Definitions are always a good place to start. What is awareness?
Awareness- knowledge or perception of a situation or fact (Oxford Dictionary)
People attribute business success to many factors, but I think we might be inclined to think that those with three Cs succeed:
Charisma- They have the “it” or “woo” factor.
Capital- They have the money to make their dreams a reality.
Company- They have the right people around them to promote them.
When businesses fail, we’ve heard that the majority fail in the first five years due to lack of finances. Interestingly, that’s the number two reason, according to Forbes (2017), with the number one reason being that the product or service that the person put on the market did not meet the market’s need. Interesting, huh?
Certainly having charisma, capital, and being in the right company help, but if you have all these advantages yet lack awareness of yourself and your market, you could still end up falling into the large category of businesses that fail because they didn’t meet their market’s needs.
Couldn’t we say that lack of awareness is at the crux of the failure to meet the market’s needs?
Awareness is needed through all seasons of business. Perhaps a person started with lots of awareness of the market and tons of solutions to boot, but times, technology, and needs change. Hence, the way a business runs, the team it acquires, and and the services and products it offers must evolve. Continuous awareness.
The third reason businesses fail is they don’t find the right team (CB Insights, 2019). Awareness of one’s personal strengths and weaknesses, awareness of the skillsets of others, or the awareness to foresee the consequences of keeping the wrong team players onboard all play into why business owners may not have the right team players. Typing that just made me flashback to the first time I had to fire someone. It was horrible. Like I was sick to my stomach. But the thought that made me more sick was what was going to happen in my company if I ignored my own awareness and the lack of awareness this person had about the effects of her actions on the organization.
We see the consequences of the lack of awareness in business on a daily basis: the person who posts WAY too much stuff on their personal or business social pages; the person who you don’t hear from except when they are trying to sell something; the business with zero personality; products that are a dime a dozen and have no stand-out factor in the market yet they are heavily pushed on the market; a company thinking that lowering their prices will move their products, when the real issue is the brand’s messaging hasn’t adequately communicated a value worth the pricetag no matter what it is.
It is certainly easier to look at others’ lack of self-awareness or market awareness, but it is more important to always be examining our own.
What do you plain suck at doing? For me, it’s paper organization. In college, people saw I had systems for everything- studying, test-taking, and putting my research together were areas I shined like a superstar. BUT, for the love of anything you hold dear, I prayed you would not ask me to borrow my awesomely bulleted notes, because the second I tore my notes out of my spiral notebook, they’d be lost forever. You would return them to me, and they would never again make their way back into my notebooks (which is why I kept spirals). I’ve tried every paper system under the sun, and spirals are still what work best for me, because I cannot maintain organization of small items and papers. A harder suck pill to swallow is that I stink at being a boss when the shite hits the fan; however, I excel at being a consultant to organizations (there’s a big difference!).
Over the years as I’ve expanded, rescaled, or morphed my business, I’ve found it so helpful to stay mindful of my awareness. I develop what I can strengthen and don’t beat myself up anymore over what I don’t do well. There are people and technology solutions for those things. The important thing is that we know what we do well. Reading books, taking assessments such as DISC or the Gallup Strengths Finder or the now-popular Enneagram help us take assessment of our strengths, know where we need support, and also recognize how others perceive us.
Be open to feedback. Stubbornness is different from resilience. A resilient business examines itself and its potential market to make ever-shifting decisions to match its offerings with the market’s needs. A stubborn business or business owner does not recognize or ignores the input of others more knowledgeable or errantly wants the market to change their behaviors rather than assume responsibility for the shifts needed to provide to the needs of the market.
It’s a new year, and January is a great time to start writing your business reading lists, find virtual or in-person events, join networking groups and chambers and begin cultivating relationships with people you will actively seek feedback and guidance from. What do you think you can do this year to grow your awareness as a leader and to welcome the feedback of trusted peers and mentors? Where could some simple steps towards increased awareness propel your business. How could these steps shed light on how you need shift your messaging services or product offerings?
It’s a lot to think about, but it’s worth the investment of time to think about.
Dream bigger, and your dreams will be more attainable when your awareness is at its highest!
