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    As I mentioned in a previous post, I starting coming up ad campaigns for the products we used during our trip! This is the first campaign that struck me, and it has a great social media strategy tie-in as well. Note that I haven’t done any customer or strategic research to see if this would actually fit into Coleman’s marketing plan, it’s just what popped into my head while I was waiting for our fajitas to finish cooking. :)

    The Campaign: “With a View”

    The Concept: Coleman products let you enjoy life with a view. You can cook great food on a Coleman stove while enjoying the mountains. You can drink coffee from a Coleman cantina while kayaking down the river. You can watch the stars while snuggling in a Coleman sleeping bag, inside a Coleman tent. In short, if you want a view, Coleman can get you there!

    The Tagline: “How do you________? With A View!”

    The Ads: I shot these photos in Big Bend and Seminole Canyon.

    How do you take your lunch? With a View!


     

    How do you fall asleep? With a View!

     

    The Customer Engagement: We would release one or two inspirational pictures in Q1, and hold a contest for customers to submit photos of themselves using Coleman products in cool, extreme environments. We’d ask them to show us what kind of views Coleman helped them enjoy. After 4 months, 3 winners would be chosen, and their photos would be featured in the ad campaign throughout Q2. Their photos would be shown in retailers like Academy and REI, and magazines that cater to outdoor enthusiasts.

    There’s also Sweepstakes possibilities, where you win a trip, or Coleman gear, or some other fabulous prize. But, in this case, I think it works well to have the customer make a purchase first, and then win prestige later. I think this approach affords a win-win situation: Coleman makes money as people purchase products, they engage customers, and they get a new ad campaign. Customers win a feature campaign, just by taking a vacation!

    Got an improvement on this campaign idea, or a photo that might work for the ad? I would love to feature your take here on the blog, so contact me with your ideas!

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    I was tasked with collecting biographies and head shots for our technicians in the shop. The plan is to send the customer an email at each stage of their engine overhaul with a little bit of information about who is doing what to their engine. We deal with many overseas customers, so it’s hard to put a “face” on the company. As a marketer and a millenial, I think this is a great idea. It keeps the customer apprised of the engine progress, assures them that a real person with real experience is doing real work on their engine, and makes all the technicians, customer service reps, and sales reps seem like one big happy family. We’re a unified company, partnering with you, our valued customer!

    Interestingly, some people did not want their picture and a summary of their work experience put out into the world. Again, being a marketer and a millenial, this is very odd to me. I realize that my privacy threshold is lower than most people’s, particularly when it comes to professional information. You can put my name into a search engine and find out my entire work history, picture, and phone number in less than a minute. The crazy part is that this was intentional! I WANT people to find me. How else will I advance my blog, my career, and my success? If no one knows I exist, they can’t offer me an opportunity! In my profession, I’d wager that if a potential employer or client can’t easily find me on the web, they’d be suspicious of my qualifications and education.

    This is not the case for prior generations, and particularly those in professions that require hard skills or specific licenses to practice. Marketing skills can be difficult to quantify or assess, so the big picture shown by my online presence is pretty crucial to my ability to prove myself. For technicians in an industry that will soon face a shortage of qualified workers, simply showing their A&P license is enough to get them to a probationary period, if not a full-time job. And, since many of these workers didn’t grow up in the age of the internet, the thought of putting their face and identifying history in print is pretty scary.

    While I understand their concerns, it’s just so hard for me to relate. I don’t share every detail of my personal and professional life online, but if I can say it in polite conversation to a random stranger in person, why would I hesitate to put it online? I guess I feel that if someone really wants to steal my identity or cause me harm, I’m going to have to significantly disrupt my entire life to prevent them from doing that. I’d have to forgo all credit card use, online and offline (I mean really, we let 16 year old waiters take our credit cards out of our sight for an unspecified amount of time!), never put my address ANYWHERE, and ditch any phone communications! Is it really so bad for someone to know what I look like? Is it really so bad for someone to know that I attended UNT? Is it really that harmful for someone to know I go to boot camp on a regular basis? Sure, I keep my whereabouts off the internet, my schedule off the internet, and my super secret passwords out of publication, but I have a low privacy threshold. I wonder how this debate will change over the next 5-10 years, as millenials ascend to positions of power, and social networking becomes even more normal and pervasive than it already is. How’s your privacy threshold?

