Words Of Wisdom

5_20_14 WOW“life may not have meaning, but who we are and who we become does.”

– Larry Broughton

 

Must Haves for Mompreneuers (and any start-up, for that matter).

Being a small business owner is both rewarding and challenging. It can be a balancing act between work and family. It can also be a financial challenge.

Here’s a list of top tools to consider for launching your small business or entrepreneurial start-up:

  1. Daycare or family care. Too often we postpone business success because we simply can’t juggle all our responsibilities.  The truth is we need to make a commitment to get help with caring for children, and perhaps enlisting the help of a part time housekeeper to do laundry and dusting, or an assistant to run errands so that we can get a few hours a day to focus on our business.  It’ll take some sacrifice, but it’s time to treat your business like a business, not a hobby.
  2. Ringcentral.com; Phonetag.com; Grasshopper.com.  Get a dedicated phone line and answering services/voicemail for your business use.  If a potential client calls at 6pm, better it goes to your automated phone attendant and voicemail than to hear dinner dishes clanging and dogs barking because you thought it was your mother-in-law calling.
  3. Dedicated workspace.  Even if it’s a corner in the garage, basement or tool shed behind the house, create a workspace that is yours.  Keep it organized and make it inspiring.  You’ll be more productive and feel a greater sense of accomplishment when you tell yourself you’re going to your office, than sitting at the kitchen table among the dirty dishes.
  4. HARO. If you can’t afford a publicist or public relations firm, Helpareporter.com is a must have for any business start-up. Subscribers receive a dozen, or more, queries each day about possible media opportunities. It’s free and it just takes a few minutes to see if a query is a good match for your business.
  5. Supportive spouse/significant-other.  Do we really need to go in to detail with this?
  6. Smart phone.  You’ll need to juggle web browsing, email, and calendars anywhere and at anytime.  iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and other smart phones will multiply your productivity and actually provide some freedom away from the home office.
  7. A good accountant.  Get one right away!  Don’t get trapped into thinking your can do it yourself.  They can offer insight and savings to areas you had no idea existed. A good accountant will make you money in the form of savings and avoiding costly mistakes. They’ll also lend credibility as you can refer to them as part of your team.
  8. Social networks.  Build your brand (whether that’s you or your business) on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Consumers and clients want to have a connection to the companies they buy from.

 

I’m Famous! Well, Almost Famous… (Part 2)

In the last issue of the newsletter, I shared the potential power of – and some of the benefits that busy professionals can derive from – strategic social media use. I realize there may still be some doubters out there, so let me preface the continuation of these thoughts with the following “prime directive” (that’s for you Star Trek fans out there):

Failure to strategically embrace effective social media will virtually guarantee irrelevancy within the next 3-5 years.

While this may sound like a pretty bold statement, it’s happening already…

Tech-savvy start-ups and “early adopter” mature companies are running rings around the competition by connecting directly with clients, customers, prospects, team members, and the press. They by-pass more traditional advertising channels to create deeper, more relevant relationships while leveraging the enormous social media potential in the areas of brand management, product launches, customer service and many others.

Why is this so critical?

The level of “white noise” today is deafening and the majority of promotional messages are simply ignored…lost in the never-ending avalanche of information that bombards us each day.

Only by rising above the appeals to logic at the intellectual level and creating emotional connection on a more intimate, genuine, and transparent level can you break through the “white noise barrier” and make yourself heard to colleagues, team members, clients, customers and prospects.

Unfortunately, many business social media neophytes badly miss the mark when diving into social media, because they treat it like a traditional promotional tool, get predictable results and then start bad-mouthing social media. Don’t be one of them!

