Sometimes I feel that as a business owner I’m called to be super human. There’s often so much to do, and so little time to do it that setting a list of priorities is the only way to survive. I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to recognize when something needs to shift, when something is a priority, an opportunity, and a distraction and I’ve seen many business owners struggle and suffer by NOT knowing the difference.
The good news is, it can all be solved with a calendar and schedule. I know that seems overly simplistic and possibly not even real, but stick with me, I’ll explain exactly how this concept can change your life.
Let’s face it, building and managing a brand (i.e., your business) requires a lot of energy. The more energy you have, the more you can do. The less energy you have, the less you can do (or the worse you are at it!). I try to keep my energy at a high by eating well (I’m vegan and sugar free) and making sure I get at least some moderate amount of exercise, but that’s not enough.
When there’s a deadline, an issue comes up, or I catch a case of “the blahs” I rely on my calendar to get me through successfully. Throw a husband, children or family in the mix and things get dicey. My husband Darren fought against the concept of us “making an appointment” with each other for a long time. Until he realized that having me as a calm, focused and happy wife was a better thing than the alternative.
Time blocking is a process of grouping the tasks that you have to do together in a set of blocks. The length of the blocks are totally up to you. For instance, there will be the “time with family” block, the “sleeping” block, the “cleaning” block, the “speaking to clients” block, the “reviewing financials” block etc.
Time blocking works best when you stick to the schedule consistently. For me, that means I do seasonal blocks. My time blocks change when it’s warmer outside, or when it’s colder. I’m on the East Coast so I inherently have less energy in the winter, so I change my schedule accordingly. If you’re on the West Coast you may not have that challenge.
Here’s how I organize mine:
1) Start with a full 24/7 weekly calendar. Each day of the week, and each hour of the day. It’s easiest to just print every day of the week on 1 sheet of paper.
2) Brain dump the categories you want to block. Here are some to get you started: sleeping, eating, preparing food, bathing and dressing, travel to work, travel from work, work, free time, entertainment, family time, chores, walking the dog, etc.
3) Now look at your categories to see which you can break down further. For instance, with work you can break it down to staff meetings, client calls, administrative work, production work, lunch break, free time (in case of emergencies), marketing, follow up, etc.
4) Now, in order of priorities, start to allocate how much time you wish to give to each of these categories and block your calendar. I like 9 hours sleep each day, so my calendar is blocked from 10:30 pm – 7:30 am for sleep each day. My next big priority is time with family, which happens (don’t judge me) for 1.5 hours each evening, and most of my weekend. This may seem low, but it’s realistic for me, I have no guilt around it, and it works.
5) Once all of your blocks are in, edit and adjust to make sure they are logical and actually work. Do you spend more time talking to clients than being productive? That means you’ll want to group your client calls, and limit them to a minimal time that gets the job done.
Now that you have the gist of it download my time block calendar, which includes a blank template, and work on yours today. You can get really creative with it. use colored highlighters to identify certain categories. Do it in Google Calendar and code it and print it (just create a second calendar in your settings). I bet if you do this for just 2 weeks you’ll be energized and charged more than you are today and you’ll (hopefully) call me and thank me for it.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the process and use it to build an exciting life! As you work on it come back here to post any questions if you get stuck, or just let me know how it’s going.
This past weekend there was a PR/Social media/Personal branding crisis via twitter. Justine Sacco, a former PR exec with IAG brands, tweeted a racist remark from her personal twitter account and the backlash is something that she will be dealing with for years to come.
A South African by birth, American by residency, Justine tweeted ignorant and derogatory remarks about South Africa’s AIDs epidemic. As a result, she became instantly infamous. Photographers flocked to the airports. News sites reported her faux pas, and countless people joined in to express their discontent and disgust.
But taking it even further, the brand crisis was turned into an opportunity for Aid For Africa, a non-profit organization in partnership with 85 other organizations working to address the primary issues impacting Africa, from health care to education and beyond. From a branding point of view, it immediately brought to mind to me how critically important it is to own your own name as a domain name. Here’s why:
1) It doesn’t matter who yo work for, we are all brand ambassadors. The moment something in your life that doesn’t match up to the values of the organization you work for, there is potential crisis
2) If Justine Sacco has already owned her name, she would have the tools and resources to lay a platform for recovery under her own name, which would be easier than it will now be without it.
