The “Where to Start” Advice Every Guru Gives That’s Dead Wrong (and what to do instead)

red_tulips_white_tulipEvery guru says to start at the same point – identify your Ideal Client. They tell you that’s the most important thing and that without clarity on that you’ll struggle.

I think they’re dead wrong when they’re talking to service professionals – coaches, consultants, healers, and licensed professionals – like us.

You started your practice because you…

  • Have skills you love to use and want to spend all your time using them
  • Have a passion for the work you do, for the outcome you deliver – whether it’s for helping others manage stress, grow their business, write better books, or something else. You want to help others do, be, and have more than they have now.
  • Feel called to a mission. I’ve asked service providers why they do what they do and many feel drawn to solve a problem or make an impact in some way. They almost can’t explain why they do it; they just know they have to.


There’s some internal knowing that this is the work you were meant to do. Service professionals are led by the service they want to deliver.

That’s what drives you — making a difference…serving others…through the skills you have.


So when the gurus start preaching that your first step is to focus on an Ideal Client or target market you struggle to figure out who that is or should be for you.

This can leave you feeling like you’re stupid because you can’t figure out something that they say is basic.

But they’ve got it backwards. At least when it comes to service professionals like coaches, consultants, or healers.

What You Need to Do Before Worrying About Who Your Ideal Client Is

Before we can possibly know our Ideal Client, we need to be clear on our Big Idea.

Legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy is credited with coining the phrase, “Big Idea”. And his effectiveness with using it was a good part of what made him legendary.

Having a Big Idea means you’ve got a unique approach to a problem. It’s your unique solution built on your unique slant on a specific problem.

So expressing a Big Idea means communicating…

  • The problem you solve
  • Your Point of View about the problem you solve
  • The outcome or transformation you provide

When you’re trying to grow a business, have bills to pay, and empty cupboards to fill it can make you feel a bit panicky to  focus on what you think of as a small segment of  the population.

You’re likely nervous about turning people down or saying you only with a specific type of person or that you only solve a specific type of problem.

You can also feel really uncomfortable (to put it mildly) about putting yourself out there.

Benefits of Getting Clear About Your Big Idea

But talking about your Big Idea…talking about the problem that needs to be solved and why people struggle to solve it…is a lot easier. It put’s the attention on the problem, not on you.

And when you deeply understand the problem you solve and the outcome you provide, better than anyone else, then you can start to see who has that problem and who wants the outcome you offer.

When you’re clear about your Big Idea and stay on message talking about issues that relate to  it then you’re going to attract people who have that problem you solve and who want the solution you provide in the way you provide it.

You become the go-to person for your particular audience.

The Foundation of Your Big Idea

The most important element that forms the foundation of your Big Idea is your Point of View (POV).

Your POV is the set of beliefs you have about the work you do and the problem you solve. It’s your approach and philosophy about solving the problem.

It informs everything you do and guides the way you do it.

Here’s a quick example.

On a video call, my friends who are livestreaming experts they told me I needed to check out a new livestream service that’s all the rage.

But a friend of mine in an English speaking country outside of the US posted on Facebook a negative experience he had with this company.

My friend’s assessment was the livestreaming company’s rep had no idea how to talk to a professional and acted like a child.

What my friend described certainly sounded like very poor service. Since he was dealing with a manager of this new company, it sounds like they either don’t know how to hire good people or they’re developing a culture with a chip on its shoulder — one that doesn’t value clients.

So my reaction when my friends suggested I have this company on the show was very strong.


I don’t want to help bad companies get attention and attract business when they obviously don’t put the effort into hiring and / or training top notch people. Or they care so little about their staff that they create an environment that causes these people to then act out.

Can you hear my values in there? The importance I place on staffing, training, and organizational development?

That forms the foundation of my POV about service, culture, and staffing.

Your beliefs, values, and philosophy become very obvious when something tests them.

So when you hear some guru go on about how the first thing you need to do is identify a target market… and you struggle to identify one…it’s easy to feel like you’re stupid. But you’re not.

They just assume you’re clear on your Big Idea. That you’re clear on your core message, the problem you solve, and the outcome you deliver.

But it’s very likely that you’re not.

That’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because you’ve been focusing too hard on getting clients.

But you can’t get as many clients — or Ideal Clients — until you’re clear on your core message.

You do need a clear audience to communicate with, and the more you know about them the easier it is to attract them.

But you can’t attract them if you don’t understand their problem and your solution and why your solution is right for them.

You’ll struggle to attract them if you don’t have a Big Idea and if you don’t have a clear message delivered consistently across different platforms.

So if you’ve been sweating to figure out an ideal client, or avatar, or brand persona, or whatever is the buzz phrase of the moment, I’m giving you permission to stop worrying about that right now.

Instead, focus on gaining crystal clarity on your Big Idea.

Focus on being clear about the problem you solve, the solution you provide, the POV you have, and packaging all that into your Big Idea so people understand you and what you’re all about.

Then get your message out powerfully — in a way that reaches and resonates with your ideal client so she takes the next step to learn more about you and the solution you provide.

Then as you see who is naturally attracted to you, you can decide how to adjust your message in order to attract more of those people who you truly want to work with and less of those who aren’t a perfect fit.

Your Ideal Client or Avatar will make itself known to you because that’s who resonates with your message.

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10 Steps to a Courageous Business Life, part 2

lion-maleThat famous philosopher Anonymous said, “Being self-employed is the toughest self-development program you’ll ever go through.”

She was right.

You really come face-to-face with your own crap.

It’s time to tune into how we get in our own way and limit our own success.

In last week’s article I shared the first 5 steps to creating and leading a courageous business life. I’m going to share steps 6 through 10 with you this week.

6. Detach from the Outcome. This is the 2nd most important step in this entire process. The most important is developing self-awareness. Detaching from the outcome is a simple concept that can take years to perfect; but if there was one single thing that helped me have the tremendous breakthrough I wanted it was this step.

I think this is one of those things that it helps to look first at what it is not.

Think about the last time you lost a client.

Maybe you spent days creating a proposal and quote and they turned you down. Or maybe you talked to someone about speaking at their event and they said no.

If you got emotionally upset about that it means you were attached to the outcome.

This happens when you take whatever happened personally or you feel as though someone “pushed your buttons”.

It means some aspect of your pride and self-esteem was hurt by what happened.

This can happen any time there’s an emotional response to something and it can be as simple as your feelings get hurt or you get angry.

The more awareness you develop on this issue, the more work you do to remove emotion from your work, the less your self is attached to it and you’re able to examine things that happen for what they are – things that happen.

Someone turning down a quote isn’t a rejection of you personally. But…even if they thought to themselves, “This person is too annoying to work with so I’m going to turn them down,” it should make you happy. Because you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed working with them anyway.

The point here is to not feel rejected if someone turns you down…to not feel stupid if something you didn’t do brought you a result you didn’t want. Look at what it really is – data for you to work with.

