Let’s Celebrate!

What do you celebrate in your business? Is it reaching a sales goal or locking in a promotion? Winning an account or delivering a great pitch that your client loved? Is it a certain number of years in business or a new and greater number in your bank account?

People celebrate all kinds of milestones and achievements, but if you’re like most of us you don’t do it often enough. When we achieve any kind of goal most of us don’t even take the time to acknowledge it, much less sit back and rest on our laurels. More often than not, we just keep moving forward, continually resetting the goal posts higher and higher.

And, really, there is nothing wrong with that strategy, for that tendency to constantly push ourselves to reach higher and do better is how we grow. But I’d like to suggest that equally as valuable is the act of pausing for a moment to recognize the small victories. Taking a moment to reflect on where you started and how far you’ve come is a great habit to get into.  When you adopt this practice of celebration it can help keep you moving forward when the going gets tough, because you’ll be better able to remember your successes, victories and achievements along the way. And, if you’ve had celebrations in the past, why not also in the future?

That is easy enough to understand, but here’s the part that most people don’t realize: you don’t just have to celebrate victories.

What if you also learned to appreciate your failures? How would things change for you if, instead of berating yourself when things don’t go the way you planned, you chose to stop and honor the lessons learned during the experience? What if, instead of getting angry and upset with those who have wronged you, you instead practice showering that person with love, light and even gratitude?

The thing that happens when you do this, is you shift the energy and rid yourself of negative connotations that you may be associating with a so-called failure. Start seeing these failures as valuable lessons and stepping stones and suddenly everything gets a little easier. You may find that you’re less afraid of missteps along the way when you remove the aspect of judgment from them, and that newfound boldness may lead you to victories and green pastures that you’d only dreamed of previously.

So, go ahead and celebrate the good and the bad. Every step along your journey really does move you just that little bit closer to your goal, and that truly is something that’s worth popping the champagne cork for.

 

 

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

An Independence Play

We’re fast approaching Independence Day here in the States and it’s got me thinking about business and why we start companies in the first place. In the beginning everyone imagines that their business is going to give them freedom – financial freedom, but also the ability to choose how to spend your time, both at and away from the office.

The reality, however, is often far from this utopia. Many of us business owners get through the start-up phase doing anything and everything that needs to be done, from answering the phones to taking out the trash. And, truthfully, some of us never stop being that person – that “start up hero”.

But at some point we have to consciously make a shift away from the place where we are the core of all that happens in our business. This can be difficult for some people to do (after all, the business is our baby). But, if we don’t grow these businesses in a smart way, putting systems for our business in place, AND empowering our employees to make decisions, we’ll never achieve that freedom that we so badly want.

In fact, we’ll end up with the opposite effect – our business will start to feel like a prison. Even worse, when a business relies so strongly on a single person to function properly, this means that systems are not properly in place. And, in many cases, it also means that the business has little cash value if the owner should ever wish to step away.

Creating a business without systems, and without a way for your team to make key decisions, means that you’re designing a hamster wheel that you can never step off of. Company founders and CEO’s feel important when they’re required to sign off on everyday tasks, and oversee operations. But, isn’t it a better testament to a company’s health and value when nobody even notices when the CEO is out of the office for a week? When things run smoothly and established policies and systems do what they’re supposed to do?

When that happens you know that you’ve built something good. Something of value that will not only provide freedom to those on the top, but which will be a sustainable and scalable company that’s in it for the long haul. And that, my friends, is when you get to experience true independence.

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

Turning the Impossible Upside Down

I have a confession to make. My husband and I are not athletes. Not even close, actually. We enjoy light activity – yard work, walking, sailing – but you probably won’t catch us running marathons or entering Ironman competitions anytime soon. Yet, in recent months we have been paying more attention to our health. We changed our diet, taking out sugar and carbs, and started walking. As we began to feel better we wanted to do a little something more to improve our health, and when I came across a Facebook post for a 30-day plank challenge, we thought, “Yes! This is it!”

If any of you have done the plank challenge before you know that you start out planking for just 20 seconds, and in the course of the 30 days you work up to more than four minutes. Well, on day one planking for 20 seconds was hard (but not that hard), but thinking about doing 60 seconds (or – gasp – four minutes!) seemed impossible.

We’ve now been doing the challenge for several weeks and are approaching the four minute mark. We got here by practicing consistently (almost every day, with some resting days planned in the schedule) and by pushing ourselves just a little harder and longer each day. There is no way we could have done a four-minute plank during our first week, but now we’re no longer scared of this goal and we know that we’ll be achieving it within the coming days.

