I’m sure we’ve all heard plenty of inspirational quotes, and we’ve probably got a short list of a few that we consider seriously significant. But every once in a while (read: now, while you’re reading this article for the first time), a collection of quotes comes along that is more than just quirky banter. These quotes are keepers; meaning they are actually much more useful when applied to your daily lives than when applied to paper.

1.) "It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

As important as this quote is, its principal may be one of the most overlooked. Working together is essential for progress. Businesses aren’t run by a single individual; they’re run as a team, and the most successful businesses are due to successful collaboration within that team. The more ideas you have floating around, the more options you have to choose from.

2.) "Politeness is the poison of collaboration." - Edwin Land

Collaboration require honesty, and politeness is often a nice way of being dishonest. If you don’t like an idea, speak up, and explain your reasoning. The more you hold things in, the more you are robbing the group of useful feedback.

3.) "The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other." - Thomas Stallkamp
It can be easy to move focus of a meeting to the individuals instead of a problem itself. It doesn’t matter who says what idea, or who has the biggest problem with a specific policy; if it’s one person’s problem it’s everyone’s problem.

4.) "We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some are bright, some have weird names, but we have to learn to live in the same box." - Anonymous

You do not always get to choose the people you will be collaborating with, but you still must learn to work together as a team. But don’t look at it in a bad way; for all you know that annoyingly bright crayon that sits in the office across from you could have some fantastic ideas.

5.) "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." - Ryunosuke Satoro

Think of this as a pointillism painting with each individual, uniquely different dot representing a part of the picture. The picture itself wouldn’t come together without all the individual dots. The reason there is a picture at all is because of a very specific combination of different point of color.

6.) "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller

In addition to the previous quote, just think of all the things we can do better together! One person protesting on the street looks like a crazy person, but 50 or 100 or 1000 people protesting the exact same thing in the same place creates a sense of organization and purpose. It’s the reason petitions and boycotts so often see results. Working together gets a message across.

7.) "Few things in life are less efficient than a group of people trying to write a sentence. The advantage of this method is that you end up with something for which you will not be personally blamed." - Scott Adams

People need ownership. They need to be able to tackle something with a sense of responsibility. Delegation is incredibly important when collaborating. Instead of assigning one large task to a group, consider breaking it up into smaller tasks that will be assigned to the individuals in the group.

8.) "Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part." - Casey Stengel

Sometimes a team’s chemistry is more important than the actual skills of the team members. Since this quote is in reference to baseball, I’m going to stay on that topic. The teams that make it to the post-season are not always the teams with the best players, they’re the teams that have figured out how to win with what they got. There is no room for egos in collaboration.

9.) "The purpose of life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is." - Gerhard Gschwandtner

Before the task of collaborating can even begin, it’s important to have a common goal in mind. Without it, everyone is going to be running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off! Identify the task everyone needs to be working towards, delegate, and begin problem solving. 

 
 
We all want to live up to our full potential, but as the saying goes, “The path to success is often under construction.” And it’s true; our path to reach our goals is most definitely going to be strewn with obstacles that we are going to have to overcome. We know this. We’re ready for this. But what happens when the obstacles begin multiplying? And we are the cause of it?

Believe it or not, many of your hindrances may be due to your own behavior or habits. So before we start stressing over how we are going to solve the problems that are already there, let’s take a look at three things that might be creating new ones right under your nose.

1.) You don’t plan. Not everyone is a planner, and often what we do plan tends to be what we enjoy. Personally, I love to cook, so planning meals for the week is a way of relaxing. Planning my workouts for the week, however, is a different story altogether.

The fact is you have to plan. Planning gives you a chance to see what obstacles might come your way, giving you time to think of possible solutions now, while you’re calm and clear-headed. It also gives you the opportunity to break a larger goal into smaller goals, lessening the weight of the overall task at hand. And if you don’t even know where to start, consider Canvas Creek. Strategic planning is one of the things we specialize in!

