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The Value of Diversifying Your Customers and Clients

diversify-your-clients

No matter the industry, it is always beneficial to diversify your portfolio of customers and clients. Simply put, it prevents you from placing all your eggs in one basket. It also helps to keep your day to day work interesting, not monotonous.

Here are six types of clients of which every business should have at least one. Depending upon the types of services you offer, your model might best serve just one or two of these categories. However, the pros and cons associated with each present some compelling reasons as to why you should strive to diversify and spread out your clients. In the long run it will help you balance your ups and downs and achieve a valuable book of business.  Let’s take a look…

The longstanding clients

Pros: These clients have been with you since the start. At this point, you intimately understand their business needs and personal preferences. You’ve become very efficient with completing their work after earning your way through the learning curve. In addition to being good clients, they have also likely become good friends.

Cons: Being with you from the start often means you’ve also “grandfathered” them into some pretty nice pricing. Unless the scope of their work dramatically changed, you likely haven’t had the opportune time to raise your rates with them. The level of comfort and closeness within your relationship can prevent you from making firm business decisions because you value their loyalty and don’t want to do anything to damage it– even if it’s the best decision for you.

The new clients

Pros: In contrast to the longstanding clients, new clients offer you the ability to quote your prices at today’s rate – no grandfathering needed. They are also a breath of fresh air that embrace the suggestion of new tactics and strategies.

Cons: There’s definitely a learning curve with taking on a new client which is why you don’t want ALL your clients to be new at the same time. It can take awhile before the time you’re putting into this account will finally start being equal to your hourly rate. There’s also the uncertainty of “Do they like me?” or “Are they going to stick around?” that’s more certain with longstanding clients.

The big clients

Pros: Big clients (usually) mean big paychecks. They have the budget to hire you for a variety of services that allow you to showcase all that you are capable of and deliver full results.

Cons: If you should have a big client fall off, it can be devastating to your bottom line. While it’s a goal for many business owners to have fewer, but bigger clients, this will most certainly lead you to placing too many eggs in one basket. They can also be very demanding and because they’re paying you a pretty penny can expect unreasonable amounts of your attention.

The small clients

Pros: Small clients (ideally) demand less time and attention because they have smaller accounts. Their services are well scoped to adhere to their budget and as a result, it’s easier to quantify the services that are delivering the best results.

Cons: The limited scope of service can also limit the full extent of the results you achieve. While ideally small clients take up less of your time, I haven’t always found that to be the case. This can be where you find business owners who are very “hands-on” to the point of micromanaging. Their limited budget may also lead to unrealistic expectations for what you can achieve on for them.

The challenging clients

Pros: We all benefit from a good challenge from time to time. These are the clients who keep you on your toes, ask a lot of questions and may even change their own mind 20+ times before a project is complete. Alas, there is a pro in here and it’s that these clients help make you a better worker for all your other clients. They also set the standard for “difficult client” that make all others seem like angels.

Cons: These are pretty obvious. Challenging clients can waste a lot of your time and even cost you money. They can also make you feel undervalued and underappreciated. If they move from “challenging” to “disrespectful” it’s time to let them go!

The easy-going clients

Pros: Compared to the challenging clients, these clients are a welcome relief. Sometimes it’s nice to finish a project and just have someone say “It looks great!” They’re also open to new ideas and don’t question the expertise for which they hired you.

Cons: Sometimes you wonder whether these clients even really have an interest in the work you’re doing for them, because they seem to just say yes to everything. How can you not have at least one question or suggestion to bring to the table? This leaves all the planning and strategizing up to you with little constructive feedback.

Do you have a diverse portfolio of clients? What steps do you take to achieve this? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

 

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8 Time Saving Hacks I Use Every Day

time saving hacks

Living life as a young entrepreneur, I’ve tried to maintain the mindset that it’s not about building a business, it’s about building a life. How we spend our time determines the life we lead. While I love my work, I also love time spent with my family, outside, exercising and relaxing. And for me, these are all rewards of being efficient with my time.

Over the years I’ve gotten very good at efficiency, so much so that it’s a running joke between people who know me well. No, I don’t have any more hours in a day than anyone else, but I have learned some extremely helpful time saving hacks that may make it seem that way to the outside world. They’re not magical or revolutionary, they simply use common sense that we often stray away from throughout life.

1. Start your day one hour earlier than everyone else

Rise and shine sounds a heck of a lot easier than actually doing it, but getting up early and getting a head start on work is one time saving hack that has made a huge difference in my day. I catch up on all my emails, knock off the easy or reoccurring tasks on my to-do list and prioritize the remaining tasks so I have a game plan of the rest of the day.