High five! You’re pumped! Fresh ideas are necessary for business growth and development. It may sound nerdy (it is nerdy), but I love nothing than a brainstorming session with myself. I have notebooks and an app filled with ideas. I learned long ago to write the ideas down. I used to think a brain spark I’d have was so good that there was no way I’d forget it, but something else would creep into that brain space and POOF. So, now, all the ideas get recorded.
But how do you get an idea off the ground? Should you let it fly? What do you need to do to give it legs to run? If you have a few minutes, pour your cup of coffee and let’s talk.
I used to do something else too. I’d try to act on all the ideas. They were so great, I thought, that they all needed to get put forth into the world. Big, big mistake. Enter big-time overwhelm, messed up priorities, lack of follow-through, and in the end, a lack of profitability.
All ideas are good ideas, but all ideas are not good for now. -Geneva Maresma
Here are three ways to handle all the inspirational ideas you have to make sure they serve you instead of slicing into your goals.
Categorize your ideas- act now, put on the shelf, toss in the fun bin. Does your idea line up with your long or short-term goals? If you can say, “Heck yes!” then act now on developing it. Could it line up with your goals at some time but it needs time to possibly be aligned? Put it on the shelf of ideas to keep revisiting. Is it a fun or exciting idea but would take you a totally different direction than the goals you’ve established? Then, toss it into the fun idea bin.
Talk to a good business bestie about your idea. So many times I’ve had an idea that lights me all up inside, and when I’ve spent the time explaining it to a trusted business mind, I’ve found one of two things happen. As I’m explaining it, it begins to sound more and more complicated and is harder to articulate than it was to think about OR the other brain with whom I’m sharing “gets it” and jumps on my brainwave giving me affirmation. Ultimately, your business ideas have to excite others, so take your ideas to a trusted person or two, and you’ll get lots of clarity with what to do with it.
Research. There aren’t too many brand new ways of doing things, but there are many fresh ways to go about old ideas. See what others have done with a similar concept. Google and read the results of others. Not only will you see how similar ideas have served other businesses, but chances are you’ll refine your idea to something even better than the original!
Let your mind move and those ideas flow. Act on those that have gone through these three screening steps with flying colors, and embrace one of the greatest aspects of entrepreneurship- innovation!
Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m an over-the-top John Mayer fan, so he gets a blog title in honor of one of his great songs.
I have seen him three times in concert. He inspired the name of my cat, Olivia (check out his song “Something Like Olivia”). Seeing him sing and strum his guitar motivated me to buy my own electric guitar. It’s a thing of beauty from a small guitar company in Miami. It’s made of wood and is the most gorgeous teal. Back to Mayer, I own a couple concert T-shirts, and I’m quite convinced if I could find John Mayer underwear and pajamas, I’d add them to my collection. If you ever need to send me a gift, now you know.
This is a way different love affair than the one I had with Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block, although I was crushing really hard a few years ago when I saw them in concert for the second time. I’ll tell you why I choose John all day over Jordan.
Words. Lyrics. Poetry. And oh, how that guitar sings those words.
So now I have to share something with you I’m a little embarrassed of. Normally, by brain is brimming with ideas for content. I am a writer after all, so I generally have 25 ideas that didn’t make it to paper for the one that did.
Last week. Fumes. Nada. Can I tell you how frustrating that was for me? I posted 3 days instead of my usual 4-5. I had gotten behind the couple weeks before on writing jobs and got out of my normal weekly planning routine. Sure I could have posted something, but no idea was hopping, so three posts it was.
I know you feel my pain, because some of you have told me how you are trying to post to your social every day (like “they” say we should do), or show up twice a day, but you’re struggling to find ideas, so you post something funny or share an idea your friend posted on her business page.
You made it a point to show up to the content party, but did your content enter dressed to the hilt?
Like your content would make other’s people’s content hang onto their men just a little tighter, as you enter the room.
You don’t write because you want to say something. you write because you have something to say.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hold your cosmo and lean in. Listen to Mr. Mayer and Mr. Fitzgerald. Say what you NEED to say. Write when you have something to say. The point is not to just show up the party. You have to deliver at the content party. Consistency with content that takes their breath away is key. If you skip a couple days until you find inspiration, your true following will not vanish. Believe me.
If you can only come up with filler and fluff, like a little black dress, it’s standby party wear. It’ll do, but it won’t get you seen like the royal blue off the shoulder number. In fact, it could just get you overlooked. If you’re going to go to the content party, and you are going to put in the effort to show up, you may as well get some attention for your efforts.
