Interview with Danielle Keister, Founder of the Administrative Consultants Association

Interview with Danielle Keister, Founder of the Administrative Consultants Association

Last month a colleague asked for an interview with me, and I thought I would share my answers with you here as well.

Your Name:

Danielle Keister

Name of Your Business:

I am the founder of the Administrative Consultants Association (ACA), a professional organization for those running administrative support businesses. I also run my own administrative support business supporting solo attorneys who practice in the areas of business, intellectual property and entertainment law.

Years in Business:

I’ve been in business since 1997 when I officially took out my business license; longer if you want to include the years I did this work on the side informally. I originally started the organization now known as the Administrative Consultants Association (ACA) in 2005.

Q1. Tell me about starting your business. Why did you start it?

My husband died without warning in 1995, leaving me a young widow with a daughter to raise on my own. An unexpected loss like that really makes you question life and what you want out of it, how you want to live, what you want for yourself and your children, etc.: Are you living life on your own terms? How happy are you in the 9-to-5 grind? Is my child really getting the best of me if I’m tired and working all the time just to make ends meet? What kind of life am I providing for her? Is this really all there is?

I had previous forays into a few side businesses that I never really took anywhere. It was after the loss of my husband that I decided to get serious about taking the skills I had and turning them into a real business I could make a viable income from to create a better quality of life for myself and my daughter. I didn’t want to be a 9-to-5’er the rest of my life.

Q2. What is your role/job? What sort of responsibilities do you have?

I would say “job” is the wrong terminology to be using here since we are business owners, not employees. Some people may think that is pedantic, but consciously understanding the difference between employment and business ownership and having a business (not employee) mindset begins with using correct terminology.

In all my years of mentoring, what I’ve found is that those who never truly get over employee mindset and continue to work with their clients as if they were still employees don’t survive long in this business.

This is why I continue to clarify the distinction and make sure everyone I come across “gets” it. I want people to succeed in this business, which really starts with developing that all-important business sensibility.

As a solo business owner, I wear three hats: 1) I’m the CEO responsible for the development and direction of my business and making important decisions about the business; 2) I’m the manager responsible for managing all the moving parts and taking care of administration of the business; and 3) I’m the service provider — the craftsperson whose skills are the stock and trade of my business services.

Q3. What is your typical day like?

Very generally speaking, on a typical day, I wake up according to my own internal clock (I haven’t used an alarm clock in years).

Once I get up, I do a little yoga and stretching, eat, and then get cleaned up and dressed for the day. I fully admit to working in my bathrobe every once in awhile if I don’t have any plans to go anywhere that day, lol. But most of the time, leggings or long skirt with a comfy but stylish tee is how I roll.

I don’t like to rush into the day and prefer to check emails and get things sorted in my in-box as the first thing I do.

There is a lot of talk in many online places that discourage this, but I prefer the opposite and find this email clearing and organizing step much more conducive to my productivity for the rest of the day.

I then tend to dive into client work around 10 or 11 am (I always joke with people that my brain doesn’t get juiced up fully until around 11 am).

Depending on what’s on my plate for that day, I may work until between 4 and 6 pm. But it really varies, depending on the day’s workload, what priorities are in the queue, and what else I’ve got going on.

If the work in my queue gets done early, I don’t jump into the next day’s pile. I go enjoy life!

It does take discipline, though, not to fill your free time with work, work, work.

I think for most of us, our first instinct is to get as much done as quickly as we can. But that is really counterproductive and keeps you on a hamster wheel. It’s not good for you and ultimately it ends up not being good for clients.

You have to be diligent about respecting your own boundaries (which in turn trains clients to respect them as well) and give yourself lots of breathing room so you don’t burn out in this business.

At some point around noon or 1 pm I’ll knock off for lunch, maybe go somewhere to eat.

I also try to get a good walk/hike on most days (try being the operative word here lately). Depending on the weather, sometimes that’s first thing in the morning, sometimes it’s around midday, sometimes it’s later in the evening.

It really all depends, and this is the beautiful thing that I’ve created in my business: the freedom and flexibility to be able to listen to my own natural rhythms, structure my business around my life, and do what I want, when I want, while still taking great care of my clients. (I never sacrifice their needs; it’s all a matter of setting proper expectations and boundaries.)

