Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Run Your Own Race

Posted by

sentence

Business is hard. I’ve owned my own business for 17 years this month and I definitely couldn’t have made it this far without the help of a few key people including my business coach. And whether you call it a mentor, a coach, or a consultant, I am a firm believer that small business owners (and probably all business owners for that matter) need help from someone who can guide them through the difficulty of running a business, or at the very least to be a sounding board for ideas and issues that come with owning your own company. I’ve had a business coach for years, and I honestly can’t imagine that there will ever come a day when I would be in business without one!

It makes all the difference to have someone help you take a step back from the daily issues and concerns of your business and get some perspective. We often need to define a new path when things aren’t working the way we expected them to. Or we need a support system to give us a boost when we’re feeling worn out or worse, burned out. And I love bouncing ideas off of my coach and to have him say: “That’s great, but what about…” It helps me open my mind to other possible solutions I hadn’t envisioned and to focus on new revenue channels and ideas. Plus he keeps me on track when I have too many great ideas and want to try them all at once. Yes friends, I coach other people in business, and even a business coach needs a business coach.

jefferson

But here’s the thing – you only get out of business coaching what YOU put into it. Advice and guidance are great, but the coach isn’t actually going to do the work for you. That’s YOUR job. Trust me, there are plenty of times when I wished someone else would make the hard decisions for me, or would take the “not fun stuff” off my plate. But that’s not what a coach is there for.

You can have a lot of people cheering you on, or coaching from the sidelines, but this race is really YOURS to run. We all have to remember that. If you aren’t willing to put in the hours and hard work that it takes to run your business, certainly no one else is going to do it for you.

dollar

You are the one that has to buckle down and get your finances under control, work on business development, market your services and products, and decide on your company’s branding and direction. Yes, others can give you their opinions and ideas, but they can’t – and shouldn’t – be the ones making the decisions.

It is really really hard work to build a successful business. And working with coaches and mentors can help lift some of the stress that comes with it. But ultimately, reaching your goals and your business potential is your responsibility. If you want fame and fortune or even just fulfillment and financial freedom, you need to make it priority and really commit to doing the work.

So get your business in great shape and commit to running the very best race you can! Plus find that perfect mentor or coach to guide you and cheer you on all the way to the finish line! If you do that, I know you will be a winner in every sense of the word.

And remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Good luck!

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

PS – If you’re interested in private coaching with me, I would love to help you develop a gameplan for your business today! Learn more here!

Just Say No

Posted by

no (1)

A few weeks ago, I talked 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.

broke

Unfortunately, our clients often talk to each other. So if you give in on your fees, going lower than you really should just to get a client, you may find that client telling others to work with you because of your “great price” aka you’re cheap. And then you’re stuck and saying no becomes even harder.

When I see designers and creatives who I work with, continually charging less than they are worth, I ask them this important and valid question…”Why would you take money away from your own bottom line and ultimately your pay check (which impacts your family’s budget), just to help a client get a cheaper deal? Does that even make sense? I’m sorry, but it’s not your responsibility to help other people furnish their home to your family’s detriment. You are in this business to make money. And I know your clients REALLY want that stuff that is outside their means, lot’s of us want to buy stuff we can’t really afford. And we as designers and creatives really want them to have those things, especially if we can take pictures of the finished room and get it published. But it’s not your job to discount these items if it takes money out of your pocket. You have to say no to protect your company’s income, and the salary you use to support your family. Think of your family and your grocery list and your kids’ college funds the next time you are tempted to give yourself and your products away for less than you should and just say NO!

There are a number of reasons (not just budgets) that taking on a client who raises red flags is never a good idea. Think of it this way, if you say yes to that not-so-great client, you’re not only going to drive yourself crazy, that client is going to take up way too much of your time and energy that could be focused on finding the right client. They’re going to burn you out and drain you.

leadership

And if all these fears we have regarding potential clients weren’t enough to keep us totally over-committed and underpaid, then there’s FOMO. You know what I mean, it’s the Fear of Missing Out. Earlier in my career, I felt like I had to be at every event, take on every challenge, say yes to every single interview and opportunity. I thought I was really making a name for myself and raising my brand awareness, which was true to in many ways. But I also was burning myself out – not sleeping enough (I need 8 good hours), not taking care of myself or eating right, not there for my family as much as I would have liked. It wasn’t worth it. I could have said no to just a few of those events and saved myself a lot of heartache.

Now I think of FOMO as Frankly One More Obligation – and I remember to say No to the so-so or only good events so I can say a hearty YES to the great things that have come along. I’ve learned to really weigh the client and the opportunity against my company’s bottom line, only taking on the things that give me a great ROI.