7. Understand the business of business. Service professionals like us start our business because we…

  • Want to use our gifts. We recognize there’s some skill set we have that we’re drawn to use.
  • Feel called to a mission. Service professionals are very likely to feel our work is a calling….a vocation. Often there’s a feeling of wanting to make a big impact on the world.
  • Have a passion for the work. We love what we do and our specialty that it’s all we want to spend our time doing. We don’t so much think of building a business as much as we think of doing that thing we do. And since it’s so obvious to us that others need what we offer we can be shocked when they don’t jump at the chance to work with us.
  • Became accidental entrepreneurs. We may find ourselves unemployed and recognize that it’s an opportunity to go out on our own. Or you may feel you have no other choice because you weren’t able to find another job.

Even if you went to school and majored in business there’s a big difference between studying business and running one. And there are very different skill sets at play here. The great skills you have in the “what” you do are very different from the skill set needed to run, market, sell, and manage the profitability of a business.

The added challenge in this is separating the emotional issues from the nuts and bolts of running the business. We may be caught up under-charging, over-delivering to the point we’re no longer profitable. We can get caught up in bright, shiny object syndrome and end up buying course after course, system after system, all because we can recognize the power they have but they’re never the magic wand gurus can make them out to be.

And understanding the business of your business can help remove the emotion from many of the decisions that need to be made.

If you understand your expenses and revenue goals along with your sales process and how long it takes you to bring in revenue then you’re more likely to price your offerings appropriately and not be trapped under-charging or over-spending.

8. Take Massive Action. Yes I know sometimes a baby step is all you can bring yourself to take. That’s fine if it’s truly all you can muster. It’s better than nothing; and you’ll realize nothing awful happened. Nothing that’s not correctable anyway. But I started to realize that if I kept taking baby steps I’d continue to struggle with underachieving and it wouldn’t be enough to have the breakthrough I wanted. As I started to spend more time around risk takers who jumped on whatever new idea they had I began to see that was the best path for me. There’s an old saying that “the Universe rewards action>’ Well, it can’t reward you if you aren’t taking any. Look at it this way: You can watch people swim. You can read about swimming. You can talk about swimming. You can read books about swimming. But you’ll never be able to swim if you don’t actually get in the water and start swimming. So whether you jump in or climb down the ladder…get in the pool already will ya?

9. Have Faith. Now, don’t get weirded out. Acording to Faith is “belief in something for which there is no proof.” More defnitions include “allegiance to a duty or a person”, and “strong belief or trust in someone or something”

Whether you believe in a higher power (for me, that higher power is God) or whether you believe in yourself, or both, success requires faith. It requires you to believe in something for which there is no proof – yet. It requires you to have allegiance to a person (YOU!). And it certainly means you have a strong believe or trust in yourself.

As entrepreneurs, we can talk a good game, but our actions are what demonstrate we have faith or we don’t.
Our lack of faith comes from a lack of confidence in ourselves….from a lack of faith that we can achieve what we dream of….from an underlying sense that we’re not worthy of what we want and not good enough to achieve it.

Internal faith – faith in yourself – grows out of love. So if you find yourself struggling to take the massive action you need to achieve what you say you want, then you’ve got to confront the issue and begin to reconcile this issue. If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will either.

10.Stay in your genius zone. We know full well that being an entrepreneur requires us to do everything. We’re not just the deliverer of the service we provide – which you’re likely to be absolutely outstanding at – but we’re the marketing department, sales, accounting, and the tech department. We cannot possibly be outstanding in all those roles and the others we’re called on to perform. And yet, we beat ourselves up like the eye doctor I talked to who called herself “stupid” because she was struggling to write the sales copy for her website.

This woman is no one’s idea of stupid. She went to medical school! She treats patients. And yet she feels dumb because she feels she should be able to write copy – a job people go to school for, get degrees in, and make the whole focus of their work.

The more you can recognize what your gifts are, build a business around those gifts, and then outsource non-genius work to others who excel in those skills the happier you’ll be.
That doesn’t give you a pass at learning the business of business. But it does charge you with building a business that allows you to truly thrive and that means working with contractors or hiring employees who can easily do the work you can’t.

Think about how confident you are when you’re working directly in the tasks you excel in. That’s when work isn’t really work.

It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes or that you won’t have problems. But it means those situations are likely to be fewer and less severe when you stay in your genius zone.

And you’re giving someone else work that matches their gifts too.

Being an entrepreneur is risky. It’s not for everyone. But in order to truly excel…to make the impact we dream of making…to earn the rewards we dream of earning…it requires us to take each of the 10- steps. It requires us to continuously work towards becoming a better person and becoming a better business person.

And it requires us to confidently and courageously move forward.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level of success but can’t seem to bring yourself to take the massive action needed to get you there, then you’ve got a confidence problem.

I’ve created the Confidence Builder Series to share the strategies and tactics that helped me get out of my own way and achieve the breakthrough I had been dreaming of.

The  free-to-attend monthly series is held on the 3rd Thursday each month through December of 2016. Head over to the Confidence Builder page to check out the upcoming sessions and register.


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10 Steps to a Courageous Business Life – part 1

be-brave-chalkboardAs we navigate through the third quarter and take some time to enjoy summer, we need to think about wrapping up the year with a bang and taking action now to make the coming year our best yet.

The skills and strategies that got you to this point in your business are unlikely to be the same skills and strategies that will take you to the next level – whatever that may be.

And the biggest thing we need to worry about is getting tripped up by our fears.

Franklin D. Roosevelt – our 32nd president – said it best when he said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Man did that guy nail it.

Fear can cloud your thinking and hijack your actions. And since we entrepreneurs are walking a tightrope every day it can get pretty scary out here even on the days when things are rolling our way.

It’s worse for those of us who have emotional baggage we’re in the process of unpacking.

There are 10 steps we absolutely must take that will enable us to take control over not just the rest of the year but also over the rest of our business life.

These actions have helped me put down those heavy bags I’ve been dragging around for years and have helped me step forward with confidence and positivity as I actively create the future I dream of.

  1. This influences success in several ways. First of all, you’ve got to recognize that what you want isn’t what you’ve got. You’ve also got to recognize that often problems start with us. Maybe we have faulty or fuzzy thinking or poor execution of strategy. Maybe we’re not communicating our offers effectively. Or maybe we’re not putting ourselves out there in a bigger way to attract more of our best audience.
  2. Take Responsibility. The next step is a natural off-shoot of the first. You have to take responsibility for everything you have control over – your thoughts, actions, emotions, and (at least part of) the results you get. You can’t control whether someone buys from you or not. But you can take responsibility for understanding your audience so well that you create messages that resonate with them and help them move forward.You can’t control whether someone on your team does their job or not but you can start by hiring the right people, giving them the tools they need to do the job, helping them understand their role, and communicating with them clearly and frequently, and creating an environment where it’s easy for them and not threatening for them to ask questions.

