Wrapping up 2020: You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not the Only One
If you follow my blog, you’ll probably see I love to weave in my favorite song titles and lines and sprinkle my writing with funny personal tales of my daily work and personal life to guide women through business and messaging strategy.
Can we dig deeper today?
In January of this year, I went against my personal grain and did two things. I made a vision board and picked a word of the year. You might wonder why this was outside my norm. Well, I never liked the concept of vision boards I had heard in the past- basically, put a bunch of visuals on a board you want to come true, and if you visualize it enough, it will come to pass in the year. As a doer, a hard worker, and a visionary at heart, I know it takes more than a wish and visualization. It takes commitment, drive, and personal accountability to see a vision birth. My sister, an amazing creative, gave a workshop to create vision boards, and the way she presented combined the pragmatism I needed with the dream. They can go together!
Now let’s talk about the pick a word thing, well, it seemed trendy and cliche. I am not trendy nor cliche. In fact, I rather fight falling in line with trends- most of the time that’s a good thing but not all of the time. This year, I didn’t go about the task of trying to do this seemingly trendy thing of sitting for some days and thinking hard for a word to pop into my brain and guide my year. The word came to me. I am a person of faith, and I remember the day I was sitting in deep thought over the direction of my business. I have many of these kind of days, but on this particular one, I was dreaming of all the big things I wanted to see happen- launch a course, start a membership group, and other big pursuits, and I heard God say, “Those things are not for this year. This year is about FOUNDATION.”
I’m a mover and shaker, and laying a flipping foundation just sounded boring and worse of all it sounded slow and very unexciting. Trust me, I tried to shove that word out of my mind as quickly as I could. Surely, if I was going to do this word thing and give myself to it, shouldn’t the word make me jump up and down?
As I’ve matured in my personal and business life, one thing I’ve learned to do is listen. When God speaks, I know the sound and the feel, and I know that the more I try to hush Him, the louder He speaks. So, I decided to embrace the word. My word was foundation. I was not to build the course, not to make the membership group, not to do any of the zippy and zingy ideas…not for this year. I was to establish a foundation.
Honestly, I didn’t even know what that was going to mean for me. As someone who is a strategist and who has strategy as her top Gallup strength, I went the way that made sense for me and contemplated what the goals would look like. In true word nerd fashion, I found a book I felt could match my most lack-luster word and started reading The Big Stretch by Teneshia Jackson Warner. It is a great read by the way with step by step guides to make big stretches over time in business.
February, I led a women’s business retreat which had been on my heart to put together since summer of the year prior, and what an amazing time I had with each woman there developing ideas, strategy, and encouraging one another. Two weeks later- COVID-19. The ‘vid showed up and I thought, “How am I supposed to build a foundation during a hurricane?”
Do you remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s house suddenly stopped spinning and landed? Whens she opened the door, and the movie continued in vibrant color. March and April, I was in the tornado of COVID and of personal circumstances. I was shifting, pivoting, and dodging all kinds of flying projectiles, but when my metaphorical house landed and I opened the door, the world was full of color, of hope, and of promise.
Back to that vision board, the word, and the goals I wrote in that book to strategically support the two, I changed something I originally wrote while I was still wrestling with “foundation.” I had written “launch a digital course.” After making peace with my word, I wrote, “create 20 new strong relationships.” Always being relational, at first this seemed dumb to quantify, but it was the most brilliant strategy shift I made for myself.
I began writing daily, blogging weekly, reaching out and virtual meeting other minds who resonated with mine in passion and in drive, and building my foundation. I stopped obsessing over the course and the course I was going to invest in to do the course creation correctly. I shifted from a focus on product to strengthening my process. I started taking a mad number of online courses and workshops to further my mastery of copywriting and brand messaging. Sitting at the beginning of Q4, not only do I feel more knowledgeable to serve the business community with my copywriting and messaging services, but I stand with more than 20 new strong relationships and have seen referral grow as a natural byproduct of laying a firm ground floor, and I have seen more business grow over this hairy year than I could have ever dreamed.
Where do you need to reinforce your processes, so when you do pursue the product, you are unstoppably equipped?
