Category Archives for Management and Growth

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 Ebates.com 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.

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.

They’re not employees…they’re your brand.

No Sale Sign on Cash RegisterWhen I need to print something that’s likely to bleed my print cartridges I send it over to my local Staples, which is less than a half mile away.

I’m there on a pretty regular basis…generally several times a month…sometimes a few times a week.

They manage to screw up my order on a regular basis.

It’s either not ready when I expect it to be, or they can’t find it when I get there, or — the latest excuse — they didn’t get the email I sent.

Even though their system sent ME a confirming message.

As a former recruiter in high turnover industries, I certainly understand how hard it is to find good employees for minimum wage jobs.

Especially jobs that require a high level of emotional intelligence. Which seems to be in mighty short supply these days.

But you’re not actually hiring employees.

You’re hiring brand ambassadors.

Think about your own experiences. Employees ARE the brand to us when we’re buyers, so it’s no different when buyers deal with OUR companies.

Other than the decision to actually go into business, I don’t think there’s a decision with greater impact than who to hire.

I know it’s time consuming, frustrating, and a little scary; but’s also critical to the growth of your business.

As you grow the business, you’ve got to take off the hats you wear and give away the tasks that don’t require you.

But hiring them isn’t where it stops.

You’ve go to invest in them by providing them with the training and ongoing development they need. Especially if you’re going to choose a person who doesn’t have all of the skills needed to perform the job successfully.

You need to help them understand they’re the brand in the marketplace and help them understand the impact they have on the business. Help them understand the power they wield.

Teach them the skills they don’t have, help them polish the skills they do have.

And never forget that customer-facing jobs are stressful. Help employees manage their stress. Don’t expect them to know how.

At a minimum, encourage them to recognize when their stress level is getting a bit high and understand how to manage that stress level so they don’t take it out on their fellow workers or on the next customer they deal with.

As their leader, take the time to understand each staffer as an individual and understand what motivates each one of them.

This means understanding what your customers expect and hire people who can deliver on that expectation.

Play “what if” with your staff members. One of the great problems in service industries in general is getting employees to be comfortable thinking on their feet to effectively deal with a problem. The best way to develop that skill is by asking them what they would do “if” a situation like X occurred. Then coach them on their response.

Since the brain doesn’t really understand the difference between practice and reality it will help the employee subconsciously feel more confident in dealing with challenging situations.

The employee I dealt with yesterday at Staples looked as though he was trying not to yawn when I was talking to him about my problem. And his response to my statement that I was unhappy and frustrated was “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Really? NOTHING you can do about it?

Wrong answer.

At a bare minimum he should have had enough sense to recognize he had an unhappy customer and he didn’t know how to handle it.

I proceeded to post about the situation on Facebook and generated somewhere around 20 responses. Most complaining about Staples and agreeing their copy center staff is terrible.

Here are 4 quick tips to take BEFORE you start hiring or before you hire your next staffer:

1. Identify the soft skills critical for success. These are the skills their parents, teachers, or guardians should have instilled in them. Face it. You do NOT want to teach someone how to be nice. They need to KNOW that. They need to BE nice. Ask them questions to tell you about a time that really tried their patience.

2. Identify what a successful employee acts like and what type of experience that person needs to have in their history. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior since most people don’t. (Yes, I know they CAN. Think about it though. Most people really DON’T change.) . People who thrive in customer facing positions tend to have experience in them. If you’re hiring an inexperienced workforce then ask them about activities they’ve been in. Ask about situations that are at least similar to the situations they’ll face working for you.  If they can’t give you examples of relatively similar experiences then find better candidates.

3. Be clear on performance standards. From technical performance to emotional intelligence, you must be clear about what you expect. Don’t assume they’ll know. No, they won’t. And when you’re in the habit of telling everyone the same thing, you can be confident that they’re all clear on the same points.

4. Lead and manage. Don’t just complain about a staffer’s performance. Talk to them about it with no emotion in your voice. You’re not attacking them personally. You’re pointing out a performance issue. Be clear on what happened, what’s unacceptable about it, and what needs to happen instead. At home, it’s easy to engage in dysfunctional behavior thinking a family member should be able to read your mind and know what they did wrong or know what you want. Don’t do it in your business. You’ll be miserable. Your staff will be miserable. And believe me, your customers will be miserable.

Time and effort you invest in selecting, educating, and developing your staff will have a huge payoff to the business. Take that time.