Put a Spring in Your Business

As we finish out this month and our discussion on spring I wanted to talk about one last and very important topic when it comes to spring and life and our businesses.  One of the biggest aspects to spring is that it means life.  I see so many unfortunately dead and lifeless businesses each day.  It makes me sad to think that somewhere between their creation and now the spark has disappeared.  While I do know that some businesses are meant to exist for only a (short) period of time, I still feel sad about it, just like I do knowing that dogs only live about 15 years.  Don’t give up on your business yet if you’re able to identify with the lack of spark, let’s talk about it first.

First, just about every one and every thing goes through seasons of “winter.”  This is when we do let go of things, things die down, things slow down etc.  Don’t be ashamed or concerned because you’re going through this season, take the time to work on that which you’ve been putting off, or do the cleaning up that you’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Second, know that people would much rather buy from someone who is cheerful and looks like they enjoy what they’re doing and that the business is alive, if not thriving, rather than one who is not.  If you’re not feeling the passion, take a back seat for a while and let your team do more of the interaction, or decide that it’s time to move on.

Third, if you don’t want to move on and don’t have a team you either need to hire one and/or need to rediscover your passion and excitement for and about what you do.  Create a schedule that allows for some balance of life and work.  Take time to really think about what you do and how you do it and see if there isn’t a better way to do everything.  Or maybe it’s time for a fresh coat of paint or a new location or rearranging your office.

I hope that you got into your business because you were passionate about it, not (just) for reasons of money.  But it turns out that when we’re happy doing what we’re doing we actually have a better chance of being successful.  So this week take time to explore your business spark, and if you don’t know, it’s time to find out!

Lessons from Trump

This may be one of the only time you ever really hear me talk about it, but today I want to talk politics.  To be clear, I do vote but I don’t enjoy all this nasty back and forth they do up to the voting day or the ridiculous amount of money spent on politics that could be used much better elsewhere.  One person I’ve been following, naturally being a business owner, is Donald Trump.  What I want to talk about today was said well by a 65-year-old retired teacher in Michigan who drove an hour to see Donald Trump speak this month, on his candidacy (shared via NY Times), Jan Mannarino:

“Even if he doesn’t win, he’s teaching other politicians to stop being politicians. He comes on strong. He could say it gently. But I think no one would listen.”

Wow.  It’s a great lesson for politicians, and an important one for us business owners too.  Let’s take a look at some lessons presented by Donald Trump and this very smart retired teacher.

First, go ahead and break the mold.
Lessons from Trump: Trump knows exactly what is expected of people in politics, or what’s been the norm, he has to be if he’s considering being president.  However, Trump knows that the mold needs to be broken or at least changed a bit if we’re going to have any chance of fixing what’s broken or not working to its fullest potential in this great nation of ours. Beyond that, Trump knows that the mold won’t work for him.

Lessons for your business: The mold is great for someone, but that doesn’t mean it has to or even will work for your business.  You can learn how one business, Amazon for example, has been successful, but that doesn’t mean their techniques and tactics will work for you right now or ever.  Go ahead and see what their mold looks like, take some lessons from it, and then decide if it’s really feasible for you, your vision, your passions and your community.

Second: speak up and stand out.
Lessons from Trump: Trump is OK with leading the pack and standing out for being difference. It’s never easy to stand out as much as he does, but he seems to be comfortable and certainly unapologetic about it.  Whether he wins or not he’s certainly changed politics forever because it’s no longer possible to just quietly say what you think will get you the votes and spend the big bucks bashing your opponents.

Lessons for your business: if you really want to make an impact you have to get your voice heard.  That means doing the work to cultivate the relationships and partnerships, building trust little by little with potential customers, spending the money on the marketing and creation/implementation of your services.  If you want success you have to make a difference, and in order to do that you have to get the message to people that you have solutions and answers for them.

What lessons are you learning from this year’s political adventures for your business?

Are You Wasting Your Mind?

