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    Women Business Leaders reveal 7 Secret Ingredients For Women to Grow their Business

    January 7th, 2013

    The information in this post is from the Internet magazine, The Next Women and what was learned when about 170 ambitious entrepreneurs and investors met up at the University of Cambridge ideaSpace to network and discuss different elements involved in the growth of a business.

    What was revealed were the Seven Secret Ingredients to Grow a Business:

    1. Start with a Great Team

    According to Female Internet Entrepreneur and the NextMentor Jana Eggers, CEO of Spreadshirt, the key elements to build and maintain a good team are:

    • Communication and Trust
    • Fire people quickly and let people leave
    • Only trust negative references when hiring people
    • Have a simple goal, clear enough for all employees to understand and focus
    • Give both Guidance and Autonomy

    2. Develop A Strong Advisory Team

    Create an advisory board with a “star” entrepreneur who will influence business decisions and investors. The type of people you manage to get on board will reflect the quality of your product idea and business plan thus endorsing your idea.

    3. Adapt to Dynamic Markets

    Timing and adaptation to new markets is essential along with a market for the product or service. The customer base must be established and the market identified. Stay tuned to changing and emerging trends and adapt your business plan accordingly.

    4. Follow your Customers

    Successful serial entrepreneurs will keep telling you, “Follow your customers!”  An excellent entrepreneur will be able to predict what her customers will want in the near future.

    Care about what people say about you and your brand. The importance and influence of “word-of-mouth” in constantly increasing so good customer relationships are essential. Identify your company detractors, the ones who wouldn’t “recommend you to someone else” on the survey feedback, and follow up. You learn best from your mistakes.

    5. Have the Ability to Fund Growth

    Entrepreneurs have to find investors they can work with. Transparency and trust are key. The person who invested money will be working closely with the entrepreneur and her team for several years, so their relationship will be very determining. Be careful of the kind of money you take on.

    Any investment comes with a different baggage, different strings attached. You may want to think through carefully what is expected from you and manage expectations: accept the fact that you cannot do everything.

    7. Plan on Global Expansion

    There are 2 ways:

    • Choose a country where you already have competitors, implying the presence of relevant customers and markets,
    • Go where opportunities and gaps are and find the right local people and partners to work with.

    7. Learns from Failures and add Luck to the Mix

    There are no set rules to grow a business successfully but entrepreneurs learn from each other through shared knowledge and experience. People learn from their mistakes and from their competitors’ mistakes. Unfortunately, luck is also a big component of a growing business.

    As business leader Ashish Patel said, “I’d rather be with a lucky investor than a smart one.”

    As entrepreneurs learn from mistakes, adaptability is also a key skill to have to be able to follow the trend, market, and customers in order to grow a business further on a long term basis.

    The event ended with a few words by Mark Littlewood, the Founder of BLN, summarizing the main themes which came up during the Growth Forum: Honesty, Bravery, Passion, Simplicity, Great Advice and Timing.

    Summary

    To grow your business, it is essential to have: a great team, an entrepreneurial “star” on your advisory team, adaptability to dynamic market change, ability to follow your customers, resources to fund growth, foresight to expand market globally, and the ability to learn from mistakes. A little luck doesn’t hurt either.

    Read the entire article, Business Leaders reveal the 7 Secret Ingredients to Grow your Business

    http://thenextwomen.com/2010/07/20/business-leaders-reveal-the-7-secret-ingredients-to-grow-your-business/


    4 Ways Women Business Leaders can Utilize Visualization to Remain Positive

    April 25th, 2012

    I have just completed seven weeks of radiation where I received space-age-type treatments that invaded my chest wall with the intent of killing any cancer cells that had migrated from my breast. The weekend before I began my treatment I flew to Atlanta to spend time with my family.  As fate would have it, on my way home, I happened to be seated next to a friendly and talkative gentleman who told me to visualize that these rays were on a seek-and-destroy mission with the sole purpose of winning the cancer battle.

    As I lay there getting my first treatment, my body flinched as the long beeps told me of the invasion. Staying positive at this point seemed almost impossible as I contemplated the side effects of radiation; exhaustion, severe burns and a compromised immune system.

    I decided that as a woman business leader and entrepreneur, I had faced many other challenges, although none as daunting as this. But my response has always been to embrace my challenges rather than fear them. Why would this be any different?

    Here are some of the ways that I learned to create a positive experience:

    1.    I listened to music that evoked positive emotions during treatment. This proved to balance my thoughts and alleviate the fear. Once I took out the fear factor, I was able to release the vision.

