Saturday, April 27, 2013

Headed for problems?

What do you do when you believe that someone you care about is on the wrong track?  

Do you tell them what you think?  Do you try to guide them in a more suitable direction?  Or do you just stay quiet, decide it is none of your business and let it go?

As a friend and colleague it is a fine line.  You don’t want to risk losing that relationship forever by having the frank conversation and here’s a thought, what if you are wrong? Yet, to say nothing seems irresponsible and uncaring. 

And if it is one of your children, then sorry, as a parent, right or wrong,  I am usually compelled to give my two cents worth even when it is not welcome.

Regardless of the relationship, maybe the answer is to start a conversation and just listen.  There may be an opportunity to subtly introduce a thought that prods the person to revisit their direction. Sometimes I find that what I am sensing is what the other person knows deep down but hasn’t been able to articulate and often from the outside looking in we can see so clearly what is happening, or perhaps what is not happening.

I certainly find with new business owners, they start off in one direction and as time evolves and they learn more about their marketplace, they begin to switch it up and find their niche, which can take time.

But the bottom line is that it is the person’s life and they need to choose their own path, even if in our eyes, they are destined to be disappointed or to fail.  We also cannot overlook the fact that we may not have the whole picture.  We may not be aware of what else is happening within the family or what has happened in the past to shape that person.

I guess I have answered my own questions.  The answer is to be there, to listen and nudge if appropriate or asked what we think,  and if you really care, stick around to catch the person when and if she falls.

But knowing myself, that is easier said than done, especially when I am in rescue mode. So note to self, take my own advice. Back off and just be there.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Storytelling as a learning tool

I recently had the honour of being a judge for a contest that required women to share their stories.

I read their words and as always, was truly blown away at the courage and persistence of women to stay true to themselves, even if they’ve gotten drawn off track because of life situations.

But what struck me is that while storytelling has become recognized as a valid business tool, often we fail to take it far enough.  We don’t get to the point where we actually help other people learn from our experiences. We just share our story and assume that people will capture the kernels of knowledge through osmosis.

Now to find the lessons does take a certain level of self-awareness and perhaps maturity to recognize that others could benefit from learning from our mistakes or more tactfully put, our detours en route to greatness.

One story that I often share with new entrepreneurs is about when I started a vegetable garden and how the results could be easily correlated to what it is like when you start a business – in that you never know what will grow easily, and in addition, you don’t plant something you don’t like (to eat or do) such as radishes. That radishes story captured people’s imagination and it’s almost become an inside joke.  Every time someone in the group finds themselves off track and doing work they hate, the response usually refers to radishes.

So next time you write or share your story, think about how someone else could benefit from hearing what you have to say.  How can you weave in some insights that will help others to grow and learn from your experience?  Sometimes that means you have to join the dots, so people get the picture.  Because then the challenges you have faced have meaning. Then you are truly helping someone else grow and learn.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Finding your niche

Sounds simple, but it’s not that easy.  So often when I run my newbie groups, I listen to the women’s plans and by the end of the group sessions they have narrowed down the direction they want to take their business and who is their target audience.

It’s a process and when you first start out who knows where you could end up.  The key is to stay open and flexible, so that when the right opportunity comes along, you not only recognize it, but are ready to go.

Often when we first start we stick to what we know and actually that makes sense. No point in throwing away business, far better to draw on your expertise as you expand your knowledge and contact base.

To go out cold into the unknown is brave, but it can also be foolish.  When you don’t know what you don’t know, problems can creep up to bite you.  That’s not to say that you won’t be successful, but perhaps you need a financial cushion to support you as you explore these new avenues and learn a new game.  It all takes longer than you think.

There are trends in entrepreneurship.  It used to be that you needed to be a generalist, able to tackle a bit of everything.  Now the focus is on being a specialist. I suspect you have to start as a generalist, just to pay the bills and get the clients through the door, but as you build your expertise and knowledge base, then you can become more focused and build your niche.

But even then, it can change as the business evolves and you grow into your role as entrepreneur and business owner.  Sometimes we can ignore our calling and end up on a path that doesn’t suit our needs or best use our talents.  That’s when it is time to pay attention and refocus your energies on what you want out of life.

I know for myself that it is working with small groups of women that is most rewarding.  I love bringing women together and creating an intimate setting where they can be authentic and share the issues they are facing without fears of being judged or deemed lacking in some way.

However, some could say that this could be contrary to the growth of Company of Women.  But I would argue that you can grow your business in a way that fits your goals, and that you don’t have to be THE ONE all the time.  Selecting key people whose skills and values match what you want to achieve, means you can let go and focus more on what brings you joy, AND still grow your business.

Reality is, it is your business, your journey and your future.  It is therefore up to you to set a direction that suits you, your lifestyle and your family.  If you are struggling to achieve the balance you want, be aware that something has to give.  It is up to you to decide what.

Saturday, April 06, 2013


Hilary Clinton. Meryl Streep.  Jennifer Anniston. The Queen. Who most represents your personality and style of communication?  That was the question we were asked at a recent Company of Women breakfast by speaker Barbara Morris.

What followed was a fascinating discussion about communication styles.  Take Hilary Clinton – she’s assertive, direct and to the point, so any sales chat with her needs to be focused, researched and succinct.  Jennifer Anniston on the other hand is fun and hard to nail down, so you would want to be sure to warm up to the sales pitch, tell stories, meet somewhere fun to set the stage for the discussion.

As for Meryl Streep, she’s calm, focused on harmony and understated.  Building relationships is important to her, so you might want to ask about her family.   However,  the Queen is driven by her sense of duty, honour and routine -  all of which have made her life make sense.  You would want to be on time, bring the facts and do your homework so you can answer questions, get to the point and close the sale.

Like other personality tests such as True Colours or Personality Dimensions, this approach helps to de-personalize communication issues which is why you need to not only understand your communication style, but that of others.  When you can talk their language and speak in a way that makes sense to them, you are more likely to be understood and in business, close the deal. 

But it takes practice, because at first, like learning any new language, it seems foreign to you.