Carolyn Browne Tamler

has helped hundreds of businesses and organizations with her thoughtful facilitation and research services. She also writes colorful and compelling articles about new business initiatives! Would this help you? Call Carolyn today!

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    2055 Pheasant Farm Lane
    Freeland, WA 98249

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    1-24-13 Do you know where your customers live?

    The most basic information needed when you run a store front business or a business out of your home is to know the community where your customers live.

    The simplest method to learn this is to create a system where you get the zip code of every person who comes into your business or contacts you to make a purchase.  This can be done on a computer or by doing listings and hatch marks on a piece of paper near your register (OK, I know this doesn’t sound very high-tech, but it works).

    You can keep track of these zip code tabulations by the month or season, or after your business has a new advertisement or special promotion.

    Once you see the patterns, it can provide you with valuable information about where, geographically, to focus your advertising dollars.



    1-17-13 A Focus group is a valuable and reliable marketing research tool

    What do people think about the services or products they receive from a business?  Often, those running a business get most of their information from direct feedback from comments and phone calls and other anecdotal information.  These self-selected methods generally draw input from people who have strong feelings, usually negative.

    My favorite, most effective and most reliable marketing research tool for learning attitudes toward, and responses to, a business or service is a focus group discussion. 

    I have heard this term used in many ways that are not truly focus groups, so here are some guidelines for better understanding the methodology:

    Basically, 10 to 12 people participate in a 90-minute discussion about a specific topic.  A professional moderator leads the conversation, following a prepared outline (“Discussion Guide”).  The ground rules: all opinions and responses are valid, and only one person speaks at a time.

    Focus group participants should be representative of the total population from which they are drawn. 

    A good moderator will attempt to encourage all participants to share and will discretely steer the discussion away from someone who begins to dominate.  The goal is to empower people to feel safe about contributing their own ideas.

    The result of a good focus group discussion is a surprising wealth of information that can be utilized for gaining new ideas and fresh perspectives, making planning decisions and/or developing an effective survey questionnaire for a random sample survey. 


    1-10-13 Having a productive meeting

    How many meetings do you go to each month?  On Whidbey there are so many organizations, that most of us go to at least a couple of meetings a month; some of us go to lots more than that.  Meetings are very important for group members to learn what’s going on and to decide what needs to be accomplished before the next meeting.

    I admit to being very frustrated when I am in a meeting that seems unfocused; where there is a lot of talking, but not much seems to be accomplished.

    As a professional facilitator, here are some of the elements that I believe lead to a productive and satisfying meeting:

    • Clear goals are established and stated for the meeting;
    • Ground rules are established that encourage everyone to be courteous and respectful;
    • A simple agenda is prepared and followed as closely as possible; some deviations may occur as long as these contribute to the goals of the meeting;
    • The meeting is set for no more than an hour and a half;
    • The leader of the meeting keeps everyone focused on the agenda and assures that no single voice dominates;
    • Succinct notes are prepared for distribution after the meeting.

    My overall goal is to have everyone leave a meeting smiling and feeling confident and comfortable that they were able to share their responses and hear what others had to say.


    1-03-13 An email can create misunderstanding

    Have you received an email with several misspellings or grammatical errors?

    Have you received a group email that got sent around several times to several people, including you?

    Do you find yourself sometimes struggling to get through a long email, only to reach the end and realize you’re still not sure what it was all about?

    Have you sent an email assuming the other person would understand your words and your tone, only to get a response back that didn’t really relate to your intentions?

    I’m sure you can come up with several other items to put on this list.  In our high speed communication age, we rapidly email and text and tweet several times a day….but are we really communicating?  There are some disagreements about how much human communication is non-verbal, but I think that we all can agree that lacking voice intonation, facial expression, body language and simply feeling another person’s energy, words alone will not necessarily convey thoughts accurately.

    I have a bit of a silly streak in me (those who know me might say it is more than a bit).  I learned a long time ago never to use my silliness in an email unless I was absolutely sure that the person knew me well enough to understand the communication (and I’m not sure it’s wise to send anyone a silly email).  Of course, I can add a :>), but……

    So, here are a few suggestions to avoid misunderstandings when emailing:

    • Keep it short and simple
    • If at all possible, save your sincere, serious communications for in-person or by phone
    • Read every email over before you press “Send”
    • If you are sending out a longer email or something with important information, make sure you have someone else read it before you send it
    • If you are feeling angry or frustrated with someone, DO NOT send them an email and let them know this; cool down first, and then make a phone call
    • If you are sending an email to a group of people, use the bcc, even if everyone knows each other; it will seem more personal and it will be impossible for someone else to press the “Reply all” and send out swirling emails that can drive us crazy;

    12-20-12 An idea can take flight and become an action

    I have been a loyal listener to progressive talk radio since its inception.  When I heard that AM 1090 was converting from progressive talk to an all-sports format, I was in a state of shock….and anger.  And, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to do something.

    First step: Get connected with people who have lots more connections than I.  I’m a MoveOn Council Coordinator on Whidbey, so my first contact was with the organizers who help me.  One of them was knowledgeable about creating on-line petitions.  So, with her help, we started a petition, “Don’t let Seattle Lose Progressive Radio,” and I sent out the information to all of my MoveOn members, while the MoveOn leadership sent it around to the Seattle Area members.  In the first week, we had 5,000 signatures.

    Second step: Get better informed and contact the progressive talk show hosts.  I heard back from staff members from a couple of shows with some possible ideas.  Then, Norman Goldman, an afternoon host, wrote to me personally.  I suggested he look at some of the written comments from petition signers.  He wrote back 15 minutes later about how impressed he was with the passion expressed, and invited me to come on his show.

    Yesterday (Dec. 19), I was interviewed and provided some contact information.  And, as of this morning, we now have over 8,700 petition signers, our MoveOnWhidbey Facebook page is now being visited by several people and I’m getting lots of ideas and suggestions.  Some others have come forward and offered to help.

    I don’t know where this will go, but I believe there is much to be learned from not simply thinking about something, but also following through and doing something.  Yes, this is political, but this can apply to any idea that merits action.


    (If you’d like to hear the interview: )