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What is Public Relations?

PRThis is a question I’m asked quite often. Whether it’s directly or indirectly, in most initial conversations I find myself explaining – or defending – what it is I do. The challenge is that Public Relations doesn’t fit in a neat little box like when someone says “I’m a dentist” or “I’m a teacher.” Sure there are variances within those fields, but for the most part you can state that as your job title and people get the picture. With Public Relations, not so much. It’s ambiguous, abstract and ever-changing. Most challenging is that even the professionals in the field can’t agree upon a single definition for our work. As a result, I’ve created my own definition that has changed over the years along with type of services I offer my clients. In a recent conversation I was told that I have a very broad definition of PR to which my response was, “Of course, PR can be found everywhere!” And I firmly believe that. This is my personal explanation of Public Relations. While it may be broad and it may not be what you’ll find in any book, it’s coming from years of first-hand experience in the field. I’d say that makes it just as legitimate as any other definition out there!

It’s relationship management.

Foremost public relations is building and maintaining positive relationships with your audience. Technology provides us with the power to directly engage our customers unlike ever before. It’s important that businesses embrace this opportunity and carefully consider the image they’re promoting through these interactions. Some of the services I provide such as blog writing, social media management and web site content creation can be the first interaction people have with you. It’s important that your brand is intentional and polished. While many businesses successful manage their own relationships, it’s often with a good PR consultant at their side.

It’s about telling your story.

I’ve worked with quite a variety of clients and for each one I’ve been able to identify the underlying story that makes them stand out. This story is often hidden, underutilized or misrepresented – all affecting the impact it has on the target audience. You can promote your “value, service and integrity” and sound like every other business out there or you can use some Public Relations to help you craft a unique and memorable story that demonstrates these same qualities. I help tell this story and carry it across every communication channel, from web site content to marketing materials to company culture. Storytelling has become one of my specialties. I love the challenge of extracting a story upon being introduced to a new business and I love how drastic the results can be when a business proudly showcases their story to the world.

It’s common sense.

When I really want to state what I do in as few words as possible, I say Public Relations is common sense. OK, common sense to me at least. Really though I would say most people know that the basis of Public Relations – building relationships, telling your story, providing exceptional customer service – should be a core part of their business. Yet so many forget to implement it. I help clients regain this common sense by keeping them organized, staying on top of projects and deadlines so they don’t have to and overseeing the interactions between the business and its customers. Saying that Public Relations is “common sense” makes it sound easy, but it still takes someone with a specialty for PR to develop an effective strategy.

So yes, my understanding of Public Relations is basic and broad. It’s not overly technical and puffed up with jargon. Instead it’s relatable to every business. I see Public Relations opportunities everywhere and this inspires me to continue to grow my passion. What is your personal understanding of Public Relations? How has it been explained to you by others? Share your definitions so we can compare and discuss!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Business & Success

 

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The Working Mom/Stay At Home Mom Hybrid

work-at-home-mom-cartoonThe day I started my own business, it became my first baby. I devoted my time and energy to watching it grow and take on a sustaining life of its own. But in May 2013, it was no longer my sole priority. As we welcomed our first son into the world, I knew that my life as an entrepreneur would gain one more layer of complexity. People were both curious and concerned as to how soon I planned to return to work. The honest answer is that as soon as I stepped foot out of the hospital and through our front door, I was back at work. Of course I slowed the pace considerably for a few weeks, but by June I was running at full speed.

We live in a world where people want things to fit nicely into little boxes, but my career has never packaged up so neatly. Becoming a mother didn’t make me any less of an entrepreneur. I’m sure some wondered if I would continue working or if I would just transition into a Stay At Home Mom. I had moments where I wondered the same thing. Now over 5 months in, I’m proud to raise some eyebrows when I explain that I am both a Stay At Home Mom and a Working Mom – I am part of a growing generation of Hybrid Moms. As a Hybrid Mom you truly work two full time jobs. It’s not a part time gig or a hobby on the side. It’s a full time workload and an equal source of income for your family. I’m fortunate to have the flexibility in my schedule to take on both responsibilities and to have clients who understand my commitment to also serving as the sole caretaker for my son during the work day.

