Monthly Archives: March 2017

Know Some Work Email Mistakes to Avoid

Do you have trouble getting answers to email you send at work? Are there some people with whom you need to communicate on a regular basis who don’t answer your email and seem to be avoiding your phone calls?

Before you chalk up the lack of communication to other people’s bad work habits or rudeness, take a close look at your own communication style. It’s possible that those who don’t answer your emails or take your phone calls aren’t careless, forgetful, or rude. They just may be trying to avoid you.

Why?

If you don’t have an ongoing personal disagreement with someone and they don’t owe you work or money, the problem could be the way you communicate in email. You see, what you say in email often “sounds” different to the recipient than it would if you were talking to them in person. If the email messages you send seem condescending, petty, picky, or needlessly complicated, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to get responses in a timely fashion.

Here are some of the most aggravating email mistakes to avoid.

  1. Marking emails you send out with an exclamation point to indicate high importance for routine matters. Yes, you want people to read email you send, and yes you think the matter is important. But marking everything as high importance is going to have the opposite effect. Those who frequently receive email from you marked with an exclamation point will start ignoring it – and be mad at you for sending so many emails marked high importance.
  2. Demanding an immediate response when it’s not warranted. Just because something is important to you doesn’t mean that others should drop what they’re doing to answer your question or do what you want done. They have their priorities, too. Not only will they get mad at you, but if requests aren’t truly urgent, they’ll soon be ignored – just like the fabled boy who cried “Wolf!” too often. So, if the matter you’re discussing in email isn’t truly urgent (i.e., no one is going to suffer any harm or damage if whatever you want done isn’t handled the same day), then don’t ask for immediate action. And, if something really does need to be handled right away, explain why. (And remember to say “Please” and “Thank You”.)
  1. Responding to someone else with a one-liner without including important details. “Call me,” or “We need to change the date” may work when you’re talking live with someone about a project. But if that’s all you put in an email, the recipient may need to dig through a stack of other email to find out why you wanted them to call you or what project or event needed a date change.
  2. Including too much detail. Need a manufacturer to do a better job of packaging the inventory products they ship you? Unless you’re a Big Box Store, don’t send the manufacturer a long note telling them what kind of packaging tape to use, how many times to reinforce it, and what grade shipping cartons to use. Instead, politely remind them to package the products securely so they don’t get damaged in shipment. If you’ve had a telephone conversation to discuss the problem, mention it briefly (if this is the first shipment since the call), but don’t rehash the entire phone call. And don’t forget to say “Please” and “Thank You.”
  3. Similarly, if you send a team member an email request to pull together a report on the team progress or do some other task, tell them what you want done and when you need it by. Don’t include a lot of detail about why it’s important to do the task or how you expect them to pay attention to all the details and format the report the way they were taught. If it’s a task they know how to do, state the task and the deadline in a sentence or two.
  4. Copying the boss — especially when the issue is minor. If you and a team member or anyone else you have to interact with at work have a minor difference of opinion, work it out between the two of you without copying the boss on your emails. If you see someone has made an insignificant mistake and want it corrected, contact the person privately with a friendly note. (For instance, “Hi Joe, I just saw a typo on the website. Thought you’d want to know about it so you can fix it.”) Don’t copy the boss. The boss doesn’t need to know that Joe Smith made a typo on the company website and you found it. The boss also doesn’t need to know that you asked Barbara to do three things yesterday, but she couldn’t get to them all, and still has one thing left to do. Remember, copying the boss makes you look like a tattletale. And no one loves a tattletale — or wants to return a tattletale’s email messages.
  5. Changing the subject line when replying to an email. A lot of people use the subject line of emails to determine if and when to open and read the mail. If you and one or more other people are having an ongoing conversation about a project, and the subject doesn’t change, don’t change the subject line in the email. The people you want to read your response, may miss it, or may not be able to find it in the future to refer to it if you change the subject line.
  6. Not changing the subject line for new topics of discussion. You and Dale have been discussing the best way to set up your podcast. All the messages have the same subject line. But while you’re reading Dale’s last response, you remember that you wanted to ask him to find a commercial artist who can design a flier for your next seminar. Don’t hit reply (to the podcast emails) to tell Dale to find the artist. Start a new email with a new subject line and send that to Dale so he can keep the issues separate in his email.

If you keep the tips above in mind, remember that email recipients aren’t necessarily thinking about the same things you are at the time they get your email, and remember to say “Please” and “Thank You” often, you’ll find more of your email will get prompt replies and more of the things you need done, will get done quickly

Get Paid Sooner

One of the nice things about being a contractor to big business or government agencies is that you can assume that you will get paid and the check won’t bounce as long as you perform the work according to contract specifications.

What you can’t be so sure of is when you’ll get paid. Red tape and minor glitches can cause delays of six months or more between the time an invoice is supposed to get paid and when the check actually arrives.

