• How to Get Your Business Unstuck for 2015

    Overworked businessman holding two telephones

    Ah, the holiday lull. That time in your business when it seems like either your clients are crazy, brain dead, or both. You can’t get them to focus much because they’re busy wrapping up their year end, and they may be dumping a lot on you—or ignoring you altogether.

    If they’re dumping work on you, that’s good for business, sure, but that doesn’t mean the clients themselves are very helpful. They don’t have time for planning or strategy because their business is crazy this time of year, and so are their lives. Everyone has end-of-year challenges and holiday stress.

    If your clients have gone silent now, that’s a different problem. Maybe it’s not their year end, maybe they’re just holiday-ing. Or maybe they’re so stressed they just can’t get things off of their plates and onto yours. They could be stuck and stressed just like the rest of us. Or they could be closing down for weeks at a time because of the holidays, and you just can’t get ahold of them. Grrr.

    This is a great time to take advantage of your clients’ lack of communication, and work on your own business. Just because your clients are crazy and brain dead doesn’t mean you have to be.

    It’s time for my Holiday Coaching Spree!

    Every year for the past five years, I’ve offered special Holiday packages on my coaching. This is the only time of year that I devote myself so thoroughly to getting into the trenches with you by doing no- and low-cost coaching.

    Check out my Holiday Coaching Spree here.

    I only do this once a year

    During the month of December, I open up my time to do these three things:

    1. Free Instant Insight Coaching sessions to people on my list—as many as I can fit in.

    2. Low-cost Holiday Coaching to up to 8 people, as my holiday gift to you. This special 4-session package is only offered at this time of year, and only for a limited time, and there are only 8 spots available—at a ridiculously low investment.

    3. A 50% discount on my full-day, in-person VIP Intensives—that means you save half when you register for a private, full-day VIP Intensive. But only for a limited time, and only to 6 people. (Pssst. These great deals would be a wonderful gift—for you! Let someone you care about know you’d like one of them.)

    The Holiday Coaching Spree lasts until December 8

    Here’s the fun part: Purchase your Holiday Coaching or VIP Intensive  before December 8, 2014, and use the sessions any time between now and the end of February 2015! You’ll have to hurry, though, because there are limited spots. And the Holiday Spree pricing ends December 8.

    Check out the Holiday Coaching Spree here.

    This is the best time to get unstuck and get momentum going in your business for 2015. Let’s put our heads together, okay?

    Wishing you only the best ideas and the best deals this holiday season,


  • How Time Tracking Can Make You More Profitable

    stopwatch closeup   If you’re wondering why you’re not making as much money as you’d like, it could be the way you’re tracking your time. Or, like so many creative business owners, it could be that you’re not tracking your time. If I asked you how you spend your work time, could you tell me? Maybe you don’t think it’s really that important, as long as you meet your deadlines. But it is, if you want to make more money. I’m not talking about just tracking the time you spend on client projects—I’m assuming you do that, right? Even if you don’t bill by the hour (hopefully you give clients a project price and not a cost per hour), you still need to track that time so you can tell if you’re estimating accurately and making good money on your jobs. I’d like to also know how much of your time is spent on marketing and admin—the non-billable stuff. Can you tell me that, too?

    I’ll bet you can’t tell me how you spend your time

    I’m thinking there’s a good chance you can’t, and I’ll bet you have all sorts of excuses why it’s too hard to track it, too. “I do so many different things, it would be impossible to write it all down.” “That’s so ‘corporate.’ I didn’t start my own business to be a time Nazi.” “I need to work when I feel creative, not to a schedule. Inspiration happens when it happens.” “I don’t want my people spending their day tracking their time, I want to pay them to work.” I hear you, I hear you. But I invite you to try a little test, and see if you don’t agree with me that: Productivity = profitability And when you own a service business, your time is your greatest productivity tool.

    Try this test

    For at least two weeks, or a month if you can do it, keep track of everything you do during your work day—and I mean everything. You’ll need to do at least two weeks because your day fluctuates so much, you need a good span of time to let things even out and get a good overview. Your tracking doesn’t have to be pretty or organized, you can just carry a little spiral pad around, and every time you change functions, write down the time and what you’re doing. It might look like this:
    • 8:30 am coffee
    • 8:45 am organize day
    • 9:00 am phone calls to clients
    • 10:15 am run to post office
    • 10:45 am write new website copy
    • 12:15 pm lunch
    • etc.
    Later, when the time tracking bug sticks with you, you can track it digitally—there are lots of programs to make it easy for you. (I tracked my time, and everyone who worked for me tracked their time, for the entire 25 years I owned my business, in quarter hour increments. Every day, day in and day out. I know most people don’t do this because I talk to you, but it gave us amazing controls and insight into managing the business.) When you think you’ve gathered enough info (at least two weeks of normal work days), go back and look it over. Highlight the time you’re spending on income-producing activities—things you can either bill for or sell. Then go through it again and highlight the time you’re spending on bringing in income-producing work—marketing your company or prospecting for new clients—this time in another color. You can pretty much assume the rest of the time is non-income producing time, like billing, filing, internal planning, and wasting time. But I still want you to track it! One more thing: Don’t guess, don’t fudge, and don’t wait for the end of the week, thinking you’ll remember what you did a few days ago. Track your time as closely as you can, as you go, and be truthful—or you’ll be wasting your time on this exercise.

    How do you stack up?

    Take the total amount of time you’ve tracked and figure your scores for:
    • 1. % of time spent on income-producing activities (billable work)[% = # of billable hours divided by # of total hours]
    • 2. % of time spent on generating income-producing activities (marketing, networking, proposals)[% = # of marketing hours divided by # of total hours]
    • 3. % of time spent on non income-producing activities (billing, filing, organizing, planning for your business)[% = # of admin hours divided by # of total hours]
    • These 3 should total 100% of your working time
    Income-producing time: Obviously, you want your income-producing time to be the highest number. This time is the only time that makes you money. When this number starts to lag, your tracking will spot it right away so you can do something about it. Later, when you get good at this, you can break this category down into sub-categories like content creation, design, copywriting, web programming, client meetings, project management, etc., for even greater insights. But for now, just tracking the big category will be enough.    
    Generating income-producing time: If your income-producing time, above, is down, it could mean this category of generating income-producing time is down as well, and you haven’t been marketing or writing enough proposals or out networking, or doing whatever works best for you to bring in billable work. Putting in more hours here will help to boost the hours in the income-producing category.    
    Non income-producing time: Most business owners are appalled by the amount of time they spend doing non-income producing activities. This is the category you want to reduce as much as possible. Yes, you have to bill, and yes, you have to plan, but if you take a close look at this test tracking you’re doing (and you’re really honest), there’s stuff on here that can go. Right away, cut as much as you can from this category out of your day. Try to get through your email as quickly as possible or only check it two times per day. The long lunches, the haircuts—do that stuff on Saturday. Standing in line at the post office? Filing? Really, someone else should be doing that stuff.

    Spend your time on “doing” and “generating” billable work

    As the owner, your time should be split between doing income-producing activities and generating income-producing activities, depending on the size and type of your business. Hire a high school kid or intern to stand in line at the post office or do your filing—you can pay them 1/10 of what you can be making during that same hour, now that you have that off your plate. Are you still doing your own bookkeeping? A bookkeeper can do it in half the time you can (maybe less) for a lot less than you charge per hour. But here’s the catch: don’t just hire people to get things off your plate if you’re not going to use that time to do billable work. Get rid of the useless stuff first, before you pay anyone. I’m not going to give you percentages to aim for in the three categories, because I don’t know you or your business (but we can do a no-cost Instant Insight session, if you like). I’m just saying you need to take a look at what you’re spending your time on. And if you want more income, you need to spend more of your time on activities that will produce it, and less of your time on activities that won’t.
  • How to Let Go

    Screen shot 2014-08-14 at 10.46.33 PM
    Ahhh . . . letting go. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But, chances are, you can’t do it.
    When you run a business, your name is on the door. You are responsible. Things have to get done right, and that means you have to do everything—correct? Even if it means staying up all night four nights in a row. Even if it means missing every family function. Even if it means driving your spouse crazy because he never sees you and you feel guilty about the time you spend (or don’t) with the kids. You can’t let go. You know something’s not quite right with this. But you also know what I’m talking about, because you do it, don’t you? It’s hard to let go. In the beginning of your business, this sounded exciting. Whatever it takes, right? I’m an entrepreneur! I’m running my own show, I get to decide! And it WAS exciting, damn it. But after a few months—or a few years—you can wear yourself out. You can burn yourself out. And pretty soon, it doesn’t feel so exciting anymore. It feels difficult and draining, and you know something’s going to burst at the seams pretty soon, and you sure hope it’s not you. Maybe you’ve tried delegating. Maybe to contractors, freelancers, or maybe to staff—maybe you have many amazing people you can hand things off to. But whether you work by yourself or have a whole slew of employees, it still comes back to the same thing—no one is in your brain.

    No one is in your brain

    No one can do what you do. No one will be able to satisfy your clients, and your own demanding self, the way you can, so you still end up doing monumental parts of projects yourself, and tying yourself in knots along the way. There’s no time for planning or working “on” the business because you’re constantly working “in” the business, and whether you’re scraping nickels together or whether you’re wildly successful, the problem just keeps getting worse. Uh huh. You’re overwhelmed and overworked. You wish you could just let go, and that things would still miraculously get done in wondrous ways that clients love and you’d still make lots of money. You know, like you thought it would be when you started out. It’s possible. And it’s not as hard as you think. You just have to learn how to let go.

    You do have control over this. It’s all within your power.

    You probably don’t want to hear this, but most of this problem is with you, in the way you’re thinking. It’s not with other people, or with your clients. It’s not because no one is out there who can do things right, it’s not because you always have the wrong demanding clients. It’s because you have a stranglehold on your business, and it might be time to let things breathe a bit.

    You might be strangling the goose that lays the golden egg

    Ouch! Strangle—really, Marcia? That sounds a bit harsh. Let me tell you something a favorite old accountant used to tell me: Don’t strangle the goose that lays the golden egg. Your goose has to breathe. You need to nurture it. Let’s face it—you’re a bit compulsive, right? You wouldn’t be a business owner if you weren’t, so it’s okay to say yes. You want things done right, and you know if you do them, they will be. But you are only one person, and you can only do so much. And if you don’t want to die under the weight of your strangled goose (now there’s a picture), listen up.

    I learned the hard way

    Oh, yeah, I did. I tried to strangle my goose. When I started my graphic design firm 30 years ago, I couldn’t let go. My name was on the door, and even though we were growing quickly, I felt I had to have my stamp on everything. We started way before computers were used by small businesses, and every evening after the others had gone home, I’d go around to everyone’s drawing tables and redo their layouts. I’d stay late writing sticky notes and fiddling with their work, making it my own. You can imagine how that went over in the morning. I was strangling my staff. I was strangling their creativity and ideas. I was strangling the business potential and assistance they could offer. I’m sure they wondered why I even hired them. And at the same time I was spreading myself way too thin, strangling myself. I was strangling the goose that laid the golden egg. How did I learn to let go? It wasn’t pretty. I wish I could tell you I smartened up. Or that I saw the writing on the wall and made a plan. But hey, if you’ve been around here before, you know I learned by the School of Hard Knocks. I learned by doing, and by what I was doing wrong. And this was one of those times. It went something like this: we got really busy. Things started going out to clients without my stamp on them, by necessity. I was a nervous wreck, while my staff was elated—no Marcia fiddling!

    The huge blow to my ego = a huge boost to my business

    And guess what happened? Wonderful things! (Well, mostly wonderful things!) Benefit #1. The clients weren’t upset or disappointed and they didn’t feel shortchanged; in fact, they loved what they got. In all cases clients were happy, and in some cases, the feedback was fabulous—where had we been hiding this creativity? For certain projects, they liked this new work BETTER than what we had been giving them . . . which of course was the Marcia-fiddled work. OUCH! My ego took a huge hit, but . . . Benefit #2. the business took a huge upswing. Now we no longer had just the Marcia way of doing things, now we had the Linda way of doing things and the Debi way of doing things, and our opportunities expanded exponentially. This was a huge lesson for me. And a humbling one. But it shouldn’t have been. I knew I had hired fantastic designers, fantastic people persons. I should have been able to delegate and let go long before, instead of insisting things get done “right,” which was just another way of saying “my way.” Benefit #3. I got to go home earlier at night. No more late night fiddling rounds. Sure, I took peeks. Sure, I still made suggestions. But I learned that my way was not the only way, and it was a huge weight off of my shoulders. Benefit #4. I learned to appreciate other ways of approaching client problems and solutions. And the people who came up with them. This made me a better manager, boss, and sales person—because I could discuss our different problem-solving approaches as value to our clients. Benefit #5. I learned my true strengths. Let’s face it—I’m an adequate designer. I’m okay at following a project through and managing details. But some of the people on my team were fantastic designers, and dynamite at managing projects; they designed and managed rings around me, when I let go and let them do it. With these elements mostly off my plate (after I patched up my battered ego), I could focus on what I was really good at: Bringing in the work. Strategic planning with clients. Thinking big ideas. Making client presentations. Breaking complex client problems down into understandable, approachable ideas and applications. Guiding, marketing, and planning for the future. Installing workable, repeatable systems to make us more stable and efficient. Honing our specialties. I found the building of the business and supporting my team in what they did best to be the most creative work I could do. “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm When you let go, doors open, opportunities appear. Amazing things happen.

    So how exactly do you let go without scaring the hell out of yourself, or failing miserably?

