christmas card time

xmas card front
I’d advise any business person who plans to send holiday cards to think about card design well in advance of the holiday season. Sending cards can be fun. Scrambling to get them designed at the last minute — a lot less fun.

I seem to recall saying last year that I would take more holiday photos so I had more choice for a photograph this year for my holiday card. Well, although I took lots of family photos, I never did take a lot more photos that I felt comfortable using for this project. I experimented with a few of them — and a few different designs — but decided to save them for another day. I opted to get away from the photo card again this year and designed this year’s card using text and illustration.

xmas card inside
The two things I did accomplish this year were to set aside time early on to create a card and to create the illustration myself for a change. I am happy to say, I hit my deadline of sending my cards off to print before Thanksgiving. I may even have them in hand before Thanksgiving! (With a little more planning, I may get them done before Halloween next year.)

getting in close


The last month I’ve shot a couple of weddings, and these candid shots are some of my favorites.

My intention in each one was to “get in close” to the subject in order to capture the joy — and sense of humor the couple shared.

bride and groom
bride and groom

casamar villa brochure

I have recently finished an 8.5 x 11 brochure for Casamar Villa in Mexico. Casamar is a small villa located near Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca. The proprietors of the villa added suites to their property and are making many changes to their business. They wanted to expand their clientele beyond the surfing community (Puerto is a surfer’s paradise) and are now marketing to clientele of all ages who are in search of a peaceful place to vacation while enjoying the cultural, environmental, and athletic adventures available.
brochure outside
brochure inside

In addition to creating the brochure, the client was also creating a new website. The website has undergone several transformations, but the colors of the inside panels, and to some extent the outside panels, of the brochure were originally selected with the website in mind.

Most of the photographs were taken by a local photographer in Mexico. I used those initial photos to get a feel of the villa and the surrounding area. A few photos were supplied later by the clients and through iStock photo.
surf panel

The initial design featured one entire panel given over to kneeboard photos, and then surf photos (with the exception of the wildlife photo that is in place in this version at bottom right). I really liked putting that panel together and I loved the energy of the panel.

But because the target market was evolving, that focus on surfing was scaled back and more photos of boating, wildlife, horseback riding, etc. were introduced throughout the entire brochure. As more changes are made to the villa, Casamar’s marketing pieces and website will continue to evolve as well.

Need to freshen up your marketing? Contact Scrivo!

newsletter redesign

2 page spread
Over the spring, I redesigned Ursuline Academy’s newsletter. One of the biggest changes was to go from a black and PMS interior to full color. The final piece is five color: CMYK plus PMS 625 (green).

With the introduction of color, it’s tempting to focus on the use of color versus the overall impact of the layout. I decided to “let the pictures do the talking” by allowing them to be the most vibrant color source on the page.

I did introduce different pastels, a light blue for the swim article (on the 11 x 17 interior spread shown above), a hint of “brick”, a pale yellow, a little pink and lilac, for some background graphics and article boxes. But, for the most part I left article boxes in a shade of green (the school color) and used the PMS for article headers and for the silhouettes (the theme was “the faces of Ursuline”).

Some common elements throughout the newsletter were: the subject headers at the top with a dotted line and their circle photo counterparts, the silhouettes with facts about the school and the students, green circles with page numbers, green article headers and black subheads, a green frame and shadow around the photos — which pulled them off the page, and several photos of faces around which text was wrapped, like the one in the lower right corner of the sample above. Most of the text in the newsletter appears in black on a white background to enhance readability.

Once a consistent layout was designed, the pattern was occasionally broken to avoid monotony, deal with the requirements of the stories or photos, and to keep each spread fresh.

long time no write

I had every good intention of writing on a monthly basis, but unfortunately work and life got in the way. I spent time in February and March creating new marketing materials for myself and a new website design. Then I got sidetracked with an increasing work load and expected – and unexpected – family obligations.

Since March I’ve written business articles; created copy for multiple newsletters; updated websites; taken more than a thousand wedding, school, graduation, golf, and family photographs (I stopped counting weeks ago); and completed a newsletter redesign and layout of a 36-page newsletter and annual report. So, lots of fun to go around!

Soon, I hope to get back into my early morning creative writing groove and shoot pictures for the fun of it. I also hope to play a bit more with some new design techniques.

I have been feeling a little like Ishmael these last few weeks — desperate to get down to the water. It just felt wrong to enter July without having gone for a swim. I finally had the chance late Friday afternoon to at least hit the pool.

