Archive for September, 2014

On Ageism and Business

On Ageism and Business

I emailed a question to my subscribers yesterday, and I’ve been getting such wonderful, inspiring, fascinating responses!

(Thank you so much to everyone who has responded! I’m slowly going through everyone’s emails and writing back.)

Basically, I wanted to know: Why are you in this business?

And not the obligatory, politically correct, goody-two-shoes reasons (a la “I just love my clients and helping people!”).

I wanted to know the real, down-to-earth, self-related reasons they chose to be in the administrative support business, what they are hoping to gain, to achieve in business; what they want their business to do for their life.

I was also curious about their money goals and what kinds of aspirations and feelings they have around money. I’m always curious about this because I notice a big element of guilt in this industry when it comes to money.

Among others, one theme I’ve been hearing a lot in these responses is related to age.

We already know that a lot of the younger women enter this business because they want to be around more in their children’s lives and be home to raise them while also nurturing themselves through professional pursuits and contributing to the household income.

(And guys, too; I’m not trying to exclude them. We just happen to be predominately women in this industry and we have different, perhaps even more, challenges than men in business so these conversations tend to be geared more toward women. Just FYI.)

But I’ve also been hearing from women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who basically encountered age discrimination in the world of employment at this stage of their lives. Many have shared a similar story about finding themselves being laid off and having difficulty finding work again, all the jobs seemingly going to younger people.

They state that they started this business because they were seeing no other options, felt they had no alternatives.

You can definitely detect a hint of dejection about these experiences in many of the responses. But what I see and hear in them is a resourcefulness and determination of spirit that says, “I am of value and I have something to contribute!”

I love this!

So getting older and how that is experienced while being in business is what what I’m curious about today… because I’m no spring chicken anymore and I’m going through a journey of coming to grips with that myself.

Does this relate to you? How have you been experiencing getting older in your life? Has it affected your professional life in any way (and if so, how)?

Have you ever encountered ageism/age discrimination in the workplace? Did that contribute to you starting your own business? Do you feel business ownership is more resistant to age-ism (why or why not)?

Do you feel (like me) that business ownership keeps your mind youthful and vital? Have you ever worked with clients much younger than yourself? What was your experience with that?

Would love to hear your thoughts and feelings and any other interesting anecdotes you have on this subject!

Picking an Email Name: Personal vs. Generic

Picking an Email Name: Personal vs Generic

I saw that someone asked about picking an email name, and I thought it was a great question.

Here’s my advice:

When choosing between your name (e.g., firstname@yourdomain.com or first.last@yourdomain.com) or something generic (e.g., admin@yourdomain.com or service@yourdomain.com), go with your name.

First, it’s more personable.

People do business with people. An email address with your name will create far more personal connection and rapport than something generic.

Those sending a message will feel more warm and fuzzy about you because they know they are reaching a real, live human being with name, not a cold, nameless, faceless entity.

Who wants to shake hands with a robot after all? (Wait, nerds, don’t answer that, lol.)

Second, generic emails (e.g., admin@yourdomain.com) are spam triggers. Many spam filtering algorithms see these as being sent by robots and will often sort them into the spam/junk mail folder.

If you want to make sure your message gets through while also nurturing personal connection with your prospects and clients, use your name: you@yourdomain.com or you.lastname@yourdomain.com.

(By the way, in the email account settings, be sure you enter your first and last name in the user information so when your email lands in someone’s in-box, they know exactly who it’s from and that it’s a real person, namely YOU.)

And since we’re on the topic, always use an email on your own domain.

Burner account emails (i.e., Outlook.com, Yahoo, Gmail) do nothing to help market your business.

For example, let’s say a contact refers your email to a potential client. Without your domain name on there, they have no clue what your website is (where they may want to go to find out more about you).

In this day and age, a service or provider without a website is one that gets dismissed out of hand. They might try to Google your name to see if something comes up.

On the other hand, they might not, especially when they have other service providers using emails on their own domain where they can instantly see where to go to learn more.

Make it easier for your prospects, because you never know when, where or how they might learn of you simply because they came across your email address.

Rant: We All Have to Pay Our Way in this World

Rant: We All Have to Pay for Our Own Way in this World

A colleague forwarded a comment to me from some listserv where apparently people had recommended me/my products to someone and her comment back was, “Lot’s of great ideas. Push seems to be to join/purchase.”

WTF?

What a ridiculous thing to say.

This is a business community and professional association. Of course there are things that you (gasp) have to actually purchase. What, do you walk through life holding out a tin cup to everyone you meet like some kind of panhandler on a street corner?

First of all, we don’t charge a membership fee to join, so I don’t know what she’s talking about there.

