Chandler

Posts Tagged ‘Partnership’


Tips to Transition into a Management Role

February 14th, 2012 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

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Lisa Chandler video - Tips to Transition into a Management Position

Promote Yourself to Manager

When you are promoted into a management position there are some important considerations to set yourself up for success. The first is to promote yourself to manager. It may seem simple but it’s important to figure out what you were good at before and let that go.

The winning strategies that had you succeed before are not going to be the same to help you succeed as a manager. For example perhaps you were a great programmer and now you’re going to manage a team of programmers. You need a new skill set and you need to step into that role, so it require promoting yourself and mentally shifting gears.

Next get up to speed as fast as possible. Get your hands on reports, interview some key stakeholders and colleagues, go on some training for management, learn everything you can as fast as you can and at the same time asses the business situation.Are you walking into a start-up, a turn-around situation or is it business as usual – get in there and keep things flowing well. The sooner you know what you’re walking into the sooner you can match your approach to the business situation and start having an impact.

Discuss Expectations as Manager

Now paint a picture. What I mean here is sit down with your boss and get really clear about what success looks like. Come up with the expectations and how you are going to measure yourself against those expectations and how your boss will measure you. It would be a shame to find out 6 months later that your boss is not happy that you are not hitting the mark when you could have sat down at the very beginning and got really clear about what you are needing to create in a management role.

Once you’ve painted a picture of success it’s really important to get some early wins. Maybe you’re stepping into a role where you will deliver a project two years down the road. It’s really important to get your team to have a few wins in the first month or two with you as the manager. It will build trust, the trust the team has for you and it will build your confidence as a manager.

Managers Need Support

Finally the people I’ve coached that have most successfully transitioned into a management role have set themselves up with a community of support. They’ve hired a business coach, got a mentor, sometimes both. They have reached out to their colleagues to build a circle of support. They’ve asked family an friends to be kind during the transition and they’ve leaned on some routines like good sleeping habits, exercise, eating well and having a good time when they are not working to keep life integrated and balanced.

There are lots of resources out there. I find this book to be particularly helpful with my clients. The First 90 days by Michael Watkins. Thanks for watching.

 

The Farmer AND the Dell- My Bigger Game

October 6th, 2011 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

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It’s happened before. It has been happening again lately.  It goes a little like this:
  1. I don’t post anything in my blog for a while (this time is was a long while as I had a baby in March);
  2. I get inspired by all kinds of things that I could write about, but I don’t;
  3. And time passes;
  4. And more time passes. More inspiring ideas swirl around in my head and don’t get written up;
  5. And then my INTIMIDATION GROWS: What do I have to say that someone else hasn’t already said?
  6. And so does my SECOND GUESSING: Is blogging a good use of my time now that I have a baby and a business? Who is my target for these posts anyway?
  7. So I find a nice COMFORT ZONE called “Sons of Anarchy” (I watched two seasons over the past few weeks after Lali was in bed, telling myself I deserved a rest)
  8. And that feels great for a while but under the surface, I know I want to PLAY A BIGGER GAME.
The process it took to become a mother was my bigger game for a few years.  Being the kind of mom I want to be will continue to be a “very big game” for me. I have never felt the kind of joy, love, responsibility, potential and vulnerability that I feel now as a mother.
And yet, I find myself looking for my next compelling pursuit, something that will compliment my role as a mom, a business owner and a coach. I want it to be something that inspires me, and will inspire my daughter and others.  And I know that staying in my comfort zones too long is not the answer.
I have one idea that is only half baked.  It is such a big GULP that it has me running for cover. It involves falling in love with a [smart and sexy] farmer/rancher (like Pioneer Woman) and together building an executive retreat centre where the world’s top executives come (with their families) for the best leadership training in the world, delicious meals and good old fashioned farm work (Yes, coaches, I know I am collapsing two big ideas together…the farmer AND the dell…it is just how I want to see it).
Penelope inspired me. Sadly, it would seem that life on her farm is not going well just now. A few years ago I volunteered on a wonderful organic farm for the better part of a month.  I saw first-hand how much work is involved.  So I know I am romanticizing life on a farm.  Nonetheless, the vision keeps popping up.

The PIG at Les Jardins des Sophie (he became ham that fall).

The only piglet around me these days. She is much less suspicious than the farm pig was...with good reason.

My friend is going to bring Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy soon.  It feels good to have taken this little step outside my comfort zone while I ponder whether I will succomb to another season of Sons.
Maybe you know the farmer I need to meet?  Maybe you know the setting I need to visit?   Or maybe I will marry an architect or contractor and flip houses instead?  Or become Canada’s most sought after executive coach?   Those are other ideas I have.  It’s my bigger game after all.
P.S. And as for breaking through the blog block, I have done it.  It took me all day between client meetings and baking pumpkin loaf but I am about to press publish and it feels great. Whether it is a worthy investment of my increasingly scarce time is a topic for another post, or not.

Single and Showered with Support

February 15th, 2011 in Uncategorized comment 20 Comments »

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Andy Warhol Shower Cupcakes ..."the idea of waiting for something makes it more enticing". The cupcakes at the other shower were "to die for" too!

This past Saturday I attended Bientôt Bébe, the hospital’s prenatal course, at the Royal Victoria where I will be delivering my baby sometime very soon.   I was THE only single woman there among a sea of a dozen couples.  The nurse who was leading the course didn’t seem used to having single women in the class and her language the entire day was focussed on the couple.   When it came time to practice massage during labour, I was the “lucky” contestant called to the stage to be her guinea pig.    

Fortunately, I have thick skin about this stuff.  Even still, as we watched the video in which the husband was incredibly supportive during labour (many friends who are mothers would say this is the exception), I found myself feeling sad and very on my own. Certainly, I would love to to sharing the birthing process and my newborn with a loving partner and father. Ultimately though, I chose to have a baby myself  because it didn’t feel right to create a family with any of the men I have been in relationships with.    As I have told many friends, I have a lot of confidence that I will someday be sharing my child with a loving partner. I am just doing it backwards out of biological necessity.  Perhaps my love life will unfold in keeping with this kookie horoscope a friend sent me earlier this week:

“CANCER (June 21-July 22): Your love story has elements of a farce mixed
with a soap opera, fairy tale, and ghost story. For a normal human being,
it might be too intense and convoluted to deal with; it requires so much
willing suspension of disbelief and involves so much letting go of certainty
that no one in their right mind would agree to its demands. Luckily, you’re
not a normal human being these days, and you’re not particularly in your
right mind. That’s why I say unto you: Ride this snaky tale for all it’s
worth. Enjoy every plot twist and riddle as if you’ve been given an epic
myth you can ponder and learn from for the next ten years. Happy
Valentine Daze, Cancerian!”

The flip side to this “woe is me” perspective above is that I have been showered with support through my fertility journey and particularly though my pregnancy.  I cannot tell you if I have had more support as a single woman than a woman in a couple would have had but I suspect the answer is YES. 

The newly painted baby room and some adorable gifts hanging out together.

If you read my last post, you know I like to make lists.  I would love to make comprehensive list of all the support I have had just to see it for myself but I will surely forget to acknowledge someone.  Instead I will talk in slightly more general terms: Two close friends hosted baby showers for me in Toronto and Montreal respectively. My Toastmasters group also held a “baby shower” themed evening;  another close friend attended many medical procedures with me  and will be with me in labour too; my dad flew up to Montreal last week from Charlottetown to do house projects and my aunt had flown up earlier and help me get organized; friends have done everything from sort baby clothes hand me downs to moving furniture and have even painted the baby room from top to bottom; other friends and my sister gave me maternity clothes (and baby clothes); my landlord has been shovelling all the snow; some of my clients have sent gifts; my mom is flying up on my due date to help me for 3 weeks! And I even received a baby book in the mail from my favourite blogger Penelope Trunk, who said I didn’t really qualify for her book give away offer because my baby wasn’t even born yet and then proceeded to send me a lovely book with a yellow bow anyway!

