Posts tagged: networking

Starting a Business… Founders Reflect

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As some of you know I am expanding the focus of this blog to include the start up experience.

According to this article in Fortune, the #1 reason founders think their company failed (by a big margin) is that there was no market need.

I am 30+ years in business, many of them working with start ups  and this problem is widespread in start ups. The good news is that the people who tried, learned. The bad news is that a lot of effort goes in to creating a company or a product. With some discipline, this problem can be eliminated.

I have seen so many “technology-push” solutions… i.e. “oh we’ve got this great widget, it’s so cool. Everyone will want one.” But then (shock), everyone doesn’t want one.

I have spent years sizing markets (especially for new categories/products), understanding customer needs and developing “go-to market strategies.” There are experienced people to help you determine the size of and how to approach the market. Please ask. Here’s a local resource and a national one.

Image credit: Fortune

I’m Too Old to Change


When I worked at Kodak in the 1990’s (and before! yes, I’m that old)… a new program was introduced called, “Shift Happens.” And yes, the pun for “sh?t happens” was deliberate.

The emphasis of the program was personal responsibility for change. It was, of course, ironic that a company that made obscene amounts of money and (while good to its employees) was incredibly risk/change averse; suddenly wanted everyone to embrace the ability to change. A noble effort. Too little, too late.

Clearly the dilemma of “change” is part of the human condition. Socrates wrote the above quote around 400 B.C. So Kodak and the rest of us are all in the same boat.

It took me all long time to learn to want to change, to understand change is important and necessary.

My favorite quote is, “Change is good, timing is everything, patience is the key.”

What are you changing about yourself? If you’re not sure, if you need help, reach out and ask someone. If they can’t help, try someone else and keep trying until you find the person who is right for you… for right now. Happy changes.

Photo credit: Socrates quotes

I Don’t Know You, Why Should I Help You?

Why do these people look happy? They look like they’re doing the dreaded “networking.”  I’ve learned to appreciate the power of networking, but I still don’t like it.

The interviewer or connection you need something from, won’t appreciate that cold call. So, unless you are super charismatic, you will need practice at ferreting out a way to make yourself valuable to others, because at least 50% (probably much higher) get their job from a referral.

Try using these tools to help build your value to others:

1) LinkedIn – If you have a few hundred connections, be sure to search the contact’s name there. You might be pleasantly surprised the connections you share. If you don’t have a few hundred connections… you are missing a big opportunity to help others and get help when you need it. There are eBooks, online classes and many other ways to learn how to use the single best tool for business connections. I work to a) always be building my connections, b) contribute to the overall beneficial information there. Then when you need it; it will be there for you.

2) Say thank you. Often. Be grateful. Everyday.

People like to be around happy, confident, interesting people. If you’re in a difficult place. Fake it ’til you make it.

3) The Go-Giver is a wonderful little book that helps inspire us to give to get. Not sure what to give, how to give, when to give? Try this book or find a podcast or YouTube video that helps you learn how to give (what comes easily to you) to those who can use it.

Why should I help you? Make that answer a no-brainer.

Photo credit: TelecomHub Shashi

A Dog Never Tells What She Knows…

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing. Mary Oliver

This is my dog Gildie. She is the first dog I have ever had.

What is there to learn from your first dog? Wow. Everything. She is so excited to wake up every day and play. I need this.

She is motivated by food and people and toys. She is completely engaged in life except when she’s asleep and then she’s completely engaged in that.

I got a dog so I would have to go for a walk everyday. Rain or snow, whatever the weather, I needed a reason to get up and walk. Since she has the energy of 2 toddlers, I am compelled to play, walk, laugh and be completely engaged with her.

The quote above about how a dog perceives the world — through her nose– was brought home to me on one of those walks. She trusts her nose more than her eyes and it got me thinking. Which of my senses do I trust the most?

I am certain my eyes deceive me. Happily, I learned to trust my gut. Take all the information and sift it through the sensor that is my years of experience.What do you rely on? What you see, what you hear, what you believe? Do you jump to conclusions about people?

