<![CDATA[Giraffe Graphics Inc. - Blog]]>Wed, 06 Dec 2017 06:32:47 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Work Your Mental Muscles]]>Tue, 05 Dec 2017 19:27:07 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/work-your-mental-musclesDo you ever feel tapped out – that there is nothing new you can bring to the table?
 
I have written about this before and that is why I took a break from my blogs. I just didn’t feel I could bring anything new to the table and didn’t want to stuff my blog with inconsequential words. At the same time, a knee injury was impeding my cycling progress so I felt as if I was figuratively falling down on all fronts. It was time to flex my mental and physical muscles.
 
Okay, the physical muscles are pretty self-explanatory, but how do you flex your mental muscles? Well, change your patterns; mix up your routines and try putting your day’s tasks in reverse order. You can try ignoring one task (if you can), and pick it up the next day. If you use a lot of software packages, pick one part of it that you don’t know how to use and learn it through books or online tutorials.
 
Make a cold call and don’t give up; be persistent. Look for obstacles and force yourself to think your way around them.
 
While it may sound as if I want your day to be more stressful, I don’t. I just want you to push back. Push back against the complacency of doing something the same way every time; push back against doing just what you know how to do and avoiding the risks that come with the unknown.
 
If you flex those mental muscles, you will get a whole new perspective on the way you work. Then you, too, will bring something new to the table.]]>
<![CDATA[Go To Your Library — Seriously]]>Mon, 06 Nov 2017 21:43:26 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/go-to-your-library-seriouslyA lot of people are still thinking that libraries are just for checking out fiction books, some movies and maybe some business books but have you looked at your online library offerings lately?
 
I am a lifelong library user and I have to admit, I was surprised by some of the offerings. Our library system in Toronto offers an Entrepreneur in Residence, a live resource for those who are thinking of starting a business. You can arrange a one- on-one meeting to discuss your business plan and get good, honest feedback. You have to be organized and have a clear outline and meetings are not guaranteed. However, if you are serious about your business, and are willing to do the preparatory work, it could pay off.
 
There are self-evaluation and job search tools for the many of those that are looking for work or thinking of changing careers. You can find career profiles and links to relevant Canadian college and university programs. There is also a Canadian Job Search section.
 
Directories abound at the library. Everything from a directory of non-profits to grant-making foundations and Scott’s Directory, which provides detailed information on Canadian manufacturers, wholesalers and business services.
 
If you want to search for more unusual information, you can find British Columbia city directories dating from 1860 up to and including 1952. You can also find information through the Canadian Toy Trade directory.
 
Many of these directories can be accessed online, free of charge. You can spend time browsing through the some ninety nine pages of resources or search by topic or title. The wealth of information out there can help you in business or can distract you from work for weeks.
 
And when you have finished finding what you need then yes, you can rent a movie and relax with some popcorn. If you haven’t got a library card, what are you waiting for?]]>
<![CDATA[Why Not Do More?]]>Tue, 24 Oct 2017 21:37:49 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/why-not-do-more​Today’s blog is not what I intended it to be. I had a poor business experience today that it is nudging out what was going to be written. That will come next week.
 
I made my round of banks today, as I was looking to open an account for a group that I belong to. While we are not for profit, we don’t have charitable status. We have few transactions and not a lot of money. You would think it would be easy to find information, but not necessarily so.
 
The first bank I went into was my own. I had other business to transact and when I asked the question of the teller, she told me that a financial services officer could answer my questions. She immediately went to find someone and in less than five minutes, I was sitting down with someone who could answer my questions and provide me with information.
 
The second bank I entered also had two tellers on staff. When I asked the same questions, providing the same information, I was told that the teller didn’t really know and that I should make an appointment with someone. They had no print info and seem flustered by my questions because that branch was going to be closing in February. Wait, February? But it is only October. Shouldn’t it be business as usual for a little while longer? She managed to print out some information, starting with an account that had a $20 monthly fee and a $15,000 balance. I was talking to the air apparently. I was in no mood to make an appointment there.
 
