Blog Overview

On Dream Business Ventures And Going From Idea To Reality

I have a confession to make.

My resignation form had been on my work computer for over two years before I actually gave my notice.

Yes, it took me two years to finally dive (hmmm…more like plunge) into self-employment as a freelance technology coach for service-based businesses.

Two years is a long time to have a dream deterred. This business dream had been waiting, semi-patiently, for some perfect moment to strike.

And I’ll tell you a secret…

That so-called “perfect” moment never happened. I had to take a leap of faith and just begin.

A couple weeks ago, business loan company Kabbage.com reached out to me and asked, “We want to know, if you had the chance to start a (new) business tomorrow, what would it be and why?” and it brought back a lot of memories.

But what it most reminded me is that there’s no time like the present to start your dream business.

IT STARTS WITH VISION & PURPOSE

It’s not a coincidence that my technology coaching practice is targeted to women business owners, or as I like to say, ladypreneurs.

My life’s purpose is to help women embrace what technology offers. Because in our modern society, understanding and leveraging technology enriches lives.

Technology can be the tipping point between a successful business and one that fails. It’s my dream for more women to feel empowered and comfortable with using modern tools, apps, and services in both their lives and their businesses. (But only when it makes sense. There is such a thing as too much technology.)

For me, it was disheartening to be one of only five or six women in a class of about one hundred and ten freshman computer science students. That’s too low.

And if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a women tell me they’re not technical, I cringe. Especially when their aversion to technology holds them, or their business, back from reaching its fullest potential.

So my dream business venture must help women with technology by solving a challenge that they experience.

BE STRENGTH-BASED AND STRATEGIC

My best business tip is to commit to learning, accepting, and embracing what your personal strengths are. And then build your business – or at least some of it’s services and products, around those strengths.

Okay, that sounds like something like Oprah would say.

But seriously, my dream business venture must be unique, memorable, wildly useful, and the very best at what it does. For those four things to occur, I must build my business around my one-of-a-kind strengths and also hire top of the line help in areas that I’m weaker in.

Earlier this year I went on a self-discovery journey to discover my strengths. For six (long) weeks, I kept a list numbered from one to ten next to me. It asked:

What am I naturally great at? What could I easily do all day, every day, if I could?

At the end of this exercise I discovered the following about myself:

  1. When I have figured something out, I can explain it simply to others with everyday language (versus technical jargon – which I despise).
  2. I deeply love evaluating software tools. In fact, I could evaluate apps and services all day long! A big part of me enjoys seeing how a service provider has implemented their product, and understanding who’d most benefit from using it.
  3. My best form of communication is written — well, minus the typos. (But I like to think they add personality to the message.)
  4. I’m able to see patterns quite easily, even between topics which at first glance do not seem connected or correlated.

MY DREAM BUSINESS VENTURE: THE TECHNOLOGY BOUTIQUE

Imagine an online boutique where modern ladypreneurs can “window shop” for the best curated business apps and services that are within their budgets.

Let’s be frank: technical jargon sucks.

Even if you somewhat enjoy technology, researching it can be dull and time consuming. Sometimes I feel like the marketing team makes their message as complicated as possible. And other times, the product sounds amazing on paper and then performs like a dud after you buy it.

Which reminded me of shopping for clothes.

I mean how many times has something looked stunning on the hanger (or on that weird faceless mannequin). But then, when you try it on, it was a complete and total flop?

It all got me thinking about fashion, shopping, and technology.

Akin to fashion, technology changes…All. The. Time. It can be hard for a fashionista to keep up with the trends and new indie brands. Same goes with small business technology. There’s a constant array of new apps from startups and it can be hard to keep up.

And just like every person has their own unique fashion style and tastes, the same true is true with business technology. One size definitely does not fit all.

I realized that part of what I do as a technology coach is help businesses select trendy apps and services that fit their business model and their objectives. I help them fill their “business technology closet” with ah-maz-ing finds.

Guess that makes me a TECH STYLIST.

So I started to ask some questions:

  • What if you took away the tech speak (hint: one of my strengths) and changed the lingo into something most women already connect with?
  • What if you presented business technology in a clever, organized, but still playful manner – instead of tedious, dull, and oh-so-boring?
  • What if other business owners could leave feedback and insights on what worked and fit their business, so you receive a group’s opinion versus just a blogger’s or guru’s?

I began to envision this online boutique where trusted curators highlight and share the best technology finds for my favorite market: women business owners.

MAKE YOUR DREAM VENTURE A REALITY VENTURE

I’ve had this idea in my mind since the end of May. Since then, I’ve been researching and putting ideas to paper in a simplified business plan.

And as I was writing this blog post for Kabbage.com, I realized it needed to finally happen. Because as I discovered after giving my notice, there’s no time like the present. And this time, I don’t want two years to pass me by.