    You may not have a team like I did. Or if you do, you may not have circumstances force your hand like I did. So how do you learn to let go in a way that won’t throw you into a tailspin and will stick in the long run? 1. You decide to. Deciding is half the battle. Is letting go something you want to do? Good. Get moving. 2. You change your mind about what’s “right.” You realize that someone else may not do it exactly like you do it, but that may really be okay, or even better. 3. You find great people to delegate to. Yes, you may have to kiss some frogs. I’ve made my own share of hiring and delegating mistakes, including the woman who lasted less than one day before I had to fire her—don’t get me started. 4. Once you find great people, you actually delegate to them! Not just the piddly stuff, but some good stuff, too. 5. You don’t try to dump everything all at once. Do it in baby steps. Try just one project. Or just one person. Don’t revamp your entire business model overnight and expect to be happy with it. 6. You give people a second chance. It may not work 100% the first time. You may only get 50% of what you want, and you may have to fine-tune it. Tell them what you’re thinking. Give them a chance to try it again. 7. You keep communication open. Find out what people are really good at, and let them know what you really need. Most employees, freelancers, and subcontractors really want to do a good job—but they can’t read your mind. 8. You let your ego take the hit. It’s okay. You’ll get over it. 9. You trust your clients. They’re not stupid, if you’ve picked the right ones. It’s okay if they like what someone else did (as long as that someone else is working for you). 10. You keep trying. If one thing doesn’t work, you try something else. You don’t give up and go back to doing everything by yourself again. You trudge on, experimenting with letting go. That’s what entrepreneurs do—we keep trying things. We don’t give up. 11. You relish the reward. Because you’ve let go, suddenly you have more time. Maybe it’s just a bit at first, but notice it, relish it, revel in it—and it will grow. Spend the extra time with your kid, go to the park, or clear the decks for planning and the work on your business you don’t ordinarily have time to do. And realize you wouldn’t have this opportunity if you didn’t let go. You did this—yay! Taking the time to recognize what you get out of it will encourage you to keep it up.

    And then there’s Richard Branson . . .

    I can’t find any evidence to support this as being true, but it’s said that Richard Branson gave this advice to a young entrepreneur who was proudly showing Branson the control he had over his business: “You’ll never be a billionaire, because you try to do too much yourself.”
    Photo: Camdiluv
  • Why ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ Doesn’t Work for Creative Business Owners (and How to Get the Real Confidence You Need So You Don’t Have to Fake It)

    Nervous woman
    In my experience, confidence is the most important attribute you can have in business. There is nothing more important than confidence, and I’m sure you have figured this out if you present to clients to win work. Clients watch you very carefully, and they view a lack of confidence as a lack of competence. I’m going to say that again because it’s really important: Clients view a lack of confidence as a lack of competence. Clients think you can’t do the job if you can’t stand in front of them and grab their attention with your passion, conviction, and firm belief in the work you do. Now I’m sure you’ve seen this to be true. You’ve been in situations where you’ve bid on a job against a slick account exec or someone who shows amazing confidence in their presentation style. And maybe you know that this person’s agency isn’t right for the project or their firm just can’t pull it off as well as you can. But just because this person shows a lot of presence and confidence and they wow the client, they get the work. (And then later on you find out they got fired or they couldn’t give the client what they needed—you knew all along you were a better fit for this client. They were ‘faking it’ but ‘making it’ didn’t work out so well.) But you didn’t show the confidence that this person/agency did, and you can’t really blame the client for choosing them. The client couldn’t tell you were the right firm for the job, because you didn’t show them. And this happens all the time.  And maybe you’ve tried this ‘faking it till you make it’ thing, like I did. And it made you feel so fakey and icky and salesy and inauthentic and awful, and it went against every creative bone in your body, so you’re not going to do that anymore, ever. So what can you do?

    The Dunning Kruger Effect

    There’s a psychological phenomenon that has to do with all of this. It’s called the Dunning Kruger effect. It’s a cognitive bias that was brought to my attention by a reader of one of my Copyblogger posts. The Dunning Kruger effect occurs when unskilled individuals, people who are not skilled and don’t know what they’re doing, suffer from an illusion of superiority and they mistakenly rate their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to the inability of this unskilled person to recognize their mistakes. But there’s a flipside to the Dunning Kruger effect and this is where we come in. This is where you come in. True competence may actually weaken self-confidence because competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding—in other words, you assume that what’s easy for you is also easy for others. It can lead to feeling like an imposter in your work, as well. The “who do you think you are” voice you sometimes hear, you know? The old imposter syndrome. This is wrong! It’s a misconception on your part.

    Knowing this can boost confidence tremendously.

    David Dunning and Justine Kruger at Cornell University are the people who put this all together and here’s what they have to say about it: “The miscalibration of the incompetent person stems from an error about themselves, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent person stems from an error about others.” So I’m talking about you, the creative business person, as being highly competent, and I’m saying you make an error when you’re thinking about other people (clients), and you assume that they can do what you can do, or at least that they can see what you can see, and that they can intuitively understand what you can intuitively understand. Guess what? Other people can’t do what we do. They don’t think like we think. I see this with you (my creative business owner clients) all the time. Because what you do comes easily and intuitively to you, you falsely assume that it comes easily to others as well and that they automatically see the genius in it, so you don’t have to point it out to them, and guess what? It doesn’t come easily to them and they don’t automatically see the genius in it, and you do have to point it out to them. When you show people your thought process and how you arrive at your conclusions, then it becomes fascinating to them. Light bulbs go off. They are amazed at how you think and how smart you are. But only if you show them, authentically and confidently, how excited and inspired you are about your solutions. And, there’s no faking this. Most clients will not see your true genius unless they first see your true confidence in yourself.

    But here’s the problem:

    Most of the time when you’re doing a project for a client, you get the information from them, and then you go back to your studio and you create in a vacuum, and they don’t see what you go through to find the solution. They don’t see your brilliant aha!s and your late night strokes of genius. Mostly, you just present the solution. But if they can see it through your eyes because they believe in you, it is fascinating to them—especially when the solution can really help their business—because most of the time they can’t see what you can see. And they can’t do what you do and they can’t think like you think and they need you to open these doors for them. It’s the same on the other end of the process—when attracting clients and presenting. When you show confidence, it also stretches you to prove your position and to find powerful ways to talk about it. You have more to talk about from a perspective of strength when you take the time to understand the strategy behind what you do so you can articulate it. There’s nothing fake about it. You will research your strategic position more and this adds to your offerings. It highlights your value in a visible way, reminding both your clients and yourself of what you’re really good at, which keeps you focused on your strengths—and you know that positive builds on positive.

    So what’s the solution?

    The solution is simple, but it isn’t always easy. 1.)   Stop ‘faking it till you make it.’ This ought to sound good to you, because I know you hate anything that makes you feel fakey or pushy or salesy to begin with. 2.)   Learn to pull back the curtain and talk more about your brilliant aha!s and your late night strokes of genius. Clients want to know how you get to your solutions, and this will show your confidence. It’s not bragging, either, if it’s the truth. And it’s not fake. 3.)   Be yourself. What you do is good, right? The right clients for you will be attracted to you, and the wrong clients for you will be repelled. Who wants to attract the wrong clients, anyway? 4.)   Understand your own processes. You may have unique strengths you’re not even letting others know about—strengths that could win you the exact work you want. Want to learn more about confidence and how to talk about your work? My colleague Ed Roach and I will be going deep into this in a brand new webinar and online course.   Check out our free webinar, “Authentic Confidence in Business: How to Show Confidence without Being Salesy or Feeling Icky.” This no-cost webinar is on June 19, coming up fast! Click here to learn more. If you’re looking for new income streams and have considered delving more into branding, check out our new online course, “How to Talk About Branding: Have Important Conversations with High-Level Clients Who Will Value You Strategically”. It starts July 15, 2014! Click here to learn more.
  • The George Clooney Approach to Success in Business

    This week, while on a coaching call with a client, he asked a question I’ve only been asked a handful of times before. But the answer to his question, I realized later, is the answer to so many questions about business. And relationships. And just life in general. Mark asked me, “What do you think is the one thing you’ve done that is responsible for your success?” The first thing I thought of was George Clooney. (I like to think of George Clooney, but it’s not what you think.) I recently saw an interview with a young actor. When asked a similar question about his career, the actor replied, “George Clooney gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten. He said, ‘Don’t ever let me see you acting.’” Light bulb. “Don’t ever let me see you acting.” “Don’t ever let me see you selling.” “Don’t ever let me see you pushing your stuff on people who don’t want it or need it.

    I was never very good at acting

    I told Mark I was never very good at acting. The advice I’d been given to “act as if” when growing my business just never worked for me. I had a fear of being seen, and was never good at pretending to be something I wasn’t.

    My approach

    So my approach—which at first wasn’t very strategic—had always been just to show people what I knew, and to hope they would like it. Later on, I refined my approach to be more strategic, but the effect was still the same: 1.) Here’s what I know. 2.) Here’s how it matches what you need. 3.) If it resonates with you, here’s how you can work with me. 4.) Here’s what you should do next. So, the next time you’re trying really hard to come up with the “right” way to be or do something or pull something off, maybe it will help to do what I do and think of George Clooney. And never let him see you acting. For more about my fear of being seen, check out my article, “Just Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?” on Copyblogger.
  • Making Business Easy & Less Scary for Creative Entrepreneurs

    Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 3.40.42 PM

    “Thank you, Marcia. You make me feel so brave!”

    I’m Marcia Hoeck, and I take the scary out of running a small business, for values-based creative business owners like you — I fill in with the stuff you didn’t learn in school. The quote above is from one of my clients. From 1984 until 2009, I owned a successful marketing communications firm, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, with branch offices in Detroit and Phoenix. I learned a lot in those 25 years, and I’ll admit that there were many times I just plain didn’t know what I was doing, especially at first. Have you ever felt that way? Many times, there was nothing I wanted more than to have someone I could ask questions of, someone who’d been through what I was going through, someone to help me feel confident in going out and fighting the dragons every day. But I couldn’t find anyone — everyone who was doing what I was doing, or knew anything about it, was a competitor, and not likely to let me in on any of their secrets. Besides, I got the feeling that many of them didn’t really know what they were doing, either. (We all lied to each other at networking meetings. I’m sure you run into that, too!) I felt like a fraud a lot of the time, not really knowing how to run a business, doing it anyway, and being afraid someone would find out. (Like who? The business police? An irrational fear, but one I had, nonetheless.) I know you are out there, going through what I went though, and you don’t want to learn through the school of hard knocks, like I did. And you don’t want to learn from someone who’s teaching you theory out of a book, either — someone who hasn’t done what you’re doing, or hasn’t done it very long, or hasn’t done it for a long, long, time. You’re looking for what I was looking for — answers. Confidence. An objective third party who knows what you’re going through. Someone who has been in the trenches and has learned the business first-hand. So I started writing this blog to share what I learned with you. To give you a resource for running your business as well as you know your craft, so it won’t take you as long as it took me to get to that level of business smarts and confidence. Subscribe to my e-newsletter by downloading the special report in the right-hand column. Sign up for a complimentary Instant Insight Session.
  • How to Overcome Sales Reluctance

    PeeWeeHermanSometimes, as business owners, we feel icky about having to sell. We don’t like the fact that we have to sell or market or talk about what makes what we offer so wonderful. That’s so much like bragging, and didn’t your mother tell you not to brag? We don’t like being sold to and don’t want our clients to feel that way. So much about selling and marketing our businesses gives us that icky feeling.

    Everyone should just know, right?

    They should be able to tell how wonderful we are by looking. By seeing our work. By engaging with us. And knowing how sincere and talented we are and what we are capable of, because it oozes out of every cell in our bodies. Except it doesn’t work that way.

    We all pretty much look the same to clients

    It doesn’t work that way because there are so many of us. So many talented, wonderful, sincere, capable, creative business owners for clients to choose between—and they can’t tell the difference. Add to that the number of not-so-talented, not-so-wonderful, insincere, incapable business owners who can talk a good game, and you’ve got a real conundrum for clients—how to choose? I mean, can you see how difficult it is for them when we all pretty much look and sound the same?

    Follow these rules to overcome your reluctance for sales:

    1. Talk about the passion you have for your work. No one automatically knows anything. Not about you, your business, or what you can do for them. You have to talk about it—a lot. In person, in writing, in your marketing. Talk, talk, talk. 2. Sales pitches aren’t bad, they’re part of business. When you feel a “sales pitch” coming on from someone else, don’t immediately dig in your heels and resist. On the other hand, don’t get swept up in the emotion of the offer, either. Think of it as education—listen carefully to how it is presented and weigh the value to you and your business. Can it help you? Is it worth it? What can you learn from the way the offer was presented? 3. A sales pitch doesn’t have to be a “pitch.” It can be a conversation (see #1). It can simply be you talking with passion about your work, how you do it, and how it helps people. If you start having more earnest conversations about what you do, you will start having more sales—more “less-icky” sales. 4. We know that people only value what they hold dear, and what they have had to work for. Low-balling estimates and giving discounts, while okay for introductory offers and special circumstances, don’t really work in the long run, and they often attract less desirable clients. Have you noticed that your best clients are the ones who buy in at a high level and don’t nitpick over price? Over many years and in many circumstances, I have too. Having clients value your work at a high level removes lots of icky. 5. Always be selling. We are all in business, and business means selling, or offering services for money. Clients don’t always ask if they can buy from you, and they may not know you even offer what they need. Selling that is authentic is a service to the customer. And, businesses that don’t consistently sell are doing a disservice to their customers by making their offerings difficult to find and understand.
  • What’s Your Most Important Business Objective?

    FlowchartSmI was responding to a client’s e-coaching question yesterday about setting up structure and systems in her business, and where to start. She’s knee deep in many things, and has a lot of areas of her business that she wants to pull together. Instead of jumping in and beginning to prioritize her list of wants, I asked her this question:

    What is your most important business objective right now?

    Do you know yours? Business objectives change from time to time, so it’s important to identify what resonates with you right now, for your #1 main objective.

    Here are some common business objectives:

    • getting your name out there, becoming visible • serving the clients you already have • bringing in money to pay the bills • creating clear and attractive offers or programs clients will want to invest in and so on.