3) Owning your name makes as much sense as having a social media profile, email account or home address. It is now one of the standard ways that people will find out about you and get in touch with you. Having that foundational control is not only smart, but beneficial.
It’s hard when your mistakes are laid bare for all the world to see. As a christian, and reflecting on this Christmas holiday season, my heart goes out to Justine and her family and the scrutiny they must now face. My prayer for Justine is that the lessons she is learning through this crisis serve as a breeding ground for education and change.
We have all made mistakes. We have said stupid things. Done stupid things. Thought stupid things. Most of us have never had them captured by a global audience, and most of us never will. I hope you and I never have to face such a crisis, but just in case… perhaps today is the day to get your “FirstnameLastName.com”?
What insight do you have on this? My goal in writing this post is not to hop on the bandwagon of hate and condemnation but instead to highlight what can be learned from someone else’s mistakes. Comment below, what say you?
Yesterday I was in my class for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and one of the women from our group announced her good news. She had launched her kickstarter campaign, just the day before, and had already raised over $10,000!
When she said it we gasped.
Unbelievable success, and so I thought, great! What an amazing tool to help her achieve her mission, which is to revive a hat making factory that she recently bought. This got me to thinking, is crowdfunding good for branding? It’s definitely proving good for my friend Satya.
I’ve seen crowdfunding campaigns go well, and I’ve seen them fail, so I figured to answer this question I should investigate a bit deeper. Looking on wiki it notes that as of 2012 there were over 450 crowdfunding platforms. When most people think of crowdfunding they call it a “Kickstarter” campaign, but Kickstarter is just one platform. There are others (and I love how term Kickstarter campaign is now a verb, like google).
I called my friend Patty Lennon from Mom Gets a Life and Crowdfund With Ease to have her take on Satya’s campaign and weigh in on why she thinks it’s so successful. Patty was able to raise thousands to host a conference she held here in New York City earlier this year, and because she had such great success she is becoming the go-to person for crowdfunding advice and insight.
Here’s what she had to say as we discussed Satya’s page:
Clearly, crowdfunding can be good for branding. In this case, Kickstarter is great for branding. People who had never heard of Satya will find her and get great value for their money, while also getting a tangible return on their investment.
If you’re wanting to launch your own crowdfunding campaign to success check out Patty’s site Crowdfund with Ease for free and low cost resources.
What about you? Have you tried crowdsourcing? Ever did a kickstarter campaign? How did it go? Share in the comments below. I wanna know!
I got an email from a friend on Facebook the other day, right after my hiatus, asking me if I was now modeling.
That brought such a smile to my face, and I told my friend “no, those days are over” but ironically, just a couple of weeks ago I hired a stylist based in Los Angeles to do a brand style strategy session with me because I was feeling a bit frumpy when I covered my skin.
Can you relate?
We’d all like to believe (at least I would) that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but what’s on the outside is always, always, always the first thing anyone will notice you for, unless your blind or on the telephone.
So when I reached out to Sybil Henry, a friend and trusted colleague of mine who has worked in branding for over a decade just like me, I knew I was working with someone that wasn’t just going to tell me to dress “trendy” but who was going to consider who I am, what I like, and what my strengths are, and play to that.
It was so much fun. In my 43 years of life I have never been one to like shopping. I’m not one of those women who likes shoes. I did an “audit” of my closet and realized I had about 30 pairs of shoes, and more than 20 of them were black!
What a wakeup call. As a leader in brand development, and brand ambassadorship I noticed that I needed to step into “a new skin” that totally represented me, but that also excited me, and has it been fun!
For the first time in EVER I found myself online looking at clothing and shoes in a whole different light. I feel like I now understand how to dress (which surprises people since I WAS once a model back in the day) and I find the idea of shopping for clothes and shoes a creative journey.
Shopping can be a creative journey.
Sybil knew. If you feel that your style needs a bit of inspiration she’s having a free teleclass next Thursday. You may want to check it out.
And if you’ve nailed your brand style, or have some insight to share with others be sure to comment below. Sharing is caring!
I can think of a dozen soundtracks that are so fitting for this article today. Beyonce’s Women Run The World. Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman. Christina Aguillera’s Can’t Hold Us Down. Great songs about how strong we really are.
But it’s not often that we all take the time to get together. Especially as business owners… but this past week Angela Jia Kim gathered her girls and we did just that. 500 women from across the U.S. and abroad came together to share our resources and learn from woman who are at the top and willing to tell it like it really is.
