Elisabeth Garbeil's blog

Book Review: The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne

I re-read The Secret from a business standpoint recently and would like to share my thoughts with you.

My main point of disagreement with the book is  with the premise that you attract every single thing that happens to you.  No one attracts cancer, murder, rape, etc.  Children do not attract abuse.  My basic philosophy is that we cannot always control what happens to us but we can control how we respond.  That is the root of the word responsibility.

Having said that, there are a lot of good ideas to help you reach your busines goals.  It's worth looking at.   I have included several below.

1.  Be happy now.  -  Negative emotions and feelings weigh you down and turn off other people.  It's like trying to swim uphill.  Feeling good makes everything easier, especially getting new clients.

2.  Act as if you already have your goals.   -  Obstacles that seemed insurmountable become easy if you look at them from the vantage point of already having passed them.

3.  Focus on what you want, not what you don't want.   Most of us spend our time thinking about what we don't want, and that's what we end up with - not enough money, not enough time, not enough clients, etc.   If you're focused what you don't want, you will miss opportunities to get what you do want.  So look for what you want instead.  Vision boards, screen savers and putting pictures of what  you want all over your house are all great ways to do this.  So is writing down your goals and really looking at them every day.

 What did you get out of The Secret?  Post a comment and let me know.

Straker Bar Association eNewsletter

The Straker Bar Association published an eNewsletter this winter in honor of its 20th anniversary.  It has some excellent articles (including one by yours truly) on both the business and practice of law.  Open the full blog post to access the eNewsletter. 

Are We Sliding into a Dictatorship? What happened to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution?

I find myself doing something I never expected to do:  post a blog on politics on my business site.  I am neither a republican or democrat.  I do vote in every election after carefully examining the issues and the candidates.   I find myself more and more disturbed with every news report I read or watch.   Things are happening in this country that I never dreamed would happen and not in a good way.   There is a difference between not liking unions and the basic right to organize and protect the rights of the worker.   If you study the history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (or take a look in many third world countries today), you'll understand why this is so critical.   Supposedly, we have laws to prevent such things from happening again, but that's worthless if they are repealed or not enforced.  And I do not agree that a corporation is inherently better at providing basic services such as water, fire, public safety, etc.  without any oversight. It might not be a problem if it's contracted out by the town with due process and oversight, but not otherwise.   Look at all the abuses by Blackwater and other contractors in Iraq.  All these things are happening today. 

In Wisconsin, the State Senate voted 18-1 to eliminate the ability of state employees other than police and fire fighters from collective bargaining. (CNN, etc.)  Wisconsin is only one of at least 10 states attempting to curtail and/or eliminate collective bargaining rights, although they seem to be the most obvious about it.

In Missouri, Representative Jane Cunningham is pushing forward a proposal eliminating most of the child labor laws.  (SB222).   Do you remember Oliver Twist? 

And most serious of all, since we do live here, in Michigan, the Michigan Senate approved emergency manager bills giving both the governor and his appointed emergency managers extremely broad powers - including the ability to unilaterally cancel contracts (all contracts, by the way, not just union contracts), remove elected officials, etc. etc.   The bills also give the governor the authority to decide what constitutes a financial emergency.  And given his plans to dramatically cut state funding to schools and municipalities, the governor can easily create the situation that will allow him to move in and take over.   Another provision of the bill allows for takeover and administration of schools and municipalities by private corporations.   This bill is frighteningly similar to tactics used in other countries to create dictatorships under the guise of an "emergency."   I never expected to see such tactics used here.  What's next?  Private companies providing public safety?    That's another word for private army or militia - who are they accountable to?  Look at what's going on in Libya now.  You could also find your town or school district consolidated with another school district or town without being able to have any say in the matter.The bill is intended to remedy issues within such school districts as Inkster and Detroit, but it goes way too far.  There are numerous sources for this, including existing laws that can be found on the state website, the Detroit News, Free Press, Crains, etc.  I found some summaries of the proposed bills (not all) on Scribd, but I wasn't all that pleased with these - there are probably better sources, but I do have to work).  