So allow me to introduce you to my newest venture which I’m elated to share with you today: The Technology Boutique.

It’s not much yet and it’s far from perfect – but it’s now 100% official and out in the world. And that’s half the battle when you’re thinking about making your dream venture a reality.

Kabbage.com also asked me, “How would you start (your dream venture)?”

Here’s my answer for all you dreamprenerus wanting to start your venture:

1.) There’s never going to be a perfect time. Start before you’re ready.

2.) Obtain whatever resources you need. Know your strengths (read: what you can do yourself), but be quick to recognize your limits.

Once you know your limits, find the resources you need to make your business happen. It might be a technology coach or a business coach. Or perhaps someone with a sales and marketing background who can guide you on how selling products work.

Or you may need a small business loan to get started. (Hint: Kabbage.com offers quick and painless small business loans.) Whatever it is, determine what’s needed to make your business a reality. Sometimes you have to bootstrap it all by yourself, but if you can invest in your business by hiring out help – do that.

3.) If your new to business, take a business class or two. I took a class on Entrepreneurship at my local junior college after giving my notice. You can find a list of free online college classes on business basics at OpenCulture.com.

SkillShare.com also offers mini-classes on Entrepreneurship from business leaders like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki. If you use this affiliate link, you’ll get a free month on SkillShare to get started.

4.) Have a mentor or business coach. We all need support and an objective party to help us see the forest for the trees. Investing in a coach or mentor is crucial.

5.) Make a plan. I don’t believe you need a traditional business plan, but you do need to understand your business model and revenue model, who your target customer/client is (marketing 101), and how you plan to make your product or service actually happen with a simple project plan.

Planning your business may require research or a prototype, so get started with that. My regular coaching services provided me with a lot of research into what my target market needed but was lacking on the market.

6.) Just. Do. It. Sit down every day and make some progress – even five minutes, towards making your business a reality.

Tips to Make Your Dream Business a Reality: Get Started (There's Never A Perfect Time), Find a Mentor (Listen and Learn All You Can), Plan and Execute (Because There's No Time Like The Present)

I’m proud and elated to see my vision for The Technology Boutique start to fall into place.

If you’re a women entrepreneur who doesn’t even know what you don’t know (well, when it comes to technology at least)…or if you’re constantly asking others on Facebook what they’re using for webinars, website pop-ups, and accounting — then oh boy, The Technology Boutique is perfect for you.

Go visit TheTechnologyBoutique.com now and be sure to sign-up for updates while you’re there. By signing up, you’ll be the first to know when its virtual doors open. I’d love to have you join me on this venture from day one.

But now I’m curious.

If you had a chance to start a business venture RIGHT NOW what would your dream business venture be? What’s stopping you from making that dream a reality? How’d it feel to see your idea blossom into a real biz that you created and launched?

Take a moment to reflect on your dreams and then leave your thoughts in the coments below.

And then, just maybe, go make it happen. Because really, there’s no time like the present.

Author’s note: Kabbage.com reached out to me to write a blog post as part of their Dream Venture Campaign. While it helped motivate me to finally make my big dream a reality, I have no business relationship or partnership with Kabbage.com. I am not affiliated with their company in any way nor am I promoting or recommending their service.

Kabbage.com is a small business lending company that looks at metrics and data from leading service providers – such as PayPal, Etsy, QuickBook – to determine if your small business is a good candidate for a Kabbage business loan. If you qualify for loan, you have flexible on-going access to the loan as you need it. Please visit Kabbage.com for more information or to see if you qualify.

5 Mompreneur Approved Ways To Boost Your Summer Productivity

If you’re a Mompreneur like I am, it’s possible that you’ve got a love-hate relationship with summer too.

Overnight my daily routine and productivity goes flying out the window. My normally quiet home office is no longer a completely peaceful haven!

Now there’s frequent interruptions and questions.

If only I had a dollar for every “Hey Momma…”

There’s little footsteps traipsing in the hallway. The constant white noise of the television. And toilets being flushed at all hours. Even though I’m in my office room with the door closed, I hear it all. Mostly because I’m not used to it.

Then there’s running the kid around town to her classes, camps, and workshops.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, so I’m just going to say it…

The first week feels impossible. It’s simply exhausting.

And I definitely don’t feel like “I have it all.”

This is my second summer as a work from home entrepreneur. Here’s my honest one-word solution on how to survive when suddenly your kids (or maybe it’s your spouse) are hanging out at the “office.”

Surrender.

Channel that Disney movie your kids watched a zillion and a half times last year and just “let it go….”

SURRENDER INTO SUMMER

Now let me be clear, surrender doesn’t mean you give up your business completely over the next few months.

No siree! You can still be super productive in the summer, I promise.

