Archive | Entrepreneurs

You Are Not a Charity


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Two significant things happened in the last week that have shifted the way I think, and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe you will find them useful, too.

An Experiment

I recently offered to try an experiment with my cohorts in one of my Master Mind groups, and it worked so well that one of them suggested I offer it as a service. I let that percolate for a few days. Then she came back and asked me to do it again – and said she wanted to pay me.

So we embarked on a process of figuring out what was an appropriate price from both of our perspectives. Now, that is really all negotiation is, but it is something that gives a lot of entrepreneurs a stomach ache, especially in service-oriented and creativity-oriented businesses. Negotiating with clients wasn’t that difficult for me when I worked for someone else because I was given pricing guidelines with upper and lower boundaries. Period.

But this was different. I was not only negotiating over my own products and services, but it was for something brand new that I wasn’t really sure how to price.

As we worked through the process, I got an uncomfortable feeling, a feeling like I was accepting charity. Luckily, I noticed right away and held it up to look at it, rather than brushing it off and stuffing it.

Why would that feel like Charity?

In holding it up to look at it, I asked myself, Why would letting a friend pay me for my services feel like charity? Not because I don’t think my time is worth it; I charge a healthy (though flexible) rate for my services. Was it because she is my friend? Was it because I knew she was trying to help me grow my business and develop a new service?

Well, yes. And yes.

And I realized very quickly I needed to reframe it. That she wanted to pay me is a sign of respect and that she values my contribution. (And the process gave me the opportunity to really explore what she found valuable.) For that I feel a different kind of gratitude, and I immediately stopped feeling like a Charity Case.

I also realized that perhaps she didn’t want to feel like a Charity Case either, or a User, and so by negotiating a payment that worked for both of us, we became equal partners in the deal.

That was very cool.

A Challenge

At the same time, I was mulling over a challenge put out by one of my cohorts in my other Master Mind group. The challenge: To spend some time thinking about our Priorities. She commented that she is more of a visual than a linear thinker, so lists don’t always work. It turns out that several of us are very visual, so we all talked about ways to explore this in a visual way. I committed on Tuesday to map out my priorities via a Mind Map…

…Which I finally sat down to do on Sunday.

And something interesting happened.

But first, a note about being an Entrepreneur (or Solopreneur, as the case may be). Unlike working for A Company where it is easy to take stability and a steady paycheck for granted, the price of being an Entrepreneur is the trade-off between stability and a steady paycheck for freedom and creativity. In other words, Stability? Steady Paycheck? Ha!

Will the real Priorities please stand up?

So I sat down on Sunday morning to spend some time thinking about my priorities. Since building my business is on my mind at the moment, the first two priorities that popped out were Develop Consulting Clients and Develop Coaching Clients.

But as I kept doodling and listing other priorities, such as Be of Service, Grow, Make Connections, and Have Fun, I realized that those first two weren’t my top priorities. But they kept showing up as off-shoots of my other priorities, such as Earn My Keep, Be of Service, Have Fun ->Doing Work I Enjoy, and Have Fun->Working with People I Enjoy. So they were clearly important.

Hmmm.

Last week’s post about letting some things flow out of my life came out while all of this was percolating. So I realized that one of my priorities is to Let Go of Some Things I am doing so that other, higher priority, things can come in. So Let Go went on the mind map as a priority, too.

Profound Impact

This has all had a profound impact on how I look at my business. It affects the way I create my to-do list, which is now shaped around my priorities. It affects the way I talk about what I do. It affects the things I say Yes to or No to. It affects the choices I make about what I want do, who I want to do it with, and what needs to happen next.

I feel a bit vulnerable sharing this thought process with you, in case you held the image of me as a brilliantly wise Consultant Who Is the Fount of Wisdom. Um, no.

I don’t really want to be the Fount of Wisdom* or a Smarty Pants Know-It-All Consultant.

What I am is a wilderness guide who is blazing trails through the woods of business and life and is happy to share those trails with you.

The Lesson

And this week’s trail-blazing lesson is this: I am neither a charity nor a charity case, and neither are you.

If you are a small business person, do any of these things ring true for you?

* Well, OK. Being a Fount of Wisdom wouldn’t be all bad. 😉


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You Want to Start Your Own Business? Are You Crazy?


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Whether you want to have more control over your own life, or you have a great idea that no one could implement quite like you, or because you’re fed up with job hunting, if you’re considering starting your own business you are not alone. But there are a lot of people out there who will tell you you’re crazy. Some of those voices may be in your own head!

Marcia Wieder, a coach, author and trainer, speaks eloquently about the importance of listening to, not silencing, your inner Doubter. But you have to learn to recognize whether that whisper of doubt is simply an obstacle that requires a strategy, or a belief (“I’m not creative,” “I could never do that,”) that just needs to be questioned.