The thing that concerns me is the trampling of civil liberties using a budget deficit as a justification.   There is a reason we have the constitution and the bill of rights.  

"I am officially freaked out now."


2011 Goals

My goals for 2011 are as follows:

  • $9000/month or more in revenue for EFG Consulting by 12/31/2011
  • A BMI (body mass index) of 25 by 7/30/2011
  • Be training solidly at 3rd level dressage (with my horse) by 12/31/2011. 

What are your goals for 2011 and how can EFG Consulting help you reach them?


Consistency is Key in Growing Your Business

There are 3 parts to creating reliable, steady growth for your business.  The first part we've talked about a lot - where and how to find clients or referral partners.  The second is consistently working to develop relationships and get known.  The third part is knowing how much is enough to gain clients.  By that I mean,  how many people do you need to talk to in order to get one paying client.  This is often referred to as the sales funnel.  I'll focus on that in a later post.

Today, I want to talk about consistency.  Consistency is showing up and participating day after day, week after week, and month after month in whatever networking or other marketing methods you have chosen to employ.  It takes a while for people to get to know you enough to think of you when they're ready to buy or hire and to trust you enough to want to hire or buy from you.  How long that time period is will depend on what service you provide.  If you'r a coach or a financial advisor, it's going to take a  lot longer to establish that relationship than if you clean carpet.  You'll talk to some people who will become your clients immediately, but they are the exception rather than the rule and not what you build your business on.

Showing up one time is not effective in getting clients.   You can't lose weight or build muscle that way - you can't build your business that way either.  You must pick  your approach and keep doing it until you are sure it either is or is not working.  A rule of thumb for any service business is at LEAST three or six months to a year.

Consistency builds upon itself, just like it does in exercise or weight loss.  The more you do, the more you gain and the easier it becomes. 

I see a lot of professionals taking the start-stop approach to developing  their business.  I call this the feast or famine cycle.   People run out of work and then start marketing like crazy until they get more work and then they stop marketing.  This is not a way to grow your business.  You'll find it more and more effort just to maintain your existing business doing marketing this way.  It's a lot like yo-yo dieting and exercise.  Every time you stop exercising and gain the weight back, you are actually losing muscle so it becomes harder and harder to lose those pounds.

Work on building your marketing muscles consistently so that you can steadily grow your business over time with less effort.

"I hate to admit this, but mediocre marketing with commitment works better than brilliant marketing without commitment."

-- Jay Conrad Levinson (author of the Guerilla Marketing series)

Next time we'll talk about the third part - How much marketing is enough? (or What Does Your Sales Funnel Look Like?)

Is the American Dream Dead?

I just read a blog on the new book by Suze Orman called The Money Class, due out in March 2011.   According to the blog, Suze believes that the American dream of owning your own home, working in one job and retiring at age 65 is dead.   I disagree - I don't  believe that really is the true American dream.  I don't think that particular version ever showed up in American society before the advent of baby boomers and home loans - i.e. about the 1940's or 1950's.  I think we owe that particular version of the American dream to the banks which also brought us junk bonds, the Savings and Loan debacle and the current situation with home mortgages. 

I believe the real American dream is about opportunity.   For some it was and is the opportunity to practice your religion free from persecution, for others it was the freedom of opportunity to start a business and make a living or buy a farm.   I think if we asked our parents, grandparents or great grandparents why they came to this country - it wasn't to own a home, work in one job for your entire career and retire at age 65. 

The Declaration of Independence states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  That is the real American dream.   And I believe it comes in a lot more flavors that just owning your own home, working for someone else your entire career and retiring at age 65.  And I believe that this has always been true, even in the 1950's.

Not to belittle the joys of owning  your own home - but it isn't the be-all and end-all of life.   Working for someone else is also not everyone's dream and never was.   Which, if you think about it, is a very good thing.   Someone has to take the risks and start the companies that drive the economy and  hire all those people.

