Monday, April 28, 2014

2 Ways My $5 Ring Can Change Your Business

My flea market "valuable" ring recovered
A few months ago, I noticed that one of my favorite rings was missing. I could not find it in any of the "usual" lost locations. I'd give up on finding it.  Since I got it really cheap at a flea market over 5 years ago, I decided not to obsess over it and move on.

How delighted was I to find it today! But it's reappearance has so much more symbolism than recovering a favorite old accessory. It is another sign in my life about my current path as an entrepreneur. There are so many questions in my old battered ring. When did I lose it? How did I not see it before? Was it in the pile of snow that just melted less than 30 days ago? How did it lose it's shape even more? I did come up with two powerful and timely messages in this ring:

You Assign Value

This $5 flea market ring was one of my favorite purchases ever. I loved the ring and the woman I bought it from. I remember it like it was yesterday. She had long dreadlocks and smelled of patchouli. She complimented me on my "gorgeous" kids and told me she made most of the pieces I saw before me.  I reviewed many pieces before I decided on the silvertone ring with the cloudy blue stone. When she said it was five dollars, she quickly let me know that the stone was not real nor was it real silver. I just asked her if she'd made it. She threw her head back and laughed loudly while confirming she did but that it was a test piece with no value. She went on to tell me it was one of the first pieces she ever made and she never really liked it. In that moment, I wanted it even more. I didn't know why at the time but I do know now.  I was in the early stages of starting my business when I stumbled across this stand. While she attached no value to her test piece, it was very valuable to me. It represented her independence and her success as a jewelry maker. And I wanted to wear it. Ironically, it is one of the rings I get the most compliments on when I wear it and that is why I was heartbroken when I lost it. I bet that flea market vendor has no idea the value I've assigned to something she easily parted ways with.

You Get What You Look For

This morning, I was not looking for anything. I took the dog out as I normally do. The windy rain made me keep my head down versus my normal viewpoint. The dog stopped in her normal place to pee and this time something slightly dull yet shiny caught my eye. It was the frame of the ring. I recognized it before I could bend down to pick it up and the story from above rushed back to me. But where was the stone? I reviewed the section where I'd found the ring pretty carefully but did not see it. And because I did not want to relive the hurt of "losing" the ring all over again, I tossed the dingy ring frame into the garbage heap. It is garbage day and I was right there. Then, suddenly, I felt compelled to look again, look more closely. I did not just review the immediate area where I found the frame but the entire patch of land surrounding my mailbox. Within a minute, I found the mud covered blue stone, not even buried in the grass but sitting slightly high and in the open. Are you kidding me? I thought with a giddy smile. This was my beloved ring and now I have it back.

This is a perfect metaphor for my work life right now. I have lots of remnants of projects and proposals out there as a steady corporate gig is coming to a close. Ever so often, I catch myself worrying if I'll be able to replace this income and replace when it dries up in less than 60 days.  Finding my ring lets me know I will. Why? There is value to what I do with my company. Every day, I am privileged to spread that work more and more. And every day, others are realizing that value but I had to assign value to it first. It is easy to doubt yourself and your business when you are a small service business as we are. Cleaning up that dirty old ring has value to me because it represents an entrepreneur who believed in herself enough to start something. Every time I look at it, it has tremendous value to me. It is a reminder of never giving up on my dream to revolutionize relationships on planet Earth.

Finally, you get what you look for. There is effort involved. Clearly, I could have just tossed the ring frame and come back inside or gone for my normal walk with the dog but I chose to look for the stone of my favorite ring in the grass. I'd started to pout about losing the ring all over again. I tossed it and resigned myself to not having something I wanted, even though it may have been just under my feet.  Just as I took the time to look for the stone and found it, I am taking the time to look for new projects within my network. Sure, there will be some extra effort over the next 60 days but without it, I have no chance of replacing the income that is about to dry up. Panicking. Complaining. Freaking out. All fine but none of those reactions will get me closer to my goal. I am looking to win and keep growing my business. I am looking to grow and employ more people, more often. And just like the extra few seconds I took to look for my ring rewarded me- I am certain my extra effort with my business will reward me, too.

Finding my ring, my favorite cheap flea market ring in the grass today is a sign of what great things are on the horizon for my business.

Monday, April 21, 2014

One Thing To Remember As You Communicate

Communication is one of my superpowers. I was born with mad communication skills and now with the 20+ years experience working in marketing, it's safe to say I'm a pro at communicating.  This past weekend, I found myself honed in on one aspect of communication that even the savviest communicator cannot control - how your communication is received. This is the one rule of communications that always holds true - no matter the language, culture or time frame.

