Over the past week, my husband, Casey, and I moved from a downtown loft in Nashville, to our new place in Franklin, TN, a suburb south of the city. Casey often travels for work, so I was able to "experience" this move first-hand, versus the other times when I was able to conveniently go on business trips and come back just in time to make the big executive decisions of where the pictures and paintings should hang.
Throughout the entire process of packing, throwing away, cleaning, discovering, moving everything and unpacking, I found a lot of similarities between the move and a start-up journey, with some inspiration sprinkled on top.1.) Learn from your mistakes, and learn fast.
As I began packing, I quickly realized if I didn't label things as I went along, I'd be six boxes deep and no idea what was where. This became extremely important after a long day at work. It was the kind of day where you literally leave everything you have in you at the office, therefore, leading me to desperately need chocolate chip cookies in the oven pronto.
I ran (literally) to the small corner store to pick up some cookie dough. Once I got home, I heated up the oven, got some coffee ready, and opened up the packaging. All while doing this, I was admiring how quickly I had packed the entire kitchen the night before. Then, it dawned on me. The cookie sheet was in one of those 10 boxes that laid before me, all labeled "Kitchen."
Of course, it was in the second to last box I broke open and looked in. Thankfully, the kitchen was my first room to pack, so I learned the lesson pretty quickly (and minimally painfully) that labeling was key if I was going to survive the next few days.
With start-ups, you want to go lightening speed ahead. And with that kind of speed, it's ok to get failures out of the way in the beginning because the more failures, the more success. This is all absolutely true.
However, they must be calculated failures, and you have to learn from them. Don't go so fast that you don't have at least a few minutes to reflect on what you're doing, where you went wrong and how you can change your behavior and actions the next time around to get better results.
Learn fast, learn quick and move forward with a better skill set, better understanding, or at least the knowledge that will help you succeed in the future, all of which you didn't have five minutes ago.2.) Toss it if you can't remember the last time you used it.
Moving is that one moment in life where you are forced to slow down enough to go through every item you own. Every. single. thing.
Sure, you do your spring cleaning. Sure, you get the urge to completely clean out your closet and recreate your image every once in awhile. But nothing, I repeat nothing, has you go through your stuff quite like moving. It's no longer just cleaning out a closet or a room or two - it's cleaning out your life.
There were so many things I didn't even realize I owned, including duplicate copies of books and magazine, and tons of other things I have never used. It was so refreshing to "lighten the load" and get rid of things I knew I'd never use again, no matter how much I loved them when they first came into my life. I almost felt like dropping the dead weight of these items was freeing me in some way.
As I sat there and did this, I thought, why don't business owners and start-up employees do this? Why don't they schedule the time to sit down every few months and just reflect on/notice business practices, metrics, procedures, even employees, that just aren't working the way they should, or that haven't provided the company with any benefit in a number of months?
Why aren't we, as start-ups, continuously working toward get rid of the dead weight in order to free us up for the next chapter?
In our environment, we are all chasing after the same thing: success. We want to know we are constantly building something with our own two hands (and blood, and sweat, and tears) that is so different and unique fromwhat we originally started with. And because of that drive, we are so focused on the future that we rarely take a minute to reflect on what we've done, and what has gotten us there that perhaps we don't necessarily need anymore.
Maybe that person that you hired last year to do some administrative things could be so much more helpful in a different role that wouldn't have even been available six months ago because your company just hadn't evolved to this point yet - why isn't he or she in it? Maybe the metrics that you have employees provide aren't really giving you the targeted insight anymore that they used to, and while they are still getting you by, you could really use something better. What's stopping you from changing it? Maybe everything is wrong, because the idea you had when you started your company, is not the idea that it grew into to. Maybe it's time to change everything, and that could mean some serious shake up, but also, some serious opportunity and some serious success. Scary, right?
Take a minute now to clean out your business life, or at least get a plan in motion to start freeing yourself of old chains, and you'll be surprised as to how quickly things will change in the best way.3.) Celebrate the little things
Once we got all of our furniture, boxes and belongings into the new place, I was so relieved. That was, until I realized that I had to then unpack everything. At first, I saw the task as so unbelievably overwhelming. How am I possibly going to do this, while working a full-time job, with my husband on the road for six days straight?!
