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Archive for September, 2010

Experts today are in a precarious situation…. MOST that I end up working with are absolutely confident (and rightly so) about their expertise…. They’re passionate about what they do… and they’re polished, poised, and professional.  The problem is:  Their PROFIT is lagging behind all of this potential.  This is something that is quickly becoming a reality as the Speaking and Information Industries change and develop.

In fact, Tory Johnson (Good Morning America Correspondent, founder of Women for Hire and Spark & Hustle)  and I are joining forces to help a SMALL number of experts increase their income through correct packaging, pricing, and promotion… with a HEAVY does of media savvy, marketing know-how (specifically targeted for expert market ONLY) and, of course how to FILL A ROOM (with paying clients).  The requirement to join this INCOME INTENSIVE for ENTERPRISING EXPERTS is this:  You must be a TRUE expert… not some charlatan spewing academic advice…  =)   You can email me for more info if you’re interested.  But, for now, let’s get down to business.

The following email was sent to me from a TRUE expert… someone  who is excellent at her craft, unparalleled in her expertise….someone who hobnobs with people like Mark Victor Hansen and Marsha Wieder.  Yet, here were the two questions she recently emailed Tory and myself.

Here are my two questions about growing my business:

1. What has been the best and most powerful idea you have had that has helped your business grow exponentially?

2. What is your plan of action on days when things are not unfolding the way you imagined?

She had been having some sleepless nights – worrying about her business – before she wrote to us.  Here was my response.  I hope it helps you, challenges you, encourages you.  The only way I’ve altered this response is by removing this person’s name.

There are two different variations of sleepless nights, as we both know. The kind that keeps us up out of excitement and anticipation of what’s to come or what “could be” and the kind that keeps us up out of fear, doubt and dread of what could possibly be around the corner. If you are speaking of the latter, I would recommend -first – buying the book, FEARLESS: Creating the Courage to Change what You Can. (written by Steve Chandler.)   Amazing, amazing book ….

About business, I love your questions…. And think I could probably type until the “cows come home” about both… =) I’ll do my best to get right to the point. Blunt. Candid. Honest.

1.) There was NOT REALLY a best and most powerful “Idea” that grew my business exponentially. There was a period in which I grew my business ten-fold in just three months… which sounds more impressive than the numbers showed, because my starting income wasn’t that great… =) but I’ve experienced similar growth many times over… Idea? Nope. But I can tell you what ACTIONS have proven most profitable when I needed (and then when I simply wanted) a boost in income.

First, I began to ruthlessly protect my time. When it was related to my business, I went about the task of slaying the “time vampires”. I started with two groups of people: those who wanted (and had the audacity) to ask for my expertise for FREE… and those who rudely tried to step into my work hours without appointment or emergency. These people were my enemies – or at least the enemies of my success. I shook loose of all pity I may have felt for them – for any reason – and began behaving as a professional. No longer would I “childize” people by giving it for free. Paying…. investing in my expertise… would make it more valuable to THEM – even if I didnt need the money. If I am working for free, I am not making money. I determined that I would rather close my doors and wait tables than work for free.

(So, I decided what I WOULD do for free – and no more. I drew the line in the sand, later named it my “red spoon”, and never apologized for deciding to be paid. My dentist doesn’t see me for free. Neither does my accountant, my attorney, my hair stylist, my massage therapist, my midwife, my acupuncturist…. Why should I run my business any different than these experts? Why would someone ask me to? )

Then, I protected my income-producing hours…. and refused to let them be interrupted. Protection also meant being WISE about what opportunities to pursue… Great idea doesn’t mean great idea for me. I began to be choosy.

Next, I found strategic partners. For my HR company, I partnered with my accountant, who referred me to his other business clients. For my life coaching business, I partnered with the franchise Dream Dinners who allowed me to write a weekly column for their customers – my ideal market. For my current company, I even made my “competitor” my “partner” by “welcoming” every new advertiser in my local “advertorial” and asked for permission to “follow up” to see how their ad was performing for them – which, I knew it would not.

I had a different plan when I approached that publication with this idea of course… one that honored them and would build their relationship with their advertisers. But they were short-sighted and turned me down. So, I took them on as an unofficial “partner” anyway. I offered my red spoon to their advertisers and gained far more clients than if I had simply paid to advertise to them directly.

Third, I adamently refused to be “just another coach”…. “just another” anything, really…. So, I refused to network as “just another” person in the room looking for business. I was either speaking at a meeting – as the expert – or I wasn’t there. I refused to talk like another coach, sell like most coaches (or not sell to be more exact)… or do anything that allowed my target market to easily identify me as someone they could get “anywhere”…. thereby dramatically and almost instantly increasing my perceived value.

