3 Components of Authenticity

This video is an edited recording of my live show. Below is a post based on this video. The Courageous Entrepreneur airs live on Facebook Mondays through Fridays at 11:30am ET. If you’re on Facebook, Like my business page to get notified of when I’m going live. I also share tips and strategies to break free from the chains of disempowering patterns, limiting beliefs, and self-sabotage. You can also send me a Friend request on my personal page. 

I had 2 people in the last 4 weeks refer to me as “authentic.”

Merriam-webster.com  has several definitions for Authentic including “worthy of acceptance or belief”; “not false or imitation”; and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”.

I’ve always thought of that term — “authentic” — as referring to people are are transparent…they don’t hide things.

I asked a Facebook group for what they’re trying to communicate about a person when they refer to them as “authentic” and this is what a couple of them said…

“They are ‘real’, they show who they are without apology, what you see is what you get, warts and all.” – Alan Cohen

“That their actions, behaviors, and words. How they treat others and how they show up when they think it doesn’t matter lines up with what they espouse.” – Meshell R. Baker

So calling someone authentic is high praise.

But being authentic is scary. Especially for someone like me who’s an introvert.

I do videos because I don’t want really want to leave my house.

Authenticity is scary because we risk being judged and we risk rejection.

Is there a limit to being authentic? If you decide to embrace authenticity, does that mean you’ve got to share every detail of your life and risk becoming one of the Kardashians?

I don’t think so.

But the benefits of being more of the real you and letting others see that are that it increases your Know-Like-Trust Quotient or your KLT-Q.

Studies have proven that decisions are made based on emotions and then rationalized through our intellect.

And we know that we all want to work with experts but we want to know, like, and trust those people.

We want to know the expert or authority “gets” us. Often that comes from learning about their backstory or their “origin” story.

So being fully you is an important part of positioning and pre-selling your services to attract great clients.

How do you become more authentic?

You apply these 3 components…

Be true to yourself. This can be hard because after being employees for so long it’s difficult to know what our own beliefs and values are. I think this requires a lot of  introspection in order to uncover your values but it also requires a lot of courage to live and act in a way that’s consistent with them because of that fear of rejection.

Here’s a great list of values that can help you identify what’s really important to you.

There’s a level of transparency that’s required for someone to be called “authentic”. You convey your personality in many ways….in your visual branding, your verbal branding, and in the amount of information and back story you share.

This is another reason why I forced myself to embrace video. It allows you to see and hear me and get a feel for my personality and beliefs. It can be hard to communicate that in writing.

Make values-based choices. We often project emotions, values, and beliefs on to other people when we hear what they say and watch what they do. We’re always on the alert for any inconsistency. For others to believe you’re making values-based choices your values need to be visible and audible to others. This again is why I love livestreaming and podcasting. Whether you’re a guest on someone else’s show or you decide to step out and host one yourself your voice and expressions are powerful communicators.  To be seen as making values-based choices you need to be comfortable sharing your values.

That can be very difficult for some of us.

So how do you be true to yourself, be transparent, and communicate that you make values-based choices?

Here are 5 tactics.

Create a manifesto or a credo. That’s a statement of beliefs. It can be in narrative form a la Jerry Maguire or it can be a list of beliefs. Either way it shows people what you stand for . You can decide to post it where people can easily see it — like on your About page or somewhere else — or you can keep it for yourself and your team. It can act as a reminder of what you stand for.

Let people in. This is particularly important when you run a small business, especially when you’re the brand of the business. I’m pretty reserved on social media – I typically don’t talk politics. I don’t talk very much about family. But every now and then I talk about my cats and show pictures of them. I sometimes ask for prayers for people who are sick. I share animal videos, especially if they’re really cute or really silly. I think of Facebook as where I work and I share the same sort of things with my virtual office mates as I would with live ones.

Don’t use the fact that you’re an introvert as an excuse to stay hidden and to not join the conversation. People truly want to know more about you, about why you started your business, and about who you are. Remember, we make decisions based on emotions and we work with people we know, like, and trust. If you don’t let people in then they aren’t going to have much to base their decisions on.

Use real pictures. People want to see you. They want a peak inside your life and work. So minimize the use of stock photography on your website. Showing real pictures of you, your team, your office and other real objects can help others create a connection with you.

Take a stand . The problem with trying to please everyone is you really please very few people if any. If you truly want to attract clients rather than chase after them, you’ve got to make it clear what you stand for. Clearly communicate your point of view (POV). Be clear on the problem you solve, the solution you offer, and the outcome or transformation you provide. The more people understand what you’re for the more they can feel a connection and see themselves working with you.

