Monday, December 29, 2014

Time to practice what I preach – be bold.

“You’re too subtle.” my friend advised.  “I know that is your comfort zone, but being nice doesn’t always win the race.” she added as she told me to buck up, promote myself and get out of my own way.  By her take on the situation, I needed to toot my own horn more about what we do and how much we offer women business owners.

Now deep down I know she’s right – on all counts – putting myself out there, bragging or aggressively going after potential members – has never been my style.  I don’t like to pressure people, but I am realizing, that in staying low profile and not telling people about what we offer, I am actually doing them a disservice.  They’re missing out on a great opportunity.  Because, as my mother would say, we’re the best thing since sliced bread.  There, that wasn’t so difficult.

Plus it’s a bargain at the price.  I checked around and other groups charge a lot more and their members don’t get that much for their investment – maybe two meetings a month if they’re lucky. 

Compare that to the 80+ events a year that we offer.  Now it could be argued that not all are conveniently located for everyone, but that’s why we host webinars.  With webinars you can stay home, be in your PJs if you like, and learn at your own pace and time slot.  What could be better than that, and if you’re a member, they are free, so the price is right.

I’ve been doing this for 12 years now – a long time in a business where groups come and go - often starting with great flourish to disappear into the sunset a couple of years later. Why is that?   Well if you are out to make a quick buck, this isn’t the gig for you.  It’s not that you don’t make any money, but it is a hard slog.  No, this is a labour of love. 

So what keeps me going?  I want to make a difference and I firmly believe at Company of Women we do just that.  Success to me is when I see one of my members, blossom, grow and make a real success of her business, or when I connect two people and the synergy takes over.

I feel we’re a class act, and I am proud of what we offer.  There, that wasn’t too difficult, but still not comfortable press-ganging people to join.  You see I want you to discover it for yourself – so check out our website –  Our slogan is Be bold. Be brave. Belong.   

Isn’t it time you did?  Make 2015 the year you invest in yourself.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree….

Growing up in Scotland, we always had an artificial tree – a white one at that – which would stand majestically, decorated with tinsel and fuchsia coloured baubles.  We moved a lot back then, and the tree came with us, like an anchor, helping us stay afloat when everything else around us had changed.

I am not sure what happened to that tree.  I suspect it got ditched when my parents retired, and chose to spend their Christmas with us in Canada.  But we’ve had our own escapades with trees – more of the natural kind.

It was quite the family tradition, that my husband and the girls would go off every year to pick the tree.  He was quite fussy which tried the patience of the youngsters who were anxious to get home and get on with their own stuff.  Decorating the tree was a family affair, with handmade decorations that I’d made with the girls; baubles purchased with special memories that we would hang each year.

At one point when the girls were grown and left home, we gave in and purchased an artificial tree which was a beast to erect each year, and caused numerous cuts and bruises as we wrestled with it. But when we bought the farm, it was toast.  You could hardly live in the country, and bring out an artificial tree.  It seemed an oxymoron.

No, that first year we got all romantic about it all and decided we would cut down our own tree.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but what we hadn’t thought through was just how we were going to get it back to the farmhouse.  We’d had a heavy snow that winter, so moving it was no simple task, plus it was uphill and a fair distance away.

My daughter has photos of us, red-faced and out of breath as we lugged the tree back on a tarpaulin, muttering under our breath – never again.  It certainly was a workout, but once standing tall in our living room, it made the season special.

Then there was the year that my husband, in his infinite wisdom, wanted a large, tall tree which we could accommodate in our new extension.  But decorating this brute of a tree was an all-day affair, and when it was time to take it all down, we had to chop it up, in order to get it out of the house.

Lately, we’ve become less picky about the tree.  Winters past it’s been very cold and instead of hanging around outside contemplating the merits of each tree, I’ve been advocating for the one closest to the car, so we can get it, load it up and get back into the warmth.   Doesn’t always work, but I’ve noticed as we age, that there’s less debate about the tree.

Now this year, the fun begins as we have a young puppy (six months old) who is a climber, still likes to chew and is mischief on four legs.  We are still debating how we will manage our friend, so we protect the tree, our treasured ornaments and the parcels under the tree.   It may end up standing there naked, but likely not.  We will come up with something, baby gates and the like.

When you look back on your Christmas trees, what stories come to mind for you?  Our Christmas tree has been very much part of our tradition and for me, as I look at the ornaments, I am taken back to when the children were little, and in real awe of what Santa would bring.  It’s a family time and no matter what type of tree you have, big or small, it is the people gathered around it that are important, as well as memories of those who are no longer with us.

