How to Easily Invest in Yourself and Your Organization

This past weekend I attended the Tribe Conference, a gathering primarily for writers. It was a really terrific event, and while all the speakers did a wonderful job, a few of them made points that struck me more deeply. I'm sure you can relate.

One of those was Dan Miller, an enormously successful speaker and author, who's session was about the importance of investing in yourself. In his talk, he cited Brian Tracy's advice, which is to invest 3% of your income on personal growth and development, and then to bump it up to 5% once you pass $50,000.

Could you do that? Investing in myself has been a high priority of mine for quite a while now, but I was surprised to see how many people around me didn't seem to be doing the same, despite attending this event. I don't want this for you. I want you to prioritize it, despite the actual and perceived costs. 

How to Invest in Yourself and Your Organization

Why Invest in Yourself and Your Organization?

First of all, I'm not just talked about throwing money at the latest software, or buying fancy computers, or getting team t-shirts, though that would be snazzy. I'm talking about the "deeper" investments for personal and professional growth, which leads to added value and growth for your organization.

When you invest in yourself personally, you knowingly—and unknowingly—apply that new knowledge and experience everywhere around you. So, even then, you're benefitting your organization. And when you invest in yourself for your job, or on behalf of your organization, your directly applying that new knowledge to your role and your cause. Intentionally investing in yourself also often provides renewed energy, focus, determination, know-how, and purpose. So, why not get on board?

Invest in Micro-Learning

Mico-learning is a fancy, hyphenated word I made up for a category that includes books, podcasts, webinars, videos, email lists, and those kinds of things—honestly, because I wasn't sure what else to call it! ;) But this includes anything that is focused, small, and easily consumable. These examples are what the majority of us would turn to first as a learning opportunity, or personal investment. And, of course, most of these items are free, or can be acquired cheaply, so it's an easy sell.

In fact, because they're all around you, my advice would be to take advantage of these kinds of media weekly, if not more frequently. People who are always learning and trying to better themselves in some way are likely to be the ones that make a bigger difference, are valued more at their organizations, lead others more successfully, and generally do better overall. You may have even heard the phrases "leaders are readers" or "leaders are learners." It's true! I guarantee the people you most admire, from business leaders to celebrities, invest in themselves in these ways.

Invest in Live Events

In the world we now live in, there are opportunities at every turn to watch events online, participate in webinars, and connect digitally with influencers and peers. However, there is still no replacement for attending in-person. It's hard to replicate that feeling of a live event. It's more invigorating and motivating. And the connections made there are stronger than they would be online. 

I was reminded of that this past weekend. Right now, I probably watch a webinar each week, and I also belong to a membership site with monthly video trainings and a Facebook group. But as I sat there with a group of peers, took notes in a real notebook, had conversations after each session, and shared meals with others who are trying to grow, I remembered, yet again, that there is just no substitute. 

Depending on your budget, I understand this could be a large financial commitment. Most one-day events are around $100 or less, but multi-day events could easily be several hundred to several thousand, plus travel. And that's not always feasible. But I would highly encourage you to plan for at least one in-person conference each year. You won't regret it!

Invest in Down Time

I'll let you define "down time" for yourself since we're all a bit different. Some of us are extroverts and some of us are introverts. We have difference preferences, and things that light us up. For me, this looks like a day of binge-watching Netflix, coffee with a friend, a few hours at the movies, or if I'm really lucky, a trip. Can you tell that I'm an introvert? ;)

But the point is to find something that will renew your energy and breathe life back into your spirit. It's vital to your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. And, most importantly, don't wait until burnout. Do it regularly. Maybe making consistent time comes only in small increments, like 30 minutes or an hour each week. That's totally fine. See what works for you, and what you can manage, without rescheduling or pushing it back until you theoretically have "more time."

I also think, however, that you should schedule larger blocks of time (like several days) on an annual basis. Call it a vacation, call it a personal retreat, or call it your "me time." It doesn't matter what you call it, only that you take it.