Don’t try to be perfect. It’s easy to be afraid to make mistakes. After all, we spent decades in corporate life watching others be punished for their mistakes. We also lived with the fear of being seen as week or not good enough. And if you have a natural tendency towards perfectionism corporate life only encouraged that. And out on your own it can be easy to carry those beliefs with you. Do your best. Manage client expectations. Be honest about what you can and can’t do and don’t exaggerate or lie. It’s ok to admit your mistakes. And it’s ok to share negatives from your past. Especially if it shows you as human and helps your audience relate to you.

Being authentic doesn’t mean that you over-share and provide a nonstop stream of social media posts about every aspect of your life.

But it does mean finding a way to come out of your shell and create more of connection with your audience by sharing more of yourself.

More of your true self.

You maybe be pleasantly surprised to find it’s easier to create what you always wanted – a large, passionate following that sees you as you really are and values you because of it.

5 Critical Actions That Will Help You Attract Clients and Opportunities

Building a consulting, coaching, or other business as an expert problem solver can be
isolating, frustrating, and depressing.

It feels like a never-ending process of trying to get noticed, inspire those who notice you to learn more, and then invite them to take the next step to work with you.

All of those things are very challenging for 4 big reasons.

  1. Getting attention is a challenge because there are so many distractions
  2. You have to figure out where those you want to reach are and where they’re most open to your message
  3. While you’re trying to educate and inspire them they’re also dealing with a lot of other issues that may or may not be more important than the problem you solve.
  4. People will choose to work with people who they believe are experts. One of the things that impacts our perception of someone else as an expert is we see them more and hear more about them then we do others. This is part of building a brand for yourself and your business.

You can’t change that.

But what you can do is embrace 5 actions that will have a  big impact on growing your business and attracting more potential clients and opportunities…

  1. Get crystal clear on your message including the problem you solve, the impact of that problem, and the outcome you deliver. Best selling author Mike Michalowicz who wrote Toiletpaper Entrepreneur, the Pumpkin Plan, Profit First, and Surge does this in the form of what he calls a Rally Cry. (Yes, I know that’s grammatically incorrect but it’s what HE calls it.) This is like a cross between a mission and a tagline. His cry is to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty. When you see your work as the mission it really is it can help you stay focused and inspired.
  2. Narrow your focus. As counter-intuitive as it is, narrowing your focus is a great way to make it easier to get noticed because it’s like you gave yourself permission to be the expert. It’s easier to  can be seen as the go-to person to the specific audience that has that specific problem. It gives you permission to ignore things that aren’t in that focus. I call this “a slice of a slice”. The more crowded the market the more you have to specialize. There’s one specific audience you want to talk to. They’re the ones who will recognize you as the expert you are because they relate to your background and achievements. They recognize and value your knowledege, skills, abilities, and experience.
  3. Put yourself out there in a big way and do it consistently. This is where the conflict between our needs and wants comes in. There’s a saying that you’ve got to fail forward fast. Those of us who are corporate escapees can have a real block around this and for those of us who are recovering perfectionists it’s even worse. In corporate life I’ll bet you saw people who made mistakes and got punished for them. They got chewed out. Their reputation was damaged. They may have gotten demoted. Some got fired. So it can be terrifying to put yourself out there in a big way because you’re emotionally scarred after seeing or experiencing that. Corporate life didn’t really set us up for success as independent professionals and entrepreneurs. So you’ve got to reconcile these emotions and it requires detaching from the outcome. It also requires developing the self-love and faith in yourself so your self-esteem isn’t at risk when you make an offer that no one takes you up on or you present a proposal and get told no.There’s any number of strategies you can apply and tactics you can accomplish to put yourself out there and attract clients. But they have to be done in a consistent manner. The fact that you put up a blog post and it didn’t get any traffic or that you put up a video and no one came to see it live doesn’t mean it’s not working. We cognitively know it will take more effort than that but we’re still disappointed when it doesn’t work. We want to be that overnight success that others seem to be. But in reality it takes effort. And it takes changing the effort you’re expending. You don’t need to take huge action but instead take small actions, moving forward, and you’ll make that next big leap.
  4. Find a supportive community and participate in it. Going out on your own is a courageous move. But at the same time it’s incredibly isolating since most of the people you know probably can’t relate to you now. But as a social animal, you do need to find supportive peers who can encourage you, cheer you, and gently push you while sharing their knowledge and feedback with you.
  5. Take action. There’s a great image I saw on Facebook designed by Sylvia Duckworth. It’s called the Iceberg Illusion. It shows the tip of the iceberg that’s above the water and that’s labeled “success” Then it shows the giant piece of the iceberg and all of the effort that’s going on below the surface that people don’t see.  Do something. Everyday do small actions that move your toward your ultimate goal. And never give up.

So your reflection exercise for today is to think about what you’re doing to get known and be seen along with the emotions that’s bringing up and how you’re managing them.

And your action step is to make a list of all of the potential actions you could take to attract potential clients. Then identify what you’re not willing to do and what you are willing to do.  Once you’ve got a handle on what you’re not willing to do you’ve got to ask yourself if you’re willing to accept that your movement may take more time than you want it to.