    One is most important

    Sometimes, you may know right off the bat which of these objectives is most important. Other times, they may all seem equally important. One of them is more important than the others, although at first they all may seem equally important to you.

    Here’s a trick

    It’s really difficult to compare a list of items and decide which is more important, but a trick to start whittling them down is to compare two at a time. For instance, taking the top two in your list, ask yourself, for right now, is getting my name out there (current #1) more important than serving the clients I already have (current #2) ? You may feel that things are slipping through the cracks with current clients and it’s important not to lose them, so for now, serving existing clients is more important. Or, you may decide that you have your current clients under control, and you need to get your name out there or you soon won’t have any clients, so being more visible is more important. Move the one that comes out on top to the top of the list (#1). Now, compare the new #1 with #3 on your list, and place the winner of that comparison in the #1 spot, and do the same moving down the list with #4, #5, etc. You will still end up with a list of very important business objectives, but now, they will be prioritized by importance. I like to do this exercise with sticky notes instead of a paper list so that I can keep comparing and reordering the elements until I get the order just right without having to rewrite the list each time.

    Your most important business objective will give you clear direction to move forward

    Once you know what that immediate business objective is (which is different than your more long-term business vision), you can then set priorities for the systems and processes you need to set up to reach your objective, including things like client interaction, your website, social media, financial tracking, etc. Stay tuned for more on how to do this next step. Just like with anything else in your business, starting out to set up structure and systems without an immediate and clear objective can be a frustrating and fruitless activity. Good luck, and let me hear how this works out for you.  
  • Branding Workshop for Designers

    Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 2.06.50 PMThere are still a few seats left!

    If you’re looking for a way to bring more revenue into your design or marketing communications firm, work with higher level clients, and be valued more for your work, this workshop is for you. Join us, branding experts Marcia Hoeck and Ed Roach, for a live, in-person 2-day branding workshop. When: January 27 & 28, 2014 Where: San Diego, California, at the warm & welcoming Rancho Bernardo Inn Register: Click here to find out more

    Learn our process for making more money with branding

    We will take you by the hand and lead you through our proprietary process for building brands for clients. You’ll learn details of the same process we have used, and are still using, to make $20,000 to $50,000 on branding projects, before we even start designing. We will pick up where our webinars (did you watch them? See below to catch them again) left off. Register now, as there are only 20 total spots available for this exclusive workshop, and we are 75% sold out. And, because we don’t want to saturate the market with our process, we’re only admitting one creative firm per geographic area. Save your space now to make sure it’s you! This is the perfect time to think seriously about the direction of your business for next year. I challenge you to think about how adding a powerful dimension like strategic and authentic branding can really boost your bottom line for 2014. Hope to see you in San Diego next month! Marcia P.S. Did you listen to all three branding webinars we did this fall? Here’s where you can get the recordings, in case you missed one or want to listen again: 1. “Common Mistakes Designers Make with Branding (& How to Fix Them)” HOW On-Demand Design Tutorial 2. “How to Position Yourself as a Branding Expert (Even If You’ve Never Done It Before)”HOW On-Demand Design Tutorial 3. “How to Make $20,000 to $50,000 on Your Next Branding Project, Before You Even Start Designing,” our own no-cost Video Recording
  • Three Ways to Sell Branding

    Some of the questions Ed Roach and I are asked the most by designers about our branding process revolve around actually selling branding. They ask us, “How do you sell branding?” “What kind of pitch do you use?” “How do you find the clients who are interested and will pay what branding’s worth?” and “How do I become believable in being able to help the high end clients I want with their branding, when it’s not something I’ve been known for in the past?” Good questions! These are the same questions Ed and I grappled with when we added branding to our graphic design firms years ago.

    Here are three ways you can begin selling branding right now, today.

    1. Learn more about branding
    2. Talk more about branding
    3. Reframe selling and pitching

    #1. Learn more about branding

    When we decided we wanted to add branding to our businesses, we dug in with a vengeance. We learned as much about branding as we could. There is a lot of information about branding out there, and we read a lot. When we started, “branding” was a buzz word that was being used for a lot of things it wasn’t, so we educated ourselves about what branding really was, and how it could help our clients. There was branding advice that resonated with us, and branding advice that struck a bad chord. We kept what we liked and discarded what we didn’t. Then we looked at it from our unique design perspective, and knew we could add to the conversation. As we did this, we became more aware of branding opportunities around us, and felt more confident discussing it.

    #2. Talk more about branding

    Have you ever noticed that the more you talk about something, the clearer it becomes to you? Yeah, us too. As we learned and became more aware of branding opportunities around us, the easier it was for us to talk about branding. Not sell or pitch – just talk. We started talking to our peers and each other about branding. We started talking to our clients about branding as we noticed the opportunities. No selling or pitching – just conversations. And they became interested and asked us questions.

    #3. Reframe selling and pitching

    During these conversations about branding, we kept our eyes open — it was easy! There was no need to “sell” or “pitch,” although we did add a few comfortable elements to our conversations to make it very natural for our prospects to say yes. The simple mindset switch of keeping the branding sales process on a conversational level instead of making it a difficult pitch made selling branding a pleasure, because we were helping our clients with something they really wanted, instead of pushing something on them that they were suspect of. This made all the difference for us.

    Want to know more?

    Turning branding sales and pitches into conversations is just one of the things we’ll be talking about a lot at our Building Brands for Clients in-person workshop coming up January 27 & 28 in San Diego.

    We’re filling up fast, but we still have a few slots left!

    I talked with the hotel last week and our hotel room block is sold out, but you can still get a room at our discounted room rate if you hurry. The hotel will honor our discounted rate as long as they have rooms available, and as of January 2, there were still rooms available.

    What: Building Brands for Clients

    Where: Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego When: January 27 & 28, 2014 Click here for more information and to sign up now! Can’t wait to meet you there, Marcia and Ed Building Brands for Clients      
  • I Only Do This Once a Year

    iStock_000014481007XSmallYesterday was Thanksgiving in the US, and I’m spending the holiday weekend with my son and his family. Right now I’m sitting in front of a warm fire, watching cartoons with my grandkids. If you celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, I hope you’re having a warm and wonderful holiday. And, in honor of the Black Friday shopping craziness, I’m happy to announce my Holiday Coaching Spree! This is the only time of year that I devote myself so thoroughly to getting into the trenches with my clients by doing no- and low-cost coaching. Check out my  Holiday Coaching Spree here. I only do this once a year. For the past 4 years, during the month of December, I’ve opened up my time to give fr,ee Instant Insight Coaching sessions to people on my list — as many as I could fit in. Three years ago, I added low-cost Holiday Coaching to up to 8 people, as my holiday gift to you. This special 4-session package is only offered at this time of year, and only for a limited time. And at a ridiculously low investment. Last year, I added a 50% discount on my full-day VIP Intensives — that means you save half when you register for a private, full-day VIP Intensive. But only for a limited time. (Pssst. These great deals would be a wonderful gift — for you! Let someone you care about know you’d like one of them.) The Coaching Spree lasts until December 6. Here’s the fun part: Purchase your Holiday Coaching or VIP Intensive  before December 6, 2013, and use the sessions any time between now and the end of February 2014! You’ll have to hurry, though, because there are limited spots. And the Holiday Spree pricing ends December 6. Check out the Holiday Coaching Spree here. Wishing you only the best ideas and the best deals this holiday season, Marcia
  • Think You Might Have ADHD?

    Some of the most creative people in the world do, you know.

    Successful business owners like Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Airlines; Ingvar Kamprad, Swedish Founder and Chairman of IKEA stores; David Neeleman, Founder and CEO of Jet Blue Airways; and Paul Orfalea, the Founder and Chairperson of Kinkos all have ADHD and are incredibly creative business owners. And though some of the following people aren’t definitively proven to have ADHD, they are either widely known or are thought to have ADHD: Albert Einstein Frank Lloyd Wright Pablo Picasso Vincent Van Gogh Salvador Dali Charlotte and Emily Bronte Samuel Clemens Emily Dickinson Edgar Allen Poe Ralph Waldo Emerson Robert Frost Henry David Thoreau Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Andrew Carnegie Malcolm Forbes Henry Ford The Wright Brothers Alexander Graham Bell Thomas Edison Benjamin Franklin John F. Kennedy Ansel Adams

    So if you have ADHD or think you do, you’re in really good company.

    ADHD is something I don’t talk about a lot on this blog. I usually save that for the blog I write with Jacqueline Sinfield, Working with ADHD, where Jacqui and I coach entrepreneurs with ADHD. It’s fascinating — because business owners with ADHD are extremely creative, fun, friendly, and some of the most interesting people I know. And since you are a creative entrepreneur, it’s possible you might want to know what I’m doing for business owners with ADHD, too. So I want to tell you about the in-person retreat Jacqui and I are having for business owners with ADHD in San Diego in December. You don’t have to be officially diagnosed with ADHD. Maybe you just feel you have strong ADD tendencies. It’s a really wonderful few days that has been transformative for many people, and I just want you to know about it. It’s called 

    December 5 – 7, 2013   San Diego, California

    and you can check it out here. You can also read about us and our retreat in the Boston Globe, here. Here’s what people have been saying about our last retreat, in May, 2013: “My life changed after Detroit. That retreat was huge for me – I hadn’t had that, ever. I mean, you take a risk and it pays you back in spades. I didn’t know it would help me this much. You’ve helped me with narrowing my business focus, and with structures. It’s a connected personalized response from people who are qualified, and it’s something that I needed. I came into this scattered. Now I feel a lot more focused. . . and I know I can do this.” — Mark Kawate, ADHDapps.com, York, PA I was spending time on things that didn’t matter. Now I’m getting a sense of what’s realistic and measurable, and I like to see the improvement. I thought it would be more complicated and a lot of work but it’s a relief, it feels more confident and gives me a sense of control.” —Brooks White, NC Sturgeon, Midland, TX “Our workshop in Detroit was the BEST ever workshop – and I’ve been to a lot in my 26+ years in private practice! With you guys, I always get twice the content and twice the value than I get anywhere else. I’m so absolutely thrilled with the quality, content, and immense value of this workshop!!!” — Bernadette Hunter, Powerful Performance, Denver, CO “I loved it, loved it, loved it! I knew I would get a lot out of this event, but I got exponentially more than I was expecting. What I didn’t expect was how very supportive, generous, and inspiring the group would be. What I didn’t expect was insight, inspiration, and empowerment about lifelong issues that have held me back. I feel like I broke through decades-old barriers and beliefs. Truly it was life-changing. My whole life just got easier. Thank you thank you thank you!” — Bonnie Hutchinson, Edmonton, AB The investment is small. The rewards are big. If you have ADHD or think you do, why don’t you join us?
  • Four Ways to Solve the Problem of “Too Much Work”

    Sure. It looks good from the outside. Instead of having to scrap and claw for projects, somehow – and often you don’t know how it happens – you just have too much work. You know you should be appreciative, and you are, but it’s also very frustrating and stressful to be so busy that you don’t have balance in your life. • You’re cutting back on sleep. • You feel like you’re cheating your family because you’re not spending enough time with them, and when you are, your mind is not with them. • You’re running on adrenalin much of the time, and it’s a real possibility that important details are slipping through the cracks. Whether you’re on your own or if you have help from staff or freelancers, the story is the same: you just have more damn work than you can handle. And you don’t want to turn down any of it.

    So here’s the deal: you have 4 options

    Option 1: Make a decision to grow your business by leveraging the power of other people. Option 2: Raise your rates. Option 3: Turn down work that won’t get you to where you want to go. Option 4: A combination of the above. While this can seem like a crazy “problem” to have, having too much business and being overworked can be a big challenge. There’s not only the very real problem of being stressed and burning yourself out, but your work can also suffer, detracting from your reputation pretty quickly. You don’t want to let this go on for much longer.

    Option 1: Make a decision to grow your business by leveraging the power of other people

    If you’re a one-person operation, there’s only so much work you can do. And there are only so many hours in the day. If you bring someone on – as an employee, a contract worker, a freelancer – to help you, you amplify the amount of work you can do, as well as the amount of money you can make. Many creative and service-based business owners are reluctant to do this because, after all, your name is on the door, and the work revolves around you. You have to get over this, really, if you want your business to grow and you don’t want to kill yourself doing it. There are good people out there, and you can find them. I remember when I started hiring people for my design firm, and when I was really honest with myself, some of them were better designers than I was. This was a big blow to my ego – but when I got over that, I realized, by having them help me carry the load, I extended my reach dramatically — and my income shot up dramatically, too. I didn’t lose control, which is your fear, I know — I still directed the work. And I had been holding myself back by trying to do all of the work by myself. Another reason you don’t hire to distribute the load is because you think you don’t have the money to hire anyone. But if you think about it, and if you do it right, you don’t really need money to hire – what you need is the work. If you’ve got the work to keep a new hire busy, then you get the money to pay them from the client, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Plus, you make more money – because you charge more for their time than you pay them. Right? So technically, they’re free. Do you have more work than you can handle? Then you have what you need to bring someone on to help you. If you already have staff and/or freelancers to help and you still have too much work, then you have to look at the way you’re distributing the work. And you still may need to bring on another person. This is tricky because you always want controlled growth, so don’t bring on too many people too fast. Cam Foote of Creative Business has a great rule of thumb for when to add people: you (and your staff) should be working for at least 60 hours per week for at least 6 months before you hire someone else. This benchmark is a good measure of sustained growth, and a large spike in business for a shorter timeframe could just be a fluke. Bringing someone on too soon (especially an on-staff employee) can be a mistake. If you’re already at the 60 hour per week mark and have been there for over 6 months, it could be time to add people.

