Thursday, April 29, 2010

Your Motivation A-Team


I believe that when you care -- whatever the context -- you must care enough to cultivate good relationships. This thing we call life can be very challenging. Those challenges can seem insurmountable without a good support system to help you through the stress.


small business home business
Part of getting through these tough times requires some proactive effort. Even before you find yourself down in the dumps or feeling sorry for yourself, you have assembled an A-Team of people who can be your cheerleaders and help you out of your doldrums. And these people needn't be official mentors or teachers.

I remember a few years ago I was having a very very stressful time at work. I was wondering if anything I did as a leader was making a difference. The challenges within the non-profit organization I worked seemed to never get better, no matter what I did. I actually thought about moving on and looking for another position. One day, I felt I needed to take some time for myself. So before I went home, I went to one of my favorite stores for some retail therapy. What I found was much better.

I ran into a former co-worker from a store I had worked at to earn extra money during the holidays. As we talked and exchanged pleasantries, she said something that made my day. She told me how much she had enjoyed working with me, even for those few short weeks. She said I always made work fun and pleasant and that she felt I was a wonderful person.

I am a firm believer that God often puts people in our path just when we need them. I regained my motivation to go back to my job and continue my pursuit to make the program better. I did eventually leave the organization years later; not during a down time, but after a triumph.

logo design
This story not only shows the power of relationships for the receiver of the praise, but also the importance of offering kinds words...or as I heard at an event this past weekend, "Giving people their flowers while they can still smell them."  You never know how your words can be just what a person needed.  If you ever have a question about whether to offer a word of encouragement or praise...JUST DO IT!  It could be the best thing to happen to them that day.

So if you care about your ability to be a good parent or spouse, business person or leader, you must cultivate powerful relationships. You must cultivate relationships with people who will keep you motivated. Effort and efficacy are impacted by motivation. Motivation can be renewed simply by having someone tell you how great you are, when you yourself have forgotten.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mea Culpa

"Success covers a multitude of blunders." -- Bernard Shaw


Have you ever read a story in Time or Fortune magazine about a business that is successful?  Of course you have.  But what we don't hear or read about as often are the countless mistakes those businesses made before they were successful. 

If a person or company rises to fame and fortune, everyone gets on the bandwagon to talk about them.  And if they suffer a devastating downfall after success, that is even better.  But what is truly fascinating is how often the failures of your past get almost completely forgotten if you find yourself on top.

With few exceptions, our society can be very forgiving of past blunders, when like a phoenix you rise from the ashes of failure to have the last laugh and revenge of success.  Unless there was some malicious intent on your part, we tend to root for the under dog.

So, I say all of this to say....If you are not where you would like to be now; if you are making your multitude of blunders, persevere and be secure in the knowledge that once you attain your success, your past mistakes will be forgotten and erased....except on the Internet.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't Be Afraid To Be A Woman

As we draw closer to Mother’s Day, I am thinking more and more of my mother. She was a remarkable woman and a great wife and mother. My family and I were blessed to have had her in our lives, even if the time was far too short.


I learned a great deal from my mother, through conversation and observation. She has taught me so much about what it means to be a wife, a mother, a professional, a woman. Of the many things my mother taught me, one of the ones that sticks in my mind the most is "Don't be afraid to be a woman."


It’s funny, the first time she said this to me, it was actually in response to my clothes. On the one hand, I was a parent’s dream come true – a teenaged girl who didn’t try to wear too much make-up or tight skimpy clothing. I was a total conservative preppy. My usual “uniform” was long skirts or pants and baggy sweaters. While my father was trying to get me to improve my style in general, my mother was trying to get me to embrace my emerging womanhood and learn to tastefully show my womanly curves.


Over time however, through observation of countless strong and successful women – my mother included – the phrase has come to mean so much more to me. To me it means don’t put limits on yourself. It means embrace your femininity, but don’t think that means you can’t also possess “masculine” characteristics too. Likewise, just because you have benefited from the new opportunities of the women’s liberation movement, doesn’t mean you have to “act like a man” in the workplace. It means you decide what it means to me a woman; not society.


In honor of the skill, grace, compassion and womanhood of my mother, I have asked a few folks to remark about what they feel the phrase means to them.


Being a woman means being courageous enough to stay tender inside while facing tough life challenges outside!!!

Michele Howe
Author, Burdens Do a Body Good
www.michelehowe.wordpress.com




[A] good woman is kind, giving, caring, etc.; she can also be strong, intelligent, have strong values and, yes, be beautiful. While none of us can be so called "perfect", we can all strive to be the best physically, mentally and spiritually we can be. Throughout the ages, women who have had great character and accomplished great things have been held up as worthy to emulate.

Beverly Solomon
Creative Director
www.beverlysolomon.com




I find being a woman is so much broader than the usual stereotypes attached to our gender. These days it's more about representing oneself in a variety of ways that are more authentic to the individual and not boxing yourself in. In short to be a woman is powerful and vulnerability simultaneously and beautifully balanced!

Bryn Drescher
Life Coach
http://www.mylifegps.com/




I think that being a woman means accepting your emotions, your body shape, your hair and skin types...basically just getting comfortable with yourself. That becomes a lot easier after you turn 50! It also means giving in to your urge to dress girly and to wear pretty shoes that hurt like hell.

Lynn Thompson
Owner
www.OldMaidCatLady.com




To me "Don’t be afraid to be a woman" means Power -- The Power women posses in themselves that needs to be unleashed. Who else but women can accomplish so much? We wear so many hats that power is our source of strength, knowledge and our core of being. Women need not be afraid to step out of the comfort box that so many get into and forget they can be so much more...Be the woman everyone looks up to, be the woman every man desires, be the woman other women run to for answers, don’t be afraid to be a woman ....instead be a POWER WOMAN.

Deb Bailey
Power Women Magazine and Radio Show
http://www.powerwomenmagazine.com/


A wise statement! For me, "Don’t be afraid to be a woman" means embracing the qualities that can be written off as female stereotypes. Example- women are stereotyped as being "chatty/gossipy/talkative" when in fact our ability to communicate deeply and pick up on non-verbal cues is one of our great assets. There's no need to shortchange your conversational style in the workplace-- or anywhere else-- to be taken seriously. Embrace your abilities that are uniquely yours. As for what it means to be a woman? It means a long history of nurturers-- a gender that privileges community and communication over strength and domination. Our culture and our country needs for every woman to embrace these innate strengths for the good of all of us!

