The personal element has the greatest impact

The personal element has the greatest impact

The personal element has the greatest impact

“You need to have the machine, and you also need the human element.” 

My friend and fellow business owner Paul said that to me when we were meeting over breakfast. 

We were talking about the Accelerator course we deliver for accountants. I created it several years ago and it’s gone through a few iterations, but now it’s a tried and tested course that delivers incredible results for the accountants who go through it. 

So now we have landing pages and quotes and testimonial videos and FAQs and introductory videos and everything someone could possibly need to make a decision about whether to join the course or not.

But sometimes, people still contact us personally when they’re making their decision. 

They send DMs on one of the social platforms, or ask their question in person, or send an email. 

And I thought, “I must be doing something wrong if people still need to talk to me or one of the team. We must be missing something.”

And what Paul said was that (especially these days) you need a little humanity mixed in with the machine, or else it’s too automated. Too computerised, too systemised. 

He had been looking at the course for one of his team members, and he texted me a few questions. We discussed it, I pointed him to a few things that would help them decide, and they decided to sign up for the course. 

“I know all the information is there somewhere,” Paul said, “but I’m too busy to spend hours looking for it all. I just wanted to get to what I knew I needed. And I like being able to talk to a human about it.”

I did actually feel like it was one of those moments with the lights shining from above. Suddenly I put myself in the place of the potential buyer and realised I love the human side too. 

I love it when I go to order something online and they don’t have it in my size, but a human on live chat finds the nearest shop which does have it, and has that shop ring me to get the order taken care of. 

I love it when I reply to a mass email by someone I consider really important and well known, and that person, themselves, emails me back. 

I love it when I know I’m not being churned through a machine. 

This was my inspiration for deciding to sketch and send individual “welcomes” to every person who signs up to my Karen’s notes. 

It was Saturday night. I was posting on social about the sketch I’d done that week, and how I send out these notes every week, and here’s the link to sign up. I started to get a lot of people signing up right then and there.

I was sketching a few things on my ipad whilst watching the Mentalist, and I suddenly thought – wouldn’t it be a lovely thing to get a personalised welcome? Wouldn’t it be great practice for me, and help me to know the people signing up to my notes as humans, not just email addresses? 

So I started. Right then, Saturday night, sketching out welcomes to Ann and Jennifer and Jacob and Sharon and Robert and Claire. 

People who were either already known to me, or were  becoming better known when I looked up their website (using the domain of their email) and seeing what colours and brand and style they use. 

It’s one of those decisions I could have dithered on for a while. What if I get too many people signing up? What if the personalised sketchnotes end up taking over my LIFE??

Seriously. This is the level of thinking my brain does sometimes. As if 25 people signing up on a saturday night means that next week there will be 250 and the following week 25,000….

But I decided to do it because it’s personal. 

It connects me with a human, not just an email address.

I enjoy doing it, and it comes easily. 

The recipient enjoys it, and feels important (because they are). 

And no, it hasn’t taken over my life. As a matter of fact, it’s been a lovely little exercise to do once a week, and remind me that every single person who signs up to Karen’s Notes is a real human person. With their own name and their own company or job. Their own life, their own interests, their own personality. 

The machine is still important. I type out this note, I give it to the team and they create a blog post and an email and social posts with hashtags and do all the detail work. I couldn’t personally hand-write these Karen’s notes and send them to hundreds of people every week – it’s not physically possible. 

But it IS physically possible to sketch out a custom welcome for each one, so I do it.

What can YOU do to add a personal element to your machine work? What automated thing could be humanised just a little bit? 

Enjoy your custom sketchnote. (And if you signed up before I started doing this and never got one, drop me a reply. I’ll take care of it for you!)


I send these tips and sketchnotes out every Saturday! Sign up to get them here.


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Well. So. Small update.

Was out hiking on mull and slipped on a rock crossing a burn, and broke my ankle. (I remember hearing an audible “crack” as I went down.)

No signal on phone. Managed to climb down a ravine to get to a more open place and hopefully signal. At that point still convinced it “wasn’t that bad”. Tried to walk along the path and realised yes, it was that bad.

