Releasing Fear and Resistance

In hopes of helping you keep or maybe re-discover your perspective, I’m pulling back the curtain and sharing my recent journey into the depths of Resistance and back again.

Being in business is the most proactive personal development activity on the planet. Life is too, of course, and being in business forces you to face your stories and fears in ways that other dimensions of your life don’t.

If you’ve been in business any length of time, I”m sure you can relate!

You probably went into business filled with excitement, exhilaration, optimism and a sense purpose in every fiber of your being. There was no time for doubts and distractions.

For me, I had 20 years of business, marketing and teaching experience – how hard could it be?! I was ready!

And we don’t know what we don’t know. We feel called to great heights, and often don’t even see the stumbling blocks, much less the abyss.

Fast forward to this fall. Being in business has been an transformational roller-coaster experience.

Hopefully, you’re enjoying the rewards too – working with amazing clients, helping them transform their lives and businesses as they transform yours. Developing new friendships and relationships along the way, crossing thresholds, changing your old stories, releasing baggage you no longer choose to carry. The wins, the losses – the growth!

Holy moly! Business in a nutshell.

Just when everything seems great…

So this time, when fear and Resistance came, (it never truly goes away) I thought I was ready.

As usual, it reared it’s ugly head seemingly out of the blue. And as I look back now from the other side of the crevasse – I see the warning signs that were there. The hesitations and stumbles, the doubts and distractions that began to PILE on, the procrastination – and finally – the paralysis.

Damn. It was deep. I was stuck. And terrified. For a dark time I wandered perilously close to the edge. I had my first ever anxiety attack. I had a huge pit in my stomach – daily. I took a break. Unplugged completely.

I felt so confused! I’d always moved through my stuff with meditation, journaling, movement, breathing – intentionally and fairly easily. Over the past several years I’d peeled back various versions of “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not worthy”, “Who am I to do this?”.

Why was this time so HARD?

I’d done the work. I’d released those stories. I thought.

And here they were again – on steroids! I recognized they were all variations on the same theme. Distinctly different, and very similar. As I worked through this massive block I discovered how our thoughts cluster around and obscure our core negative beliefs. These tricky devils work together to protect us from our deepest fear. Oh they are slippery. That’s why it can feel like they come back, even after you’ve done the work on each one.

“You again?! I thought we were done?”

I’m so glad for my an incredible support system. Without it, I’m not sure I’d be writing to you today, renewed, re-energized and on fire! I hope so. And I’ll never know. As I shared my deepest fears with my mentor and mastermind members, they helped me see the thing – my core negative belief – that was holding me back.

I don’t mind sharing it – but it’s kind of long and complicated.  Seems like most stories are, right?

Working through this particular story with the help of people I know, love and trust was a longer journey than I thought it would be. Thankfully, I’m well on the road to recovery, and so grateful for every person who has walked alongside me.

And I’m grateful for you. You are the reason I do this work. And why I’m sharing such a personal journey.

Steps to Releasing Resistance

Please, remember, when you’re dancing with your own demons – they’re there for a reason. There’s a lesson to learn. Lean in and ask for guidance, for answers. You’ll find them. You already know what the answers are, sometimes it just takes a mirror to see them.

If you’re struggling with fear, or any of the masks it wears: confusion, procrastination, anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, and worry, to name just a few – the most important thing you can do is practice gratitude and faith.

It’s impossible to stay stuck in fear if you can find the things in your life you are grateful for. You may not feel grateful as you make your list. That’s ok for now. Just make a list and keep adding to it. And allow the love to come through again.

Remind yourself that you are here for a greater purpose, and have faith that you will find the way – and that you aren’t alone. God, the Universe, Spirit, the Divine, Source – it’s real. Remember who you are. And take time for self-care during this period. Rest. Trust. Breathe. Move. Find a trusted friend or colleague to talk to.

And write. Pour out the confusion and anguish onto paper. Don’t edit your thoughts – just write a stream of consciousness from the heart. Keep your hand moving across the paper until you have filled 2 pages. And do it again the next day, and the next. This activity, born from Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way is one of the biggest gifts I give myself.

It will bring out the best and worst in you. And will help the fears surface and find their true voice. Don’t be alarmed by this.

Just acknowledge them, thank them for trying to keep you safe, love them, and let them go. Release the resistance.  The fear.

As one friend put it – “It can stay in the car with you if it must, but it can’t drive!”

Next time it happens, when you feel the fear and resistance arise, remember this is part of the journey. It is truly darkest before the dawn. And, if you persevere, you’ll grow in ways that may surprise you.  You WILL find the treasure you seek – it’s more beautiful than you can imagine!

You have gifts and talents to share – and you’re amazing, perfect, and enough – just the way you are.  And so am I.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

How DO you get it all done?!

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

One of the biggest things that comes up for entrepreneurs is handling the sheer number of things that need to get done!  Whether you alone are your business, or you have a team in place (which adds another level of responsibilities) – there never seems to enough time to get it all done.

