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.

The Transformative Power of Passion

I recently watched this wonderful TED talk by Benjamin Zander. If you choose to skip through the video, make sure not to miss his performance toward the end.

What an incredible man with such love and passion for music. From the moment he played that first note I went to this place deep in my mind that is pure and untouched by the real world. It is a beautiful and safe place for me to be.  When he finished playing, I let out a deep sigh and remembered the old feeling of connecting to something beyond other people. It has been a little too long since I’ve felt so centered.

I admit that I absolutely LOVE Classical Music. I love all kinds of music, but there is something so special, so unique, and so important about the way composers wrote (and some still write) for that genre. As much as I enjoy jumping around to a 4 chord progression in a cheesy pop-punk song by bands like The Starting Line, Say Anything and New Found Glory, it just doesn’t have the same effect on my brain.

It’s time to start singing again. Music led me to a good place once and I have to believe that it will happen again.

Mozart. Voi Che Sapete

When to Give Up

Lately I have been fed up with this lifestyle. Freelance work takes twice as much effort and, after taxes, pays about the same as a regular job. How am I supposed to work on my own business when all I do is worry about money and working enough hours? It’s a terrible cycle.

The other night I got to the point where I wrote, “I give up on this stupid idea” in my journal. I continued on writing, “My stupid business is just an idea, a concept or conversation topic. It is nothing. I am nothing.” Yes, it was mellow dramatic, but that is what journals are for. As I continued to write, my thoughts became a series of evasive questions.

Why is starting this business so important to me?
What am I really doing with my career?
Aren’t I just going to end up failing anyway?

Eventually I got to a point where I remembered my hidden light. “There is this ever so slight glimmer left inside of me. It sparkles in the back of my eye where only I can truly see it. The spark of hope, inspiration, courage, and love lives in my crazy idea.”

Do What You Love, Career Inspiration

Over the past few months, my social life has rolled downhill. My poor boyfriend has put up with a few too many of my mini-breakdowns. The balance in my bank account has shifted. And my skin looks like I’ve been beating myself up. Despite all of this, I’ve kept going.

I can’t go on living my life not knowing the end of this story, especially when it feels like I’m nearing the end of the boring intro chapters. I have no idea what it is inside of me that is driving me forward with such strong motion because it lies so deep that it cannot be explained – it’s just who I am.

Well, I guess that’s the answer to my question. I cannot give up until I know the end of this story.

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Music Review

The M.I.A. song “Bad Girls” from 2012 is fun, goofy and makes you want to dance. Listening to it led me to search for her newest release – Y.A.L.A. She released the track on Sound Cloud as a teaser, and I listened to it a few times. The sound is totally M.I.A. style, which I love. The use of the synth is a little heavier than usual, so she may be diving further into the electronica sound while still inter-weaving her hip-hop vocal prowess. I guess we’ll find out more when the album is released.

M.I.A. You Always Live Again