Duck at the Door from Penelope Trunk

And so, what I am learning these days is that perhaps I can have everything I want in life, just not all at the same time. And that having a supportive family and an incredible group of friends, colleagues and clients helps me feel strong. I am certainly not alone in any of this. And I am GRATEFUL.
______________
I have given myself full permission to blog on whatever topic inspires me these days. Generally, I like to tie my posts to some type of business theme. As I wrap up my work to take a few months off for a maternity leave, I am naturally more in tune with my naval and all things baby.  Nonetheless, I think there are parallels one can draw to business too.  Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely endeavour unless one is surrounded by a village of support.
 
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When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

June 22nd, 2010 in Uncategorized comment 1 Comment »

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Photo from http://www.ethnologie.chaire.ulaval.ca/index.php?id=26&pratiqueid=31&no_cache=1

We all know that things don’t go as planned when renovating (especially if you are Penelope Trunk renovating a farm house in Wisconsin); I just learned that sometimes things don’t go according to plan when mating chickens; and often things don’t go according to your best laid business plans

Sometimes the work day doesn’t unfold as planned either. 

So far today, I have written 2 blog posts from Cafe Sportivo in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy.  The owner (I think she’s actually the owner’s daughter) is a spirited woman with a great sense of humour.  I enjoyed an excellent expresso and biscotti for $3.  When I said “It’s only $3?”, she said, “What, you wanna pay more???”.  I have also kept my eye on World Cup action (Uraquay is up one vs. Mexico). 

I did not intend to spend my time this way today.

Au contraire. Today I intended to meet 2 prospective clients and also a business owner to discuss how our businesses are complimentary.  It was to be a productive day in the city, a stark contrast to my new country setting.

My first meeting was booked for 8:00 a.m. To make it on time, I came into the city yesterday, slept at a friend’s house, got up at 6:30 and drove 30 min in traffic to get from NDG to Little Italy on time.  Before, I continue, I want to make it clear that I do not feel sorry for myself. I am simply detailing what it took to make it to the meeting.  8:05 came and went, then 8:10, and 8:20 with no sign of the duo I was to meet. It’s 11:00 a.m. and I haven’t heard from them.  Meeting #1 remains a mystery(12:30 p.m. – Mystery solved…the person simply put it in the calendar for tomorrow rather than today. We will rebook. No hard feelings).

On to meeting #2.  I was to meet a prospective client at 11 in another part of town.  He had a family urgency come up so we are rebooking for later this week or early next.  It happens.

Meeting #3. It is scheduled for 2 p.m. with another prospective client.  As of now, the meeting is on. And with any luck, at the end of today, I will be saying 1 out of 3 ain’t bad.  I would be lying if I said that I won’t be dissappointed if none of my scheduled meetings come off.

But for today, I am listening to Roger Ward Babson who said,

If things go wrong, don’t go with them.

What about you?  How do you react when things don’t go according to plan?

The Village People Build My Business

April 23rd, 2010 in Uncategorized comment 4 Comments »

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A village to raise a business

In my ongoing fascination about how much help I receive in business, I decided I’d write a post about how it takes a village…to raise a business. Don’t you know it. A like minded Canadian entrepreneur named Jude beat me to the punch. Good for her.

While I may be a solo-preneur, I have involved family, friends (and some of their spouses!), mentors, advisors, coaches, consultants and even tango partners in my business.   They are my village. I am even dedicating a page on my soon to be revamped web site called “About We”.
(more…)

Business Experiments in the Test Kitchen of Life- Part II

February 10th, 2010 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

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This past weekend Tanya and I created what I’ve dubbed our Business Experiments in the Test Kitchen of Life Challenge in which we gave ourselves $50 each to buy food in secret which we would then combine to cook up a menu and meal together.  

Tanya bought: I bought:
Morbier cheese Chocolate with pink peppercorns
Mussels Oatmeal crisps
Red chilli peppers French country farm sausage
Frisée lettuce Cashews
Speck bacon Dates
Papaya Dried pineapple
Dried big ear mushrooms Mango ginger Stilton
tomatillos Green onions
  Cilantro
  Blood oranges
  Pink grapefruit
  Papaya raisin chutney
  Limes

 

I share the ingredient list simply to show you the choices we made and what we had to work with.  It was like Christmas morning as we unveiled our lot; we were both impressed by the diversity of choices and the potential for the meal. Interestingly, our first take at a menu was a very safe pass. It was easy and predictable to group the oranges, grapefruit and limes as a great light dessert  to accompany a bite of chocolate and to decide that the dates could be stuffed with the Stilton etc. 

Quickly though, we realized we weren’t actually integrating our two sets of ingredients at all.  So in the true spirit of the challenge, we threw out the idea of ”safe and proven” and moved to true innovation. It was really hard to let go of the idea of making a great tasting meal to focus instead on creating something new. Yikes, did we really have to risk good taste and use $100 worth of groceries just to prove our creativity? Yes, we did. The result of our more wild/ less safe meal was delight and pride:

  • Dates stuffed with Morbier, cashews and speck bacon
  •  Frisee with Mango ginger Stilton, blood oranges, and curry vinaigrette
  • Farmer sausage with pink peppercorn chocolate sauce and mushroom chilli slaw
  • Mussels with papaya chutney, lemon grass, cilantro, and speck bacon
  • Citrus chutney salad with oatmeal crisps

While we aren’t likely to be invited to Iron Chef anytime soon, I think we were punching above our weight this time around.

Before I get all heavy about what I learned from the challenge, let me state emphatically that the day was a blast…fun, fun, fun from start to Fimo finish.  That’s right. As if we hadn’t made enough food in our five courses, we then moved to creating miniature Fimo quesadillas and PEI strawberry shortcake with Tanya’s daughter while Greg did the dishes.

And so, the learnings (according to me):

  • We are most creative when we aren’t attached to a specific outcome
  • When you think you are being creative already, step back, turn up the volume even more and take another pass; there is always room for more innovation
  • When stuck, it is a great time to take an entirely different perspective/ approach that may seem totally unrelated to the problem at hand (i.e. this food challenge for a Coach Buffet problem)
  • In a business partnership, making playing together as important as working together
  • Have a support team; in our case, one husband (procurer of wine, food critique and dishwasher) one five-year old (who is fascinated by food made from Fimo) and two coaches (Tanya and me) who would have driven you crazy with all our “noticing” throughout the day!

And about that espionage….while shopping earlier in the day, one of us had a huge urge to look into the other’s bag while she had stepped away for a few minutes.  If you do this challenge, don’t be suprized if it happens to you too. And if it does: stop yourself, get curious about what is going on for you, and tell on yourself the minute your partner is back. Your trust in each other will grow and you’ll have a good laugh too.

Tanya and I agreed to not read each others’ posts this week to avoid group think as we reflect on the learnings of our challenge.  But if you are really curious about the almost espionage, I am betting her blog will tell you whether it was Ms. Morbier or Ms. Stilton who wanted to peak!

Coach Buffet in Today’s Globe

December 1st, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 2 Comments »

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My business partner (and dear friend) Tanya Geisler recently pulled off Coach Buffet Toronto on her own (I was feeling under the weather and couldn’t travel). As if that is not enough, she also managed to get Coach Buffet featured on the front page of the Life Section in today’s Globe and MailCheck out  Speed-interviewing: On your marks, get set – hire!  by Globe writer Zosia Bielski. 

So today we are celebrating being on the front page of the Life section, perhaps the most popular section of our national newspaper. Not bad, Tanya! Coach Buffet is on its way to becoming a household name!

