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Doing Good is Good for Business

December 16, 2014 | By | One Comment

Several years ago, I had a client, Christine Shock of Shock PR. In one of our coaching sessions, she mentioned that she was passionate about saving the environment, and when she retired or got to a certain milestone in her business, she would dedicate her time to that cause. I suggested that she look at what she could do now.It did not take her long to see that she could include “doing good works” in the PR plan for all of her clients. She would then ask the owner or executive team for each business she worked for, what cause were they passionate about. Then she would help them design a project that would impact that cause. They would support the cause they cared about and as a by-product they would get publicity for doing good work.

In my own business, the Dream Factory Community, we have a New Year’s dinner and an annual conference. We always have a Dream Factory Community member as our nonprofit partner who plans a silent auction in conjunction with each of these events. Event participants come a little early and get to bid on services, opportunities and products, mainly contributed by Dream Factory Community members. In the past, the proceeds have gone to Ben Speaks, an organization that addresses the issues of teen suicide and bullying, the Pan Mass Challenge that supports cancer research at Dana Farber, and AlliancExchange that provides educational scholarships to students in the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador.

Another great example of “doing good” is a local BNI (Business Network International) chapter in Wellesley called BNI Cachet Club. BNI is the premier networking organization in the world, with more than 6,000 chapters in 57 countries. Each chapter has one person per profession. Within the chapter there are spheres of professions who work together closely and can easily pass business to each other.

Here is an inspiring story from BNI Cachet Club member Vinny Tingley.

“BNI Cachet Club President Joanne Taranto decided to inspire the specific spheres to work together,” said Tingley. “Our home sphere included a Realtor, general contractor, electrician, plumber, painter, arborist, carpeting store and several more.

“Ideas were discussed, including working with existing projects like Habitat for Humanity and local town housing authorities. We decided to work on our own and help a family whose home was in need of repair. We talked about possible families. I mentioned a family that was related to me.

“Kelly and Tim and their three young children live in Natick. In 2009, Kelly’s sister, Stacey in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, tragically died on Mother’s Day. Stacey was the mother of five children. The children went to live with their father in Millis. Tim and Kelly helped their four nieces and nephew out as much as they could and knew that they could provide them with a better living situation. They fought for custody of the kids and won. They have now been living with them for some time. Their house is taking a beating and repairs that are needed are being put off because of lack of time, energy and money.

“After telling this story to the home sphere, it was decided that we should help this family. The family was excited and blown away with the thought of our group helping with home repairs. So we went to work to figure out how best to start a project like this. One of our goals was to do this again for other families in the future.

“In the past six months, we have completed many small repairs, including carpentry, electrical, painting, a new rug, old tree removal and other small tasks. We all volunteered our time, talent, energy and money.

“One major problem with the home is it needed a new roof. This type of project proved to be too much to take on financially, but it was something that could not be ignored. So once again, we put our heads together. One of the members knew someone from the Natick Home Depot and helped to get the roofing materials donated by the store for the family. The next problem was paying for the labor, which Home Depot does not supply. Another member came up with the idea of a silent auction to be held during one of our meetings to raise money. We loved the idea of getting our entire chapter in on the project.
“So we all rallied to create a silent auction to be held during a regular meeting. This was a very successful and powerful BNI networking event, as we got together as a group with a common goal, giving and helping, which is in the spirit of BNI’s philosophy of Givers Gain. We raised enough money to make the repairs and the project will be completed over the next month or so.

“The family has been continually blown away by the generosity of the BNI Cachet Club in Wellesley. Each of us has gained a sense of how community can work together to help each other. We have all had an expanded experience of what is possible through generosity, teamwork and commitment. I think everyone involved has an inner sense of gratitude for the opportunity to provide a better, safer environment for this deserving family.

“Yes, Givers Gain — but sometimes it’s hard to tell who are the givers and who are the receivers. In this case, we all benefitted.”