Investing in yourself, and in turn, your organization, will be worth far more in the end than what the actual costs were. In my opinion, personal growth and investment is priceless. See if you can take the first step this week, even if it's just making a plan for your action steps! Once you get in a rhythm with it, you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner.

And if you'd like my list of resources for more ideas on books, podcasts, and conferences, just click here to grab it!

(PSST—If you'd like to read all of my notes from the Tribe Conference, you can do that here on my personal blog.)


A Limited-Time Opportunity

Looking for a terrific opportunity to invest in yourself and your organization right now—and get a great deal? Then check out One Woman Shop's Solopreneur Success Bundle. Available through this Friday, September 22nd, at 11:59 p.m., this bundle contains $1,724 worth of products, courses, and tools for only $99!

In it, you'll find information covering:

  • Building your own virtual assistant
  • Managing cash flow
  • Photography and design
  • Content marketing
  • E-course ideas
  • Growing an email list
  • Hashtags and social media
  • Dealing with your Inbox
  • Interviewing and hiring
  • Legal guidance
  • Productivity
  • Positioning
  • SEO
  • Sales pages
  • AND MORE!

I'm an affiliate for this bundle, but this deal is so good, I snatched it up myself in the first few hours it was available! I can't wait to sort through everything, and I know it will be worth the money.

In fact, if any of the topics above sound good to you, then you'd probably pay close to $100 (or more) for a single course on that subject. So, why not jump on this bundle and get way more bang for your buck!

What are you waiting for? Click here or the banner below for more details!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Investing in yourself, and in turn, your organization, will be worth far more in the end than what the actual costs were. In my opinion, personal growth and investment is priceless.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Prepare for Attending a Conference

Fall and spring are primetime conference seasons. I feel like I’m currently receiving multiple emails every week for new events and registration deadlines. And I don’t know about you, but I love attending conferences! I’d never consider going back to school, but I’d attend a conference every month if I could! Extraverts and introverts (raising hand here!) can find plenty of fantastic opportunities at a conference whether you’re in it for the people or the information.

But with our busy, busy lives, sometimes even our favorite annual events can sneak up on us. If it’s going to take a chunk out of your schedule, and possibly out of your budget, why not make the most of it? Events and conferences could mean new customers, donors, partnerships, or even friends.

How to Prepare for Attending a Conference

To make the most out of your time there, here are my top tips for preparing to attend a conference on behalf of your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Business Cards and Handouts

If you’re anything like me, your business cards really only see the light of day at events and conferences. But nonetheless, it’s important to have them on hand. There’s still no better way to pass along your information quickly. So, make sure you have ample supply printed and packed. And if your nonprofit or social enterprise has any handouts or coupons, bring those along too!

Social Profiles

As I prepped for a conference last month, I realized that my Facebook Page profile needed to be updated. I’d changed some of my positioning language since creating it back in February. So, it taught me to give them all a once-over. Sometimes we promote fundraising campaigns or sales promotions in our profile, but they weren’t intended to stay that way forever. Or, like me, maybe you had some temporary language that stayed in place for too long. It’s possible your organization has even gone in a new direction. Whatever the reason, give each profile a quick look to make sure all of the information is still correct.

Additionally, I recommend doing this both with your personal and professional profiles. Why? To cover all your bases. For example, I only have Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts for Signify. But I have personal Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Depending on the accounts other people prioritize for themselves or their organizations, you want to give them as many good options as possible for connecting with you later, as well as keeping up with the latest on your business.

Social Feed

How long has it been since you updated your social media? It’s probably on your weekly To Do List, but if you’re like most small business owners I know, it can easily fall to the wayside. Head on over there and post updates to each of your accounts. And if you’re still a week or two from the conference, you might even want to schedule a few posts ahead of time leading up to the event. The point is that you want anyone checking out your accounts to see updated content. Otherwise, they might not bother with following you. And I know you don’t want that! As before, consider this for your professional and personal accounts.

