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Archive for philosophy

The core of your business.

Recently as part of my personal development I finally, finally figured out how to identify my ‘core values’. The words that describe the things that are most important to my life.

How did I do this? I Googled ‘core values’ and read some things. I didn’t find them helpful. I downloaded a list. I printed it out. I circled some things. I crossed some things out. I made some notes on the side. I added a word that wasn’t there. I made a list. I rewrote the list. For about a week I had this piece of paper in the main work surface of my desk, and I’d read the list I wrote yesterday, I’d look over the words, and I’d make some more changes. Now I think I have the ones that really drive me.

So why am I writing a business blog about this?

Because I am an entrepreneur and my business is part of my life, not separate from it. Even though those core values are personal development, every day that I use them as a guide they help me make the right business decisions for my life.

Teaching- I like to teach. I like to share my knowledge. So I have a blog. Actually, I have several blogs. Every day that I find I’m thinking something over and over, or every time I have several clients that get the same explanation, I try to write a blog about it. If I have several clients who need to learn something, then others probably do to. Blogging isn’t just about marketing.

Integrity- This is huge for me. Am I walking my talk? Am I advising people for their highest good, or mine? Am I offering my services because that’s what I do, or because I really think I can help this person? So sometimes, my advice to a potential client is “I’m not your girl”.

Nature- I’ll admit that this one plays a little less in my business life. Except that my office is lit with natural light light bulbs. It’s painted a color that relaxes me. I have pictures of the outdoors that inspire and relax me on my bulletin board. And I always open the blinds and look out the window as much as possible.

My people- The terms ‘family’ and ‘community’ were both on that list, but neither of them said the right thing to me. Some of my people are blood, some of my people are customers, and some of my people are cats. They get priority. Sure, sometimes I have a real tight deadline, or an appointment, but I try to be sure that time is rescheduled so those important to me never, every doubt that they are important. It also helps me realize that time-to-cuddle-the-cat is an integral part of my life, that I value and cherish. It is not an ‘interruption’ of something ‘important’. It is the something important. How wonderful that my job lets me work from home where I can focus on that.

Fun- I want my job to be fun. I like what I do. I like to write. I have 3 personal blogs on top of the many blogs I write for customers. I like my clients. I take my ‘spidey-sense’ very seriously and try to never sign a client that I don’t think I can have fun with. Sure, there are parts that I don’t love and I don’t find fun, but as my business grows you can be certain that the not-fun parts are the ones I’m most urgently planning to outsource as the resources become available!

Those are my values. Each and every one of them helps me make better business decisions, according to my definition of ‘better’. What makes me happier and more satisfied? What makes me more eager to start work each day? I urge you to look over your core values and make sure that you are applying those to your business choices. Your business is part of your life. Make sure it reflects what is important to you.

Get focused.

I’ve recently been working with several customers who are having some trouble with the idea of the target market. I really, really understand this because it was an issue I struggled with for quite a long time.

Here’s what you really need to know.

Identifying your target market isn’t a limit, it’s a focus.

Suzanne Evans is a coach who really resonates with me. Her approach to helping you find your target market is “who can you help the most”? Who are you driven to serve? Given your knowledge and life experience (not necessarily formal education) who are you best equipped to help succeed in their own journey?

Where can you do the most good?

When I was looking for these answers for my own business, all I could see was that by defining who my target was, I was excluding everyone who didn’t fall under that umbrella. Which causes panic and anxiety in a new business. All those people who can’t be my customers! But that isn’t really how it works.

By clearly defining my target, I know where to look. I have a way to decide which networking events to attend. I know how to phrase my own story about what I do. I know who I want to be reading this blog article. I have some selection criteria on how to choose who to approach at an event. I have a focus.

It does not mean that I have to turn down a client who is outside my target. It doesn’t mean I exclude. My target is generally educated professional women between 40-60. Does that mean if I’m approached by senior gentleman wanting to write a memoir about being enlisted military that I’d say no?

Not a chance. I’d love to work with someone like that. If you know one, please send him a link to my website!

Your target market won’t be written in stone either. You should reevaluate it regularly. Have you had some clients that didn’t work out as well as you’d like? How are they different from the ones who work brilliantly. Are there similarities you can use  to refine your focus? If you started helping older women but you’re finding that your best clients are young mothers, then by all means, adjust things and go after them. Don’t get rid of the great customers you already have, but as you go out to find new clients, use your new understanding of who you love to work with as a guide.

After all, we’d all like to be so busy that we have to pick and choose carefully who we work with. Understanding your target is a way to help you get there.

 

Make time for praise.

How often do you take the time to write a recommendation on LinkedIn?

Usually that answer is ‘not as often as I should’.

Why don’t you?

What tends to stop people is the idea that they don’t know what to say.

