Archive for December, 2010

I Did It … I Did It!

I accomplished my goal of posting to my blog daily this week.

GiGi and Kace

Today I want to reflect on 2010. Personally, the birth of my grandson represents the best of the year. Unfortunately, there is also the worse of the year with the death of my brother-in-law just a few days ago.

Professionally, there are several great things that took place in 2010. I will leave the bad for another post.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS conference in March gave me the opportunity to meet Randy Hall in person. Randy is CEO, 4th Gear Consulting and we developed a friendship and working relationship virtually. Randy worked with franchisees in group coaching sessions prior to conference and his presentation at conference was extremely well received. He had us focus on success and how financial success won’t last unless we are enjoying what we love in your business. Meet Randy here on this link to the COMPUTER EXPLORERS YouTube channel.

Mirror Test

I was fortunate to be one of the speakers at ICED (International Center for Entrepreneur Development) Executive Conference. The keynote speaker was Jeffrey Hayzlett. In all honesty, until I was asked to be a speaker at the conference I never gave Jeff a second thought. I started following him on Twitter and then read his book The Mirror Test.  In fact, the entire COMPUTER EXPLORERS team read the book and took the test to determine if our business was really breathing. To say Jeff has lots of personality is an understatement. Take a minute to search the Web and watch some of his videos and/or read his book.

Social Geek Radio fan Dana Lopez

Social Geek Radio launched in May! It was a big step to move outside of my comfort zone and try something so public. It’s been a real learning experience and a great deal of fun. There are a few loyal fans like Wendy Hatch and Dana Lopez that listen weekly. Knowing they are there supporting me is very comforting. This week I received an email from a listener, Angela. She said that she listened once and is now hooked. I don’t know Angela and I’m sure she doesn’t know what that email meant to me.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS new Website launched with a lot of hard work by St. Jacques Marketing firm, the Franchise Advisory Council and Lorri Wyndham. It’s a work in progress but I’m confident as we enter 2011 it will get better engaging and providing valuable information to our communities.

These are just a few of my favorite things of 2010. (Does it make you want to break out in song?). Resolutions, goals, expectations are set for 2011 along with a determination to succeed.

Hopefully, this time next year my post will be I did it, I did it …. I just don’t know at this time what “it” will be.

Happy New Year!

As I have mentioned, I subscribe to Predictable Success blog written by Les McKeown. His blog post: 3 Steps to Writing Your Strategic Plan This Weekend peaked my interest. In fact, I shared the link with the team and we each made a commitment to listen to the 40 minute audio recording and workbook.  I personally downloaded to iTunes and on my ride back and forth to work Les accompanied me. I will admit that at first I was mesmerized by his accent but quickly realized he was sharing very good processes related to strategic planning.

One of our first steps in planning was to outline our KK and KDK. Les explained that the KK is what you “know you know.” The operational activities you do everyday. The KDK is what you “know you don’t know.” For example, customer satisfaction has declined. You know it has declined but you don’t know why.

Each week we worked on the 2011 strategic plan as a team. We implemented many of the suggestions Les outlined and used his worksheets for planning.

In our last newsletter to the franchisees of the year we outlined four major expectations. Each expectation outlined our strategic thinking, tactics and actionable steps.

  • Building and Growing the Brand
  • Fostering Relationships
  • Becoming Stronger and Smarter
  • Staying Innovative

In my letter to the franchisees I said, “trying to grow with the speed of technology is a daunting task, but with the support and enthusiasm of the system I know we will exceed even our own expectations in the coming year.”

In our visit to Blinds.Com Complex, Jay Steinfeld taught us to “experiment without fear.” Watch out 2011! COMPUTER EXPLORERS team is ready to start experimenting.

Experimenting Without Fear

What are your 2011 expectations? Did you work as a team to create them? Have you shared them with your franchise/organization?

Top Influencers

Earlier this year LinkedIn Groups added a few new features. One is the the ability to receive email alerts to new postings. The other is the addition of top Influencer of the Week. Per the LinkedIn blog:  “the new groups interface introduces an easy way to discover participants who truly drive the activity of the group’s discussions each week by highlighting them as “top influencers”.  This designation is given not only to those who contribute the most, but also to those whose contributions stimulate the most participation from other group members.”

