Ruth Medlin Consulting

SPEAKER l TRAINER l ENTREPRENEURIAL MENTOR

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Shifting Networking Gears

Entrepreneurial networking has become an art form if you ask me.  There seems to be no shortage in ways to network these days which is the good news.  Maybe the not so good news is that our choices of networking may be a bit overwhelming and confusing too.  I mean, how does one decide on these key factors: first, how many networking groups should one belong to?  Is five too many?  Is two too few?  What is the “just right” factor?  A second question may be who do you want to network with?  Should you network with other people in your industry?  For instance, if you sell cosmetics, should you only hang out with others who sell cosmetics?  Still another factor at least for some of us is cost to network and benefit from the network experience.  I belong to several networking groups, some which are costly to join and to attend and others that are inexpensive but may not give me the benefit of networking with people who are likely to do business with me.

If this all sounds like a giant conundrum to you, then it’s time to do some soul searching as to what you are looking for in the networking game.  If your primary focus is to get known for selling a product or service, it may behoove you join several networking groups on a trial basis to see who’s in the group, and to find out what others are selling and if members find the group beneficial to their business.  A lot of networking groups will let you attend one or two of their meetings for the individual cost of the meeting (i.e. lunch) so that you can find out if this will be a good fit for you and your business.  Sometimes, networking groups look more like the “ladies who lunch” than an actual networking organization.  Find out if the people in the group are actually “selling” their products.  Are they making new contacts within the group and converting those contacts into sales? These are some tough questions and we may not like to appear pushy or indelicate when asking, however if we are going to invest money in a networking group, we want to be sure that it is a good fit for us.

I’ve also noticed that “birds of a feather” tend to flock together meaning that the same networking crowd belongs to several networking groups which is all well good and fine, but if our goal is to meet as many new people as possible to connect with, seeing the same familiar faces at each networking event may be comfortable, it is not helping us increase our numbers of new folks to meet.

Something that I am hyper-aware of is the time of day to network.  I am at my best from early morning to mid-afternoon, so going to an evening networking event is just about the worst thing I can think of.  I have little or no energy and meeting new people can just be a blur to me.  So, think about your “peak” time of day when you are at your best and try to make a good fit/connection with networking groups.

What about things like chamber of commerce mixers?  These types of events may be large in fact almost too large to really make good initial connections.  Remember, the goal of the chamber that is hosting the event is to sign up new members and the goal of a lot of the attendees is to garner as many business cards as they can to justify attendance, so these events may not be the best reasons for you to attend!  A good rule of thumb that I like to use when deciding if a mixer is a good investment of my time is to see a list of potential attendees.  If there are a lot of bigger companies attending and very few/no entrepreneurs attending, I may decide not to waste my time. However, it may be a great idea to attend one mixer just to get the “lay of the land” for future attendance decisions.

Shifting Networking Gears
The bottom line for most of us is to be prudent with our networking time and money.  While attendance may be fun and a way to get out of the house, if it isn’t bringing you new or added business, it may be time to move on to the next networking group.  Personal preference is the name of the game!

Do you need to hire a Business Coach?

Do You Need to Hire A Coach for your Business?

How do you know if you need to hire a coach for your business?  I get asked this question a lot by entrepreneurs.  My response is most often something like, “Well, before I answer your question, can you tell me why you are thinking of hiring a coach?” Now, here’s where it gets interesting because the range of answers varies widely.  Some folks will kind of look at me with a blank stare and say something like, “Uh, gosh, I don’t know, I mean, my friend has a coach and she says that I should hire one too.”  Or another answer to my simple question is, “Well, I have this friend who is a business coach and she keeps bugging me to hire her.” And then there’s my all time favorite, “Because everyone else has a coach, so I think I may need one too!”

