Archive for November, 2009
I got this recipe from my friend and I make it every year for Thanksgiving and for Christmas.
1 bag of fresh cranberries (prepare as directed on the package - you'll need 1 Cup of sugar)
1 Granny Smith apple (peeled and cubed)
1 small can of crushed pineapple (reserve liquid and add to orange juice)
1 cup of chopped walnuts
juice from 2 naval oranges
Prepare the cranberries and let cool. Add the next 3 ingredients. Add just enough of the orange & pineapple juice mixture to wet the relish. Don't make it too watery. Add cinnamon to taste. If you can, make this one day ahead of time, because it tastes even better if it sits for 24 hours.
Not to beat a dead horse, as they say, but we all need to take a moment to count our blessings – not just on Thanksgiving day, but everyday. I believe this quote says it all:
“If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.” - Robert Quillen
I know it’s easy to look around and focus on the things that haven’t gone your way, things you’ve lost, and the obstacles you face. But if you take a moment to list out, in your mind or on paper, everything that you have going for you, chances are you’re ahead. If you’re reading this, you have access to a computer. And you have the ability to read. And you have the ability to see.
This should show you how easy it is to forget everything we have working in our favor. I don’t want to make any assumptions, but if you start with your most basic fortunes and build upon those, I know you will see that you have much to be thankful for. We all do.
Gratitude is a tonic that can calm your anxiety. Listing your blessings will not directly fix your problems, but it will give you a new perspective. And this will encourage you to keep going and maybe even to pass your newly perceived good fortune onto others.
Enjoy your holiday with those you love, sharing with those who are less fortunate, or both. Happy Thanksgiving. And if you want a little more help realizing how much is actually going right in your life, check out this book about “pronoia".
Los Angeles, Dallas, Lexington, and San Francisco are just a few of the cities hosting Startup Weekend this coming weekend, November 20-22. I know that it’s short notice, but if you can make it, go.
Startup Weekend brings together all types of talented, highly motivated people (startup lovers, developers, graphic artists, etc...) for a 54 hour event where people can work on their projects, other people’s projects, network, and get new ideas. It's a short, intense experience that could be just what you need to take you to the next level. It is touted as an unconference, where the attendees decide the outcome of the experience.
Here's the info for Los Angeles (other cities may do it a bit differently):
Everything starts on Friday at 6:00pm and finishes up on Sunday at 6:00pm. (holy cow!) Everyone is welcome. All types of startups (and wannabe startups) will benefit.
On Friday night people pitch their ideas – everyone who wants to, gets to pitch, even if there are 100 pitches. There is a vote and the ideas are narrowed down to about 75%. People then gather around the idea (or ideas) that they feel they will learn from or can contribute to. Generally, teams have 2-15 people. These events have launched as many as 23 startups in a single weekend.
If you’re feeling lost and aren’t sure how to contribute, you can opt to just observe the frenetic process.
Even if your idea isn’t selected to be worked on, you will walk away with tons of information, inspiration and new contacts and resources to launch on your own.
The networking potential, alone, is worth the $75.
Make sure you bring at least a laptop, biz cards, and a camera. (There’s a more comprehensive list on their site.) And if you can’t make it for the entire weekend, you can attend the wrap up networking event on Sunday for $20. There is so much more information on their website, so definitely take a look. la.startupweekend.org
The other day my friend gave me a catalog for Indigo Wild. They make organic goat milk soap, lotions, etc… I love that type of stuff, but didn’t need to get anything. So why, then, did I immediately buy several soaps and a sachet for my closet?
I spent a bit of time really thinking about this, and I realized it was because of their uber successful branding.
When I was only halfway through their catalog, I was clear about who this company is. How did I know? Because of the catalog photos and copy, and the names and descriptions of their products. I connected with the picture that formed in my mind - of a company that is committed to quality products, healthy living, happy work life, respect for all living creatures, having fun, and showing appreciation for others (including their customers). Do I have proof? Not really. But I feel sure of this. And I bought from them because I wanted to be associated with everything that I was picturing.
That, my friends, is branding at its best.
I’ve written several posts about branding (here and here) because I think it is so important. You must get clear on who you are as a company, and consistently communicate those characteristics in all areas of your business. That is how you will connect with your customers.
I love to shop – for things I need and things I like. I am a consumer with (some) money to spend. I am representative of your customers, and my experience is proof that consumers like to identify with, and be defined by, their purchases. Indigo Wild stands out in a very crowded segment of the market because they shout, loudly and clearly, who they are. So take the time to figure out your identity, and then start yelling it from the roof tops. www.indigowild.com
Two great ways to keep your business flexible are to stay lean and stop chasing perfection. Let’s be clear, imperfect doesn’t mean lack of quality, and staying lean doesn’t mean that you aren’t growing.
I have seen many cases of people stalled in their tracks while trying to get everything perfect. But like the saying goes, “It’s better to get it done, than to get it perfect.” Strive for the best quality available to you at the time. And instead of waiting for the best time to get started, create the best start for the times. Once you’re moving forward, you can make changes down the road, if necessary.
A great example of a successful “launching before perfect” story is the iPod. It has gone through several changes since it was first introduced, and you know there will be more changes in the future. I, for one, am glad they released what they had in the beginning, instead of waiting for perfection. The 1st generation iPod was a vast improvement over the Walkman, and each new version gets better. So take a lesson from Apple, strive for your best in the moment, and continue improving as you go.
The other thing you want to keep in mind as you grow your company is, stay lean. Keep your expenses as low as possible – $0.00 when you can. Work from home, hire virtual assistants when you must have some help, sell online before renting retail space, etc...
And as you start to make more money, build your staff slowly, and resist the urge to immediately run out and get a bigger office (or a first office). Only spend your cash on what’s absolutely necessary to sustain your new sales level. Before committing to new and bigger expenses, you need to go through a couple of sales cycles, so you can see if your sales even have a cycle. Is your product or service seasonal? Are your sales driven by some other predictable, intermittent factor? You need to identify all aspects of your sales, in case you need to plan for expected slow periods. You don’t want to have to let someone go because your sales dropped off after the holidays.
Keeping both of these things in mind will keep you afloat. When you stay lean and strive for quality, while sidestepping perfection, you will feel more confident about traveling down your path. You will be more apt to move forward with new ideas and plans. And forward motion is one of the keys to staying fresh and relevant.
As most of you know, I focus on very small and solopreneur businesses. But I know that some of you small guys want to grow up and play with the big kids, someday. And when you add even a little complexity to your structure, you must also add some procedures that will keep everyone on the same path. Even if you like where you're at, a polished approach can make your business run more smoothly. Flying by the seat of your pants, although it can work for a while, is not the best business plan.
There is a great book available: Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies For Turning Ideas Into Action, by John Spence. The reason I like this book is because it is "as advertised" - awesomely simple. I also really like John’s personality. He presents an overview of his site in a video. His approachable manner in the video will also be found in the book and the website offers a clear explanation of what you’ll find in each chapter.
John offers “simplicity skills” in six key areas: Vision, Employee Hiring/Retention, Communication, Urgency (making sure your customers get what they want, when they want it), Execution of Processes, and Customer Service. Although all of these areas are important, whether you are a company of 1 or 100+, you must alter your approach to accommodate changes that occur when you're expanding your business.
John has a tremendous amount of experience working with all types of companies, including large international corporations. But more importantly, he has the ability to translate what he knows into a message that can be understood by the newest of new business owners. If you plan on growing a little, or conquering the world, check out John’s book. Awesomely Simple