    2.    I connected with as many people as I could who were receiving the same treatment as I was. Sharing stories and following their progress. I realized how fortunate I was as their stories unfolded.

    3.    I found that by being positive and open I encouraged new relationships. I got to know the therapists, doctors and staff. The care and compassion was definitely a factor in making the process more bearable.

    4.    Overcoming the fear and embracing the experience was definitely the key. I found that by the end of the seven weeks I was actually looking forward to my daily trips.

    There have been studies that describe how an optimistic outlook can literally help people live longer and happier lives than those with a pessimistic view of the world. I would love to share your stories of optimism and how your positive outlook helped you through a difficult time.

     


    Entrepreneurial Tips for Women Business Leaders from J. K. Rowling

    September 21st, 2011

    I recently visited the magical world of Harry Potter while attending a conference at Universal Studios in Orlando. I was accompanied by a visionary mentor who sometimes uses Harry Potter metaphors. It all came together for me on that ride … dare to dream and envision your most extravagant fantasies, stay true to your beliefs and approach the future with wonder.

    Susan L. Reid captured the essence in her article about lessons entrepreneurs can learn from J.K. Rowling. I’ve condensed her pointers for you here:

    Don’t rush to roll out your product
    Although Rowling had been a writer all her life, she was slow to publish. She said, “I had written two novels before I had the idea for Harry, though I’d never tried to get them published (and a good job too, I don’t think they were very good).” Rowling sets a great example of getting a product just right before presenting it to the world.

    When a great idea grabs you, grab back
    Rowling says, “Where the idea for Harry Potter actually came from, I really couldn’t tell you. I was traveling on a train between Manchester and London and it just popped into my head.” As business owners, we know what a great idea is. The problem is, we often question it. Rowling seized upon it and went with it.

    Persevere, persevere and persevere
    Rowling was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. In 1995, she completed her manuscript and handed in the book to 12 publishing houses. They all rejected it. She did not stop just because life was hard. Despite all the changes and setbacks she was experiencing, she carried on. As business owners, we would do well to keep her example in mind.

    Don’t let anyone sidetrack you from your goal
    Finally a small publisher agreed to publish the first book. Seven volumes of the Harry Potter series have broken sales records. What a shining role model Rowling is for business owners. She didn’t let anyone stand in the way of her goal—not even herself.

    Each of us has a unique contribution to make to the world
    Rowling never went searching for the kind of success she has received. “I just wrote the sort of thing I liked reading when I was younger. I didn’t expect lots of people to like them.” As an entrepreneur, focus on the unique something you have to offer to the world.

    My blog focuses on women business leaders and entrepreneurs, and being an entrepreneur myself makes me especially aware of business opportunities and turning ideas into reality. Please read my blog, “3 Ways Women Business Leaders can Manage Great Ideas,” for tips on capturing potential business opportunities.


    Women Business Leaders: Try Idea Promotion Instead of Self-Promotion

    September 6th, 2011

    I am in the business of promoting others. Being in the public relations business has afforded me the opportunity to learn and refine the art of promoting. However, promoting myself is another story. I was a shy child with an unimpressed sense of self. It took me years to realize that my intuition and experience are valuable assets to my clients, but what about me? I have to admit that now, even as a woman business leader and business owner, I struggle with self-promotion — even though I know all the rules.

    I found a great article by Kristi Hedges on how to think of self-promotion as idea promotion, instead. I thought her concepts offered some valuable lessons for women business leaders, and I’ve condensed highlights from her article here:

    1. Find a cause that combines your career and your passion.
      Determine what you value about your career, industry and profession. Consider what you talk about with your close colleagues or dream of changing with your co-workers. For example, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg talks often about the importance of women to forge ahead in ambitious leadership roles.
    2. Put yourself in places to take advantage of your position and provide a larger platform.
      Now that you have your ideas, you have to find opportunities to express them. Write a blog, author articles online, or develop a Twitter following. You can make thought leadership a professional side project by starting a small think tank or industry watch group. This is easier than it sounds if you take advantage of social media channels.
    3. Extend your reach.
      This may be the most uncomfortable part, but it’s also where the leverage lies. This is beyond professional networking; it’s idea networking. Find others who share your ideas and figure out ways to work together.

    For example, a colleague of mine blogs about social media and just joined forces with an entrepreneur group to talk to members about building their businesses through social media marketing. Some of you may be thinking, “Isn’t this self-promotion in another form?” And, of course, you are promoting yourself alongside your ideas. But remember that this is about becoming more comfortable, and to that end, consider others you respect who put themselves out there for causes they genuinely care about.