2.) You don’t make decisions. Making a decision sounds easy enough, but the truth is it can be downright paralyzing. The error many people make is seeing the two options in terms of “right and wrong” or “good and bad”. This creates difficulty because, most likely, there isn’t a bad decision, the two are just different. Instead, think of it as two positives. One option may be better than the other, but they are both possible solutions, and neither one is going to be perfect.

For example, if two roads lead to the same place, and one road has a pothole, does it really matter which road you take? Sure if you take the pothole road you might take a little longer, but is the difference in time really going to matter in the end? Probably not. Make a decision, stick to it and move on.

3.) You don’t delegate. Being able to delegate is essential. You can’t possible do everything (okay maybe you can, but you’re going to run yourself ragged), so you have learn how to lighten the load a little bit.

Take this as an example: one of the best rules in business is to surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses. Let’s take a look at a baseball coach. Maybe he is extremely skilled at teaching hitting mechanics but has a weak spot when it comes to teaching pitching mechanics; that’s why he would hire a pitching coach. It’s not because he isn’t knowledgeable about pitching, there is just someone else out there that is more knowledgeable, and delegating the pitching workouts to someone else frees up more time for him to work with the hitters. In the end, everyone benefits from having a pitching coach as part of the staff.  

 
 
Starting a business is tough, and keeping a business going can be tougher still. Not only are you in charge of everything, but you are also responsible for everything, which can feel like quite a burden. Don’t worry though; it’s all going to be all right. All you have to do is make yourself into the best businessperson you can, preparing yourself for dealing with the trials and tribulations that come with being your own boss. Here are three Essentials:

1.) Have a clear set of goals and values. Knowing what you want is essential of any business plan, but understand what you are willing to do to get there is an entirely different story. The area of business ethics seems to be quite an unspoken “guideline” to many companies, but the truth is it’s a component of doing business that’s extremely paramount.

Take my friend, for example, who runs an ice cream truck. All of her ice cream product comes from Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream, a locally owned and managed business. If she were to buy her product from Costco or Walmart, she could absolutely get it for a lower price (thereby increasing her profit ratio), but the quality just wouldn’t be the same. It’s worth it to her to serve only the best ice cream available, which has kept her customers coming back year after year.

Before you go into business, make sure you know where your values lie. That way, when a decision comes up that needs an immediate answer; you won’t have to waste valuable time deciding between the right option and the option that doesn’t mold with your business values.

2.) Communicate often and clearly. Any group of people, whether it’s a business, a family or just a close-knit group of friends cannot function properly without effective communication. That means make sure your clients and employees have a clear understanding of everything that is going on and everything that is required of them. Give customers frequent updates (when their product is set to arrive, how that architectural drawing they hired you to do is coming along), and give employees clear-cut instructions.

And don’t forget the most important part of effective communication: listening. It’s vital that you are listening to your customer’s wants and needs and your employee’s concerns and ideas. A successful business is an evolving business, and the best way to make sure you’re an evolving business is to have an open line of communication.

3.) Nip problems in the bud. It’s incredibly important to catch problems as they arise. Have there been some issues with your product arriving on time? Sit down and figure out if a different shipping schedule needs to be put into place. Is there an employee with a bad attitude? Bring them into your office and take care of it. Maybe they are going through a difficult time at home, or maybe there has just been a misunderstanding that needs to be straightened out. Either way, it’s important to make sure small problems don’t turn into larger, more significant (and more damaging) problems. 

What tips do you have for running a successful business
 
 
In today’s fast-paced business world, effective communication is everything. Without it, things can fall apart in a heartbeat. Combine that with the stress of today’s economy, where many employees are terrified of losing their jobs, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. So here are a few ways to ensure effective communication is taking place in your place of business.

1.) Listen. Yes, this means you are going to have to stop interrupting. By far the most important part of effective communication is listening to the other person. So many people are already forming ideas in their heads of what they want to say in return before the first person is done talking that they are missing out on important information. Give the speaker your undivided attention; it will be easier to make an informed decision when you have all the information anyway. 