But perhaps maintaining your normal rigorous schedule while the kids are home isn’t realistic? Or, instead of feeling like a failure because your normal clients (who happen to be moms) are suddenly MIA, surrender to the fact you’ve got more time to spend time improving your biz.

Tweet this: Surrender means simply recognizing that summer’s crazy demands affect your business.

And more importantly, that it’s okay.

INSTEAD OPT TO WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER.

For me, surrender means working fewer hours so I can take my step-kid to summer swim lessons and to an occasional “girl-only” afternoon out, and not feeling stressed to make up those “lost” hours.

Since I’m working fewer hours each week, my focus shifts to summer productivity.

I make the hours I do have count…in a MAJOR way.

Now if summer’s a slow season for you, perhaps it’s a good time to revise your marketing message, make other improvement, or create a new exciting offering for fall?

Or if it’s business as usual (only with fewer hours) here’s some productivity boosts, tips, and tools to help ensure you make every minute and spare second count to the fullest. You’ll call this “the summer of productivity” before I’m done.

TIP 1: SPEND LESS TIME COMMUNICATING

If your time is limited, then wordy back and forth emails or social media conversations are the #1 enemy. Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek nails it when he says on his blog that “email is the largest interruption in modern life.

Even checking your emails and social media accounts multiple times a day can become a big time sink and ain’t no one got time for that in the summer!

The solution: Discipline (for you) & boundaries (for others).

Your new summer policy: You’ll only check emails twice a day.

If people are used to quick responses from you, setup an email auto-responder. Politely inform them that due to your current workload (or your summer schedule) you’ll only be checking emails twice a day: once in the morning and once in the late afternoon.

Obviously, modify this message to your preferred schedule.

And if someone needs an immediate response, let them know in the auto-responder to call your cell.

Then make sure, starting today, that your email responses are short and concise.

If you use Gmail or Google Apps, I find The Email Game by the creators of the popular Boomerang app for Gmail is SUPER useful when you’ve got to clear an full inbox.

It makes responding to emails a game, and the faster you clear out your inbox, the higher your score. They claim their timer makes users 40% faster at responding! And I bet part of that gain is because when time is of the essence, you say less. You get more concise. If you need a push and if you work well under (self-imposed) pressure, then give The Email Game a try! It’s fun AND it’s free…

And for the love of all that is holy, use an online scheduling service to book any appointments with clients. There’s nothing worse than going back and forth with someone trying to pinpoint a date and time. Popular options include Acuity Scheduling, BookFresh, or Calendly.

The Email Game (http://emailga.me) Only for Gmail or Google Apps. Free.
Acuity Scheduling (http://acuityscheduling.com) Plans range from free to $19/month.
BookFresh (http://bookfresh.com) $19.95/month.
Calendly (https://calendly.com) Free.

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TIP 2: DISCOVER WHERE YOU REALLY SPEND YOUR TIME

Look, nobody loves this tip at first.

You’ll probably think you already know where you spend the bulk of your time. But nine times out of ten, if people spend even two short days tracking how they really spend their time – they discover patterns that really surprise them.

So I dare you to set ego aside and track what you do for 48 hours.

Are there areas where you’re spending too much effort being a perfectionist? Are you focusing on what’s your highest priority for the day? Are there tasks that could be delegated or even skipped altogether?

The most popular app for time tracking is Toggl, although many invoicing tools (I’m look at you Harvest and Freshbooks) also have daily time tracking built-in already.

BONUS TIP: If you’re on your computer a lot, then I’d encourage you to give RescueTime a go. RescueTime automatically tracks which apps and websites you’re working in. It’s premium plan also allows you to track how you spend your time offline, set daily goals, and can even block you from visiting distracting sites.

RescueTime (http://rescuetime.com) Free plan or $9/month for premium features.
Toggl (http://toggl.com) Free for most. Premium features are $5/month.
Freshbooks (http://freshbooks.com) $19.95-$39.95/month.
Harvest (http://getharvest.com) Free plan available. Plans range from $12 to $99/month for large businesses.

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TIP 3: AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE

Why do the same boring task over and over again when we have computers?

I’ve been on a kick to automate more in my business, and YOU should be too!

For example, do you use Gmail or Google Apps for Business? If so, you can create custom filters for your incoming emails that’ll stick the right labels on them the moment they arrive. Or you can set your filter to automatically forward those emails to someone else, like your trusty assistant. You can even automatically reply with a pre-canned response.

I’ve taken email automation one step further even.

I have specials Gmail labels called “Keep 1 Day,” “Keep 3 Days,” or “Keep 7 Days.” The truth is that most notification emails, like the ones you get from Facebook or Twitter, expire. Same with emails telling you about a sale or webinar you should check out.