Defining your career as a mother has become a hot button issue and one that I’ve seen argued from many different viewpoints. Now that I wear both hats, I’ve become emotionally invested in this topic and am discouraged to see such strong accusations and hurtful generalizations being strewn about. Many women are choosing to become Stay At Home Moms and in an effort to mainstream this career choice, have put down other women’s choice to work. I am most bothered that these choices are made to feel mutually exclusive, like you aren’t a full time mom if you choose to work. As a Hybrid Mom, I don’t get to turn off my motherly responsibilities just because I have a looming project deadline. If Holden needs me, I’m always on-call.

My mother worked a full time job while raising three kids. She didn’t have a cleaning lady, cook or personal assistant to run her family’s errands. She was all of these things, plus she worked outside the home for an additional 40 hours per week. As a child, I never felt I lacked time with my mother either. She had a home cooked meal for us each evening, helped us with our homework, was involved in our activities on the weekends and she even stayed home with us many days that we were sick from school. One argument supporting the Stay At Home Mom claims that their job is to be the CEO of the house. I don’t disagree. I only wish to make the point that my mom was every bit the CEO (and a fierce one at that) while working full time. You can do both and be both – they’re not mutually exclusive. The growing number of Hybrid Moms brings hope that we are beginning to realize this and that we have enough support to give us the confidence to make this choice if it’s right for us.

By definition, yes, I am a Stay At Home Mom. I take care of my 5-month old son full time (this also includes being his sole source of food). But I am a Working Mom too. I provide a range of Public Relations consulting services for anywhere from 8-12 different clients on a daily basis. In addition to these two full time jobs, I still have time to attend weekly networking meetings, write for fun on my blog and hit the park at least once a day. You may wonder what I sacrifice to “do it all.” It’s not mental or physical health—I run 20+ miles per week with yoga scattered in between. It’s not sleep – we all get 8+ hours per night (with our cat, Pinot getting quite a few more throughout the day). We have a clean house, fresh groceries and clean clothes. I’ve even chosen to go the route of cloth diapers and making my own baby wipes, which certainly adds a few extra steps to our daily routine. It’s quite often that I get the response, “Well you’re just not normal.” I find this to be the most offensive of all. I feel what I accomplish in any given day is very “normal” and attainable with merely organization and discipline.

My life is not perfect – there are absolutely days when I feel like this balancing act may all come tumbling down. I’m fortunate to have a husband who is supportive and involved. It’s teamwork that makes raising our little family possible. Because I’m a Hybrid Mom, I can attest that each career has its own unique challenges and rewards. I’m fortunate to do both, but I won’t say that it’s luck. It comes with hard work and determination to make it work. The best we can do for each other is to support our decision to do what is right for us and our family. For some, one career is quite enough. For others, we may enjoy balancing a bit more. Whether our title is Stay At Home Mom, Working Mom or Hybrid Mom, the most important word comes at the very end – and no matter what, that means we have the hardest but best job in the world!

park

Monday afternoon at the park with Holden

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Why You Should Become A Lifelong Learner

Head in sand ostrich

It’s tempting to bury our heads in the sand, but to remain competitive in the marketplace, we must take our education into our own hands.

The first 22 or so years of our lives are consumed by education. Our full time job is to learn as much as we can about the world around us and narrow our focus on a specific area that we hopefully will turn into a career. But once we’re launched into the real world, this commitment to continuing our education seems to wane. As we spend more and more time applying the knowledge we have, we have less and less time for seeking out additional education. Slowly but surely, our wealth of knowledge begins to depreciate as it becomes outdated and incomplete.

With the types of resources we have available right at our fingertips, this should never be the case. We always have the opportunity to better ourselves through lifelong learning even if we feel we have no time or money to do so. It’s possible – and paramount – to developing both our career and our character. Here are a few critical questions we must first ask ourselves if we want to assume the mindset of a lifelong learner.

When did we decide to stop learning?