I’ve also created what is essentially a 3-day work week (you can get my entire business management system here):

  • Mondays are my Admin Days where I take care of the admin in my own business or working on my business.
  • Tuesdays are my meeting days that I reserve for telephone meetings and appointments with clients and others.
  • Wednesday through Friday is when I do client work.

For the past few years, my life has been extra stressed caring for a sick, elderly dad. In full disclosure, I’ve really let my own self-care down. I’m beyond grateful I’ve built a business that allows me to do this for my dad, but it’s not easy and still comes with a cost that has taken a toll on me. Making my own self-care a priority again is something I wrestle with on a daily basis and am currently working to improve.

(For a more in-depth snapshot of my typical day, check out this post.)

Q4. What is the best thing about owning your own business?

As touched on above, the freedom and flexibility to live a less rushed/forced life; the ability to live according to my own natural rhythms and internal clock; and the ability to structure my business and its policies, procedures, and protocols so that I have plenty of time for life (or whatever is most important at any point in time; for me, right now, that is my dad).

I never ever want a business where I am living to work instead of working to live.

One of the things I’m always saying to my clients and colleagues is that your business should support your life, not suck the life from you. It took a lot of fits and starts, trial and error, and course correction, but I’m very proud of the business and income I’ve created today.

I also love that my daughter was able to see that self-sufficiency and determination modeled and be a part of my business journey.

Q5. What is the hardest thing about owning your own business?

Well, I’ll be frank with you: business ain’t for sissies, that’s fo sho!

I was extremely fortunate to have had some opportunities come up that gave me the financial means to take care of myself and my daughter while I started my business.

And later I was also fortunate to have a significant other to lean on during the rough spots, of which there were many, make no mistake.

It takes an extreme amount of perseverance, determination, self-motivation — and time —to get a business to a point where it’s actually solvent and sustainable and eventually profitable.

And, of course, everyone’s mileage and set of circumstances will vary. You just take advantage of everything you’ve got going for you, figure out the rest, and if you can get past all that, the rewards are amazing!

Q6. What advice do you have for someone wanting to start a business? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?

One of the reasons I started the ACA was to provide others with the knowledge and easier path in starting their own administrative support business that I didn’t have way back when. I did it all without knowing there were others doing what I was attempting to do.

One thing that was pivotal in my success was realizing that a secretarial service is not administrative support.

Secretarial services are project-based businesses where the person does something here and there for drive-by clients.

It’s an inherently volume-driven business, one that requires you to always be on the hunt for your next clients and projects, even while you try to complete the work in front of you.

It’s a plodding, exhausting way to try to make a living and extremely difficult to get profitable.

Once I realized that, instead of project work, I could provide administrative support being an ongoing right-hand to a handful of regular clients on a monthly basis instead of a constantly revolving door of one-time or sporadic clients and rinky-dink projects, that’s when I cracked the revenue code.

But it took me a few years to get to that realization and figure out how to structure things properly.

Now, I base all my training and business education products around that basic tenet so that others won’t waste so many months or years.

I show them how they can build a business based on retainer clients (which is where the bread-and-butter is) while still taking advantage of project work that comes along that is of interest to them (which is gravy).

Another bit of advice I have for folks is not to take shortcuts with the business startup process. Every step helps build your business mindset and sensibility.

People get impatient with the process and want to jump ahead of themselves and it’s really to their detriment and that of their clients.

I’ve seen more businesses shutter their doors because the owner didn’t put the proper foundations in place before taking on clients.

Don’t rush things. There is a little bit of back and forth involved as you figure things out, but beyond that, there is a basic step by step process involved in any business start-up. Don’t skip those parts:

  • Do the business plan.
  • Learn how your local, state and federal taxing and licensing works and what your responsibilities/obligations are.
  • Don’t take on clients before you’ve got at least a basic website up and mapped out a rudimentary set of policies, procedures and protocols. Your website is an incredibly important tool in properly educating clients about the nature of the relationship and bridging understanding so that you attract your right, most ideal clients. You will find that having something there to start with is going to be incredibly helpful in building, growing, and honing your business from there.

These are all exercises that help you create the strong foundations you need to be able to get — and keep — clients. The problems with clients and not getting the right ones happen when those things are absent.

If you were interviewing me, what other questions would you have for me? Let me know in the comments!

Why Being a “One-Stop Shop” Is BS

Why Being a "One-Stop Shop" Is BS

I think the idea that very commonly travels around our circles that we should be “one-stop” shops is dangerous.

Dangerous in that it sets you up for failure and mediocrity.