Joanne Rock
Romance Author
http://joannerock.com




To be a woman means embracing your power, valuing those whom you love, appreciating your worth, and honoring your spirit. I embrace my power by using by feminine qualities for good: encouraging others to do the right thing and loving my man for all that he is and does. I value my children by complimenting them when they succeed and encouraging them to do better upon their failures. I appreciate my worth as well as my mothers and sisters worth by spoiling and supporting them at all times. Most of all, I honor my spirit by praying and praising my Heavenly Father with the so many blessings that have been bestowed upon me. In summary, to be a woman means not only recognizing, but appreciating all that you are and can do.

Zee Wilson
Inlectronics Inc.
http://inlectronics.com




For me, "Don't be afraid to be a woman" means, among other things don't be afraid to dress like a woman. You are not a man. Of course, if you feel more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt, by all means go ahead and dress that way. But if you like wearing skirts or dresses, wear them and expect to be taken seriously nonetheless. [It means] don't believe for a moment that you need to behave like a man to succeed in this world. You can be yourself and succeed. [It means have] confidence in yourself and your own abilities. Being a woman is not a hindrance, it's an advantage. Women have unique skills. They tend to be more emotionally developed creatures than men. They tend to have better people skills. Those skills can get you quite far in this world.

Berit Brogaard
Freelance writer and Associate Professor
http://brogaardb.googlepages.com



To me, being a woman means to inhabit my own skin from the inside-out rather than from the outside-in. What this means is, when others tell me "women should look like this" or "women should act like that" or "women should do this kind of work" or "women should think this way about that issue", I check it out within myself first. I don’t just automatically compare my preferences, appearance, behaviors, opinions, or choices to what women should or should not say/think/believe/do. This means that the most important meaning of being a woman -- to me at least -- is to remember that when I live from the inside-out, honoring and valuing and expressing my own unique gifts, talents, opinions, and preferences, I empower other women to do the same (ala Marianne Williamson), and I encourage the men in our lives to honor us for being multi-dimensional, creative, beautiful, individual, and unique human beings.

Shannon Cutts
MentorCONNECT
www.mentorconnect-ed.org




To me, being a woman means being strong, secure, independent, compassionate, responsible, and caring. Being a good listener, cooperating with others while holding fast to high ideals is an important part of being a woman. Being a woman means recognizing that outer beauty come from integrity, love, truth, and gentleness. Being a woman means becoming comfortable with receiving attention from others gracefully. It also means being willing to accept the power that comes from strong ideals and commitment to truth.

Laurel Clark
School of Metaphysics
www.som.org

I am not afraid to show my strength and intelligence, and to claim my power. This means being proud of being intuitive and knowing.

Diana Fletcher
Coach, Speaker and Author




To me a woman is someone who is comfortable in her own skin. It's one that knows what she believes in and is willing to stand up for that. It's one that has her own style. Whether it’s being comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt or all glammed up for a night on the town... it's being comfortable being you. I think being a woman is when you don't have to behave like a man to be respected like a man; it's being feminine with strength and grace. I think being a woman is communicating thoughts and feelings in an honest, open and appropriate. In a nutshell I think a woman has the grace of a duchess and the strength of steel.

Sharmen Lane
SharSpeaks LLC
www.sharspeaks.com




Being a woman means being a member of the most amazing, powerful group of people ever assembled by God....Caregivers. We can't help it. It's in our DNA. I've heard story after story like mine....of well-meaning brothers who want to help with aging parents, but just can't find the strength inside. Enter....the sisters. Miracle workers. Angels. Goddesses. And we care for our children, too.......often at the same time. And we have careers, too, often at the same time. And we keep marriages and households going too......often at the SAME TIME! Beautiful, magical jugglers.....that's us. It's an amazing club that I am PROUD beyond measure to be a member of.

Karen Taylor-Good
Grammy nominated Singer/Songwriter & Author
www.KarenTaylorGood.com




Being a woman, I have the power to empathize. I have the power to be a mother and sense each feeling of my child like no one else. As a modern woman whose life is not restricted to home, I have the power to multitask and by equally strong mentally and physically. Being a woman, I cut the ruthlessness out of life and bring a lot of elements of creativity, finesse and beauty. Some men do have some of the above mentioned qualities, but I think ALL women have these qualities and that is what makes me proud of being a woman.

Atula Gupta
Freelance Writer



To be a woman means to be strong enough to stand up and express myself in the face of most anything, to believe that I can do whatever I set my mind to do, and to still be vulnerable enough to cry and laugh at life's comedies and tragedies.

Sandy Weiner, CPCC, ACC
Certified Professional Life Coach
www.abiggerpond.com

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thank you. Tell Me More.

Someone emailed me this week to tell me I had made a mistake. When I thanked her, she was surprised I didn’t take offense. I told her that I have to practice what I preach. Although no one likes be told they are wrong, when you are told you’ve failed or made a mistake, especially if the news comes from a customer, you must give some variation of the response, “Thank you. Tell me more.”

Whether the relationship is customer and service provider, husband and wife, co-workers or friends, when it comes to building and maintaining relationships, one must learn to appreciate criticism. It is a skill that is very hard to master, but oh so important. Although there are many people who like to complain just for the sake of complaining, sometimes, a complaint represents an opportunity to maintain the relationship.

Why do we complain?

How many of you have experienced bad customer service? I’ll bet all of you. How many of you have said something to the offending service provider? Why? Why not? I’ll bet the reason you did say something is the same reason I am telling you to learn to appreciate complaints…because you wanted to continue the relationship.

Think about it. If you didn’t care about continuing the customer-provider relationship, you wouldn’t have bothered. I’ll relate a couple of stories to illustrate my point.

My impromptu shopping experiment

A few months back, I stopped in a make-up store in search of lip gloss. Now if you don’t know me, you don’t know that I usually only go shopping for a reason. I don’t window shop. If I am shopping, I’m looking for something in particular. In some ways, I shop like a man. I go in. I look for a few moments and if I don’t see what I’m looking for, I ask a sales person. If they can’t help, I move on to the next store.

I walked into this store and started to look around, I was on the verge of asking for assistance, when I realized that the two salespersons in this small boutique never greeted me or asked me if they could help me. I decided to do a quick experiment. I waited and walked past them to see if they would say anything. When another patron entered the store and they immediately said, “Hello, how are you!” I was suspicious. When the next patron entered the store and she too was greeted with a cheery “Hello” and an offer for assistance, I knew. I was shopping while black. The difference between me and the other two patrons was that I was in a business suit and African American and they were in casual clothes and were Caucasian.

After walking around the small store for more than fifteen minutes and purposefully meeting the eyes of both of the sales staff, I finally decided to leave, sans lip gloss. After requesting the name and card of the store manager -- for the purpose of writing a complaint letter – I left. Yet, within five minutes of entering my car, I said to myself, “Why bother!”

