Crushing Business

Today we’re taking a look at a book Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary’s a wine expert who was using social media to promote his wine expertise and that snowballed into becoming a well-known expert on social media, and this book, which is a follow up to his earlier book Crush It!, is a look into some of the insights and lessons on entrepreneurship, social media, influence and success.

One of the big parts of this book are the stories that Gary shares, stories from dozens of entrepreneurs who read his first edition of the book and applied what he taught. I don’t typically pick up books that are mostly stories like this, but what all the stories reminded me was that you can absolutely be successful in whatever venture you start. Not everyone will be successful, but there are enough stories from a wide variety of industries that prove you can do it.

The second lesson I want to reflect on today was that of doing your own thing. Yes, there are principles like selling a quality product or places/things to participate in like social media and newsletters, that you should be participating in, but you have to be true to you and your business and your brand (don’t just copy someone else).

As I mentioned in the last lesson, the next lessons is regarding those principles and places. One of the reasons Gary has been so successful is because he doesn’t just mass produce and blast the same exact stuff everywhere, and he also follows the rules (formal and informal). Gary calls it “developing quality micro-content,” where your content is specific to the audience and the platform/place you’re sharing it. This means taking time to know the rules before just diving into a platform.

Fourth, is the importance of having a why. Yes, you should absolutely have a ‘why’ regarding why you’re in business. The more personal and passionate, the easier others will connect with your brand on a personal level. But you should also have a why behind the content you’re sharing, the people/influencers you’re connecting with, and the marketing you’re doing.

Fifth, there are some foundation keys that every business owner should be considering in order to achieve success. They include serving, offering value, teaching, authenticity, passion, patience, speed, work ethic, content, tracking and applying data, mastering social media, and being conscious of the intent behind actions and decisions.

When it comes down to it, through this book Gary encourages business owners to use social media, collaborate, do your own thing and commit the investment to make it happen. What are you crushing in your business?

A Journey of Self Discovery

Today I’m thinking about what it means to be yourself. I talk on occasion about the importance of caring for yourself and not making so many sacrifices you don’t take the time to care for yourself, and I often talk about the importance of each of us being our own person and unique. But I don’t take a lot of time to dive into the insecurities and the struggles that almost all of us face.

Some of us only take one journey of self discovery in our lives, and that’s because it takes that much time and life to work through just that one path. Others of us take one journey of self discovery and we discover early on who we are and the rest of our life is filled with learning, but being confident in who we are. Many of us however take many journeys throughout our lives, each path being a new experience or opportunity that may have little or no bearing on a previous one, our path is ultimately just to explore.

It can be frustrating, even scary, to get to a point in your life and realize that the journey has completely changed or the path you were on has abruptly ended. Which is why it’s so important to be willing to love yourself no matter what, to work on forgiving yourself in many situations, to be at least understanding that change happens (often), and have a support system you can tap into (even if it’s a virtual one or a therapist/counselor).

If you are going through a particularly challenging portion of your current self discovery journey, I would encourage you to make time on a daily basis for both action and reflection.  Keep yourself moving in the direction that the path is leading, and take time to consider the lessons you’re learning and make sure that you’re going in a direction that’s healthy for you and those in your life.

One final thought for today: try to trust yourself. You won’t always get your gut feelings right, you won’t always make the right decisions, you won’t always allow the right people into your life, but if you trust yourself, your abilities, your passion, your smarts and your heart you’ll get there more often than not.

Finding Freedom as a Family

For many of us this month started off with talks of freedom because of July 4th, Independence Day. Freedom is an important topic to talk about with regard to raising kids and being in a relationship. It’s important to teach your kids about freedom, from both the perspectives of costs and benefits of pursuing it. Relationships automatically mean that you give up some of your freedoms, which is OK in a healthy relationship because what you gain from the relationship is worth more than what you may lose.

Teaching your kids about freedoms is something you can do in both reward situations and when you’re dealing with issues. One great parenting technique is to present your kids with 3-5 options in a given situation and let them choose what they want of the options you’ve preselected for them. This works well with food, with homework, with chores and fun activities. It’s one way to break through a blossoming tantrum or help both of you regain control. It also teaches the kids how to make decisions and choose what they want in their lives which is important for when they’re adults.

