The Surprising Connection Between Your Soul & Money Might Surprise You

Ask any businessperson worth their salt to define “success,” and one of the most common answers will most certainly be “making money.” All enterprises strive to be profitable as part of the fruits of their labor. Money, after all, is what makes the world go round. So, it stands to reason that more money would be a worthy goal. Or is it?

Should money be at the heart of our business goals?

I sat down with my former client Lynne Twist, who was a guest this past week on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and is the author of the newly updated and re-released book The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life. Twist, who is also a fundraising consultant, says that while money is no doubt a way to measure productivity and ensure financial security, its place at the center of our business world may not be the best strategy.

“When we think of how we earn, spend and invest money as a carrier of our intention, we can see the often-obsessive devotion to money, profits, accumulations, market share and the grasping for more in a pathological, dysfunctional and unconscious light. When we make money itself the destination, we get confused,” says Twist.

Make money the fuel of your destination.

“On the other hand, when we know that money is the fuel toward that destination — a much higher purpose than simply the accumulation of wealth — we can create a healthy relationship not only with money but with ourselves. We can actually see that it’s our vision or mission that we are really all about, and that the financial resources are what support us in getting there.”

So how can today’s business leaders — who need to manage both short-term results and long-term impact — learn to think about money as a motor of purpose, rather than just a measure of success? Twist suggests starting with what drives you.

Find what drives you.

“If we look at what drives us, we find that it’s the doing of something, and doing it well, that often comes first for the most successful people. And a vital part of that is doing something fulfilling and meaningful, beyond just making the business successful,” says Twist.

She goes on to explain that when companies ground their business and business decisions in a deeper commitment, it often generates results that reach far beyond the bottom line.

“When the vision of the company and the service that we’re providing (and not just money) are the point, our financial resources become what allows us to achieve that. Then we have our attention on the right thing,” says Twist.

Set up an opportunity for service and contribution.

Twist says that business owners can also help their employees participate in a larger vision by creating opportunities for them to serve their families and community with such actions as:

• Creating a policy that allows for a certain number of paid volunteer days

• Generating HR policies that include thoughtful child care and family leave

• Creating a matching fund for employee charitable contributions

The meaning of money to Millennials.

Consider the case of companies like TOMS or Warby Parker, who began with social consciousness as an integral part of their brand from the beginning. In a world concerned with sustainability, they have both been hugely successful and stayed true to their deeper mission. This way of thinking about money and business that Twist proffers is particularly important as companies engage in the recruitment of millennials, many of whom hold contribution and community at the heart of their work-life goals.

“Today’s younger people are looking for career success with a soul. I think we’re in a new business movement that has service, sharing, collaboration and making a difference at the heart of it,” says Twist. “For everyone who strives to be among the best, their work is a representation of what’s in their soul. After all, what’s the point of your business if it, and you, don’t have a point?”

To learn more about Twist’s philosophy, check out my podcast with Lynne Twist about The Soul of Money in your life. This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

Personal Branding Lessons From The Democratic Presidential Debates

Personal Branding Lessons From The Democratic Presidential Debates

Personal Branding Impacts How We Vote

Personal Branding of The Democratic Candidates

In last week’s blog post I wrote about the personal branding of the Republican Candidates.  This past Saturday the Democratic presidential candidates followed suit, and I paid attention to how each of their personal brands played out.

Here are 3 personal branding lessons business people can learn from them.

Hillary Clinton: Keep Your Eyes On the Prize

Shortly after Bill Clinton had been elected president, I met two women at a party who had been college school chums of then Hillary Rodham. They were keen to tell me how even then, Clinton’s friends would say, “She will be the first woman president someday.” Her brand was solidly in place even at University, and she has not stopped since.

In a post-debate CNN focus group, when asked which candidate they thought had the experience to deal with the current security issues facing the US, all hands went up for Clinton. Love her or hate her, Mrs. Clinton has built her personal brand consistently — for decades. Through thick and thin, up and down, she has kept her attention on her goal, pivoted where necessary and kept her personal branding in alignment.

