How do you step outside of your comfort zone?

Do you love it, or hate it when people tell you “think outside of the box” or “step outside of your comfort zone”? It seems these are the most popular sayings nowadays. I personally prefer the older sayings, which are being lost by our youth. ‘You reap what you sow’ is a personal favorite, but when I said this to some middle schoolers, they looked at me with puzzled faces and asked ‘what’s reap and sow?’.

In a previous post, I pondered the saying ‘think outside of the box’. You must first contemplate what’s inside your ‘box’, who you are and what you want to do with your life. The same applies to ‘step outside of your comfort zone’. What defines your comfort zone and what will you accomplish by stepping outside of it? This simple saying can end up being very therapeutic, as it forces you to reflect on who you are and what you want to do with your life.

If you’re like me, and have started off on an adventure into being your own boss, you’ve already stepped outside of your comfort zone. Being an entrepreneur and an employee are at opposite sides of the spectrum, in my opinion.

Here’s where I started in determining my ‘zones’: Continue reading

How’s Your Follow Through?

I have a couple of missed posts to catch up on, so this one goes along with my post earlier “Your Attention Please”. How’s your follow through? What do you do with all of those business cards you collect at networking mixers and meetings? When someone says, “let me have your card”, do you just give them one of your cards, or do you also ask for their info in case they don’t call. We all have a dumping ground when we get home, the kitchen table, our desk, the bedroom dresser. We all have piles of good intentions, right? I do. I just finally stopped shuffling around a brochure for yoga classes that I’ve had for a couple of weeks and picked up the phone to call. Why is that so hard?

I’ve run into numerous realtors at networking meetings. Everyone in real estate will tell you that business is rough, because of the current economic conditions. But I have asked at least 4 or 5 realtors to help me find a place for my mom to move into. Either purchase or rent. Not one has followed up with me. Curious if business is so far and few between. So why is this, I wonder. They are waiting for me to call them? There are plenty of realtors out there – if I had a hot lead I would make it a point to make contact and see what I could do to help!

The theme of my Business Brainstormers networking meeting this week is “What to do with all of those business cards?” Surely there is some value in them, otherwise why do we collect them? Think of each business card as a potential contact, client or advocate for your business. This is the objective of networking – getting to know people and establishing a relationship, so they feel comfortable referring you to folks they run into who are looking for someone in your field. So why do those contacts end when the networking meeting is over? How much of your time would it take to follow-up? Here are some ideas I’m presenting at my networking group: Continue reading

Your Attention Please!

I was reading a blog post this morning, passed along and shared by a contact I’m ‘friends’ with, even though I have no idea who she is. Now I’m passing that blog link on to you, so it proves that Twitter and Facebook really do accomplish what we entrepreneurs are looking for when using it, more exposure. As I sat here at 7:15 in the morning, watching a 24/7 cable news program, I began to think about how difficult it is to get people’s attention in our current world. Everyone is on overload – the TV never signs off anymore. Do you remember the days when the local channels played the Star Spangled Banner and signed off at midnight? Seems so long ago doesn’t it. Cable TV, cell phones, the internet, MP3 players and podcasts, meetings, networking. No wonder we’re such distracted human beings. I fear for our children.

http://networkedblogs.com/9PhdU Facebook can help you get party booking by Jennifer Fong.  So now I realize there is hope in being found on the internet!   Before I saw this post shared on Facebook I had no idea who Jennifer Fong was, and in all likelihood, I may never have discovered her.  I think we all come into this somewhat naiive, thinking that if we put up a website, have a few business cards made, some brochures, and slap a magnet on our cars that people will hunt us down and plead with us to do business with them.  Very soon we find this is not the case.  Where do we go from there?  Many people give up or switch to another ‘franchise’ type business – there are plenty of them out there – Avon, Scentsy, Prepaid Legal, MaryKay and the list goes on and on.  Is the next company going to help you succeed any easier – no, because your personal success lays solely in your lap.  My parents were in Amway for years and years and I remember seeing the sadness on their faces when someone ‘below’ them that they had recruited, bypassed them and achieved higher ranking and success than they did.  But they kept plugging along.  I helped too – I went door-to-door when in high school, selling Amway products because we believed in them.   
 
 
 

What makes you stand out from the crowd?  Continue reading

The Truth Hurts – Don’t It?

