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I was such a novice when I first walked into the doors of the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network (EWN) 20 years ago. I didn’t even knew what the word networking meant back then. A colleague had mentioned that there were other women business owners in the Fairfield County area, and would I care to join her for one of their meetings.
In my youthful arrogance, having been in my own business for about 10 years at that time, I thought, “Sure, maybe I can teach them a thing or two.”
It’s only when we enter new arenas that we get to see what we really know. For one, I had no idea how to go up to a group of women and introduce myself. I was incredibly shy, but fortunately had a business name that attracted attention. “What exactly is An Egg by Jane?” I got asked over and over.
I learned that each time I replied and took note of the listener’s expression, my description (i.e. 30-second commercial which I’d also never heard called that) changed and improved. I got to define what I did and for whom.
The thing I most valued about EWN then and now is meeting women who could help me in business. From our membership I created my own Mastermind Group that is still going strong today, found graphic designers, computer instructors, marketing consultants and communications experts who have continuously helped me grow my business. I’ve also attracted clients from our midst, many of whom have become lifelong friends.
It’s always an honor to be asked to speak at any organization, but it’s particularly rewarding to be invited by the network that fostered my growth. Some of my earliest public speaking opportunities came through EWN when I spoke on panels and at morning roundtables. To have the honored spot for an evening event is truly a cherished dream.
I hope to see a lot of familiar faces on Tuesday night and would love it if you would join me then. I’ll be sharing the lessons I’ve learned in my 30+ years in business, plus answering questions from the group that they’re dealing with on a daily basis in today’s marketplace.
One lesson I included in the first edition of my book Soul Proprietor was how important image is. I remember looking up EWN in the phone book (that’s how long ago that was) and seeing an address on the Post Road. “Wow!” I thought. “Real estate on the main drag of Westport, CT. This must be a sizable organization.”
Turned out the address was a Mailboxes, USA postal box (before these were ubiquitous), but it got me to the next step of the relationship, and that’s what creating a big appearance can do for you. Once we met, a fancy address was less important that the quality of its membership, which I’ve enjoyed for all these years.
She’s the author of The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life, and a great speaker. She presented some astonishing facts–that Baby Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day, and that we’re heading toward a world where there are more walkers (as in the metal kind) than strollers!
Marci shared some of her own story. I had read her columns in the NYTimes where she was a highly paid (by her own admission) freelancer. And how, in 2008, she was shockingly let go despite the popularity of her blog. In publicly sharing that story in the Times, she received an outpouring of response signaling her to investigate this trend–figuring out what to do next– more deeply and leading her down the path of Encore Careers.
That’s a smidgen of the day’s events. Read more about BA50 on their website.
A member of my Soul Proprietor Coaching Program reminded of an issue that all entrepreneurs face: keeping our pipelines flowing. That is, continuously putting in time and energy to nurture prospects while serving current clients.
This is not always easy, nor top priority when you’re busy.
In fact, sometimes you completely forget about it until you’re high and dry after your active clients complete with you. Since referrals, versus SEO or speaking events, are her major source of getting new business, I challenged her to go through her Rolodex, select four colleagues whom she’d enjoy reconnecting with, and invite each of them, individually, for a lunch date.
When you’re out and about, talking about what you do and listening closely to what your companion’s needs and desires are, magic happens. Not necessarily in a direct business lead or referral, but my moving your energy around out in the world. This may sound woo-woo, but it works.
Of course, I can’t give a homework assignment like this without self-examination. How am I doing with my pipeline? To be honest, since moving to NYC five months ago, I have not done much. So, here’s my commitment. For the next 30 days, I will spend 3 hours per week on LinkedIn.
I’ve tried a couple of networks here in the city and found myself shrinking back from the “Hi, what do you do?” – type connections these foster.
But I’ve noticed how tickled I am almost daily to receive those ubiquitous invitations from colleagues and acquaintances asking to link in with me. I’ve never done anything with this large accumulation of connections (close to a thousand) and was inspired by my member’s high energy level having done her assignment of getting together with several people last month.
I’m not exactly sure what results this commitment will yield, but I’m excited to delve into this social medium where so many have found great success.
Anyone want to join me on this 30-day challenge?
I feel so lucky to do what I do.
Every day I interact with women business owners who share intimately with me and in the groups I lead. Running a business is a vulnerable and courageous commitment to self-actualization. It’s a statement that you believe that something you do or create has value and that others, when made aware of your gift or talent, will pay money for it.
Since you’re self-employed, there aren’t the feedback systems in place that there are in corporate environments. No one is evaluating your performance or giving you reviews. So how do you measure how you’re doing?