2.) Have some perspective. This tip could also be called, “Know your audience.” Understand that it can be particularly difficult for an employee to communicate with their boss. Regardless of how warm or welcoming you attempt to be, you are still going to be at least slightly intimidating to your subordinates. Understanding where they are coming from will help you understand what they are trying to say, even if they are having a hard time getting it out.

3.) Be clear. One of the most important parts of effective communication is the communication part. Nothing is going to be resolved if you can’t actually articulate the information. Rambling for 20 minutes is only going to waste everyone’s time, so before you get started it might help to write down some bullet points, the main concept and a couple examples to help you illustrate your point (keep in mind you don’t need to use every example). Keep the information as short and simple as possible.

4.) Be open to ideas. Communication is a two-way street. If you ask for feedback and then become defensive with each critique, no one is going to want to voice their opinion. Likewise, if you need ideas for a project but laugh at the first idea to come your way, you’re going end up with very few ideas to look over. More so, understand that you don’t know everything. There are going to be ideas and concepts that you aren’t going to come up with. Someone else is going to have a brilliant idea once in a while, and don’t you want that person to be able to come to you when the genius strikes?

5.) Be genuine. No one wants to talk to a robot. Showing that you have a sense of humor and a warm heart will go a long way in making others feel comfortable around you. I’m not advocating an inappropriate amount of self-disclosure here, I’m just saying that it’s important for others to understand that yes, in fact, you are a fellow human being.

What are your tips for effective communication?

 
 
Ah, the age old battle between productivity and procrastination. I have to admit, I’m quite skilled in creating a clever way to avoid boring tasks that need to be done, but at some point even I have to just bear down and do it. There are a few things that tend to help though, so here are my top 10. 

1.) Be healthy. This means you need to eat well, get enough sleep and make sure to make time to exercise regularly. Feeling unproductive can be a vicious cycle; you feel exhausted so you don’t exercise, so you feel even more exhausted. Go for a run in the morning or a swim after work, eat an apple with peanut butter for your midmorning snack and get to bed at a reasonable time. All of this pays off dividends in the end.
2.) Make a list, prioritize it and stick to it! Making a list of everything you need to get done is a great way to jumpstart your productivity. Often, just seeing everything written down and organized (instead of jumbled up in your head) will help you calm down. Put your most urgent and important tasks at the top, and get started. And feel free to use a little secret of mine; write down a few things that you have already done and cross them off. Look; you’ve already made some progress!

3.) Make a schedule. That means setting 2 or 3 constant times to check your email. Checking it constantly throughout the day is a huge productivity killer. 

4.) Time each task. Setting a goal for how long you’ll work often makes a task less overwhelming. Think about it; instead of telling yourself, “Okay, I’m going to work for 10 hours today,” say, “I’m going to spend the next 30 minutes working on this spreadsheet.” At the end of the 30 minutes, re-evaluate, and set another timed goal.

5.) Remove distractions. While you may think you work better with the television on, basic psychological principles beg to differ. Your brain has to use energy to focus on each individual thing going on around it, so that background noise is actually taking up valuable energy. It’s the same reason it’s recommended to focus on one specific job rather than multi-tasking.

6.) Think, “Would I miss this?” This is a simple trick to be able to tell if you’re procrastinating or not. If you think about everything you’re trying to do in a day, would you miss the current task you’re working on? If you didn’t get a chance to play that game of solitaire, would your day really suffer for it? Probably not. 

7.) Stay positive. As stressful as you may be, remember, you’re making progress. You have more done now than you did this morning, and you’ll have more done in a few hours than you do right now. 

8.) Do what you love. You really should love what you’re doing, even if it’s not particularly enjoyable at the moment. Make sure you’re thinking big picture; writing that report may be daunting, but it’s going to be putting you one step closer to your dream job, right? And spending hours analyzing statistics may sound dreadful, but if the results could help make a positive difference, isn’t it all worth it? And if you can’t find any enjoyment out of what you are doing, it might be time for a different list of priorities.