Then, I realized that after I unpacked one box and broke it down, I got a little sense of accomplishment. A rush even. The accomplishment grew and grew with each box that I broke down and carried out into the garage. Before I knew it, I was putting stuff away as fast as I could, just so that I could carry the flattened box into the garage to see the pile grow.
That pile was my proverbial company, and I was so proud of every single layer I had placed.
If you look at a new company as a whole with all of its moving parts, it's extremely exciting, sure, but also, extremely overwhelming. But when you begin to break things down into your numerous to-do lists (by the way, use Todoist.com,
awesome tool), you'll start to get a sense of pride and accomplishment with each check-off.
Celebrate when you complete an entire to-do list in one day, which believe me, will be rare. Celebrate every time you land a client, no matter how big or small. Even if the celebration is just one of those 15 seconds of smiling at your desk with an internal "you're awesome!" reminder to yourself, do it. You deserve to celebrate the little things, and by doing so, the journey to celebrating the big things won't seem so long and so lonely. In fact, it may just speed up the process.
As you continue on your journey of unpacking your start-up, and I continue on my journey of unpacking my life at my new home, let's make sure to learn from our mistakes, toss what doesn't work anymore even if it meant everything to us in the beginning and celebrate anything that goes right. We owe it to ourselves.
Find me on Twitter at @LisaMShepherd
I'm just finishing up C.C. Chapman's book, "Amazing Things Will Happen." If you haven't heard about this book yet, you need to check it out. It's basically the "Oh, The Places You'll Go," of the adult world.
It's all about taking little steps to follow your goals and ambitions in life, while being realistic in your approach. As I was reading, I noticed a common theme in Chapman's writing: how often he tells you to stop saying "I can't because..."
A lot of people make excuses as to why they can't do things. Sure, some excuses are valid, but many aren't. Saying you don't have enough time to pursue your dreams is foolish, because some of the world's greatest contributors had the same 24 hours each day that you have right now.
Don't have the training or education to follow your passion? That's complete rubbish, too. With the use of technology, our world that was once so vast is quickly shrinking down, making things that were at one time completely unattainable, now accessible to the masses.
For example, you can take free college courses in subjects ranging from marketing, to songwriting to quantum physics through Coursera.org.
Don't believe me? Just check out their selection.
Have a few bucks to put toward an education, but can't find a school around you that offers what you're looking to do? That's not an excuse, either. There are plenty of credible online schools that offer degrees and single classes through online programs. When you graduate, many schools don't notate that you did an online program versus the traditional method. And plus, what would it matter if it did? You completed it, and now you need to be able to showcase yourself as a package, not just as a person carrying a degree.
That brings me to my next point. If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say, "I paid all of this money for a degree that I can't even use," I'd be living in Malibu in a gorgeous beachside house, sipping something pink and wondering why my pedicure lady hasn't shown up yet.
What are you talking about? That money that you spent on that degree taught you to think analytically, and to solve problems in ways that are much more efficient compared to what someone with a high school degree could do.
That degree taught you to think deeply, and to know that the world is so much bigger than what you're taking in with your two eyes right now. It taught you that people have accomplished great things, and you know this because you've studied their works. It has, at times, inspired you. Other times, it has broken down what you thought to be true. It humbled you, and it also made you confident.
It taught you to follow directions, and it showed you the meaning of a deadline. It brought you hope that you could accomplish something through hard work, and it showed you just what happened if you decided not to put effort into a project. It taught you work ethic, and it rounded out your values.
It doesn't matter what your degree was in, any degree did this, whether you believe it or not.
After you graduate, it's not a potential employer's job to "find the best" in you as a job applicant. It's your job to show them the best. If you think walking into an interview with nothing in your hand and having done zero research on the company and/or the duties of the position you're applying for is your best, you're more than likely going to be disappointed with the outcome. I'm sorry, but no, your resume and job application do not "speak for themselves." Speak for yourself right there and then, or forever wonder "what if."
The go-getters in this world got their reputation because they took on more than they thought they could, and they put 100% into everything they have done, are doing and will accomplish in the future. They were sick of the ordinary, sick of being completely comfortable all the time. They graciously accepted the challenge, and they gave no excuse when they messed up. They learned from it, and they moved on to bigger, better challenges that got them farther in life.
