Written by Lori Thiessen

Why, hello there! I know it’s been months since I’ve posted anything here and before I unveil the continuing plans for this project, I just want to say thank you to all of my dear readers who have continued to drop by this space for a sip of virtual coffee and a chance to add to the conversation about working out of coffee shops. I always learn so much from my fellow coffee shop office colleagues!

To sum up what has been happening with me in the last few months, I’ve had to handle the three big D’s of life: divorce, death and disease. Sound dramatic? Well, it has been kinda dramatic. Oh, and add in a move plus renovations. I’m really surprised that I can even remember my name. Thankfully, my coffee mug has my name printed on it in big, friendly letters. That’s a clip ‘n save tip for all those going through afge moments, and quite frankly who among us isn’t. (By the way, afge stands for “another frigging growth experience”)

Anyway, enough about me. Onto the project.

The main points of the project haven’t changed.

  • investigating and reporting on the trend of people using coffee shop offices as their alternative or preferred office.
  • creating a space for coffee shop office workers to talk about their experiences.
  • producing a book on the findings.

I’m looking to have a proper website build for the project so that everything (blogs, the survey, discussion space, etc.) can be in one place. The website the project currently has is pretty amateurish because it was built by an amateur web designer — me! The book continues to be in process, a slow process, but continuing.

The survey will be re-designed and shrunk considerably for greater ease of participation and less risk of carpul tunnel syndrome setting in for those brave enough to answer all 38 multi-part questions of the current survey.

In the meantime, I’m back. I’m blogging. I’m working on the rim — of my coffee shop office mug, that is!

Thanks for your continuing support — and drop by for a fresh cup of virtual coffee and conversation anytime!

Written by Lori Thiessen

These days I sometimes wonder if I exist in the ‘real’ world because so much of my life and the lives of those with whom I am in contact take place online, in virtual reality. So it is a no-brainer to look seriously at personal branding in the online world.

Step 1 – Google Your Name

Sometimes your personal branding has already been done and maybe not by you. Check and see what’s out there about you. If there is anything that you are not entirely proud of, see about getting the info removed. If you’ve been tagged in a Facebook photo album and it’s not something you want a client to see, then untag yourself. There are software programs available to remove anything you don’t want online anymore.  Check out this Consumers Report on 5 of these programs.

Step 2 – Choose Your Social Media

With the oodles of different sites out there, it can be difficult to choose. I would urge you to be selective. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Time management – how many sites can you realistically update on a regular basis? There is a site called krunchd.com which will help you manage your online life, social media included.
  • Work vs. Personal – are you using the social media sites mostly for business or pleasure? Whatever the answer, err on the side of caution and keep all of your online communications g-rated and THINK before you hit that send button.
  • Specialization – the world of social media is so big now that it is important to choose your niche and stick to it. This is the best way to become an expert in your industry and to network well within your industry.
  • Security and Privacy – how secure is your information on any given site? This is a particularly thorny issue at the moment given the recent hacker attacks on Facebook, though given the low level of public response  most people seem to be largely unconcerned.

I would suggest that LinkedIn.com and Facebook are good ‘foundation’ sites for your online presence. Personally, I’m not that keen about Twitter, though I realize that many people feel that life without Twitter is akin to life without breathing. If you use Twitter, make sure that you keep your tweets professional and g-rated.  People are rapidly becoming re-acquainted with the phrase “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Just because you can say something to the entire world, doesn’t mean you should.

Step 3 – Words and Images

The key here is, you guessed it, professionalism. The photo you have up on any social media site should reflect the image you want to create. After all, clients or potential employers will likely be Googling you to get a first impression of you. Make it count.

Now I haven’t followed this advice for my own Facebook page. I rarely have a picture of myself up there. I use ‘masks’ of various sorts.  Frankly, I don’t like any photos of me taken in the last few years, and to be truthful, I have this paranoid notion that someone will download my image and steal my identity.  After having taking my paranoia in hand, I will have a decent photo of me taken and put up on my Facebook page in the near future.