After a week or so, if you haven’t read it – it doesn’t really matter if so-and-so had a birthday or if there was a webinar. It’s over. The information in that email is moot.

So all regular notification emails that I receive are automatically marked with one of those special labels. If there’s an email that’s actually important, I just remove that label when I’m scanning my emails. (And that doesn’t happen often.)

Otherwise in one, three, or seven days at midnight, I have a script that archives those emails that “expired.”

My inbox literally cleans up after itself.

Then there’s my two favorite (and easy to use) automation tools, Zapier and IFTTT. Both work on the concept of an event triggering something else happening. They can automate your workflow greatly.

For example, you can have either tool “fire” at a certain time each day. So when it’s high noon, you could automatically send an email that reminds you to take your vitamin.

Okay, that’s admittedly a lame example – but Zapier and IFTTT can do a lot. An easy one for me is if I add a new client into my accounting system, then Zapier will automatically add that person to my email list. I don’t have to remember to do this. Easy-peasy.

Then there’s social media.

You probably already know that you can automate some (or all) social media posts using tools like Buffer, or HootSuite. (But seriously, please have a few unplanned candid posts. Because people can smell pre-written social media posts from a mile away…)

If you blog, you can use Coschedule to take it one step further. It makes scheduling your blog posts AND your social media updates a piece of cake.

And speaking of WordPress, I also recommend a plugin called Revive Old Post. It’ll automate regular tweets about your old blog posts, helping new people discover some of your older content.

I’m thinking about hosting a fun (yes, tech can be fun!) late summer Productivity Challenge. It’ll start you off on the right foot with automating small tasks in your business, so you’ll save time and not have to remember to do a zillion small things. It’ll also include my behind-the-scenes scripts and “recipes” that I use for myself and for my clients.

Interested? It’ll be a short, but completely sweet low priced online course that’ll help you love your business even more. Leave your email in the form below to get updates. I’ll only contact you when and if this program is launched.

Google Apps for Business (http://google.com/enterprise/apps/business/) Full suite of Google services, like Gmail and Calendar, but made for businesses. $5/month per inbox.
Zapier (https://zapier.com) Limited free plan, then $15-$40/month for most.
IFTTT (http://ifttt.com) Free.
Buffer (http://bufferapp.com) Free plan to start. Then $10-$50/month for most small businesses.
HootSuite (https://hootsuite.com) Limited free plan, then $8.99/month for most small businesses.
CoSchedule (http://coschedule.com/) Free trial. Then $10/month.
Revive Old Post for WordPress (http://wordpress.org/plugins/tweet-old-post) Free.

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TIP 4: THERE’S TOTALLY AN APP FOR THAT

Productivity apps.

There’s a million different so-called “productivity” apps. But since we’re talking about getting more done in less time, let’s look at apps that keep you on task and focused.

30/30 Task Manager by BinaryHammer

A super useful and wildly popular task manager for the iPhone or iPad. You set up your daily to-dos along with how long you thnk it’ll take and 30/30’ll tell you when to move on to the next task.

All it needs is a cool whip sound effect…

You probably know that taking breaks to stretch and give your mind a break is important. But if you’re like me, it’s easy to get sucked into your work (or that entertaining cat website), and suddenly *poof* the day is gone.

30/30 will help remind you to step away from the laptop and take a moment to recharge. I’m in love with this app, it’s helping me a ton. Check it out.

Price: Free, with optional icon packs available for purchase. Learn more at http://3030.binaryhammer.com.

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Concentrate for Mac

Need to concentrate? You setup what actions you’re “allowed” to do. Everything else – like browsing websites and social media is prohibited. It’s kind of like you’re grounding yourself, but it’ll force you to concentrate on the task at hand. Because you can’t do anything else really…

Price: $29. Learn more at http://www.getconcentrating.com.

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StayFocused for Chrome browser

It’s free browser plugin for Chrome that limits that amount of time you can spend goofing off on the internet. You set the allotted time and when it’s used up…no more internet for you. (Until tomorrow that is.)

Price: Free. Get this one at the Chrome web store.

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Anti-Social by 80Pct Solutions

Same idea as StayFocused or Concentrate, but works for Windows PCs.

Price: $15. Learn more at http://anti-social.cc.

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Yarny

Yarny’s one of my favorite cloud apps. I use Yarny whenever I need to write new content for my blog. It’s a distraction-free editor and something about it’s utter simplicity (plus cloud backup and auto-versioning) really calls to me when I’m working on content creation.

Price: Free. Learn more at http://getyarny.com.

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Scrivner

Feeling unsure about writing content on the cloud with Yarny? Then try Scrivener. It has a distraction free mode, but it’s also a super powerful writing tool for Mac and Windows. Many business people use and prefer Scrivener over Microsoft Word. Scrivner’s authors have a very generous trial that’ll let you see if its right for you.

