No.26/ April 19, 2007

The Corporate Muse

Welcome to the April issue of The Corporate Muse.  This month, we focus on communication, the value of networking and have a fun little writing project for you to try. As always, we welcome suggestions and/or questions. 


What My Mom Taught Me About Business Communication

A recent family fiasco helped me realize that I need to work on my communication skills. While I have no wish to drag my relatives through the mud, suffice it to say, they can be a source of great frustration, and sometimes, entertainment. This was a little of both.                          

On Easter Eve, I received a frantic call from an uncle concerning my mother's living conditions. My response? I called my sister, not my mom. By the time I finally spoke with Mom (the main character in this little saga), I had a mind full of preconceived ideas that carried through to my subsequent conservations with her. 

Two weeks and dozens of phone calls later, things have calmed down. But for days, my siblings and I maintained emergency status, ready to jump in the car and head for Cheyenne at a moment's notice.  

Because my mom's a quiet, private person, it took a while to nail down the problem, and we didn't really ever get to the root of it. However, had we communicated better months ago, the whole disagreeable incident might have been averted. 

In my defense, I can't say for certain that telephoning Mom instead of my sister would have changed the outcome. Relieved some guilt? Maybe. Given me a better understanding of what was going on? Probably. But more importantly, it would have been the right thing to do.  

Poor communication, miscommunication and faulty communication cause more grief than just about anything else. It's bad in families. It's worse in business. Families usually forgive. Clients often don't.

Becoming an effective communicator is one of the most important things you can do for your business. We often think we're communicating well when we're not. This debacle with my family is a prime example.

Continuing to use the illustration with my mom, let's break it down and see what I could have done differently:

  1. I could have listened more intently.  It's easy to tune out complaining. But at the heart of every grievance lies some legitimacy. Paying attention and hearing exactly what someone is trying to tell you, can alert you to the fundamental problem.
  2. I could have asked more questions instead of offering solace.  The best way to find out what's really going on is to ask questions. While a distressed individual may want your support, you'll only discover what someone actually wants or needs by digging deeply and making precise inquiries.
  3. I could have made more attempts to contact her.  Knowing something's not going well and doing something about it are two different things. It's easy to procrastinate if you fear it will lead to a confrontation. You can simply put it out of your mind. But just as ignoring a child's bad behavior doesn't make it go away, disregarding dilemmas won't make them disappear either.
  4. I could have talked more extensively with my brothers and sister.  Others have insight that you may not be able to see. Gathering information from those close to the situation will help give you a more rounded view of things. One caveat here: don't do this behind anyone's back. Find out who (your family member, friend or client) would like you to speak to beforehand. 
  5. I could have approached things more honestly.  Never be afraid or too proud to apologize. Everybody makes mistakes. Admit when you're at fault. In most cases, you'll find the majority of people very accessible when you go to them with honesty and humility.  

Finding the best way to communicate isn't easy, but it's always worth it. Proficient communication will help you in all your relationships—whether business or personal.

(P.S.  Just in case you're wondering. We'll be traveling to Wyoming in early May to meet with my siblings and find a way to ameliorate my mom's present circumstances. (SKC)  

© QuickSilver Publishing, LLC 2007 -- Andy & Shawn Catsimanes;; mailto:; Sign up for The Corporate Muse:


The Value of Networking

“People do business with those they know, like and trust.” No doubt you’ve heard it said before, but the oft-used adage still rings true.  

Think about it for a moment—where do you spend your money and why? 

When I was a kid growing up in a small town, instead of driving down to the supermarket, my family often shopped at a “Mom and Pop” store near our house. It offered convenience to those of us living on the hill, but since nothing in my hometown was farther than ten minutes away, proximity wasn’t the big draw. 

What kept customers coming back were the little “extras” the owners provided. They created an atmosphere of generosity, good will and safety. Their “marketing” techniques included: knowing their patrons by name, weekly specials and free candy for all the children. The last one worked particularly well on us kids. Where did we beg to go when Mom had to pick up a few things? You guessed it—the corner store. 