As a coach, it’s critical to remember that you are asking people pay for ACCESS to you… to your encouragement, ideas, expertise, time, etc…. So, the more accessible you are for free, the less monetary value you’ll have as a coach. It’s a simple truth, and we should use it to our advantage.

Last, I realized that the only way my business would stay small is if I kept “NOT SELLING”… so I became a student of sales…I learned, I practiced, I role played in my garage – turned – office into the wee hours of the morning… I tested my sales skills, tweaked them, and went back for another test. I want you to know that I resented having to do this…. I thought I was pretty darn good at what I did.

(At one time, I was coaching one of the most dramatically successful immigrants in our country. He is a multi- multi- millionaire.) I felt like “selling” – or having to sell – degraded this expertise… that if I were good “enough” people wouldn’t need to be sold. I was wrong, of course. But I was also hungry – so I learned to sell anyway. And I realized that selling was about getting my market out of their own way…. and it was the only way my expertise would ever truly be “set on fire”…. was when people paid for it. I learned to love sales – of all kinds… a fortunate thing… because my own success – is fully dependent on this.

2) Plan of action for “those days”… and, frankly there are many. One, I rarely attribute one of “those days” as a fatal blow. It’s not. I refuse to give cirumstances more power or meaning than they actually have…. bad news became just “information” as Steve Chandler says… I knew I was okay either way.

When a client didnt come through, I knew there was another potential client I could begin a conversation with… (and I learned to fill my pipeline, so I always had some things in the wings….) When a partner or “business friend” let me down, I just said, NEXT.  When a huge opportunity fell through, I studied it as a “case study” to see what I could have done differently for a different result. And then I moved on to whatever was NEXT.

THIS is really about mindset…. and then – of course – taking action on whatever you determine is NEXT. So, keep a list. I still have a beat up old file labeled “Michelle, Inc.” … I’ve had it about ten years. In it, are all of my “ideas” that I could pick up, dust off and try. In fact, I break it out every quarter to see what I could launch that quarter.

Please know that all of these things – I began doing EARLY in my business… when my income was dismal… and a four figure month was freakin’ enormous…. and my income started turning around. Steadily. Exponentially.

I hope this helps. You can make exponential gains. NOW – you’re “information gathering” and year of training is over. What’s the plan for THIS YEAR? What immediate steps will you take?

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Polite?  Politically correct?  NO!  But, let’s look past it… because there is so much to learn from this logo that (I believe) gets to the heart of a cancer warrior’s frustration with all of the “HYPE” about cancer awareness.  You see, it’s not about awareness for them.  They are painfully AWARE already…  Research shows that a new person is diagnosed with cancer every 24 seconds.  How much more AWARE can we be?

So, while many cancer advocates are lashing out at companies they feel are exploiting cancer and using skimpy donations to the “cause” as a marketing opportunity, I have to grab on to the heart of this message.  These cancer warriors are battling, and they aren’t battling for awareness…. They are – instead – campaigning, hoping, paying, praying, and fighting for a CURE.  This pink ribbon logo captures this – perhaps not in a widely accepted language, but with a hard to miss transparency and crystal clear clarity.

I’m glad because I’ve rarely seen this level of clarity of purpose NOT make a difference.  And I  hope that this message propels the fight for a cure (and prevention) that so many families are counting on and waiting for into a frenzy of equally purposeful action.

We can learn so much from this pink ribbon – if we let ourselves… Where have WE muddied our own purpose?  Where have we strayed away from what really matters?  A few questions to challenge you this beautiful Monday morning:

  • Are you hoping to “get by” a specific situation or circumstance or are you determined to emerge triumphantly – stronger, more courageous, better equipped – on the other side of it?
  • Are you simply wanting to avoid divorce or are you deliberately building a healthy, sexy, and decadent marriage?
  • Are your business activities designed to win “connections, impressions, and friends” (AWARENESS ) or are you taking action to strategically and authentically win SALES?  (There’s a marked difference, I promise.)

See, awareness and a cure are two very different things.  I have a lot on my mind this morning… so maybe it’s just me. But, I feel like many things… the things that are most important… the things that live (maybe only) in our dreams and hopes and desires…. the things that are most bold, hopeful, ideal and audacious …. THESE things I think are often masked by easier, more palatable, less threatening words like “awareness”….  So, let’s get REAL already… Let’s NAME what we (really) want and create a strategic, savvy way to build it, find it, create it, or make it happen.  The truth is: there’s magic in this kind of raw, unedited clarity of purpose.

May this ribbon challenge you as it has challenged me.

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