Category: Personal Experiences

Small Talks: Mistakes to Learn From

This past Thursday I was invited to be on a panel with Craig Hyde, President and Co-Founder of Rigor to discuss our journey and stumbles as entrepreneurs. The panel was the first of the Small Talks being sponsored by Turnstone. It was a great conversation, and although Craig and I are different in many ways, it seemed we both had very similar advice to offer.

Our host, Jon Eggleton provided us with a list of questions to be ready to answer. Going through this preparation was a great way for me to reflect on my journey as an entrepreneur.

Below are the questions and my answers.

What Motivated You to Become An Entrepreneur?

Many times in my life I recognized trends and opportunities and came up with what I thought were good business ideas. I would always try to convince someone else to run with the idea and was always let down. When I saw what was going in social media, back in 2005 and the opportunity to help businesses take advantage of the opportunities that were going to open up, once again I tried to convince the company I was working for to run with my ideas, and once again I was let down. I basically snapped and decided I could not let this one pass me by. I left a steady paycheck and made the decision to own my ideas.

The lesson I learned is you have to take ownership of your ideas. They came to you for a reason.

What Was Your Biggest Fear Before Before Starting Your Business?

That I had totally lost my mind. Seriously my family depends on me bringing home a paycheck, and now my income depended on me selling an idea that I had not yet completely developed and that was completely foreign to the business world. But within a couple of weeks, some very senior people in the city were inviting me to lunch and providing me with their very valuable consultation. In a couple of months, I had clients who were helping me to develop my offerings and processes. Within 6 months I had a team of people supporting me on projects and within 16 months I was the co-founder of a pretty impressive conference.

The lesson I learned is crazy people attract other crazy people, and together we can make some crazy things happen.

If You Could Go Back and Do One Thing Differently, What Would it Be?

Get a good accountant from the start. When you are launching a new business idea your time is consumed with figuring out your offerings, marketing, selling, managing the process, bringing together a team of people. Accounting is the last thing you have time to think about and before you know it you have a mess to deal with.

The lesson I learned is that other people are readily available to help with those pesky business operation stuff and well worth the money (which does not have to be much).

What Would You Describe As Your Biggest “Failure” Along The Way of Becoming an Entrepreneur?

Taking on projects that were not the right fit because I needed the money. Sometimes the client’s expectations were not in alignment with what could be delivered and sometimes it was not a personality fit, but I tried to make it happen anyway. Every time I tried to be a trooper and earn that paycheck I found myself hating what I did and having the soul sucked out of me. Fortunately, there was usually another client in my life reminding me why I love what I do.

The lesson I learned is to turn down work that is going to suck the soul out of you. If you need money, get on the phone and find the next right client.

Was There Ever a Moment In Which You Felt You “Made It” or Are you Still Driven By Fear of Failure?

What is “it?” I have not made so much money that I can stop working. I still have to work to pay my bills each month. But I do make enough income and I am doing what I love to do and I have the ability to run with other business ideas.

There was a time I was running toward some goal of a big agency and big clients and lots of money, but then I realized that I did not want to do the things I was required to do to get there. So I had to redefine what success meant to me.

The lesson learned is to define what success means to you, not some external definition of success.

The focus of this Small Talk was on failure and that got me to thinking about how I define failure. Is it hitting an obstacle? Is it making a mistake? Is it quitting?

No, no, and no.

If I was trying to get from point A to point B and there was a roadblock I had to go around, I did not fail. If I made a wrong turn and had to find a way to correct my path, I did not fail. If on my way to point B I decided I don’t really want to go to point B after all and I gave up on the journey, I did not fail.

I guess failure, to me, is if you want to get to point B but give up because it’s too hard and full of frustrating experiences, but you still want to get there, you just give up. That is failure.

One of the questions was Do you Think Failure is Required to Be a Successful Entrepreneur. If I consider how I just defined failure, the answer would have to be no.

