Lessons in Growing a Business

Starting, building, growing a business… is an exercise in personal development. 
 
Growing a business tests you in so many ways. It tests your self-discipline, your intelligence, your communication skills, your focus, and so much more. 
 
The real world of business can be very unforgiving. It’s a world where success is rewarded and mistakes are not forgotten. 
 
So, what is the benefit in that? It keeps you honest. 
 
I’ve learned that you cannot settle for weakness, you cannot be unwilling to do the work, you cannot pursue bad ideas, and you have to invest time and money in your continued education… or your business will fail. 
 
Some people can’t handle the pressure of running their own business. The risk of failure becomes a serious issue. I’ve learned that risk helps you grow and it makes you stronger. 
 
An entrepreneur who fears risk is like a swimmer who’s afraid of water.
 
Growing a business has allowed me to grow; it has made me aware that I am woman who can handle a lot more than I thought myself capable of. 
 
I’ve learned to pace and challenge myself. To trust myself and others, to work (very) hard, to stay focused under pressure, to let go of what doesn’t serve my mission, to learn from others, to find a balance between family and business, and still enjoy the ride.

What have you learned from growing your business?

Please share in the comment section below.

Originally Published on: Oct 16, 2012

Are You Making Your Mark?

Storytelling…it is not the new ‘it’ thing. If you haven’t been telling your story, you’ve been missing out on a crucial part of brand building.

Guess what? You, yes YOU are a brand. The way to cut through the noise is not the outlet through which you tell your story, it’s the story itself.

You are your brand. As an entrepreneur, you are the pulse of your brand. And you and only you can verbalize this.

Amy C. Cosper, Editor-In-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine says, “Building a brand is one of those mission critical but challenging exercises that all entrepreneurs, really all companies, go through to define how the world views them and their business. Brands represent the soul of your idea and its values, your story and its authenticity.”

Branding is a monster all on its own. It is a process that brings together emotions and values and how you want the two conveyed to others. It’s not a logo. It’s emotional. Its purpose is to trigger an emotional response from your customers. And when it comes to emotions, well, saddle up Chica…that is where it gets serious.

Branding is not just the messy narrative, it’s about claiming something as your own. The only way to truly leave your mark, is by telling your story, but more importantly, knowing your story.

The latest issue of Entrepreneur is dedicated to the idea of establishing your brand. Be it by your packaging, a meme or a gif…the end goal is to tell the world what you take a stance on, authentically. That my friend, is branding.

How Are You Making Your Mark? 

A New Way to Run Your Business

My daughter was recently invited to a friend’s Bat Mitzvah. She is 13 years old and this Jewish right-of-passage is a regular occurrence this year. I dropped her off for the ceremony and expected to hear the usual tale of how well her friend chanted Torah upon picking her up. How wrong I was! My daughter regaled me with a story about a service in Spanish with just a few prayers in hebrew, traditions she had never seen before. I asked so many questions she was not able to answer. How was I just learning that this even existed?

I realized that this could be directly applied to my business. For years I have been refining the way I run it, learning new things but pretty much staying in the same lane. Is there something that is already out there, parallel to my own strategy, but different in ways that I had never experienced?

There is no one right way to run your business. Personally, I have found great success selling hand-knit golf club covers online, through my own website as well as through the handmade marketplace Etsy. Local fairs, a staple for most crafters, have been a waste of time and money for me. However, I have begun doing better research and investing in events that attract more of my target audience, significantly increasing my success rate.

Is there something you haven’t tried or failed at that other people in your industry are doing? It may be a matter of tweaking it to make it work for you.

What ETTWomen Say: The Fabric of a Great Leader

Nelson Mandela, The Pope, Oprah, Steve Jobs… I’m sure you’ve got a fab list of great leaders too!

However, great leadership can be difficult to understand. Even great leaders have a difficult time explaining what makes their leadership so infectious and effective. It is their actions and words that undoubtedly make their great leadership noticeable.

