Three-Legged Race

You’re standing at the edge of the make-shift start line.  The sun is beaming down on you, but it isn’t uncomfortably hot.  There’s a nice gust of wind providing a gentle breeze to accompany the sun.  And you’re feeling confident.  You’re ready for this race.  You’re excited, even.  But this isn’t a race for the fastest — to see who makes it to the finish line first.  This is a race of endurance.  A race to see if you last long enough to get to the end.  As you mentally prepare yourself to be the victor of this race, you look around taking one last observation of the environment and the other participants.  You nudge yourself a little more forward extending a few extra millimeters, looking for that competitive edge.  As you ready yourself to lunge ahead at the sound of “GO”, you feel a little tightness around your thigh and knee.  You’ve forgotten your partner.  After all, this is a three-legged race.

And it’s just dawned on you, how you decide to run, walk or generally move, you have to do with the person tied to your side.  Every move you make, that person will make and every move that person makes, you will have to make.  If they fall, you fall.  If you speed up, they’ll have to speed up.  At this moment, the two of you are one.  One unit, one entity, one body.  And although the two of may not share out loud every decision you plan on making during the course of this race, you’ll still have to support each other — where one goes, the other will have to follow.  You’ll each have to watch out for dips in the ground and hidden obstructions, both for yourselves and the other person.

Should one of you find yourself unable to continue — you lack the energy, you lack the will, all of a sudden someone has a pain or one of you just plain gives up, then you both forfeit, even if the other party wants to continue on.  That’s what a partnership is all about.  Mutually moving together as one.  One unit, one entity, one body.

Not everyone is suited for a three-legged race and that’s okay, because not everyone’s suited to race.  The goal is not to get to the end, but get to the goal.  And the next goal, and the next goal after that.  It’s not a race for the fastest, but a race to see who can hold out till the end.

 

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The Good With The Bad

I’ve had the opportunity during my employment experience to work for half dozen small business owners or so– graphic designer, loan modification agents, caterer, writers/authors, financial adviser, real estate agents.  That’s partly how I created Intel Boutique, through my service with them, I started seeing the needs of business owners in a whole new light.   But not all my experiences were positive and rewarding.  Some of them were a warning of who not to do business with and how not to manage my business in the future.  And because my goal had been to go into business for myself, I kept my eyes peeled all the time, observing as much as I could and learning my lessons vicariously through them.  And boy, oh, boy — there are some lesson I’ll never forget.  But just as in life, you gotta take the good with the bad and even with the ugly.

Loan Modifications – I didn’t know how off centered this entire operation was until I was a month deep into it and those who had been there longer started revealing all the you-know-what that had hit the fan.  Needless to say, I was there for 3 months and was happy to say good-bye.  What I took with me:

  • Never EVER make a client feel your absence.  I don’t care if it’s some kind of ploy or tactic, it’s just bad practice.  And it makes the client feel uneasy, especially when you’re handling their personal financial records.  And anytime a client feels that uneasy, they bring in a lawyer to make you feel that uneasy too.
  • Don’t change the rules/policies with your employees every 2-3 weeks.  It’s ridiculous and it’s unprofessional.  If something needs to be changed give them ample warning and reasons as to why you’re shifting gears.  Bring them into the process rather than keep them from it.
  • No micro-managing…EVER.  If you can’t trust your staff to do their job, then you shouldn’t have hired them.  Make the competent so you feel assured in their work.

Writer/Author– Such creative spirits to be around.  But creativity doesn’t substitute for business sense or time management.  What I learned:

  • Always agree upon working schedule in advance — depending on works best for you and them .  If they always need reminders the day of — it becomes more of a burden and not worth your efforts.  Time is money, on both ends.
  • Do not work outside the scope of which you were hired.  You’ll be doing multiple jobs and getting one check.  If they wanted you to handle more, then they need to compensate you adequately.
  • Agree on a productive working environment condusive for success.  Yes, you’re there to do a job, but you’re also there to do the best damn job possible.  Keep your interest in mind too.