To Care Means to Kick Ass

I am browsing around Pinterest and came across the above image. The text suggests to me that we should not let our “monkey mind” feed us our self-doubts and we should not be too harsh on ourselves. But the image is a reminder that actually sometimes we need to kick our own asses. We need to tell ourselves we can be better, do better, act better. We need to tell ourselves that we are letting ourselves down and we need to pick up the pace. We need to say “stop feeling sorry for yourself” and  “If you want it go get it.” When we don’t have that great friend or nemesis around to motivate us into action with the words we don’t want to hear but need to hear, then we need to be able to tell those words to ourselves.

Being good to yourself does not always mean being kind to yourself.

Saying Goodbye to 2012

The Christmas decorations have come down and been packed away. In a few moments, I will go out to buy the wood for our annual burning bowl ceremony where we will release all that no longer serves us or that we do not need to bring into the new year. I will also buy fireworks and champagne to welcome in 2013.

For now, I sit in this space between the two years and reflect. The past year has been a transitional year for me. My youngest graduated from elementary school and moved on to middle school. He continues to grow as an amazing performing musician. My oldest is in his last year of high school and we are preparing for the life that is ahead of him. He has many creative talents and so many opportunities lie ahead of him. My husband has renewed his life as a performing musician along with continuing to work on some incredible projects at his job.

My work has been both profitable and satisfying in 2012 and after 7 years with Concept Hub I am starting to feel settled into what that company means to me. It is no longer an extension of me, it has become more of a good job I have. A really good job that is separate from my life. Concept Hub finally has a life of its own and I am just an employee.

This has provided me the opportunity to explore some new business ideas within the startup and music communities. I have also begun to build processes to offer personal business coaching. And I am finding more things I want to write about. All of this has led me to want to get more involved in being part of various communities, both online and offline. I have not been as active in the community as I once was and I truly miss that.

When I reflect on 2012, it has been a year where I have been in the background, in the supporting role for my family, friends and my clients. It is time to say goodbye to 2012 and although I will always be in a supportive role for my family, friends, and my clients, I do believe 2013 will be my time to step into the spotlight again.

Cheers!

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Trees Atlanta Wins The Change Challenge!

originally posted on Concept Hub

Last summer as I was watching The Voice an idea hit me. What if we put teams of people together to compete on developing and implementing a social media strategy. After a few months of bouncing the idea around, I teamed up with Jake Aull and Terry Coniglio and The Change Challenge was born.

The Change Challenge was made up of 4 teams of 4 volunteers that supported  4 different sponsoring nonprofits. Led by myself, Terry, and Jake the teams received hands-on training on developing a social media strategy and integrating social media into business processes. Ultimately The Change Challenge was a competition where each team was judged based on Creative Problem Solving, Goals Met, and a Sustainable Implementation.

A couple of weeks ago The 2011-2012 Change Challenge volunteers celebrated their incredible journey with an awards breakfast.

A special thanks to our judges:

  • Dr. Naveen Donthu, Department of Marketing Chair, GA State University
  • Jeannie Ericson, Executive Director, Integrated Media Association
  • Cindy Cheatham, VP Consulting Services, GA Center for Nonprofits

Volunteers from The Change Challenge had the opportunity to present at SoCon12 and will be presenting at the CXO Forum and the GCN Summit.

Congratulations to the Trees Atlanta team for winning The 2011-2012 Change Challenge. 

Comments from the judges:

  • “Goals were well defined and met.”
  • “Their focus on a content calendar was key to creating a sustainable implementation.”
  • “Everything they did seems very creative but logical and well thought-out”
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The Change Challenge Trees Atlanta Team

Trees Atlanta team included: Abby Schwimmer, Kent Jones, Sara Cheshire, Elyse Klova, and their nonprofit sponsor Bethany Clark

 

“I applaud the team for persevering through all their challenges. Their flexibility and creativity kept the idea alive.” Judges comments related to the Atlanta Mission Team. 

“A lot of good came from the project in terms of understanding what kind of effort must go into a real social media campaign.” Judges comments related to the Adaptive Learning Team

 

“Really thought through where you want to go and the opportunities to expand” Judges comments related to the Emory Center for Injury Control Team.