Ok, so my answer to all is this: “Have you made a list of things that you think you need help within your business?  If the answer is yes, I ask to see the list. The plain and simple truth is that most of us don’t need a coach as much as we need some practical advice with some specific aspects of our entrepreneurial endeavors. Let me give you some examples of what you may need help with.

The top of the list to my thinking is budgeting. After you have set up a solid business plan, look at what you need to buy or invest in for the first 6 months you are in business. This list can be a long one.  Do you need a computer for your business?  While a lot of entrepreneurs starting out may have a computer, it may be used by other family members, so it isn’t solely dedicated to their business.  Or you may have an older computer that won’t work for what your current business needs are.  Hint, if your computer is over 5 years old, you will need a new computer. Add on the cost of a printer, perhaps a new desk or workspace, business cards, marketing materials … well you get the idea. Here’s what I know for sure, most entrepreneurs start out with a very small budget for just about anything.  So, there’s your first real conundrum-how do you buy what you need to get your business up and rolling when you have little or no money to buy the things you need. What can you do?  Well, you can investigate securing a small business loan from a family member or a lending institution. Or you can charge what you need onto a business credit card but remember you will be getting interest tacked onto that charge unless you can pay it off within one billing cycle. 

The next thing that you may need is some help with the back of your business.  For instance, can you run a software program like QuickBooks? Do you need to do mailings, newsletters, send out samples of products?  If you are nodding your head yes, you may need to hire an assistant to do these tasks so that you can concentrate on securing clients through networking and marketing your business.  Sometimes you can do both, but if you are taking valuable time by running to the local Office Depot to make copies, mail samples and print flyers, when you could be meeting a new client, then your time management skills are askew.  Remember what job 1 is for you and concentrate on that and only that.

Finally, ask yourself and keep asking yourself this question until you have clarity: I started my own business because…?  Until you have a defined and refined answer to that question, you don’t need a business coach! You must have a clear vision and a clear set of business goals to set your entrepreneurial ship on its journey.  You and only you can create the vision and the goals! And while having a business coach may be helpful down the road (that is when you are making enough money to afford one), in the beginning stages, you need only you and a good head on your shoulders to figure out how you want your business to thrive!

Reframe That Problem!

Reframe That Problem!

Entrepreneurs are faced with problems all the time.  How much do I charge for my services? Should I pay to advertise in print or just stick with free social media?  I have an unhappy client and nothing I seem to do satisfies them and I am at my wit’s end as to how to resolve this!  I could add a whole lot more of these types of problems.  But today, I want to talk about the possibility of looking at problems in a different light-that is to reframe our thinking about any given situation.

A couple of weeks ago as I was scrolling through Face Book, I saw a post from a local farm advertising that their corn crop was just in.  They were offering a dozen ears of corn for only $3.00 if FB readers would share their post!  Wow!  I was ready for some fresh, farm grown corn, so I promptly shared the post and come Saturday, I headed to their farm store to get my corn.  Now, I must admit that I read the post hurriedly and thought that I’d read that if you shared their post, you’d get 12 ears of corn for free! Ok, I admit that!  The farm store was charming!  I got my corn plus some tomatoes, peppers and even a basil plant!  When I got to the cashier, I asked about the FB post of getting the corn for free (ok, again my error!).  And here’s what followed: The cashier just kind of went off on me and said “No, no, no, no, NO! These aren’t free.  They are $3.00!  That’s the trouble with Face Book!  You can’t post anything without people getting it wrong!”  And on and on and ON!  I thought about it for a moment and when she’d finished her rant against social media I said, “Madam, you might think about reframing your thoughts about blaming social media!  Look, I obviously misread the post and for that I apologize.  I did share the post though, so I am happy to get 12 ears of your delicious corn for only $3.00.  What you might also want to think about is that without that post, I wouldn’t have been here today as a first-time shopper.  In addition to the corn I also want to purchase tomatoes, peppers and a basil plant from you, so you are really coming out ahead.  The post on social media cost you nothing and it probably is bringing people just like me to your farm store for the first time.  You should be grateful for the post because it is bringing you additional business.  So, instead of yelling at me for misunderstanding/misreading the post, think about reframing your response to me just now!  No one likes to be mistaken and yelled at!  How about welcoming me to your store with a smile on your face, then gently correcting my error and thanking me for my business!”  The cashier was aghast about all that I’d said.  She wasn’t very gracious to me either.  What I hope is that after I left, she had some time to think about reframing her attitude about a free social media campaign to drive more business to their store.