Moral of the story, your excuses are holding you back. That's right, the things that you make up so that you can avoid the hard work, the sacrifice, the heartache and the never-ending feeling of doubt while working toward something huge.
It's not people in your life, not those who are interviewing you for a job, a mortgage, your next gig, or whatever it may be. Those people have no control over what you can achieve. If you want it badly enough, you'll find an alternative to someone else's rejection, not an excuse that you created.
This cat finds your Twitter habits annoying.
Megan, Katie, Shannon, Melissa, Sarah, Jane, Mo, Carol, Dan, John, John II, John III, Michael, David, Carol II, Kyle, Kevin. #FF.
What the...what is this?! Am I now suppose feel intrigued enough to want to follow all of these people? Some of these people? One of these people? Is it only to give them recognition? Congratulate them on a job well done tweeting this week even though I have no idea who they are or what they tweet about?
And rightfully so, I believe. I understand, and support, the concept behind Follow Friday. It helps you identify great tweeters by the recommendation of people you are currently follow. The whole birds of a feathers thing. I totally get it. I'm on board.
But when you're telling me to follow 15 people with no explanation why, I'm going to start having trust issues. Mainly with you. And your recommendation. And I'm going to assume you basically picked 15 people to promote out of a hat. Or maybe you threw darts at your Twitter feed - that'd be cooler, at least.
Bottom line is, you are bastardizing #FF and I've had it.
How can a mass follow request be sincere in the least? I totally get that you may be choosing to feature the best of the best out of your Twitter connections that week, but why? Why should I follow Carol II and not Carol III, who was not mentioned?
Now I'm not completely bitter about #FF.
You know what I love? Individual Follow Friday recommendations. When someone tells me why I should follow someone. For example, if you tell me "Follow Carol II because she shares the most awesome digital marketing content - how does she find it?!" I'm much more inclined to do so, and also see you as an awesome connector and networker. +10 points for you in my mind, and the minds of those who are reading your tweets. If you're going to send out a #FF filled with 90 people, I'm much more inclined to find you annoying and want to unfollow you.
A mass Follow Friday provides no value to any of your followers except the small ego boost to those you list when they check out their at replies. But even that fades after they see the other 20 #FF tweets you've sent out listing other tweeters in mass succession, therefore covering your entire following list.
Other than that, your #FF is as empty as the calories in liquor. May be awesome going down, but not so cool the next morning.
The take away from this rant? So many people in a #FF that you can barely fit the tag: bad. So much information about your #FF tweeter of choice in a tweet that you can barely fit the tag: good!
I learn more about breaking news on Twitter than when I turn on the television, or the radio, or pick up a newspaper. And it's not from journalists or reporters' tweets. It's from the average, every day person who happens to be at the scene and has a Twitter account.
The beautiful thing about social networking is that it creates a level playing field for all users. Celebrities, students, young and old - everyone has the same ability to be heard on networks like Twitter and Facebook. Some people will take their chance to be heard and talk only about what is interesting to them, which may make them part of a smaller or larger community in the social space, depending on the niche.
Others? They will use it to let you know about the world around them, as it's happening. For example, a huge use of Twitter that will always be a part of me was the flood of my hometown in upstate New York back in the fall of 2011. Of course, news stations were covering it to the best of their abilities through the mediums that they had. But it was the average person who had no stock in being right or wrong that I was following. It was the journalists and reporters off-the-clock who had the best footage, the best pictures, the best commentary.
Journalists have a credibility that they have to live up to when they tweet or update a Facebook status. They (should) do major fact checking before saying anything on any platform, because whatever they say will be taken as truth by their followers.
But, it seems as though the pressure is off for users on Twitter, not related to the news, explaining what they see. They don't need to answer to a news director upset that he or she got a rain inch total wrong, or misspelled the street name where the most damage occurred. They're free to express themselves their own way.
Of course, more and more new stations are giving reporters free reign when it comes to social media - and rightfully so. The best way for a news stations social media campaign to flop in the eyes of the audience is to make your reporters tweet out systematic tweets that have zero personality. Why even have Twitter if you're not going to be yourself and be social? People are connecting with YOU on a social network if your profile is under your name. Not your station. They want to get to know you, your personality. Tweet how you talk and respond to the conversation around you, then watch your following grow.