The other day I was listening to a Tony Robbins podcast and the topic was building a business by pushing yourself just a little farther out of your comfort zone, day after day. On the show they talked about building up and learning to flex your entrepreneurial muscles and it got me thinking how similar that concept is to what we have experienced this past month.

  1. Dig deep and find your grit: there are no shortcuts. Whether you’re building your muscles or building a business you have to show up and do the work day after day. No one can do this for you and there is no faking it.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up: some days are just better than others. Some days we would go to do our planks and we’d feel like we were on top of the world. Sometimes we’d improve our time by 20, 30 or 40 seconds from the day before. Then other days we just couldn’t hold it very long at all.
  3. Don’t psyche yourself out: it’s mind over matter. You really have to go into every challenge with a belief that you will prevail. If you tell yourself that you can’t possibly hold the plank for more than a minute, guess what? You’ve lost before you’ve even begun.
  4. Seemingly impossible obstacles become easy. When we started planking it was just like when we started the business in that it was easy to get lost in the overwhelm of the enormity of the situation. If you focus on the obstacles you will never progress as quickly as if you break your challenge down into manageable steps. When we’re planking it comes down to focusing on our breathing; one breath at a time. With the business we consider our goals and build a strategy around them. Then we figure out specific tactics – small steps – that we can take to help us achieve our goals.
  5. Teamwork makes everything a little easier. We could do our planks at the same time, I suppose, but so far we’ve been taking turns so that the one not planking acts as timekeeper and cheerleader for the other. It’s a small thing, but taking on the challenge together has made us more likely to show up to do our part, and I’m sure that we’re both trying a little harder than if we were just doing this on our own. Plus it’s more fun to work on something like this together. I think the same is true in a business. If you don’t have a business partner, then getting your employees on board as part of the team that is working together towards a common goal is key for long-term success.

The Power of Video

At White Knight we do a lot of things but one that we’re best at is making videos that tell compelling stories. Why is this important? I’ll get to the statistics later, but let’s start out with some anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen over the past ten years in this business.

For one thing, people do not like to read long blocks of text. We all know that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, but what many people don’t realize is that the preferred way to receive information is through the multi-sensory experience of a video.

Also, videos are one of the best ways to showcase your passion and personality. Even with our increasing interest in working in the digital space (often remotely) we still crave personal attention and want to do business with people we like and trust. In many service businesses there is simply no substitute for that human element in the form of excellent customer service and partnership. How better to show your clients who you are than through video?

Strategy matters: Even though it’s easy to create and put up videos on your sites, you must remain aware of your overall goals, strategy and tactics, and make sure the video content is working for you. There is nothing wrong with using videos that are more “raw” and authentic, to give your viewers a glimpse into your company in a unique way (such as a behind-the-scenes view of your space). However, it is imperative that all of your videos reflect your overall brand and messaging, and present a professional view of your organization.

Have you heard about Video Crisps yet? If not, then check out this video for a brief overview. Then keep reading for some awesome statistics.

 

 

Here are some statistics that you might find interesting, especially if you’re thinking about making video a more central piece of your marketing content.

  1. Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users (VidYard)
  2.  People spend on average 2.6x more time on pages with video than without (Wistia)
  3. 52% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI (Syndacast)
  4. Snapchatters watch 10 billion videos a day (AdWeek)
  5.  500 million people are watching videos on Facebook every day (TubularInsights)
  6. 4x as many customer would rather watch a video about a product than read about it (Animoto)
  7.  Almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store (ThinkWithGoogle)
  8.  52% of marketers believe that video is effective for brand awareness (WowMakers)
  9.  59% of executives agree that if both text and video are available on the same topic, they are more likely to choose video (MWP)
  10. 65% of video viewers watch more than ¾ of a video (Syndacast)

If all of this has convinced you that you could be doing more with video to help drive your business forward, email us to set up a time to chat about how we can help you. Or check out our website for more information about how you can get started today.

 

 

Time Troubles? Here’s How to Break Free

 

Do you ever find yourself wishing for a clone? Or for an additional 24 hours per day so that you could get done half the things that are on your list? Well, what I’m about to tell you may not immediately fill you with glee, but stay with me because if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur I’m going to tell you how to make a really big shift in your business.

Different people have different time management skills, with someone like Warren Buffet being a grand master. I’m going to assume that this article is not going to find its way into Buffet’s inbox, and I’m going to also go with the idea that most readers are “average” time managers. That means people who ultimately finish much of what has to get done, but not without stress or the underlying feeling that if they had had more time they could have done a better job.

