An Investment

As I look back over the things I’ve done and learned while starting and building a business, there’s something I realized I’ve overlooked.  I’ve ignored it or gave little thought to it and it’s surprising because this — I firmly believe — is the key to success.  I’ve talked and written about what the keys are to success.  I’ve argued there weren’t really any “keys”, but an adopted mindset and attitude.  I’ve read numerous articles about what successful people have in common with one another.  I’ve read those articles about the mindsets and patterns of millionaires.  Not just because they’re millionaires, but because they must be doing something right in order to have become millionaires.  Right?  But in between the chatter and the musings and the research, what makes the business owner successful, what makes the entrepreneur a millionaire and what gets the start-up founder funded?  A great marketing strategy?  A knowledgeable board of directors?  Deep-pocketed venture capitalists?  The best idea ever?

No.

It’s the investment.  The investment you make in yourself everyday.   You don’t have to have a whole lot of education, a whole lot of money to start, a whole lot of friends, or whole lot of anything .  You do need to have the time to invest in yourself and seek out investments that will return for you.  I mean, yeah, that may mean getting more education or building up a larger network.  But it really boils down to being better than you were yesterday.  It’s taking the time and looking at what you have offer and making sure you can offer it as best you can.  Outperform yourself.

I’ve tried taking on multiple projects and services thinking that the more I offered, the more clients I’ll gain because the more people I’ll appeal to.  Did NOT happen.  One, it’s hard to spread yourself thin and still be the go-to person for 5,000 things.  Two, I wasn’t equally interested or passionate about everything I was trying to offer.  Thus, many services lacked luster.  Just because I could do it, doesn’t mean I should’ve.  And vice-versa.  It was when I narrowed down what I could offer and would be willing to offer to just 3-5 services and sharpen those skills over and over again, that I noticed myself getting referrals, getting recommended — getting the kind of running start I wanted.  Not because I was trying to be everything to everybody. But, because I invested in myself first.  That, allowed me to better for my clients and it’s paid and continues to pay off.

How do I invest in myself?

  • I sign up for community classes that are of interest to my business and professional goals
  • I take community college classes 
  • I periodically attending networking events
  • I explore the businesses in my community 
  • I talk to other business and aspiring business owners
  • I read — a lot– of articles, magazines, books, blogs, any thing that strikes my fancy
  • I search jobs on Craig’s List to see what employers (business owners) are looking for in candidates who do what I do
  • I take some of those free classes on Coursea, Standford Online or Venture Lab

It’s seems never-ending, which is why it’s something I have to be passionate about.  Because if I wasn’t, I couldn’t do it.  And what would be the point?

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The Seven (7) Things Someone Should Have Told Me…

About Starting A Business In My Twenties

When I attempted my first solo venture at 24, I was wide-eyed, hopeful and frustrated.  Yes, all of it.  Don’t ask me how, I just was.  I was frustrated with the economy and job market because no one was hiring inexperience hopefuls, degreed or not, but I was hopeful because the economy was also producing a generation of aspiring entrepreneurs who were tired of waiting for their reject letters or pink slips.  And I figured because I fit into one of those two categories, I could build something for myself from the ground up too.  Ha!  So cute, really I was.   Cute, but more clueless than anything else.  But it took some faltering, failing, starting over, giving up, coming back and failing some more to figure out a reason to the rhyme.

I use to think that it was inexperience that was against me.  What the hell did I know in my 20’s – more importantly, what the hell have I done in my 20’s that worthy of going into business for myself?  I also thought it was lack of formal education.  All I had under my belt was a bachelor’s degree that was nowhere near the realm of business.  Who was going to take someone supposedly in business seriously who never studied business?  It could’ve been I lacked confidence in what I could offer because I was still figuring all that out and testing the waters. Or, maybe I didn’t know enough people or wasn’t putting the word out as often as I should have.  It could have been any one of these things, it could be all of those things, it could be NONE of those things.  Business, whatever the industry, is quite often a hit-and-miss game.  You’re gonna miss more than you hit, but you gotta keep throwing to see whether or not you’re gonna hit.  Very much like a game of darts, I suppose.  Despite all of that, there were some really trivial things I should have known (or wished I was told) before I ever stuck my foot out there.