And 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 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.

sentence

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. Stand firm in your decision. 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. 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,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

 

Your Business Is Your Passion, Not Theirs

Posted by

-Work for your dream, not someone else's- (1)

If you own a business, you are seriously passionate about it. I know you are because I’m just like you. You want it to succeed, you want every experience someone has with your company to be stellar, and you think about it 24/7. But let me tell you a little secret: Employees, freelancers, and subcontractors don’t feel the same way about your business. And if that bothers you, you’re being a bit unreasonable.

I know that seems harsh, but think about this idea for a minute. Many people who work for you are there for a paycheck and then they want to go home. Some even really love the industry you are in and love your company. But after a full 8 or 9 hour day, they are ready to check out. To punch the clock. To decompress. That doesn’t mean they don’t care, or that they don’t want to do a great job for you. Most do. I’m just saying that your passion is probably not their passion.

They did not start this business and nurture it, they didn’t worry over it and dream about it. That was you. So expecting someone else to want to think about it over the weekend, to burn the midnight oil, or to come up with great ideas on their own time is unrealistic. Even your very best employees are still never going to feel the same passion that you do. It is your business and it is your dream.

motivation

Your personal life is likely completely tied up in your business.  But typically those who work for you won’t want to give up their personal time this way. It took me years to understand this. It was only after I became a mom that I understood there were some things more important than my business, even for me. And I had been working hard for likely a dozen years or so before I really relaxed and knew my team was really committed to me and the firm, even when they wanted to leave at 5:00 or 6:00 pm.

They have their own passions and their own dreams. They have families and they like to do what they want in the evenings and on weekends. They daydream about their vacations and about their futures, which may not include you and your company and that’s ok. When I was growing up, it wasn’t unusual for people to work for my family’s company for 30-40 years. Today, it seems I’m lucky if people stay 3 or 4. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t a great part of the team while they were there. Times have changed and so have employees. People have so many options and many fewer barriers to changing jobs. Why shouldn’t they make choices that are right for them? You would do the same. And I know you would want the same for your children, right?

recognition

Leaving work at work (or at least wanting to) is normal human behavior. I need a little more of this “normal behavior” in my life sometimes. And though there are some employees and team members who go above and beyond, you are setting yourself up for disappointment to expect them to.  It doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they have boundaries. And you need to understand that and respect it. If you are like me, you may need a few boundaries in your own life. I know it certainly helps us feel more healthy and balanced when we turn our work off and go home to replenish and relax. And don’t we want our team healthy and balanced too? I know I do because they are helping me take care of some of our most precious company assets, our customers!

One thing you can definitely expect from your team, is to do the work you pay them for, on time and competently, or even expertly. And you can even motivate them to get excited about what they do, and to care about it enough to want to help your business improve and grow, to help you get closer to achieving your goals.

You want engaged and motivated employees, and you want them to be invested in your company’s success. But don’t ask them to dream the impossible dream that is uniquely yours because they likely have a dream that’s all their own.

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

Accentuate the Positive

Posted by

positive (1)

There’s a saying that has become popular because it’s so true: Stuff Happens. Okay, sometimes there’s a different word instead of “stuff,” but you get what I mean. And in business, the fact that Stuff Happens is the only guarantee we have. Things will go wrong, employees will leave, ideas will go bust, and clients will be mad. That’s just how it goes.

The worst thing you can do? That would be to turn a negative into an even worse negative. In other words, how you react to the “stuff” is where you’ll really show what you’re made of, and how successful you’re going to be.

anything

We’ve all know Negative Nellies in our lives – and have tried to avoid them as much as possible. They’re the ones who walk around like Eeyore, always seeing the cloud instead of the silver lining. And they can bring you down with negative talk.

With all the politics, social media trolls, and economic dips, we have had our fill of negative vibes bombarding us. It’s hard not to lose a positive outlook with all that coming at you. And the worst part is, once you get sucked into that sad spiral, it’s hard to get back out of it. In fact, studies by Johns Hopkins show that negativity is actually a habit, and it’s not easy to break.

thought

Negativity can take your focus off of what needs to be done, which can lead to procrastination and dropping the ball for your clients. It can also keep you from finding solutions to problems, or from coming up with good ideas to improve the bottom line. And we all know what a bad attitude can do for your customer service. This is one place where you really can’t fake it, either. That negative outlook will show through, no matter how you try to hide it.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a Pollyanna about everything either, but having a positive outlook is a proven strategy for success in business. So how can you keep your sunny mood intact? Well first of all, don’t let others rain on your parade. If you have an employee with a bad attitude, they either need to change or they need to go. And that goes for other people who are sucking the energy out of you. Avoid them at all costs.

beautiful

Remember what you’re doing this for. Remind yourself of what you feel passionate about in your business, and think about how all your hard work will pay off for you and your family. And feel gratitude for what you have, even the smallest things. I keep a gratitude journal every single day so I can stay focused on how much I have, rather than on what I don’t have.

