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.

It Takes a Village

I saw this video of Arnold Schwarzenegger the other day. It was just a video that someone had posted on Facebook or Twitter, and I’m not really sure what made me watch it, but it turned out that Arnold said something very profound that stuck with me. I don’t remember his exact words, but essentially he asked people to never call him a self-made man, because along the road to his success were so many people who helped him on his way.

That idea struck a chord with me because I think that it is so completely spot-on. There are very few things, if any, that we can succeed in in life that are true solo endeavors. On the contrary, most significant achievements involve both teamwork and a good support system. They require a solid outside perspective, resources and skills that you yourself may not possess, or even just someone who is going to challenge you and push you a little harder.

This is the very reason why people hire mentors and coaches and why the tribe that you choose to surround yourself with is so important.

Recently, I was surprised to learn what a group effort is involved with writing a book, something that I had always assumed was more of a solo project. I’m now in the final stages of completing my first book and in the course of its development have grown and nurtured a supportive community of fellow writers, early readers of my work, my publisher and editor,  my cover designer, all the publicists and other publishers who have offered additional advice and guidance, my family who tirelessly offer encouragement and constructive criticism… then there are the folks on the periphery who ask about the book and who help keep me focused on finishing it when life tries to get in the way.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the people who have helped, and for that I apologize, but hopefully you get the idea. Every single one of those people has played an important role in bringing the book to fruition.

In business, the same thing is true, but of course the list is much longer. You get into employees, support staff, strategic partners, suppliers, clients, affiliates…

And then there’s the thing that not many people want to talk about. Sure, it’s easy to find support for your business when things are going well and the money is flowing. But what about during the tough times? Who do you have on your side then? The answer might end up surprising you, if you ever happen to find yourself in that situation.

It’s a tough way to find out who your real friends are, but it’s also a valuable lesson, and one that you must make a point to remember once your fortune improves. For, the most important lesson in the whole “village” concept is that you’re part of someone else’s village too, as you help them to build their dream.

So, appreciate the people who show up for you, then pay it forward with gusto. That’s how we build the things that really matter, and isn’t that what we all want, on some level?

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?

The Real Art of the Deal: 5 Quick Tips

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What does the word negotiation mean to you? Does even thinking about it fill you with a little bit of anxiety? Do you equate “negotiation” to “conflict” and try to avoid it at all costs?

There is a perception by many in business that in negotiation one side wins and the other loses. If you subscribe to this belief then it logically follows that the one who wins is better, stronger, smarter or otherwise holds an advantage over the other party. And, by extension, it stands to reason that the side that loses is weaker in some way and leaves the negotiation embattled and discouraged.

However, just as personal relationships are more complex than childhood fairy tales would make them out to be, business negotiations are rarely black and white. Instead, shades of gray and nuance usually blur the line between who wins and who loses in these transactions. But what I’d like to propose is a world in which both sides walk away feeling good about the deal… where negotiations are a very good thing.

In this new paradigm we stop going into a negotiation thinking, “How can I walk away with as much as possible?” and instead turn it into a game of,  “How can we both leave here feeling good about what has transpired? What can I offer to give my opponent that he or she really wants?”

In this more evolved type of negotiation you begin to view the other person as your “negotiating partner” instead of your enemy, and you work to uncover the essence of that person – the things that he or she really cares about. And remember, you are ALWAYS negotiating with a person, so be personable. Be real. Be compassionate.

And considering trying the game of “how can we both win here.”

Of course, not everyone who you try to strike a deal with is going to want to travel with you to mutually beneficial middle ground, but it’s worth giving that person the benefit of the doubt and trying to get there if you can.

