Should you silence the critics? 4 tips to filter criticism

1.27.15 treat critics (blog)Criticism sucks. No getting around it. Regardless of how good your intentions or how crazy the critic, it never ceases to be a punch to the gut.

Here’s the thing: Good intentions can’t protect you from criticism. (Tweet this!)

As you may know, I survived a near-fatal brain aneurysm rupture and wrote a book about it to be a voice for brain injury survivors, as well as help anyone bounce back from crisis. I stripped the most vulnerable and scariest time in my life naked to help others.

Even with hundreds of heartwarming reviews and private emails from people who told me how my book inspired and informed them, it’s the outlying nasty comments that stick with me:

Behold this one, where the reader completely misunderstood my intentions: It might have been a good story, but…the constant bragging about herself got old. I made it right to the point where she was talking about her beautiful hair and how people were either jealous or downright hated her for it and deleted it off of my device.

Or this puzzling one which I don’t even get: I am happy for your recovery, but it was not because you had your college education which you seem to think makes you superior.

Or this one criticizing my writing (yes, I did hire an editor!): She needs to ask for an editor, several items are touched upon at least twice, it becomes annoying and it makes you feel like a terrible person when you are not rooting for her but begging for the end

Or this one where I strangely felt the need to apologize for not being close enough to death for her: Interesting story well told, but not terribly exciting or suspenseful.

And one that made me (and my husband) laugh out loud:

It’s her husband who deserves all the credit for pulling their lives back together.

Check out this past post, which is oh so relevant to how you can respond to criticism in your work or life. And this one for why you absolutely need to take a deep breath and ask for feedback, even if it might be negative.

But here’s my question to you: Should you silence the critics?

No. But treat criticism like a pot of pasta you are draining for dinner. Release the water and keep the good stuff!

Here are 4 ways to filter criticism when it strikes:

Take what’s valid and leave what’s not: I agree with some of the feedback saying the writing rambled a bit. And it was useful to learn what some people would have preferred to hear more about or how they would have liked it structured. This is something I’m constantly working on and, even with an editor, this can always be improved for my next book.

Focus on the good feedback: Who loved it? Who did it inspire, change, transform? Those people are your tribe. Don’t diminish the impact your work DID have.

Recognize they have their own lens: The strange comment about me thinking I’m better than anyone because I went to college (mentioned in the book to point out how confusing and complex medical information can be for anyone, even those with a college degree) is perhaps rooted in this woman’s deep bitterness about never going or maybe someone very arrogant held it over her head at one point in her life. I can’t change that perspective no matter what I do.

Let go: The “red hair” story was part of a larger lesson in identity: brain injury can rob people of many unimportant physical, emotional or cognitive traits that used to define them. The point was lost on this reader. And that’s okay. What am I going to do: find everyone who ever read my book and make sure they understood exactly what I was trying to say?! That seems a tremendous waste of energy better devoted to new creations and inspirations. (PS: I have to applaud Goodreads for making a note next to low ratings that asks the author to take a breath and not respond to the comment in anger!).

And I’ll say it again: Good intentions can’t protect you from criticism. (Tweet this!) Learn how to take what works and ditch the rest!

Image Credit: via Flickr

7 Strategies To Nurture Your Budding Twitter Account

10.24.14 Grow-your-twitter-account (blog)

I’m a huge Twitter fan. I love the convenience and conciseness of it, plus I find it a personal challenge to get my point across in 140 characters or less. You might be on Twitter but are not sure how to get a handle on what can often seem like the Wild Wild West. Enjoy today’s guest post from Logan Strain as he serves up 7 juicy tips for nurturing your Twitter account with a little TLC.

With over a quarter billion active users, Twitter is one of the most powerful social networks you can use to build your company’s brand and drive traffic to your site. But with all the tweets and new accounts being created every day, how do you gain a foothold in this very noisy space? It can be intimidating starting with zero tweets and zero followers when other accounts in your niche might already have hundreds of thousands of followers.

No account becomes a valuable social media asset overnight. If you are taking the very first step towards establishing a presence on Twitter, here’s some advice to help you kick start your efforts.

1) Use Tweetdeck

Using the web or mobile client might be fine if you’re a casual tweeter, but pros like you need to use something more powerful like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. Tweetdeck is fantastic because it’s a tool created by Twitter to help power users get the most out of their social network. You can schedule tweets, keep track of multiple feeds simultaneously, and manage multiple accounts. You can log in on the web, or (if you’re a Chrome user), you can use the handy Chrome app.