Not one was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. These stories were shared by real women who had real obstacles and the stamina to stay the course when everyone around them thought they were crazy. Also… they worked their butts off!
No, success doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come served to you on a silver platter. It takes work. But by working smart and building your empire the work gets a lot more manageable.
Take for instance Heather Thompson of Yummie Tummie who, as a designer with no clout and no title saw an opportunity and called up the powers that be at Sean Jean (aka, Puff Daddy) and said “I’d like to talk to you about who’s manufacturing your jeans.” That led to her becoming the head designer for the line, and her eventual success with J. Lo and Beyonce, before launching her brand. The guts, right? When all was said in done what did she say her best investment has been in? People!
J.J. Ramberg of MSNBC’s It’s Your Business was also there. Her great insight: Develop a relationship with a journalist and connect them with others that can meet their needs. Every journalist is an employee with job requirements and a boss to report to. Make sure your pitch isn’t all about “me, me, me” but instead about lessons learned that others can grow from.
My favorite segment by far was with Jessica Herrin of Stell and Dot. She was a hoot! She started very clear, saying It’s the DOING that makes the difference. Not the thinking. So do more, think less. Saying that we don’t just Rock the World but that we are the bedrock of the world, her challenge to us was to define success in our business as happiness in our life.
She encouraged us to remember that gratitude is everything and not to be too busy to have time for ourselves. Her sales tips were that if you only market online you’re being too passive and that investment is never the problem, lack of sales is the problem, and sales is a numbers game! Before departing her final words were magical: You are a leader and the world is awaiting your instruction!
And speaking of leadership… Angela Jia Kim is a true leader. What impressed me the most about the conference wasn’t the dozen or so celebrity brands on stage, but Angela’s commitment to her community.
During the entire conference, when Angela wasn’t on stage teaching and moderating she was at the Savor booth like all of the other exhibitors, fielding questions, taking photos and assisting her team. Truly grounded, truly serving and truly being a leader that we can imitate. It was a breath of fresh air.
If you need a brand that will fully support you as the leader you envision to become, we should talk! Schedule a call with me. It’ll be the best time you’ll spend all week.
You know we launched Booster shots last week, something we’ve been doing for our clients for years now which we just opened up to those like you with existing brands. Taking the money-making tasks off your to do list so that you can focus on what you love most about your business is a joy for you and fun for us!
Brad and Molly discuss how much easier it is to work together as a couple by having a little help. Molly’s very much a creative, while Brad is a “creative conservative” – together they now get what matters done by putting it into their Booster Shots program.
Just a few days ago I attended the Tory Burch Foundation’s Mentoring Event For Women Entrepreneurs. This was my third time attending the event and each time I have attended I walk away with such great coaching and insight that I can’t imagine being in this place in my business without it.
To start off each event Tory always asks each of the mentors to share the best advice they’ve ever been given. Such amazing golden nuggets are shared in that room that I am compelled to share them with you here. The mentors represent all types of industries, whether service or product, and are based in multiple locations. Here’s what they had to say:
Jay Hass of RRE Ventures: Fail well and learn from it
Sarah Gallagher, President of Ralph Lauren: Follow your passion. Do the thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and stay true to your heart while being authentic.
Jennifer Pate Gilbert, Founder of Save The Date: Outsource everything but your soul
Maneesh Goyal, CEO of MKG Events and LiveInTheGray.com: Nothing is more important than your relationships. Turn every meeting into 2 other meetings based on referrals.
Bill Ford, CEO of General Atlantic: Do what you’re passionate about
Clarice Kennedy, Senior Director of Resources Global Professionals: Find your True North. There is no instant CEO, it’s about the journey. Develop the leadership model that feels right for you.
Natalia Oberti Noguera, Founder and CEO of Pipeline Fellowship: Don’t be afraid to participate in pitch events – they lead to great connections.
Nicole Primack, Director, Private Banking, Credit Suisse: NEver be intimidated by your surroundings.
Kajal Sanghrajka, Founder EBK Eyewear & Co-President at Columbia Business Lab: Remember Reciprocity. Instead of thinking of what you can get think of how you can serve.
Frank Vitteritti, CEO of Import Commodity Group: Keep your company under control, don’t let it control you.
Kathleen Warner, COO of Startup America Partnership: 1) get comfortable being uncomfortable 2) Trust yourself!