9.) Reward Yourself. If you’ve been good at sticking to your to-do list, make sure you reward yourself at the end of the day. Personally, I might choose to watch one of my favorite television programs with a glass of wine, completely undisturbed, meaning no email

10.) Just DO it already. Yes, you have to take the first step! Turn off the television, put your cell phone to the side, get a glass of water, make a list and get going!

What are some tips you have for being productive?
 
 
The Art of Collaboration

“I loved making a decision by myself!” is the first thing I heard when Susan stepped away from the completed canvas.   The second thing I heard was from Todd; a loud, unmistakable, “ugh.”  Todd rolled his eyes and then smiled because it was just ‘so Susan.’  Apparently, she had to ask everyone’s opinion before she could settle down and get some work done, get dressed for a party, or decide what to order for supplies.  Todd, on the other hand, didn’t need opinions; he just wanted to get some work done and often went his own way and avoided Susan with her endless neediness. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?   There is an art to collaboration and few people are artists, which is why Canvas Creek Team Building actually uses art for their premier event.  When people step to the canvas, 95% of them have no interest in painting, no idea what they are going to do, and no reason to become engaged in the process other than the directive “you will be there at 9am” from their boss.  They come with reluctance, much like Todd when entering a conversation with Susan. 

It’s what happens in the next few minutes that is important.  After beginning the task, participants act in a completely singular fashion until they realize, often with baffling surprise that others could help them complete the task.  They wrestle with this idea for a while then they begin to work together, leaning on each other, supporting each other and finally presenting a completed piece of art they are truly proud of. 

This is exactly what is needed in the development of an energy frontier: the act of recognizing others are available with expertise, complimentary abilities and an eye on collaboration.  Collaboration is not the act of indecision or ram rodding an idea, it is the display of ideas, the collective wisdom of those gathered together and the delightful moment when everything comes together for a win that each person has a stake in and can be proud of.  So, how can collaboration be accomplished?

1. Look at the possibilities-what could be accomplished if you had a bigger team, more players or a different skill set.  

2. Know what you do, and what you offer.

3. Listen to what others do, what they offer.

4. Give up ‘ownership’.  When collaborating, it does not matter who came up with the idea or who will get the credit.  You must know that when everyone participating in the process wins, you also win.  There are few things in this world that are so specific that only you can do them.  Embrace that.  Help others and they will help you.

5. Move; get out of the way.  Collaboration moves fast and it gets things done.  Don’t stand in the way with “it’s not how we do things” or “oh gosh, I don’t know.” Jump in and see what can happen and trust the collective knowledge…or don’t play the game. 

6. Appreciate others.  Share applause.  Know that together you are accomplishing what you could not have done alone, whether a multi- billion dollar company or a start -up, say “Thank you for your help,” and mean it.  You are collaborating and it feels good.

If you and the people you are collaborating with would like a dose of creative juices (a jump start to your collective success), try jumping into Canvas Creek.  Like a splash of cold water it will refresh you, energize you and teach you the art of collaboration. 
 
 
While you may think this seems like a topic that is only applicable to small business owners, think again. What about your daughter that’s in Girl Scouts? Or your son that will be selling coupon books around town in for his baseball team? What about that fundraiser at work you’re throwing? No matter what walk of life you’re involved in, knowing how to increase sales when you need to is quite a valuable skill.

1.) Have a goal. Simply saying, “I want to sell as many cupcakes today as I can!” may seem like a good idea, but you’re probably setting yourself up for smaller sales numbers. Instead, create a realistic goal that you would like to achieve, and then break that down into smaller goals. For example, maybe you’d like to sell 100 cupcakes by the end of the bake sale. That means, if you’re going to be there for 4 hours, that you need to sell cupcakes per hour. This smaller goal will let you know if you are on track to make your larger end objective or if you are falling off the pace.

