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I have no opinion on outside issues–that I care to discuss in my blog. Yes, I’ve chosen sides in the election and have strong feelings about the financial crisis, but I’m going to spare you the details. In fact, I rarely get into conversations about either realm. It’s not a good use of my time, energy or brainpower. I’m not burying my head in the sand. I read the paper daily, catch the headlines on the news and get back to work.
I know that I’m on a mission in my life. My greatest value right now is to stay focused on my work of leading women to success in their chosen arena. Twenty years ago my main pursuit was raising a family. Ten years from now it may be something entirely different.
I believe I need to stay where my feet are and do the work in front of me. I recognize that others are called to action, and I respect and admire that. I want to be a voice in favor of not getting swept up. I’ve received too many impassioned emails that are preaching to the choir I’m in. I delete them.
I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I love my family, my community, my country. Contributing as I do feels like my highest calling. My hope is that each of you finds peace in your chosen role.
It was driven home again to me this week that customers niche our businesses in their minds with a single word or phrase. And we can help control what that word is. Witness the magnificent catalog I just received from Mitchells–a high end retail store where I have occasionally shopped–who are celebrating 50 years in business. They carry Armani, Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Choo and many other elite designers. Their store is elegant, the prices high. Their sales staff is abundant and ever-present. Shopping there is an impressive experience. You know you’re in great hands.
The Mitchell family is known and loved in the community. What one word represents them? Hugs! Hugs? Yes.
Jack Mitchell wrote the book Hug Your Customers a few years ago to rave reviews and sold-out editions. He now lectures world-wide on the subject of customer care. Their stories are legendary.
If you’d asked ME what word I would use to describe Mitchells, I’m sure I would have come up with something different. I love how they are defining themselves for you and me to help their campaign. Makes me think I should sift down to one word too.
I was on the lookout for private yoga classes after my return from Golden Door. Like most of you, I went right to Google and entered YOGA and Norwalk to find lessons nearby. Right near the top of the list was Yogi Brian so I visited his site. Was I impressed!
Here are a few of the things that stood out to me:
He has prospects fill out an online questionnaire that does a superb job of qualifying candidates. He asks the standard medical questions: any health problems? injuries? and then moves onto alcohol and caffeine consumption. How would you describe yourself? What motivates you? What are your strengths?
Think about it. What kind of person would take the time to fill out a relatively lengthy and in-depth form like this? A highly motivated one. Very smart on Yogi Brian’s part to put prospects through a bit of rigor before investing his talents.
He offers a sample session which I accepted. His instructions about showing up for this appointment were equally well thought out and precise. “Come to the side of the building when your cell phone reads 4:00pm. I will be working with another client until I see you arrive.”
When I descended the stairs into his immaculate and inviting space, there was a bronze plaque at the threshold with the inscriptions: Please leave your outdoor shoes here.
All of these first impressions add up to a very positive feeling which was confirmed by an excellent session. I signed up for a series of 10 classes, which I know expires within a specified amount of time because his contract says so. It feels professional and secure to do business with someone who operates at a such a conscious level.
I hear this a lot in different versions:
“I’m good at what I do, but I don’t feel good about what I do.”
The bottom line here, I believe, is that the people saying these words are paid a lot of money to do something they’re not particularly passionate about. When I hear the word “should” or watch someone’s pained or dull facial expression as they’re explaining to me why they stay in unhappy work situations–entrepreneurial or corporate–I can’t help myself from reflecting back what I see.
“Where’s the joy? What lights you up?” I ask.
They’re usually confounded by that question. Like working and joy are unrelated. That’s the saddest thing for me to witness.
I surround myself with men and women who wake up each morning raring to get started on their work that day. They LOVE their work, their clients, their vendors. Who doesn’t enjoy being with highly energized, passionate people?
The sad news is that so many men and women who thing that the dollar is the ONLY bottom line in business. They legitimize this with keywords like mortgage, college tuition, gas prices. I don’t spend a lot of time in those conversations.
Here’s the good news: when you’re doing work you love:
- You find creative ways to fund your business. One client started a series of workshops to make up the shortfall from saying no to a lucrative client.
- You need less “stuff” to make you feel good because happiness is generated from within. An extremely creative new client, whose day job is in the financial arena, doesn’t need to pay for as many doctors when she’s pursuing her artistic endeavors.
