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The Benefit of Business Turnover in the New Year

new startA new year brings so much change and often I forget that this applies to my business as well. The transition from December into January can be tumultuous. This is a time when many of my clients will take a close look at their budgets and consider whether or not they’d like to continue my services. I’m grateful that most often they do, but this is also a time of year when I get an email or phone call letting me know that my working relationship with a client will be coming to an end.

For some, it’s because they hired someone internally or plan to have another company they already work with cover some of my services. For others, it’s a budget issue. The past year didn’t produce like they hoped it would and they have to cut back.

I never like “losing” a client; however, I’ve come to find peace in the natural ebb and flow of business that comes with the start of a new year. Here’s why.

The new year also bring news business

The start of a new year is also a time when businesses start looking for additional help. Maybe it’s part of their New Year resolution or maybe they postponed efforts over the holidays, but either way January has historically brought in most of my new business. In retrospect, it’s actually a really good thing that some clients stepped away because this allows me the bandwidth to engage new business.

These clients are no longer a good fit

When a client chooses to discontinue services, for any reason, it’s because we’re no longer a good fit for one another. A client who doesn’t value my services or who no longer has a budget for my work isn’t someone I want to be working with. No one likes a loss in income, but it’s important to always work with clients who benefit from your hard work and can pay you what you’re worth.

I need help saying no

Most importantly, I’ve realized that a turnover in business with the start of a new year often provides me with the margin I need, but often forget to give myself. I am very capable of overloading my schedule and setting ridiculously high expectations that set me up for failure. Clients who step away force me to embrace some newfound free time (even if only for a short while).

How does your business change with the start of a new year? Share a personal experience by leaving a comment below!

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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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What Building a Home Has Taught Me About Project Management

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

I feel fortunate and excited to announce that we are just two months out from the completion of our new home. Building a custom home has been a long-time dream that was made possible only through sacrifices and hard work from both my husband and me as well as through many generous and talented people in our lives.

It’s been quite a process that I can only describe as thrilling, overwhelming, humbling and surreal. It required meeting at least once per week with our project managers to make countless decisions and to attempt to balance a budget that was expanding faster than our toddler during a growth spurt.

Although each home our builder creates is custom from start to finish, there is a clear process in place that keeps things moving while allowing for adjustments to be continually made as needed. It’s quite impressive! My husband’s background is in civil engineering, so he had a better understanding of how this whole “construction thing” worked. Still, it was an equal learning experience for both of us.

And I learned a lot.

As a Public Relations consultant, I often play the role of “project manager” for my clients. I scope the project, divide tasks, manage budgets and meet deadlines. While the soft skills of PR are different than the hard skills of the subcontractors working on our home, I found many similarities as to how they effectively approached each project.

Through our personal home building process, I developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a good project manager and how to advocate for your client’s best interests. Of course I want to take this knowledge and use it to benefit my own clients. Here are the most valuable lessons I now plan to further incorporate into my own business:

The decision to start a project is only the first of countless decisions

When we made the decision to build a custom home, we took a deep sigh of relief that this variable was now a known. However, it’s foolish to praise yourself too much for this major life decision. It’s merely the first of countless others you must make to complete the project. The best piece of advice I gained from this experience was to stay committed to (and interested in) the project – even when there are setbacks and standstills.

This applies to my clients, whether we are working on new website content, implementing a social media strategy or creating marketing materials, remember that all of these projects will require many, many decisions. If you are not in a position to give the project the attention it requires, consider whether now is a smart time to begin the project altogether.

A picture of the stone in progress.

A picture of the stone in progress.

Know Your Critical Path

In construction, there is a clearly outlined critical path of smaller tasks that must be completed in a specific order and meet specific deadlines in order to keep the project as a whole on track. The importance of knowing your critical path applies far beyond construction alone.

I now have a renewed appreciation for beginning each project with a shared understanding of its critical path so that the client and any outside vendors are aware of the valuable role they play and how their deadlines affect so many others.

