Tips on How To Stop Being Offended

Back for my 8th segment on The Place, and I love the topic that we got to discuss “How To Stop Being Offended”.  This topic is so needed.  From healing our families and offices to our current events, we really could use kinder hearts and more “I’m sorry.”

Michelle McCullough – American Entreprenuer

Have you ever Googled yourself?  It’s okay, you’re among friends.  Go ahead and spill the beans.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend had said that she had Googled me.  I was curious what was out there so I Googled myself and I found this:

In 2009 I was photographed for a series called “American Entrepreneur Profiles”.  I got an email from Mike Michalowicz, author of the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, saying that Allana from Ars Magna studio would be driving cross country and photographing American Entrepreneurs along the way.  Well, Americanism + Entrepreneurship are two of my favorite things, so I responded that I would be interested.  I was selected!  I called a friend in Salt Lake and asked them if I could use their conference room for the shoot since my office is my home or my car (in hindsight, I should have done it at home or in my car, I think at the time I was embarrassed to be picked for this great thing, and was nervous to say, “I work out of my house.”  Now that’s something I embrace and feel like it’s the best way to keep my costs down and most customers prefer I come to them anyway…).

Allana and her husband were very chic, and super down-to-earth and nice.  They asked me questions in between snapping pictures and I tried to act as calm as I could.  I felt way cooler that I really am.

Allana did a nice post on her site.  But it wasn’t until I was Googling myself a couple of weeks ago in 2011 that I found this post with more pictures.

It’s interesting looking back on that post and seeing what I said.  Interesting that I said that I’d double my income that year, and I did.  It was a great year.

Its interesting to look back on what I was doing then and what I’m doing now.  I’ve added 2 new businesses to my plate, and Doodads is still running like the well oiled machine that it is.

And it’s interesting to see that my little boy is big.  Life changes so fast.  Now my 2nd child is even older than Gavin was when those pictures were taken.  Time flies.

I’m delighted to be listed as an American Entrepreneur.  I really do feel like I’m living the American dream each and every day.

Book Review: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

Title: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

Author: Mike Michalowicz

End Rating: Worth Reading

Total Number of Pages: 175

Okay, so I’m going to come clean.  I read this book on the toilet.  No lie.  Something about the title and toilet paper on the cover (or perhaps that’s the only place a mom can get dedicated time to read a book) inspired me to read it on the porceline throne.

Let me start off by saying I’m a huge fan of Mike Michalowicz, the author, and after first being introduced to him in 2008, I’ve become involved in his community for entrepreneurs.  I’m on his email list (which isn’t annoying and always offers pertinent information), I watch his little movie segments online, and because of him and his emails, I was featured in the project “An American Entrepreneur” in 2009.  He’s started a number of successful businesses and can put his money where his mouth is.

I’ll start with what I liked: First of all, his book is overall a great read.  Michalowicz’s passion for business oozes out of every page, and you can tell this guy LOVES business ownership.  It’s a contagious passion that makes me inspired to run my business with more heart and he really digs deep with you PERSONALLY to find out what drives you to run or start your business.  We all have that voice inside us that he calls “The Wall of Limiting Beliefs” that tells us we’ll never make it, we’ll never make a single dollar, and so on, and he helps each person find what drives them to break down that wall.  It was a great reminder for me.  As I prepare for baby #2 (due in December) I’m faced with a whole new “Wall” and his book helped me get through some times when I wanted to just throw in the towel.

Second, like it’s title, it inspired me to use what I’ve got and run with it.  Especially in tough economic times, it’s easy to get discouraged and think “I don’t have the resources to …(fill in the blank).”  But we all have unique gifts and talents and we can use the resources we have instead of spending our time wishing we had others.  Michalowicz encourages creativity, ingenuity and hard work to get you through any business situation.  We could all use a reminder to be a little more positive and just get to work.

Here’s what surprised me (and I’ve shared my thoughts with him personally through Twitter): If you have a problem with occasional foul language, you’ll be surprised by the use of expletives throughout the book.  Michalowicz is a no-nonsense guy and he says it like it is.  If that’s a big deal to you, at least I warned you in advance.  Rest assured, you won’t find a swear word on every page, but they are there.  Perhaps in support of the “potty” theme throughout the book.  Michalowicz even warns in the introduction, “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart…”

One final note:  This is a GREAT book for those getting started in business or if you have a dream in development.  I’ve been in business for 10 years and I was still able to get GREAT information but he does gear his message towards those who are starting up.

