to an open system.
Understandably many companies are primarily focused on the financial and strategic side of company operations. International businesses are now realising that many of their business problems have roots in man-management and communication.
In summary, we can conclude that the biggest hurdle to effective cross cultural communication is a reluctance to invest in the expertise and resources needed to overcome the problems as outlined above. Cross cultural hurdles are easily negotiable with some objective and well-qualified assistance.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tracking Reveals The Rest Of The Story

Tracking is one of the most important tools you can use
to discover exactly what's happening to anything you do on
the internet!
Tracking gives you vital information about your links
clicked, website pages visited and ebook downloads.
And...which of your ads give you the best response, sales
and profits.
Tracking is simple and easy to set up and use. It only
takes minutes to set up each tracking link and counter. It's
available on many autoresponder and hosting services.
charge you a one time fee, others charge a monthly fee.
You'll discover your readers interests, because, you'll
know which links, ebooks, website pages they click on the
You'll track EVERY aspect of your advertising to determine
what's working. You'll know which ads bring you the most
subscribers, sales and profits, saving you time and money.
You'll know what interests your readers... Ebooks you
value and enjoy, may not be the ones your readers
Links and websites you recommend may be of no interest
uour readers. Tracking helps you give readers more
links, ebooks, software, resources and websites.
Tracking Tells The Story! And... It's easy to use!
Here's two tracking resources you can visit...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stop Any Argument In 3 Simple Steps

Do you need to stop arguments? These three steps will turn almost any argument into a productive discussion in less than five minutes.
1. Go to the bathroom. When you are in the throes of an argument or difficult discussion, just say, "I really want to have this conversation, but first, please excuse me I must go to the bathroom." Interrupting the argument will give each of you a chance to cool down and collect your thoughts.
If you are on the telephone, say "Excuse me for a moment, I have to handle a call on the other line." If you are on a cell phone, break the connection in the middle of one of your own sentences. Call back a few minutes later and apologize for being cut off.
2. Use your break time to think. Decide what you really want to accomplish by turning the argument into a discussion. Get very clear about your own objectives.
3. Return to the conversation, summarize the argument so far, and then ask politely what the other person wants the outcome of the conversation to be.
These steps work because they give each of you a chance to think instead of react to what has been happening. And neither of you needs to lose face or look weak or act disrespectfully.
When you approach any conversation with your goal in mind, you are far more likely to achieve it than you are in the heat of an argument. When you ask others their goals, they too must think about what they want to accomplish.
When you create a productive discussion, you create mutual respect and the opportunity for excellent future relationships.