Doesn’t it seem unbalanced that we rely upon the education we gain during the first quarter of our lives to last us for the other three-quarters? This is a common idea that society has made acceptable. Maybe it’s because we’re so overloaded with school, classes, exams and essays that when we earn a degree we want to wash our hands of this part of our life completely – never wanting to return to the anxiety and challenge that often accompanies it. The shame is that this is such a small part of what learning truly is. Learning need not be defined by a classroom, diploma or grades. The decision to start learning again doesn’t mean having to enroll in a graduate program. The options for how we can do so are virtually limitless, but first we must change our definition of learning.

How do we change our definition of learning?

It doesn’t require a classroom setting to enhance your education. In fact, most of what we’ve learned throughout our lives was from observing other people or through trial and error. So throw away the notion that night classes are the only way to re-educate yourself. Technology has also drastically changed the learning opportunities available to us for free and from home. College-level courses are available at all hours of the day and in increments that can fit into any schedule. This type of learning may not earn you a formal degree, but unless your career field has a proven return on investment for additional degrees, don’t take on that unnecessary debt. Rather, informal and free courses are just as effective at achieving the ultimate goal…a lifelong education.

Will lifelong learning really make a difference?

Yes. Making the commitment to learn throughout all quarters of your life – not just your first – will have a great impact on both your career and your character. It will keep you competitive in today’s job market. With the ever-changing face of technology, we don’t have the luxury of relying on what we learned decades ago to get us through the job we have now. Even more mind boggling is that for many of us, the job we will have 5 years from now likely doesn’t even exist yet! If you want to increase your value as an employee (and secure your job for the future), lifelong learning is a must. Also, the more you know the more interesting you tend to be. Did you ever know someone who could start a conversation with just about anyone? It’s likely that this person was well-educated and continued his education throughout his life. You want to be that person, too. Finally, lifelong learning will make you independent. The more you know how to do on your own, the less you will feel inferior or helpless. You will be able to trouble-shoot your own problems and work more efficiently as a result. There’s many more compelling reasons why each of us should become a lifelong learner, but I think I’ve made my point.

To end, I will leave you with this interesting quote from Robert Heinlein:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Resources for lifelong learning:

Coursera. Coursera works with top universities from around the world to offer classes online for free.

OpenStudy. OpenStudy is a social learning network that allows you to connect with individuals who have the same learning goals as you.

edX. Harvard University and MIT partnered together to create interactive, free online courses. The same world-renowned professors that teach at Harvard and MIT have created the courses on edX.

Udacity. More college level classes taught online for free.

CreativeLive. CreativeLive lets you stream live courses being taught for free (if you want to view the course later there is a fee). The courses focus on more creative and business subjects.

TED. TED compiles speeches and lectures from professors as well as interesting people from many different walks of life. This is a staple for lifelong learners! (And they tend to be far more interesting and entertaining that the college lectures you remember)

iTunes U. iTunes U has thousands of free downloadable podcast lectures taught by the best professors from around the world. Learn while you exercise or on a long road trip.

YouTube EDU. Addicted to YouTube? Put it to good use by enriching your mind with thousands of videos that cover a variety of topics.

 
 

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Finding Happiness Throughout Every Stage of Life

happyAs a young business owner, I sometimes catch myself wishing away the present moment for a milestone in the future in which I think things will be happier, easier, more successful or less stressful. I’m just beginning my career, so there is a lot of time ahead of me before I can even think about slowing down or planning for retirement. The span of time between now and then will define most of what I’ll remember as being my life. When put into this perspective, I immediately regret any time that I wished away the work week to get to the weekend. If I continued to live my life only enjoying 2 out of every 7 days, I will enjoy only a fraction of the time I’ve been given! I don’t feel alone in this mindset; in fact I know I’m not. To be truly content, we need to learn to find happiness throughout every stage of life. There’s no reason that the joy we feel on Christmas or the first day of vacation can’t be felt each and every day.

The Problem: Deferring Happiness

Whether we know we’re doing it or not, we often defer our happiness for a point in the future when everything will be perfect. Do either of these phrases sound familiar? “I just want it to be the weekend so I can relax!” or “Once I get that promotion, I’ll finally treat myself to an overdue vacation.” We should find relaxation and enjoyment every day, not just on special days. This is deferring happiness.