I love finding out what makes people tick and I wanted to know what traits or behaviors others thought were in the fabric of a great leader. I polled our members and they weighed in with the amazing qualities they feel make up a great leader:

  1. “I think that Optimism is what makes a leader great. It is imperative that a leader have a positive mindset that they share to inspire others on their team and those they work with.” Valerie Ryan, IDLife
  2. “Great leaders always look to empower others, be it by education, guidance, or praise.” Mayra Betances, d&e Papel
  3. “I have been captain of cheerleading 3 times in my life, and coached for 10. For me it’s always about leading from example. You have to be what your subordinates aspire to be.” Janice Martinez Woerner, Jersey Girl Health and Wealth
  4. “Great leaders don’t make their family their excuse, they make them their reason to…succeed.” Renee Marshall-McKinley, Keep Yourself Smelling Sweet
  5. “A great leader listens to the individual and shares with them what they need to move ahead.” Susan Best Jones, S. Best Designs
  6. “A great leader is also a humble servant. When we can also be a humble servant, we show the art of support and team work through example.” Joanne Malley, JoanneMalley.com
  7. “A leader is someone who can easily communicate and delegate without feeling they have to be in control of everything. They help guide their employees and are happy to see their employees succeed.” Evy Havlik, Efficient Socially Savvy Media
  8. “A great leader motivates, inspires, empowers and encourages. A great leader does not run away from obstacles, passes blame or dwells on setbacks – but will say: let’s figure it out. A great leader is smart, resilient and energetic. A great leader is someone others are proud to work for and with!” Fran MacConnel, The Balanced Owl

I’ve learned that great leaders foster an environment of symbiotic growth (The teacher becomes the student mentality). Great leaders understand that ‘Team work, makes the dream work!” and also that another person’s success is also their success.

Great leaders welcome debate, criticism, and different perspectives other than their own. They understand that an environment where people are afraid to offer insights and/or ask good questions is destined for disaster.

Great leaders aren’t born, they are made.

oprah-wrinfey-quotes

What other traits or behaviors do you think define great leadership? Please leave me a comment below.

10 Action Steps To Shift Your Focus

actionplan

You had the idea, you made the plan, now you need to take action!

Growing a business is not easy, so I’d like to share with you a few essential action steps that you can implement today to start moving your business forward:

  1. Take care of yourself – Create a system for self-care that works for you. If it is 10 minute meditation in the morning or prayer make sure you make it a ritual. Create a workout plan that fits you, and commit to it throughout the week, I suggest you visit https://flexmastergeneral.com to get the best workout programs.
  2. Focus on being positive – Appreciate what you have and stop complaining. Look at the glass half full. You will be able to deal with life and its challenges better with the right attitude. Besides the fact that nobody wants to be around a negative person.
  3. Write down what you need to accomplish for the day – I do this the night before. Make sure you look at it after your self-care routine and have it with you all day so you can check off your progress.
  4. Find your mantra – Pick something that inspires you and write it down where you can see it all day. Do this right away and read it out loud every morning night and anytime you can in between. I say The universe has my back and the universe will give me anything I ask for. Sounds weird? Just do it and see what happens!
  5. Find your spark – When you are home relaxing at some point at night, think about what you’re passionate about.Think about different ways you can use your unique talent and gifts.
  6. Write down your obstacles – What are the things that are stopping you from reaching your goals? Think about each one and write a plan of how you can overcome them.
  7. Don’t procrastinate – Get a jump-start on your day once you are sitting at your desk and don’t waste time on emails or social media or small talk until you put a productive hour of work in.
  8. Start tracking your day – Write down what you are doing during the day and keep track of it on a weekly basis. At the end of the week evaluate how you spent your time. See where you can be more productive and then do the same the following week until you implement some changes.
  9. Read a new book a month – You are what you read and what you focus on. Read personal development books and read books specifically on goals and action plans. Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a must.
  10. Take action –  Don’t just affirm and visualize and do nothing. Take any action required to bring your goal into fruition. Follow your intuition, new ideas and opportunities that present themselves, and accept help from other people.

Are you ready to succeed? They say that vision without action is merely a dream.

Comments or questions are always welcome…leave them below! Want my Action Plan Template? Get it HERE.

 

 

Do You Have The Guts To Succeed?

The one common thing all entrepreneurs have is guts. Plain and simple. If that’s too harsh for you I apologize, but it is the absolute truth. As an entrepreneur, you will have to develop a thick skin. For those of you that take things literally, what I mean is you need a certain attitude. You can’t worry about what anyone else thinks, you just have to go out and get it done.
How do you develop that? You have to get out there and be uncomfortable. You have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.
Here are some things that can help you determine if you have this ability. You need to think about and do these on a regular basis:
  • You must use the G.O.Y.A theory: Every single day – If it is to be it’s up to me is an entrepreneur’s motto. So we have to “Get Up Off Our Assess” (or Anatomy if you like that better) and make stuff happen!
  • You Have To Be Bad Before You Can Be Good: You will make mistakes, believe me, I have made my share, but I promise you that you will ultimately get better. Just keep going, don’t stop. Develop that muscle and don’t even pause when you make a mistake just keep going.
  • Do The Things You Fear The Most: You will have to get out there and connect with people. You will have to make phone calls and follow-up calls. We have to do those things because in the long run it is what is going to help our business grow.
  • Be A Leader: A true leader is acting like one when nobody else is following you yet. Walk, talk and act like the person you want to become.
  • Face Your Challenges: We all have things that are thrown at us that seem insurmountable at times. It is how you react to those challenges that show what you are made of. The more challenged you are, the more you need to welcome that distraction and keep going.
  • StayPositive – When everything is going wrong around you and you feel like nothing is ever going to happen you must stay focused. Nobody will every follow a negative cry baby. It is completely within your power to stay positive when people are around you and even when they are not.