This was an incredible experience and I sincerely appreciate and am still in awe of the dedication and hard work from everyone that was involved.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

The Spirit of Steve Jobs

Last night I sat on my couch with my Mac on my lap while the news flashed images on the T.V. in front of me. I was reading some random blog post when I looked up and saw the words “Steve Jobs has died.”

In a brief second, the air seemed to have been sucked out of the room.

I turned my attention to my online networks. On Facebook, Twitter, and Google + we shared videos, stories, inspirational quotes.

After hours of watching and reading tributes, I went upstairs to my room. There was my husband watching a documentary on his iPad. He set his alarm to wake us up with the music from his iPod that was connected to it.

It is astonishing how much he accomplished in his lifetime.

It is astonishing how much he accomplished in a short lifetime of only 56 years.

It is astonishing how much he accomplished in the past 7 years…the same 7 years he was battling cancer.

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As we all pay our tributes, we recognize that his greatness came from his passion, his curiosity, his creativity, his demand for perfection. But he was able to accomplish his desire to “put a ding in the Universe” because of his fearlessness.

Thank you, Steve Jobs.

Challenging Creatures of Habit

originally posted on Concept Hub

We are at an interesting point in history right now.

Throughout the ages, there have been many times where people had a right to say that it was the most interesting time to be alive. We can look at just the past 100 years and see how much has changed in our quality of lives, role expectations, and deeper understanding, awareness,  and acceptance of people that have different world views than ourselves.

Throughout the ages, what has always accelerated these evolutionary changes have been innovations that connect people from around the world. Changes that enable ongoing communication through various channels that are able to reach various people.

Each innovation has been more awe-inspiring and earth moving than the past. From the ability to travel across vast distances of land to the ability to cross the oceans, to the ability to communicate in real time around the world and the ability to broadcast to the world.

But, we are at an interesting point in history right now.

At no point in history have we been able to develop and distribute new technologies as fast and easy as we do today. At no point in history have we had so many different communication channels to choose from. At no point in history have we been so challenged by the ease to communicate and the dispersion of the relevant conversations.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in a room with a gentleman older than me and a woman younger than me. The gentleman held onto his blackberry constantly. He would be your typical audience for mobile communications. I still have a phone that looks like a child’s toy, I have not yet gone mobile. The woman younger than me was trying to grasp the ideas of social media. She wanted to be able to receive all updates in her email. With the exception of direct communication, all other emails I receive are often ignored. In this room with three people, there were three dominant modes of communication. I am best reached through social media channels such as articles posted by friends and links I find in Wikipedia or in Delicious and reviews I read. The older gentleman is best reached through mobile alerts he has subscribed to and the younger woman is still best reached through email and even print mail.

This is the new challenge we face as communicators. We can no longer look at demographics such as age, gender, race, or income to decide how to best structure our communication channels. We need to focus on communicating through the various communication channels to reach the most relevant audience based on behavior.

This past week I was in a room with a well-known radio personality. He was discussing the challenges faced by the media industry today and had some very valid points that the cause of the current problems was tied to the big corporations controlling all the stations. He pointed out that this massive control did not empower stations to be tailored to their community. At the same time, when asked about people turning toward more tailored content on the web through social media channels, he seemed to not feel that social media was a threat to radio.

A couple of days prior to that meeting I heard some advice from a very intelligent and successful man who suggested that to assume people are stupid just because they do not see things the way you see them is like putting a nail in your own coffin. I retorted that it is not about thinking they are stupid, it is about getting them out of their comfort zones. This gentleman’s comfort zone, in fact, his entire life, revolved around the radio. His lack of experience with social media did not make him stupid, nor did it make him irrelevant, it just confined him to one communication channel that had a limited reach.

