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?

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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!

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!

#Networking – Where do I go?

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Find a group or organization that offers valuable information and potential connections.

This can be a challenge, especially if you are just starting out. We struggle even now finding ones that are the right fit. Here are a guide from a previous post:

On a scale of 1-10 how influential will the speakers and/or other guests be to my:

    1. Inspiration
    2. Education
    3. Connections

If it’s 4 or higher, start planning your outfit. Even if there is a 40% chance you might meet someone who says something that inspires you it’s worth giving it a try.

  • Is the host a friend/contact/work associate?

If yes.. You are going for sure.

  • Were you invited directly?

Not by a mass email promotion, but did someone say, “Hey Aryn, come to my event.”?

Always go where you are invited. It’s a good policy that will reap huge benefits.

  • Is it in a venue or neighborhood that interests you?

Being in the events business, I like to see and experience different venues and neighborhoods. I use the event as an excuse to scout.

A few places to start:

MeetUp offers a wide variety of groups, everything from professional book clubs to lawyer’s play racquetball. These tend to be free, but check your specific ones for details.

Another great out of the box option is Toastmasters. It sounds crazy, but dedicated professionals are always looking to better themselves, and this is one of the places those people go.

Professional organizations are usually formed around the idea of networking, it’s their mission to get you connected. Reach out to them directly or search their websites for information. Depending on the costs, it may or may not be worth joining. See if the events/education opportunities look interesting to you first.

In the events world, we joined a few: Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the International Live Events Association (ILEA). These memberships are not cheap, so you will have to weigh the benefits for you. Then the key is to actually go to the events they offer.

Industry meetings and conferences can be a great place meet new connections and clients. Again these can be costly both in time and resources so choose wisely.

Here are some things to look for:

  • How big is the event? If you are comfortable standing out in a convention center filled with people, bigger is better. If you are someone, like us, who likes smaller, more intimate workshops and discussions that’s the one for you.
  • Is Networking built in? In either case above, look at the agenda. If it is wall to wall keynote speakers and lecture style breakouts, there won’t be a lot of time for meet and greet.
  • Are the speakers and subjects a fit for you and what you are looking for?

Some other ideas are; your local business district offices like ours – WHBID, Small business bureaus, your local Departments of Commerce and our favorite, start your own group on Facebook, LinkedIn or MeetUp and see who shows up.

Tip: Once you find an event, look and see who is speaking and/or attending. Look them up on LinkedIn or Twitter before the event (not in a stalkery way). Pull out some details and facts about their work to have conversation starters. Reaching out to them directly also can be great and arrange to have a drink/coffee together there.

Take a professional development class. This is a great way to meet peers, if not potential clients. There are many resources for this. Most universities have continuing education courses and most professional organizations either host classes or can point you in the right direction. Again, these can be costly, so make sure it is something you really want and /or need to do.

Our next networking post we will get you ready for your first event.

^Ax3 #Networking #Friendshelpfriends

Thinking About Networking

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It’s who you know and have built relationships with more than anything else that gets you where you are and where you want to be. Expanding that base in a meaningful way is not easy. No, it is not enough just to have 1000+ connections on LinkedIn. In comes the Networking Event.
I hate them, love them, hate them, love them… Some people excel at them. I do not. There have been times when I could muster being “on” and then they were fun. Most often it is a struggle just to convince myself to sign-up, muchless go.

Here are the four things I ask myself to gage if it’ll be worth the effort:

  • On a scale of 1-10 how influential will the other guests be to my:
    1. Inspiration
    2. Education
    3. Connections

If it’s 4 or higher, start planning your outfit. Even if there is a 40% chance you might meet someone who says something that inspires you it’s worth giving it a try.

  • Is the host a friend/contact/work associate?

If yes.. You are going for sure.

  • Were you invited directly?

Not by a mass email promotion, but did someone say, “Hey Aryn, come to my event.”?

Always go where you are invited. It’s a good policy that will reap huge benefits.

  • Is it in a venue or neighborhood that interests you?

Being in the events business, I like to see and experience different venues and neighborhoods. I use the event as an excuse to scout.

Meet-Ups, professional associations and schools all offer opportunities to connect with new people. They all require time, effort and sometimes money. Both time and effort are extremely valuable, they are your most precious asset. Choosing which event or gathering to go to can be as stressful as walking in that room of strangers. Take my list above and add your personal touch and use it as a guide. Sometimes a quick supportive nudge from your friend or partner helps too.

Bottom Line: Pick your networking wisely and try to have fun!

^Ax3 ^AC #Networking #Business #FriendsHelpFriends