    Option 2: Raise your rates

    Not ready or willing to hire? Here’s an idea that works really well: the next job you quote, add 10, 15, or 20% to the bottom line. If it’s a job you really don’t care that much about, add more. Raise your prices overall, even with ongoing clients who are used to your old prices. Tell them the truth, and you might want to give your best clients a bit of a warning. Tell them it’s been awhile since you’ve raised your prices, and you’re going to have to raise them next month, or next quarter. Definitely raise your pricing for all new clients. Then wait to see what happens. If you still keep getting the same amount of work, keep inching your prices up until clients start falling away. When it levels off to a manageable load, stop raising your rates – you’ll know you’ve gotten to the right price range for you. There. Now you should have fewer clients and projects, so you’re not so crazy busy, and the clients you have left are paying more for less work. You end up generating the same amount of revenue – or more — on fewer projects, which you can easily handle. And, the clients who stay are probably your most ideal clients anyway.

    Option 3: Turn down work that won’t get you to where you want to go

    Do you have criteria for the work you accept? Or are you still accepting anything that comes through your door? Now that you’re so busy, you’ll want to be more selective. If you’ve narrowed your specialty, it’s a no-brainer to filter the work you accept through the lens of your specialty and expertise, and turn down work that doesn’t fit. Yes, I know it’s difficult, but you’re too busy, remember? It’s time to stop and really think about the work that comes your way and if it truly is a good fit for you and your firm . . . or not. Some of this will even come as a relief for you. You know those small sales sheet jobs you get from that client you don’t like to work with because she’s always in a rush? Wouldn’t it feel good to tell her you’re not really set up to do that kind of work, that you specialize in annual reports, to give her the name of a colleague who would love to get the sales sheet work, and suggest you’d like to help her with her annual report when she’s ready? Everyone wins. The best way to turn down work is to decide on the criteria of work you’ll accept. • Is it in your niche industry or area of expertise? • Will it lead to something that’s in your niche industry or area of expertise? • Will it lead to something bigger and better for you? (Be careful with this one and don’t fool yourself.) • Will it give you experience in an area you want more experience in? • Is it a special favor for a long-term client? Whatever your criteria, decide on them and stick to them. Then, turn down any work that doesn’t fit.

    Option 4: A combination of the above

    You can leverage the power of other people and raise your rates. You can raise your rates and turn down work. You can turn down work and leverage the power of other people. You get the idea. A word of caution: These are one-two punches, and I’d only recommend doing a combination if you’re really, really busy and you want to thin your client roster anyway. Because you’ll definitely lose clients who want you to be low-priced and at their beck and call – they’ll notice you’re taking control — but you’ll retain clients who understand you’re running a business and are tightening up your ship. Your good clients may even respect you more, as these moves signal “serious business.” Just make sure you communicate your plans to your clients, and the benefits your changes will make to their business. Don’t do too much too fast. All of these options will give you more control over your business and life – and you won’t have to chuck it all and go work for someone else (admit it – you’ve thought about that in the darkest hours, haven’t you?). You know you wouldn’t be happy doing that, anyway. You’re good like you are. You were made to run your own business, and you know it. Having too much work is just one of those “good” challenges along the road. And now you have four ways to help you address it. If you’d like more help navigating the challenge of too much work, or other problems of running a creative business, sign up for one of my no-cost Instant Insight Sessions. We’ll talk and see if I can help.
  • The Un-Icky Way to Set Fees and Get Paid What You’re Worth — According to Newton’s Third Law

    I know. You don’t like to talk about your money. And you don’t like to look at it, either. It’s so much easier to try to figure out ways to make more money than it is to peek at your business finances, to get the picture of whether or not you’re actually profitable. It’s icky, and it makes you feel bad. You might not like what you see. Besides, who has the time to dig into stuff like that? So you don’t look. You don’t tally things up. You don’t analyze your pricing. You turn your head away and look for the next project you can bid on, the next referral you can follow up on, the next cool mailing you can do, the next networking event you can attend. Maybe one of those will pan out and you can get some new business, and keep the money coming in. And then you won’t have to look at the money you’ve already made, and whether or not you’re actually profitable. Following up on leads and marketing your business and all of those things are important and good and yes, you should do them. But not at the expense of looking at your money. You need to look at your money – if for no other reason than to assure yourself that you and your company are sturdy enough to be around tomorrow. I know because I didn’t like to look at or talk about the money in my business, and I ignored my money, too — because it made me feel icky to think that I wasn’t doing it right. I didn’t like the money conversation with clients and I wasn’t at all sure that what I was doing was worth what I needed to charge for it. Until I found a different way of looking at the money in my business.

    What you put your positive attention on grows

    “You become what you think about most of the time.” —Earl Nightengale
    You probably know by now that your life follows your attention. If you put your positive attention on your dog, your dog’s behavior changes and grows better. If you put positive attention on your kids, your relationship with them grows. If you put positive attention on your spouse, that relationship grows. Even plants respond to positive attention, growing stronger and healthier under your care and the time you spend with them. Money is no different. Start looking at it, start paying positive attention to what money is doing in your business, and it will start to move and grow. Grouse about it, get mad at it and neglect it, and your money will wither up and die.

    You can balance the energy of money with physics

    Now that you’re paying attention to your money, let’s think about what money really is. Money is a tool. It isn’t good and it isn’t bad, it’s neutral. It’s a way to exchange value, a way to trade. And it’s a form of energy. (Hang with me here, this is going to get you where you need to go. I promise.) If you think of everything in your life as energy – and science has proven this to be true – then money is no more valuable than anything else. It’s just a symbol of something else, really – it represents the value you place on it. It isn’t icky to look at or to talk about or to earn.

    Newton’s Third Law can help you take the emotion out of money

    There’s a law of physics, Newton’s Third Law, that states:
    “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
    That’s what keeps energy in balance.  According to Newton, whenever objects A and B interact with each other, they exert forces upon each other. When you sit in your chair, your body exerts a downward force on the chair and the chair exerts an upward force on your body. There are two forces resulting from this interaction — a force on the chair and a force on your body. These two forces are called action and reaction forces and are the subject of Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

    You and your client are exerting forces

    When you do a project or service for a client, you are exerting your energy for that client. This action could be the first of the two forces. In turn, there has to be an equal and opposite reaction to the energy you are exerting — which in this case would be a reaction from your client in the form of payment and appreciation. These opposite forces have to be equal. It’s a law of physics. When they’re not equal – when you’ve underbid, or the scope of the project creeps and you don’t notify the client with a change order, and you feel you’re not getting paid for the value of your service – you feel icky and uncomfortable. You don’t want to talk to that client and you don’t like the project anymore. It’s because you’re out of balance with the energy of the universe. You’re giving more than you’re getting. The forces are out of whack and you feel like you’re going to fall over or get squashed.

    To feel not icky, balance the forces

    You can balance the forces in one of three ways: 1.) If you catch this at the beginning of the project, you can raise your quoted price until the icky feeling goes away, and not underbid in the first place. When the right price balance is there you will know it – it’s that sensation of “Yeah, this feels right!”, when you can’t wait to do the work for the client because you know you’ll be paid well for the value you’re providing. Your work = the pay you receive. 2.) If the client balks at your pricing, you can cut back on some of your service. If you’ve bid your project menu-style, you can go back to the client and negotiate which elements you can remove to fit her budget. Perhaps she can do the research or supply the copy. Notice the point here is to remove part of the energy you’re exerting in the form of the amount of work you will provide, not to reduce your price for the same amount of work just to satisfy the client. That’s the only way to achieve balance and take the icky out of it. Your work – certain elements = the pay you receive. 3.) You may decide that client appreciation PLUS the payment you receive join together to balance the value of the work you provide. This could be the case with a favorite non-profit client that cannot afford your services, and you have decided in advance to give a special discounted price because their mission is close to your heart. Being able to make a difference to them and to be genuinely appreciated, as well as the freedom of creativity that often comes with a discounted price, becomes part of the balanced force coming back to you from the client, along with the project fee. If you’re good with that, the icky can go away. Just make sure you don’t do this with all of your clients! Your work = the pay you receive + appreciation.

    Your client takes his cue from you

    It’s up to you to balance the energy of the money in your projects so you get paid what your work is worth – your client can’t know this if you don’t tell him. Often, clients are unaware of what is involved in the work you do and are happy to pay for what they understand. And sometimes, by sticking by your guns with pricing, you may find your client doesn’t really need (or want) all the levels of detail you envisioned – so you can remove a few levels and not get left holding the bag when it comes time to present the invoice. If this type of common sense negotiating doesn’t work with your clients so you can remove the icky from your pricing and get paid what you’re worth, I can only say one thing – perhaps you haven’t yet found your ideal clients. And that’s something you can work on.
  • The Zen of Bad Internet and Crappy Phones — or, How to Do Nothing

    The plan was to get up early to kayak before I started working, when the sun was just peeking over the edge of the lake. What actually happened was I woke up well past “early” to the annoyed bark of a wiener dog, finally tired of waiting sweetly for her breakfast. “Get up already,” she said. “I have to pee and I’d sure like some dog kibble.” I’ve got the “great sleep” part of being at the cottage down pretty darn well. The “take naps” part has sneaked up on me, too. And, surprise to me, I’m even starting to slow down and actually . . . do nothing.

    I push hard

    If you know me at all, you know I push myself pretty hard. I like to be productive. I thrive on it. I get weird and anxious if I’m not. I have to be working towards something that is on my list, will build my business, or is moving me forward at all times. So when it’s time for me to take a break, like now, when I’m spending two weeks alone at the cottage — I load myself up with lots of things to work on. And naturally — thankfully — my efforts are foiled. Thankfully, because taking a break is important. Doing nothing — in the right dosage — is important. I know I wasn’t created to go non-stop all the time. I know I need balance. I know that when I take a break, my body and mind refresh themselves, and I come back to my work newly inspired and invigorated.

    Pelee Island 

    The cottage is on the Canadian island called Pelee, in the middle of Lake Erie. If you’ve ever been to Pelee Island, you know there is nothing to do here. The lake is beautiful, the water is clear, warm, and renewing, and the miles of sandy beaches and rocky shoreline are excellent for lazy walks with the wiener dog and her little white friend. It’s the perfect place to do absolutely nothing. So of course the internet is horrible. A few days before I arrived I saw this variation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs posted on Facebook by author and lecturer Brene Brown:                   Until I actually set foot on Pelee each summer, I always forget how much I take always-accessible internet for granted. That thought doesn’t even exist on Pelee Island. Most of the residents don’t really seem to care that much about it and go about their business well enough on what amounts to present-day dial-up. (It really isn’t dial-up — do they actually do that anymore? If they still do, one place that could possibly still be using it is Pelee Island, which is an “officially designated” remote location. At least according to FedEx. An “absolutely positively” overnight package to Pelee takes five days, even though the mainland is visible on clear days. No kidding. But that’s another story.) The few summer “cottagers” who do care have gone to various lengths trying all sorts of different ways to grab a signal out here, but the fact is, there are no cell towers, and no cable lines, and no communications company will service us because the market isn’t big enough. Well, you can get a set-up for big bucks, or pre-pay on a data stick like I do and get horrible service that drops off all the time. And somehow, the data runs out well before I’m ready for it to, and I have to take a 90-minute ferry to the mainland to top-up. No, I can’t top-up online, because I can’t get online if the data stick runs out of data. And even if I could get online, I can’t charge it online, or even over the phone because they won’t take an American credit card. And no, I can’t get a Canadian credit card, even if I give them my first-born son. I don’t think he’d go with them, anyway, as he’s married and has two kids and he’s pretty busy. And then there are the phones. I suppose it would be okay if I had better equipment, but I don’t . . . well, it’s a cottage. There are two land-line phones. One is a cordless phone that won’t hold a charge. So it works some of the time. The other is a plug-in corded phone that rings, which is helpful, but you can’t actually talk into it or hear anything with it. And then there’s my cell phone, which only works if I get in the car and drive over to West Dock, on the other side of the island. Sometimes I can catch a signal over there.

    I can do nothing

    So, this week I got kicked off of a group coaching call. What could I do? I could do nothing. My business partner Jacqui was on her own to finish out the call. And yesterday a colleague came over from the mainland for a meeting, and I had to take him to my bedroom to show him how some software works, because that’s the only place I can even get a signal with my data stick — seriously. I’ve tried every room in the cottage, and we have two stories and four bedrooms. You want internet? You have to go to the lower bedroom, southwest corner. What can I do? I can do nothing. I can’t count the times I was working on something this week only to find out I wasn’t connected to the internet anymore, even though I was in the correct bedroom. And do you even remember what it was like on dial-up? That’s what it feels like when I watch the browser thingy go round and round after I click a link — it’s painful to wait for those pages to come up. You can go make a cup of coffee while you wait. And what can I do about it? I can do nothing. So, I’ve gotten to the point where I just do nothing on purpose. It’s too hard to work here. Today I actually sat in the sun and read a book. And it wasn’t a business book. Then I took a nap and went for a walk. These are the lengths I have to go to in order to take time out. I have to be in a place that forces me to do nothing. If high-speed internet were available here and the phones worked better, I’m afraid there’s be less sun sitting, less sleeping in, less book reading, fewer naps, and fewer walks. The driven me would be back at it, in her comfort zone, working. While on vacation for two weeks by herself at one of the most beautiful, calming, wonderful places in the whole wide world. And that would be a damn shame. Hopefully you are better at taking time out than I am. If you’re not, get yourself a place with horrible internet and crappy phones. And then — you can do nothing, too.
  • How to Stop Wasting Time

    I saw a statistic this morning that the average person wastes fully one-third of their work day – one-third! And that’s before you take into consideration that the remaining two-thirds can’t be entirely billable or income producing. Once you do get focused on work, a good portion of that remaining time will be allocated to administrative tasks and marketing your business, things that don’t directly bring in revenue. Scary, huh? That’s why it’s so important to plan up-front and be proactive about your time and productivity, and not let it get away from you. Once you drift off into Time-Wasting-Land, those minutes go by really fast.

    Just do this one thing

    If you could just do one thing to get control of your time, I think this is the one I’d recommend. (And this is hard for me, because there are several things I think are absolute musts, and I want you to do all of them. But I’m being realistic, so I’ll just recommend one.) I’ve heard this one thing credited by highly effective people and management consultants as one of the most important actions successful people take. I like it a lot, because it’s worked for me for over 30 years. And I stumbled upon it myself, before I even knew other people did it.