The thing I love the most about Twitter during major story development is the ability to crowd-source from newsies and non-newsies alike. Maybe it's my thirst for always wanting to be at the scene of the action, or maybe it's because I know that sometimes journalists are so busy trying to cover a story, that unfortunately, social media becomes an afterthought, only updated hours after a story has happened. But it's those users not involved in the news industry that I love to gather my information from.
You learn so much more from having a localize group of followers at the scene. Reporters can't be at 100 places at once, but your 100 connections on Twitter can give you all the views. And sometimes, there is someone on there who can give you a better account of what's happening from where they're standing than anyone else - whether they're a reporter or not.
Perhaps one day, social media at the local news level will be the priority. For now, meeting deadlines for newscasts or print times is the driving factor, even if it means that the story will be antiquated by the time it reaches its audience. True, some stations definitely have their social media network strategies in place and rolling, and you'll see reporters and producers updating religiously as they are in the field. But sadly, this is usually the exception and not the rule.
Don't miss a thing: Follow me on Twitter.
Time and time again after I have spoken with people in charge of their company's Facebook page or Twitter profile, I run across the same thing. People are obsessed with the numbers on their pages. Number of fans, number of times they post, number of photos they have sent out, etc.
In a world driven by metrics, this is completely normal. However, when you're chasing the wrong numbers, you're bound to get no results.
In traditional marketing, it's all about how many people you've reached. You want to be able to get on the #1 radio station because it was the station that has the biggest audience. Television marketing revolves around ratings. The better the rating, the higher the price they can charge for that commercial you want aired. But with social media, the game has changed. However, the mentality of "bigger is better" has seemed to stay the same.
Let me make one thing clear: with traditional advertising, you're gambling. Gambling on the fact that the number of people your advertising executive is telling you is going to be watching television, actually will be watching television. You're taking an even bigger risk saying that every single one of those people he or she has shown you with impressive numbers and graphs during the proposal will be there at the moment your commercial airs. You're taking even a larger risk saying that every single person that is looking at your commercial will be interested in your product. See how it's being dwindled down to smaller and smaller actual numbers for potential return on investment?
With social media, people voluntarily "like" or "follow" your product because they are interested in it. You're guaranteed an interested audience base on social media because these are people who have actively sought you out and connected with you. With traditional media, your advertising just happens to be in their way of normal programming. If you remember nothing else, remember that.
Now, onto the next problem. Businesses who have a larger social media following are viewed as the top dogs, and those who have smaller followings are viewed as those who still haven't "gotten it." I'm here to throw that theory out the window.
I don't care if you have 200 fans or 200,000 fans. If you have a good amount of people interacting on your page or profile, you're doing it right.
I've seen Facebook business pages with close to 250,000 fans, and not one person responding when a status is written. Is this not like dumping your money and time into the great abyss just like you have been with radio and television? That method is broken, people. And now you're taking that method to a new outlet. What are you doing? It's up to you to fix it.
You need to have a group of engaged people on your social networks in order to have your social media marketing stick. Otherwise, you're running a radio advertisement or cooking up a commercial, basically. If you want to succeed in social media marketing, you need to come to the realization that this is not a venue where you can take old ideas and make them work. This is new, fresh and different. This is now. And if you can have a conversation, you can succeed. Plus, don't you owe it to your fans and followers who have found you on these networks, have taken the time to connect, and are now waiting for you to provide some value?
The whole hype behind social media is that we are no longer lecturing our customers. No more billboards, no more 30-second quips that we hope will stick. Our customers are ours to interact with any time we want, about anything we want. We give them a chance to interact with us in real-time, a chance to tell us what they're thinking of our product, our culture, our company as a whole.
Do you realize how much time this shift in communication is saving us? Do you also realize how terrified survey companies are now? Why pay for those monster surveys to go out to consumers, when we can run a survey on our Facebook page for close to nothing, right?