Martin O’Malley: Be Smart and Accessible

Of the three leading Democratic candidates, O’Malley’s personal brand comes across as the most ‘everyman.’ To point: According to Forbes, O’Malley is the poorest of the presidential candidates. He has a net worth of almost zero and a mere $800,000 in his bank account.

To top it off, O’Malley has been hitting the campaign trail with rolled-up sleeves and (literally) strumming a guitar. On a recent appearance on The View, he led the hosts in a sing-along to the Taylor Swift song “Bad Blood.” Just listening to some of his sound bites from Saturday’s debate shows his man-of-the-people positioning:

  • “You will never hear this from that immigrant-bashing carnival barker Donald Trump.”
  • “Our symbol is the Statue of Liberty, not a barbed-wire fence.”
  • “A woman told me my son is not a pair of boots on the ground.”

Yep, he’s folksy alright, but he’s also clearly someone smart and competent — and that’s his winning combination: a relatable guy. You know, someone you “would like to have a beer with,” and at the same time trust to make executive decisions.

Bernie Sanders: Get Back to Basics

A champion of economic and social fairness, Sanders has overcome his self-proclaimed Socialist label by sounding less like a strident revolutionary and more like your slightly eccentric (but sweet) Uncle Syd, the one who always taught you right from wrong. Consider some of his comments from Saturday night:

  • “We pay for this by demanding that the wealthiest people and largest corporations, who have gotten away with murder for years, start paying their fair share.”
  • “We bailed out Wall Street. It’s their time to bail out the middle class, help our kids to go to college tuition free.”

His personal brand of supporting those not at the top of the economic (or social) food chain is resonating with young people in particular. A recent poll from McClatchy-Marist reported that 58% of 18- to 29-year-olds are leaning toward Sanders and away from Clinton.

At a time when many voters — Democrats and Republicans — don’t trust government, Sanders’ personal brand of back-to-basics “do what’s right and fair” may be just what speaks to the people.

This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016.

 

Personal Branding Business Lessons From The Republican Presidential Debates

Personal Branding Business Lessons From The Republican Presidential Debates

Business man holding a cut out sign of the facebook cursor

Personal Branding Lessons For Business People

Watching the Republican presidential debate tonight, I took note of how the candidates’ personal brands played out. Here are 3 personal brand lessons business people can learn from just a few of them.

Donald Trump: To Thy Known Brand Be True

As Popeye famously said, “I am what I am.” Whether you consider him to be a breath of fresh air or a blow hard, no one can deny that Trump is always (without apology) “the Donald.”

No matter the stage (be it on a presidential campaign or as a tough boss on The Apprentice), he embraces his personal brand and wears it proudly. Trump’s consistency in his personal brand campaign style and talking points reinforces and solidifies his brand image.

Chris Christie: Show, Don’t Tell

In last night’s debate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said:

  • “I’ll be able to fire a whole bunch of IRS agents.”
  • “When President Christie is in the oval office, I will have your back.”
  • “It is suffocating small business; it is suffocating the folks who are trying to make a living.”

These statements are both emotional and visual in nature — which also makes them memorable. Governor Christie didn’t just give statistics and facts; he consistently answered questions by weaving together stories, strategies and even humor.

Christie knows how to paint a picture, and this has the impact of making his personal brand feel more dimensional than some of his more one-note opponents.

Marco Rubio: The Power of Personal Story

As he did in the previous debate, Rubio referred to his mother being a maid and his father being a bartender. He’s talked about growing up with modest means, his Cuban immigrant family and recent financial struggles. In short, he is the living embodiment of the America Dream — in action.

Later in the debate, he remarked again about the importance of vocational training. Coming from his background, he has the credibility to say it. Rubio makes himself accessible and authentic by connecting his personal story to his points of view.

