Entrepreneur Evolution

 

Lessons from the Edge:

Lately I have been really thinking about what kind of business person I want to be. My son has made it into high school and is happily building his independence and does not need me around as much. As he grows I have more time and room in my life for my business. To date I have, it turns out, been a freelancer who moved into solopreneur. I have built businesses that are growing without me, so I have also been an entrepreneur.

For my next challenge: build a business that will run with or without me and that I stay and keep growing…

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In case you are confused – here are some definitions:

  • Freelancer: Get hired on a project basis for specific task.
  • Solopreneur: Freelancer with staff.
  • Entrepreneur: If you get hit by a bus your business will still happily chug along without you and/or your personality.

In the words of my favorite guru Seth Godin, “Freelancers get paid for their work. If you’re a freelance copywriter, you get paid when you work. Entrepreneurs use other people’s money to build a business bigger than themselves so that they can get paid when they sleep.”

To put it another way, “If you can create enough momentum in your business that you’ll still make money, regardless of what you do on a day-to-day basis, you are an entrepreneur. And a badass.” Entrepreneur Mag (It’s an interesting article if you are so inclined)

So, yes to build your business and revenue you can publish e-books on your expertise, give your personal accounts of success and failures and generate endless “Top 5” posts.. but in order to build something bigger than yourself and your personality you have to think bigger, more global, push further than just your social media nose.

  • What are you really passionate about? Narrow it down to a laser focus.

For me it’s creating situations and environments that enforce and promote connecting people and building community. That’s why I produce events.

  • What is the bigger issue you are addressing?

This one took some thinking and we decided it has to be a focus on advocacy with an eye towards all human rights organizations.

  • What human problem are you addressing?

When was the last time you went to a networking event and actually found a lasting connection AND had fun? Networking … just the word can send chills.

  • How are you disrupting the status quo?

For us it’s by bringing back the power of high quality hospitality, superior customer service for our clients as well as participants and treating every participant as an individual VIP.

Once you have YOUR answers to these, you will have a road map to your entrepreneurial business and true success.

Map.

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Give Yourself the Gift of Rest

Lessons from the Edge:


I had the good fortune to produce a meeting where the great Tony Schwartz spoke. LINK

He reminded us that people are not computers and that in order for us to function at our optimal potential we need to – ready for it … REST.  The essential message was that if we all treated ourselves more like professional athletes, balancing stress – rest, focusing on a healthier diet and sleep for 7-8 hours a night not only would we be more effective and productive, but happier too.aa775d55c6e7d602c8faf563f6ec22ff

None of this is new information. It has all been said many, many times. The attack on our attention from email, conference calls and a constant pressure to work more hours is actually reducing our productivity and is making us very unhappy.

So, my holiday message to you is this, take advantage of a world that has slowed just a hint and put down your smart phones for 72 hours. Enjoy your families and get some very well deserved rest.

A Better Mouse Trap

Lessons from the Edge:

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) juvenileWe have mice. They live behind/in our stove. Seems like it would be a nice place to live; warm, lots of insulation and easy access to a steady supply of food. I catch and release them.. and so far this year I have caught about 6 of the little cuties. My husband reminds me often that, “No, we cannot just build a habitat and keep them.” In my fantasy I put together a maze habitat with a tube with a one w
ay door from the stove through a box like space with stuffing and food and then more tubes leading around the kitchen. My inclination is to just embrace the presents of our mice and keep it managed in a way that makes us both happy. They get to keep living in a safe warm place, and I get to keep them off my counter tops and out of my cereal… seems like a win, win to me. However, I know that they carry insects, diseases etc.. and that it is not ok for us to share a kitchen.. so I catch and release.

As I was walking today to the park with our dog to release yet another little Stuart I thought about this as a parable. It occurred to me, that in general, there are always multiple outcomes for every opportunity. Finding the right solution, not only can look very different from what you initially imagined, the solution for today may not be the solution for a week/month/year from now. Also, hitting on the right resolution for today requires consideration of all parties and compassion for all the positions, it’s only then that every interested party carries similar responsibility and reward. In the case of my mouse: I have to catch and then walk them to the park, the mouse is taken to a foreign, cold place, my husband has to hear about yet another catch. In the end we all get something we want too; my counters stay clean, the mouse lives and my husband does not have to live with a colony of mice. Longterm this is a better, healthier solution than my049dfb37633f93e29cb609d29d6db6f1 imagined elaborate maze. Eventually, we may need to borrow the neighbors cat…

Oops  .. just caught another one..