Enjoy your tree. Enjoy the season. Create your own memories for years to come.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My top ten lessons for 2014

As the year comes to a close, I always like to reflect on what has worked this year, and what has not?  What are my takeaways and lessons to learn?  Here’s my top ten:

1.      Titles make all the difference
What you call a program, webinar or article makes all the difference between folks coming, or staying away.   Instead of calling our health show, the Women’s Health Show (yawn), we decided this year to build on our successful webinar series – Five Days to Feeling Fabulous, and so we called it Live your Fabulous.  The result – great turn out for basically a first-time event and we will use it again next year.

2.      When you have the right people in place, delegation is easy (well, easier)
With my personal move to the country, my trips into Toronto have been kept to a minimum and that has been made simpler because I have two great gals – Karen Kessler and Anne Bergman, running the show there.  Thanks.

3.      You don’t need all this paper
Building on the move theme, we still have boxes of paperwork in the basement.  I haven’t needed or looked at it in the year since we moved, which speaks to the fact I have way too much paper. I have started to streamline what we keep and file.

4.      Murphy’s law – what can go wrong, will go wrong
That’s how it felt about our webinars this past year – from power cuts in the middle of delivery, to no sound and the presenter talking to herself, to a recording link that connected to a porn site!  You sure have to keep your sense of humour over stuff like this.

5.      Just ask
Back in July I got an email from Sam Horn’s office to check if I still wanted to get her emails. Although based in the US, she was complying with CASL, and mentioned in this bulk email that she would be in Canada in 2015 with her new book. 

Knowing what a great speaker she is, I saw this as an opportunity, after all, what had I got to lose?  So I emailed her direct and asked if she’d speak at our conference in May.  She said yes!!!   I still get goose bumps thinking about it. (It is May 26 ladies, mark your calendars)

6.      There are some courageous women out there
As part of our research for the book, Amy and I have been interviewing women.  Some of their stories would blow you away.  I am in awe at how they can get up in the morning and function, given all that they have been through.

 7.     What I thought was scary, isn’t
There was a time when talking in front of the camera would have left me tongue-tied and shaking in my boots.  Not any more. And I am not alone, with One Red Lipstick, women are finding their voices and speaking up.

 8.     Guest blogging brings great returns
I have been writing for the past six months for She Owns It.  This opportunity has given me such great exposure, with my blogs being promoted out there to well over half a million people, and my following has, as a result, increased dramatically. They have signed me up for another six months. Woo hoo.

 9.     “Slow down, you go too fast”
Life can change on a dime as I found out after my fall in October.  I am just so grateful that I didn’t do any permanent damage to my eye but it has caused me to challenge myself as to whether I needed to do everything that I’ve been doing.  And the answer is no, so come 2015, watch for the new Anne.

10.    Put your expectations in writing
I have learned the hard way that when you don’t spell out and put your expectations in writing, you leave yourself open to people taking advantage for their own gain.

I have been doing this for 12 years now, which is a long time for me, as I get bored easily.  But I never get bored with seeing someone blossom, grow and become who she is meant to be, and if I’ve played a small part in making that happen, I glow inside.  Making a difference is still the ROI for me.

So as I look at this list, it seems to me that 2014 overall, was an exciting year.  One of growth - professionally and personally - and one where I have had the good fortune to partner up with Amy Hunter and Fay Chapple. I highly recommend collaborating with like-minded women. It is powerful.   

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Are you a giver or a taker?

“In a world full of me-firsts and gimme-gimmes, the best strategy for standing out is ruthless generosity. Nothing builds trust and engenders loyalty better than unselfishness.”

These are the wise words of a young writer, Jeff Goins, whose blog I have been following for several years now.  For such a young person, he has wisdom beyond his years, and I believe he is on the right track.

I am sure many of us can think of examples of those who are the “takers” in life.  They run their business in a transactional way.  Getting a sale; winning the order and making more money, is their driving force.  From their perspective, building relationships is too time-consuming and can detract from their end goals.

While we can admire their focus and ruthless determination to succeed, and even want to help, I’ve found that you can give and give, but bottom line, it is all about them. And then when you in turn ask for help, they’re too busy. 

I actually feel sorry for people who have a scarcity or competitive attitude because they miss out in so much.  No one is going to rush to their rescue when their business tanks or they hit a life crisis.  Why should they?   You reap what you sow.

And it is not that you help others because you want to stock- pile favours which you can cash in when the chips are down. 

No, true generosity is giving without any thought of getting anything in return.  You do it because you want to help, and you can.

Nor is it measured giving, where you’ve calculated in advance what you could garner in rewards by being generous. There isn’t a life spreadsheet tracking it all.