Making stuff happen is exciting. Watching a flower grow is not, but when the flower blooms something beautiful and fragrant, you are thankful you watered the soil and fertilized it, and did all the other unexciting tasks to cultivate a thing of beauty.
Hold onto your dream in this season, but more than that, dress it by engaging the processes, habits, and skills you need to ensure it blooms in its due season. I don’t know what next year’s word will be, but I do know building a foundation was so worth the work and worth the wait. Don’t give up because the dream takes time. Let your dream and the One who made the dream take your hand down an unforgettable journey.
Remember, circumstance does not determine outcomes. 2020 doesn’t have that much power girlfriend.
When you started your business, I’m sure you couldn’t wait to share what you sell and could only think of trading what you do or sell for some profit. You love what you do, and you were sure others would too.
Open a cute shop and they will come. Make something pretty and it will sell. Have an amazing service and people will see how much their lives have been lacking without it.
Then it got a little complicated.
You like hats as a fashion accessory, but probably never realized you’d be wearing so many simultaneously. Then there were all the decisions, and they all involved money which as a start-up or scaling business is something you don’t want to waste, so you keep putting on more hats. The problem is before you know it, you’re doing more of what you never intended to do and less of what makes you set out to do to make mulah.
Here is a good question to ask yourself.What are you willing to invest time and money in to learn to do AND feel you could learn with good proficiency, or what will cost you more in time to learn and maybe every just do mediocre or consume tons of time and should be outsourced?
In the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I was certain that I could figure it all out. I could be all the things I needed to be or learn all the roles to play the parts of web designer, bookkeeper, public relations specialist, and office manager among other things. In 2006, social media for business was not even a thing, and I was still overwhelmed.
Part of what I was hanging onto was control. I had birthed this business baby, and no one could take care of it like mama could. Butttt….
Time is money. You pay for what you get.
If I had the money back that I lost in the time and mistakes I made in trying to do everything myself or in outsourcing cheaply, well, let’s just say, I’d have more money in the bank and might have saved myself a few pounds caused by stress eating.
Friend, make a latte and a list.
This week, settle onto your comfiest chair with your laptop or paper and pen. I want to challenge you to think about all the hats you are wearing and list them. Then I want you do decide if you wear that hat well at all or could learn to wear that hat well and are willing to invest into growing in that area. Here are some areas to assess:
Photography– In a media-heavy business world, having good quality pictures of you, your products, and services will help you shine over your competition in visual appeal. There are great stock photos on apps like Canva (I recommend paying the monthly subscription for the pro edition to unlock thousands of great pictures), but having even a small catalog of quality, branded photos can make people stop scrolling or really polish up your website. Consider investing in a branding photography session with a photographer who specializes in brand photography and who can capture the essence of your brand’s heart and story. A couple headshots (because I love you, pretty please take down the selfie profile headshot) and 10 styled shots can make a huge difference in how your business presents. Some photographers will also coach you in how to take better pictures with your phone for ongoing filler pictures.
Copy and Messaging– Did you ever date a guy with a gorgeous face you could stare at all day, but then find you couldn’t connect deeper and so his pretty face had to go? Hang with my analogy sister 🙂 Your visuals (pictures, website design, and logo) may attract a potential customer, but if she can’t get deeper by developing quick and strong chemistry with your brand by understanding your messaging and wanting to be part of your brand story, she’s going to move onto a deeper connection. A great looking website and beautiful social media feed comes to life through the words that breathe life into the pages and posts. A copywriter (like yours truly) can offer a variety of services from done with you consult on your brand story, general messaging, blogging strategies, social content ideas or done for you services. Invest in getting really clear about how you show up and what you say to people. A clear mind will say yes to what you can offer them 🙂
Bookkeeping/Accounting– I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Your money. Maximize it and allow a pro to guide you. There are many options here from monthly to quarterly to annual services to help you know exactly where your money is going and what is coming in and stay in compliance with state and federal regulations. Not to mention, depending on the type of business, accounting can take a lot of time.
