Which Do You Have: Questions, or Answers?

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Photo from Unsplash by Lucrezia Carnelos


It feels so strange to use this phrase, but… just after the turn of the century, I was involved in Sandler Sales Training with a great guy named Rich Levinson.

One of the major tenets of the Sandler System is learning to ask open-ended questions – questions that require an actual sentence or two, or maybe even an entire paragraph, to answer.  Rich was the mentor I needed to get my business booming.

Some years later, I started working with Barry Demp, Master Certified Coach and the brains behind The Quotable Coach blog series. Barry also stresses the value of appropriate questioning. I’ve learned a great deal from interacting with him, and deeply value the relationship we have created over the years.

It was Barry who turned me on to Michael Bungay Stainer, founder of BoxofCrayons.com, and author of a great article I just read titled “Three Unexpected Reasons Why People Don’t Ask Questions.”

Go take a look, then consider these question:

  1. Which of the Three Advice Monsters has had the most influence in your life?
  2. What can and will you do today to lessen their influence in your life?
  3. How do you respond to questions for which you have no answer?

Make your Day Magnificent!

10 Holiday Greetings for Business

Here we go again – the “Holiday Season” – no other time of celebration brings such anguish along with it, from what to buy to what to say. I can’t help you with the what to buy part, but can offer help in what to say in your greeting cards, or in everyday conversation.

When you live and work in the multi-cultural worlds of most major cities in America, the chances are pretty good that you have colleagues, neighbors, clients, and friends whose faith or culture is different from yours.

I’m a big believer in the sentiment that floats around Facebook every December that says:

Say What Has Meaning for You

We have no right to demand that others go along with our beliefs or behaviors. We do have, if we truly subscribe to any one of the major religions, a moral obligation to treat each other as we would want to be treated. Here are ten statements you can put in the cards you send  either personally or for business, adding or omitting the names of your holiday or the one of the person to whom the card is addressed:

  • May your holidays and New Year be filled with laughter, good food, and good friends.
  • Warm wishes we send to you, for happy holidays, and in the new year, too!
  • Enjoy the sweet moments this holiday season can bring.
  • Make memories that last through the new year, give thanks, give love, and be of good cheer!
  • Amazing people like you make the world brighter for people like us. Thank you, and Happy Holidays!
  • There’s no better time to tell you just how much your business means to us throughout the whole year. Happy Holidays!
  • Remembering you with warm wishes for a happy and peaceful holiday season.
  • Wishing you joy at the holidays and in the coming year.
  • May your holidays be merry, may it fill your hearts with cheer, and may all of you be happy throughout the bright new year!
  • Sending you warm wishes of gratitude this holiday season for your business, support, and referrals. Happy Holidays!

An added, personal message such as, “Dear Pete & Judy, hope your ski trip is great!” is a great way to let your contacts know they are special. One last tip: Hand address the envelopes. Yes, it takes a lot more time than printing and slapping on a label, but handwriting also tells the receiver you were thinking of them. Address a few at a time while you veg in front of the TV at night. If your penmanship is hard to read, hire one of your staff members or a friend to write them for you – and don’t forget to give them a bonus check!

Happy Holidays!

Worst WordPress User Name Ever

In the space of seven overnight hours, there were more than 60 unsuccessful attempts to hack into one of the WordPress sites I manage, all originating in either Russia or China.  They failed to gain access into the site for one very simple reason.

What You Need to Know

If you are a WordPress user, you are certainly familiar with the login screen that asks for your User Name and Password.

WordPress uses “admin” as the default user name. You might think leaving it is the simple way to go, but in the end, you may pay dearly for not taking the time to create a unique name and password.

In each of the 60+ hacking attempts I mentioned, the hacker used either “admin” or “administrator” as the username.

How to Fix it

  1. Create a new user with the “Administrator” role, but don’t call it Admin or Administrator. Call it something unique, like “web.”
  2. Next, make sure that any posts or pages assigned to the original “admin” or “Administrator” username are reassigned to the user account you just created. If you don’t do this, they will be permanently deleted when you do step 5.
  3. Log out of the “admin” account.
  4. Log back in using the new user account.
  5. Go to “Users” in the menu and delete the “admin” account.

Your site will now be protected from hackers and hacker bots using “admin” or “administrator” as the username. To protect your site even further, consider purchasing  one of the WordPress Security plugins that allow you to block specific IP addresses and countries, as well as other options.