Look at your calendar and plan to do at least one thing to attract potential clients every day. You want to eventually aim for doing at least 5 things every day that will make you more visible and raise your Know-Like-Trust Quotient with those you’d like to connect with — whether they’re potential clients, potential referral partners, or potential collaboration partners.

 

 

Sylvia LaFair Discusses the Patterns That Hold Us Back From Success

Welcome to the Courageous Entrepreneur Show. This is the show that educates and inspires you to address the emotional baggage that’s getting in your way and break through to the next level of success.

In today’s episode, leadership expert Dr. Sylvia LaFair discusses how behavior patterns that kept us safe as children actively hold us back from achieving the success we want.

Get Sylvia’s award-winning books:

Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success

Gutsy: How Women Leaders Make Change (Sylvia recommends that women start with this one)

Take the Pattern Aware Quiz (TM)

A special offer for the first 10 viewers! Contact Sylvia and let her know you heard / saw her on The Courageous Entrepreneur Show and get a free 20 minute consultation directly with her!

Call her at: 570-630-3858

Contact Sylvia via email at sylvia (at) CEOptions (dot) com (type that as you would a normal email address)

6 Steps to Finish the Year Strong and Build Momentum for the New Year

runner-woman-finishlineJust under a year ago you had high hopes that this year would be full of amazing things and this would be YOUR year.

Sure you got some things done; did some good work; but are you sure you’re going to end things on a high note or will it be something off-key?

It’s easy to allow ourselves to get distracted by the holiday season ahead and use the excuse that “nothing much gets done at this time of year” to just limp to the finish line.

You might have used a variation of that excuse at different times of the year…spring…summer….the World Series….football…this list is really endless when it comes to excuse-making opportunities.

Whether your business is off-track or you’ve had a successful year, my guess is there’s still something that needs to be done that would wrap this year up powerfully and set you up for a great start to the new one just ahead.

Here are 6 steps you can take to move forward now to finish the year on a high note and to set you up for more success in the coming year.

  1. Identify the most important actions you could take in your business that would help you make it to the next level, get you important results, or set you up for a successful start to the year.

Set a timer for 3 minutes and then write or type everything you can think of. Don’t judge. Don’t edit. Don’t even correct your spelling. Just do a massive brain dump.

  1. Whittle the list down to 5 things that would make the biggest impact. Don’t get rid of the other stuff because you identified it for a reason. Save that somewhere else and reflect on it later.

Make sure you don’t wuss out and pick things that just keep you feeling busy but really wouldn’t make much of an impact. For example, “Learning how to use Twitter” is not going to help you and your business make a big leap unless you’re a giant retailer with a big list and you haven’t started using Twitter yet.

3. Cut down to the single most important thing – it’s likely the thing you’ve been procrastinating about most – and it should be something that only you can do. And yes, I realize this is when you start getting nervous and looking for reasons to not take action. You’ll tell yourself, “I have to…” or “I don’t know how to…”and think up something that will distract you from the big thing.

This is the voice of the gremlin I call “Mini-Me”.

This little creature believes that making progress is scary and wants to keep you right where you are.

Your objective at this point is to recognize Mini-Me’s antics and then start making small movements forward. This will help her / him realize you’re in control and are going to be ok.

Funny how resistance rears its head as you start making more and more progress.

  1. Think about what would define success in that project or task by the end of the year. What would you need to do that would help you either finish this year strong and feel good about it or set you up to start the new year off successfully? Capture this somewhere – a journal, Evernote, One Note….

One of the biggest reasons we struggle to achieve our goals is that we don’t have a crystal clear picture of exactly what we want.

“More” isn’t crystal clear. A penny is more. A sucky client is more.

If it’s easier to think about what you don’t want then focus on that first. The point is that you should be able to give such a clear description of what you want that an artist could draw a picture of it.

Your brain needs to know what it’s working towards and what it’s supposed to focus on.

Without that sort of clarity it’s left jumping from idea to idea because it’s wondering “Is this it?!”, “Is this it?”

Help your brain focus by giving it extremely clear direction.

  1. Get going! The hardest step is to actually take action. Some people can take a big leap and some things are easier to make a big leap with. Most of us – for most things that would really move us forward – find it hard to take even the smallest step. Tony Robbins talks about how humans typically move to escape pain. So somehow you’ve got to recognize that the discomfort of change is worth it because staying where you are is just too painful.
  1. Keep moving! Ever wonder why you can get started on a new habit and then suddenly revert back to your old behavior (which might be just doing nothing?) The answer is in resistance.

Remember Mini-Me? Well as we begin to move closer to our goal Mini-Me suddenly starts realizing what’s going on and s/he’ll raise a big stink. It’s easy to revert back to your old behavior of getting distracted, creating drama, over-scheduling yourself, or whatever other unhelpful behaviors you normally start embracing.