Michalowicz says in the book, “My goal for The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is to be different and far better than the traditional business books and burned-out grad school rhetoric, from the first word to the last.”  Well Michael, to me, you succeeded.  Thanks for a great read and I recommend it to all of you!

For more information about Michael Michalowicz and the TPE community go to http://toiletpaperentrepreneur.com.

Don’t Make New Years Resolutions, Make Vision Boards

Post Written January 3, 2009 for Startup Princess.com

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions, but, before you judge (or think that I’m judging you) hear me out. In the past, I have started each year with a renewed sense of accomplishment and positive thinking.  I follow up this cheery thought with ambitious goals.  Lose 20 pounds, make X amount of money, send birthday cards to family on time…the list goes on. A couple months later I lose my positive attitude and stop focusing on my resolutions and then I fall into a slippery slope that ends in a mild depression. Then it takes me a couple of months to get out of my why-can’t-I-keep-a-resolution funk and get on with my life. Last year, at the beginning of 2008 I didn’t make a single resolution or a single New Years goal, I created a vision board and it was the best year of my life.

Though I haven’t been able to get back to my pre-baby weight (my son, Gavin, was born January 8th), I’m still struggling with getting birthday wishes to the ones I love BEFORE their birthday, and I had one of the worst years for revenue (are there bailouts for small businesses?? Just kidding.).  All that said I’ve never felt better about myself.  I didn’t have to get over the why-can’t-I-keep-a-resolution blues, which made my year all the better.

Does that mean that I don’t periodically set goals or evaluate where I am and where I can improve? No.  Does that mean that I didn’t have goals last year or things that I wanted to accomplish?   Certainly not.  I had a very productive year and made some great strides in my business.  I just went about it a different way.

Here’s what I do:

I create a vision board.  I updated it in September of this year for my session at the Startup Princess Touchpoint conference.  I have updated it for 2009 and am sharing a picture of it with you, here.  I like seeing my dreams in pictures.  I have a picture that represents my financial goals – even though I don’t put the actual number.  I have a visual of my marketing and media opportunities and ways I want to expand my business.  I even have pictures of the new office furniture I want, which sounds silly, but that’s the same way I got my new flatbed scanner.  I like visualizing myself having already achieved these goals.  I like to trust the universe and what God has in store for me, because I know that He thinks more good for me and my business, than I do for myself.

I take time, once a month, to relax, reflect, ponder and review.  I look at what I did, I look at what I didn’t do, and I look at what I want to do next.  Goals and resolutions are not a yearly thing for me; I work best in smaller chunks of time.  Though I get most of my success for imagining the end result and the big picture, from there I work backwards to break down my dreams into smaller manageable tasks and activities, and that’s where achievement takes place for me.

Finally, I say “no” a lot more.  I’ll admit I have a ways to go, but in 2008 I became a little more of myself and said no to events, opportunities and activities that didn’t bring me closer to the vision of my perfect life.  Sometimes that meant saying “no” to evening computer time and focusing on my family.  Sometimes that meant saying “no” to business lunches or partnerships that were more one-sided (and not in my favor).  I remind myself that my son is in the middle of my vision board for a reason.  I remind myself that I chose to own my own business so that I could have flexibility and so that I can rule my own time and not let others do it for me.

My final thought is do what’s best for you.  Though this one little change in my life has done wonders for my self-esteem and productivity, it may not work for everyone.  I don’t judge those who have blog posts on January first with New Year’s Resolutions.  In fact, I read them and send good thoughts to friends and family that want this year to be a good year.  I believe that there’s room for all of us to create the lives we want to have – even if we go about it differently.

What about you? Are you a successful resolution maker and keeper?  Do you have a system that has helped you grow in business and family? Are you making resolutions this year or is this the year that you give yourself a chance to try a new approach to life balance?

I Love Funerals

Now hear me out.  I’m not morbid and I DON’T like people to die, but I find funerals to be cathartic and very introspective.