Recently my husband’s company made some lay offs. It happens even in the best companies. Actually, the best companies do it regularly to make sure that the people who are there are contributing to keeping that company one of the best. People who don’t contribute, or don’t fit the culture, or are negative… there are lots of reasons to let someone go that have nothing to do with competence, although certainly that is an important reason too.

So what happens when someone you liked working with but didn’t know very well but found pleasant and competent is one of those people who got the axe, and then you get a linked in message asking for a recommendation? Around here you talk to your favorite writing expert and she gives you some guidelines!

1. You weren’t the boss and that will be clear on your recommendation.
LinkedIn makes it clear when you start what your position relative to the person you’re recommending was. A colleague, someone you hired for a specific service, a friend. You’re making your recommendation based on that.

2. LinkedIn will also ask you to pick a few highlights of the service you got that you’re recommending about. This will help you decide which parts of your interaction were most significant to you. Where they helpful? Exceptionally competent? We often find it easier to pick from a list of options, so that’s what LinkedIn gives us to work with. Let that guide you.

3. If you look at the list of options and none of the things listed are what you wanted to focus on, then pick some for the form and then write your paragraph about what you do want to focus on.

4. Remember, it’s a paragraph. 2 at the most. You can be as brief as you want and still say something meaningful. Pick 3 characteristics (or only 2 if that is what comes to mind) and say what you need to say. Then stop. Be genuine. Be positive. Be brief.

5. Don’t over think this. This is the biggest stumbling block. We get caught up in saying things just right. Does this sound too…whatever. This is not a make-or-break document! This is a friendly gesture. Write it as a gesture of friendship or appreciation of service well provided, or professional respect, and then move on.

If you’d like to see examples, check out this recommendation I wrote for the person who built my spiffy new website, or for one of the amazing health coaches I work with. I’ve also been gifted with some great recommendations of my own.

Are you using the force?

Getting everything you want in life is simple, but it isn’t easy.

Mel Robbins

Mel Robbins does an excellent presentation about getting up off your…chair and putting yourself outside your comfort zone to make the changes you really want in your life. Well worth your 20 minutes.

Inertia is so easy. So easy to do what you’ve always done.  And if you already have everything you want, then I suppose that works. But if you want something new? That isn’t going to cut it.

I set myself some ambitious goals this month about making some internal changes for my business. Progress is pretty good, as long as I stay off the couch. But if I sit on the couch? Suddenly the inertia is overwhelming and hours can pass without actually accomplishing anything further than bonding with the cat. Which I consider important, but it shouldn’t really be my dominant accomplishment for the day. I’ve been experimenting with ways to get myself back off the couch once I’ve sat down. And experimenting with different ways to structure my day so that I never go over there. Which means not working from my laptop until late in the day no matter how much I tell myself it will be fine and it is perfectly possible to have a great productive day from the laptop.

I’m sure it is, but not for me, not right now. Not until I’ve broken the habits I built during a grieving phase where I used the laptop to escape. Escape was then. Productive is now.

What tricks do you use to keep from getting sucked into a seemingly innocent behavior that is actually a productivity black hole? And what is the ‘force’ that you use to get yourself back up out of it?

An uphill battle is the wrong one.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that life is going to be easy or that we don’t have to work hard for what we want to achieve.

Recently I had one of those situations where every time you think you are making progress another road block throws itself squarely in your way and you have yet another problem to mess with. You never quite feel that you are really making any progress at all. It is exhausting and frustrating.

Those situations should be your first clue that you are going about it, whatever it is, the wrong way.

If you think about it I’m sure you’ve experienced the other kind of progress where you put your full effort into a situation and suddenly you’ll meet just the right person or find just the right website with exactly the information you need or you’ll get a sudden flash of insight. The work isn’t less, but it is more productive and more satisfying. You get the help or inspiration that you need to keep moving forward with your plan or project. You get energized by each little success and it spurs you on to work even harder.

Those are the right battles.

Today I’m promising myself that the next time I find myself in a two-steps-back-for-each-step-forward uphill all the way battle I’m going to take a moment to sit calmly and focus on what other ways this topic could be approached and try it that way instead.

And I’m telling you all about it because I’m pretty sure I’ll forget that promise the next time I’m in a tizzy. So please hold me to it!

What are you saying?

Nothing forces you to think about what you’re saying like a bad case of laryngitis! For several weeks now I’ve had to think about every word I wanted to let pass my lips because each word is an effort. Or had to be written down. Which is a heck of a way to have a conversation with your family.

I think its been a great exercise for me. It has really reinforced my conviction that how you say what you’re going to say is really critical. If every word is an effort, then you pay very strict attention to what each of those words is, and what impact it is going to have. Is it exactly the right word for the situation? Is it going to convey my meaning precisely without requiring a forced, painful explanation as follow up?

Wouldn’t our professional communication really benefit from that kind of review? To say what needs to be said as clearly and concisely as possible. To make sure your message is conveyed exactly as you wished, for maximum comprehension, the very first time it goes out to your customers? How much thought are you giving to that part of your sales process?