    I like Kristi’s advice on idea promotion. I would add that you need to impress yourself before you can impress others.  If you are interested in growing your business, consider reading my blogs: “Women Business Leaders Reveal 7 Secret Ingredients for Women to Grow their Business” and “Seven Strategies for Women Business Leaders to Achieve their Business Goals.”


    Women Business Leaders: 6 Steps to Surviving Business Trips

    August 23rd, 2011

    Have you ever returned from a business trip totally worn out – only to have to turn around and do it again? I came across a great travel survival guide that offers some excellent tips that women business leaders can use to take care of themselves while traveling. I would also add that you may want to feed your adventurous spirit by taking an hour to explore your surroundings and try to maintain a well-balanced diet.

    Here is a condensed version of an article by Tony Schwartz: “Six Keys to Surviving on the Road.”

    1. Do whatever it takes to get enough sleep
      There is no more critical form of renewal, period. Only one out of every 40 people requires less than seven hours of sleep to feel fully rested, so the odds are that person isn’t you. If you struggle to fall asleep, try a non-narcotic sleeping aid, such as Melatonin.
    2. Get at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical exercise in the morning
      If you don’t do it then, you won’t do it. (But don’t do it at the expense of sleep.) Choose a hotel with a good fitness facility, unless you’re happy to exercise outside.
    3. Never, ever take the key for the minibar
      There’s nothing good in it, trust me. If the minibar doesn’t have a key, consider asking that it be removed from your room before you check in.
    4. Breathe between meetings
      Take at least one full minute to breathe in through your nose to a count of three, expanding your abdomen, and then out through your mouth to a count of six.
    5. Call home
      It’s incredibly important to stay connected with the people you love – for you and for them. It’s also best to call when you’re feeling reasonably relaxed and unrushed.
    6. Don’t let airport delays get you down
      Always leave the day before your meetings and be sure you have at least one backup flight. Travel with plenty of stuff to keep you happily and productively occupied on the plane or if you’re delayed.

    Remember, it is all about balance. Take time for yourself, even when you’re on a business trip. Here’s one of my favorite blogs on balance: “ 10 Ways Women Business Leaders can Achieve Balance in their Lives.”


    The Top 7 Email Strategies for Women Business Leaders

    August 16th, 2011

    I have been drowning in my emails lately. As a woman business leader and business owner, I realize I’m going to get a lot of emails, and when I spend over an hour a day away from my computer, I come back to a slew of emails. My stress level rises in proportion to the number of emails in my inbox. My productive time as well as my psyche is being usurped by this supposedly “efficient” way of communicating.

    I have decided that I would like to regain control and win the email battle. I’d like to share excerpts from Laura Vanderkam’s article, “7 Habits of Highly Effective Emailers.” The following are seven habits that I am going to try to master with the hope that my email demon will be defeated!

    1. Lower the volume. When you email the same people too many times per day, they pay less attention. Ideally, your emails will be like eagerly awaited letters that, as a kid, you used to check the mailbox for.
    2. Don’t ask to be kept “in the loop.” Trust your employees to do their jobs without your constant oversight. If you don’t think they’ll execute against goals you’ve set unless you’re cc’d on every email, get a new team.
    3. Return email in batches. Rather than answer each email as it comes in, set windows twice per day (when you’re not concentrating on more focused work) when you can crank out 10 replies at once.
    4. Be clear. If something could be misconstrued or misunderstood, requiring a 20-email chain to clarify, pick up the phone or go talk in person.
    5. Spell correctly. Use correct grammar. Not only does it look more professional, in this day and age you never know when emails will wind up in the newspaper or forwarded somewhere you never intended. You’ll look like a fool if you type like a teenager sending texts.
    6. Leave the iPhone or Blackberry at your desk sometimes. You don’t need to check email in line at the deli counter. Really. It can wait. Say hi to the person making your sandwich instead.
    7. Remember, email is not your job. Like meetings and conference calls, it is a tool to do your job. If all you’re doing is filing and answering emails, you’re probably not getting anywhere. Focus on results, not your inbox, and you’ll get a lot more done.

    Is the email monster overwhelming you?  I am determined to do better, but I know it will take time and effort to really change my ways. Have you made a change in your business processes that has increased your productivity? Share it with me here and your idea may inspire others!


    7 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Encourage Their Team’s Creativity

    July 1st, 2011

    Creativity is the core of my business, whether it’s creative execution or merely ideas. My business is as good as my team — who I rely on to produce extraordinary work for my clients. As a woman business leader and the owner of a strategic communications business, it is my job to maintain a high level of creativity on a daily basis.

