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Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category
I was listening to This American Life this weekend on the radio as is my usual Saturday morning ritual.
One segment, Mon Ami Ta-Nehisi Coates, had me reflecting about how your life and world-view changes when you are in business, and how some of your relationships can change (or even end) as you grow and perhaps make more money and become more successful in your business and life.
In the segment, producer Neil Drumming talks with his long-time friend, Ta-Nehisi Coates, about Coates’ newfound fame and their friendship in that new context.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, for those who don’t know, is a celebrated American writer and journalist who has been hailed as the next James Baldwin. With the publishing of his latest book, he found himself suddenly famous and rich, which doesn’t always set well with those who “knew you when.”
The overarching take-away I got from their conversation was Drumming’s discomfort with Coates success and improved financial circumstances.
It seemed to me he felt that Coates “newfound” tastes and interests were pretentious, that he was getting a bit uppity simply for enjoying the fruits of his success, that since he came from more modest roots, that’s exactly where his tastes and interests should stay.
But whose problem is that? Is it Coates’ or Drumming’s?
Think about that.
Whether Coates’ success was something he methodically sought to achieve or came as an unexpected surprise, why shouldn’t he be interested in and partake of experiences he now has access to?
If the shoe were on the other foot, wouldn’t Drumming (and anyone else) do the same?
Or would he deprive himself of all this life and success now afforded him just to please other people’s sensibilities of who and how he should be in the world and what status level he should keep himself at? Why should he do that?
I see this dynamic at work in our industry as well.
Those in my circle have grown a more sophisticated sense about business and our place in the business world.
As a result, we ditched the “assistant” moniker long ago because it held us back in our business dealings and earning potential by keeping us mired in employee/less-than/subservient mentality, even in ways we weren’t fully conscious of.
Business owners aren’t assistants; the word isn’t even a term of business so it has no place in our vocabulary.
It also negatively influenced clients, causing them to think of the relationship more in terms of employer/worker instead of (correctly) a business-to-business one.
So, we grew in our esteem and understanding of ourselves in relationship to our clients. We weren’t their assistants or little worker bees. We are their skilled administrative experts and trusted administrative advisors.
But there are others in the world who are threatened by that view.
They fear taking a bigger, leading role in their business and in their relationships with clients. They want to stay in comfort zones that are easy and familiar, that don’t rock any boats, that don’t challenge themselves or others too much.
They are fine with settling, for not asking for “too much.” Because, to their thinking, who are they to desire something more or better or stand any taller than anyone else? They aren’t able to imagine anything more or better or different for themselves; they daren’t. Because that would mean stepping away from the herd.
And that’s okay if that’s where they’re at and want to stay.
What’s not okay is for them to want and insist that you hold yourself back and stay at their level if you are yearning to grow, to have a happier business, to get better clients, to make more money, to have more life, to place a higher value on what you do and how you help clients, to learn how to charge more for that, and to call yourself something that better respects your role as a business owner and sets better expectations and understandings in your clients.
How about you? Can you think of a few people who are a negative, detrimental influence in your pursuit of your business dreams and growth? A friend or family member who belittles them and consciously or unconsciously sabotages your efforts?
Maybe you’re hanging around in groups and surrounding yourself with others who keep you from thinking bigger about what you do, who don’t know any better.
I’m not even saying it’s necessarily intentional or conscious on their part. That just seems to be the nature of herd mentality: keeping the status quo, nurturing mediocrity, attacking anything they don’t understand (yet). It’s instinctive.
But if you are going to grow in your business, if you are going to get better clients, if you going to ever learn how to ask for and get higher fees, to believe in and understand the higher value you offer and how to provide the context that conveys those things to your would-be clients, it’s going to require you to break away from the herd.
I’m back from my Sundance Festival road trip and it was amazing!
I had so much fun and packed so much stuff into a short time frame (left on January 26 and got back Feb 2).
I posted pix of my explorations on our ACA Facebook group. Come join us there if you’d like to take a look. (Note: If you request to join and your profile doesn’t provide any info about your administrative support business, be sure you also message me either on Facebook or by email.)
