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I have been a business owner/entrepreneur/starter for two years, five months, 29 days and six hours. I’ve been through A LOT in that relatively short period of time–some really high highs and some devastatingly low lows (all of which you will probably read about on this very blog in the not-so-distant future). I entered the world of solopreneurship and now, partnership, with a considerable amount of experience in my field of expertise–strategic communications. So, I thought I knew a lot about what my business entailed and how to handle said entailments. Thought is far and away the key part of that sentiment because though I knew quite a bit about strategic communications, especially where nonprofits are concerned, I knew very little about how to build and manage a business. Being an excellent (if I say so myself) communicator and networker and relationship-builder was a great start, but guess what? That’s right, it was just that–a mere start!
So, what did I do about it? Well, I started reading; much like you’ve done because you’re obviously reading this right now.
I love to read–I love to read books, blogs, journal articles, especially pieces that can influence my thought process or give me another perspective on something I’ve been trying to master in my business. Over the past two years, I’ve read hundreds of blog posts and articles and quite a few books about everything from registering your business to online content creation management. The latter of which I’ve known a lot about for quite sometime, but I know enough to know that I don’t know everything and that there’s someone somewhere out there who knows more than me. Even if all you have at this point in your entrepreneurial journey is the idea for your new business, the best way to develop, grow and shape your business is by reading all you can about every aspect of business. And, I want to be clear: that doesn’t mean that you take everything that you read as the gospel and apply it all to your business. That would be a very, very, very bad idea.
However, I do think that Dr. Seuss had it right when he said ““The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” So, I recommend you read everything you can and use your discernment to process what you’ve read or what you read on a daily basis. The things that resonate with you–the sentiments, tips, tricks, thought processes that you feel in your heart and soul–keep, act-on, bookmark for later! And the ones that don’t, you can handle in a few ways. For the things (advice, tips, tricks, general sentiments) that I read and violently disagree with–I mean loathe with every cell of my being–I use as fodder for content. Don’t look at me like that! I, simply, respond to it and state why I disagree so passionately and I do that on my blog to spark conversation or dialogue to get the opinions of other folks–other entrepreneurs. And, another way that i deal with pieces i’ve read that don’t particularly resonate with me, but that don’t necessarily evoke any real passion either positively or negatively, is to ignore them. You can adapt my methodology (or not), but you should definitely start (if you’re not already) making reading about improving your business, business processes and even your own personal development a major priority in your quest to develop, grow and sustain your business.
I say all of that to say, that we’re launching this column to share some of the resources that we consider required reading (because well, they’ve helped us…duh!) on our path to take over the world and that we think you’ll find helpful. We’re going to share and analyze everything from specific one-off blog posts and articles that we’ve found helpful over the years, to whole blogs (or the bloggers behind them) and books. Reading is fundamental to your and your business’ success, we want to see you succeed so check out our “Required Reading” every time we post, we can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
This week, we delved into the archives of mAmLtDaRt Musings and found a refreshing and reassuring post for first-time or “starter” business owners. This post which was published some time ago (we cannot remember when) is about stepping outside of your comfort zone to develop and grow your business. If you’ve ever shied away from an opportunity or multiple opportunities to advance whether entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial, this message is definitely for you.
Finally taking a little time to compile the mAmLtDaRt/ MAM press clippings over the past couple years. I have always been a bit apprehensive about pumping press coverage of both myself and the brand. Often thinking it’d be a bit self-absorbed. I recently read an article that said this type of apprehension breeds “false humility”.
I’m still uneasy about it but what I’ve learned in art and business is that you have to be a bit uncomfortable — it stretches you. If you aren’t uncomfortable, you aren’t growing or evolving in either realm. So that said, I am going to stop stalling and start organizing these links.
What have you been afraid or apprehensive to do that will help you stretch yourself or your brand? Leave a comment or tweet me @mamltdartbrand on twitter. Let’s stretch together, I have it on good authority that working out is easier with a partner…
Photo Credit: Guidinginstincts.com (http://bit.ly/12qpiWf)
Making mistakes or bad choices are par for the course in this thing we call business ownership, but a single bad choice or mistake does not have to equal devastation. It’s all about your recovery. In a post she wrote for mAmLtDaRt Musings months ago, Melissa encourages us all to use our blunders as a learning opportunity and to make an effort to do damage control wherever possible.
Last week, my very business and branding savvy sister sent me a link to a popular blogger’s page. Said blogger was reaching out to her followers via blog post to figure out how she might be of assistance to them in their various ventures. My sister was like “this is a great opportunity for you. Tell her about your book. If she reads it and reviews it— she has thousands and thousands of followers.” And she was right, I knew that but I was also mired in a virus that had latched on to me like one of those movie-alien-creatures or a parasite to host and was sucking all of the life out of me.
I don’t know about you but when I’m sick, I could careless about branding. mAmLtDaRt, although my baby just can’t compete with a raging fever, cold sweats, coughing and overall I’m dying-I know-I am-I’ve seen the light-itis. Therefore, I scribbled a one line note to the blogger. Something along the lines of “I wrote a book, it’d be really appreciated if you reviewed it…boom!” No backstory, no real info. just a link to the e-book online.
I know, I know, very Good Fellas/ Soprano-esque of me but hey, I’m only human and I was sick. This morning got to thinking about it…like “wait, did I really do that?” And then reality hit…”yes, yes, I did do that!”