As you can see, this group was second to none. I was able to get some personal mentoring from Jenniver, Maneesh, Kathleen, Clarice and Jay. Combined I have a solid plan and simple steps to move me forward and towards greater growth in the coming months.
Tory Burch is to be commended for the way that she gives back and empowers entrepreneurs to follow in her steps. There are more entrepreneurs who lend their advice and expertise on her website. Visit it, stay plugged in, and choose one piece of advice that you can focus on this week. Which of the golden nuggets above resonate most with you?
When I started Brand Excitement 3 years ago most people thought I was insane. It was the middle of a recession, and my husband Darren was recently laid off and working at a temp job. That didn’t deter me, and I’ve had tremendous success and I believe you can too. It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur because the last 10 years technology has changed the way people do business an leveled the playing field. It’s easier than ever to find your next client. More than ever before consumers have access to the information they need to make quick decisions. You have an advantage over big businesses in that don’t have a monstrous amount of red tape to go through before you can implement your ideas. You can target new markets quickly, and you can change your mind instantly when something is not working.
But being successful at it requires that you look at the big vision and to develop and follow a plan through from soup to nuts. Here’s what I did before I took the plunge. When I launched I did so with a list of people waiting to work with me. I wish the same for you:
1. Slowly phase out of your day job.
When I launched my business I first started part-time. I transitioned slowly by working two days each week from home. That allowed me to use what would have been my “commuting time” to get things in order for the business. Now, if you’re thinking that won’t work for you one of your options may be to take public transportation once or twice a week (you can get a lot done with someone else doing the driving) 0r carpool so that you can get that time on your side. Once I had the essential brand elements in place I was ready to quit and go full-time in the business. It paid off!
2. Focus on your specialty
I was in California a few months ago and they had a hair salon called the dry bar. A salon that just does blow drys. I thought that was genius. When I started, I focused on just service businesses. Just one-person entrepreneur businesses. I chose that group because I could most relate to them, and I could get them a return on their investment easily. I’ve expanded slightly since then but entrepreneurs remain the core of my clientele. And I love working with them. Observe your capabilities and look to see where you can narrow in as a specialty. That helps people make quick decisions to work with you.
3. Build Your Brand.
You should have known I’d hit you with that one. I’m telling you, time after time after time it’s proven that you must build a brand.. a consistent and memorable identity and persona that others can readily recognize both online and off. Do that, and you’ll be taken very seriously in your business. It makes it easy for other to promote you, and it allows you to focus more time on acquiring clients than it would be without one.
4. Get Help…
Around Christmas I reviewed my database to send out some holiday cards and I was really surprised that many colleagues I met just 2 years ago were out of business. Am I smarter than them? No. Richer? No. I think the difference is that I am always seeking help. I’m the first to admit I don’t know everything. I know branding. I don’t know all the other things that make a business work, so I seek help. Sometimes that help is free, and sometimes I have to pay for it. The free help, cheap help and expensive help have all worked to build the business I have today. There are so many resources out there that it doesn’t make sense for anyone to attempt building a business solo.
Entrepreneurship is an inspiring and exciting way to make a living. With the right grounding, and the right community, only you can set the limits of where you take it. What made you decide to go into business? Or, if you’re still thinking about it, what thoughts go through your head? Share them in the comments below.
The LIFT Foundation System – Legal, Insurance, Financial and Tax
With the new year etching in I’ve had a lot of conversations about colleagues who are now looking to incorporate, or trademark, or expand offices, etc. When I speak with them I ALWAYS recommend this ONE SYSTEM to help them along. The LIFT system is the only information product that I have regrets about. I should have found out about this system before I started my business… or at least in the second year. I didn’t find out about it until the end of my second year, and as a result had to start all over in a lot of things. I hope to help someone new or ramping up with my insight here:
I took a cold hard look at my business and it’s systems and realized that I needed a stronger foundation for growth. I came to this decision in the process of negotiating a new client contract (and my biggest client contract to date — Six figures!). In the process of negotiating this contract (it was massive) I realized I had some holes in my foundation that, if not plugged in quickly, would make it crumble.
What I ended up finding in my search was Alexis Martin Neely’s LIFT Foundation system. It has everything you need as a business of ANY size to get your legal, insurance, financial and tax systems in order. After spending more than five figures (it was nearly $30k) in masterminding groups, networking and events I realized THIS is the first thing that I should have invested in and implemented in my business.