The key to making lasting change and to really achieving your goals is to keep moving.

Whether you call it persistence, stick-to-it-iveness, determination, or something else, the critical element of achievement is in maintaining momentum, recognizing resistance, and remaining aware so you can course correct to get refocused on the goal.

By doing those things, you continue to take action and ultimately achieve your goal.

So stop reading this and get going.

Remember, it takes clarity and consistent action to achieve your goals, finish the year strong, and set yourself up for success; so start with being as clear as possible.

The “Where to Start” Advice Every Guru Gives That’s Dead Wrong (and what to do instead)

red_tulips_white_tulipEvery guru says to start at the same point – identify your Ideal Client. They tell you that’s the most important thing and that without clarity on that you’ll struggle.

I think they’re dead wrong when they’re talking to service professionals – coaches, consultants, healers, and licensed professionals – like us.

You started your practice because you…

  • Have skills you love to use and want to spend all your time using them
  • Have a passion for the work you do, for the outcome you deliver – whether it’s for helping others manage stress, grow their business, write better books, or something else. You want to help others do, be, and have more than they have now.
  • Feel called to a mission. I’ve asked service providers why they do what they do and many feel drawn to solve a problem or make an impact in some way. They almost can’t explain why they do it; they just know they have to.

There’s some internal knowing that this is the work you were meant to do. Service professionals are led by the service they want to deliver.

That’s what drives you — making a difference…serving others…through the skills you have.

So when the gurus start preaching that your first step is to focus on an Ideal Client or target market you struggle to figure out who that is or should be for you.

This can leave you feeling like you’re stupid because you can’t figure out something that they say is basic.

But they’ve got it backwards. At least when it comes to service professionals like coaches, consultants, or healers.

What You Need to Do Before Worrying About Who Your Ideal Client Is

Before we can possibly know our Ideal Client, we need to be clear on our Big Idea.

Legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy is credited with coining the phrase, “Big Idea”. And his effectiveness with using it was a good part of what made him legendary.

Having a Big Idea means you’ve got a unique approach to a problem. It’s your unique solution built on your unique slant on a specific problem.

So expressing a Big Idea means communicating…

  • The problem you solve
  • Your Point of View about the problem you solve
  • The outcome or transformation you provide

When you’re trying to grow a business, have bills to pay, and empty cupboards to fill it can make you feel a bit panicky to  focus on what you think of as a small segment of  the population.

You’re likely nervous about turning people down or saying you only with a specific type of person or that you only solve a specific type of problem.

You can also feel really uncomfortable (to put it mildly) about putting yourself out there.

Benefits of Getting Clear About Your Big Idea

But talking about your Big Idea…talking about the problem that needs to be solved and why people struggle to solve it…is a lot easier. It put’s the attention on the problem, not on you.

And when you deeply understand the problem you solve and the outcome you provide, better than anyone else, then you can start to see who has that problem and who wants the outcome you offer.

When you’re clear about your Big Idea and stay on message talking about issues that relate to  it then you’re going to attract people who have that problem you solve and who want the solution you provide in the way you provide it.

You become the go-to person for your particular audience.

The Foundation of Your Big Idea

The most important element that forms the foundation of your Big Idea is your Point of View (POV).

Your POV is the set of beliefs you have about the work you do and the problem you solve. It’s your approach and philosophy about solving the problem.

It informs everything you do and guides the way you do it.

Here’s a quick example.

On a video call, my friends who are livestreaming experts they told me I needed to check out a new livestream service that’s all the rage.

But a friend of mine in an English speaking country outside of the US posted on Facebook a negative experience he had with this company.

My friend’s assessment was the livestreaming company’s rep had no idea how to talk to a professional and acted like a child.

What my friend described certainly sounded like very poor service. Since he was dealing with a manager of this new company, it sounds like they either don’t know how to hire good people or they’re developing a culture with a chip on its shoulder — one that doesn’t value clients.

So my reaction when my friends suggested I have this company on the show was very strong.

No.

I don’t want to help bad companies get attention and attract business when they obviously don’t put the effort into hiring and / or training top notch people. Or they care so little about their staff that they create an environment that causes these people to then act out.

Can you hear my values in there? The importance I place on staffing, training, and organizational development?

That forms the foundation of my POV about service, culture, and staffing.

Your beliefs, values, and philosophy become very obvious when something tests them.

So when you hear some guru go on about how the first thing you need to do is identify a target market… and you struggle to identify one…it’s easy to feel like you’re stupid. But you’re not.

They just assume you’re clear on your Big Idea. That you’re clear on your core message, the problem you solve, and the outcome you deliver.

But it’s very likely that you’re not.

That’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because you’ve been focusing too hard on getting clients.

But you can’t get as many clients — or Ideal Clients — until you’re clear on your core message.