Freedom in a relationship often exists simply because you’re in a relationship with someone who has similar interests, passions and pursuits as you. Those shared pursuits creates the freedom to be who you each are. But since you are individuals and not identical in every way, there are some different desires you each have. When it comes to them there’s always the option to give and take or finding a middle ground. It all comes down to good communication, trust and knowing your partner to make sure that you’ve got freedom, your partner has freedom and you’re both happy and healthy together.

As much as freedom is an individual choice, it’s really a group effort because what you choose as freedom impacts others. It’s why it’s important to teach the next generation well about freedoms and be comfortable in who we are while still being willing to learn, explore and grow.  What freedoms are you working on today?

Failure and Loss in Business

Just about every day in the news there’s a story about how a company is struggling or losing or failing. Over the past few years we’ve seen the struggles that some of the biggest brands have been going through, some able to do something of a turnaround, others not able to pull themselves out of a hole.

It’s frustrating from the perspective of outsiders like myself who advise businesses and see some glaring issues they aren’t addressing or trying or have simply dismissed. I also don’t always believe we need businesses the size that some are and their size is definitely a factor in how much they’re struggling. But I do believe every business has something to contribute, and when they fail they are letting people down. Yes, every business has a life cycle and many have a definitive end (such as when the owner retires), but I’d much rather see a business go out on a high note than crash and burn.

It’s also frustrating from a customer perspective when they’re seeing a company they love struggle and may even have some anxiety or fear around the loss of the company from a service or product perspective. If you rely on a product or service for your health or care of your family, there’s a much higher cost to switch than if we’re talking about something like a lawn care company.

It’s never a good idea to avoid the bad news or data about how well you’re doing or how you may be struggling. The sooner we face the truth, the easier it is to fix or address it. We also need to find a balance between continually increasing the number of customers we reach with not getting too big to manage and sustain. And the final truth we need to accept is that sometimes businesses fail and that’s just the way it goes. The good news is there are other businesses out there that can fill in the gap, but of course it’s likely not the same.

As I said from the beginning, I don’t think businesses need to fail in spectacular ways. As business owners we need to be more prepared for the natural ups and downs that a business goes through, we need to be more willing to reach out and get help and accept criticism, and we need to be open to change and growth so that we can change and grow as our customers do.  What steps does your business need you to take today?

A Story of Accidents and Futures

It hasn’t been in the news very much of late, but if you remember back on April 15, one week before Easter, Notre Dame cathedral burned. Countless people around the world watched in real time as the spire fell and many more saw the pictures and clips in the days that followed. It was a heartbreaking tragedy that could have been even worse than it was if not for the work of the firefighters and leaders at the cathedral who worked against time to stop the fire and save what they could. As a result of their hard work the cathedral still stands, and people from around the world have donated a lot of money towards reconstruction efforts.

Naturally, from the first sign of smoke there were questions about what happened and how it could happen and if it could have been avoided. The investigation is still ongoing and they don’t have all the answers yet, but several key discoveries in the investigation thus far lead to exactly where it was first assumed it would: people and accidents.

One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in life is the lesson of imperfection. We can design all the tools, plan all of the steps, practice possible scenarios, and put in place all of the check ins, but we have to take into consideration factors that may be beyond our control, be able to read the data, and have the manpower to follow through on things, not to mention taking into account things like empathy, compassion, and emotions before making decisions or taking actions.

In other words, there’s a lot we can do to make sure that things go well and are handled with care and consideration of all involved, but nothing and no one are perfectly predictable or able to outmaneuver all of the factors beyond our control, and some times accidents happen; that’s why they’re called accidents.

When we screw up, when mistakes happen, when mother nature takes over, we have the choice of learning and growing from the experience, or we can let it destroy us. The truth is there are so many things to be celebrating about the fire of Notre Dame, like no one died, much of the culture and treasures in the building was saved, and the whole building didn’t fall down.  The full story of Notre Dame isn’t written yet, just like our stories aren’t fully written yet.  What will your next chapter hold?

