February & March 2018 in Review

Coming off of the high in January, February was a much more subdued and, at times, stressful month. Every year I better understand the sentiment of how quickly time flies when we’re busy working, living, and experiencing the world.

The theme for February is best summed up as barriers to success. If an issue could come up, it did. I was put into difficult positions and forced to face some tough things head-on and not let anything prevent me from moving forward. There were three areas of growth and challenges: the continued development of my business, my personal / professional development, and other personal stressors.

Business Development Experiences and Barriers

As mentioned in the January 2018 post, I setup a few interviews with candidates for a new position I’m creating in my business. It was a big challenge to get high-quality candidates. One young woman frustrated me when she blatantly admitted that she had no idea what my business does and that she had not even bothered looking at my website before getting on the call with me. Seriously?! That is one of the “young professionals” out there applying for jobs right now. And they wonder why it’s been such a challenge. Despite the minimal number of qualified and serious candidates, I found 4 who are going to meet with me for a second interview. Hopefully, one of them will be joining the team on April 2nd (fingers crossed).

In preparation for hiring a new person and treating my business as a real and separate entity from myself, my operations needed a review. After looking at how I’ve been managing things, I saw that things were working but disjointed. I made the logical step to upgrade my systems to Zoho One, which gives you access to all of their applications at one price and it’s all integrated into each other. Now I can send out a survey and have the answers be mapped to someone’s profile in my CRM or send out an email and have it attached to their profile. And I can generate leads from social media interactions. There’s plenty more for me to tinker with, but I’ve quickly setup several applications and integrated them with each other. This was a Win. 

Course Creation and Client Challenges

  • I began creating Marketing 101, a new online course, from the vast collection of resources that I’ve accumulated over the past 5 years. It’s a lot to digest and organize into something useful for others.
  • There has been a Customer Research Project for one of my favorite clients. I really wanted it to be easy since I’ve done something very similar before, but boy oh boy… gathering, organizing, and analyzing data is a challenging.
  • As I’ve gone through the process of creating Marketing 101, I realized that there is a shorter term very logical workshop that I could pull together – Branding 101.
  • The toughest part of February was having to fire a faulty VA and take work back for a Client. Ugh.

Personal and Professional Development

So many interesting things happened in my personal life…

The Chorus that I joined back in November hosted their annual retreat where we hardcore practice our music for a full day – with some bonding activities squeezed in there. It was an interesting experience to get to know these women better. And I really missed the kind of musical practice that challenges me. It was a perfect kick in the pants.

Other highlights…

  • Finished a Critical Thinking Course. Mixed feelings about the content, but an overall good experience.
  • Last Mastermind meeting was bittersweet. I love those people, but it’s time for me to move on.
  • First IAW Mastermind meeting was so unique and such a different experience. Looking forward to the next one.
  • Attended a Kundalini Yoga Class. I have so much gratitude for my yoga and meditation practice.
  • Went hiking the Hill of Life with my buddy Steve. Always an adventure in conversation there.
  • Looking at houses (moving in March) was very stressful at times. Plus, we squeezed in a trip to Florida to visit my family, which always comes with drama.

March Highlights

1. We Found a House! After seeing a range of great to awful places, we signed the lease, moved in, and are now unpacked. We bought a bed, which makes sleeping way better.e Plus, we bought a washer and dryer – a bit of an ordeal but we made in through.

2. Practiced, practiced, and practiced more for the big chorus competition in Houston. We did well, but not amazing and that’s okay with me. It was all worth it for the journey.

3. I got 6 work inquiries and sent out 5 project proposals in March. One of them close and began in March, but I’m already regretting in. Two of them are definitely starting work in April and the other two will probably close in April.

4. I finally hired some help! Randi joined me at the end of the month, after several rounds of interviews and some awesome candidates came through (some not so awesome too). We are jumping right in with projects.

5. Feeling so blessed to have built strong relationships over the years. I am confirmed to get support from my strategic partners on rebranding my own business in April. Woohoo! It’s finally my turn. Plus, two partners are jumping in to be speakers on my brand webinar in May.

6. Downer at the dentist was that I had a cavity – first one in a long time and it is damn expensive.

Alright April, I’m ready for you.