The Globe article speaks of an increasing trend to speed hire (i.e. employees, babysitters, doulas and coaches!). Our inspiration for Coach Buffet came in part from the notion that putting participants and coaches in a room for a high energy evening of coaching would be efficient à la ”speed hiring” AND it was much bigger than that too.

You see, as coaches ourselves, Tanya and I know the power of coaching, even in short 15 min segments. We set out to create Coach Buffet as a way to help coaches offer real coaching to show how they help clients create incredible possibilities in their lives and businesses.

Equally important to us is that Coach Buffet participants (prospective coaching clients) receive real value on the spot, perhaps by getting unstuck in an issue they have been grappling with or by finding a way to look at the situation through a new lens. While we would prefer that participants leave the Coach Buffet event wanting to hire one of the coaches from the buffet, we also see it as a great positive when participants leave feeling inspired and with their eyes opened about the potential of coaching.

Come see firsthand what I am talking about. Our next Coach Buffet Toronto is on Jan 26th and Coach Buffet Montreal is Jan 28th. There is no better time than January to get off to a great start and I feel extremely confident that Coach Buffet can help.

Risk/Reward: The Entrepreneur's R&R: Grab Life with Entrepreneur of the Year Rivers Corbett

November 24th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 6 Comments »

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Rivers Corbett is a force.  His entrepreneurial story is epic.  He’s a charismatic, experienced business leader and his passion for helping entrepreneurs is contagious.  Read on to find out why the interview with Rivers was special for me.

We will pick up the story around the time when Rivers borrowed $1M as a young man to buy out his father’s hodge podge of businesses (an old marina, convenience stores, a nursing home and a wholesale meat operation).  The loan enabled him to return to New Brunswick, the province he loves, as an entrepreneur with an income right off the bat.  In hindsight it was a good decision although it was not without its pain including a hostile takeover by the board of directors of the nursing home.

All those original businesses have since been spun off or closed. Rivers’ main business is now The Chef Group which just celebrated its 10 year anniversary. 

The Chef Group is like the Ford modelling agency but for chefs in the Atlantic provinces.  We create culinary adventures and push the envelope on food delivery and food education.

Even the Chef Group story is epic as Rivers lived through embezzlement by his now ex business partner which was uncovered just last year.  Fortunately, The Chef Group (now with 15 full-time employees) has come out strong and this year’s focus is on maximizing efficiencies to increase profits.  

For an entrepreneur like Rivers who likes to chase shiny lights, buckling down to focus on efficiencies to increase ROI takes discipline.   Fortunately, Rivers knows how to keep focus on his main business and indulge his passion for new business by helping other entrepreneurs through coaching and mentoring.

Named as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, Rivers is a life- long advocate for entrepreneurs as he believes they are the backbone of our economy.  Beyond the award, his most proud moments came when he reached a million in revenue for the first time and successfully battled depression twice.

What’s come more easily than he ever imagined is his willingness to expand his risk.  He’s had colossal successes and failures in business and each time his confidence has grown through his learning. 

I can now say with confidence that I will never have to be employed by someone else again.  The money for my kids’ education is in the bank.  I could never have gotten to this place without taking the risks I did.  Each time I had to manage my fears in order to move forward. Now it gets easier and easier to take smart risks because the rewards are so great and I know I will survive.

Rivers has three themes that have served him well as an entrepreneur:

1)      Attitude-he works a lot on personal development and surrounds himself with positive people including a business coach

2)      Cash- he is always looking for access to cash (i.e. credit) for a day when he needs to put it into play

3)      Team- he creates a team not only among his staff and suppliers but also among his family, friends and business supporters like his coach

I have booked Rivers for 39 minutes to share his top 8 things you have to do to survive and thrive in business beyond year five.  Join us for this complimentary teleseminar on December 9th at 8 p.m.  EST.  Click here to register for 39 Minutes with Rivers Corbett. 

Rivers and I have also teamed up to offer a mentor coaching program for start up entrepreneurs called The Business Success Train. I couldn’t think of an entrepreneur I would rather partner with for his depth of experience and passion are so compelling.  It doesn’t hurt that we share maritime roots. We are both so very excited to help start-up entrepreneurs (from year 0-5 in business) through our Business Succcess Train program……join us on the train to your success!

Risk/Reward: The Entrepreneur’s R&R: Grab Life with Entrepreneur of the Year Rivers Corbett

November 24th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 6 Comments »

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Rivers Corbett is a force.  His entrepreneurial story is epic.  He’s a charismatic, experienced business leader and his passion for helping entrepreneurs is contagious.  Read on to find out why the interview with Rivers was special for me.

We will pick up the story around the time when Rivers borrowed $1M as a young man to buy out his father’s hodge podge of businesses (an old marina, convenience stores, a nursing home and a wholesale meat operation).  The loan enabled him to return to New Brunswick, the province he loves, as an entrepreneur with an income right off the bat.  In hindsight it was a good decision although it was not without its pain including a hostile takeover by the board of directors of the nursing home.

All those original businesses have since been spun off or closed. Rivers’ main business is now The Chef Group which just celebrated its 10 year anniversary. 

The Chef Group is like the Ford modelling agency but for chefs in the Atlantic provinces.  We create culinary adventures and push the envelope on food delivery and food education.

Even the Chef Group story is epic as Rivers lived through embezzlement by his now ex business partner which was uncovered just last year.  Fortunately, The Chef Group (now with 15 full-time employees) has come out strong and this year’s focus is on maximizing efficiencies to increase profits.  

For an entrepreneur like Rivers who likes to chase shiny lights, buckling down to focus on efficiencies to increase ROI takes discipline.   Fortunately, Rivers knows how to keep focus on his main business and indulge his passion for new business by helping other entrepreneurs through coaching and mentoring.

Named as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, Rivers is a life- long advocate for entrepreneurs as he believes they are the backbone of our economy.  Beyond the award, his most proud moments came when he reached a million in revenue for the first time and successfully battled depression twice.

What’s come more easily than he ever imagined is his willingness to expand his risk.  He’s had colossal successes and failures in business and each time his confidence has grown through his learning. 

I can now say with confidence that I will never have to be employed by someone else again.  The money for my kids’ education is in the bank.  I could never have gotten to this place without taking the risks I did.  Each time I had to manage my fears in order to move forward. Now it gets easier and easier to take smart risks because the rewards are so great and I know I will survive.

Rivers has three themes that have served him well as an entrepreneur:

1)      Attitude-he works a lot on personal development and surrounds himself with positive people including a business coach

2)      Cash- he is always looking for access to cash (i.e. credit) for a day when he needs to put it into play

3)      Team- he creates a team not only among his staff and suppliers but also among his family, friends and business supporters like his coach

I have booked Rivers for 39 minutes to share his top 8 things you have to do to survive and thrive in business beyond year five.  Join us for this complimentary teleseminar on December 9th at 8 p.m.  EST.  Click here to register for 39 Minutes with Rivers Corbett. 

Rivers and I have also teamed up to offer a mentor coaching program for start up entrepreneurs called The Business Success Train. I couldn’t think of an entrepreneur I would rather partner with for his depth of experience and passion are so compelling.  It doesn’t hurt that we share maritime roots. We are both so very excited to help start-up entrepreneurs (from year 0-5 in business) through our Business Succcess Train program……join us on the train to your success!

"Ship, then test!" says Guy Kawasaki

November 20th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 8 Comments »

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Last night I was invited to Challenge Your World as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (thank you Martin Lessard!). Guy Kawasaki was spectacular as the keynote speaker. For the most part, Guy’s top 10 tips for entrepreneurs make a ton of sense. There are only a couple I dispute. My comments are in italics.