The other assumption – the one that is true in 99% of all cases – is that most of us are not spending the majority of our precious time on the tasks with the highest rewards. This is a common problem but it’s also not a hard one to fix if you’re willing to make some changes in the way you’re doing things (and remember that not to be willing to change, yet to expect a different result, is akin to insanity….)

Because so many small business owners get caught up in the “weeds” of running their businesses – they end up spending most of their time doing operational tasks, putting out fires and working IN the business. When they’re able to shift how their time is spent so that for even just an hour or two per day they can focus  ON the ways that the business can exponentially grow and scale, that’s what makes all the difference.

But how do you find that extra hour or two a day? Here is where the growth opportunity lies (and yes, growth can be slightly uncomfortable, but that’s how meaningful change happens).

First, you need to start tracking how you’re spending your time. Log it all during the next two weeks (yes, I know it’s a pain, but it’s the only way you’re doing to see your patterns). After the two weeks has passed you’ll probably already naturally be better at time management simply because of your raised awareness around the topic, but then here is the rub: you’re going to need to look at all the things you’re doing on a daily basis and decide which of those things could be delegated. That’s one way you’re going to free up more of your time for meaningful work around strategy and growth.

When you make that shift you start to see BIG results.

But it’s one that requires a leap of faith. Hiring help is often a difficult decision for solopreneurs and small business owners, but it’s also the only way to grow and scale. You’ve simply got to free yourself, as the business owner or leader, from some of those tasks that are bogging you down.

And there are many ways to do this – Virtual Assistants can take a lot of administrative tasks off your plate, and usually very cost effectively. There are other freelance and full and part time options, too. Sometimes you can come to an agreement with a local college that is looking for places where their students (and graduates) can get work experience. Many cities also have programs that subsidize wages for hiring unemployed veterans or other subgroups.

Once you decide to get some help and start doing a little research you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your staffing support needs. The first, and possibly, hardest, step is making the decision to shift your focus to getting the meetings, partnerships and contracts that will grow your business to 10X or more. Because, ultimately, doesn’t that make a lot more sense than continuing on the path of being a slave to time and letting your business run you?

Guided by Instinct

Blindfolded young man walking through light bulbs searching for bright idea

The other day I got to talk to Seth Godin and it was awesome (the link to that interview is below). The way I got that opportunity had everything to do with stepping out of my comfort zone, and lessons learned in the process are so relevant to how you’re running your business today.

How do you run your business? Is everything you do based on data, numbers and empirical data or are you operating on a combination of instinct and cold, hard facts? I’d like to make the case for basing your decisions on both of these things. Numbers and charts without any nod to the “gut instinct” will never tell the whole story.

And the instinct could be wrong – no doubt about that – so it makes sense to have lots of arrows in your quiver: analytical evidence AS WELL AS “a good feeling” about something.

In my experience the world is never black and white. Any time I am faced with a tough situation and am not sure how to proceed I always look at the facts but then also like to hit “pause” and ask myself what my instincts are telling me to do. It’s very interesting, because so often I’ll get the urge to call a certain person or to hold off on sending an email. I can’t tell you how many times acting on these kinds of instincts have worked well for me.

The “why” behind this can’t necessarily be explained by science, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I like to use the example of something most of us have experienced: thinking of someone “out of the blue” who you haven’t spoken to for a long time, and then within minutes that person is calling you. No logical explanation, yet it happens.

Those are the same “super powers” that can by used to apply to business if you’re willing to follow your instincts. If you’re feeling the urge to call one of your old clients for no logical reason, why not go ahead and do it. You probably have nothing to lose and you never know… that person might have been wanting to reach out to you anyway.

Or if you get the crazy idea to do something outside of your comfort zone and it feels right, why not go ahead and give it a try. That’s how I got to interview Seth Godin for my podcast. I’ve long been a fan of his, and the other day when one of his blog posts resonated strongly with me I had this weird instinct to reach out to him and ask him to be on my show.

And here’s the thing: I almost talked myself out of it! I heard these things going through my head:

“My show has a small listenership. He’ll never say yes.”

“He’s way too busy to talk to me.”

“He probably doesn’t even write, much less read, his own blogs.”

And on and on. That inner voice can be very negative and challenging sometimes! In this case, however, I heard the voice and made the conscious decision to reach out to Seth anyway and was so thrilled when he said yes. Interviewing him was one of the highlights of my podcast – so far – and was a lot of fun, too. I think it’s a great example how listening to instinct over logic can serve us well, and how stepping out of the comfort zone is the best (only) way to grow.

