If I knew then what I know now I wonder if I would do this thing again, that is, go into business.
Business is a roller coaster. Just when you think you’re on easy street something comes along to smack you into the gutter. It’s whether or not you can take a deep breath, dust yourself off and get back on your horse that defines your ability to stay in the race.
When you’re in a service business that moves fairly quickly and changes rapidly, you had better be resilient. That phrase “what have you done for me lately” rings in our ears on a daily basis. It’s the truth we live by. I’ve always told my associates, it’s when they love you the most they are most apt to let you go. It’s the weirdest phenomena, and I’m not sure why it works that way. But my feeling is that it’s best to stay as neutral as you can while delivering as much as you can.
It’s a roller coaster, and as scary as they can be at times, roller coasters do offer a bit of fun. And that brings me to the point. “They” say perception is everything. For someone who works with industries that thrive mainly on perception I’m learning to use that maxim for my own good. Yes, we’re up, now we’re down. BUT IT’S ALL GOOD. Because when we’re down where else can we go? UP! Yep, I can handle the roller coaster. Can you?
Written about it before, will write about it again. The rigours of business travel. Sigh.
Sitting in Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic on my way from London to NY. Arrived 2 days ago from Sydney via Christchurch (NZ) and back in the saddle. Flew business class the last trip, a must for 30 hours travel each way, couldn't justify it for such a short hop across the pond. To travel right everyone says drink lots of water, no caffeine and/or alcohol. Me, I indulge in the vine AND drink lots of water. I can sleep just about anywhere, so that's helpful. But honestly, travel is not fun, at least not to me anymore. Especially after 25 trips this year, no matter what class you fly. Perhaps private makes the difference. Oh, to be rich. Well, it's commercial for this chick. Glass of champagne, bottle of water, a little vintage Roxy Music on the Bose. Trip 1 million begins.
Anything new you undertake has always got an element of risk attached to it. If it's new, it's untested and therefore risky. That is a fact. If you are risk adverse, starting a business is not only a bad idea, it may be the worst idea you ever entertain. There are no guarantees in business. None. That old adage "if it appears too good to be true it probably is" IS ALWAYS TRUE! I can't remember, without exception, any time I've found that phrase to be wrong. I've set out on some "too good" schemes in my day, with high hopes and high expectations and I have fallen flat on my face. So hard that I finally vowed to stick by the "too good, too bad" rule - I know it's too good friend, too bad I won't try it.... Which doesn't mean I'm risk adverse, just savvy. It took a while to get here, with some hard knocks along the way, but here I am, still standing.
Risk. Most of the best things you will ever do in life will require some form of risk - from choosing where to go to school, whom to marry, what to eat, where to go on vacation. The aforementioned sounds mundane but there are risks involved. I love hearing from people who pride themselves on not taking risks and playing it safe. They can be smug all they want but we know the truth - life requires risk to be lived, not just to its fullest, but lived. Period. Our natural state is a fragile one. These bodies we inhabit are not exactly made of tough stuff. Just walking out your front door on any given morning can produce hundreds of potentially risky situations. Still, we get up each day and take a walk out that front door. Some of us just take a riskier walk than others.
So, it was bound to happen, I'm going to write a book about runing a small business. Of course I am! It won't be your "Top 10 Tips to Making it Rich in Business", or "3 Key Ways to Manage an Unruly Team..." I'm working off the premise that most "real" small business owners are not only looking for good ideas and new ways to make it in this VERY tough economy, but maybe just a bit of encouragement that they are actually doing a good job - if not the best, definitely the best they can do.
In my opinion those of us that have taken the plunge should give our big collective selves a big pat on the back. We may not be changing the world (though some of you are trying), but we are not on the dole or working off someone else's back. Running your own business means you're willing to take a risk, if that is only a nice way of saying you're a gambler at heart. But here's the thing, lots of people talk, but very few take the walk, and that's a VERY few, I might add, when the banks have dried up their funding and a good dollar (or euro) is hard to find.
I'm writing a book for the big business people (I was going to say guys, but that's a bit sexist, isn't it?) too because they need a little kick in the rear. They need a little reminder that small business fuels most economies, and while they may feel entitled, they need us - they could learn a bit from us too. When the economy crashed we didn't get bailed out did we? How many of us are still making it work, without the added backdrop of a running cash flow? We're mean, we're lean and we are going for it. No matter what! Because we have guts, never mind the glory. It doesn't really pay the bills anyway....Here's to the small business owners and all those people that have the daily nerve to work for them. You're my heroes!!
My husband wrote a book entitled "Follow the Leader". As second in command of an international church movement he has faithfully served the head of that organization for over 30 years. I'm sure that it wasn't always easy going, following never is, but leading isn't that easy either.
Leading is lonely and often feels like a thankless job. When everyone else has gone off to their lives, their happy hours, their whatever's, you are often left behind turning out the lights. Leading looks glamorous, but there is a high price to pay for striking a path and unless you are strong hearted, I wouldn't recommend it.
But the subject of this blog is about following, a difficult journey in its own right. Today everyone is told that they can be a leader - especially in business. Who wants to be a cog in the wheel? But if everyone is leading who is executing? Who is making all the "stuff" happen?? Someone has to do the "following" right? I think following is quite the thing to do if you know how to get behind someone. And the pay off can be enormous! If you can get behind someone else's vision and make it happen you'll reap much of the reward with very little of the risk. Not a bad gig, if you can get it. So, don't feel bad if you aren't top dog. Sometimes it's best to be the puppy with the bone.