Be prepared for setbacks – and to hustle to make up time

So often the phrase that runs through my mind on projects is “I’m hurrying up only to wait.” What I mean is I often feel like other people involved in the project delay critical pieces and then when they finally deliver, they expect an immediate turnaround from me. You can surely see how this would be frustrating.

Through home building, I have learned that this is far from a unique problem. Whether it’s Mother Nature or another subcontractors holding up the show, inevitably other workers will be expected to expedite their results to make up for lost time. And sometimes this rush is for nothing as other factors hold up the next piece of the project anyways. Frustration – yes this is a shared feeling across all projects regardless of size or industry!

“Now” is always the best time to voice a concern

One day on site, my husband was walking through our home and had an idea to make the opening to our dining room even more “open concept.” This would, however, require cutting down the existing framing that had been put into place not a day or so sooner. We hesitated, considering the small inconvenience this would cause a worker; however, our project manager quickly spoke up. Within the next few minutes, the wood was cut back and repositioned to create the larger opening. That’s all it took at this point in the project.

What I learned was had we waited until there was drywall in place before voicing our concern, the fix would have required far more time and manpower. Worse, we may have chosen to live with the wall as it originally was and always wondered “what if.” From this example, I gained the lesson that right now will always be the best time to voice a concern. Waiting until you send the project to print or hit send on the email is too late. Speak up now – and don’t worry, people will be sure to weigh the pros and cons for you if the request is going to require more than just a few minutes to correct.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

The framework provides structure, but the details provide character

Finally, the process of building a custom home gave me an appreciation for both the framework and the finishing details. While I was happy to finally break ground, I wasn’t overly excited about a big cement hole. Nor was I particularly excited to select an HVAC system or frame out our low voltage wiring. When I finally got enthusiastic with the project was when I was able to select things like the marble for our kitchen or the style of our built-ins.

I realize now, more than ever, that these less than exciting details will be the ones that keep me comfortable in our home throughout the years. I may not always see them, but I will certainly appreciate the value they add. The framework and more technical details to any project may not be artistic, but they are necessary for achieving the end result. The details are where you truly define character and add personality. Regardless of what gets you excited, both must work in unison to deliver a functional and attractive finished product.

What other pieces of advice on project management could you add to this list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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The Easiest Way to Find Your Passion

Live-with-Passion

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we have all been asked at least once in our lives by a teacher, guidance counselor or parent trying to steer us in the right direction of a fulfilling career. Can you recall how you answered? I’m willing to wager that a vast majority of us never became what we thought we wanted to be when we were young, but don’t take this to mean you’ve failed your childhood self.

This question was never going to help you find your dream career or perfect job, because it doesn’t ask the only thing that really matters. What gets you excited?

The easiest way to find your passion is to identify what excites you. What energizes your soul? What puts that spark in your eye? What would you choose to do every day, again and again, for the next 100 years? This is what excites you, this is where your passion lies and this should become (at least part of) your career.

There may be some ideas swimming around in your head right now, but before you storm in your boss’s office with your two-week notice, let’s cover just a few more important details about turning your passion into a career.

Why excitement matters

It doesn’t take too much searching to find someone who has chosen a particular career path because it’s easy, stable or lucrative. While these aren’t necessarily bad characteristics of any job, without it also involving your passion, you will spend the majority of your life deferring your happiness to the weekends or retirement.

Excitement and passion for your job also helps you to excel in your field. When you love what you do, you take pride in your work and strive to be better at it each and every day. A job should do more than provide a pay check, it should provide a stage for you to showcase your best talents to the world. Pursuing a career that excites you will ensure you look back on your life’s work with satisfaction.

Understanding what really excites you        

If you’re asked “What excites you?” you might answer “Sports.” But we have to dig deeper. Simply saying “sports” is too broad of answer that doesn’t give us a clear indication as to what exactly about sports excites you. There are countless options.  Is it the element of competition, the energy of the crowd or the impressive athletic performance that you enjoy the most?

