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Data Analytics Dashboard

How Anyone can Build a Custom Data Analytics Dashboard

If you could carve out an hour a month for analysis in order to save a dozen hours of work, the one-hour investment would be worth it, right?

How about if that same hour led to crucial details about your sales trends and customers insights?

On top of all that, what if that same one-hour investment came at no additional cost to you?

Seems like a pretty great deal.

Welcome to the benefits of an Excel-based analytical dashboard.

Benefits of an Analytical Dashboard

You’ve most likely heard of the powers and benefits of data analytics. You’ve probably seen examples from things like POS systems, Tableau, cloud-based software, and many others.

Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Saving you time and money through efficiency and more impactful insights

Spending time looking over your dashboard saves hours of debating anecdotal or piecemeal results and helps guide you towards the best path forward

  • Giving you better insights into your customer to improve marketing campaigns

Campaigns based on hard data are more successful as you can target your intended customer more effectively

  • Taking the guesswork out and make great, data supported, decisions in less time

The high end services all have their merits, but in a small business where you might not have the budget for those services (which are also potentially far beyond the capabilities you actually need), plus a large learning curve, those services don’t always make the most sense.

By learning (on a much faster learning curve) to make a dashboard in Excel, you can get the benefits you want in a completely customized dashboard at no cost (since you already have Excel on your computer).

 

Why use Excel for this

Let’s start with some common business questions.

How did your sales do last month? How does that compare to the same month of the prior year? How about compared to the pace you’ve been running at this year?

Now how about separating those numbers by project, item, or client? How about by distribution channel? Sales rep? What about the specific days you had promotions?

The first set of questions is somewhat easy to have a gut feeling for, if nothing else. You might even have some quick analysis created for you in QuickBooks (or similar software).

However, the second set of questions represents another level deeper. You might feel a bit less confident about your gut feeling. They require you to dive into the data each time you want to look, and maybe even anecdotally piece it together from a few different sources. It’s kind of a hassle, but they’re important insights, so it’s worth the time.

Here’s the good news from Excel – you can answer all of those questions, from top line revenue down to whatever level of detail you need, and have them at your fingertips in one place!

With a simple export of data from whatever source you need, you can populate dozens of custom views that you’ve templated and turn it into your very own analytical dashboard!

The only time intensive piece is building the template and framework for all your custom views.

After you create that, you’re essentially just updating with data each week/month/etc. and looking it over for trends. Making changes to it? Duplicating views with variations? Actually, all pretty easy.

The Excel Dashboard

Here is a very quick sample dashboard that shows that topline sales numbers (black chart) followed by a few, slightly deeper, analytical pieces that help evaluate performance (gray charts).

When I say “very quick” … this dashboard took less than an hour to fully create. Real life dashboards of this level of depth take a similar amount of time. Getting significantly deeper into the data does not necessarily mean significantly more time to create though.

Only a few “next level” type questions are displayed (although these may only be half a level deeper), but they are meant to be representative, and the great feature about the “behind the scenes” of the dashboard is that the building blocks for all levels of analysis can be VERY easily duplicated to get at any question you need.

Take a quick look at the dashboard, follow it along the yellow markers, 1 to 5. Any trends jump out at you?

You can likely see the following in a quick pass:

  • Sales are up in 2019! (Callout #1) – by 22.1% if we want to be specific

  • There seemed to be a change in performance starting in February (Callout #2). Perhaps a new item was released? Or a new marketing campaign?

  • All Sales Reps are selling more this year (Callout #3). Shawn leading the pack with a 28.7% increase over 2018

  • In Store sales have grown by over 60%! (Callout #4). However, Online sales have shrunk a tiny bit.

  • Further diagnosing, it looks like Jennifer and Oliver have really improved their In Store sales, while Shawn has faltered there (Callout #5). Perhaps there was a training that stuck with Jennifer and Oliver? Maybe Shawn has just focused all of his attention on Online sales?

Those types of insights are crucial to running your business and can be seen quickly from the dashboard. On top of that, there are still tons of different ways to cut the data… by product, by product and distribution channel, by sales rep by month, etc. All of these examples are (almost) as easy as copying and pasting.

Creating the Backend of the Dashboard – a General Guide

We start with one of the building blocks of an Excel-based analytical dashboard. Simply, the Pivot Table.

Depending on your level of familiarity with Excel, Pivot Tables might seem like “that complicated next level” or “that tool we use every day”.