Strategic planning, branding, developing products and services, production and distribution, sales and marketing, networking, purchasing and inventory, record keeping, financial statements, hiring decisions, staff training, legal issues, and expansion – it’s a wonder anyone chooses to go into business!

And, as an entrepreneur, you have already made that choice.  You have a passion to share, and you want to choose your lifestyle. You have a deep faith in yourself that you can do it. And you are right.  As long as you are clear on where you want to go, and take regular, meaningful action, you will leave your impact.

At the same time, I talk to so many people who say they want it, but they just aren’t ready YET.  They want to start a business so badly, or grow in a new direction and hire more staff, or offer new deeper experiences for their clients and customers, and they don’t have it all figured out yet, so they are paralyzed.  And that paralysis can be terminal.  I’ve seen it happen many times.  Years go by, and nothing changes.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Remember.

Done is better than perfect.  

To me, that is the first “rule” of business.  Maybe the only rule.

It’s a fine line.  I know.  You want to put your best out there.  And first impressions DO matter.  Yet, if you are constantly tweaking and re-tweaking BEFORE you hit “Publish” or “Send” you will waste valuable time.  And you won’t ever see the results of your work.  You won’t move forward.

You need traction, you need to make mistakes, you need to learn from those mistakes and keep moving forward – no matter what.

You can always go back and edit your posts and emails and res-hoot videos.  (Trust me!)  But don’t let perfectionism hold you back.  Just DO IT!

Lecture over – now – running your business is a bit like herding cats.  Tasks can take on a life of their own and pull you in multiple directions, each howling for your attention.  To wrangle the herd and keep it moving in formation, it boils down to time management and systems.  There are hundreds of books and courses on the subject; ultimately, you have to find what works best for you.

Following is a simple system that may serve you well – it’s kind of like reverse goal planning! (And don’t let the “G-word” turn you off.  Goals help you focus on where you want to go and how you are going to get there.  I love, love SMART goals and have a post here (Give Your Business Wings) on exactly how to set SMART goals to drive your business in the RIGHT direction). In the meantime you can choose to tackle it this way (remember – it’s gotta work for YOU!)

Brain Dump to create a list of tasks or “to-do’s”

Even with great goals and lead measures in place – there are often many other “to-do’s” that don’t fit smoothly into the big picture.

Writing these niggling things down reduces stress and encourages deeper thinking. Creating “to-do” lists frees your mind from having to remember it all so your brain can engage in more productive activity. It can move from simply remembering details into deeper stages of thought like analysis, evaluation and creativity.  This is the stuff successful businesses are made of.

As an added bonus – as you cross items off your list you can literally see the progress you are making.  Revel in your accomplishments!  You can also see which items are being carried over from list to list – these are obviously the things you are putting off.  Is it because they aren’t priorities, or are you avoiding them?  Think about it.

I recommend a good brain dump periodically to get these out of your brain and on paper.  With a  pen – not a keyboard.  Leave gaps between items so you can add things later.  Use corners and margins if necessary to get it all on one page.

Step 1:  Set a timer for 20 minutes and list everything you can think of.  Ready?  Go!

Group Tasks (AKA Lead Measures!) Into Categories

Grouping your list items together helps your brain process information more efficiently and creatively.  It has also been said that “the process of combining pieces of information to create something more meaningful is a crucial aspect both of learning and of consciousness and is one of the defining features of human experience.”  (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings)

Step 2: After you have your list of “to-do’s”, group them into broader categories.  

For example, the following 4 “to-do’s” could be grouped into a category called Website:

  1. Submit proposal for web designer to elance
  2. Research similar sites
  3. Find images
  4. Write text for Home Page

These “to-do’s” can become Branding:

  1. Survey potential customers
  2. Choose niche
  3. Develop tagline
  4. Submit proposal to Logo Tournament

Likewise, these become Marketing:

  1. Create page
  2. Start posting daily
  3. Research Facebook Advertising

And these go under Speaking:

  1. Watch TedX Talks
  2. Call Chambers of Commerce for opportunities
  3. Research meetup.com
  4. Outline signature speech

If you STILL have random tasks – put them under a category called “Parking Lot“!

Backwards planning

Step 3. Get out your calendar and set deadlines

Choose which activity is most meaningful right now.  Decide what you have to do first. Not what you want to do – but what MUST be completed to move forward.  Then get out your calendar, and give it a deadline.  Be realistic.  Work backward.  If your website has to be launched by August 25, then final edits should be complete by August 23. That means final web copy has to be complete by August 20.  That means your 2nd draft should be complete by August 15, and so on.  Put each deadline on your calendar.  Allow extra time. Things always take longer than expected.

Create blocks of time

Step 4.  Schedule 30 – 60 minutes with yourself to complete 1-2 of your most important tasks.  

Choose 1-2 tasks each week to work on and carve out the time to get them done.  Studies have shown there is a diminishing law of returns with goals and tasks.  Work on 1-2 and you will get them done.  If you try to tackle 3-4 – you may complete 1.  If you try to do 5 or more – you many not complete any!  Crazy – but who am I to question science?!  Besides, I have to agree with the research based on personal experience.  Slow and steady.  Baby steps.  This is how you build a business – it’s like eating an elephant – one bite at a time.