Love without Strings

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”  Wayne Dyer

I’ve shared before about the importance of letting your kids have their own dreams, dreams that can make a positive impact on the world.  But the truth is that all of us need that allowance: we all need to have our own dreams and make our own place in the world.  Yes, we can do it by fighting to show the world who we are aggressively, but when we do it with love there’s a lot more potential for us and our world, and a lot less damage to clean up and repair too.

The first place that we need more love is with our families.  It’s easy to pick a fight with them because they’re always there and we know them so well and they know us so well, but those are also good reasons to love them even more.  When we have more loving families it will be easier to spread love throughout the world because we’ll have a more stable foundation to work with.

The other reminder Dr. Dyer shares here is that no one has to satisfy you, that’s not their job or mission in life, nor should you require it to be.  If you’re not satisfied with things it’s up to you to change them, and sometimes that means changing the people in your life (note: if you change the people in your life and you’re still unhappy it’s a pretty clear indication that you are what needs to change, not them).

In this coming week I encourage you to love more, argue less, and make decisions that not only make you happy but are good for your future and the future of the world too.

What Kind of Content Are You Creating?

Last week I shared a little about my passion for reading, and while I’ve read thousands of books there are only a couple hundred that want to read more than once, and even fewer than that that I would be happy to pick up any and every day or night. The fact is that most of us keep picking up the next book or TV show or blog post or video, we don’t typically do repeats. And we don’t have to because there’s so much new content of all forms being added to the world on a daily basis. I add several forms of content to the world on a daily and weekly basis between social content (60+ pins and posts per week), blog posts (7 or so per week), and newsletters (4 per week). Whether you add more or less to the world each week, you’re probably adding content too.

Recently I read a blog post that raised the question of creating memorable content, which got me thinking about the whole content story and all the pros and cons that go along with it. I support businesses and people creating content and sharing it with the world, I think it’s good to share your voice, opinions and create a community where people can learn from each other, encourage each other, and grow personally. All of the content we’re creating is providing ideas, answers, insights, inspiring us to ask questions, and challenging us to question how we’ve always done things. I do think we need to be careful about passing judgment on the value of someone’s content, what may not be valuable to you would be valuable to someone else.

So what about the question of memorable and viral? Well, I have several people whose content I always look forward to. Their content isn’t necessarily memorable and I don’t think they go viral often or ever, but it’s always good reading/watching, I always get something out of it and I always look forward to their next publication. Back to the point, viral is a great way to get your content and you in front of tons of people for a very short time, the hope would be that you have something to convert them into so that you can continue to build a relationship long after the content is no longer viral. And as far as memorable, I certainly can’t remember everything I’ve watched or seen, and as we add more content to the world in all forms it will be harder for it to be memorable.

So I propose that instead of working towards memorable or viral content, that we instead work towards second reads and watches, and consistently deliver goodness. Why? Because with this shift to second (and beyond) views we’re increasing the chance that people will remember us (and our content), we’ll know that people are clearly finding value in the content (and us) and increase our chances of getting them to read from us (and hopefully buy from us) again. And with the shift from viral to consistent goodness, it’s about building relationships with people who will miss you when you’re gone, who share your products and content, who look forward to seeing what you have to say, and always find value in what you bring to the table.

What kind of content will you create this week?

Commitment Choices

Today I want to ask you a question: what are you committed to? Commitment isn’t a topic that everyone talks about because it’s not a word we use very much. However, by definition it’s something that our actions show each and every day. Commitment is a pledge or promise; obligation; engagement; involvement; and/or devotion. I add that last definition in because it’s important to remember that commitment isn’t always a bad thing. Commitment can be a very good thing, a very rewarding thing.

It’s good to be committed to your health, to the people you love, to caring for the world around you. Commitment becomes a challenge when we commit to things we can’t follow through on because we don’t have the capabilities or take on too many commitments. Overcommitment is almost a way of life for many these days unfortunately, it’s one reason why burnout is a very real issue. So the question becomes how do we navigate commitments in a way that doesn’t completely stress us out while still allowing us to build relationships, make money, and do good in the world?