Saying “No” to a Prospective Client

I had to say “No” to a prospective client today.

That hasn’t happened in a long time, and I wrestled with the decision for three full days.

As a business owner, I want to ensure a good relationship with clients.  I want to be a “yes” 100% of the time. But every now and then a project comes along that is just not a good fit for my expertise. In these instances, I believe it better to say “NO” and help them find a better fit than it is to say “YES” and not be able to do them justice in the final result.

Here are three tips for saying “NO” in a way that keeps the relationship positive:

Be Honest about your Reasons

Nobody likes rejection. Hearing “NO” is hard, especially when you’re up against a deadline or are completely frustrated with your own efforts. In my rejection today, I apologized to the prospect, who was asking for assistance in developing a grant proposal for a very technical manufacturing process. I let him know that while I have some experience in the industry, my technical skills were not sufficient to give him the level of assistance I felt he needed, after reviewing the initial proposal.

Find an Alternate Solution

We’ve all heard the statement, “If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” The prospect had been referred to me by a long-time associate, so both our reputations were on the line, and I’m committed to find WIN/WIN solutions for every issue. I can’t ethically take the project on knowing that I’m not well suited for it, but I certainly can help find someone for whom it is a perfect fit.

I hopped onto Linkedin and did a search for local freelance technical writers with experience in the prospect’s industry. Ten pages of results were returned! I reviewed the first few pages and gave the prospect names and contact info for three people who are far more qualified than me. Hopefully one of them will be available and excited to take on the project.

I had to say “NO,” but I still found a way to say “YES” to assisting the client.

Keep the Doors Open

You have a choice – after you give your “NO” and alternate solution, you have a choice. You can walk away forever, or you can follow up to make sure the solution you suggested was viable. If not, perhaps a second round of ideas will come to you. I just said “NO” this morning, and will follow up with the prospect later in the week to see if I can help in any other way. Stay in touch, and if you can, refer customers – that is one way to stay on the prospect’s radar, and establish a foundation for further conversation.


Saying “NO” is never easy, but when it is in the best interest of the prospect or client, it benefits everyone involved. Give your prospect the gift of integrity by being honest in your reasons for the rejection, finding an alternate solution if you can, and keeping the doors open.


How to See and Stop Email Spoofers

In my email box this morning was a message from…myself. It looked like this:
I quickly hit “forward” and sent it to spoof@paypal.com, their designated mailbox for issues like this.

Obviously, it was sent from someone other than me. Let’s take a look at the most obvious clues, and one way to stop those messages from showing up in your mailbox.

The first sentence is fraught with spelling and grammatical errors.
If that’s not enough of a clue, the message is entirely vague and almost nonsensical.

They give you a link to click to “verify” your account. Don’t ever do that! If you click it, you will be taken to a ghosted PayPal site – a fraudulent site that looks like, but is not, PayPal. When you enter your account information on that fraudulent site, you are handing your PayPal account over to the criminals.

Sadly, you can’t stop these creeps from obtaining your email address and spoofing, but you can stop them from filling up your email box.

Check the Source Code

Every email program has an option to view the source code. In my program it is at the top right of the email screen and looks like this:

Sometimes you have to hunt to find the “view source” option. Don’t give up! I have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list to click on the “View Source” option.

Once you do that, you will see the email message in its raw state, and you can determine where it originated.

In line three of the source code for this message, it was clear that it originated from “masterhost.ru.” Yup, it came from somewhere inside Russia. The actual account from which it was generated is masked, but now you know one place to start in order to block the spoofers.

Block the Domain

Every email program I’ve ever used has the option to block senders and block domains. You’ll have to hunt around in your email program to find it, but once you do, simply add “*@masterhost.ru” to the blocked list and you will no longer receive emails from any accounts related to that server.  The “*@” is shorthand for “any name at.” This means that if the sender is “Spoofer1” or “spoofer45” it won’t matter. All that counts is the “masterhost.ru” part.

It is up to each of us, individually, to keep the spoofers at bay, so that we can all enjoy email, social media, and electronic business without fear.  It can be time consuming to dig into the code and add email addresses to our blocked list, but the peace of mind it brings is worth the while.


If You Don’t Know Me By Now

Many of you have followed this blog since the first post in May, 2007. You’ve cheered me through the good times, and helped me through the darker days. For that I am eternally grateful.