To better pinpoint your passion, we must peel away the layers of your initial answer by asking “Why?” at least five more times. For every answer, turn it into a question and ask yourself again. If you initially answered, “I like sports because of the element of competition.” Then ask, “Why do you like the element of competition?” This may seem redundant, but you’ll be surprised as to how it identifies what really excites you.

Turning excitement into a career

Once you have a narrow focus on your true passion, you will find that there are many career options that will allow you to tap into your passion on a daily basis. You may also be surprised with how different each option is. For me, it was foremost my passion for creative writing. The communications field obviously provided an opportunity to utilize this passion, but so did political campaigns, speech writing, website design and advertising agencies, to name just a few.

It’s important to think beyond the literal interpretation of your passion. Sure, you may be passionate about eating baked goods, but you have more options than becoming a baker. This love for food can also be turned into a passionate career as a food blogger, marketing director within a snack food company, food photographer or graphic/web designer that specializes in web sites for bakeries. Get creative and keep an open mind! A job will still involve work (sorry, there’s no way around that) but when it taps into your passion, even the work will become a labor of love.

If we want to reverse the dangerous trend of seeking careers solely for security and stability, we need to stop asking “What do you want to do?” or “What do you want to be?” And instead start asking, “What gets you excited?”  This is the easiest way to pinpoint your passion and ensure a life’s journey filled with fulfillment and joy.

Where does your passion lie? Share your own search for inspiration in the comments below!

 

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5 Reasons We Don’t Keep the Goals We’ve Set

Do not give upThere’s a saying that a New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other. I think we can all relate to that notion to some degree. Now with several weeks of the New Year under our belt, the trendy appeal of setting a New Year’s resolution has worn off and the first taste of reality has set in.

How’s it going?

Maybe you’re still hanging in there strong or maybe you’re already starting to slip. Maybe you just never bothered to make a resolution to begin with because you know the result is always the same. Regardless of the current state of your New Year’s resolution, we have all set goals and had them fail. What I want to examine a bit further is the “why” behind this common scenario. Here are 5 reasons why we don’t keep the goals we’ve set.

1. Failing to identify clear goals

One of the most common reasons we fail to keep the goals we’ve set is because we really don’t know what our goals are in the first place. Be overly specific. Quantify your goals, if possible. Be clear on what you’re achieving and why it’s important to achieve it. Finally, set real deadlines for milestones within that goal to make each step more manageable. Remember, you can always alter the parameters of your goal at any time (and you should as you make progress). What’s most important is that you are quite clear on what it is you’re trying to achieve. This leaves less room for failure due to confusion.

2. Confusing planning with progress

One of the biggest mistakes of goal setting is thinking that planning to do something is actually accomplishing anything. We’ve all been there. We have the best of intentions to reach a goal and exert a lot of effort into mapping out our road to success. We’re proud with our work, pat ourselves on the back and then forget the most important part – to turn the plans into action! Planning is one step toward progress, but even the best plans will never materialize into anything more than a dream until we put them into motion. Don’t congratulate yourself too much on great plans for success; the hardest part is yet to come.

3. Lacking accountability

Goals are much more effective and “real” when we know someone else is counting on us to reach them. Without accountability, it’s easy to fall off track. Sometimes we’re simply too easy on ourselves and lack someone or something else to make us hang in there. You can build in accountability by working alongside a partner who wants to achieve a similar goal, logging your progress into an app or spreadsheet to make your progress visual or working with a mentor – even if that’s as informal as a friend or family member. Accountability makes us answer to someone more than ourselves and gives us additional motivation to succeed.

4. Leaving failure as an option

To successfully reach your goals, you must fully, mentally commit to them. Many people think they do this, yet still allow themselves a way “out” through failure. Don’t let this be an option. Instead, always have an alternative goal in mind. For example, maybe you wanted to lose 10 pounds in 2 months, but have slipped off track. Rather than saying “Oh well!” and diving into a bucket of ice cream, adjust your goal to lose 7 pounds in 2 months. Goals change just as life changes. If you have to alter the target you were originally aiming for, there’s no shame in that – hey, maybe you’ll even make it a little more challenging overall. Just don’t stop cold, always keep progressing forward.