  1. Build what YOU want to use- in other words, skip the market research, make the product or service and get going (see #8 too); build your product/ service with a partner for the lowest cost possible and ensure your partner has talents and skills different than your own.
  2. Pay $0 for tools- WordPress for blogging is a prime example. I was given this sage advice when I started Chandler Coaches and it has served me well to date.
  3. Pay $0 for marketing- there is no longer a need to hire a PR company pre launch or spend $$ on advertising. Agreed and I think you do need to spend a bit of money on a talented graphic artist who can create your company/ product identity…something people will recognize on your website/ blog,  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. 
  4. Suck down or across (not up!)- the person who will make your product a success is a “nobody” who will tell other “nobodies” how much he loves your product/ service.  Because you don’t know who the nobodies are, you have to reach a lot of people. Forget about sucking up to stars and other influencers. This makes a ton of sense AND if you can find a way to get the Oprah Effect too, that won’t hurt!
  5. Use Twitter and Tweetmeme- there is no better way to reach the masses.  It is brilliant and it is free.
  6. Pay $0 for people-get help from people who are willing to do internships or work for free.  Sure, this might be fine when you are truly a start up with $0 cash flow.  After that, once you are making $, it is not ok, in my opinion, to make $ on someone else’s back.  Share and you will be rewarded. And what about hiring a start up coach like Alain Theriault (who is top of mind as I saw him last night) to help a bit on the front end? And then hire me when you are more established and I will help you grow in the direction you want.
  7. Put everything in “the cloud”- this was for techies re storing data on servers
  8. Ship, then test! Create a product or service that is good enough and get going. Don’t aim for perfection or anything close.  “Cash saves all”.  My partner Tanya Geisler and I recently did this with our new Coach Buffet concept and we got great feedback on our first two events. We couldn’t know what we know today if we had held off to refine the process.
  9. Avoid venture capital (VC)- bootstrap your company for the first few years instead of looking for investors.  When you have a proven product/ service and want to scale up, VC can be an alternative.
  10. Niche thyself- be the unique/ high value player.  And if you are the marketer, ask how you can convince the world you are the unique/ high value player.
  11. Guy’s Bonus: Don’t let the bozos grind you down. In Guy’s world, the dangerous bozos are the rich, famous people whose opinions are given more weight than they should be. Resist the naysayers, especially if they are where they are in business/ life because of luck/circumstances and not intelligence. 

“Ship, then test!” says Guy Kawasaki

November 20th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 9 Comments »

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Last night I was invited to Challenge Your World as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (thank you Martin Lessard!). Guy Kawasaki was spectacular as the keynote speaker. For the most part, Guy’s top 10 tips for entrepreneurs make a ton of sense. There are only a couple I dispute. My comments are in italics.

  1. Build what YOU want to use- in other words, skip the market research, make the product or service and get going (see #8 too); build your product/ service with a partner for the lowest cost possible and ensure your partner has talents and skills different than your own.
  2. Pay $0 for tools- WordPress for blogging is a prime example. I was given this sage advice when I started Chandler Coaches and it has served me well to date.
  3. Pay $0 for marketing- there is no longer a need to hire a PR company pre launch or spend $$ on advertising. Agreed and I think you do need to spend a bit of money on a talented graphic artist who can create your company/ product identity…something people will recognize on your website/ blog,  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. 
  4. Suck down or across (not up!)- the person who will make your product a success is a “nobody” who will tell other “nobodies” how much he loves your product/ service.  Because you don’t know who the nobodies are, you have to reach a lot of people. Forget about sucking up to stars and other influencers. This makes a ton of sense AND if you can find a way to get the Oprah Effect too, that won’t hurt!
  5. Use Twitter and Tweetmeme- there is no better way to reach the masses.  It is brilliant and it is free.
  6. Pay $0 for people-get help from people who are willing to do internships or work for free.  Sure, this might be fine when you are truly a start up with $0 cash flow.  After that, once you are making $, it is not ok, in my opinion, to make $ on someone else’s back.  Share and you will be rewarded. And what about hiring a start up coach like Alain Theriault (who is top of mind as I saw him last night) to help a bit on the front end? And then hire me when you are more established and I will help you grow in the direction you want.
  7. Put everything in “the cloud”- this was for techies re storing data on servers
  8. Ship, then test! Create a product or service that is good enough and get going. Don’t aim for perfection or anything close.  “Cash saves all”.  My partner Tanya Geisler and I recently did this with our new Coach Buffet concept and we got great feedback on our first two events. We couldn’t know what we know today if we had held off to refine the process.
  9. Avoid venture capital (VC)- bootstrap your company for the first few years instead of looking for investors.  When you have a proven product/ service and want to scale up, VC can be an alternative.
  10. Niche thyself- be the unique/ high value player.  And if you are the marketer, ask how you can convince the world you are the unique/ high value player.
  11. Guy’s Bonus: Don’t let the bozos grind you down. In Guy’s world, the dangerous bozos are the rich, famous people whose opinions are given more weight than they should be. Resist the naysayers, especially if they are where they are in business/ life because of luck/circumstances and not intelligence. 

Risk/ Reward: The Entrepreneur's R&R- Savon Populaire

October 29th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

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Chai soap

Savon Pop Chai Soap

I am hitting on a theme lately: woman entrepreneurs who have given birth to new businesses around the same time as starting their families. I just interviewed Alysia Melnychuk, owner of Savon Populaire, a Montreal based organic cosmetics (soap etc.) company. Like Kim Fuller of IDG Communications, Alysia started her business just before the birth of her eldest child more than six years ago. And like many entrepreneurial moms, she used her maternity leave time to further develop her ideas so that when she returned to work she was rearing to go.

And she has been going strong ever since. Even the birth of her second child almost 5 months ago hasn’t stopped her. Though this time, she wishes she could pull back more. Her biggest challenge has been finding a way to replace herself. Her solution, by necessity, has been to farm out various aspects of her role to four different people on a part-time or project basis. Not surprisingly, no one person had her entire skill set. Parcelling out her roles and caring for a small baby has necessitated that this entrepreneur truly assume her company management role, leaving technician type soap production issues to others. As it is, she is putting in 20-25 hours a week still (often at night when her children go to bed).

It is hard for me to let go because I pride myself on creativity in our soap making and on quality. This is forcing me to do it and it’s good practice.

Her current situation also made her question her ability to continue with the current company set up. And selling is not an option as Alysia is too excited to walk away as the company is poised for a growth spurt. After very careful consideration, her answer is to create a co-operative.

Over the coming months, Savon Populaire will become a co-op with 3 partners who have an equal voice. There will be a lot more “letting go” to come for Alysia. Fortunately, her passion for creating body friendly, environmentally friendly products and her love of working in collaboration with people instead of in a boss/ subordinate role will continue to drive her. Savon Populaire will be all the better for it as one of the new partners is a herbalist who brings many innovative ideas and know how. Happily, the third partner is a current employee who is being groomed to step into a partner role.

The biggest risk Alysia ever took in business was to start the company in the first place. She did it with no capital and no cash flow. There were some very lean years at the beginning where Alysia’s resourcefulness is all that kept her company going. She told me of how she retrofitted a clothing iron to be her product sealer in order to save $300. It seems there have been many ingenious moves like this. She’s most proud that she has created something that now has worth in terms of brand equity and company assets that she could sell.

Alysia’s biggest failure (and greatest learning) came from realizing that remaining foggy on details where money is concerned is a recipe for big problems. Her initial naïveté didn’t serve her well and she’s now very careful to stipulate clear terms when money is involved.

Soon Savon Populaire will move from their Montreal Parc Extension workshop and manufacturing shop to new larger retail location (TBD) with local shopping traffic and launch a whole new product line. With two new partners, a new retail location, a new product line and a great deal of enthusiasm for what is possible, we can expect to see great things coming from Savon Populaire in 2010.