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    I’ve had some interesting conversations and read some interesting articles recently that made me wonder if you should even go to college at all! Obviously, I value the piece of paper, as I’m currently working on my MBA, so I’ll end up having more college than the average person. And, that’s the point, right? To make myself “above average” so that I can have a higher paycheck, more prestigious title, cooler work environment, and generally more awesome career! But in today’s economy, should you even go to college?

    I will say that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that Americans put way to much value on college degrees. Or, at least, all the people I’m surrounded by put a lot of emphasis on it. I admit that I’ve always kind of looked down on people that chose not to attend college, that somehow, they just couldn’t hack it in the real world. This is actually quite false, as several people I know were more than able to hack it, they just opted out. Our generation has been told to “do something we love”, and quite frankly, not everyone loves a desk job. Not everyone gets warm fuzzies from a glowing computer screen. Not everyone wants to exercise only their brain every day. Some people enjoy… gasp… working with their hands! Or exerting their leg muscles! Or being a starving artist in a garret! How dare these people choose to forgo a boring class that lends nothing to their practical daily lives because it is required by a degree plan? How dare they accept hourly wages over salary, muddy boots over patent pumps, and wrenches over a briefcase? Sometimes I look out my office window at the gorgeous 70 degree day, and think that maybe I’m the crazy one. I could be out mowing a lawn in the sunshine to make a living, or taking tourists scuba diving to earn a wage, or heck, staying inside making cards to sell to pay the rent. There are plenty of people that make a living wage doing blue-collar work, and many of them love their jobs. What’s so wrong with taking a job that allows you to feel good about yourself while to make a paycheck?

    This is not to say that everyone with a college degree is miserable, while all the non-degreed people live a life of rainbows and roses. In addition to “passion” you do have to be practical and realize that most college-educated professionals earn more over their lifetime. I would also say that there’s a lot of skills you can learn in school that will improve your ability to move up the ranks, which is difficult to do without outsourcing in a blue-collar job. And, since many blue-collar jobs take a higher toll on the body, you might face physical limitations that force you into retirement earlier than a white-collar profession (we’ll save the debate about stress-induced heart attacks when you’re 40 for another blog post!). For example, take landscaping or construction work. Both require significant physical labor, and to move up in the ranks or start your own business, you’ll need management skills, accounting skills, marketing skills, and possibly engineering skills. For many of those, you’ll need a college-educated or licensed professional, so if your aspiration is to move into management, going to college earlier might have been the better choice.

    I do think that post-high school education is necessary to ensure that the US (and the world, since it’s a global economy these days) has an effective workforce, but I think we should make a path for technical or vocational education, the way we’ve done for college. For example, the aviation industry is facing the real concern of a shortage of trained, qualified technicians, because all the youth are heading to college, instead of mechanic school. This article details vocational programs in Arizona high schools, and mentions that in addition to training students for immediate work after high school, the vocational programs are actually encouraging students to attend and graduate from 2- or 4-year colleges! It mentions a shortage of welders and auto mechanics, noting that you can make great money in either of these professions. It’s unfortunate that many high schools are unwilling or unable to offer these types of programs to their students, and that many parents are unwilling or unable to allow their children to take advantage of these programs if they are offered. My cousin went to an ag-centric high school, complete with animals and farm land on the school property. She mentioned that some transfer students made rude comments about the smell surrounding the school. Her response? “That’s the smell of money! You smell cow manure and hay… I smell dollars in my pocket!” Note that my cousin went to college for poultry science (you know, the people that engineer a better chicken for power players like Tyson?) on scholarships from her winnings at county fairs and FFA shows!

    So, who’s making the better choice? Me, with my MBA, and my sister in her pursuit of a doctorate? Our one-class-shy-of-a-bachelor’s degree friend, that’s currently working 7 days a week as an electrician, making $20 per hour? Or, a family friend whose son skipped college altogether, went to a trade school, and is now working as an auto mechanic? The word is that he loves his job, he’s contributing to society, and he’s paying his own way these days! I’m not saying that college isn’t important, and I definitely have a hard time accepting alternative paths. But, the more I read, and the more people I meet, the more I realize that a fancy piece of paper isn’t the only way to have a fulfilling, well-paid, successful career.

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    As you know, I just returned from a wonderful 13-day vacation. My husband and I did a road trip around Texas to make our way to a friend’s wedding in El Paso, and we went without cell reception and internet for several days at a time. What an odd sensation, to be unplugged for nearly two weeks! Anyways, back to the fact that I kind of suck at vacation: it took a few days to just quiet my own mind, and about a week and a half into the vacation, I started making up ad campaigns for all the products we were using! Sigh… I can’t even go two weeks without doing business.