    While you do your best to deliver the promised results to your client you really can’t control whether they’ll be satisfied or not. Some people are impossible to please. But you CAN be sure you’re on the same page with them and that their expectations match your intended deliverables and results. Taking responsibility might seem scary at first but it’s incredibly freeing when you accept that you’re not responsible for the rest of the world.

  3. This is probably the biggest reason we don’t get what we want. We don’t really know what we want to start with. “More clients” isn’t clear and neither is “more money”. Having one new client that’s a pain to work with and who doesn’t pay you is still “more clients.” Finding a penny on the ground fits the definition of “more money”. Here’s how I explain this to my clients.Imagine you could put out an All Points Bulletin through the police to catch what you want (it could be your ideal client…the amount you want to charge….or anything else). Your description of what you want needs to be so crystal clear that the cops could catch it and bring it right to you. No case of mistaken identity.

    I know that’s a little crazy of an example but it’s usually one people get.

  4. End the Conflict Between Your Needs and Wants. When I finally faced the fact that I was the only person who was going to create the outcome I wanted I was then able to start uncovering why I wasn’t as successful as I dreamed of being and as people told me I “should” be.As I thought about what I was doing and what I wasn’t doing along with the results I wanted, I realized that my needs were getting in the way of my wants.

    This was a powerful aha.

    I’ll give you the biggest example.

    I want to make money. I want to serve people and I want to be handsomely rewarded for the work I do.

    But I had lost my sales mojo.

    I would just not get into sales conversations.

    Why? Because I had a fear of rejection tied to my need to be loved.

    So the “want” — money, impact – wasn’t going to happen with the business model I had constructed as long as my fear of rejection and rear of being unloved and unlovable was there.

    As long as I feared rejection I wouldn’t take the chance of being rejected.

    As soon as I created a model and adopted the belief that I’m sharing information and people either want it or they don’t, the pressure came off me. Also, I realized that looking for love from my clients is a big mistake. Business is business and people saying no to me wasn’t a rejection of me personally. But hearing no is depressing so I needed to develop skills and design a business model that minimized my reliance on a sales process.

  5. Make Peace with the Past. This is a truism we may not want to face but we’re the product of our past in addition to our DNA.And “unfinished business” as therapists, coaches, and counselors call it can haunt us into our adult lives.

    I know because it happened to me.

    I had adopted strategies that were pretty effective at navigating life as a child in an emotionally abusive home.

    As I got older and started to work for emotionally abusive bosses, I used some of the old strategies and developed some new ones.

    For example, I decided that if I did everything perfectly as a child then my mother wouldn’t have any reason to yell at me.

    That’s a pretty reasonable bit of logic for a 7 year old to make and in my mind it provided some level of protection.

    Unfortunately we know perfectionism will hold you back as an adult.

    Another strategy I adopted as a child was I wouldn’t speak unless I was spoken to. And it helped that that was a cultural norm for children in my generation anyway.

    So while if I didn’t say anything that would draw attention to myself or upset my mom’s emotional applecart the child version of me felt she was doing a good job of self-protection; the adult in me who doesn’t speak unless spoken too can struggle to make connections with strangers. That makes business building activity like networking difficult to impossible.

    Once I recognized this pattern of behavior I was then able to examine the connection between my conflicting needs and wants while choosing new strategies that were appropriate for life as an entrepreneur.

    Next week, I’ll share the next 5 steps to building a courageous business life. For this issue, your cocktail – or reflection – exercise is to reflect on each of these 5 steps and gently reflect on how they currently present themselves in your life and behavior. It could be a lot, a little, or a moderate amount.

    And your action step for this week is to start a notebook or journal where you can begin to get clarity on what you really, truly want – in business and in life.

    Until next week, keep moving towards your goals and don’t let anything stand in your way.


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How to Keep Working In and On Your Business When the World’s Gone Mad


Image courtesy of

This has been a very sad week in the United States and it seems like the epicenter of sadness is Orlando, Florida.

You may have found yourself struggling to focus on the work you needed to get done or maybe wondering if your work even matters considering the heartbreaking events that went on this week.

Because this won’t be the only sad week we face while growing our businesses I thought I’d share some tips you might find useful. And believe me, I’m talking to myself here as much as I’m sharing this with you.

  1. Turn off the news. The media provides 24-7 coverage of carnage and it can truly become overwhelming. So once you’ve gotten the minimum amount of details to consider yourself informed turn it off and don’t turn it back on. That goes for websites as well as TV, radio, and any other piece of technology that would deliver the news.
  2. Cut back – WAY back – on your social media exposure. Only get involved at the minimum level you may feel you need to. But I encourage you to even think about completely disengaging and only venting your emotions through email with very trusted friends. Social media will expose you to crackpots, trolls, and the dark side of people you’d otherwise not see. Don’t look.
  3. Review your to-do list. I’m sure you’re overwhelmed with work as I am, so one good thing to do is focus on the top things that need to be done. And if you know you’re struggling to stay focused or you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotions, then concentrate on those must-do tasks that are truly time-sensitive and revenue generating. Push off for a few days anything that can truly wait.
  4. Tune into your feelings. Recognize what you’re feeling and admit you’re feeling it. Those feelings are perfectly valid, especially if you’re an introverted entrepreneur. Don’t let one person tell you that you’re over-reacting. Reflect though on what you are feeling and gently ask yourself why you’re reacting so deeply. It could be that you’re a parent who can empathize with the anguish of those who lost a child this week. I automatically think about the siblings those who passed away left behind. When I do that, I lose it thinking about how much I love my own siblings and how out of my mind I’d feel if anything ever happened to them. So think about what’s being triggered and trust that it’s ok to feel those feelings. You’re human.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Play with your pets. Get in touch with nature. Have a workout and really push yourself (When I was back home in South Jersey and I was upset, I used to love to box with my trainer). But if you feel the need to sleep, do that too. Bake (another favorite stress-reliever of mine). Do whatever you need to in order to stay emotionally healthy. And if that means hiding posts from certain people on Facebook then do it.
  6. Police your self-talk. My feelings this week have been similar to those I felt on September 11. 2001, the day the towers came down and the other planes crashed. This week I had to be extra vigilant that I didn’t just think over and over about those poor parents who lost their toddler. So I forced myself to become more aware and when it popped in my head, I’d say a prayer for them instead. I figured that’s more productive than just thinking about it and upsetting myself.
  7. Do something. As entrepreneurs – take-action kind of people – our first thought is “I have to DO something!” So do that. It’s part of your natural soothing process. Give blood. Hang a rainbow flag outside of your home or office. Make a donation. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper in Orlando and let them know you’re with them. Pray. Pray A LOT. Better yet, organize a prayer vigil in your community. Tell LGBT folks you love them and stand by them. Ask a local LGBT group what would be helpful. Organize an interfaith discussion of differences. In helping others heal we often heal ourselves.
  8. Resist the temptation to judge others. There’s a lot of victim shaming and even parent shaming going on right now. And I’ve even see others shame people who they feel aren’t demonstrating enough sadness. Each of us grieves differently and we all have a right to our feelings. Some people want to talk about it and others don’t. Be respectful but at the same time protect your emotional health too.