In Personal Branding – Even The Small Stuff Counts 

The Washington Examiner recently did a post on the personality of the 2016 presidential candidates using an online Twitter evaluation tool called Analyze Words. The tool looks at emotional, social and thinking styles — based on each candidate’s recent tweets. Among the Republican results:

  • Jeb Bush appears to be an optimist.
  • Ben Carson is upbeat — but with a low analytic thinking style.
  • Marco Rubio scored high for “in the moment” thinking.

I don’t think that tweets (which may or may not have been written by the candidates themselves) are the best indication of a contender’s brand. I do, however, feel that much can be learned from listening to how the candidates respond under the pressure of fast-paced questioning.

A Personal Brand Is Not Static

While Donald Trump may be the current Republican front runner, a recent likability poll from McClatchy-Marist reported that 49% of Republicans said that the more they hear Trump — the less they like him. By contrast, in that same poll, 58% of Republicans surveyed said the more they hear Marco Rubio, the more they like him.

The lesson here? A personal brand is not made (or broken) by one meeting, one interview, one action or one debate. If the presidential candidates don’t know that already — they’re about to find out.

This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016. Pre order on Amazon.com now.

 

 

 

 

Are You a Multiplier or a Diminisher?

Are You a Multiplier or a Diminisher?

Drawing on interviews with more than 150 executives and on her own experience as the former vice president of Oracle University, Liz Wiseman, author of the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, argues that leaders are either Multipliers or Diminishers:

We’ve all had experience with two dramatically different types of leaders. The first type drains intelligence, energy and capability from the people around them and always needs to be the smartest person in the room. These are the idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment.

On the other side of the spectrum are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations. These are the Multipliers. And the world needs more of them, especially now when leaders are expected to do more with less.

For this week’s blog, I interviewed Wiseman to get her take on how small business owners can multiply or diminish those who work for them.

Q. What exactly is a multiplier?

A. A multiplier is someone who uses his or her intelligence to amplify and bring out the smarts and capability of those around them.

Q. What is a diminisher?

A. The multiplier’s evil counterpart who always needs to be the smartest guy in the room and shuts everyone else down.

Q. What other differences did you find between managers who are multipliers and managers who are diminishers?

A. To begin with, there is a big difference in how each of these types sets direction. Diminishers tend to be know-it-alls in how they set direction. They base strategy on their insight. They only see what they know and then never ask their company to do something other than that. In this way, they limit what’s possible in an organization because their business can only take on something they have an answer to or know how to do.

Q. What about managers who are multipliers?

A. In contrast, multipliers play the role of challenger. They ask the big strategic questions and contribute what they know of the markets and trends to frame up the organization’s challenge. They ask questions that make the organization stretch and take on something that seems impossible, but frame it in a way that makes it possible.

Q. Don’t multipliers add their own knowledge to the mix?

A. Yes, but they are comfortable asking questions. They have a strategic agenda, but not all the answers. They let the organization figure it out.

Q. Is the way a business owner makes decisions impacted by which type they are?

A. Yes. Diminishers are the decision maker. They are quick to determine what should happen and isolate themselves to an inner circle of trusted advisers. Their point of view is that the smart people in the know should make the decisions, and the rest of the company should execute.

Q. How does this impact the rest of the business?

A. The problem with this is that the diminisher thinks they are being effective and agile because they are making rapid decisions. But the rest of the company is struggling to understand why these decisions were made, so they are slow to execute. So diminishers make great strategic decisions that don’t get implemented very quickly or effectively.

Q. How do multipliers approach this?

A. Multipliers tend to be debate makers. They frame a decision with, “Here are the key questions,” and then assemble brainpower and key players to weigh in on the topic. It may take longer to make the decisions, but because everyone has had their voice heard and has insight into why something is being implemented, the decisions are executed more intelligently and rapidly.

Q. How big is the difference really in the results diminishers versus multipliers get from their people?

A. We studied 150 leaders in 35 different countries across four continents and found that diminishers got less than half of people’s intelligence and capability — about 48 percent. Multipliers, on the other hand, got twice as much (1.97 times) greater intelligence and capability out of their people.