I heard a succinct and apt answer to that question at my Mastermind Intensive last week. One of our members stated, “If you want to know how you’re doing, look at your actions.” Couldn’t be simpler than that.
Here are my questions to you: Are you stuck in analysis paralysis, waiting to be perfect to get out of the gate? Are you marketing regularly through in-person networking and/or social media? Are you generating ideas on a regular basis? Do you have a plan, and are you working it? Are you following through on your commitments to yourself?
I’d love to hear what action you’re taking today to develop your business.
While on the phone with a client I heard a familiar lament–How do I express what I do in my 30-second commercial?
No wonder it’s so hard to capture that moment of your audience’s attention. I’m a coach, speaker and author, and here’s what I did yesterday:
- Coached clients
- Packed for a speaking engagement
- Wrote 2 thank you notes
- Submitted a report to an association I volunteer for
- Invoiced a client
- Ordered a tablecloth for an upcoming trade show
- Made an appointment for a massage (self-care is a big part of my life)
- Debriefed my Community call
- Watched a relevant youtube video
- Listened to a podcast by Seth Godin
- Had a planning session with my marketing consultant
- Met with my advisory board
- Shared meals with close friends
- Meditated (2x)
- Walked several miles
I’m certain that your day was equally diverse, yet networking functions require you to capsulize who you are in a half-minute. I suggested to my client that WHO she is speaks louder than WHAT she says. It may be easy to state, “I’m a lawyer or a consultant” but most of us simply make up what that means anyway based on historic knowledge of others who call themselves by a similar label.
Does anyone have a good solution to this common issue? I’d love to know and will be happy to share it with every entrepreneur I know.
Reading in the Times today about the designer of Michelle Obama’s inauguration gown made me want to pose this question to my entrepreneurial colleagues and clients:
But dressing a first lady for the inauguration is a momentous occasion, and many designers have not been able to handle its weight. For every de la Renta, there has been a Michael Faircloth (Laura Bush’s first), and for every Scaasi a Sarah Phillips (Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first).
Not even Mrs. Obama’s support guarantees success, as illustrated by Maria Pinto of Chicago, a hometown favorite who went out of business in 2010 despite the first lady’s patronage.
Though Mr. Wu was just 26 when he was selected the first time, he already had an established relationship with retailers, a production infrastructure and the good sense to get himself on all of the morning talk shows the next day (as he did again Tuesday, now a seasoned pro at age 30).
When I give a talk on creating a million dollar presence, I administer a quick media readiness quiz. It’s an opportunity to check in with my audience to see if, in fact, they are prepared to handle the onslaught of attention and sales they’ve been dreaming about. Are their ducks in a row?
Of course, you want to do everything you can to get the attention of the press. Designing the inaugural ball gown is a hands down winning formula, but for the rest of us, there are tried and true elements: having great marketing materials including a logo and web presence, networking, speaking and creating a platform would be top among them.
Of equal importance is having the goods to deliver once the press opportunities and resulting demands begin to flow your way.
How successful do you really want to be, and are you positioning yourself now for that recognition and traffic?
I joined La Leche League in my last month of pregnancy with my first child. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby and needed to learn how. That was the premise of the meetings–to place yourself amongst other breastfeeding women to learn and observe the in’s and out’s of this seemingly natural process.
Here was a wonderful group of young women with healthy-looking, robust infants. The literature said how terrific it was for the well-being of both mother and child, and everything I observed at the meetings validated that. But there was so much more.
Even though the process is supposed to be instinctive, and even though every mother and child looked peaceful and serene, it was the deep down, honest, true-to-the-bone sharing that captured me. “This is harder than I thought,” was a sentence I heard more than once.
I’m launching the Soul Proprietor Community on February 1 for the purpose of providing women entrepreneurs what La Leche League provides for new moms–a haven of support, encouragement and knowledge shared woman to woman in an atmosphere of safety and confidentiality.
This will be a place where you can say, “This is harder than I thought” about being a business owner in 2013. It didn’t used to be this hard, but it is now. And I want to offer a water cooler environment where this difficult truth can be shared, heard and honored. In my business life I have found a safe haven or two to reveal my deep-down truths. But these oases are few and far between.
I am making this offer to women entrepreneurs who identify with the importance of stating what is, being heard, validated and offered suggestions (when requested) to help them move beyond the obstacles and stuck-ness.
We all want to present our best selves and our babies aka our businesses in their best light. In order to accomplish this feat, it’s necessary to have a place to go where you don’t always have to put on “the face.”
Somewhere, sometime, there needs to that haven where you can take off the lookin’ good mask and tell the truth. If you want to find that space too, join me on February 1 to get real and free yourself from the burden of having to look perfect all the time.