In conclusion, as we have seen evidenced, businesses can do — and should do — good. It is more important than ever as business owners to create our own “doing good” programs, and reap the rewards of generosity, teamwork and commitment.

A Book That Will Change Your Business Life

May 26, 2014 | By | No Comments

Having run my own business for several years, I was surprised to realize after reading The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber that I really didn’t have one. What I had was a job that I designed, where I could offer my consulting services. Yes, I was successful, but if I stopped working, so would my income.

Based on the book’s definition, a business must be able to run without you, a turnkey operation that could get duplicated. This simple fact inspired one of my clients to change from being a hair stylist who was renting a space in a salon to creating her own salon that featured her unique cutting and coloring style. The key shift was that she saw the value in her business, not just in the hours she was trading for money.

The myth in “The E-Myth” is that just because you are good at something, you can create a successful business doing it.

To have a successful business, you need to wear three hats: the entrepreneur, the manager and the technician. The entrepreneur is the leader who determines the vision, mission and goals of the business. The manager supervises the daily operations and makes sure that the vision is fulfilled. The technician does the actual work of the business.
Whether you are a carpenter, a lawyer or a veterinarian, you need a plan for your business, the ability to manage it and the ability to be great at what you do. If you look, it is easy to see what role is missing.

Recently, I interviewed a franchise owner who was familiar with these concepts. He said that he saw he was being a manager of technicians and seeing the man who sold him the franchise as the entrepreneur. Once he realized this, he started creating his own vision and became the entrepreneur as well as the manager. His creativity had him change locations and increase revenues.

Lastly, create an organizational chart with accountabilities for each position. Even if you fill all the roles, you will have them distinguished so that when you want to include others in your business, it will be very clear what they would need to do. It also clarifies all the roles that are necessary and the need to schedule their duties in your calendar.

Once when a client was mentioning his increasing accounts receivable, I asked what his finance manager was doing about it. He realized that he wasn’t scheduling the time to invoice and follow up. Once he put that in, the finances started flowing again.
Do you have work that you enjoy? Learning more about business will enable you to be more successful at getting, managing and being paid for the work you enjoy. Give this book a read. Let me know what you learn.

5 Reasons for Entrepreneurial Education

February 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

By Steve Tannuzzo, owner, Tannuzzo Copywriting

When business owners considering entrepreneurial education ask me about the benefits of the forum, I usually talk about goal-setting and accountability. When I stop to think about it, however, there’s so much more to it than simply setting and achieving goals. Your responsibilities to yourself, your employees (if you have them), and your clients run much deeper than if you were working for someone else. When the buck starts and stops with you, it’s important to function at the highest level at all times. If you’re a solopreneur, the pressure of running a business while wearing different hats can be crushing without the support from the only people who can truly relate to your situation.

Here are 5 reasons for every entrepreneur to consider working with a private coach or participating in a forum of fellow business owners.

1. Creating a Vision for Your Business. Congratulations! You’ve decided to start a business. Or maybe you have owned a business but you feel more like a laborer than an entrepreneur. Do you have a business plan? Do you have a vision for the direction of your business? Is it salable? Can you duplicate it and make even more money? Does the current setup of your business allow you time to enjoy regular days off and stress-free vacations?

Let’s face it: anyone can start a business. However, the best entrepreneurs always have an endgame in sight. Where are you going with your business? How will your entrepreneurship enhance your life? These important questions are often ignored and forgotten when they should be the whole purpose of building something that is uniquely yours.

2. Follow-through. Here’s where those goals and action steps come into play. Sharks can’t breathe if they stop swimming. Your business can’t survive if you stop moving it forward. Leonardo da Vinci once wrote: “Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” By constantly setting and achieving goals, you’re forcing yourself to work on your business — not in it.