Advertisements

January 2018 in Review

This year I am starting a new practice of reflecting back on important things that happened each month. I tried to look back at what happened in 2017 and it was a blur of events, work, and conversations. I decided that it would be wise to look back at the end of each month when the information is still fresh in my mind.  So here we go…

The Theme for January was Future

The overarching theme of the month seemed to be thinking about and planning for the future – both my business and personal life. My energy was not spent on making up goals that are pie in the sky or ridiculously easy. Instead, I took several moments throughout the month to look at my thoughts, my wants, and my needs.

A big question showed up: Does your business feed your life plan? Or does it just keep you busy and prevent you from truly achieving what you ultimately want out of life?

Thinking About the Future of My Business

It became very clear to me that dipping my toe into the training and online course world was not going to work. I need to be all in or move on. So I began taking action. First I wrote down what consulting services I offered in the past, I considered which ones I enjoyed doing verses the work I disliked and wanted to remove from my work. Then I updated the list of my consulting service offerings. This quickly flipped into what I can train others in – the content I already have experience with that I can easily share.

A simple list of what I want to offer quickly turned into thoughts about how I will achieve all of it. My business needs to be able to run without me in the long-term, so documenting all of the work I do and have virtual assistants do for me became the next priority. I wrote up process documents for the virtual assistants who support my clients. It was pain staking work that I’ve been putting off for a while, but now it’s nearly finished. Though I’m sure I’ll stumble across more and more processes as I go along.

When I returned to my list of course ideas and training workshops I realized that I’m not completely tuned in to the corporate training world. I don’t fully know what people are looking for training in, what is most valuable to individuals or companies. This meant switching into research mode. Over this past month I’ve done a ton of reading and research about the corporate training industry – looking closely at the skills gap and the impact it is making on the millennial generation.

Taking Action

All of the planning, researching, and thinking is very important, but I know that it takes strategic actions to make things happen. On my list of priorities were 3 specific things: Review my existing course, Host a training, and Identify future affiliate partners.

While it is not 100% complete, I have thoroughly reviewed my existing online course on market research and identifying your ideal customers. I’ve made some improvements and identified a few more I’d like to add – including videos and imagery that is missing.

Back in November I decided that I need to dip my toe in the training workshop waters, so I came up with the idea that had been brought to my attention multiple times. Earlier this month, I hosted my first public workshop in 3 separate sessions to a total of 15 people. Considering how low-budget and the insignificant amount of marketing I did for it, I thought it was a pretty good turn out. Feedback has been very good so far, and I learned many lessons along the way.

At the beginning of the month, I wrote an email to my most active strategic partners to tell them about the new direction I’m heading in with my business. The reactions have been excellent. This new development lead me to reconnect with these strategic partners and discuss the future of my business, the future of their businesses, and how we can continue to work together. Out of these conversations, I got some great ideas as well as introductions to new strategic partners.

One additional important action began to roll out – my new approach to consulting. It is still very slow moving and progressing, but I took action on it in January. In December, I began scheduling quarterly planning meetings with my current clients. The goal of these meetings is to discuss the future of their business as well as our working relationship, because I want to make it clear that I will not be as actively consulting as they may have previously been used to. It will take me at least 6 months to a year before my current clients are leaning on their virtual assistants more and me a little less, but these meetings were an important first step.

Unexpected Actions and Outcomes

While thinking about the future of my business, another big epiphany occurred. It is so simple and logical, so I don’t know why I’ve put it off for so long. I cannot build this business alone. I need support. Instead of leaning on my husband alone, I wrote a job description by imagining my ideal first person.  The position was posted online and so far I’ve had a little less than 50 people apply. It further supported my earlier research about the skills gap when about 85% of all candidates failed to apply according to the requirements I put into the posting. None the less, a few people rose to the top, and I have setup  interviews with 4 individuals for February. I’m curious to see how those will go.

The creation of the job post and getting applications led me to another big task that I had not yet thought about – a centralized system for on-boarding new team members. If I’m serious about growing the business and hiring people, then it is not something I can ignore. I began defining some new processes in my business such as how we communicate internally, how we discuss what we do, and what each role will be accountable for doing. This has now been drafted into an internal website for the company. I’d like to get a little more of it completed before the interviews with candidates.