The biggest thing you can do is to go on. To continue to market your offerings, plan your next event, send out invoices. Evil wins when we become frozen in fear and sadness. Refuse to give in to fear. Period.

Continuing to work doesn’t mean you’re not a kind, generous human being. It means you’re an indomitable entrepreneur for whom work can be a solace as well as a tribute to the spirti of those lost.

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Mid-Year Check-in: 7 Elements to Review

to_do_priorityI took advantage of the long Memorial Day weekend and beautiful weather we had in the Niagara region to sit on the deck and take stock of where I am, how to leverage the work I did in the first half of the year, and where I want to go in 2017.

The tendency I used to have was to look at my accomplishments and beat myself up for not achieving more.

I’m done with that.

I know that type of thinking helped chain me in self-abuse mode and kept me focusing on negative things which only got me more negative stuff.

Part of being detached from the outcome is looking at your results and not judging them. Just compare them to what you wanted.

I thought you might benefit from doing a mid-year assessment too so I thought I’d share what I did.

These are the 7 basics I think need to be reviewed.

Businessman Holding Graph --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Revenue. I used to hate looking at my numbers. They were always inconsistent at best and not good at worse. But you can’t measure what you’re not tracking so take a look at your revenue from the first half of the year month by month. Is it going up or down? Were some months better than others? If so, why? Are you bringing in at least the amount you need to run your business, market your offerings, and have a great life without scraping to get by? Do you know the number you want each month? If not, get clear and then assess what’s going on here. Set a target for the second half of the year.

Expenses.  These were on track for me but then my websites were infected with malware and it cost me more than $1000 to get the problem fixed. I now have an unexpected monthly payment for continued protection and I’ve got to figure out how to recover that money. That tells me I need to up my revenue number and take into consideration building a business rainy-day fund over the 2nd half of the year and beyond. Are you spending money where you should be? Are you paying for things you haven’t seen a return on? Are you paying for things you don’t really need at this point? Estimate expenses for the rest of the year and begin looking at expense estimates for 2017.

Profit. Do a quick calculation of the difference between your gross revenue and your expenses? By the way, did you take money for taxes out of your revenue? If not, make sure you do that and put it somewhere you won’t touch it. In spite of what Mike Michalowitz says in his book Profit First, you don’t pay yourself first. You always pay the government first. Remember, it took the US Treasury Department to bring down Al Capone.

Now, take a look at that profit number. Naturally you’d like it to be higher. Resist the temptation to beat yourself up if you think it’s too low. If it’s higher than you thought, then yay you. Make some notes about this number and give some more thought to revenue and expenses for the remainder of the year. As my mentor Mike Koenigs once said, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.”

OK, those are the very basics of business right? No surprise there. So here are the other things I looked at that I encourage you to review as well.


Referral Partners. If you’re an introverted entrepreneur like me and you hate selling, one of the secrets to NOT selling is to get more referrals. Word of mouth is important for any business but it’s really critical if you hate to sell. You’ve got to work extra hard at being truly remarkable. You’ve also got to work at cultivating relationships with key referral groups. So think about what types of businesses compliment but don’t compete with you? Who serves your ideal audience? Two segments that serve my ideal audience are Online Business Managers and Virtual Assistants. I’m actively cultivating relationships with great performers in these segments to spread the word about my show, Let’s Talk Tech, and for the tech events I have coming up. Who would be natural referral partners for you and your offerings? Are you cultivating strong relationships with those partners you already have? What more can you do for your existing partners in the 2nd half of the year and how will that impact your expenses? Will you buy gifts, send cards, etc.?

Web Presence Optimization. This can sometimes feel like trying to herd cats but what I’m talking about here is your overall ability to rank in the search engines for key terms, and the development of a consistent brand on the web? Is your website looking good or does it need to be updated (like mine does)? This doesn’t mean you need to be on every single platform out there but it does mean you want to do a good job on those platforms you are on and that you present a unified image and message. Keep in mind the old adage “A confused mind never buys” and evaluate your web presence with a critical eye. One of my goals is to dominate page one of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for several key terms. Do you have a goal for your web presence? If not, then add that to the list of things to think about for the second half of the year. And be sure to keep in mind any expenses related to growing your presence and your brand.

Product Creation. We create an awful lot of content each month. As people who hate selling, one of the things to make sure we’re doing is to repurpose that content into products people can purchase as a way to check out our philosophy, process, and effectiveness. These low and mid-priced range products can be reasonable investments for someone who is evaluating whether or not to work with you privately and they’re also a way to get paid for all that content you’ve created. This can be a relatively painless way to begin to grow your revenue and maximize your earning power. Reflect on everything you’ve created – blog posts, webinars, white papers and reports, etc. – and then think about the needs and wants of your audience. How can you put together at least one small product to begin to sell before the end of the year?

gratitudeYour mental / emotional / spiritual / physical health. This should really be at the top of the list but I know revenue is the first thing on your mind as an introverted entrepreneur.

The first half of 2016 was crazy for me. I…
Le…successfully launched my podcast, t’s Talk Tech (on New & Noteworthy within an hour of its official launch and was in N&N in three categories every day for 8 weeks!),
...laid out a sales funnel
planned and hosted my first big virtual event
got featured in two commercials for hosting company Hostgator
created and sold a course on developing and launching a unique podcast
and survived the malware infection of my three web properties.

But I paid a big price.

I missed a couple of important family events and spent only minimal time with my husband.

What about you? Were the sacrifices you made worth it? What are you unwilling to do as you move into the second half of the year?

For me, this is an additional incentive to grow my revenue since I need to outsource more work to stay in my genius zone, maximize my impact, and minimize time spent away from those I love.

You know how fast time flies by. Take control of where you and your business are going so you don’t wind up on December 31st kicking yourself for another year of not becoming the person and not building the business you were meant to.

Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand at mid-year….how do you feel about your accomplishments and what are your big goals for the rest of the year.

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Strong Boundaries Make Strong Businesses for Solo Professionals

wooden-fence-waterAs someone with a deep wound around rejection, I grew up with a huge need to be liked.

The first jobs I got as a kid were service-centered – where going the extra mile to please a customer was a badge of honor and led to financial and emotional rewards.

That conditioning continued through my corporate life as I worked in service industries and in helping positions – training, staffing, and organizational development, as well as marketing and sales.

Saying “no” was a quick way to be branded as “not a team player” and someone who wasn’t committed to the organization.

Out on our own, this drive to please our clients is a double-edged sword.

It can lead us to becoming the go-to person for those we serve and it can lead us to being seen as a leader in our industry segment.

But it can also cause us bending over backward to an unhealthy extreme.

Examples of going too far include any time you give so much value that you resent doing it. That’s taking over-delivering to the extreme.

It also happens when you do things for your clients and are afraid to charge them or because you want to have praise heaped on you more than you want money to flow into your bank account.