July came and in my first 6 months of ‘going it alone’ and I had not gained one customer. I had done some networking, tried a disastrous postcard mailing because I tried to compile the addresses on my own, and was feeling very frustrated. I learned that my neighbor across the street was a small business consultant/tax person, so I booked an appointment with her to discuss my business ideas. Well, she blew me out of the water, and I came back across the street with a lot of contemplating to do. It was good though, because what resulted was the formation of my 3rd company – Helper B LLC. It is now my main, and only focus in what I’m trying to develop. She asked me what I could do for her if she didn’t want me to do grocery shopping or sewing for her. What if she wanted me to organize her recipes for her instead? I had been thinking of a way to incorporate my many years of office work and support into my repertoire of offerings. She came up with the idea of a gopher type name, but that was being used everywhere. So I thought of other things – catch phrases that people used when they were wishing for a helper or assistance. So I thought of a helper bee. This name was also being used, so I shortened it to make it nice and easy for people to remember (hopefully!).

I still left my other sites up, since they were already there and gave me additional exposure on the web, and went to work on the Helper B LLC. Some days I feel that I’ve thrown too much into this concept though. I went from a very narrow focus to wide focus – lots of things to remember that I can do for you. One gal that I’ve been networking with for a little while, on a weekly basis, looked at me one day and said “oh, you sew!”. I then realized that my 15 second commercial wasn’t very memorable! So I’m still in a state of ‘evolving’ as far as my business goes, but I think this is a natural thing. All businesses are constantly re-evaluating what they offer, how to better present it, and what products and services are being well received. Am I a business now? I’m not sure, but I’m trying hard! Be prepared to make the following steps and evaluations – it’s not a quick and easy process to become a ‘business’:

  • Do your homework and see what similar folks are offering for services and how they are selling them. 
  • Are you willing to make a commitment to this idea and follow through the challenges? 
  • Are you willing to educate yourself and put a lot of time into your business ideas?
  • Seek out supportive people and surround yourself with them.  Ignore the rest of the noise.
  • Build yourself a strong foundation for your business – have a thorough thought process.  You will win the race by going slow and steady in my opinion. 
  • BE PATIENT – Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Congratulations – you’re an entrepreneur!  How can we support each other?  Until tomorrow – I’ve almost made it to the end of the challenge.  What will I do then?  Hummm….

Too Many Things!?

Is it possible to do too many things? To embrace too many ideas? To try to do too much at one time? Absolutely! Is it always a bad thing to have many ideas rattling around in your head? Definitely not! But don’t try to be a ‘juggler’. Have you ever been to a networking meeting and someone stands up to do their ‘commercial’ and they quickly rattle off 2 or 3 companies that they are working on? It makes you wonder just how hard they are working on all of them, doesn’t it? If something doesn’t work out the way we envisioned, then we tend to jump on another bandwagon, don’t we?

Am I guilty of this? Why yes I am. I started the grocery shopping business the end of March and when we went off to Wisconsin in June, I still hadn’t had my first customer. I was wondering about the benefits of networking – was it really worth my time? Should I be out pounding the pavement? Should I spend big bucks on advertising? I didn’t have a product – just the service I was offering. I felt frustrated and lost and questioned whether I was heading in the right direction.

While in Wisconsin, off of Lake Superior, I had another idea pop into my head. I contemplated what other skills I possessed, and I know how to sew. I don’t always particularly enjoy sewing – I have to be in the mood – but it was a skill I could put to use to bring home some bacon! Everyone says that you should be doing something that you enjoy – that you are passionate about, since you’re working for yourself, but I think we have to use our available skills to make some money. We’re not always going to like what we’re doing – life’s not that easy is it?

I had sewn a cover for my pool table, to protect it from the kitty hair and the kitty babies laying on the felt. I used fashion fabric and liked the way it turned out. It took it from being a piece of furniture that overcomes the room, into a blended piece of furniture. I did my homework and found no nice looking, fashionable pool table covers being offered online. Bingo! Now I have a product – that will be easier to market right? Not necessarily. So I developed my 2nd company – Custom Home Covers – offering pool table covers, curtains, bar stool recovering. Practical, yet fashionable items for your home to protect your investments. So I then became one of those folks who stood up at networking and named more than one company. I now realize that it was just a distraction. So consider these things when you’re tempted to jump from one idea or opportunity to another.