I think opportunity is still alive and well in America if you are willing to work hard and work smart.  If anything, there is more opportunity for those who are willing to open their own businesses and embrace change than there ever have been.

Owning your own company also provides you with lots more opportunity than working for someone else.  Flexibility, higher incomes, chances to grow and change in areas you are interested in and meeting many more people than you would working for someone else.

It's really easy to see the downsides of being unemployed - but self-employed is far better than employed in my book. 

Now on to retiring at age 65 - Considering that life expectancy is now around 80 - 85, who wants to spend 20 years doing nothing.  The concept of retirement might make sense at 75 or 80, but if you really love what you do, then it's better for your health to keep working.  So maybo work part time instead of full time. Or look into a second or third career?  

I think it's a good thing that those ideas are "dead".  They were right for a few people, but not everyone. 

Certainly not me.   I don't intend on ever retiring and I'm on my third career and working for myself, not someone else.  I work 25 hours a week, and spend the rest of the time with my family and my horse.   I no longer work 60 hour weeks working for a large company with little or no control over my hours. 

That's my "American Dream"

What's your "American Dream?"

What networking groups should I attend?

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked.  Sometimes it's asked in the form of a statement:  "I don't know any networking groups." and sometimes people just ask me where they should go.  The short answer really depends on two other questions: 

1) Do you get clients by referral or directly?  If you get clients mostly by referrals (Not the ones from existing clients - we'll talk about how to generate more of those later), who are your best referral partners?   This question leads directly to the second question.

2) If you get clients directly, who are they and where do they go?    If you get clients through referral, who are your referral partners and where do they go?

This leads directly to the answer:

You network where you are most likely to find prospective clients or referral partners.  Period.  It's really that simple. 

Ideally these are also things you enjoy doing as well.   If you hate golf, don't join a golf club just because you will find prospective clients there.  There will be should be enough points of common ground that you and your best prospects and referrals partners share that you will enjoy the time you are spending networking.   Otherwise, you really need to look at who your best clients are - if you don't have a lot in common with them, they really aren't your best clients and there's a whole other group that would be a better fit.

If you're not sure how to figure out who your best clients are and what they do - check out my blog posts on how to identify your ideal client.   If you don't have any clients who fit what your idea is, find some people who do and ask them what they do and where they go.  If you're not trying to sell anything most people are delighted to give you a few minutes of their time.  Note that this is also a great way to start developing a relationship.  It's a win-win.

Don't limit your definition of networking groups to traditional business groups like LBN, BNI or chambers of commerce.  There are also philaphthropic and development groups like the Rotary Club, Optimists Club, Toastmasters, Lion's Club, Kiwanis, etc.  And any social group where you interact on a regular basis and get to know the other members can be considered a networking group.  Examples of this are country clubs, golf clubs, tennis clubs, hockey clubs, the PTA, Church and Synagogue groups, nonprofits where you are an active member and serve on a committee can be great places to network as well. 

If you regularly work in the same coffee shop and it's a busy place, that's a great place to network too.  Before we moved, I always made a point to work one day a week at the Coffee Beanery near where I lived.  It was a busy place where a lot of small business owners congregated and I regularly saw a lot of colleagues and prospective clients that way. 

Look for other benefits besides meeting prospective clients in the networking groups you choose.  The more enthusiastic you can be and the more you enjoy your time there, the more your networking efforts will pay off.

Dealing with the Discomfort of Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone In Your Business or Any Other Area of Your Life

"Learning any new habit is like starting an exercise program: It can be painful at first, but as you exercise that particular muscle it becomes stronger and supports you better.  Over time the pain gives way to tolerance, tolerance to satisfaction, and satisfaction to exhilaration as you see the results of your commitment and persistence" -- C.J. Hayden

Your business is like creating a new habit - it is new behavior.  Any new behavior forces you outside of your comfort zone.  It may be just a small bit ouside, in which case the discomfort is very small and far outweighed by the benefits.  It may be far outside your comfort zone - in which case the discomfort can be very painful.   How well you deal with the discomfort will really determine how well you do in your business.   If it's only a little bit of discomfort -no big deal, your current coping strategies will probably be just fine.  If it's a  lot of discomfort, it's a very good idea to work on strategies to deal with the discomfort of the change as you make the change.   It's not realistic to say, expand your comfort zone -  that usually happens after you make it through the discomfort and discovered it hasn't killed you. 

