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When I was a networking newbie, an entrepreneurial woman I met told me she’d like 15 minutes of my time during which she promised to “dazzle” me. I agreed to hear her pitch. I was not dazzled. I don’t remember what she was selling. But I do remember her misuse of that word and my time.
‘Under-promise and over-deliver’ has been a mantra for me both as a giver and receiver in the business marketplace. So, when I read and article in the current More magazine that perfectly demonstrated a truly dazzling presentation, I wanted to share it with you.
Barbara Bigford had invented a product that she wanted to get into the Savannah Walmart. She promised the buyer to keep her pitch to under five minutes and held up a stopwatch to prove it. Already an irresistible offer, right? I’m going to quote verbatim what she said (according to the article) and add my editorial comments alongside.
- I’m the owner of Seabreeze Products, [~ names her position and the company]
- a newly approved Walmart vendor [~specified her credentials within the organization]
- with a fabulous item that I just know you’re going to love– [~confidence and optimism for that person's buy-in]
- –a beach umbrella that does not, I repeat, does not blow away! [~names the product and the problem that it solves, twice for emphasis]
- She held one up. [~props are critical to the success of a presentation]
- This is the only umbrella that comes with a weightless anchor. [~paints a picture of a concept that raises a question in the buyer's mine]
- You just fill these pockets with sand to weigh down the umbrella, then empty them when you leave the beach. [~answers succinctly and thoroughly the question she raised in the previous sentence]
- Isn’t it amazing? [~gives prospect/buyer time to take in the genius of her invention]
- No more chasing wind-blown umbrellas down the beach! [~reiterates the problem she’s solving with a powerful visual image}
This had to have taken weeks to write, edit, memorize and rehearse, but the payoff was worth it–sales to Walmart and 400% growth for her company in the two years before licensing her invention. Here’s an image of the product and a link if you’re sold too.
When we first met many years ago, Kim’s children were small and in school, but even then she held a vision in her heart, and it was huge. There were a lot of nay-sayers in her midst (“You could never do that here!” types), but Kim began building her community right where she was. At first she invited women into her home for spirited dinners and discussions. She led groups on tours to her native New Zealand and taught yoga postures to tots.
Back then she and I mapped out a plan, talked about real estate availability and always kept in mind Kim’s bigger picture contribution to Fairfield County–creating a place where people can gather and have fun. She continued to develop her vision step-by-step and opened up a seasonal kayaking shop in downtown Rowayton a few years later.
I watched Kim’s progress via e-newsletters, signs about town and at networking events. Last year she made the commitment to open a year-round kayaking, SUP (stand up paddle board) and surf shop in Westport. No small feat! Kim’s vision carried her through as she dealt with bankers, marketing and PR companies, graphic designers, merchandisers, store managers, guides for her tours, website developers and social media strategists.
She confronted challenge after challenge from financial and business planning, zoning regulations and keeping up employee morale during this long, dark winter. Throughout, Kim made sure she took time to care for herself, the golden goose, so that as the leader of this enterprise, she was continuously coming from a place of great strength and courage, which she did.
Last night was the party for friends and family. I’m honored to be standing in the Westport DownUnder Kayaking store next to Kim in this photo where she’s also surrounded by her sister and daughter. It takes a team of good men and women, and Kim has carefully selected with whom to surround herself. She has an extraordinary staff and devoted followers.
I plan to go kayaking at DownUnder over the holiday weekend because fun is definitely on my agenda. Hope to see you there, Mates.
When I asked for advice from trusted colleagues about closing the door on the reprinting of my first book, Decorating Eggs, one response I got was, “What would you advise your client to do?” Well, when you put it that way, the answer is easy. But this is MY issue, so it feels different.
The back-story–In its day, that book reached best-selling status with over 30,000 copies sold. I received regular royalty checks, orders flowed and I was known as the author of a well-received volume.
Then a couple of years ago I made a routine call to my publisher to order a few more cases to sell via my website and was told it was out of print. I had thought it would never go out of print, so this was a blow.
I was able to track down a reseller who had bought the remaindered copies (such an unkind word for my precious work) and ordered several more cases. My stash is almost gone. I have ten copies left. I see that they’re going for over $70 apiece on amazon.com now.