Even though it’s only an hour of work, I find that my clear and focused mental state in the morning, combined with the silence of everyone else sleeping, allows me to work with incredible efficiency. I turn that single hour into half a day’s work sometimes. And for someone who works from home as both an entrepreneur and a mom, knowing I have that uninterrupted hour is a Godsend.

2. Simplify your morning routine

Take a critical look at your morning routine and really think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The first time I did this, I was shocked at how many minutes I was wasting by not structuring my routine properly and by doing things that simply didn’t have any added benefit to the rest of my day.

From little things, like narrowing down the number of health and beauty products I use to the big things, like eliminating my morning commute by working from home, I have become an efficiency machine. If any part of your routine doesn’t help you look better, feel better or keep your household and business running, rethink why you feel the need to make it a part of your day. Habit alone is not an acceptable answer.

3. Block-schedule meetings and errands

Because I do double duty as a mom and a business owner, strategic scheduling is a must. Finding a block of time for a meeting (that doesn’t include my son as a tagalong) can be harder than snagging a dinner reservation at one of the swankiest restaurants in L.A.

One day a week, my husband will work from home and free me up to see clients, attend networking meetings and have some uninterrupted work time. So, I try and fit as much in as I can into these days. What I’ve found is that even without my “mommy duties” as the catalyst for this type of scheduling, planning my meetings and errands in blocks of time is incredibly efficient. When possible, I’ll schedule meetings back to back in the same coffee shop where clients can come to me and I always incorporate stops at the bank or post office while I’m already out.

4. Complete reoccurring tasks in batches

Whether they’re part of running a business or running a household, we always have those reoccurring tasks that need done daily, weekly or monthly. For me, some of these tasks happen to be writing for my blog, paying bills and making baby food. While these are quite a random assortment of tasks, I’ve found they have at least one thing on common – they can be done in batches.

Unless something is especially timely, I write and schedule my blog posts weeks in advance. I often write several posts in a day when I’m feeling particularly creative. For bills that are the same every month, I use the online bill payment feature through my bank to have these checks go out automatically. And for baby food, I have one full-blown cooking and freezing day a month that allows me to mess up and clean up the kitchen just once while enjoying extremely convenient (and cheap!) mealtimes the rest of the month. Identify your own reoccurring tasks and tackle them in quantity. This will save you so much more time than completing them one by one day after day.

5. Set time limits

This time saving technique is pretty straightforward. For those tasks that chronically take up more time than you anticipate, set a reasonable time limit and stick to it. At first, you’ll likely exceed your limit and have to stop for the day, but over time I’ve found that I’ve gotten more efficient because I really want to beat that timer! It also forces me to dive right into a project rather than wasting a half hour or more getting into the “right” mindset.

6. Unsubscribe from emails you don’t want to receive

This is something I started doing a couple of years ago and it’s completely changed the dynamics of my inbox. Any time we purchase anything online, attend an event or hand over our email address in exchange for more information, we can expect to be automatically added to a list serv. Maybe it’s minutes or maybe it’s weeks later, but we can also expect to begin receiving marketing emails.

Unless this is something you are interested in receiving, take the time to unsubscribe! Sure, this requires a few more clicks and maybe even some typing which takes longer than simply hitting delete, but in the long run it will absolutely save you time and preserve the space in your inbox for important messages.

7. Push people to communicate by email

For the majority of scenarios, email communication is a much more concise way to communicate. A phone call, for example, first requires both parties to be available at the same to connect. In today’s fast paced society that is becoming less and less likely. Next, there are the obligatory “How are you’s?” followed by some chit chat. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get straight to the root of the conversation. If the information is complicated or hard to remember, often one person will say “Can you email it to me?” And if you don’t connect on the first try, you might end up playing phone tag and spending even more time dialing in and checking your voicemail.

Do I make a convincing case yet? Whenever possible, I ask people to email me. I’ve also started removing my phone number from business cards so that if people feel the need to call, they can start by first emailing me for my number and I can assess whether it’s truly necessary. This isn’t to overlook the times when phone calls and face-to-face meetings are the better option, but for a hybrid mom, I love that emails can be answered on my time and don’t convey the screeching child that is likely in the background.

8. Learn to say no

People and things will always be vying for pieces of your day; you must become a conscientious keeper of your time. First, get your priorities straight. For me, this is running a business, being with my family, staying connected with friends, exercising and relaxing. For obligations that fall outside of these categories, I carefully consider whether or not they’re worth my time.