Looking at the big picture of all your tasks and to-do’s helps you prioritize and set deadlines.  Scheduling blocks of time to work on one or two tasks each week allows you to methodically approach what could otherwise overwhelm!  Also – using a timer can help you gauge how long something actually takes, and tells you when it is time to move to another task, helping you plan your time wisely.

The bottom line is that as an entrepreneur you do have a thousand tasks to keep track of.  That is the reality.  It is the work style you chose, (or it chose you!) It isn’t easy, but it is do-able if you have a system and make it work for you.  And remember – DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT!

Breathe and enjoy the process.  Remember- you can do it all – you just can’t do it all at the same time!

 

Systems Made Simple!

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Systems.  (ugh)

I’ve never been one to implement systems and processes. Heck, even the words turn me off. Systems and processes sound so, well dull.  To my way of thinking, there are many more exciting things to focus on in business.

It wasn’t until I actually learned and started implementing systems that I understood their freaking amazing VALUE. And became hooked.

When I began applying them to my business – it was as if a giant light bulb went off. Everything became so much easier and more predictable.

Now when I talk to people who have been in business a while, it’s one of the first things I ask.

What kind of SYSTEMS do you have in place?

Do you have a system for generating leads, nurturing customers, selling products and services, managing your team?

Do you have a system for feedback and testimonials?

For your finances?

The answer is usually “Not really, but I know should.”

Darn right.

Systems prevent things from falling between the cracks. They improve sales and profits, your customers’ experiences and team performance.

Systems make sure your business runs smoothly when you are away (on vacation!)

They save you time, money, frustration, and, by the way, make your business easier to sell someday.

So why DON’T you have systems in place? In my experience, chances are you think it is too hard, you aren’t sure how, or you don’t see the value.

Well, they really are easy to develop, (even fun!), and massively important.  Please trust me on this.

A system is really just a check list. And that’s a great place to start.

Think about an area of your business you want to create a system for – and start small.

Here’s an example:

Since I happen to love marketing and sales, that is where I started – and I can’t emphasize enough the impact on my sanity – and my bottom line!

My marketing system is made up of many smaller systems like social media systems, website systems, lead generation and nurturing systems, etc.

To tackle this system you want to start small.  Say, with a system to manage a Facebook Fan page.

1. Identify your objective.  What do you want the system to do?

For instance, maybe your goal is to provide valuable content on your fan page daily, share offers to work with you weekly, and increase engagement.

2.  Identify your strategy.

You might choose to share a relevant blog post, video, or inspirational messages every day, and once a week share an update on your current offer, special, or program. Furthermore, you might choose to ask a question on each post to increase engagement.

3. Create your checklist/system.

If you decide to hire this out, a super-simple checklist might look like this:

  • Find/Create 10 inspirational ads – add logo.
  • Find 10 funny, creative or educational short videos; under 3 minutes. Write 2-3 sentence summary and include a question.
  • Find 10 relevant blog posts; write 2-3 sentence summary, reference the author, and include a question.
  • Place material in Google Drive folder by the 20th of each month for approval.
  • On the 27th of each month use HootSuite to post approved content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter; Pinterest; Google+ and Instagram

Super simple.  Easy to manage.  Done.  Next.

Granted, it can be a little more complex depending where you are in your business, and systems take time to implement.  However, once your systems are in place, your business can begin to run itself.

Your mission today is to create a checklist to “automate” one area of your business.

And if I make a suggestion, one system that should be a priority is your system to capture and nurture leads. Failing to track and nurture leads is one of the biggest mistakes we make in business.

I know, I’ve been there.

The first 6 months I was in business I was very careless with my best leads and it made a huge impact on my sales when I was ready to share my first offer. I had a great product and without the right leads  it was hard to fill my first few masterminds. I hope you learn from my mistakes.

So, what system are you going to start building today?

I’m happy to review it and give you my input if you want to connect!

3 Key Things to do BEFORE You Start Marketing!

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

There are a few things in life we can count on: death, taxes, and the fact that without customers, your business will cease to exist.

I can’t help you with the first two – but I’m pretty darn good on the customer thing. And I know there are a 3 key action steps many people skip when it comes to marketing!

Completing these activities is the foundation of a successful business.

  1. Know Your Customer
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Craft a Compelling Message (To  stand apart from all the noise and RESONATE with your best prospects!)

1. Know Your Customer: I wrote about the importance of identifying your ideal customer in a recent post: Does Your Customer Have a First Name? In it, I explain how to drill down and choose who you want to work with. Answering the questions I shared will help you determine EXACTLY who your customer is, and what their challenges and dreams are. The more you know about your best potential clients, the better you can find them and begin talking to them.

2. Do Your Research: Another post talked about the importance of basic market research. A Little Market Research Goes a Long Way! outlines simple strategies that can yield huge results. Research doesn’t have to be complicated – and it is a crucial activity which should be part of your ongoing marketing strategy.