Entrepreneurs think about how you can reframe some of your business concerns.  Shed some new light on them and consider putting them into a new perspective.  Try reframing problems and turning them into possibilities and learning lessons.  You just may find that you are gaining in your business as you look at all possibilities!

Entrepreneurial​ Freedom

Entrepreneurial Freedom

July is the month that we celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain.  Although that hard-fought victory is 243 years old, we still celebrate it with parades, cookouts and fireworks. That got me to thinking about entrepreneurial freedom and what that means to each of us who owns a business. Entrepreneurial freedom is something that many of us hold near and dear to our hearts.  I worked in education, private industry and government in my 39 years as someone else’s employee.  Some jobs I enjoyed and others not so much.  Some of my bosses were like mentors to me and others were overpaid dictators who had no business being a manager/supervisor.  

Seven years ago, I decided it was time to stop working for someone else and start working for myself.  Talk about freedom!  It was like a bright light suddenly showed me the path to be a successful business owner.  As with any new thing, there were learning curves along the way.  Time management was a difficult one for me to master.  It seemed like I had all this ‘free time’ because I didn’t have to be at work at any specific time and so I became a procrastinator at first. After some close calls about meeting deadlines for clients, I soon learned to budget my time a lot better.  Finding new clients was another thing that I struggled with.  I am an introvert and find networking to be exhaustive.  I’m not very good at it either!  I found my tribe in women’s networking groups.  Somehow it was easier to meet other women and learn from them.  I also continued to seek out mentors who were ahead of me in their entrepreneurial journeys and I learned from them too.  So, make no mistake, becoming an entrepreneur is not as easy as it may look!

But here’s the payoff.  FREEDOM! I have the freedom to work when I want to and with people I enjoy.  I am my own boss and I love not answering to anyone but me.  My self-worth is my own to make.  My net worth is also my own to make. Some days are better than others, but just like those colonists who sought independence in 1776, I will continue to strive for my own independence on this entrepreneurial journey and enjoy every minute of it!

Clients Want an Experience-We All Do!

Last week I ventured into one of my favorite clothing stores to see what was new for spring and summer.  Mind you, I receive catalogs in the mail from this store and they have an excellent website that is easy to use for ordering from home.  But you see, I wanted more than the convenience of on line ordering, I wanted a shopping EXPERIENCE!  That got me thinking about how much we as consumers want more than a transaction, we want to feel as though we’ve gone through an experience in our consumerism.

As a business owner, I often think about how I can offer my clients an experience in the work I do for them.  And furthermore, what exactly is the experience that my clients are looking for?  Should I ask them?  Would they tell me or keep me guessing?  How do you turn a business transaction into an experience anyhow?

I was coming up with more questions than answers, so I decided to ask around to find out what kind of an experience that clients really want. Here are a few of their answers.

“I want to feel important, like I’m the only client that you have. If I’m having a good time talking with you, I don’t want to hear you say you have another client coming in in 5 minutes!  And I want to be listened to not sold to.”

“I want you to ‘get’ me. I am sometimes quirky, and I have a wicked sense of humor, and I am self-depreciating a lot.  That is off-putting to some people.  I just want you to allow me to be me and to be sincerely with me in our working relationship.”

“I like to take my time about deciding.  It may take me several conversations also to see the product I am looking for over a span of days.  I want you to be willing to cover the same ground with me, allowing me the freedom to think it through until I reach my decision.”