Just because someone asks you for a favor or wants to meet to sell you something you don’t need, doesn’t mean you have to say yes. Learn to say no (nicely) and you’ll be amazed with the amount of free time you’ll earn back.

What are some of your own time saving hacks? Share in the comments below and help us all to find a little more free time in our day!

 

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The Number One Thing You Must Do Before You Begin Writing

pencil blank paper

There’s a widespread misconception about writing that needs to be cleared up. We read a captivating blog, spot a witty billboard or receive a thought provoking direct mail piece and assume that some very talented writer sat down, opened their mind and let the words flow onto the paper. Done! The perfect content was crafted in a moment of sheer inspiration. Unfortunately this writing fantasy rarely exists in the real world. Instead, inspiration must be paired with strategy and a great deal of pre-planning before fingers ever hit the keyboard.

Oh it’s tempting to dive right in. Feeling a rush of creativity, you figure the smartest thing you can do is to get it all out while you have it. I’ve tried this myself. Still, all I’m really left with is a disorganized doodle of words and phrases that, while they sound great independently, require as much time and editing to string together as if I were to just write a new article from scratch.

I’ve since realized there’s one thing I must always do before I begin writing. I don’t write the introduction, craft a title or pick out a piece of accompanying clip art before I’ve answered just one question…

What effect do I want to produce on my readers?

This is more specific than how it reads, so let me explain a bit further. Every great piece of writing evokes some type of emotion – hope, joy, fear, excitement, doubt, anger, trust, curiosity and the list goes on and on. After pondering this, I promise you that you will analyze what you read the rest of today more critically. And you’ll find that it’s true. Effective content centers on emotion. What you must determine before you begin writing is exactly what emotion from your readers will be of most value to you and the purpose of your writing.

One of the forefathers of professional copywriting, Robert Collier, says it like this. “Before you put pen to paper, before you ring for your stenographer, decide in your own mind what effect you want to produce on your reader — what feeling you must arouse in him.”

Create a Magnetic Headline

Once you’ve selected your desired emotion, every other component of your writing will work to emphasize it. A big one is your title. This should be carefully crafted to be emotionally charged. Aim to create a magnetic headline that readers can’t pass up. Check out the one I chose here, “The Number One Thing You Must Do Before You Begin Writing.” As the reader, this plays to my insecurity of always striving to be a better writer. I wouldn’t dare miss out on learning the one thing I “must” do before I write. It evokes an emotion that is strong enough to drive me to read on. This leads to another important point…

Select the Strongest Emotion

You want to choose the strongest (relevant) emotion that will make your readers act. My example of insecurity is a powerful emotion that identifies a reader’s weakness and leads them to seek a solution – which your writing should provide. Less influential emotions like empathy or contentment won’t create the same urgency for action. If using a negative emotion, you must make your readers feel uncomfortable enough to want to change something. If using a positive emotion, you must tempt readers with a benefit so life-changing that they can’t pass it up.

Avoid Scare Tactics

Emotions lead us to act, but if too strong, can also turn us off. What may appear to be just words on paper actually hold the power to draw us in to a new reality (talk to any Harry Potter fan), so use with care. When selecting a strong emotion, don’t overly dramatize your writing. Scare tactics and overwhelming sadness can make readers uncomfortable enough not that they’ll act to resolve the emotion, but that they’ll shut down and tune out. One classic example of this in video form is the ASPCA’s “Arms of the Angel” commercial. It’s been spoofed many times over because I don’t think anyone can watch the whole thing without turning it off or crying so hard you can’t see the phone number to call to make a donation. While it certainly evokes a strong emotion, it’s overpowering to the point of becoming less effective than some of their newer, toned-down commercials you’ll see on TV now.

Remember, when it comes to incorporating emotions in your writing, a little goes a long way. First select the strongest, most relevant emotion that will compliment and promote your message. Then, center all other aspects of your writing, like creating a magnetic headline, on this emotion. The end result will be content that is organized, creative and effective – from start to finish!

How do you determine the effect you want to produce on your reader before you begin writing? Share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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Dealing with the Pain Points: The right way to identify your customers’ needs

pain pointsIn my line of work, I’m often brought on board to deal with pain. Let me clarify this a bit further. I help my clients identify the pain points of their business as it pertains to communication. I also help them identify the pain points of their target audience so we know how to better connect with them. And even with years of experience now under my belt, this task has become no easier than the very first time I learned about the abstract concept of pain points – mostly due to the fact that every client is different, and so is their pain.