This brings us to our third key activity!

3. Craft a Compelling Message that will RESONATE with your best prospects! I find many business owners and entrepreneurs know intrinsically what their point of difference is, but they have a hard time verbalizing it.

Your ability to communicate your unique point of difference – the reasons people should do business with YOU and not with someone else – can literally make or break your business.

Take the time to craft a clear statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well. Describe your target buyer, the problem you solve, and why you’re distinctly better than the alternatives. This simple statement helps you stand out from the very crowded market and is the foundation of your brand and all your marketing.

When you can articulate your Unique Selling Point, or USP – you will be ahead of the game! So, what’s yours? If you aren’t sure complete the following steps.  (Disclaimer Alert! I use my business as an example because I know it so well – I don’t mean for this post to be a blatant advertisement!  At the same time – if the message resonates….so be it!)  🙂

A. Begin by defining the problem. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of diving headlong into the solution before really understanding the problem they’re looking to solve. Ask yourself – how important is the problem to my potential customer? What will happen if it isn’t fixed?  How are they addressing the problem now?

The problems my BEST Customer has are:

  • Being in business is harder than (she) thought it would be
  • Overwhelmed with the details of running it
  • Lots of ideas; not sure where to focus
  • Frustrated by the lack of growth
  • Not making the money she wants/deserves

If the problem isn’t fixed:

  • Her dreams could go up in smoke!

She is currently addressing the problem by:

  • Researching internet articles and videos
  • Talking to friends and family
  • Taking courses 
  • Hiring a coach

B. Then, describe your solution. How can you help your potential customers address their problems differently? (Better!?) This can be hard. It’s one reason Market Research is important. Look at what your competitors offer, then ask yourself why your solution is superior, and what makes you the right choice to do business with. Is it your schooling, education or training? Your experience? Technique? Or perspective?

My solution is: Virtual Mastermind Programs that combine powerful content AND peer collaboration/accountability.  After all, more heads are better than one!

The reasons I am the right choice are: 

  • 20+ years in business/marketing
  • Working with online and offline business models and marketing strategies
  • Clients come from retail, service, wholesale, MLM, and non-profit ventures
  • I’m a Trained Facilitator and Educator
  • I’ve designed and taught B2B & B2C Marketing/Sales/Leadership
  • I have 10+ years experience leading small groups
  • I have developed a Signature RoadMap system to keep your business on track

C. Now, design your message. What story can you tell? What details can you use? How can you do something differently?

Here is my USP as an example:

l lead powerful mastermind groups of amazing entrepreneurs who are growing businesses to escape the time and money trap. Together we brainstorm ideas, set goals and hold each other accountable. Weekly training is focused on how to generate new QUALIFIED leads and prospects, convert them into paying customers, and build systems to help their business practically run itself!  As a professional facilitator I keep meetings on track and on time and leverage the collective wisdom and experience of the group. Capped at just 6 carefully selected members, each group is large enough for everyone to benefit from diversity of the group, and small enough so every member receives individual attention.

THIS gives me a solid foundation to build from. It’s a little wordy in day-to-day conversation and is easily shortened to: “I run online masterminds for entrepreneurs who want to be more strategic and successful in business”.  This simple statement opens many doors and starts great dialogues with my best potential customers and is much more productive than saying “I’m a business strategist.”

These three activities are the foundation for your company, and the beginning of defining your brand.  When you know who your customer is, you know where to find them. And when you know what your unique message is, you know what to say to get their attention. And THAT is the sole purpose of Marketing.

It’s a crowded market place out there. How do you stand out? How will your customers know YOU are the right choice?

I would love to hear your thoughts or your USP if you care to share!

Does your customer have a first name?

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

To build a successful business, you need to be intensely focused on your prospective customers. In order to find them and attract their attention, you first need to understand who they are and what they really need.

When you are crystal clear on your ideal customer:

  • You know how to best serve them.
  • You know how to speak their language.
  • You will save $$ with focused and effective marketing.
  • You can begin to build relationships so they get to know and like you!
  • You will earn their business and increase your sales!

Can we agree that “everyone” is not a target audience? I hope so, because “everyone” does NOT need your product or service.  Really.

Once upon a time, in the days of mass media, it was enough to market to “18- to 49-year old men and women who have disposable income.” Those days are a thing of the past.

With the internet and social media, people have more choices than ever on how they buy and consume products and services. There is a lot of noise in the marketplace vying for their attention.

In order to stand out from the competition, you need to position your business by crafting compelling messages to interest and engage them.  We will talk more about that in a few weeks – but it starts with knowing your customer.

In today’s highly social and relationship-oriented market, the most successful  entrepreneurs drill down to discover their ONE person.  The ONE person they exist to serve.

When you know your person, you can:

Market to and own a niche where you become “the one to go to”.

Hone your marketing message so it appeals to a specific someone as opposed to a generic everyone.

Increase conversion rates by saying the right thing to encourage your customer to take action.

Attract more of the right customer because the “wrong” people won’t be attracted by your message.

Avoid spending time, money and energy on strategies that just don’t work.