In the end, Wiseman says that staff reported that working for both diminishers and multipliers could be exhausting. But here’s the difference: Those who worked for diminishers said they found it exhausting and frustrating, while those who worked for multipliers found it exhausting yet exhilarating.

Are you more of a diminisher or a multiplier? In what way? We would love to hear your comments.

Study Shows We Are Overworked and Overwhelmed

Study Shows We Are Overworked and Overwhelmed

Any small businessperson who currently swims in the swirling mass of a high-pressure workplace doesn’t need another study to tell him or her that they have reached their limit. However, just in case your overflowing email inbox and chaotic to-do list weren’t proof enough, according to a national study released earlier this month by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute, one in three American employees are chronically overworked.

“Ironically, the very same skills that are essential to survival and success in this fast-paced global economy, such as multitasking, have also become the triggers for feeling overworked,” reports Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute and a lead author of the study. “Being interrupted frequently during work time and working during non-work times, such as while on vacation, are also contributing factors for feeling overworked.” Key findings of the study included:

Fifty-four percent of American employees have felt overwhelmed at some time in the past month by how much work they had to complete.

Twenty-nine percent of employees spend a lot of time doing work that they consider a waste of time. These employees are more likely to be overworked.

Only 8 percent of employees who are not overworked experience symptoms of clinical depression compared with 21 percent of those who are highly overworked.

In addition, as we round the corner into summer, the study also found that 36 percent of employees had not taken and were not planning to take their full vacation days. Ironically, however, of the employees who did take one to three days off, 68 percent returned to work feeling relaxed, and 85 percent who took seven or more days away report that they returned more refreshed.

As for the source of these warrior work habits, the study highlighted several key factors including:

Lack of Focus. Fifty-six percent of employees say they often or very often experience having to work on too many tasks at one time and/or experience interruption during the workday, making it difficult to get their work done. Sixty percent of employees who very often have to work on too many tasks at the same time feel highly overworked, compared with only 22 percent who sometimes experience excessive multitasking.

Job Pressure. Eighty-nine percent of employees agree somewhat or strongly that they never seem to have enough time to get everything done on the job, and those who experience greater pressure feel much more overworked. Fifty-four percent of employees who feel highly pressured on the job are highly overworked versus only 4 percent of those who experience low levels of job pressure and 18 percent who experience mid levels of pressure.

Low-Value Work. Twenty-nine percent of employees strongly or somewhat agree that they spend a lot of time doing things that are a waste of time. More importantly, 51 percent who feel they have to do a lot of low-value work are highly overworked versus 25 percent who don’t feel this way.

Accessibility 24/7. The electronic leash of cell phones, computers, texting and email has blurred the lines between when we work and when we don’t. The study showed that the respondents who were in contact with work once a week or more outside of normal working hours more often reported being highly overworked (44 percent) than those who had little or no such contact (26 percent).

Wait a minute; wasn’t technology supposed to be the panacea that would automate our most mundane tasks and bring us the leisure time needed to improve the quality of our relationships with friends and family? Apparently not.

While there are no simple solutions to how a small business owner can keep his or her staff and self on the sane side of productivity, there are some standard practices to consider implementing, including:

• Offer more flexible work hours so staff can customize their schedules to meet their personal needs to a greater degree.

• Experiment with telecommuting to allow more work to be conducted from home, lessening travel time.

• Do a quality workflow audit of your business to determine where wasted efforts and rework exist.

• Create a no-cell phone/text/email policy in meetings. The meetings will go faster and be more productive.

• Train all staff in the skills of time literacy, including how to manage interruptions, overcome procrastination and use focused time planning to get maximum work done, in minimal time.

Oh, and for heaven’s sake, please take a vacation this summer — your small business will thank you.

What are your biggest overwhelm and overwork challenges? We would love to hear your comments.