Although there are some delays you have no control over, others can be prevented. Take these steps to minimize the chance for error so you get paid sooner:

  1. Make sure your bill includes necessary details, such as the purchase order or contract number, the name of the project, your company name, your employer ID (or social security number), your address and telephone number, a detailed list of products of services delivered (and the item numbers if appropriate), and the invoice price. Double check the purchase order to be sure that each item on your invoice matches what was specified.
  2. Get your contact to sign off that you have delivered the work as specified. Include that note with your billing. It’s also a good idea to include a copy of the purchase order with your invoice.
  3. Make any discount for early payment (say a 2 percent discount for payment in 10 days) prominently visible on your invoice. Big businesses may act sooner on such invoices to keep costs down.
  4. Submit the invoice exactly as your contract specifies. If the contract says to submit the bill to account payables, don’t send it to your contact. It might sit for weeks on his desk before he forwards it to the right department.
  5. Be sure your customers have a current W9 for your company. If you’re working with a business for the first time, ask them if their accounting department will need a W9 – or just send it automatically with your first invoice.
  1. Be willing to accept payment using whatever system your client prefers. For big corporations, that may mean you have to sign up on a platform like Paymode-x.
  2. If you are billilng a federal agency for work, be sure you know and exactly follow their instructions for submitting invoices. These instructions can be very specific and detailed (see the EPA’s instructions for submitting invoices, for example.) If you don’t follow the instructions exactly your invoice may be rejected.
  3. Be willing to accept direct ACH payments from larger customers. Yes, you’ll  have to provide the customer with your banking information, but you should be able to set things up with your bank so they can only transfer money in, not out. You could also set up a separate business account just for receiving ACH transfers, and then move the money out as soon as it’s received. That would keep your main operating account unaccessible to companies transferring money to you.
  4. Be willing to accept credit card payments and PayPal payments from your customers. Any processing fee you’ll need to pay may cut into your profits slightly, but chances are you’ll get paid sooner than if your customer has to send a check.  Some customers may not purchase from you at all if you only accept cash and checks

Know Five Questions Every Female Entrepreneur Should Ask

Do you feel stalled in your career? Do you feel underpaid, overworked, and without flexibility and autonomy over your time? If the answers are yes, then it may be time for you to lean out. Adding to that, if you have a personal passion that you want to turn into your own entrepreneurial venture, then for sure it is time for you to “lean out.”

While entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, there are many reasons why it may best thing for you. Some women seek independent work to have more time with family and to achieve a better, more fulfilling work/life balance. A study released by the National Association of Women Business Owners reveals that 65 percent of the women surveyed desire more flexibility and control over their time.

While the biggest reason (for 92 percent) women gave for independent work was that they wanted to do something they were passionate about, it was also followed closely by the ability to be in charge of one’s decisions and the potential for higher earning power.

Women also feel the draw to explore a new professional journey when they cite “office politics” as a catalyst for leaving their corporate jobs to start new businesses. A study from The Guardian Life Index revealed that many women view corporations today as being fundamentally flawed and limiting in their value structures. And with the cost of starting a business at an all-time low, women are saying “no thank you” to spending years climbing and clawing their way up the corporate ladder, dealing with corporate politics, and working long days without feeling the overall fulfillment they crave.

The corporate world does not always fully recognize women’s contributions or does not create a hospitable climate for women to succeed at the highest levels – whether it’s gender discrimination, family-unfriendly policies that punish women who choose to take time off to care for children, or just an overall culture that only rewards those who “lean in.” When faced with this type of a corporate employment environment, being independent and starting your own business, a step towards your “lean out.” becomes an important life goal.

As you consider joining the ranks of the already 10 million female owned businesses in the U.S., there are five key questions you should ask yourself as you decide if it’s your time to “lean out:”
  1. Are you determined?
    Let’s say you have an idea but everyone is telling you it can’t be done. What are you going to do about this situation? This experience might be motivation enough for you to try to one-up the naysayers.
  2. Do you want to leave a legacy?
    You aspire to live a bigger life, to make an impact, to make your presence known. As they say, if you’re not building your own dream, you’re building someone else’s.
  3. Do you want to control your time?
    Maybe you’re most productive from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m., or perhaps you’re a night owl. Maybe you want to be at your daughter’s soccer practice at 3 p.m. or your son’s acting class at 4 p.m.  Instead of being told when to work and when to take breaks or a vacation, you could finally determine your schedule.
  4. Do you mind getting your hands dirty?
    You’ll have to do plenty of grunt work as a new business owner. It’s not always enjoyable, but you find it rewarding to see the fruits of your labor.
  5. Are you a born leader?
    Having a great idea is one thing. Being able to communicate that idea and convince others to jump on board is another. If you have the leadership skills to round up the troops and motivate them, consider starting your own venture.

The entrepreneurial journey is not an easy one. It requires determination, time, hard work and leadership. But if you said yes to the above questions, it’s your time to “lean out,” and turn your dreams into reality