Bottom Line: The best solutions are ones that include consideration of all the invested participants.

Stay Coachable

Lessons from the Edge

A few years ago I was involved with a network marketing company which was an excellent business school. Among the many things I learned, in addition to not being a very good salesperson, is that to be successful you must always be coachable.

shutterstock_886383521-225x300This does not mean just to being open to criticism. Which if constructive, can be very helpful. Staying aware of areas you may need improving, being humble and asking for help. Also, acting on the guidance you have asked for. Read books, articles and posts in your area and stay current.

We are all skilled at what we do and all of us have areas that could be polished.

Find a mentor, an actual business coach or buy a colleague you admire a drink and nourish your success by keeping fresh perspectives streaming in.

Solopreneur Seeks Mentor

Lessons from the Edge

I read the term Solopreneur for the first time this week. It really stuck me. I have been either freelance or an entrepreneur my whole life and it was only this week when another writer had elegantly described it – it is very lonely out here.

Not that I don’t have excellent collaborators and employees. I do. I think I have the best kept secrets around, but when it comes to making the big decisions and the hard decisions for the Company at large.. It’s me, my dog Edi in the club chair, pondering. This week it hit me like a ton of bricks. I need advisors and mentors. I need help.

Clearly I am not alone in this either. We women are at a serious disadvantage in this arena. Woman to woman mentoring is few and far between. Numerous studies show that there is a deep need for it but a equally as deep lack of it. Evidence is in a resurgence of women’s social clubs for professional women like Running In Heels and The Wing. Here you can network, find like minded business owners and share notes, or just get your hair done before an important meeting. There are also countless meetings, summitts and conferences. These are great for finding that someone, but there is a lot of noise to go through first and I need someone fast.

Looking through my own network I can see quite a few men who I both admire and trust with the experience I would like to draw on. I started looking for the women in my network. Now maybe it’s me and my issues, but I really only found one or two. Triple A Studios is a woman owned and operated business focusing increasingly on social issues. Not that a collective of men wouldn’t be valuable, for balance, a woman’s input will be crucial to help fortify our culture and pedagogy.

So, today as I head out to a lunch meeting with a perspective mentor (he doesn’t know I am going to ask him yet so, shh), I will have to keep thinking about who my female support will be.

Anyone looking for an ambitious mentee?

Personality Conflict

Lessons from the Edge

1210793321_5087There are a couple of personality types that, even I, cannot seem to find a path to symbiosis. Mostly these are due to either cultural bias or prejudice, and not really the personality itself, just it’s affectations, but some  personalities just don’t mix. Believe me in these cases the feeling is very mutual.

In our business it is vital to get along with everyone you can. Event production, hospitality are all about the client, their guests and making them happy. So… what do you do?

The best solution I have found is to try and minimize direct contact with this person, use an intermediary if at all possible.  When you do have to communicate directly, keep it professional, simple, clear and precise. Plan out what you will say beforehand so you are not improvising and possibly make the situation worse. Remember to breath. This person is temporary in your life. At some point the job will end.

Do not bad mouth this person to your crew or express publicly your real feelings anywhere near the event. It’s unprofessional and it will not help you, infact it will only hurt you. Save the bitching and venting for your partner or BFF when you either finish the job or at least get back to your room.

In this instance it is good that we are project based businesses!

Paying our share

Lessons from the Edge

There is a lot of news out there about who paid what taxes. I would like to say that my personal position on this is definitely Alt-Left.. So if that is going to offend your fantasia of free markets, stop reading now.

I am a small business owner. By all rights the creator of jobs and builder of the middle class. We hire employees, put money into the economy both directly and by hiring people, pay taxes and contribute to the over fabric of our collective society and economy.

As a small business, we pay an awesome amount of taxes. The State and Feds almost punish us for existing. There are taxes for being an entity, for payroll, and of course income. God forbid you own property too, commercial real estate taxes are, well, obscene. This is of course on top of everything else being more expensive for a business; business accounts online, business banking, Insurances (there are usually a few kinds), legal support, and more complicated tax preparation. There is more I am sure I am forgetting.