My life would suffer no hardship if I never entered that store again in my life. I had no investment. I didn’t care. And truth be told, they probably could care less if I never entered their store either; for it was obvious from that visit, they didn’t care about my business.

Customer Service Hero

Now let’s transition to another experience. My family and I go out to dinner entirely too much. At one of our favorite family style restaurants, there is a manager who works his butt off. Whenever we are there and Mike is on duty, we see him zipping around the restaurant and because of his leadership and example, his staff work harder too. By contrast, sometimes when Mike is not there, we can tell.

After one of those occasions when we experienced a less than stellar customer service visit, we were there when Mike was back. As someone who knows the importance of recognizing his regular customers, Mike came by our table and asked us how things were. Now my husband and I, in addition to being customers who like to tease and joke around with our servers, are also very candid. We told Mike everything was great, today, but the last time, “We could tell you weren’t here.”

Mike, my customer service hero said, “Thank you for letting me know. Tell me what happened.”

Mike knew us as regular customers. He recognized that we were customers who were looking to continue the relationship. We were not complaining just to complain. We were giving him a chance to make things right; to make improvements in his operations. We were saying, “We care enough to let you know. Do you care enough about us to have the right response?”

If your customers care enough to make the effort to complain to you, you should care enough to appreciate the opportunity. The opportunity for improvement. The opportunity to save and maintain the relationship. The opportunity to meet and exceed their expectations. The opportunity to say, “Thank you. Tell me more.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Relationship Balancing Act

When was the last time you did an evaluation on the status of your relationships? Are all of your relationships healthy ones? Is there room for improvement?

All relationships, especially romantic ones, are a continuous balancing act between “because of” and “in spite of”.


I love him because he always calls me to tell me he loves me when he’s away on business. I love her because she loves football as much as I do. I love him because he always remembers to pick up my favorite cupcakes at the bakery across from his office.

I love him in spite of the fact that he never remembers my birthday. I love her in spite of the fact that she can’t cook. I love him in spite of the fact that his table manners are atrocious.

These are of course very benign examples, but they illustrate a point. Your “because of” list should far outweigh your “in spite of” list – both in quantity and quality. Every once in a while we all need to do a relationship inventory to see if our relationships are “out of balance” in the bad way.

Improving your relationship is like improving anything in life – being able to measure what quality is and what it is not should be one of the first steps. If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who's Your Person?

"I get by with a little help from my friends."
                                                           - John Lennon



On one of my favorite t.v. shows, Greys Anatomy, there is a recurring "bit" involving Christina and Meredith. As Christina once said to her boyfriend, Dr. Burke, "She's my person. If I murdered someone she’s the person I’d call to help me drag the corpse across the living room floor."




Most of us, if we are lucky, have at least one "person".  That one friend or family member who we can always talk to.  The one who we know won't judge us (unless we need it).  The one who our life events "are not real" until we tell them.

For me, that person is my sister. As I sit here typing, I find myself getting verklempt at the thought. If we had a theme song, for me it would be Whitney Houston and CeCe Winans' "Count on Me". Most of the time we think similarly, but when we disagree, we can debate and then agree to disagree.

First and foremost, we can always count on each other.



A few folks were nice enough to share with me and you who their person is -- what this relationship means to them. I hope you will listen to Whitney and Cece as you read their stories and think about your person. Then call your person and tell them that you love them.

Nadine



My person is someone I've literally known my entire life. Our parents were all college students together and we were put in the same crib during their weekly bridge games. We've seen her parents’ divorce, both remarry. We've been on vacations together. We confided in each other during our teenage years, became roommates in college--which didn't work out so great, but it didn't destroy our friendship. I was in her wedding as a bridesmaid and soloist. We drifted apart for a few years. Life simply took us in different directions, but we'd always seem to reconnect. We're both mommies now, helping each other through the landmines of parenting and giving each other pats on the back when needed. She's someone I can call and say, "I need to hear I'm not going crazy for having to listen to pre-school DVD's and shows for my 4 year old". She calls and asks me if she's doing the right thing when it comes to her 12 year old son, who she's raising as a single mom. Even with her living 3000 miles away, our friendship is as strong as ever and I have no doubt, will literally last our lifetimes.
Patricia Walters-Fischer
Founder Smart Cookie Parents
www.smartcookieparents.com


Let me tell you about "my person" -- Tara. She is a military spouse like me, and military spouses call their "persons" their "battle buddies." Tara and I have been through deployments, started a business together, and we've weathered/are weathering the life of an Army Wife and mother of Army brats. We're like the real-life Army Wives and like Meredith and Christina, we've had good days and bad days, but ultimately we hug it out and are better for the experiences we've had. We've been battle buddies for about 5 years now. Because she doesn't judge me and I try not to judge her, we should be set for another 5+ years of this Army Wife Life together. I look forward to being a retired military spouse with her some day, talking about the good old days, mentoring the young-uns, and being forever grateful we had each other to see it through.
Starlett Henderson
Army Wife Network
www.armywifenetwork.com


[My person] would be there no matter what. She is the person I trust even more then my husband. We talked about the trust we have with each other and support. We both agreed if something went wrong, we would call each other before our husbands. We have been friends for over twenty years. I think 23 to be exact. I can tell her anything. As a friend who is really more than a friend, she is like a sister. I can tell her anything, but I have to expect her response will be true and honest. The same goes for me.
Diane Lang
Health & Wellness Counselor
www.dlcounseling.com


I am so fortunate to have some amazing friends in my life, so I have quite a few who I could count on and lean on. That said, the person I would call first most of the time is my friend, Ann. She is the most open, caring, non-judgmental, supportive and amazing friend in the world and has been there for me in ways big and small for over a decade. When my boyfriend of 4 years cheated on me with 22 women, she was there, offering to pay for therapy because I couldn’t afford it (meanwhile she was dealing with her own boyfriend drama). When I could not get to her wedding due to a job loss, she forgave me for having to back out of being a bridesmaid two months before the wedding (which I still feel horrible about). When I have good news, she’s the one I want to share it with first and mostly, she’s someone I think about often and take an active interest in her life and her happiness. I feel so blessed to have her in my life and learn something from her every time we talk--best of all; our conversations are like little vacations--always a gift.
Brenda Della Casa
Author/Columnist/Dating Coach
www.CinderellaWasaLiar.com