For some of us balance is the answer, and that balance may look like working hard 6 days a week and being completely off one day a week. For others that looks like having 2 hours to themselves each day. For others that looks like setting a schedule and actually keeping to it so that they don’t overcommit. For some it means having an accountability partner who keeps them focused on what needs to get done so it gets done and makes sure they don’t over commit. For some it simply means taking the time to figure out what really matters and only committing to those things going forward.

Time is the biggest indicator of what you’re committed to, what are you spending time on? Is it what you want to be spending time on, and if not how can you change your priorities and commitments to be more in line with what you want in your life?

Summer Family Teamwork

Whether you’re a single parent or raising your kids with your significant other I believe every parent needs to have support. They should have the support of their kids as well as the support of other adults. Recently I heard a father say a great comment to his kids as they were waiting for mom to return and then all leave for vacation. He said “OK kids, go do what your mom would tell you to do before she gets here so we can leave sooner.”

Why is this such an incredible statement? From an adult and partner perspective it’s an incredibly supportive statement of his partner, as well as a proactive one. Yes, sometimes supporting means showing up and doing what you’re asked/told to do, sometimes that’s exactly what a parent needs. But it can also mean that you take initiative and get things done for them, especially if you know how they want things done or know what things need to be done on a regular basis. This father’s direction to his kids not only shows his care for his wife, it also shows that he’s aware that she’s going to want things done before they go on vacation and that it’s in all of their best interests to get to work on that sooner rather than last minute.

The other part of this statement that has to be considered and celebrated is the importance of getting the kids involved in supporting the parent(s). Yes, it’s a parent’s job to support their kids and care for them, but part of raising kids well is teaching them how to do as much as possible so they’re prepared when it’s their time to go out into the world. It’s also teaching them good relationship skills, about how to work together as a team, and teaching them to anticipate needs and plans of others and doing your best to help out.

Summer is a great time to hang out and have fun, but it also brings some unique opportunities to strengthen and support the relationships in each of our lives. What will you do this summer to help everyone, including yourself, have a productive and enjoyable summer?

After the Sale

I re-read a book by an author I enjoy recently and was struck by the ending. For some reason I didn’t remember it being as abrupt an ending as it was. It lacked the author’s usual detail, and while I don’t need a nice neat bow on every book I read, this one just seemed rushed in a way that even another 5 or so pages could have improved on how the book ended. As I’m writing this post another book I recently read came to mind with a somewhat similar ending, though it was more complete, it just kind of petered off which was a little odd.

As a business owner you have to catch someone’s attention with what you’re offering. There’s competition for every industry out there, so you really have to be on your toes if you want to succeed. You have to present your offering in a way that is appealing and relevant and make sure it’s clear what you’re offering and why people would want to buy it/your services. Having reviews from customers adds details to the listing that you may never think of by yourself but often helps to convince potential buyers to go ahead and click that ‘buy’ button.

There certainly is still loyalty and customers who will remain with you for however long your business exists, but it is getting harder to keep them and their attention spans, especially since there are lots of similar or better alternatives that they may hear about and prefer based on what’s going on in their life. It’s not smart to assume that even your loyal customers will love everything you do, you don’t have to convert them on everything you offer, but you should try to keep them coming back or at the very least sharing about you.

Where is this all leading? To the point that how you finish matters as much or more than how you start and what you’re offering does. Do the less-than-satisfactory endings mean I’ll hesitate to pick up another book from either of the authors I mentioned at the start? No, not at all. They’ve proven repeatedly that the majority of their writing is worth reading and I have no problems not loving every book I read (I read a lot). But it is a warning to business owners how important it is to follow up, to offer a next step and/or create and sustain ways to keep engaging customers (think consistent newsletters and social media).

If you’re wondering why you don’t have repeat buyers or people aren’t recommending you or you’re struggling to make sales, there are countless reasons why that may be the case (and I help businesses figure those out), but today I would encourage you to take a good look at what happens at the end, after money exchanges hands. What can you do to increase the likelihood of continuing the relationship with your customers long into the future?