When you’re faced with a challenging task at work or lost on a back road with no GPS signal, do you seek the counsel of those around you or do you keep your head down and soldier on? Are you not the type to ask your boss for clarification or stop at the corner store and ask for a little help navigating back to civilization?

A series of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2008 found that as many as 50 percent of people underestimate the likelihood that their requests for help will be answered by others. This makes the old adage “ask and you shall receive” seem like nothing more than a pipe dream.

However, the reality is that many people enjoy giving advice. It can be empowering when a coworker or employee seeks your counsel because it shows that they trust your knowledge and expertise.

So we reached out to Eastside experts in various fields to gain some valuable insight to answer some of the burning questions we all live with every day and may be too afraid to ask.


There are no do-overs in public relations

MeeghanBlack“As a former journalist turned communications and media trainer, my advice for corporate executives is to do a great job telling your story. When the camera rolls, there are no do-overs, so think about what you want the viewer (potential customer or client) to know about you that will keep them coming back for more, and make sure you don’t wait to be asked! Get that key point out in front. What is it that makes your organization special? How are you serving your customers better than your competitors? Why are your employees revved up and ready to start each day with passion? Communicating clearly and telling your compelling story is the bedrock of leadership and the mark of a great communicator.”

— Meeghan Black Senior media specialist, The Keller Group

Put the “P” in “PR”

Q: How has public relations changed over the years?

A: The art of public relations used to depend solely on the media to tell your company’s story. Today, the “public” in PR allows you to talk directly to your customers through the social channels they follow.

Q: What can companies do to reach their intended audience?

A: Put yourself in their shoes. One of the biggest mistakes companies can make is to tell the customer what they want them to hear — generally speaking, this means talking at your customers. Instead, think about what will motivate your customers and excite them rather than just sharing the company line. Engage, relate, and respect your customers, and they will respond.

Q: What should the role of the media be in a social media-driven world?

A: The same rules apply. Recently, one editor called me about a release to not only find out more about the story, but to share her thoughts about the litany of poorly written and worthless releases she gets every day. Releases companies spent money to develop only to have them end up in the delete file. Take the time to put yourself in the place of the media you are targeting.

Q: How do you cater to specific segments of the media?

A: Learn what they write about, and find the media person that best matches your message. Again, the same rules of engagement and respect will not only increase your chance of getting the coverage you seek, but will also get you the respect of that editor for future articles.

— Cheryl Engstrom, President, Engstrom Public Relations


Plan ahead

Start early. Earlier than you think you need to. In our case, when we have big events with a lot of moving parts, it is important to have the perfect partnerships so that you don’t try to do it all yourself. It works out a lot better that way.

Save green with social media

Marketing and the power of social media really come into play with these events because you typically don’t have a huge budget to buy advertising. So you have to make sure (social media marketing) works with the print (marketing) and with the other things you are doing so you get that synergy and get the value of the investment.

— Dave Witt, director, Woodinville Chamber of Commerce

JenniferFischerOverlake Medical Center’s annual Bandage Ball is held on the heels of special events manager Jennifer Fischer’s daughter’s birthday party. The possibility of a crash collision between her personal and professional lives is real. Fischer said there is a common thread between juggling a gala fundraiser for 900 Eastsiders and a party for 10 first-graders. That thread is the ultimate goal: creating a memorable experience, the kind guests — be they 7 or 70 — talk about the next day. Here are some tips from Fischer:

Checklist  Make a list; check it twice

I write list after list to make sure the balls always stay in the air and never hit the ground. The biggest advice I can give is to prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize. Whether it’s ordering the Champagne for the Bandage Ball, ordering the cake for the birthday party, or getting the invitations for both out on time, it’s a nonstop juggle.


Set a firm foundation

Remember it’s always OK to ask for help. Having a supportive staff and volunteers at the hospital, and plenty of family and friends on the home front, is a lifesaver.


When the big day arrives

When it’s crunch time, take deep breaths, do yoga, and go for a power walk at lunch. Take care of yourself, and tell yourself it will all be over soon.


“I would encourage home buyers to consider new home construction and avoid the bidding war altogether. In our competitive market, new home construction makes sense in many ways: You can typically maintain the ability to include contingencies like an inspection; most builders don’t engage in “bidding wars;” and new home construction purchasers will likely receive a homeowner warranty from the home builder, which is not typically included in a resale home.”

— Erin Fowler, division president, Benchmark Communities in the Northwest

MoyaSkillmanQ&A with Moya Skillman, broker and founding partner at Avenue Properties

Q: How has the role of the broker changed in recent years?

A: The role of the real estate broker has changed greatly with the impact of technology. Buyers and sellers have so much information at their fingertips.

Q: What can brokers do when faced with this conundrum?

A: The focus for the broker now needs to be on providing exceptional client service, going above and beyond. I have a saying that, “Great service never goes out of style.” That is true now more than ever. As brokers, we need to make the selling-and-buying process seamless for our clients. (From) helping to find service providers for when clients are getting their homes ready to sell, to helping look at schools in the area when they are relocating, we simply need to do it all.

Q: What is the biggest impact a seller can make when getting their home ready for the market?

A: New carpet and paint. It’s absolutely the best return on investment. So many sellers are competing with new construction model homes. They need to walk through a few model homes and then go back to their own home and compare the interiors. Light-colored paint goes a long way to freshen up an older home and will result in a higher selling price.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you have for buyers that transcends all markets?

A: Whether it’s a hot market or not, the best attribute of any property is its location. The old adage of “location, location, location” is still so true. Houses age over time. Styles come and go. Interiors can always be updated. The one thing you can’t change is location. Make your decision based on location, not the color of the bathroom, and your investment will do well long-term.