The third bank I entered was quiet. There was one teller and one person arrived just before me. While I was waiting in line, a second teller came over. She looked at me, looked at her watch and the put on her scarf and jacket and, checking her phone, left. It was fifteen minutes before five o’clock. She was either leaving early or late. If it was early, shame on her. If it was late, she had already been there fifteen minutes past her quitting time. Why not go the distance and see what she could do to help?
 
As you probably guessed, banks two and three aren’t getting my business. If the fourth bank in my neighbourhood treats me the same way, they lose too. So back to my original question – why not do more? Why not go the extra mile to help? The banks don’t know about my other investments. I could be wealthy and be looking to move my other accounts. Opportunities squandered almost all around.
 
The first bank? The teller came over while I was speaking with the financial services officer to check in. She reassured me that if I had any questions at all, even with my other accounts, he was a great resource. I understand that part of it is familiarity, but I didn’t always know the staff at the branch. They took the opportunity to reaffirm the reason I bank there. They decided to do more, and it made a difference.]]>
<![CDATA[Why Blog?]]>Fri, 06 Oct 2017 14:39:24 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/why-blogI came across an interesting article on the reasons for blogging the other day. It made me look closer at why I blog.
 
Blogging is self-promotion, to be sure, but it is much more than that. If all I were to do each week was talk about Giraffe Graphics, you would soon get bored. My goal when I started the blog was to provide something relevant to you, the readers. I want to provide you with book reviews that will help you in business and in life. I want to provide advice for people starting out running their own businesses and I want to hear what you think.
 
I feel that a blog is not relevant enough if it is only a one way street. Sure, I have years of experience and have information to share. However, I don’t know everything and I value the opinions you share with me. I want to hear about your experiences and how you cope in the day to day business world.
 
Sometimes I meander a bit and talk about the joys and sadness of life. Sometimes I talk about my other business ventures and the charities I am involved with. These are all things that contribute to who I am and what I offer as a business owner.
 
I recently made the decision to publish weekly, rather than rigidly on a Monday. This decision came after a lot of thought about how to best provide the information that I do. I was feeling that you would not be best served by my cobbling something together at 11:30 at night just to meet that Monday deadline. I would rather take the time to produce something you want to read – something of more substance.
 
So, that is why I blog. I also enjoy it, which is a not insignificant additional reason but it keeps me going. If there are topics you want me to address, book reviews you would like me to produce, or if you have any suggestions, I am all ears. This, too, is why I blog.]]>
<![CDATA[Expect More Of Yourself]]>Sun, 01 Oct 2017 21:06:31 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/expect-more-of-yourselfThe Invictus Games wrapped up last night in Toronto with closing ceremonies that had people cheering, in tears, and thinking more about the future.
 
As HRH Prince Harry noted, this has been an amazing experience for all those involved. For the athletes, they have pushed themselves beyond what they thought they could accomplish. For the Afghanistan team, members had to leave their homes to find a safe place to train, and then come here, well out of their comfort zone, to compete along others. Comrades in arms, regardless of the country they came from.
 
For myself, as an owner of two velofix franchises (www.velofix.com), it was a privilege being a Games Supporter. It was exciting to see some of the athletes on stage and on the floor who had their bicycles dealt with by us. There were medal winners but everyone who competed won over adversity.
 
As the competitors return to their “normal” lives, it could be a bit of a letdown after the sportsmanship and support from the public. However, I feel that support will continue. We didn’t cheer to be polite; we cheered because we were in the presence of greatness.
 