As for words, well, I think your profile should reflect the best of who you are. You may want to put in your mission statement, your interests and perhaps even state what your values are. But most of all sound like yourself.

I’ve broken, oh, I don’t know how many blogging rules by using large words, using archaic words, writing longish posts and incorporating some esoteric references in them. BUT it is a reflection of who I am and my wide-ranging interests. If we all write alike, then we all sound alike.

First and foremost, personal branding is about self-awareness. Resist the temptation to brand yourself into a clone of someone else. I know a lot of secrets of success books would like us to think that success is simply a formula and if you follow that formula, ergo you will be successful. At the end of the day, you need to be fully and wholly yourself for success to have meaning.

Step 4 – Monitor Your Brand

Set up Google alerts with your name to keep track of how your name is being bandied about in cyberspace. If you don’t control your brand, someone else will.

So there you have it, folks; a quick look at the world of personal branding online. The main things to keep in mind are: keep it manageable, keep it professional and above all keep your brand yours.

Below are a few other resources to help you with managing your personal branding online.

  • plaxo.com – much like LinkedIn, it is a site geared towards career, work and networking.
  • zoominfo.com – a directory of people and businesses. Check your listing.
  • Google.com – a site to get a free email account and tools to help you manage your online life.

Q: What tools have you found useful in managing your online life?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

In 1997, management expert and author Tom Peters wrote an article for Fast Company Magazine introducing the concept of personal branding in the article called ” The Brand Called You”. Twelve years on and we are inundated with information on what it is, why you need do it and how to do it. Here are the bare-bones basics to get you started.

What is Personal Branding?

Simply put, it encapuslates who you are, what you do and what values you bring to the table that separate you from the rest.  The elements of personal branding range from your mission statement, your online presence (or lack of one), how you dress both in and out of the office and what your values are.

Why You Need to Invest in Personal Branding?

While doing research for this post, I came across a number of experts who said that personal branding was important now more than ever during this economic downturn. If the boss can remember you clearly and in a positive way, chances are you will hang onto your job. Or be hired for a job. Or if you are an entrepreneur then a client might be more inclined to hire you over the 3 other people she interviewed to do the work she wants done.

I think personal branding is important to work through because it will help you to know yourself. Knowing yourself is important because then you will be able to be clear about where you stand in the world, what you want out of life and what you are truly willing to do to get it. Or as Georgina Laidlaw, contributor to Webworker Daily,  observed “Personal branding could be another phrase for self-awareness”.  I would add to that personal branding is self-awareness clearly communicated to the public.

Authors over the centuries have been extolling the virtues of  self-awareness. Here are just two for you to mull over:

This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day; Thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare, Hamlet I.iii

Self-reverence, self knowledge, self-control. These three alone lead life to sovereign power. — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

How to Develop Your Personal Brand

Well, this is a big topic these days.  To get you started, take pen and paper, block out at least 1/2 hr to begin with, go to a place that allows you to think well and answer the following question: Who am I?

If the question is too overwhelming and daunting, then break it down. What are the positive things that friends and family say about you? Are you funny, considerate, organized, etc.?

Look at past reference letters. What do they say about you? What do your current co-workers say about you?

What are your values? Are you a ‘family first’ person? Do you value loyalty? If so, how important is it to you?

The next few posts will continue on the quest for personal brand development. But if you are keen to explore this topic on your own, here are a few resources to help you on your quest.

Books

In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success by Dan Schwabel

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

Blogs

Personal Branding Blog by Dan Schwabel

The Personal Branding Blog by William Arruda and contributors

Webworker Daily “Personal Branding vs. Self-Awareness” by Georgina Laidlaw

Q: What do you think about personal branding?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

I’m so old that I remember a time when branding just meant taking a fresh-from-the-fire hot piece of metal and searing it into the hides of poor, unsuspecting cows.

Branding has now become the by-word on everybody’s lips as THE way to succeed in business. While I don’t think it is the only element in a successful business, it is necessary to distinguish yourself from the herd, so to speak.