I just LOVE road trips. Travelling by car is my favorite way to travel because you can go at your own pace, stop when you feel like checking something out, and see cities and countryside up close and personal that you haven’t before.
It’s a much more intimate way to travel and see and explore places that would be bypassed in any other mode of travel.
Some of my road trip highlights:
- Um, attending the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL!
- Meeting and talking with all kinds of interesting industry people from actors to a film composer to filmmakers and others who work behind the camera.
- Having Robert Redford walk past me so close we actually touched. And yes, he is handsome as ever.
- Also, walking past George Lucas as he was exiting one of the many celebrity Suburbans that began showing up later in the day on Main St.
- Shopping for souvenirs and gifts.
- Having an amazing pedicure in Park City.
- Getting restaurant recommendations from locals and eating at some amazing places including some fantastic greasy spoons. (For anyone not familiar with the term, a greasy spoon is a high honor. It’s the kind of establishment that is usually locally/independently owned where typically fresh/home-cooked type food is served. These are often the BEST places on the planet for amazing down-home breakfast served any time of day.) I highly recommend No Worries Cafe in Park City.
- Seeing the Great Salt Lake in person for the first time (I’ve only ever seen it by plane other than that).
- Seeing country in Oregon, Washington and Idaho I’ve never been to before.
- Oh, and lots of new souvenir travel magnets to commemorate my travels and explorations!
And it was scary crazy how everything worked out so perfectly. This was a totally spontaneous decision to go. I hadn’t actually registered for Sundance this year, didn’t know if I’d be able to even see any films (and if I didn’t, I was okay with that; it was enough just to go), and I thought there was no way in hell there would be any hotel rooms left, especially not without any advance reservation (and if there were, they’d cost a million dollars; most rooms start at $500 during festival week and go up into the thousands.).
I just left and trusted that everything would work out the way it was supposed to. And it did!
Everyone I talked to could not believe how lucky I was. When there were still hundreds of people on waiting lists for tickets, for some reason I scored seats. And the first hotel I called actually had a room available. For some inexplicable reason, they put me in a $500 room and only charged me $129/night (I stayed two nights). The only thing I can think is that I really hit it off with the gal I spoke to on the phone. She loved how I had just hopped in the car and took off.
This trip was also one of personal growth as well as it was the first time I’ve traveled such a distance (3 states!) all by myself.
Since I’d never done anything like this before alone, it was scary to me in a lot of ways.
And I aced it! Not one bit of anxiety being that far from home by myself and not one pang of homesickness (other than being ready for my own comfy cozy bed after a week).
I gained a huge sense of accomplishment and empowerment. It was a reminder to me that the world is my oyster and I can do anything I set my mind to do (and have).
And while I do love travelling with a partner, I also enjoy my own company and meeting and talking to new people immensely.
This trip was a precursor to a bigger plan I’ve had brewing for several years, which is to travel the U.S. (first) and some parts of Canada, meeting my members and colleagues, and seeing the country by car.
I’ve sort of kept it on the down-low because I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I’m also not one of those people who benefits from putting plans out there as a way to make me accountable to myself. The minute I do that, I get blocked, so I just don’t. And life also simply got in the way.
First, we moved to Europe for a couple years. Then six months after we returned to the U.S. for good, I left my man of 12 years which was a huge, life-changing decision. Then I wasn’t sure how to even undertake something like this all by myself. And then my dad’s health took a turn for the worse and I had to put him first and help care for him.
Once we got dad’s health stabilized in January, I decided to make this trip to do something for me to recharge and renew.
I’ve long been a lover and devotee of independent film so it was perfect timing and the festival gave me a great destination focal point.
And besides being a business networking/writing retreat, I had also wanted to try to meet a few colleagues along the way. This trip was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment decision and since I announced it so last minute (like, the day I was leaving, lol), by the time I had heard from three Portland area colleagues, I was already near Idaho.
So, I did learn a lot of things in this first trip which are going to help me in my next member/colleague meeting travels:
- After a certain point, you have to stop planning and trying to identify every little detail and JUST DO IT! There’s no way you can figure everything out upfront and too much planning can easily become a procrastination vehicle.