You do need a clear audience to communicate with, and the more you know about them the easier it is to attract them.

But you can’t attract them if you don’t understand their problem and your solution and why your solution is right for them.

You’ll struggle to attract them if you don’t have a Big Idea and if you don’t have a clear message delivered consistently across different platforms.

So if you’ve been sweating to figure out an ideal client, or avatar, or brand persona, or whatever is the buzz phrase of the moment, I’m giving you permission to stop worrying about that right now.

Instead, focus on gaining crystal clarity on your Big Idea.

Focus on being clear about the problem you solve, the solution you provide, the POV you have, and packaging all that into your Big Idea so people understand you and what you’re all about.

Then get your message out powerfully — in a way that reaches and resonates with your ideal client so she takes the next step to learn more about you and the solution you provide.

Then as you see who is naturally attracted to you, you can decide how to adjust your message in order to attract more of those people who you truly want to work with and less of those who aren’t a perfect fit.

Your Ideal Client or Avatar will make itself known to you because that’s who resonates with your message.

How to Keep Working In and On Your Business When the World’s Gone Mad

sunset

Image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/users/lmaresz-23602/

This has been a very sad week in the United States and it seems like the epicenter of sadness is Orlando, Florida.

You may have found yourself struggling to focus on the work you needed to get done or maybe wondering if your work even matters considering the heartbreaking events that went on this week.

Because this won’t be the only sad week we face while growing our businesses I thought I’d share some tips you might find useful. And believe me, I’m talking to myself here as much as I’m sharing this with you.

  1. Turn off the news. The media provides 24-7 coverage of carnage and it can truly become overwhelming. So once you’ve gotten the minimum amount of details to consider yourself informed turn it off and don’t turn it back on. That goes for websites as well as TV, radio, and any other piece of technology that would deliver the news.
  2. Cut back – WAY back – on your social media exposure. Only get involved at the minimum level you may feel you need to. But I encourage you to even think about completely disengaging and only venting your emotions through email with very trusted friends. Social media will expose you to crackpots, trolls, and the dark side of people you’d otherwise not see. Don’t look.
  3. Review your to-do list. I’m sure you’re overwhelmed with work as I am, so one good thing to do is focus on the top things that need to be done. And if you know you’re struggling to stay focused or you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotions, then concentrate on those must-do tasks that are truly time-sensitive and revenue generating. Push off for a few days anything that can truly wait.
  4. Tune into your feelings. Recognize what you’re feeling and admit you’re feeling it. Those feelings are perfectly valid, especially if you’re an introverted entrepreneur. Don’t let one person tell you that you’re over-reacting. Reflect though on what you are feeling and gently ask yourself why you’re reacting so deeply. It could be that you’re a parent who can empathize with the anguish of those who lost a child this week. I automatically think about the siblings those who passed away left behind. When I do that, I lose it thinking about how much I love my own siblings and how out of my mind I’d feel if anything ever happened to them. So think about what’s being triggered and trust that it’s ok to feel those feelings. You’re human.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Play with your pets. Get in touch with nature. Have a workout and really push yourself (When I was back home in South Jersey and I was upset, I used to love to box with my trainer). But if you feel the need to sleep, do that too. Bake (another favorite stress-reliever of mine). Do whatever you need to in order to stay emotionally healthy. And if that means hiding posts from certain people on Facebook then do it.
  6. Police your self-talk. My feelings this week have been similar to those I felt on September 11. 2001, the day the towers came down and the other planes crashed. This week I had to be extra vigilant that I didn’t just think over and over about those poor parents who lost their toddler. So I forced myself to become more aware and when it popped in my head, I’d say a prayer for them instead. I figured that’s more productive than just thinking about it and upsetting myself.
  7. Do something. As entrepreneurs – take-action kind of people – our first thought is “I have to DO something!” So do that. It’s part of your natural soothing process. Give blood. Hang a rainbow flag outside of your home or office. Make a donation. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper in Orlando and let them know you’re with them. Pray. Pray A LOT. Better yet, organize a prayer vigil in your community. Tell LGBT folks you love them and stand by them. Ask a local LGBT group what would be helpful. Organize an interfaith discussion of differences. In helping others heal we often heal ourselves.
  8. Resist the temptation to judge others. There’s a lot of victim shaming and even parent shaming going on right now. And I’ve even see others shame people who they feel aren’t demonstrating enough sadness. Each of us grieves differently and we all have a right to our feelings. Some people want to talk about it and others don’t. Be respectful but at the same time protect your emotional health too.

The biggest thing you can do is to go on. To continue to market your offerings, plan your next event, send out invoices. Evil wins when we become frozen in fear and sadness. Refuse to give in to fear. Period.

Continuing to work doesn’t mean you’re not a kind, generous human being. It means you’re an indomitable entrepreneur for whom work can be a solace as well as a tribute to the spirti of those lost.