Currently, I am reading groundswell. It is a good book, one I would recommend. Howe, er there is one section that I am at variance with, which is their social technographics profile. In the past three years that I have been in business, I have seen people go from asking what a blog is to being an expert in social media. I have recently connected with a 70-year-old relative on Facebook. In a recent Market Intelligence Report, I developed about the blogosphere in GA, I have noticed a tremendous shift in the quantity, quality, and topics of blogs being maintained.

We are at an interesting point in history right now.

People are no longer easily categorized by their age, gender, race, or income, but by their habits. We are all creatures of habits. Some people have habits of staying in their comfort zones, others have habits of embracing the latest trend and technology.

Every organization is trying to learn how to get a handle on the most effective communications for this new day and age.

In the past, we turned to the experts on demographic statistics and trends. These statistics and trends were the basis of the road maps that led us to reach our target audience. As creatures of habits, we expect these “demographic” roadmaps to lead us to our destination. But who uses road maps anymore? In fact, road maps may lead you wrong in a world where the roads are always changing.

We are at an interesting point in history right now.

We can no longer use the same insights of demographics to create the right road maps. Today we have to have perspectives that are open enough to recognize the opportunities in a rapidly changing world and a strategy that is agile enough to respond to these ongoing changes.

The Technology that Keeps Us Connected

originally posted in Concept Hub

Last year I had the opportunity to be a “career mom” at my son’s school and to speak to 2nd graders about my career.

I struggle explaining what it is I do to adults, how could I explain it to children, and what key point did I want to leave them with?

I brought with me a single envelope. I explained to the children that when I was their age I was taught that if I wanted to express myself to a person within an organization I had to write a letter, put it in an envelop and mail it to them. I would not know if that person received the letter or what resulted from my communication.

When I became an adult the world had moved to email as a prominent form of communication. As I explained email I asked the children to pass the envelope around. Once the envelope had gone halfway through the room I told them to stop passing it around.

Next, I wrote a message on the whiteboard. I asked the children to raise their hands if they touched the envelope, and half the class raised their hands. Then I asked them to raise their hands if they were still holding the envelope, only one child raised their hand. Then I asked who saw me write the message on the whiteboard. Every child raised their hand. Then I asked who still saw the message on the whiteboard. Again, every child raised their hand. I explained that was the power of communications today. Email can be distributed to many but is contained within a siloed channel and is often deleted.  Today communications can be broadcasted to the world and lives on the web. The key point I left them with that the careers they were learning about today may not exist when they are grown up and the careers they end up choosing most likely do not even exist yet. What kids need to learn in school is how to continuously learn.

When email was introduced it was a powerful communications channel that was also considered a disruptive technology. How disruptive was email and the Internet? Consider that ClueTrain Manifesto was written long before we reached the power of social media, and it states:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Each day new technologies are being introduced to the market that are changing the landscape of the conversation. With the rapid introduction of these new technologies that are supposed to make us all more connected we are actually finding that we are still facing the same challenges that we faced when we mailed letters or even when we sent emails. Siloed channels.

If I choose to participate on Twitter I am ignoring the community on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. Our communication channels seem to be more siloed because we simply can not be everywhere all the time and our friends, family, peers, and co-workers may be in a different community than where we are.

However, as I mentioned, every day we are being introduced to new technologies by Entrepreneurs who like to solve problems.

Lately, I have been using Ping.fm “a simple service that makes updating your social networks a snap.”

When I update my “status” my latest update is sent to my Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter community with one click. When/If someone responds I am alerted. This leverages the power of syndication and aggregation to organize the web.

Each community has its own purpose and it’s own culture. However, sometimes our own minds and assumptions are the culprit of creating siloed communities more than the technology. Last week I submitted an update that I had just made the best Cappuccino, a meaningless update I agree, but I was proud of that cappuccino and felt I wanted to express that pride. Such an expression is common on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace, however, I received 5 times more responses to that update from LinkedIn than any other community. Communities change, cultures adapt, and we need to keep our finger on the pulse to stay relevant and interesting.

In my lifetime (which is still fairly young) I have seen a shift from one way and one to many, to two-way and many to many, to what we are already starting to see which is communicating to multiple communities and community to community communications.