Website

Chances are, there are pages on your website that get updated regularly, like a blog. (Or, at least I hope so! Google likes this!) But there may be other pages that need dusting off. This often includes the About page, but depending on the size of your site, it could be any number of pages. This will take the most time, but try to give each page a good, hard look with the perspective of a new visitor. Check to make sure information is updated and, equally important, that links work. And if you’re a real go-getter, you can even create an opt-in, switch out an opt-in, or use language that other conference attendees are likely to click.

Conference Info

If this isn’t a conference you’ve attended before, it’s time to follow the event’s social media accounts. Likewise, take note of any official hashtags that will be in use. In the weeks leading up to the gathering, you can interact with people online to introduce yourself, start attracting new followers, find new accounts that interest you or are relevant your cause, make plans to meet in real life, and much more. During the event, you can do some of the same, as well as posting your favorite notes and quotes, which allows you to not only show what you’re learning and enjoying, but also be helpful to others. Plus, it gives you great content for your own personal and organizational accounts—bonus!

Anyone else headed to the Tribe Conference this weekend? If so, let me know!

And here’s a great list of social impact conferences from Cause Artist. What are your favorite conferences to attend? Tell me in the comments!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER: 

Here are my top tips to prepare for attending a conference on behalf of your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Birthday Gifts for All

This Friday is my birthday! (Cue the confetti!) And one of the best ways to spend a birthday is by sharing it with others—even digitally. I also love giving gifts and freebies away. So, I thought it would be fun to combine those two things this year! 

Here's how you can win gifts for my birthday!

Through Sunday night, September 17th, at 11:59 p.m. EST, you have the ability to win (socially-conscious) gifts for my birthday!

Everyone on my email list has the chance to win. And I have multiple lists that you can sign up for which, by the way, will help your nonprofit or social enterprise with your marketing and communications efforts—already a win, win! You'll receive one entry for each list. So, the more lists you're on, the more entries you have! AND for every person you refer to my list, you'll get FIVE bonus entries! Just shoot me an email (kristi@signify.solutions) to let me know the person was referred by you. So, not only do you increase your chances of winning an awesome prize, but you'll be a part of your friend improving their organization's marketing efforts. Look how (inadvertently) sweet you are!

To recap:

Sign up via one of these lists . . . 

For each list your email appears on, you'll receive one entry. (Yes, this includes lists you're currently on!)

Refer someone to a list, and you'll receive FIVE bonus entries when they sign up. And don't forget to send me an email (kristi@signify.solutions) to let me know that found me with your help.

Let's get to it! What can you win?

First prize in my birthday gifts drawing

First prize:

Approximate retail value is $90.

 

 

Second prize for my birthday gifts drawing.

Second prize:

Approximate retail value is $40.

 

 

Third prize for my birthday gifts giveaway.

Third prize:

Approximate retail value is $25.

 

 

And, guess what, EVERYONE'S A WINNER! Each person on the list will receive an email with a digital gift as my thank you for being part of the Signify community.

 

Don't forget, you have until Sunday, September 17th, at 11:59 p.m. EST to enter! Winners will be chosen and notified on Monday, September 18th. 

Good luck!

CONGRATS TO THE WINNERS:

KRISTI OF CONTENT IN COLOR (1st prize)

OLIVIA OF HELP ATHENS HOMELESS (2nd prize)

ANDY OF REMERGE (3rd prize)



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Here's how you can win (socially-conscious) gifts for my birthday!

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Voice Can Make All the Difference

The TV murmured along in the background as I cleaned house until I heard what I thought was the voice of a child speaking about farm-to-table concepts that seemed much older than the age I perceived coming through the TV speakers. It seemed odd. I was thrown off, and completely missed the message from the advertising restaurant.

When I saw the commercial later, I was still too distracted because of the disconnect between the voice and the message to know what the company was trying to tell me, the consumer.

In an age when video is moving to dominate media consumption—not only TV and streaming services, but across social media channels and websites—the right voice to explain, to inform, to appeal, to sell, and to inspire makes a difference in whether someone donates or buys, or whether someone passes you by.