So while your business could theoretically serve any number of people, who would you most like to work with on a consistent basis?!

What you do want to end up with at the end of this exercise is something like this:

Stacey Anderson is a confident 47 year old woman.  She has a BA in Communications and was raised by middle class parents – her dad was the sole breadwinner and did very well.  She is married and lives in Chico, California.  She and her husband Dan earn a combined annual income of $95,000.  Dan is in insurance; 5 years ago Stacey turned her passion for photography into her own business that she runs from home. She usually shops at Safeway (using coupons and buying what is on sale). She is starting to eat more organic food and loves Whole Foods for produce. She occasionally splurges at Macy’s or Nordstrom’s – but you will find her looking for thrift store bargains and in Target, too. She drives a Subaru Outback. She and Dan have two kids, Cole is 16 – a freshman in high school, and Danielle is 20, and in her sophomore year at UCS. As a family, they love the outdoors. They ski in Tahoe and Redding when they can, and hike and camp around Lake Almanor. Stacey dreams of traveling internationally with the family. She is a spiritual woman who is starting to meditate and re-discover herself.

Stacey is frustrated with her business. Being in business is harder than she thought it would be. She is making (some) money and has (some) clients but it isn’t as profitable as she wants it to be.  She is:

• Frustrated by the lack of growth in her business.

• Overwhelmed with the details of running it.

• Not really sure where to focus her efforts.

• Not making the money she deserves.

She feels she isn’t living her full potential, and doesn’t know what to do or how to pull the pieces together. Stacey really wants to make her work profitable while having an impact on her client’s lives. Financial freedom is important to her, but deep down she is afraid they will never really be able to live the lifestyle she yearns for which includes a house with a view and more traveling with their grown children and spouses in the future.

Stacey has become a real person!

Think about your ONE person. The one who you were thinking of when you started your business. The one for whom you developed your product or service.  If the answers don’t come quickly – think about who you are drawn to.  Who do you want to work with?  It’s your business – you get to decide!

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What is their gender, age, education, occupation or business?
  • What was their upbringing?
  • What is their income, financial and relationship situation
  • What is their situation today in life or work?
  • Where does your customer live or work?
  • Where do they shop?  Where do they eat? What kind of car do they drive?
  • Do they have kids?  How many?  How old are they?
  • Where do they travel?
  • What is their greatest fear?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What do they really want but think they will never have?

EXTRA CREDIT!  Give your customer a name and find an image that best represents the person you’ve described. Next, frame the photo and place it prominently in your work space as a constant reminder of who the right PERSON is for you.

Now, examine everything you do, through their eyes.  Create every product or service, every piece of marketing, every blog post, and every branding decision with them in mind. Will they like this? If the answer is yes, you are successfully sticking to your brand identity and talking to the right person. And they will recognize that and reward you with their business!

So how about you – do you know your customer’s first name?!

Create Your Vision of Success!

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

One of the most powerful truths in life has to be that as human beings, we all have the ability to create our own success. This is such a simple statement it almost appears inconsequential, and perhaps you have heard it expressed so often it no longer has the ability to astonish.

But think about what this really means!  

Writers, researchers, philosophers and speakers have been telling us this for ages because it’s an amazing phenomenon and gift!

When you know what you want, the universe conspires to make it happen” writes Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist. “What your mind can conceive you can achieve”, writes Napoleon HIll in Think and Grow Rich.  “When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you will find a way to get it,” says Jim Rohn.

Even neuroscience has proven that parts of your brain are stimulated when you look into the future dream of bigger things – emotionally satisfying things – and that your brain actually mobilizes your inner resources to get you there and make what you envision happen!

Holy smokes. If that isn’t a reason to create a vision for where you want to go that will capture and motivate your brain to help get you there – then I don’t know what is!  

I like to create a 5 year vision.  5 years is far enough in the future to let my imagination run wild and think about what is truely possible, and not too far away to feel unrealistic and unattainable.

I release all limitations and imagine I have unlimited resources, time, energy, health and money.  And I ask myself a series or powerful questions and visualize the answers that come.

Then I write it down in paragraph form and flesh it out, filling in the details.  

There’s enormous power in writing things down.  This triggers part of your brain to pay attention to this information.  It says “This is important!”, and begins working behind the scenes to see that it happens.

Of course, the alternative is to just go with the flow and see where life takes you. There isn’t anything wrong with this approach; you might even end up in a great place.

More often than not though, this leads to waking up one day and wondering how the heck you ended up in debt, or bankrupt, or with 5 ex-spouses, or even hating your business. 

If you choose to be intentional about your success, create a vision describing where you want to go that’s aligned with your purpose and your values.

If you have a current vision you love – congrats!  You’re ahead of the game!

If not, click here for a short video and download and in just 15 minutes you’ll craft a powerful vision that inspires and motivates you, and gives you tremendous clarity and focus.

This simple activity will keep you moving in the direction of your dreams, help you make better business decisions, and help you persevere during the “growth opportunities” your business brings.

With your vision firmly in mind, you have something specific to focus your attention on.  And you know that where you place your attention is what grows.