My husband is [my] person. We met when we were sixteen, dated for two years of high school, dated other people throughout college, studying abroad, and graduate school, but always got back together vacations and summers. We ran up huge phone bills before the day of texting and instant messaging. We are now in our early 40's, moved 1800 miles away from our immediate families, and often have days where we don't have time for anything other than exchanging information about kids or schedules. But when we do have time together we have so much to discuss. We remind each other to see the humor and levity in situations which might not have seemed so funny at the time --work conflicts, children conflicts, moral dilemmas, etc. We know from where and whom each other came, and have basically grown up together with each others' friends. I feel very lucky and worry about the day that one of us is not there for the other one.
Julie Arnheim
www.Rubbingnickels.com



My "Person" is relatively new in my life, in the grand scheme of things. We have known each other for many years but grew closer after working together on some Fraternity alumni issues. After a particularly grueling year, we ended up falling into a night of deep discussion where we truly "found" each other. He has since become my partner as an artist and entrepreneur. His name is Chris. I can safely say that I connect with my friend and collaborator on a level that I have never be able to connect with anyone in my entire life. We see the world in much the same way. A great deal of our time is spent discussing “what’s the next big thing”, analyzing human nature and feeling some level of pity for the masses who still live in "the box." We see the world the same way because we don’t care about owning homes, wealth or popularity but we see these things as simply tools to do good works.
Mr. Arash
MrArash.BlogSpot.com


That would be my cousin Suzi. We're more like sisters, which is weird because she has two sisters of her own.   I, on the other hand, am an only child, so it is nice to have her as my go-to-gal for things in my life and vice versa.  Suzi and I have been hanging out together, sharing lunches, shopping, drama, trauma and everything in between for probably about 17 years now. She's my person because she can call me on my BS if necessary and I know if she does I need it. She tells me to apply anyway for that job that seems like it's too big for me because she has faith in my skills. She also is there for me when I need a shoulder to cry on.
Angela Watson
www.TheBlueMoon.org



I met my person, Anna in 2002 when she joined the sorority I was in. Since then we have been close friends. In August of 2004 I moved to California and since then we talk every night. She is the one person I can tell anything to and I know will always have my back. We also have similar martial and divorce experiences. She is the one person who won’t judge me when I tell her something crazy I did. She is also there when I need a good kick in the butt.
LJ Maggie
http://ljmaggie.wordpress.com



My person is my friend Kathryn. We go through thick and thin together and whatever it is, I can always tell her. She helps me build my business. She is there when one of my critters dies. She is always there for me! We have known each other about 10 years now. [We] live only a few minutes from each other’s houses. [We] are family to each other’s family. And I have no doubt; she would help me move that body!
Dee Finch
www.Peoplefood4Dogs.com

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Power of Relationships in Building Your Business

Big, small, or tiny, success in business is about creating and maintaining relationships, not only with customers but with those who can help you build your business.

One of the low-cost strategies that a business owner can incorporate into their Marketing Plan is being someone who connects with other businesses and helps them build their business too.  It is a simple way to build your business through building your circle of influence.

Each week make it a goal to build relationships with complementary small businesses that are not direct competition. If you sell candy, become a marketing partner with a florist, a salon & spa, or a restaurant. If you are a gourmet food shop, connect with a caterer or an event planner. The key it to see how many "business partners" you can connect with for reciprocal referrals and joint marketing events.

For all you A-Type personalities who need to quantify and measure your marketing activities and their ROI, this is easy to track. Set goals on your number of contacts and their outcomes. How many new relationships have you created this month? How many referrals have you made? How many have you received? What is the average gross receipt for each partner's referrals? You can decide to retain or end a partnership based on the reciprocity of the relationship.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

More talk about Chinese Foods...

My previous post about regional foods made me think about a great talk from one of my favorite sites, TED.com

Friday, April 16, 2010

Food Glorious Food!

I don’t care what anyone says, the Chinese food outside of New England is just not as good as the kind I grew up with in Boston. Lobster sauce is supposed to be brown, not white. And nowhere else have I found the greatness of those gingery chicken wings.

I feel incomplete if I travel to visit family in Boston and I don’t have a chance to get some great Chinese food. The phone number to my favorite Boston area Chinese restaurant is programmed in my cell phone. Sometimes, I want to freeze a supply and bring it home with me.

I’m not alone in this food withdrawal. Gone are the days when people lived their whole lives in the same city, so it’s not unusual to get used to certain food favorites, only to discover you can’t find them when you move for school or career opportunities.

Tales of Two Cities

Linda Reynolds, in her words, “move[d] from the rust belt and bread basket of the Detroit, Michigan area to the bible belt and fryer basket of Nashville, TN!” Like me, Ms. Reynolds has experienced that longing for the tastes of home. Having lived in Royal Oak, Michigan for over 20 years she had quite a while to get used to the local specialty supermarkets like the Royal Oak Farmers Market. “I am a gourmet cook by avocation and couldn’t believe all the things that I am totally unable to find here in TN. I actually brought back over 30 jars and packets of spices from Penzeys spices in my carry-on luggage at Christmas time. Fortunately, the agent searching my bags knew Penzeys and understood totally why I was ‘smuggling’ 30 jars of good spices back to Tennessee!”

Livia King Blackburne grew up in New Mexico, but now lives in my hometown of Boston. As much as I miss the seafood and Chinese food of Boston, she is obsessed – her words, not mine – with getting good green chilis. Ms. Blackburne, a graduate student at MIT and blogger says, “Whenever I’ve met a fellow New Mexican in New England, green chili comes up within 5 minutes. It’s almost a secret pass phrase to prove your origins. If someone claims to be from NM but doesn’t automatically perk up when the pepper’s mentioned, be very, very suspicious.”

Natalie Fontane, creator of Scrivener's Retreat, is a transplant from perhaps one of the foodiest of food Mecca’s, -- Louisiana...New Iberia to be exact -- and now finds herself in North Las Vegas, NV. For those who don’t know, one of New Iberia’s claims to fame is that it is the location of a Tabasco processing plant. Living as she says “a stone’s throw” from Tabasco, you know she is not a connoisseur of bland food. “When I go back home for a visit one of the things we always have to do is [get] Cajun food.” She doesn’t leave Louisiana without having a few of her favorite foods that she can't cook for herself, such as fried catfish, boudin, shrimp po-boys and boiled crawfish, if it is in season.

Not only does Ms. Fontane try to get her fill of her local favorites when she visits LA, when her mom visits her in Nevada, she brings Ms. Fontane various provisions, like Zapp's potato chips. “The chips get smashed on the plane, but it's worth it.” And on a recent visit, her mom brought her six cans of Trappey's black-eyed peas.”