If you’d like to hear Seth’s interview here’s the link to the podcast page. You’ll also find links to subscribe to the show from your favorite service. Please do. I’m really passionate about this show and amazing guests are lining up to come on. I think you’ll really enjoy the authors, thought leaders and sports stars that will be sharing their stories with us in the coming weeks.

Thanks for taking the time to read this story and the next time you get the sudden urge to do something crazy but potentially beneficial in your business, listen to it. Your inner voice may say, “But what if you fail?”

And your answer must be,  “Ah. But what if I am successful beyond anything I could have imagined?”

 

 

How Does Your Money Flow?

Money, in and of itself, has no value. In order to mean anything it has to circulate. It must flow.

I had an interesting conversation the other day that I want to share with you. I was talking with a woman who is a professional writer and she was telling me about her early career where she was a single mom struggling with money. She described how she was forced to buy the most basic necessities, and how, as a side effect of that, her kids learned the value of money and of working hard.

But what was really interesting about the conversation was when she told me that during that challenging time in her life she was always volunteering to bring food in for food drives or for church functions, how she’d bake brownies for school or donate to local charities. All of that from someone who had nothing, yet somehow they always had enough.

In fact, she told me that the only time she literally couldn’t make ends meet was after she started questioning her generosity and when she had made a decision to stop giving so much.

It’s ironic, but I’ve experienced the exact same thing, as have countless other people, I am sure. I know that for myself, every time I give (even when I feel like I can’t afford to be doing so), I always end up receiving more wealth in some form or another. I might pick up a new client who I wasn’t expecting to approach me, or I might get a forgotten about tax credit in the mail. However the money come back it happens, in one way or another, without fail, and I really do find it very interesting.

In order for money to come to you it also has to flow out. In order to experience being abundant or wealthy you also have to give, spend and act generously. Of course, you don’t always have to do this with money – time, expertise and even sharing a kind word are certainly other ways to give – and they leave you feeling good.

When you hold too tightly to money (or anything else for that matter), you never get to truly experience its goodness or full potential. And guess what? The same principles apply to business, too. On a very base level the whole purpose behind any business is to serve, to help support the employees and others who benefit in some way from the existence of the business. It is not only about (or should not be, anyway) getting the highest number in the bank account.

In my opinion it is bigger than that. And of course money and profits are hugely important, but they’re not as important as the lives that are impacted by the business and by the positivity that it has the power to spread. At the end of the day we are all in this thing called life together, at least at some level.

So, let the money flow for good causes, for helping your employees, vendors and others achieve financial freedom. Become prosperous so you can fully enjoy life, but share in that prosperity too because that is where the real value, joy and meaning ultimately comes from.

 

The Only Thing You Need to Know

The single most important ingredient for growing any business is the creation of customers who are so happy that they tell your friends about you. That’s it, plain and simple. But how many companies lose sight of this critical element and focus instead on any number of other things: cutting corners, increasing profits, beating the competition…

But what it really comes down to is this one thing. If you can find a way to make sure your customer feels special, feels heard and feels well-served then tell me, how easy is it going to be for your competitor to steal that customer away? Probably not very easy at all, because people will pay a little more and will even go out of their way for a company and a brand that they feel “gets” them and treats them well.

This type of thinking has led people to be able to successfully create restaurants and other businesses that are miles from the nearest town, yet people will go out of their way to go there because of the way it makes them feel once they arrive. It’s also one of the key reasons that some companies succeed while those right next door to them do not.

While building customer loyalty is a long game, more marathon than sprint, it’s also well worth the investment. Customers who are valued and who feel connected are much less likely to chase the next shiny object that comes by, and that’s true even in a world of ever-shortening attention spans.

So, what can you do today to say thank you to your customers, to let them know you care? Give it a try and see what happens. You might be very pleasantly surprised.

Stronger Together

Indisputable Truth: The solution to a problem is often right in front of you but cannot be teased out without some creativity and thought.

I recently participated in a workshop where we were presented with a problem involving rare pheasant eggs. This supplier has a certain price that he needs to get for his eggs, as there is a limited supply and his boss is pressuring him to come back with at least a certain dollar amount. Three buyers come forward with offers on the eggs but none are offering enough to satisfy the boss’ requirements.

One buyer wants only some of the eggs because a limited amount of the shells for a pharmaceutical product his company produces. Another buyer wants to sell the eggs in very high end restaurants where they are made into a special meringue-like delicacy and the other buyer wants to buy all the eggs for a nutritional supplement that his company makes, but he is not authorized to spend as much as the seller needs to receive.

