Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

Why You Should Say No, and 5 Ways to Do It

Posted by

I have talked a lot about how important it is to say no to the “good” in order to make room for the “best.” But I wanted to dive a little deeper into that concept so that you really understand how important this is. Because I want you to start saying NO, and often!

Too often in my consulting business, I talk with creatives who let their clients cross professional boundaries. They give in on their fees, they give in when pushed about their hours, they take clients that their gut says won’t be ideal, and they take on too many commitments and responsibilities. In each of those cases, they should have said no.

There’s often a fear factor at work, a fear that the client won’t work with us if we don’t say yes to right now, a fear that we won’t get any other clients than the one in front of us, and a fear of missing a great opportunity. And we even tell ourselves that we’ll just give in this once, that we won’t do it again later. But once you let that guard down, it becomes far too easy to let it down again and again. It becomes a habit.

You know there are so many other times in your life when you should say no, too. Like when someone asks you to take on something big “just as a favor.” Or when you get an invitation to the 15th event this month and you’re already stretched to the max.

Yes, I know how hard it is to say no. Especially when a friend is asking the question. So here are a few ways to start practicing how to say NO so you feel more comfortable saying it during those critical times. First, ask for time. If you feel yourself cracking, say something like “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.” That gives you time to build up your confidence and to remind yourself of why you need to say no.

Second, make a mental post-it note that you can refer to over and over. It could say “You are the CEO of your life and you cannot give in.” Or it could say, “Is this the right decision for my business? For my family?” Whenever you feel cornered, picture that post-it in your mind. You can even make one for your desk so you can look at it when you’re on the phone or answering an email request.

Third, don’t make it personal. You’re saying no to the request, not to the person. It isn’t rude or “mean” to say no to something. You aren’t obligated to fulfill every request someone makes of you. You’re a busy professional with a jam-packed life, others should understand that sometimes you won’t be able to say yes.

Fourth, remember that there is strength in standing firm. People often test your limits to see how far they can get. And many times they don’t actually respect someone they see as a pushover. You can even say something like: “I know we’re both strong-willed people, and I wish I could give on this, but I really can’t.”

Finally, practice saying no. You can use a friend or family member as a sounding board, as someone to practice with before you meet with that pushy client or family member. Just like giving in can become a habit, so can saying no.

Let me know when you’ve faced a decision where you stood firm and said no, or where you wished you had, in the comments section below. Remember that you’re saying no to the so-so to give you the time and energy to say YES to the fabulous clients and opportunities that are out there waiting for you!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

The CEO Mindset

Posted by

Whether you’re just starting out or have been in this business for years, we all know how stressful owning a design business can be. Not only are we the senior designers, but we’re the CEOs of the company. We have to handle the financials, the employees, our brands, our home life, and try to fit some designing in there somewhere.

Too many designers forget that this is a business, not a hobby. You have to commit to that idea – even if you may have started your business as a side job to begin with. You are the CEO of a company – say that to yourself over and over. Take it very seriously, or you won’t be successful.

It’s tough to be an entrepreneur and a small-business owner. Most of us get into this business by focusing on the parts we love – maybe for you it was a love of color, or the idea that you are transforming people’s homes with gorgeous interiors.

The part we don’t focus on, in most cases, is the enormous amount of hard work, of tough financial times, and of serious business management that it takes to be a CEO. So how can you act like a CEO? Here are a few things you must do:

  • You have to have a business plan. Do you have one?
  • You have to pay yourself – what business leader or CEO do you know that works basically for free?
  • You have to be clear on the goals you’ve set for your company and how you will achieve them.
  • And you must set financial benchmarks that your company has to hit to be profitable.

I can hear you saying: “Wait a minute, I just want to be creative and showcase my talents for the world. I don’t like all of the talk about working on financials or focusing on marketing. Where’s the fun in that?!” You’ll get to have fun in your business – but only if you aren’t constantly stressing about money or where your next client is coming from. And that takes hard work. It takes being a CEO.

In any business, creative or otherwise, a good 80% of your time will be spent on things that are not necessarily at the heart of the reason you started your company in the first place. Instead, you’ll be managing your business, working to attract new clients and customers, researching new revenue streams, and taking a hard look at your financials. If that doesn’t sound like something you can do, then you might want to think about working for another person or at a larger company.

Because these are the facts of owning a business. It is not a hobby or something that you can do halfheartedly. And yes, you can hire people to do some of that work, but that never excuses you from knowing every detail of your company at any given moment. YOU are the CEO.

I’m giving you this reality check because we need to take ourselves, and our business goals seriously. Think of yourself and your company as a start-up that is every bit as important as a Fortune 500 business. The CEO’s vision and commitment are critical to the path that gets a company onto that list – and your vision and commitment are critical to the success of your own company.

That is how you lead a company. That is how you act like a CEO.