In our world of instantaneous communication, I think we could all benefit from a short period of silence to think about what we’re saying, and how we’re saying it.

But its been 3 weeks now, and I’m really, very ready to go back to talking.

Who are you?

This is not an existentialist, meaning of life question. Its serious. I’ve gotten 5 separate requests just today from people who want to connect via LinkedIn. People who I would not recognize if we were making idle conversation in line at the grocery store, face to face.

When trying to build your LinkedIn network, the very best thing you can do is type over that pithy generic default message that comes up. Just highlight it and type over it! Then take a few seconds to remind me who you are, and why you think we should connect. Are we friends with many of the same people? Did we meet at a networking function? Are you my second cousin twice removed? Who are you?

LinkedIn is about building business connections and relationships. They should be based on something other than you saw my name in someone else’s list.

If I can’t figure out who you are, then I probably won’t connect with you. I’m not that kind of a girl.

My new focus- In Your Voice

I had a really wonderful winter holiday. It was fun, it was relaxing.

It was very productive.

I had the opportunity to learn so many new things and be exposed to so much new information in 2010 that my head was spinning. Much of what I learned and realized is well captured by this talk by Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, as part of the Better Off TED, Ideas Worth Spreading project. He says, among many other things that really resonated with me “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

My winter break gave me an opportunity to slow down and think things through. I realized I wasn’t going in the right direction for me. I wasn’t inspired enough. I wasn’t excited enough. So I did what I always do when I get confused. I googled.

One of the great questions I found was “What would you do anyway, if you weren’t getting paid.” I thought about that for a long time. Then I asked some friends. “When you call me for help or an opinion, what are you calling me about.”

The answer was pretty clear. Writing.

When people ask me to look something over for them, its always about the writing. How can they say what they said, only better. I love to make words better. I hate things that are unclear or badly expressed.

If I’m going to do that kind of work anyway, which I definitely am, then perhaps that should be the work I do as my business. Because I love it. I’m passionate about it.

And I’m good at it. If I weren’t, people wouldn’t be calling me for help, now would they?

My new business is In Your Voice.

The value of editing.

Yes, I mean the editing in the traditional sense, where someone looks at words that you write and gives you feedback on them. At the very least pointing out homonyms that the spell checker didn’t notice.

This blog is inspired by an article I read today in an online news journal. The author suggested that we “search for visual queues” in a dark room. That would seem to be very odd advice, to search a dark room for a line of people waiting for something. Then I realized we probably were actually looking for ‘cues’.

I’m not perfect. I’m sure my blog has mistakes. But there are levels of care that need to be taken that vary depending on the publication and distribution of a piece of writing. Your Facebook status? The odd typo is no big deal. Most people are typing from a smart phone keyboard of 2.5 inches, we almost expect errors. A blog? Well, its nice when you get all the words right, but if you don’t, your audience is likely to be forgiving, depending on your readership following.

If you’re publishing something that calls itself a Business Magazine? I don’t care if you’re all online all the time or not. That is no excuse for not having someone on staff who reads things before they are published to catch the most egregious of errors.

But for some reason, the expense I’m certain, editing has fallen out of fashion. I’m a voracious reader and the more recently a book was published, the more likely it is that there will be some fairly serious mistakes in word usage or placement or maybe that the story just plain needed some tightening up.

Self publishing is no excuse. There are plenty of people in the world perfectly capable of doing a freelance editing job for you. I’m on my second book with the 3rd sitting in my dropbox waiting for my schedule to open up.

So please, if you’re publishing anything more serious than a blog, or if your blog has a readership of more than 100 people on a regular basis, for pity’s sake, please have someone, anyone literate really, read it before it goes public. Your spouse, your buddy, your kid, just anyone.

Because no matter how interesting your subject, your badly structured sentences and your incomprehensible grammar is going to get in the way of me caring.

‘Are’ going to get in the way. See what I mean?

I had forgotten…

Do you ever have a really good work day and realize that you’d forgotten some aspect of your work that you really, really enjoy?

I had a day like that today.

I organize things professionally because its who I am. I organize, I sort. Pity my poor husband. Its not something I learned to do as a profession. Like so many other solopreneurs, its something that I do naturally that I turned into a business. Homes, offices, its about the mindset, not the space for me.

Today I remembered what I love to organize more than anything, and that is words.

Words?

I know, its a little odd to think of writing and copy editing as ‘organizing’ words, but to me that’s what it is. Is this word doing the proper job here? Or should it be some other word? Does this paragraph enhance the flow of the idea here? Wouldn’t it work better two pages down? I know this anecdote is lovely and fun but its cluttering up your idea, I’m afraid it will have to go.

To me, that’s organizing. And its almost play.

How lucky, to get to earn a living doing things I’d really do anyway.