Mid-Year Check-in: 7 Elements to Review

to_do_priorityI took advantage of the long Memorial Day weekend and beautiful weather we had in the Niagara region to sit on the deck and take stock of where I am, how to leverage the work I did in the first half of the year, and where I want to go in 2017.

The tendency I used to have was to look at my accomplishments and beat myself up for not achieving more.

I’m done with that.

I know that type of thinking helped chain me in self-abuse mode and kept me focusing on negative things which only got me more negative stuff.

Part of being detached from the outcome is looking at your results and not judging them. Just compare them to what you wanted.

I thought you might benefit from doing a mid-year assessment too so I thought I’d share what I did.

These are the 7 basics I think need to be reviewed.

Businessman Holding Graph --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Revenue. I used to hate looking at my numbers. They were always inconsistent at best and not good at worse. But you can’t measure what you’re not tracking so take a look at your revenue from the first half of the year month by month. Is it going up or down? Were some months better than others? If so, why? Are you bringing in at least the amount you need to run your business, market your offerings, and have a great life without scraping to get by? Do you know the number you want each month? If not, get clear and then assess what’s going on here. Set a target for the second half of the year.

Expenses.  These were on track for me but then my websites were infected with malware and it cost me more than $1000 to get the problem fixed. I now have an unexpected monthly payment for continued protection and I’ve got to figure out how to recover that money. That tells me I need to up my revenue number and take into consideration building a business rainy-day fund over the 2nd half of the year and beyond. Are you spending money where you should be? Are you paying for things you haven’t seen a return on? Are you paying for things you don’t really need at this point? Estimate expenses for the rest of the year and begin looking at expense estimates for 2017.

Profit. Do a quick calculation of the difference between your gross revenue and your expenses? By the way, did you take money for taxes out of your revenue? If not, make sure you do that and put it somewhere you won’t touch it. In spite of what Mike Michalowitz says in his book Profit First, you don’t pay yourself first. You always pay the government first. Remember, it took the US Treasury Department to bring down Al Capone.

Now, take a look at that profit number. Naturally you’d like it to be higher. Resist the temptation to beat yourself up if you think it’s too low. If it’s higher than you thought, then yay you. Make some notes about this number and give some more thought to revenue and expenses for the remainder of the year. As my mentor Mike Koenigs once said, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.”

OK, those are the very basics of business right? No surprise there. So here are the other things I looked at that I encourage you to review as well.

women_handshake

Referral Partners. If you’re an introverted entrepreneur like me and you hate selling, one of the secrets to NOT selling is to get more referrals. Word of mouth is important for any business but it’s really critical if you hate to sell. You’ve got to work extra hard at being truly remarkable. You’ve also got to work at cultivating relationships with key referral groups. So think about what types of businesses compliment but don’t compete with you? Who serves your ideal audience? Two segments that serve my ideal audience are Online Business Managers and Virtual Assistants. I’m actively cultivating relationships with great performers in these segments to spread the word about my show, Let’s Talk Tech, and for the tech events I have coming up. Who would be natural referral partners for you and your offerings? Are you cultivating strong relationships with those partners you already have? What more can you do for your existing partners in the 2nd half of the year and how will that impact your expenses? Will you buy gifts, send cards, etc.?

Web Presence Optimization. This can sometimes feel like trying to herd cats but what I’m talking about here is your overall ability to rank in the search engines for key terms, and the development of a consistent brand on the web? Is your website looking good or does it need to be updated (like mine does)? This doesn’t mean you need to be on every single platform out there but it does mean you want to do a good job on those platforms you are on and that you present a unified image and message. Keep in mind the old adage “A confused mind never buys” and evaluate your web presence with a critical eye. One of my goals is to dominate page one of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for several key terms. Do you have a goal for your web presence? If not, then add that to the list of things to think about for the second half of the year. And be sure to keep in mind any expenses related to growing your presence and your brand.

Product Creation. We create an awful lot of content each month. As people who hate selling, one of the things to make sure we’re doing is to repurpose that content into products people can purchase as a way to check out our philosophy, process, and effectiveness. These low and mid-priced range products can be reasonable investments for someone who is evaluating whether or not to work with you privately and they’re also a way to get paid for all that content you’ve created. This can be a relatively painless way to begin to grow your revenue and maximize your earning power. Reflect on everything you’ve created – blog posts, webinars, white papers and reports, etc. – and then think about the needs and wants of your audience. How can you put together at least one small product to begin to sell before the end of the year?

gratitudeYour mental / emotional / spiritual / physical health. This should really be at the top of the list but I know revenue is the first thing on your mind as an introverted entrepreneur.