    I’ve come to realize that in order to truly shut off the distractions, I need about 4 days of vacation. This two-day weekend nonsense is not for relaxation, but rather for chores, errands, and other responsibilities that I put off during the week. Humans need some down time in order to function at optimal capacity, but I never schedule any down time. I tore through 3.5 books on the trip, including a murder mystery by Agatha Christie, an FBI-thriller by James Patterson, a philosophical and psychological rabbit-hole by Aldous Huxley, and great progress through a religious/philosophical challenge by C.S. Lewis. It’s amazing what my mind can contemplate when it’s not weighed down by all the clutter of daily life! You’ll notice, though, that only two of my four books were somewhat “mindless escape”. Even when I’m attempting to turn my brain into mush for a few days, I can only handle so much “blank space” before I start craving some serious mental stimulation.

    Then there’s the physical stimulation… I REALLY suck at relaxation! Fortunately, my husband does to, and his inability to relax is actually worse than mine. We backpacked for the first 3 days of our trip, logging about 15 miles of hiking. We did a 14-mile, 2,000 ft. elevation gain hike, and a 6-mile “easy” hike during the last week of our trip. We meandered on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, and danced quite a bit at the wedding. In short, while most people gain 3-5 lbs. during their vacation, we actually lost a pound or two due to our level of physical activity. I think we managed to sit by the river to read for 4 hours one afternoon… and that’s as lazy as we could make ourselves!

    And finally, the business of doing business on vacation. My company Blackberry went dead a few days into the trip, and I didn’t bother to charge it. This, however, did not stop me from dreaming about owning a Bed and Breakfast with my husband, starting a photography business, or working for a year at different State or National Parks. Then came the ad campaigns, complete with taglines, artwork, and social media strategies (I’ll be featuring some of my “work” on the blog over the next few weeks!).

    My tagline here on the blog is, “When business is your life”, and my vacation really made this concept hit home for me. I love challenging my mind, making money, and being productive. I kind of suck at vacation in the traditional sense, but man, I feel energized, reinvigorated, and ready to take on the world after my random parade of ideas. I think that’s the real point of a vacation, so maybe I don’t suck after all :)

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    Well readers, today’s links are all the same: albums from my recent vacation (fear not, we consolidated it down to 15-20 pictures per album)! What does this have to do with business, you ask? PLENTY, as you’ll see in a few upcoming posts. On a broad note, the concept of sharpening the axe is a perfect segue between my talk of business and my talk of vacation. That, and I know you’re all dying to see what I’ve been up to while I’ve been absent from the blog :) So, without further adieu:

    Pedernales Falls State Park: Our first stop was in Pedernales Falls, near Austin, TX. We decided to camp in the back country for 3 nights, so we loaded up our packs and hiked in 2.5 miles to pitch our tent. We went on a decent hike around the park and read books by the river. My husband was insistent on a hair-flinging picture in the river, so that was fun practice using the high-speed continuous mode for me!

    Natural Bridge Caverns: We stopped at Natural Bridge Caverns en route to San Antonio. I’d been there when I was really young, but man, I was impressed at the caverns! My husband took some AMAZING pictures underground (fellow photography nerds will understand the difficulty in shooting in low/no light, sans tripod!). Natural Bridge is a living cavern, which means that water is still flowing to create the rock formations in the caves. I highly recommend the Discovery Tour if you’re ever in the area… but avoid the touristy “mining” nonsense that seeks to sell an over-priced bag of dirt in hopes of retrieving some “precious” rocks. It made me cringe, even as a marketer!

    San Antonio: We stayed for 2 nights in San Antonio, at a place we found on Air BnB, which I also highly recommend if you haven’t used the site before. We strolled along the Riverwalk, ate fancy steak at Ruth’s Chris, and generally enjoyed some “civilized” fun between our camping adventures.

    Seminole Canyon: We stayed for one “layover” night in Seminole Canyon to break up the laborious drive to Big Bend, and it was… interesting! It was really windy when we arrived, and, being a weekday, there was literally one other person in the entire park! It was a flat desert for miles, so I took some cool shots of the sunset and our tent. We went on a tour of the canyon in the morning, and learned about the wall paintings by indigenous people from 5,000 years ago!