Your mind is one of the most powerful, complicated, confusing, frustrating, gifted aspects of you.  Even if your physical body isn’t as capable as it used to be your mind can be super sharp and able to make connections and make a difference in the world.  One of the most damaging conditions are Alzheimers and dementia because it slowly ravages you from the inside out in ways that cancer usually never touches.  Having been through the different stages of Alzheimers before and going through it again with a second grandmother it amazes me how her mind has turned her from a fun, capable human into a record becoming more broken with each story I hear.  It’s something I hope you never experience because they have no sense of what’s going on anymore and while even a kid can tell you what hurts or how they’re feeling when dealing with most diseases or conditions, there’s no way to get people with Alzheimers or dementia to communicate to you what’s going on, they don’t have the brain power anymore.  I’m thankful for all of the work that doctors and researchers are doing to help us understand these diseases, it’s some measure of peace that there are some answers or at least some test results that give some insights into something we have so much trouble understanding.

But in this month on health I don’t share this to dwell on all that can go wrong with our health but to remind you to celebrate and use it while you have it.  Life is such a gift; one that most of us accept as standard and just the way things are.  But when I see things from people like Stephen Hawkings or Sean Stephenson I’m reminded how powerful we are and what’s possible if we choose to make it happen.

Whether you’re in business for yourself, you have a job you love or hate, you’re a stay-at-home parent, you have kids or not, I hope you have big dreams and you’re determined to see some of them come to fruition.  I have to admit, I’ve gotten distracted from some of the dreams I have.  Life can get complicated and sometimes take things over and pull you away from your dreams for a time.  If that’s you too, know it’s OK. But it’s time that you take a step back and remember those dreams.

Dreams are powerful and not for the faint of heart. But dreams help bring a spark to our lives that would be missing otherwise.  I encourage you to unleash the power of your mind on your life and dreams this week.  Don’t be afraid to make some tough decisions about the direction your life is heading in to better align with your goals and dreams.

Credibility and Competence

This week I was approached by a business owner who has been in business less than 2 years and is having some difficulty getting clients. He’s not in one of the big industries (marketing, coaching, health), but it’s not a super obscure niche nor is it one without obvious customers; many businesses could be helped by his services. While many of the usual issues were obviously present (website issues, indecision about customer base, lack of marketing etc.) the one thing that he mentioned specifically was his challenge with credibility. He said that his main goal since he started was to establish credibility. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself; one thing that businesses should be doing is continually proving their credibility and how their knowledge and services/products are still current given whatever changes have happened in the industry that customers would be concerned about. But what this guy failed to realize is that credibility is more than proof of how you’ve helped clients.

Credibility starts with your subject or niche. Very few people choose to go into business in a niche they’re not somewhat knowledgeable in. I would not start a business that sells wine because I don’t know much about it and I’m not really interested in it, so it would be like pulling teeth for me to learn enough about it to create a successful business. You will have a very difficult time establishing credibility and competence with potential clients if you know nothing about the industry and don’t have a passion for it.

Credibility continues with education. If you don’t have the experience yet to prove you’re competent in your business the next best thing is to show you’ve got the smarts. Show that you know your niche inside and out, show that you know the big questions clients have, the concerns they’re dealing with and your insights to solve their problems or avoid them. Use social media, blogs, podcasts, videos and interviews to show your expertise even if you can’t share a long list of clients you’ve helped.

Credibility is confirmed with experience. Just like I wouldn’t start a wine business because I don’t have much knowledge about wine, I’m also not a big wine drinker so I don’t have the experience at all to back up my (nonexistent) knowledge. Just because you don’t have hands-on client experience yet doesn’t mean you don’t have experience working for a company in the industry or experience in your life on the subject.

Credibility is more than just your client experience, it’s the reasons you’re in your business, your education on the subject and your personal or professional experience with it, and it’s something everyone can build on.

Loving Our Labels

Something I have to emphasize to so many people and companies is that the world is full of people, not robots. People who have kids and families and lives outside of their jobs and how they spend the money they make there. These people should be passionate and thriving members of society but all to often we’re just exhausted at the end of the day and unable to get things moving in a way that shows that we are more than robots. So I say it’s time that we stand up!  Let’s stand up and say that we’re more than the career we have, the mistakes we and/or our kids or partner have made, and have great value to contribute to the world.

It’s time we stop creating permanent and limiting labels on people and start understanding that what we see and what is presented to society is only a small portion of who they really are.  Cindy Crawford is more than a model. Tom Brady is more than a football player. Angelina Jolie is more than an actress. Melanie Sprouse is more than Cole and Dillon’s mom.  Kat Von D is more than a tattoo artist.  The lady down the street is more than a school teacher. The teen in the next town over is more than a gamer.