The truth is, everyone can easily be at the latter, and if you’re already there, you could probably be using them more even more effectively. Investing just a bit of time can have a very outsized benefit to your business.

Pivot Tables are fantastic, for all levels of users, because of a few main pieces of functionality:

  • Very easy to build, use, and manipulate

Drag and drop methods, no complex formulas, no macros or coding

  • Ability to create charts and dashboards from the Table(s) easily

  • Build automatically updating formulas off the Table to create new data elements

It deserves mentioning that the quality of your data is very important. If the data is wrong to start, then there is no point is doing any analysis.

First… a few tips on how to create a Pivot Table

Feel free to skip this section if you’re already familiar.

For a detailed “how to” build a Pivot Table, I recommend watching from ~2:30 to ~5:30 in this video. The rest of the video has some good explanations as well, but for a quick guide, the 3 minutes is really all you need.

One piece I would highly recommend changing though, is in the data selection piece.

Important – select the entire column in the data, making sure the headers are in row 1. This allows you to add data in the future and have it included in the pivot table without having to change the data range.

The boxed-in range is okay as “ Sample Data!$A$1:$E$13 ”, but would need to be changed if you add more data to the end of it. The better version’s range “ Sample Data!$A:$E” highlights the entire columns.

Onto Creating the Dashboard

Start with creating a Pivot Table, and from there it is really just about dragging and dropping fields, copying and pasting, and picking a layout!

  • Let’s say you begin by creating a simple Pivot Table with sales by month:

  • From there, go up to the ribbon and find the “Pivot Table Analyze” or “Analyze” tab, depending on which version of Excel you’re working with.

  • Select the “Pivot Chart” option, and out pops a variety of options. Select your favorite chart option (bar chart, line graph, multiple types, etc.) and boom! You’ve got a working chart to help you analyze!

  • Any time you change what’s in the Pivot Table that created the Pivot Chart, the Pivot Chart will change accordingly.

Example, if you limited the data to just “Jennifer” (Sales Rep filter), you’ll see only her sales in both the Table and Chart.

Tip for the aesthetics of the Chart

To get rid of the “buttons” or ugly looking gray bubbles polluting your chart, you can right click on any of them and select “Hide All Field Buttons on Chart” and they’ll go away (as shown below).

If you don’t mind their appearance, each button acts as a filter for the Pivot Table. So instead of scrolling over to the Table, you can filter right from the Chart.

  • From there it is just preferences:

You can add a chart title, hide the legend, and a lot of other customization by clicking on the Chart, and then selecting the green “+” button that appears to the right of the Chart (shown below).

Once you’ve got your first chart, you can then start the duplication process!
  • To make another Pivot Table and Chart combo, you can just select the entirety of the Table, then copy and paste it elsewhere on the sheet

Copying the Pivot Table to be replicated
  • Drag and drop the fields (from the Field List on the right) you want to look at in the new Table (ex. Sales Rep in place of Month), and then go through the same quick process to create a Chart

The premise here is that each Table you create is referencing the same data. Each variation is just how you want to cut the data for that particular view.

Note – the formatting you select for one chart will not transfer to a new chart. The easiest method is to pick from Excel’s preset templates, which are normally visually appealing enough – both the black and the gray Charts above are in Excel’s preset templates. You can always customize the look of every chart individually to how you want though.

Best practice is probably to settle on a color scheme and layout after you’ve created all the charts you want, that way you can quickly go through each and select the same layout all at once.

After creating however many variations that get to your necessary level of depth, you’ve now just created yourself a dashboard! Congrats!

Best Way to Create Formulas Based on the Tables to get Additional Metrics in your Dashboard

You may notice that some pieces in the above dashboard (the tables with headers that have blue background and white text) are not Pivot Tables or Pivot Charts. These are created using the same information though.

Enter the GETPIVOTDATA formula. It is one of the most complicated looking formulas, but one of the most effective to use.

Note that it is simply complicated “looking”, but not actually that complicated to use.

Here’s an example. We’re going to walk through the Sales By Month table in the dashboard above (and referenced below).

Let’s say you wanted to get that 41.1% “Growth vs Prior Yr” for Feb from the information in the Pivot Table.