In a completely separate arena, I received an email at the beginning of the month from the folks who invited me to take notes for them at a marketing conference last year. It was a random gig and I assumed that I would never hear from them again. None the less, I kept them in my CRM strategy and send a holiday card. I like letting clients (current and past) know that I appreciate them. This card led them to quickly email me and ask me to be their note-taker once again. Though I could not physically attend the conference this time, I still managed to accomplish the task virtually with audio recordings and PowerPoints. All of it happened because I showed a little gratitude and thoughtfulness.

 

Personal Things Happening

Midway through the month I decided that I needed a new personal challenge – something to get me thinking about stuff other than work. So I began a new online course on the topic of critical thinking in the information age. It’s a mixture of statistics class, the scientific method, psychology, and philosophy. It’s pretty interesting so far.

I celebrated my sweetheart’s 29th birthday with him. He doesn’t enjoy all of the attention during his birthday, so I tried to keep in low key. His parents came to town to celebrate by taking us all out to dinner (and lunch and breakfast the next day). It makes him feel overwhelmed with all of the attention and expectations put on him, but I’m not yet sure how to adjust this experience for him in the future – maybe we just need to make plans ourselves.

Singing is back in my life and I’m still adjusting to being back on the risers and syncing my brain to harmonies. I’ve sang in the chorus every Monday, even when I wasn’t feeling well. It took some courage, but I accepted my imperfections and the space I have to improve when I sent in the recording of me singing to my section leader. She gave me, what I hope is, honest feedback. It feels like I’ve forgotten the 10 years of training and practicing music, so my learning curve is rough because my ego keeps trying to convince me that I’m so great while reality tells me that I’ve got some work to do.

In February, much more is to come…

We’re going to Florida for a few days to see my parents and celebrate my mom’s birthday. As always, family time will be an adventure. I’m never quite sure what to expect other than a percentage of arguments and annoyance. However, I plan to go into it with an open heart and willingness to accept my parents for who they are.

Interviews with the first round of candidates begin in February, so I’m looking forward to those conversations. I’ll need to be very well prepared for these interviews. There’s a lot of thinking and planning I must do before they begin.

In the efforts to continue my education, I’m signed up for several webinars to expand my understanding of the corporate training world. There is a good amount of information that I’ve already gained by reading, but I am sure there is plenty more for me to absorb.

My last mastermind meeting is in February, so this will be a change to the flow of my months. I’d like to find something similar to what this group provided me over the past year, but I’m not sure what it is just yet.

More adventures to come…

 

 

Reflections on the Week

As I begin to transition my business from a consultancy focused on one-to-one delivery of services to a larger more scalable concept so many feelings and thoughts are coming up. These need to be addressed.

  • What if I fail? Naturally, this is the first question and fear that arises. I could put all of this effort into creating this business and then fail. More importantly, I could lose a lot of money and have a difficult time recovering from it. Sustaining my family is a high priority, so I need to feel 100% confident about this idea.

 

  • Excitement! I’ve told 2 of my strategic partners about my plans to shift the business towards training and professional development, and their reactions were so positive. They were both excited for me and ready to support me.

 

  • Distractions are abundant. It has been difficult for me to schedule time for working on the new courses and the overall business idea because I’m still running my consulting business. I have to continue running it because the work I do for my existing clients is what allows me to pay the bills. Every day there is an opportunity for distraction from a client. My organization is good, but it needs to be awesome. How do I get better at this? Make myself more efficient and use my time wisely?

 

  • Balancing is difficult. While I’m trying to balance my current business with developing this new business, I’m also trying to become more deeply rooted in myself. It seems that I’ve been disconnected from my true self and almost putting on a show to cover up for my lack of self knowledge. And I don’t want to be that way anymore. My husband is supportive, but his approach can sometimes read as condescending. I know that he means well and is genuinely trying to contribute to me. Finding the balance between deep self reflection and thinking into the future about my business is tough.

 

  • Having fun learning. In the pockets of time that I have created for myself, I’ve looked at what other similar businesses are doing in corporate training. There are some interesting things going on in this world, and there is so much room for improvement. It’s fun to absorb all of this information because it feeds my ideation around what I can deliver and build for others.

 

  • Learning about myself. As I go through the process of reflection each day, I’m recognizing and admitting some of my patterns that are not serving me. These are negative habits that I was trained in from childhood and up. There are stories I’ve made up that are total BS. When I really look at them I can see there is no truth, only emotions and lies. Breaking these patterns / habits is a challenge, but recognizing them has been big for me.