Remember that the average attention span has decreased considerably and the load of media stuff coming at us all the time has increased exponentially. And, yes Virginia, there is a correlation between the two.  So your  business brand needs to sear the brain matter of your potential clients like the flame-red brand on a cow hide.  Can your potential clients feel the sizzle of your brand?

When Gregg and I started the Coffee Shop Office Project, neither of us were strong on the branding (marketing) side of business. We knew we had to do it but didn’t know exactly what it meant or how to do it. So we just tried to choose a name that would kind of say who we were and what we did. Then we stopped.

In an effort to get our branding sorted out, I’ve been doing some research on the topic. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Definition of branding, according to the American Marketing Association:

name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

1. Part of brand development means you have to pin down exactly what your business does. This may seem like a no-brainer but sit down with your trusty paper and pen and list everything your company does and how it delivers its products and services. It will take a while, trust me.

2. Imagine what your ideal client is like. Who are they? Where do they do business? What are their values? Where do they hang out the most? How will your product/service fit in with their lifestyle?

3. If your business was a person, what would it be like? What are its values? What kinds of attributes does it possess? meticulous professionalism, laid back , fun, urbane, ecological, etc.

4. Are you really comfortable with the personality you developed for your company? If you aren’t,  you may want to re-think it.

5. Compare the personalities of your ideal client and your company. How well do they match up? If they don’t match up that well, then you might want to re-think it.

6. Choose a name that reflects the personality of your company.

7. Create a tag line that reflects the personality of the company and also says what it offers. Think of it as your business’ pick-up line; the better the pick-up line, the more clients’ attention you will hold.

There are oodles of information on branding out there in old-fashioned book form and online.  As a starting point, check out the article:  What is Branding and How Important is it to Your Marketing Strategy? By Laura Lake at about.com.

Also, if you are looking for a real, live person to give you some help, I can recommend Liz Gaige of Marketing Navigators (http://www.marketnavigators.ca). Gregg and I hired her to help us with our branding confusion. She guided us to a clearer vision of what we wanted to project to do and how to achieve it. We just haven’t made the time to implement those ideas. Anybody know a professional butt-kicker?

Even though Liz is based in Vancouver, thanks to the wonders of technology, you may be able to engage Liz’s service in the virtual realm.

I would recommend hiring a marketing strategist overall if you are feeling fuzzy about how to brand your business. Achieving greater clarity is worth the time and money. It’s an investment in your business.

Branding takes a while to get right but in the end being clear about what your business does can pay major dividends. I believe it will help you work more effectively and calmly because you know exactly what your company does and who your clients are.

It also helps your client to know your company better.  The more familiar a client feels with a company the more likely they are to use your company’s products/services again and again, and they will recommend their friends and family. Bottom line–more efficient, effective branding could lead to repeat business which equals increased revenue.

Q: What books or online resources on branding have you found most useful?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

I came across this great post about how to be at your office without actually being there. Sounds magical and mysterious but it ain’t. Harry Potter fans can put away their spell books and wands and read on.

Jonathon Wilson wrote into Lifehacker.com that he uses Skype and VNC (virtual network computing) to simulate his presence in the office.

Wilson still has his cubicle at work and in the cubicle is a computer that is programmed to pick up automatically when he dials in on Skype.  The monitor at work connects with his desktop at home through VNC.

The upshot of all of this is that with the Skype connection, people at the office can stop by the cubical and chat with Wilson as if he was really there. The bonus feature is that he can listen to the office chatter going on around him. So that’s the old isolation problem sorted.

With the VNC connection, Wilson’s bosses and co-workers can see what he’s doing because his desktop is visible on the monitor in the office. Cool, eh? That’s the old productivity/supervision problem sorted.

Plus Wilson gets to miss the commute and the lunchtime rush out to the local fast food joints.

Though I wonder why Wilson is working through Skype and not a webcam? Inappropriate attire, one wonders? Hmmm. Perhaps it’s more cost efficient to work with Skype and not a webcam feed.

Nevertheless, I congratulate Jonathon Wilson on his clever and effective plan to make remote working really work for himself.