Naturally, you would do the following (referencing picture below) U10 / T10 – 1 = 41.1%

When you go to do that though, this scary looking formula comes out:

Let’s break it down and look at the first piece, before the “/”:

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

Translating, it is saying the following:

  • From the Pivot Table

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Grab the metric “Sale Amount”

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • In the Pivot Table located in cell S7

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Given the following criteria, Year = 2019

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,“Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • And the second criteria Month = Feb

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,“Month”,”Feb”)

You’ll notice the second GETPIVOTDATA (after the “/”) is the same formula, just referencing Year = 2018 instead of 2019.

It is the same formula as the nice and easy U10 / T10 – 1 above, just bringing in the functionality of the Pivot Table.

So why on earth would you actually use the complicated version?

Reason #1: Let’s say you add in another filter and the bulk of the Pivot Table shifts down by one row. The U10 / T10 – 1 will remain but will now be looking at a different month.

Reason #2: What if you changed the Pivot Table to include each Sales Rep’s details in each month (like below)?

Now that “U10 / T10 – 1” formula would be referencing Jennifer’s sales in Jan… not even close to total Feb sales.

If you used the GETPIVOTDATA formula, you would still get the result you want (Total Feb Sales Amount, 2019 over 2018) because you’re telling it what criteria to look at, regardless of what cells the intended data ended up in. It would still do $26,070 / $18,470 – 1, or 41.1%.

Note – in a scenario like the above picture, make sure Subtotals are enabled in the “Design” tab that appears when you click in the Pivot Table

Reason #3: You can completely customize the look of your created table, whereas you have limited aesthetic flexibility in the Pivot Table itself. I choose a blue header with white text.

Reason #4: You retain the copy and paste functionality of the “U10 / T10 – 1” formula but increase the accuracy of the formula.

Notice in our summary chart with each month’s “Growth vs Prior Yr”, we have the month abbreviation in the left column, then the % growth in the right column.

To utilize the copy and paste functionality of formulas in Excel, we just have to reference the month in the formula.

It is the same formula as above in every way except for the P9 in place of “Feb”. This just tells the formula to take the value in cell P9 as the criteria needed to be found in the “Month” section.
You can then copy and paste this formula to each of the months, and the “Growth vs Prior Yr” will fill out for each month, regardless of how many other variables are in the Pivot Table, or where the numbers you want are located (cell-wise).

Summary

So now you’ve learned…

  • The benefits of a dashboard, specifically one in Excel

  • How to make a Pivot Table

  • How to make a Pivot Chart based off it

  • How to duplicate those efforts (for efficiency)

  • How to reference the information in it to get analytical metrics that aren’t directly called out in the Pivot Table

  • (Most importantly) How to build your own fully functional, completely customizable analytical dashboard!

Updating the dashboard is an exercise that takes mere minutes to download the data and add it into your data sheet.

Reasonable time investment to make the dashboard, small time investment to update it, big business benefits.

WIMS BREWERIES & WINERIES

3 Marketing Tips for Breweries, Wineries, Cideries, & Distilleries

The brewery and winery industries have been fortunate to have experienced a major boom in public interest along with media attention over the past few years. Just opening a new location has been a major event that has typically generated a lot of buzz and received coverage by every Business Journal and local social media influencer alike. That’s not to say that marketing breweries and wineries has been easy of course, far from it.

Once the grand opening has passed, and the novelty subsides, the business must continue to attract a loyal and recurring customer base, in addition to the one-off tourists and large groups as well. While all businesses have their tried-and-true marketing methods that work, we wanted to offer up some that may appear obvious, but they truly work. And when done effectively in conjunction with a robust marketing and sales strategy, they’ll keep your brewery or winery full of customers for a long time to come.

Tastings and tours are a “must” for any brewery, winery, cidery, or distillery. However, even if you diligently open your brewery daily for happy hour, there’s much more you can do to raise product awareness. In order to broadcast your brand’s name, it helps to bridge the gap between physical and digital. While locals and tourists might stop in for some beer, wine, or cider, incorporating digital marketing into your outreach campaign will multiply your success. These digital marketing strategies help breweries and wineries attract interest and show off their new craft beer and wine releases, as well as just consistently get people through the door.