Grab your mimosa and let me give you three ways to give your content ideas a nice spark.
Remember that some of the best content comes from stories. A story doesn’t have to be loooong or have to do with your childhood. You are creating story every, single, day. Look at the last 100 photos in your phone’s gallery. Find 5 of them you can tie to your business happenings, values, mission, or vision.
Grab a book but not just any book. I’m giving away a big secret here. Go to Target. Enter the calendar, planner, and journals aisle. Buy a journal that has daily prompts. There you will find 365 days of engagement content questions you can tweak for your audiences. My favorite one right now is A 5 Year Question A Day Memory Journal. I also love quotes for inspiration, and people love to like and share a good quote. Quotes are usually the framework of my weekly content, whether they are my own or something amazing that speaks to me to share. Another great book for content inspiration is Beautifully Said- Quotes by Remarkable Women and Girls Designed to Make You Think.
Use the heck out of Pinterest. I look up terms related to my business such as “writing tips for businesses” or “small business strategy” to find inspiration. You could query the same terms in Google, but with Pinterest you will get the added bonus of visual inspiration too. Think about your field and look up tips or questions people have related to your industry.
Ok, I know I said three, but you are going to get a bonus. Write down the top 10 questions your clients ask you, and each of those are super to show up to your content party, because they are exactly what your clients have invited!
Let’s cut to the chase. If you want a long and healthy relationship with your business, you’ll have to establish boundaries around it.
Think of your business as a person. Do you want it calling you and texting you at 10pm? Do you want it to coerce you into work you’re not excited about? Would you want it to feel like it monopolizes all your time? I’m sure you’re saying, “Of course not,” but the truth is that without clear boundaries around how you conduct business and allocate your time resources to your business, you run the high probability of becoming resentful of your business. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a friend or partner in which you feel resentment, it’s really not fun. It makes you less than the best version of yourself, and that is no way to have long-lasting relationship with your business.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business 5 days or 5 years, you can begin to groom habits that help you stay in harmony with the dream you have for your business. Here are 3 areas to examine and develop plans for to help you maintain balance through boundaries:
Task Boundaries- Make a list of all the day to day tasks you need to manage like social media, returning emails, writing reports, packaging items…ALL the stuff. Set designated times of the day to tackle each in order to prevent flitting from task to task and checking in on social accounts are emails which will wrangle you in for more than work (Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone down the rabbit hole of social media? We’ve all done it and regretted how much time got sucked into nothing productive). Stick to your deal with yourself of when you will do these tasks.
Customer and Client Boundaries- Before we talk about what boundaries to set up here, let’s talk about why we struggle with customer boundaries. One word. Fear. Scarcity mindset feeds the fear that if we are not all things to all people when they “need” us, they will land with our competition. However you respond to people will set the tone for what people expect of you. If you do not want to be answering emails at 8pm on a Monday, when you’d rather watch The Bachelor, then determine you won’t. Set an autoreply email for after the end of your business day, if you’d like, or be really good at disciplining yourself to respond to after-hours emails as one of your first tasks the next business day. When I first started in business, I struggled with client boundaries for a few years. I was over-delivering thinking I was giving exceptional customer service. I was providing great service, but it was through unsustainable behaviors at the cost of fights with my husband and lack of “me” time. I came to realize I could still provide outstanding care to my clients but had to prioritize my priorities first, otherwise, I was training my clients to act like young children who were constantly in need of me. I’m a stickler now for boundaries around texts and emails to my clients. A little secret… I often draft back text or email responses on Sunday mornings, but I don’t hit send until 8am Monday morning. Why? While I worked the weekend for a couple hours perhaps to alleviate my Monday morning time, I do not want my customers perceiving I work weekends. Texts and emails received after 6pm relative to work go on the next day’s task list. Lean in and listen closely friend. You have to know something. You’re amazing at what you do, and you are a wonderful person to do business with. That is your sell. Your people will not leave you if you are responsive when you tell them you will be. They do not do business with you, because you reply to all their FB comments immediately. They do business with you, because you are reliable and they have the confidence you will follow through on communication according to when you say you will. Build your business on the value of you and your integrity.