Your vision also guides your goals, and your daily, weekly, and monthly action steps.  You know what to do every day so you can move forward with intention and purpose, releasing the overwhelm and confusion far too common in business.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below (or hear about your vision!), or in our private Facebook Group!

A little Market Research goes a long way!

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For many business owners, market research ranks on up there with paying taxes and root canals! It is one of those critical business strategies that people go to extreme lengths to avoid – and yet even a few hours invested here wisely can make a huge difference in your bottom line!
 
Market research gives you insight into your market, your competitors, and your customers.  
 
It helps you:
  • Make better business decisions which saves you time and money
  • Focus your resources where they will be most effective.
  • Improve your position in the marketplace.

So why don’t more entrepreneurs embrace this activity?

I think it’s because most people don’t realize how easy it can be.  They hear terms like “quantitative” and “qualitative” research – and run!

Don’t let the lingo scare you – market research is simply finding information about your competition and your customers. Depending on your business model (and personality type!) you may need to deeper – but most entrepreneurs can uncover some pretty great stuff in a few :60 minute sessions with Google and regular conversations with clients and potential customers.

Your Competition:

  1. Find 3-4 websites of competitors.  Study them.
  2. Who are they targeting?
  3. What information/value do they provide?
  4. What is their opt-in? (Sign up for it and study their follow-up sequence)
  5. What is their point of difference?
  6. How do they package their products and services?
  7. What are they charging?
  8. What can you do differently?
 
Your Customers:
The key is to ask the right people the right questions, and ask enough people to get meaningful results.  Asking friends and relatives what they think about your ideas is not market research. You need to gather information from a significant sample of people who match the profile of your target audience. 
 
Here are some basic survey questions to ask:
  1. Gender 
  2. Age Range:  under 21      22-34       35-44        45-54        55-65            over 65
  3. Education:    High School Some College     AA       BA      Graduate School      Other
  4. Income:    <$25K          $25K – $75K        $75K – $100K      over $100K
  5. Do you own your home or rent?
  6. What do you like most about our product?
  7. What changes would most improve our product?
  8. What do you like most about products from other companies?
  9. What changes would most improve products from other companies?
  10. What would make you more likely to use our new product?
  11. How much would you expect to pay for this type of product?

Keep in mind that unless people really know and like you and your products and services, survey response rates are generally low. Offering an incentive can help lift those rates.

Other Types of Research:
There is a lot of info on the internet about your industry, your market, and buying patterns…a few simple searches can reveal details that might change the way you position or market yourself.
 
If you are thinking about a location –  observe traffic. You may also want to carry out an experiment as part of your market research, such as a blind tasting of different products. Or even watching people as they shop!
 
Market research needs to be a regular planned part of your marketing. Even if you are an established business, you need to stay in touch with your customers’ needs as well as market trends and your competitors. It measures the effectiveness of your own marketing, giving you information about attitudes to everything from packaging and advertising to brand name awareness.
 
What do you think?  Do you research your customers and competition?  What works for you?  I woulds love to hear YOUR thoughts below!

The Best Way to Get Something Done is to Begin

business masterminds

I am not a writer.

Yet, I made a decision to write a blog post every week for a year. I did this for many reasons, primarily to find my voice, the unique message I’m meant to share. 

When I was younger, I used to write, a lot. I mean MUCH younger. I wrote short stories, and poetry in grade school – and I loved it.

I have written many things in my career. Newsletters, Annual Reports, Press Releases, Radio Commercials, Technical Manuals and much more. Some were more challenging to write than others, but none were as difficult as this 52 week assignment has been.

So I procrastinate. I lay in the grass and gratefully soak up a few rays after the long winter. I find new recipes for the fresh produce from the farmer’s market. I take a nap. I even did some overdue housework this week (!) – and I think about what I will write – but I don’t write.

And this week I am behind. Again. It’s Saturday.  My deadline was Thursday.  Riley, my beautiful Springer Spaniel  is begging to go for our weekend hike in the mountains – and I have to say no, not now.

Thankfully, I have a VA who helps hold me accountable. In order for her to meet her deadline, I have to meet mine. When I do, I can focus on the “C” level tasks that grow my business – and take weekends off! When I don’t – my self-imposed consequence is to “stay after school” and process the post myself. Which is what I will be doing today.

So what’s really up? Why do we put things off to the last minute? We all do – hence the number of posts and podcasts on procrastination!

Why DO we Procrastinate?

Some reasons are more obvious that others.

  • We don’t like the particular task
  • It isn’t urgent and/or important enough relative to everything else we have to do
  • We think it will take too much time
  • We don’t know what to do or how to do it
  • We are too busy with other things

I think it goes even deeper.

  • We are afraid the result won’t be perfect.
  • We are afraid to be vulnerable.
  • We are afraid we will fail.

Now, I am a huge proponent of scheduling and being organized. I have a great system developed over time that I will share in the next few weeks.

Even so, things fall through the cracks in spite of our best intentions. Sometimes our minds become full and we become less mindful of what we need to do. And sometimes we just intentionally put things off!