The problem with deferring happiness is that we don’t allow ourselves to be truly content until we reach a fictitious and self-imposed target – a target that is always moving. There are enough variables in life that this “perfect situation” we’re waiting for will likely never happen. If we continue to deny ourselves the ability to be happy right now, then we will live the majority of our lives rushing through the present for a future that is always out of reach.

The Solution: Practicing “Nowness”

Pause for a moment and reflect on the thoughts that normally fill your mind. If you’re like most, these thoughts are either projections into the future or memories from the past. It’s rare that we really stop and focus on the exact moment in which we’re living and take in the experience of the “now.” It’s hard. The present is not always exciting. In fact, much of it is a well-memorized routine and so it’s easy to go into autopilot. But to be truly happy throughout every stage of life, we must practice “nowness” and learn to find contentment each and every day.

So how do we break the bad habit of deferring happiness and get into the new habit of practicing nowness? Here are just a few ways in which you can take the first step:

Stop using the phrase, “Once I retire I will…” There’s no reason you must reserve these enjoyments for retirement. With moderation and a little planning, things like traveling to a foreign country, pursuing a hobby or just taking a nap from time to time can all be woven into our lives right now. Plus, once you reach retirement age, things like skydiving, climbing Mt. Everest and salsa dancing might not be as feasible to you as they are right now.

Put a sign on your desk, mirror or refrigerator to remind you that right now is the best moment of your life—or at least it can be if you have the right mindset. This small reminder will make a big impact on your mood and remind you of everything you have to be happy about right now.

If you find yourself fantasizing about a future moment in which you’ll finally be happy, stop and make yourself think of at least one thing you’re happy about right now. Even on the dullest of days you can still be happy about good health, a delicious lunch, a visit from a friend or feeling accomplished at work. An upcoming vacation, holiday or career change are all reasons to look to the future for happiness, but don’t discount the happiness that surrounds you right now. Learn to celebrate even the smallest things that bring you joy on a daily basis.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Life

 

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Meeting Fate Halfway

blindfolded womanEvery so often life presents us with moments where things really feel like they’re coming together. We can choose to believe this is by chance or that this is by fate.  Switching careers, buying a new home and falling in love are all life changing experiences where so often we hear people say “It was fate.” I do believe in fate. I believe that doors close so others may open and I believe that our passions can lead us toward where we are meant to be. But I also believe that we must meet fate halfway.

In a recent conversation with a friend about my own endeavors as an entrepreneur, he said that I am fortunate to have had fate lead me down this path. My response was that although fate presented me with opportunities, it was still my responsibility to be prepared to seize them. This is important for every business owner to remember. Even if you believe in fate, this is not an excuse to walk around blind folded just waiting for it to lead you where you’re supposed to go. You must be an active participant in the process. Just a little more than two years ago, when I turned my part time passion into my full time career, fate presented me with the opportunity, but I still had to contribute the vision and the hard work to make it a sustainable success.

During this entrepreneurial journey, I’m learning that you can’t leave everything to chance. When I meet a potential client, I still have to prove my skills and professionalism to increase my chances of working with them. Fate may have placed me in the right place at the right time to be considered for this opportunity, but I most certainly won’t get the job if I sit back and do nothing.

I’ve also learned not to be foolishly optimistic. Fate is a presence in my life, but it’s not a safety net. Relying too heavily on fate to always give you your happy ending will result in many unhappy outcomes. Fate won’t pay my taxes, guarantee new clients or further develop my skills. It isn’t fate’s responsibility to do so. It’s mine. Fate has and continues to present me with the opportunities to accomplish these things successfully, but I must always meet fate halfway.

I think we must redefine our perception of fate. It’s fun and romantic to throw our cautions to the wind and say “whatever will be, will be,” but this is taking advantage of – and missing out on – the opportunities with which we’ve been presented. Instead, even with fate on our side, we must continue to keep our nose to grindstone and prepare ourselves to seize life’s fateful opportunities.

 
 

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What We Can All Learn From Open API

This means...stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

…Stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s a phrase that’s been used since, well…probably when the wheel was first invented. It’s the notion that when a good, working idea exists, we shouldn’t waste our time trying to alter it or duplicate it. Instead, we should embrace it, use it and build upon it. Yet I still see examples of people trying to do the opposite. One of the biggest advantages of the technology we have now is the ability to collaborate with each other. I like to refer to this as living in the Age of Open API.