5. Forgetting the consequences

So often we fall off the wagon not because we forget the benefits of achieving our goal, but because we forget the consequences of failure. Sure it sounds nice to have a goal of growing your business by 50 percent; what entrepreneur wouldn’t want to do this? Seeing the benefits is the easy part. The more critical component that is often overlooked is the repercussions of not reaching your goal. Maybe this business growth is a necessary lifeline for saving jobs or putting food on your table. If you don’t achieve it, you’ll be forced to find a new job or layoff employees that you value and trust. Whatever the consequences, make them real. This will turn on your survival mode and tap into an even stronger will to succeed.

To sum it all up, the process toward reaching a goal is long and winding. Thinking that it’s going to be anything easier is the first common mistake we make. It takes planning, commitment and accountability to be truly successful. Even more importantly, it takes a strong desire from within to get across the finish line. Constant motivation and encouragement from others is not sustainable for long-term success. We must find our own fire and use it as fuel during the most trying moments.

What are some of the reasons you’ve identified for not being able to keep the goals you’ve set?

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Never Lose Sight of Your Childhood Dream

Child DreamEvery time a beautiful home catches my eye or I’m inspired by a furniture store’s interior design, I’m reminded that there was a time in my life when I was quite certain that I would grow up to become a creator similar works of art. Yes, my childhood dream was to become an architect and interior designer. The signs were quite obvious, really. The remnants of my mounding collection of doll houses can still be found packed away in my parent’s attic. Yet instead of playing house with the tiny people inside these homes, I would spend hours rearranging furniture and building additional walls to expand the modest structures into dream mansions.  I filled binders and binders with magazine pictures of bedrooms, kitchens and patios and would stare at blueprints long enough until I could visualize the house I would use them to someday create. And at the age when most children were still building with Legos and Lincoln Logs, I taught myself to use the same computer programs used by professional architects and designers.

Even as an adult, the memory of this childhood passion is still vivid.  It’s no longer as common that I allow myself to become so consumed in a hobby or so certain of a dream – and maybe that’s why I love to reminisce back to the time in my life when I did. Childhood should be a time for complete creative freedom and to allow natural talents to shine through. It is also a time that can tell us a lot of about ourselves and who we were destined to become long before we let responsibilities, worries and failures affect our dreams.

It should be obvious to you now that I never became that architect or interior designer of my dreams. The level of intensity I had for this hobby didn’t outlast high school. Instead, I slowly migrated into a completely different career path in communications and writing. Not many people know about my dreams to become an architect that I once constructed so carefully. For the longest time I thought it to be irrelevant and to some degree an admittance of failure. I walked away from something I was so passionate about and never felt the need to look back. Or did I?

To this day, I may not have a portfolio of beautifully furnished houses to showcase, but I do have quite a different portfolio of equally impressive work. I’ve never built a home, but I’ve built a brand and business. I don’t use my creative talent toward interior design, but I do use my creativity in so many broader ways every day. That passion for building something from the ground up and talent for thinking outside the box were never lost, only reassigned. I’m a Public Relations professional, not an architect, but I’m confident this is what all my childhood daydreaming has prepared me to do.

So many years ago I may have mastered some impressive feats for a 10-year-old architect, but I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue as to what Public Relations was and certainly wouldn’t have understood how to apply my talents toward this career path. Yet, with every choice I made to move away from architecture and design, I took one step in the right direction of finding the career I now have today. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the hours I spent playing with those doll houses. Almost 15 years later, I still have yet to build a single home, but I’ve built exactly what my childhood self would have wished for had she known everything that was possible.

As a child, did you ever have a passionate dream about becoming something far different than what you are today? Look closely at the career path you have chosen and you may see that these childhood talents were never lost, only reassigned.  Share your own story by commenting below!

 

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