  1. Be an asset –whenever possible as often as possible.  People remember what you do for them, not what you tell them.  You can yap all day, every day about how you got a business, but if that business isn’t relieving someone’s aches and pains, no one cares.  Be an asset to those who aren’t even a client or you wouldn’t normally take on as a client.  When you start building referrals that build your business.
  2. Don’t do it for free if you’re not going to do it right — Pro Bono is fine and all for the experience, but if you’re going to half-ass it, don’t even bother.  Even free shoddy work speaks poorly (and loudly) of you.  You may need the work or the experience, but not at the expense of your name.
  3. Never diminish your work ethic — It’s tempting to, especially with all the tools and apps available to kind of automate stuff for you.  Uh-uh.  Won’t fly.  Repeat business comes down to how well your business was delivered the first time.  It doesn’t matter if that was your first client or your 15th, the delivery should still be the same.
  4. You cannot rush time — Man, oh, man.  I’m completely guilty of this one.  And this is probably one of the reasons why I failed so many times.  I wasn’t trying to cut corners, I was just trying to push things along a little faster.  I don’t equate anything to luck (I’m more of a “fortunate” kind of person) but timing is a huge factor.  As in, everything needed its time.  Time to build, time to develop, time to promote, time to test, time to grow.  If you don’t give elements in business their respective time, you’re building on shaky ground.  Ask me how I know.
  5. Seek help –On occasion, it may be mental, but on most, it’s actual help.  Find someone you trust (trust being the most important word in that statement) who can help you find the resources you need for whatever.  Whether they’re helping you research funding options, getting you touch with their website developer, or someone who can refer clients to you.  There should be at least one person in your camp.  Seek them out.
  6. Make the investment in yourself – It took me a while to take this piece of truth to heart, because I only heard it, but never fully absorbed it.  When people speak about making the investment in themselves, they mean taking time to become more valuable, more attractive to conduct business with.  For me, I took this as an understanding to go back to school, attend business workshops and gatherings and network with like-minded people.  Sometimes it cost me money, sometimes it didn’t.  But the fact of the matter was, I always walked away from every experience having gained something that later helped me.  A new contact, new information, an untapped resource – something.  But I had to make the investment first.
  7. Your efforts and/or business won’t disrupt any industries – and that’s okay.  In whatever you ARE doing, just make an impact.  Add value.  This goes back to number one in regards to being an asset.  Mark Zuckerberg rocked the social connecting industry, but he also made an impact (initially).  Focus more of being of essence than on being front page news.  All that builds after you’ve done something noteworthy.

These weren’t big lessons, but it would’ve been nice had someone just whispered them in my ear from time to time.  But we learn and acquired everything we need when we need it — I may not have needed to know this then, but I know it now.

Overqualified

It seems like the only time it’s perfectly acceptable to be well-overqualified is when we’re self-employed.  Because that’s exactly what our clients want.  They want someone who they believe is an expert, has more than enough experience and can ultimately resolve their pain points.  At any other time in our professional careers, we would never want to have too little or too much experience — just the right amount.  Just enough to land us the job.  But now that we’re running the show, being overqualified is in our favor.

And we are overqualified.  Sometimes we just don’t realize how much experience we have.  Any time a client ask about our professional background and how it relates to our business, make sure they hear about ALL of our related experience, no matter how unique their issue or project is.

Keep in mind, our experience didn’t begin from the moment we decided to go into business for ourselves.  It started well before then. we just need to backtrack:

  • If we ever worked for someone else — and most of have — that’s experience under our belt
  • If we’ve ever volunteered, no matter the organization or the length of time, although more time equates to more experience
  • If we ever helped out a friend or family member, or a friend’s family member, or a family member’s friend or whoever, that counts
  • Any and all related school and training is experience
  • If we’ve ever freelanced, that most definitely counts as experience
  • If we’ve ever taught — and make no mistake about it, not all education takes place in the classroom.  We’ve could have taught a community class, hosted a workshop, we could have been the ones providing the on site or on the job training, whatever.  Teaching someone else clearly illustrates our understanding and knowledge base

So the next time a client requests to know a little more about your experience and professional history  — over share and share it all.  It is so much more better to be overqualified to a client than to not know what the hell you’re doing.

February Save The Dates

Check out these February events for those in the Greater Los Angeles area.  No matter what business you’re thinking about going into, or if you’ve already started your own company, there are events here for all levels of business owners and entrepreneurs,

 

