Devote Yourself to creating something that gives you purpose . . .

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

Tuesdays with Morrie, author Mitch Albom

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What I did this summer . . .

Here how I spent this summer . . .

This past weekend, I spent several hours in the car, so thankfully I had something good to read. It is not often the case as a Mommy that I find a quiet space during the day to read, so I took full advantage of this opportunity. This reading adventure was “Building Your Brand” with the lead in paragraph reading:

“Branding is more than just a business buzzword. It has become the crux of selling in the new economy. If the old marketing mantra was “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” The new philosophy could be “Nothing happens until somebody brands something.” (Virtual Advisor, Inc.)

That caught my eye, so I continued to read and learn. Although this article was excellent, I am not writing about the article, but about my overall learning experience as a new business owner.

Each facet of growing a business can be facilitated by hiring a good expert to help you accomplish business goals outside your area of expertise. But in this tough economy, it may not seem to be the most cost-effective approach to building your business. Learning as much as you can about the work you plan to hire out is a smart approach to take. Often you’ve heard people say “You don’t know what you don’t know”, so before hiring services, do enough research to help you learn a little more about what you don’t know to make the most informed decision you can. When hiring a professional, look for someone who is willing to teach you a little something along the way, without adding it to your invoice. I’ve hired my share of professionals, and many times have been pleased with the outcome of their work. “temporarily”. In hindsight and after research I realize what I should have . . ., could have . . ., and wanted to . . . accomplish was something a little or a lot different.

Having a clear vision of what you wish to accomplish is absolutely necessary unless you want to pay for services multiple times. By doing research, I often have learned a valuable lesson. One thing I know for sure is “the expert” isn’t someone you should leave a partially defined vision to and hope that their creativity amazes you. Many times those we think are experts do not have the skills to “pull” your vision from you. They may be great at what they do, but don’t expect everyone to be a “project manager.”

A good expert is one who keeps up with the latest information in their field; a good expert will ask you lots of questions during your initial interview. A good expert will decide whether your vision is clear and if not, they will set up another meeting with you once you have more clearly defined your goals. A good expert is one who communicates with you often throughout the project. It may not seem cost-effective for “the expert” to meet with you several times, and it may be more enjoyable for them to unleash their creative talents without a lot of guidance or requirements; however, if they want to succeed, knowing your clear vision is essential. They will reap the greatest reward when they take this approach because a good outcome means more business for them. Word of mouth advertising has been proven to be the most cost-effective way to growing a business.

Now enough about them; what about you? If you want a permanent solution, you must define your needs well. When seeking “an expert” look for someone who is skilled at seeing the whole picture and defining what they need in order to create the best solution for you. You want someone who can execute “your plan” in the time-frame you need it. Never forget to define the deadline.

Another lesson that I’ve learned is finding an “expert” who understands your products or services, and exhibits some knowledge about your target market. Without this, you may be amazed and how easy it is to spend money and not reap the benefit. Geneva Girls Designs products are designed for women, and currently our niche is women who style their hair with hot styling tools. When marketing to women, gender matters. There are several good books on this topic, I know, I’ve now read them! Branding is more than slapping a logo in the upper left hand corner of the screen and putting a “buy now” button on the front page, hire someone who understands your products or services.

As a consultant and project manager for a software company, I had responsibility for installing information solutions for large multi-division automotive suppliers throughout the world. During the early stages of any project, I spent days and even weeks defining the needs of the organization. With a team of “experts”, we would interview staff from every aspect of the business: finance, inventory control, purchasing, marketing, production, engineering, shipping, warehousing, and information technology. After determining how the client ran their operation, we would ask the questions, “If you could change anything about what you are currently doing what would that be” and we would continue to take notes.

After our formal review we would begin defining the project noting current practices, their wish list, and begin clarifying the solutions. We would organize a schedule of training, consulting, and implementation steps. Often it was necessary to coordinate the activities of several plants simultaneously, so that the end result would mean that the information solution provided consolidated data which allowed their corporate headquarters to understand and compare how each plant was doing on a routine basis. Issuing a project planning report allowed us to see if we had a clear vision of the clients needs. It was the device we used to make sure we were aiming toward the same goal before we laid out the project timeline. Once the client reviewed, revised, and approved the planning document we could move forward on meeting our project objectives by the defined deadline.

I took this approach at least 300 times in the six years period and found it to be a very rewarding exercise. I remember sitting in many project kickoff meetings and talking about the approach “ready, aim, fire” showing the illustration of getting ready to embark on the project (interviewing and taking notes), aiming (defining goals), and firing (shooting with precision for the target). Without that approach we would never be sure that we would land on the same target, let alone achieve a “bulls-eye”. As a small business owner, it is so easy to take the approach “fire, fire, fire” and then ask the question “where in the heck is my target?”

If you find yourself looking for an expert to complete a vital step in the building of your business, expect them to have a well developed plan to take you to your goals. They cannot achieve your goals unless they are clearly defined. And always set a “no-excuse” deadline.

3 Degrees-Connected™ is a network of women helping (empowering) women in business with the hopes of providing insight to help you land on your target. By talking with other women business owners, you may be able to avoid many pitfalls that others have experienced before you. Conversation is free, networking is fun, and getting steered in the right direction is priceless.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments have value, please leave a comment.