Uncovering a client or customer’s pain points shouldn’t inflict them with more pain. Which is why we can’t overlook the fact there are right ways – and some very wrong ways – to go about this process. I’m willing to bet many of you have been subjected to the wrong way at least once, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. This is the salesperson who tells YOU what your pain is, before really getting to know you or your needs. This is the business advisor who offers no insight and simply asks you to tell him what your biggest pain points are as he jots them down with a nod and smile.

So what’s the right way to identify your customers’ needs? Here are four snippets of wisdom I’ve compiled after talking with fellow communications professionals and business owners. Across the board, these are the key concepts you need to keep in mind whether you’re identifying your own pain points or the pain points of your target audience.

Make it a discussion

Clients and customers just want to be heard, especially when it comes to understanding their greatest pains. Don’t walk into a meeting with a list of predetermined pain points to sell them. Instead, start a conversation. Get to know more about them, their business and their needs. As the conversation progresses, you’ll gain a better understanding of the pain points they share with fellow businesses in the industry as well as pain points that are completely unique to them.

In an effort to start a discussion, don’t go to the other extreme of making them do all the talking either. Sure, ask questions, but don’t drop a bomb like “What are all your biggest pain points right now?” First, you can’t assume your client even really knows what a pain point is. Second, you’re likely to turn a nice conversation into an interrogation with a loaded question like that. Let them talk and then offer insight. You know, like a dialogue?

Share your experience

Once you’ve started a pleasant discussion and gained a foundation for understanding their needs, it’s time to offer some valuable input. Given things have progressed in the direction you anticipated, you can refer to some information you’ve prepared in advance. For example, this could be a slide or printout of what you have found to be common pain points within their industry – shared by other professionals with whom you’ve worked. Guide them with your experience, but acknowledge and respect the fact that every business is unique and so are their pains.

Peel back the onion

What many perceive to be their pain points is only the first layer. This is where your expertise becomes so valuable! Don’t take what your clients or customers identify as their pain points to be the final answer. Ask more questions to gain a deeper understanding and even challenge some of the points, if you feel necessary. Your goal should be to expand your clients’ understanding of their business’s needs or customers’ pains. You need to be the mirror that allows them to see their blind spots – this is where you add value to the process.

Keep it reasonable

Some strategies aim to amplify pain points and blow them out of proportion. I find that this comes across both dramatic and cheesy – and at the end of the day, makes YOU look less professional. Make your pain points both real and relatable. For example, if you choose to incorporate your pain points on your website, you want them to ask rhetorical questions that almost everyone in your target audience can answer with a resounding “Yes!” They should be general enough to relate to the vast majority of people you’re trying to reach, yet specific enough to still be meaningful. You want your pain points to really strike a chord with your audience, and after they answer these rhetorical questions, make them want to do business with you!

What strategies have you used to identify your own pain points or the pain points of your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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How to Become a Better Writer

good writing

To excel in any profession it takes both dedication and talent. From doctors and lawyers to singers and actors and everything in between, you must continually practice to stand out in your respective field. Writing – whether as a profession or simply as an everyday skill – is no exception.

Writing is the core of my profession, but it’s also an essential skill I use well outside of what earns me a paycheck. This is why I am always on the search for ways in which I can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of my writing.

Thanks to technology that directs us to resources and connects us with fellow writing professionals, there are more opportunities than ever to improve your written communication. So how do you narrow them down? Really, it’s trial and error to find the triggers that inspire you to become a better writer. I know I have spent years trying to find my own. While what works for one will not work for all, these are five launching points that provide a solid foundation for overall “good” writing and will help point you in the right direction.

Understand your purpose

Diving into a writing project before you fully understand exactly “why” you’re writing is like shooting an arrow before you’ve seen the target. Maybe you’ll get lucky and end up with a well-crafted piece, but the outcome that is far more common is mismatched content that reads more like a stream of conscious than strategic and intelligent thoughts.

To understand your purpose, first put it into words before you write anything else. For this very article, I organized my purpose and main points before I started writing. The title and bolded sections (the bones) were formed before I filled it in with content (the meat). If you struggle to identify a purpose, this is a big red flag that indicates a weak idea and lack of organization.

Find passion

Purpose is one very important component for quality writing, but so is passion. An article can have a clear purpose, but passion is what draws readers in and makes them want to consume the information. If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, you will be excited to sit down and put your thoughts into words. You’ll also enjoy reading and re-reading these words until they say exactly what you want them to.