The first half of 2016 was crazy for me. I…
Le…successfully launched my podcast, t’s Talk Tech (on New & Noteworthy within an hour of its official launch and was in N&N in three categories every day for 8 weeks!),
...laid out a sales funnel
planned and hosted my first big virtual event
got featured in two commercials for hosting company Hostgator
created and sold a course on developing and launching a unique podcast
and survived the malware infection of my three web properties.

But I paid a big price.

I missed a couple of important family events and spent only minimal time with my husband.

What about you? Were the sacrifices you made worth it? What are you unwilling to do as you move into the second half of the year?

For me, this is an additional incentive to grow my revenue since I need to outsource more work to stay in my genius zone, maximize my impact, and minimize time spent away from those I love.

You know how fast time flies by. Take control of where you and your business are going so you don’t wind up on December 31st kicking yourself for another year of not becoming the person and not building the business you were meant to.

Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand at mid-year….how do you feel about your accomplishments and what are your big goals for the rest of the year.

Strong Boundaries Make Strong Businesses for Solo Professionals

wooden-fence-waterAs someone with a deep wound around rejection, I grew up with a huge need to be liked.

The first jobs I got as a kid were service-centered – where going the extra mile to please a customer was a badge of honor and led to financial and emotional rewards.

That conditioning continued through my corporate life as I worked in service industries and in helping positions – training, staffing, and organizational development, as well as marketing and sales.

Saying “no” was a quick way to be branded as “not a team player” and someone who wasn’t committed to the organization.

Out on our own, this drive to please our clients is a double-edged sword.

It can lead us to becoming the go-to person for those we serve and it can lead us to being seen as a leader in our industry segment.

But it can also cause us bending over backward to an unhealthy extreme.

Examples of going too far include any time you give so much value that you resent doing it. That’s taking over-delivering to the extreme.

It also happens when you do things for your clients and are afraid to charge them or because you want to have praise heaped on you more than you want money to flow into your bank account.

And sometimes, just as we leave ourselves open for bullies in our personal lives, being too eager to please can open you up to relationships that descend into bullying.

These business bullies can be those who use overwhelming negotiating tactics to get you to lower your prices, to give them more value than they want to pay for, or blaming you for not reading their minds and delivering on things they never asked for.

Standing up to them can be hard, but it’s a critical exercise in building your confidence muscles.

There’s a great Seinfeld episode where Elaine asks to use Jerry’s apartment while he’s out of town. The reason she needs to use it is so she can host a baby shower for a an acquaintance named Leslie who she doesn’t know very well but doesn’t really like but can’t say no to. Jerry and Elaine’s friend George considers Leslie as one of the worst dates of his life, but who he couldn’t stand up to when she humiliated him on their date.

Jerry’s predicament in the episode is he’s agreed to have Kramer’s friends install illegal cable in the apartment.

This is a great episode that shows the difficulty of standing up for ourselves with people we have a hard time saying “no” to, even though that’s what we really want to do.

Just this week I was faced with someone who I looked up to and admired who I felt was pushing me around about a project I had invited her to be on. (My husband Lou swears life is a Seinfeld episode)

She had missed every deadline she’d agreed to and then wanted me to change the completion date of the project.

And at first I was going to do it.

But then I realized what I was allowing to happen.

I realized that if I gave in I was allowing her to bully me and I was not valuing myself or my skills, nor was I acting as the leader I needed to be on the project.

So I told her the project didn’t appear to be a fit for her and while I wished her well I’d be moving on without her.

No apologies. No “It’s not you, it’s me” type of language.

It took a lot for me to be able to do that.

The old me – from even a year ago – wouldn’t have done it. I’d have given her everything she asked for, inconvenienced myself, but kept her happy (at least until the next thing she didn’t want to happen).

Of course, I made this brave stand by email 🙂 but at least I took a stand – the stand that was best for me.

The fact that she’s now unhappy about being cut out of the project isn’t my fault and it doesn’t make me a bad person.

It makes me a smart, healthy business person.

It minimizes my stress on the project, which on the whole raises my profitability because the happiness I feel about work directly impacts the quality and value of my days.

It lowers my exposure to risk. People who have extremes in their behavior and who get angry over what they perceive to be slights are unpredictable. I know people who’ve been caught up in law suits over ridiculous issues and who spent their life savings defending themselves.

It reinforces positive self-talk. Standing up to someone who’s intimidating makes me feel good, proves I can face bigger challenges, and develops my resiliency skills.

All of that takes confidence and courage.

But I didn’t always have them.

It took me years to develop them. And now that I have them, I’m not losing them again.

So if you find yourself complaining about your clients, your work, and other things in your business (or life), ask yourself what you’ve done that’s allowed those things to happen or to continue to happen (this doesn’t include violence, ok? That’s not what I’m saying here).

Ask yourself why you continue to stand for this type of behavior or these types of actions.

And face the fact that, to propel your business forward you’ve got to raise you confidence level and courageously step up for what you believe.

What types of situations do you find you lack confidence in? Share your thoughts.