  • February 4th – Taking Your Grant Writing Research Skills to The Next Level Event organized by eCivis, Inc. from 9am – 4pm PST.  Event cost is $299 for the early bird fee, $349 for general admission.
  • February 5th FREE Self-Publishing Workshop located at 1246 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood Library Branch) from 6-8pm PST hosted by the Toastmasters District One Speakers Bureau Workshop Committe, for more info, visit http://bit.ly/1fOqo6d
  • February 6thFREE Website Building Tools Class hosted by the Valley Economic Development Center from 6-8pm PST located at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor Van Nuys, CA 91403; from more information or to register, email hassali@vedc.org
  • February 6th – 8th – How To Sell To Women FREE Virtual Training Event hosted by Lisa Sasevich; to register http://bit.ly/1eHENio
  • February 7th – Women 2.0 Founder Friday, located at the Regus 3415 South Sepulveda, suite 1100 Los Angeles, CA 90034 from 6:30 to 9pm PST.  General admission starts at $22.09.  Visit http://bit.ly/1er4gjT for more information and to register
  • February 8thFREE Marketing and Promotions Event organized by the Business Entrepreneurship Club.  Event will take place the LA Mission College located at 13356 Elridge Ave, Los Angeles 91342 from 10am – 12pm PST.  Contact Dr. Norris Dorsey at  818.402.5050 and/or register at http://bit.ly/ML8CIQ
  • February 10th  — FREE Start Up Dos & Don’ts/ Business Plan class from 6-8pm PST hosted by the Valley Economic Development Center located at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor Van Nuys, CA 91403; from more information or to register, email hassali@vedc.org
  • February 10th – California Small Business Development Center is offering a How to Write a Business Plan Class for $40, hosted by Santa Monica College. Event takes place from 9am to 1pm PST on the campus.  To register, visit http://bit.ly/1fzdI51
  • February 19th – 2014 – 2015 Annual Economic Forecast and Industry Outlook hosted by the LA County Economic Development Corporation from 7 -10:30pm PST at the L.A. Hotel Downtown located at 333 Figueroa St, Los Angeles 90071; general admission is $155 if purchased by Feb. 14th.  Register at http://bit.ly/1acMC3E
  • February 26th – March 1st –  Black Enterpise Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm held at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida.  Deadline to register for general admission is February 7th at $1395.  After February 7th, tickets to the event go up to $1695.  For more information visit, http://bit.ly/1ildZsN

(additional events may be added)

 

 

What Makes You The Expert?

Ask The Expert

 

What makes someone an “expert”?

How much they know, how much schooling they’ve had?

How much experience they have underneath their belt?

Is it the amount of years they’ve put in?

Is it that they know everyone and everything in their industry and field?

Or…

…are they reliable, open-minded, flexible, and honest even when they don’t know something they should? We think of experts as people always knowing or having the answers.  And years of experience, schooling and regular training can gain expertise, but an expert isn’t a walking encyclopedia waiting to be opened and flipped through.  It isn’t someone who knows all and has done all.

An expert is wise.  Wise enough to listen, wise enough to try and wise enough to learn.  Someone we may consider an expert probably won’t have all the answers, but they’ll know where to find them.  They may not have all the resources, but they’ll know where to look.  And they may not have decades of experience, but they’re not afraid to learn.  We have to begin to unwrap our heads around this rigid concept of an “expert”.  Or “guru”.  Or “know-it-all”.  They’re limiting.  They’re fixed and unchanging.  Everything being in business isn’t.

Many of us are experts and don’t even know it.  We’ve held on to this belief that we have to have so many years of dues paid to experience and training that we ignore what knowledge base we’ve already accumulated — what lessons and failures we’ve already learned from.  Once we’ve mastered something — we got it down to a science of our own, no matter how long or short it took us to learn, we’re now an expert in it.  We may not have the degrees hanging on the walls or dozens plaques with our names on it, but we’re still experts.

Better yet, we’re masters.  We go about our plans, doing what we need to do as successfully as we can so we can do it over and over again.  And when things need to change — when plans need to be altered — we adapt, master and move on.

 

January — Save the Dates!

 

Look for more update as January progresses!  It’s a new year, take a leap and do what you need to in order to be and see success.

 

FREE EVENT: Affordable Care Act for Small Businesses!

Okay, listen up small busineses in the Greater Los Angeles area — the VEDC is hosting another free event regarding the Affordable Care Act and small businesses.  We all know that come January 1st, everyone needs to have ample health coverage.  But  this isn’t just for individuals who are uninsured, it affects small businesses too!  The Valley Economic Development Center — the VEDC — is offering this event to small businesses presented by City Councilman Curren D. Price, Jr. to learn more about what steps small businesses need to take to cover their employees and how to avoid penalties or fines with the law.  The event takes place this Thursday, November 21st — sorry for the short notice — at the California Science Center, not too far from USC (if you’re familiar with the area).

Check out the VEDC’s website for more information!  Also, stop by the SBA and learn more about the Affordable Care Act and Small Business.

Councilman
Curren D. Price, Jr.
presents

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
TOWN HALL MEETING
FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Thursday, November 21, 2013
9:00 am – 12:00 pm

California Science Center
Donald P. Loker Conference Center
700 Exposition Park Drive (39th and Figueroa)
Los Angeles, CA  90037

THIS IS A FREE EVENT

Fro more information call (323) 846-2651 or email dorothy.randle@lacity.org.

               
VEDC  •  5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd floor, Van Nuys, CA 91403  •  (818) 907-9977  •  www.vedc.org

(images and content are credited to the VEDC)