Dangerous because it’s rooted in employee mindset.

Dangerous because it stems from an underlying lack of healthy professional self-esteem that who you are and what you do is ENOUGH.

And dangerous because it teaches clients and others to devalue the expertise you ARE in business to provide.

It is ENOUGH to be in one business, not a million different businesses at once (i.e., administrative support… not administrative support AND web design AND graphic design AND bookkeeping AND marketing AND social media AND writing/copywriting, and any and every other hat you can find to put on).

That BS is something employers pulled on their admin staff because they could get away with it (i.e., dumping every kind of work and role onto them beyond their job description without any promotion in title or pay).

You don’t need to carry that wrong and negative influence over into your business. And you shouldn’t.

Because you are not a human garbage dump.

Because business and employment are not the same thing.

And because running your business and working with clients as if you were still an employee keeps your business from really flourishing.

It is ENOUGH to keep your eye on your one focus and discipline.

In that way, you beat mediocrity and can be the very best you can be at the particular thing you are in business to do.

Trying to diversify and be all the things to every body keeps you unfocused and dilutes the time and energy needed to do any one thing particularly well.

People who specialize in mediocrity don’t make the big bucks, are tired and scattered all the time, and never gain traction in their businesses.

You DON’T have to solve ALL problems for clients. You only have to solve the problem your business is set up to solve.

You DON’T have to be all things to every body.

Dear Danielle: Client Wants Me to Cut My Fees By $200 a Month

Dear Danielle: Client Wants Me to Cut My Fees by $200 a Month

Dear Danielle:

I recently had a contract client who could no longer afford to pay me the regular contracted amount because of a slowdown in her business so she asked that I drop my price about $200 until she was back on her feet. How should I deal with that? She’s been my client for 3 years and she’s always paid on time and every penny. I agreed to the cut but not sure for how long. Any words of advice? —KP

It sounds like this is a good client with whom you’ve had a happy, healthy business relationship thus far.

It also sounds like this client is paying some sort of monthly fee, if I am surmising things correctly.

And there’s no reason to throw all that away.

BUT there’s also no reason why this client’s financial woes should be your problem. Especially since you aren’t sure how long it will continue.

There IS a compassionate, client-centric way you can offer to help this client out during what I assume is only a temporary predicament without sacrificing your own business needs and well-being.

And it starts with this handy phrase: You don’t get what you don’t pay for.

That’s obviously not very client-centric the way it’s phrased, but the solution in its meaning is, very simply, to take something off the table.

What that means is, if you are selling hours, take $200 worth of hours away from their retainer. Only work up to the number of hours they have paid for.

If they can only pay for 15 hours instead of the usual 20, then they should only get 15 hours of support, not 20.

Alternatively, if you are using my value-based pricing methodology (which is a faster, more effective way to make an impact and give clients more readily apparent, targeted results), take a $200 task/function/role away from the monthly support plan.

Have a conversation with the client, identify what the most important functions are to their operations during this financial lean-time, and then offer to remove/temporarily suspend a $200 value task/function/role that is least necessary and will have the least impact on their continued smooth functioning and profits.

Give them two or three options of what could be removed for $200 less a month, and let them decide which one to sacrifice.

It’s also possible during this discussion that the client realizes even more the value of what you do for their business and decides to find the money to keep paying your full fee for full services to continue.

If this were me, I would also be curious about the reasons for this client’s financial down-turn.

If they were open to sharing, it’s possible I would have some ideas and insights on what we could do and where we could focus our work to create some new/fresh revenue.

Perhaps you even saw this coming, but the client had previously been resistant to exploring your ideas, trying something new, or doing things a little differently than they were used to that might have helped them improve financially. They might now be a bit more receptive to hearing you out.

I would, however, certainly expect to be paid for any additional work/consulting I provided. It’s up to them to decide where their priorities are.

No reasonable client would expect you to work for free.

And despite any client’s best (or unrealistic) intentions, they don’t have a crystal ball no matter what grand promises they make.

So the best policy is to go about things in a way that serves your business interests.

Keep in mind that you have an obligation to safeguard your financial well-being and business profitability not only for yourself, but for your other clients as well.

It doesn’t serve them for you to be giving away time, energy, and work for free to someone who isn’t paying fully for it.

And don’t even think about letting this client pay on credit (a la “I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today”).

You won’t be doing them, yourself, or your other clients any favors by letting them go into debt to you.