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.

Lessons From My First Hater

image courtesy of Pixabay / johnhain

image courtesy of Pixabay / johnhain

Well it happened. I got my first hater.

This is something I secretly dreaded ever since I got online back in 2000.

Looking back now on things I struggled with and how I held myself back — it was all because I was actually afraid of standing out.

Screwy right? I mean, how else are you going to get clients if you don’t stand out?

I was a big fish in a small pond back in my corporate life. Standing out wasn’t something I even thought about. I worked hard. I always held very visible positions in human resources and in marketing.

But that was different. It wasn’t really “me” who was standing out. At least I didn’t see it as me standing out.

I saw it as doing my job to help the whole company move forward.

I was an important team member, but a team member nonetheless.

Then I was out on my own and instead of being a team member I was afraid of being seen as some pushy, salesy…word that rhymes with “itch”.

So when this person messaged me on Facebook with her long message about how she was sick and tired of me I was shocked.

It happened before the end of the year and I can honestly say it was one of the best things that happened to me.

So here are 10 lessons I learned while dealing with my first hater and some tips to help you deal with yours.

  1. Give yourself time before you respond. I know some people will say “ignore them” but this particular hater is someone who I actually see quite a bit. We’re in several online groups together and I see her pretty regularly at live events so I felt compelled to respond in some way. It took me about 36 hours to respond to her. That time helped me to get past the anger and hurt I felt as a result of what she said so I could respond in a professional manner. I think this is important because haters are looking for anything you do that will validate their hateful thoughts and behavior. Don’t give them that fuel. And if you want to ignore yours go right ahead. Most haters don’t deserve a response.
  2. Ask yourself which button got pushed and why you reacted emotionally. This is a tough one but if you don’t recognize this you’ll be a pawn of future haters. A former coworker used to say that even broken clocks are right twice a day. Think about what could have possibly led this person to think the thoughts she  shared. Could there have been any glimmer of truth in what she said? Usually when something provokes an emotional response it’s because there’s a wound there or you have a fear associated with something. For example, if someone accused you of careless work and you take great pride in delivering work that’s perfect you’re likely to get defensive and emotional because being careless is something you dread being accused of. This takes really detaching from the emotions and recognizing she’s got her own issues that likely have nothing to do with you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to disconnect from them. If you’re connected to them on social media like LinkedIn or Facebook you can disconnect from them very easily. Yes, there’s a way they can find out if you disconnected from them but do you really care? It’s probably unlikely you’re going to run into them at the grocery store, and unlikely the actively search their contacts for you.
  4. Invite them to disconnect from you. If they’re on your newsletter list encourage them to unsubscribe since there doesn’t seem to be a fit between them and your message anymore. If you can’t bring yourself to delete them from your connections on social media encourage them to disconnect from you. But let them know – in a very polite way – that you’re not interested in hearing from them again. Please take this the right way. I’m not talking about cutting off people with genuine concerns or complaints about your service. But life is too short to let mean people take up space in your head.
  5. Focus on those who want your message and are ready to receive it. I know you have a big heart and you want to help everyone who needs your services but to be honest with you, only people who are ready to receive your message are going to benefit from it. So get your message out there stronger and bolder than ever and make it laser focused on preaching to the choir not trying to convert those who aren’t interested in changing.
  6. Realize this won’t be the last hater you get. It may be best for you to have an assistant take over the bulk of reviewing your mail and messages so they can delete what’s trash, act on what they need to, and pass on only what you truly need to see. Like I said earlier, haters and complaining customers are different groups. Reading hate mail isn’t on your “most need to do” list.
  7. It’s not what they say that hurts it’s how you think about it. Thoughts might pop in your head but you don’t have to let them stay. You don’t have to dwell on them. Save all the nice emails people send you and the nice messages. Think about them instead of the crap haters toss your way.
  8. Getting hated on isn’t as bad as you think it’s going to be. I think the problem is our elephant-like memories. We remember how much it hurt when someone we loved or cared about said something that hurt us. Or that time at work when we did our best and some doofus made a snide comment about the project we delivered. Or you’re over-reacting thinking “everyone” thinks that about you. In reality, that’s the only person who does.
  9. People want to make themselves feel good and sometimes that means hurting you. Feel sorry for them and say a little prayer that they’ll find happiness and fulfillment in some other way. At the end of her very long message she admitted that “maybe I’m a little jealous.”
  10. You must be doing something right. You only become a target when you stand out. So clarify your message. Where a fabulous outfit. Polish up your website and social media profiles. When you start to shine brightly you’ll attract so many fans the haters won’t be able to reach you.

Taylor Swift says it best, “haters gonna hate”. Take the hate as a sign your voice is getting louder and your message is getting stronger. Celebrate that; don’t let a hater keep you from serving those you’re meant to serve or from sharing the gifts you were blessed with.