Website and logo design– It’s tempting to go with cheap on a website and logo, but you will probably end up unhappy and spending the money again to redesign and pull these vital brand components together. I promise you you can find affordable quality, but you should have a realistic expectation of associated costs and put those into your start-up plan. For a website, you can buy some beautiful and easy to build out templates or hire a web designer to get your site built out on a platform you can easily tweak and build out new pages by copying already designed pages. My site is on wordpress. I started my own build on WordPress with a Divi overlay while taking a web design class at a local community college (I quickly learned I was not built for the patience I needed for WordPress), got through as much as I could and then handed my page over to a local web designer for cleanup, formatting, and organization. After she did the first 4 pages or so, I could duplicate pages and found it fairly simple to tackle. With regard to logos, if all you need is something simple, there are templates you can purchase or you may have some luck on a site like fiverr.com. Just be sure to make sure if you go a route like a template or fiverr design, that you get a vector file, so you may change the size of your file without sacrificing quality.
Any other time suckers– It depends on your business, but you may wish to outsource/hire out scheduling, email, social media (get your messaging together first to convey to the person doing your social media and email marketing), payroll, and housekeeping (for office or home). If you can be making more money per hour doing what you do than any of these tasks, take the hat off and give it away!
So there you go! I’m a huge believer in start-slim businesses and minimizing risk. Start-slim means you spend where you must and wait to reap profit before investing in other areas. Figure out what you are willing to invest this year for quality and efficiency, and I hope my picks of where to put your money brings some happy thoughts and lightness to your next steps by pulling off some of the hats 🙂
Up until mid-March, like me, you probably had a couple weekly networking groups on your calendar each week. Chamber groups. Local business owner groups. Women’s groups. You were dedicated to the communities you linked arms with to further the impact of overall business community.
Or perhaps, networking has felt daunting. Maybe you’re a newer business owner who has been watching the business community from the sidelines. You were about to dip your toes in the networking water when “the ‘rona” threw its hat in the game or wrench in the plans.
Good news. Whether you were well drenched or a toe dipper in networking, the playing field has been leveled for all of us, as we’re all adapting to the new virtual ways of doing networking. There’s no better time than now to dive in, because it’s kind of weird for us all!
I run a women’s networking group in the Tampa Bay area called Hearts and Heels. Prior to COVID-19, we had one big meeting each month to connect on a workshop topic and socialize over dinner. We maintain a very active online group. I love the face to face time we schedule each month and the side meetings that happen between the members. When I realized meeting in person was going to be a no-go for a while, I admit…I freaked out.
I knew I could go to an online model, but I myself did not particularly like the few online meetings I had done to that point. Between March to now, however, I’ve (and maybe you’ve) done probably hundreds of online meetings. Practice makes perfect, right?
I am convinced there are some ways we can all make the experience of online networking more comfortable. Here’s some tips to help you not feel like a fish out of water but like your online networking time is valuable to your business AND that you are contributing to the meetings. Let’s face it. Online networking isn’t going anywhere, even if the current world health situation was to disappear tomorrow.
Get a 60 second commercial together. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be your turn to introduce yourself and give your 60 second elevator pitch. Write it down. There is no shame in reading off a cue card to make sure you use this 60 seconds as effectively as possible. BTW, I’ll go live this week on my FB page http://www.facebook.com/genevamaresma to talk about exactly how to do this!
Before the meeting, create some personal goals. Perhaps you’d like to identify one or two people with whom to have a virtual coffee. Maybe you’d like to learn something specific from a workshop being given. Your goal, if you’re new to networking, may be to simply attend a group and get more comfortable with networking in general.
Recognize that the true reward to you is in the follow-up and post-meeting connections. If you attend one or 100 networking meetings and never extend your efforts beyond the meeting itself, you’ll probably be in the camp that says, “Networking meetings didn’t work for me.” Networking is THE single most powerful form of marketing you can do for your business. Hands down. My entire first business was successfully built on word of mouth.
Remember, networking is not a one and done, and many people unfortunately look at it this way. They will state, I didn’t make a sale. No one was interested in buying my products or services. That’s the wrong perspective. Networking groups are to create referral connections. Connections take time to build. No one will refer you until they know, like, and trust you. If you join a group, commit to it for a time and shift your focus to how you can pour into it and how you can give to the community over take from it. You will gain from it eventually, but you are going to have to authentically give to get.
So set a networking goal this week. Embrace virtual networking, because it’s here to stay! Be brave and try a group if you haven’t. If you’d like to join my group (for women in business), let me know, and I’d be happy to introduce you into it and I promise it’s fun and friendly!