But… I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I know, and now I’m soaring sweetie! If you want to make sure you’re set up for success and prepared for the new year I urge you to get Alexis’ system… even if you think you currently have these systems in place. It will help you know the questions to ask and the language to use when working with your team so that you don’t miss some costly human error.
If you have been operating as a sole proprietor (like I had) or worse, under your personal name, do whatever you can to get this system and use these guidelines to build your team, on your own time and within your budget now… so that you keep more money and have less headaches in the future.
I promise you, this system is worth thousands more than Alexis is charging for it. If you want more info or have any questions, just call me and I’ll tell you all about what I discovered. Do it now, while the year is still young.
Marketing is all about testing, so try it for a few months. If it works for you great — if not, you’ll have learned something in the meantime. But I guarantee you, you’ll thank me for this resource!
If this post was able to help you in any way please comment below and also join my mailing list. I promise not to send you endless spam. I’m not one of those “sell, sell, sell” type of businesses. I will always strive to only send you something that I feel will build you up and help you on your business journey. I am currently developing some new ideas and would love to be able to make you one of the first to hear about them! The newsletter sign up is at http://www.brandexcitement.com/subscribe.
Many businesses make the same mistake that I did several years ago, they start their business without a clear name, strategy or distinction to get them traction right away. They know they need to re-examine their business but don’t know what that will involve and therefore do nothing. Today’s branding exercises will get you un-stuck the next time you’re in need of help.
Brand Excitement’s 7-Step process is designed to get build a brand foundation that will support your goals, build visibility and opportunities and result in more profits to do what you love.
Step 1. Examine Everything From A to Z
Before you begin anything, ask yourself (and those you serve) a lot of questions such as “What brings the most exciting results to their lives?” and “What motivates them to spend money (the answers may surprise you)” Look at all your existing materials, your color scheme, marketing plan, and even accomplishments and see what’s working and what needs help. Even if you’ve already done this it’s great to revisit these questions. Things change. Lives change. Needs change.
Step 2. Exclude Anything Generic
A brand is most successful when it actually excludes the people, places and ideas that it does not serve well. I know this is scary for some people, but it’s such a necessary part of the process. Don’t be afraid that you won’t “get the work” of more people, that’s never the case. Specializing actually makes you a more favorable brand. The mistake most businesses make is that they describe themselves too broadly.
Step 3. Express an Authentic and Genuine Message
The essentials such as core brand values, character, tone of voice and visual identity are paramount to getting the right people to connect with you, but they have no power when it’s watered down or when you’re “just not feeling it”. When you can communicate your quirks and quality in a simple and transparent way, you become a magnet for others like you.
Step 4. Experiment by testing, tracking and transforming
With the use of polls, surveys and focus groups leading brand ideas are tested for desirability, price and performance. There are many tools that you can use to test and track the activities you invest in. Make sure you’re measuring the activities that matter most. One service we love is UserTesting.com – they actually have live users test your website for anything you want, like logical thought patterns for a specific outcome. It’s much better than having your “friends” test your site, and you get recorded results!
Step 5. Execute with speed and integrity
Have you ever had an idea, let it settle and then watched someone else reap enormous profits from it? I once came up with this idea called the “Happy Nappy” – a place where New Yorkers could go and take a good nap at any time of day. I didn’t have the funds, or the insight to act on it, and someone else came up with the same idea and made a mint! When it comes to profit success, speed is king. Getting your ideas out there doesn’t take as much time or expense as you may think. Getting it done and delivered is more important than getting it perfect right out the gate.
Step 6. Exceed their expectations
To really stand out from the competition, a brand must exceed customer expectations in unexpected ways. There are ways to do this with very little effort and the payoff is enormous! One example I often refer to is TD Bank. One of my favorite things about them (and why they’re so successful) is that they have live customer service or an automated system. No other bank offer such an immediate customer engagement and in doing so, TD stands out big time.
Step 7. Expand your profits by leveraging technology
The expansion plan is the roadmap to taking the brand beyond the next level by leveraging the ever changing resources we have through technology. If you take a look around other businesses in your industry it won’t be long before you recognize the opportunities to serve more people without getting into overwhelm. Your clients will thank you and your income will soar.
I hope this list gives you a comprehensive way to examine how to grow your brand this year. What other things have you done, or can you think of, in self-examination that could possibly help your business? Comment below…