Here are three strategies you can implement immediately to more effectively use social media:

1) Strategic Focus:
Before diving into the oft-times treacherous social media waters, spend some time focusing on your strategic goal(s). What are you trying to accomplish? Who are you trying to connect with (and why)? What information are you trying to impart? How do you want to engage people? Most busy professionals never bother with this crucial first step and just dive headlong into the social media pond. This article and Slideshare presentation have some great information on how to develop your strategic focus: Social Media Strategy in 7 Steps

2) Time Focus:
Social media can be a GIANT time suck…especially for those of us that are members of the “Bright, Shiny Object Club!” If your a newbie, please follow the 2 – 20 – 2 Rule: No more than 2 social media platforms for no longer than 20 minutes no more than 2 times per day. Otherwise, it’s too easy to burn up too many unproductive hours in social media surfing. Consider using tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck that allow you to enter an update, comment, link or other information in one place and have it be instantly transmitted across most of the popular social media platforms.

3) Build Your KLT Factor:
People do business with people they know, like and trust (the KLT). Done right, social media can be a great conduit for increasing your KLT Factor and you accomplish this by being genuine, transparent, and service-oriented. Don’t be afraid to share a bit about hobbies & interests you have…it humanizes you and can create more meaningful interactions. Don’t use social media as a constant “pitch-fest” or to bludgeon people over the head with solicitations to buy your products or engage your company’s services. That gets real old, real fast! Instead, focus on providing useful, relevant information and endeavor to truly be of service to people. As your KLT Factor grows, those that are a good fit will organically seek you out. A good formula for social media communication is content – content – content – testimonial/success story – service/product offer. In short, earn the right to be heard and you will find easy to cut through the “white noise.”

Here are a few of my favorite social media resources:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Media Marketing (2nd Edition) by Jennifer Abernathy.
This is a great book for social media beginners and veterans alike. Jennifer does a great job taking you step-by-step through building a winning social media marketing approach that makes sense (plus she’s a really cool chick).

Social Media Examiner.
My favorite site to staying up-to-date on social media marketing trends.

Beginner’s Guide to Social Media for Business.
This is a great book for Great Slideshare presentation for CEOs, executives and business owners.

I’m Famous! Well, Almost Famous… (Part 1)

Remember the old “6 Degrees of Separation” rule…built around the hypothesis that you are only six connections away from virtually everyone else on earth?
Well…it’s time to consign that rule to the dustbin of history along with the VCR, the Pontiac brand, and the comb-over (really, guys, just go bald…please).  With the explosion of social media platforms over the last 3-4 years, the new rule is “2 Degrees of Separation.”

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Klout and Pinterest have radically altered our ability to connect, engage, interact and build relationships with people – both personally and professionally.  They have also introduced a new – and often confusing – communication protocol and rule set that can be VERY intimidating to the uninitiated.

Unfortunately, many business owners and professionals treat social media with a curious combination of trepidation and thinly-veiled contempt.  I am consistently amazed by how many otherwise smart & savvy folks treat these powerful new connection tools as a passing fad.

What should they do instead?  Invest a bit of time and brainpower to explore how they can leverage appropriate tools to improve their business, improve upward mobility within their organization, and even their lives.

Allow me to share a quick personal example (or two)….

I’ve made the strategic decision to focus on Linked In and Facebook in my professional life.  I am by no means a “power-user” – but I have taken the time to become moderately proficient with both mediums over the last several years.

I am currently connected with 786 people on Linked In (affectionately known as “Facebook for Adults”).  Those contacts place me 1 or 2 introductions from over 10.3 million other professionals.  This network has enabled me to engage directly with numerous business thought-leaders, fellow authors, and a minor host of famous people.

I have landed dozens of speaking gigs, business opportunities and client engagements as a direct result of mindful social networking.  In addition, I am currently one introduction from a trusted source away from such “minor” luminaries as:

  • Sir Richard Branson
  • Paul Allen (the “Other Microsoft Guy”)
  • Donald Trump
  • Mark Burnett (Producer of “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race”)
  • Dozens of others

Best of all, the power of social networking provides the opportunity to reach every one of these “movers and shakers” without having to fight through the legions of handlers and roadblocks encountered using more traditional methods.

So, does all this make me famous?  Not by a long shot…

That said, one of my business connections and I are getting ready to pitch a reality TV pilot to Mark Burnett and – thanks to the power of social media – he will take our call when we’re ready!