If they are already in financial straights, owing you or anybody else more money is only going to bury them further.

Remember, you teach people how to treat, value, and respect you.

Lower your fee for this client if you want to help and keep them on your roster; just make sure you also take away an equal amount of work from what you provide them with.

And have another conversation with this client to reset the expectations around what they will and won’t get for the reduced monthly fee.

I also suggest giving the client a definite time limit on this special arrangement.

Give it a month or two and inform the client that you will need to review and discuss things again at that time to determine whether or not it’s still feasible/profitable/in your business interests to continue the arrangement.

If there’s no improvement in sight, you may even decide that, while you wish this client well, keeping them on your roster is no longer profitable for you.

If any of this is helpful, one way you could return the favor is by letting me know in the comments. I would truly value that.

And if you or anyone else has more questions on this, please feel free to ask in the comments, and I’ll be happy to continue the conversation and share my further insights and advice.

No, You Don’t Need to Publish Pricing on Your Website

No, You Do Not Need to Publish Pricing on Your Website

I heard the most ridiculous thing this morning.

Yet another internet marketer was telling people that it’s a matter of respect to publish pricing on your website, that you are being “manipulative” if you don’t publish prices so that a “logical, rational, open-hearted, responsible ADULT” can decide whether it’s in their price range.

This is the kind of thing cheapskates say.

And I’ve got news for them: respect goes both ways.

In fact, what’s manipulative and dishonest is them implying that you are manipulative, dishonest, and not an open-hearted adult if you don’t publish your prices.

Playing to the lowest common denominator is a race to the bottom of the client barrel, folks.

Nothing good comes from listening to those who merely want you to make it easier for them to pit providers against each other on price so they can get something of value for as little as possible.

Let me set you straight. Not posting pricing has nothing to do with being manipulative or coercive.

It’s the fact, plain and simple, that more conversation is needed with a provider before cost can be determined.

Because here’s what “logical, rational, open-hearted” adults also know: their needs are not going to be exactly the same as the next person’s needs and, therefore, cost can vary depending on differing particulars and variables.

  • If you need your fence painted, would you want a one-size-fits all price?
  • If your fence area is much shorter than the mansion down the street whose fence is taller and covers vastly more square footage, would you expect to be charged the same amount of money?
  • And what needs are important to you when it comes to your fence?
  • Are you looking for more of a quick, slap-dash, cosmetic kind of job and aren’t much more invested in it than that?
  • Or are you looking for something that shows more obvious high quality work that involves more prep and skill, but will stand up better to the elements as well as increase curb appeal and property value?
  • Do you need a special kind of paint or color?
  • Is long-lasting, mold-resistent paint important to you (which comes at a higher cost, but requires less maintenance and repainting)?

Do you see how more in-depth one-on-one conversation with a live, actual person here is vital?

There is more probing and questioning a provider must engage in with you in order to identify the needs, values, and results that are important to you individually before they can give you an appropriate price.

I don’t think anyone can call that anything but reasonable, rational and client-centric.

And consider this… how many times when you’ve needed services have you called around and ended up choosing the person/service that you felt the most “good” about, simply based on your actual conversation and interaction with that person/business, regardless of the price and despite how much conversation was needed?

You simply came away feeling like they cared a little more about you as a person than the next provider, about what your goals were, about the quality of their work, about doing a great job for you and making sure you got the right price for your situation.

We’re talking about human to human services here, not boxes of cereal along the grocery aisle.

Professional services (which includes the professional service of administrative support) aren’t commodities on a shelf, one exactly the same as the next.

And value-based pricing, if you follow the methodology I teach, isn’t based on an hourly rate.

The ingredients required to support one client are not necessarily going to be the same ingredients the next client needs. So there isn’t a nice, neat, one-size-fits-all price you can publish.

Providing administrative support, and professional services in general, involves more details than simply buying a box of macaroni sitting on a store shelf.

Out of respect for all parties, you owe it to both the client and yourself to require some further conversation apart from the website so that you can both get certain vital information from each other, determine where and whether you can help, and see if there’s a good mutual fit so that you can then determine what their particular plan of support would cost.

That’s something that has to be done on an individual basis, not on your website.

And rational, reasonable adults — who have a vested interest in finding real solutions and getting the right help and are not merely shopping for the cheapest provider — understand this.