So what can you do to make it through the change process of developing a new behavior?   I believe that there are several things you can do:

  1. Recognize and accept that there is going to be discomfort or pain and it is not necessarily going to be easy.  We live in a world of instant gratification that doesn't teach us patience or persistence, so we don't learn growing up how to deal with discomfort.  That is part of the reason so many people quit diet programs or regain the weight they lost (95%).   If you accept that there is going to be discomfort, then you can come up with ways to deal with it.  If you aren't prepared to deal with pain or discomfort,  it will derail you. 
  2. Create healthy ways to deal with discomfort or emotional pain before you experience it.   Practice them before you need them so they are available when you do.   You learn to fire a weapon and practice with it in basic training or boot camp, not in the middle of combat.   Combat is when you need things to be automatic.  You need to create new automatic behaviors that will help  you achieve your goals, not derail them.  Here are some good ideas:
    1. Practice meditating daily.
    2. Use EFT (emotional freedom technique).  A good resource for this is www.tapping.com.
    3. Exercise.   It's a great stress reliever.
    4. Schedule play time.  You need to recharge to keep going and having down time is an important part of being productive.   I ride my horse 4 - 5 times a week.
    5. Get a good night's sleep.  Everything looks worse when you're tired.
    6. Eat good, healthy food.  Don't skip meals.
    7. Create a visual representation of your goals and look at it in the morning and before you go to bed.  You could even create a vision board if you want.
    8. Laugh and be silly.  
  3. Set realistic expectations.  We often have very unrealistic expectations of how long things take.  Losing weight, developing a skill, or starting a business or practice are all excellent examples.  People don't get to be olympic athletes or millionaires overnight.  There's typically a lot of hard work and effort that goes into it that we don't see and the movies don't show us.  If you develop a realistic expectation of when you can reasonably attain your goals, you won't be disappointed when you don't see results immediately.   I usually tell my clients that if they can't believe in the goal, there's no way they can reach it - a good way to handle reason and desire is to use the words "at least" so that you are leaving room for better performance than you expect but you are aiming for what you can reasonably expect to achieve.  Here are some examples:
    1. "Lose at least 20 pounds in 5 months."
    2. "Make at least 10,000 per month by the end of next year."

It's a lot easier to persist through discomfort or emotional pain if you expect and plan for it, until you reap the benefits of your behavior change.

So what can you do to create a new habit that will help your business grow?

Which Is More Effective - A Mail Newletter or an Email Newsletter (E-Zine)?

It's a good question - suprisingly so.  Most companies have switched to only sending out electronic newsletters because of the expense.  It can be quite costly to send out a printed newsletter between the printing and postage.  Electronic newsletters, in comparison, cost less than a penny per newsletter.

Sounds like a great deal, but how many people are actually reading those newsletters?  The statistics can be quite misleading.   Direct mail is usually measured in response rates, which means that the recipient has opened the newsletter, read it and taken action on the contents.  The average response rate for direct mail is anywhere from 1% to 1 1/2%. ( I checked various different sources for both including aweber.com, Gallup, the AMA, etc.)    The number of people who have opened and read that newsletter is much larger, but unknown.