And sometimes, just as we leave ourselves open for bullies in our personal lives, being too eager to please can open you up to relationships that descend into bullying.

These business bullies can be those who use overwhelming negotiating tactics to get you to lower your prices, to give them more value than they want to pay for, or blaming you for not reading their minds and delivering on things they never asked for.

Standing up to them can be hard, but it’s a critical exercise in building your confidence muscles.

There’s a great Seinfeld episode where Elaine asks to use Jerry’s apartment while he’s out of town. The reason she needs to use it is so she can host a baby shower for a an acquaintance named Leslie who she doesn’t know very well but doesn’t really like but can’t say no to. Jerry and Elaine’s friend George considers Leslie as one of the worst dates of his life, but who he couldn’t stand up to when she humiliated him on their date.

Jerry’s predicament in the episode is he’s agreed to have Kramer’s friends install illegal cable in the apartment.

This is a great episode that shows the difficulty of standing up for ourselves with people we have a hard time saying “no” to, even though that’s what we really want to do.

Just this week I was faced with someone who I looked up to and admired who I felt was pushing me around about a project I had invited her to be on. (My husband Lou swears life is a Seinfeld episode)

She had missed every deadline she’d agreed to and then wanted me to change the completion date of the project.

And at first I was going to do it.

But then I realized what I was allowing to happen.

I realized that if I gave in I was allowing her to bully me and I was not valuing myself or my skills, nor was I acting as the leader I needed to be on the project.

So I told her the project didn’t appear to be a fit for her and while I wished her well I’d be moving on without her.

No apologies. No “It’s not you, it’s me” type of language.

It took a lot for me to be able to do that.

The old me – from even a year ago – wouldn’t have done it. I’d have given her everything she asked for, inconvenienced myself, but kept her happy (at least until the next thing she didn’t want to happen).

Of course, I made this brave stand by email 🙂 but at least I took a stand – the stand that was best for me.

The fact that she’s now unhappy about being cut out of the project isn’t my fault and it doesn’t make me a bad person.

It makes me a smart, healthy business person.

It minimizes my stress on the project, which on the whole raises my profitability because the happiness I feel about work directly impacts the quality and value of my days.

It lowers my exposure to risk. People who have extremes in their behavior and who get angry over what they perceive to be slights are unpredictable. I know people who’ve been caught up in law suits over ridiculous issues and who spent their life savings defending themselves.

It reinforces positive self-talk. Standing up to someone who’s intimidating makes me feel good, proves I can face bigger challenges, and develops my resiliency skills.

All of that takes confidence and courage.

But I didn’t always have them.

It took me years to develop them. And now that I have them, I’m not losing them again.

So if you find yourself complaining about your clients, your work, and other things in your business (or life), ask yourself what you’ve done that’s allowed those things to happen or to continue to happen (this doesn’t include violence, ok? That’s not what I’m saying here).

Ask yourself why you continue to stand for this type of behavior or these types of actions.

And face the fact that, to propel your business forward you’ve got to raise you confidence level and courageously step up for what you believe.

What types of situations do you find you lack confidence in? Share your thoughts.

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5 Tips to Prepare for the Growth You’re Working So Hard to Achieve

growth-tree-elementsI’m exhausted.

Physically….mentally…emotionally exhausted.

Motivated by my relocation five hundred miles away from my home in South Jersey, I decided to completely reinvent my business so it was more of the work I wanted to do and less of what I didn’t want.

Instead, I got more of both.

I’m thrilled that my show launched successfully.

It landed on New & Noteworthy in iTunes before it even had any downloads!

It was in New & Noteworthy in three categories and in N&N for all of iTunes almost every day for 8 weeks.

It attracted me joint venture offers, new clients, and new connections.

I was even featured in two commercials for website host, Hostgator.

Revenue is up and opportunities keep coming.

And while I’m thrilled and grateful for all the good things coming my way, I wanted to share some advice that falls in the “be careful what you wish for” category.

The trick is to be ready for growth when it happens.

Here are my 5 tips to help you prepare for growth based on what I’ve learned since things really started taking off for me.

1. Take care of yourself. This is the number one thing for a reason. If you’re not performing at your peak then you won’t be able to sustain growth. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well. Drink plenty of water. And build in time for activity and exercise. But the most important thing you need to do is to manage your schedule. It will take you three times as long to get things done so stop saying yes to everyone NOW, before you get so busy you burst in to tears when someone asks how you’re doing.

Yes, that happened to me.

2. Start looking for help before you actually need it. As a former recruiter with more than 10,000 interviews under my belt and a 94.6% retention rate for those I interviewed, trust me when I tell you that it takes much longer to find the right person than you think it does. And don’t just go by a referral from someone you know. My first two virtual assistants came highly recommended and let’s just say things didn’t go well.

Depending on the skill level you’re looking for and your own work schedule it’s going to take you at least 3 months to find the right person and get them onboard (orient them, teach them your way of doing things, etc.). If you don’t have processes down (I didn’t and am working on them) it could take you as long to onboard them as it does to recruit them.

And don’t think you’ll just do everything yourself because it’s easier than hiring someone. Your revenue and enjoyment of life will be limited if you continue to do everything yourself. Yes, managing costs is important but so is doing work you’re great at and that brings you joy. I’ll bet every task involved in delivering your service doesn’t bring you joy.

3. Document everything. Getting ready to grow requires a lot of creating. You’re putting together your new offer, finishing a book, or creating a new process. If you don’t document everything as you go, you’ll end up with twice as much work when you should be just handing things off to your support person. And sometimes you’ll have to pay extra to have someone help you document the process.

4. Monitor and manage your cash flow well. One of the crazy things that happens when you grow is you discover you need to spend more money to actually achieve the growth or to sustain it. Your email list grows and you find yourself faced with the choice of paying more for the next size up of email contacts or moving to a different provider to get a better price and have more room for growth.

Make sure your invoicing when it’s time and following up on **unpaid invoices. And watch your spending. You need money to pay for help so hold off on buying anything that’s truly not needed.

Investigate additional, easy opportunities to maximize your revenue without much extra effort. For example, I subscribe to and have its extension on my browser.

When I’m about to buy something from a company in their system I get a little prompt to activate their cash-back deal. It’s not much but it’s been enough for lunch out once a month. And it’s stuff I’d be buying anyway. Another strategy I use is affiliate marketing.

Yes, sometimes links I include on my website, and in my books and courses are affiliate links. That means I earn a little commission if someone clicks through and buys. It’s not huge and I only do it for things I’m really comfortable with – often that I use or have used personally or that someone on my team uses. It’s simple to do; it’s easy; and every little bit helps.

5. Ask for – and accept — help. That famous philosopher, Anonymous, once said “Being an entrepreneur is the most expensive and intense personal development program there is.” And she was right.

I had always known I was incredibly independent. And my husband, Lou, often tells me I’m “hard to be nice to.” Being independent is one of my top values, but there’s just no way I could have gotten my podcast, Let’s Talk Tech, and the business I’m building around it off the ground if I hadn’t accepted and asked for help.