But finding this passion can be a mental challenge. So often the fear of putting your thoughts into words, or a lack of confidence in your ability to do so, can overshadow your passion. Overcome these roadblocks by shifting your focus back to you – not your critics, competitors or writing idols – simply you. When you are writing for self-satisfaction, you will be open to embracing the same passion with which people dance when they think no one is watching.

Do it for yourself

For writing to become an enjoyment and not a chore, you must learn to do it for yourself. This is the point I just touched upon above, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into exactly how you learn to write for yourself.

If you have complete freedom to select your topic, first choose a topic about which you’re knowledgeable, curious or passionate. In doing so, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the topic – and enjoy it! All good writers are able to gain some level of enjoyment in their writing. If your topic is strictly chosen for you, the angle with which you approach it becomes ever important. It’s possible to take the driest topic and turn it into something you enjoy (even if only slightly) and make the writing about you!

Put the effort into proofreading

One essential component of good writing that we can’t tip-toe around (oh and I’ve tried) is proofreading. Yes, it’s that element of writing that simply isn’t as fun as dreaming up big ideas and writing from the soul – but it’s absolutely necessary. Proofreading can be intimidating because it takes time and a very specific knowledge of a complicated topic, making it all the more valuable of a skill for good writers to have.

Aside from hitting the books to brush up on your grammar, you can also turn to technology to provide you with some pretty helpful tools. Google can serve as a quick spell check, but it won’t catch the more complex errors. I often use Grammarly for proofreading because let’s face it, the English language is challenging enough to speak, let alone write. What I really like about this particular tool is that it teaches you why you’re making common grammar mistakes so you develop into a better writer – not a lazy writer.

Stop overthinking it

Finally, in order to become a better writer you quite simply need to chill out – relax! When you’re stressed and hyper-focused, your writing will reflect this. It will seem rigid and anxious. Writing is an art form after all, and it requires organic creativity that is only able to freely flow when you’re relaxed.

Before writing, take a deep breath. Close your eyes and find a relaxed space in your mind. Don’t look at a clock or agonize over how long you’ve been staring at a blank page. If you’re feeling blocked, take a break and walk away. You can’t force good writing and the grade school philosophy of “sit there until you finish it” will only turn your temporary writer’s block into a lifelong fear of the written word.

What have you found to be the most helpful tips and tools for becoming a better writer? Share your advice in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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Make Your Business Strategy a Mile Deep and a Foot Wide

mile deep foot wideYou can’t scroll through your social media news feed without coming across an article, video or photo that has gone viral. And don’t forget about the sponsored posts that force us to consume information all because Facebook says it fits our demographic. This communication overload can lead us to believe that we must utilize every marketing strategy out there in order to grab the attention of potential clients or customers.

This goes against the longstanding wisdom to be “a mile deep a foot wide.” And by that I mean – be selective about where you dedicate your time and money and choose only the strategies that best fit your goals and audience.

Instead, I’ve been seeing a growing trend where business owners spread their time and budget thin by trying to do it all. While an effective communications strategy requires a variety of tactics, it also requires you to be selective with your tactics and then focus your full attention on doing them exceptionally well.

So why should you rethink your complicated and scattered communications, marketing, advertising or business strategy? Here are four key reasons why being a mile deep and a foot wide will better serve your business and your bottom line.

You’ll be able to devote more resources to what makes the greatest impact.

When you try to do it all, you can’t provide each task with the time and attention it needs to produce the best results. So often, I’ve seen business owners throw their hands up as to why – with all that they are doing – nothing seems to be making a difference. Instead of stopping to take a look at the chaos and disorganization of their strategy, they try and do more.  And so the downward spiral continues.

The only solution is to stop, breathe and take a critical look at where you’re devoting your resources. If the depth of your tactics is not yet a mile deep, your breadth should be no more than a foot wide. More simply put, first master the tactics that are producing the greatest results before adding in anything additional. Once you’ve found a good pace and are happy with your ROI, you can slowly explore with more variables.

You’ll be able to more easily identify what’s working.

If you begin your communications efforts with a massive strategy right out of the gate, it’s going to be difficult to identify exactly what tactic is helping you reach your goals. Changing everything at once will only add more confusion as to what’s really working – and what isn’t.

Instead, the “doing less, but doing it well” approach will allow you to more easily identify what each tactic is accomplishing as you slowly add them in one by one. If your web hits skyrocket over one quarter’s time and the only thing you changed was adding in a monthly e-blast, you can likely credit this as the catalyst.