Savon Pop logo

Risk/ Reward: The Entrepreneur’s R&R- Savon Populaire

October 29th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chai soap

Savon Pop Chai Soap

I am hitting on a theme lately: woman entrepreneurs who have given birth to new businesses around the same time as starting their families. I just interviewed Alysia Melnychuk, owner of Savon Populaire, a Montreal based organic cosmetics (soap etc.) company. Like Kim Fuller of IDG Communications, Alysia started her business just before the birth of her eldest child more than six years ago. And like many entrepreneurial moms, she used her maternity leave time to further develop her ideas so that when she returned to work she was rearing to go.

And she has been going strong ever since. Even the birth of her second child almost 5 months ago hasn’t stopped her. Though this time, she wishes she could pull back more. Her biggest challenge has been finding a way to replace herself. Her solution, by necessity, has been to farm out various aspects of her role to four different people on a part-time or project basis. Not surprisingly, no one person had her entire skill set. Parcelling out her roles and caring for a small baby has necessitated that this entrepreneur truly assume her company management role, leaving technician type soap production issues to others. As it is, she is putting in 20-25 hours a week still (often at night when her children go to bed).

It is hard for me to let go because I pride myself on creativity in our soap making and on quality. This is forcing me to do it and it’s good practice.

Her current situation also made her question her ability to continue with the current company set up. And selling is not an option as Alysia is too excited to walk away as the company is poised for a growth spurt. After very careful consideration, her answer is to create a co-operative.

Over the coming months, Savon Populaire will become a co-op with 3 partners who have an equal voice. There will be a lot more “letting go” to come for Alysia. Fortunately, her passion for creating body friendly, environmentally friendly products and her love of working in collaboration with people instead of in a boss/ subordinate role will continue to drive her. Savon Populaire will be all the better for it as one of the new partners is a herbalist who brings many innovative ideas and know how. Happily, the third partner is a current employee who is being groomed to step into a partner role.

The biggest risk Alysia ever took in business was to start the company in the first place. She did it with no capital and no cash flow. There were some very lean years at the beginning where Alysia’s resourcefulness is all that kept her company going. She told me of how she retrofitted a clothing iron to be her product sealer in order to save $300. It seems there have been many ingenious moves like this. She’s most proud that she has created something that now has worth in terms of brand equity and company assets that she could sell.

Alysia’s biggest failure (and greatest learning) came from realizing that remaining foggy on details where money is concerned is a recipe for big problems. Her initial naïveté didn’t serve her well and she’s now very careful to stipulate clear terms when money is involved.

Soon Savon Populaire will move from their Montreal Parc Extension workshop and manufacturing shop to new larger retail location (TBD) with local shopping traffic and launch a whole new product line. With two new partners, a new retail location, a new product line and a great deal of enthusiasm for what is possible, we can expect to see great things coming from Savon Populaire in 2010.

Savon Pop logo

Seth Godin's Lessons From Very Tiny Businesses

August 23rd, 2009 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

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Thank you to my friend and strategic communications expert Deborah Hinton of Hinton : for sending me the following tips from Seth Godin:

1. Go where your customers are.

www.greentruckonthego.com

www.greentruckonthego.com

Jacquelyne runs a tiny juice company called Chakwave. I met her in Los Angeles, standing next to an organic lunch truck. Like the little birds that clean the teeth of the hippo, there’s synergy here. The kind of person that visits the truck for lunch is the sort of person that would happily pay for something as wonderfully weird as her juice. And the truck owners benefit from the rolling festival farmer’s market feel that comes from having a synergistic partner set up on a bridge table right next door.

 

 I have had an intuition to locate myself in/ near Chateau St. Ambroise to be easily accessible to the many interesting small and medium sized businesses there. I even found a partner who will rent me commercial loft space in a very flexible manner.  There is nothing stopping me…except me.  Time to jump in!

2. Be micro-focused and the search engines will find you.

My friend Patti Jo is an extraordinary teacher and tutor. Her new business, The Scarsdale Tutor doesn’t need many clients in order to be successful. This permits her to focus obsessively and that gets rewarded with front page results on Google. Not because she’s tried to manipulate the seo (she hasn’t) but because this is exactly the page you’d hope to find if you typed “scarsdale tutor” into a search engine. Could she do this nationwide? Of course not. But she doesn’t want to or need to. Living on the long tail can be profitable.

I had lunch with my friend Tricia van der Walde, a Montreal massage therapist, this week. She said the same thing. She’s coming up first in Google for “Montreal lymphatic drainage”. It’s a speciality.  People are finding her.

3. Outlast the competition.

I was amazed at all the empty storefronts I saw in LA on my last visit. On one particular block, three or four of the ten lunch places were shut down. And the others? Doing great. That’s because the remaining office workers who used to eat lunch at the shuttered places had to eat somewhere, and so the survivors watched their business grow. A war of attrition is never pretty, but if you’re smart about overhead and scale, you’ll win it.

A number of my coach colleagues –Tanya Geisler, Minnie Richardson, Ian Renaud, and Marie-Claude LaPalme – are building their businesses during this recession. Each of them has been cautious about taking on big overhead. Each of them is growing organically by word of mouth and through other promotions. the point is that all of them are growing. So am I!

4. Leverage.

Rick Toone runs a tiny guitar-making operation. His lack of scale makes it easy for him to share. When others start using his designs, he doesn’t suffer (he can’t make any more guitars than he already is) he benefits, because as the originator of the design, his originals become more coveted, not less valuable. He leverages his insight and shares it as a free marketing device.

Michael Port, in his best sellling book Book Yourself Solid advises small business owners to “give away so much value that you think you’ve given too much and then give more”. He descibes a college friend of his used to order his hero sandwiches saying “put so much mayonnaise on it that you think you’ve ruined it, and then put some more!”.   Think mayonnaise and as Michael says, “invite prospective clients to experience what it is like to be around you and the people you serve”.

5. Respond.

This is the single biggest advantage you have over the big guys. Not only are you in charge, you also answer the phone and read your email and man the desk and set the prices. So don’t pretend you have a policy. Just be human.

It’s a lot to manage. And it is so rewarding!

See Seth’s original post here.

Seth Godin’s Lessons From Very Tiny Businesses

August 23rd, 2009 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thank you to my friend and strategic communications expert Deborah Hinton of Hinton : for sending me the following tips from Seth Godin:

1. Go where your customers are.

www.greentruckonthego.com

www.greentruckonthego.com

Jacquelyne runs a tiny juice company called Chakwave. I met her in Los Angeles, standing next to an organic lunch truck. Like the little birds that clean the teeth of the hippo, there’s synergy here. The kind of person that visits the truck for lunch is the sort of person that would happily pay for something as wonderfully weird as her juice. And the truck owners benefit from the rolling festival farmer’s market feel that comes from having a synergistic partner set up on a bridge table right next door.

 

 I have had an intuition to locate myself in/ near Chateau St. Ambroise to be easily accessible to the many interesting small and medium sized businesses there. I even found a partner who will rent me commercial loft space in a very flexible manner.  There is nothing stopping me…except me.  Time to jump in!

2. Be micro-focused and the search engines will find you.

My friend Patti Jo is an extraordinary teacher and tutor. Her new business, The Scarsdale Tutor doesn’t need many clients in order to be successful. This permits her to focus obsessively and that gets rewarded with front page results on Google. Not because she’s tried to manipulate the seo (she hasn’t) but because this is exactly the page you’d hope to find if you typed “scarsdale tutor” into a search engine. Could she do this nationwide? Of course not. But she doesn’t want to or need to. Living on the long tail can be profitable.

I had lunch with my friend Tricia van der Walde, a Montreal massage therapist, this week. She said the same thing. She’s coming up first in Google for “Montreal lymphatic drainage”. It’s a speciality.  People are finding her.