Open API (which stands for application programming interface) refers to different technologies that enable websites to interact with each other. The concept behind this is that businesses with different specialties should be enabled and encouraged to collaborate. The Age of Open API is the concept that we should stop trying to reinvent the wheel. We should instead focus our time and energy where we’re most talented and becoming the absolute best we can be in this field. In doing so, we create a network of experts rather than a world full of Jacks of all trades.

The Age of Open API is already among us, but not everyone has opened their minds to the power of applying this idea on a more personal level. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, business owner or employee, we can all benefit from having Open API and the following three concepts should give you the framework to start to do so immediately.

Outsourcing work

While we all have many talents, we’re exceptionally good at only one or two. These talents are the ones we should place most of our focus on and try to monetize. Because we have likely developed a level of expertise within our top few talents, we can complete this work more quickly and efficiently than the average person. For all other work outside our small area of expertise, we should try and outsource. Open API promotes work sharing. Do what you’re capable of doing best and offer this as a service to others as well. In exchange, others can provide you with their talents to compliment your own.

Using each others’ work

Just as we continue to use the concept of the wheel, we should also feel free to utilize other existing ideas. So long as it’s not breaking any copyright laws, reusing and duplicating ideas is a great tool for efficiency. You can learn from past mistakes and eliminate the time it would take you to develop the exact same idea on your own.

Collaborating

The final concept of Open API is collaboration. This is different from outsourcing or using existing ideas in that it requires us working together throughout the process and not just combining work at the very end.  Two (or more) heads are better than one, right? If you share a similar talent with another person or business, team up! You will instantly and exponentially increase your network – as well as potential work. You will also challenge each other to rise to a higher level of innovation.

To close, the Age of Open API has provided us with an environment that nurtures information sharing and collaboration. We’re able to maximize our efficiency and focus our time on doing what we do best. If everyone were to embrace their own Open API and join in the sharing of information, together we would build stronger, more innovative businesses than we could ever dream to do alone.

Have you personally embraced your Open API yet? Share your ideas for outsourcing and collaboration by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Business & Success

 

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The Best Work Comes From Complete Creative Freedom

tied handsEntrepreneurs, freelancers and contractors need to maintain some sense of creative freedom to do their job well. In fact, I feel confident enough to expand this statement to apply to every career field out there. Creativity is the lifeblood for employees at all levels. It’s what allows us to enjoy our job, maintain a feeling of control and build a vested interest in our work – but it’s not always granted freely. Whether it’s a controlling boss, a particular client or a company culture that demands you color inside the lines, sometimes our hands are unfortunately tied and creative freedom is stifled.

As a client or customer, coming to a business with your own non-negotiable plan in mind is the same as taking the pen out of an artist’s hand. Take for example an architect versus a drafter. An architect is more often hired for his artistic eye and ability to bring new and innovative ideas to the table. This is who you want to work with when you want someone else to direct the vision for a project. A drafter on the other hand is most often hired to outline the logistics of a pre-existing plan. This is who you want to work with when you already have a firm idea in mind and simply want someone else to bring it to fruition. Reasonably, less creative work is needed or expected from the drafter. You pay more for the architect, and understandably so.

The important point I want to communicate is that if you’re paying the extra money for the “architect,” don’t treat them like a drafter. Allow them the creative freedom they need to provide you with their full scope of expertise. And to fully do so you’ll want to closely consider following these next three steps:

 First, agree on your most important objective.

A client and a contractor foremost need to communicate the objectives of a project clearly. If they don’t first start on the same page, they have no chance of ending on the same page and a lot of time and talent will be wasted as a result. I advocate for using something like a “creative template” that can be a simple one-page sheet designed to capture a client’s most important thoughts on a project. Whether it’s creating a company training video, billboard ad or blueprint for a house, both the client and contractor should be able to clearly tell you what it is they’re trying to achieve. They must have a firm grasp on the objective.

Second, provide no more than three “must-haves.”