I love the top influencer feature on LinkedIn and I started thinking about who my top blogging influencers are. Here are my top three:

Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks – In my opinion, Gini Dietrich, Founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich  is a social media guru. Gini helped me and COMPUTER EXPLORERS understand the importance of social media. She was patient and mentored us as we started using the various platforms. She started us in the right direction of  what platforms to engage, who to follow and worked closely with me to develop a  social media tool kit for COMPUTER EXPLORERS. Gini posts daily to Spin Sucks and most days has a guest blogger. Her content is written in a conversational tone and she doesn’t hesitate to be controversial. In fact, she encourages it! Her blogs receive outstanding traffic and readers consistently leave comments. I not only learn something from the content Gini posts but often from those who leave comments!

Les McKeown

Predictable Success – Les McKeown, President & CEO is also the author of the book Predictable Success.  His book focuses on the evolution of a business and how and why some succeed and some do not. The best part of owning the book is the access to book-owners-only resources! I will admit I just logged on this week and I’m not sure what took me so long. Les believes it is a continued journey to be successful. I believe that if you subscribe to his blog he will coach you along the way. His podcasts, videos and postings provide a road map to follow on accountability, goal-setting, management tips and so much more!

Laura Graham Leonard

In My Court – Laura Graham Leonard, a local COMPUTER EXPLORERS owner writes: “A marketing activity a day keeps the creditors away. Or the ball is in my court – what am I going to do about it?” Early November Laura decided that her business growth was dependent on her marketing efforts. She committed to conducting at least one marketing effort a day and journaling her efforts until Christmas. She says that by blogging her activities daily she would be forced to focus on marketing each day and she would not be able “to hide under the bed until the economy improves.” For the most part Laura has been diligent about journaling and more importantly marketing. I’ve followed her blog reading about her challenges and successes. Christmas has arrived and I’m not surprised that she is busy with her family and taking a well deserved break. She may not be blogging but I have found her on LinkedIn and contributing to discussions. I decided to follow in Laura’s footsteps and try blogging daily for one entire week. I hope to manage my time and continue blogging through the New Year.

Who were your top influencers in 2010?

Stories Via Video

What did you do in 2010 to promote your brand/organization? What do you plan to do next year to generate enthusiasm?

I believe we are good at creating videos to generate excitement and promote COMPUTER EXPLORERS.  Our intent is to tell a story. Sometimes our videos share a serious message about who we are and what we do.  For example, Cyndee Perkins created What ISTE Does For You … and What You Can Do For ISTE introducing the corporate ISTE team and their goals in the organization.

Other times we tell our story with humor.

In February, 2010 we won the video contest held at the annual International Franchise Association convention. We were charged to tell the story of COMPUTER EXPLORERS that would educate and entertain.

The COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team is very creative. We can smile, relax and have a lot of fun creating videos. But without our corporate video producer, Bryan Kersten we would never have a chance of creating killer videos.

What’s your story and is it told via video?

Will 2011 Leaders Be Women or Men?

Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook is one of the most powerful women today. Her presentation at a TED Women conference does not blame men for the reason there are too few women leaders.  I believe she contributes the lack of women leaders as their own fault. Her presentation encourages women to pursue leadership roles with three simple steps:

  1. be aggressive and confident – too many women under estimate their value and contributions
  2. make your partner a real partner – there needs to be a balance of sharing responsibilities at home
  3. don’t back down, continue to move forward – planning a departure before you are ready to leave is a waste of time

According to the New York Times article titled Mark Zuckerberg’s  Most Valuable Friend found here Sandberg is the driving force behind the success of Facebook. Another reason for the success  is the great working relationship of  Sandberg and Zuckerberg.

Will 2011 see a higher percentage of women in leadership roles?

Is There An App Or Video For That?

My Blog Post in Franchise Business Review:

Unless you have lived in a bubble for the last few years, you know that the term “app” represents (software) application. I’m sure that Apple is responsible for the term and every other manufacturer trying to compete with Apple jumped on the band wagon to develop their apps.

There may not be an app for everything you need but most likely there is a YouTube video. There is an entire list of videos featuring apps on YouTube! YouTube is one of the largest search engines today. Many of us are guilty of saying, “I will Google that” but now I hear “let’s search YouTube.”