But more importantly, what on earth does that even mean? That I should give away everything for free? That she shouldn’t expect to pay for knowledge and training that was earned through experience and paid for with my own blood, sweat, tears… and money?

What a fricking freeloader/welfare/loser mentality.

And it’s exactly why so many in our industry struggle financially, never get ahead and close their businesses left and right: they expect everyone else to give everything away to them for free.

I would ask her: Do YOU work for free?

Do you go to the grocery store and say, “Well, all this food looks delicious, but the push seems to be to PURCHASE it.”

How would you feel if a client said to you, “Seems really great and highly skilled. But push seems to be she actually wants to be paid… in money…”

(You know, because food and clothes and utilities and rent/mortgages aren’t free and don’t pay themselves.)

I have my own practice to run. And all the free stuff that I do give away (which is a LOT) cost something… they cost me time, energy, attention and real money.

The sales of my business products, coaching and occasional classes are what fund all that so that I can continue helping the hundreds of people who turn to me in this industry.

I charge for those things also because I honor and respect my own value. And because it’s a proper business example. I wouldn’t be worth my salt as a mentor if I modeled anything else.

She’s obviously not my target market, whoever this was (because I work with success-minded women). I post this more as an example of what not to be like in business.

Her kind of attitude—the poverty/welfare mentality—is what will hold you back and keep you poor.

It’s one thing if you don’t have the money. There’s no shame in that. We all start somewhere and maybe you just have to save up and work extra hard to get the things that will bring you success.

But don’t devalue others and criticize them because they charge for the value of their time and expertise and the knowledge and guidance that will help you get somewhere in your business.

Pay for your way in this world. Everyone else has to.

And when you are given something for free—which is a gift, not a self-entitled right—have the good breeding to say thank you and show some manners and appreciation.

How to Have Clients Help Promote Your Business

How to Have Clients Help Promote Your Business

Does everyone you come in contact with in the course of your work on behalf of clients know that you are running a business (and might be able to help them or someone they know as well)?

If the answer is no, that’s a problem.

It doesn’t help to promote your business by allowing clients to view you as their personal assistant and introduce you as such to others.

When you call yourself an assistant, clients don’t tend to introduce you as an independent business owner. They will say things like “This is my assistant, Carolyn” without any further reference to your business.

This doesn’t make clear that you are in business and providing a service independent of that client.

Those you are introduced to may never “get” that because when they hear “assistant,” they automatically assume you’re simply part of that client’s business.

It misses an opportunity for possible new business connections.

It doesn’t do you any good to have clients who aren’t helping you in your business (i.e., making proper business introductions and actively promoting and referring you) as much as you are helping them in theirs.

And this isn’t about “bad” clients.

Clients only do what we allow them to. Most will happily comply with our standards if we only insist upon them and tell them what they are.

So, you want to examine your business practices and standards:

  • Always set proper expectations and use terminology that sets and promotes those expectations and proper understandings.
  • That means, never call yourself an assistant and don’t allow clients to call you “their assistant.” As a business owner, you are never anyone’s assistant–legally and practically speaking.
  • Always use your own business email address so that anyone you are in contact with always knows they are dealing with an independent business and can contact you directly if they should need administrative support themselves (or know of someone who does). Your email address on your own domain with a proper business signature with active link to your website is one of the ways to always be marketing and promoting your business.
  • Tell clients exactly how to introduce you to others. For example: This is my fabulous Administrative Consultant, [YOUR NAME]. She runs [YOUR BUSINESS NAME] providing administrative support and expertise to business owners like us. I wouldn’t have a business without her support and guidance.

There are several things you can do, right now, to reset expectations and understandings and have clients help you in your efforts to get new business:

  1. Put together a formal letter or email to all your current clients letting them know how to introduce you. It could start out something like this: Your recommendations, referrals and introductions are an important way for me to connect with new clients. And then give them the script (see my example above) you’d like them to use to introduce you with to others.
  2. Repurpose that email/letter into your next blog post and/or ezine article that goes out to your mailing list. Be sure you share it on your social networks.
  3. Add a section for this topic in your Client Guide that informs clients exactly what to call you, how to refer to you and how to introduce you to others.
  4. Include this topic in your new client orientations.
  5. While you’re at all this, tell friends and family members how to refer your business as well. For example: This is my [RELATIONSHIP], [YOUR NAME]. She runs a business called [YOUR BUSINESS NAME] that provides administrative support and expertise to [YOUR TARGET MARKET]. If you know of someone who could use her support, tell them to check out her amazing website!

Remember, you are not the “hired help.”

You’re running a business, and if you want to stick around for years to come, able to continue supporting the clients you love, promoting your business and keeping your roster full are vital to succeeding in that intention.

As always, I love hearing from you so let me know in the comments if this struck a chord with you. All my best!