    Schedule your day ahead of time

    It’s easy. The hard part is carving out time, and remembering to actually do it. Here’s what to do: At the end of every day, clear your desk and make your schedule for just the tasks for the next day, in time blocks. Don’t just make a list of the things you’re going to do tomorrow – after you know what they are, go one step further and schedule the time to do them on your calendar. This way, you’ll get a realistic idea of what your next day will actually look like. Decide what you’ll do first, and block off the amount of time needed to do it. If you need to dig right into that proposal because you have to present it at the end of the day, then you know it needs to go first – block off the time you think you’ll need. Work around any appointments that are already on your calendar, and schedule in other tasks that need to be done tomorrow. Give yourself some wiggle room if you want, block off time for lunch, you get the idea.


    1. If you’re not going to do it tomorrow, don’t put it on your calendar for tomorrow. Don’t even have it in your radar for tomorrow. As far as this exercise is concerned, it doesn’t exist. (Unless you want to put it on your calendar for the next day.) 2. Try to estimate how much time the task will take, then pad it a bit, because you’ll think you’re faster than you really are. 3. If someone else is necessary to help you with a part of your task, be sure to let them know ahead of time when you’ll need them. 4. Don’t move anything, unless you absolutely cannot help it. (Try really hard.) You can take this further, like I do, and block out the rest of your week while you’re at it, or schedule time to finish tasks you can’t completely finish tomorrow. Time blocking comes with a certain sense of relief that doesn’t come any other way – and that’s because you can see, visually, right in front of you, that what you need to do can indeed be done within the time you have available . . . or not. It’s also great for when you’re overwhelmed and can’t see how you can possibly accomplish everything that’s on your plate – just dump your work into your calendar in time blocks, and you can see if and when you can physically accomplish it all. Neat, huh?

    What gets scheduled is what gets done

    Bottom line, you can use your calendar for more than just scheduling appointments with clients and your hair stylist – you can schedule appointments with yourself. It’s your time. Planning ahead on how you’ll use it is a terrific way to take control so you waste it less. Schedule your tasks as well as your appointments, and they’re more likely to get done. And while you’re at it, you’ll want to schedule a short time block at the end of every day to schedule your tasks for the next day. You’re gonna get hooked. And — bonus — you will no longer be one of those people who waste a third of your day. Please let me know how this works for you!
  • How to Move Forward Faster by Being Better at Making Decisions

    You’re careful in your business, because you’re serious about it. You weigh things meticulously before making decisions, or maybe you even agonize over decisions, putting them off until you have just the right and perfect answer. And you probably think you’re doing the right thing. But that caution in decision-making may be precisely what’s holding you back. Decision-making isn’t a topic that’s talked about much, but it can have a whole lot of impact on your business. Because business success is a continuum of decisions. It’s the only way you can move forward.

    Your entire life is based on your ability to make decisions quickly

    Think about it this way – your entire life is made up of decisions. From the moment you open your eyes in the morning, you begin making decisions. You’ve gotten very good at making most of your everyday decisions, so you do them on autopilot — but they are still decisions. You decide to get out of bed. You decide to eat breakfast. You decide to brush your teeth. You decide to shower and get dressed. You decide to go to work. You don’t have to get out of bed, but you decide to. You don’t have to eat breakfast, and maybe you even decide not to. You decide to shower – certainly, you could decide not to. (Hopefully, if you decide not to, you work at home alone, like I do.) And if you want to, you can break each of these decisions down into smaller decisions. You decide to get out of bed – but which side should you use? Should you slowly roll out, swing one leg over the edge (and which leg goes first?), or just pop straight up? Should you take a shower or a bath? Should you wash your hair? Which soap should you use? Eggs and toast, or just eggs? Or maybe cereal – but which cereal? Of course I’m dragging this out to the ridiculous, and if you had to stop and really think about all these details in the morning, it would take you forever to get going. Well . . . ?

    It’s the same for your business

    What happens in your business when you drag out the details of every decision? Did you ever stop to think about that? If you’re a perfectionist in your business (and we’ve talked before about how that might not be a good thing), you want to make perfect decisions, too. Which means you often put them off until you feel you’re doing just the right thing, meanwhile letting many opportunities pass you by. Or you may string the decisions out far too long by nit picking the details, again missing opportunities to move forward. The amazing thing about decisions is, if you make the wrong one, you can always make another one to correct it. But you can’t move forward if you don’t make a decision at all. Every day, thousands of flights take off from airports around the world, with destinations in mind. And every single one of those aircraft has to adjust its course over and over during the flight due to winds, weather, and unforeseen forces. It’s just accepted as part of the journey. It’s the same for your business — you need to make decisions and get moving. Because you can’t correct your course if the plane is still sitting on the runway.

    Practice on the little stuff

    Now I’m not talking about going out and making a big whopper decision on a whim that could have negative consequences. But I am talking about getting better at making big whopper decisions quickly by learning to make lesser decisions quickly, with practice. And paying attention to what happens. Here’s how: My friend and business partner Jacqueline Sinfield often uses the “chicken or fish” example. When faced with a menu choice in a restaurant, in the large scope of things, does it really matter what you eat for lunch? After all, chances are good you’ll be eating lunch tomorrow and the next day – it’s not like this is a life altering decision. This is a great opportunity to practice deciding “chicken or fish” quickly and then moving on. Then notice – what happens as a result of making this decision quickly? Any adverse reactions on the rest of your day? Any positives, such as the opportunity to become involved in your lunch conversation sooner, and alleviate the stress of choosing? How about deciding which font to use in a layout or some other detail you think is important? Be honest, don’t details like that hang you up, sometimes for . . . well, you know it’s way too long. And let’s also be honest about how much it really matters, for the sake of your and your client’s businesses. Is it fear or perfectionism holding you up? Really take a look at these things. Then decide. Learning to make decisions quickly so you can move on creates momentum, builds confidence, lessens fear . . . and improves productivity. Which of course means profitability.

    It’s okay to use your intuition in business decisions

    We’re so practical in business, aren’t we? So practical that we often ignore one of our most powerful tools – our birthright, our intuition. Here’s how Einstein put it:
    “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” —Albert Einstein
    So when you feel those little pings, and get those inklings, stop and listen. Is your intuition trying to help you make a decision?

    Make decisions, move forward

    Newton’s first law of motion states that an object is either at rest or in motion. You’ve heard that “a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest.” Making decisions quickly is the only way to keep your business in motion, moving forward. Putting off decisions or dragging them out puts your business at rest – staying stuck.   For exact steps to make decisions quickly, read How to Make Good Decisions Quickly: 8 Ideas that Really Work.  For more about being a perfectionist in business, check out How Not Being Perfect Helped Me Serve My Clients and How I Stopped Being a Perfectionist. Come to my live one-day workshop for more great stuff like making decisions, including building authentic confidence, communicating your true value, and identifying your ideal client, at the fabulous Pelee View meeting space in Leamington, Ontario, July 18. As of today, July 10, we have 2 spots left for this intimate small group experience!
  • Are You Serious About Making Progress in Your Business?

    My Success Club is Now Open!

    The Success Club & Mastermind program is a 6-month program specifically designed to propel you and your creative business to the level you’ve always wanted it to go, presented by Marcia Hoeck.
    From the priceless gems of what works for running a values-based creative business to the latest and most effective strategies for busting through fear and working in your genius zone, from structured masterminds with like-minded peers to personal one-on-one coaching, the Success Club is about moving forward, thinking big, and making the unique difference you were put here to make — while increasing courage, confidence, and influence in your business and your life.
    The Success Club is for you if you’re a business owner who is looking for:
    • the perfect combination of non-icky business strategies that work for your sensibilities as well as your type of creative brain
    • guidance and accountability to help you follow through and be productive, and
    • peer support by like-minded people who “get” you
    all on a foundation of mutual respect and continued personal growth.
    Interested? There are still a very few slots available for this exclusive virtual 6-month program (that also includes a live 2-day private training and mastermind event with other Success Club members!). Our program begins July 15, by application only. This is a small, intimate group. Limited to only 8 people.
    For information, send a blank email to info at hoeck dot net with “Success Club” in the subject line, and I’ll send you information and an application. Fill out the application and send it back, and, we’ll have a phone conversation, too, to complete the application process.
    “The biggest thing I’ve gained is confidence, and knowing that I’m running my business right. I used to say, ‘I do web and graphic design and brochures,’ but now, after working with you and learning what I want out of my business, I know how to talk about my value and what I really do, and it’s a lot more intriguing to people.  
    Just recently I was talking to a business owner friend about the work I was doing with you. He asked if it was worth it, and I said it was absolutely worth it. It’s beyond value.”
    – Addie Sorbo, Strawberry Fields Design, Green Bay, WI
    “This was an outstanding experience! Marcia’s webinars are incredibly informative, but the live retreat was like when Burt’s lovely chalk drawings spring to life in Mary Poppins . . . WOW! I can’t wait to do this again.” — Paula Ashley, Next Year’s News, Toledo, OH “It was great to see you, and thank you for inviting me to this wonderful workshop. We covered so much in the 3-day retreat, the amount and quality of the information was incredible, and it can be applied immediately to your business! I would recommend this retreat to any business owner who wants to improve multiple internal and external challenges.” — Marilyn Trent, Trent Design, Rochester and Detroit, MI For information, send a blank email to info at hoeck dot net with “Success Club” in the subject line, and I’ll send you information and an application. Fill out the application and send it back, and, we’ll have a phone conversation, too, to complete the application process. Looking forward to working with you, Marcia
  • How Not Being Perfect Helped Me Serve My Clients

    I just held two live client events in six weeks. And while both events were fabulous and wonderful and successful and invigorating and I wouldn’t change a dang thing about either of them (well, maybe next time) . . . it was not only difficult, it was absolutely crazy. It sounded like a good idea six months ago when I started planning them. Last December, when it was cold and snowy in Michigan, I could pretend that May and June were way out in the distance. I could pretend I had lots of time to plan. I could even convince myself that while I was planning one event, I might as well plan two. Economy of scale and all that.

    It seemed like it would be easy

    It was okay in the early planning stages. My business partner for our ADHD business coaching and I decided to design a 5-part virtual course in the months leading up to our live event, so I decided to do a 5-part virtual course leading up to the live event for my creative business owners, too. Jacqui (my business partner) and I started marketing our virtual course first, so I started marketing my virtual course for my other business a few weeks later. Easy peasy. I would simply implement the actions we took in the first business, after a short lag, for my second business. No big deal. And I would learn so much!

    Then things started to overlap

    There was only one problem: the marketing and virtual classes started to overlap. When we started marketing the actual event for the joint ADHD business and I then followed with mine for my creatives, things got pretty confusing. There were lots of moving parts.

    And things started to compound

    Did I say there was only one problem? Umm, I lied. My husband, bless his heart (hey, that’s funny), chose an inconvenient time – exactly eight days before the first retreat — to require quadruple bypass open heart surgery. Off to the hospital with him. “Cancel your event,” my mother said. “People do that.” I couldn’t, I told her, between my trips to the hospital and conferences with surgeons and specialists. People had flights. Money had been spent. We had planned so much. Besides, hub will probably still be in the hospital, in good hands, during the first retreat. Sensing something in the air, my doglet, Amazing Grace, decided to get colitis and required a 1:00 am trip to the doggy ER, followed by three days of tarry black stools — in the house. Who wants to go potty outside when you’re sick? Her poor bum was hurting, so she cried a lot, at night. She only kept me awake all night for two nights, bless her heart. The vet did lots of tests, gave her subcutaneous fluids, steroids, and pain meds, and put her on antibiotics. He wondered if it might be stress related.

    And things started breaking

    At exactly the same time, my clothes dryer died. The new one could be delivered in three days, which was good, but I already had two weeks worth of dirty laundry piling up and Jacqui flying in soon from Montreal. I was able to get sheets for the bed clean and wet, but not dry. Her sheets were a bit on the crispy side, but they did finally dry after hanging in the basement for two days. When the replacement dryer was delivered, it could not be installed because our basement plumbing was not up to code. Seriously? Did I mention the dirty laundry? No problem, I know a plumber, who could come the very next day . . . to a basement filled with gas. The delivery guys had not closed the gas outlet after discovering they couldn’t install the dryer the day before.

    And they sent my husband home

    Of course, the hospital did not comply and keep him, so back to our event-stressed, dog-potty, laundry-dirty, gas-fumed, dryer-less home came my much-hurting and weak-as-a-kitten husband, with a 12” gash down the middle of his chest and each inner calf, and I pictured the headlines in my brain: “Obsessed woman gasses new heart surgery survivor to death in her quest to both wash and dry sheets.” Along with his physical presence came the implicit instructions: shower every day with special soap and six clean white washcloths. Six clean white washcloths. Fresh every day. Do not reuse them. Wear a clean white t-shirt every day. I was seeing dirty laundry in my sleep. I bought two dozen white washcloths and prayed they would multiply.

    Somehow things kept rolling along

    I picked Jacqui up at the airport, my grown son arrived (along with the new sheets I asked him to buy at Target so he could make up a bed for himself) to stay with hub, making sure his life was safe while I was gone at the event, the plumber plumbed and eventually made my house dryer friendly, and Jacqui and I finished writing our presentation, binding our handouts, and attending to last-minute details for the retreat.

    How did I keep from cracking?

    So what was going through my mind? What kept me going? How did I get through life-threatening major surgery with my husband, two back-to-back, original live events, and life doing what it does to trip you up, all at the same time, and all at the last minute? One of my clients asked me these questions recently. She wanted to know what I could teach others about getting through tough stuff and still getting the work done and being able to perform and deliver for my clients. (At that point, all she knew was that I’d had two events in six weeks, and that my husband had just had open-heart surgery. She didn’t know about the dryer and the gas and the plumber and the dog poop and the animal emergency room and the wet sheets with house guests and the six washcloths every day . . . ) Do you want to know the truth? Do you want to know what was going through my mind as Jacqui and I made our final preparations that day, and packed the car to leave for the hotel?

