Career Development

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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.

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?

Taking Responsibility for The Circumstances of Your Life

My friend Linda Anger came to my NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) group Wednesday and spoke about the power of perseverence.  It was a great talk and I really wanted to highlight one of the things she said.  It was a question that I think is critical:

"Are you willing to take 100% responsibility for the circumstances of your life?"

You wouldn't ordinarily expect a question like this from someone like Linda - she's talking partially about her experience with cancer.  So how could she be responsible for her cancer?  Most of us equate responsibility to blame or fault.  The cancer is not her fault, nor is she to blame for getting cancer.  NO ONE is ever to blame for getting cancer.  There are things like diet and lifestyle changes that you can do to improve your chances of preventing some types of cancer, but there are no guarantees. 

However, what about responsibility?   My answer to that is "YES!"   

Jack Canfield has a formula ("How to Build High Self-Esteem" & "The Success Principles")  that states that "E (event or circumstance) + R (response) = O (outcome or result)"     We can't change the event.   Last time I checked, the only place you can go back in time is your memory or a book.  There's no way to stop or change an event after it has happened.   So how do we change the outcome?

Responsibility is really the ability to respond to events (such as cancer) that happens.  That's where the word comes from after all.   Responsibility is the only way to we have to affect the outcome.  The more you are willing to take "response-ability", the more you can change the outcome.  Linda's outcome was great!  The treatment was successful and she looks wonderful. 

The more you want to focus on blame or fault, instead of what you can do to change the situation, the less you can do about it.  And that means your chances of getting the outcome you want go down.  

I'm not much for gambling with things I can't afford to lose, such as my health or business.   I'd rather focus on what I can do to change it.

How about you?

"Endless Referrals" by Bob Burg

"Endless Referrals" by Bob Burg, "Get Clients Now" by C.J. Hayden and "Book Yourself Solid" by Michael Port are among the core books that I use with many of my clients.   In combination, they make a fantanstic business development program for the non-sales professional.  "Get Clients Now" provides the structure, "Book Yourself Solid" provides the focus and "Endless Referrals" talks about how to develop the relationships you need to grow your business.

Bob Burg was here in June with Motor City Connect. Don't worry if you missed him.  You can find everything he talked about in his books.

All three books talk about the "know, like and trust" factor that's mandatory for anyone who sells a service, such as an attorney, chiropractor, coach or consultant.   "Endless Referrals" focuses exclusively on it.   Bob talks about how to get to know people enough to be able to ask for and get quality referrals, and maintain that relationship over time.

The first few chapters talk about building rapport, the process of developing trust.  He gives 10 'Feel-Good Questions©'  that help you get to know someone and create a connection with them.  He also guides the reader on how to adjust these questions for social events of any kind using the "F-O-R-M" (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message) method.  I highly recommend studying these questions and using them at your next networking event.  Watch your network grow as you get proficient at this process.  This is by far the clearest process of how to create connection with someone that I have seen so far.

The next few things Burg focuses on are how to ask for referrals so that you actually get them.  Most people just aks if you know "anyone."   I have news for you - there is no one by that name.  It's not likely to get you referrals because it's too general.  He shows you how to narrow it down so that you make the frame of reference manageable for most people without making it too narrow (Tina Morrow at XYZ Company).

Burg also talks about how to get a testimonial that actually supports your business.  I really appreciated that section, after receiving some testimonials that were either unreadable or not what I do. I'm sure you've gotten a few of those too.

I would go to other resources rather than "Endless Referrals for information on internet and other business development strategies, but there is nothing better than "Endless Referrals" for how to build trust and follow up. 

"Endless Referrals" is not the only book you need for your business if you provide a service, but it's a good place to start. 

Dealing with Business or Job Loss - Allow Yourself to Grieve

I have talked to a large number of people who were laid off over the course of my career.  One thing I have consistently noticed is that the vast majority have not yet moved on - they are still emotionally stuck in their previous job.  And, yes, I am deliberately using the words "laid off."  I believe that 'in transition' is a euphemism that doesn't do anyone other than the company who laid off the person in question any good.  It's an effort to shield you from the pain or stigma of being laid off.  In other words, any effort to avoid dealing with the emotional consequences of being forced out of a job you didn't choose to leave.  The same holds true if your business failed.  My guess is that you would have chosen to have it succeed.