Q:  Do you know of other cost effective and efficient ways to connect remote to your co-workers?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

written by Lori Thiessen

As cafe commuters, our lives tend to rest solidly on technology and our ability to get information to clients at the agreed upon time.

The Mac or PC debate has been raging since the two systems were invented and developed. Which is the better system?

Just as people will defend (almost) to the death the superiority of say, their dentist over another person’s dentist, so will MAC and PC users vociferously advocate for their system of choice.

I must come clean on where I stand in this debate. I’ve been a PC user since I succumbed to the fact that computers were here to stay and I had to learn how to use ’em. My pathetic reason for being a PC user is that I learned on one and I’m used to it.  Over the years, I’ve not only learned how to use a PC but I’ve even become enamored of and far too reliant on its usefulness in carrying on my business and social life.

While MAC’s have cornered the market on sheer eye-appeal (you have to admit that MAC’s are pretty sexy looking) and their North American ads are clever as can be,  the anti-MAC brigade seems to score a few solid points.

The points being:

*program compatibility. As Adam McNutt pointed out in his critique of QuickBooks (see comments), he can’t send QB info from his MAC to his account who uses a PC.  I’ve run into other similar problems when trying to cross the MAC/PC divide when it comes to programs. Although, I understand it’s getting better now.

*not able to modify MAC OS easily.

*MAC is good at graphic design stuff but not other apps.

*according to a rather rude column by Charlie Brookner of the Guardian newspaper, MAC is ‘a Fisher-Price activity centre for grown-ups’. Which roughly translated, means that MAC is for fun and PC is for serious people who want to do business.

*MAC’s one-button mouse sucks.

*MAC’s are not easy to upgrade.

If you want to know where I, a computer illiterate, got my MAC info, look no further than an editorial by CBC’s own Paul Jay and his article entitled, “Mac vs. PC, the editorial smackdow“, as well as the many, many comments from his readers.

PC’s do have their flaws, I grant you. They are prone to viruses. The security is lax or non-existent sometimes.  And they do crash or hang from time to time — ah save me from the blitzkrieg of the blue screen of death! But in my experience it isn’t that often.

Basically, the debate boils down to people’s preferences. MAC is good for the click-‘n-go crowd and PC is the choice for those who like to tinker and customize.  That’s a very simplistic summary but apt, I believe.

As I commented earlier in this post, I’m no computer guru so if you are please feel free to comment. A couple of guidelines though, please don’t go on at great length and please don’t be rude.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Since the last few posts have had a distinctly modern flavour, I thought I’d mix it up a bit and give you a wee drop of history. This post was  the first post published on the Caffe Culture, the companion blog to Coffee Shop Office.

Imagine you are a bright but poor young man in 18th century London looking for information about what it would cost to insure the cargo on a ship bound from the West Indies. Or, perhaps you want to learn French but you can’t go to university or Frances for that matter. Maybe you fancy listening to some new music but you can’t afford the cost of a concert. Looking for work in the great Metropolis? Where would you go?

For all of these things, a bright young man would go to a coffeehouse. It served at the hub of networking and information exchange. At one point, there were approximately 500 registered coffeehouses in London. Each coffeehouse catered to a different social or economic group. To find the information you needed just go to the appropriate coffeehouse.

It’s a bit like how we use the internet today, only today we can set up our laptops in one coffeehouse and have the information flow through the Wifi to our screens.

The coffee itself was quite nasty by some contemporary accounts, so it wasn’t the brew that was important to coffeehouse customers it was the “extras” that the coffeehouse provided, like a place outside the rowdy pub to talk with friends about serious issues, a place to meet new and interesting people or make those all so critical networking connections for work. It was the 18th century’s public living room, rec room, and newspaperstand-cum-library.

Though the modern day coffee shop hasn’t quite got the same rep of its distant relative, today’s coffee shop doesn’t just brew coffee. It is a place to socialize, to work out of, and to be entertained by musicians among other things.

Yet hang onto your thumb drives, kids, ‘cos, the coffee shop of today might be giving the coffeehouse of 18th England a run for its money as THE place to be in our modern metropolises.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!