Every strategy does not apply to every business.

When I help businesses to develop a comprehensive communications strategy, I’ve found that this is often misdirected with the desire to do everything they’ve ever seen another business do. I see innovative marketing techniques around me every day, but I know that only a fraction of these would work well for my business. The same is true for any business. Not every strategy is necessary, nor effective, for helping you reach your specific goals.

Business owners take note, you must consider many factors that make your business unique (i.e. industry, size, target customers, location) when selecting the tactics to best serve your business.  While you might be inspired by the multi-million dollar grassroots campaign of a powerhouse brand, this is not likely the most feasible or effective strategy to help you reach your specific audience.

You’ll preserve your sanity.

Finally, your ability to embrace a “mile deep and a foot wide” mindset will remove the stress and frustration caused by wasting your resources on a cluttered and misdirected communications strategy. Don’t you want to do everything to the best of your ability? Trying to do it all won’t allow you to meet this standard. Instead, narrow the breadth of your tactics and focus on their depth. Produce quality and consistent messaging that helps to build a loyal and attentive audience.

Do you practice the “mile deep and a foot wide” philosophy? Why or why not? Share your thoughts!

 
 

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Why No Experience is Ever a Waste of Time

waste of timeThe past several years spent starting my own business and living the out-of-the-box life of a young entrepreneur have provided me with as many new experiences as the 23 years prior. While “new experiences” may sound fun, exciting and even a little sexy, any business owner will tell you that there is a large range in altitude between the valleys and the peaks.

In my reflection upon these life experiences, the negative and positive, the helpful and hurtful, the uncomfortable and encouraging, I realized that I’ve developed an almost nostalgic sentiment around each one. Even the moments that could be viewed as mistakes or wastes of time have all helped to teach me something and bring me to where I am today. And I think we can all relate this back to our own lives.

Consider this thought for a moment. “If we do not find anything pleasant, at least we shall find something new.” This quote, attributed to Voltaire, challenges us to never see anything as a waste of time, but more as an opportunity to experience something new. Is this a reasonable request? I think so.

Here are four reasons why we should reframe what we’ve been dwelling on as past mistakes and wastes of time and view them simply as a new experience.  

Because something motivated you to make this decision

When you feel like something has become a negative experience or a waste of time, stop and recall what led you down this path to begin with. In many instances, passion, inspiration, hope for a better future or enjoyment guide our choices. While you may never know where the journey will lead you, it’s the best intentions with which you began that really matter.

Because you choose your experience

We are the keepers of our own happiness and only we determine how we feel about any particular situation. There are some people who have really been dealt a tough hand, yet they live a life of contentment and gratitude. Then there are people who appear to have everything going for them, yet they couldn’t be more miserable. What sets each of these types of people apart is simply how they choose to experience life. We must choose happiness in order to be happy. And if we choose to never see a situation as a mistake or waste of time, then we will live with a lot less regret.

Because there’s always a bright side

Any experience – even a negative one – contains at least a pebble of happiness, if only we’re willing to look for it. To apply this to a challenging example, let’s say the experience was that your new business failed and you had to close your doors. As Voltaire would reason, this is not something pleasant, so we must then look for the “something new” to turn this into a positive experience. The bright side would be that now you have the opportunity to restructure your business model and try again, venture into a new line of work or simply spend more time with your family. The bright side will not always cast away all of the dark shadows, but it will at least restore some of your hope and happiness.

Because dwelling is not mandatory

By nature, I dwell. I dwell on the big things, the small things and everything in between. Sometimes I’ll continue to walk around with this weight on my shoulders, unable to remember what was bothering me in the first place. This makes it very easy for setbacks or negative life experiences to take a toll on my emotions. But I’ve gotten better. I now remind myself that worrying accomplishes absolutely nothing, so instead I get active. If it’s a problem I can’t solve personally, I go for a run to clear my head or start working on another project simply to feel in control. We determine how much we allow ourselves to dwell and the sooner we take our mind off of a negative experience, the closer we are to our next positive one.

Share your thoughts! Have you found any life experience to truly be a waste of time? How much does your mindset impact how you experience life?

 

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How to Cultivate Social Media Relationships (Outside of Social Media)

cultivate2Social media has forever changed the way we connect and communicate with people all across the globe. I’m always amazed to see the many various states – and countries – in which my followers reside. There’s no question that social media has fostered relationships that simply wouldn’t exist without this technology. Although social media helps to make communication easy and automated, there’s one very important aspect of relationship building that we must never put on autopilot or take for granted.