Building Trust in a Risk-Adverse World

I was worried about the person putting together my LLC paperwork

Every time we exchange money for a product or service, we are putting our trust in a total stranger. So how do you build trust?

  • Word of mouth and direct connections. This is how most of us get started with our first clients. we share some information, get some referrals, and the ball is rolling. The trust is based upon mutual connections.
  • Doing great work. Once you have a client, it’s all about producing a beautiful product or service. Now the trust has been extended based upon a respect for quality in what you deliver.

It’s the growth stage – the time between brand new and rolling along – that is the most difficult for so many small business owners. How do you get the new customers? Why should they trust you? Without a mutual friend or having already experienced a quality deliverable, they have no idea if you’re trustworthy to work with.

Build trust in other ways

This means showing the world that you are a trustworthy brand. Anything from testimonials to certifications and licenses will help. Or good ole’ fashion face time in the community. Knowing the person behind a company or brand is what helps to make him or her trustworthy.

I don’t trust a product or service, but I may trust the person who made that product or delivered that service. It is a risky decision each time, but we all make decisions every day. Choosing to eat at P Terry’s over Whataburger – why? Do you know for a fact that one is healthier or better than the other? Where did you get that information? Is it a trustworthy source? Most likely, you heard people talk… about food quality or ingredients or great service, or maybe all three. You put your trust in another person.

Entrepreneurs are risk takers. We’re the ones who have to build that trust with strangers. So how are you building trust with the strangers around you?

 

Making a Website

I’ve been so lucky to get so many professional referrals for so long that I have put off a lot of the basic “I’m running a business” tasks. An important, but annoying, task I finally tackled was building a website.

It’s not so much that it’s difficult to make a simple website, but it’s the creative planning and thoughtfulness that it requires. So I dedicated a weekend to putting together the bare minimum for what I need.

  1. Shopping around WordPress Themes. This bit of research included looking at features, design, and basic functionality. I ended up with a free theme that suited my needs.
  2. Connecting my domain name (BeckmannCollaborative.com) from GoDaddy to WordPress.
  3. Customizing my WordPress Theme – site name, layout options, etc.
  4. CONTENT. This is the animal I didn’t want to tackle, but decided was absolutely necessary. My final decision was to keep the content very simple – home page with intro information, an about page, blogs, contact, and partners/collaborators.

It took me about 10 hours total over 2 days, and now I have my framework for a functioning website.

Other factors to consider:

  • Contact Form. I recommend using a plugin to a email platform. Almost anything is better than the free contact forms that come with WordPress. This is important for your lead generation plans as well as developing drip content (if you so choose).
  • Blog Plan. To have a blog or not? I just about always choose to have one because I love great content and sharing stories. If you hate writing and know that you will not keep up with a blog, then don’t bother setting one up. An empty blog looks like you don’t care enough to try.
  • Images and Brand. Something I have yet to address for my own business is branding. While I have a ton of ideas about what I think it should look like, few decisions have been made. At minimum, I knew the ascetic that I wanted for my website and the kinds of images I prefer to get my point across.

Measuring Your Marketing Strategy

I understand that as a small business owner or startup founder you want all of your money to go into making the most perfect amazing product. It makes sense. However, creating something amazing is a waste if no one knows about it. Marketing is key to your success, so plan for it – both time and money.

Small Business Marketing Basics

So you own a small business and you want to tell the masses that you exist. Here are the things you most likely already know to do:

  1. TELL PEOPLE: Attend networking events and social gatherings around town, armed with business cards. Know a succinct way to explain what your business is and why it’s unique.
  2. LOOK PROFESSIONAL: Have a website. It should be easy to navigate, simple to read, and mobile-friendly. Avoid getting too fancy, especially in the early stages.
  3. BE ACCESSIBLE: Have a social media / online presence beyond your website. Depending upon your industry, this may have different levels of importance and live in different places.

It will take some time and effort for you to plan and work on marketing your business. And you may need outside help for building your website or designing business cards. Set aside money and time for these efforts.


Your First Digital Marketing Strategy

Once you are beyond the basics, you will want to start measuring and planning your marketing. This requires a little extra time and some more targeted planning. Hopefully, you have Google Analytics and Webmaster tools already plugged into your website so that you are tracking the activity.