Instead of publishing prices, have a conversation on your website about your approach to pricing and why you don’t publish prices. Rational, reasonable adults are perfectly capable of understanding this.

In fact, it will make perfect sense to them once you bring it to their attention. They’ll actually appreciate it and feel better knowing that you have their best interests at heart, which is exactly why one wouldn’t publish pricing.

It does clients a disservice to treat them all the same (hmm, sort of like they were nothing more to you than interchangeable boxes on a shelf).

But you can’t get more meaningful insight or learn more about them without further conversation.

The happy byproduct of that conversation, incidentally, is that they also get more insight into why they would want to choose you.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: In a sea of websites all trying to be generically the same (and whose skills and polish tend to be just as low-grade), not publishing prices (and stating the reasons why) will be a competitive advantage that makes you stand out and will attract better, more ideal clients.

It is precisely because my ideal clients are rational, reasonable, and intelligent adults that I do not post pricing on my website. They are smart enough to understand why an actual conversation is in order first.

So, I don’t publish pricing on my website because:

  1. I am not interested in working with every ham-fisted knucklehead who stumbles upon my website.
  2. My ideal clients are rational, reasonable, intelligent adults able to grasp the necessity of further conversation before pricing can be determined and discussed.
  3. Each client is a unique individual who deserves more than a generic, one-size-fits-all solution.
  4. Each client is a human being, not a dollar figure, who deserves my time and sincere interest in learning more about their particular circumstances, goals and obstacles.
  5. I care about providing each client with a custom, personalized — not generic — plan of support that will get them the results they’re looking for and is priced accordingly. That’s not something you can generically publish pricing for.
  6. I don’t sell hours or bill hourly. Because selling hours actually works against achieving the results clients want to see in the most expedient way possible.
  7. The price of one client’s administrative support plan is not necessarily going to be the same as the next client’s, if I’m truly taking their individual needs and interests into consideration and not just trying to make as much money off every one of them as I can.
  8. If someone is only looking for the cheapest provider and my not posting prices helps them move on, that is exactly my intention. It’s part of my organic process for sorting the ideal from the unideal before they contact me.
  9. I don’t offer half-baked quick fix schemes. If my not posting prices helps move them along to someone else, that helps me reserve my time for more ideal, better qualified client candidates and consultations. This is again by design, not accident. (Looking for quick fixes is a telltale sign you’re dealing with a cheapskate who will not only devalue the work, but you and everything else along with it.)
  10. It’s just not that simple.

There is much more to say about this topic in order to fully grasp all the nuances of posting or not posting prices. I encourage you to read more here about the pros and cons of posting/not posting pricing on your website. 

And if you want — if you need — to charge more than $5/hour and you don’t want to be stuck with a poorly earning practice the rest of your life, you need to learn how to price and package your support in a way that speaks to clients and what they care about (none of which requires you to publish pricing or compromise your high standards around client care and discovery), and you need to learn how to have the whole pricing conversation that goes along with that.

I have three products that will teach and show you exactly how to implement those things, step-by-step:

  1. Breaking the Ice: Complete, Step-by-Step Guide for Confidently Leading the Consultation Conversation and Converting Prospects into Well-Paying Monthly Clients Who Can’t Wait to Work with You (GDE-03)
  2. Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Guide: How to Price and Package Your Support Value & Expertise — NOT Selling Hours (GDE-39)
  3. Build a Website that WORKS (GDE-40)

If you want better clients, if you need to improve your skills when it comes to talking with clients about price, if you want to have an easier time getting clients and consultations, there simply no way around it: you must increase your knowledge, understanding, and skill in these three key areas.

Sometimes It’s the Little Things that Make the Highest Impact

Sometimes It's the Little Things that Make the Greatest Impact

My target market is solo attorneys (specifically, those with a practice focus on business, intellectual property, and/or entertainment law) and believe it or not, even lawyers get writers block.

Pretty much everything they do involves writing so that can be a real business-killer.

And do you know what my clients tell me over and over is one of the most useful things I do for them?

Crazily enough, it’s simply starting a draft document or letter for them.

I set my clients up with their own branded templates for everything in their business: letterhead, envelopes, labels, pleading form, etc.

They could easily just open a template and start it themselves.

But quite often, because they can have so much other stuff on their plate at any given time, that simple step is too much for them to even begin and they get blocked.

So, whenever they need to start a complaint, write a motion response, reply to a letter, etc., they ask me to get the ball rolling. (Or, when I know one is needed, I just start one without being asked.)