On the whole I do not mind “paying my share”, as the pundits like to say. I actually feel privileged to be able to pay into my employee’s Social Security and Medicare. In fact we do our best to bring all our freelancers and vendors on as part-time employees so we can do this for them and our community.

Income and property taxes going towards public services, like education, is all good with me. I wish it were a better system, but more on that later. A well educated electorate means less crime, more prosperity and a better hiring base for small business and beyond.The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994.jpg

So, forgive me when I say, f’ck the guy who doesn’t pay up. Not only because usually that means at some point the rest of us will have to compensate, but by not paying in, they are opting out of our entire democratic system. By cheating on our society, they are not investing in it’s future, it’s long term prosperity and security. Immediate gains are exchanged for the rainy day security of a stable economy and nation. Doesn’t anyone remember the Aesop tale if the Cricket and the Ant?

We as a country seem to have lost the long term vision of that shining city on the hill and are focused solely on creating Ebenezer Scrooge’s. I sincerely hope greed and selfishness become unfashionable soon, for all our sakes.

Hospitality

Lessons from the Edge

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Balancing emotional connections and measurable results in your events.

Something that is being lost in the top “whatever” lists, shortcut tips and the motivation to measure every outcome is that we as event professionals are HOSTS. Yes, I said it. We host events above manage, produce or coordinate. Our field of study is in the school of Hospitality after all.

The participants are our guests and it is our primary job to provide them with not only a measurable experience, but as Andrea Driessen (@nomoreboring) says, a meaningful and memorable experience.

The more the event environment is one of inclusiveness and comfort for guests the more they will be able to absorb the purpose and content of the meeting or conference. Your audience has taken time out of their busy lives, away from familiar comforts and family. This is especially true of those meetings that are required of them like sales meetings. Hotels and other venues are often labyrinth like and alien. Coworkers are not usually the preferred “hang-out buddy” and often there are large numbers of strangers. An uneasiness is natural. It has to be our priority to anticipate and have everything in place to help reduce or eliminate this.

Take a page out of the Ritz-Carlton’s Gold Standard as a place to start:

Three Steps Of Service

  1. A warm and sincere greeting.
    1. This is not only a greeter at the door, think bigger than that.
  2. Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
    1. Personalized materials, noted room preferences, meal requirements etc. go a long way.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
    1. Again, go bigger than just a greeter at the exit.

“They (Ritz Carlton) understand that relationships precede financial results and rely on a robust data set that demonstrates the impact engaged employees and repeat customers have on the bottom line.” – Ryan Estis (@RyanEstis)

For more on the Ritz’s standards – http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/about/gold-standards

Bottom Line:

Guests who leave a meeting feeling cared for, inspired and valued will return next year gladly and tell their friends. That’s something you can measure!

Start

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Lessons from the Edge

It important just to start.. I had breakfast with one of my favorite people, Amy, the other day and after patiently waiting for me to finish describing all the things I was doing BEFORE I started going after new clients, she smiled and said, “why not just start?” Isn’t it a girl issue to wait until everything is perfect before we go after what we want? We tweak, fluff, jooj, stress and pick. However, we actually don’t go after what it is we are fussing about.

It is a proven fact that this is a very common affliction for women in particular. Being right and perfect is nonsense and needs to be surgically removed from our heads – NOW!  This affects a lot of us, the anxiety of being exposed and “out there” can be palpable to all walks of life.

Mistakes will happen. It’s part of life. Double posting is something I end up doing often cause some setting is on when it should be off and spelling errors?!? .. god knows I have loads of those.

Get it out there.. do it now. Life is messy, humans are messier.

My favorite Dr Seuss quote : “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Bottom line:

Your audience is waiting for you. Get your message to them before they think you are not coming.

The Boss

Lessons from the Edge

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Who is the boss?

In my business the client is the boss. The client does not however, always know what’s best, that’s why they hired you. While it’s not a good idea to pull out the creative integrity, or reputation argument too much or too soon. If the client is compromising your ability to do the job they hired you for by delaying the process to an extreme, sabotaging your relationships or other wise being truly naughty, then you have every right to stand up for your brand. Do it professionally and do it in writing. Once the situation is resolved amicably, seriously re-consider keeping them as a client in the future.

Bottom Line: Life is too short for bad business.