All of us have the choice to work through our obstacles and grow in the process, or give up and let it beat you. When you force yourself to push through it, you become stronger. When you can do this, you have something special that separate’s you from the pack.

Your passion will cause you to persevere and give you the stamina and nerve you need to keep on going.

 

Was this helpful? Have a question? Leave me a comment below!

Time, Money and Why Free, Isn’t Free!

The subject of this post is one that Lynette and I have discussed with many of our members on a personal level.

So, let’s talk about Time and Money and Free. We treat time and money delicately when in reality, they should be two of the clearest aspects of our business.
 
In fact, when it comes to charging for or placing value on time, we do our research, we nitpick…and especially when it comes to putting a dollar amount on it, we are well…frugal (to use a nice word :). 
 

And then there’s FREE. Have you ever really thought about the value of FREE? I could go on about this topic, but will let you continue reading this post which, in the end…makes my point.We’ve discussed the importance of investing (not spending) in ourselves as we are the greatest asset in our businesses.

 

Free Isn’t Free

What is you ROTI (Return On Time Invested? I’m not talking about the time your clients pay you for.  I’m talking about the time you spend doing administrative tasks, creating a DIY website, or customizing a free service for your needs.

Your time is yours, correct? Yes and no.

Yes, you own your time and no, you don’t need to pay someone else for it. But your time is an asset and it has value, so how you spend it determines if your return is more or less than its value. Make sense?

In fact, time is your most precious and irreplaceable asset.

How you spend your time will directly impact your bottom line.  Unlike other assets, you can’t save it up for a rainy day.  You can’t buy more time.  You get 24 hours in a day like every other business owner out there and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

“I just want to make a living. I’m not interested in dissecting the meaning of life,” you may say.

What DIY Really Costs You

You decide that you are going to build your own website from scratch.
You will have complete control over the structure, the layout, behind the scenes SEO, and more. There’s no waiting for an outside firm to update your site. There’s no risk of looking like 50 other sites because you used a template.
Sounds great, right?
Not so fast.
  • What FTP will you use?  Do you even know what an FTP is?
  • Do you know any HTML? Do you even need to know?
  • Have you ever created your own CSS file?
You’re smart. I’m sure you are able to learn all of these things. The real question is how long will it take? Let’s assume it would take you 120 hours, or one month, to learn these things and build your own site.
When you perform work for clients, you are earning $50 net profit for every hour billed.  If you were to pay yourself a fair market value, the cost would be $6,000 ($50 X 120 hours).
Before embarking on this DIY adventure, you request proposals from a couple of reputable web developers.  You learn that it would cost roughly $3,000 for someone else to create the website of your dreams.
The reality is, you don’t actually have to pay yourself.  So, why spend the cash on someone else?
Great question.
First, and most importantly, if you do it yourself, you will miss out on the chance to earn $6,000 if you had been performing work for a paying client. 
After paying someone else $3,000, you would still be ahead by $3,000 ($6,000-$3,000 = $3,000)
Not convinced yet?
More reasons why you should consider outsourcing:
  1. Total project time: An expert is going to be able to complete a project faster than a beginner.  If you need to hit a deadline or simply need it done fast, outsourcing helps.
  2. Expertise: While your result may be “good enough”, an expert will bring all of their tools, tricks and insights to the table.
  3. Better than cloning: You can’t be doing two things at once.  By outsourcing, you can ensure that two things are getting done at the same time in a professional manner.  This can accelerate how quickly you will hit revenue and profit goals.
This my friends is the reality of doing business.
There are certain circumstances in which you may still wish to build it yourself.  You may just be starting out and simply don’t have the capital available.  You may not be established enough to use that time serving profitable customers.  Each business is unique.
All of this is ok, just recognize that you are in essence paying yourself less than market value, and your path to profitability will be longer.
Remember, your time has value. 
Take a minute to calculate how much your free resources and services are costing you. If your time was an asset you could record in your financial statements, would you be ok with showing others how it is being spent? 
Do you still think free is free?
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