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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Your Business Structure

You want me to decide the business structure before I even have a real team in place? That is crazy! Or is it?

Puzzle, business structure

Right now I am a one woman show. My business is still very much in ideation and development. I have connected with several people to gain insights into different creative disciplines so that I can create a user experience suited to the array of demographics that I’m trying to reach. However, I have yet to bring partners into the picture.

  • What do I need from others?
  • How do I know that I can trust these people?
  • Are they in it for the long run?
  • Where do they fit into the business structure?

PAUSE! Take a deep breath, calm down and step away from the business as your baby for a moment. If you were a business consultant or even a friend giving advice about how to structure this company, what would you say?

My Response (to myself):

It is too hard to do start a business on your own. You NEED a team in place. They are your support system, your brain-trust, fresh eyes, talent, and balance. Start by having deeper conversations with people you know and respect. If there is interest, then take it a step further by talking about involvement in the company. You definitely need a strong software developer, but maybe the first phase does not require someone of such a high skill set.  Next you need to consider what your action items are.

Growing Business in Hand

  • Claim your URL
  • Getting an LLC and your DBA
  • Opening up a business bank account
  • Revisiting the business plan – fill in the empty spots

It is time for me to stop treating my business like a newborn baby, and to start letting it crawl around. The business will only grow and develop if I let go a little.  Here we go…

*Check out this clever SlideShare that compares branding your new business to a baby.

Funding Your Business Idea

After working for a funded start-up I gained many valuable insights. One of those was a better understanding of how new businesses get the money to pay the bills. I have met powerful investors before and big donors to non-profits, but few of them impressed me. This is not to say that investors are not a wonderful thing for start-ups. However, with investors comes additional management. If I was an investor in a company, then I would probably want a say in how some of the operations are run – which is why I do not fault investors at all. It’s the relationship and the process built around it that can often go off track and make things…mucky.

Let’s dig deeper into this concept. If I want to start a new company and I need $50k to get things going, then I will do a few things:

No matter how I decide to fund my business, I need to have a clear plan and relationship with who/where I am getting the money from. Investors and banks need you to be very honest, clear and detailed about what you want from them.

blog, money crowd funding

  • How will the relationship work?
  • What is their stake in the company?
  • Is there an end date?
  • Why do they want to help you?

Grants, crowd-funding and bootstrapping take on a whole other level of finesse. These folks want to know more about you, the person behind the idea.

  • Why should they choose to help you instead of someone else?
  • What social good are they making by working with you?
  • How will they be involved in the process of developing this business?

Life Distractions

We all dread the first day back at the office after a vacation. Your mindset at work following a vacation should be relaxed and focused, yet it rarely works out that way. Upon entry to the office we are bombarded with information and it is difficult to catch up. The only time you don’t feel this way is if you kept up with work while on vacation. I am most definitely the fool who falls victim to both of these situations.

This is when I need to take a close look at all of the roles that I plan and my list of responsibilities. How do I spend my time and what amount of energy does it take? Right now my list is fairly long:

  • I am a sister, a daughter and an aunt to my family
  • I am a girlfriend and a friendfocus, distractions
  • I have a full time job
  • I have some part-time work
  • I volunteer with Club GEN
  • I’m working on my business plan
  • I’m a Toastmaster
  • I’m a Delta Zeta alumnae

This is a decent size list for one person to be doing on a regular basis, but it is manageable. Now I just need to focus on my responsibilities and figure out how to meet all of my various goals & deadlines. What are some things I can do?

  • Make a Vision Board and place it where I can see it everyday
  • Write down in detail why I have these roles and goals
  • Get with my business coach or a friend to create a realistic action plan for me to reach my various goals
  • Use my planner ALL the time
  • Wake up earlier and better plan for that poorly utlized time, like transit or my morning routine
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Do you have any other suggestions for me?