And I have to tell you it was hard.

Not just because I had to pay for it  but because I felt so…undeserving….unworthy?

Growing up in corporate America you get indoctrinated in this belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness because God forbid someone should think you can’t do what they’ve asked.

But in reality – especially as an entrepreneur – asking for and accepting help is a sign of a very healthy person.

I caught the tail-end of a presentation by Facebook guru Mari Smith a few months ago. One of the most important things we needed to do in 2016 she said was “get help”. She said there was no way she’d be at the place she now is were it not for the support she’s gotten.

Growth is fantastic. It’s fun and exciting; but it’s also exhausting and frightening.

If you’re going to get your business to the next level of **success while enjoying the sort of life you want – plenty of time for enjoying friends, family, and interests – then it’s important to prepare for and manage growth effectively.

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Lessons From My First Hater

image courtesy of Pixabay / johnhain

image courtesy of Pixabay / johnhain

Well it happened. I got my first hater.

This is something I secretly dreaded ever since I got online back in 2000.

Looking back now on things I struggled with and how I held myself back — it was all because I was actually afraid of standing out.

Screwy right? I mean, how else are you going to get clients if you don’t stand out?

I was a big fish in a small pond back in my corporate life. Standing out wasn’t something I even thought about. I worked hard. I always held very visible positions in human resources and in marketing.

But that was different. It wasn’t really “me” who was standing out. At least I didn’t see it as me standing out.

I saw it as doing my job to help the whole company move forward.

I was an important team member, but a team member nonetheless.

Then I was out on my own and instead of being a team member I was afraid of being seen as some pushy, salesy…word that rhymes with “itch”.

So when this person messaged me on Facebook with her long message about how she was sick and tired of me I was shocked.

It happened before the end of the year and I can honestly say it was one of the best things that happened to me.

So here are 10 lessons I learned while dealing with my first hater and some tips to help you deal with yours.

  1. Give yourself time before you respond. I know some people will say “ignore them” but this particular hater is someone who I actually see quite a bit. We’re in several online groups together and I see her pretty regularly at live events so I felt compelled to respond in some way. It took me about 36 hours to respond to her. That time helped me to get past the anger and hurt I felt as a result of what she said so I could respond in a professional manner. I think this is important because haters are looking for anything you do that will validate their hateful thoughts and behavior. Don’t give them that fuel. And if you want to ignore yours go right ahead. Most haters don’t deserve a response.
  2. Ask yourself which button got pushed and why you reacted emotionally. This is a tough one but if you don’t recognize this you’ll be a pawn of future haters. A former coworker used to say that even broken clocks are right twice a day. Think about what could have possibly led this person to think the thoughts she  shared. Could there have been any glimmer of truth in what she said? Usually when something provokes an emotional response it’s because there’s a wound there or you have a fear associated with something. For example, if someone accused you of careless work and you take great pride in delivering work that’s perfect you’re likely to get defensive and emotional because being careless is something you dread being accused of. This takes really detaching from the emotions and recognizing she’s got her own issues that likely have nothing to do with you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to disconnect from them. If you’re connected to them on social media like LinkedIn or Facebook you can disconnect from them very easily. Yes, there’s a way they can find out if you disconnected from them but do you really care? It’s probably unlikely you’re going to run into them at the grocery store, and unlikely the actively search their contacts for you.
  4. Invite them to disconnect from you. If they’re on your newsletter list encourage them to unsubscribe since there doesn’t seem to be a fit between them and your message anymore. If you can’t bring yourself to delete them from your connections on social media encourage them to disconnect from you. But let them know – in a very polite way – that you’re not interested in hearing from them again. Please take this the right way. I’m not talking about cutting off people with genuine concerns or complaints about your service. But life is too short to let mean people take up space in your head.
  5. Focus on those who want your message and are ready to receive it. I know you have a big heart and you want to help everyone who needs your services but to be honest with you, only people who are ready to receive your message are going to benefit from it. So get your message out there stronger and bolder than ever and make it laser focused on preaching to the choir not trying to convert those who aren’t interested in changing.
  6. Realize this won’t be the last hater you get. It may be best for you to have an assistant take over the bulk of reviewing your mail and messages so they can delete what’s trash, act on what they need to, and pass on only what you truly need to see. Like I said earlier, haters and complaining customers are different groups. Reading hate mail isn’t on your “most need to do” list.
  7. It’s not what they say that hurts it’s how you think about it. Thoughts might pop in your head but you don’t have to let them stay. You don’t have to dwell on them. Save all the nice emails people send you and the nice messages. Think about them instead of the crap haters toss your way.
  8. Getting hated on isn’t as bad as you think it’s going to be. I think the problem is our elephant-like memories. We remember how much it hurt when someone we loved or cared about said something that hurt us. Or that time at work when we did our best and some doofus made a snide comment about the project we delivered. Or you’re over-reacting thinking “everyone” thinks that about you. In reality, that’s the only person who does.
  9. People want to make themselves feel good and sometimes that means hurting you. Feel sorry for them and say a little prayer that they’ll find happiness and fulfillment in some other way. At the end of her very long message she admitted that “maybe I’m a little jealous.”
  10. You must be doing something right. You only become a target when you stand out. So clarify your message. Where a fabulous outfit. Polish up your website and social media profiles. When you start to shine brightly you’ll attract so many fans the haters won’t be able to reach you.

Taylor Swift says it best, “haters gonna hate”. Take the hate as a sign your voice is getting louder and your message is getting stronger. Celebrate that; don’t let a hater keep you from serving those you’re meant to serve or from sharing the gifts you were blessed with.


Posted in Mindset | Tagged | 1 Comment

What It Takes to Create an Iconic Brand — Lessons From The Eagles

When someone famous we like dies, my husband Lou and I will do something to honor that person’s memory.

So when news broke that Glenn Frey, co-founder of our favorite band, The Eagles, had died suddenly we watched The History of The Eagles on Netflix®.

That movie was one of those rare films that stayed with me long after it was over.

Not only was it fun to see the band in footage from the ‘70’s, but it was fascinating to see inside the minds of its founders, Glenn Frey and Don Henley.

I walked away with a deeper appreciation of the band and its individual members as well as for Frey and Henley as leaders of the organization and business.

These are the 10 lessons about business and brand building that I had reinforced by watching the movie.

1. Have courage. It took real guts to go to California, try to become a successful singer-songwriter, and have your own band when you’ve never written a song and have limited experience playing in a band. But that’s just what Frey and Henley did.

Glenn Frey, cofounder of the group with Don Henley, told Bob Seger that he (Frey) wanted to write songs but he was afraid he would suck. Seger’s reply was direct and realistic: “Of course you’re going to suck. But you’ve got to keep writing and you’ll improve.”