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TIP 5: STEP BACK TO ENJOY THE SUMMER AND YOUR FAMILY

One reason why I became self-employed was to experience more flexibility in my daily life. It seemed incredibly silly to spend the best part of Every. Single. Day at a desk from 9 to 5.

That said, I love working. I’m most happy when I’m being useful and of service to others. It’s a huge motivator for me.

But summer challenges me to also honor and respect another personal motto of mine…

Remember: Don't Live To Work. Work to LIVE.

That’s why for me, the act of surrendering to summer’s hijinks and its temporary demands is acceptable.

(Plus, if I truly focus and use the time I do have to it’s fullest, it doesn’t really feel like much is being surrendered.)

Look, neither childhood or summer is permanent.

In a handful of years, my step-kid will be a teenager – and quickly thereafter, an adult. They grow up fast. (Shoot, we get old fast.)

Those few hours that I give up for the summer are worth making her childhood better.

And besides, September’s right around the bend.

So if you’re beginning to feel like summer’s taking a toll on your business, step back for a moment. Surrender.

Then get serious about the time you do have for your business, and make it count.

I’d love to have you share with me below which of the five tips resonated most with you. And can’t wait to see your summer productivity impove!

What I Gleaned About Business (& Comparisons) At A Women’s Yoga Retreat

I’m staring at the top of my hands as I get settled in what feels like the millionth downward dog pose, when a drop of sweat lands right between them.

I’m in an intense yoga session at a women’s retreat somewhere out in the middle of a California national forest.

And it’s here in downward dog that I’m realizing that there are parallels between my experience with my yoga practice and my experience as a business owner.

Comparing with Others

First of all, I’m not a natural yogi.

In fact, even after having a semi-regular yoga practice for over two years, I still have days where my fingers only dream of touching my toes.

My best pose: Savasana. It’s the one where you lay there like a corpse at the end of your practice to rejuvenate. That’s a pose I’ve completely mastered. The other poses — not so much.

Some lucky ladies leave yoga with a fresh glow. Me? I look like I’ve run a marathon in the Tundra desert. Seriously, I sweat more than anybody I know. It’s actually quite embarrassing.

During a yoga session, I often find myself sneaking a glance at the mat next to or in front of me. And when I do that, out come the comparisons:

Am I less flexible than her?

Is she fitter than I am? Thinner?

The problem with comparing to others

The Straight Truth: The comparisons I make take away from my practice.

They take away from my focus, from my breath, and from my body’s positioning and pose.

Ironically, by comparing myself with the person on the mat next to me, I’m NOT making the progress I could be making in that session.

If I kept my focus inward, all of my energy could go toward becoming stronger and more flexible -– instead of feeling self-doubt and disappointment.

The ironic part is that the reason I compare myself to others is that on some level, I want to be as good as everyone else. (Or okay, maybe even slightly better.) But comparing actually prevents me from getting what I want most. It definitely doesn’t serve me or help me meet my goals.

And the other aspect  I often overlook, is that the person I’m comparing myself with might have been practicing yoga longer than I have.

Or, they have might have been more consistent with their yoga practice.

The simple truth is they might be better at it because they’ve spent more time on the mat than I have.

The same is true for comparing your business with your competitors.

Have you ever found yourself feeling a bit sorry for yourself after stumbling upon a competitor’s website who appears to have it going on?

Recently, I found myself struggling with this exact situation. I went from feeling accomplished about the many fabulous new plans I’m putting into place, to feeling like I should just throw in the towel.

Part of that was because the competitor appeared to have something that has taken me awhile to figure out -– and to be honest, is still is a work in progress.

When I started my business, I didn’t have it all sorted out.

While it’s not a standard way to begin, my business started out as an experiment because I had no clarity. I really just put myself out there and learned as I went along.

Over the course of six months, after working with some clients and noticing patterns, my path to focus on service-based small businesses, often led by creative and strong women, became obvious and clear.

However, my earlier lack of clarity meant it took me longer than usual to do certain things -– like finish my website.

So when I stumbled upon a new competitor who had a great website, it stopped me in my tracks. I began to compare my business to this competitor, and felt that all too familiar “comparison-spiral-of-doom.”

It was time for a business ahimsa.

Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means “not to injure.”

It’s a term often heard in the yoga studio, but in this context ahimsa meant simply to not beat myself up about where my business is (or isn’t). That is, to let go of any harming thoughts I’m having about my progress.

So how did I get back on track?

First, I reached out to a friend, who is also an entrepreneur, because I knew she’d understand.