I went to a funeral a few years ago of a man in my neighborhood who passed away at 83.  He’d been in poor health for 5 years.
His funeral was standard.  Speakers, musical numbers, etc.  But I found that even though I didn’t know him well, I cried along with his family.  How sad they must feel.  How they wonder what they will do with the hole in their hearts.
But it’s more than that.  I left the funeral home feeling happy.  I tried to figure out why and came up with these three reasons:
1. It makes me look inward a little, okay a lot.  What will be said of me when I die?  This man was beloved by his family for his devotion to them, for his love of the outdoors, for his service in the church and for how he taught his family lessons through the family garden they had EVERY year, even this one.  Will my children say of me that she loved movies and food?  Will that be their best memory of what was important to me?  Does it matter that I love business and that I’m always looking for a way to make money?  That’s been on my mind a lot over the past few months and does that really matter?  I mean, sure, we need to be able to provide for our needs.  But my NEEDS (maybe not my wants) are met but I want more.  I have a cute kids and to love and to teach and be with them…but “balancing” work and family is sometimes a struggle. (More on this later.)  No one ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I spent more time at the office.” And yet, I have dreams and goals that push me share my messages with the world.
2. Another thing, what I love about funerals is that they focus on the good.  No mention is ever made of their short comings and faults.  No mention is made of mistakes made in life, unless it was a major turning point that turned for the good.  I love that.  I love that when I go to funerals I get to hear the BEST of people.  The good.  What a nice way to remember someone at the close of their lives.
3. I believe in Heaven.  I believe we can see the people we love again.  That knowledge brings me peace and I look forward to chatting again in the “perfect” place.
I’ve been to lots of funerals since including the passing of my dear grandmother, Mary.  So grateful for the opportunity to celebrate their life, and celebrate the effect they have been on mine.  Now I need to be grateful for each day and breath and make each day count!

Book Review: Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

“The main reason people struggle financially is because they have spent years in school but learned nothing about money. The result is that people learn to work for money…but never learn to have money work for them.” Robert Kiyosaki
So, if you’re like me, you look at your meager savings account, and think about your monthly bills and wonder how you are ever going to get ahead. Maybe you are worried about retirement and wonder if you are going to have to work for the rest of your life. Perhaps you wonder if you should be investing the little money that you do have, or if you should buy investment property…maybe you just dream of these things. Maybe you are dissatisfied with your job, and you don’t know what you should do next.Might I recommend Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kyosaki? This book was recommended to me by my friend, Monty, about a decade ago, and I finally read it in 2008. It’s a book I should have read 10 years ago, but better late than never, right?

You might be thinking, “I don’t have any money to invest”. That may be true, but this book does a good job of providing a base level of financial education to help you think differently about your savings account, the rat race, and paying your bills. I do believe that at least SOME of the principles in this book apply to ALL of us. I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends, thirtysomethings with a few kids, a mortgage and possible student loan debt, if I didn’t think there was SOMETHING in there that might ring true. (Also great for you single folk, or you older friends who haven’t figured out what you are going to do for retirement!) I guarantee at least one take-away, one a-ha moment that will mean something to you.

Some of you might be thinking, “I won’t understand a book like this. It intimidates me”. That’s what has kept me from reading the book for a decade. This book is a VERY easy read. It’s not a lot of numbers, it’s a lot of facts about how the rich keep their money and everyone else gives their money to everyone else (Government, bill collectors, credit companies, etc.), except themselves. He talks about his life and how he went down the path from career hopping (with a purpose) to retirement at age 47. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Again, it may not all apply to you, but something might make you think a little differently about money and making it work for you, instead of YOU working for it.

It’s a $16.95 investment. I thought about just passing my book around to friends, but I think that it’s worth the $16.95 ($11.53 on Amazon.com) for you to have a copy of your own. Something you can read, highlight and perhaps reference in the future. You can find the book on Amazon and have it shipped straight to your door (you can also have it shipped for free with supersaver shipping if you add something else to your order to make it $25.00), or you can find this at any bookstore. If you can’t afford it, try checking it out from the library, but I think this is a book that you want to have in your personal library. If that doesn’t sell you on it, leave a comment and I’ll make sure to give this to you for your next birthday or as a Christmas present ;).

Have any of you read this book already? How did it help you? Have you read any other financial books I should get my hands on?

As Robert would say, let’s meet in Hawaii to talk about it (and write it off as a business expense)!

Mastering (and LOVING) Delegation

When I say “delegation” do you shudder?  Do you think of all the times that you gave someone a task and ended up doing it yourself or re-doing it?  Have you mastered delegation and the word brings peace of mind?  Do you think of an amazing assistant or employee that you trust implicitly?

I’ve delegated a lot of responsibilities and have have felt all of the above.  Peace and trust to panic and stress.  I sat in a church meeting a couple of weeks ago and the topic was “Delegation”.  It was so fantastic I wanted to share with you some of the tips that were shared and how I use them running my businesses.