    Big Bend National Park: This place is HUGE! We stayed in the Chisos Basin area of the park, and we opted to car camp vs. backpack. Big Bend is gorgeous, with mountains and cool cactus plants all over. We saw rabbits, bears, lizards, deer, and a road runner during our trip. Our most epic hike of the trip was up the South Rim Trail, which let us climb about 2,000 ft., and hike 14 miles round-trip. We had a very scenic lunch on top of a mountain :)

    We haven’t edited and posted the photos from El Paso, where our mutual college friend held her wedding. Her wedding was actually the impetus for the trip, and we shot quite a few photos of the wedding itself. I’ll be posting those separately over the next few weeks (or, you can just check back on the SmugMug site periodically until they post, if you’re just chomping at the bit!).

    We had an amazing trip, and we took a TON of pictures with the Canon 60D, Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 ll, and Canon 50mm f/1.8 ll. My husband is a pretty accomplished photographer (remember those insane cave photos above?), and I’m learning, slowly but surely! If you have specific questions about the trip, let me know in the comments or Twitter.

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    “I’m a marketer for an aerospace company”. That’s my typical response when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” What’s odd, though, is that my response tends to be the same in every situation. Random person at the gym? I’m a marketer. Old family friend in the church parking lot? I’m doing marketing. Long-lost cousin at the family reunion? I’m a Marketing Coordinator.

    As my husband and I consider our future, we’ve talked a lot about what we want to “do”. I think it’s somewhat backwards that my standard response for what I “do” revolves solely around my job. It’s also silly, because as a proportion of my life, I’ve been doing marketing for the least amount of time, relative to a number of other things I “do”. I’ve been doing scrapbooking for more than 10 years. I’ve been doing exercise for my whole life. I’ve been singing and acting since I was 5! But now what do I do? I do marketing. This isn’t totally true, because I STILL do scrapbooking, exercising, and stage work. Why are we so hung up on what we do FOR MONEY?

    Sometimes, I even warp the question by answering, “I work in marketing at an aerospace company.” They didn’t ask me where I work, they asked me what I do! And yet, most of the time, they really mean to ask about my job. Why is it that we only “do” a job? If doing = money, then I could realistically say that I’m an actor, since I’ve received money for acting and singing (trust me, not an hourly wage you’d want to work for!).

    I’m at a point my life where my focus is on building my career. I’m pursuing the MBA, I’m networking, I’m expanding my reach. But, at the end of the day, I’m not just a marketer. Sometimes I worry that the rest of my layers will get so lost in “being a marketer” that eventually, that’s all I’ll be! I think that would be unfortunate, to truly have only one answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” This is kind of like the time I thought about issuing a challenge to do something stupid, but I couldn’t get past my own scheduling conflicts to actually accept the challenge.  I would love to commit to answering, “Lots of things,” but I fear that will make me seem unfocused, less driven, and less ambitious in my career. My colleagues are always surprised to find out that I do musicals and send hand-made Christmas cards, and most of them have no idea that I blog regularly and I’ve been featured on Forbes.  So, what do you do? Do your friends, family, and colleagues know that you do more than just business?

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    Remember Dusty Baker, the realtor featured in last week’s “My Corporate Life” post? He’s back again with some great insight into the housing market. If you have any questions about real estate, feel free to reach out to Dusty here!

     

    The Current Market – Skipping Along the Bottom

    Since people often ask me what is going on in the housing market and how it affects the economy, I can only assume that the majority of people reading this are wondering the same thing.  The housing market affects the world economy drastically for a few reasons.  One reason is simply that homes are very expensive compared to anything else we buy.  The Tic-Tac market will never affect the economy because people would have to buy billions of those little mints to have any dollar significance.  Homes, on the other hand, are arguably the most expensive asset in the world.  Another reason is the number of people involved in the housing market.  Not everyone buys and sells $500,000 worth of T-bills, but the majority of people will, at one point in their lifetime, spend $500,000 (or more) on a home.  The third reason is government.  Most publicly starting with Bill Clinton, the government likes to help people buy homes.  Between the Federal Reserve pumping money to banks at laughably low interest rates and government policies which still, to this day, help with sub-prime loans, money is easy to come across to purchase a home.

    Where did this take us?

    Well, the fairy tale of “wouldn’t it be great if everyone owned a home” led to just that – everyone owning a home.  Except the majority of people were only home-owners for about 6 years, and are now giving their homes back to the bank.  The market is flooded with REO (foreclosed) and short-sale listings; and after a recent $26 billion agreement between Bank of America and the U.S. government, the number of bank owned properties on the market is forecasted to increase 4 fold in the next year.

    When Will We Bounce Back?