The added element of a safe environment allowed my parents to occasionally let my brothers, sister and I go into the store alone. Granted, times were different back then. One didn’t have to keep a watchful eye on a child every minute of the day. Still, my parents entrusted the owners with our care for the few minutes it took for us to search for a treat. So even though this small operation maintained a limited selection and sold at higher prices than the big guys, like many of our neighbors, we frequented the little store on the corner.  

It’s a very different world than that of my childhood. I recently read an article that said even with all the new technology in the world, we’re less connected than ever. That’s why networking is so vital to your entrepreneurial success. It gives others the chance to know you, to like you and to trust you.  

I can speak from experience here. As newbies, Andy and I treaded slowly into the marketing waters. But the more we ventured, the stronger our credibility grew. Networking became a very important aspect of our business. And it paid off. In just over two years, we now have a decent presence in the copywriting community. And through Andy’s participation on forums, we’ve joint ventured with one of the biggest names on the Internet.

As people have gotten to know us and become comfortable around us, they’ve trusted us enough to seek our services. And in some cases, wanted us—and only us—to write for them. While their insistence makes us feel good, it also illustrates the power of building strong professional relationships. The more others understand who you are, how you do business, and what values you uphold, the more likely they are to look you up when they’re in the market for your brand of product(s) or service(s).

Of course, building relationships takes time. We have friends who can show you paychecks they’ve made as the direct result of attending seminars. It happens sometimes. But most often, you won’t be able to point to an absolute cause and effect. So even if your attempts to connect seem to be getting you nowhere—keep them up. One day you’ll take an assessment of your business and see how it's changed over the last few months or years and then you’ll truly understand the value of the contribution you made. 

The point is that you need to consider networking as an investment in your business. I'm not suggesting you pull out the old credit card, max it out going to seminar after seminar, and then sit back and wait for the gravy train to arrive. Seminars are great places for you to meet people face to face. Communicating online, or even talking on the phone, doesn't quite have the same impact as seeing someone in person. You really are able to get a better sense of who that person is. But there are many less expensive options. Sharing on forums, exchanging emails, reading blogs, newsletters, or even websites can tell you a lot about people, what they believe and how they run their businesses. 

No matter whether you put your time, your money or your energy into networking, the return will be worth it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually your efforts will pay off. So make a commitment to network. I promise you—you won't be sorry.     


Here’s a fun writing exercise:

Try to tell a complete story using a specific number of words. It must have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Here are three stories I wrote with exactly 69 words (but you can choose whatever number of words you want to use in your own experiment):

1.There were few things Emma loved more than the old porch swing. It was there Harold Beck proposed, her father watching from behind the curtain. A year later, Dad died, leaving her the house.  There she’d comforted children, three in all, one after another, with bruised knee or heart. The swing you had to come down. As it crashed, so did Emma’s heart, straight into the bowels of no return.

2. Arte rummaged through the dumpster, glancing nervously about. The secret to wealth rested at the bottom. It was nasty work, but worth it. Hunkering to hide, he reached deep into its belly and extracted his treasure. Holding his fortune high, he shouted with glee. A kid on a bike whizzed by, knocking Arte down. He snatched away the prize, leaving Arte to cry into a McDonalds Happy Meal container.     

3. Josh reached but missed.  Man against beast, the age-old battle, was being waged at the water’s edge.  Though barely ten, he remained the undisputed leader of the pack.  He charged again.  Shouts of encouragement rippled through the little band.  A hit, then a squeal like a girl quickly dispersed the other boys.  The turtle clamped on the end of his finger shimmered.  It was hard to determine the winner.

  Happy writing!


Thanks for reading. See you next month!And check us out on the Copywriters Blog ( 

Andy & Shawn Catsimanes






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