Another transplant to the Las Vegas area, Danielle Liss of the Frugal Lawyer has strong feelings about their cheese steaks. “I spent my first 30 years in the Philadelphia region. Las Vegas claims to have cheese steaks....Lies! I miss Wawa in ways that I can’t fully describe,” states Ms. Liss. “When I am home to visit family, there is a Wawa shorti on the menu every day. When friends come out to Vegas, I typically request that they bring me peanut chews and family members have shipped various flavors of Herrs potato chips to me.”

Our cravings may not always make sense to those on the outside looking in. To some, Maria Liberati may be living the charmed life for any foodie -- splitting her time between Philadelphia and Italy. However, whenever she is in one place, she longs for the food of the other. When asked about transporting food from one place to the other, you’d think she’d talk more about the foods of Italy, but no; most of the culinary transferring is from Philadelphia to Italy. “The Philly soft pretzels, Landis peanut butter made in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and apple butter [are] all things that one cannot get in Italy. The apple butter and Landis peanut butter are my passion and I always have a spot for a small supply in my suitcase especially when I am gone for 8 weeks,” says Ms. Liberati.

Even more amazing, Ms. Liberati has her family and friends in Italy hooked on some of the Philly delicacies. “I am not welcome back home in Italy if I arrive without a dozen or so Philly soft pretzels. I’ve gotten some of the locals in my town not to mention my fiancé and family members hooked on them.”

Celebrity Event Designer and Television Personality Samantha Goldberg may be a native of Chicago, but she knows the hunger pains of an east coast favorite -- Tastykake Krimpets -- through her husband, a mainline Philadelphia native. Of their time Tastykake deprived, Ms. Goldberg says, “In the Midwest we were used to Dolly Madison Zingers, an equivalent to Krimpets, but not the same. I could not find them anywhere. And not one grocery store from the East (NJ/NY/PA) would send me a box. I wrote a letter to the folks at Tastykake telling them how I wanted to surprise this wonderful man with a treat from home. They were so thrilled by my story they sent me a box. They also soon after developed a relationship with Dominicks, a grocery chain in Illinois. Soon we had Krimpets galore!!! Now we are living in NJ and have no issues with finding them!”

Nancy Dekalb -- of Katcher Vaughn & Bailey Public Relations, Inc in Nashville -- is continuing her love affair with Sanders Milk Chocolate “Hot” Fudge Sauce from Detroit, Michigan and has hooked her kids on Sanders too. “That’s what I request from any relatives in Michigan, or anyone traveling to the area. I grew up in Illinois, but I have fond memories of visiting my Grandma Harris in Detroit during the summers. We rode the bus downtown to Hudson’s department store and ate hot fudge sundaes at the soda fountain in the store,” says Ms. Dekalb.

And you don’t have to be half way across the country to miss your favorite foods. Nisha Ray, a Certified Christian Life & Biz Coach, only moved an hour away, from Elizabeth, New Jersey to South Jersey; but her favorite spot -- Tom and Jerry's -- was too far away. Her regular order: an Italian hotdog with potatoes, onions and peppers on an Italian roll with ketchup. “When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I had such a craving for an Italian hotdog that I got dressed at eight o'clock at night told my roommates I was going to get something to eat and hit the turnpike to get there before they closed. It was raining and I was 8 months pregnant and did not care. All I know was I wanted this hot dog. By 10 my roommates were calling my cell looking for me and I was sitting in my car outside of Tom & Jerry's devouring this Italian hot dog with tons of potatoes, onions and peppers with a cup of potatoes!!”

College Care Packages
One of the first opportunities we have to experience our special food withdrawal is during our college years, but care packages lessen the pain. Care packages were like getting a little love from home in a box. John Wetmore of Perils for Pedestrians has memories of one college experience where he helped relieve a mother’s worries. “A friend of mine who was originally from Taiwan was studying in The Netherlands for the summer. His mother was concerned that he wouldn't be able to find good Chinese food. When I went to visit my friend, his mother had me bring a knapsack full of canned and boxed food from her local Chinese grocery,” said Mr. Wetmore.

For Executive Account Manager, Megan Palmer, her college years’ food angst can be summed up in one word…UTZ. “I grew up in Maryland. In grade school they sold UTZ Crab Chips, you know the ones, flavored with Old Bay.” Ms. Palmer attended college in Providence, and “would get a hankering for Old Bay and Crab Chips” but could never find them. Mom to the rescue! She would send Ms. Palmer care packages with Crab Chips and they “would make her semester!” Now living in Miami she’s in withdrawal again and has to be satisfied with stocking up when she goes to Maryland for visits.

Jessica Schmidt-Bonifant, a Development Director also grew up in Maryland. She remembers longing for home-state delicacies when she went to college in Kentucky. “My mom would routinely send me care packages with all the Maryland food necessities, Old Bay, Berger Cookies, if she could have shipped me steamed crabs she would have,” says Ms. Schmidt-Bonifant.

Food Express

The good news is, more and more companies and restaurants have realized the benefits of having some of their customer favorites available for delivery across the country. David Ruiz of Alfonso Gourmet Pasta Inc in Pompano Beach, FL says his “company has experienced continued business for years from customers that used to live in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area and used to purchase pasta products directly from [their facility].” Says Mr. Ruiz, “[Customers] have moved from the area and now buy from us via the internet. We ship to their new homes.”

Dana Marlowe, a Principal Partner of Accessibility Partners, LLC lives in Maryland now, but still has a taste for flavors from Texas. “We regularly ship Texas BBQ from the Salt Lick BBQ to our home. As a matter of fact, we FedExed 100 lbs of BBQ assorted meat into town for our rehearsal dinner several years ago. Any time the Pittsburgh Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, we ship in a 5 LB brisket and sauce. We have celebrated many an anniversary dinner over Salt Lick BBQ that got mailed to our front door,” says Ms. Marlowe.

So what if your regional favorite doesn’t have an internet presence or you can’t wait until you go for a visit? For any true foodie, you won't let that stop you. If you need a mentor on how to get what you crave to your front door, then maybe you need a friend like Debra Fink Bachelder of Binding Arts. Born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn and Long Island, she now calls Mt Gilead, Ohio home. When she couldn’t find Passover food, she got mail-order candy from economycandy.com. “For a friend on a transplant waiting list I had H&H bagels send bagels, cream cheese and lox. I drive an hour to Columbus for some ingredients. That took a few years before they were available, so I had to mail order from Zabars," says Ms. Fink Bachelder.

Kara L.C. Jones, Coach & heARTist at MotherHenna, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA with great Italian food. “The women at the church made periogi and I was able to get fresh cannoli any time I wanted from Sunseri Bros. down in the Strip District. And then in 1995, I moved out west to the Seattle area. I can't tell you how much I miss the food of the 'Burgh! A good friend once FedEx me cannoli! I've had other friends offer to FedEx periogi.”