    This is exactly what I was thinking

    “I’ve got to get out of this crazy house! I’ve got to get through this event. I’ve got to get my husband on an even keel. Then somehow, I’ve got to get through the next event. And then — then, when my second event is successfully over, I will block out time on my calendar for a crash and meltdown.” And that’s what I did. Well, I didn’t exactly have a meltdown. But I did block off a week after each event to crash. I think I slept for three whole days after the second one.

    There was really only one thing that got me through it all

    No, these are not the usual circumstances one would expect when planning to do two events at the same time. But life does happen. And as I reflect, because my client asked me to, about what it was that really got me through the last two months, I realize there was only one thing.

    It was because I never expected any of it to be perfect

    I used to expect things to be perfect. When I first started my marketing communications firm, it drove me crazy if anything went out the door without being as close to perfect as we could make it. I mean, everything had my name on it, you know? But since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. In my creative firm, I realized the people I hired were brilliant thinkers and talented designers. I managed to let go of the stranglehold I had on the creative direction of our client projects, and let others control some of the creativity, ideas, and strategy. To concentrate more on running a good business than on how things that were not “perfectly the way I would have done them” would reflect on me. More recently, I’ve gone into a tailspin, lost my mojo, then picked myself back up and found it again. And through life, I’ve learned how toxic trying to be perfect can be.

    Not trying to be perfect sure saved me this time

    I know the retreat Jacqui and I put on for our ADHD business clients was darned good. We made a deep impact. But it wasn’t perfect. We’ve got a list of things to improve for next time. Still, people told us the event was “brilliant,” “life changing,” and the “single best experience I’ve had in years.” And I know the retreat I just finished for my creative business clients was pretty dang good, too, but it was also far from perfect. (If you’re a designer, you’ll appreciate this – my forms and handouts didn’t match each other, and none of them coordinated with my slides! Because 80% of the attendees were graphic designers [ouch!] – that would have sent me into a tailspin during my Perfection Era). Still, people called the event “outstanding,” “awesome,” “intense,” “deep thinking,” and “stellar.” I knew from the beginning that neither of these events would be perfect. That took a lot of pressure off of me, and allowed me to keep moving forward. I knew my best was very good, and that I could deliver great value — even as I was being distracted by life happening around me. But perfection? Nah, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I read something about perfectionism recently on Bryn Mooth’s blog that struck me between the eyes. I actually read it between my first and second event, and it reassured me. Bryn is an independent journalist and copywriter I met years ago when she led the HOW magazine brand and the HOW Design Conference. Bryn says it perfectly:
    “Let go of perfection. Wow, this is hard. As creative pros, we expect our work to speak for us, to represent us, to be us out in the world. Anything less than perfect feels unacceptable. But here’s the thing: The world doesn’t need—or even want—perfect. The world—and our clients, and their customers and, more important, our mental and financial well-being—needs our best work, not our perfect work. When you overwork a project to perfection, you overspend the time and budget you’ve allocated. As a creative pro, overdelivery is a sure route to burnout and cash-flow problems. Repeat after me: Good is great.”

    Repeat after me: Good is great.

    And no one talks about the roots of perfectionism better than social work research professor, author, and TED presenter Brene Brown:
    “The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting, but as hard as we try, we can’t turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like “Never good enough” and “What will people think?” Why, when we know that there’s no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No — the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect. We get sucked into perfection for one very simple reason: We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.”
    Ouch. Dr. Brown digs under the skin with her observations. Okay, Brene! I’m working on it!

    So it’s good I didn’t plan on being perfect

    If I had tried to have perfect events, I think I may have actually crashed and burned instead of being able to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Yes, these last two months have been crazy, life has intervened, things have gone wrong, and I’ve had to punt a lot, but after a short time out, I’m ready to get back in the fray. My husband is healing well, I’m having a great time following up with the people who came to my events, the dryer issue is just a memory (and I can power dry as many washcloths and sheets as you can throw at me), and Amazing Grace’s little bum is amazing once more. :)

    It took me a long time to accept not being and doing perfect

    It’s taken me a long time to get here. To be comfortable with “good” and not feeling like I’m settling or cheating anyone with “less than perfect.” And while I realize you may not agree with me (or Bryn, or Brene Brown) . . . for your sanity, I do highly recommend it. Letting go of perfection is a sane way to get through the tough stuff and still get the work done, and be able to perform and deliver for your clients. It works for me. Good is great. 
  • How to Succeed in Business in 12 Easy Steps


    Step #1: Love to do something

    Find something to do that you love so much you can’t tear yourself away from it. Do it all day and into the wee hours of the night. Get so excited about it that you can’t keep yourself from talking to everyone you know – and lots of people you don’t know – about it, all the time. Be fixated, fascinated, infatuated, and obsessed with it.

    Step #2: Figure out where this obsession can take you and a reason to go there

    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” – Dr. Seuss Look ahead, dream some dreams, have a vision and a purpose. You won’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going . . . and a reason to keep at it against all odds.

    Step #3: Don’t worry about what other people think

    Are you thinking, “But who am I to do this?” or “What if I don’t have the credentials? Do I need an MBA or a certain number of years in business to be credible?” Are you waiting for the Business Fairy to tap you with her magic wand and grant you the right to be what you want to be? (No kidding, I did this for a long time.) Steve Jobs attended one semester of college before calling it quits to begin his true work. Michael Dell had $1,000 and a dream when he dropped out of college at the age of 19 to start PC’s Limited. He is currently estimated to be worth over $15.9 billion. Walt Disney had an idea and a cartoon mouse. People laughed at him, but he didn’t worry about what they thought. Maya Angelou is known as a great American writer and has received many honorary doctorates, but has never attended college to learn her craft. Nor have the writers Mark Twain, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Robert Frost. Richard Branson dropped out at the age of 16 to start his Student Magazine. After that, he started the Virgin brand and over 360 of its other companies. Currently, he’s estimated to be worth over $4.2 billion. Mark Zuckerburg dropped out of Harvard in his sophomore year to fully pursue Facebook. Bill Gates dropped out of college, and is estimated to be worth over $66 billion as of 2012. And then of course, Marianne Williamson asks, who are you to not do it? “We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Aw, go on, try it.

    Step #4: Find the sweet spot

    Where does this thing you love intersect with what clients and customers love and want and will pay for? Figure out how to find this information. Do the research. Peer under every rock and into every crevice. Talk to people. Ask questions.

    Step #5: Be confident

    I know it’s not a black and white thing, “you either have it or you don’t.”  There are various degrees of confidence, and if you don’t have it, you can acquire it. And I also know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that you’ll be successful without confidence. Nothing makes you feel better about your business or look better to clients than to have the right kind of confidence (not to be confused with arrogance). As highly creative people do, you may have a disconnect when it comes to projecting the same degree of confidence about yourself as you do about your work. Unfortunately, when clients see a lack of confidence, they equate that with a lack of competence. OUCH! It’s not very useful to just throw yourself into stressful situations, hoping you’ll build confidence over time. It sometimes works, but it’s much easier to take a solid, realistic approach and build your confidence behind the scenes, based on practical things you have control over. There are four levels your confidence is built on, and if you understand this, you can take the pressure off yourself as you work to shore these up:
    1. Your mindset, and your deep seated feelings about your worth, work, and success
    2. Team, group, or collaborative support
    3. Your processes and systems
    4. Exterior feedback
    So there’s a method to it. And something you can do about it. And it’s very powerful.

    Step #6: Understand what makes you truly different

    Every business says they’re service-oriented and results-driven, blah blah blah. But can you talk about what really makes you different and valuable to your clients – enough to make them want to choose you over someone else? Understand this, internalize this, and learn how to talk about this – in a way that’s authentic, non-icky, and non-salesy. And certainly not pushy.

    Step #7: Be truthful

    Tell the truth, even when it sometimes feels uncomfortable. Be clear. Ask the awkward questions when you don’t understand instead of posturing and pretending that you do and then wringing your hands over not understanding. Practice truth telling, especially when you get those inklings. Listen to the nudges. Get it all out on the table.

    Step #8: Know your ideal client

    Do you know who you’re supposed to be working with, really? Not just by industry or niche, but personally? I know, I know, you’ve heard this mumbo jumbo before. But that’s because it’s extremely, extremely important. If you really love to do that thing, you need to find the clients who love that thing too – the clients you align with. And you need to align with them on several levels. They need to love how much you love it, you know? How the heck do you find these people, anyway? Think back to the last client you had who made you feel really excited about the work you were doing together. How supportive she was. How much she respected what you did for her, and how she didn’t haggle over the bill. OMG, if only all of your clients could be like her. Can they be? Can you find a bunch of clients like her? Have you tried?

    Step #9: Get visible

    Did you know that psychologists actually do likeability studies based on the idea that “when people see you more, they like you more?” It’s true, even though it seems pretty obvious. You can take this a step further into your business, as many have. We all know that clients also do business with people they know, like, and trust. This is a pretty simple math equation. Get seen more, so people will like you more, so they’ll do business with you more. But there’s a catch. See Step #8, above – you have to get seen by the right people. Your people. And you have to do it in a way that doesn’t get lost in the sea of sameness – you want the right people to actually “see” and “hear” what you put out there, and put it in the places where they actually hang out.

    Step #10: Be productive

    Get a lot of stuff done and don’t waste time. I know, you’re creative, and you don’t like to be held accountable for your time. I wish I had a nickel for every time a coaching client told me this. I’m just asking you to take control of your time, and be aware of it, especially if you want to your business to be successful. This is a big topic. More about tracking your time here and creating time here and being effectively productive here. And just know this: with structure comes freedom. So if you can structure your business for productivity, you’ll have a lot more freedom to do what you want with it.

    Step #11: Get support

    You can’t do everything. And even if you can, that doesn’t mean you should. In order to be excellent at the things you and only you can do in your business – like charting the direction of the company and serving your clients at the highest levels — you need the right support from others. It’s difficult going out and slaying the dragons every day, and without the right people around you, it will be a lot harder. What are you best at? Do that. What drags you down? Hire it out. I’m not suggesting you spend money you don’t have, but I see way too many business owners doing things they don’t do well, hate to do, aren’t trained for, and take too long to do, when someone else could free them up to do their genius work — they’d be more productive and they’d make more money. Your genius work will grow your business and bring in income. Standing in line at the post office, programming your own website, and doing your own books (I don’t care if you are an accountant), won’t.

    Step #12: Look at your money

    Don’t skip this step! You’ve come so far. Many creative business owners don’t want to look at their money because they don’t understand it and they’re afraid it won’t look good. I invite you to see your money from a different perspective if you want to succeed in business. You know how things grow when you put your attention on them? If you put your attention on a plant, and water and nurture it, how it will grow and flourish? If you pay attention to your dog, your dog becomes more attentive to you, more well-behaved? If you pay attention to your kids, your spouse, your friends, they all react better to you, and the relationships grow? It’s the same with your money. You need to pay attention to it. There’s a lot of crazy thinking around money that hampers our ability to make more of it. It has to do with feelings of self worth and the deep-seated fear of rejection. Taking a clear, unemotional look at your money on a regular basis will help to desensitize you to the fear of it and put you on the path to earning more.

    That’s it

    So there are my 12 easy steps to succeeding in business. Does that sound like an effective plan of action to you? Did you get any inklings or nudges or aha’s while going through the list? Would you like me to help you work these steps into your business? Would you like to see how your peers work these steps into their businesses? (You can learn a whole lot that way.) These are exactly the steps we’ll be talking about at my retreat coming up June 10 – 12 in Detroit. And I won’t just be talking at you, I’ll be working with you — we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and figuring out how to take these strategies into your business during the structured work sessions throughout the 3 days we’ll have together. We’ll have worksheets and exercises and processes and systems to follow, and you’ll be brainstorming and masterminding in groups with other like-minded business owners as you plot a new path for your business, or tweak the one you have now. We still 2 spots left. It’s not too late — and I think one of them has your name on it :)
  • What I’ve Learned from 28 Years in Business

      I have learned a lot during the 25 years that I owned my marketing communications firm, and during the 3 years I’ve been coaching and consulting with creative business owners.

    I learned a lot about my clients, my business, and myself.