2) Follow (A Lot)

You can’t get if you don’t give. So if you want a flood of followers and you don’t have a strong brand name yet? You better start following people. While you shouldn’t be completely indiscriminate, clicking “Follow” every single time it pops up on your screen, it’s a good idea to start off with a ton of followed accounts. Some of the most successful tweeters literally follow tens of thousands of accounts.

Find all the biggest brands, thought leaders, and other personalities in your space and follow them all. Then check out who those big names are following, then follow lots of them too. When someone follows you, favorites a tweet, or retweets you, reward them with a follow. When you are actively following people, tweeters take notice, and you start earning followers in return.

3) Retweet And Favorite (A Lot)

Retweeting (posting other people’s tweets on your own timeline) and favoriting (marking tweets as your personal faves), are also part of giving. Retweeting is an easy way to add content to your feed with just a single click, but it also acts a compliment. It says “This tweet is so good, I want to share it with my followers too.” That’s a good way to endear yourself to bigger Twitter accounts and their followers.

Favoriting isn’t as strong, since it doesn’t add the content to your feed, but it still gives a hat tip to the tweeter. Feel free to favorite as fast as your mouse can click (or finger can tap) since it increases the number of times people see your name but costs you nothing.

4) Schedule Tweets A Week In Advance

In order to save time and be consistent, setup about a week’s worth of tweets in advance. This not only saves you time by doing all of your tweeting at once, it ensures that you schedule tweets for maximum impact.

What should you tweet about? You can:

When you should tweet?

Some studies suggest that the best time to tweet is between 9AM and 3PM, since that’s when people are most likely to check their feeds. Once you really start to build your following, however, you can more easily find when your best tweeting time will be with the online tool Brand Mentions. This is another free service that can tell you when your feed sees the most activity. Armed with this knowledge, you can schedule your most valuable tweets during the periods that you see the most engagement.

5) Be Hashtag Smart

Of course, you can’t simply tweet to nobody when you’re starting out. Twitter is like joining a giant cocktail party, and adding hashtags is how you join the conversation. People set up special feeds and alerts for their favorite hashtags, and can see when anybody (whether it’s a budding Twitter account or one with a million followers) is making a contribution. So it’s essential to add relevant hashtags to every single tweet you make.

But how do you find relevant hashtags? There are two main ways: either by checking out what kind of hashtags similar twitter accounts are using, or by using some simple and free online tools. One of the best ones is the related hashtags tool from Simply enter any hashtag, and you can find ones closely associated with it.

For example, if you are building a Twitter account for a hair care product, you can just check the hashtag #haircare. From there, you’ll see that people who use that hashtag also use #naturalhair, #beauty, and #bbloggers (the hashtag that connects beauty bloggers.) Now you’ll have several more hashtags you can add to your posts, and more ways you can be discovered.

6) Private Message People Who Follow You

If someone follows you, they’re probably following a lot of people. So how do you make an impression? Besides consistently offering interesting content, you could also simply send a private message through Twitter to your new follower thanking them. Since so few accounts do this you’ll stick out a bit more when they see you pop up in their feed, which increases the chances that they’ll engage with your content.

7) Connect Your Twitter Account To Your Other Properties

No social media account is an island. Provide a link to your Twitter account on your blog, your email signature, and even your other social media accounts. You want to give people as many opportunities as possible to discover your account.

Tweet Smart

That might sound like a lot of work in order get your brand’s account up and running. But the truth is that you don’t have to be a Twitter addict in order to build up an account and start gaining attention and traffic from this massive social network. Just 10-20 minutes every working day is enough to take you to zero followers to someone who is part of the conversation. Like anything in life, all it takes is a little persistence.

About the Author: Logan Strain is a writer for Crimewire, father, and podcast addict. When he’s not browsing reddit, playing with his daughter, or binge-watching Netflix, he’s creating viral web content.

A Dear John letter for Starbucks

Dear Starbucks,

We’ve been through a lot, you and I.  But it’s time for me to see other brands. It’s not you, it’s me. No, that’s a lie. It’s totally you.

You swept me off my feet in my early 20’s and taught me how to love coffee – for that I will be eternally grateful. Late Saturday mornings in Chicago. Stolen afternoons in Washington D.C. Even in Indianapolis – back before they actually had a Starbucks – I made do with brief encounters with you at Barnes and Noble whenever I could.