I’ve learned, recently, that a number of new subscribers to this blog like what I have to say and how I say it, but are a little confused about who I am, and why my blog is worth reading.

Who I Am

My name is Linda Anger. I’ve lived my entire life in the state of Michigan, and am proud to spring from a family that has deep roots in the City of Detroit. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs on my patriarchal side. My great-great-grandfather, Edward Stange, became president of The American Brewing Company in 1901. My grandfather, Russell Anger, owned a small manufacturing company once housed on Telegraph near Eight Mile. My dad, Robert Anger, was a self-employed tool-and-die maker. His office was on Grand River near Eight Mile.

With all that biological history, I think entrepreneurship is in my blood. I saw my dad’s day-to-day work ethic, I understood why he worked long hours. I reveled in the delight he took when things were going well. Perhaps the most important lesson was the one I learned at his funeral. Click Here To Read About it.

I determined to become a writer when I was nine years old, and today, after more than 30 years in the biz, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it. I’ve had poems and stories published in magazines and journals since the early 1990s, and have supported myself as a marketing communications specialist and president of The Write Concept, Inc.  since March 2000, after being laid off from a Fortune 100 company.

Why You Should Read This Blog

    • I bring the wisdom of experience in corporate and small business communication to the table. I can tell you what has worked historically and why, and what new options are available for you to test out.
    • As a small business owner, I understand the challenges of working with a limited budget yet needing to expand awareness of the company.
    • As a communicator, I cut through the fluff and throw away the corporate and industry jargon, to get down to what really matters, in terms that are clear and succinct.
    • I am an avid member of two Toastmasters clubs, where I have honed my speech writing and leadership skills.
    • I am the current president of Detroit Working Writers, a 115-year-old organization of professional writers, founded on June 5, 1900, with archives housed in the Burton Collection at the Detroit Public Library.
    • I help business owners, non-profit organizations, and sales professionals move minds, generate sales, and drive results – with words that matter.

If that’s not enough, I’m also the proud mom of a college professor, have two awesome grandkids, play guitar and ukulele, lived through cancer surgery and almost a year of chemotherapy, and live by the mantra: “those who say a thing cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”


Four Marketing Practices the Drive me Crazy

I unchained myself from cable TV a year ago and now tolerate only the small amount of network broadcasts that come on before I flip over to my Roku player, where I watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, the Smithsonian Channel, and awesome PBS documentaries.

Now, on the rare occasions that I actually do watch network news or see marketing on the internet, I am doubly annoyed by four marketing ploys that have bothered me for a long time.

Are your TV and Social Media peeves like mine? Let’s see:

FIRST: I am totally turned off by business owners whose TV ads feature their children or grandchildren, especially if they are singing stupid jingles. Unless your business is all about kids, please leave them at home where they belong.

SECOND: I will never, ever do business with companies that hire that voice-over guy who screams for the entire 30 or 60-second spot. He’s just plain obnoxious. That form of advertising lost its luster back in the 1950s. Please, leave it there.

THIRD: Ads or circulars or flyers that claim the issuing company is “the best” in the industry, or uses any other superlatives, without providing absolute proof.

FOURTH: Facebook posts that declare they will “blow your mind,” “change your life,” or “bring you to tears,” then show you a mediocre or nothing-new video.

Bottom line for me is this: If I find your advertising obnoxious, annoying, or utterly stupid, I will not buy your products or hire your company. I don’t believe I am the only one who feels this way, so please comment!


How My Company Came Back From the Dead

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It was July 3, 2009, almost Independence Day – a day I celebrate four ways: as an American, the mother of an American Government professor, a single woman, and a small business owner.

It was almost Independence Day when the biopsy showed I had uterine cancer. Over the course of the next three years, I would come to realize just how deeply dependent we humans are on each other, and how my tendency to be fiercely independent would be tested.

I had owned and managed a successful copy writing and graphic design company for the better part of nine years on that day. I worked with Fortune 100 companies, regional nonprofits, and hundreds of small businesses across SE Michigan. I and my company –  The Write Concept, Inc. – were well known and well respected.

Fast forward past radical surgery, a year of chemotherapy, and two more years of exhausting residual side effects, and my business would have been in the morgue had that “fiercely independent” side of me not risen from its chemo stupor, demanding immediate action.