Electronic newsletters are usually measured in open rates, which means that the recipient has opened the email.  It does not mean that they have read it or taken action on it.  The open rates I saw on the web for electronic newsletters, or e-zines, were all over the map (try googling "average open rate electronic newsletter" and you'll see what I mean).   Most came between 10% - 25%.  Now this sounds much higher, but remember that it's an open rate, not a response rate.  Of that 10% - 25%, how many actually read and take action on the newsletter?   I couldn't find any statistics on that.  One thing I noticed was that all the statistics were somewhat old - and yet the rate of spam increases exponentially daily.   I have a hard time believing that most people even open or see e-zines anymore.  A lot get buried in an inbox filled with junk emails or caught by a spam filter.  I'd be suprised to find that the open rate is much more than 1% - 2% now.

So what to do?   Direct mail costs a lot, but you've got a better chance of someone reading it.  Newsletters are much cheaper and easier to send, but not as likely to get read.

And then there's blogs and twitter, just to add to the confusion and noise - how do you get your message out without it costing a fortune or getting buried in the general din?

I would recommend doing a mix of as much as your time and budget allow.  I'm pretty sure very few people read my blog, but it's enough that it's worth it to post weekly.   The same goes for my monthly newsletters.   With the low cost,  only a few people have to read them to make it worth it.

I use direct mail for personalized individual messages and the occasional printed newsletter (maybe once a year).  I do a lot more personalized notes than newsletters.

What will you do?

Dealing with Personal Loss

I had to put my dog to sleep Tuesday.   He was 14 1/2 years old and very sick, so it was expected.   It had just been a matter of time and how to handle it with my son, who is 4 1/2 years old.    It finally got to the point where we had to make the decision.   

Most companies provide family leave of a month or so for illness in your immediate family and usually 3 days or so if a person in your family has passed away.   If you own your own business, you get nothing - the business suffers or grows depending on how focused you can be.  And even if you work for someone else,  grief doesn't fall into a proscribed time period.  And when you're grieving, your entire life is affected.  You are affected both physically and mentally.  Grief is very draining phsically and very distracting mentally.  I've mentioned The Grief Recovery Handbook before as a very useful tool for dealing with grief, but you still have to go through the process.  You may or may not be back to work and your full productiviy within that 3 days.  

If it's a close family member, you may not be.   Sometimes pets are closer family members than your relatives.   I've grieved far more for my pets than I did for some of my relatives and their deaths affected me more. But the death of a family member, expected or unexpected, is usually much more complex than the death of even a beloved pet, which makes it much harder and a much longer process.  

So how do you deal?  "Life goes on..." as they say.  We're people, not robots.  We can't just turn our emotions on and off like a switch.   Grief and loss are normal parts of life and so are the emotions that come with.   I don't think I have any answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Be extra kind and caring for yourself.  Grieving takes a lot out of you, so be patient and take extra good care of yourself for a while.  Remember you must take care of yourself first, before anyone or anything else.
  2. If you work for a company, have a talk with your manager.  Be honest about what you are going through and work with your manager to find solutions to your workload together until you can be 100% back to normal.    Don't pretend you're back to normal when you're not.  Either your job or your health will suffer in the long run. If you own your own business, advance planning is key.  The time to figure out how to keep your business going in the case of a personal emergency, whether death or disability, is before anything happens - when everyone is healthy and productive.  Having people you can delegate to and trust is important.   Maintaining good relations and open, honest communications with clients is also key.   Your good clients will be very understanding and willing to work with  you in times like this.  It's up to you to keep that relationship good so that they will be supportive when something happens.
  3. Deal with your grief and related emotions (anger, sadness, loss, disappointment, relief, etc).  Don't ignore them.  Emotions don't go away until we accept and express them.  It's like trying to put a lid on a boiling pot without turning the heat down.  It just keeps boiling until it explodes.  Often we can't necessarily express our grief whenever we feel like it.  Sometimes you have to set aside time to let your feelings out when it is safe to do so.  
  4. Get support.   Don't isolate yourself in your grief.  Grief shared is grief lessened. 
  5. If your life is affected and you don't seem to be getting better, get help.   There are professionals who specialize in working with grief and loss.

I'm still grieving but I'm dealing pretty well.  My dog's death was expected, so I had lots of time to prepare, and it wasn't complex. 


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