I adored everything about you and people were sick of hearing about my brand crush. I devoured Howard Schulz’s autobiography, Pour Your Heart Into It, as a brand manifesto for how to delight customers and make a a difference. You created a cherished “Third Place” for people to gather – and when I began working for myself, you were right there by my side, hosting meetings and giving me a comfy place to work.

Others tried to make me hate you. Especially when I moved to Seattle (I was thrilled to live in your hometown!). They scorned you as a mass market sell-out, a bland factory coffee line for people who didn’t know better. They scoffed at your hipster lingo, your (in their eyes) sub-par quality. “No, but I love them!” I would scream. Starbucks delivers everything they promise and that’s why they are so great. They deliver a convenient, cozy and consistent experience.  And the Seattle Starbucks locations were flawless models of efficiency, service, and experience.

I held you up as my Prince Charming of a Brand Story.

But then, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and something changed. You stopped delivering the brand benefits I’d come to know and love.

Every Starbucks in the Bay Area let me down – on the Peninsula to be exact. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Had to just be one store. So I tried another. And another. Same story: long wait times, non-engaging baristas, even inconsistent latte quality.  I witnessed your baristas being surly, brusque and downright rude sometimes. Then you started warming up pastries – and nearly scalded my tongue. Why were you being so mean? I thought maybe, since we weren’t in Seattle anymore, you just stopped trying to impress Corporate visitors who might pop in.

Still I kept defending you. I tried to communicate with you. Reaching out on Twitter several times, you gave me radio silence. Other brands like Virgin America and Nordstrom respond back, but you, you just gave me the cold shoulder.

My loyalty is worth more than this, I thought.  So I started dating around. And every time I went somewhere else, I felt like they valued me and my time more that you do. They delivered my latte hot, fresh, and fast. It tasted better. The baristas smiled at me. They seemed like they had their acts together.

And then, the kicker. Peet’s started offering almond milk. Oh, how could I resist?

I tried to get you to change. I tweeted several times to ask if you’d please carry almond milk. No response. I even asked the baristas in store and they said they just couldn’t do it.

I think that was the final straw. I’m a valuable customer and waiting inordinately long amounts of time on a brand who says its fast and convenient just to get bad service, a burnt tongue and inconsistent latte quality – on top of not being able to get the milk I want – is not something I’m willing to stand for any longer.

So I’m leaving you, Dear Starbucks. I emptied the last cent on my Starbucks card and I now frequent my neighborhood Peet’s as well as an indie coffeehouse I discovered.

Oh sure, I’ll call you for a quick hook up now and then. You do make a great gift card. And when I have no other option, I’ll see  if you’re around. But to be non-committal, I pay cash instead of  reloading my Starbucks card  – so no need to give me any more free drinks on my birthday. We don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.

I wish you the best, Starbucks. I really do. You’ve done a lot of good for a long time. But a brand has to be consistent to be brilliant. (Tweet this!)  If you feel like changing – at least in the Bay Area – and being the brand I fell in love once again, give me a call sometime.



Photo credit (edited): Siti Fatimah on Flickr

Got a brand you’d like to break up with? Jot down your brand Dear John letter in the Comments below and vent away!


Be interested to be interesting

Here is the magical secret to creating an irresistible brand, business or piece of art.


Be interested in order to be interesting.

If you’re not interested in selling sweaters, no one will be interested in buying them

If you’re not interested in defending people in court, they won’t be interested in hiring you to represent them

If you’re not excited about your book, passionate about your products or if you don’t create your art with a joyful heart, no will respond any differently.

When you’re not interested in what you do, no one will find your work interesting.  (Tweet!)

As purveyor, inventor, entrepreneur or creator, you have to care the most.

It’s charming to say, “I hate self-promotion,” but, really, if not you, then who? If things are a grind for you, why should they magically transform for your audience?

I’m not saying hard work is not involved. Late nights. Panic. Stress. Fear. Sacrifice. Plain old bad days.

But you are Customer #1. And if it’s not interesting to you, others will simply follow your lead.

Photo credit: Great images available at 

What are YOU most passionate about in your work right now? Please share in the Comments below or Tweet me about it!

Bring it on: Why you need to ask for criticism

A guest post today from the lovely Betsy and Warren Talbot, writers, dreamers and global nomads of Married With Luggage (a business I proudly helped name). With the launch of their latest book, they shared some great advice on why and how to ask for constructive criticism and how it makes your business, brand and project shine in the long run. More on them at the end. Enjoy!