Financial Adviser – Talking about multi-tasking, this guy did it all from financial services, to managing commercial retail property in another state and to being health agent broker.  I’m a firm believer in creating multiple income streams, so I don’t knock him there, but without help, he almost always seemed lost.  What I saw wrong:

  • Don’t let your staff create the systems you run your business with.  When they go, so could those systems.
  • You may not have the best memory, so take good notes. Keep track and follow up.
  • Train all staff to do all tasks, or assigned specific tasks to specific staff members,  Giving unfamiliar duties to staff members will lead to errors.   Make it so that their jobs can run smoothly and that your business can run smoother.

You’ll find that in most of your work, whether it be for someone else or yourself, there are more lessons than there is actual work.  Look for the lesson and see if that improves you work at all.  You might just find a golden opportunity to be your own boss, too.

What Comes First: The Funding or The Planning?

For some of you, this is a no-brainer kind of question.  If we were on a game show, I would guess many of you would hit the buzzer for “planning”.  Duh!  It makes the most sense.  If there’s no plan in place, how can you ever fund the business?  But let’s change the scenario a bit — You have a great multi-dollar idea.  You don’t have all the details just yet and you definitely haven’t planned how this is all going to work out, but the idea is valuable.  To top it off, you’ve just landed yourself an investor!  You have a great idea followed by a great pitch.  After bouncing the idea off a few friends and family you now have someone who’s willing to invest.  Let’s morph this wonderfully ideal dream back into a bit of reality and say that the investor has agreed to fund the business but of course, wants a business plan, a proposal, a timeline (a deadline, really) and whatever else to assure him this is a lucrative and probable investment.  All from an idea.

Funding

Think of all the in-the-shower ideas we had come to us.  What if your multi-million idea was just like that?  An idea that  was born out of some repetitive task or inspiration brought on by frustration that anyone in their right mind would want to jump on and be a part of.   But while you’re lathering up and rising off, did you bother to figure out how to find the right manufacturer, or commercial slot or print ads in every national paper?  Probably not.  But you still have the idea.

What if you don’t have an idea for a product, but rather a service.  Manufacturers are not needed, neither is inventory or stock and overhead is probably much more manageable.  But a service idea is harder to picture than a product idea, which even in it’s conception phase can be sketched out.  Do you seeking funding for that idea first, or do you plan first?

Planning

Truth of the matter, there is no real easy answer or right decision, at least not across the board.  Some people are better at selling and others are better at planning.  Sellers will pitch to investors and planners with dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.  It’s also probably best that if you have a service based business idea, that you prepare a plan, an outline of what it is, what’s provided and how to get it from conception to realization.  The same goes for if you have a product based business idea.  But unlike a service idea, sometimes a concept is enough to win over the masses and a few investors.  That that conception has to be something that can be actualized.  And don’t feel bad if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to write or focus too much on the itty-bitty details.  You can either outsourced that to someone else for a decent price or start building a team of people in which someone on your team can do that for you.  No matter what you idea is about, at some point planning is going to have to be involved and so will funds.  But in what you arrange them it’s up to and the idea.

{photo credits: dream designs and artur84 via freedigitalphotos.net}

Make Every Experience Count

In order to be successful in this life and never work a day in our lives, we must find what we’re passionate and pursue it.  We’ve heard this and we know it.  So we have.  We’ve tapped into the activities and hobbies that make us smile and laugh.  We found the things that we could do endlessly without ever looking at the clock and we’ve even manage to find company that supports our exploration and business ventures.  But when we follow our passions, are we suppose negate every experience, every job we ever held?  What about those valuable lessons and skills we picked up along the way?  Should we forget about the things we’ve learned when we follow passions?

Subway

I worked at Subway for a couple of months during the year I took off from college.  It was actually a second job I took on to help supplemental by tuition going back to school.  This was the only fast food job I ever held and believe you me,  that was alright by me.  And don’t kid yourself, Subway may tell you to ‘eat fresh’ but it’s still fast food.

  • Watch those that have been doing the job longer and pick up on the tricks they’ve learned to make the job easier to perform.  It takes everyone some time to get the hang of any new skill and after awhile, you develop a knack for doing tasks so that they don’t become overwhelming.  The take-away — no matter which business you decide to pursue and no matter what passion drives it, someone out there has done it before.  Find them, study them, mimic them if you have to.  If they’ve been in the game longer than, they also a system in place that you can follow until you get the hang of things.