    Right now, at least in southern California, we seem to be bouncing along the bottom.  I personally think we’ve hit rock bottom and are now skimming across, with little 2% jumps up and down.  Other areas of the country, parts of Arizona for example, may certainly continue to drop.  The difference is that in Santa Barbara there is no new construction – nowhere to expand.   We are nestled between a mountain range and the Pacific Ocean.  Our area can only get so cheap, because at a certain point you have to call a spade a spade; and perfect weather and ocean views are one heck of a spade in real estate.  Parts of Arizona, though, were being built out and out, further away from the center of town because 1) real estate was selling like hot cakes so why not build and 2) they were in the middle of nowhere and the sky was the limit to expansion.  How that affects the real estate is simple economics: demand.  If there is no demand to live 45 minutes outside of a city in a half-built community, the property is essentially worthless.  That is why there are many “ghost” towns in Nevada and Arizona (where the housing market took the greatest hit).  In these places, banks are actually allowing people to live in their homes without paying their mortgage, because an occupied home is better than a vacant one (in terms of upkeep of the bank’s asset).

     

    Should I Buy?

    It’s hard even writing this knowing how biased I am on the matter (being an agent), but I absolutely think now is a great time to buy.  If it gives me any credibility at all, I am currently representing good friends in purchasing a home – and I would never put a commission check over good friends.  It is a buyer’s market: the market is flooded with listings, listings almost always sell for less than asking price, and banks are essentially giving money away at the current rates.  If I had the money, I would buy everything my greedy little hands could get their palms on.

    Can I Make Quick Money?

    Clients always ask me, “If I buy now, what will this be worth in 3 years?”  Answering that question is essentially asking for a lawsuit in the future.  I have no idea what will happen in 3 years, and I have no intention of taking on that kind of liability.  Having said that, I tell them that I NEVER see real estate as a short term investment.  If you plan on “flipping” a house (quick note: despite the TV shows, more often than not people lose money flipping homes – you have to be very well connected and intelligent to succeed) or buying just for a few years and then selling, you better hope you are timing the market right.  I would personally never purchase a property that I didn’t expect to hold onto for at least 10-15, minimum.  With that kind of mindset you can almost never lose.  I would dare you to find any 15 year segment in the housing market where you would lose money after that long of a time period.

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    I’m excited to welcome Angeline Evans back to the blog! She guest posted a while back, and she’s made a few changes since her last feature. Angeline Evans is a freelance writer, nonprofit communications consultant and career and style blogger at The New Professional. She believes that business casual doesn’t have to be boring and strives to help the everywoman find balance and success in the office lifestyle and in their careers. Prior to striking out on her own, Evans spent over five years in magazine publishing and public sector and nonprofit communications. Follow her on Twitter at @angelineevans.

     

    There is a blog just about everything out there, from the mainstream to the mundane. Some are well-oiled machines; others obviously haven’t been touched in years. You probably follow a few for fun and a few professionally. But have you considered starting your own blog?

    Blogging can be a fun personal hobby, yes, but it can also be a great professional move. This blog (Consciously Corporate) is a great example: Ashley shares great insight that demonstrates her marketing expertise and adds to the online chatter in her field, exposing her to a much greater audience than just those in her office.

    There are many ways that a blog can benefit your career: it could open up new opportunities, expand your network, and establish you as an expert in your field. A blog also fills in the gap between resume and results for potential employers—you can demonstrate deeper understanding and showcase your best assets without being limited to one page.

    Here are some ideas for how to use a blog to help grow your career.

     

    Sound off on timely topics

    As consumers of media, we each have our own reaction to new developments or hot button issues. You can sound off in a blog post’s comments, sure, but if you have more than a few sentences to say, why not elaborate in your own post and link to that instead? Try to provide some new information or draw a connection that hasn’t yet been made. It also contributes to the literature on the topic.

     

    Share resources

    Think about the most valuable people in your network: they’re probably the connectors. They know who to call for anything, where to find reliable information and where to get the best brunch. Online connectors are just as important as blood-and-flesh ones, and a blog that is on the pulse of an industry and connects its readers to valuable information and people is just as crucial as the former coworker who referred you for your job.

     

    Build your network

    Whether you’re already settled in your “forever” city or you’re looking to pick up your roots and relocate, a widespread network can be extremely valuable. Blogging and social media are a great way to expand beyond the typical workplace, geographic, or educational networks.