So. Now what? Here is what (usually) works for me:

Getting Unstuck and Taking Action

1. Recognize WHY you are procrastinating – it is different for everyone and for every task – and the first step to getting “unstuck”. Once you know why you are putting something off – you can usually, logically, get yourself in gear.

In my case, writing is not my favorite task. I would much rather work in (any) other areas of my business!

2. Verbalize the consequences of putting off the activity. Ask yourself, what will happen if I don’t take action now? If the answer is increased stress, or lost income, or not living up to a commitment you have made – then you know it is time to act.

Frankly, the result of not getting the post to my VA on time is not a huge penalty for me. I don’t mind the next sequence in the system. Now, I WILL have the post processed through step “B” by Monday because I do want to avoid step “C”! That is too painful for me! Fortunately, my VA rocks that piece!

3. Decide to take action. Just do it. And set a timer!

My favorite tool for getting unstuck on a project is to use a timer. I set it in :30 minute increments so I can get up and move around every half hour. This keeps my body and my creativity flowing. I decide ahead of time how long I will allow myself to work on a post. (Usually 90 minutes) And then I get it done. I know I only have a certain amount of time, so I stay focused and commit to the process.

4. Celebrate! Do the Happy Dance! Revel in the feeling of accomplishment. You have earned it – and proven once again that you can do anything you set your mind to.

These steps work for me when I am consciously avoiding a small task or project that doesn’t have a huge amount of pain associated with it.

What if You Don’t Know Where to Begin?!

If there is a huge project you are putting off – there are two more steps to add to the beginning of the process.

1. Chunk the project into smaller pieces that take one hour or less, and can be crossed off a list.

For instance, if you are creating a new product like a 6 month online program, or a new sequence to your marketing plan – that can seem incredibly overwhelming. And if you break it into a series of manageable tasks, it becomes very do-able!

Tasks for a training program could include:

  • Write a survey to send to existing customers.
  • Distribute survey to existing customers
  • Distribute survey to potential new customers
  • Research 2 competitive products
  • Research online learning platforms
  • Create Outline for program
  • Talk to trusted friend or affiliate about options
  • etc., etc., etc.

2. Schedule 1-3 of those hourly tasks in your calendar each week. Now you have a plan to eat that darn elephant one bite at a time! And if you begin to put off these tasks – start at the beginning of this post.

Of course this is usually easier said than done – and having a system to keep you on track and moving forward in your business is the best way to avoid the procrastination trap.

Ahhhh – there goes my timer!  Time to wrap things up and go for that hike!

We all have developed our own ways of dealing with procrastination – what works for you?

I would love to hear your comments below!

Living Life on Purpose

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

As I slow down and reflect, I realize I have been on a very long journey. (One that, hopefully, will continue for many years to come!)

For the better part of 5 decades, I lived an amazing life. I have a wonderful husband who I have been married to for over 25 years, and two young adult sons who are the light of my life.

Our finances have (mostly) been healthy; we have a beautiful home in a gorgeous location and we make time to enjoy life and each other. I have close friends and had a tremendously satisfying and varied career. I have been spiritually fed and over time I have learned to cultivate gratitude and patience.

Of course, nothing is perfect, I have lost both my beloved parents, and have endured the agony of watching my youngest child struggle with chronic illnesses. But I have always believed life is what we make of it – that we choose our attitude. This served me well for many, many years.

A few years ago, the combination of losing my dad very suddenly, dealing with a prematurely empty nest, and a significant personal crisis in my career rocked my world and shook me out of my complacency.

When I landed, I was lost and lonely.

I embarked on a journey of self-discovery that frequently brought me to my knees with unexpected opportunities for growth and the sheer joy of what is possible when we let go of our tethers.

Understanding came late in my life, but I finally realized that no matter our chronological age:

All our life experiences have uniquely prepared us for THIS moment.

We are all absolutely where we are supposed to be, right now.

There was a part of me that had always suspected this to be true. I was the first to chime “things happen for a reason” during conversations with others. But I had no idea how true it really is.

As I gave myself permission to remember who I was and why I was here I asked many questions. And wonderful, gifted teachers appeared along the way with the answers I sought.

I came to embrace the sacred responsibility which I believe we all share:

Our life’s purpose is discovering our unique gifts and sharing them with others.

The journey of self-discovery isn’t easy – and it isn’t hard. It is, however, the most rewarding journey of all.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is – I encourage you to be intentional in your efforts to discover it.

  • Reconnect with your core values. Can you name your top 5?
  • Determine what motivates you to do your best. Recognition? Influence? Accomplishment? There are no right or wrong answers.
  • Identify your strengths. Are you a creator? A planner? A creative strategist? What are your good at?
  • What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?

Your purpose resides in the area where these overlap.If you aren’t sure, ask. Out loud. In writing. Ask what you need to learn to discover your purpose.

Then wait and watch. Listen. The answers will come.

You will know you are on the right path when your heart begins to sing – and fear will show up too. This is often how you know you are on your growing edge.