 

Blog Posts

Creating a new beer, wine, or cider is still big news. Your fans (and prospects) want to hear about it! However, people also want to know what they’re getting into before purchasing beer from a brewery. For many, that means doing some research beforehand. Introducing a new beer, wine, or cider through blogging is a fun, creative, and informal way to get word out of your newest product. Along with sharing information about the new release and the story behind your winery or brewery online, you can link to your social media pages as well. With these additional steps, you’ll effectively reach your social media followers and those who have signed up for email alerts or announcements (not to mention jack up your SEO rankings). This makes it easier for followers to share the news about your brewery or distillery on their social networks too.

 

Email Campaigns

While it often takes a back seat to social media, email marketing is still a significant part of a successful marketing strategy. Surprisingly, many breweries, wineries, and cideries use social media exclusively as their digital marketing strategy. Considering that 3.2 billion people use social media worldwide, tapping into a social network is a good start. Yet, email is even more effective in reaching a target brewery or winery audience than Facebook or the others. Studies show that 900 out of 1,000 people see a company’s message via email compared to just 20 out of 1,000 people on Facebook. Ultimately, it’s worth your time and effort to create a message that 90% of users will see. Email also has the power and convenience of automation. With social media, on the other hand, you’ll need to personally post a message every day or at least several times each week (which you should be doing ALSO).

 

Social Media Ads

Even though email campaigns are the fastest way to reach a broad audience, don’t underestimate the power of social media for your brewery or winery. About 67% of the US population uses Facebook, which translates to many potential views. Facebook advertising is simple and easy for breweries and wineries to use, and you can even try A/B testing to see which campaigns and strategies are most effective.

 

From tried-and-true email to web content and social media, there are many creative and effective avenues that breweries, wineries, distilleries, or a cideries, can use to increase brand awareness and spread news of a new wine, cider, or beer. If you’re interested in discussing how you can build upon your existing marketing and sales strategy reach out to us at WIMS Consulting and we’d be happy to help!

Starting a Company: When Do You Quit Your Day Job?

At a recent Charlotte Business Group event I moderated a panel on entrepreneurship. We hit various topics that provided the audience with a ton of value, so I wanted to share some of the key takeaways from the discussion with you. The event featured a great group of local entrepreneurs that covered a wide range of topics about starting, and running, a company.

Our panelists included:

To begin, as far as the “when do you quit your day job” question, there wasn’t a specific answer that fit everyone, as it’s a deeply personal situation. It truly varies for every individual. And in some cases, the answer is never. So, as you can imagine, most of the conversation surrounded providing details about what worked for each of the panelists, as well as them offering various ideas with respect to the way they thought about (act acted on) that at the time.

That being said, below are some of the key takeaways from the evening. There was a lot to unpack and share so I may come back and edit/add more in the coming days.

Ideas for businesses come from a variety of places. In some cases, you can innovate, break, and then reinvent the wheel. In others you can make small tweaks to existing business models that work elsewhere. Or you can find a specific niche and build from there. Business opportunities arise from a multitude of potential catalysts. One great takeaway that stuck with me was to use Bill’s “if you spend 30 minutes researching a problem and aren’t sold something (i.e. served ads) within that time frame you just might have a business idea.”

Just Start. You need to have a little bit of risk involved; you can never get rid of it completely so don’t let that keep you from starting. You don’t need to have absolutely everything figured out. The important thing is to take action consistently. Bill had another great gem; he created a list of 100 things/task and did 1 a day. By sticking to that he started his company in 100 days.

You don’t always NEED to quit your day job. It’s ok to keep your day job long term, keep it for a while as you get traction in the business, or “jump off the cliff and build the plane on the way down.” Everyone has a different risk tolerance and level of resources available to them. Others like Chris just like and prefer continuing to keep their job as they grow their businesses and don’t feel the need to quit.

Know your target market. Learn about what they value, the problems they need solved, and what needs they need met. These are the fundamental elements of launching a business. Market fit is crucial to identify the initial opportunity. Scalability comes later.

Create systems to lean on. As you build your business you want to create systems, procedures, automations, etc. to make sure the business can (eventually) run without you. You don’t need the latest and greatest technology for this, just implement processes that work to help you stay on top of managing everything as things can get overwhelming quickly.

Delegate the things you’re not good at. Pretty much everyone mentioned getting a good bookkeeper/accountant to manage the finances (as that wasn’t necessarily any of their strengths). That’s just an example to reiterate that in order to grow your business you need help and need to be able to delegate the tasks that aren’t suited to your strengths. This may take time as resources are limited, you may need to wear many hats in the beginning, but make this a priority as soon as you can.