     

    Engage experts on your way to becoming one

    On the surface, an entry-level professional may not have much in common with their industry’s leading voices, but blogging can bridge the gap (though it may still be a slope, rather than a flat bridge). Social media has also made it easier to connect with others we may not run into otherwise. Try tweeting your favorite blog post to an industry expert and asking for their opinion, or contribute to an established industry news sites (use your blog as your resume when pitching).

    Certainly there are some precautions to take before you take the plunge. If you’re currently employed and blogging about your work, use discretion in talking about the workplace or clients and be honest and upfront with your employer if the topic comes up (even better: tell them about it from the get go. They might even help come up with ideas). Even though it is relevant professionally, don’t blog on company time or let it interfere with your work.

    So where do you start? Blogging consistently will help you most—you don’t have to commit to daily, but once a week is a good start—so think about general topics or “features” you want to include. Hop on Blogger or WordPress to get a feel for the technology (you can always purchase a URL and redirect it later), and jump in! When you’re ready to launch, send your link out to anyone you know in your industry (it won’t help you if no one reads it).

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    I’d like to welcome Joe Kiszka back for a guest post today! You may remember him from the “My Corporate Life” series. Joe runs his own food blog, “Dine at Joe’s” , where he takes pictures of all of the meals he eats out. He can be reached by e-mail at jkiszka@gmail.com.

     

    In some way, shape, or form, we are all salespeople. However, while my “Business Development Manager” title at my job sounds like a “salesman,” I don’t really see myself as a “salesman.” In fact, I don’t really look at my job at all like a salesman. I’m more of a support guy. As a support guy, my job is to act as kind of an internal resource for my customers. This requires me to build lasting, consultative relationships at my customers. Therefore, we’re ultimately “selling.”

    There’s multiple ways this is achieved amongst different types of business, some more clever than others. Golf is one of the most popular. Depending on your type of customer, succeeding here may consist of a better score, or how many cigars you can smoke and Bloody Marys you can drink while driving the golf cart. I’ll do this, but I’m more of a comedy golfer. (“Comedy” in that it’s awful funny when I tally up my golf score and I end up with the high score every time. This is why you should look for scramble tournaments, fellow comedy golfers!)

    Of course, I’ve hosted other events to help build relationships with customers. This has included regional training seminars with continuing education credits attached to them, movies, fantasy football leagues, and heck—we’ve even done Whirlyball. All these are great. However, in my opinion, the best one is “eating out.”

    Today, I’m going to explain to you how to be good at eating out while selling yourself. How does this article apply to you, no matter who you are? At some point, you’re going to need to sell yourself to someone else. Whether it’s dating a potential future spouse or closing a big business deal, one of the easiest ways in our culture to gain rapport, interest, and build any relationship, is to eat out.

    There are two sets of rules here that I can offer when dining out. There’s the extremely serious “business dining guidelines” and the seemingly less serious list from my father: “Dad’s rules of life for eating out.” (Both lists—dining guidelines and rules of life—actually were taught to me by my father.) I’m going to outline them all, starting with the business dining guidelines, as you should certainly master them before doing anything else. The guidelines will “get you to the table”, and the rules of life will help you master the art.

    Before I delve into these guidelines, I offer one important caveat: These guidelines assume that you are in the United States and are within our local culture. Some of the things on this list would NOT apply in other cultures.

    BASIC BUSINESS DINING GUIDELINES:

    Prior to arriving to their office, do your homework. Have a few restaurants in mind where you can hear your customer speak, you won’t have to wait an hour for a table, you won’t offend anyone, and of course, the food is awesome. If it’s a steakhouse or something very nice (especially for dinner), confirm the number attending with your customer, and make a reservation. Err on the side of caution—if you think the venue might make your customer uncomfortable, don’t bring them there. I recommend looking up restaurants on Yelp prior to going to them to ensure a positive experience.

    Arrive early, and always take the seat facing the door. This will allow you (hopefully) to view the door while waiting for your customer. If you can’t see the door, ask to be seated (if possible) at a table where you can see the door, or give the customer’s first name to the host or hostess. When you see your customer walk in (if you know them), you’ll be able to see them and wave at them.

    If you’ve never met them before, call to confirm your appointment and then let them know what you will be wearing. This makes for less “are you here” awkward cell phone calls.

    Shake hands APPROPRIATELY. When shaking their hand, don’t try to squeeze their hand as hard as you can. However, don’t go for the cold fish handshake as well. Find a happy median. And, of course, it should be common sense to know that you ALWAYS shake with your RIGHT hand.