My husband Warren and I recently published our fourth book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Over the years we’ve learned a lot about what works – and what doesn’t – as both business and romantic partners. And one thing we know for sure:

If you can’t take constructive criticism, you won’t ever grow to your highest potential. (Tweet this!)

If we don’t pay attention to how our audience wants to receive our story, how to make it compelling and relatable to their own relationships, and using words that matter to them, then all of our experience and wisdom aren’t worth a penny of the $15.99 price tag of the book, because no one will buy it.

We asked trusted advisors, our own audience, and random strangers within our demographic to help us get this one right, and with their constructive feedback, I think we nailed it.

How We Solicited Feedback

Before we ever wrote one word, we talked about our idea with mentors and peers we trust. The feedback sent us in a direction we hadn’t considered before (memoir vs. self-help). We also dropped the idea of making this a course first. Smart friends counseled us to use the book’s popularity to create higher-priced courses later. Already, our project was off to a great start and we saved a ton of time.

If you’ve done the work of building a great network, don’t forget to use it. (Tweet this!)

The next component tested was the title. We came up with 20 variations of titles and subtitles, swapping them around until we had 5 good choices. Then we sent it out to three sets of people: casual followers on Facebook, serious followers on our email list, and total strangers in our demographic through a site called Pickfu.

The title we ended up with is not the title we would have chosen ourselves. We also discovered several words we were using that were off-putting to our market. Imagine if we had used those words out of ignorance and then wondered why no one ever bought the book?

For the book cover, we put three very different cover ideas out for a vote via email list, Facebook, and Pickfu. Again, the cover we would have chosen was not the one overwhelmingly picked by others. In fact, our favorite came in dead last.

After writing the first draft, we sent it to a professional editor for restructuring. We were too close to the project to see the gaps and overlaps, so we trusted someone else to show us the way. We then created the second draft based on this feedback.

Then the scariest part: sharing it for review. First I read the book out loud to my husband, awaiting his response to the story we scripted out months ago. Did he like it? Not always, and that was sometimes hard to take as a wife. But his feedback was invaluable in tightening up the storyline and highlighting our message of partnership.

Five people were sent second draft copies to provide detailed feedback. These five people are my trusted sources, the people who will tell me when something is not good. And boy, did they.

Finally, the book went back for professional line editing, a polish that I couldn’t do on my own. Packaging is as important as the message within, because if a reader can’t get past a crappy cover or terrible editing, they’ll never get your message.

How Feedback Helps

When I look at the finished product, I can only marvel. It is so much more than we imagined, a book that shares our experience and wisdom in a way our audience wants to hear it. And we could have never done that without asking for feedback up front and listening to what our audience needed.

We separated our egos from our work product, and the result was was a healthier self-esteem and a better product.

ABOUT BETSY AND WARREN:  Betsy Talbot and her husband Warren are the authors of Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Through their popular books, engaging weekly podcast, and revealing Sunday emails, they share the unconventional wisdom they’ve learned about living, working, and traveling together since 2010. Find out more about modern love and partnership at Married with Luggage. (Photo credit: Married With Luggage)

Are you asking for constructive criticism in your business? How? Where? From whom? When did such feedback save you from a major fail? Please share in the Comments below!

Is accountability dead?

Sometimes, it feels like our world has turned into a giant game of tag. People and organizations are constantly pointing fingers to blame mistakes, gaffes and actions on someone else. The ink barely dry on headlines, and people are shouting, “Not it!” in an effort to get the spotlight off themselves.


  • GM uncovers ignition flaws on their Cobalt years ago, but instead of fixing the problem at the time (too much money and time) or recalling the vehicles immediately (or even now, doing a full recall to ease public concern, they blame the drivers:  “… the Cobalt and other recalled small cars were safe to drive as long as drivers used only a key and not a heavy key chain.” (WSJ)
  • Retailer West Elm backorders my table by over 2 months without notifying me. When I email to complain after checking my order status, there is no apology or offer to rectify – it’s simply “the manufacturer’s fault.”
  • An overnight dog boarding facility skips my dog’s dinner which I discover due to food being left over upon pick up. While they investigated the cause, the response? “We’re sure he was fed but it was probably another dog’s food.” Which is also not a good thing. No apology, no mea culpa, no offer to make it up to us, compensate us a free stay, etc.
  • An intern fails to report status of the work she’s doing. When asked to correct this going forward and work on improving her communication skills, she responds with, “But it’s not my fault. You never asked for a status update.”