Before You Plan, You Must Measure 

Watch a few videos on Google Analytics and how to read your reports. The areas that you should consider focusing on at first are Audience (Overview, Geo and Mobile), Acquisition (All Traffic-Channels), and Behavior (Site Content-All Pages). Make some notes to yourself about what you see in these reports. How long are visitors staying on your website? What pages are they visiting? Where are they coming from?

Google Analytics, Small Business, Digital Marketing

 

 

When you have a general idea of what your website visitors are doing, set out some goals. What do you want website visitors to do? Make a purchase, sign-up for a newsletter, fill out your contact form, call you, etc. If you do not feel totally overwhelmed by Google Analytics, then your next step is to setup a goal.

Google Analytics lets you define 4 different types of goals:

  • Destination: the user reaches a specified web page or app screen.
  • Duration: the user spends a specified minimum amount of time on your site or app.
  • Pages/Screens per session: the user views a specified minimum number of pages or screens.
  • Event: the user conducts a specified action, like viewing a video.
Social Media Engagement Matters Too

To draw a complete picture of your digital footprint, you are likely to use social media channels. The most popular of them are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. Do not base your social channel choice on where your friends and family are most active.

Think about your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • Where would they be talking about your product?
  • What are the kinds of things they like that are similar to your product or service?

Then look at how existing followers are interacting with you on social media. 
Putting content out into the world for the sake of doing so is a poor use of your time, so look closely at the posts that get the most engagement. Make sure you have at least 1 month of activity before reviewing any reports – 3 months would be better.

  • How many people are you reaching with your content?
  • Are they interacting with your posts (likes, comments, shares)?
  • What times of day and days of the week are you posting content? Is that when your people are online?

Every 2-3 weeks, check your reports, learn from what you’re reading, and apply it to your digital presence. Make notes, look for trends, ask yourself questions.


Coming Up Next Time:
What do I do with all of these reports? How can I apply what I see to my marketing?

Are You Chasing a Dream or Building a Career?

What’s the Best Career for You?

Isn’t this the age old question that we all face at some point – or in my case, multiple points? It’s definitely fun to waste some time on the goofy online quizzes like those on Buzzfeed. It forces you into a conversation about what makes you happy. I like this one: What Career Should You Have? My result was Astronaut. While I do very much love adventure and science, I don’t think I could pass that gravity test.

What is a Career Really?

I’m not sure if the concept of a career still exists in today’s society. What is a Career. Dying at DeskGrowing up, it was enforced that we would go to college, figure out a career, find a job, and stay at said job until we retire or die (whichever happens first). By the time I was in college, the world was rapidly changing – technology, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, and of course the birth of social networking. Every year it seemed that the definition of a career was changing. By 2009, there was no such thing as a career – just luck that you had a job at all.

Work or Die

Even though it has been several years since the economic meltdown (lovingly nicknamed the “great recession” of 2008), the same secure job is what so many people stick to. Every day we exchange our time and talents for money, to buy things from other people who are making the exact same exchange. This is one of the most cyclical things going on our lives – like running in the hamster wheel – yet, so many of us refuse to recognize this fact, so we keep running and hoping for something to change. Isn’t that the definition of crazy?

Happy vs Wealthy

Why can’t we have both? I wish I could tell you that we can all have both; but that would be an outright lie, and it’s just not my style to play that game with people. Some people can definitely have both happiness and wealth, and we should all strive to achieve both. I love music and singing, but at the end of the day I need to be realistic. Singing does not pay the bills, and I’m not nearly talented enough to pursue it further than an activity of enjoyment. BUT THAT IS OKAY BY ME. Not everything you love can be your income generator. I also love to create ideas, communicate and connect with people. Doing that pays my bills, and still makes me happy.

There’s a reason that the phrase “Achieving a Goal” insinuates success and “Chasing a Dream” insinuates wasting time. I used to dream about being an actress on Broadway (age 14) or a powerful band manager (age 16); but I also imagined myself as an entrepreneur who was going to make a change in my community (age 13).

Once you take the time to filter through your many dreams and realize that one of your dreams is actually a goal, then you can stop running and go achieve it. When it is just a dream it remains as nothing more than part of your sleep cycle. Are you done dreaming yet?

Run, Achieve goals, set goals, CEO Candi

Set Your Goals and Run Toward Them