In the movie, The History of the Eagles, interview footage from the 70’s shows the members all had doubts about the band’s ability to maintain its success and some of them admitted to having had doubts about their individual talents. But Frey and Henley didn’t let anxiety stop The Eagles as a band. They achieved amazing things, including creating the top selling album of the entire 20th century. Imagine what staying focused and being brave can help you achieve.

Lesson for all of us:  Leverage your self -doubt and let it drive you to excellence, but don’t let it go to perfection. You can do that by setting the intention to be excellent and to remain humble and self-aware while managing your ego and working to not hurt others in your crusade to grow your strengths.

Action Step: Reflect on your fears and take action to address them. Taking massive action is a great way to leap over or blast through your fears.

2. Find your sound. This may be the hardest thing any of us does: To get clarity on the message we’re meant to share, then amplify it, and be true to it. Glenn Frey and Don Henley knew the sound they were going for, the music that was in them, and they stayed focused on how to amplify it by working with the best partners they could find who fit perfectly with that sound. They eventually broke up with early members of the band over creative differences and split with their first producer Glyn Johns because he didn’t believe the band could become what they dreamed of – a unique blend of rock, country, and other influences. He wanted to use tactics that Frey and Henley felt were wrong for them. Since their first greatest hits album is the top selling album for the entire 20th century, I’d say they were right.

Lessons for all of us: The hardest thing to do is to be your authentic self. That means embracing your brand essence and giving it voice – your beliefs, your values, your philosophy, and your approach.

Action Step: Ask yourself what you’re resisting and why. Ask yourself if you’re trying to appeal to everyone or at least to too many people. You have an audience you’re meant to serve and who wants to hear from you. Sing to them only. If others listen and are inspired to action that’s great.

3. Treat your business like a business. Creative professionals – especially musicians it seems – are notorious for focusing all their energy on what they’re creating. Glenn Frey and Don Henley were very smart businessmen and while some disagree with the way they ran / run the band, they recognized that they had a clear vision and goals and did what was necessary to achieve it. Early members of the band enjoyed the success but wanted more of a say in the business, more writing credits, and more singing time. I’m not saying Frey and Henley were or are perfect but in the moment, we all do the best we can. And as the leaders of our businesses we have to make very difficult decisions.

Lesson for all of us: Businesses track expenses, forecast revenue, create products, have contracts, follow budgets, and have other key indicators of success and failure. Leaders talk to underperformers or those who aren’t committed to the direction of the organization and, as tough as it sounds, they stop working with those people.

Action Step: Examine your business model and the culture of the organization you’re building. Recognize that it takes working with others to have the impact you truly want and to maximize your profitability.

4. Be a leader – to your audience, to your team and partners, to your industry. Not many businesses can survive by following a consensus-focused leadership style. Even in a democracy someone has to be in charge and someone has to make the decisions. And the founder or founders have to combine visionary thinking with a commitment and drive to set and stay the course. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely existence and calls for hard decisions sometimes.

Lessons for all of us: You’ll be criticized, second-guessed, and questioned. You’ve got to stay the course and be true to your beliefs, vision, and values. That’s never easy. Especially when you’re going in a direction that’s different from what the so-called experts are telling you to do.

Action Step: Ask yourself if you’re truly a leader or if you’re just following right now. Is your messaging too generic? Following best practices is always a good idea but your message shouldn’t sound or look like everyone else’s.

5. Overcome your fears. Part of Randy Meisner’s refusal to sing Take It to the Limit during an encore was his fear of not being able to hit the high notes live in front of thousands of screaming fans. Of course by the time he hit the highest notes the fans would probably be yelling so loud they wouldn’t hear his voice crack if it did.

Lesson for all of us: Randy Meisner never gave a bad live performance of Take It to the Limit. Yet his fears ultimately are what led to his dismissal from the band. Fear will take hold of us and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Action Step: When you find yourself resisting something, saying no to something, ask yourself what you’re afraid of. Confront that fear by planning, controlling what you can, and giving it everything you’ve got. Remember – you’re striving for excellence, not perfection.

6. Take advice from gurus with a grain of salt. I think most of us look for some sort of direction when we go out on our own. We’re looking for validation that our ideas are good and will be profitable, and we’re looking for anything that will speed up the trip from struggle to profitability. Frey and Henley recognized they’d never go farther if they kept working with producer Glyn Johns. What guts it must have took to let go of a producer who had worked with bands who were legends already.

Lesson for all of us: We have to work to find experts and partners who believe in our vision as much as we do and who will work with us to make it happen.

Action Step:  Consider if you’re following one or more gurus a little blindly. Find the balance of listening to a blend of your heart, head, and gut. And if anyone tells you something is simple run away from them.

7. Maintain passion for your message. If you’ve ever found yourself getting sick of saying the same thing over and over again you know what I mean here. Imagine what it must be like to sing the same songs in the same way over and over and over.

When Glenn Frey argued with Randy Meisner over Meisner’s refusal to perform their classic hit Take It to the Limit  during an encore, Frey stressed that the fans – who had waited hours to hear that song — deserved to hear it. Frey went on to admit that he didn’t really want to sing Take It Easy ever again either, but he did it because the fans loved the song and deserved to hear it live.

Those fights contributed to Meisner being kicked out of the band.

Lesson for all of us: Of course you’re going to grow and your message is going to evolve. We’ve got to find a way to keep repeating our message without losing the joy for it and not sounding tired or frustrated.

Action Step: Record yourself delivering your next presentation or having a conversation about your message. If you hear something you don’t like in your tone of voice or phrasing you can bet others are hearing it too.

8. Find inspiration everywhere. Frey said the inspiration for Lyin’ Eyes  came from the women they saw in a bar he and Henley frequented. Life in The Fast Lane’s title  is something a drug dealer said to Frey and the immortal guitar lick in that song was something Joe Walsh made up to help him get limber before a show. Imagine how different The Eagles’ catalog  would be without those two numbers.

Frey and Henley found inspiration everywhere. Then they took action.

Lesson for all of us: We’re all creative in some way and inspiration can be found all around us. But inspiration without action is just a dream.

Action Step: Open yourself up to the inspiration all around you; then keep what’s true to your message and vision and consistent with your beliefs and values.

9. Hard Work + Persistence + Timing = Success. The message I got from watching The History of The Eagles was how much hard work went into becoming one of the best in the business. Sacrifices have to be made. I think you can have it all; just not at the same time or all the time.

Work is more joyful and feels more profitable when you leverage your greatest gifts, construct a clear and powerful message, and remain focused on serving others; but it’s still hard work.

Lesson for All of Us: The prolific author, Stephen King, was right when he said, you have “to tell the muse when to show up for work.” We have to create success habits and control our entrepreneurial impulse to get distracted or to look for a shortcut along the journey.

Action Step: Look at your calendar and challenge yourself to see if you’re truly working on important things that will help you achieve your goals quicker or are you allowing yourself to get distracted? Or worse…could self-sabotage be playing a role in what’s going on?

10. Take a vacation. Frey admitted the band worked hard and lived hard. This probably contributed to the arguments, the breakup, and the 14 years they spent apart.