Is apology a dirty word? When did accountability go out of style? Whatever happened to “The situation is what it is, for whatever reason. How can we now make it right?”

When it comes to your brand, how you respond to crisis says more about you in a louder fashion than the thousand heroic acts you may do when things are going right.

Explanation is not a substitute for accountability. Make things right to protect your brand. (Tweet this!)

It may indeed be factual to blame someone or something else for why you’ve disappointed your audience, client, or customer. Traffic, lost shipments, sudden illness a personal emergency that distracts you. All valid, all believable, all true.

But that doesn’t give you or your brand a free pass to disappoint and go back on your word. I can’t even count how many virtual assistants or interns I tried to hire who had something interfere with doing what they said they were going to do, leaving me and my business hanging.

Responsibility is defined as: the state of being the person who caused something to happen. Accountability is defined as: the quality or state of being accountable, especially :  an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Simply put, you may not be responsible, but you need to be accountable.

Hey, I get it. Life happens. Believe me, I know this better than anyone. I was in the middle of a client project when I had a brain aneurysm.  The firm under which I was subcontracted immediately sent in one of the principal partners to replace me so the client would not be left in the lurch.

I once gave an overseas client back a non-refundable deposit and lost money on the deal – after delivering all the work promised in the contract that she (allegedly) read and signed-  simply because she abusively claimed it was not at all what she needed or asked for. English was her second language, so I think there may have been a major communication gap. But at the end of the day, in her mind, she did not get what she asked for and it was not worth it to me to argue with a crazy person. So I took a loss: I still had to pay my subcontractor who did her part. I wished the client well and told her to use the work we’d delivered if she wanted.

You can be creative. You can find solutions. You can ask for patience as you honor your commitments. You can offer an alternative or line up a replacement. Or like a dedicated writer I know, you can go a night without sleep to deliver what you said you would if someone is counting on you.

What can you do to make things right? What can you do to turn disappointment into delight? What can you say to make the person feel heard and appreciated? It’s not enough to say, “Well, this is why it happened. So deal with it.” It’s YOUR responsibility to turn the situation around as best you can.

Epilogue: After a tweet, West Elm told me to contact elevated support, the woman personally located a comparable item from a sister company, credited me back the difference and added a 15% discount on top of it all to boot. Nice. I told her my biggest frustration was the cavalier attitude conveyed in the initial email exchanges. True, I didn’t get this service level until I took to Twitter to complain (that should not be the case) but in the end, she turned around my negative experience. It was not “Judith’s” fault this happened. It was not even West Elm’s. But they are the face of the transaction and they (finally) took care of it. Nice.

When have you bravely taken accountability for disappointing a client or customer even when it was “not your fault?” Would love to hear your heroic story in the Comments below!

Beneath the bling: Can you back up your “brand goods?”

We all know bling when we see it, right? It’s shiny, sparkly and distracts the eye from a person’s face, outfit or arrogant scowl (talking to you, Tabloid Divas). Crafters love the Bedazzler because it turns ordinary white t-shirts into dizzying love fests of color and light, temporarily blinding people as they walk past you on the street.

We can also use a little sparkle and fairy dust now and then. Hey, I love diamonds, too.

But sometimes brands get a little crazy with the Bedazzler. Instead of fixing their product or service flaws, they hide behind new bright shiny logos, cool websites, clever packaging or slick ads. Or their sales landing pages scream with neon arrows, BUY NOW! blinking icons and 80-feet of testimony and schmooze.


Maybe they think we’ll just tire out and click Purchase. Maybe they hope to distract us from their horrible customer service or cheaply made goods. Maybe they don’t really know the “10 Secrets to Creating a 6-Figure Business” and feel that with some shouting, sparkle and spitshine, they can fool us.

I don’t know. What I do know is articulating your brand strategy helps you make smarter design, messaging and yes, even packaging choices that promise to the right people what you can authentically deliver. I’m a HUGE fan of clever design and cool concepts. But as Jay Baer states in my upcoming 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (coming Apr 1, by the way – don’t forgot your Launch Week Goodies!) “Polish is the enemy of scale.”

