Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Date first

When I worked in the non-profit sector, I had a reputation for bringing people together to collaborate on a project. Agencies didn’t always do so willingly, sometimes there was resistence – mainly because of territorial issues, but bottom line, we were able to find a common ground that made it work. Usually it was because of the clients, and we would pool our resources to better the outcome for them.

I can’t say I have had the same level of success since starting my own business. People are suspicious – always wanting to know what’s in it for them, and questioning why you would want to partner. Were you going to get more out of it? And when I have partnered, it hasn’t always worked out the way I expected.

When I reflect back on my non-profit days, I realize that apart from wanting the best for our clients, the other common factor we shared was our values. We tended to be working in the non-profit sector because we wanted to make a difference. Earning lots of money was never a draw, which is just as well as the salaries were low.

So when I look at the partnerships that haven’t worked, I can see now that part of the reason why, is we didn’t share the same values. We hadn’t taken the time to really get to know one another – to share our values, to discuss our vision of the intended outcome or to agree on goals. If one of you wants to make thousands and the other is happy with a lot less, then problems are bound to arise.

Also when you’re an entrepreneur, one of the reasons you’ve chosen that path is because you want to be in control of your own destiny, so it is not surprising that there are control issues when there are two captains steering the ship, and even more so when there is no real agreement on the end destination!

I’ve written my share of articles on partnerships, and have often joked that I really should read and heed my own advice! Does that mean that I am off partnerships? No. I see real merit in collaboration, in working with like-minded individuals who share a common audience or goal. It actually makes business sense.

But I am more cautious and less likely to get carried away by the excitement of a new idea, a new project. Now I would recommend dating before leaping into a serious business partnership with someone. Work on a mutually beneficial project first, see how it goes and then build on the relationship.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Living life to the fullest

Last night I gave my first public talk about being a breast cancer survivor.

I was nervous about revealing such intimate information and a bit wobbly to start but once I got into my stride, I realized that I do have an important message to convey. In my presentation I described my membership in the cancer club in terms of features and benefits. As most of the women were in business, I figured they would get the correlation.

But what may have surprised them was the fact that there are benefits:-

1. You become more focused. You don’t sweat the small stuff and become more selective on what you do, where you spend your time and who you spend it with. Negative people be gone.

2. You follow your passion – for me it was starting Company of Women and launching our magazine Company last year. Making a difference in the lives of women is important to me. This is my legacy.

3. You learn how much people love you. With all the cards, letters and kind gestures, you feel enveloped in love and caring. It’s like hearing the eulogies but you haven’t actually gone.

4. You take charge of your health. Information is power and for me I adopted a more healthy lifestyle – one that included exercise and regular work outs.

As I said at the end of my speech, ““Each of us finds our own path to survival. No path is every walked the same way twice, but we need not walk alone.”

To me this speaks to life, not just life with cancer.


Michael Dell, founder of Dell Inc, recently shared a story from his early entrepreneurial days. He was sixteen and had landed a job at the local newspaper, selling subscriptions. He quickly realized that the people most likely to buy the newspaper were those who were looking for a home to buy or rent, so he set about getting data on people who had just got married; who were applying for a mortgage and contacted them.

Within a month he was the top salesperson, and made enough money on commission to buy himself a BMW. His high school teacher challenged him when he submitted his tax return as part of the math class. She was positive he was making it up – but no, this was his real income and he was making more than his teacher!

The moral of the story? Do your homework. Think of who would need and benefit from your product or service. Then look at how best to reach those individuals. When you understand your target group, know how they think and feel, then you can tailor your marketing strategies to convert them into customers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Perfection Optional

Some people are born entrepreneurs. Right from an early age they have that entrepreneurial spirit. My daughter was 12 when she started her first business – Kids Klub, running a summer camp for local kids from our street. She learned a lot that summer and really it is not surprising that today she is onto her fourth business.

But not all young people are that enterprising. Take the young lad we hired this summer to try and tame our gardens. It has been interesting to watch him in action. First he was very timid. Not sure what were weeds and what was meant to be there, so he only removed the obvious sinners. Gradually he has become more confident but his approach is still be very much to focus on one area and make it perfect.

Perhaps because I want more instant gratification and I only have a certain amount of time to devote to the task, my strategy has been more wide-spread. I tend to attack and remove all tall offenders so that the overall garden looks OK, rather than having just one section that has been neatly groomed.

It’s just like owning your business, you quickly learn that you can’t just focus on one area and that striving for perfection isn’t necessarily the best survival tactic, as often there are several demands on our time. We don’t have that luxury. As entrepreneurs, we have to multi-task and be able to turn on a dime to deal with issues as they arise.

Our young gardener is an archaeology student, more used to being on a dig and studying his find, rather than making quick decisions about what goes, and what stays. No doubt he will do well in his chosen career.