Today I decided to take a break from processing pictures to finish the web update I began months ago and bring it live. Hope you like it.

on the road to better time management

You can’t create time, however you may be able to better manage the time you have.
Here’s how:

Choose a Destination
Increasing time spent on one task or project requires your spending less time on another. Take a moment to re-examine your long-term goals. What are your work and personal goals for the year? List five things you would like to accomplish, such as cultivate new prospects, increase revenue in specific areas, create a new marketing campaign, or spend more time with family. Prioritize them, giving as much thought to your “wants” as to your “needs.” Focus first on the goals that are most important or urgent – the ones you value most and to which you are willing to commit.

Make Each Mile Count
Choose one or two goals to accomplish over the next few months, moving on to other goals on your list as the year proceeds. The majority of your time should be spent on completing goal-directed tasks. Create a list of objectives, or “steps,” towards each goal. If your goal is to expand into a new sector, schedule time to research potential areas of profitability or identify and meet new prospects. Schedule tasks such as soliciting a number of prospects each month or attending a networking event to help to keep you moving forward. You’ll stay on target if you ask yourself daily, “Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing in order to reach my goals?”

Take What You Need
Consider the equipment or services you need in order to reach your goals. Use of accounting software, such as QuickBooks or Peachtree, could allow you to spend more time soliciting clients and less time going over the books. Minding the store could be delegated to a capable employee. Hiring an expert to update your website could free more time for you to concentrate on goal-oriented items.

Pack Well
Everybody has their own organizational style; some offices are cluttered and others pristine. As a general rule of thumb, organize the tools of your trade in such a way that they are always at hand when you need them. Don’t lose a half-hour searching for the “one thing” you need in order to complete a simple five-minute task. If clutter burns up excess time and finances allow it, bring in a file clerk or professional organizer for a “tune up.”

Always Look Ahead
Keep your calendar handy and with you at all times. If you make an appointment, get some news, or have an idea, jot it down immediately. Set aside some time at the end of each day and week to assess your progress and strategize for the following day and week. Schedule tasks, meetings, and most importantly, blocks of uninterrupted time to work on your short- and long-term goals. If you have work due for a client, allot enough time for completion. Don’t forget to factor in important personal and social obligations!

Fuel Up
You can’t run on fumes forever, and you can’t run on empty at all. Be sure not to drain yourself by overbooking, over-committing, skipping breakfast, or sacrificing exercise or family time on a regular basis. Plan quality time with family and friends. If exercise is important to you, schedule it. Allow yourself substantial time to complete tasks. After work on a big project, take a break. Meet a friend for lunch, take a walk, or shift to work that requires less thought or energy. Put yourself and your needs “on the agenda.”

© for Smart Business Matters, Vol. 2, Issue 3

i resolve to...

Seven things you can do to start the new year on a positive note!

Run a financial check-up. Are you where you had hoped to be financially for the year? Check your Profit and Loss, Income, and Expense Reports. Review your sales reports to determining the more profitable areas of business and areas where sales were sub par. Create a plan to increase business in more profitable areas during the coming year. Either prepare to eliminate less profitable ventures, channels, or market segments, or create plans to increase their profitability.

Prepare a budget. Examine your projected budget and actual expenses for the year. Prepare a budget for the new year, and resolve to stick to it! Factor in expenses for computer and software updates and purchases of new equipment. Be sure to allow changes in your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. Prepare a list of areas to cut if profits and cash flow start running below expectations and a list of contingent opportunities to add or increase if cash flow runs higher.

Plan to succeed. Businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail. Create that fresh business plan you’ve been thinking about. Or, if your financial check-up shows variances, fine-tune your existing business plan for the coming year. Set aside some quality time in January to lay the groundwork for future sales.

Create a marketing plan. Evaluate your marketing mix for the past year, and make changes for the better for the coming year. Freshen up your marketing message and strategy. Are you consistently getting the right message out to the public, or do you find your strategy and materials are sending out mixed messages?

Update the database. Review your database, updating information as needed. Renew contact with lapsed customers, and touch base with existing customers. Ask for more referrals from some of your best customers; connecting their associates’ businesses with ours is a win-win situation. It is a quick and inexpensive way to increase business.

Review staff. Identify staff behaviors and accomplishments that should be acknowledged or even rewarded. Also, identify those whose behaviors or work need to be addressed and improved. Everyone wants feedback on how they are doing. If you have difficulty remembering pertinent examples, schedule a few minutes each day or week to update notes (both positive and negative) for performance reviews for each of your direct reports.

Learn something new. Resolve to update or improve your professional skills. Take a class or plan to read a book or two in an area in which you feel you could use more training.

© for Smart Business Matters, Vol. 3, Issue 4