April Showers – A Month in Review

Spring Flowers, April in review, month in review, business development, personal development

April Began with a Celebration of Spring

April began with what used to be my favorite holiday, Easter. I’d like to take a moment and share some deep honest thoughts about this holiday. I was born on Maundy Thursday, which recognizes the day of the Last Supper – just 3 days before Easter. Throughout my life, my mother always referred to me as her Easter baby for this reason. Since I’m one to accept love from family and friends, I always saw it as a sweet sentiment. However, we grow up. We learn things that our parents never told us and we find out that some of the things we once considered to be sweet sentiments are just empty sayings.

Rather than get into the details here, I’ll share the conclusion – my husband and I choose to not celebrate Easter. Instead, we like to celebrate the changing of the season into the spring with the “resurrection” of the plants and flowers. It feels a little more genuine to me. My parents, who stopped attending church years before I stopped, not so quietly judged me for making this choice. It could have kicked off my month with annoyance, but I decided to let it go. Now I’m working on embracing our differences. That is the theme of April – accepting the things I cannot change and changing the things that I can.

The Business is Growing and There are Growing Pains

April was the first full month of having my new part-time help working with me. It is such a challenge to find suitable support staff for a small business, so I feel fortunate to have found a smart person with a good work ethic. I chose her from the other top candidates for two main reasons: she requires less training than the youngest candidate and she is different from me while still understanding my perspective and the business purpose. She still has plenty to learn, and there is so much she wants to contribute. If we keep up our groove, then I think it will be easy for the business to make enough money for her to become a full-time employee. That’s one of my big goals for this year.

March brought in a ton of interest for consulting work. Since I knew I had additional support to make things happen, I said yes and yes and yes again. Two new marketing strategy projects ran in April and will be wrapped up in the beginning of May. We also have two more proposals that prospects sat on for a couple of weeks, and they appear to be coming to fruition in these first weeks of May.

The downside of taking on the new consulting work is that it cut into my time working on workshops, training ideas, and online courses. My next “big” event is an online workshop in collaboration with two strategic partners on May 15th. Only a couple of people are signed up and it’s largely because I have put so little effort into promoting the workshop. The upside is that my two awesome strategic partners support me in making this an evergreen online workshop that’s available through my Kajabi site. Their feedback was that it’s all equal because I’m always contributing to them with leads and ideas, so they want to return the favor.

Always Be Learning

Professional and personal development are definitely my M.O. in life. If there’s an opportunity to take in some new information that will make me stronger or better in some way, then I’m ready to take it in. With this in mind, I decided earlier this year to implement the software tools from Zoho in my business to make workflows more fluid in operations and marketing. I’ve slowly become a Zoholic (apparently that’s what fans of the platform are called). It takes time to get everything integrated, but I made a good dent in April with improvements to project management and customizing my CRM software.

history, business, future, evolution

A Few Highlights of My April

In My Business…

1. Powerful meeting with an organizational development expert.
She guided me through defining my life’s passions, big goals and dreams, clarifying my values, and turning that into an updated mission statement for the business. In this process, I faced things about myself that I should accept (both good and bad) because they make me who I am.

2. Attended a friend’s branding discussion.
I met some interesting people who may or may not turn out to be valuable connections. It was also great to reflect on his approach to branding in comparison with my concept of brand language.

3. Ended a toxic business relationship.
A new client who was expected to be an easy 2 hour gig turned into a nightmare because she is disorganized and a poor communicator. Rather than let it continue on, I finished up the first part of the agreement and closed out the project. It was frustrating to think she go through my pre-qualifying filters, but I learned that even those need improvement.

4. Visual Branding Magic.
My kick-awesome husband began supporting me with my visual branding. I shared my insights from the powerful meeting and the vision of the business with him. He was very happy to support me and contribute to the growth of my business by sharing his expertise about visual concepts. Wow! I am so damn lucky.

5. Gave a New Talk.
A professional friend invited me to her group of entrepreneurs to give a talk about marketing strategy. The title of my presentation was 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Marketing Plan. Since this is a topic I know so well, it was easy to rearrange my old speech and give it a fresh spin. The group really enjoyed it and gave me great feedback.

6.Completed a long-term client project.
Over the past 4 months I’ve been supervising and training this virtual assistant to know my client’s brand and know how to work best with her. Apparently, I did a good job and now she is flying from the nest. The client told me she was ready to work with just the VA. Since that was my goal, I feel really good about it.