Do whatever it takes to keep that positive attitude once you have it. Harvard studies have shown that positivity in business can reduce stress, spark new ideas, make you super creative, improve your time management, and help you make sales. Isn’t that what we all want in business?

So turn off the news for a day, stop reading those offensive comments on Facebook, and smile at someone you don’t know. You’ll be surprised at how good you feel!

Cheerfully yours,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Burnout

Posted by

the load

Pop Quiz: Are you feeling a little snappy (or a lot) with friends, family, and (ack!) even clients? Are you exhausted every day? Do you feel like you’re running in circles for hours, but aren’t getting anything done? If you answered yes to these, you’re probably suffering from business burnout. A Gallup Survey says that 45% of people who own small businesses like ours say that they are very stressed, and that’s 3 points higher than any other profession – including police officers and fire fighters. Whoa.

When you’re an entrepreneur – or even a solo-preneur – this can cause huge issues in your personal and professional lives. If you’re in a creative business like interior design it’s even more of a problem because studies show that creatives lose motivation quickly if they are worried or burned out. That can put you into a tailspinning emotional cycle of worrying about business, then losing motivation, then stumbling in your business, which causes more worry, and on and on.

So what can you do? First, recognize the signs. If you’re burned out, you’re going to be exhausted, not just tired. You’ll feel negative about everything, and you’ll feel like you’ve lost your passion for your business. You’ll probably have trouble sleeping and getting anything done, and you’re probably not in a great mood. And the worst part is, you won’t be able to turn off your brain as it worries and worries and worries. Yep, that’s burnout.

burnout

Here’s what you need to do, even if you feel like some of what I’m going to suggest is counterintuitive: You’ve got to stop everything. One hour. One day. One weekend. Give yourself some time to stop the madness. If you’re worried about how your business might survive, you’re probably saying “yes” to everything, including a lot of things you should say “no” to. Don’t let fear drive your decision making. That is only going to add more stress and pain later.

You need to delegate more. And yes, I can hear you saying that you can’t afford it. But really, you can’t afford NOT to delegate or outsource. You can’t do everything – it’s impossible. So even if it’s just handing your invoicing off to an accountant, or having an intern run errands, you need to get some help. And take it a step further and just eliminate a lot of things altogether. Be honest about what really can go, because I know there are a LOT of things on that list that you and your business will survive without doing or delegating.

Then you need to get a time management system in place. I’ve talked about this a lot in this blog – it’s critical that you get yourself organized, and use your time very effectively. And lately I have been realizing that it’s not just time management but energy management that is key. So as you plan your schedule, do your most important and profitable things first BEFORE you get tired and stressed each day.

everything

Are you seeing a pattern yet? I’ve just given you three ways to get things off of your plate to give you the space and time to take that hour, day, weekend, or (even better) a week to stop and get your energy back. It’s impossible to feel passionate and excited when you’re actually mad and resentful of your business. You will never be at your very best if you’re exhausted, unhealthy, and depressed. That’s a fact.

Running a business is hard work. Really hard work. It’s almost like running a marathon, and you would never do that without being sure that you’re in the best health you can be, would you? No. You have to have your head in the right place, too. You won’t be able to think strategically or to plot a great course for your company when you’re tired and stressed.

I want you to put that phone down, shut down your computer, and go outside and play. Literally, if that’s what you like to do. Go breathe some fresh air, or go to a museum and enjoy the gorgeous art, or go have a glass of wine with friends and laugh. Or be calm and read a book or get a massage. Whatever your heart desires!

failure

Even if you imagine the very worst thing that could happen in your business, it really isn’t that bad. Some of the most famous and respected people in business have failed miserably – sometimes over and over. Face that fear and then let it go. The world won’t end if you allow yourself to step off the hamster wheel and have a day off to deal with your burnout. After all, you started your business in the first place to allow you to live the way you want to. But you aren’t really living if you’re nose-to-the-grindstone 24/7 every single week of the year, are you?

Be kind to yourself! You’re doing the best job you can do with the tools you have today, and that’s huge. Recognize that and give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Ask for help if you need it, get some exercise, rest and recharge. It’s really worth it to take that time.

Now I’m going to take my own advice. This week I am taking a little “stay-cation.” I’m getting my family and our things organized before we move back in our home soon, I’m relaxing a bit to keep burnout at bay, and I’m having some spring break play dates with my daughter right here in our own town…fun!

So until next time, xo,

Tobi-Signature