- One of the things that was stopping me before was trying to figure out how I was going to accomplish a full cross-country trip. What I realize now is that the best way I’m going to accomplish it is doing it in different legs, not all in one shot. For example, I’m thinking my next trip will be down the Pacific coast and/or I5 corridor through Oregon and California and than maybe over to Nevada with a turn-around for the return leg of the trip in Sedona, NM. I haven’t completely figured out how I’ll work any midwest and east coast and southern legs, but I’m thinking for those trips, it might make sense to fly somewhere once I’ve mapped out that particular travel route, and then rent or lease a vehicle there. Anything west of the midwest states, I can use my own car.
- I love to travel and I can and have continued running my business and taking care of clients on the road (even in a different country). However, I do work best from my main command center (my home office, lol) and the luxury of my big main computer. I do not prefer working on a laptop. I can and have, but it’s not how I do my best work. In recognizing this, I can plan accordingly. And all the more reason why I will benefit from doing these trips in mini-stages instead of one long stretch. That way, I can come back to home base, regroup and then go on the next leg of the journey at a time that’s optimal for me.
- I need to figure out how to monetize the venture so that besides the expenses being a business write-off, it also funds itself instead of just being an expense. That includes putting more focus and attention on sales from the ACA Success Store. I’m thinking that in addition to just meeting up with my industry mentors and colleagues, I could offer some paid in-person, day or half-day consulting and coaching spots for those who want to take advantage of the opportunity while I’m in their city or town.
- There are people who are super smart about getting sponsors and things like that for trips like this. I would love to learn more about that, but currently I’m not one of them and I’m okay with that about myself right now. And the thing is, I don’t really want to make a huge production out of things. Because once that becomes the case, for me, it takes the joy out of it and then I don’t want to do it. I can’t let not having sponsors to make these trips pay for themselves be the thing that stops me from doing it.
- I need to find the balance between being spontaneous (which is what “does it” for me) and not having everything turned into a big production, and planning and making announcements with enough advance notice that people CAN have enough time to plan on meeting up when I’m in their city. What I know about myself, bad or good, is that I am commitment phobic, lol. Not about taking care of clients or anything like that. I don’t know where it comes from (though it does seem to be something I developed when my first/late husband passed away nearly 20 years ago). I just know that the minute I have to RVSP to something is the second I absolutely, positively don’t want to go. I know, it’s crazy. But that’s just me. Therefore, I know I wouldn’t do well making a big deal out of planning a meet-up, securing a specific venue or conference room, yada, yada, yada. Yuck! I hate that stuff! I like to keep things casual, informal, personal. What I envision is letting my peeps know (on the blog, via the ACA mailing list, etc.) that I am close to their city and inviting them to contact me to meet up. Then when I hear from someone, asking them where a great spot would be to get together, a fun restaurant or pub or something, and once we decide that, inviting others in the area to join us. Casual, see?
I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t know how it will all work out. And I don’t have any specific time frames right now. But that’s where all the magic, fun and adventure of it is!
If I was to come to your area, would you like to meet up for a meal, do something fun together, or maybe be my tour guide for a day? What do you like to do for fun and/or what would you show me in your city? I’m game for just about anything. (Except skydiving. I have no desire to skydive and I’m okay with that, lol.)
Would you love an opportunity for private, one-on-one, in-person business consulting and guidance if I came to your city? I’m exceptionally gifted at identifying where people need help in their business, but tell me, what areas of your business would YOU like more help with?
Really, really smart thinking by Admiral James Stockdale:
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end (which you can never afford to lose) with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do was network, have business owners immediately want to work with us, and instantly sign on for our retained support without any questions?
The reality is getting to actually work with retained clients takes a bit more effort.
You have to get at least some small idea about the new client’s business.
You have to gain some insight into their needs, goals and challenges so you can figure out whether and how you can help them.
You have to be able to articulate your value in a way that makes sense to them so that they aren’t asking you, “Why should I pay you $X when I can pay bozo over there $5/hr.
Am I right?
So I’m curious about where colleagues are having trouble spots in their consultation process.
Do you have any particular stumbling blocks when it comes to conducting consultations?
Are there any areas of the consultation process you’d like to be better at?