So while I know that it will take a long time to change the stereotypes that have stuck on people, the best place to start being more understanding is with yourself. Don’t be afraid to fill up a wall or several with different labels about yourself; labels that only some people see because they’re close with you or have a history with you, labels that describe your passions and heart for different causes, and labels that remind you you’re more than the label society has tagged you with. Then go ahead and look at someone else. Find out what makes them tick beyond what you know to be true about them. Don’t let their outward appearance fool you into thinking they don’t have multiple layers or aren’t a good person, they’re just as complicated as you are.

So let’s talk about this: what labels have you been stuck with, and what labels would you give yourself?

“The pro skaters I know are responsible members of society. Many of them are fathers, homeowners, world travelers and successful entrepreneurs. Their hairdos and tattoos are simply part of our culture, even when they raise eyebrows during PTA meetings.”  Tony Hawk

A Passionate Business

As we close out this months’ talk of love I wanted to take time to talk about something that should be close to your heart, your business. Businesses are started for many reasons, sometimes for multiple reasons. Some start a business because they see a need and believe they can fill it, others start it for the money. Both of those are good reasons but I believe there’s an ingredient that neither of those two reasons have that is essential to being truly successful: having a passion and love for your business. You can make the business all about the numbers, you can focus on the market reach, you can talk about how many satisfied customers you have or how many new products have taken the world by storm.

But I believe that unless there’s a passion, a love for what you do not only will your success be empty, you’ll also risk blowing it all because you get tired of it and don’t have a reason to continue. Sure, some businesses can be created with the goal of selling it off when it reaches a certain point of success, and that’s not a bad thing; no one ever said that you had to run the same business for the rest of your life.

But when you’re looking at your business from a strictly numbers perspective you are limited to what you can reach and what’s feasible. But when you’re in business with love and passion, the possibilities are endless. Then there’s more to your business than just reaching your monthly goals, there’s more to it than counting customers for number’s sake, there’s more to it than having the most connections on social media. When there’s love and passion the business becomes an agent of change, a bringer of hope, a fulfiller of dreams and a freedom machine.

As we close out this month I encourage you to take time to consider what you love. Are you still in love with your business or do you need to make some changes to bring back the passion?

Make Your Own Future

As we go into this weekend I want to encourage you to do one thing: sit down and make choices about your future.  I meet people every day who are waffling between different things, waiting until the money shows up, looking for that perfect sign, or just following the other lemmings. What so many people are missing out on is exactly how much power they have.   You have the power to do just about anything you want with your future.  Your partner and family members have some right to make recommendations since they’re supposed to be the people closest to you and care the most about you.  But when it comes down to it no one can make the ultimate choice for you, and you can’t make the choice for anyone else.

Start by being honest with yourself and those in your life.  If you’ve been forcing everyone else to fall in line and making decisions for them you’re making a mistake and drastically limiting their potential, probably making them dislike or even hate you for the interference.  If you’ve been letting anyone else direct your life like a puppet you know how that feels.

The next step is having big dreams.  It’s good to imagine what can be, to dream about what comes next and to want to do big things with your life.  Kids have it right with all their imaginative play and dreaming throughout their childhood.  As adults we forget those dreams, some are crushed by the intrusions of reality, but others are just forgotten because we’ve let life get in the way of living a really fulfilling life.  As we talked about last week with the 50 Shades of Gray movie, there’s so much more to life than most of us tap into.

The final step is being brave enough to stand up for your needs, your dreams, your gift that you have to give to the world and taking action to make it happen.  You have a right to decide what you do with your future, just like your kids have a right to choose what they do with their futures and your partner has a right to choose their future.  Work on supporting each other in your dreams and passions rather than fighting over them and belittling their passions.

What step will you take towards your future this weekend?

“Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny.”  Bob Marley

A Valentine’s Day to Remember

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and a good portion of the population of the US is thinking romance. Maybe it feels like an obligation to them, maybe they’re pissed they don’t have a date, maybe they’ve recently had their heart broken, maybe they’re tired of putting in effort and getting nothing back, and maybe you can identify with those people in one way or another. I’m thankful to be in a happy relationship, but not everyone is so fortunate. So today I want to issue you a challenge and possibly help you make this Valentine’s Day the best ever.

