Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Getting to know you...

Recently I had the amazing experience of taking part in an environmental photo shoot.  Now I just thought I was getting head shots done for an article being written about me, but no.  I had the pleasure of spending over two hours with the photographer and his team.

So what’s an environmental shoot, you may ask?   I had to look it up,  I confess.  Basically the photographer spends time seeing you in action, getting a sense of what you do, and through all that, what you are like.

I had to pretend I was presenting to a small group of women who were gathered together as my “props”  then converse with just two women and finally, what I had been expecting, the head shots.  

As I reflect on this process it strikes me that as small business owners, it works best when we do an “environmental shoot” too.   What do I mean?  When we spend time getting to know our prospective client, visiting them in their office or plant, we get to see them in action on their home turf.  It gives us a better perspective on who they are, what they will want and more to the point, how they like to be pitched.

All of which makes it much easier for us to present and close the sale.  Yes, it is an investment in time.  So was my photo shoot, but I bet you those photos will rock because after two hours, he has likely captured my essence.   And you can do the same with your customers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Join the celebrations

We all learn differently.  For some of us it is watching a video, for others it is listening to a podcast or reading a book.

For me a conference provides it all.  I get to meet new people, learn new information and hopefully 

get nudged into pursuing some new concepts.  And sometimes while I hear something that I already knew, it serves as a reminder.  Rarely is it a waste of time.

For most of my career I have been organizing events – and our conference this year on May 17, while it marks the 10th Journey 2 Success, is just one of many that I have hosted in the past.   You see whether it is a group of 30 or 300, the detail remains the same.

The key I think is to mix it up.  No one wants to sit there for six hours suffering from death by power point.  Just as I said at the beginning, we all learn differently so as a conference organizer, you have to keep that fact in mind. 

So yes, at Journey 2 Success there are a couple of keynote speakers, a panel (just one), and small group discussions and biz tool information sessions.   And of course, to lighten it up some retail therapy, after all a gal needs her bling.

But because this is our 10th annual conference, with a theme of Celebrating Your Successes – with gratitude and giving back, we have invited 21 award-winning women entrepreneurs to share their success secrets with us.  Now these are super-busy women who have generously agreed to spend time with us … with you.  It is their way of giving back and an opportunity not to miss.

And for those who like going to the movies – we have the premiere of the One Red Lipstick documentary, complete with popcorn, followed by the After Glow party.  How cool is that.

Often we leave conferences and events with such great intentions, then when we get back to the office, reality sets in and the new ideas get left on the back burner.  So on May 18 we have a retreat to help participants move forward and capitalize on the learning of the day before.

So check out our website, (http://journey2success.ca) mark the date on your calendar and join us.  You will be glad you did.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Women as leaders - we have what it takes

This week I was asked to step in at the last minute to be on a panel on women and leadership.

As I read through the questions, they provoked all sorts of flashbacks to a murky leadership past, especially given I had to talk about the leadership lessons I had learned the hard way.

My first thought was that, like many women, I never actually saw myself as a leader, more someone who saw that something needed to be done, and I would forge ahead and do it.

Even when I received a leadership award back in 1999, I felt an imposter and that I would get caught out.  As part of the ATHENA Award I was sent to a leadership conference, and I almost wish I could go back now, as I believe I would get more out of it, now that I have assumed and accepted the leadership mantle.

So what did I learn the hard way?  I’ve chaired several boards – at the local and national level, and early on when I was President of one national board, I made some pretty na├»ve decisions, consulting only with the Executive Director, before I announced what we were going to do as an organization.

I am embarrassed to admit that I was so autocratic back then.  It never crossed my mind that I should ask the other board members what they thought, probably because I knew intuitively they wouldn’t agree with me. 

 Fast forward to today, with a team of 11 working with me, I know only too well that you have to collaborate, ask for feedback, even if the opinions are different to your own and be prepared to not always get your own way.  After all who says that you are always right and being open to new ideas and approaches can take your organization further.

Part of fostering a strong team is listening.  Learning more about the other person’s interests, skills and what motivates them.  It is all about getting the right people on the bus, in the right seats.  And sometimes you have to re-arrange the seating plan so you capture the true potential of everyone.

One of the questions I was asked was how do women develop their leadership skills and I know for myself it was through volunteering – both in the workplace and in the community. At work, I would volunteer to take on/lead big projects and in my spare time, I would serve on boards of charities that I believed in.

The other aspect of leadership to consider is that you are a role model and so you should be living to your values, demonstrating integrity and walking your talk.

Having presented thousands of leadership awards, the ATHENA Foundation undertook research to discover what were the common traits of the recipients. They discovered they were:  being authentic, valuing relationships, giving back, collaboration, courageous acts, learning, fierce advocacy, celebration and joy

Check this list, I am sure many of you already have these attributes, but like me,   perhaps you don’t see yourself as a leader – but you are. 

Step into your role and lead the way.  As women we have what it takes to lead.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Getting real

 At the recent launch of the One Red Lipstick book which shares the stories of 24 entrepreneurial women from across North America, we asked some of the authors to share their message from the book.

Up first was fashion icon Linda Lundstrom, who started off by saying her message was that “shit happens.”  And she should know as after 26 years of a successful fashion design business, the bank called in her loan and she had to declare bankruptcy.  But she bounced back and has started over.

As did Nadja Piatka who in debt and recently divorced, decided since no one would hire her, that she’d hire herself.  She started off by baking and selling her muffins to the local coffee shops. 

Fast forward to today and she has a multi-million business and her muffins are sold in McDonalds, Subway and other food chains.   

Her message was that it’s not so much that you fall down, it’s how you get up after the fall that matters.

For Che Marville the key was to recognize our vulnerabilities and to share with one another because there was strength when we walked the journey together hand in hand.   She also spoke of the power of listening to your intuition, just as her mother did when Che, as a child was deathly sick, and her mother insisted that she be transported back to Canada, even though the authorities and doctors were reluctant to do so. 

And for Anastasia Valentine who became a teen mother at 15, it was important not to let other people define you.  To set the bar and hold your head high helped her navigate her early parenthood and she went on to become the CEO of a successful marketing business, when she could have so easily allowed the stigma of being a teen parent hold her back.

While the stories of these four women were dramatically different, as are the others  in the book, the one common thread is one of resilience. 

All of the women in the book faced some obstacle in their lives that they had to overcome, accept and move on from – and they did so with tenacity and fortitude, forging on to carve a life of success on their own terms.

It wasn’t a competition as to who had it worse, it was more that the women were willing to share, to be open about the trials as well as the triumphs in their lives and it gave those listening hope and inspiration, something we all need.

The documentary One Red Lipstick will be coming out in May, and it bound to bring even more glimpses into the lives of real women.  Real lives, real challenges and real victories.