We will all be clients at one point or another, so it’s important that we learn how to be good ones! Such skills will also help us to get exactly what we want, while allowing the contractors and freelancers we hire to do their job with complete creative freedom. I’ve found that having no more than three “must-haves” as part of your expectations allows you to still feel in control without overhauling the project. Along with an identified objective, your short list of “must-haves” allows you to specify colors, content or style that’s important to you. Contractors have expertise and vision, but they don’t have the ability to read minds. Knowing what’s most important to you provides just enough direction. Think of your “must-haves” as the non-negotiables you want out of a significant other. So long as these criteria are met, everything else should be at least open for discussion.

Third, relinquish control!

Now that you’ve established an overarching objective and a short list of “must-haves” for a project, the only other limitations should be the sky. From a freelancer/contractor’s perspective, having to meet just 4 specifications is a huge difference from having a laundry list of needs and wants spelled out for you. As the final step, the most important thing a client can do is to relinquish control. And the most important thing a contractor can do is to satisfy the objective and must-haves and then strategically choose all other projects details with that particular client in mind. Knock their socks off by giving them everything they never knew they wanted!

 One final thought…

At the end of the day, all business owners must sign their names to whatever finished product they produce. If you take away creative freedom, this no longer remains an accurate representation of a business’s quality of work. If you’re a business owner, you’ll likely agree that protecting your reputation and the type of work you put out there is just as important as giving a client the finished product they want. It’s a touchy balance to maintain – but a critical one nonetheless.

How do you seek creative freedom in your job or career field? Or maybe you can recall a specific time in which your creativity was stifled and a project suffered as a result. Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below!

 

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The Best Business Sense: Go with your gut and defend it!

doubt_diceBeing a business owner certainly has its fair share of ups and downs. I’ve been able to anticipate and prepare for most of these like the instability of income, unpredictable work hours and the emotional investment in the business. What I didn’t necessarily anticipate was the amount of unsolicited advice I would receive. I rationalize that this stems from the fact that I’m finally in a position of control and therefore people want to help me make the best decisions possible. While this sounds like a great thing, it becomes a problem for so many business owners when the swirling confusion of mixed advice makes it hard for us to clearly see the best path for our business – which can only be decided by each of us alone.

With almost two years under my belt of dodging and deciphering other people’s opinions about my business strategy, I’ve developed a short list of what I call “Simple Business Truths.” Maybe this is my own version of unsolicited business advice that I risk imposing on others, or maybe it’s the master list us business owners should keep near and dear to our hearts in moments of confusion. Regardless, I find the following to be harmless and helpful advice because it advocates that you ultimately go with your gut and forget what anyone else says. And if you ask me…that’s the best business advice you can (or maybe don’t) ask for!

Simple Business Truths:

1. So long as you can rationally defend your decisions, stick with your gut.

Since becoming a business owner I feel like I’ve become much more in tune to my intuition and have really started to rely upon it. I can’t say I’ve never second-guessed myself, especially in the beginning; however, I’ve now had enough examples to know that I should always go with my gut. My rule of thumb for gauging my intuition is to make sure I can also rationally defend why I feel the way I do. Ever since I was a child, I never liked hearing “because I said so” as a sole reason for why something had to be a certain way – and I don’t allow myself to use this as my backbone for decision making now. So long as you can rationally defend your reasons, stick with them!

2. People who try and tell you what to do are likely just as confused themselves.

Entrepreneurs tend to gather in chats and discussion groups like it’s an AA meeting. This provides a platform for sharing their “must-do’s” and all-knowing advice with fellow entrepreneurs. Whether they mean well or mean to intimidate, entrepreneurs taking other entrepreneurs’ advice can be toxic. Or as I often describe it – it’s the blind leading the blind. Let’s be honest, none of us can ever say with certainty that we know what we’re doing! It’s the road of the unknown for a reason. I caution fellow entrepreneurs on how much advice they take from others. This is a very individual journey and no two business models are the same. The variances between your business and someone else’s can make sharing advice as risky as sharing prescription meds.