Likewise audio prompts within your organization’s phone systems, in your office environments, and in radio advertising can make a difference in how a consumer or donor experiences what you have to offer . . . or doesn’t.

In an age when video is moving to dominate media consumption—not only TV and streaming services, but across social media channels—the right voice to explain, to inform, to appeal, to sell, and to inspire makes a difference in whether someone buys, or whether someone passes you by.

Recently, as I boarded an elevator from a parking garage to a major metropolitan arts facility, I heard the burdened and disdainful voice of a man “welcome” me, and routinely utter the names of the sophisticated, creative, and lively venues within this arts complex. It was quite a juxtaposition. There I was about to experience an electric, creative atmosphere, and the voice welcoming me sounded as though he was bored, sad, and depressed.

Whether realized or not by this company’s elevator occupants, his voice is creating an atmosphere for this facility—a downcast and disheartening atmosphere.

In truth, the voice you use to embody your organization's in video and audio representations is important. But what do you look for? How do you find a quality voice for your message? Here are four ideas to get you started:

1)   Audience

You’ve heard it before, “Know your audience.” As a business leader, you likely have already created an avatar, or profile, of your ideal customer. With this ideal man and/or woman in mind, write a script that sounds natural, conveys a clear message, and includes an action step. And once you have a decent draft, read it out loud to yourself. Are there any clunky words or phrases? Or are there any back-to-back sounds that are awkward? Revise the script until you have something that seems natural.

2)   Delivery

Depending on your audience, and the message of your script, you’ll want to think about delivery. Would you like it to sound warm and comforting, or are you looking for conversational, yet energetic? Think about the feelings you want to convey with this message. And think about those feelings in relationship to the wording and the message. Do they match? For example, in the elevator, the gentleman delivered the word welcome as if he were sad, when it should’ve sounded warm and friendly . . . in other words, the word welcome should’ve sounded welcoming. If you’re trying to convey an urgent message, one that you’d like customers to act on quickly, you don’t want a warm and welcoming delivery, but an energetic, lively, yet friendly delivery.

3)   Tone

More often than not, we can grasp an age range from someone based on the tone of his or her voice. A voice talent’s tone needs to match and be identifiable with the audience you’re trying to reach. In the farm-to-table restaurant commercial mentioned previously, the voice sounded like an early teen. Yet, the message of the commercial was focused on consciousness in food preparation, something few teenagers seem to be concerned with. A disconnect between the tone, the target audience, and the message won’t compel anyone to take action.

4)   Hire

It’s often easier to grab the admin assistant with the great phone voice, or the singing maintenance man for a quick “read through” of your outgoing message, but resist the urge. It’s not enough to have a nice voice. A quality voice talent must be able to tap into the audience your trying to reach with the feelings you want to convey, so that anyone who hears it will want to take action.

Your message is too important for it to sound like it’s being read from a handwritten notebook. With intentional script writing and the right voice, you’ll move beyond your customer or donor’s heads and into their hearts.


Jennifer Wilder is a social media professional who helps brands reach customers through online conversations. Over the last decade, she has worked with LifeWay Christian Resources, Leading The Way, The reThink Group/Orange, and The John Maxwell Company. Jen and her husband Nathan live in Kennesaw, Georgia, with their soon-to-be-Instagram-famous Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Copper.

Jennifer is available for freelance social media consulting and voiceover work.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER: 

In an age when video is moving to dominate media consumption—not only TV and streaming services, but across social media channels and websites—the right voice to explain, to inform, to appeal, to sell, and to inspire makes a difference in whether someone donates or buys, or whether someone passes you by.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


#Eclipse2017 Marketing Lessons

I don't know about where you live, but Atlanta had #Eclipse2017 fever for weeks—and we weren't even in the path of totality, where the sun would be completely blocked by the moon. But there were apps, websites, news coverage, and huge shortages on ISO-certified glasses everywhere you looked. It was a fun frenzy to be a part of, honestly. I was totally into it. However, even after anticipating it for a couple of months, I still found myself unprepared. In the end, I had a great time, but it was also a tad chaotic.