There are a variety of ways to fund your business depending on your goals. This is yet another personal preference. Some people bootstrap, building with sales and revenue as they go. That was Elechia’s preferred approach as she met with doctor after doctor, potential patient after patient and growing along the way. Others raise money from investors to continue growing and scaling. You can also leverage debt with SBA loans, etc. There is plenty of research out there about ways to fund and grow your business.

Know what your long-term goals are. While you don’t need to do this first, eventually you should try to have an exit strategy in mind (or the lack there of) as you initially build your business. Whether you plan to eventually sell it, build a business you want to work at for the long haul, or simply want a side-hustle, they’re all fine as long as you’re transparent and honest with yourself and your partners.

All that being said, it’s ok to just have a short-term side hustle that only lasts a year or two and provides some additional income along the way. There doesn’t have to be a long-term vision if that’s your primary objective. As was mentioned several times, each situation and individual is different.

There are many other things to consider when starting and running a business. This was just a small snapshot of a great evening filled with plenty of additional takeaways. What are some of the things you’d add to the list?

The Charlotte Business Group has a lot more educational events like this planned where we share knowledge and experiences from local professionals. We aim to continue nurturing the business and entrepreneurial spirit and providing opportunities for the community to do so. Make sure to keep an eye our for the upcoming schedule!

navigating networking

Navigating Networking

Recently at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s 2nd Annual YP Leadership Convergence: Navigating the Career Jungle Gym (#YPLeaderCon) I moderated a panel about networking. This break out session was one among many others, along with some incredible keynote speeches and a great day full of, well networking.

The panelists I interviewed were:

Since we received such great feedback from our session, I wanted to share a few of the key points with you to highlight some of the primary takeaways.

Be authentic and a real person. People can spot a fake pretty easily and know when they’re just being sold. Begin a conversation with cultivating a real connection by being transparent.

Get to know people for who they are, not just their job. Yes, it’s common that the first thing people often ask in a networking setting is, “What do you do?” But you’re allowed, and encouraged, to take a different approach.

The elevator pitch: Yes, you should have one, but know when to use it. When to use the elevator pitch often comes much later in a conversation, and typically when it’s prompted by the other person. You should be able to comfortably speak about who you are and what you do naturally of course, but generally you can keep the elevator pitch in your back pocket.

Add value to others and give back. Every interaction doesn’t always lead to a sale or referral right off the bat. Rather, those often take time (roughly 5-7 touch points on average). If you focus on adding value to others first and going out of your way to help them it’s more likely that will be reciprocated later. That’s not a guarantee that it will. But trust us, just try it and see how well it works out for you.

Be strategic about where you spend your time. We all have a limited amount of time in the day. Be thoughtful and which events you plan to attend in order to get the most value for your precious time. Further, when you do commit to attending an event make sure to bring your best self and be present.

Leverage technology, (i.e. your phone, Outlook, LinkedIn, a CRM system, etc.). It’s pretty much impossible to remember every single person you meet, who you’ve made plans with, or where you met them, among the infinite amount of information we consume each day. Create a system and make sure to use it. If it’s in real time the better. Add their contact info into your phone and send the calendar invite right then and there (when appropriate) to maximize efficiency.

Follow Up! This is by far the most important tip yet so many people fail to do it. As they say, “the fortune is in the follow up”. Try to do so in as timely a fashion as possible to ensure you continue cultivating the relationship.

There are plenty of other networking guidelines to adhere to, what are some of yours?

 

For additional context on the YP Leader Con conference’s theme this year the description was: “The career path for a young professional often looks more like a jungle gym than a corporate ladder. During a full day of learning and exploration, you’ll gain insight from a diverse array of speakers with varied career and leadership paths.” It was a dynamic day packed with incredible content. If you live in, or near Charlotte make sure to sign up for next year’s conference!

2019 YP LeaderCon

 

On August 2, 2019 I had the pleasure of attending the second annual YP LeaderCon held by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. The event was at the beautiful UNCC City Center and brought together emerging leaders from around the Charlotte region. By attending this event I was given an opportunity to learn and grow, hearing from speakers and other professionals in their 20s and 30s while validating the steps I am taking in beginning my professional career and helping to grow my personal brand.

 

The sessions I attended included a range of topics including networking, financial planning, the power of professional organizations, and the importance of mentorship in personal and professional situations. Across these sessions a common theme continually arose which was the power of taking ownership of your actions and directing the course of your life.