I don’t mean this lightly. For anyone who hadn’t been behind the scenes at any event, they might not realize what the competitors had to go through to prepare themselves. Some people had to divest themselves of prosthetic limbs to strap themselves into hand bicycles or recumbent bikes. They had to take the back seat on a tandem bike so that a sighted partner could lead. They had to have unique adjustments made to some equipment to adapt to their particular amputation. And yet, when they arrived courtside, trackside, or poolside, what you saw were competitors. All trying for medals for their countries but still cheering everyone else on to victory. If not victory, they were cheered on to finish, because that was the glorious reason of the games. It wasn’t to win at all costs; it was to show themselves they could compete on a world stage. Not in spite of any limitations, just that they had trained to the best of their abilities and they were ready.
 
Which leads to the title of my blog today. Each and every participant expected more of themselves than they ever had. In business and life, we should be takings note. We mostly breeze through life with few challenges as were faced this past week. Why don’t we expect more of ourselves? Maybe small steps but if we work hard enough and expect more of ourselves, we may come just a little bit closer to the greatness and grace that was on display.]]>
<![CDATA[The Power Of One]]>Mon, 25 Sep 2017 01:10:30 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/the-power-of-oneSometimes you can be alone in the midst of a crowd. What does this have to do with business you ask? It is a bit of a different blog today.
 
My other company, velofix (www.velofix.com), is the support for the cycling events at the Invictus Games here in Toronto. While each nation has a team of athletes, each individual has had to overcome incredible odds to be here today.
 
For those of you who don’t know, the Invictus Games is a parasport event for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans. There are adaptive sports geared to the abilities of the participants.
 
Yes, there is often a support crew and team members to talk to and joke with, to commiserate with and with whom to share the joy. However, these people didn’t just serve their countries, they served at the cost of lost limbs, at lost vision, and suffer from the trauma of PTSD. For many, the challenge of being able to compete in the Games is their way back from the brink.
 
 
There truly are others who have been through the same thing and that helps but each person deals with their own demons differently. Sometimes they have only themselves to lean on and that they do.
 
This adds perspective to my life when I think about the challenges I face. I can’t think of anything I have faced as daunting as these incredibly brave people. This make me try harder to resolve issues in business and to look for solutions, sometimes where solutions aren’t expected to be.
 
Relying on yourself doesn’t mean you can’t accept the help of someone else. It just means that sometimes you have to first dig deeper than you have before. It means you should expect more of yourself than you had previously. And it means that you are stronger than you thought when you settled; when you walked away without a solution.
 
Realize the power of one; the power of you and, as they say in the Invictus Games, be the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.]]>
<![CDATA[When Your Work Benefits Someone Else]]>Tue, 12 Sep 2017 16:52:04 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/when-your-work-benefits-someone-elseAs a business person, you want to do a good job to keep your customers happy, gain more traction in your industry by repeat recommendations, and make money. The weighting changes over time for each sector but those are probably the main goals.
 
What happens, however, when the end result of your work means that others may benefit more than you? Say you volunteer at a business networking event. You realize that your market segment or geographic service area doesn’t fit with the event. Do you bail out or do you go ahead?
 
I have had that happen, when I have spent time helping to organize an event and have been there shaking hands until the very end. I know the final result won’t benefit me as much as others, but still I forge ahead. I sometimes have a difference of opinion with colleagues about this. They are the ones who only do work that will directly benefit them. There is some merit in that, especially as an entrepreneur. However, that is not the only way to conduct business.
 
As I often say to people, I don’t know who I know. The same holds true for others. So if I am putting myself and my company out there, chances are someone will remember me. Maybe not that day or the day after, but at some point, someone will remember who I am and what I offer. They will hear of a company that needs my type of service and will say “hang on, I met someone who does that.”
 
You don’t think so? The world is small my friend, and this type of coincidence happens often enough that I am pretty confident putting it out there. I don’t worry about spending some of my networking time this way as I know eventually, it will help me out. It is hard enough to get volunteers for any type of event and you will be remembered for that as well.
 
Time is a precious commodity, I know. However, I think a situation such as this will reap benefits. Someone else may benefit this time but it won’t be time wasted. You can also think of it as a learning experience as the presenters may come up with some valuable information that you wouldn’t have found out otherwise.
 