If you have real value to offer and know how it needs to look and who really needs it, you can get away with filming useful and entertaining social media tip videos in your office like Amy Schmittauer (another expert in this new edition). You can publish a neat, well-written Word document turned PDF rather than an overly designed, fancy 90 page interactive worksheet if you can deliver the goods. You can skip the expensive Herman Miller conference room chairs if your tech start-up team is focused on building the best damn product under the sun.

Don’t write a brand check your business can’t cash. (Tweet this!) Instead, focus on continually delivering the right stuff to the right people with the right message and the rest will take care of itself. Bling or no bling.

Photo credit: Brandon Baunach, Flickr

Are you signed up?

My FREE teleseminar 5 Clever Ways to Boost Your Brand Online has limited lines so hurry and snag your spot for Wed, April 2 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET. By attending, you’ll be eligible to win a free signed book, or one of three FREE Brand Bootcamp digitial courses. It’s all part of the Launch Week Frivolity for Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd Edition, coming next week. And don’t forget all the Digital Swag Bag launch bonuses you can get to boost your business if you purchase the book before April 7. Can’t even tally what it’s all worth!

How to hand-craft your brand experience: Brand at Work case study Taylor Stitch

Here’s a lovely little sneak peek at one of the fresh new case studies from the 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget, launching April 1, 2014! Lots of launch week goodies and a free teleseminar so make sure you’re signed up for The Juice so you don’t miss out.

Taylor Stich’s story below shows you how important it is to know what your one unique asset is and parlay that into your brand experience. Hook your brand onto the one special thing that no one else can offer (Tweet this!)

Brand at Work: Taylor Stitch

In 2009, Michael Maher, Barrett Purdum and Michael Armenta started Taylor Stitch  on a funky street in San Francisco’s Mission District. Their dream? To create rugged, refined and practical clothing for men (and now women) by hand. The company aims to modernize staple clothing pieces for men and women by delivering great quality at a reasonable price with impeccable service.

Taylor Stitch’s greatest asset is that their clothes are crafted by hand, with quality and love, and that personal attention guides every brand move. “It’s a human-run business,” says Maher. “Our main goal when we started was to offer a uniquely personal retail experience to make our customers happy.” They empower everyone in the organization to delight the customer. Items are made by hand and sent by hand. When mistakes are made, the human touch prevails. “We understand that in a hand-crafted business, mistakes will be made. A shipment might be sent to the wrong person or a loose thread makes it by quality control. On the rare occasions this happens, we are truthful and up-front with our customers. If we screw up, we’re the first to admit it and fix the problem or discount items to make that customer happy. We look at a mistake as an opportunity to create a human connection and a great customer experience.”

This emphasis on happiness and humanness impacts hiring as well as the in-store environment. “We hire people who represent the ethos of service that we ourselves believe in, so, no matter whom you encounter in the store, you get a consistent experience that lives up to the brand.” Taylor Stitch also pays attention to all five senses when it comes to customer touchpoints: the types of pictures they use, the words they write, the store’s music and scents. “We come at retail from a hospitality perspective, not just a product perspective. We believe people don’t like to shop if they are uncomfortable, so we created something much more approachable,” says Maher.

No matter how large the business grows, Taylor Stitch is committed to maintaining that comfortable “neighborhood shop” feel. Loyal customers love to tell friends and family about how the business takes extra time to care. Taylor Stitch desires regular customers but they also want to be regulars in their neighborhood.

“Our customers send us thank-you and holiday cards,” says Maher. “Sometimes they even send jams and other little gifts. It’s amazing to receive such gifts from people that buy stuff from you. One of my favorite things to do is stop people on the street whom I see wearing our clothes and thank them.”

Obviously taking the time to not just make the clothes by hand but handcraft the customer experience on a very human level pays off for Taylor Stitch. At a pop-up market a few years ago, Maher gave a pair of pants to a fellow vendor. That vendor now orders and sells pants for the store. “It’s often the simple, human things that benefit everyone,” advises Maher. “When you do good things with no expectations and don’t force it, great things are bound to happen.”

Your turn: What is your brand or businesses one special or unique asset? Everyone’s got one…what’s yours? Please share in the Comments below!


Dream of launching a magazine? How Stacey Anderson flipped her model and went for it

With constant proclamations that “print media is dead” I’m still not sure how critics are missing the racks of magazines everywhere you look – and that more are being launched all the time. In fact, according to Crain’s NY Business, 2012 saw 195 new print titles launched, compared to 181 in 2011. And only 74 titles folded in 2012, compared to 142 the year prior. Personally, I love the feel of a glossy print magazine in my hands, even if though I’m also a Kindle user. Sometimes it’s nice to read and still be disconnected.