2.) Create an incentive. Sure, just the small fact that you’re bringing in money by selling your product seems like a great incentive, but adding a different dimension, like making it a competition could really up your game. Going back to our bake sale example, maybe you have two tables set up. So create a competition between the two tables. Whichever tables sells fewer cupcakes has to take the other table out for lunch after the sale.

3.) Try to upsell. A classic example of an upsell is “supersizing.” They’ve already bought the product (maybe it’s an electronic device), so an upsell would be asking, “And do you want the two year warranty with that as well?” If you aren’t attempting to upsell, you’re missing out on quite a bit of business.

4.) Be good to your customers. Someone who sells a crappy product will only be in business for so long. The fact is, if customers feel like they’re being duped, they may give you a chance to prove otherwise, but it’s very rare that they would come back after being burned. So make sure to treat them right. Don’t push a product on someone that they clearly don’t need, and don’t push a product on someone that clearly can’t afford it. The end goal isn’t to sell as much as you can in one shot, the end goal is to make sure your business is in good standing with the customer so that they’ll think of you next time they need a similar service or product.

5.) Increase leads. You aren’t going to have much business if you don’t get out there and make a name for yourself! As a writer, it’s pretty unlikely that I am going to find work through people stumbling across a random article of mine. Instead, it’s much more productive to reach out to potential clients, inform them of my services and explain how I can help their business. If you run a carpet cleaning company, for example, don’t just put your number in the phone book, reach out to local property management companies and ask if they will recommend you for services when tenants move out. Every little bit helps.

How do you increase sales in different areas of your life?  

 
 
Running a household can be tough. From keeping track of everyone’s schedule to making sure everyone is keeping track of their own schedule, things can get a little tricky. Here’s where a little teamwork and planning becomes very, very, useful. 

1.) Have clearly defined roles and values, and stick to them.
If you’d like to pass on the value that it’s best to offer help before someone has to ask for it, then demonstrate it. Things can get very confusing when the “Do as I say, not as I do” mantra is practiced. If you want your kids to stand up for themselves, laugh off the little things, or put something away when they’re done using it, than you should try your best to do those things too. 

2.) Delegate.
One of the reasons many families have an unnecessary amount of stress is that one person is doing all the work. Maybe the mother is working full time as well as keeping the house clean, dropping off and picking up the kids from school activities, making dinner, doing the grocery shopping, and much, much more. In this case, it can be hard for anyone else to even begin to help. They don’t know what to do. 

So define the roles. Maybe it’s the 12 year-old’s job to make sure the dishes are done and the table is set, the 15 year-old’s job to make sure the animals are fed and the living room is vacuumed. When one parent comes to home to make dinner, it’s the other parent’s job to pick up the kids from soccer practice. When everyone pitches in, everything gets a little easier. 

3.) Communicate.
As advanced as modern science and technology is, it still hasn’t cracked the code that would allow us all to be mind-readers. If you or another member of your family is unhappy with the status-quo, something needs to be said, and in order for that to happen, a welcoming and non-judgmental environment needs to be set in place. 

But since it’s tough to just outright say something (we all still struggle with it), help each other out. Just a simple, “How was your day?”is enough to get the ball rolling. Showing that you’re interesting and concerned with each other’s lives will help each other feel connected and valued. 

4.) Point out the good.
It’s such a small gesture, but it goes so far in keeping your family a close-knit group. “I saw you got an ‘A’ on that last test, great job,” or “Awesome job with dinner tonight, that was delicious,” is a simple way to show you care.

5.) Be polite and respectful.
Everyone is going to get testy at one point or another. It’s a simple fact that families are chaotic and not everyone is happy all the time, but as long as you agree to be respectful (that means no namecalling, under any circumstance), things are much likely to smooth over. 

Oh and “please” and “thank-you” never hurt anyone. 

How do you help your family function?
 
 
Buying a new home can be quite a stressful process; there are so many things to take into consideration! From its proximity to your work or your child’s school, to the security of the neighborhood to the validity of the home inspection, the amount of thought that goes into buying a home can cause anyone to lose a few hours of sleep each night. 