3. Don’t fall for the next big trend – this too shall pass.

The entrepreneurial journey is already filled with enough hills and valleys; I don’t see the point in adding even more variables by early adopting the latest and most radical business trends before I can observe them in action for a little while. The entrepreneurs who do, often sacrifice the overall strategy and growth plan specific to their business all for the chance to say “I was first.”  If this is what drives your business decisions, you’ll soon enough be able to say you were first to fail or fold as well. The benefits of most trends are fleeting at best. And if they are worth implementing, they’ll stick around long enough for you to do so. Don’t willingly be the guinea pig!

4. Even a friend’s “best advice” could be unintentional sabotage.

Once you’re an entrepreneur, friends and family want to shower you with well wishes and their best business advice. But just like Grandma’s loving attempt at knitting you a Christmas sweater, even the thoughtful ones can be deceptively dangerous. You can always nod and agree, but before you run and implement such advice take a moment to qualify the person and where their expertise lies.

5. Remember – you built the business, you get first and final say!

When I first transitioned into the life of an entrepreneur, it was quite the mental shift. For a long time I still felt like an employee to someone else and would seek out advice from anyone who would provide it. I absorbed it like a sponge! I’ve since learned better and now remind myself that one of the biggest benefits I have as a business owner is first and final say in what decisions are made. Don’t hand this over to anyone else!

If you could add your own 6th “truth” to this list, what would it be? Comment and share some of the best or worst business advice you’ve ever received!

 

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Finding the Balance In Life’s Negatives and Positives

yin yang symbolI once read a philosophy which stated: we have no right to ask when hardship comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every moment of success that comes our way. Take a moment and really process this. How much more critically do we analyze the negatives, shortcomings and misfortunes of life compared to the positives we’re also given? I know I personally take any set-back hard. I question what I did wrong to bring this on myself and carry a weight on my shoulders for hours or days. Yet, for all the things that go right in any given day, I don’t dedicate this same time to appreciating these moments. When negatives carry such a greater weight in your life, that hanging balance becomes skewed and so does your perspective.

I believe there’s something we can really learn from this philosophy – and it’s to keep a balanced perspective of both the ups and downs of we’re given.

In Business

In running my own business, this is where I feel like I experience the highest peaks and deepest valleys of positives and negatives. It’s not the day to day variances of ups and downs, but the big changes to which I really take notice and take to heart. For example, signing a new client – one that I’m very excited to work with and think I can help a great deal – is an extremely high peak for me. I feel emotions of excitement, stability and like I’m continuing to make progress toward the direction I want Bennis Inc to go. On the other hand, when I experience a setback – a lost client, error in my work or something else – the emotions I experience from this are just as extreme, but far more lasting. I would estimate that experiencing something negative with my business weighs on me ten times as much as an equal balance of positive news. Why is this? I suppose, I overly lay the blame of a negative on myself while not giving the same credit for a positive in which I’ve worked hard to earn. I often chalk all good things up to luck or timing, when in reality, there’s much more to it than that. This is when we must remember that we have no right to ask when hardship comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every moment of success that comes our way.

In Life

In contrast to the peaks and valleys of running a business, in life I seem to over analyze the little things. If I forgot to press start on the dishwasher before leaving the house, I get agitated with my oversight and that the dishes won’t be clean right upon my return. When I’m driving and take the wrong exit or can’t find an ideal parking place, I get annoyed with the lost time and additional effort this is costing me. Yet, I can hardly recall all of the times that these things occur like clockwork, without my thinking – or appreciating. It seems I only remember what disrupts me or bothers me. This is no way to live, right? To apply this philosophy to life, we must embrace our inner child a little bit more and allow ourselves to become genuinely excited for the small blessings every single day. Did the grocery store have your favorite snack still in stock? Did you find an open pump on your first try when filling up with gas? Did you simply remember to lock the door when you left the house (and didn’t second guess yourself and have to go back to check)? These all carry positive weight in our lives and we should be sure to place them appropriately upon our scales. The negatives will always weigh on us without our trying, but we must make more of a conscious effort to also value the weight of our positives.