    Don’t order alcohol until your customer does. Try your best not to order your drink or meal first. Let them order alcoholic beverages first, and then follow suit accordingly. If you absolutely must go first, order a non-alcoholic beverage, and if they order one, then follow suit by saying “On second thought, go ahead and give me an (INSERT ALCHOLIC DRINK NAME HERE) instead.” You can’t un-order a beer without looking like a moron. Don’t forget—not everyone believes in drinking. Ordering alcohol can make them feel uncomfortable.

    The company party is NOT really a party. This isn’t a frat party. Keep it under control. Don’t drink to excess.

    Don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu. This isn’t such a huge deal, but you don’t want to look wasteful or too excessive. Keep this under control. If you really want the most expensive thing on the menu, order it, but don’t be excessive about it.

    Be nice to your server. If the server hasn’t been around for a while, don’t be a jerk about it. Also, if your food didn’t come exactly as you ordered it, don’t send it back. This makes you look like a jerk in front of your customer and makes them uncomfortable. Also (unless there’s some extremely compelling reason not to), leave AT LEAST 20% when dining on an expense account. Not doing this could make you look cheap.

    Know some basic information about wines. Know what you like, know what you don’t like, know how to pronounce the different types of wines. (Wikipedia can help with this.) Know that a red wine glass is bigger than a white wine glass. Know that when drinking red wine, you generally hold the glass by the cup, whereas when drinking white wine, you hold the glass by the stem. Most importantly, know how to DRINK wine. The smell is important. The taste is important. (We’re not doing shots here. Think “art meets food.”) Don’t be ashamed to ask about pairings (“Will the Merlot go with my ____?”). Google this as well—there’s many pages about this topic around the internet.

    Use good table manners. Also, know which utensil is the correct utensil. (Generally speaking, you start with the silverware farthest away from your plate and work your way in.) Cut a chunk of butter off and put it on your butter plate—use this as your master. When eating bread, after buttering it, tear it apart into bite size chunks. Don’t take a bite out of it. (Don’t take huge bites, as this can be awkward to finish the bite of food in your mouth when a customer asks you a question.) As you finish a bowl of soup, tilt the bowl away from you while you scoop to get to the last of the soup. Enough said—there’s entire books, websites, YouTube videos, and other forms of media dedicated to this subject. For manners, the onus is on YOU.

    Don’t season your food before you try it. Think about it—pouring salt / pepper / whatever your condiment of choice all over your meal before trying it can show that you don’t have an open mind or are not easily satisfied. (I’ve worked for an employer before where if an applicant did this, they were eliminated from contention for the job.) Kind of silly, I know, but be careful.

    Ask for the next meeting. More specifically, if it went well, you’re talking to the right folks, and it’s a relationship worth maintaining, make sure to ask for the next meeting. Don’t be pushy about this. “Let’s do this again! How about we get you on the calendar for _____?”

    Skip the doggie bag. When you get done with your meal, if you haven’t finished, DO NOT get a doggie bag. This makes you look extraordinarily tacky and cheap.

    Now that we’ve got the basics, here’s the fun part…

    DAD’S RULES OF LIFE FOR EATING OUT:

    When I was a child, my father instilled upon my sister and I these basic rules of life for eating out. Some are funny, some are graphic. They are all true. Sure, exceptions exist—but generally speaking, these should all be heeded. (Example: If you look at Rule #2, I’m sure there’s very good steakhouses in Boston. However, if you’re visiting, you’d likely have better experiences ordering seafood—like lobster, shrimp, etc—as it is appropriate to the region.)

    I’m not going to explain these, as I find them rather self-explanatory. If I need to be more specific, feel free to e-mail me.

    Rule #1 – Never ask a skinny person where to eat.

    Rule #2 – Don’t eat at regionally inappropriate restaurants. (i.e. – Don’t eat at a Taco Bell in San Antonio. Or–don’t go to Boston and order beef.)

    Rule #3 – Never eat seafood at a place that has an inflatable crab on the roof.

    Rule #4 -Don’t order cuisine-inappropriate dishes. (i.e. – don’t go to a Mexican restaurant and order a cheeseburger.)

    Rule #5 – Don’t ever go to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Rule #6 – Don’t ever eat hot peppers (like habaneros), and then go to the restroom. Rule #7 – Life is too short to drink cheap beer.

    Rule #8 – Don’t ever eat Kimchee prior to boarding an airplane.

    Rule #8.5 – Better yet, don’t ever eat Kimchee period.