If you search franchising and/or starting a franchise via YouTube you will find some wonderful videos offering advice and suggestions. There are videos on: paying attention to the four legal priorities, different areas of franchising and a video by the International Franchise Association (IFA) called “Starting a Franchise: Opportunities to Start and Own A Franchise.” Blip.TV also has video that may be of interest if you are considering entering into a franchise agreement: “Expert’s Guide to Franchising”.

Incorporating video into a franchise Website and/or video blogging is a great marketing tool. An organization does not need a video expert or expensive equipment to publish their video content and drive traffic to their Website. I often use a Flip camera to upload video content or send video messages.

Video not only gives the prospect an opportunity to get to know the franchise representative but it builds a strong Web presence for the brand itself. Videos help build trust, authority and a better understanding of the personality and culture within the organization.

If you are searching for a franchise or business opportunity consider searching via YouTube. Conduct a search on the brand but don’t forget to search the key members of the organization. You may be pleasantly surprised what you find.

Don’t Blink!

I love the video that represents a year with COMPUTER EXPLORERS. In less than 35 seconds it documents a sampling of our year of meetings, conferences, events and classes.

Colin Powell said, “None of us can change our yesterdays, but ALL of us can change our tomorrows!”

As 2010 was coming to an end the COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate team  spent time looking at the year. We reviewed our accomplishments and yes our challenges. We read Les McKeown’s blog post “Three Steps To Writing Your Strategic Plan This Weekend.”  Each of us downloaded and listened to his 40 minute teleclass. Click here to his blog post.

We know we can’t change yesterday but we are working hard to make improvements and changes to 2011.

We are still working on our 2011 plan and will publish our goals to the system before we close for the holiday. In the usual COMPUTER EXPLORERS fashion it will accompany a holiday video message.

Using “10 Predictable Success Strategic Year-end Questions” we:

  1. Changed our weekly staff meetings from Monday to Thursday. (May seem like a minor change but it has improved our productivity in our meetings tremendously!)
  2. Review what the worse thing we did last week/month/year and work to fix it.
  3. Ask ourselves weekly to measure our success individually and as a team. We hold each other accountable!

Plotting our vision and goals is not a simple task. In my opinion it is a task that is ongoing and ever-changing.

With a blink of the eye 2011 will pass us by if we are not careful in our planning!

The phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” is attributed to an African proverb. Author Jane Cowen-Fletcher published a book with the same title in 1994. She wrote about a young African girl who searches for her brother and realizes that an entire village was watching over him.

Over the weekend my young grandson was ill with a respiratory infection. My son and daughter-in-law were capable of taking care of him at home but decided to let his village help and stayed with us over the weekend.

As I prepared to return to today,  I started thinking about my village or tribe at COMPUTER EXPLORERS (CE). I am very fortunate to have a strong team of individuals that work together to support the franchise. They are amazing individuals and together an exceptional tribe. So who are they and why are they exceptional? Is it their passion, motivation and dedication to make the brand successful? Is it their ability to work as a team to complete goals and meet expectations? It is all of the above and so much more!

Cyndee Perkins

Cyndee Perkins: Cyndee has been an educator both in public and private schools, an advocate of using technology in the classroom since the “early days” of student-produced videos. Cyndee, with her husband Perk, became a CE franchisee in 1992. She and Perk moved to VA in 1996, where she held a position in Franchise Services at the corporate office until relocating to Texas in 2004. Her current position is Director of Curriculum and Program Development. Responsibilities include the development and program delivery of all CE products, franchise support and writing the corporate education blog.

Lorri Wyndham

Lorri Wyndham: Lorri has been working with the ICED Corporation (parent company of CE) for the last several years, in operations, training and support of new owners. In 2009, she was elected Employee of the Year by her colleagues. She has been a moderator for a social media panel at the International Franchise Association (IFA) international conference. She is currently working on a University degree in Business Management, as well as her certification as an IFA Certified Franchise Executive. Responsibilities include managing the CE social media marketing and Website development, has written social media professional development courses for teachers and for military veterans, and is responsible for CE internal franchise communications. In addition, Lorri writes Computers & Kids, a newsletter for preschool parents focusing on activities (both on and offline) to build parent/child relationships and enhance preschool learning.