Food Memories, or Just Memories?

No matter what the food stuff or whether it’s a part of your childhood, your college years or a recent discovery, there is one thing that is universal, part of the allure and nostalgia is not the food itself, but the memories associated with it.


For Tory Klaubo Patrick -- an Account Manager at Vantage Communications living in Washington, DC -- a Marvin's garlic cheeseburger in her college town of Greencastle, Indiana sends her back to memories of friends and good times. “One taste of a Marvin's GCB (garlic cheeseburger) and you were hooked for the next four years! I now live in Washington, DC and there are nights we get together with friends and say, ‘Mmmm, wouldn't a GCB taste good right about now?’ Then we go on to discuss the rest of the menu, and the fun times we had in college. But it all starts with the longing for a GCB,” says Ms. Patrick. “For me, I don't know if it's the actual GCB itself that I long for or just the college days. Either way, Marvin's is a part of my history.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Tax Man Cometh!


It's April 15th -- the last day you have to file your taxes without an extension and be on time.

So the question on most people's minds, especially if you are a business owner -- "Did I do the best I could to minimize my tax bill?" As my fellow blogger Traci Ellis says, it's not unpatriotic to try to pay your least amount of taxes. I wholeheartedly agree! There are so many opportunities for exemptions and deductions that it would be a shame not to take advantage of them. As a business owner, you know far too well that you have so many expenses you can't write off, so you sure as heck had better not leave out the ones you can. That's a business faux-pas that is as bad as failing to "ask for the sale" with your customers. It is unnecessarily leaving money on the table and out of your pocket.

So did you do a good job this year? Have you made resolutions to do better in 2010? What are you going to start doing tomorrow to decrease your tax burden April 15th 2011?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Are you raising an entrepreneur or two?

Calling All Experts

I'm a firm believer in the sentiment...."You learn something new everyday." Sometimes this happens naturally, sometimes you need to seek out your next teacher.

So that's what I'm doing now. I'm looking for experts who can teach me and my readers something

So....Who are you and what do you do? What do you know that I need to know?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Yes, and...

We were having one of those great Saturday mornings around the breakfast table -- planning out our day. I had to get some items done for my local Boys & Girls Club, my husband was considering popping into a regional meeting of one of the fraternal organizations he's a member of, and my son wanted to invite a friend over to play video games. We would get all of these things done and also support said Boys & Girls Club by attending the fundraising carnival.

And of course, being a mom, I had to remind my son what is and is not "good host behavior" -- "It's not fun watching a person play a video game. Mommy and Daddy do it because we love you, not because it's fun. When your friend comes over you have to play a video game that you both can play." And I had to remind him of his obligations to the family and the household -- in other words -- chores.

Kitchen Table Lessons

In our house, the kitchen table is often the scene of some life lesson. Although, by now my son gets that Mommy is not going to let him get away with feeling sorry for himself when he doesn't get his way or has to do some household chore, he still sometimes forgets himself. When he does, many a meal around the kitchen table has included a life lesson on being grateful for the things you have and realizing that sometimes you have to "do what you have to do before you can do what you want to do".

My son has inherited an Owens Family tradition of imparting wisdom -- lecturing -- upon the next generation. I can remember getting an earful from my parents on more than one occasion -- some lasting more than an hour if I had really transgressed. This one for my son was merciful, it was only about three minutes. It was a response to his all too familiar reaction of, "Yes, but..." when I told him something he didn't want to hear. On this particular morning, the life lesson was the power of "and" verses "but".

"Yes, but..."

How often do you find yourself saying, "Yes, but..." when in a discussion with a family member or colleague? It usually is the response of, "I have to begrudgingly agree with you because you either have a point I don't like or you are in a position of authority over me, however, I'm still going to take this opportunity to focus on the negative and tell you how you are wrong and I am not happy."

Such was the case with my son. I can't even remember exactly what he was trying to disagree with, however I do remember my response. I cut him off just after the "but" and asked him to in stead of saying "Yes, but..." try saying, "Yes, and..." followed by something positive. When he hesitated I gave a multitude of things he had in his life to be thankful for.

Poor thing, he had the misfortune of having a mother who had just watched Slumdog Millionaire last night. My speech was reminiscent of those lectures your parents gave you about starving children in China (or African) when you were a child and they wanted you to clean your plate. I even went so far as evoking the scene with the wooden outhouse and reminding him that he had not one, not two but three toilets in his home. I know it was a bit much, but I was on a roll.

"Yes, and..."

Think about what usually comes after a "but" verses what comes after an "and". "But" is usually followed by negativity, contradiction, disappointment and dissatisfaction. "I'd like to give you a raise, but..." "We are seeing gains in the economy, but..." "I think your new marketing plan is great, but..." In the case of my son, his but's were usually a commentary on how I was -- albeit temporarily -- ruining his life.

Now think about what usually comes after an "and". "And" is usually followed by positivity, abundance, agreement and augmentation. Say those same statements above, now using "and". "I'd like to give you a raise, and..." "We are seeing gains in the economy, and..." "I think your new marketing plan is great, and..." Feel the difference?

Didn't you feel like after the "and" there was a possibility for something more?...something positive? Could it be a raise and a promotion? Will it be gains in the economy and more jobs creation? Does the boss like your marketing plan and he's going to allocate the budget to implement it?

Positive Attitude

So when you are on the receiving end of an "and" you see how it makes you feel right? Now think about when you are the sender of the communication. In relationships and as part of a team, do you build up (Yes, and...) or tear down (Yes, but...)?

We need to find ways of bringing more positivity and an attitude of abundance into our responsive communication with others. When you are presented with a task or challenge, instead of immediately going to how it won't work or won't be fun, try focusing on how it can work (even if with modifications) and will be enjoyable.

Which one are you?

Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of person? Do you more often respond with "Yes, and.." or "Yes, but.."?

If you are a "Yes, but.." person, I dare you to try for a day not saying "Yes, but..." and replace it with "Yes, and..." . This would be especially great on a day when you would be part of some brainstorming or planning activities.

All too often, our creativity and innovation gets stifled by others immediately telling us why something won't work instead of focusing on how is can work. "Yes, and..." is the language of possibilities. Try it and see how many new possibilities you discover.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Take Two Pictures and Call Me In the Morning

Scientists at the University of British Columbia have conducted research that supports the theory that looking at pictures of sick people can actually help you not get sick yourself.

Basically, it is part of the research that shows dealing with stressful events can actually trigger ones immune system. In this case though, it's not just any stressful event. They compared the impact of looking at a sick person against looking at a person with a gun pointing directly at you. Sick person had a greater impact on triggering ones immune system.