 

In Personal Life…

  • I had a birthday – 35 years completed. Ready to live the next year with love and collaboration.
  • Awkward lunch date with an old networking friend. This was an epiphany lunch where I realized how little we have in common other than the group where we first met. And that is okay. I accept who she is and who I am as different people coexisting.
  • Dealt with my aches and pains by trying out Airrosti. It’s like sports medicine, but you don’t need to be an athlete to go see someone. They do a mixture of therapeutic massage (more like pushing into your soft tissue until the pain goes away) and teaching you exercises / stretches to prevent more pain. It’s expensive, but it is working for me.
  • Visited with my in-laws for the weekend to celebrate some birthdays. I really like my new extended family, but some of my old yucky habits still flare up. It’s rather embarrassing in retrospect. To strangers, it reads like I was raised by egotistical people who are stuck in childish ways. I’ve had to work hard to NOT be like that and learn to communicate like a normal adult. When you have toxic habits from childhood, it can take a long time to break them. Long story short, my extended family loves me anyway but I’m sure that there were moments of “what the heck?” going on in their minds. I accept that this happened and aim to continue improving myself.

 

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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.

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?

 

Networking in a Big Small Town

Networking is More than Exchanging Business Cards

No matter where you live, building a network of people to support you and vice-verse is one of the keys to business (and personal) success. I love attending networking events and meeting new people – connecting with others is a huge part of my personality. Not everyone is bubbly and outgoing, so speaking to strangers does not come easy.

After many years of meeting strangers and creating connections from coast to coast, I can safely say that making 1 or 2 genuine connections is more valuable than collecting 20 business cards from people you may never speak to again. Business Cards are not a form of currency. If you’re the shy person worried about what to say or who to approach at a networking event, just take a deep breath and think about the true possibilities. The worst thing that can happen is someone may be too blind to see how great you are, and he/she could choose to talk to someone else. Try approaching the person in the room who appears to feel just as uncomfortable as you do, smile, and ask a simple question like “how are you doing today?”

Connecting with People in a Tightly Webbed City

While I absolutely love Austin, sometimes it can be unsettling when you realize the brand new person you just met has 3 friends in common with you. Occurrences like that were rare and exciting in New York, but here they are very common. This means a few things (all of which may be obvious, but I’ll list them anyway):

  • Be careful with the stories you share. While the story about your friend John drinking too much and causing trouble is hysterical to you, it will be less appealing to his boss. After John’s coworker’s best friend retells the story in the office cafeteria, the boss and other coworkers may not be so happy.
  • Be an open brochure, not an open book. By this I mean that it’s great to be open about who you are and what you love, but avoid giving away too much detail about yourself upfront. Information can be misinterpreted and things can get awkward.
  • Not everything you do belongs on social media. I won’t even explain all of the reasons for us to remember this while networking. You get it. Check-ins and posts are fun, but be aware of the long-term possible affects.

Networking in a Big Small CityWhere Should You Go and What Groups to Join?

I’ve enjoyed mingling with lots of different groups in Austin. Here are the ones where I made the best connections.

  • Austin Open Coffee Club (meets at Houndstooth Coffee on Congress)
  • AWIG – Austin Women’s Investing Group
  • AGLCC Toastmasters (Membership based. Don’t need to be LBGT to join)
  • Creative Mornings (A new favorite group of mine)
  • Metropolitan Breakfast Club (Membership based, but you can attend up to 3 times before joining)
  • Network in Austin (First group I ever joined in Austin)
  • Young Women’s Roundtable (not around anymore, but may resurface)

I also recommend searching Eventbrite.com and Meetup.com for the topics you are most interested in. You would be surprised how many other people are out there looking for the same things you are.

Listening and Respect

Bad Habits

I have a new appreciation for good listeners after practicing my active listening skills over the past week or so. When I asked myself, “why do you talk so much” the answer was not completely clear… until my mom called me. I barely got a word in with her. She talked at me, rarely listened to anything I had to say, and then talked over me to complain. We really are shaped by our parents at such a young age that the habits become unconscious.

After that frustrating phone call, I sat back in my chair and reflected for a moment on what had just happened. It felt like a talking attack. I don’t ever want someone to feel that way when he or she is with me. While I am definitely a better listener than my mom, I absolutely have my work cut out for me.

There’s Time

I still have some deep seeded habits like wanting to tell people my parallel story or offer advice. What I have noticed in my practiced listening is that there is time for my stories, but I need to provide a space for others to share their stories first. It’s like holding the door open for someone. You don’t hold it open to then push past him or her and go through the doorway.

Part of me always feels like there is a time limit on things, like the opportunity to share my “hilarious story” is a short time period and I may miss it. Lately I realized that my story doesn’t always matter to the conversation, and the more I listen the more I realize how unrelated my first story may have been.