Understand how you learn and make decisions and you’ll be more effective in everything you do. How free are you with your opinions? Do you offer to give everyone the benefit of your wisdom? Or do you use your experience to let others find their own path? Use all the information given to you to help you be a better friend, co-worker, partner and parent. We’ll all benefit.

Be a Great Negotiator in 5 Easy Steps


We all learned to negotiate as children. Depending on who we learned from, we either learned that success meant win – win or win- lose. Competition is healthy and there are occasions where one needs to ‘win.’  The Olympics — for instance. That’s not a negotiation, that’s a competition.

We do refer to the other companies in our industry as our ‘competition’ but that doesn’t mean that we crush them in every circumstance… particularly if that doesn’t serve our customers. Personally, we probably negotiate 10-20 times a day (even more if you have children or employees).

You may be unaware of your approach to negotiation.  A good start is to pay attention to your words, attitude and mind set going in and coming out of negotiations for one whole day. Take some notes.

Here are a few steps to help you become a more aware negotiator.

1) Physically stand or sit next to the person. This sends an important signal that you are open and ‘on the same side.’ Does this work when you are disciplining? Only if it’s really a negotiation. By the way, pay attention to body language, your own and the other person’s.

2) Actively listen to the other person. Repeat back what they are saying so they know they are being heard.

3) Be sure to explain the why something needs to happen. While this isn’t always possible, it is really important for buy in and builds trust.

4) It’s not personal. The best negotiations keep the ‘personal’ out of it.

5) What’s the path forward?  Are there alternatives in case of contingencies? These small steps build trust.

It can be fun to learn new skills.. and become more effective. Dig in and create that win/win.

Photo credit: Winning Together   dcJohn

Feedback: Electric, Real-Time, Nasty or True

I work with companies on multi-generational workplace issues  because I heard so many complaints about the “younger generation’s” poor “communication” skills. Gen Y employees may be different in many ways other from other generations; but that doesn’t mean they’re bad or wrong — they’re just different.

One common complaint I hear is that younger employees want to give and get “constant feedback.” Most of us oldsters are uncomfortable with this. Being stoics, we think everyone ought to just ‘get on with it.’

When Jimi Hendrix (my favorite musician of all time) burst onto the rock scene and created new sounds with his guitar…including standing in front of a wall of amplifiers.. many people thought it was awful… the rest of us… thought it was awesome. A new kind of musical sound was born… music to some… noise to others.

So it is with workplace feedback. Let me introduce you to, take a quick video tour here. Conceptually, these tools allow your workforce to provide you (bossman or bosslady) with regular feedback and in turn, allows you to understand whether your feedback is being accepted and implemented. Wow – what a concept. Real time feedback. Making you uncomfortable? Get ready – this is the world is headed.

Take a look at; they call it social performance management–  “a web-based social performance management platform that replaces the traditional performance review with an easy and collaborative approach. People always know where they stand and are accountable for achieving their goals.” By the way… so are you.

Whatever the tool and no matter how you feel about providing feedback to your team, I suggest you figure out how to listen better. The future of your organization depends upon it. Remember the shark… survival goes to those who adapt.

Photo credit: Milt. Retirement and Financial Freedom


Seek and You Shall Find

People often ask me about my career. The details are not as important as my attitude towards work. I believed I could shape my career to what I wanted and what my family needed. The “rules” were meant to be bent…

Background — started out as a French and German teacher, earned an MLS (yes, I’m a librarian), moved to Rochester, worked 17 years at Kodak. I’ve had jobs in government, non profits, small business and I’ve started 2 companies.

I never had a job that someone had before me. I am good at making order out of chaos.

I was a single parent and raised my children alone from when they two and four, so money and time were equally important to me. This meant that I needed to find part time work that paid well.

I was one of the few part time managers at Kodak in the early 1980’s. My approach was to find something I wanted to do, find a place in the organization to do it, convince the person to hire me and THEN talk about doing the job on a part time schedule. No boss ever said no because I made it a “no brainer” for them. I said, “I will do the job… you can pay me less.”  In return I got the flexibility that was so important to me.