Make sure to tune into the next blog posting tomorrow for Part 2, where we will discuss 3 critical strategies busy professionals can implement immediately to leverage the benefits of social media, along with a resource guide for the “social media challenged!”

 

Are You Ready For Great Leadership?

Great leaders inspire people to act. They possess a fierce resolve and dogged determination to do what needs to be done to build remarkable organizations, and have a disproportionate affect on the success of their organization. Great leaders have a profound impact on company culture and the morale of every team member. They give team members a sense of hope, purpose & belonging.

Great leaders create a following of people who act, not because they are manipulated or have to, but because they are inspired and want to.

FLASHPOINTS: Trust Yourself and YOUR Vision!

BAG Screen shot 040814When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts

—Larry Ellison

Have you ever encountered doubt or disbelief after explaining a monster goal? If not, you’re one of the lucky ones. Have you found yourself on the receiving end of a cringe, eye roll, shake of the head or the “You’re kidding me, right?” look? Don’t fret, it’s just part of the innovation territory. We’re better off being surrounded by people who are open-minded, supportive, and have faith in us. Yet we do need both types of people on our team: ones to warn us and others to bolster us. We should decide to pursue our goals based on our own gut feel, balanced with the proper perspective received from both the negative Nellies and the positive Pollies. How will you dare to be different and trust yourself for your vision?

What’s at Your Company’s Core?

While doing some research with a past client we stumbled on this article on Core Values by Michel Hogan on the Brandology.com website. It really hit home with us because we’re such big believers that a brand is truly a product or service personified.  It has a personality with values as real and as strong as those of your workmate or neighbor.  Aligned organizations who experience enduring success find that the person’s family (management & employees) must embrace and share the same values. Additionally, true friends (customers/tribe) of the person (brand) share the same values. We try to make it more complicated than it needs to be, but common sense speaks loudly in this case. Think of your brand as a person, teammates as family, and clients as best friends.

Here is an Excerpt from Michel Hogan’s post on Brandology.com

At the core, your organization’s Brand is a reflection of the actions and beliefs of the people who work there. Those actions and beliefs are shaped and directed by the core values they hold. So before you start trying to give your brand more sizzle, ask a question sure to generate some long-term results – “Do our core values and our Brand align?”

Brand is not a subset of marketing, not merely a device for connecting with customers and shaping their perception, not a logo and tagline. While these are all useful and important aspects of a Brand they are just that – small pieces of the whole. To paraphrase author Margaret Wheatley, “Brand is both what we want to believe is true and what our actions show to be true about ourselves.

Simply, employees cannot deliver on a brand promise that is not tied to their shared day-to-day beliefs and actions and in failing to do will negatively impact the expectations of customers drawn to that same promise. when the Brand is connected to the core values of the organization, consistent delivery of the Brand meshes seamlessly with the existing behavior and belief: no high profile internal “brand education” campaign needed; no change initiatives needed; what customers expect is what they get, strengthening perception; employees don’t feel they are being asked to deliver something they don’t believe, further reinforcing the values and creating a upward spiral of motivation and belief.

Tidbits on Core Values:

Jim Collins says: “You cannot “set” organizational values, you can only discover them. Nor can you “install” new core values into people. Core values are not something people “buy in” to. People must be predisposed to holding them. Executives often ask me, “How do we get people to share our core values?” You don’t. Instead, the task is to find people who are already predisposed to sharing your core values. You must attract and then retain these people and let those who aren’t predisposed to sharing your core values go elsewhere.”

Patrick Lencioni warns: “Take a look at this list of corporate values: Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence. They sound pretty good, don’t they? Maybe they even resemble your own company’s values. If so, you should be nervous. These are the corporate values of Enron, as claimed in its 2000 annual report. And they’re absolutely meaningless…”

 

How to Handle Team Migration and Morale Before it Explodes!