    About my clients, I learned that:

    • Everyone is afraid in one way or another. You may think you’re the only one, but you’re not. • Most people are hiding. Not hiding “something,” just hiding out. Knowing they need to be visible, but secretly hoping no one will notice them — or a part of them. • Everyone doubts themselves, whether they admit it or not. Those who admit it move forward faster. • Creative business owners may talk big, but they don’t really mean it. They often feel small and unsure of themselves. • Creative business owners are afraid their competitors are smarter, more talented, or know more than they do (and they are probably wrong), and this clouds their judgment. It keeps them from showing their brilliance. • Creative business owners are passionate about their work, which makes them confident about it. This does not always translate into confidence in selling or defending the work.
    “Before working with Marcia, I was feeling a bit lost in my business . . . overwhelmed, overworked, and at times under-valued. I notice I feel this way whenever my life is shifting and I’m going through a stage of growth with my marketing and design firm. From our very first conversation, I knew I wanted to work with Marcia. She is very strategic, which I really appreciate. In her own client application process, Marcia asks you dozens of questions that get you thinking about your business, your challenges, AND your successes in a way that most of us don’t take the time to do. I have found more than the creative business coach I was looking for; I found a partner and friend. Thank you, Marcia, for all the guidance and encouragement you’ve given me these last few months. You are truly a gifted coach and mentor.” –Shá LeBoeuf-Dubois, Elan, Cumberland, RI

    About business, I learned that:

    • Most of it is common sense. And you know what they say about common sense not being all that common. It’s true. • There are only 3 things that really matter: 1. Do something you really believe in and can therefore be truly yourself about. This sounds good but is more difficult to put into practice. 2. Find a way to show confidence in your work to those who are looking for precisely what you have to offer, so you don’t have to even think about being salesy or icky. Again, easier to say than to do. 3. Do really really good work every single time. That doesn’t mean you have to beat it to death. Or second guess yourself all the time, which you probably do.
    “You’re gentle but powerful, Marcia. I’ve worked with a lot of coaches and a lot of mentors in the past, but what I learned and have gotten from you was something on such a deeper level. It wasn’t like making a business plan, it was like ‘hey, let’s look inside at what you can pull out of you and display so your clients see who you are and the value you bring to them.’” “Marcia is one of the strongest coaches I’ve ever worked with. I got the most value in such a short period of time — so whatever she’s got, you need to sign up for it. She’s a gifted coach, and has been a force in my life. She may be exactly what you need right now.” –Lorrie Morgan Ferrero, Red Hot Copy, Los Angeles, CA

    And about myself, I learned that:

    • I know more than I think I do. Experience was a great teacher, and I worked hard. • Because I paid attention to how I did things, it makes it easy for me to teach what worked to others. And to point out and avoid what doesn’t work. • It’s better for me to be myself than to try to mold myself into what a business owner, designer, coach, consultant, or mentor “should” be. That doesn’t work anyway. • If I listen to people, really listen, I can help. I am good at meeting people where they are and leading, guiding, or pointing them in the right direction. Deep listening is a learned skill. Solutions come with experience. • If I talk to people from my heart, I can help. I am good at breaking things down and communicating in easy terms. This has to do with understanding and translating, which also begins with listening. • No one cares about what I say I can do. You want to hear how I say it and see how I do it. Authenticity is important to you.
    “I’m more than 100% satisfied with my VIP Intensive Day with you. A lot of underlying problems that were not being able to be discussed were brought to the table. My team has the same frustrations I have, and they don’t know how to fix them, either. They could relate to you — as a friendly, caring woman who listened to them — and who had a lot of solutions. They felt refreshed, they could see I was serious about improving the company. I didn’t really know what to expect. But you could see where you could help the most and where I could get the most bang for my buck, like you’re Nancy Drew or something! You didn’t know me well, or the company, but you have a method of discovery, with your pre-VIP Day questionnaire and interview — and the time with me, with my staff, doing the follow up — it all worked. My team wanted to feel good, and they did. I’ll be working with you again.” — Marilyn Trent, Trent Design, Rochester, MI

    I wish I had learned it earlier

    I wish I had learned these things a lot earlier  than I did – I could have been soooo much more ahead of the game — but I didn’t. I had to learn them on the fly, by the school of hard knocks and the seat of my pants. If you learn them now, you will be so much more ahead of the game. How can you learn and actually internalize this stuff, so it becomes second nature, and you really understand your place in all of this and how to use it to your advantage? Come. Join us at my 3-day Courage, Confidence, & Influence retreat June 10 – 12. We’ve had a cancellation, so there are still 2 spots left.
    “What your course gives is a process by which people can identify the elements in themselves that may be holding back their confidence. Each of the steps ties in and it’s wonderful . . . it’s presented in a safe environment where it goes very deep and to the very core of how we operate as business owners and as people.” –Gillian Zali, The Virtual Path, Torrance, CA
    This is a rare opportunity to sit in with an amazing group of values centered, like-minded creative business owners who think just like you do. They’re carving out 3 days to work on their businesses in this safe and supportive environment, so they can make leaps forward in their businesses, gaining confidence and understanding that would otherwise take years to obtain. And, they’ll be making life-long connections, and having fun. I really hope you can make it. I know it will make a difference in your business and your life. Go here to learn more. Marcia Questions? Email me at info at hoeck dot net          
  • How to Be Effectively Productive

    One of the biggest challenges we face as business owners is spending our time well. After you go to the trouble of learning how to create time, you want to make sure you’re making the best use of it. And you know as the captain of your own ship, how you spend your time definitely impacts the success of your business. As well as how much money you make. And how good you feel about yourself. Being productive gives you a sense of accomplishment, which makes you want to be more productive, which makes you more successful, and you get a good momentum going. I’m not telling you anything new — you know this. Then how come you spend so much time doing the wrong things? I do it too, we all do. We start our weeks and days and hours with good intentions and then somehow get off course . . . and the important things don’t get done. One of the most useful things I do in my business is to stay on top of how I’m spending my time.

    Awareness is the most important step

    Maybe you, like a lot of entrepreneurs, need a way to bring what you’re actually doing into your awareness more often, so you can stop what you’re doing if it’s not productive, and get back to what you should be doing — things that will help move your business forward. Try doing this:

    Step 1: Put a note where you’ll see it throughout the day.

    It can say, “Stop!” or “Pay attention,” or “Hey! Get back to work!” or whatever you think will get your attention when you see it throughout the day. Something that will stop you, so you can become aware. For years I had a “Pay attention!” sticky note on my monitor, until it got to be part of my environment and I didn’t see it anymore — that’s when it’s time to move on to something new that will get your attention. I moved to a rubber band on my wrist — it annoyed me enough that I paid attention to it. And if I was doing something really dumb, or something that wasn’t helpful to my business, I’d give the rubber band a snap. That woke me up enough that I could move on to Step 2.

    Step 2: Then ask yourself, “What am I doing?” followed by these questions:

    • Does it need to be done? Is what you’re doing necessary? Does it even need to be done? Maybe it’s something you used to have to do, but isn’t necessary anymore. Rethink it — maybe you can dump it. I used to save a lot of paper files and someone (usually me) would have to spend a lot of time updating and organizing them. Necessary? Not most of the time. I had a closet full of this stuff. Easier to dump a lot of it, and more productive, too. Or maybe you’ve drifted off-task onto something totally non-productive. Does that need to be done, really? • Does it need to be done now? Maybe you’ve drifted on to another business task. Is it the one you should be doing now? • Does it need to be done by me? This one is key. Are you doing something mindless that you could delegate, like standing in line at the post office? Or something you’re not really qualified to do anyway, like your bookkeeping? Can you find someone else to do this stuff? • Is it income producing? If it is, cool — carry on. If it’s not, can you stop it and shift to something that is? • Is it keeping me from doing something that is income producing? Yes? Then stop it and move on. Delegate it if it still needs to be done. Put it on the back burner. Whatever. • Does it benefit my business? If you’re playing a game or looking for a present for cousin Suzie, maybe you can do it later. If someone else is keeping you from work you need to do, let them know. There can be sneaky things in here too, that look like they’re important and beneficial to your business, but they’re really not — be ruthless and truthful here. • Can I be doing something more productive? If yes, stop what you’re doing, and do the more productive thing.

    Step 3: Reward yourself every time you stop doing something unproductive and move on to something productive.

    M&Ms work well for me. Or put a dollar in a jar. After awhile, the thought of being productive will be a reward in itself. Also, the extra income that comes along with a more successful business helps.

    Step 4: Keep track of how many times you catch yourself doing something unproductive or unnecessary during the day.

    Count the dollars you’ve been putting in that jar — can you believe you almost wasted all that time? And doesn’t it feel great knowing how much more successful your business is going to be because now you’re not? Being aware, and having a method to remind yourself to be aware, is the biggest part of the battle — don’t you think?
  • How to Create Time

    Albert Einstein                 This post was originally posted in my blog on March 2, 2011.  Now this is the ultimate time management system: becoming the source of your own time and making as much of it as you want. It’s something I’m working on, right now.

    I can create time.

    I’m actually creating time as I write this, and you’re creating time — or creating time pressure — as you read this. And yesterday, totally on purpose, I created extra time in order to meet a deadline, when there didn’t appear to be enough time. It still seems like magic. Yesterday I woke up feeling pretty sluggish, and as the morning wore on it got worse. I had a lot on my plate, I was getting ready to teach a class for my Indestructible Business course, and I felt like I was dragging through mud. I didn’t know how I was going to finish my prep for the class in time, especially the spreadsheets, as I seemed to be moving so s-l-o-w-l-y. Then I remembered Einstein Time.

    Einstein said there was no limit to time.

    Einstein Time is an idea first shared with me by my brilliant energy coach, Bonnie Hutchinson, from the book, The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks. Apparently there was a time in Hendricks’ life when he was frustrated and frazzled and constrained by time, so he went out off in the wilderness to think and work his way out of it. While he was there, it occurred to him that his understanding of time was outdated. Einstein said there’s no limit to time, that time is infinite. And Hendricks made a shift of consciousness right there and then, embracing one simple truth:
    We are where time comes from.
    He further deduced, “If I am the source of time, then I can make as much of it as I want.”

    I have exactly the right amount of time.

    From there, Hendricks went on to ask how different things would be if we told ourselves,
    “I have exactly the right amount of time to enjoy everything I am doing.”
    Back to yesterday morning and my crunch for time. As I remembered to stop and think about Einstein Time, I said out loud,
    “I have exactly the right amount of time to enjoy everything I am doing,” 
    with particular emphasis on the word “enjoy,” because of my challenge with spreadsheets, and went back to my work.

    I can make time, instead of spending time.

    I cannot explain to you how the rest of the morning went. I got everything I needed to do done, with time to spare. I didn’t rush, and I didn’t feel rushed. In fact, I specifically made time to concentrate on details. Ah, do you see my choice of words, there? I didn’t spend time, I made time. And the last half hour before class absolutely crept by — I thought 1:00 pm would never get there. I felt refreshed and prepared for my class. I don’t quite understand how this works, but I know that for me, it does. I’ve tried this in other situations, too, like catching the ferry when I’m tied up in snarling city traffic, and juggling client and family responsibilities. If I can relax, take a deep breath, and focus on this:
    “I have exactly the right amount of time to enjoy everything I am doing,” 
    it always seems to work out that, amazingly enough, I do. I invite you to try it. This morning I dug out my copy of The Big Leap and thumbed through the Einstein Time chapter. If you don’t have this book yet, it’s a great read.
  • Announcing My LIVE 3-Day Retreat June 10 – 12

    Announcing my LIVE 3-day retreat in historic midtown Detroit, Michigan:

    June 10 – 12, 2013

    Learn more about my LIVE Retreat

    In 3 short days, you’ll build your business courage, confidence, and influence in an intimate, business & mindset strengthening experience with me and a small circle of creative, committed, and interesting business owners like you.
    We’ll be rolling up our sleeves and developing strategies for:
    • building your business courage and confidence, based on the 4 Levels your confidence is based on
    • the best way to focus your marketing so you can stop trying to master it all and only do what works
    • creating systems and processes that will organize your work flow and free you to be more creative
    • understanding how money works in your business so you can price your work correctly, not feel icky about it, and not give away the store
    • leveraging your time and expertise so your business can grow without you having to work 90 hours per week or explode at the seams
     . . . and more!
    But that’s not the best part. The best part is that we’ll be doing this away from your day-to-day workload, where you’ll develop a new network of like-minded, creative people to support you and hold you accountable to your unique brilliance.
    Click here for registration information. Spots are limited and right now, updated May 16, we’re at 90% capacity. For questions, contact me at info@hoeck.net.
    Love to see you there! Marcia
  • “But Marcia, I Just Want to Make More Money”

        This is something I hear sometimes from business owners when I talk about confidence challenges, or not having the right clients because of a confidence challenge: “But I love my clients! And I don’t have a problem with my confidence — I just wish they’d pay me more. I don’t seem to be able to make enough money for what I do.” Sound familiar? If it does, there’s something that isn’t working for you — and it very well could be your confidence. There are several factors at work when you’re in this situation:
    1. You could have the wrong pricing. 2. You could have the wrong clients (even though you have a “great” relationship with them). 3. You could have the wrong mojo (confidence, moxie, self-assurance — you know what I mean).
    It could be just one of the above or a mix of all three. And it’s sometimes difficult to tell where one stops and the other starts.

    The wrong pricing

    Your pricing could be the culprit, and if you’re not making enough money, it stands to reason that it’s too low rather than too high. You may have started low with the client in order to get the work. Or you set your pricing years ago. But now it’s time to change all that. If you’re really busy and working a lot, but don’t have a lot to show for it, either your pricing is too low, or you need to find a way to leverage your time. Probably both.

    The wrong clients

    This one is a bit more challenging because your ego gets involved. It’s truth time here: “Does he love me for my money or does he love me because I’m me?” Do your clients love you because they can afford you, or do they love you because of the amazing results you give them and the transformation you provide? Everyone loves you when you’ve got great pricing, but how many of these great clients will stick around if you raise them? I like to think of money as energy, and my work as energy, and I strive for an equal energy exchange. I aim for a balance between the energy I put out – my work – and the energy I get back in return from my clients in the form of money. If the balance is off, I know it – and that’s when I feel icky and uncomfortable. How’s the balance of energy between what you put out and what you get back? Is it time to raise your pricing? And if you do, pay close attention to which “wonderful” clients decide to stay, and which quietly (or not so quietly!) fall away. I told you it was difficult to tell where one of these factors stopped and the other one starts, and “pricing” and “how much clients like you” are pretty intertwined. You don’t want the clients who love you because of your low pricing. Trust me, these are the wrong clients for you. (Want to learn more about finding the right clients, who’ll love you for the right things? We’ll be talking more about this here.)