Sometimes we can be suckered in, believing that you have shared goals, when all the time, it’s been all about her agenda.  Fortunately, when it is money-driven, I find that those who have ulterior motives, don’t hang around long, and when it is not working in their favour, they cut the chord quickly. 

It’s the same with friendships, where you’ve been the one always reaching out, making the calls, listening to the problems, arranging the dates.  There comes a time when you decide it is too one-sided, and you distance yourself from the relationship, be it business or personal.  Sad, but true.

Fortunately I have been blessed by people in my life who have lent a helping hand with no strings attached, no hidden agenda, just the desire to help me and my business succeed.

Like any relationship, business or personal, loyalty and trust have to be earned, but can be quickly lost and hard to regain once faith is lost.   

As Dr Ivan Misner advocates, “givers gain.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Letting go of the perfection trap

For several months now I have been talking about doing webinars. I even invested in software to do it, and read the manual which in itself is a feat as I don't usually "do" manuals.

But have I delivered a webinar yet?  Eh, no.  So what is holding me back?  I could say that all things technical intimidate me, and while that would be true, if I dig deep, it is more than that.

I want to have all my ducks in a row.  I want to make it failure-proof.  In other words, it needs to be perfect before I take this leap of faith and put myself out there. I know I am not alone in this need to have everything just so, and I have to remind myself it is just a one- hour webinar, not a death-defying exercise.

I am often the person encouraging others to take risks, to step out of their comfort zone and move forward.  "Make the mistakes," I say, "you will learn from the experience." Perhaps it is time I took my own advice. Perhaps I need to give myself the benefit of the doubt, and got out of my own way and just do it.

At our recent retreat, I had the women set goals for themselves for the next two months, and assign a deadline by which time it will be done.  So when I mentioned the webinar idea, just in passing I might add, the entire group pounced on it, and in unison asked me when I hoped to achieve this goal?

We all laughed because they had nailed me.  But it also served to show that no matter how confident we may be or appear to be on the outside, there is often that little voice inside chiding you for your ambitions.  "Like, who does she think she is?"

What would I say to someone else? "Just take baby steps in getting towards your goal, so that by the time you have to do it, the whole activity no longer seems so threatening.  You are running the show, you know what you have to do, and yes, it may not go to plan, but think of that sense of accomplishment when it's done.  Let go of perfect."  

Wise words, i should listen to myself more often. So ... I have unpacked and dusted off the gear that I need, got my slides ready, and asked for help (another hard piece) in working out the technology.

Will I achieve my goal by the time assigned? Realistically, probably not, but that's OK too, because I am taking those baby steps to make it happen.  You see I have this great coach, I just need to listen to her more often:)

As Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent interview, "imperfection never stopped men from putting themselves forward, so don't let it stop you."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Message received, and understood

What do Arianna Huffington and I have in common?  We both did a face-splat that served as a wake up call that we were doing too much.

As I heard Arianna, when she was in Toronto, describing the scene of her fall, so much of what she was saying was similar to what had happened to me.   Apparently she fell in her office and was found in a pool of blood, so was I, but I was outside in the dark of the night.  She’d had a cut on her head that had to be stitched, I had a cut that was glued together. She broke some cheek bones, so did I.

But it is the wake-up call part that truly struck me.  Now I don’t have a big empire or the resources to support my business, however, when you have an accident or fall, you do have to look at why it happened, and I suspect in both our cases, we were running on empty.

She made some life changes and advocates having a break from technology and some alone time.  My break from technology has, I admit, been more forced upon me as for the past week, I have not had access to the Internet.

Now my email has been working – thank goodness – but no sharing great information on social media which is part of my morning routine.  No posting events or checking member information for our website.  And on a personal level, no checking on potential gifts for the holidays.

Like anything else, it is not until you don’t have something, that you realize how integral a part of your life it is.  I feel I have lost a friend.

On the other hand, my freed-up time has enabled me to do other stuff – like work on our book Enough, planning new programs for 2015 or … wait for it, just reading a book.

It has made me realize that I need to build this time into my life on an ongoing basis, and delegating out the website posting to someone else has been less painful than I thought.  You know what… I am not the only one who can do it.  Now there’s an eye-opening discovery.

I often believe things happen for a reason, we just have to look for the lesson to be learned.  So like Arianna, I am seeing this reprieve from life in the fast lane as a gift - something I need to do more often, especially now winter is here, because I don’t “do” winter.  I tend to hibernate. So finding more work that I can do from home quite suits me.

And what am I choosing to read – Thrive – by Arianna Huffington – after all, we’re now kindred spirits.