Her advice was so good, I actually saved it on a (digital) post-it and looked at it everyday for at least week. Here it is:

look at competitors as possible collaborators. If they’re truly rocking the digital world AND their values align with yours — perhaps you can partner with them on a bigger project?  Keep your eyes and heart open. And play full out. That’s all I’d ever want from you.” - Tea Silvestre (StoryBistro.com)

And then I had an ahimsa about where my business is currently!

Just as with my yoga practice, I realized that focusing my energy on a fellow competitor or feeling sorry for myself doesn’t serve MY business.

And spending too much time comparing my business to competitors has other drawbacks, too.

For starters, it’s easy to get discouraged and stuck. You might be tempted to copy what your competitor is doing, instead of being original.

It simply diverts your attention and energy from where it should be, which is improving YOUR business.

Your time would be better spent improving your systems and processes, marketing and promoting yourself more effectively, and creating incredible original content that attracts new customers.

And who knows, perhaps your competitor’s been doing the business thing a lot longer. Or maybe they’ve been more consistent in their work and their efforts?

My slightly yogi-hippy business owner advice to you…

Don’t let your eyes stray from your own “business yoga mat” too often. That is, don’t compare your business to competitors too often.

Of course it’s wise to keep tabs on what others in your industry are up to. But after checking in with them, be sure to bring your focus and energy back into your business.

When you find yourself struggling with the comparison-spiral-of-doom, spend time understanding what’s at the core of this particular freak-out.

Figure out what’s truly bothering you. If you’re having trouble with that, read this article (also by Tea). It explains that the negative feelings that come up when we compare are really because there’s a dream or desire that we covet, that isn’t being met.

With my latest freak-out, it really was about my website being half-done and not representing me fully. After reaching out for support and having a business ahimsa, I started to take action by setting aside more time each week dedicated solely to improving my site.

Don’t be afraid to find the resources, coaches, and professionals that can help you obtain your goals and resolve the core area that needs work.

And finally….

Make an intention to honor where your business is today. Then plan and put your heart into making the necessary improvements.

Consistency is the secret to a successful business. Make some progress, regardless how small, every day. << Tweet this!

With consistent and purposeful action, over time it’s possible that you’ll be the business that everyone else admires.

Now, I’d love to hear your perspective on this!

Have you struggled recently with comparing yourself to others in your business or hobby? What’s your tips on how to manage these feelings?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And here’s to a stronger, flexible, more wise business practice -– thanks to the wisdom of yoga.

P.S. – I wanted to give my gratitude to my yoga teachers from the retreat, Amber Campion and Tawny Sterios. And extra special gratitude to my fav yoga instructor of all time, Cathy Weiss, who has made more of a difference in my life (+ biz) than she’ll ever know.

This Mistake Leaves Your Website Half-Finished & Over Budget

You’ve finally decided it’s time to build your first website. Or, maybe you’re in the market to upgrade the one you already got.

But do you know what components make up a website?

I hear too many stories about website projects that end badly – or worse, websites that never get completed.

There was the massage therapist who paid nearly $1,000 for her first website. At the time, a thousand dollars was a HUGE investment for her. She expected a polished website that made her and her services look great.

Instead, she got a website that looked like it was built in early 1990 by her 13 year old cousin. Even today, she can hardly bare to look at this site that was (no joke) created with GoDaddy’s drag and drop designer.

She felt swindled given the big $1,000 investment she made.

Then there’s my good friend who is currently on her fifth (!!!) web developer to maintain her e-commerce site.

She’s so unhappy with the level of service (read: things aren’t getting done) and the lack of communication that she’s already looking for number six.

While I do build websites from time to time for clients, more often today I assist them as a website consultant.

I’ll offer strategic advice on their current website. Based on their business goals, I identify areas that could benefit from new additions or minor changes.

And in the process, I’m privy to more than a few crazy tales about websites and the professionals who build them.

There’s a lot of confusion out there about what it takes to build a website and who can help you.

Here’s what I tell my clients:

As a savvy business owner in the modern world, you’ve gotta know a little about what’s involved in creating a website. (Click to tweet!)

Why?

Because you are your business’s advocate. It’s up to you to have hired the right professionals who can get it done. To do that, at an extremely basic level, you’ve got to understand what’s involved.

Very few clients at first have a handle on the following:

  1. The four essential website components that make up a website.
  2. Identifying which components their web professional works on.

I promise you, as a business owner you DO NOT have to become an expert on any of the four website components. By all means, please value your time and hire out what you can! 

But it is important for modern business owners to know there are four components, and to recognize that not every professional is an expert with all components.

To help you get up to speed so your website project stays in-budget and gets done, I’m going to help explain the four components that make up a website.

THE FOUR ESSENTIAL WEBSITE COMPONENTS?