Check out the Psychology Today article that delves into the experiment.

So my question is this...when are scientists going to find the pictures that help boost your metabolism? Is there a conspiracy afoot? Are the diet supplement and weight loss industries suppressing this research in fears it will cut into their lucrative market?

Don't worry about going to the gym ladies and gentlemen! Just look at two pictures of obese men and women a day for a week and you'll shed two pounds!

Hey, a girl can dream can't she?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Non-Traditional Easter Dinner

Ever have one of those holidays where you just are not motivated to do the whole traditional meal? Even as we were getting ready for church yesterday, I still didn't know what I was going to make for Easter dinner...Ham, lamb, beef? My family seemed less that eager to help me with my culinary quandary.

So I finally decided to make one of our family favorites and call it a day. For Easter 2010 the Burtons had Shrimp and Tortellini with Vodka Sauce!

Here's the recipe if you want to try it.

Ingredients

1 lb of medium sized Shrimp
1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup vodka (I once mistakenly made it with 1 cup, doesn't hurt it)
1 Bunch of Asparagus, chopped
1 pint of light cream
1 package of fresh Four-cheese Tortellini
1 tsp Minced garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil


In a large pan, slowly simmer tomatoes (with juice) and vodka until almost all of the moisture is cooked down, about ten minutes.

Add the cream and stir until blended. Simmer this until it is a thickened.

Bring a stock pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Add the pasta just before you start to sauté your asparagus.

If you like a little color on your shrimp, season them with salt and pepper and garlic powder and fry them in a separate hot pan with a little olive oil -- just long enough to give a slight "crust" don't cook them through. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan you just removed the shrimp from; add a little more olive oil if needed and some minced garlic. Add the chopped asparagus and sauté until al dente -- I don't know about you, but I hate mushy vegetables.

If you want a two pan meal vs. a three pan meal, just add the raw shrimp and the asparagus to the pan with the vodka suace after it has thinkened. Personally, I like the flavor that comes from cooking things separately and then bringing them together.

After your vodka sauce has thickened, add the al dente asparagus and the "browned" shrimp. Don't worry if the vodka sauce is a little thick, the moisture from the shrimp and asparagus will thin it a little.

Simmer this until the shrimp it cooked through.

Plate the drained tortellini and spoon the sauce over it and serve.

Enjoy.

Serves 4

Calories: I have no idea but with cream being one of the ingredients you know it's not low fat.


Alterations - Use brandy instead of vodka
Use more vegetables
Sauce is good with chicken or salmon

Friday, April 2, 2010

Small Business Shoulda Coulda Woulda's

So you want to start your own business. Great! It is one of the American dreams. But many entrepreneurs will tell you that along the way to that dream there can be some nightmarish lessons to be learned. Here are some of the Shoulda Woulda Coulda lessons from a few veteran entrepreneurs.

Attitude Counts

Most successful business persons agree, you’d better enjoy and be passionate about your business. You’ll need that love to carry you through the bad days. “Even if you're doing what you're passionate about - which you better be in the world of entrepreneurialism - some days will suck. We all think it’s hard. It's ok. Tomorrow will be better,” says Andy Hayes (http://www.andyhayes.com/).

Having the Right People Is Important

In one of my favorite books, Good to Great, Jim Collins notes that one of the keys to a company – in fact any organization – making the leap from good to great, rests in their having the “right people on the bus and then the right people in the right seat”. This metaphor, quite simply, illustrates the role human capital or a human resource plays in the future success or failure of a company. Many small businesses owners first need to realize that they can’t always do it alone. Then once you’ve made this crucial decision to seek help, you have to choose the right partners and the right staff.




“Probably one of my biggest ‘wish I knew then’ moments would be know who the right people to hire are. As a young company with limited capital, you're usually going to go for the cheapest option and one of those is your friends. I wish I realized that hiring friends is not only bad for your company, but also your friendship, “ says AmyLynn Keimach of Border7 Studios (http://www.border7.com/).

Brad Shepard, one of the founders of Innovar Partners (http://www.innovarpartners.com/), an operational improvement firm, is involved in his second startup. He admits that some of his mistakes from his first company, Eyeformatics, are benefiting his new venture. One of Mr. Shepard’s lessons learned? -- Assemble the right team. He notes, “People! Very cliché, but so true. With Innovar Partners, that meant finding the right business partner, Shawn Coffman, and then surrounding ourselves with an absolute all-star team of professionals. Taking care to assemble the right team reaps more rewards than imaginable. Although you have to get the ball rolling to attract top people, once you do it is imperative that you find creative ways to get people excited and keep them engaged. At Eyeformatics I tried to play too many roles in which I had no direct background experience.”

Greg Stallkamp , (http://www.holosfitness.com/) “feel[s] that one of the most important things in starting a business is having the right resources at your disposal, especially human resources. I would never approach a business with the idea of, ‘we'll find the right person after we launch’. Instead, I feel it is completely necessary to have the right resources lined up before launching. This will save a lot of time and headaches. And if you're not able to find the right resources prior to launch, it’s only going to become more difficult as time goes on.”

And just as finding the right people is key, when you realize a relationship isn’t working, Act! “Don't wait too long to get rid of people that aren't performing well - they just drag the whole organization down,” says Mike Walker of WalkerTek Interactive Marketing (http://www.walkertek.com/).

Put it in Writing

There is a saying that a goal is just a dream until your write it down. Sometimes small business owners underestimate to power of a business plan. “Boy did business hit me upside the head!”, says Ros Guerrero of Ficklets (http://ficklets.com/). “Having a vision in my mind is one thing, but not having it on paper isn't visionary at all. What I would have done from the beginning is created a comprehensive business plan that included a comprehensive marketing plan. Now that our company is growing, working capital is needed to expand and g row with the demand. Having a business plan in place would have [helped] us prepare to seek funding from potential investors.”

Find a Good Accountant or Bookkeeper

Leah Cochran (http://www.glocalconsulting.com/)— who has been in business since 2008 -- believes that being proactive about your bookkeeping and taxes is very important. “Things I should have done, immediately -- talk to a CPA about what is able to be written off, etc for taxes. I volunteered pro bono services (about $15,000 worth) after hearing other companies being able to write-off the work. When I got to my CPA this year, he said NOOOOO. It's not income, so you can't write it off.