Mobile Devices Are Creating Meeting Madness

Mobile Devices Are Creating Meeting Madness

A few weeks ago, I was off site at a client’s office facilitating a strategy session. At the start, everyone in the room was constantly checking their cell phones for email messages, texting and attempting to be both in the meeting and working — at the same time.

When I suggested we would get further in a shorter amount of time by focusing on the agenda in front of us and putting away the electronics for a few hours, I received looks that screamed everything from, “Surely you must be joking,” to, “Heretic!”

“I need to check my email,” stammered one participant.

“I’m on deadline for a project,” said another, barely looking up from his keyboard to make the point.

“But we always answer our phones, even in meetings,” said another.

I’ll spare you the ugly details, but what ensued was a discussion about how the constant use of technology impacts our focus (hence productivity) and even our sanity.

Things have gotten so out of hand, in fact, that a June 2011 survey by Qumu conducted by Harris Interactive revealed that the majority of those surveyed (62 percent) believe that during work meetings, their co-workers are sneaking a peek at their mobile devices. The most common ways people believe others are stealing a glance at their handhelds include:
47% – Hiding their mobile device under the table
42% – Excusing themselves to go to the restroom
35% – Hiding their mobile device in their folders/notebooks/papers
9% – Pretending to tie their shoes
8% – Creating a distraction

Interestingly, 37 percent of the respondents didn’t think “sneaking a peek” was necessary — they thought people would just look at their mobile devices in plain view. It’s a slippery slope, and it seems the embarrassment of not paying full attention in a meeting has been trumped by the self-justified importance of being wired in.

The real problem with all this mobile madness is that it can take a heavy toll on our relationships with others at work and has been proven to dramatically reduce our productivity.

In one study, the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London found that when workers are constantly juggling emails, phone calls and text messages, their IQs fall 10 points.

Another study by Rubinstein, Meyer and Evans found that when people switched back and forth between tasks, there was a substantial loss of efficiency and accuracy, in some cases up to as much as 50 percent.

In my experience, small businesses suffer just as much as major corporations from their constant checking of cell phones in important meetings and even one-on-one conversations.

And while big businesses have a much larger group of staff to cushion the impact, small businesses are by nature tight on people resources and need to get the most productivity out of those they do have.

But most of us don’t need a study to tell us what we see in front of our eyes daily –that distraction is bad for business. So if you’re ready to take the leap and let go of your mobile device in meetings, here are some ways you can step away from the cell phone and come face-to-face with your focus.

• Make it company policy to not use cell phones during business lunches, one-on-one meetings with staff and customers or in-group meetings.

• Don’t bring your computer into meetings for note taking. Instead, use a recording device or take notes the old fashioned way — on paper with a pen. If you do need to use your computer to take notes, use a software program to lock yourself out of your email for the duration of the meeting.

• Create a cell phone collection box and gather up all cell phones at the beginning of meetings and give them back at the end.

If all of this isn’t enough to make you want to throw your cell phone out the window during your next meeting, consider this report just in from TeleNav.
One third of us would rather give up sex than part — even briefly — with our phones.

How has the use of cell phones during meetings impacted your productivity? We would love to hear your comments.

How Small Businesses Land Superstar Clients

How Small Businesses Land Superstar Clients

I did a post for this column on identifying bad clients and knowing when to fire them. In the emails and comments that followed, many of you mentioned the flip side of the coin — building a business based on ideal clients.

These are the clients we created our companies to serve. The ones who make it all worthwhile. They are the customers who, when they ring us up or ping us with an email, brighten our day. Interestingly enough, they are often also the best paying, most profitable and least pain in the (fill in the blank) clients we have.

But how exactly does a small business secure this magical stable of superstar clients? It starts by defining what makes up your unique ideal client profile.

“The ideal client profile is a clear description of the type of client you would love to have more of. It may be an exact replica of a client you’re working with today. Or it could be a combination of qualities you’ve seen in past and current clients,” says small business coach Maria Marsala.

I asked a roundup of small business owners, experts and authors to give me their tips, take and wisdom on the ins and outs of small businesses and ideal clients. Here’s what they had to say.