Tell me what you think about these ideas in the comments section below! How do YOU take charge and lead your company?

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Saying YES to Yourself!

Posted by

How many days do you give yourself permission to follow your heart? To listen to your body? To be in charge of your own schedule? When I am consulting with other business people and creatives, I call this driving the bus. And it sounds great, doesn’t it. Many of us want to yell “Hell yes I am in charge of my own life!” but how many of us really are? Probably very few.

We are taught from a very young age that someone else is in charge of the “rules.” We are expected to meet other peoples’ expectations and deadlines and parameters. We learn that we “should” do a lot of things and that we “have to” be a certain way or check certain boxes or finish certain activities to be accepted, successful, popular. We learn that life is all about achievements and belonging instead of following your heart or your gut.

There is a lot of lip service these days given to being authentic, to “you doing you.” But I don’t feel like we give ourselves or others permission to really do that. And I have to tell you that I am over this masochistic way of living. It takes a toll on your physical and mental health but especially your happiness and joy. I have been a rule follower for about 45 years now. But I am tired of following the rules someone else created for me, or worse, that I set for myself based on achieving some level of success or attaining the approval of others – my family and society.

Whether your personal set of rules and expectations come from your parents and their core beliefs (this is where most of us start our rules), from society, from your professional industry, from your political affiliation, or just from your own super-high standards like I have, it’s time to challenge those rules, to dig deep and have the courage to design a life that really brings joy. It’s time to say YES to ourselves.

I want this more than anything for my daughter. Recognizing now that I am a recovering workaholic – addicted to work and achievement – I have a lot of wisdom to share with her about what an authentic life looks like. I know that no amount of success, accolades, awards, or accomplishments really feed your soul. And trust me, being on this sort of hamster wheel is exhausting. I’ve learned that the things that are truly meaningful in life are about connection – true connection with those you love plus loving and accepting yourself and a whole lot less proving, hustling, and trying to work our way to some level of happiness. Working your way to Joy just doesn’t happen long term.

So as you may recall, I have two resolutions this year – yes only two. That is saying a lot, because this major goal-setting, workaholic mama is crazy about goals and resolutions. I have had years where I had 10 or more. Geez! How did I think I could focus on 10 things at once?!? But this year my two resolutions are find more joy and love myself more.

And loving myself more means saying YES to myself. So what does that mean? It means when I feel like lying in bed all day on a Saturday or even on a Tuesday morning…I say YES and rearrange my schedule! It means when I feel my gut and my neck get all tense and tight because I have committed to something that I shouldn’t have and I ask myself if I can back out of it…I say YES and I make the call to un-commit! It means that if the old version of me is saying I “should” be accomplishing my next big goal or dream and my authentic self says I just want to lay low for a while and rest…I say YES! Saying yes to yourself takes courage. It means ignoring FOMO or “the fear of missing out” in exchange for putting your health and wellbeing first. It means taking a chance that someone will be mad at you, disappointed, or that they will forget you or not ask you next time and that’s scary. But it’s also empowering.

Most of us, especially women, spend a lifetime denying ourselves and our wishes in exchange for doing what makes other people happy. Especially in the South, we are taught to be quiet and look pretty. We are taught to go along with what other people want and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. We are taught to say yes to everyone and everything but us. We are taught the “responsible,” “admirable,” “appropriate” thing to do is what other people want us to do, or what we said we were going to do. We are not supposed to change our minds. In many ways, we are not supposed to be honest. We are not supposed to cause a problem. We are supposed to suck it up and do what makes everyone else feel good. And I am here to tell you that doesn’t equal health and happiness. That is not a recipe for joy.

So what would it take for you to stop telling yourself you have to, should, must, ought to, promised to and all those other absolutes you are pummeling yourself with, and start saying yes to your heart, your body, and your mind? What would it take for you to have the courage to say I thought I wanted that, but now I want something different? Or to say, that was great for a season of my life but now I am in a new season? Or as Maya Angelou said, when I know better I do better? What would give you the guts to do better with being kind and honest to yourself and saying YES to what you really want?

I know it’s hard, but it’s oh-so worth it. Be true to you before you commit to anyone else. Keep your word to yourself about what is right for you and what you really want. We’ve heard it so many times and it’s so hard to really believe, but life really is short. And it’s way too short to live a life that you dread every day or that sucks the life out of you on a regular basis.

We are supposed to feel good every day. We are not supposed to be constantly exhausted, stressed out, and overworked only leaving the miserable, grumpy, tired, and depleted version of ourselves for our families to deal with at the end of every day. If you are feeling that way on a regular basis, something is wrong. I’ve been there. And I am so happy to be in a much more relaxed state these days. I’m sure my family is happy about that too! (wink)

If you are creating a ridiculous schedule where your life is so full of noise and very little peace, how can you ever even hear your body or mind when it’s screaming at you that you’ve had enough?

