Can you believe 2012 is over in less than a week? The last few weeks have been jam-packed with power-planning for what I want to create in 2013, ideas for growth, and new exciting things I can offer to you guys. And many of you are probably in the same boat, working out your resolutions, to-do lists, and business-focused goals for the New Year. Nothing ramps up that goal-setting momentum like a fresh start to a New Year. Here are just some of my predictions for the New Year that might help you prepare yourself as you’re setting those all-important action items:
Have you noticed lately how everyone’s an “expert/guru/thought leader/internationally-known, highly-regarded, award-winning something or other”? My jaw can only drop so many times in awe before it starts to hurt.
I was just reading an email newsletter promoting some online interview with another uber-ambitious, game-changing Gen-Y type, “the face of today’s digital world, the best her generation has to offer,” as they modestly described her. Oh wait, wait for my favorite part here – “master millennial of the universe“. Now excuse me while I crawl under a rock and hide with the rest of my underachieving generation. Or vomit…I haven’t decided which.
I’m thinking, “Really? If this person is as immense a marketing powerhouse as her bio makes her out to be, why haven’t I heard of her?” I have a resume writing & personal branding business – I know a thing or two about people overly-inflating their reputation and professional credibility.
A common misconception around marketing as a small business is that you have to amass a large following in order for your marketing efforts to really pay off. Widely-acknowledge business brain Ramit Sethi does a great interview with The $100 Startup author Chris Guillebeau specifically around this idea, and it’s really poignant. Sure, both of these gentlemen have wildly successful blogs and thousands upon thousands of followers, but both agree that at the end of the day, getting clients and bringing in sales is all about creating a quality product or service that speaks to a very specific need, and offers a very specific solution. That’s marketability, right there.
There are a lot of great ideas for products and services that aren’t necessarily marketable (I’ve come up with plenty of them myself in Ah-ha! moments over the years). Just because something is interesting to you, and is perhaps even new or innovative, doesn’t mean people will be willing to pay for it. What will persuade them is having an intimate understanding of who your target market is, what their deepest, most prevalent needs are, based on their lifestyle, goals, challenges, etc., and why the solution you have to offer them not only speaks to that need/lack/want, but is unique in its own way from what else might already be out there.
The other night I watched “I’m Fine, Thanks”, a documentary from director Grant Peelle and Producer Adam Baker, of Man Versus Debt. The film takes place around the country, capturing the stories of every day people who gave up their dreams to settle into a complacent lifestyle, many under the guise of the antiquated “American Dream”. Go to college, get a “steady” job, get married, buy a house, have 2.5 kids in the suburbs, and you’re guaranteed a life that is fine and dandy. Fine and dandy, at the expense of many an aspiration and young adult dream.
This is particularly poignant because most of the subjects within the documentary are otherwise successful folks from Gens X and Y. They’re your late twenties to mid forty-somethings, complacently living within the confines of antiquated happiness standards, set by the generations before us.
2012 was an excellent year, and I’m incredibly grateful for and inspired by the success my companies have seen, and the growth we have endured. Some truly notable things happened this year; I had the opportunity to work with a handful of intelligent and creatively-motivating individuals, both as colleagues and clients, and I’ve shaped the business to function in a way that supports my personal priorities more than it ever has.
Despite the success I’ve had this year in my business, and some personal highs in general, I’m actually pretty bad at long-term goal setting for myself, and the same holds true for resolutions. Part of that I attribute to the nature of running a business, which sounds odd, given that you certainly have to think long-term when running a business and managing your career. But a big piece in running a business, as I mentioned in last week’s post, is understanding and accepting that change is a regular occurrence, and the need to adapt and pivot is essentially an entrepreneurial survival skill. So in a way I find comfort in the idea of things changing regularly, more than the idea of things not changing.
I went to Boston University with the intention of becoming a Creative Director for an advertising agency. This was 12+ years ago, and the first time in my life it actually seemed a feasible idea that I could build a career of my choosing. It was a good time to be a creative type – the “dot com boom” was in full effect, and the job market seemed promising. And then graduation rolled around in 2004 and the job market took a nose dive. Economic realities forced a lot of us to pivot and rethink the difference between what we wanted out of our careers, and what we could actually attain.
And then it happened again in 2008 or so, not long before I started this company – I held onto a job I hated a little longer than expected, in the hopes that it would help me salvage my entrepreneurial dreams. Again, time to pivot and look realistically at what a downturn economy meant for aspiring entrepreneurs, freelancers, and pretty much everyone else who had their hearts set on “doing something better”. But it’s not always at the hands of a downturn economy or crappy job market that you will encounter the need to pivot, to make changes and course-correct in your business. The truth is, it’s a natural part of the cycle, as you start to recognize changing trends in the market place, in the needs of your core customers, or even stumble upon a new market segment whom you can serve, or a new product or service that can offer value to your existing audience.
My dad doesn’t have a website, or any kind of digital presence really, which I find strange given that he has a business. This is advice that goes against just about anything I would tell a client myself. In the digital age, not having some kind of social media or web-based presence is akin to walking into a job interview without a resume. And naked.
I learned what a bad client is before I learned what a bad boyfriend was. My dad has been in business for himself for several decades, as a roof consultant in northern New Jersey. But there’s a slight difference between my father’s business and mine, outside of the fact that he’s been around since long before the late nineties internet explosion, and that my work doesn’t involve ladders (usually). When it comes to marketing, he doesn’t do any: his business is built entirely upon referrals and word of mouth. Old school, I say.
God, I hate Black Friday. Like, with a passion. I hail from Northern New Jersey, where there’s no shortage of shopping malls in any 100-mile radius. And a few years back, I reluctantly agreed to go with my brother to the mall on Black Friday. I think we were there less than an hour, bought some stupid fart-joke type thing at Spencer’s Gifts, and called it a day. Black Friday breeds medication-level anxiety within my psyche. It probably has something to do with being crowd-phobic. Story for another day.
Now if you’re brave enough to weather the storm and make it out of there with your $99 flat screen TV, then you deserve some props. Wasn’t me though – I was still recovering from Thanksgiving, and I’m a bigger fan of Small Business Saturday the following day, as I prefer to “shop small”. The consumer cycle is still getting my hard-earned cash, but it’s helping small local businesses in the process, and that I can appreciate.
Guest Post by Robin Sampson, First Circle Leaders
“A leader must give up to go up” – John Maxwell
When I first decided to become an entrepreneur, I knew that my life would change. My previous career as a teacher afforded me a steady income, a structured schedule, and free time to pursue other interests. At first glance, one may believe that this is the good life; however, my heart felt differently. Teaching Spanish no longer invigorated me as it did ten years ago. As my passion for Spanish waned, I knew that it would be replaced by a love for developing leaders. Starting a leadership coaching business demanded more time than I was able to invest while still teaching. Listening to my heart, I decided to leave teaching to pursue a new career in leadership coaching.