“I want to have fun!  I want you to have fun with me and the product or service you are selling to be fun!  I know what I want, so no sales pitch needed!” 

Well, ok, I guess what I heard was that everyone is different.  And that I need to become more in tune with my clients, to really listen to them and to help create that aura of magic that makes each interaction one that the client will remember as the kind of experience they are looking for!

The Gift

What would you do if you were given an extra hour to your day? Many entrepreneurs long for more time to get everything done.  As solopreneurs, we find that all tasks, details and problems fall on our shoulders.  We strive to get it all done and sometimes, too often, we fall short of our daily goals.  We moan and groan and sometimes say, “if I only had more time in the day!”  

Here’s what I know about time.  It can slip through our fingers so easily.  Some of us are judicious with our time.  We are clock driven.  We set deadlines, appointments and we keep to them to the very best of our abilities.  We take a certain pride in our careful planning. And yet, sometimes, our well-defined schedules are disrupted by things over which we have no control.  Take for instance an appointment at your Dr.’s office.  You plan your Dr. appointment hoping against all hope that the Dr. will be on time.  Often, they are not.  And so, we sit in the waiting room, looking at the clock, checking with the front desk to see how much longer that we will have to wait, and calculating how much time we are losing by just sitting and waiting.  But what if we saw this time not as wasted, but rather as a gift.  What if we could accomplish something worthwhile as we wait?  What if we regained control of our emotions about the long delay and we re-set our mental clock to use this gift of time?  What would that feel like?

Speaking with Conviction and From the Heart

Speaking with Conviction and From the Heart

Recently, I spoke at a conference and my topic was “I Feel Good! A Guide for Entrepreneurs”. I have a strong affinity for entrepreneurs who are just starting out or struggling with their businesses.  Sometimes, the struggle has to do with leading yourself and your team members and sometimes it’s about having the courage to become a success. Either way, the struggle is real and can be the breaking point.

Here’s what I know for certain.  Each one of us starts our entrepreneurial journey with conviction and heart.  That’s why some of my guiding principles have to do with following through, seeking sound counsel from others who are successful and listening to your gut!  Being an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart!  You sometimes must make tough decisions you’d rather not make, and you must work long hours to achieve your financial goals.  Many entrepreneurs are internally second-guessing themselves and boy let me just say that isn’t a great thing to do.  You must quiet the voices in your head that are telling you negative things about your business.  Tune them out.  Instead, pump up the volume on all the positive and good thoughts.  Say them out loud!  “I am the one to rely on” and “If it is meant to Be, it is up to Me!”  

As I told my audience at the conference, be the You that everyone else strives to be!  Confidence and bold moves to secure your entrepreneurial future. Find a positive affirmation and say it often.  Look like you are successful!  Don’t be in your jammies on a call, put on your best outfit, and some powerful red lipstick and rock your product like a superstar!

When I see successful entrepreneurs, I want to give them a shout out.  They are who we all want to be.  So, have conviction and a deep belief in yourself.  You are meant to Shine! 

Start Somewhere!

Start Somewhere!

Meeting new entrepreneurs is always a treat for me.  I love to hear their stories and their dreams. Often dreams just kind of stay in that holding pattern of “someday when I’m…”  I believe that dreams are very good things for most of us because they give us ideas and goals. However, dreams can also go nowhere.  We repeat the same dream over and over again and without us really knowing it, we are projecting the wrong message to ourselves and our customers.  That message is this: “I’m a non-starter and I’m going nowhere fast.”