3. Peer Review. Talking with fellow business owners about the struggles of entrepreneurship can be refreshing. It’s also important to get feedback from others who have been in your shoes. Open and honest communication is what’s important here. If you’re doing well, talk about your success; if you’re sinking, admit it — then find a way to right the ship. Advice from your peers can be invaluable in these difficult situations.

4. Avoiding Past Mistakes. Ever watch the restaurant reality show, Kitchen Nightmares? The thing that dooms the majority of restaurants that fail after the program airs is the inability of the owners to avoid falling back into their old habits. An entrepreneurial forum forces you to recognize what you’re doing to sabotage yourself. Laziness, procrastination, lack of systems, inconsistent service and, yes, falling into old habits all may be easily avoided if you stay focused.

5. Forward Thinking. You can’t consider yourself a true entrepreneur if you don’t have a vision for your business and your life. It’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learned. What exactly is the point of being your own boss if you don’t have a plan to eventually reap the benefits of your efforts? Without a long-term vision you’ve created a business with no purpose other than to pay the bills. So what you’ve got, essentially, is a job, but without any of the perks. Where’s the fun in that?

Successful entrepreneurship involves one person making inspired decisions about his or her business. Doing it all — alone — is not a requirement. Joining a forum of your peers and receiving expert coaching can only help you make smarter decisions for your business and your future.

Leadership: A Must for Any Business

October 25, 2013 | By | 2 Comments

Entrepreneurs require a solid grasp on leadership to be successful.

What is it? Many people confuse leadership with management. Leadership requires a vision and a mission, a stand and a commitment to bring something new into existence or bring sometime in existence to a new place. Management is accomplishing tasks necessary to bring the new vision into existence.

Michael Gerber, in his book, The E-Myth Revisited, states that every entrepreneur must wear three hats: the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. The entrepreneur is the leader, the visionary who sees the bigger picture. The manager makes sure that all elements of fulfilling the vision get handled and that the technician delivers the actual product of the business.

Just because you are a talented landscaper, interior designer, or marketing professional doesn’t mean you can create a successful business doing it. As a leader, you must keep the bigger picture present and inspire the manager to manage tasks, and the technician to do the work (even if they are all you).

Roger Sturgis, who has owned a landscaping business for over 40 years, improved his business dramatically when he started looking at the bigger picture. He credits his participation in business development groups with helping him to think differently. He said, “having regular contact with a consultant and a community of peers enabled me to establish better success practices.” Now he has a plan that includes more extended periods of time at his second home, developing his leadership team, having professional office management, a system for recruiting and training workers, and an exit strategy. New business owners also need a vision and a plan.

Diana Pruzinsky, a certified health coach, wanted to attract clients to her new business. Luckily, she saw that her experience as a public accountant and senior district sales manager gave her insight into the issues faced by those kinds of professionals. Thanks to her past experience and new skills, she now delivers corporate wellness programs to many of her past clients.

So what can you do if you want to improve or start a business? You have to step outside the day-to-day activities and be that visionary leader who has a plan for a future. Then set up the team, establish accountabilities, and have technicians and managers who buy in and take pride in doing their jobs. Have regular meetings to re-inspire your people to take action and accomplish their goals, assess progress and make corrections.

Each individual within a team can be an entrepreneur, manager and technician. Have them create their own bigger picture and inspiration, manage daily activities, and get the work done. There is a leader in everyone. Cultivate leadership to yield inspired, committed partners in creating the future of your company.

Making a Life, Not Just a Living

September 10, 2013 | By | No Comments

Isn’t it really all about making a life, and not just a living?

If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s easy to take pride in your accomplishment of growing a business on your own. You have no one to report to, be dominated or controlled by. You have the ability—and the freedom—to set your own schedule.

But wait.

Are you working 16 hour days, 7 days a week? Have your children and spouse forgotten what you look like?

Why do you not feel free?

It’s the trap that so many entrepreneurs fall into. Everything is going along great, but after a while your fantastic dream of working for yourself starts changing into more of a nightmare, and you become the boss from hell. How did this happen? When did the opportunities start fading and the burdens begin?

