Thursday, February 23, 2017

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Right?  We have had such a difficult time selecting the cover for our book.  Way more frustrating than writing it.

Of course you ask for opinions … and you get them.  All favouring a different one.

Before all this started I actually went on a fishing expedition and had gone to Chapters to look at and check out the current covers for books.   Most have bright coloured jackets and words. No photos.

And I can tell you why.  It is near impossible to find a photo that accurately depicts

a) what your book is about or

b) who you want to pick it up and buy it.

I know because we tried.  We really tried.  Too young. Too old. Not diverse enough. Too diverse.  Looks depressing and this is a book about improving your life.

We had one with a gorgeous child on the cover but that bubble was quickly burst when both my daughters said that it looked like a parenting book and they wouldn’t buy it.

We tried all sorts - flowers, swans, the sea, just an arm reaching out, a girl at the subway - you name it. Then when we gave up on that, we started to explore designs, backgrounds but that raised the question – what colour? 

We had one that was pinkish – too girly was the conclusion.  We tried turquoise  but actually it is a popular colour for book covers these days and we wanted our book to stand out. So that was nixed.

Eventually we settled on a cover, but next… what are the tag lines.  Another round of deliberation.  Each word carried a certain weight, a certain nuance.

So here is the latest favourite.  What do you think?  And if you don’t like it… I don’t want to know.  This was way too painful a process to start over and repeat.  Besides, the book is weaving its way to be printed as we speak.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Birthing a book

Last week Amy and I sent draft copies of our book Good Enough off to be reviewed by some friends and colleagues.

This is truly nerve wracking - it's like sending your first born off to kindergarten for the first time and spending your day worrying whether the other children will  like her?  Will the book be liked by our readers?  Will they love the stories and find the strategies we suggest for overcoming self doubt useful? 

Just as we can get defensive about our children, we are bracing ourselves for the feedback, telling ourselves not to get defensive, to listen and make the changes suggested.

This book has been three years in the making.  We've connected with over 350 women, so we're not making up the sense of overwhelm and fear of failure that many women feel.  Oh some of us camouflage it well - we wear a mask, pretending all is well with the world, while deep inside we worry that someone will find us out for the imposter we think we are.

It is also not just one generation - it manifests itself in young and older alike and across cultural and social differences. It's universal. 

We thank the women who so openly and generously shared their stories - which were sometimes painful to hear yet, we hope in the telling that the women can take pride in their courage and honesty in speaking up.

In a couple of months the book will be birthed, ready for the world to see and read. 

 In the meantime, we are experiencing the usual labour pains, coupled with the pangs of anxiety typical of all new parents. 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

It's all in the name

As I was driving back from Niagara this morning,  I listened to Terry O’Reilly’s show Under the Influence.  It was fascinating as he talked and showcased business names that shouldn’t,  under most circumstances have worked, but they did.

Choosing the name for your business can be one of the hardest exercises that a business owner has to undertake.  For some of us it is important that the name and brand are easily understood, but for others, as I learned this morning, taking a quirky approach or even an outrageous one, can in fact pay off.

One of the examples he gave was Richard Branson’s Virgin Airline.  As he observed, flying with a company that labels itself as a rookie, may not be an encouraging message to convey to the passengers, but it worked for Branson.   

After all Branson believed that brands aren’t built around products, but rather around reputation, quality, price competitiveness and innovation.  Something perhaps we all need to keep in mind.

 I loved the story O’Reilly shared about the wine Fat Bastard.  Apparently a renowned French winemaker was tasting wines with a distributor and came up with an experimental wine, that was so full bodied that the winemaker said with his French accent, that it was a fat bastard.  The name stuck. Back in the late ‘90s, this was a break away from the other more conservative wine names.   It was launched in 1998 and fast became a best seller.

However it was the last example that really got my attention.  Not my business, but definitely my attention.   It was about a restaurant in Las Vegas (only in Vegas) called the Heart Attack Grill.  With a hospital theme, the waitresses are dressed like nurses and you’re given a hospital gown to wear.

The menu is totally unhealthy, with fatty foods, large quantities served at one time and even wine served from intravenous bags.  Now I like my wine… but not that way.   And the restaurant is super popular!  Go figure.

If you are going through the process of coming up with a name for your business, Branson offers four tips:

1.              Know your audience.
2.              Keep it simple.
3.              Be distinct.
4.              Have fun.

I’ve always liked a play on words – hence Company of Women.  But I remember when I started, people would whisper to me that had I realized the acronym was COW.  Yup – and that’s why my first newsletter was called News from the Field.  I figured if people got it, they’d chuckle and if they didn’t … well I guess it would just go way over their heads.

How did you come up with your business’s name?  Is it time for revisiting it or rebranding?  Keep Branson’s tips in mind.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Real connection wins the day

This has been a week of extremes – with amazing highs and disappointing lows.  As I sit to write my blog, a day late, which is an indication in itself of my week, I decide to focus on the highs, because focusing on the negatives, just pulls you further down and gets you nowhere.

The Rhyze Academy is a project of Innovation Guelph, through which 40 women who either have a business or want to start one, are taken through a nine-month course led by volunteer facilitators.    My month was January.

Initially I was asked if I could talk on work-life-balance.  Go ahead laugh. I did. There was no way I could present on that topic.  For those who don’t know me, I am the energizer bunny.  No. So instead I facilitated the group through the Personality Dimensions process so they could better understand themselves and those around them. 

While we are all a rainbow, our personalities are shaped by whether we are a blue, orange, gold and green.   We had fun.  This week I threw in an exercise where the women had to pitch to the other colours and it was fascinating at how creative they got as they tried to sell a new diet product.

One woman stood out.  She was marketing this beer that helped you lose weight with such aplomb that I had to ask her what business she was in.  A naturopath.  As I joked with her, she had a career in sales waiting for her if she ever wanted to go there.

As the women connected and enjoyed the exercises, I felt warm inside.  This is what it is all about.  Bringing people together.  Having fun and building community. It is what I have always loved about Company of Women.

Later in the week Laurie Hunt and I brought the women who are in the Company of Women mentoring program together to meet face to face for the first time.  In their pairs, they set goals and determined how they were going to work together.   On a much smaller scale, I could see the same thing happening.  The women were connecting on a deeper, authentic level.

So my big take away from this week is that when you are authentic, when you genuinely take an interest in another person, you can make a difference.

It’s not about money. It’s not about competition.

It’s about connection and collaboration.  It’s about being real and doing what you are meant to be doing. And for me, that means Company of Women.

Maybe we need the tough stuff so we can come to realize what is important to us and to be grateful for the opportunity we have to do what we love. 

So thank you ladies for filling my cup.   You made my week special.