The major metrics you need to be watching on your Facebook and Twitter pages are not how many people are following you. It's the percentage of people interacting with you out of your followers. In the case of companies that are coming into Twitter stardom overnight with hundreds of thousands of followers in a week, are more than likely cases of companies who have purchased followers. A majority of "purchased" followers are spam bots. Think spam bots are going to buy your product or read your blog? Think they're going to leave thoughtful feedback? Probably not.
Take time to see who is following you on your networks, and more importantly, who is talking to you. Just like traditional marketing, you need to know your audience. That part of marketing, regardless of the outlet, will never change.
From there, create content that caters to them. This is not just what I call "barking" content. Barking content is something that you just shout at someone, hope they get it, and then just walk away. It's a commercial on television. It's the billboard you just zoomed by. Barking content is bad, unless you're writing a script for someone's new Glade commercial. Barking content is a no-no.
You need to have conversational content. You know how to have a conversation right? It usually begins with introductions, and maybe a few questions. Being conversational means you want to know just as much about the person you are talking to you as you want to share about yourself....hopefully.
This is how you need to approach your social media marketing. Sure, you may want to run an awesome deal on your hamburgers this week to get people in the door. You'll need to put it on your Facebook page. But instead of going the traditional route of the "25% off hamburgers, come in now!" posting, why don't you upload a picture of that delicious piece of meat, with a caption that says, "First 10 people to tell us exactly what comes on our hamburger deluxe in the comments below, gets it for free during their next visit!"
You're guaranteed to save more money than giving everyone who walks in the door 25% off, and more importantly you've made your posting interactive. People will be scrambling to tell you about your product. So now, not only do you have people chatting about your product and creating awareness about it, you also have people coming into your restaurant for a free burger when all is said and done. Better yet, maybe they'll bring a friend and that friend will order and pay for a meal. That's a sale you might not have had before the social media posting.
Screw the traditional metrics of how big is your audience. The only metrics you need to worry about are how many people are talking back, leaving comments, liking your postings or sharing your content. Focus on growing that metric, because that's the only major metric that matters. For Twitter, take into account how many people are re-tweeting your content or interacting with you by replying to your messages.
It's quality over quantity, people. You may have 400,000 Facebook fans, but if only five of them are responding to your content, then Joe's Diner down the street with 390 fans and 65 people responding to his postings is beating you out tremendously.
Stop trying to be the big dog. Start being a friend. Start being social.
My mom and I at my grad school graduation party.
First of all, let me explain that my mother is my best friend, my hero and my biggest supporter. She says that I am all of those to her, but I think that I pale in comparison to what an amazing person she is. I try to be more and more like her every single day.
That being said, I have to relay this story that my mom just told me.
She was golfing in her league tonight, and a friend of hers started talking about her niece's recent wedding. The niece's mother had passed away two years ago from breast cancer, so her aunt (my mother's friend) was helping her with everything - especially getting through picking out the dress.
As a remembrance of her mom, her niece had a white bouquet made and placed a picture of her mother and note to her mom in it. She placed it next to her father in the pew at the church while they were getting married. In the middle of the ceremony, a butterfly came into the church and landed on her mom's bouquet. A completely closed church, yet it still managed to get in and find the bouquet, of all places, to land.
The story doesn't end there.
Two weeks before the wedding, the bride's uncle went up to her father's house to help him move some things around. As they were moving china, an envelope slipped out from between two plates. The uncle asked the father what it was. He had no idea. They opened it and it read: "A poem for my daughter on her wedding day."
There is no love stronger than the love between a mother and her child. I always knew that, but after hearing this story, I'm more certain of it now than ever before.
If this story isn't inspiring and motivating you to love with all you have right now, I don't know will.
If your mom is still here, have you called her today? If she's not, have you at least said a few things to her while you were alone? She can still feel your love and give it back in return. That I'm certain of, too.
You're looking at that job description and it seems pretty hefty...and pretty awesome. It's exactly what you want to do. You've checked each requirement down the list and you're a perfect match until...
5-7 years experience.
Is this an opportunity killer? You have, at most, two years of experience, or maybe just over one. How are you suppose to compete with others applying for this job that have that time in the industry?
Get your gloves on, kid. It's about to be a fight and you're not knocked out of it yet.
When you walk into the HR department of your newest to-be employer, you're walking into not only a professional interview, but a personality interview. You'll need to convince the person that those 5-7 years that you don't have under your belt yet pale in comparison to your energy and what you can bring to the table.