Many of us choose to express our life’s purpose through our work – which is a beautifully satisfying expression.

I knew I had chosen the right path (or perhaps it chose me?) when I discovered this quote:

“Most people die with their music still trapped inside.”

Reading it now, I still feel an ache inside to help others release their music.

I know without a doubt my mission is to help entrepreneurs be successful in their mission. I know the stats – 8 out of 10 businesses fail – and I know I have to do something about it.

Most people go into business because they are passionate about their purpose – not because they have a passion for business. But business IS my passion. After months of wandering, with that quote, I knew I was home.

Knowing this is my purpose keeps me going every day. The journey isn’t easy, as you know and if it were, everyone would be doing it. When we stay focused on the possibility and the promise – on the abundance of life – the pieces fall into place.

Trust the process.

I would love to learn about your passion, your purpose!  Please leave your comments below.

3 Little Words to Fix Your Business

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

If you’re frustrated with your business, I feel your pain.  I’ve been there.  As fulfilling as it is to be paid for what you love to do, there is often deep frustration.  There are many reasons we struggle as entrepreneurs.

Research tells us the #1 reason businesses fail is a lack of planning and focus.  So, take the time to adequately plan how you will run your business – and you will dramatically increase your odds of success!  

The three little words?

Write. Your. Plan.

I love it when I’m impulsive in my work and it pays off.  However, in my world, this is the exception rather than the rule.

I’m not sure why the words “business” + “planning” freak out so many people.  Is it the image of a 50 page document gathering dust on a shelf?  Because that is so NOT what I’m talking about. I’m talking about getting crystal clear on where you want to go, and how you want to get there.  

It isn’t hard – and many of the business owners I work with know they have to do this – yet I get a lot of rolling eyes when I bring it up.

Now, I love to plan.  Really, it lights me up!  Creating strategies to move businesses forward – bring it ON! Every business is different – and I love the challenge of helping my clients discover how to create and implement a successful plan that fits their unique vision and personality.  What lights THEM up is seeing how putting time and energy into planning turns their business around.

If you are struggling in business, create a plan for success.  If you already have a plan and you are still struggling?  It’s time to revise the plan.  

Don’t try to knock it out in a day or two.  That isn’t the way it works.  Instead, start at the beginning and (re)visit the basics. Spend some precious time reflecting on:

Your VISION: What you want to accomplish over the next year or two. Why is this important to you?  Describe where you want to be in    5 years.  How do you want your business to evolve?

Your TARGET:  Who needs what you have? More importantly – why do they need it?  What pain are they experiencing?

Your PRODUCT/SERVICE:  How does your product or service solve the problem? How do you do it differently from the competition?

Discovering meaningful answers to these seemingly simple questions is critical.  To get to the heart of why people should spend their hard-earned money with you instead of someone else, you have to go deep.  You have to really understand these three things: what motivates you, how to connect with your customers, and how you can solve their problems.

Once you have this foundation, you can begin creating the financial, marketing and sales components of your plan.  THIS is where I see things fall apart for many entrepreneurs.  They don’t have a plan in place to drive their business forward.  They don’t know HOW to leap out of the starting gate and create a vibrant, thriving business that will sustain them emotionally and financially.

To have a legit business – and not just a hobby – you must have a plan.  

Your plan will describe:

  • Exactly what niche your product or service is filling and how to position it as an authentic solution.
  • How to find and engage your best customers
  • What to charge for your products and services so you can grow your business.
  • How many leads you need and how to convert qualified leads into a paying customers.  
  • What systems you need to put in place so your business doesn’t overwhelm your life.

Until you have a plan to accomplish these things – it is nearly impossible to create a profitable business that you love. You can create a business without a plan, but chances are it is stressful, overwhelming, and sucking you dry emotionally and financially.

There is plenty of information on the internet on growing a business; the challenge is recognizing the right strategy for YOU, staying focused on your goals, and following through with the most effective action to conserve your finances, and your time and energy.

This is why you need a plan.

When you take the time to Write. Your. Plan., you have a tremendous advantage – a sounding board to help you make the best decisions for YOU.  A compass to keep you focused on your path.  A strategy to reach your end game. You get the picture.

Your plan will always be a work in progress.  If you don’t have one yet, start by identifying your Vision, Target, and Products and Services. Write them down.  Make them real.  When you are solid on these, slowly add in the other pieces.  Don’t stop until  you have finished.  It might take months to flesh out your plan.  That’s fine! The return on your investment is huge!  And the risk of not creating a plan?  Failing in business.  Please, don’t let that happen.  The world needs you.  We need your gifts and talents.

So, create your plan.  Use a napkin if you like (!) just write it down.  It doesn’t count if it only exists in your mind. Sorry. To be real, and to be effective, a business plan needs to get out of your head and on paper.  If you have it on a computer – print it out.  Hold it, feel it. Read it.  Does your plan make sense?  Ask people around you.

Heck, send me your plan and I’ll give you my feedback.  Helping others create insightful and innovative strategies to succeed in business is what I love!

Do you have a plan?  I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.