Listen to yourself. Love yourself and say YES to yourself. Remember that no one ever says on their death bed, “I wish I had worked more” but most wish they had followed their hearts.

You deserve it.

Joyfully yours,

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Tips for Solving Customer Service Issues

Posted by

We ALL make mistakes, it’s the nature of the business. But it’s how you deal with those mistakes that can make or break your company. And yes, maybe the customer was at fault or maybe the contractor or subcontractor is the one who created a huge mess, but none of that matters.

Playing the blame game will only get you in a bigger mess with your clients, so don’t start doing that. Your job is to remember the customer really is always right – or at least they need to feel like you’re going to make it right for them! Because the way you deal with mistakes is going to decide if your client is reasonable, AND how they are going to talk about you in the future…to other prospective clients! It’s that important, so always make it right.

So here are 5 things to do to get those customer service issues nipped in the bud:

1. Stop, listen, and ask questions. Yes, you have to really really really listen to them. What are they really upset about? What is the issue and how did it happen? Sometimes your customer wants to just vent and get it out of their system, so do not interrupt, do not try to give them a solution too soon. You want to let them feel like they have been heard completely and fully. If your client is more uncommunicative, you need to be the one to reach out and to get to the bottom of what the problem is. But be sure your tone of voice is caring and concerned, not like you want to interrogate them.

2. Think about things from their point of view. It’s oh-so-easy to just think your client is high-strung and way too demanding, but that won’t help anything. Think of it from their point of view. This is a lot of money for them, it’s one of the most personal places in their lives (namely their house) and they are worried about every aspect of it. They want it to be right, just like you do.

3. Apologize sincerely. You need to apologize fully and completely – don’t do any halfway or passive-aggressive apologies. People see right through those immediately. Again, you want them to feel that they are being heard and understood. If it’s your fault, take that hit and accept the blame. People really respect someone who can stand up and say “I did this and I apologize.” Too many want to hide behind someone else or just not accept that they did anything wrong. Don’t be that person. And if someone else is really to blame, the buck still stops with you. So you can say “I am so sorry this happened,” even if the contractor is the one who made the mistake. Just don’t throw anyone under the bus (especially your own team members) and don’t start pointing fingers. When emotions are high, that does not help.

4. Don’t get angry. Yes, clients can make us all mad, but we have to be the person in control in any confrontation with our clients. They are already stressed and uptight about spending money and allowing someone else to have control in their homes. So they probably aren’t going to react the way they normally would in any stressful situation that comes up. You have to be the calm, cool, and collected person, even when you want to scream. So do whatever you have to do to stay calm – count to 10, step outside for a second, think about fluffy kittens. If you get angry, it will only escalate the situation and that isn’t going to help at all.

5. Do what you have to do to make it right – and FAST. Sometimes, you’re going to have to eat the cost of that $5,000 sofa. Or you’re going to have to have someone re-hang all that wallpaper at your expense. It is what it is. But think about it this way – if you spend $5,000 now, you may have a client for life. Or at least a client who will tell others how amazing you are. So think of it as a marketing expense. Communication is KEY. Like it always is. This is the time to really over-communicate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and when a solution will be ready. You want the customer to really feel that you’re resolving everything as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible for her. So be sure you tell her that.

And yes, I know there are some mistakes or issues that are SO big that a client may not be appeased with anything at all. But it’s still better to try to make it as right as you can. Send them a note, email them, call them – even if they’ve said they want to cut ties with you.

It’s better to have tried and let them know that you do care. Most clients will come around eventually – but you have to do the hard work to get them back into a good place.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to smooth over any bumps in the road for your customer service!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

The Creative Side of Business

Posted by

book cover

I have a shelf of go-to business books, the ones that have guided me and inspired me as I’ve built my company. And now I have a new one to add to my shelf: The Business of Creativity by my good friend Keith Granet.

Keith is an industry icon. He is a consultant, the founder of the Designer Speakers’ Bureau and the Leaders of Design Council, executive producer/host of Inside the Business of Design and cofounder of DesignersAxis. He’s been in the business of design for decades, and he has helped designers and manufacturers really up their game in licensing, business practices, and marketing.

His new book describes how you should focus on what you do best, while removing negative energy and people from your life and your business. You know I love that advice! He focuses on the importance of financials, negotiating and winning over clients, how to build the right team, and how to rid yourself of toxic clients and employees.

It’s a straightforward guide that really works for any creative business, not just the interior design world. I love that Keith also believes that design is a collaborative business and that it’s critical for us to all support one another. That’s exactly how I built my Mastermind program over eight years, and it’s a guiding principal of mine, too!

So Business of Creativity is definitely going on my shelf of go-to guides! If you’re in a creative business, too, get your copy right here! 

xo,

Tobi-Signature