And that simple assist of taking care of the back-end details so they don’t have to is what helps them break through the stuckness.

This is an example of why having an administrative partner is so useful to clients.

It’s not that they couldn’t do all or most of what we do for them themselves.

It’s that the mind plays tricks. It runs out of bandwidth when it tries to juggle too many details all alone.

With us as their administrative partner, we create a back-and-forth volley that helps them move through things step by step to keep their mind from getting overburdened and too ahead of themselves.

So it’s quite often the simplest of things we do that can have enormous positive impact and value for our clients.

How to Converse with a Ninny

How to Converse with a Ninny

Recently, something reminded me of a conversation I had a while back with a colleague.

She was frustrated by an interaction she’d had with someone in a networking group and wasn’t sure what to do about.

The person had asked what she did. She answered that she was an Administrative Consultant and attempted to relate some of the tasks she helped clients with.

The person’s response was “Oh, so you’re a virtual assistant?”

She wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that because she most vehemently did not want to be associated with that term whatsoever.

In all honesty, some people aren’t worth your time. And the person she was talking to was obviously an uncouth ninny.

On what planet does anyone dictate to you what your title or term is, especially after you have just told them?

(That was a rhetorical question. The answer is it is never anyone’s place to call you anything except what you have instructed/informed them to call you.)

However, a big part of the problem was in how she was describing what she did.

At the time, this colleague was resistant to pinning down a target market, and the kinds of things she said she did were so broad, vague, and generalized that it’s no wonder people were confused and wanted to lump her in as a VA.

That term has become a garbage dump for “anyone doing anything.” It’s basically branded itself to mean “cheap gopher.”

She got caught up in reciting lists of tasks instead of having the more abstract conversation about how she helps clients through the expertise of administrative support.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar conversation, and you deign to indulge in it with someone, here’s how you could respond in order to better educate said ninnies:

THEM: “Oh, so you’re a VA?”

YOU: “No, as I mentioned, I am what is known as an Administrative Consultant. That is something different and more specific.”

THEM: “But aren’t you basically an assistant?”

YOU: “No, that’s not an accurate way to understand the business-to-business relationship I have with my clients. Let me ask you this: As a coach/attorney/accountant/designer/(insert their profession here), are you an assistant to your clients?”

THEM: “No, I’m their coach/attorney/accountant/designer/(whatever their business/profession is).”

YOU: “Exactly! That’s how to understand my relationship with clients as well. You and I both run businesses that offer a specific service and expertise. We both assist clients, but that doesn’t make us assistants, right? What each of us does doesn’t matter. The fact that we run independent businesses, each delivering a specific service and expertise is the important thing. For me, I happen to be in the business of providing administrative support. But I’m not an assistant because 1) assistant is a term of employment and I am not an employee to my clients in any way, shape or form, and 2) I don’t act as an assistant to clients. I am a business owner and professional who provides a specific service and expertise to my clients; they turn to me for my expertise in providing ongoing administrative support and guidance. And the term we use for someone in that specific business is Administrative Consultant.”

This is how I have had similar conversations in the past. But what I’ve found is that once you a) stop calling yourself an assistant, and b) stop describing your business and the service you provide and how you work with clients in assistant-like terms, people get it, and you aren’t going to have to deal with too many ninnies after that.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar conversation as this colleague? How did you navigate it?

Take a Moment for New Year Reflection

Take a Moment for New Year Reflection

At this time of year, I like to go somewhere beautiful and quiet in nature, preferably all to myself, where I can just set and be with my thoughts and do some reflecting.

My daughter got a new ultra fuel-efficient car this year and to celebrate, she and a couple of her friends went on a 9-day road trip down the coast, then to Las Vegas for a Halloween party and back. They had put together a fantastic itinerary for the entire journey which included a rustic retreat in South Lake Tahoe, spa pampering, dressing up as the three witches in Hocus Pocus and attending a big Halloween bash, hikes, and sight-seeing.

Last year in January, my daughter and I had done some fun life-mapping diagrams which involve reflecting on your ideal life, what you would like to do/have/be, how you will achieve those things and what activities, actions and choices to involve yourself in to reach those aims.

So before she left, I suggested to her that at some point as part of their hiking plans, they might want to take a moment to be still and quiet with their thoughts and dreams and do some journaling about those things to set the intentions.