Lesson for Us All: As hard as it can be to schedule time away and as much as we feel we can’t afford to do it, the truth is self-care is critical for entrepreneurs, especially in those critical growth periods.

Action Step: Look critically at your calendar and make sure you’re not over-scheduling yourself. Get help if you need it, and be sure to take time to recharge your batteries.

There’s a quote attributed to many different people: “Being self-employed is the most intense and expensive personal development program you can take.” Business building is hard work no matter how talented or focused you are. Be sure you schedule time for reflection and consider refocusing your efforts to make sure you’re moving towards your goals. And surround yourself with great people who are healthy emotionally and mentally.

According to Don Henley, the big dream he and Glenn Frey shared was hearing their songs on the radio. That dream, combined with Frey’s dedication to become a really good songwriter and his leadership helped them become one of the greatest bands of all time.

Practicing these 10 strategies could help you create a brand as iconic and beloved with your fans as The Eagles have become for theirs.

Posted in Management and Growth, PreSell | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

10 Tips to Help Make Gratitude a Habit That Grows Your Business

FlashBuddy / 30 Images

FlashBuddy / 30 Images

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is my favorite holiday. No pundits screaming about the end of giving thanks or the impending assault on thankfulness. No extremism of any kind (except maybe the argument over favorite pie – mine’s pumpkin).

And frankly, I think we can all do with a bit more reflection on all we have to be grateful for.

There are plenty of people who’d love to have your headaches.

The one downside to the holiday known as Thanksgiving (besides mincemeat pie) is that being thankful – and the joy-filled, gracious spirit that tends to linger right to New Year’s Day – seems to disappear when the last of the holiday decorations come down (at my house that’s the Saturday after Epiphany).

I started working on improving my thankfulness back in my mid-20’s when I realized I was taking my internal unhappiness out on other people. But I really ramped up feeling thankful after my car accident in 1999. Whenever I read of someone dying from a head injury I’m instantly reminded how blessed I am to be alive and to be functioning at the level I do considering the injuries I sustained.

I think approaching work – and life – with a spirit of gratitude  brings you more things to be grateful for. It’s that old principle that what you focus on grows.

So here are 10 tips to help you embrace gratitude and leverage it as a business growth strategy.

1. Say thank you. This might seem old fashioned or maybe you think it gets said so much that it’s become meaningless but I disagree. Words have power; we know that. Put a smile on your face (which has been shown to reduce stress and boost mood) and thank everyone for everything.

2. Send thank you notes. And not just emails. I know email is easy. It lets you cross the “thank you” off your to-do list, but sending handwritten thank you notes has a bigger impact. It speaks volumes about you and creates an emotional connection you’re unlikely to get from an email. It also helps you stand out while bringing you back to top of mind.

3. Use a CRM. Pre-accident I had an amazing memory. Post accident…that’s another story. Add in there the impact of stress and overload and it’s no wonder I have to write everything down (and then try to remember where I put my notebook). But as your business grows beyond one notebook and one client file, developing systems and processes becomes important to maximize profitability and leverage your time. A good customer relationship management system will help you track your contacts with everyone from prospective clients to referral partners and connect with other important tools like your calendar, email, and sometimes project management systems. CRMs can be a good use of your money if you actually use the tool. They’ll help you remember details about your contacts so you look like the hero when you send a prospect a get well card for their sick pet.

4. Pay attention to and participate in social media. A friend once ranted about the egotism of social posts by stressing that “it’s SOCIAL media, not social MEdia.” Funny, and bears remembering. So when people comment on your posts answer them back. “Like” their posts. Give people shout-outs and mention them by name. Share resources with people and connect your connections.

But don’t poke people.

5. Send cards on different holidays. I send Thanksgiving and New Year’s cards to clients, prospective clients, and other contacts I have snail mail addresses for. I’ve been known to send Valentine’s Day and Independence Day cards too. People get so little actual mail that it’s a great way to remind them of you and strengthen your emotional connection. It’s nice. Try it.

6. Send a note (ok or an email) for any reason you can. Read your local paper as well as online news sites and industry news then forward articles to those who would benefit from them. Send congrats notes when sales results or expansions are reported on or when some other professional achievement gets publicity. Living in a state of gratitude includes feeling grateful and genuinely happy for the success of others.

7. Give gifts.  Please don’t think of it as a chore. Think of it as an opportunity to show your appreciation. Be a little creative. It’s not the cost or size of the gift, it truly is the thought that matters. But the gift should also be consistent with the relationship and with the value. For example, I got a referral that brought in a new and very profitable client. I gave the person who made the referral tickets to a concert with my favorite group. I’ve sent homemade cookies to people at the holidays. Build this into your business development budget for the coming year so you’re not wondering where the money will come from. And if you’re creativity impaired when it comes to gift giving, hire someone like a personal shopper to help you.

Here’s a video about gift giving that I shot in 2014.

8. Start every day with a prayer of thanks. Oh don’t get weirded out because I said “prayer”. As soon as I wake up I say a prayer of thanks for another day and silently go through a list of the key things I have to be grateful for. Gratitude is a habit and that little ritual gets my day started on the right foot.

9. End every day with a prayer of thanks. Repeat the above but with an emphasis on all the things that went right that day. Believe me there are times when this one can feel hard but it’s all about perspective. You have tons to be thankful for starting with the fact that you can read this and you have access to the Internet.

10. Detach from the outcome. I’ve said this before but it’s the single most powerful thing I’ve ever done that’s brought me the most joy and actually improved my profitability. I know work is important to you. You might feel as though your work is a mission you’re on. That’s great and it’s likely true, but work doesn’t define you. When you hear “no” or a prospective client gives you pushback on your proposal, tune into the emotions you’re feeling and the self-talk in your head. Simply examine the facts – no editorializing, no catastrophic thinking, and no hateful thinking about the person involved. If you feel yourself getting emotional – whether it be anger, frustration, or sadness – ask yourself why that emotion is being raised and where it comes from. The chances are good it’s something that happened in the past or that you’re projecting your emotion into the future. Like worrying in advance. When I was able to stop judging myself and others I was able to feel more genuine happiness in my entire life, not just in my work.

Action Step:  Take the next 24 to 72 hours and really listen to what you say (and think). Pay attention to your nonverbal communication including things like your posture and facial expressions. If your language tends to be negative and your nonverbal behavior could be sending a negative message then I don’t care how much you try to convince yourself and others that you’re grateful, the fact is you’re not.

Then begin to catch the negative or extreme language you use. Smile more. Focus on seeing the other person’s point of view.

You can’t be grateful and rooted in grouchiness.

Let me know what you discover about yourself.

And stay tuned over the next several weeks. I’ve been hibernating (sort of) and working on some big projects I’m super excited about. Can’t wait to share with you! If you haven’t already done it, be sure to subscribe. Just click the link and add your email address so you don’t miss the tips, strategies, and resources I share to help you stand out and sell your services without being salesy.

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