Websites consist of four main elements:

  1. Graphics (images) and other media.
  2. Written marketing content, called “copy.”
  3. Code that allows the graphics/copy to display in website form on a browser. Code also allows you to add some bells and whistles to your site, like an email opt-in form.
  4. The physical hardware (e.g. web servers) that host your site.

1. Graphic (images) and other media

Most websites today include images, videos, and/or audio to make the website more visually (and/or audibly) engaging for the visitor.

For example, your business logo is likely a graphic image. And if you use the ever popular homepage slider, that picture that change every few seconds? It’s a graphic, too.

While there are a few websites that are text-only, most modern business websites include images and other media.

2. Written marketing content, called “copy”

Pictures alone probably won’t explain what your business is about or what it offers.

If you want to sell your services or products, then your website is going to need written descriptions that explain and market what you offer. This written content is called copy.

Plus, written content helps search engines determine how to categorize your business – and how relevant you are within your market. If you’re at all concerned about “SEO” (or search engine optimization), then having well-written content on your website is non-negotiable.

3. Website programming code

Your internet browser, whether you use Chrome, IE, Safari, or Firefox, must know where exactly on the page to display your graphics and copy.

Internet browsers can’t read your developer’s mind about how the website should look. Instead your web developer has to specifically tell the browser, in a language it understands, that he wants your logo to display in the top left-hand corner and for the copy to be in a column underneath.

To communicate how the website is displayed, your website’s page must be created in a special website language, called HTML, that the browser understands.

Think of your website’s code (or HTML) like a symphony conductor.

Whereas a conductor tells certain instruments when to play so that the result sounds pleasant, the HTML code tells the browser where to display images and copy so that the page looks fantastic.

Today you can create websites without knowing HTML or it’s design-related little sister, CSS.

Website platforms, like WordPress, and website drag-and-drop editors (SquareSpace is popular) can create a website without you knowing any HTML at all. These platform provide an editor (usually similar to a blank Microsoft Word page) and asks, “What do you want the page to say? Where do you want your images at?”

The platform will take what you write and add in the editor, and outputs the HTML for you.

In essence, these platforms remove that coding layer. They make website creation simpler and more accessible for everyday folks.

But like a foreigner visiting a country that isn’t fluent in the native language, using the platform’s editor without any HTML knowledge will limit what you can do.

In addition to HTML, if you want truly custom features on your website – including forms and connecting to databases, then you will need to find a professional who knows a web programming language.

4. Web hosting and web server

Website content (graphic, copy, and code) has to “live” on a web server if it’s going to be available for the public to find and view it.

Website hosting companies effectively rent web servers, so you can have your website available to the world. You’ll choose a web hosting company depending on how big your website is, how much traffic visits it each day, and what website platform (e.g. WordPress) you use.

Setting up and a maintaining a web server requires someone who knows how to transfer files and who has experience with simple “system administration” tasks.

HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT WEB PRO

You’ll need to understand which of the four website components each website professional you interview is able and willing to help you with.

A few web professionals are well-rounded, highly talented creatives who also know how to manage a project and keep it moving forward. They wear multiple hats and can help in all of the above areas. (But naturally, most will have areas where they’re stronger and others where they’re less strong.)

Others specialize and only handle one or two areas. They’ll expect you to hire other contractors for the website components they don’t do.

For example, I am not overly strong on the graphic design component. While I can do basic graphics and it may be suitable for some jobs, anything too complex would need to be outsourced to a graphic designer.

It’s your job to understand what services the person you hire does. That way you’re not left with half a website and going over budget while trying to complete the other half.

For example, there’s a difference between a website designer and a website developer.

Granted, many web professionals do both: they’ll create the design for you to approve, and then they’ll build the real website.

But not all of them do.

I know freelancers who will create beautiful design and gorgeous mockups, but they’ll require you to have somebody else build the real website.

Think of it like an architect versus a contractor: the architect designs the home, whereas the contractor builds it. (Click to tweet.)

I do find that the most highly sought after web professionals can help you do it all. They also keep up on other business related topics such as marketing, SEO, current design trends, social media etc.

They usually know who the best hosting companies are within your budget and traffic demands.

These high-end web pros are typically decent writers, too. They blog. They can advise from a marketing perspective what copy will make your business look credible, and some may even help write copy as part of their service.

Because they’re top pros and can take care of multiple areas, they’ll charge more. But they tend to be true pleasures to work with – and they may cost less in the long run, too.

It’s much easier to manage and work with one, maybe two, contractors on a project. There’s less chance for confusion. There’s fewer channels of communication.

Trying to find three to four decent contractors is time consuming. Remember, time is also money and I’ve seen the need for multiple contractors derail websites from ever getting completed.

BUILDING A WEBSITE IS A LOT OF WORK

Look, I know that for most people websites seem like they’re made from magic. You’d much rather find a great professional, write a check, and have your dream website show up a few weeks later.