The last time I took a ‘regular’ job — as part of the hiring negotiations — I told my employer I would work there for one year and then I’d leave. I ended up staying almost two, but I had planned my exit and it worked out great for me.

In case you’re wondering,  my gig today is part time college professor (grad school), speaker, consultant and oh yeah, a blogger.

Are you getting what you want? Do not be afraid. Go for it.


Stuck in the Middle with Me

Do you know when you’re stuck?

Sometimes it takes me a while. But when I’m crankier (than usual), finding fault in the people I love over small things, am afraid to try new things and so on… I realize that I’m stuck. Here are a few things to think about…   You’re not the only person who is stuck, you just need to be brave and reach out to someone else.

Remember, ” When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

Symptoms of being stuck include, thinking you’re…

  • always right
  • always wrong
  • the only person who has money troubles (really you lived below your means? … hmmm)
  • married to/in partnership with the wrong person (without fully examining your part in it)
  • in a job that you’re too good for (but you haven’t kept up your skills or networking)
  • in a job you hate (but you don’t haven’t even looked for a new job in years)
  • unemployed for several months (and still scoff at… social media, networking, building skills) unable to  remember the last time you learned something new that took real effort not helping other people
  • a drip… you don’t even want to be around yourself

I understand. The reason this post was so easy to write… this is me. But I’ll tell you this…I stopped doing it as soon as I could.

Please tell me, what are you afraid of… go on, explain it to me or someone else.  Get unstuck. It feels so good. Take one little step.  You can do it!

Photo credit:

Look, I Fell Down!

I’m fortunate to have 3 grandchildren under the age of 4 and yes, it’s as fun as everyone says.

There’s joy in watching them grow but there’s also a BIG LESSON. Here it is…

They fail… a lot. And they do it with a big smile. They fall down, the say words wrong, they make ridiculous observations about us…

How about us? When did learning become something SO serious. We get older and suddenly we have to be good at everything? If we have to learn something new we get impatient, even angry at ourselves for not:

learning fast enough/being smart enough/knowing how to do it and on and on.

If you aren’t “falling down” regularly, you are probably not learning very much. That’s why being a parent is an interesting journey. You are guaranteed to fail regularly (whether you realize it or not!)

Today, you have a choice. Learn something new, take a chance. I’m getting ready to learn a new kind of art. I’m a little freaked out. What if people tell me they don’t like it. What if the stuff looks ugly? This is what risk takers face everyday.

Write down the top 3 risks you are taking this week/month/year. You can tell if it’s a real risk if you feel like talking yourself out of doing it and you have all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it worked out in your head. So please, fall down, take that risk. Tell me about the risks you’re taking and I’ll keep you up to date about my art experiment. Everyday I’m talking myself out it so I know it’ll be worthwhile.

Photo credit:


Shake, Rattle and Tweet

I like twitter. I use it for both business and personal purposes. I know, you’re shaking your head right now and wondering how I have time to fool around on twitter.

If you are interested in a great twitter tutorial… check out Charlene Kingston’s free eBook, Twitter for Beginners. You do need to register to get it but I promise you won’t get ANY spam from her and you’ll have a great resource.

I wish I could show you right now the power of real time search. If you follow smart people, leaders in your field, you can learn a great deal in a short period of time. I use it to search for relevant information for my clients. I also search for articles that I think would be relevant to my connections, then I add my 2 cents and post the link to Linked In.

This article helps you to learn how to target your tweets to people by occupation (e.g. attorneys) and location (e.g. city). You can provide customer service or listen to what people are saying about you or your competition. In just a few minutes a day, you can keep up with real time information about your industry.

Just remember that marketing today isn’t about telling the world how great you are… it’s about adding value.  Just because you can easily find a target audience on twitter doesn’t mean you should spam them! (definition of spam: I don’t want it and I didn’t ask for it).

I realize it’s popular to say (and think) twitter is stupid.. and it’s certainly your choice to stop reading this or think twitter is dumb. But it’s the business that is most adaptable to that often wins. Are you adapting?

Image credit: twitter tricks