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Voice-Mail Queen

When voice mail is more effective than email.

People at Life USA Holding Inc. thrive on voice mail. Maggie Hughes, president of the Minneapolis-based financial-services company, fields up to 300 messages a day - and loves it. We caught her between calls.

Why do you encourage voice mail?

It maintains community by letting you hear a person's tone of voice, which tells you so much more than the written word. Voice mail keeps us feeling like we're part of a team.

What's wrong with email?

We use email for highly technical documents - when we really need to look closely at something and examine it. But say we want to market a product. With voice mail, we can get our legal, financial, and marketing people to weigh in within 10 minutes - we don't need to hold 15 meetings. Voice mail gives us a tremendous competitive advantage.

How do you deal with 300 messages a day?

We teach people to provide a tag at the beginning of their messages, like "This is an FYI" or "This needs a response." Tags help me scan my mail and decide which messages need my immediate attention. The key is to have a voice-mail strategy - and to stick to it.

Coordinates: Maggie Hughes, 612-546-7386.

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