Think about this the next time a similar situation arises. Sometimes it is good to take a chance.

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<![CDATA[​The Importance Of Being Flexible]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 00:36:55 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/the-importance-of-being-flexibleI have been writing a blog for almost five years. With maybe half a dozen exceptions, they have faithfully appeared every Monday. That is over 250 entries – nothing to sneeze at. However, some weeks I find it difficult to keep up the pace.
 
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I wear many hats and some weeks, all my hats are stacked one on top of the other. I created a stressful situation for myself by this deadline. Some weeks I find it difficult to be creative on Monday and feel I am not giving my readers the best of me. So I decided to be flexible.
 
There will still be a blog every week but it might not appear on Monday. Heck, it might not even appear Tuesday. There will be a blog each week but I have decided that the quality should trump not quantity, but timing.
 
So this is my official declaration. I have decided to be more flexible with my blog to provide a better product. My deadline was always self-imposed and for most of the time, the discipline was just what I needed when so many other things were beyond my control. I could say “well, I post a blog EVERY Monday.” Almost as a challenge to others.
 
I realize now that it isn’t a contest. It isn’t about who can be the most consistent or even the most prolific. This blog isn’t even about being the most anything. It is about providing insights, useful content and sometimes just something frivolous.
 
We are still on the road, but have just taken another turn. Hang on for the next turn.]]>
<![CDATA[Who's The Boss?]]>Mon, 28 Aug 2017 17:35:42 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/whos-the-bossDo you have trouble being the boss at your company? If you are a small company, it can be hard to be a boss when your first and second employees may have started out as friends. It is great to work with friends, but it is hard when it is not a level playing field.
 
Being the boss means you have to be able to separate the personal you from the professional you. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions that may not favour your employees. If you created your business from the ground up, you have everything at stake. Your employees, even if they are friends, don’t have the same vested interest. That is why it is important to make your decisions for the success of the company.
 
Does this sound a little cold-hearted? If you are in this position, you shouldn’t think so. You worked too hard to carve out a space in a competitive market. Don’t let emotions bring your company down.
 
While I have come to the realization that I can’t expect employees to put in as many hours as I do, I have to keep reminding myself of that. It is a constant process because I have invested a lot in the success of my business. Any employees can walk away and get a job somewhere else. I can’t because this is my baby, as it were.
 
When you are the boss, it is important for everyone to know the expectations. If you set the ground rules at the beginning, everyone will know where you stand. If you have to make some unpopular decisions, make sure everyone knows why you are doing what you do. They may not like it, but they should understand why.
 
As long as you follow that path, and keep reminding yourself that you are the boss, the road ahead should be smooth.]]>
<![CDATA[Have You Got The Space You Need?]]>Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:50:42 GMThttp://giraffegraphics.com/blog/have-you-got-the-space-you-needSo here you are, sitting in your home office wondering how to create a “meeting room” atmosphere. The dilemma of working from home is that you are, wait for it, in your home. Unless you have an office space right inside your front door, personal and professional will clash.
 
I work from home and do not have a situation like that so my office space access is gained by tripping through my hallway, living and dining rooms and through the kitchen. Then it is down the stairs, past the laundry area and finally, into my office. There is absolutely no mistaking my home office for anything but a home office.
 
My main saving grace in my business is that I promote the more personalized service of “at your doorstep”. I go to my clients so they don’t have to spend valuable time travelling. So far so good. But sometimes you need a space that truly is dedicated to business.
 
There is a proliferation of no-commitment office spaces that give you a place to work downtown or hold meetings. You can find a space for anywhere from one person to about 20 before the prices start to climb.  The choices are numerous from private office space to co-working space with a desk that locks and 24 hour access.
 
You can find space for under $300/month without signing your life away. If you need a professional place to start or grow your business with a downtown address, this might be your answer. You may not have the space at home, but you can still get the space you need.]]>