To cultivate meaningful (as well as beneficial) social media relationships, we must continue to build this connection outside of social media alone. Here are four important practices to help you foster your relationships and make yourself more than just an avatar.

Make it one-on-one

Following or friending a contact is only the first step, yet so many of us stop there and think we’ve built a meaningful relationship with someone. Sure, it’s exciting when your favorite celebrity follows you back on Twitter, but this hardly means you’re anything more than a number. To take it one step further, you have to seek out one-on-one interactions.

Once you get a good interaction going with someone on social media, such as a retweet, a like or a comment, follow-up with a private message (or even better an email) to continue the conversation on a more personal level. This could be a potential client, someone you admire or someone who has a question for you. While it’s not exactly face-to-face, in the virtual world, this one-on-one interaction makes you feel like you know the person on a much deeper level and is an important step in building a meaningful relationship outside of the massive, public social media platforms.

Reciprocate

It’s what every social media guru preaches, yet so often we still disregard this advice. To build a meaningful social media relationship, you must both give and take. If you have a connection that loyally supports you by retweeting, commenting, liking and sharing – look for opportunities to do the same for them!

The reason so many of us fail to do this is because we can’t rely on platforms like Hootsuite or Socialoomph to monitor this for us. Sure, they can tell us who interacted with our posts, but we need to take it one step further and closely follow our feeds, looking for appropriate times to reciprocate such support for news our contacts share. In doing so, we build mutual trust, respect and friendship that lay the groundwork for a meaningful relationship.

Put a face with a name

Any in-person, social function like a networking mixer, awards dinner or happy hour is a prime opportunity to take your social media relationships offline. There’s always that awkward moment when you know you’re already connected with someone on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook, but when you meet them in person for the first time you still introduce yourself like you’re complete strangers. Stop the madness!

So long as you’ve kept a clean and professional relationship with them on social media (i.e. no stalking or creepy personal messages), there’s no shame in acknowledging you’re already connected with them. Introduce yourself and let them know you’re connected online; they might be thinking the same thing but don’t want to say it. This will put a (real) face with a name and show that you’ve done your homework. It will also make you memorable. Which brings me to my final point…

Be memorable

To make yourself more than just an avatar, you must first make yourself someone worth remembering. Out of all the people who contact me for various reasons, I’ve found the most memorable ones to be those who feel the most genuine. It’s easy to spot a message that was written just for you versus one that’s being sent out to an entire contact list. Private messages on social media are a great tool for cultivating meaningful relationships, but they’re also heavily abused. Be sincere in why you’re contacting this person – this will show through and help you stand out among the spam. It will also increase your chances of getting a response in return.

In a world where virtually everything is accessible online, the need to build personal and meaningful relationships becomes ever more important. It’s possible to accrue thousands of followers without a single one knowing you beyond your twitter handle. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you should strive for quality – not quantity – of connections. For it’s how well you engage your audience that ultimately determines whether they become a future client or customer.

Do you actively cultivate your social media relationships? Share how you do it!

 
 

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4 Reasons Why You Don’t Know What Your Business Needs

confusedOne of the biggest challenges of any business owner is the ability to identify what your business needs. You often find yourself in the trenches and bogged down with the day to day tasks that require almost all of your time. How can you also find the time – and unbiased perspective – to address the needs of your business before they begin to hurt your bottom line? This is a great question and one I wish more business owners would stop and ask themselves.

The first step to meeting the needs of your business is to acknowledge that you might not be the most qualified person to identify them. Here are four reasons why you might be missing what your business needs and how an outside perspective can help bridge this gap.

1. You’re too emotionally involved

As a business owner, it’s common to hold your livelihood as near and dear as your own child. But this strong emotional connection can hurt your ability to make the hard decisions that might be best for your business.  You want to nurture its growth and tend to handle it with kid gloves, when a swift and strong shakeup may be what’s really in order.

An outside perspective can help to eliminate the emotional bias that often exists for the entrepreneur or business owner. This is the most accurate way to prescribe the medicine to fix the problems, even if it doesn’t taste so good. It’s okay to be emotionally connected to your business, just be sure to call upon the advice of some outside eyes to give you a more accurate assessment.

2. It’s not your area of expertise

Being a business owner doesn’t automatically make you a jack of all trades – nor should you strive to become one. There’s a steep learning curve for even some of the most basic responsibilities like taxes, payroll and healthcare. It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect youself to also be a public relations/marketing expert among other things.