Negotiations ensue but are guaranteed lukewarm success unless one thing happens. Have you guessed it yet? It’s a creative solution and requires a level of cooperation, but because all the buyers actually need a different part of the eggs, it is feasible that everyone could work together to get what they want and the seller can over-deliver to his boss on the money front, thereby guaranteeing himself a nice fat bonus.

Now, before some smarty pants comments on this blog about any technical reason that the above scenario couldn’t work, I ask you to please not bother. That really isn’t the point. I’m not an expert on eggs, nor do I wish to be, but what I do know about is strategic partnerships and cooperation. And after I started to change my business strategy to that of a lone wolf to an expert collaborator and partner, everything really start to shift for me in a very positive direction.

Any small to medium sized business person will tell you: life can be very lonely when you’re trying to run your business. You most likely have limited resources and are wearing a few too many hats. And trying to carve out your slice of the pie in a crowded marketplace can prove to be very challenging, to say the least.

This is where strategic partners can come in and become an important part of your high-level plan for sales and growth. If you can identify other businesses with complimentary products or services to your own, and come up with a plan that both sides benefit by, it becomes an attractive prospect to consider. Sure, it may take come creativity as in the egg example, and you may even find yourself working together with one-time rivals, but if you’re open to experiencing the magic of partnerships and collaboration you may quickly see how your influence can quickly extend to a whole new sphere of people that you may not have had access to before.

Now, of course I probably don’t need to explain to you what the word “strategic” means. Partnerships of any kind are never something that I would enter into lightly. There are a million reasons why they may not work, and whenever you do anything like this, I would strongly suggest a lawyer looks over any agreements that you decide to abide by.

But for all of the potential headache or risk, I would still contend that strategic partnerships are well worth exploring. If you can find other companies whose services dovetail or compliment your own, and either become an affiliate seller of those services, or if the two of you agree to team up and work together you will most likely find that your company is quickly getting in front of customers that you would not have been able to serve on your own. And in that exposure lies enormous potential and opportunity for growth – for both you and your partners. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

 

 

Take Little Steps or Keep Standing Still?

How many excuses do you think there are for not starting a business, or launching a new venture or initiative?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this number may be one of those ad infinitum situations. Excuses are easy to come by, but excuses don’t build dream companies, nor do they create change in anyone’s life. So, if there is some idea that has been nagging at you, some creative idea you want to explore or a new business that is fueling you with a passion, today may be the day to flip the switch and start turning your dream into reality.

Whoa. I hear those voices in your head and that cacophony of reasons why you can’t do that thing you really want to do just hit me hard.

“But I don’t know how.”

“I’m not sure how to get started.”

“I don’t know if there is a market.”

“I’m not experienced enough.”

“Someone else is already doing this (bigger, better, etc.)…”

 

What if I fail?  A million phrases like these prevent the majority of people from ever starting anything, but I’m sure that we can also agree that anything that currently exists was started from nothing. How many startups began in garages, coffee shops, bedrooms?

How many people just got on with it and figured it out?

See, I believe that it is not necessary to have every step of your journey mapped in advance. In fact, I think that knowing all those steps up front is practically impossible. Sure, you can plan and strategize, but you’re never going to be able to accurately predict every detail of your journey, and believe me, even if you could do that it wouldn’t be wise.

If you really knew up front how everything was going to play out, where would be the room for spontaneity, for miraculous serendipities and coincidences, for things to turn out far better than you were even imagining?

I think that, rather than waiting until you think you have the “how” all figured out, that a better strategy is just to start. Start by figuring out what success looks like – what your vision is, and decide that “this or something better” is what you’re going to create.

Then the fun begins and it’s just a matter of taking little steps towards your goals. Figure out small “bite size” things that you can do to support your dream on a daily basis. You might call someone up to ask advice, or put up a simple website. You might send out ten emails and follow up with calls. You might do a free talk or offer a class to your community. Maybe you start a blog or just start talking about your new venture and watch who starts showing up to support you. When you start to see the journey as the fun part you begin to shift your whole attitude. Instead of focusing on how far you are from the top of the mountain and how many thousands of steps it’s going to take to get there, you begin to see the whole trek as an adventure of epic proportions, and rather than dreading the start you begin looking forward to whatever lies before you.

This, my friend, is how great adventures begin and how great businesses are born – with an inspired idea and a determination to make it work. But please, whatever you do, don’t forget to enjoy the journey and to stay open to new opportunities along the way. You’ll be amazed at what starts to show up.

Good luck and bon voyage!