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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.
More Magazine featured entrepreneur Phylise Sands, the owner of Red Daisy, and her journey to success. If you’d like a realistic and sobering story about the ins and outs of bringing a product to market, read her story in the April issue.
My favorite parts were about her soliciting the aid of a famous lingerie designer, Roslyn Harte who, at first, turned down the offer to help this start-up. And I mean turned down: 20 times. Would YOU have had the courage to continue making that call? Phylise did.
All start-up companies are really a pain.
was Harte’s reaction. Until she discovered that Red Daisy had a give-back component that spoke to her heart–breast cancer research.
Along the way, Sands learned many lessons, like expanding her product line beyond one fabulous sports bra. “Three bras does not a company-with-market-presence make,” she advised.
Ms. Harte also alerted this new business owner to the fact that retailers stay away from new companies because of “control issues, delivery problems, and [their tendency] to go out of business.”
That wasn’t the case for Red Daisy. Orders came in, but she did face delivery problems from her manufacturer, which she handled one call at a time.
Stories like these, which celebrate the owner while shedding light on the challenges, are the most inspiring to me. No one has smooth sailing from conception to market. It’s good to hear what really happens. We all have our battle scars, but they’re not always shone the light of day.
I appreciate MORE sharing this satisfying story of success. I hope it encourages you to go the extra mile today.
Often I get passionate about an idea, then make it bigger and bigger so that evenutally it becomes impossible to make any progress. Then I use “failure” as an excuse not to try anything like that ever again. Telling my husband about it, I explained it like this: when building a fire, it’s smart to get rid of the old ashes, light some crumpled-up newspaper, then put some twigs on. After the twigs have caught, put on some small logs. When the small logs are burning nice and hot, then larger logs can be added. All too often, I plunk a large log onto the newspaper shortly after it’s caught fire. The flame is snuffed out and I say, “see, it didn’t work” and then sit in the cold, pouting. So in keeping with my analogy, I’m going to sit and watch my twigs burn for a while.
Our next session is on Friday at noon (EDT).
I started my Soul Proprietor Coaching Program on February 1, have held two sessions with the entire community and two group coaching sessions so far.
There’s buzz going on in our private Facebook area and comments being posted as our members begin to take on the challenges I’ve offered.
My sense is that it’s well-received, but only when I read the feedback do I gain a clearer picture of my impact. Are you like that?
In our virtual world, what’s the best kind of response for you? Until I hear from my participants, I feel a bit on edge as to whether or not my message is being transmitted.
Today I posted the challenges I put out to individual members, like writing a letter to existing clients announcing a price increase, networking proactively (i.e. soliciting time with the people you really want to meet), editing a LinkedIn profile, and immediately began hearing from my members. I also got excited to read all the exciting things these soul proprietors are taking on. I feel inspired as well.
I’ve had accountability partners, aka goal buddies, for years. It’s what keeps me on track on a daily basis.
I also have a Mastermind group that I’ve been part of for a couple of decades. That’s a monthly accountability structure for the bigger things I want to achieve in my business.
Add to my support systems a coach to whom I speak twice monthly. She’s where I sort it all out and remember what’s important to me and why I do what I do.
It’s the goal buddy relationship that offers the dailiness of entrepreneurship for me. The others are the bigger, wider views. My goal buddy is the on-the-ground, day-to-day ‘combat’ colleague and ally for getting it all done.
What I’ve illustrated here is the sheet (actually a manila folder) I use to track our commitments. I write down hers and mine with a check box next to each to house that satisfying gesture of completion.
If you enlarge the image you can see the variety of tasks we commit to each other–some as simple as ‘organize family receipts’ or others more demanding like ‘develop first three topics’. What’s important about organizing family receipts is that NOT doing it–sorting through my annual collection of personal purchases–was taking up way too much room in my brain. Sometimes our commitments to each other are as menial as that one, but need to be done.
Here are some questions and answers for establishing a successful goal buddy relationship. Between the two of you work out these pieces of the connection:
- How often do you want to check in with each other. My current goal buddy and I usually speak 3x per week. I had one partner with whom I spoke each weekday first thing in the morning to state our goals and around 5pm to acknowledge completion of them.
- Who calls whom? We switch off with each call. I’ll call her today at 11am. She’ll take the responsiblity for our next appointment on Monday afternoon.
- How long are the calls? Usually 5 minutes, sometimes less if either of us states at the beginning, “This’ll be just a quick check-in today.” Sometimes we chat for 15 minutes.
- What do you choose as goals? We both have a working knowledge of the other’s business and visions. Ninety percent of our goals are right on course with creating the futures we each desire. Ten percent of the time, like organizing receipts, the goals are set to get rid of obstacles blocking our creativity.
- What’s the benefit of having a goal buddy? As I mentioned earlier, it’s having someone to talk to regularly (isolation is a huge issue for entrepreneurs) to get through the dailiness of life. Left to our own devices, who wouldn’t rather watch the next episode of Girls or Downton Abbey? Being held accountable by someone you respect and admire is a beautiful thing. You might cut yourself the slack, but you’d never want to disappoint your cherished collaborator.
- How do you find a goal buddy? Ask around. You want someone as committed to her visions as you are. Water seeks its own level. Try on a partner for a week or a month and then re-evaluate. You’ll know quickly if it’s working or not by your progress, your happiness level and your gut.