 

Beginning a career is certainly challenging requiring an individual to balance paying off debt including student loans, becoming acclimated with the culture of your new job, navigating the job market, and deciding which professional organizations to join and prioritize which events to attend. Sometimes the most important thing to do during the initial years of your career is to establish the skills that will drive your entire career while also understanding what attributes you value. We can become so accustomed to saying yes that saying no to things that do not provide value to our lives should be where we focus our main energy.  Having an understanding of the things we truly value will help prioritize decision making and reduce time spent on unnecessary actions.

 

During the event, a topic that was highlighted across sessions is the importance of seeking help from others.  The session led by Lisa Medley explored the value and importance of seeking out resources through mentorship, sponsorship and coaching. Many people understand the importance of mentorship from the professional sense yet the aspirational, personal, and family should be used to create buckets of different mentors to become a better person across all aspects of your life. This is an area I will look to improve on by seeking additional mentors and using the people around me as resources. By gaining skills and relationships from mentors I will be able to learn from them while also providing them new skills as I continue to form strong relationships through mentorships and as I progress in my career further mentoring others with the information I learn.

 

I value the time and the opportunities I had during the YP LeaderCon and the importance the Charlotte Regional Alliance places on growing young talent in the entire metropolitan region. Seeing professionals beginning their careers I could see the dynamics of the modern workforce as I gathered with young professionals who worked for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and regional firms with a strong presence in Charlotte. One of the top reasons I am proud to call the Charlotte area home is the commitment to fostering business relationships and improve the entire community. The hints of Southern charm that are spread across the shining city of Charlotte shows the power of the New South. The sessions were filled with young people from across the country who have moved to Charlotte because of its robust job market and abundance of recreational activities. This trend should continue as more people and companies are attracted to the region and top talent is retained to ensure sustainable growth across the entire Charlotte region into the future.

reconnecting with your network

Reconnecting With Your Network

4 min. read (too long? Scroll down to the bottom for the bullet points)

You did it. You went dark.  You ghosted. Pulled a professional Irish Goodbye.  You haven’t spoken or been in touch with the majority of your network for some time.  Could be a couple months, or even over a year.  I know I’m guilty of it.  You change careers/jobs, move to a different part of town or new city, or experience a major life-changing event like a new relationship, marriage, or have your first child.  For one reason or another, you lost touch and some people got left behind.

 

This is completely normal.  Things happen, and priorities change.  But what do you do when you want to reconnect to some, or all, of your old network?  Well realizing you want to reconnect is the first step.  We went around asking others who have been in that same predicament, what they did that worked for them.  Below we compiled a list of the steps they took to warm up their own networks and get “reintroduced to the wild”.

 

  1. Just do it.

Sometimes we over think things, and talk ourselves out of doing something that will ultimately benefit us.  Maybe you only reach out to a couple people you still stay in contact with, or you limit the amount of outreach when trying to get back in touch with your network.  Ultimately, those who want to stay in touch will respond to your efforts, and those who don’t will ignore the effort.  Save yourself the time and worry and reach out to everyone.

 

  1. Get Active

Now this can be vague, but its actually really simple.  Get active in the same circles as your old contacts.  Whether its posting more on social media, attending the same networking groups, or professional organizations.  Getting active will put you back in front of those people. We need to stay in front of those we want to keep us top of mind.

 

  1. Own up to it (but not too much)

It’s been a while since you’ve spoken.  Odds are, you won’t be able to just pick up the conversation where you last left it like nothing happened.  A brief acknowledgement of the passing of time will add some context to the rest of the email.  However, be careful not to sound overly apologetic.  Include any pertinent information, like a change in career, major move, or family addition.  Avoid anything that sounds overly apologetic like “I’m so sorry I haven’t been around.” Or “I hope you’ll reconnect with me again.”

 

  1. Be Transparent about your motives

This one should be rather straightforward; you want to reconnect.  Make sure this is in the message somewhere.  Whether you haven’t spoken in a while, you changed careers or positions, or whatever the reason.  If you want to remind them of who you are, it would be smart to include your previous position, place of work, or where you were when you first met.

 

  1. Don’t sell anything or ask for a favor

Clearly there is a reason you want to reconnect with this group of people, but this isn’t the time to ask.  Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said it best,

If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to.

