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…

 

 

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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.

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.

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

Creating Accountability and a Routine

Now that January has come and gone, many friends have commented on the falling away of their loosely planned New Years Resolutions. To avoid this failure in myself, I made a point of attending every meetup event I could about making and keeping resolutions during January. The logic behind it was that if I could learn the 20 different ways other people are making and keeping up with their goals, then maybe I could find the ways that work best to implement them into my own life.

Part 1: What the Heck Are Your Goals?

Believe it or not, this was the hardest part for me. As everyone buzzed about losing weight, achieving a dollar goal for their business or creating a routine, I sat their blank faced. Finally, people asked me some questions that helped to guide me there. Where do you see yourself 6 months from now? What would make you happy that isn’t in your life? Why are you unhappy?  

Out of these questions, I started with 4 weekly goals and 2 long-term goals. The weekly goals include exercise, getting outdoors, being social, and creating a positive sleep routine. My long-term goals include a solo-trip to Norway and building my company to include partners.

 

Part 2: Creating Accountability

Once you have said your goals out loud to another human being (or in my case, announcing them on social media to the world), you are 80% more likely to achieve them. To push myself further, I discovered 2 methods to keep me accountable for the weekly goals – a calendar and a buddy.

Accountability, Routine, Being Accountable for goals, New Years Resolutions

My Accountability Calendar for January

Accountability Calendar (not my idea, but wish it was). Pin a plain old calendar on your wall and choose a few different colored markers – each one represents a goal. When you complete a goal, mark it on your calendar for that day. The visualization of your accomplishments is pretty powerful.

An Accountability Buddy. This is a person you check-in with about your goals. Think of it as a report you must send to the boss each week, though in this case it’s really a tool for you and your own good. My buddy and I actually have a friendly competition going. We track our goals with points each week (1 point per goal achieved). At the end of the month, the person with the most points is treated by the other to dinner, coffee, drinks, or whatever else suits.

Part 3: Set Benchmarks and Get Excited for Long-Term Goals

I actually set calendar appointments with myself for all of my goals, but it’s especially important for the long-term ones. In order for me to go to Norway for a few weeks at the end of August into September, there are a few preparations I need to make – research, set a budget, purchase plan tickets, book hotels, plan activities, and coordinate with client work. For each item, I’ve created a due date – it is on my Google Calendar with all of my meetings and tasks, as well as living in my Asana task manager under it’s  own project.

Knowing my ability to put off personal endeavors to make way for clients and work-related things, I had to set aside time to schedule myself into meetings with myself.  Otherwise, nothing would get done in time and my trip may not come to fruition. I want it to happen. I’m excited to go. And every week I remind myself about the excitement somehow – Instagram photos, Reddit threads, casual conversations with friends, etc.

Solo Trip, Norway, Accountability, Goal Setting

My Instagram Vision of Norway

 

Just Do What You Need To Do

If making a big change in your life requires some effort and creating a routine, then start somewhere… whatever place you need to. For me, I need calendars and buddies and happy reminders.

 

A Note of Thanks To Supportive Leaders

Thank you for leaving a positive impact on my life

Developing yourself into a professional is a long and sometimes complicated journey. We are never on this journey alone. And in my case, I’ve had several cheerleaders and coaches supporting me with each step. Today I’m taking a moment to thank some of those influential people.

Peggy Devery – English teacher, grammar great, and life instructor.

Not every kid in class appreciated her like I did. She saw a world beyond the halls of that school and the importance of the words we use in that world. Ms Devery showed me how beautiful and comical a single sentence can be – because of the way we arrange it. Powerful Leaders, Thank You, Good Grammar, Marketing

 

Susie Blank – Choral director, cellist, and non-traditional music aficionado.

Every singer is touched by people who help to find her voice. Ms Blank was the first person to push me to work on music the same way one would practice a sport or prepare for a test. She forced me to work on sight reading and trying new things outside of the comfort zone.

Music, Powerful Leaders, Thank you, marketing

Tamara Bering Sunguroff – Vocal teacher, opera singer, and musical coach.

Each week that we met was a new adventure in music and culture. She was more than a voice teacher, she was a musical advisor and coach to me. Tamara was a professional opera singer, so she bestowed many wisdoms on me about music and life.

Roz Dischiavo – Wellness Center director, relationship therapist, and mentor.

Most of us have that one college professor who opens your mind and turns your world upside down – that’s Roz. She was hard on me, supportive and insightful, and that’s what 19 year old me really needed. That magical mixture forced me to look at a world beyond performance and business, and to see the importance of offering a social good to the world.

Supportive Leaders, Leadership, Thank you, Marketing

Jennifer Hempel – Marketing director, cultural omnivore, and proud Canadian.

We did not always get along or agree, but when we were in sync the air was supercharged and anything could happen. She had high expectations and sometimes pushed me a little harder than I could take. At the end of the day though, I am stronger and smarter for working with her.

 

Always Seek Knowledge and Development

You may notice that only one of the incredible women I list here has impacted my profession directly (marketing). It is important to be influenced by people with varying backgrounds and experiences. I seek out mentors and mentees because life is an ever evolving series of lessons, and that goes beyond a paycheck.

Building the Breakdown Muscle for Sales Success

Going from failure to failure will improve your sales and marketing

Why? You need to build the failure muscle in order to close that big sale or reach that target audience. It seems that failure is often looked down upon in our society. The emotions that we associate with failure are shame, embarrassment, disappointment, and anger. That is why I don’t think of it as failure when something I’ve tried doesn’t work out – it’s just a breakdown. Resilience is the most underrated virtue of successful business owners.

Shift your view of breakdowns to being about how you are taking a step toward success. It becomes a learning opportunity and leads you to a much more successful ending.  Sales and marketing require a lot of experimenting before finding what works. So fail often to find success. Beyond work, breakdowns are essential to build a muscle that we all must workout in order to achieve success.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Winston Churchill

It’s terrible that some kids grow up thinking that competition with others is the only way to win. Those same kids believe that getting things wrong are failures, rather than simple breakdowns that can lead to a success.

Embrace the Failures

Cast a wide net by practicing your breakdowns, and be ready to walk away from an idea if it doesn’t work. Here are some ways for you to workout that breakdown muscle.

  • Experiment in a Safe Place

The projects and prospect with the lease downsides are a great place to start. Avoid projects where the cost of failure is prohibitive.

  • Try New Things

Take the time to try all kinds of ideas. Try lots of different approaches to your sales and marketing tactics.

  • Know When You Have Failed

I know that it is difficult to walk away from an idea that was great in concept, but being truly self-aware and listening closely will offer an opportunity to try something else that will succeed.

  • Recognize the Impact and Make a Plan

After you have a meltdown (or rightfully choose not to), pause and look at the results of your failure. Really look at the sales reports or feedback analysis. Understanding the impact of your failure is key to finding the new road toward your success.

 

Let’s remove the word failure from our work vocabulary. It doesn’t lead us anywhere useful. Instead, let’s celebrate having breakdowns for success.

Are you ready to celebrate your breakdowns?