Dillard’s

I worked there my all of my junior year and part of senior year in college.  I worked in Men’s Fragrance.  Just a little FYI, men rarely buy men’s fragrances.  Only during the holidays did we see a substantial amount of foot traffic and it was mostly from women buying for their significant others.  So most of the times, our counter was dead quiet and had next to no business.

  • Create business.  While cleaning out our own tester inventory closet, I had an idea about offering tester fragrances we no longer carried to those customers that applied for our store credit card.  Needless to say, within two weeks time, it was a smash.  Customers heard about the promotion and would stop in just to apply for a credit card for a free fragrance.  While they were waiting for the approval, they would look around to see what else we sold.  Traffic increased and so did business.  The take-away — business is not going to come to you unless you take action.  It doesn’t have to be grand or over the top, it just has to be something people are going to be interested in.  Grab their interest them and you’ll get them coming to you.

RGIS Inventory

This is one of those jobs I hated.  The hours were long and no one could ever tell you how long the job was going to be.  Breaks were short and sometimes forgotten.  The company is surprisingly still around despite the many class action suits they’ve had regarding employee breaks and proper compensation.  I worked this job while in school too.  It consisted of going to various retail stores and counting their inventory for them.  And because these businesses ran during normal business hours, the job always started in the evening, like after 8pm.  Night owls need apply.  But in 5 months time I was promoted to a Team Leader position with my own team of 8 people.

  • Jobs come and go, so make your peace with that.  Do the job as best as you can and  be willing to help others along the way especially when it benefits the whole.  I was promoted not because I was the fastest counter.  I was promoted because I was always looking to get the job and get it done right the first time.  If that meant jumping on board someone else’s section and helping them get it done so we could all leave, so be it.  The take-away –  Teamwork is the best avenues towards success.  People feel more confident in completing a job when they’re not doing it alone and/or they have someone who is willing to help.  Get in the trenches and help when you can.

I’d like to think I’ve been structuring Intel Boutique from a wonderful perfectly laid out dream.  But it truth, it’s summation of all my experiences.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a passion of mine to help people get the information they need to live out their passion, but it wasn’t something I fell into overnight (I wish!).  I’ve made sure to put every experience to use.  Everything I’ve done, every job I’ve held and every experience I’ve had, I make it matter.

Great Advice From a Freelance Copywriter

Most people aren’t fond of writing and coming up with catchy things to say, especially if it’s going to be viewed by many.  But in the case of Heather Robson, she’s made writing her freelancing career.  And although I’m not sharing her story so that everyone knows how to become a freelance writer and love what they do, Heather does touch upon some very helpful tips that anyone in business for themselves can and should be using.

  • Market yourself consistently, even when you’re busy
  • Watch and follow the trends of the market
  • Find clients you REALLY want to work with (I stress that because I can remember taking on clients to satisfy financial obligations but in the long wrong run, I had relationships with a clients in which they didn’t want to return and I didn’t want them to return)
  • Find marketing methods that appeal to you – find methods that you know you can stick with for a certain amount of time to measure the results
  • Set up realist time frame to meet goals before you give up on them
  • Keep your professional profile up-to-date to reflect your current and best services

{video credit: awaivideo/ AWAI}

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Be Using Google Products…

… at least, in their early stages while they’re building and establishing themselves.

  1. Gmail Account – It comes with EVERYTHING!  Now, We all know how more professional it looks to have an email address with your company website domain, but there’s no rule or law that says you can only have one business email.  I have contact@intelboutique.com (and a few others) as well as intelboutiquela@gmail.com.  It allows me to create a Google + profile, connect with others and promote my business blog. 
  2. Google + –  Speaking of it, Google + has rebounded and bounced back from unnecessary to useful.  Like any other social media platform, you have to find your audience and what drives them to read and engage on Google +, but once you do, you’ll find worth your while.   Nonetheless, it’s another tool brought to us by Google that can help businesses stand out and grow.
  3.  YouTube –  One of the best, if not the best ways, to promote your business is the use of videos.  Why?  Videos are watched, shared and commented on more than links, quotes and yes, content.  Maybe it’s our short attention span or that we’re bombarded with so much information that videos give us the right platform to digest data.  Whatever the reason, jump on it, it works!
  4. Hangout (formerly known as GChat) – This is perhaps my most favorite tool because, I am not a fan of Skype. Hangout/GChat is video conferencing and instant messaging all wrapped up in one.  You can hold video meetings with your team, you can voice text conversations and share links and videos.  Making virtual businesses easy to conduct .. well, business.
  5. Google Drive –  If you’re still sketchy about “The Cloud” Google Drive offers you a place to save your work, documents, presentations, client list, correspondences and whatever else is important to your business operations.  And what makes Google Drive a better, you can save it offline to your desktop.  Beautiful!
  6. Google Calendar – I live by my Google Calendar.  I upload every meeting, every task, invite others to shared events, set reminders in advance to remind me of due dates and deadlines.  And I get every update and notice sent to my phone and tablet.
  7. Maps – I travel to my clients in LA.  And although I grew up in LA, I don’t always know every side street, dead-end and little area or district.  If I feel like I’m not that familiar to where I’m headed, I pull out my phone, type in the address and let the voice guide directions be my GPS.  It hasn’t failed me yet.  Also, Google Maps tells me where other businesses, buildings and anything of importance to me and my businesses.