3. Outlast the competition.

I was amazed at all the empty storefronts I saw in LA on my last visit. On one particular block, three or four of the ten lunch places were shut down. And the others? Doing great. That’s because the remaining office workers who used to eat lunch at the shuttered places had to eat somewhere, and so the survivors watched their business grow. A war of attrition is never pretty, but if you’re smart about overhead and scale, you’ll win it.

A number of my coach colleagues –Tanya Geisler, Minnie Richardson, Ian Renaud, and Marie-Claude LaPalme – are building their businesses during this recession. Each of them has been cautious about taking on big overhead. Each of them is growing organically by word of mouth and through other promotions. the point is that all of them are growing. So am I!

4. Leverage.

Rick Toone runs a tiny guitar-making operation. His lack of scale makes it easy for him to share. When others start using his designs, he doesn’t suffer (he can’t make any more guitars than he already is) he benefits, because as the originator of the design, his originals become more coveted, not less valuable. He leverages his insight and shares it as a free marketing device.

Michael Port, in his best sellling book Book Yourself Solid advises small business owners to “give away so much value that you think you’ve given too much and then give more”. He descibes a college friend of his used to order his hero sandwiches saying “put so much mayonnaise on it that you think you’ve ruined it, and then put some more!”.   Think mayonnaise and as Michael says, “invite prospective clients to experience what it is like to be around you and the people you serve”.

5. Respond.

This is the single biggest advantage you have over the big guys. Not only are you in charge, you also answer the phone and read your email and man the desk and set the prices. So don’t pretend you have a policy. Just be human.

It’s a lot to manage. And it is so rewarding!

See Seth’s original post here.

Risk/Reward: The Entrepreneur's R&R- It's Synkro and You're Invited

August 10th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 2 Comments »

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M-Girl Annie Cremont

M-Girl Annie Cremont

She describes her Synkro event as a Tour de Force…an opportunity to make people feel good and dance more. And it is. And so is she! She’s the M Girl– Annie Cremont–owner of ExperiencesM and creator of Synkro.

Part of Synkro’s charm is its mystic. My friend and coach colleague who invited me to Synkro in May said she had no idea what to expect but she “expected” it to be very unique based on her exchanges with Annie. You can say that again! I was amazed how quickly M-Girl and her team created a “let your hair down” space for the room full of 30/40/50 somethings. And that was just the beginning. We danced, and danced and danced. And at the end of the evening, I felt like I had been coached and cleansed. My head was clear and my heart was calm.

Dancing makes people feel good. It helps them get in sync with their mind and body. It is my personal mission to make 1 million people dance in the next three years.

I know she will succeed. But in case you think Annie is another Where the hell is Matt?, she’s not. While they both have big visions, an international focus, and a love of getting people to dance, Synkro is a a fully integrated, tested program that helps initially self -conscious people to get in touch with their own unique rhythm as a form of communication.

It is the perfect program to open or close a big conference or corporate meeting. It is also a perfect event to raise money for health and wellness because it helps people be in touch with themselves.

At a recent convention in Phoenix, Arizona, for the National Speakers Association (NSA), a show case for North America’s top speakers, many eyes were turned her way. She believes her timing to enter the US market is perfect.

As the economy comes out of recession under Obama’s leadership, the US is more open than ever to doing things differently. The US needs to dance!

Synkro Bookmark image M-Girl knows what she is talking about and she knows how to sell her concept. In 1999, fresh out of business school at HEC, Annie created Station M, an advertising and marketing agency. That gave her almost a decade of experience and a very large network. In 2008, she made a life altering decision to wind down Station M operations and pursue her dream to develop Synkro.  She followed her gut when she realized that the 2-3 minute dance portion she added into each presentation she did on selling was the highlight for her and her audience.

Annie Cremont, the M-Girl, is a spectacular example of someone who is following her dreams and living her life aligned to her values. She radiates energy; she is smart and generous and she is going to make a million people dance by 2011.

If you would like to have a Synkro experience in Montreal, check out Annie’s special invitation for Monday Auguest 17th. She’s running a pilot and the costs are on her.  If you miss out on the 17th, you can register for her next live Synkro which will be held at Gallery Art Avenue in Old Montreal on September 30th.

Subscribe to M-News or join Synkro group on Facebook

Risk/Reward: The Entrepreneur’s R&R- It’s Synkro and You’re Invited

August 10th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 2 Comments »

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M-Girl Annie Cremont

M-Girl Annie Cremont

She describes her Synkro event as a Tour de Force…an opportunity to make people feel good and dance more. And it is. And so is she! She’s the M Girl– Annie Cremont–owner of ExperiencesM and creator of Synkro.

Part of Synkro’s charm is its mystic. My friend and coach colleague who invited me to Synkro in May said she had no idea what to expect but she “expected” it to be very unique based on her exchanges with Annie. You can say that again! I was amazed how quickly M-Girl and her team created a “let your hair down” space for the room full of 30/40/50 somethings. And that was just the beginning. We danced, and danced and danced. And at the end of the evening, I felt like I had been coached and cleansed. My head was clear and my heart was calm.

Dancing makes people feel good. It helps them get in sync with their mind and body. It is my personal mission to make 1 million people dance in the next three years.

I know she will succeed. But in case you think Annie is another Where the hell is Matt?, she’s not. While they both have big visions, an international focus, and a love of getting people to dance, Synkro is a a fully integrated, tested program that helps initially self -conscious people to get in touch with their own unique rhythm as a form of communication.

It is the perfect program to open or close a big conference or corporate meeting. It is also a perfect event to raise money for health and wellness because it helps people be in touch with themselves.

At a recent convention in Phoenix, Arizona, for the National Speakers Association (NSA), a show case for North America’s top speakers, many eyes were turned her way. She believes her timing to enter the US market is perfect.

As the economy comes out of recession under Obama’s leadership, the US is more open than ever to doing things differently. The US needs to dance!

Synkro Bookmark image M-Girl knows what she is talking about and she knows how to sell her concept. In 1999, fresh out of business school at HEC, Annie created Station M, an advertising and marketing agency. That gave her almost a decade of experience and a very large network. In 2008, she made a life altering decision to wind down Station M operations and pursue her dream to develop Synkro.  She followed her gut when she realized that the 2-3 minute dance portion she added into each presentation she did on selling was the highlight for her and her audience.

Annie Cremont, the M-Girl, is a spectacular example of someone who is following her dreams and living her life aligned to her values. She radiates energy; she is smart and generous and she is going to make a million people dance by 2011.

If you would like to have a Synkro experience in Montreal, check out Annie’s special invitation for Monday Auguest 17th. She’s running a pilot and the costs are on her.  If you miss out on the 17th, you can register for her next live Synkro which will be held at Gallery Art Avenue in Old Montreal on September 30th.

Subscribe to M-News or join Synkro group on Facebook

Risk/Reward: The Entrepreneur's R&R- MonTango

June 16th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 4 Comments »

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Life is a Tango For This Entrepreneurial Couple

Andrea Shepherd left her full time job as an editor at the Montreal Gazette to follow her childhood dream of opening a dance studio; her partner, Wolf Mercado Alatrista, who maintains a full time job at the YMCA to keep their family afloat during their start up phase, is also following his dream. Together, they are the founders of MonTango a thriving tango studio in NDG, Montreal. 

Andrea and Wolf

Andrea and Wolf

All totalled, Wolf and Andrea have danced Argentine tango for more than 20 years.  They taught together before deciding to open MonTango.  Now, a year in, they see how their ability to “dance in the moment” with each other on the dance floor and in life helps them run their business. Andrea manages operations, communications and instructs.  Wolf focuses on the client experience and instruction.

While MonTango’s initial mission was to teach people to tango, it now expands to creating community. Andrea says,

Bringing people together and creating friendships wasn’t our original purpose but it has become a wonderful by-product and is so rewarding.