Or maybe you feel like you do well in your consultations, but the clients aren’t signing on or calling back. Is that the case for you?
Whatever the issue is in your consultations, I really, really want to hear from you. Post in the comments or send me an email and let me know where you’re getting stuck and what you’d like to improve.
I sent an attorney the administrative support contract templates I purchased from your site. I contacted him knowing very well that it would be costly, but he offered to look them over at no cost. After not hearing back from him, I asked him once if he’d had a chance to look them over and he mentioned via email that he would look them over during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Well, as of today, I’ve yet to hear from him. Since he offered, I don’t want to bug him. I would really like to start marketing the business, but I’ve been hesitant because of this minor glitch. I’ve worked with contracts before and they looked fine to me, but contacted him because it’s smart to have an attorney look things over. I’m seriously thinking of writing him off and simply moving on. I really need to move forward with my business, but I’m nervous about working with my first client. I’m sure you can understand my dilemma and frustration. To be honest, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned in the last 15 years. Crazy, isn’t it? –DE
Not crazy at all. It’s scary starting a business and until we get things going and find our groove, nervousness, second-guessing, negative self-talk and low confidence are normal things we’ve all experienced. The trick is to power through them and go for it anyway!
So is that the only thing holding you up? If so, don’t give it another thought.
So you’re nervous about going live, so to speak. It’s perfectly understandable.
I’m willing to bet that waiting around for this attorney’s approval on the contracts is a way to keep dragging your feet (even if you might not consciously realize it). So I have two thoughts to offer you:
- Yes, I think you should write the attorney off at this point. It’s holding you up and when it does that, it’s no longer a kindness or a favor to you. Don’t allow empty promises to keep you from moving forward in your business. You were prepared to pay for this service originally. Find another attorney and pay him or her. Remember: You get what you pay for and you can’t expect much when it’s a freebie.
- For legal reasons I have to qualify my assurances by saying that you should always have an attorney look things over. That said, I work with attorneys, three of my uncles are attorneys, I developed these forms with my own attorneys and have been using them for over 12 years of business. So again, I want to encourage you to move forward. Waiting around for clearances and permissions and okays and not trusting in your own good counsel is going to keep you from rockin’ and rolling. Find another attorney to look them over when you get a chance, but in the meantime, you don’t have to wait on that to get started.
As far as being afraid you’ve forgotten everything, trust me you haven’t. It’s like riding a bike.
You’re simply experiencing the natural, usual fears that all of us have about putting ourselves out there.
We all have the inner self-critic in the back of our heads second-guessing everything we do. But you have to ignore that voice and plow forward.
Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to know everything.
Some things you might be rusty at, but you’ll pick them back up with use.
There will be other things you might have to learn.
And then there are going to be other things you simply don’t need or want to provide.
Sometimes, the best advice is to not even think about all the what-ifs you may encounter.
Focus instead on getting that first client, taking that first step.
It might even be helpful to have an honest conversation with any new client letting them know that while you are an administrative expert and can definitely help them, you are new to business and there are going to be things that you’re still learning as you go along.
This will clear the air and take some of the perfection pressure off you. I also think most clients will find it such openness and honesty very refreshing and earn you their even greater confidence.
You’ll tweak and hone and fix things as you go along, which is to be expected in any business regardless, but if you don’t ever get started, you won’t ever get anywhere.
Go for it!
Couple quick thoughts to share…
I can’t count the number of times I’ve extended myself to help someone out, both strangers and those I know, and never once received a thank you.
Some would say, when you give, you should be giving without any expectations in return.
And I wholeheartedly agree with that on one level.
At the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting a simple thank-you.
Everyone wants a little acknowledgement, even if they try to fool themselves into thinking they don’t.
It’s part of “being in this together” and building relationships. It’s about giving back to those who have given to you. And it’s just good breeding.
If we are all trying to be better people, I think it’s good to do take a personal audit every now and then and ask ourselves, Am I a giver or a taker?
Do you sign up for things just to mine other people’s stuff?
Do you join forums and then lurk around… making active, contributing members feel uncomfortable, like there is a stranger in their midst who is eavesdropping on their conversations and whose intentions are unknown… who is just taking and benefiting from their input without contributing anything in return?