Focused Listening

Slowly I’m also noticing my attention span for truly listening to improve. Clearly, I am of the “ADD Generation” with all of our fast technology, short video clips and 140 character updates. I can be easily distracted at times and wander off in my mind. However, when I listen to someone with my whole self it feels better – the conversation feels complete and more meaningful.

This was more of a stream of consciousness rant than a blog post, but consider it a check-in on my 2014 resolution progress. Thank you to all my friends who love me no matter how much I talk. Looking back, I know that you are the few whom I made time and space to listen to (even when I wasn’t practicing it).

A Clever Little Cartoon About Listening

Looking Ahead into 2014

“It was tumultuous, it was crazy, but I would not trade it for anything.” Colin Quinn

That is how I feel about 2013, and I know I”m not alone. Many of my friends and family had a similarly challenging year filled with change and transitions. While it was difficult, the events of 2013 were part of the larger journey we continue along this year. As I reflect and “prepare” for the year ahead, I’m thinking about three big things:

What are my priorities this year? What are the goals associated with those priorities? What systems am I putting in place to assure that I achieve those goals?

Priorities

  • Career – I am focusing on my marketing/writing work primarily with just one company, but how does that affect my bigger dreams of creating a business to help the creative class?
  • Finance – Money smarts and activity are getting more attention this year.
  • Love – Last year I was lucky to start the year off by meeting an incredible guy. Throughout the year I had moments of not giving him enough of my focus or energy. This year he will get the best of me.
  • Friends – I worked on my interpersonal skills and being a good listener in 2013, so I want to give that additional attention and deepen my existing relationships.

Goals

  • Create a plan for balancing my paying work with my business dreams
  • Get more involved in the music community in Austin
  • Develop a more strategic way to handle my money and investments
  • Learn more about finance and investing
  • Be a great listener

Systems

  • Once a week for a minimum of 1 hour (on Sunday mornings) I will set aside time to work on my business dreams. This can be in the form of a meeting with someone in the industry or just research.
  • Begin taking voice lessons 1-2 times a month. After 3 months of practice, begin teaching voice lessons again.
  • I am signed up for a 4 week class titled Investing for Beginners, and I’ll continue with my Women’s Investing Group meetings every month to further my knowledge.
  • I will create an updated budget that includes expenditures as well as projected income. The first draft of this budget must be complete by January 12th, and the finalized budget by the end of February.
  • Once a day take time to fully listen to someone tell a story – giving my complete attention, not interrupting with comments, asking minimal follow-up questions, not getting distracted by my own thoughts that relate, and using simple body language to confirm to my speaker that I am listening.

Goals and Systms Checklist 2014

A Crack in the Rose-Colored Glasses

Cracked Rose Colored Glasses
An Imperfect World

My mom explained the concept of rose-colored glasses to me when I was young. She told me that I had a beautiful perspective of the world, but I should be aware that it would not always look that way. Other than bullies in school, I viewed the world as this awesome melting pot of colors, shapes, religions, beliefs and ways to communicate. I loved it!

With New Friends

A new girl moved into the house across street in the summer of 1993. Naturally, she would become my new friend…that is how us extroverts think. She felt totally overwhelmed by my bubbly personality at first, but we bonded over our love for dance and singing. She introduced me to Bollywood movies, and I introduced her to Broadway show tunes. By the time school began (5th grade), we were close friends.

Speaking Up

She rarely, if ever, spoke up in class, but as soon as we hit the playground she would chat up a storm. Our teacher noticed this trend and pulled me aside. He asked, “Do you think you could help Mandeep come out of her shell a bit? I can tell that she knows the answers, but she seems scared to speak up.” My response was clear, “Um Yes! Of course!”

Rather than being my usual pushy self, I decided to be nonchalant by sneaking in supportive comments whenever I could. I found myself becoming her number one cheerleader. By the end of the school year she was talking to everyone, and no situation seemed to scare her.

Our Cultural Differences

Indian Beauty. Cultural Differences

Clearly Mandeep figured out my devious plan, because she sat me down one day to explain the reasons behind her shyness. Kids in small town suburbia are not accustomed to seeing a dark skinned girl who prays to many gods, occasionally wearing henna, and speaking with a “funny” accent. These were among my favorite things about her, so this realization confused me and broke my heart a little.

My Story Begins

Mom was right – the rose-colored glasses were now cracked. I think my mom always knew I would choose the rosy perspective. However, she didn’t account for my tenacity and drive for equality. The crack created in my glasses stirred a desire to support and protect others.

I was building a network of relationships with other inspiring people, and Mandeep was only the beginning of my story. No one would make the people in my community (or me) feel bad or stupid anymore. So it began…my journey to create a world of clear communication, trust, open information, and community. I’m still wandering down the path with my rosy glasses on, but I sneak a peek through the crack for a piece of “reality” every so often.