    But it’s not just about hiring creative people. As the leader, it’s your job to also “inspire” creativity in every team member. Kevin Eikenberry recently posted some really good pointers in his article, “7 Ways to Help People Use their Creative Potential” . Here are my thoughts about Kevin’s insightful tips:

    1. Truly believe
      I think Kevin makes a really good point when he says, “You must believe that others have the potential to be creative.”  This may be difficult if you have preconceived notions about your employees, but Kevin suggests giving them the opportunity to be creative might surprise you.
    2. Show them
      Kevin suggests reminding your team members of their past successful ideas. Sometimes a gentle reminder of an individual’s creativity can inspire them to believe they can be creative again.
    3. Redefine creativity
      Not everyone is good at every process. Someone may be good at brainstorming while another may be better at fine-tuning or tweaking ideas. Find their strengths and help them to hone those skills.
    4. Encourage
      Everyone needs encouragement, so make sure to be the cheerleader now and then. I think positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage creative thought.
    5. Help them
      Rather than do it for them, help your team members to help themselves. Give them support and back-up so they aren’t afraid to try.
    6. Be specific
      It’s hard to come up with creative ideas when you are unsure of the task. Kevin recommends that leaders should try to be crystal clear about the challenge, making it much easier to come up with creative solutions.
    7. Allow sufficient time
      Your team members might feel as if they are being required to “perform,” so Kevin suggests allowing time to let their creativity rise to the challenge. Feeling as if they are under pressure can make employees feel stressed rather than creative.

    Kevin’s final thoughts are this: it’s not only important for you to encourage creativity in your staff, but you must also allow yourself the time to be creative. In the rush to get work done, women business leaders and entrepreneurs sometimes need a creativity break, too!

    Here’s an additional blog about keeping employees engaged: “4 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Keep Talented Employees.”


    10 Tips for Women Business Leaders to Improve their Listening Skills

    June 17th, 2011

    I have always believed that listening is more important than talking. One can only gain knowledge and insight by listening rather than being listened to. As a woman business leader and entrepreneur, I have found that the information you gain by actively listening always enhances the information you impart later!

    Here are some tips to sharpen your listening skills from an article I found on dumblittleman.com, “10 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills,” and adapted from a book entitled, “Excellence in Business Communication.”

    1. Minimize internal and external distractions
      Put that doctor appointment next week out of your mind until you can give your full attention to that issue. Distractions, even small ones, can really hurt your listening power.
    2. Adjust your listening to the situation
      Are you watching TV or listening to a Webinar on your computer? You’ll need to adjust your level of attention to each specific situation.
    3. Show you are listening with nonverbal communication
      We all do this without being aware we are doing it. Things like nodding, turning your head to one side, smiling or making eye contact are all examples of nonverbal communication that shows you are engaged.
    4. Determine the most important points
      Remember when you were in school and you had to take notes while a teacher was discussing an important lesson? Resurrect those skills and make a mental note of the speaker’s major points, jot them down as reminders or repeat them to yourself to help you remember.
    5. Demonstrate empathy
      Everyone responds to empathy. Demonstrate that you are listening by repeating their concerns and showing that you understand.
    6. Rather than give advice, just listen
      Professionally, it pays to be a good listener and not jump in with unwanted advice. Save the advice for a more opportune time — if you feel it’s needed.
    7. Don’t interrupt
      Let the speaker finish his or her point before adding your input. I know it can be tempting to think about your answer or think of questions while the speaker is talking, but try giving the speaker your full attention.
    8. Don’t prejudge
      Often, we make judgments about people from the way they look, speak or dress. Try to take those things out of the equation and listen to the point the speaker is making, instead of thinking about his or her appearance.
    9. Stay focused on the subject
      It’s easy for the mind to wander when the subject of a conversation isn’t important to you. The trick is to remain focused on the speaker and train yourself to concentrate.
    10. Remain clearheaded, even if the topic is emotional
      This is where most people get into trouble. Staying calm is a learned behavior, but if you make the effort, it becomes easier to do. Take your own emotions out of the picture and think of it as if you were an observer — not a participant. It will help you distance yourself and stay calm enough to discuss it rationally.

    It’s important, I think, to remember that it’s not all about you. Sometimes listening to others and stepping back for a moment can help you hear what is being said, rather than waiting impatiently to chime in with your viewpoint.