DiplomaFrom Walking to Running

One of the wisest investments a parent can make is in sending their children to Running Start programs. It allows them to get a high school degree and earn college credits that transfer to four-year universities. Some parents have saved over $100,000 in college expenses through the Running Start program.

BankThose credits will transfer

Save on college expenses by having your college-bound students spend the first two years at Bellevue College (or another college) and then transfer to the four-year university of their choice. With articulation agreements at most major state schools and many private schools, it is a fantastic option for saving and preparing your student for the rigors of college in a low-risk environment.

SketchesGo ugly early

One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever received was to “go ugly early,” which means that you should always be sure to bring people along with you through your ideas even if it means exposing your rough drafts, presentation decks, or papers. Don’t be so concerned with everything being 100 percent perfect before you bring people in; it is important for others to feel a sense of ownership and to be a part of the journey.

— Alonda Williams, director of community development and enrollment management marketing, Bellevue College


Illustration by MomentBloom via Vecteezy.com

The Value of a Master’s Degree

Particularly if you work in business, education, information technology, or health care, now is a great time to have a master’s degree. Though a master’s doesn’t always mean a higher income, a mid-career adult will earn on average 20 percent more per year than workers with a bachelor’s degree. A master’s almost always means greater job security and higher chances of career advancement, as well.

The Power of a Leader

RichCumminsIn educational administration or any field, strong leadership begins with self-awareness. Excellent leaders are attentive to how their attitudes and cognitions affect others — and how their leadership inspires and challenges their teams. The power in a leadership role emanates from great relationships, not from a line on an organizational chart.

— Rich Cummins, incoming chancellor, Western Governors University


Great people surround themselves with great people. Regardless of how good the idea is, no one builds a company alone. Success is dependent on great talent — so hire the best people who know how to get stuff done in a timely and efficient manner. You don’t have time for B-players in a tech startup.

— James Maiocco, chief business development officer of Pushpay

Medina resident Julie Dexter Berg took the job of CMO at a Phoenix-based company despite the near-constant travel and telecommuting just because she believed in its mission. Privoro was founded by CEO Mike Fong, who wanted to find a way to make mobile devices more secure.

“He believes privacy should be a basic human right and that everyone deserves to be in control of who has access to where they go, what they see, and what they hear,” Berg said. “That got me thinking about my own personal and private information. I, like most people, ask myself, ‘Who would want to hack into my phone? There’s nothing interesting there.’

“The reality is, smartphones know your passwords, how much money is in your 401k, the balance on your credit card, how many miles you ran (or didn’t run) this morning, and even your personal thoughts about the last book you read. There isn’t a portion of our lives that isn’t recorded on our smartphones.

“If you dig deeper into what can be done without your knowledge or consent, you realize that the smartphone that is constantly by your side can be easily infiltrated even if it is in airplane mode or turned off,” Berg said. “Anyone can activate the speakers or camera and record your conversations, take photos of your surroundings, and track your location — minute by minute.”

To combat this, Berg offers the following tips for safeguarding your personal information:

NoPublicWifi1. Avoid public Wi-Fi wherever possible. Your wireless network (usually) can handle basic communications. Ask yourself, is speed really worth it? Save those communications until you’re on a secure network.

PhoneHack2. Take precautions at chokepoints. Places like airports, concerts, shopping malls, where devices can be stolen or information collected.

BurnerPhone3. Keep smartphones stateside. Traveling internationally is fraught with hacking danger — it is like the Wild West outside our borders — best bet is to get a burner phone and leave your smartphone at home, if possible.

NoWebcam4. Keep a Post-It over your laptop camera. Otherwise, hackers can scope out your surroundings: This is especially useful when they can identify security weaknesses, entrance points, and valuables in your home or office.

Password5. Applaud, don’t curse, providers. Devices and providers that embrace two-factor authentication are there for your protection. Even super-secure passwords are vulnerable.


Wealth-coordination accounts

Start by setting up a checking account whose only purpose is to buy assets. Then make your contribution the first thing you do with your income each month. You earn very little or no interest in your checking account, though having it build up will begin to give you the systematic set of habits that allow you to build wealth.

Find a coach

A coach is different than a mentor. Mentors have to care about your relationship and your feelings. A coach, that you pay, only has an interest that you increase your results so that you will keep paying them. Start with a coach that will increase your income, then that will give you the resources to transact for help in other areas of your life.

Save 20 percent of your gross income

If you do the math, it will likely take 20 percent savings to have your assets be enough to provide your income in your old age.  If you cannot save 20 percent now, start by saving 50 percent of your income increases. By doing this, you always enjoy greater lifestyle while still saving more money.

PaulAdamsBuy smaller

Mortgage companies will often lend you up to 45 percent of your income in a mortgage. If you keep your mortgage payments below 15 percent of your gross income, you will leave the room in your cash flow for savings and giving aligned with the life you want to live. Do not let your borrowing and payments crowd out the cash flow needed to live the life you want.

— Paul Adams, president, Sound Financial Group

Reevaluate and look to the future

If you didn’t evaluate the debt you or your company was using in 2016, you should do that ASAP. Rates have been rising, but options are plentiful. If we are indeed at an inflection point on interest rates now is the time to consider planning for the long-term. Locking up cheap money today could make you look like a hero down the road.

Quit making excuses

DavidGianniPay attention to the possibilities of tax law changes reducing capital gains. With strong economic activity and relatively low interest rates, 2017 could be an ideal year to sell a substantial asset. Many business or property owners have said for decades they plan on selling in a “few years.” Now might be a good time to quit kicking the can down the road.

— David Giannini, CFP, Private Asset Management




Illustrations by Mike Forbush, Orangereebok, Nightwolfdezines, and Momentbloom.