Resuscitating a mostly dead business requires strategy, energy, and patience. Many of my previous clients had changed jobs or retired; some had gone out of business in the economic downturn. I had to study and adjust to the dramatic technological changes in the marketing arena, update my social media skills, and reconnect with my network. Slowly, things began to happen, projects and revenue came in, and my friends and colleagues celebrated the 14th birthday of The Write Concept in March 2014.

The truth is, every small business goes through life cycles, and you must be on guard every day, filling it with life and energy, to stay strong during the downturns – and they do come – whether it is a slow season, or for a challenging reason such as cancer.

Four Things that Brought My Business Back to Life:

  1. Self-determination. I knew that I could have no doubt of success, that if I was not convinced of success, or depended on a “safety net” of any sort, I would fail.
  2. Good People. I aligned myself and partnered with those I knew would support me and my business, and I turned a deaf ear to the naysayers – especially the “little voice” inside my own head.
  3. Give Back/Pay it Forward. I’ve always been into social entrepreneurship, doing all that I can to promote and support my network. Whether you call it karma or the law of reciprocity, sooner or later what you do comes back to you in the same manner in which it was given.
  4. Tending to myself. Working 12-16 hours a day did not make me a champion. It made me ill, short of temper, and less effective. I created a new schedule for myself, which includes eight hours of sleep, time for family, and time for the golf course.

What are your tips/suggestions for breathing new life into a nearly dead or failing business? Share them here, please!


One of “Those” Days

image of a woman pulling her hair outHaving one of those days, darling? You know what I mean – one of those frustrating, exhausting days in which everything you had planned is blown out the window by the things you didn’t anticipate?

The kind of day when you needed only to focus for one good hour to complete an important project, but the phone rings, the computer crashes, or the one person you desperately need to consult has left on vacation? The kind of day in which the faster you go the farther behind you fall?

Any street-corner guru will tell you: what happens in your life is not important. Hate your job? Not important. Dumped by the love of your life? Sorry, not even close to important. Diagnosis: Cancer?  To this I can personally and emphatically say, “Not important.”

That same street-corner guru (who happens, just like you, to be my brother) will tell you: What matters is the way you respond to what happens.

Look, my friend –I made it through radical surgery and nine months of chemotherapy by conducting little experiments just to amuse myself, and refusing to attend the pity party. You’d be surprised at how people react to a bald lady singing out, “Good Morning!” as she race-walks down the hospital hall at 6 a.m., grinning like the Cheshire Cat, morning after morning.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., one of my long-time favorite American authors, said, Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I, myself, prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

So when the day is long, your schedule has been tossed and torn by the winds of change – when you think nothing could be worse than getting what you got, or not getting what you wanted ­– turn your mind around, and give yourself a good belly-laugh.

There’s less cleaning up to do.


Clarify Your Marketing Efforts

We must manage so many things as a small business owner – inventory, people, accounts, sales, and of course, marketing.

Too often, we get bogged down in thinking we have to cover all the bases, stretch our marketing budget and time across all the avenues. We build a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn. We buy ad space and send out flyers through our local Chamber of Commerce. We generate e-newsletters, press releases, blog posts. And in the end, we are exhausted emotionally, physically and financially by trying to do it all, and do it everywhere.

It’s time to stop doing it all and start doing it smart.

Three steps to defining a framework for your marketing efforts:

  1. What is your intent?  Go beyond a sales goal – “I want to make money” is not enough. Is your intent to motivate people to a specific action? To educate, influence, or entertain them? Why do you do what you do? My intent in promoting The Write Concept is to help business owners and nonprofits develop marketing communications that are clear, concise, and motivating – to move minds with “words that matter.”
  2. Define your own results.  What do you really want from any particular activity?  Again, if it is “to sell stuff,” you are selling yourself short.  You may determine that reaching a “friend” list of 5,000 on your Facebook page is a worthy result. One of mine is to increasing my blog subscribers by 5% each month. Define a result you wish to achieve – a small step towards a bigger goal. Pick ONE social media outlet to start, and focus your energies there. You can expand to others as the results prove appropriate.
  3. Build your strategy. Look at your intent and the result you wish to achieve, and determine what steps will get you there. For me, a first step is being consistent in writing blog posts that matter – blog posts that help people be better in their communications. Tied in with that is making sure I am consistent in posting links to the posts on the social media outlets of my choice – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

It boils down to this: decide on a purpose, the results that will show you your efforts are “working,” and the steps you will take to make it happen. Then get out there and do it.