Kathy Muller

Kathy Muller: Kathy has over twenty years of experience in training and personnel/organizational development. Kathy has over fifteen years of experience as an adult leader trainer. She has been an instructor for the Center for Corporate Training & Development at North Harris College and a guest instructor for Drug-Free Business Houston. She maintains professional relationships with several outside sales and marketing specialists, and brings up-to-date techniques to training classes and counseling sessions. Responsibilities include working with members of the several brands in the ICED community of franchises, developing processes to aid them in their sales and marketing efforts.

Other key individuals such as the curriculum writers, Director of Advertising, Franchise Development, Accounting, Legal …. too many to list here with their photos and bios.

Do you know anyone in my tribe and have something to add? Do you have a tribe you would like to share?

Brother and Sister Using iPad Together

Laptops, iPads and video game consoles are among the most popular holiday presents and they often get a bad rap for dumbing down kids. Yet popular technology gifts can engage children in activities that reinforce learning across core subjects and develop important problem-solving skills, says Jenifer Morack, director of COMPUTER EXPLORERS of Mercer & Hunterdon Counties.

“With the right training, kids can use common holiday gifts to design video games, write basic computer programs, better understand the world and even score higher on tests,” said Morack. “With the right curriculum, kids get so excited they forget they are learning. Their ability to absorb knowledge and apply it is really amazing and inspiring.”

In addition to its in-school curriculum, COMPUTER EXPLORERS offers opportunities for kids to design video games and 3-D worlds, program robots, make green-screen movies and experiment with other cutting-edge technology such as iPads; children ages 3 to 16 master technology skills at an early age. The extracurricular classes are taught in public and private schools, after-school programs, camps, pre-schools and youth organizations. ComputerTots and eTots, its online companion, help prepare pre-schoolers develop advanced skills in cooperative learning, observation and problem-solving.

With access to the Internet, most technology gifts can easily do double duty for both entertainment and learning.

“The trick is for kids to use household technology such as iPads and laptops in the classroom to make core subjects fun so kids want to use them as learning tools,” said Morack. “When students realize they can learn whenever and wherever they are with access to the right tools, popular technology gifts become much more valuable.”.

Tracey E. Diamond, Esq., Hyland Levin LLP practices in the areas of employment law, human resources counseling and employment litigation. In addition to her practice, Tracey serves as an Adjunct Professor at Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law in Philadelphia, where she teaches employment law and contract drafting.

Tracey was a panelist for the IFA (International Franchise Association) Franchise Business Network meeting in Philadelphia and a guest on Social Geek Radio outlining best practices of social media policies. Tracey said, “As franchisors continue to use social media to expand brand presence and maintain consistency across all media, it is important to adopt a comprehensive social media policy to ensure that company employees, franchisees and employees of franchisee’s are on board-while at the same time avoiding exercising too much control over the franchisee’s employment practices to limit vicarious liability claims. The following list highlights best practices that should be addressed in all social media policies.

  1. Set expectations for franchisees and their employees’ use of social media, both on and off the job.  Detail what social networking sites may be used to promote the brand and require that franchisees obtain approval before using any social media site not specifically addressed in the policy.
  2. Require that franchisees and employees comply with all rules and regulations concerning the endorsement of products.  If a franchisee promotes a product on a social media site, the franchisee must clearly and conspicuously disclose his or her relationship with the product manufacturer.
  3. Remind franchisees and employees that the terms of the franchise agreement and operations manuals with regard to harassment, discrimination, confidentiality, copyright and code of business conduct also apply in the social media world.
  4. Inform employees that they are expected to portray themselves professionally in all circumstances where customers may be present, including on social media websites.
  5. Address what franchisees may say about the brand, the company, employees, competitors, customers and products.  Remind franchisees and employees that all statements must be truthful and not misleading.
  6. Make sure that when franchise employees make comments on their own personal social networking pages about issues related to the business of the franchise system, they insert a disclaimer that they are not speaking on behalf of the franchise.
  7. Emphasize the dangers of inadvertently disclosing proprietary, confidential or commercially-sensitive information on the Internet.
  8. Reserve the right to require a franchisee to remove any content that violates the franchisor’s social media policy or any law or regulation, or that the franchisor feels is not consistent with the appropriate use of its trademarks.
  9. Update the policy at least annually to take into account changes in technology.”

Contact information for Tracey Diamond: 856-355-2900