  • Keep your focus on what you are passionate about. 
  • Don’t jump from company to company – people will not believe in your steadfastness and will not be prone to refer people to you.
  • If marketing one product is difficult, marketing another won’t be any easier.
  • Remember the old saying – slow and steady wins the race.  Hang in there – business will come your way when you prove that you are here to stay.

So how did I resolve my dilemma of two separate companies?  Tune in tomorrow.  Thanks for reading…Cindy

Ideas and Decisions – Oh My!

I bet you can’t guess what time it is?? 9:22 pm but I had to get my writing done – last night I went to bed before I got my blogging done and woke up in the middle of the night. “Oh no” I thought, “I forgot to do my blog”. Did the sun come up this morning – absolutely. My one friend who has been dedicated and reading my blog posts (bless her!) called me this morning and asked where her reading material was. Oops!

So my first idea came to me after I got a new car with navigation and GPS on it. My mother is in her 80’s and tells me how difficult it is for her to get to the grocery store. So I came up with the idea of a grocery shopping service. I thought that I could launch the new business in her senior complex, and that it would be an easy sell because they would know I was her daughter. Not an unknown stranger. So I put up my website, ordered my business cards, made some flyers and off I went. I was naive – I thought the old theory of “build it and they will come” was going to apply to my brilliant new idea. I did my research – there wasn’t anyone else on the web in the area offering this kind of service. So it was going to be a piece of cake to get customers right? NOT! But I think most of us who decide to ‘go it alone’ and stop being employees, don’t have any idea of what we are facing. I never knew this alternate universe existed – social media, twitter, Facebook, meetup.com, networking meetings and mixers, and information overload!

Well, the only person I have shopped for, so far, is my Mom. It seems that the older folks who I thought would be hankering for my service, don’t really want to give up that chore. I don’t know if it’s an independence thing, or they’re just really picky about their bananas like my mom! I thought it was a great idea myself, and still have my groceryshopping4you.com going on, but it’s not my main focus anymore. I’ll tell you about idea #2 tomorrow so stay tuned. Until then…Cindy

What do you want to be when you grow up?

After quitting my job of 4 1/2 years working at the church and bouncing around between some terrible jobs, I became aware that I had a potentially life altering medical condition. It is the same thing that took my father’s life a few years ago – my cardiologist (who no longer is) had some tests done a couple of years back, this came to that and I was feeling better so I didn’t go back to my follow-up appointment. Two years later I went in again and asked about those tests. He started to read me the report and mentioned the words ‘aortic aneurysm’. I stopped him and said ‘you’re talking about my father right?’ He said ‘no, you have an aneurysm’ and  proceeded to nonchalantly read the rest of the report. I was stunned, then angry. I questioned why he never called me back in and he gave some excuses and told me all we could do now was move forward. Needless to say, I reported him to the Arizona Medical Board for not following up on those tests with me. I went to Mayo Clinic and had testing done again, and it had not grown, but I found out that if it grows another .5 cm, I will be recommended for heart surgery to fix it. No stints will work because of the location. My father had the same problem, but due to his age and health, they could just watch it grow and eventually burst.

I must admit that it took me a few months to grapple with the fact of knowing that I had this condition. I did quite a bit of crying and spending time in solitude. If I can just get my children grown up, out of school and on their path to adulthood, I will be happy. Other than that, I’m trying to live day by day. But then ideas started popping into my head. I like to give credit for my inspirations to God – I do believe that he gave them to me to give me a reason to get back to living.

My first idea was an indoor dog/people exercise park, per se. A fenced off area for dogs to be off leash and a track going around to allow for dogs and owners to exercise. A nominal fee to come in and enjoy exercising your dog without enduring the hot or cold temperatures outside. I could not make this idea go, as it would necessitate capital to start it up. Then I got a new car with navigation – fun toy! So I thought about doing grocery shopping for those who have mobility issues or are too busy. I developed a website for groceryshopping4you and dove into the world of networking, website design, twitter, facebook, blogging (does your head hurt yet?). Who knew this alternate universe existed – I had always been an employee, but I was now tired of poor training and decided to work for myself. I’ll tell you more about how my first idea went tomorrow, because as usual, it’s after 9:00 and my eyes are getting heavy. Until tomorrow…Cindy

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