You have only to spend an hour at a Sunday afternoon Cafe Croissant Tango  to see that they have succeeded wildly on this count.  And it is not by accident.  Wolf and Andrea, and their teaching staff, regularly dance with beginner and advanced students, giving freely of their time, their enthusiasm and their instruction.

Of course, one doesn’t live on goodwill alone and dance studios are notoriously risky businesses.  Expensive rent for studio space, competition, and changing dance fads can wreak havoc with the business model.  Happily, social dance has never been more popular with shows like So You Think You Can Dance. It helps that Montreal is the tango capital of North America and that interest in tango, the most complicated and wonderful of the social dances (emphasis all mine!) shows no sign of slowing down. Even in a down economy with a lot of competition for students, MonTango has doubled its student number since last year. 

The current supportive climate and endless hours working on and in the business have ensured their general trend in revenue is upward.  Nonetheless, their dance in business has not been without hiccups.  Some near misses have taught them:

  • Everything takes longer than expected (time management/ priority setting is key);
  • Word of mouth/ referrals are their key to successful growth because other marketing can be expensive or inefficient;
  • Hiring help in their areas of weakness (i.e. accounting) is necessary;
  • Finding teaching staff that will embrace their mission and follow their MonTango methodologies can be time consuming but is essential to ensuring students have a MonTango experience;
  • Preventing the business from creeping into all aspects of their family time is an ongoing challenge and a work in progress.

April marked MonTango’s one year anniversary.  We celebrated by dancing tango to live music by Ensemble Montreal Tango.  More than 120 tangueros/ tangeuras joined in the festivities.  For MonTango, we, tango aficionados all, are more than clients.  We are a community of friends.  And what business doesn’t need friends?

So….If life is a tango, will you sit it out or dance?

If dance is your reply, MonTango invites you to try one of their free introductory lessons, from June  22 to 25 at 6 p.m. at 5588A Sherbrooke St. W. (corner Marcil). They will also hold tango dancing at NDG Park (across the street from the studio) every Friday from June  26 to Aug. 28 between 6 and 9 p.m. For info, click here or call 514-486-5588.

Risk/Reward: The Entrepreneur’s R&R- MonTango

June 16th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 2 Comments »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Life is a Tango For This Entrepreneurial Couple

Andrea Shepherd left her full time job as an editor at the Montreal Gazette to follow her childhood dream of opening a dance studio; her partner, Wolf Mercado Alatrista, who maintains a full time job at the YMCA to keep their family afloat during their start up phase, is also following his dream. Together, they are the founders of MonTango a thriving tango studio in NDG, Montreal. 

Andrea and Wolf

Andrea and Wolf

All totalled, Wolf and Andrea have danced Argentine tango for more than 20 years.  They taught together before deciding to open MonTango.  Now, a year in, they see how their ability to “dance in the moment” with each other on the dance floor and in life helps them run their business. Andrea manages operations, communications and instructs.  Wolf focuses on the client experience and instruction.

While MonTango’s initial mission was to teach people to tango, it now expands to creating community. Andrea says,

Bringing people together and creating friendships wasn’t our original purpose but it has become a wonderful by-product and is so rewarding.

You have only to spend an hour at a Sunday afternoon Cafe Croissant Tango  to see that they have succeeded wildly on this count.  And it is not by accident.  Wolf and Andrea, and their teaching staff, regularly dance with beginner and advanced students, giving freely of their time, their enthusiasm and their instruction.

Of course, one doesn’t live on goodwill alone and dance studios are notoriously risky businesses.  Expensive rent for studio space, competition, and changing dance fads can wreak havoc with the business model.  Happily, social dance has never been more popular with shows like So You Think You Can Dance. It helps that Montreal is the tango capital of North America and that interest in tango, the most complicated and wonderful of the social dances (emphasis all mine!) shows no sign of slowing down. Even in a down economy with a lot of competition for students, MonTango has doubled its student number since last year. 

The current supportive climate and endless hours working on and in the business have ensured their general trend in revenue is upward.  Nonetheless, their dance in business has not been without hiccups.  Some near misses have taught them:

  • Everything takes longer than expected (time management/ priority setting is key);
  • Word of mouth/ referrals are their key to successful growth because other marketing can be expensive or inefficient;
  • Hiring help in their areas of weakness (i.e. accounting) is necessary;
  • Finding teaching staff that will embrace their mission and follow their MonTango methodologies can be time consuming but is essential to ensuring students have a MonTango experience;
  • Preventing the business from creeping into all aspects of their family time is an ongoing challenge and a work in progress.

April marked MonTango’s one year anniversary.  We celebrated by dancing tango to live music by Ensemble Montreal Tango.  More than 120 tangueros/ tangeuras joined in the festivities.  For MonTango, we, tango aficionados all, are more than clients.  We are a community of friends.  And what business doesn’t need friends?

So….If life is a tango, will you sit it out or dance?

If dance is your reply, MonTango invites you to try one of their free introductory lessons, from June  22 to 25 at 6 p.m. at 5588A Sherbrooke St. W. (corner Marcil). They will also hold tango dancing at NDG Park (across the street from the studio) every Friday from June  26 to Aug. 28 between 6 and 9 p.m. For info, click here or call 514-486-5588.

If you focus on only one thing, pick this!

June 11th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 1 Comment »

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About five years ago, George Thompson, President of Headcan Health Education Media, gave me a reprint of a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article that he was exuberant about. We were focussing on client satisfaction and the article—The One Number You Need to Grow– cut right to the chase (you will have to pay Harvard Business Review if you want to read the whole thing). George’s enthusiasm and the message still resonate. In fact, I believe I have integrated the notion into my very core.

Simply stated, one can take a very blunt and important measure of customer loyalty by asking two simple questions: the first about the quality of their customer experience and the second about whether they would purchase again/ recommend you (your product or service). The results of these two questions enable you to zero in on your most valued customers and leverage your sweet spot.

Today I was reminded of this concept –repeat customers who are willing to recommend your product/ service—as I read a report from Upwardly Mobile, Inc. This US group has created an online career management system by reverse engineering the networking steps taken by elite professionals (those earning $200K+) to build their careers.  See their just released report on networking and career advancement. The key message here is that networking is not optional for career/ business success. Furthermore, it is about farming all the time rather than hunting in desperation when the economy drags your sales down or you find yourself job searching.

It strikes me that it all comes down to the same thing. For long term success, it doesn’t matter as much that you have 300 people in your LinkedIn network (though the optics are good) or that you have many customers with whom you have a shallow relationships. What matters more is whether these people will actually stick their neck out and recommend you to others.

Whether you are building and nurturing your network or focussed on client satisfaction and loyalty, here are a few points I believe in:

  • Help your network/ customer base without attachment to results or payback;
  • Be attached to what your network/ customers do for you; if there is no return over time, stop investing in them (hey, if Seth Godin can give contradictory advice, why can’t I?);
  • Refer clients to your competitors (if your competitor will serve them much better based on a specific need they have that you won’t serve as well);
  • Be brave. Once you feel there is some trust, ask your contact/client/customer if they will recommend you. If they aren’t comfortable recommending you, find out what their discomfort is and what you can do to turn it around.

And remember: to accelerate your business/ career/ life, there is only one number you need to grow. Don’t wait for a rainy day.

From Red Velvet Cake to Red Velvet Ropes

May 8th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment Comments Off

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Yesterday’s topic was company values (see The Value of Red Velvet Cake). Today I am on to the value of having a red velvet rope to keep non ideal clients out!  Yes. You heard right. The idea belongs to Michael Port, business coach, and author of the widely read Book Yourself Solid.  

