Thursday, November 24, 2016

Open for business. Open to learn.

Scared. Excited. Nervous. Worried.  Sound like you?

Yes there is a real thrill about stepping out on your own, being your own boss and in control of your life (or so you think).  

But it is quickly coupled with a nervousness about whether this bold step you have taken is going to work out; that it’s going to pay your bills and ultimately lead to business success.

The challenge is that often you feel alone with your fears and that no one else can possibly be feeling the same way.  And yet that assumption would be wrong.

It was one of the reasons I started Company of Women as I found it lonely working at home and desperately wanted to connect with like-minded women who were on the same entrepreneurial path as me.

I often compare starting a business with having a baby, in that despite any homework you may do, nothing really prepares you for reality.  Also the emotions that stir up within you range from pure joy and excitement, rapidly followed by self doubt and anxiety that you are perhaps not cut out for this new job – be it as a parent or a business owner.

I have been in the entrepreneurial trenches for sixteen years now but earlier this year started a brand new venture.  Quickly I was reminded of what it feels like when you don’t know what you don’t know.   When you are used to being competent and knowledgeable, it is humbling to be back in the novice seat again.

And maybe that is why I am reflecting on what it is like to be in start up mode and why I’d like to see us – us being Company of Women – offer something concrete to help you get your business off the ground.

In the past I have run groups for newbies and at the beginning I’d often find that there was a group sigh of relief when they discovered that they were not alone with their emotional roller coaster.   I always remember one woman confessing that often when she got up in the morning she didn’t have a clue as to what she should be doing to further her business.  Around the table everyone was nodding in agreement.

The other interesting commonality that I observed is that while at the start of the group, the women were starting a certain business, by the end of the six months, their focus had changed and evolved as their concept of their business became clearer.

All of this to say that starting January 2017, we are launching a Start Up Club with a special membership rate for those at the beginning of their entrepreneurial venture or those about to embark on this journey, as well as webinars and online resources to help you focus, build your business and most important, establish your own support network.

We have a wealth of expertise within Company of Women, and these women are generously sharing their knowledge with you. 

As I have said in the past, you don’t have to be alone when you own.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Running on empty. Again.

You would think at my age that I would know better.  But I never seem to learn until my body says STOP.

It has been an exciting, busy week fast on the heels of a successful writers’ retreat. I mention the retreat because that was the start of my fast lane dash.  When you work over the weekend, you lose that chance to catch your breath, to restore your energies so come Monday you are roaring to go.

Not me.  Now I don’t want to turn this blog into a whiny post, especially since I am a big girl, and I am doing this to myself.  

I get excited about stuff, say yes, without checking my calendar and before you know it,  for example, I have three meetings in three different cities all on one day.

And as a result:

  • ·     I have over 800 emails in my inbox waiting for an answer.
  • ·      It’s Friday and I still haven’t written my Thursday blog
  • ·      I am sneezing and coughing all over the place.

Why do we do this to ourselves?   I am constantly writing about self-care, taking time for yourself, slowing down, and so on.

I think it is time I paid attention and took my own advice.  I am switching off now and going to curl up with a good book.

See you Monday.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Invest in yourself. Get a mentor.

When you start a business, you don’t know, what you don’t know and often you end up finding out the hard way.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a fast track so you could avoid some of the pitfalls?   When you have a mentor, someone who has already ‘been there, done that’ it could save you a lot of heartache. 

Sure you will still make your share of mistakes, that is how we learn, but just having someone asking you the right questions, gently or not-so gently prodding you in the right direction, can make a positive difference.

It is a lonely life out there as an entrepreneur. As a solopreneur you make all the decisions – something that attracts many of us to this career path in the first place, but the down side is what if you are wrong? Really wrong.

But you don’t have to be alone when you own. Having a mentor reduces that sense of isolation.  You have someone who is in the ring with you, cheering you on, celebrating your successes and providing support when business doesn’t go the way you expected.

Back in my career days I had a mentor who frankly saw my potential long before I did, and she would give me stretch assignments, which left to my own devices, I would never have taken on.  A mentor brings an objective prospective to your business, seeing your potential, perhaps gently pushing you out of your comfort zone and providing ideas that had never occurred to you.

As women we often don’t like to ask for help.  We don’t do vulnerable.  But having a mentor is none of that.  It is actually a sound business decision.  It means you recognize you and your business are worth investing in; that you have potential and want to grow – professionally and personally.

I encourage you to make that investment in your future.  Sign up for a mentor through our new Mentoring Program.  Go on --- you know you are worth it.

Monday, November 07, 2016

A walk in the dark

The darkness enveloped us.   Quietly we walked through the bushes, watching the ground below us as the path dipped and wove its way to our destination.

With candles and stars to guide us, we made our way slowly to the Labyrinth.  We were encouraged to focus on one thought – a mantra, question or concern.  

Single file, we walked through the labyrinth, all deep in our own thoughts.  No one spoke.

Curious as to what was the meaning behind a labyrinth, I did my homework. Apparently the seven circuits of the labyrinth correspond with the seven spheres of the sacred planets such as the seven days of the week.  Beginning to walk the circumference represents the involution and evolution of life and the quest for wholeness.  The winding pattern represents the circulation of vital energies within our bodies and walking the labyrinth has been described as a type of yoga.

You instinctively knew that you had to follow the same path in, and out.  No jumping over to get somewhere quicker.  It would have broken the spell and been disruptive to the walking meditation of others.

For several on our retreat it was a spiritual, meaningful experience, adding to a weekend which heightened everyone’s creativity and faith in themselves as writers.

We hadn’t planned to make this venture into the dark, but it strengthened the sense of trust we had in each other.  It sealed a bond between us, and without doubt was a highlight for many.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Are you paying attention?

I was watching our cows the other day.  I’d just come outside and they were in the field closest to the farmhouse.  Scattered across the field, all of them were aware that I was there and they stood still, their eyes following my every move, from wherever they were standing.

It struck me that this is what we want in our business – to get the attention of our audience, no matter where they are.  So how do we do that?

First I think you have to be clear on who your target audience is.  That sounds obvious but you would be surprised at how often business owners don’t dig deep enough to get a picture in their mind of who they want to reach.

Second, like the cows, you want to grab their attention from wherever they gather which means that you need a consistent message that is delivered in different ways so you reach all of them.

Third, you may also have several audiences, so the one size fits all approach isn’t going to work. You may have to tweak and tailor your message to suit a specific target group.

After a while, the cows lost interest.  But I am sure when I go out again, they will be back watching me, which leads me to my fourth suggestion that you need to stay on  your customers’ radar on a regular basis, so you stay front of mind with them.

Now when our dog comes out, the cows really pay attention, especially when he feels it is duty to “round them up. ” And an element of surprise can work in the business world too.  Often the surprise these days can be going that extra mile in customer service, as that is sadly a rare occurrence.

Bottom line – don’t take your customers for granted.  You have to work to get them, and keep them.  Make sure you grab their attention.   After all, you don’t want them to graze elsewhere.  You don’t want to be put out to pasture.