Phoned coast guard, who were utter legends. Sent a boat AND a helicopter. Sun was setting and they didn’t want me sitting in the dark. Oh my word it was cold. Helicoptered out to fort William hospital (nicest people ever), then down to airdrie where I got a cast.

Ankle broken in one place. Doctors pleased (as much as you can be!) it’s a clean break & lining up well. I’ll be down for 4-6 weeks.

I’ve repeated myself a lot over the last few days so here’s the short version to all the questions, with appreciation for the care.

Yes, I’m okay. I’m also utterly exhausted & have hit the “damn, this is going to be a long road” phase. Taking it one day, one hour at a time. 

I’m being looked after. Very kind friends and things being delivered. My amazing sister @secondsunrise2 flying in tomorrow from america to be with me for a few weeks. SO grateful.

What do I need? I’m good on the basics. There have been unexpected costs and more coming so if you want to PayPal monies for deliveries or getting my car & belongings back or all the taxis or whatever, feel free. I’m hardly destitute so only do that if you want to send something useful and aren’t sure what. PayPal username karenlreyburn. Amazon wishlist in bio. Random care packages also happily received!

My car & belongings are up on mull. I have people to help and we are working on timing. But if you’re on mull and want to return a car near Glasgow, let me know :)

Shout out to the Coast Guard for being so swift, & that beautiful combination of sympathy and practicality.

Download the @what3words app. Literal lifesaver.

That’s all for now. All the love. Oh - and no, I don’t hold this against mull at all. It’s still my happy place. Things happen & the mull community has been beautiful. Shout out to @treshnish who couldn’t have been kinder. ❤️
Morning walk. I stood and watched the ferry come in and the sun lighten this little edge of the world.
Been going through old photos and letters - the last of the boxes i had stored at my sister’s house in america. 

When I first moved to Scotland, I only planned to live here for a few years and then go back. Then after a few years I wasn’t ready yet…then I got my residency…still not quite ready….then started a business…then Scottish citizenship…bought a house …finally accepted this is my home and I wasn’t moving back. 

And with every visit back to the states I would go through more boxes, more photos and letters and memories. I’d keep some and throw others away; take photos out of frames and give away the frames; and as time went on I was able to distinguish between the ones I definitely wanted and needed to keep, and those which were lovely at the time but didn’t need to be saved anymore.

Over twenty years on and this past trip I went through the very last of the boxes. I joked to my sister that I’ve now officially settled into Scotland 😆 

This photo of me and my Gramps is a fave and definitely a keeper. Most of the photos and letters I’ve kept are those of family - parents, grandparents, sisters, nieces and nephews. And as much as I love taking landscape photos, I noticed that 20 years later it’s the people photos I am more likely to keep. Thankful for the traditions and patterns of seeing family every year or so since moving to Scotland. They’re small things - baking Christmas cookies and going for walks and going for road trips - but it’s the time together and the continuing family jokes and the memories which remain. And a few photos.

My grandfather (and all my grandparents) have now passed on, but I remember with fondness sitting around at their kitchen table, eating fresh vegetables from the garden, playing scrabble, laughing and talking and drinking coffee.

It’s the small things, and the rhythms of family, which last. ❤️ 
#family #memories #grandparents #oldphotos
Made fresh mince pies for the first time ever. Over twenty years in Scotland and I’d never tried to make them from scratch, so I figured…now is the time! I’m doing lots of thanksgiving baking (yes, we stretch it out here so I’m still prepping!) and decided to buy the ingredients. 

Dried fruit…mixed peel…lots of spices…and Venezuelan rum :) I made up the mincemeat last night, and then today put it in the little pastries and even cut out the wee stars to go on top!

I think I can safely say they’re the best mince pies I’ve ever had. Fresh out of the oven sprinkled with icing sugar and with a glass of said rum alongside :) 

Now we are curled up with a Harry Potter marathon, with plenty of mince pies AND a thanksgiving feast still to come. Happiness! 

#mincepies #homebaking #maryberry #maryberryrecipe #happythanksgiving #happychristmas #harrypotter #hpmarathon