How do you identify with this philosophy and balance of the negatives and positives in your life? Do you over analyze the bad and overlook the good or do you give thanks for both? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Blogging For Broke: The Value of Blogging Outside of Income

empty-pocketsI first began the Bennis Inc blog in July of 2011 and since then I’m proud (and amazed) to say it has earned over 37,000 hits, 1,000 comments, 614 loyal subscribers and many, many more readers and supporters. Thank you! Even if this is your first time stopping by, you’re contributing to something that has grown into my passion among other things. I often get questions from fellow bloggers, entrepreneurs and friends who want to know the best way to monetize a blog. I usually stare at them blankly and respond with, “I never thought of that.” Well, that’s not completely true – I have wished that I could find the magic bullet to turn my blog into a big money maker where all I have to do is write and rake in the dough. However, I know enough to realize that this is not even close to the common scenario for so many blogs out there, and it’s not really my goal for blogging to begin with. Instead, I choose to feed the hungry Bennis Inc blog with weekly ramblings about the unpaved road of entrepreneurship for reasons that are not directly fueled by money. That’s right, I’m blogging for broke and I’m perfectly OK with that. The benefits I do receive from blogging are ones that I couldn’t buy if I tried. And so I find it important to share with you – and all fellow bloggers or aspiring bloggers out there– that blogging brings great value completely separate from the monetary kind.

Complete Control

As a business owner you may be the boss inside your own world, but as soon as you offer a service to a client or customer they become your “boss” to an extent. They have the ultimate say over deadlines, scope of the project and final edits. Frankly, there are some days when I just need that feeling of being in control again! My blog is the place I know I can always turn to satisfy this need. I am the boss here. I have the first and final say in what I write about. I tag, categorize and schedule posts exactly as I see fit and there’s no one there to second guess accuracy or style. I imagine this to be similar to the enjoyment an artist gets out of painting for himself every so often rather than for a specific client. The final masterpiece is all your own and whether you display it to the world or keep it all to yourself – that’s your decision to make.

A Means For Progress – When All Else Stands Still

I can’t be alone when I say that I enjoy progress. I hate hold-ups and stand-stills. In fact, this was one of the main motivating factors as to why I left my former job and ventured out on my own to begin with. While my projects progress at a much quicker rate than they did before I owned Bennis, Inc, I am still at the mercy of my clients if I’m waiting on feedback or critical information to move forward. There are some days when I have a million balls in the air, yet my hands are oddly idle because of clogs in progress. I refer to this state as the calm before the storm or being stuck in the eye of the hurricane. At any moment I could have an inbox full of emails come in fill my day up instantly. So what do I do when I’m waiting on a stand-still? I turn to my blog. It allows me to feel accomplished and to get the immediate gratification of taking something from conception to completion. It’s literally how I keep my hands busy whenever I need something to do.

A Living Portfolio

My blog is my journal and my canvas. It’s where I direct my extra creativity when it’s not fully exhausted on client projects. Every so often I enjoy looking back to some of my first posts, not just to see how far my writing has progressed, but to catch a glimpse into exactly what I was thinking months and years ago. I can remember the most pressing issues in my life at that time and briefly relive them through my writing. It’s a living portfolio not just of my work, but of my life. Better yet is when a client asks to see my writing samples, I can easily direct them to my blog where they have a full array of topics and styles to choose from to really immerse themselves in the level of writing I can produce.

People Really Get To Know You

The final and possibly greatest benefit to my blogging is how many people it reaches without my ever knowing. My day is instantly made when someone mentions a recent post in conversation and I had no idea they ever read my blog before. I have friends and family members also tell me about acquaintances who read my blog on the regular. Many of these are people I have yet to meet! From such experiences I’ve found that my blog allows people to get to know me for more than just my business, but as a person. It’s that “human element” I so often advocate for businesses to tap into. When someone feels like they have insight and understanding as to what makes you tick, they are more likely to trust you – and eventually hire you when your services align with their needs. Social media allows people from all over the world to feel like they really know each other even if they’ve never met or spoken in person. Blogging is a powerful means for creating such peripheral relationships.

If you’re stopping by as a reader, but have been curious about starting your own blog, I hope this gives you some inspiration to take that next step forward (here’s some information you might find helpful). Who knows what passion it could unlock within you? If you’re a fellow blogger, I hope you’ll take just a moment to comment with the benefits you receive from blogging and consider sharing this with your community as well.

 

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