    Rule #9 – Don’t ever eat at a restaurant called “Mom’s”, or anywhere that advertises “just like home”, or “home-cooked”.

    Rule #10 – Only eat sushi if the sushi chef is Japanese. Rule #11 – Never eat sushi or raw seafood in a country where you cannot drink the water. Rule #12 – Only eat in Mexican restaurants that display a crucifix and a likeness of “our Lady of Guadalupe”. Rule #13 – Only eat in BBQ restaurants where the silverware does not match. Rule #14 – Never eat sushi in a restaurant that advertises Korean, Chinese, or Thai cuisine in addition to sushi.

    Rule #15 – Generally speaking, the larger a pepper grinder used in a restaurant, the worse the food.

    Rule #16 – The price of a meal is directly proportional to how high the restaurant’s location is with relation to the ground.

    Rule #17 – The quality of a meal is inversely proportional to how high the restaurant’s location is with relation to the ground.

    Rule #18 – Don’t eat at restaurants that rotate.

    Rule #19 – Don’t ever eat at a restaurant that also sells bait.

     

    If you keep this advice in mind when eating out, your customers will appreciate it, and a better experience will be had by all… good luck out there. Until next time, fellow business diners—Ciao!

     

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    I’m excited to continue the “My Corporate Life” series on the blog. My goal is to bring in some other corporate perspectives and career paths, so that we can all learn from some other corporate areas and environments. If you would like to be featured in the “My Corporate Life” series, please contact me for the details. I’ll be featuring the guest posts as time permits in my regular posting schedule, and I would love to hear from you!

    Today’s post is written by Dustin “Dusty” Baker, a licensed real estate agent with Coldwell Bankers in Santa Barbara, CA. If you’re looking for a great realtor, or for any questions, you can reach Dusty here!

     

    Why Real Estate?

    In writing from the perspective of a real estate agent in Santa Barbara, CA, I feel that I should first explain why I chose this career. If you are not familiar with Santa Barbara, it is a very desirable, beautiful coastal town in southern California – and the prices reflect it. Since I want to live in Santa Barbara and survive the over-inflated prices, I knew I had to work in something “Santa Barbara” specific. Why take a run-of-the-mill corporate position that pays the exact same here as it does in Dallas, TX (where the cost of living is significantly lower)? I wanted a career where pay was directly correlated to Santa Barbara’s expensive lifestyle – in comes real estate. The exact same home that would sell for $200,000 in Dallas sells for over $1,000,000 here. It takes roughly $5,000,000 in sales to obtain a 6-figure salary. In Santa Barbara, that is about 3-5 deals a year. You do the math.

    How To Get Here

    Another great plus about real estate: incredibly low cost of entry. You simply need a high school diploma and a state-specific real estate license (which can be obtained in less than 2 months for only a few hundred dollars). That is all you need, however generally the most successful agents in town come with a college degree and a lot of experience. Once you are an agent, you can become qualified in many other areas such as a foreclosure specialist, short sale specialist, “green” agent specialist (selling homes that are eco-friendly), etc.

    Be Your Own Boss

    To me, the greatest part of real estate is being my own boss. That entails two very important things to me: 1) making my own hours and 2) getting out what you put in. Making your own hours is priceless; when I speak to friends and family members that have set lunch breaks and times they HAVE to be at work, it makes me sick. I refuse to be treated like a child and told what to do and when to do it. The funny thing about making your own hours and working for yourself is that you actually end up working harder and longer, which brings me to my second point: getting out what you put in. When your paycheck is directly related to how hard you work and how good you are, you better believe you get to work early and stay late. Working harder doesn’t even bother me, because I know I am fully compensated for every bit of overtime. I’ve seen employees that are fantastic at their job and true assets to their company, but unless their boss chooses to see it and reward it, they are simply spinning their wheels. I, on the other hand, get larger and more frequent commission checks the harder I work.

    Day-to-Day

    At its core, real estate is sales. It does not matter how knowledgeable you are in the field, or how great of a job you would do if you do not have clients. The day-to-day of a real estate agent involves a lot of sales: phone calls, meeting people, getting your name out there, etc. All the stuff people dread in a sales position. Because it is sales driven, and also very relational, your day never really ends. If my clients can’t see property until they get off work at 5… well it looks like I’m working past 5. If an offer needs to be submitted immediately… well it doesn’t matter if the Lakers game is on. With that is incredible freedom as well, so don’t think you are signing your life away becoming an agent. It is a lot of fun working with people, getting out of the office frequently throughout the day, and choosing when and where to do your work.

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