Before you go into a negotiation make sure you do the following:

  1. Do some research on the person you’re meeting and try to uncover common ground or clues as to what their motivators are. Opening the session with a personal comment or compliment sets a positive tone for the entire negotiation.
  2. Know what the variables are that you may be able to negotiate on. Examples might be price, payment terms or delivery terms. Do adequate preparation before you go into the room and know what all the possible variables are.
  3. Be very clear with yourself on what your bottom line is for each of those items. Before you even walk into the room make sure you know your numbers: what number would make this an incredible deal, what number would you be comfortable with and what number is the absolute lowest you can go?
  4. You’ll usually want to start negotiations with a higher number, but remember those other variables too. Your goal is to walk away happy, but you want the other person to also feel like they’re getting a good deal. 
  5. If you reach a deadlock and the person you’re trying to work with can’t even get to your bottom line, then don’t continue the conversation. Announce your intention to walk away and withdraw from the deal. That will either set the tone for a new round of talks, or if not at least you won’t waste any more of your time.

It’s About Time: Hacks to Make You More Like Warren Buffet

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If you had to assess the time you spend at your job or working on your business how efficient would you say you are?

It will come as no surprise to you that legendary businessmen like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are meticulous time managers, and that level of discipline is certainly something to aspire to, but if we’re being honest, most of us are still at a stage where we have some decent chunks of unproductive time in our days.

It can be difficult to make the leap from where you currently are to emulating Warren Buffet’s habits, but there are small changes you can make to yield big results. One of the most striking ideas around time management that I heard recently is centered around the idea of taking just 15 minutes a day and being super efficient with that time. If you do this every single day you actually gain 90 hours – or 2.25 work weeks – a year. When you think about the things you can accomplish in 2+ super focused weeks, the 15 minutes each day spent not checking emails or surfing the web seems like a small price to pay.

The habit of continually checking email and social media is a monumental time suck and makes efficiency practically impossible. Instead of being a slave to your notifications just turn them off and schedule in a few times a day to check your emails and other messages. Unless you’re in the middle of an actual crisis (as opposed to a perceived threat), no one is really going to care if there is a slight delay between when they sent their email and when you respond to it.

And then there’s trying to avoid anything that you know is a time suck: conference calls where your input is not needed, inefficient meetings, writing proposals…  Until you start questioning some of these things they might seem unavoidable (and granted, you may not be able to avoid ALL of them), but try looking at your schedule and get creative with your thinking. The first time an ad exec told me that his very successful firm rarely, if ever, wrote proposals, I was floored. So much of my time was spent doing just that, often for potential clients that never ended up signing with us.

After grilling this guy on his methods I made some big changes in my own company and saved myself thousands of hours over the years. Now, instead of being so quick to say yes to writing proposals, we work harder to pre-qualify people and we have a much better process of presentation, which often gets us to a yes without going through the whole bidding process. I don’t know if we ever would have changed had I not had that conversation, but in this case changing “the way it’s always been done” was really not a big deal, and was certainly a huge benefit.

So, go ahead and take a look at your own business. What conventions can you challenge and time can you save? Because after all, the old cliche about time being money is not inaccurate. And what business doesn’t need a little more of that on the bottom line?

 

Guided by Instinct

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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?”

 

 

Do I Know You?

How well do you know your customers, really? Do they tell you one thing while they’re thinking something else entirely? Are they reacting to the offerings that you’re bringing to the table and neglecting to tell you what they really want? Do they even know what they want?

These are questions that many of us forget or neglect to ask when it comes to our customers. Taking the time to not just get to know those customers but to understand their problems and issues with “out of the box” thinking is what sets you apart from every other salesperson who comes calling.

Read between the lines, ask the tough questions and consider how you could tweak your approach or your offerings to make their life just a little bit easier. When you do this not only are you deepening that relationship with the client but you’re also going to be providing a service that is ultimately more valuable, leaving you in a position as a trusted and strategic partner, moving forward.

So instead of listening to only what is said the next time you meet with your client, tune into your intuition and listen to what it’s saying about what is really going on. And ask the tough questions…

WHY does that matter to you?

HOW do you want to be perceived by your customers? WHY?

WHAT is it that really “lights you up” about your business? WHICH parts are you most passionate about and most drawn to?

Once you start connecting with your customers and clients on this new authentic level that is when everything starts to change. At the end of the day you can never go wrong by committing to become more real.