If you haven’t spoken to these individuals in some time, odds are you don’t have the trust built up to ask anything of them.  Use this as an opportunity to give something of value.

 

-Ask them what you can do to help them.

-Congratulate them on a recent accolade.

-Offer some information or research that may be useful to them professionally or personally.

 

Sharing with them something new you’re working on is ok, but stop short of asking them to buy or become a client.  If they’re interested, they’ll ask you for more information.  This is the first step of a marathon, building a relationship doesn’t happen in a sprint.

 

  1. Write like a human/ Make it personal

You’re trying to reconnect, which means putting yourself first and actually connecting.  You may represent a brand or company, but people connect with other people.  Greet them by first name “Hi Christy,” or if you don’t have their first name a simple “Hi!” or “Hi there,” will be ok.  Keep the tone conversational, as if you were talking to a friend.  A rigid tone can be confused for bulk email, and make it seem impersonal.  Lastly, avoid any banners, images or special fonts.  Plain Text works best, as that’s the default look for most of our personal emails.

 

  1. Follow Up!!!

Congratulations!  You did it! You put in all the hard work and reached back out to your network.  When you get responses to your message, thank them.  Gratitude goes a long way to keeping the relationship going.

Now you have to keep it warm.  The fortune is in the follow up! Stay consistent with your outreach and keep in front of them using whatever platform works best for you.  Keep active in whatever in-person groups make the most impact.  If you join a non-profit, make sure its one you have a genuine interest in (we can tell if you’re faking it or using the group for other reasons).

 

General Do’s and Don’ts

 

Do

-it.  Seriously, just put an email together or even just walk into an event.  Do something.

-Be transparent and own up to the lapse.

-Remind them who you are and where you met.

-Give something of value.  Real value. Try to benefit them personally or professionally.

-Keep it friendly and personal.

-Be genuine in your efforts. We can all spot a fake.

-Use plain text.

-Follow Up. Stay Consistent. Show Gratitude.

 

Don’t

-sit on your ass.

-be overly apologetic.

-assume they remember you.

-Sell them something or ask a favor.  I cannot over emphasize this enough.

-give them anything cheap.  People recognize and appreciate value.

-send a bulk mailer with fluff (fancy borders, fonts, images)

-let another year go by before you reach back out again.

 

Hope this helps get you back out there!

 

If you liked this, sign up for the newsletter and keep an eye out for the next posts in this series:

Email etiquette: Anti-Spam and keeping out of Junk folders & Networking: Following up with a new connection.

Project Management

 

The business world is shaped by the ability of organizations to effectively manage and execute projects in a team environment. Projects stand at the center of any idea and serve as the means of turning ideas into meaningful action. From the planning through executing and reflection on the project constant communication and decision making is needed to direct the project in the best direction. The ability to have leaders in an organization who can direct resources and personnel during uncertain times will reap many benefits for the entire organizations ability to provide the best quality solutions.

 

The value of project management stands out in the business world as a core competency which focuses heavily on operating the project. This includes reinforcing leadership decisions, maintaining project goals, and ensuring open communication occurs between stakeholders. Project leaders provide efficiently run projects developing a unique project management strategy which fits the specific needs of your organization. To improve your own project management skills, an in-depth view of the definition of a project from the Project Management Institute (PMI) will be examined. Some of the different project management frameworks will also be examined along with the dynamics of teams including the Five Stages of Group Development. Understanding the differences in project management frameworks as well as what constitutes a project and the ability to help develop and lead teams will become more ingrained into the core of your organization. The ability to understand how to construct your time and resources on projects will reap rewards and allow for more goals to be on time and under budget.

 

Project management is a skill set which does not fit into the boxes of specific industries or mindsets but encompasses the changes and complexities of a project over the course of its lifespan. Every project that is implemented changes and faces unique challenges and uncertainties yet the most telling sign of the success of the project is how the team reacts to changes and uncertainty. Effective project management will not solve all the uncertainties of projects yet that is not the purpose of project management and effective leadership. Project management serves as a framework to keep the project on course and ensure that the team can stay on track during good times and the more difficult times. Instead of being an exact science project management combines specific industry knowledge, emotional intelligence, and team building to create the most innovative solutions for teams and allowing teams to perform at their highest level.

