Reduce headaches, delight your clients and amp your creativity

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My beloved art station. Pardon the crooked angle of the photo. 🙂

My kids are art fanatics. It doesn’t matter the medium – pen, crayon, paint, clay, even lipstick — there is nothing they would rather do than spend hours making things.

The center of our home is the family room/kitchen, where most activity takes place. As soon as the kids wake up (about 5:30 usually), they want to go downstairs and start making stuff.

I have always kept art supplies in the cabinet above our kitchen counter. I suppose in the early years it was to keep my toddlers from making a mess, but as they got older, I didn’t think to change the location.

So at a rate of at least 5 times a day, I would be asked:

“Mom, where is the paper?”

“Where did the crayons go?”

“Do we have any clay left?”

Or, I would find one of my kids perched precariously on tiptoes on a chair, reaching for supplies in the overstuffed cabinet, one inch away from tumbling off and breaking an arm.

When the kids got tired of working on a project, they would leave the paper and art supplies all over the counter or kitchen table.

“Hey guys, put this away!” I would say, with my frustrated Mom tone.

“We can’t reach the cabinet!” they would say with a glint in their eyes, as they watched me put it away for them.

It drove me nuts.

But despite this frustration, I let this go on for years.

Until one day, I saw a picture of a metal shelving unit with some clear plastic containers on it. The containers were filled with art supplies.

Suddenly, I had to have one of my own.

So I went to Costco, and was delighted to find exactly what I was looking for. In a couple of hours, the cabinets were emptied, and my kids and I sorted the vast quantities of art supplies into neat, clear plastic boxes.

What is your creative logjam in your business?

We all have our version of “inefficient crammed art cabinet” in our businesses.

When I thought about my own, I realized with embarrassment that my coaching clients are constantly emailing me when they misplace the link to schedule an appointment. They are not totally clear how to cancel an appointment, or which email to use to submit materials for my review before their call.

We always sort it out in the end, but there is no consistency. And if I get really busy (like I have been this month), I can miss important information, or delay my reply to them.

This logjam only serves to interrupt our free-flowing coaching relationship, and blocks the best work we can do together.

So guess what Sheila and I are building this week? A coaching “art station” – one page where my clients can easily make and change appointments, submit information and ask questions.

Why has it taken 7 years to organize this?

Because we usually only pay attention to things that are massively broken, or cause direct pain. Little annoyances can be overcome by good communication, or are ignored because they are “not worth spending time on.”

But they sap energy, time and power from your creative process. And they chip away at a great customer experience, and affect your brand.

So how do you start to fix these holes in your business?

Your homework ( I promise to do it too):

  1. Identify a core part of your business (an offer, a program or a service)
  2. Write down the recurrent questions you get about it from customers or clients (it is helpful to look in your “sent mail” folder if you can’t remember – most likely, you will have a series of emails where you answer the same questions over and over)
  3. Step back and brainstorm ways you can simplify and organize the delivery of the service by doing things like:

Creating a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page
Creating a visual map of a system or process (My web consultant and author coach Tim Grahl uses a mind map for coaching clients to explain how he will work with them, and checks off progress at each stage of the coaching engagement)
Creating a series of autoresponders in your email system as follow up to product purchase that answers frequent questions
Create a form (my client, fellow coach Ali Davies uses a standard form with her coaching clients so they can summarize progress, identify open issues and define goals before each session)
Create an email template to answer common questions you receive frequently by email.

As a full-blooded Virgo, the amount of satisfaction I get from an organized and efficient process may frighten the rest of you. Let’s just say that since I set up my art station on Sunday, I have gazed lovingly at it at least 20 times. My kids are excited to see long-lost art supplies that used to be stuffed inside the cabinet.

And when the pictures are painted, the clay molded, the beaded necklaces complete, Josh and Rosie quietly put the supplies back in the plastic bin, and place it on the metal shelf.

Without being told.

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11 Responses to “Reduce headaches, delight your clients and amp your creativity”

  1. head_exposed says:

    Organization is essential in every business. It keeps you on track and focused. Everyone in your company has to pitch in when it comes to this aspect of the business. I agree that getting things lined up and scheduled can indeed be life-changing so why not get into it more often?

  2. Lawrence Fox says:

    Hmm….that’s an excellent analogy (especially for those of who are (amateur) artists . Now, which logjam do I attach first is the question…

    “As a full-blooded Virgo, the amount of satisfaction I get from an organized and efficient process may frighten the rest of you.”

    I’m married to a Virgo. I understand. (Are you left-handed as well?)


  3. Brett Jarman says:

    Pam, I haven’t used it myself yet but might fit the bill for you client art station.

  4. It’s those little things that sound so easy when you get an idea for them. They make you wonder, “Really? Why didn’t I think of this before!” Those aha! moments can be life-changing!

  5. I am so inspired right now – going to go set up a ‘pre-coaching’ form for coaching clients right now.

    I’ve always used a form to collect info before the first call, but love the idea of having them use an update form before each session.

    Thanks 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed this post, and love the photo of your art and craft station. I like how you combined a great point with a story about your family and your regular life. Thanks for being so inspiring, and I’m glad to hear that you’ll be at the ICF meeting in SF next month. I’m going to plan to come so I can meet you and hear what you have to say in person.

  7. Jan Schochet says:

    Love this post, Pam.

    My artjam logjam was helped a lot last month when I gave up my teeny loft area office and moved into a room that had been languishing as my combination “extra stuff” room hoping it would be my “yoga room” some day.

    Guess what? I realized I don’t like yoga as much as other health and mind-calming related activities, that I didnt’ need a yoga room, and that I worked every day and couldn’t find things because there wasn’t enough room.

    So now I have a room that’s well-organized and the logjam/artjam is cleared : )

  8. josh says:

    Pam – this is rad.

    Thanks for helping my business be awesomer.

    – Josh

  9. fas says:

    So basically you just create a nice sweet self service systems?

  10. Lizzie says:

    Oh I love this post, Pam! Not only do I need an art station for my business, but also for my budding little 6 year old arteests. As a lovely little scanner, I’m thinking that having an art station for my ideas might be a really fabulous way to compartmentalize as well! Hello Costco. I hope they have enough plastic bins for the contents of my overstuffed brain 🙂