If you are a business owner, you sell something- product or service. At the end of the day, if you make sales, you have business. No sales=no business.
Businesses all over our country, both small and large, are facing tough times. People are carefully spending feeling unsure of their own personal finances. If you own a business, you may feel unsure of how to sensitively sell in these times.
Here are some tips to help you communicate during the time of COVID-19.
1. Revist your ideal customer’s pain points. They might be the same as before this virus, or perhaps they need to be tweaked. I don’t need certain items for the same reasons as I did before- work clothes, jewelry, makeup for instance for the purpose of looking professional in the workplace, but sellers of these items might be able to sell me on using this time to clean and refresh my wardrobe, send gifts for important occasions partner with them on some kind of charitable giving through my purchase, or an occasional purchase as “self-care” stress relief shopping.
2. Focus on soft sell strategies. Find ways right now to educate on your product’s features, tell about your history with your company, and build value through mini-workshops or live events. People don’t want to be sold to right now. They don’t want to be sold to ever, but especially right now. The sell is easy when the potential client decides to choose you- there is a feeling of, “I chose to buy that. This use of my money is good for me,” versus, “I felt guilty to not buy from my friend or local small business,” or “She pushed so hard I bought a little something to make her stop messaging me.” Let people choose you, because what you give is so much more than what they feel they feel they will give.
3. Resist the urge to jump on every new social media page popping up to support local businesses to showcase your brand. Fight to stop splattering your links across every outlet that will permit it. Quite often, when we do this, we’re forgetting WHO we are really for. Who do you champion? Who are you the hero or heroine for with your skills and products? Community pages are great to showcase businesses in our local communities, but focusing a lot of effort on these pages where everyone is trying to also show their brands is not likely energy well spent in terms of ROI. When this crisis passes, these pages will likely see stalled traffic. Ask yourself if the traffic on the page you feel you should post on are your people. If you can’t yell and fistpump a “hell yeah!” then stop and go find where your people are. Work on building your social media page, your website, or your email templates. Spend some time on items 1 and 2 above and then outline a purposeful plan to move strategically through the next few months.
☔️Oh rainy day. How I love thee. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, it’s been a wonderful stormy day…not the piddly rain that is just enough to make the Florida air soupy once the sun steams the streets, but the thunder rumbling, air cleansing, sit and read or write kind of day all day storm.
I have a question for you and for me, too. I’ve seriously been contemplating the opposite of many posts I’ve seen. Instead of what will I do first when life reverts to some parts of its old self, because the answers are easy anyway- Disney and beach, I’ve been asking,
🤔”What do I not want to return to?”
You see, we have had the chance to reset and rearrange. I can take my life back however I wish. I can let go of whatever I now see I am better to release. You can too.
Early on in this quarantine journey, I had visions of tackling the calligraphy learning set I gifted myself for Christmas, beginning to make Christmas wreaths, and picking up my guitar and hanging with YouTube tutorials. I was going to do these three things and a few other projects before reentering the world. I’m sure you also had some gangbusters plan of all the productive things you’d do. But here’s the realization I had- we don’t have to shove these pursuits into quarantine time. We can do them whenever, because we get to decide what’s meaningful to life moving forward. We can pick up the heavy overpacked suitcase of our past lives or unload some of the weight.
My time is what’s heavy in my suitcase. Lugging heavy time luggage is par for the course sometimes in life, but I no longer want to pull time out of my sleeve like a magician with a neverending scarf. It’s either there or not. I either have it or I don’t. Even if I have it, it’s mine to do something of my choosing based on what I know I need to be my best self. Some days Disney is going to win over volunteering and a beer with one friend over an event I “should” be at. Other days, my best self is when my cup is full, and I can effectively pour into others.
My goal is that people and causes dear to me will never be in an unknowing affair relationship- you know when you have to cheat time mentally from one event or person to give to another? I’m ok with making those choices every once in a blue moon, but I don’t want to return back to feeling like I’m “dating” 10 obligations at once all while trying to convince myself the “one” I’m currently investing my time is the most important while I really just want to be sipping a champagne flight in France at Epcot🥂.
There’s my truth. What is it you want to leave behind?