And it was easy to make a few parallels between this unique experience and the world of marketing. So, be a business nerd with me for a minute, and just go with it . . . 

Here are four marketing lessons we can draw from #Eclipse2017.

1. Plan Ahead

Did you get your circa Back to the Future ISO-certified eclipse glasses? I almost didn't. I literally got my hands on a pair less than 40 minutes before the big event. I had been thinking about this moment for weeks and weeks leading up to it, but kept forgetting to pick up free glasses or buy them, and then when I put some real effort into it just a few days prior, they were, of course all gone. Like, long gone. My friend and I managed to buy a pair from a guy who's friend didn't show up to watch with him. Whew!

Marketing lesson: Good marketing doesn't just happen. If you don't live in the world of business communications as I do, there are plenty of other things to occupy your mind and your time. Believe it or not, sometimes it's even hard for me to make the time. And if you don't consider it to be one of your skills, it's easy to let marketing slide or get pushed to the back burner. But you can't expect people to buy, donate, or show up without some real effort on your part. I know there is already a lot on your plate, but stop and think about your marketing. Put together a plan, even a loose one to work from. Read a book, listen to a podcast, or get on an email list that will teach you more about marketing. The better you get, the more your organization will thrive.

2. Have a Backup Plan

I ended up enacting Plan D for my eclipse experience. Plan A was to win one of the cool trips I'd registered for, which would've meant watching it in either Portland or Nashville. Long shot? Absolutely, but how fun would it have been! Plan B was to buy glasses and go watch with my friend at her house because her daughter was napping and she couldn't get out. But I couldn't find any to buy because I waited too long. Plan C was to go to a local event that had glasses for sale. This is what I thought was happening up until it didn't. Another friend came with me to this event, but when we arrived, they'd already sold out of specs. That's when Plan D evolved. 

We were standing in line for this event, but we didn't know if the line was for drinks, or to buy the glasses. So, I tapped the guy in front of me on the shoulder and asked. He said it was for drinks, and that they'd already run out of glasses. Gahhh! But he said that his friend didn't show up and that he'd sell us his extra pair! So, we grabbed those because it was almost 2:00 p.m., and the eclipse was happening at 2:36 p.m. here. We'd just have to share.

Marketing lesson: Maybe not every time, but at some point, something in your marketing plan will go wrong. (My experience is that it's usually technology-related.) Maybe it's a bad wifi connection, a glitch with your email provider, an event speaker gets sick or misses their connecting flight, the product doesn't get shipped on time, or your computer crashes and you know you were supposed to, but you haven't backed it up in six months even though you got a notification to do so the day before. It could literally be anything. The point is to have a backup plan, or three. Expect that something will go wrong, because it easily could. And do a happy dance when it doesn't!

3. Share the Experience

As you've already seen, I didn't plan very well for this historic moment. It wasn't until last Thursday when I actually started hunting for glasses. And I was sick last week and over the weekend, so even though I'd been excited for the eclipse, my enthusiasm was quickly waning. It wasn't until Sunday that I reached out to my friend to attend the viewing party with me. She showed some interest, but we didn't even make firm plans until around 11:00 a.m. on Monday!

I woke up that day still feeling pretty drained from being sick, so I'd almost resigned myself to just watching the eclipse on TV from my couch. I was about to text her that I wasn't feeling up to it, when she reached out to see if we were still on. So, I took a moment, remembered that previous excitement, and put together a plan. We ended up having a great time, and a fun, shared experience.

Marketing lesson: If you are a solopreneur or run a small business of just a few folks, it's very easy to get used to doing things on your own. This may be because it's just easier, you don't have the resources to pay others, or have a hard time delegating. But whether you're in the middle of a launch, promoting an event, fulfilling a product order, administering a service, or just dreaming of what's next, it's always more fun with a buddy. Conversations with others may give you new ideas, good feedback, inspiration, or one of another dozen awesome things. Even as a solopreneur, doing everything alone is a choice. Make plans to involve others, even informally. Your organization will be better for it. After all, you got in this business to help others. So, let someone help you.