In an ideal world that would work.

But because websites are so complex, it’s easy to hire the wrong professional – or at least not understand that the person you hired only rocks one area in website creation.

Remember, there are consultants (like myself) here to help you identify what you want with your website. We help you interview and hire the right pros. Spending time and money upfront on requirements helps your project succeed, prevents scope creep, and (oddly enough) usually saves money.

For your business to succeed in today’s busy online marketplace, first you have got to be online. You’re going to need a website.

Understanding what a website consists of is simply a part of
modern business ownership
. (Tweet it!)

If this was useful for you, please share this article with a business networking group you’re a part of. Or with a friend who’s thinking about starting a business!

Then take a moment to share in the comments below your experience with hiring a web professional.

Did your web pro do it all, or did you have to find multiple contractors. (Maybe you did some of it yourself?)

I’d love to hear how it went for you!

How to be PRODUCTIVE when feeling overwhelmed by too many choices.

As a technology coach, I’m noticing otherwise smart people struggle with information overload.

The truth: They’re having a tough time making decisions.

As a society we went from having an information drought to a full-scale Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet, all in the course of approximately 15 years.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. We’re all drowning. In advice, in gurus, in opinions, in options, and in technology.

Basically: We’re drowning in data.

Do you remember how our grandparents told us how they had to walk four miles to school everyday? (And usually these tales include walking sans shoes in the snow, uphill? Oh, and both ways were uphill no less, although I never could figure out exactly how that worked.)

Well, we’ll be telling our kids how when we were their age we had to use special books called “encyclopedias” to do research.

We’ll tell them that research required a visit to a library to look at these special books. We’ll describe how there was something called the “Dewey decimal system,” not Google, that organized our data and information.

It really wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have unlimited information at our fingertips. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have smartphones and ubiquitous Internet connectivity.

It used to be that knowledge was power because access to information was semi-difficult to obtain. It required going to a library and hoping against hope that they had what you needed.

Today knowledge isn’t a commodity.

It’s freely available and it’s at our fingertips.

Shoot, companies and our governments are collecting volumes of data faster than they can even begin to process and analyze it!

And instead of being empowering, this overabundance of information is actually having the opposite effect: It’s crippling us.

Like a starving Ethiopian’s stomach wouldn’t be prepared for a Vegas buffet, I’m seeing people struggle with consuming and processing the volume of information available to them.

In fact, I’m positive all this data impacts our productivity.

I see “paralysis by analysis.”

We’re not accustomed to consuming data at this rate, nor are we used to having so many choices available.

We didn’t use to have 20 different options for tools that basically do the same thing (except with sometimes minuscule variances).

Lay out all these incredible options in front of someone and they get paralyzed. They’re overwhelmed by all the choices.

Then we seek and welcome distractions.

Instead of narrowing down options (which is hard work), we welcome distractions (which are much more fun).

It’s sure convenient that it’s so easy to get distracted with social media, or that your sleek “smart” phone continuously notifies you about something you’ve “just got to see.”

It’s simple to seek just one more expert’s viewpoint instead of committing to a choice.

Then there’s buyer’s remorse.

Have you made a decision, paid good money, and then learned that the better – no, the “perfect” tool, was just one more Google search away?

I have.

It feels yucky.

And the next time you need to make a choice, you’ll recall that same icky feeling of buyer’s remorse. It’s like it’s programmed into your psyche.

The next time you’re faced with a decision, you’re even more wary of making the wrong choice. So instead, you’ll do more research. Or seek a distraction…

Here’s the truth: Too many options and data points cause indecision.

Indecision means you’re in limbo. Limbo means inaction. Basically nothing’s moving forward.

So today, I’m giving you permission!


I give you permission to make a choice and completely accept that it might turn out to be just “okay.” (Besides, perfect is a myth.)


I give you permission to read the opinion of only one “guru,” and nobody else’s. (Go ahead, ignore the comments too.)


I give you permission to make a mistake, so you can make progress anyway.


I give you permission to leave that email unread in your inbox. Forever.


I give you permission to delete that app you kind of like, but just don’t use much.


I give you permission to setup that tool you’ve been researching, and just give it a try for 20 minutes. (Bet that 20 mins will tell you more than all that research did.)


I give you permission to ignore all the comments you’re supposed to “like” on Facebook for an entire afternoon and just get work done.

I give you permission to be “old school” by pretending you don’t have access to unlimited data, views, gurus, opinions and options.

Instead of being overwhelmed by too many choices, make a decision – be it good, bad, perfect, or flawed.

Then share that decision with me in the comments below. (Or, if you need a little help, share where you’re stuck and I’ll chime in with suggestions to get you unstuck.)

Today let’s use all this data and all this info and make it work for us, instead of it holding us back!