When she got back, she told me they did exactly that and what a fantastic exercise it turned out to be for everyone. They hiked to the top of a beautiful vista and then separated from each other to achieve a bit of solitude so they could each think and write.

I’ll be carving out some time myself to do a bit of this. Here are some questions to get the ball rolling if you’d like to do some reflection and productive planning for your new year as well…

  • In reflecting on the past year (or two), what what went well/right? What gave you joy in your work and your life? What would get in the way of doing more of those things? What do you need to do to remove obstacles to that?
  • Who was a delight to work with? What about them made them delightful? How will you make room to work with more of those people?
  • What fears did you face this past year? Did you do some things that made you uncomfortable this year, that were outside your normal comfort levels? Oh, and you still alive and well and reading this? 😉 And what fears do you want to conquer this year?
  • What risks did you take this past year? What were the outcomes? Do you have a different attitude toward taking risks now? Even if it still may always feel scary, do you think you are likely to be bolder and more confident in taking a risk, despite any fears, in the future?
  • Did you encounter some scenarios where you were brave? What were they? Reflect on those. Did you properly acknowledge your bravery and congratulate yourself? Do you feel pride? Do you feel stronger? Are there other situations where you will feel stronger and more confident in next time around?
  • List at least one or two new things you want to try.
  • What do you want to do differently in this new year?
  • What do you want to stop doing because it taxes your energy? What tolerations do you need to zap?
  • What clients do you need to let go of to pave the way for more ideal ones?
  • What policies and practices do you need to examine, reconfigure and improve?
  • What are your money goals for 2018? Is it time to raise your fees? Who do you need to work with to meet those goals? How do you need to be working with them? Do you need to rethink your service offerings and how they are structured? Do you need to let go of some services so that you can focus on providing more excellence and value in the ones that make you more money? How can you be more profitable moving forward?
  • Did you experience any difficult or painful lessons this year? How/why did they happen/come about? What did you learn from them? What will you do differently in the future? Have you implemented/instituted changes to any of your policies/procedures/protocols and/or any other way you go about things as a result?
  • Even when it’s not what we want to hear when we haven’t been able to do or give our best, embracing constructive feedback from our clients is a gift. It may not always be delivered constructively and can make us wince, but when we face it head on, it can be a tremendous boon to our growth. What feedback did you receive this past year that may have been too painful to hear in the moment, but which could possible hold some kernels of truth and helpfulness in making improvements?
  • What do you need more of to generate more happiness, joy, satisfaction, contentment in your life and business? Likewise, what do you need to let go of to have more happiness, joy, satisfaction and contentment?

And always remember, fresh starts aren’t limited to the new year. Each new day is an opportunity to do-over.

I’d love to hear what you’d like to conquer in 2018 if you care to share.

Happy 2018!

Are You Building a Burnout-Proof Business?

Are You Building a Burnout Proof Business?

Good article from Zapier today: 10 Signs that You’re Headed for Burnout

This is why it’s so important to build a business around YOUR needs first, not clients.

Figure that out, formalize it, write it down, and say it out loud. Then, choose only clients, work, and business practices that align with those standards, intentions and values.

When all you do is chase after any clients without discernment, working just for the money, instead of instituting policies, procedures and protocols around the standards and values you want for yourself and your business, and you continue to work with less than ideal clients, that is a fast path to stress, overwhelm, then burnout and exhaustion.

And don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about making clients second-fiddle. Far from it.

It’s actually about the fact that by putting yourself first and building a business that serves YOU and your needs first, you are actually FAR better equipped to a) get better clients, and b) take exceptionally good care of those clients.

A business that doesn’t make you happy ultimately does no one any good, not you and not the clients.

Are You Celebrating Your Victories?

Are You Celebrating Your Victories?

As we near the end of 2017, have you been reflecting on your year and the things you wanted to accomplish?

Were you able to reach certain goals, projects and mileposts you set for yourself this year?

Remember, they don’t have to be gigantic.

Sometimes the most important milestones are seemingly “small,” but that doesn’t make them any less significant!

Each and every step you take in working toward something is an achievement. Even those hiccups and setbacks we all encounter along the way provide us with invaluable learning that helps us grow.

Success (as in moving in the direction you want to go, accomplishing that which you want to accomplish) is made up of hundreds of actions, stepping stones, learning, and small victories every single day.

Celebrate them! Use them as forward momentum! Give yourself credit! You are DOING it!

What are you most proud of accomplishing this year?