Let’s start with those not in a relationship. Being bitter, pissed off, angry or stewing in hurt will never get you into a happy relationship. Ever. No one wants to be partnered with a grump. You may not usually be a grump, but if that’s how someone acts when you meet you, so why would they think you’d be different because you’re in a relationship? Take the time you have to enjoy life, even if you don’t have a permanent someone to spend it with.

For those of us in relationships I challenge you to do the unexpected. Going with the flowers and dinner (unless that’s what your partner really likes) is a cop-out. What if instead of doing what tradition dictates you do you what would make your partner most happy? The secret to having a great Valentine’s Day and a strong relationship is in being able to give your partner what they want and need (within reason of course). Maybe what would make your partner happiest would be a quiet night alone with you with the kids at the Grandparents or a friends? What if it would make your partner happiest if you actually did some of the things they’ve been asking/complaining about? What if instead of reaching for the simple thing, you reached for what will make your relationship exciting and thrive?

Your relationship, your life, your Valentine’s Day is what you make of it. Go big, don’t just go home.

“We only have what we give.” Isabelle Allende

I Dream of Christmas

One of the best things about kids is their intact imagination. As adults we tend to forget what it means to dream as we get wrapped up in the realities of our lives. Sure we can take a page from another person’s book and relive their (more interesting) life, but what if we were to take a page from our children’s lives and create a path all our own? I can remember as a child thinking of all the creative gifts I could give family and friends, now it’s all about what gift card, electronic item or equally simple something we can come up with. Where has all the creativity gone?

I get it, we’re all tired by the busy lives we lead, by the barrage of ads and lures of the internet, we have more going on in our lives and around us than ever before. It used to be fairly simple, just worrying about whether our crops would grow or when our children would get married or if we would get sick. Now we’ve got thousands of things demanding our time and attention, which makes it very hard to focus on anything but the simplest of solutions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about simple solutions; I can’t understand the people who think that things have to be complicated or done in as many steps as possible all the time. Why complicate what can be (and should be) very simple?

The holiday season is here, it’s a chance for us to be with friends and family, for us to dream about happy memories, of stories and tales on Santa and magical happenings, and to have a little more hope than usual that things will work out and work out well. I believe that if we unleashed our imaginations more than just in these 9 weeks between Halloween and the New Year that we’d be happier, healthier and freer people. We’d live lives of excitement, fulfillment and passion, if only we would be willing to dream a little dream again.

I encourage you to open up your mind and heart this weekend to the dream of what your life could be, imagine what the world could be just waiting to send your way in showers of blessings!

“I used my imagination to make the grass whatever color I wanted it to be.” Whoopi Goldberg

The Beginning of Your Business

On Monday we talked a bit about success.  Today I thought we’d talk about where success begins, after all each of us has a beginning; where we were before we got to this part of our journey.  For many of us that beginning inspired us and helped us get to where we are now.  There are lots of stories about people successful in sports because they used them as an escape as a kid and got so good that they could go pro.  There are lots of stories about people who have gone through really traumatic incidents and have created businesses to help others go through similar situations.  We all begin somewhere, some in really interesting places, while others of us don’t really have an interesting story to share.

The challenge we each face is what impact our beginning, and our past, has on where we are and where we’re going.  I started my business mostly because I couldn’t get a job when I graduated from college (the economy had just tanked), so I started a business.  That decision doesn’t have any bearing on what I chose to do however.  I chose to go into business consulting, organizing and coaching because those were passions for me, things I had experience and knowledge in and knew I could help people (while making money). If I really wanted my beginnings to have a role in what I did, I’d be blogging about the evil economy and how pointless it was to get a college degree and what you should do instead.  I can’t say I’d be very happy doing that.  So as much as I chose to start a business because I couldn’t get a job, the reason I’m in business is because of the impact I can make throughout the world doing what I love.

When the past becomes more important than the present or the future you’re in trouble. It means you’ve lost perspective, or gotten into business for the wrong reason.  When that happens it’s time to sit down and consider where you are and where you’re headed.  The longer you put it off the more frustrated you will get and worse your business will do.

“Everything worthwhile has an origin, but those origins aren’t the reason that they are worthwhile.” Seth Godin