- You attract opportunities which become increasingly more lucrative because your performance is better in arenas where you’re really happy. (See my recent post on Jill Flynne’s experience.)
Need I say more?
- I was just interviewed by a new online pet magazine called South Shore Pet…and want to feature NEAFA.
- We’ve been offered space at the annual Arts Walk as well as space inside “Maggie’s Doghouse.”
- We have been offered space to show our work at the New England Wildlife Center.
- I have been offered a show next year of my own work.
- This morning I am off to do my first “art consultant” job.
- I have people seeing our show and calling me to do portraits of their pets.
I’ve been a fan of Denyse Schmidt’s quilts, artistry and community commitment since I met her many years ago. I was sent by the WBDC (Women’s Business Development Center–then AWED–American Women’s Economic Development Corp.) to serve as a mentor. Within 20 minutes it was clear that Denyse knew exactly what she was doing and could have mentored me. The one recommendation I remember making was that she delegate more. Any influence I’ve had beyond that would have to be considered cheerleading. I think she’s amazing.
So, when my dear friend Linda visited last week bearing the current issue of American Craft magazine with Denyse’s image on the cover I was thrilled.
Denyse has been a full-time quilt designer for well over a decade. She’s an icon for most crafts designers I know–someone who has created a strong brand, maintained high quality relationships and not sold out or diluted her aesthetic for a quick buck. Denyse is the real deal.
I loved that the magazine shows her that way. The left side of the cover is a flap. Here’s the full image. Congratulations, Denyse!
I was walking at Compo Beach (Westport) with a new friend who recently left her place of work. She was cataloging her job search activities–informational interviews, lunches with colleagues, etc. “But what I would really like is to spend two weeks on the beach,” she said with a hearty laugh.
I believe the laugh came as a trained defense mechanism for all those practical colleagues who would dismiss the thought out of hand. “You can’t possibly do that and still claim to be a sane, responsible and prudent citizen,” I imagined they’d think, say or project.
But she was walking with me–a coach and proponent of following one’s bliss. “Do it!” I said.
I proceeded to tell her how refreshed and renewed I was having so recently spent a week by myself. I’d been responsible to no one in a beautiful, serene environment. Everything looked different and clearer when I returned.
The next day I attended an excellent pilot program put on by a client of mine and held at St. Birgitta’s Vikingsborg in Darien–two towns away from Westport. It is located on the Long Island Sound and is as serene a place as you could wish. Their rates are posted: $110 per day including three meals. I recommended it to my friend and hope she treats herself to at least a week.
My blog expert/teacher/friend Lena West sent me a link that I wanted to share with you:
It’s written by Steve King (not Stephen King, btw) and enumerates what it takes to be successful today, as an entrepreneur and more specifically, a creative entrepreneur.
Hellmuth [the subject of the entry] spends over half her time on business issues and realizes business and marketing skills are key to her success.
I know that many entrepreneurs prefer being the “technician” –Michael Gerber‘s word for the “talent” side of entrepreneurship vs. the strategic thinker/do-er side. They prefer to work IN the business rather than ON the business.
King’s post underlines the importance of taking the Business Owner perspective at least half the time in your business. I agree.
My father didn’t curse often, but he inevitably would when the phone rang during supper. This was the 50′s and 60′s–before answering machines, voice mail or even off buttons for the ringers. He hated that anyone from the outside world could disturb our family’s peace, and we had no control of it.
Today we do have control, but oh so many more invasions into our domestic lives. My friend Linda is new to computers (I know, I know) having resisted allowing them into her life until a few months ago. She confessed to me that she finds email invading her life. “You have to choose when to respond or it can consume you.”
The rest of us are like those frogs in a pot of water where the heat is being gradually turned up. They don’t notice they’re getting killed. Linda, who jumped into the boiling cauldron immediately “got” that it’s too hot to survive. Smart lady!
I allow myself a few limited time periods to deal with email–20 minute blocks of time using a timer. Without that limitation, I’m too easily drawn into the vortex that is cyberspace and can’t get out. Anything that doesn’t get dealt with during those prescribed times gets saved until the next allotted slot.
After 7 days of being entirely unplugged while at the Golden Door, I know how sacred time is and how important it is to set our own limits and respect them. I’m interested to hear how you protect your precious time.