So, here’s my message today-Start Somewhere!  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business for yourself for 5 months or 5 years, you must start somewhere.  So, what if you start in the middle? At least you are moving forward. Recently, a good friend asked me to help her re-start her business.  We had a Business Analysis Assessment session and what we discovered was that she’d never really followed up on her business plan. Now the plan was about 5 years old and it was a good basic business plan complete with a checkoff sheet with listed tasks.  The trouble was, my friend Never dug in with the set of start-up tasks that were listed! When I asked her why, she mentioned that she’d always hated “to do” lists and that’s what this task sheet reminded her of. I got it and I told her that she wasn’t ever going to use this business plan because every time she opened the binder to get started, she saw the task list and it was an automatic fail.  I asked her how she worked without a to do list? And her reply was “I just know what needs to be done and I dig in and do it.” Ok now we had our answer. In order for her to re-start her business, she had to decide what needed to be done and go and do it! We took the task sheet out of the binder and put it in the shredder! Just that one simple move made so much difference for her. So what if she started in the middle?  So what if she didn’t use to do lists? What is important is to GET STARTED.

How do you see your business right now?  Are you in a holding pattern? What’s holding you back from being wildly successful?  What’s the next BIG thing you want to conquer? You see, it doesn’t matter what you do, what’s important is that you just do whatever it is to meet your goals and get the job done!

 

Are You Writing A Book?

Are You Writing A Book Yet?

As an entrepreneur, many of us are so busy working our businesses that when it comes to even thinking about writing anything, we just kind of shy away from it or we say, ‘someday,’ or ‘when I get around to it.’  For some of us, writing is not something we are good at. And still, others think we have nothing important to say.

It’s time to debunk those old messages and to begin to start writing.  I joined a writing group this spring just to get myself back in the habit of writing.  Our group leader, Carol Walkner, gives us some prompts and we are given 10 minutes to write our hearts out.  This is not a critique group, but rather a group to listen and to point out phrases or sentences that stand out in our writing.  I am learning to listen to my own inner voice and to weave words or phrases into blogs. Suddenly the thought of writing a book doesn’t seem so far away.

What are you waiting for?  Start writing! Put your thoughts to paper.  Join a writer’s group. Collaborate with a friend and exchange writings. Challenge yourself to become an expert in your field and write about it.  The time is now, and the world is waiting to hear from you!

 

The Business of Following Up

We’ve all heard this a million times, “the fortune is in the follow-up.”  And we all know that to be true. Following up with potential business clients is key to being a successful entrepreneur.  Then, why oh why, please can you tell me why so many of us have trouble following up? I think the simple answer is that we don’t like the word “no.”  We don’t want to be rejected, so rather than having a follow-up conversation, we simply drop the ball.

Here’s an important question.  Why are we in business in the first place?  If you don’t like rejection, then find another way to earn a living!  

Another reason I think some of us don’t follow up is fear!  What if we were to take rejection and fear and throw them out the window?  What I mean is, what if we could reframe our thinking to see rejection and fear as positive things.  What if we saw them as learning experiences, to hone our craft of asking for the sale; getting better at it as we went?

A friend of mine, Terry Sayre who has a successful coaching business in California describes it as a risk or die scenario.  If you take a small risk by calling back a potential client to ask for the sale and they say thanks, but no thanks. You’ve taken only a small risk.  Did you get hurt from their no thanks? Did you keel over in a heap, did you ball your eyes out? Did you die from it? Nope, none of the above. What you’ve gained according to Terry is the ability to ask for, listen to and overcome objections.  Still didn’t get the sale? Consider it a learning experience and move on to the next call!

Put yourself in the shoes of a being a client.  You’ve listened to and read up on the product you’re interested in and you’re interested, but you just need a little more time or maybe you need a little more information before you make that decision to buy.  Maybe you’re wondering why the salesperson hasn’t called you back? So, you decide to take a wait and see approach. You’re waiting to see what the salesperson will do.

And right there, we see and understand the problem. Two people, a potential buyer and a potential seller are each waiting for the other person to call or make the next point of contact!  Hello!!! When it’s put into that context, do you see that you, as the potential seller really has the upper hand and by making that call, talking with the potential buyer we become the true professional that we are meant to be!

Follow-up already!  Your clients are waiting for your call!

 

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