Recently, a store owner emailed me saying how much he loved my book and how popular it is with his customers. He gave me the name of a publisher who might be interested in reprinting and distributing Decorating Eggs. I found enough energy to follow up with that house and send them a copy. I heard last week that it didn’t meet their qualifications (20% new material, out-of-print for more than two years). I do not have the energy or interest to create the new material. The store owner subsequently asked if I’d let go of my copyright. (No.)
So here I am. On the verge of letting go. Another trusted colleague put it beautifully: “There’s a piece of you that doesn’t want to let go and it’s got to be flattering to be asked so persistently. But if you say no and let go, it’ll open up energy for the next thing.” I know, teach and trust that she’s right.
Here it is, Folks. “NO!”
I just finished reading Onward by Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks–lower case letters used by his example. The subtitle of the book is How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. You may remember the closing of many Starbucks stores a few years ago and the looming possible demise of the company. Howard Schultz took back his leadership position and turned the company around. Onward is the tale he tells about this journey. I was mesmerized.
I’m sure every reader is familiar with Starbucks as it is, according to this book, the most frequented retailer in the world. What a gift to read this account of the good, the bad and the ugly of that journey back to profitability well written by his co-author Joanne Gordon.
What, you may ask, can I, a sole/soul proprietor, gain from this corporate giant? Let me count the ways! Here are just a few of the nuggets I highlighted in my edition:
- “Third Place” concept created by Starbucks – a social yet personal environment between one’s house and job (or home office). ~Raise your hands if you’ve met a client or colleague at this “third place.”
- Starbucks is intensely personal. p. 23 ~Isn’t your business, when you really come down to it?
- If coffee and people are our core, the overall experience is our soul. p. 25
- Moving forward became more important than laying blame. p. 28
- We needed to rediscover who we were and imagine who we could be. p. 73 ~Even big companies need to do vision work.
- We will transform the company internally by being true to our coffee core and by doing what will be best for customers. p. 90
- People inside the company needed to see and connect with me. Often. I had to be accessible, almost ubiquitous, more than I’d ever been. p. 99
- Anyone can ask questions with no fear of retribution. p. 99
- When we relegate responsibility to our partners and give them the right tools and resources, they will exceed expectations. p. 110
- Starbucks mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. p. 112 ~Is your mission as simple and straightforward as this?
- Partners mission: We always treat each other with respect and dignity. p. 113
- Emotional connections our true value proposition. p. 117
- At its core, I believe leadership is about instilling confidence in others. p. 308
Is any of this relatable for you?
While waiting for my friend Patty to arrive for our coffee date recently I observed a young family interacting. Mom and Little Sister were taking care of personal needs in the ladies room. Dad and Big Brother were negotiating the order and table arrangements. An argument ensued over the choice of venues. Dad said to Big Brother, who was all of 4 years old, “When you go to work and make all the money, you can decide where to eat.”
Whoa, Brother! I almost did an intervention, but restrained myself. What kind of a message was he laying on that child? Is that how it works in his family? The one who brings in the income is the decision-maker. What did that little boy hear? Dad is all-powerful and money rules? It gave me shivers, and my body doesn’t lie.
What were the formative messages you heard as a kid regarding money? Some of mine were, “No one will ever pay for one of your eggs.” “That’s too much to charge.” “What am I, a money tree?” Would love to have you share the conversation you heard around money and how it impacted you personally and as a business owner.
We had a wonderful turnout at my first-ever Boston area event held at the beautiful Chestnut Hill Eileen Fisher store. I love bringing together Remarkable Women, and this group was no exception.
We had women in travel, communications, catering, financial education, entrepreneurship education, radio and more. After the round of self-introductions for the entire group, we broke up into smaller conversations to help each other focus in on key issues. The sparks were flying. We even had some of the Eileen Fisher staff sit in our circles sharing their expertise and getting feedback.
What always impresses me so deeply as I’ve worked with Eileen Fisher’s employees is their devotion to the brand, the company and to Eileen as a visionary. As Laura Moretti-Gold–this store’s manager– said as she proudly introduced her staff members and how long each had been with the company, “We don’t leave!”
In a conversation I had with one of these women, I was told how generous Eileen is with benefits, profit-sharing, wellness allowances, etc. I can’t think of another company where I’ve heard that devotion and caring verbalized.
In case you didn’t know this, Eileen Fisher has a Business Grant Program for Women Entrepreneurs. The deadline is soon, but if you’re interested, here’s the link for an application.