Stacey Anderson, publisher of Getting Organized Magazine felt the same way. A professional organizer for years, she took her experience in working with clients and expanded that into the magazine to allow readers from around the world to get and stay organized. Stacey says, “We are the real life magazine for real life people offering to help you regain your sanity by offering concentrated content so as not to further overwhelm your already jam packed life.”

I’ve been a fan of Stacey’s for a while and today, she’s sharing how busy people like you can get more organized and why she listened to her audience’s needs and took this gutsy gamble – which seems to be paying off in spades. (Tweet and Share!)

RS: Stacey, what is your overall philosophy on staying organized? Any high-level tips?

SA: That is the million dollar question isn’t it?!  The real key to getting and staying organized is to keep it simple.  We tend to think organizing is a very complex, hard, overwhelming, time consuming task.  When, really, if you follow a few simple concepts you can stay on track.  Here are a few:

  1. Do it now, not later: Later never comes.  Put it away, do the task, but do it now.
  2. Don’t over complicate things: Organize one small spot at a time, or time yourself for 15-30 minutes each day to stay on top of things.
  3. Just start! Do something, anything, one thing but start the process.  The fear, procrastination and stress make organizing much harder than it really is.

RS: OK, I’m pretty tidy, but  if I don’t have something right in front of me, I forget about it – so you can imagine what my desk looks like! Drives me nuts. Any tips for keeping your workspace uncluttered if your memory is not so good?

SA: It really isn’t your memory that it is bad, it is your system.  You don’t trust your system or it has failed you in the past so you think leaving things out will avoid the problem- when actually it makes it worse!  The real key is to clean out your old stuff- be tough, and create a good, labeled, specific system in which you know you will be able to find things.  The real goal of organizing is not to make things look pretty but to be able to find things when you need them.

RS: You’ve launched this new magazine, Getting Organized, as part of your marketing efforts. What’s the scoop and how does this augment your consulting and speaking?

SA: There used to be an organizing magazine on the market several years ago and when it went out of business I kept hearing people say how much they missed it and wanted one.  I thought, well who better to tackle that challenge than me?  I had been successfully running my organizing business for about 5 years, had self-published a book, been booked at several great events as a speaker and been interviewed in the media.  I took all of that business experience, along with my organizing knowledge, and parlayed it into the magazine.  It is a huge challenge to shift gears like that but I like a challenge and I have always wanted to be able to reach more people with my organizing tips.

For more organizational tips and advice to save your sanity, follow Stacey on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

Your turn: What one tip can you share that works for organizing your desk, files, business or home? Please share in the Comments below!

Ouch! 7 ways to deal with criticism

As many of you know, this summer I’m on sabbatical as I take a 5-week summer acting congress with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), one of the most renowned theaters and actor training/MFA programs in the country. Alumni include Annette Bening,, Denzel Washington, Elizabeth Banks, Anika Noni Rose and countless other working actors whose faces you’ve seen but whose names you may not know. Even Blaine from Glee is a Youth Conservatory graduate.

We are now in our last week and it’s been an amazing experience: creative, intense, exhausting, lively, moving. I have 15 other people in my “company” and we are like a band of brothers, spending sun-up to sundown together, exposing our most vulnerable selves and exploring expression via our voice, bodies and minds as we work to become better storytellers.

Invited to completely let go and try everything out in order to get closer to the true art of acting, we are also naked and exposed. Failures happen. Frustrations mount. And inevitably, we are forced to confront criticism.

Thankfully, our instructors are some of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. They’ve worked with some of the greats and I take everything they say to heart. Plus, I am the sort  who craves feedback like a sugar addict on a juice cleanse. But sometimes, negative criticism can sting. Especially when you completely put yourself out there – as you do with your business, your art or your work.

So how can you respond? Here are 7 ways you can cope with criticism:

Breathe deeply, open your ears and listen:

Easier said than done, but put aside your indignation for a second, take a deep breath and actively listen to the feedback.  When you feel yourself slipping into your inner monologue of anger and despair – while the person is still talking – focus your mind on the words they are saying. Taking notes while you get this feedback can help you slow down and really hear the feedback so you can improve things for next time around.