So let’s simplify this. Let’s take a look at some of the unwanted pressures of buying a home, and how to correctly navigate them. 

1.) Define your reasons for buying a home.
If you’re looking to buy a home because you really have an urge to paint and design a living room, you might want to hold off a bit. Buying a home is a huge commitment, one that you may spend the next 30 years paying off. On the other hand, if you’ve researched the pros and cons of buying a home (how it’s going to affect your taxes, if you’re able to handle being responsible for all maintenance concerns, etc) you might be ready to take the first step. 

2.) Get your finances in order.
Nothing adds more stress to a home-buying situation quicker than financial uncertainty. You might find the perfect home but not be able to make an offer because the bank hasn’t finished processing your loan paperwork yet, or you might end up looking at houses only to have your dreams crushed when you discover you qualified for a much lower amount than you thought you did. Before you start your search, make sure you know where you stand
 
3.) Hire an agent. Trying to tackle the process of buying a home without the help of an experienced real estate agent is often setting yourself up for disaster. An agent will know the up-and-coming neighborhoods, the current state of the housing market and other things that you might want to consider (a swimming pool is great, but are you aware of the maintenance costs?). They will also help you make a strong first offer and negotiate properly to get the home of your dreams. In addition, they often have a significant list of contacts that will be able to help you in your process, such as a great home inspector. 

4.) Cancel out the naysayers. Buying a home is often like planning a wedding; there is going to be countless people who think they know best and want you to take their opinion. Thing is though their opinions aren’t always facts. Your mother-in-law might comment that the house you’re looking at is far too overpriced in this market, but in reality she probably doesn’t know the real estate climate at this time and the cost of that home could be perfectly reasonable. Just be sure to have a reliable real estate agent, as well as…

5.) Trust your gut. If you walk into a home, and it just doesn’t “feel right,” it’s probably not the home for you. Sure it might be the right size, have a backyard like you asked and be in your price range, but if you’ve got a gut feeling that it’s not a good fit, it’s probably not. When you find the home of your dreams, you’ll know it.
 
 

Starting your own business
is often a dream many of us share. The thought of being your own boss, making your own schedule, and most importantly, creating something you're proud of, are all some of the major benefits of owning your own business. Small question though, how do you get started? 

1.) Have an idea. Every business starts with a product or a service, so do you feel you have something to offer? Maybe you love cleaning and feel like you can clean a house better than anyone you know, so you're thinking of opening a maid service. Maybe you're a fantastic chef and have worked in kitchens your whole life and feel like it's time to run a restaurant of your own. Maybe you live in a community that could seriously benefit from a dog-walking service. In any case, make sure you have an idea of what kind of business you would get involved in. 

2.) Write a business plan. A business plan will help you decide what you need to do now and where you want things to go. It would be great if your business is successful, but if it begins growing faster than you expected and you aren't ready for the increase in demand, it could crumble what was originally a great start.

3.) Research business requirements in your area.
Your state may require different licensures and certifications than the next state over, so it's important to know exactly what you need to do in your area. And if you need to choose a location, there might be specific zoning regulations that affect what you can have inside your building or what kind of construction your building can undergo. 

In addition, it's going to be important to determine the legal structuring of your business (LLC or an S-Corporation?) and register for state and federal taxes. It may even be necessary to get a tax identification number. There are also going to be different rules and regulations regarding how you go about hiring employees. 

4.) Finance your business. A well written business plan will be able to help you determine what kind of start up money you'll need to get your business off the ground. There are many options to financing your own business, from using money you have in savings, to taking out a business loan to finding local or government grants to help with small businesses. 

5.) Train yourself and your employees. No matter what line of work you are in, there is almost always some sort of training that you or your employees could benefit from. You'll want to make sure any employees you hire are ready for the job they're going to be doing, otherwise your business could collapse before it even gets started. 

6.) Go for it! Starting a business can be a daunting task, but as long as you go
about it the right way (doing your research, making sure you're well organized,
etc), you'll have a better idea of the steps you need to take.

Good luck!