The concept of an ideal client profile can be revolutionary for small business owners who have assumed that all business is good business. If a business depends on referrals, finding the ideal customer profile will have a long-term impact. These customers spread the word, attracting more customers like them. Taking on customers that don’t fit the profile also generates referrals — but for less-desirable business. Time spent with customers outside the target profile takes business owners further from their goals, making success more elusive.
–Joellyn Sargent, BrandSprout Marketing.

Ideal clients must appreciate the value you bring to the table and have realistic expectations. They also need to be willing to do their part in whatever process or journey you go on together. When clients meet these criteria, you can do your best work, instead of spending time bickering or playing games.
–Patti DeNucci, Author of The Intentional Networker

The first challenge is to get your ideal clients to step out of the crowd so you can begin that conversation. This becomes easy only after you understand that it’s not about getting someone’s attention, it’s about getting his or her interest. Two things get our interest: When someone talks about a problem we have and don’t want and/or a result we want and don’t have. The best way to get more of your ideal clients to seek you out is to ask and answer these questions.

  • What problems can I solve through my products and services?
  • What changes, or results, can I help create?
  • Who has these problems?
  • Who wants these results?

When you have these answers clear, they form the foundation for all your marketing.
–Dov Gordon, The Alchemist Entrepreneur.

The most important attribute to look for is trust. If a potential client or existing client trusts you completely, then you can be most effective in your role. Trust means fewer questions and disappointments. Clients who will never trust you take too much time challenging every recommendation you make, reducing efficiency and frustrating both parties.
Dylan Valade, Web Designer.

Whether you determine your ideal client profile by asking and answering a series of questions or graphing the greatest attributes of your best customers, taking the time to articulate who your A-list clients are is smart small business all around.

What makes up your ideal client profile? We would love to hear your comments.

Does Your Small Business Need a Virtual Assistant?

Does Your Small Business Need a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual Assistant. The mere utterance of these words can make a small business owner ecstatic or apoplectic — all depending on their experience with this increasingly popular administrative help.

I won’t bore you with the details, but my first foray into the world of VAs was fraught with every mistake you can make and left me gun-shy about reaching out for such help ever again. Luckily, I was gently coaxed by some fellow entrepreneurs to try again.

This time, I did my homework, stood my ground and made smarter choices, and I’ve happily been using VAs ever since. In fact, I’ve had such good results that I’m of the mindset that almost every small business could benefit from hiring one. Here are just a few signs that a VA might be a productivity enhancer for your small business.

You’ve blown a business opportunity because you missed a deadline to follow up.

You’re not on top of business development because you have no up-to-date client and prospect database.

You have exciting work projects you would like to take on but always seem to be too tied up with the day-to-day running of your business to get to them.

You work nights and weekends to keep up with routine administrative tasks.

You have routine work items that you don’t like doing which take time away from other more creative and important tasks.

If you’re shaking your head at this point and saying, “Huh, what is she talking about,” stop reading. If you’re nodding your head, read on to learn the best practices for bringing a VA on board to your small business.

Kathy Goughenour a virtual assistant trainer, recommends these five steps to successfully outsourcing work to VAs.

1. Discover the routine tasks you dislike doing. During the next week, keep a log of all your activities. At the end of the week, sit down and review the list and determine which activities you need to do yourself, and which you could delegate to a VA. For example: uploading a week’s worth of pre-written tweets, physically posting your weekly blog, following up on invoices, etc. Those are perfect projects to give to a VA.

2. Find a list of potential VAs. As with all good resources, the best place to start is within your own network. Send out an email to a list of business associates, telling them a bit about what you want help with and asking if they have a VA they would recommend.

Goughenour also suggests searching Google by entering “find a virtual assistant.” “There are many sites that specialize in training and/or placing Virtual Assistants,” says Goughenour. “They are like the VA version of a temp agency. You can also check VA associations, such as VAnetworking.com and ivaa.org.”