Have a good cry:

I don’t recommend doing this while you are actually receiving the criticism for three reasons: One, it prevents you from practicing Tip #1. Two, if they are a nasty person, you don’t want to give them the satisfaction. Three, if this is a professional situation, it can make the critic very uncomfortable and no matter what he or she says, they will always remember you as The Crier. If you must cry (and we’ve all been there), wait until you are alone and let the tears flow. I know this can be hard, especially when you feel wronged or misunderstood, but try. And then once you’re alone, enjoy the cathartic release. Once you clear the pain physically from your body, unclench your muscles and sniffle away the last of the sobs, your mind will be clear enough to play back the feedback and find the gold.

Argue your case:

I don’t recommend this one…and this is coming from someone who has tried on several occasions. First, the person criticizing you may not give a fig what you think and so you are just wasting your breath. Second, getting defensive means you are not taking in what the person is saying to gain any sort of benefit out of it. And third, the person could be a boss, valuable client or a VIP decision maker who can make or break your career and it’s best not to burn bridges. Of course, if someone is stating outright lies, you should defend yourself but do it with facts and have an adult discussion, not a tantrum. Or better yet, as I have done in the past, go away for a bit, consider the criticism and draft a “reply” of sorts, walking the person through your thinking. You may not change their mind, but they (and others who hear about it) will respect you far more for playing it cool. Nothing good happens when you let your temper get the best of you in the moment – trust an Italian redhead on this one, please.

Consider the context:

For all of us in this summer acting program, we understand we are here to learn and the teachers are here to teach. That’s what we’re paying for. If we can’t take criticism along with praise, then what the hell are we all doing? The point of the program is to attempt, finesse and improve, and no one can do this in a vacuum. Same goes if you get negative customer, client or audience feedback. Appreciate that someone is taking the time to tell you how you can make things better and also acknowledge the relationship – you are there to serve them. They have a right to tell you how they think you did. Learn from it and improve for the next time.

Understand the agenda:

Often people criticize in a very blunt and hurtful way and it can be anything but constructive. It just feels like they personally hate you and want to watch you die. This stings the most, especially when you’re not expecting it. But as with the tip above, it’s all about seeing the bigger picture. What’s this person’s angle? Are you a threat? Does keeping you down elevate them? Or maybe this person uses fear and negativity as way to exert power, as a previous manager of mine did. At first she made me so angry, I’d cry (not in front of her – see  #2) When I realized this, I started to take her critiques with a grain of salt, throwing out the crap I thought was her own baggage and taking in what made sense. It actually helped our relationship. Or perhaps the critic has a certain communication style born out of personal tragedy or hurt. Whatever the case, consider the critique’s source and make sure you understand what’s in it for them before you take everything to heart.

Don’t dwell on one bad review:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen great online reviews and received kind emails about my books, but then I let the one Negative Nellie nag at my soul. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it’s JUST ONE OPINION. Instead, look at the aggregate, not the extremes, and see if there are nuggets you can find for delighting people even further next time. Even the casting director we’re working with, who is pretty damn direct with feedback, always adds that this is just her personal aesthetic, and that doesn’t mean other casting directors would have a problem with a piece being performed a certain way. At least we know with her there is absolutely zero B.S. which is powerful and useful to us. If it helps, create a Feel Good folder and put all praise and compliments in that folder. When you find yourself dwelling on that one low presentation score or bad online review, start reading those Feel Good items and snap yourself out of it.

Do something:

If the critique is useful and you’ve considered the source and the context to be valid, I don’t recommend you do nothing with it. Denying all feedback and continuing to do things the same old way is not a recipe for growth. Many people feel most comfortable wrapping themselves up in their cocoon of self-delusion, but try to find the takeaway in what critics offer up. You may find that something you intended did not come across as you’d hoped so you need to be clearer. Or that you overlooked a minor detail that you now understand makes a big difference. In my acting program, I’m learning that the emotions in my head are not always translating into clear viewable actions for the audience. So now I know I have some work to do. See how you can Implement the valid criticism you get into real action steps and make your work/art shine even brighter.

No matter what the situation, always view negative feedback as a chance to improve and grow. Never use it as an excuse to quit. (Tweet!)

I invite you to try one of these the next time you’re slapped with the criticism stick and see what transpires.

Have you ever received negative criticism? How did you react to it? Any good tips or tricks for how you made it work for you? Please share in the Comments…you never know when your experience can help someone else!