 

Strengthening Project Management

 

In the current business world competition and adding value to your current operation is becoming increasingly important. Every organization needs to address and strategize how to attract and sustain top talent. The specifics differ from company to company and often depend on location and the necessary skill set to accomplish a specific task. Some challenges stand in the way of companies as they attempt to grow their company with a talented and engaged workforce. Staffing and operating strong project portfolios go hand in hand and should be thought of as ways to improve the efficiency of both specific projects and the entire organization.

 

Good organizations understand that to stand out resources and focus should be placed on finding people to fit roles. Looking outside your organization as well as within can assist in understanding and using human resources and project management to establish a company culture. Getting the right personnel can help improve solutions and reduce friction among current team members. Collaboration should be viewed from the perspective of bringing in new team members.

 

To grow, companies need to address how to maintain a competitive edge in their industry while growing internally. Some hurdles stand in the way of growing and sustaining a workforce which can handle projects and helps your organization grow.

 

The focus is placed on creating effective and simple project proposals for existing external projects while building up internal systems. Quickly it becomes evident that this would be a valuable investment which would provide an additional service line. Many organizations are in the same spot as WIMS in need of investing internally to increase the effectiveness of existing operations while making plans to expand into new business opportunities. This can be difficult, and close to impossible, without a developed internal project system which allows for maximizing the value of your team while fulfilling growth and expansion into new projects.

 

The project manager must document the steps across the project lifecycle and create an environment where every team member actively documents work and changes to the project. There should be a standard procedure for documenting the project which should be communicated up front and allow for input from workers. The project manager needs to ensure that accurate progress is being communicated. Communication is critical across the entire team and when the chain of communication is well constructed with multiple ways to raise questions and provide insights the entire team can focus on issues that need the most attention. Communication can help build trust across the entire team and allow for the specific focus areas of the team to be given more attention and be build up for sustained success.

 

The time to invest in project management solutions is now. If your organization already has a project management system in place the system should constantly be evaluated and additional improvements should be made when necessary. Planning to improve project planning poses the opportunity to create a project itself which can be used as a learning experience to incorporate new ideas. Every additional opportunity to expand projects provides the chance for members of the entire team to gain meaningful hands on practice across the development of projects.

 

Creating the final projects and tasks around all of us are truly unique with many complex aspects. A project involves many internal and external stakeholders who must be in constant communication. With many complex parts and changes the need to have a robust team which can deal with the changes that arise across the project is necessary. Taking the time to invest heavily in project planning will allow for the best-case scenario for reacting to unexpected changes. By having a developed and strategic project management system in place, organizations can better handle existing projects while also bringing in new work and expanding the project portfolio.

 

Blanq Commercial Real Estate

WIMS Client Spotlight: Blanq Commercial Real Estate

Blanq Commercial Real Estate is a commercial real estate firm specializing in buying, selling, leasing, and Property Management of commercial real estate located in Charlotte, NC, with operations across surrounding counties. They also recently expanded to the Research Triangle Park area and opened an office there.

Blanq Real Estate is focused on providing diligent work on every project from the beginning of the transaction through completion. When dealing with commercial real estate projects, Blanq takes a holistic approach to maximize the value and understand the needs of clients. Operating this way serves as a valuable asset in the real estate industry since the ability to connect with clients and understand their needs sets good commercial real estate firms apart from great firms. Blanq combines knowledge and expertise in the commercial real estate industry with a firm foundation including strategic partnerships with vendors and service providers.

Clifford Blanquicet, Jr has sold over 20 properties and executed over 70 leases over the last three years in the Charlotte Region. This expertise and diverse experience across a range of different types of real estate holdings allows Blanq to serve clients across different industries handling commercial transactions as they purchase or lease real estate.

From a financial standpoint Blanq provides services which are extremely beneficial to their clients by maximizing the value of each property managed. This is accomplished through a personalized approach where time and energy is spent to ensuring clients’ interests are aligned with the specific location of their real estate holding. The Net Operating Income (NOI) of each property Blanq manages has grown over time through a mixture of findings cost saving measures and leasing vacant spaces to maximize revenues. The ability to focus on measures to cut costs and grow revenues directly relates to the effectiveness of the Blanq team in communicating and responding to clients and strategic partners.

Blanq also offers a shared coworking space called BlanqCanvass CoWork for those looking to looking to have a professional address, professional office, and conference room to meet clients for their business? It’s located right near uptown Charlotte, offers free parking, use of conference room, craft beer and more, it’s what is needed to take your business to the next level.