Another resource I have found tremendously helpful is Naomi Dunford’s IttyBiz website. Naomi specializes in helping small businesses with marketing themselves. She writes eloquently and hilariously about the bliss and the terror that many of us with an “IttyBiz” feel. (Warning: Naomi has a potty mouth, and she’s proud of it. Please don’t let it deter you.) I tripped over her website through a link on another website, and I got hooked. And I have now purchased several of her products. Not only because they’re great, but because she’s been there. Here. Where we are. Where you might be.

Starting your own business is not, by definition, crazy. “Crazy like a fox,” maybe. Here’s the thing: Sometimes you have to know when to listen to others, and sometimes you have to know when NOT to listen to others. (Have you read my ebook? We talk about that, among other things.) And learn to be Crazy Like a Fox.

Stay tuned . . .

I’d Love to Start My Own Business, But…


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How many times have you said those words to yourself, or to someone else? If the answer is at least once, you’re not alone. But why do so few people take the plunge?

There are a lot of answers. One answer is security: Despite the common pitfalls of working for someone else, or for a big company, there is a great deal of appeal in knowing where your next paycheck comes from, in not having to go out and find your own health insurance, in not having to Sell (that’s a Four Letter Word). In not having to think much, really, about anything except the work itself. Is that a good enough reason to not take the plunge?

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone should go into business for themselves. For a lot of reasons. Only you can decide which are the right reasons to go into business or continue working for someone else.

But people do go into business for themselves all of the time. (And a lot of people are doing it right now.) Some are successful, some are not. Many are not successful the first time, but they keep trying. Others go back to The Corporate World.

If you are seriously thinking about launching your own business, there are a number of issues you will have to wrestle with, including being clear about why you want to do something this crazy, formulating your idea, coping with fear and uncertainty, dealing with isolation, accepting the fact that yes, you will have to Sell, balancing planning with action, and thinking about the type of business you want to run. (Hint: I don’t just mean your line of business or your niche. What kind of soul do you want your business to have?) Not to mention all of the traditional business issues like dealing with taxes, licenses, insurance, financial planning, and so on.

That list may be enough to make you thank your lucky stars for the boss you hate and the paycheck that’s too small and the benefits that are too expensive. Or make you call a recruiter instead of a CPA. But if you’ve thought that you might have a great idea for a business, or at least you’ve got a solid platform of experience that you could use in your own business, and you are willing to wrestle with this stuff, stay tuned. We’ll talk more in the coming days and weeks about these issues and about some of the other things to keep in mind as you consider taking the plunge, and I’ll share some of the things I’ve found helpful as I have gone down that path myself.

Stay tuned…

When Time Slows Down


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I was talking to someone recently and she made a comment about how her kids had such a different sense of time – that asking them to wait five minutes was really difficult, that the idea of something happening next week was a really long time, and that waiting for a future event that was a month or a year away was like an eternity.

We wondered: Is this because they have such a short time frame for reference? A year to a 9-year-old is 1/9th of her life. Or is it just because they are so in-the-present?

This conversation reminded me of the time after my husband died five years ago. The idea of living the rest of my life without him was too huge and too horrible to contemplate, so I focused on today. Right now. Putting one foot in front of the other. These 24 hours. One day at a time. I can do Now, I thought. And I did. I could think about tomorrow, but the coming weekend was a stretch. When my mother asked in the autumn if I was coming to Seattle for Christmas, I had to explain that I literally could not think that far in the future.

Did I become child-like for that period?

As I healed, I was conscious of times when I was able to schedule something for the weekend, plan a pot-luck a month in advance, think about a trip to Seattle for my newest nephew’s christening.

In his terrific essay, “What Startups Are Really Like,” Paul Graham (www.paulgraham.com) writes about what founders of startups reported that most surprised them about the process. In Surprise #2, “Startups Take Over Your Life,” one writes, “I think the thing that’s been most surprising to me is how one’s perspective on time shifts. Working on our startup, I remember time seeming to stretch out, so that a month was a huge interval.” Paul attributes this to the fast pace of life in a startup, “which makes it seem like time slows down.”

As we move faster, does time slow down? The theory of relativity tells us that the closer to the speed of light an object travels, the more time slows down for it so that an astronaut who returns to earth after a long trip at the speed of light will have aged more slowly than his twin brother who remained on Earth.

Does life seem fast-paced to children? Is that why time moves so slowly for them? Do we move more slowly as we age, so that it seems to pass more quickly?

Are entrepreneurs like children? Non-entrepreneurs might glibly say Yes, but I’m serious here. Is there a child-like quality that entrepreneurs share with children related to how they perceive life?

When people are faced with changes that they have to get used to, and there is newness, and the world shifts, how does this affect how they perceive time? Are they dropped back to a child-like state until they can grow into the change? Does consciously fostering a child-like sense of wonder make coping with change any easier?

These make for interesting considerations for those of us who are change agents – considerations about how those impacted by changes perceive time and about how they react. What do you think?

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