Do you use people to get what you want, but don’t consider what those who have helped you might need or appreciate in return?
When someone goes out of their way to help you when they don’t have to, do you acknowledge that? Do you remember to say “thank you?”
Those two simple little words go a long way.
Do you publicly acknowledge their help so others know?
This extends to your client relationships as well. You never want to take their business for granted.
One small little gesture I make that clients of mine have told me means so much to them is that when I receive their payment (even if I’m the one processing it to pay myself), I always, ALWAYS, email them and tell them ”thank you.”
Every single time.
Some might think after the first few times you wouldn’t need to bother. But it’s the small things and paying attention to seemingly insignificant details that are often make the most meaningful, memorable impact.
So don’t be a user. Don’t be a taker.
Give back as good as you get.
Remember to say thank you to your clients for their business (and payments) and to all the colleagues, mentors and others along your journey who help you, each and every time.
I am unendingly thankful for making the decision so long ago to go into business for myself.
Creating, growing and running a business has expanded my mind and added to my life in so many ways.
Being a business owner has made me a more conscious person, not just in business, but in life.
The experience has taught me so much about relationships, about myself, even what life is about.
It’s allowed me to live and feel and experience life more fully and vibrantly.
Self-determination is the epitome of freedom, and I’m so grateful to live in a country and be in a business that allows me to have that freedom.
I got the nicest compliment from a colleague last week. Really made my day.
She had been busy working on some marketing stuff for her business, and asked for some feedback on a small part of the picture.
I’ve been swamped with client work and projects. It would have been so much easier to just say, “Looks great!” and been done with it.
But I saw some things that could be improved to better accomplish what she wanted, and I gave her my honest-to-goodness thoughts, and didn’t think anything more of it.
She sends me back an email, saying simply, “See, this is why I love you to pieces.”
She probably had no idea how much that simple sentiment meant to me, especially at that moment. It got me to about one of the reasons why I formed the Virtual Assistant Chamber of Commerce
Socializing and having folks who will give you an encouraging “attagirl” (or “attaboy” as the case may be) without hesitation is so important. It’s necessary, it’s supportive, it’s what creates community and bonds us with each other, and we all need that.
And in our industry, you can go to any number of organizations and get that.
Sometimes that’s all you get, though.
Just as important is honest feedback so that we can help each other grow professionally as business owners.
I truly believe that an equal kindness is the person who is willing to share that honest, constructive feedback along with the “attagirls” and “attaboys.”
But not everyone sees that as a kindness; they think it’s being negative or not being supportive.
For me, I think it’s THE most supportive thing a person can do–truly giving of one’s self and experience, knowledge and perspective to help someone else increase their knowledge and raise their consciousness.
It’s really easy to give pats on the back. What’s not so easy is telling the truth about what you really might think about something even though it might be helpful.
We all worry about hurting someone’s feelings. How many times have you thought, “Gee, I really want to share this with that person, but they (or everyone one) are going to think I’m a know-it-all/negative/mean/unsupportive/fill-in-the-blank?”
But feedback—real, meaningful, useful feedback—is vital to our business growth just as much as encouragement and the attagirls/attaboys.
I wanted to create a community where people who aren’t playing pretend business and have a dream of making real success (and real money) of their business, could not only get encouragement and support, but also that honest feedback from their colleagues that is critical to their growth and success.
For me at least, that’s the greatest kindness I can offer, and it’s what gives my heart the most joy.
Honest thoughts with helpful intentions is NEVER negative.
I know I can be very direct in my writing, and often I simply don’t have the time to play with wording to make sure the delivery comes out perfect and isn’t confused with being harsh or rude.
Hey, I’m working on it, LOL. BUT, I’d rather do that than simply take the easy way out by giving false praise or saying whatever I think someone wants to hear or because that’s what everyone else is saying.
That would absolutely be out of integrity for me.
So let’s not forget about those other kindnesses we can do for each other, and help each other grow and reach beyond comfort zones.
What about you? Have you found yourself ever not contributing your true feedback due to peer pressure? Did taking the easy way out ever bother you?