To put together an effective and strategic communications strategy, it’s perfectly alright to call upon outside help. Leave the experts to do what they’re most qualified to do – and this includes you! Focus on the aspects of running your business at which you excel and outsource the critical tasks that aren’t the best use of your time.

3. You don’t see the need for change

You might have a strong opinion about the communications strategy that is best for your business, but don’t let this be a reason to hide your head in the sand to other opportunities that might be more effective. I’ve personally seen many business owners who are in denial about their ineffective and outdated public relations strategy. They don’t see a problem and therefore don’t see the need for a new solution.

This is where an outside perspective can really be a valuable asset. It provides a fresh set of eyes and a higher level of expertise to identify what you’re business is missing. If you think your communications strategy is working perfectly fine, but your profits are waning month after month, this is a good indication that something needs to change, whether you see it or not.

4. You can’t take a step back to see the full picture

As a business owner, you’re often in the weeds of the day to day activities of your business. You may not have the chance to ever bring your head up to really see what’s going on from an outside perspective. This makes it very hard for you to see the full picture of how your business is functioning as a whole and where certain components may be missing.

Again, the key to seeing this bigger picture is to call upon an outside expert that can separate any bias or emotion to the business. Instead of focusing on all the little components that go into the day to day operations, an outsider will see your business as your target audience sees your business – which is one of the most valuable snapshots for really accessing the health of your business.

How well do you think you know what your business needs? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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The Best Way Out Is Always Through

robert frostWe’ve all endured our own challenges. They come in varying shapes and sizes and sometimes seem to pile on all at the same time. No part of life is immune to struggle; family, health, work and finances can bring us to our breaking point in the blink of an eye.

In the poem “A Servant to Servants” by Robert Frost, he captures a profound thought that I have used as my personal mantra during challenging moments. “The best way out is always through” I’ve taken this to mean that when you’re in the thick of things and feel like you want to turn around and go back. Don’t. Get though life’s challenges by continuing to move forward.

Here are some reasons why, even during the toughest moments, the best way out is always through:

It encourages taking calculated risks

I recognize that there are times when it’s better to cut your losses and walk away. However, that’s a different scenario than what I’m talking about here. Rather, Frost’s advice applies to well-thought out decisions or challenges from which you simply can’t turn away. Ones that you need to move forward with despite the overwhelming feeling to give up.

When choosing to venture down a path, first calculate your risks. Take time to really think through a decision before you dive right in. But once you decide it’s something worth doing, don’t turn back. Force yourself to work through the struggle. Whether it’s switching jobs, moving across the country, improving your health or getting married, be certain about your decision and then see it through the ups and downs.

You won’t lose the progress you’ve made

By turning around, you lose all the time and energy you’ve invested thus far. Seeing the challenge through until the end ensures that your progress is not wasted.

My time spent working on a statewide political campaign was a very trying time in my life. Fresh out of college, I was alone in a new city working long hours for terrible pay. I knew that Election Day was my finish line, but there were still moments when I wanted to give up. Had I turned back, I would have lost experience, friendships and job opportunities that ultimately led me to where I am now. The best way out of that stressful time in my life was to see it through.

You might be nearing the end

Just because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, doesn’t mean you’re not nearing the exit. Reprieve could be right around the corner. Think back to a challenging time in your life. When was it at its worst and when did it end? So often the greatest struggle happens right before things improve.

If you had given up and turned back, your journey home would have been far longer than continuing until the end. Plus the guilt and regret you’d feel would make for terrible travel companions.  We don’t know what our journey is all about which is why we must continue to move forward with the hope that the best is always yet to come.

You’ll never have to wonder what could have been

Regret is one of the hardest emotions to bear. It will consume your thoughts and haunt you the rest of your life. The best way avoid regret is to see your challenges through. If you give up on your dream of starting your own business just because you encountered your first bump, you will always wonder whether it could have been a success if you stuck with it. Any chance for progress is a reason to keep moving forward. Don’t spend the rest of your life dwelling on what could have been – instead, turn it into what has become.

Progress is always accompanied by challenge. If it wasn’t, we’d be a far more accomplished society – but we wouldn’t appreciate it near as much.  Every challenge will result in change, but it’s up to us to make it positive. For the important lessons that life teaches us through struggle, don’t turn back and run away. Heed the advice of Robert Frost and keep moving forward until you’re out.

How do you approach life’s challenges? Do you agree or disagree that the best way out is always through?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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