Last week we had a beauty event for a new client. The client is someone we personally respect and we believe her products are a category changer. Truly.
She came to us a little late in the game to pull off an editor event – to meet her deadline for stories, but we are the "can do" team and so we agreed to make it happen. But is that a good idea? We almost always make good on these types of commitments. Feels miraculous at times, but miracles do happen. Then again, is it a good idea to promise the impossible? I'm beginning to think that it’s not. It sets the agency up for a scramble, it puts the client on a wild ride and sometimes it just doesn't come together. Recipe for potential disaster. But what is it about the challenge that sets us to "go for it anyway?" I think it's the same crazy thing that got us in this business in the first place: the thrill of the chase. So looks like we'll say yes, again. Of course we will!!
I've always had a problem when it comes to being on time. Best laid plans and all that, I still always seem to run at least 10 minutes late - for just about everything, and that includes personal things that actually matter to me.
For some reason, I feel like everyone (at least in my immediate circles) cares about being on time, as if it is a badge of honor. I think they're right, but I've still had a problem changing this bad habit. And here's what I'm thinking, I'm usually late because I'm trying to get "it all done." I'm usually not late because I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I'm late because I had 46 more emails to respond to, a client that needed to talk to me NOW, packing that had to be done for an overseas trip, food that needed to be prepped for a dinner party that night and shoes that needed to be picked up at the repair shop. Honestly, I could be on time all the time if I cut down on something else. So being late in my case is a true time management issue, but that's what we're all trying to do these days, manage our time, aren't we? So, why is everyone better at it than me? And does it REALLY matter?
I wish I was better at it - being on time. I don't want to be late. I really don't. I'm going to work on it, just like everything else in my life. Wish there was more time!
In our business creating brand alliances for our clients is an excellent skill set. It's even better if we get a bonus or a percentage of any funding that is changing hands. In some cases, creating strategic brand alliances can not only help two brands promote themselves through a mutually beneficial arrangement, it can virtually keep them "alive" financially. How do you make the right connection? In our world of consumer goods we look for two brands in non competitive categories that could enhance each other. For instance, a brand with a sexy, luxury halo brings cache to a more stalwart mass brand, while the heavy earner brings the cash. In this case, strategic messaging is critical to creating the "right" story so both get what they want: money AND position. In our world we try to keep as flexible and forward thinking as possible. The best way to make an alliance is to allow yourself to be creative. You'd be surprised what brands can make great partners.
Well, it’s not entirely true that I don’t know how to manage my time. I do get things done. I do know how to get other people to get things done. But no matter how much gets done I’m not convinced it is A) Done the best possible way B) Enough – enough things done, that is...
The deal is, time is a finite asset. It sure will be cool when we can bend time, and that day is surely coming. It’s called the end of time when time doesn’t matter anymore. I’m actually looking forward to that day. I’ll be dead by the time that happens, but I’m hoping to make a comeback...Ok, where are all these existential musings going? Who knows, who has the time to tell.
So, in our business time isn’t just an asset, it’s a commodity. And I can assure you there is NEVER enough of it. My new concept around time management is “if you can’t get it done, you can’t get it done.” When you’re doing specific things for clients “I didn’t have time for that” will never work very well. So, the best solution we’ve come up with in our agency (and I borrowed this from a past client) Fewer, Bigger, Better. This helps as a filter. If the client wants More, More and More they had better be ready to pay for it.
So, time management. Honestly, if someone has a great solution please share because I’m not convinced anyone knows what they’re doing in this arena. It’s a slippery beast, time is. Just when you think you have enough of it, it slips away. Here’s what I think, do the best you can to enjoy the time you have while you have it. And make sure you appreciate those around you while you’re at it BECAUSE based on the way things go you don’t know how much time you’ll have with them — and your people are MUCH more important than time.
Ok, if you want to scale your business you really don’t want your employees to need you that much. Bottom line, if they need you, aka, can’t make a move without you, you’re in deep pooh. Look around, survey the landscape, this it is, this little slice of business heaven. You will never grow, expand, move onward and upward. BUT that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a little, especially if you’ve been part of the training process. Everyone wants to be needed, at least most people. I always thought I did until the needing got a bit much. That, however, is usually just growing pains. Every major shift requires a tug, then you break free, people fly and you do too, onto the next challenge. It’s part of the game. If you don’t have the stomach for the rollercoaster you may as well not ever get into this thing called business.
I had two of my top people jump ship last winter for greener pastures. Hey, it happens. No hard feelings, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them both. But, of course, this meant my job just got a bit harder, because instead of hiring above my AE level gals we decided to promote from within. One of the VPs who left was an EXCELLENT manager (I get teary-eyed just thinking about her skill, she’s going to be a great mother one of these days). Now, I had to get in and fill her shoes AND run my business and boy that wasn’t fun. But good news, the ladies were up for the challenge, the heavy training is over and they don’t need me nearly as much anymore. Yes, it makes me sad, but glad too. And they are doing amazing things! Hey, in the end, it’s better to have someone want you than need you anyway. Lol.