Port conjures up the velvet rope you may encounter when you attend a high end, invitation only party. You show up and the bouncer only lets you past the velvet rope if your name is on the guest list. Port’s idea is to treat prospective clients’ metaphorical entry into your business this way too.  He recommends becoming crystal clear on who your ideal client is in terms of their qualities (not their pocketbook) and going so far as to fire your “dud” clients–the ones who drain your energy and prevent you from being your very best with your ideal clients.

velvet ropeFor my business coaching practice, you will get past the the velvet rope if you are:

  • a creator-you already know that it’s up to you to create the business and life of your dreams.
  • a natural partner-you are living proof that partnering on ideas, projects, goals and desires is a surefire way to manifest them.
  • fully alive- you are awake to possibility and your energy is palpable.
  • a connector- you get great joy out of connecting people to ideas and other resources.
  • a believer- you already know the power of business coaching, you have faith in the process and you know things will work out great.

If on the other hand, you are a victim of circumstance, a sole operator (in the sense that you are scared to involve anyone lest they steal your ideas), flat, a disconnector and a skeptic…my velvet rope will not be opened for you.  Of course, it’s not likely that you will try to crash my party anyway.   

A Procrastination Buster for Entrepreneurs- Part 2

April 20th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 3 Comments »

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What would you give  to stroke a few of your hardest tasks off your “to do” list without having to do them yourself (and without paying a dime)?  How about giving your time in kind?!   The principle is simple. We call it a work swap and before I go any further, let me give credit to my friend Tanya, owner of Board of Your Life  and my accountability partner, for dreaming up this gem of an idea. 

Here’s how we work it:

  1. Each week during our accountability partnership meeting (see post below), we each look at our respective “to do” lists;
  2. We then name the tasks we have been putting off or don’t want to do (i.e. something we dislike, find boring, feel is too complicated etc.);
  3. From this short list (or sometimes long list!) we narrow the list to the tasks we believe our partner could take on: Researching business banking options could work whereas calling my sister to organize our parents wedding anniversary wouldn’t.  I am sure you get the drift;
  4. The next part is fun.  We each get to pick what we will take on for the other.  The idea is to swap approximately one hour of time per week so that dictates how many tasks we swap.  
  5. We then agree to a deadline. In our case, because we already have a telephone meeting every Monday, we use that as our deadline. 

Miraculously, our swapped tasks usually get done very quickly because it is often much easier to do someone else’s work than your own.  So far we have swapped tasks like researching how to get wide readership for a blog, revising a LinkedIn profile, and brainstorming a list of potential blog post topics, to name a few.  And it just so happens, that in doing certain tasks for Tanya, I have been able to learn things that are applicable to my own business.  But the benefits don’t stop there.

In addition to crossing procrastinated tasks off our lists and helping a friend/colleague do the same, more often than not, we are in such a state of flow that we each tackle your own work with renewed inspiration and enthusiasm.  And that, my friends, is the beauty of a work swap.  Try it. You’ll like it!  And when you do, please send me feedback.

A Procrastination Buster for Entrepreneurs- Part 1

April 19th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 1 Comment »

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So you have a long “to do” list and a few of the same pesky items keep showing up week after week. You just can’t seem to knock them off your list.  Maybe your reoccurring list looks a bit like this:

·         Update contact management software (but you hate IT stuff!)

·         Call people you met at recent Board of Trade breakfast (but what will I say?)

·         Decide yes or no re: PR proposal (is it PR I need or should I spend $ on direct mail?)

You get the picture.  Whatever the tasks, we all have our so called reasons for not getting them done, whether due to fear, indecision, boredom or dislike.   

So try this.  Set up an accountability partnership.  I define this as a regular check in with a colleague or friend for the purposes of support and accountability.  I have a telephone accountability partnership with a friend and fellow business owner who is based in Toronto (in fact, our partnership was her idea). We meet every Monday for an hour via phone. If it seems like a lot, I assure you it is one of the most valuable hours in my week.

 Accountability meeting (30 min for her/ 30 min for me).

  1. Check in on where we stand relative to the commitments we made from the previous week.

  2. Decide on key things we will commit to for the week ahead.   

  3. Have fun. Challenge each other. Champion each other.

Every week we challenge each other to do what is “closest to cash” or sometimes what is closest to our hearts’ desire.   We care about each others’ success and happiness.  For this we are willing to push each other quite hard which isn’t always comfortable yet is usually very rewarding for us both.

So if you want that great feeling that comes with momentum and support, less procrastination, and greatly increased productivity, set up an accountability partnership of your own. 

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Choose your partner well.  Partner with someone you trust and respect, who is reliable and shares your work ethic.  Pick a coach-like person who is a great listener and  challenger and is curious.  Ensure there is mutual benefit. One sided partnerships are like clapping with one hand…not very effective.

  • Design your partnership. Agree on your joint purpose for meeting, when you will meet, for how long, what the agenda will be, how you will keep each other accountable.

  • Take it seriously.  More than just busting through procrastination, you are setting up a structure that will give you support and guidance and help you achieve what you want (i.e. getting more clients/ customers, raising your profile, learning to delegate, having more fun in your business etc.)

  • Have fun.  You are creating a really powerful tool to help you in life and business.  Keep it alive by making it playful.  Celebrate your successes together. This may well become the highlight of your week.

An accountability partnership doesn’t replace being coached but it sure is a great set up for busting through procrastination and reducing isolation.  In my case, I have a top notch business coach and a wonderful  accountability partnership.  I wouldn’t have it any other way!  

Stay tuned for procrasination buster #2 in my next post.

An Entrepreneur is Like a Great Tanguero (a.k.a. tango dancer)

April 8th, 2009 in Uncategorized comment 4 Comments »

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So you might readily agree that one could draw parallels between tango and sex. I go so far as to say there are parallels between tango and business and specifically that there are common characteristics between tango dancers and entrepreneurs. And it has nothing to do with sex.

Hear me out. For starters, is there any dance more complicated to learn than Argentine tango? Is there any business more challenging that an entrepreneurial venture?

Leadership

There is no tango without a leader; there is no new business venture without an entrepreneur.

Improvisation and multi-tasking mastery

In tango, the leader must lead the dance, navigate the busy dance floor, and keep time with the music, all the while connecting with his follower. And Argentine tango is an entirely improvised dance. There is no blueprint to follow.  It is made up in the moment. The entrepreneur juggles planning, operations, finance/ accounting, marketing and human resources, to name a few. No one hands her a set plan to follow for any of this though successful entrepreneurs usually write their own plan and improvise as they come up against new things.

The art of attraction

The best tanguero offers the entire package: skill/ technique, a sharp appearance, grace and respect. The successful entrepreneur is always skilful, presents himself professionally and believes in his product or service. He ensures that customers, employees and investors want to dance with him…and preferably repeatedly.

Finely tuned Intuition/ instinct

The seasoned tanguera dances like she has eyes in the back of her head. She can sense her next move even before it’s invited and yet she knows not to step until she feels the lead. She trusts her partner and herself. The best entrepreneurs are so in tune with their vision, their stakeholders and their business climate, they can feel in their bones what they should do and when to do it. And they know that even if their interpretation is off, they will learn from it for next time.

Responsibility/ Partnership

 You’ve oft heard “it takes two to tango”. Well, it truly does. And whether you know it or not, both partners must maintain their own axis (balance) at all times. Both partners are creators in the dance just as the entrepreneur is the creator of his destiny. “Off axis” moves require a supportive partner. The astute entrepreneur knows when he is off axis and has fostered partners to lean on during those times. In fact, the true entrepreneur will intentionally take himself off axis to explore areas for growth!

And finally PASSION

 Did you think I would forget? Without it, the tango is not worth dancing; in business, no passion means the shop doors might as well close because no one will want to walk through them. So if you are a passionless tango dancer or business entrepreneur…dear me… either find your passion or get a job and learn the waltz!

P.S. For fun, check out this enterprising dance school in the UK that is bringing tango to businesses.

P.S.S. Happy 1 Year Anniversary to MonTango. These folks have made dance their business. I wish them many more successful years.