These tips were shared by my friend Greg Danklef who quoted them from Lee Perry, a professor of Organizational Leadership & Strategy at BYU.  He shares 7 tips for mastering delegation (with my two cents [and then some] sprinkled in):

1. Decide what you want to delegate – Simple, right?  For some of us we don’t even know where to start.  I always use the philosophy that every task in your business needs to be done by the lowest possible position something I learned from the book the One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey.  I used to do everything because I was a one-woman show (I still am but have one assistant + use contractors on a regular basis).  Now, I delegate and outsource sorting my catalogs (get about 15 a week on average), mailing out catalogs, and other admin tasks.  What can you delegate, even on a short-term basis that would open the doors to more creative time that you CAN’T outsource?

2. Decide whom to delegate to – We had an interesting discussion around this.  We talked about balancing people’s talents and also their needs to grow.  If you run a company with a handful of employees growth is an important part of your business.  Though it takes more time to teach something new, employees who are given the opportunity to grow and succeed feel greater satisfaction with their work and try to work harder for advancement, etc.  But sometimes you also have to give jobs where the talent lies.  It’s a delicate balance.  When I’m delegating cataloging tasks, I can often give those jobs to neighborhood kids earning money for who knows what.  Other tasks like helping me find press contacts and following up on quotes take more time, training and talent and go to my assistant.

3. Make assignments clearly and specifically – This is where you answer WHO is doing WHAT by WHEN.  Take as much time as you need to ensure that the task is understood and answer any questions.  To this I would add, get buy-off from the delegated party that they can commit to the task, understand what needs to be done and that they also commit to the deadline.  This will give them structure and give you peace.  I also tell my assistants and contractors that I’m open if they have any questions during the process.  I don’t expect people to answer their own questions if they get stuck in the middle.

4. Assign an objective and not a procedure – This is where I start to shudder and certainly the place where I need to do a little work.  I often assign a procedure taking the “It’s my company” philosophy and hope that my assistants and contractors will understand.  Most do, and I do it with a great deal of charisma, but still. (Insert smiley face)  I have found that when I do share the task, but also share the vision of the project as a whole they buy-off a little better and their work is above average.  If I assign a task, I get just that.  No passion or opportunity for having it better than I asked for, either.   But that leads us to:

5. Allow autonomy – Give them space, don’t sit over their shoulder while they do it.  Trust them to feel the vision of the task and give them the opportunity to work their way and knock your socks off.  Besides, if you have to sit with them, why are you delegating it in the first place?  The idea is to free up your time!  And, they may get from A-Z a little differently, but as long as they get there, it’s okay! (Now, I know there are some tasks that require a specific process, but if the project allows, give them

6. Monitor performance and require reporting – I have also found as I have implemented these things over the past few weeks, I’ve started to give more autonomy, but I’m also giving more direction and saying things like, “After you’ve done X, lets look at it together and see what needs to happen next.”  This makes it clear to them that they need to check back in the middle of projects and also that I’m going to review and provide feedback on ways to improve mid-stream instead of being angry at the end when a lot of time has been spent.  They’re more open to my comments when I warn them before they start that I’m going to have them report in the middle of the project or at certain checkpoints.  And I think it gives them an opportunity to ask questions at a set time in the middle, instead of feeling too scared to ask, if that’s an issue for them.  This tip has been really helpful!

7. Give credit not blame – Praise the successes and the victories but don’t throw them under the bus if it doesn’t go as you would have liked.  Be the coach, be the person who trains them and works with them through the process that wants them to succeed!  And give them another chance on another task that may fit their talents and provide a benefit for you, if that one didn’t work out.

In just a few short weeks, I’ve seen how following this process has really helped in getting back quality work from those I delegate to and I’m loving the extra time it gives me and that it makes me feel like I can delegate more!  Do you have any other tips for delegation that you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!

This is a post I wrote for StartupPrincess.com

Visualize…

Visualize what success looks like to you. I’m a huge fan of visualizing where you want to be, because then you can break down the steps it takes to get there. Covey called it “Begin with the end in mind.” I call it more than goals, more than planning, more than wishes, I call it taking time to meditate on where you really want to be a year from now, 10 years from now…etc. What does it look like? How much money will you have made? What associations will you have made? What mentors do you need to get to that successful place? Visualization has done more for my personal success and professional success than anything else. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to get there. AND if you don’t know you WANT to get there it’s hard to drive yourself to get to nowhere in particular.