I didn’t panic. I pulled out my do-over button and pushed it. Chances are even if she saw that first email, she read it like “what?” and quickly disposed of it. So I penned a new, more polite and comprehensive email asking for assistance and a few hours later, I had a response. She requested the free copy of the book I offered in order to do the review!
Now, righting every misstep isn’t as easy as sending an email or rewriting a letter. However, admitting you were wrong or made a mistake and asking for a do-over is perfectly acceptable as a business person. This isn’t playground tag or primary school lunch trade, backsies are allowed. Take back control of the situation and move forward in a positive direction. Don’t know how? Here’s a solid start:
Address the mistake head on.
Make an apology if necessary.
Research or simply ask what the appropriate way to move forward is.
Don’t make the same mistake twice, especially not with the same person.
I know that the title of this piece may seem a little disingenuous especially for those of you who know me personally and know first-hand that I, myself, am indeed a university graduate. However, I’m really not sure that I am better off for having spent ridiculous amounts of money on a college education when there are more than a few very successful entrepreneurs who never stepped foot on a university campus as a student. That said, about 18 months ago, I read an article that seemed to tout college or university as the only path. And, it infuriated me! So, I wrote a blog post in response to said article on my company ( Agitate Media–now, one of a few since the advent of MAM Squared, LLC. just a few months ago) blog, The Movement. I ran across that post today and must say, that I am as passionate about this issue now as I was then. Hence, I thought I’d share my post on this topic with the hopes of sparking the conversation again and perhaps, getting a feel for how other entrepreneurs feel about it. So, here’s the post I published on The Movement in June 2012:
I am a 27-year-old, starter OR small business owner OR entrepreneur OR whatever the new, exciting or trendy buzzword is for people who feverishly work full-time to make their passion a reality. I’m that and my business is growing in terms of name recognition tremendously. Clients are falling in my lap at every turn, but cash is slow to flow. I am also a college graduate with over $30,000 USD in school loan debt (oh, and, I had scholarships and grants) to my name that is weighing me down like an anchor to an ocean liner. I am indebted to the United States government and to blood thirsty private education lenders like Sallie Mae. I often dream of being free of the shackles of debt my tertiary education has left me bound by. It is at those times that I think of the many successful business owners out there who never graduated from university. I think about how they had a head start on me in terms of time to learn and grow and perfect their business before life’s pressures of bills, true adulthood in the way of self-sustainability (rent, car payments, etc., etc.) all took over. I also think about the fact that they were debt-free before they became business owners which means that they didn’t have to add insult to injury by piling small business debt on top of school loan debt. So, it really befuddles me when I read articles like, “A Gap in College Graduates Leaves Some Cities Behind.”
Studies and articles like this one assert that the future of the nation’s cities is predicated upon how many people go to college. But, I’m starting to think that the state of both the U.S. and the world economies indicate otherwise. How many unemployed or underemployed college graduates have to enter the market for us to realize that perhaps, we need to take a different approach to preparing our young people for the world that awaits them?
I am, by no means, advocating the dumbing down of our young people, BUT I am protesting the overwhelming, continuing indebtedness of the next generation. It’s been proven time and time again that one does not need a college education to own and run a successful business or by extension, achieve a measure of socially acceptable success. And, I can anecdotally prove by citing all of my many classmates who are grossly underemployed after now being out of school for five years or more. Let’s see, there’s the girl with the print journalism degree who is gainfully employed at the neighborhood grocery store as a cashier. Oh, and there’s the super smart waiter who graduated Summa Cum Laude with not one, but two degrees—one in mathematics and the other in physics. Last, but certainly not least, what about the poor chap with a degree in education who is detailing cars at the local carwash? There has to be a better way.
And, I think organizations like the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and the National Federation of Independent Business’ Young Entrepreneur Foundation have the right idea. They have programs in place that don’t necessarily discourage higher education pursuits, but certainly instill or recognize and reward an entrepreneurial spirit in young people of high school or secondary school age and younger. I think we need more programs like these—programs that take this work a step further—and perhaps, they are already out there and I just haven’t heard about them so I’ll throw my idea out and you guys can tell me what you think may or may not work OR throw out your own ideas. I like the idea of starting incubator programs throughout the nation (and the world) geared toward secondary school graduates. These incubators would help them identify their passion or a viable business pursuit, provide them with mentors and micro-financing as well as guide them through starting a sustainable business and offer them some support through the first two years of their new business.
For those who lack entrepreneurial skills, let’s make apprenticeship and intrapreneurial programs available to them where they can learn practical skills that they can apply in the workplace as well as critical thinking and analysis skills that they don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars in scholarship, personal or loan funding to access. I know that many people will disagree with me and I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I started Agitate Media to rally people to think outside of the box, to look for alternative solutions where others have tunnel vision and so this is my offering to start a new discourse on this issue.
“The best lesson learned — No one owes you anything. The beauty in such a revelation—you [or your business] owe them nothing in return.
Setting yourself free of obligation unlocks, unblocks, and releases literal and figurative blockades. [do not try to win new customers by feeling like you have to be and do everything for them]
Operate in a space of freedom & truth…say what you can do, say what you can’t…do what you can do, leave what you can’t— this may open doors you’d previously closed with your need to do and be everything.
In doing so, you forge an honest relationship and set realistic expectations of your business with your audience.”- MAM Squared, LLC.