Yes, some people take classes and change careers, but even most of those do so out of reaction - not from the basis of desire.  Do you think this is a very powerful way to live your life?   More the opposite.  What you choose out of fear isn't very likely to be what you really want.  It's either going to put you right where you were before you got laid off, or in an even worse situation.

Not only that, but when you do go on interviews, you take all the emotional baggage of the last job and how it ended with you.  Trust me, this does not make for a good or exciting interview.  It will also make it a lot more difficult to get said job.  Even if you don't say anything, you will still be projecting and filtering based on that previous job.  It's a lot like going on date with someone right after they broke up with their significant other.   Might be not be bad, but not someone you'd want to get into a relationship with. 

Allowing yourself to to through the full grieving process after a job or business loss allows you to process all the emotions and thoughts that come up so that you can move on and base your future and your planning on what you want, not what has happened in the past.  You will be able to be excited and interested in what's happening instead of what's in the past.  The last job or business is like last week's lunch.  It may have been a great meal, but you don't necessarily remember what you had.   Wouldn't you rather be excited about your future?

No one really talks about grieving in relationship to job or business loss.  Generally people are just expected to move on immediately.  Here's the rub - we're not robots, we're human.  Your relationship to your job or especially business may have been more long-standing than your relationship to your spouse or children, and just as close in many ways.   And not only don't we talk about it,  most people haven't a clue HOW to grieve and move on.  We're not taught deal with grief effectively in most cases when it comes to people and pets, much less jobs.   Has anyone ever told you "Don't feel bad, there's other jobs"  or something similar?   It wasn't particularly helpful, was it?

The best resource I've seen yet for dealing with loss (whether it's a job, a pet, a spouse, etc.)  is the Grief Recovery Handbook by John James and Russell Friedman.  It actually defines grief and forgiveness and walks you through a fairly straightforward process for dealing with loss.    I came across it through the book When Children Grieve, also by John James and Russell Friedman.  I checked When Children Grieve out of the library to help my son deal with our dog, who has cancer.  I  knew that what I learned about loss and grieving from my parents was not helpful to me (it basically consisted of "Don't talk about it") and I wanted to do better with my son.   When Children Grieve was immensely helpful in giving me some tools to work with my son, but it was also invaluable to look at where I hadn't dealt with loss in my own life.   

I highly recommend purchasing the book or checking it out of the library.  I can't do justice to the full process in a blog post.  You can also visit the website at www.grief-recovery.com.

My advice is work through your job or business loss before moving on to what's next.

 

 

The Real Magic of Business Development is Consistency

I was talking to a client the other day and she said, "I guess I was looking for a magic bullet or something."   I see that a lot when I talk to people.   It shows up in all sorts of areas, not just business development.  Weight loss, job hunting and career planning are all great examples of where I see this mindset.  They are looking for an easy, simple solution. 

The funny thing is that most solutions are simple.  What they are usually not is easy.  It's simple to lose weight - eat less and burn more calories. It is not easy to lose weight.  There's a fairly simple process for finding a job - again, simple not easy.

What usually makes it difficult is all the things that get in the way of you doing it in the first place or you wouldn't be struggling.  There is no quick answer to weight loss, finding a job or growing a business.  It takes time and consistent work.  You can make the work more efficient and effective, but it still takes consistent work over time. 

For business development for professionals, the formula is simple:

  1. Be very clear on who you want to work with (your ideal client) and focus on talking to them.
  2. Be clear on what solutions you provide to their problems.
  3. Focus on building relationships and providing value, not selling.
  4. Communicate to your ideal clients regularly and often.  They must know, like and trust you before they will be ready to buy from you.

The hows might vary slightly - you might prefer to blog, rather than do public speaking for example, but basically that's it.  Simple, but not necessarily easy.  Most people do not track their business development activities, so they often think they are doing more than they are.  It takes an average of seven to nine times of contacting someone before they are ready to buy, but most people give up after the third or fourth time.

Having a system and support to keep you on track and accountable really helps create consistency.    There are many different kinds of systems.  You can create your own and or use something someone else has created.  I use "Get Clients Now!" Outlook, and other tools.  It really doesn't matter as long as you do something that allows you to measure and track your activities.  Ideally, it will make it easier.

Also resolve and deal with the obstacles that come up when you start using your system and working on your business or career development.  If it's fear, get support and work through it.  If it's time management, stress or other issues - identify the problem and get help to get a solution.  Don't let it derail you.  There are always obstacles and for every obstacle, there is always a solution, and usually more than one.

Be consistent and use a system - there's your magic bullet.