3. Screen the candidates for compatibility and professionalism. Now that you have come up with some candidates the next step is to do some research, first by reviewing their websites and secondly by conducting a phone interview. Goughenour suggests covering the following questions in the interview.

• Do you have experience in handling (insert task you want done)?
• What are your hours (times, days) of operation?
• What are your fees? Do you bill hourly, by project or on retainer?
• Do you have the time availability in your schedule to take on my project?
• How quickly will you get back to me when I email or call you?
• Do you have a team to support you? If yes, will I be working directly with you, or will I occasionally work with other members of your team?
• What services do you provide (and what services don’t you provide)?
• Can you give me an overview of how you work with clients?
• How long have you been in business?
• Are you in full-time or part-time practice?

If they pass muster on the interview, ask for and contact at least two references.

4. Start small. Once you have done your due diligence and found the VA you think might be the delegation partner of your dreams, start with a small project as a way to test your theory. Let the VA know up front that you’re beginning with a trial project to see how things go.

5. Hire slowly, fire quickly. Doing your research up front helps minimize problems down the line. However, on occasion, once you begin working with a VA, you may find that despite a brilliant start, things turn sour. If your VA misses several deadlines, makes the same type of mistake again and again, or is difficult to deal with, you may decide to call it quits. “It’s best to put the request to terminate the services in writing,” says Goughenour. “Be sure to include the date on which the services will cease and any work already paid for that you expect the VA to complete prior to that date.”

Do you have any tips about how to hire or work with a VA? We would love to hear your comments.

Inspiration Breathes Life Into Branding

Inspiration Breathes Life Into Branding

One of the first things I do when I start working with new clients on their personal or business brand is to ask them to consider what mood or energy they consciously strive to bring to anything they do.  In other words:

What is it that you can be counted on for in terms of your presence? Not what do you do (the description) or even the how (the mechanics) of what you do, but the way you do it.

You can think of this as the style, the energy, the mood you bring to any situation you are a part of.  Clearly identifying and consciously practicing the inspirational aspect of your brand is key.

For example, one of my highest goals is to always bring creative inspiration to my clients. No matter what I’m doing — be it a speech, a writing assignment, a consulting session or a strategic off-site — I aim to leave my clients with creative inspiration about who they are and what they do. 

A good deal of the marketing and branding I see out there today is sorely lacking in inspiration. The marketing spin may be an accurate description of the service or product being offered, but it misses the boat in terms of the essence of the brand. 

So how do you breathe inspiration into your personal or business brand and marketing? To begin, let’s look at a few meanings of the word and how your business might bring this into the way you express your brand in the world.

To affect, guide or arouse by divine influence. When you think back on what your past and current clients say about you, what is their experience of how you have guided, influenced or affected them? What words and phrases have they used?  Consider integrating these into your marketing message.

To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion. While this may seem like a high bar to reach, in what ways are you going beyond simply providing a service or product to enliven your clients? Learn how to talk about this when you present what you do.  Speaking to the higher ideals of your client (keep in mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) helps to connect them to the bigger purpose of why they do what they do.

To stimulate to action; motivate. In what ways does your business get others into action? A big part of my brand is that I help entrepreneurs and executives overcome inertia and make their personal brand, goals and objectives manifest in the world.  How do you inspire others to go from talking, thinking and hoping to making something happen?

To affect or touch.  Are your clients and customers ever deeply touched by what you do? If so, how? What is the difference that you make personally in the lives of your clients? Think about what you generate emotionally with your products or services. Is it peace of mind, confidence, certainty, love, creativity?  

To stimulate energies or ideals. How do your clients or customers expand their thinking by working with you? The more you can articulate the specific ways in which you enhance and expand your customers’ world by what you do, the bigger an impact your brand has. 

Remember, in the end, people do business with people they like and trust. By breathing inspiration into what you bring to your clients, you elevate your brand from business as usual to a higher plane of purpose — and that’s a marketing message you can take to the bank.