That's right, no matter what we do or how we prepare, we cannot control how our communication is received. The best we can do is be intentional in what we want to communicate. We can carefully craft our word selection. We can be cognizant of the tone of our words or our voices. But we can never control how the recipient of our communication will receive it.

This is especially true in our 21st Century style of communication. With the proliferation of social media channels and the ability to communicate almost exclusively in writing,  we have lost the ability to recognize this cardinal rule of communication.

People post. Other people respond. Conflict ensues.

And underneath it all, "folks wonder how in the world did that person, take that statement, THAT way." I'll tell you how....

We have no way of knowing someone else's frame of reference.

We don't know what language or words trigger what emotions in another person.

We don't know the state of mind of that person in the moment they read our post.

We have our own set of feelings, thoughts and emotions around what we intended.

The tone of written words are left up to interpretation.

You don't know that person well.

They don't know you well.

I'll spare you more reasons but leave you with this. As you communicate, especially in social media please remember you cannot control how someone receives what you post. Your best bet is to allow people space to receive your communication as they do. Give them the respect for the reaction they have. Don't feel compelled to admonish folks for how they feel or give advice for how they should feel.  Be and let people be.

Have the confidence in what you posted and your original intention and leave it at that. Imagine what digital comment strings would look like if people just remembered this one rule of communication.

Monday, April 14, 2014

High Wire, No Net

The dance entrepreneurs dance, often.
Relationships Matter Now has a long time project going away in the next 60 days.

When we first got the news, it was terrifying. No lie. Since this company became my full-time focus in November 2011, there has always been that anchor project/client that just hummed along while we continued to build presence, reputation and steady business.

Make no mistake, we've been in terrifying territory before. This time, we'd been preparing for the day - building business and revenue to replace this project should it disappear. And we strategically made moves that prevented us from keeping this assignment.

Yet, when the call came, it still landed roughly.

While we have solid business to carry us into the 3rd quarter of 2014, there is still a tinge of terror thinking about a pipeline that dries up in October. Yet, there is a feeling of freedom and possibility that comes with operating without a net.

It is clear in my own ideation. I can hear it each time I talk individually with my 4 team members. Innovation occurs best when there is no net.

When you know that every step you take has to have purpose and intention, it is easy to be creative. When you don't have the certainty of "something," you create THE THING that carries you into your next phase.
When tomorrow is today, you generate the energy, ideas and follow-through you never knew you had.

We are operating without a net and producing some of the best work we ever have produced.

We were prepared for our "no net" experience.

We've built the model. We run the model. We tweak the model.

We've communicated what we can do for our clients. Many times, many places.

We've done excellent work with the clients we have and created a circle of reciprocity.

What are you doing today to prepare you for when you have "no net"?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Entrepreneurship Killed My March Madness

Without office mates - I'm.Left.Out
For the third consecutive year,  we have arrived at the NCAA Championship game and I barely know what's going on.

Now, it's not because of the classic reasons you might think.  I did not miss the hoops hoopla because I went to a loser university that does not make it to the tourney or because none of my favorite teams to cheer for fell short. Certainly, I could have found a team to root for without being an obnoxious bandwagoneer.

It's also not because I resent watching NCAA basketball now because of that unfortunate fact of my distance from that age and I think it's sort of creepy to say how cute the point guard from UConn is when you realize he really could be your kid. Nah. That's not why I'm clueless again - I look at young NBA players and feel the same.

And finally, it is not because I was insanely busy this March with my highest revenue month since I started my business. With games on in every airport I traveled in as well as our ability to get scores or stream games on every mobile device we carry, I COULD have tuned in.

The fact of the matter is... entrepreneurship has killed my March Madness.

Yeah, I said it. And yeah, I'm bitter.

Without an office pool to lose or co-workers to tease my bracket choices, March Madness is just no fun.

You see, the first year you leave - every one remembers to send you the bracket. You participate but not with the same level of enthusiasm. No one walks by your desk and teases your selection of that Big Ten team who is ranked #1 in their region to make the Final Four.

You miss the gathering by the microwave where you all make fun of the one gal who picks her teams based on her favorite jersey colors or vacation spots. You never have the chance to laugh in the face of the arrogant guy whose bracket is wrecked after the first weekend.  You never get the chance to live vicariously through the life of the friend whose alma mater makes it all the way to the Final Four, again - Duke, Kentucky Kansas or any of the other usual suspects.. You never have the chance to miss the cool parties all the single or radically committed folks go to over the course of the three tourney weekends.

Being an entrepreneur means you lose all true vested interest the annual March ritual. And while I love everything else that has come with my entrepreneurship the last three years....

Increased flexibility

Variety of work that I choose

Complete control of my income potential

Ability to use my best talents EVERY SINGLE DAY

I  DO miss the chance to play a bracket and have fun with a bunch of co-workers.

Do you guys miss me?