Faith - Or How to Keep Going When You Don't See Results

When I talk with my friends and clients,  the hardest thing that we all face is often the lack of conviction that what we are doing is working and that we will see results.  Most of us are very far out of our comfort zones when we're looking for jobs or starting a business.  Hopefully, it's not something we do on a regular basis so that we're comfortable and confident.  That's part of the reason a lot of experts will recommend that you do go on job interviews on a yearly basis, even if you're not looking.   Most people don't.   That way, when you do seriously need or want to look for a new job, you are comfortable and secure in the process.

It's not an easy process either way.  If you're looking for a job, you could end up making dozens, if not hundreds of calls, go on many interviews and do a lot of searching online before you find the right job.   The process looks a little different when starting a business, but it's essentially the same.  You make dozens or hundreds of calls, go to many networking events or meetings and do much research before your business is established.  For the new entrepreneur,  you need to find not just one job, but many - which makes it much worse than the typical job hunt.   Someone looking to find a job only needs to make one sale.   An entrepreneur must make many sales.  Weight loss,  is by the way, often the same problem.  It takes a long time to see results and it's very easy to get discouraged.

Most people tend to get discouraged after the second or third call that doesn't go well.  If you're not a trained salesperson, it's truly difficult to get through the first several years of business.   I believe that most beginning entrepreneurs give up because they get discouraged, not because they run out of money.   They never raise the money they need to begin with.

So do you keep going when you don't see results immediately, the bills are mounting and nothing you're doing seems to be working?

For myself, it's usually that the alternative is much worse.  I would really rather not go back to working the same long hours and travel that I was doing when I worked full-time.  Not to mention that the job itself had long ago ceased to interest me.  There are things I don't like about what I do now.  I am not a natural salesperson and there are parts of the selling process that I don't enjoy.  I don't enjoy the paperwork and I don't enjoy having to deal with the IRS and being much more likely to be audited.  Not to knock them - our auditor was actually a very nice lady and everything worked out fine.  It was just very time consuming. 

The thing is, I love my business.  The core of what I do is helping people I develop.     And it's not just my clients.  I find it very worthwhile to be able to give people useful assistance, even if it's just connecting two people that might make great referral partners for each other, or giving some quick suggestions that may help a situation.  I love meeting new people, helping them develop and supporting their visions.  I meet so many amazing people now.  The parts of my business that I love keep me going and keep me fueled to keep growing my business so that I can help more people.   My faith is that what I am doing is worthwhile, not just to me, but to the people I help - and the alternative sucks.  It doesn't hurt that I'm stubborner that a mule either.  There a lot to be said for persistence.

For some people, putting their faith in God works well.  I have several friends that have a wonderful relationship with God and "he" or "she" supports their endeavors.   I think that's great and more power to them.   It works for them and that's what matters.   It never worked for me - my spiritual views are not that tangible and I've never been able to relate to God as a being.     I have other friends that have such supreme self-confidence that they cannot conceive of failing.   Again, it works for them and that is great.   It doesn't work for me when it comes to my own business.   I am hoping that 10 or 20 years from now, I will have that supreme self-confidence.    

I don't think there's a one size fits all or even a one size fits most answer when it comes to the faith or courage to keep going when you don't see immediate results.   I do encourage you to look for the answer that works for you and will keep you going.  I also don't have a good answer for how to find that faith.  All I can do is suggest the above as places to look.   It has to work for you.

In the meantime, here are some ideas that will help:

  1. Focus on the small wins:  For example,  even getting the meeting or interview is a win.  Having someone call you, even if it doesn't go anywhere is a win.  Feeling energetic and awake rather than bloated and tired is a win, even if you haven't lost an ounce.   Write them down daily in a success log.  Americans have a tendency to ignore everything but who comes in first and this leaves us with a very distorted view of success.  Coming in second is still winning.  So is even making the playoffs.
  2. Remind yourself several times a day of all the good things about what you are doing now.  If you don't know what they are, write them down.  Notice them.
  3. Look at your goals daily.  Remind yourself on a daily basis of what you ultimately hope to achieve.  Not the money or the job, but what that money, job or client will get you. 
  4. Set daily, weekly and monthly short term intermediate goals.   Breaking things down helps you recognize your progress.
  5. Reward yourself when you complete difficult tasks and reach intermediate goals.  The big reward at the end is great, but the little rewards along the way are important too.

I'd love to hear what you come up with.  What keeps you going?

 

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