Don’t feel so bad; the most seasoned executives struggle with productivity and time management challenges. Here’s a reminder of some of the most powerful and useful tools for managing your time:

  1. Make sure there isn’t a bigger underlying problem.  When morale starts to flag, many business owners try the quick fix of throwing raises at people to improve morale.  However, declining morale and departure to key staff may point to larger underlying problems in the company around stagnating market share and losing your competitive edge.  It may be time to open up the hood and do a full engine overhaul!
  2. Examine how you are motivating your team.  Recent studies have shown that many people today (especially young people) are less motivated by money than by having a sense of mission, a great work environment, inspiration and a sense of camaraderie.  Check out the book Getting Employees to Fall in Love with Your Company by Jim Harris, Ph.D. for more ideas (it’s an older book, but it’s full of great ideas: http://tinyurl.com/lovemycompany).
  3. Conduct a “work climate survey.” Don’t make assumptions or operate in a vacuum.  Get information on how your team REALLY feels about working at your company.  Use an outside firm to create and conduct the survey and make sure it’s anonymous so the hard questions can be asked and answered.
  4. Get more balance.  Most team members actually need help getting more balance in their work and family life, so having a fun, dynamic and flexible work environment will often be more inspirational than raises and fancy titles.
  5. Conduct an externally facilitated strategic retreat.  Smart business owners conduct strategic planning retreats at least once a year.  Using outside facilitation provides critical objectivity and separation from the day-to-day operations of the business that help you identify key strategic and/or operational steps that need to be made.
  6. Re-evaluate your team.  If some top performers or key staff members have left, you probably need to re-evaluate your team to ensure you have the right people on the right seats in the bus moving forward.

 

A strong team has a proactive leader versus a reactive leader. Which one are you?

Sunday Funnies: Dilbert & The Cure for Foot-In-Mouth Disease

Angie, from NY, admitted during one of our past First Friday Breakthrough webinars that, although a successful CEO, she had a recent revelation that she finds it difficult to “know when to speak and when to shut up during development meetings and conversations with investors.” She wasn’t sure whether it was nerves, or some neurological dysfunction.

While we can’t address the possibility of a medical problem, we were reminded of some wisdom a friend shared with us about how to conduct oneself during meetings. Are you ready? If you blink, you might miss these four simple questions to ask yourself.

1. Is what I want to say kind, truthful, and helpful to the cause?

2. Does what I want to say need to be said?

3. Does what I want to say need to be said right now?

4. If it needs to be said right now, does it need to be said by me?

That’s it. Just the way we like it. Simple. Poignant. Effective.

Has your habit of trying to out-do others, or your inability to keep quiet during meetings caused problems for your career?  We’d love to hear about it.  Let us know by leaving a comment here, or on Facebook.

How Do I Start A “For-Profit” Company?

??????????????????How Do I Start A “For-Profit” Company?

Write in question from Lavey, Newburn NC:

I am very comfortable with the 501c3 that I have started. How do I start a For-Profit business. Should I use an alias? Can they be connected in anyway?

If you want to listen to the full audio reply of Lavey’s question, please click here!

These are really 3 specific questions:

*If you’re comfortable with the non-profit side, why change?

*Alias’ – the answer is a big, fat “it depends”. Would you use your brand, or external brand. What is the impact on your non-profit?

*Should they connect in anyway? Same as the last response, unfortunately, a big, fat “it depends” Some for –profit businesses will have a ‘foundation ‘ or nonprofit arm. And they are able to continue their mission and receive tax deductible donations.

Some states have hybrid business entities: B-Corp, or L3c (low profit lended liability companies), it might be helpful to look into that to see if your state has that. If your non-profit is up and running well, talk with your state attorney. Non-profits are under scrutiny by the IRS and the government, really under the microscope so it’s important to do the legwork required.

Ask the “why” questions. Merging one to the other is not the wisest, we wouldn’t normally recommend it. Also, seek legal counsel. And consider non-profit vs. socially good business. There is nothing wrong with serving those in need and creating a profit from it. Consider reading a book by Dale Partridge, founder of sevenly.org and who does an immense amount benevolence work, “People over Profit”. It is an interesting commentary on this subject. He will also be speaking at our eUPRISING event in February!

To listen to the full audio reply of Lavey’s question, please click here!