Op Ed . . . Be Prepared

By Lindy Earl

Be Prepared.  It’s not just for the Boy Scouts.  You need to be prepared for anything.  Let’s discuss some key points of business and life for which you need to be prepared on a daily basis.

One way of being prepared is being organized.  Find a system that works for you, whether it’s a list, agenda, calendar, or sticky notes.  But, this system won’t do you any good at all if you don’t keep it updated.  To do that, you need to keep it with you at all times.  When someone suggests getting together, immediately pull out your phone/calendar/whatever and make a date, complete with time and location.  Business is lost when immediate follow through isn’t put into effect.  Even when you try to call them later and suggest you’d like to put something on the calendar now, they’ve had time to rethink it, or realized how busy they were, and you lost the opportunity.

Make sure you can intelligently discuss what you do, in an intriguing way that will want to make people speak with you, in less than a minute. Rehearse this with a friend or co-worker.  If you’re in Sales, find a way to make it interesting, or people will run as soon as you mention the word.  If you have a job title that is unclear, offer the definition before someone needs to ask for it, so they don’t feel uneducated asking what it means.

You need to know your products and services so well that you can summarize them in less than a minute, but give a 10 minute presentation without thinking.  You never know when you’ll be given an opportunity to sell, so know your stuff.  I’m continually amazed by people who need to read their elevator speeches at networks, and they own their own company. If you can’t discuss your own company, you’re working for the wrong person.

In order to be prepared for anything, you need to remember names and titles of people with whom you come into contact.  A few facts, such as where you originally met or last worked together, helps greatly.  The most beautiful sound in the world is the sound of your own name, when it correctly pronounced — make people like you by remembering their names.

You need to watch your vernacular in the professional world.  I can’t count how many people have lost clients because of some inappropriate language they chose to use, when it really wasn’t necessary.  Just yesterday I introduced two colleagues, and one used a naughty word, and the other commented on her language later, when we were alone.  He’ll never use or recommend this woman, based on her word choice.  Worse, she has no clue that it was inappropriate and that she lost a potential client, plus referrals, because of her language.

In addition to inappropriate words, it behooves you to improve your vocabulary in general.   Stronger words make for a stronger impression and presentation.  Delete even questionable words from your vocabulary and replace them with strong and intelligent nouns and verbs.

Part of being prepared is remembering you are always on stage.  You are constantly being watched by your family, neighbors, colleagues, and clients.  To that end, always dress appropriately.  I know it’s been a long day, but the chinos instead of the jeans say a lot, and really aren’t any less comfortable.  The closed toes shoes, ladies, aren’t as glamorous, sexy, or glitzy, but they are more professional.  How you dress is your first non-verbal communication with the world—be prepared to share a professional image even before you meet someone.

Make it a habit to return emails and phone calls within 24 hours.  Don’t say it on your answering machine, just do it.  First, it’s courteous.  Second, it’s professional.  Third, it may be profitable.  You never know where a lead will lead so you really can’t always know where the call or email is going to go until you’ve explored it.

Being prepared means doing new and different things.  If you’re always attending the same lunches and networks, then you’ll always be meeting the same people and discussing the same topics.  Find new opportunities and commit to try them for a few months, because you really can’t know much after one meeting.

One thing over which we all have control, although it doesn’t always show, is our attitude.  Begin every day by choosing to have a positive attitude.  You can choose visualization exercises, read something inspiring, or whatever it takes to ensure your attitude is positive.  Whether you have a positive or negative attitude, it shows.

The last point coincides with the next part of being prepared, and that’s to decide in advance to do well.  Again, the visualization and memories of past successes will help.  In order to be prepared, you need to prepare yourself to be successful, because success breeds a lot of work, and you have to be ready for it.

This point may surprise some people but you need to be prepared to be ethical.  Decide now, and write it down, that you will avoid any hint of wrongdoing, long before there is any chance of error.  Then, if an opportunity does come along, you won’t take time to question what to do, because the decision will already be made.  Forewarned is forearmed, right?

A huge part of being prepared is determining to listen more than you speak.  You may sound brilliant sharing your knowledge, but that may not help you prepare for the next step.  Share the knowledge you need to share, but be quick to listen to both verbal and non-verbal communication.  I’ve seen people rant on and on with an answer, until the listeners are sorry they ever asked.  Answer and move on, being careful to listen well.

Finally, in order to be prepared, we need to pay attention.  This is one payment that doesn’t cost us financially—or does it?  Paying attention now prepares us for the future.  For instance, when introduced to someone, if you really pay attention to their name, company, and title, you’ll remember it later when you need to introduce them to someone, or you want to contact them again.  The more you concentrate and pay attention to life while it’s happening, the better your memory will be when you need to retrieve the information.

Again, the Boy Scouts had it right – Be Prepared…for life.

Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant.

*Contact her at LMEarl@EarlMarketing.com to have her Speak or Consultant at your organization.

* Contact her at Ask@LindySpeaks.com to submit a question for her Advice Column or hire her as a Consultant or to speak at your next event.

* Find her on Face Book and join the group,  Single Again: From Devastation to Dating, on FB.

* Purchase her latest book, Surviving Holidays and Events After Divorce at

http://www.lindyspeaks.com/Products.html for $8.00 (half off Amazon’s price).