    The wrong mojo

    Is any of this “wrong pricing, wrong clients” talk making you uncomfortable? It could be you’re not as confident as you thought you were. Or your mojo isn’t as strong as you thought it was. Maybe it’s not helping you to stand strong through this process. Maybe you worry you’ll lose your clients if you raise your prices or don’t bend to their requests for discounts, or that they’ll be mad at you. After all, can you really charge that much? Are you really worth that much? They could find someone else to do the work, right? And where would that leave you? Good questions! And the only way to know for sure is to stand strong, try it, and see what happens. Gulp. And to confidently present the foundation of what you do, which all of this is built on. Does your work offer a valuable transformation for your clients? What kind of results do they get by working with you? Do your clients trust that you can deliver these results? Yes? Then you can move forward with self-assurance that your work is worth it. Sounds simple enough, right? Do you have the right mojo to do the job? If you do, go for it! I’ll cheer you on all the way. If you’d like a little help, consider joining me for “Secrets of Authentic Confidence,” beginning March 14.
  • Ditch Your Elevator Speech

    Parts of this article originally ran in Parse, a blog presented by HOW magazine. There you go, walking into that business networking event, hoping to meet people you can impress, but knowing that when anyone asks what you do, you’re going to totally underwhelm them. And you’re going to say something really lame that ends the conversation before it even begins. I’ve always had an intense dislike for elevator speeches. They never came naturally to me and they rarely sound natural coming from anyone else, either. Many times, I’ve seen them repel people rather than attract. So I’ve always been on the lookout for something to replace them with, because I know I’m going to have to say something. (Can you tell I’m not a natural networker?) I’ve always liked Lois Kelly’s approach, from her book, Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word of Mouth Marketing, and now use a conversational marketing approach when I can. I like this approach to jump-start conversations In her book, Kelly describes how traditional marketing and communications don’t really help people talk. They may inform, promote, direct, and describe, but they don’t help jump-start conversations. The ways we’ve all been taught to introduce our businesses to people  — elevator speeches or 60-second commercials — don’t start conversations, either. Kelly contends that the goal of talking to people about what you do is to get them to find what you’re talking about interesting enough that they’ll say, “Gee, that’s interesting, tell me more.” Has anyone ever said that to you after you’ve given them your elevator speech? If so, you can skip the rest of this article. But chances are, your elevator speech makes people’s eyes glaze over, just like most everyone else’s does. It helps to make meaning Surveys say, and you already know, that people don’t trust companies. They trust people. So it makes sense that we need to communicate like people, not like companies. We need to create conversational marketing approaches, and have something interesting to talk about. One way to do this is by making meaning — which helps make sense of an idea and shows people how it relates to what they already know. When they don’t see meaning, people tend to become skeptical and indifferent. There are steps you can take towards making meaning and uncovering ideas worth talking about. Here’s how to apply this to replacing your elevator speech. Talk to the five-year-old It’s been proven that meaning can most effectively be conveyed by tapping into the five-year-old in your clients and prospects through stories and conversations. Here’s how Kelly suggests we get that five-year-old to really “hear” our messages: The five-year-old likes to argue and reason, and uses words like “because”: When talking to people about what you do, can you explain “why” and “why not”? Do you use the word “because”? The five-year-old uses five to eight words in a sentence: Do you keep your ideas brief, and use short sentences? The five-year-old is interested in cause and effect: Can you talk about what you do in a way that explains, “If we do this, then this will happen, if we don’t do this, that will happen”? The five-year-old understands and uses comparative terms: What analogies can you use to help clients and prospects understand? The five-year-old enjoys creating and telling stories: Are you telling stories? Storytelling is one of the best ways to help people understand, retain, and repeat ideas. The five-year-old likes to use swear words: Are there disruptive ideas and language you can use to get attention? (Notice the word “disruptive” — I’m not suggesting you swear at people instead of using an elevator speech. But you might need to shake them up to get their attention.) Connecting with the five-year-old and making meaning when introducing yourself and your business just might help you start conversations — instead of talking at people — giving you the courage to keep moving in this direction. You can also have a point of view A point of view is your perspective about something that evokes conversation. You can say things like, “The way I see it . . .” or “From my perspective . . .” or “The thing I’ve learned about . . .” followed by a belief. Even if people disagree, they’ll begin to see things from your point of view and hopefully get engaged in a conversation. This conversation will help you learn more about who you’re talking with, and them learn more about you in a way that helps form bonds. You’re talking, not just telling. Your point of view should be easy to understand and remember, and easy to talk about in your own words, so it doesn’t have to be memorized like an elevator speech. The following are “musts” for a point of view.

    Lois Kelly’s 10 characteristics of a point of view

    1. A point of view must be engaging It must evoke a response and start conversations rather than just informing. 2. A point of view must be true The more evidence to support your point of view, the greater your credibility. 3. A point of view must be relevant The more relevant to the audience, the more interested people will be. 4. A point of view must be genuine You must truly believe in the idea — there’s no faking it. 5. A point of view must be fresh No one wants to hear old ideas, but sometimes a non-original point of view can be framed and expressed in a new way to discover new insights. 6. A point of view must connect the dots Your point of view should connect somehow to your business vision or strategy — otherwise, it’s just talk. 7. A point of view must be memorable You’ll want your point of view to be easy to remember and stick in a person’s head. 8. A point of view must be “talk-able” You’ll want your point of view to be easy for people to talk about in their own words, and tell stories around. It should jump start two-way conversations. 9. A point of view must be “leggy” Your point of view should resonate with multiple audiences, and be able to be communicated through multiple communication channels. You’ll be using it to build marketing and promotion around, so it has to be flexible and have “legs.” 10. A point of view must be likeable People have to like talking about your point of view, or they won’t. Your point of view is in addition to your vision, mission, values, positioning, and other marketing elements you may use. It’s another tool in your marketing toolbox, and one that you can pull out in place of your elevator speech. Here’s an example: A few years ago, when I first read about using a point of view to start conversations and I still was working in my marketing communications firm, I was on a flight to a high-profile women’s business conference and jotted down some thoughts. In the first session of the conference, I was seated next to a McDonald’s Corporation executive. When she asked me what I did, instead of telling her I owned a marketing communications firm in Ohio, or some other boring elevator stuff, I took a deep breath and said something like this, “Companies think they need to talk about their products and services, while I think what they really need to do is reveal more about ‘who’ they are as a company and how that relates to the product and or service, so customers can connect with them on an emotional level.” Before I could continue and wrap that around to my business and me, she stopped me with — and I swear this is the honest-to-goodness truth — “Oh, that’s so interesting. I really like looking at connection first.” And we were off and running. “Connecting with customers on an emotional level first, and relating that to products and services second,” became our company point of view. Not very many people use this approach, at least not consciously and consistently. If you do it, you’ll stand out. People will start to think you’re interesting (or at least, more interesting than they do now), and they just may want to know more.      
  • “Kicking Fear to the Curb” . . . Darlene Cary Interviews Me on Her Site

    Had a fun interview last month with the vivacious Darlene Cary of Her Next Step. Darlene helps women create businesses that work with their lives, one step at a time, based on the tough lessons learned from years in the corporate world. Darlene and I met on Twitter (you meet the nicest people on Twitter!) after she read my Copyblogger article on fear. Here’s what Darlene posted on her site: “Fear can (and will) stop you from moving forward.  Stop you from realizing the dream of serving yourself and others with your service business. After 20+ years of running a small business, business coach Marcia Hoeck discovered several methods of facing her paralyzing fears.  She now shares her methods with small business owners facing the same fears . . . ”  continue reading
  • Find Your Mojo: How to Uncover and Talk About What Makes You Truly Different and Valuable in Business

    Many times business owners flounder in existing businesses, or fail when starting new businesses because they can’t seem to get in the groove. Running the business seems difficult, confusing, and overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start or even what to fix. This doesn’t have to be the case. Maybe you just have to find your mojo.
    What: “Find Your Mojo: How to Uncover and Talk About What Makes You Truly Different and Valuable in Business” Webinar When: Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:00 am PST / 2:00 pm EST Mark your calendar now! How: Virtual webinar. Sign up here to get on the email list for the webinar, updates about this class, and announcements about future classes.
    If you can’t make the live class: Replay will be available if you can’t make the actual live class, so sign up even if you can’t make the time. You’ll be notified by email when the recording is available.
  • Five Ways to Stay Focused

    In December, Brain PlugIn executive coaching client Dave Fleck flew in from Philadelphia to begin his program with a customized full-day VIP Intensive. We spent eight hours planning Dave’s next six months for his business, with flip charts and sticky notes and lots of brain power. We covered so much, it was important for both of us to sit down at the end of the day and regroup — to focus on what we’d accomplished.
    When we finished mapping out the basic plan, of utmost importance was to find ways to capture and continue the enthusiasm and focus we’d unleashed during our day together.
    Without a Plan, Things Can Slip Through the Cracks
    You may have drawn up new plans for your business, too, with the start of the New Year, and without a plan to stay focused, all of your good planning is in danger of slipping through the cracks. This might be the perfect time for me to share some of my simple strategies (and ones Dave is working on) for staying focused on your main business objectives.
    1. Organize your work space
    I did this over the holidays, did you? I always analyze and regroup at the start of a new year, and find that nothing helps me focus on new (or renewed) priorities better than a clean work area and organized files. And no, I’m not always super organized — just when I know I really need to focus. 
    When I had the advantage of owning a large building for my marketing firm, I could just leave my office if it was disheveled, and go work in one of the (clean and organized) conference areas to gain clarity and focus. Now, I’m squeezed for space when working at home, so it’s more important to try to stay organized. For me, this is the perfect time of year to organize, and it feels soooo good. If you’re looking for focus and you haven’t tried this, go do it. You’re in for a treat.
    2. Corral your email
    This is nothing new. You’ve heard it before: email is a big distraction and time waster. But have you done anything about it?
    Listen to this: according to a 2011 study cited in Inc. Magazine, workers in small and medium-sized businesses spend half the work day on “necessary, yet unproductive tasks, including routine communications and filtering information and correspondence,” and that means email. Half of the work day!
    In 2012, a study published in the Wall Street Journal advised employers to forget about Facebook and other social media, which can boost productivity, as time wasters for employees, and instead, to be concerned about “the daily slog of emails between colleagues [which] was damaging focus and wasting work time.” This study found that the average American office worker gets distracted, or “self-distracts,” every three minutes. And then it takes approximately 23 minutes to recover and refocus, after each episode of getting thrown off track.
    Wow! Talk about lost productivity.
    Studies like these are encouraging some companies to limit and even ban email except to communicate with clients, and to have “email free” time blocks when people are not expected to respond to email and can focus on long-term projects.
    You can do this, too. An easy way to start is to determine a major priority at the end of every day that you’ll work on during your “email free” time block the following day — first thing the next morning is ideal.  Then, when you begin your day, do not even look at your email until you have a good hour or two of work accomplished on your major priority. No peeking! Email can wait – it really can. If you have to trick yourself, do it: pretend you’re spending that first hour or two with an important client and you can’t possibly check email. And it’s the truth, isn’t it? Even if that important client is you. When you get used to this, you can move on to checking and answering your email in batches, a few times a day, instead of all day, whenever it comes in. I know you don’t want to do it. Try it anyway. You’ll be amazed at what you can get done.

    3. Block your time

    Just like you’re blocking “email free” time now (right?), you can begin blocking the rest of your calendar. This simple time management trick is the most important thing I do to make sure I get focus time in, and it’s something I recommend to all my clients. It’s in Dave’s plan, of course. (From Dave: “If you don’t have time blocked out on your calendar for specific tasks you want to accomplish, when will you get it done? I found that if I don’t schedule my time, a lot of my day is spent on less important items. If I want to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day I know I need to ‘plan my day and work my plan’ everyday.”) I know, you didn’t become a business owner to follow rules and strict time tables — you want freedom! But guess what, there’s a little bit of a conundrum here, and it’s this: you won’t ever get the freedom you want unless you put in the structure. I’ll say it a different way.

    “With structure comes freedom.”

    and Dave adds this wonderful quote from Zig Ziglar:

    “When you are tough on yourself, life is going to be infinitely easier on you.”

    If you block your time, you’ll get more done. You’ll be more productive. Your business will be more successful — all of which lead to more freedom for you. So when you have something important to work on, block the time off on your calendar, just like an appointment with a client, and keep it sacred. Don’t schedule anything else during that time, and don’t let yourself get interrupted. Need to write more? Block off the time. Need more creativity time? Block it off. Need prep and planning time for the big presentation? Block. It. Off. It can be tomorrow, next week, or next month, just make sure the important things you need to focus on are blocked off on your calendar.

    4. Use a timer

    Deceptively simple. Amazingly effective. NASA in the United States has determined that the human brain can only maintain focus for 26 minutes at a time, yet, most of us expect our brains to keep chugging away for hours at a stretch. Here’s how you can take advantage of your brain’s natural 26-minute concentration pattern: When you need to focus on a task, set your timer for 20 to 30 minutes, or 26 minutes if you want to be really scientific. You should be able to focus for that amount of time, and don’t let yourself break or be interrupted until the timer goes off. When it does, take a short (few minutes) break, check in with whoever it was who tried to interrupt you, follow up on that idea you had but wouldn’t let yourself check because you were focusing (write stray ideas down so they won’t get lost and you can check them at break), whatever. Just don’t go off on a tangent, and keep your break to under five minutes. Then set the timer again. I know people who have written entire books this way. Try it.

    5. Get a buddy

    There’s nothing like accountability to keep you focused. Dave’s buddy for the next six months is me, and a large part of my job is to be that accountability for him. Although Dave is ultimately responsible and accountable for his success, my job is to support him in following through on the plan we created during our day together and complete the tasks he is accountable for. It’s also to watch out for any pitfalls in his game as we work towards his objectives, and to keep him focused and on track. He’s got enough on his mind with running his business and serving clients every day. A coach is a great solution, and there are a lot of different kinds of coaches. If you decide to go this route, make sure you find one you resonate with, who has actually been in the trenches, doing what you’re doing, instead of someone who’s teaching what they learned online or from a book. A colleague who is also serious about their business is another good option, and you can keep each other on track. Mastermind groups and peer groups, if you get into the right ones, also can help.

    There you have it.

    Now you, like Dave, can start working your plan without fear of veering off track and losing all of your good intentions. You can do it — I have faith in you!  
  • The Real Reason the Mayan Calendar Ended with Today

                            Love this cartoon by Bizarro Blog’s Dan Piraro! Thanks, Dan, for my laugh of the day.