Here are three tips to give employers the passion-filled punch that leaves them wanting much, much more:1.) Make sure this is the job for you.
True passion and excitement about a position can't be faked. And worse yet, it is so easy for an employer to sniff out fake excitement when you do try to act it out. Make sure that this position is everything you want before you go in so you don't waste your time or theirs.2.) Don't doubt yourself.
Interviewing for a position where you may not have all of the requirements that they need means that you'll have to make up for it elsewhere. Many employers say that having a "can-do" attitude with an inspirational spirit can trump any arbitrary number for years of experience required.3.) Go above and beyond.
You're going up against people who have real-life experience. I don't want to downplay that. At the same time, I'm telling you that during a hire, that is not all that matters. I'm also telling you that if you're passionate and want it, you're going to have to work for it. Get together everything you can that relates to the position at hand. Maybe you have some hard sales numbers that show your ability to affect the bottom line, maybe you have proof that you turned around a team's attitude in just a few months by implementing a new management style. Whatever it may be, show it with graphs, charts, words, just something that you can leave behind for the employer to review later.
Another way to really leave an impression is to create a slide show or video to showcase exactly what you can do, your creativity, and encapsulate how badly you want the position. A few companies can help you out with this by allowing you to creating rocking presentations and host them online for free. Check out either SlideRocket.com
to get started.
Follow me: @LisaDiVirgilio
This past week, I was at People Report's Summer Brand Camp
. For those of you who have never heard of this, it is pretty much the most spectacular social business conference known to man. You may think I'm just saying that to say it, but it really is amazing.
The event brings in great speakers from all over who touched on topics like creating amazing culture in the workplace, social media's ever evolving existence in the marketplace and how to find the motivation to get what you want out of life.
One of the speakers, Simon T. Bailey, resonated with me unlike any speaker ever has before. He is an ex-Disney sales director who wanted more for his life other than the magic of that company, which he admits was fantastic while he was there. He eventually left Disney to work on his own company, the Brilliance Institute, which aims to help those stuck in life and/or the corporate world find their way. He helps them "shift" into the life they have always imagined but, for whatever reason, couldn't get to themselves.
No, he's not advocating that we all just get up and leave our jobs. What he's saying is that we need to be the best wherever we are, and if we can't be the best at the place we currently are employed at, it's time to start looking elsewhere.
His points during his speech couldn't have hit more close to home with me. I love my job, and I love what I do for a living. But I have so many friends who don't share the same passion to get up every day and go to work as I do. They don't get the rush when something big happens in the company, nor do they feel like they had a part in the small everyday successes.
I guess you can say I'm spoiled because I work for a smaller sized company,so I feel every decision I make, and I feel it all equally. Nothing is too small to go unnoticed. I like it that way. So, what is stopping other people from going out and doing something that fills them with the same passion that I have?
I don't care how many hours you work, or how long of a day you've had. If you don't have one part of your day where you get to do something that absolutely thrills you, you aren't living.
If your day job isn't what you had hoped for, start the search for something that is. I give you permission to. Everyone gives you permission to. It's too short of a life to be stuck in a cubicle sitting next to your unchosen best friend, misery.
If you've always dreamed of having your own business, find the time to get it running. Start working on it at night. Set a schedule for yourself. Maybe you work 8-5:30 at your day job. If you don't miss a minute of that day, don't miss a minute of the schedule you set for your own venture, either. If you do put off your own time you're putting into your own creation, you're telling yourself you have more respect for your boss than you do for yourself. And that isn't the case, right? Be your own biggest fan.
If you told yourself each night that you would work from 7-8:30 either creating your new life, or searching for your next big gig that will fulfill you, do that until you've completed it. "Get in" five minutes early, and leave five minutes late. You'll be surprised how quickly it'll become a habit.
And don't worry - you're not alone. I'll be right there with you, typing away on this blog. I've promised myself for years to have more of a presence online. I've started blogs, then allowed life to get in the way and have failed to update them time and time again, and so the vicious cycle continued with each new one that I launched. However, this time is different.
Let's meet up below, and tell me what your promise is to the most important person in your world: yourself.