4. Make It Last

If you're anything like me, your post-eclipse routine included updating social media with the photos you took. After that, I scoured Instagram and Facebook to see the photos and videos my friends and family captured. It was an experience worth sharing and celebrating. I also had friends that were in prime viewing spots all over the country, so I couldn't wait to see a glimpse of what they saw. It was truly an event that brought the country together, and gave us something fun to focus on after all the bad news we hear every day. I'll certainly be watching for those photos and videos in the days to come.

Marketing lesson: One of the common mistakes I see by organizations is that they host an awesome event, but they only talk about it before-hand. They don't promote it much during, and rarely after. Those are two prime opportunities to get your audience excited about your next event. Likewise, if you put a lot of time and effort into a launch, but never update your peeps about how it went, you're missing the opportunity to keep them in the loop and tell them how important they were to it. Or, do you put a lot of work into writing blog posts, but never actually promote them? It's unlikely people will just sit around waiting with baited breath until your next post. You need to market it! I've heard that 20% of the effort you put into your blog post should be writing it, and the other 80% should be marketing it. Your words may be incredible, but if no one knows to read them, they won't be very effective. Go the extra mile. Make it count, and then make it last.

So, did you watch the eclipse? Where from? What did you think?



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER: 

Here are four marketing lessons revealed by #eclipse2017.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Work ON Your Business, Not IN Your Business (Part 2)

There are a couple of stereotypes that come to mind when the word "entrepreneur" is brought up. First, is the more romanticized notion of being able to travel, take long lunches, and basically do what you want, when you want. On the other hand, there's the overworked, underpaid, and basically frazzled lump of a person. Those are the opposite ends of the spectrum, and honestly, depending on the day, either can be accurate.

We entrepreneurs are definitely lured away from more traditional jobs by the first persona, but for many of us, it's the second one that ends up taking root. And though none of us signs up for long hours and little pay long-term, those of us who are leading purpose-driven organizations often just chock it up to the cost of doing business differently. But I don't think this has to be the case.

Last week, I shared that I'd recently finished the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, which made the phrase "working ON your business, not IN your business" popular. In that post, I recounted that he says there are three different types of personalities that all business owners must display in order to be successful: the entrepreneur, manager, and technician. Building on that idea, today I want to share his strategy for growth and scale. And, like last time, I'll also tell you what some of the nonprofit and social enterprise leaders I admire do to work on their business.

Work ON Your Business, Not IN Your Business (Part 2)

The first part of the book, the section which primarily deals with those three personalities, made perfect sense to me. I recognized those traits in myself, but also saw areas of improvement I know I need to work on if I want to making it in business, as well as see my social enterprise thrive.

However, there were aspects of this second part that initially rubbed me the wrong way. But I pushed through, and Gerber made a strong case for his argument. I think I even became a believer along the way.

So, what was it?

The Franchise Model

The stance Gerber takes in this book is a bold one, in my opinion. He submits that to grow and scale, all small businesses owners must adopt a franchise mentality. That is, they must on some level be able to replicate themselves through systems and processes.

Some of you might automatically get stuck after reading that paragraph. Even being a girl who loves systems, "I totally paused," to quote Clueless, when I started this section of the book. At this point, I don't see myself setting up numerous Signify offices around the country, or hiring hundreds of employees. In fact, that thought makes me kinda want to barf. However, I am flying solo on this venture right now, and it would be super terrific to one day maybe have a bookkeeper, a few specialists on retainer, or heck, even an intern. And those things mean that I need to think bigger. I need to think in terms of scaling. In Gerber's philosophy, I need to franchise.

If a business is to thrive, it must obviously move beyond the founder. It cannot be wholly dependent on me or my skills—or in your case, you. Otherwise, it can feel very burdensome. It's more of just a job at that point. If I am out on vacay or sick in bed or taking that glorious three-hour lunch, nothing's getting done. Sound familiar?