I don’t want to lead anyone thinking that Google is the be all to end all, but it does offer a host of very useful tools for newbies and seasoned business owners who need to do more with pocket change.    And who knows, you might find more uses with Google than you ever imagined.

Meet Less, Produce More

I hate meetings.  I have no problem admitting that.  There is something about organizing your staff or team of people together to talk about where you all are  that just drains the life out of me.  And I’m aware that there are meetings that are necessary, even crucial for business.  Meet-n-Greet meetings — meeting prospect clients for the first time, hiring a new staff member or independent contractor, getting word and advice back from that Venture Capitalist — those are pretty important.  And let’s not forget closing a deal and negotiations, I’ll meet for those too.  But what about the other mindless meetings we think we need to have?  With technology being available at the stroke or swipe of a finger, why are we still meeting (in person)?

Every time I’m part of a meeting, I think about all the other things I could be doing instead.  So right off the bat, I’m already distracted and unfocused because I’m thinking about how else I could be spending my time.  I’m also brave enough to admit that my attention span is short*.  The first 30 minutes of any meeting, I’m hanging on every word and taking notes.  Once we hit the 45-minute mark, okay… my thoughts begin to wander off, but I rein in back in.  God forbid we go over an hour ’cause then and I’m just scribbling whatever on whatever, updating my calendar and making a shopping list for the grocery store.  And the sad truth is, that happens more often that not.

I understand some people feel the need to meet, but what for?  Are your meetings equal to your efforts when you’re working?  Or do you think they are?  Think about what you could actually being doing instead of having that meeting.  Save your meetings for occasions like:

  1. When a VC enters or exits the picture
  2. Your company is changing structures or size
  3. A last-minute/ urgent change where all hands on board are needed (but even this can be done via phone)
  4. Titles and positions are changing
  5. Your company is facing some kind of lawsuit or liability issue

When you feel the need to reach out and touch someone who doesn’t apply to the aforementioned items, consider all the hand-held ways you do so with:

  1. Gchat – Whether you want to voice or video your conversations, simpler and free (or any instant messaging app)
  2. Skype – Although, I personally don’t like their lock-in-you-policy, you can make WiFi calls and connect to whomever
  3. Texting – A quick and shorthand way to get your message across instantaneously
  4. Emails – I absolutely love emails because it allows whomever to send whatever they need to you with whatever attachments needed.  In other words, emails =GOOD!
  5. Calling – Nothing is easier than picking the phone and just saying what you need to say
  6. Virtual Meeting Sites – Like GoToMeeting that can accommodate larger groups of people and invite guests (like webinars)

 

Hold off on “need to have” meetings for those dire situations where it calls for in person interaction.  Otherwise, befriend your smart phone, tablet or laptop.  These are on-the-go devices that allow you to keep in touch in real-time rather than waiting for those weekly/monthly meetings to say what you have to say.   Think of the time you’ll save on travel, location, snacks and goodies if you kept your meetings to a minimum.  Not to mention, you won’t have people, like myself, spacing out.  Think about what could get done in the same amount of time you spend talking about getting stuff done.   This is when working smart comes into play.

(*I hang in there a longer than an hour for meetings, in case you were wondering.  But there are those moments I want to nod off.  I know you know what I’m talking about!)