Personal Time- I should have listed this one first in order. When you go to schedule your week (I do mine on Sundays), you must put your needs on the calendar first, and then the other time is work time. I have a need for 30 minutes in the morning to drink my coffee and eat my breakfast. I might write or watch the news or read during this time, too. It’s non-negotiable. I know when my day does not start this way, I will struggle the whole day feeling aligned. Whatever is important for your personal inner balance, schedule first. A workout. A half hour lunch. A dinner date with a friend. Time to curl your hair or put on makeup and your best face forward. It may sound silly, but a swipe of mascara, a pop of lip color, an outfit I like, and good hair make me feel put together which boosts my confidence that no matter who I run into during the day or what Zoom meeting I end up on, I represent myself for my business in the best way. I put on perfume, even when I have a day of video calls. Why? It simply makes me feel good. Set yourself as a priority, and whatever you do, do not compromise your boundaries during YOU time for one more email or one more phone call. They can wait, but your mental health is always immediate.
If you want to shine and truly see your dreams reveal themselves, getting harmony and balance with your work and within yourself is one of the keys that opens the doors to fruitfulness and success.
This is as important a business strategy as any others I teach. It’s foundational and life-changing. I’m here to support your boundary plan and cheer you on, sister!
Children love to listen to a story. Adults get hooked on Netflix shows for the storylines or devour books with good plots, relatable heroes, and villains who represent common evils.
Think of the best Superbowl ads. Whether they are funny or moving, they tell mini-stories, and you’ll wade through a football game even if it’s not your cup of tea to see the ads.
So why do we love a good story (Better question…Why should we use stories to connect to our audiences?)? I’ll give you three reasons that’ll hopefully tip you towards incorporating story in your sales strategy.
First, from a neurological standpoint, stories ignite visual centers of the brain that bring words to life. Think about a time you read an amazingly authored book. As you read, weren’t you able to vividly imagine the story as if there was a movie reel in our mind? In fact, not wanting to turn the stimulating mental movie off, might be what kept you sitting on your couch or at the beach reading cover to cover. Stories stimulate the senses, and the more senses involved with exploring information, the more likely we are to retain and act upon information.
Second, when people engage stories through your business content (lives, stories, posts, videos, blogs-stories can be told through many mediums), they don’t feel you’re fishing for a sale. They feel your business cares to bring relatable content to the relationship with them. This friendly and non-pushy feel pushes your know, like, and trust factor higher.
Last, a good story makes you human. Being human in today’s content cluttered world will help you stand out from all the other “noise” calling people to buy, click, download, sign up. A story will make your ideal client stop scrolling and still their minds long enough to take in the high quality content you’re delivering. They will feel served not sold or told.
You might be saying, “Yes, Geneva! I want to build more storytelling into my content, but I don’t know what to talk about.”
Let me give you 7 ideas that any business can use to develop this powerful type of content. I want you to be able to take the content in this blog, MOVE, and see how your audience responds. I promise you’ll be amazed at how people will latch on.
Tell the story of how you came into your passion/niche. What prompted you to start your business journey?
Tell about how you uncovered one of your brand’s core values. Why are you committed to accuracy, the creative process, your customer service? What happened to you that made this value so important for your work?
Let your customer be the hero. After all, we have no businesses if not for our customers. Tell a story of a customer/client and how you worked together towards a solution. Look at your testimonials and recall the stories behind them.
Tell about why you’ve connected your business to a certain organization or cause. Talk about what/how you were moved towards this cause.
Talk about your “behind the scenes.” You’ll allow them to know the care and time you put into each piece of your work. Tell about how you came up with a design, system, office decor.
Talk about a conversation you had with someone this week that really impressed upon you.
Describe a personal obstacle you had recently. Depending on the situation, use humor or deep emotion to tell your audience how you overcame and ask for them engagement.
These are just a few ideas. Stories can be long form content or very short. Use lots of “I” and “you,” so your listener. Remember, stories have a beginning, middle, and end. They bring your customer through a thought process that makes them reflect and connect. Your call to action and messaging does not have to directly link to your product or service. It may, but the beauty of storytelling is that you become memorable. The more memorable you are, the more business will come to you!
I hope you’ll give it a shot! Don’t say I didn’t tell you so, when you get tons of comments and dialogue back!