Traci Ellis (http://www.traciellislaw.com/), an attorney, agrees that starting off with bookkeeping assistance is key. “My BIG regret was not having a bookkeeper for my business operating account. As a result of trying to save money and be a "DIY'er" (Do it yourselfer), I totally screwed up my accounting records, didn't have a good handle on cash flow, and because I was busy practicing law, didn't pay bills on time. Of course, by paying bills late, I was hit with late fees and added interest, etc. How dumb is that? Also, my idea of cash flow management was to sign into online banking, and if there was money in the account spend it! But, when a nice guy from the power company showed up one day at my office with a disconnect notice, I KNEW I had to make a change. So, I hired a bookkeeper. My financial life has been incredible every since! I have a good sense of what I need to bring in every month, what my monthly expenses are, and actually even have reserves now! I am now a REFORMED DIY'er (and proud of it)!”

Cash Flow & Financing

Even before you hang up your shingle or register your domain name, you have to think about how you are going to pay the bills when there are no profits. Jenna Oltersdorf of SnackBox (http://www.snackbox.us/) says, “Create a nest egg for your company. The first few years can be tough from a cash flow perspective. When times are profitable, put money aside to help out during the lean times.”

LaTron Brown (http://www.seniorlifestyleconcierge.com/) realized that whatever you think you need to start your business, add on to that magic number. “For my business, I wish I would have begun with more funding. I underestimated the amount that I needed, even as I was saving while in a full-time position. I found that as general rule if you are serious about diving right into starting your business, you should save up enough/borrow enough for an 8 month emergency fund for bills, one year of salary and startup costs. Otherwise, do it part time while you are working a full time job. If one is downsized from a corporate job like I was and can't save that much because of [an] unexpected layoff, consider getting a job through a temp agency or a part-time job. However, if you have to borrow money, then try family and friends first; make banks loans the last resort. These are some factors that I wish I had considered.”

Be careful of relying on credit cards to help with cash flow. For every story of the successful entrepreneur or film maker who financed their project with credit cards and then became a big success, there are countless business owners for whom that doesn’t work. And don’t think you’ll make up for it later with a bank loan. That’s not necessarily always an option. “If I would have known that I could EVER be turned down for a loan (I had perfect credit) I would NEVER have used my credit cards to get me through the recession,” says Becky Sturm (http://www.stormsister.biz/).

Always remember to follow the money, “When overwhelmed with a ‘To Do’ list, remember: what's the next thing closest to money? E.g. if you need to do this marketing campaign, or take five minutes to send out invoices, shouldn't you really take a deep breath, do the invoices, then move on? Get organized, because at the end of the day, even if your ideas are good and your plan is solid, if you run out of cash, you lose,” says Mr. Hayes.

Marketing Marketing Marketing

Let’s face it. You are not going to be successful if no one knows you exist. When it comes to marketing Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda’s, Carolyn E. Stys (http://www.bluemontcapital.com/) just wishes she had hired a true marketing pro and started networking SOONER!

Eugenia Francis (http://www.teachildmath.com/) wishes she had learned the value of press releases sooner. “A well written press release is a good investment. ‘Times Tables, the Key to Your Child's Success?’ (which I wrote) was blasted over the internet. Not only has [the press release] appeared in several languages, but [it] was reprinted in EDUCATION MATTERS, a periodical for teachers. I should've done this earlier,” says Ms Francis.

Press releases are important, and with so many free and low-cost press release distribution services online, it is possible for even a small business to develop a strong marketing campaign that includes press releases. Just know that to see tremendous return on your investment – like anything in life – it’s not just quantity, it’s quality. Send out press releases often, but you have to have a great story to tell before you decide to send out a press release.

And don’t do any new marketing strategy unless you can evaluate its effectiveness and your ROI (return on investment). Ms. Francis suggests adding coupons to your newspaper ads. “Advertising in magazines [and newspapers] is expensive. Every quarter, the ad exec would beg me to renew my ad. I decided to include a coupon in the ad. When not one coupon was redeemed, I dropped my ad. My advice: include a coupon in your ads to see if indeed you are reaching/persuading customers.”

Getting Feedback

Most veteran entrepreneurs would agree that you can never do too much networking. One of the outcomes of networking is getting feedback on your work. This is especially true for creative types of business ventures, where your success depends on pleasing the aesthetic sensibilities of your target market – or at least the professional buyers and gatekeepers of your target markets.

According to Marybeth Wydock of Velvet Lime Designs (http://www.velvetlimedesigns.com/), “ You’ve got your vision...your ‘pie in the sky’, but getting in front of retail people and getting yourself into a showroom is literally a dog-eat-dog world. You're fighting trying to make yourself completely different and stand out from the crowd so that people notice you. I think a lot of it is about networking and getting the most opinions -- good and bad -- from anybody you can. Once you go through the whole process for a while, what you originally envisioned might be completely different from what you end up with and that can be a very good thing sometimes!“

The Customer Relationship Is Not Always Right

They say that the customer is always right. Well that’s not exactly true. However, in customer service your goal may be to figure out a way to make the customer right, or at least satisfied, so that you can keep them. But sometimes, you have to admit that some customers are just not right for your business. Ms. Oltersdorf believes that sometimes you have to “[k]now that it's okay to fire a client. If they aren't a good fit for any reason, it's more than okay to sever ties and move on. Knowing how to go about firing the client would have been incredibly helpful [to me].”

Focused Effort

Knowing when to fire a customer goes hand in hand with the realization that you cannot be everything to everybody. You have to have focus. If you try to make your product or services fit everyone, you actually dilute your worth. Sometimes your better served when you figure out “Who is the right customer for my product or service” and focus on being the best for them.
Likewise, figuring out what business you are really in helps move you toward success. Did you ever hear why lion tamers use a stool as a prop when they enter the arena? It’s because the lion tries to focus on all four stool legs at once and the lack of focus helps the trainer keep the lion from his natural goal, devouring the trainer. If you lose focus you lose your ability to devour the market.

Jared OToole of Under30CEO (http://www.under30ceo.com/) states, “ When I started a business I wish I knew the importance of focusing on one area. It’s so crucial to pick a path and put all your efforts into it. We spent a year in the beginning changing plans and biz models. Once we picked a path and made the leap 100% we saw explosive growth and haven’t looked back.”

Learn From Your Mistakes

I love the Sesame Street song, “Everyone Makes Mistakes,” sung by Big Bird. I even use it in my Power of CARE™ motivational/quality improvement speech and workshops. The basic message of the song is, hey everyone makes mistakes, so why do you think you’ll be any different? The key to success is not that you will never make a mistake, it is what you do after you make those mistakes. What did you learn from it? How are you going to do better tomorrow?

As Mr. Shepard put it, “In the end it is not one single element that I think makes a difference between success and failure. It is the combination of several working together. In my case, the experience with Eyeformatics has deeply impacted our Innovar Partners success. Without the prior failure, Innovar Partners would be a different company if it existed at all.”