The reason I’m writing this blog post today is because someone in my Community asked me if I could recommend anyone to her. As I was reviewing my notes from my Mastermind Intensive, one of our members needed to find an accountability partner (same thing, by the way) as her goal for our next meeting. I thought about these two women and what a great match they’d make and offered it up to the two of them. The one who asked first was thrilled and upped the ante by asking, what’s the best way to work this connection. Hence this article.
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.
I was going through my ‘blogworthy’ file for ideas and came across a clipping from the Times–an article in the PREOCCUPATIONS column by Pam Slim, a successful business coach and author of Escape from Cubicle Nation. It’s entitled Is This the Time To Follow Your Bliss? and is as relevant today as it was when I clipped it in April of 2009.
If you have to live with uncertainty,
you may as well pursue what you care about deeply.
That was the highlighted quote in the piece, and the one I believe is perfectly timely in 2013.
Which is why I’m focusing on doing what you love on my next community call on March 1. When I started An Egg by Jane in 1980, doing what you love (and having the money follow) had not yet become the title of a bestselling book. I just knew that I would make a business out of my passion for my art form. My keynote address became: If I Can Make a Business Out of This, You Can Make a Business Out of Anything, which I still firmly believe.
I’ve never claimed that you’ll make a multi-million dollar business out of doing what you love, but quoting one of the people profiled in Slim’s article, I do believe you’ll be able to state: “My energy is high, I wake up with joy, and I feel alive.”
When you put an intention out into the Universe, look out!
This year, starting February 1, I intend to lead a community of women entrepreneurs in a movement of my own creation.
I set this intention last month. At a Christmas Eve party shortly after I’d made this decision, I sat down next to Arlyn Young, pictured above left, who proceeded to share her excitement about an upcoming Seth Godin event she had a ticket for in the city: The Icarus Deception, Live. Soon after the party, it might even have been Christmas Day (the perfect gift!), she sent me a link to register.
I’m blogging to you fresh from this fabulous program. Because of Seth Godin’s brilliant deconstruction of our post-industrialist society, I am more inspired than ever to take the risk of putting myself in front of you all and proclaiming THIS IS MY ART.
I lead women in my own particular way, based on my unique history of getting to this place in time, and having the passion to share what I know about operating a business doing what you love, as I have, for the past 30 years.
You’ll have to watch Seth’s talk on video (I’ll post a link to it if/when it goes live) and/or read his new book The Icarus Deception to get the whole picture and inspiration I felt. Basically he informed us, with much head-nodding throughout the audience in recogntion, that jobs are something we invented. They didn’t exist 150 years ago when we were an agricultural society. There was zero unemployment then because we ALL worked for ourselves. We’seem to be heading back towards that model as industries that used to thrive are falling by the wayside–the music industry was the example he talked about to illustrate his point–and creative entrepreneurs are taking their art public whether it’s making the best brisket or self-publishing their poems. It’s time to start making it up and putting out your wares.
In his book and talk, the formula for success today and in the future will once again be to create your own calling. It’s inside you, and you know that. Bringing it to life is scary and dangerous. As Gregg Levoy says (I’m not quoting directly, but you’ll get the point) in his book Callings, the greater the passion, the more the Universe flings opposing forces.
Seth gave us a vivid example of 3 Buddhist monks who came across a terrifying pitbull (Arlyn, correct me here if I mis-remembered this). Two of the monks ran away, but the third holy man confronted the animal with an icy stare in return, at which point the ‘bully’ dog put his tail between his legs and retreated. That’s what your gremlins will do when you take an action in spite of the threats, criticisms or judgments.
The Icarus Project begins nationwide tonight. See if you can locate and participate in a meeting near you. By his own example, Seth Godin is not marketing this the old way–taking out ads in magazines and newspapers. He’s counting on the connectedness of his community to spread the word, as I am, because what he’s offering is so exciting, so different and so compelling. Check it out! And pass it on.
I’ve been down many rabbit holes in my business, but yesterday, before meeting someone at the NY Public Library, I spotted this fellow sitting near the steps of the building and thought, “Wow! That’s something I’ve never tried. That takes guts.”
Or something else. You fill in the blank.
Here was this man, an author, who’d shlepped his own table, chair and signage to sit front and center in the Big Apple with his wares. I was intrigued enough to have a conversation and learn more about him, where he came from and how this promotion was working. I asked if I might take his photo and blog about him. He happily agreed.
I was going to link this to his site, but after visiting it, I didn’t find it professional enough to recommend. I was hoping that he’d be a hidden treasure that I might help promote. But, alas, he still has much to learn. The website was amateurish, confusing and did not make me want to buy his book.
I admired his courage: to sit there with his product and avail himself of one of the most trafficked areas in the world. This is not something everyone would or should try. I give him credit for going to any lengths. Whether or not he sells many books is less important than the feedback he gets from the masses walking by. There’s always information to be gleaned when you put yourself out there. New Yorkers are known for their candor. I hope he got helpful ideas in the process.
I’m grateful to my friend and goal buddy, Sandy Weiner, for mentioning during our call today that you can now search the web using an image. Because of her telling me this, I chose to not feature this man’s face, just in case he’s surfing the web for his likeness and anything being written about him.
You never know…