I believe that the entrepreneurial dream can best be realized if it is designed to fit the life you really want to create. For example, in Timothy Ferriss’ book, “The 4-Hour Work Week,” Timothy explains how he designed his work to fit his aspirations to travel and learn interesting things, such as tango dancing in Argentina.

Bringing it home to me, when I became a mom at 39 I had to completely redesign my work landscape. Because I didn’t want to miss being with my son, Greg, I needed to figure out how to make money using my professional skills in a different way and time frame. I had been working 12-hour days as an enrollment and registration manager and course leader/trainer for an international training and development company.

For my first step, I started by taking on a single project at my former office. Not only could I set my own time schedule, but I also got permission to bring my son in when I worked. Everyone loved him; believe me, he got more attention there than he would have gotten if we were at home. When Greg got older, his baby sitter would meet us at the office and take him to the pond and the park and then out for lunch. He got four hours of terrific fun and I accomplished what I needed to get done at the office.

It wasn’t always easy; I tried some things that were a disaster—as they were not a fit for Greg’s or my life.

This article appeared originally in the Metrowest Daily News.

Confronting Your Fears

September 10, 2013 | By | One Comment

Fear is an interesting thing. When you are in the grips of it, your natural response is to back off, retreat and not confront that which is triggering your fear.

Recently on a trip to the Bahamas, I signed up for a scuba diving trip. Now you have to understand, I am a certified scuba diver, but I have never felt completely comfortable with the whole process. Simply, you put on a lot of awkward equipment, and go below the surface of the water, breathing through your mouth, clearing your ears so they don’t hurt, so you can explore the underwater world.

I did just fine on the pool dive. I could sit on the bottom for a slow 30 seconds, but when we hit the open ocean and had to go in the middle of nowhere, I was scared. Unfortunately, I was one of the first ones in, bobbing on the surface, which became a little rough. Those 5-10 minutes waiting were all I needed to get myself worked up. When our leader said it was time to go down, I said, “No!” I took off all my equipment and decided to go snorkeling. It felt great – easy – no stress – I was in my comfort zone again.

Back on the boat, I had mixed feelings. Would I honor my fear, and realize that scuba diving wasn’t my thing or would I face my fears and move beyond it?

I had to decide if I would try it again and join the second dive. Then I realized, I had been embarrassed about being afraid. I had tried to handle it myself, hoping I could perform and no one would know. Even though I had told the my pool instructor and the woman signing us up, that I was nervous, I was still trying to manage the fear on my own. They had both asked me what I was nervous about and I didn’t have a specific answer.

So just as we were getting ready for the second dive, Francis, our dive leader, was telling a story about how he held this guy’s hand the whole time he did his dive.

Well, that sounded good to me. I needed that connection with an expert who knew what he was doing, would look out for me, make sure I was OK, teach me what to do and, most importantly, just be with me as I confronted my own fears.

So that is what we did. Holding hands, we went down together, but eventually I let go and we swam and explored together with the other divers. It was beautiful and exciting, and as I saw schools of colorful fish that I could swim with and among, I realized that traveling through fear had its just rewards.

So what does this have to do with entrepreneurship? Doesn’t that bring up fear? And most times we don’t know exactly what our fear is about. Do we just turn back, or do we find the experts who can hold our hand, teach us what to do and just be with us until we get our legs moving and start breathing on our own?

When you are afraid, it helps to see someone who isn’t, to be in this person’s space until you can generate that space for yourself. Then you can join the other entrepreneurs and start exploring. Jump in, the water is fine.

This article was published originally in the Metrowest Daily News.

Nancy Cantor of Ashland is the founder of Cantor Consulting, an Ashland-based consulting firm. She also runs two entrepreneurial educational companies: The Dream Factory Community for women solo-entrepreneurs and The Entrepreneurs Connection for small business owners (men and women) in MetroWest.