    Having trouble concentrating? Here’s a related blog that offers tips on avoiding interruptions: “Seven Concentration Skills for Women Business Leaders.” What are your biggest concentration busters? Leave your comments, and I might write a blog about the worst offenders.


    7 Concentration Skills for Women Business Leaders

    March 7th, 2011

    Seven Concentration Skills for Women Business Leaders

    In today’s business environment, we’re constantly bombarded by interruptions, making it harder and harder to concentrate. As a woman entrepreneur and business leader, I … now what was I about to say?  I’m exaggerating here, but I think you get my point. As businesswomen, we are not only distracted by phones, texts, e-mails, employees, meetings and and other day to day necessities, but we also have the interruptions of family, friends, running a household, maintaining our health and more! It can cause anyone to lose focus!

    I recently found these pointers on concentration from blogger Ali Luke, and I liked what I read so much that I had to share my thoughts with you here:

    1. What’s the purpose?
      In other words, says Ali, make it personal. Find the “purpose” of your task and how it relates to you. I think this is a great tip because I know that when I feel that I’m doing something with very little meaning, it seems to drag on forever. Think about what the benefits will be when you finish your task, and it will prompt you to get it done.
    2. Preparation is key
      Ali says it’s sometimes a mistake to jump into a project without the proper preparation, and I couldn’t agree more! It’s tempting to charge ahead full-speed when tackling a pesky project, but resist the urge. You’ll regret it later when you lose steam and stall, so take the time up-front to prepare.
    3. Gimme a break
      According to Ali, it can actually be counter-productive to spend hours forcing yourself to stay on-task than to incorporate breaks into your schedule. I know I tend to force myself to sit at my desk until I finish a difficult task, but I am going to make a resolution to take regular desk-breaks. Even if it is only to run to the ladies’ room!
    4. Keep out!
      Ali has a good point. It’s very simple to just close the door, but few of us do it! With my business we have an open-door policy, however I never have a problem if someone needs some quiet time to concentrate. Put a note on your door to let others know you’re trying to get a project done, and go to it!
    5. Take a snack break
      No, this is not an excuse to overeat! But Ali is right, spacing your meals with in-between snacks can help keep your blood-sugar levels even, resulting in fewer cranky moods and focus issues.
    6. Turn it off
      Your Internet connection, that is. While not all of us can do this, Ali’s idea is a good one. If you can’t turn it off entirely … at least turn off the volume so you won’t hear the constant e-mail alerts! This is one of my favorite tricks.
    7. Go slow motion
      Ali saved her best advice for last, and I think she was talking directly to me! I am terrible at slowing down, and I have to really make a concerted effort to do so. But, she’s right. If we’d all slow down, we’d have fewer mistakes and fewer problems.

    The take-away here is this: listen to your inner voice. We all have it, but we tend to ignore that little voice and push forward when we really need to stop and breathe. Following Ali’s tips can’t hurt either!


    7 Strategies for Women Business Leaders to Achieve their Business Goals

    January 4th, 2011

    You can create a successful business strategy – and reach your goals – by collecting the right information and asking the right questions.

    In his new book, Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution, Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons explains how women business executives can identify holes in their planning processes and make smart choices. I’ve found that throughout my life as an entrepreneur and woman business leader, setting goals and questioning my approach regularly helps keep me on track. Here are the questions Robert recommends every business leader should ask themselves:

    1. Who are my customers?

    Clearly identifying your primary customer will allow you to devote all possible resources to meeting their needs and minimize the resources you devote to everything else. This is the path to competitive success.

    2. How does my company value shareholders, employees and customers?

    You’ll need to define your company’s core values, and how it will respond when faced with difficult choices. In other words, if your company’s priority is its shareholders, is everyone on the same page?

    3. What performance indicators am I tracking?

    Performance tracking means that you must set the right goals, assign accountability and monitor performance. Find out what’s important to you and your company’s bottom line and make sure it’s covered in your performance-monitoring plan

    4. What risk boundaries have I put in place?

    Make sure your company sets specific boundaries for employees … for example, codes of conduct or ethics statements to limit potential risk for your business.

    5. How am I mentoring innovation?

    We all know that companies that fail to innovate will eventually die. You must push people out of their comfort zones and spur them to innovate.

    6. How committed are my employees to helping one another?

    What is the company culture your business promotes? For most companies, it’s critically important to create standards so that people will help each other succeed — especially when you’re asking them to innovate.

    7. What strategic uncertainties keep me awake at night?

    No matter how good your current strategy, the only certainty is that things will change. And, adapting to change is critical to survival.

    Excerpts from Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution. Copyright 2010 Robert Simons. All rights reserved.