Gerber equates business growth to the development of a person, with an infancy, adolescence, and maturity stage. The infant stage is exciting. Everything is new, but it can also easily get overwhelming. There are so many tasks to complete, and not enough help or time to complete them. You enter the adolescence stage when you hire someone. This is pretty spectacular, but too many owners end up wanting a break so desperately that they shove everything on to the newbie, which creates a whole new set of problems. It's possible said newbie either becomes overwhelmed too, may not yet carry the vision, or may have a different take on doing things that they execute in your absence. None of those are good alternatives. Gerber calls it "managing by abdication rather than delegation."

At this point, he says the owner has two viable options: the first is to either return to their comfort zone of the one man band, or expand with a franchise model mindset. 

Turnkey Revolution

His solution to success is the "turnkey revolution," which is a model that allows basically anyone to complete the process. Yes, just like a franchise. He uses the example of McDonald's.

While many businesses fail every year, putting processes, systems, and organization in place allows 75% of franchises to succeed. Wow, that's crazy! This is because they are consistent and predictable. And we humans are often creatures of habit, so those two words are comforting.

There are four basic principles behind the turnkey model:

  1. Design for simplicity and efficiency. Your system should determine the outcome, not your people.
  2. Document everything in an operations manual. This includes the roles, the work itself, and everything between.
  3. Predictable service is a necessity. You must provide consistent value to your customers (or donors, for you nonprofit founders who are still with us).
  4. Be results-oriented. Create a profit for your business, and be able to measure goals and objectives. And, of course, be ready to tweak at any time.

My Hang-Ups

I've already mentioned my first issue, and that was trying to define what scaling meant to me. Through his examples in the book, he is definitely talking about becoming a big player, but again, at this point, I have no desire for that. But his case was strong enough to help me realize that even wanting to scale on a very small scale could benefit from what he had to say.

Item number two may have made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as well, and that was "Your system should determine the outcome, not your people." Okay, ouch! I pursed my lips and scowled a bit when he started in on this idea. After all, if I'm one person now, and want to expand that to two, three, or five people, I want to hire great people! I want to love them, and be friends with them, and invite them for sleepovers. (Okay, maybe not that last one, but I haven't ruled it out.)

But, after thinking about it a little more, I'd heard something similar before that I did agree with, and that was to hire based on the capability of the person, not the job description. Gerber may not agree with me there, but I'm gonna go with it. His point is that when you get a good system in place, most anyone should be able to pick up the ball and run with it. You should make it that simple, efficient, and seamless. And there is a lot of that I can stand behind.

Along those lines, I was a little put off with his continued use of McDonald's as an example. I'm personally not a fan for many reasons. But I am smart enough to recognize the business sense and innovation that company, and Ray Kroc, had in the early days. It just took reframing that concept for me. An assembly line is not what I'm looking for, but because I love systems, I understand the value of putting a process in place to help guide or predict an outcome.

The other thing I'll say is that if you choose to read the book, he pretty much sticks to product-based businesses to illustrate his point. So, you service-based guys and gals like me will need to think a little more intuitively. 

Overall, I really did find the book interesting and worth my time. I would recommend it as well. There are some steps I've already started putting in place along these lines, and plenty more to come. If anything, it'll just get you thinking differently about your little engine that could.

If you've read The E-Myth Revisited, what did you think?

What It Looks Like in Action

I also asked a few small business owners that I know, or follow online, to share how they work on their business, not just in their business. Here's what they had to say:

"You can't do everything on your own. Outsource what you can to freelancers, so you can focus on scale and the North Star of your vision." – Grant Trahant, Causeartist
“Every year on January 2, the Plywood staff takes a retreat to focus on the year ahead. We turn off our email and spend the first few days of the year focusing on the big picture." – Callie Murray, Plywood People
“For sixteen years, through North Point and Orange, I have heard ‘work on it instead of just in it.’ I get it, but it is so difficult to live it out. With everything thing that needs to get done, stopping to theorize, dream, analyze, and ask tough questions often doesn’t make the list. But I declared summer of 2017 the summer of analysis. This summer we have worked on it instead of just in it, and it has changed the direction of our division in many ways. The greatest benefit of working on it, is the peace of mind that you are working on the right things.” – Ted Lowe, MarriedPeople
“To continually improve our effectiveness, we block four hours per week for the entire team to work 'on' the business. During this time, we may work on our marketing initiatives or redesign key business processes. There are weeks when it's really hard to protect the time on our calendars. However, even without a 100% success rate on our goal, we've seen our organization's projects move forward more consistently than ever before.” – Kevin Jennings, Junction 32
“The only way I actually find time to work on my businesses, instead of just in them, is by making them a priority. Think back to high school or college dating . . . if your crush was available to hang out, it didn’t matter if you had class in two hours, or a paper due tomorrow, or a project to work on. You can bet you were hanging out with your crush! You found time to meet up with them, because it was your priority. Your business is no different. You have to trust that the work that needs to get done will get done when you take the time to make working on your business a priority, just like it did when you were younger and you survived school work and a date with your crush all in one day.” - Christina Scalera, Founder of The Contract Shop
“The thing I've had to learn as Refuge is growing from a small mom-and-pop venture to a larger-scale nonprofit is to let go! Not to let go of vision and culture, but to let go of the details. That's not a problem for me in some areas—the things I don't like to do or don't do well—but anything having to do with messaging or partying, I want to have my hands in it. I have to find people I trust and let them lead. It's freeing, but hard at first. In the end, it's so worth it, not just for your organization and your own sanity, but for the people who take those details, learn, grow, and knock it out of the park. Plus, they get the credit and satisfaction, and that's really cool.” – Kitti Murray, Refuge Coffee Co.

Read the first part of the series.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

I recently finished the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, which made the phrase "working ON your business, not IN your business" popular. Today I want to share his strategy for growth and scale. And I'll also tell you what some of the nonprofit and social enterprise leaders I admire do to work on their business.

(Amazon links are affiliate links.)


Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Work ON Your Business, Not IN Your Business (Part 1)

I've recently become a little obsessed with the phrase "work ON your business, not IN your business," made popular by Michael Gerber. Since my own business turned one this summer, I've been in a constant state of reflection, evaluation, and motivation. And those words, and his book, The E-Myth Revisited, kept popping up in conversations and online. Not a coincidence! So, I finally decided give it a read (via Audible). I can say that it was well worth my time, and I think that it would be worth yours too.

Since nonprofits and social enterprises are mission-driven, and not profit-driven, it can be difficult to understand or incorporate a traditional "business mindset." Heck, that phrase may even sound a bit icky to you. After all, you and I aren't in this for business as usual. But, hang with me, because I believe there are some valuable lessons to pull from this book that you can use in your organization. Think about it, how much good can we do if we can't grow and scale? Serving a larger purpose takes a strong strategy. One person can absolutely make a difference, but the point is to bring others along, right? And if your organization continually struggles or gets stuck, you won't be available to help anyone. Ouch! I know that's not what you want, and it's not what I want for you.

Have you heard the phrase "work ON your business, not IN your business," made popular by Michael Gerber in The E-Myth? Since nonprofits and social enterprises are focused on the mission, and not solely the profit, it can be difficult to understand or maintain a traditional "business mindset." In fact, it may often be considered undesirable. But I think there are some valuable business lessons to pull from this book. 

While there are many ideas in this book that are intriguing (some of which I admit that I was hesitant about at first), I'm only going to focus on two, over-arching themes of the book. I'm also going to share what a few other, stellar nonprofit and social enterprise leaders said when I asked them how they work on their business.

The big idea I want to chat about today are the three "personalities" Gerber notes that every business owner must identify and utilize: the entrepreneur, manager, and technician. He states that all business owners already have these personas inside them, but most people tend to lean heavily on one, and rely very little on the other two. However, he believes that it takes all three to be successful. He actually makes a case for that feeling you get of being pulled in multiple directions! To me, that's reassuring.

THREE FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

The entrepreneur is, as you'd expect, the dreamer, innovator, and visionary. On the other hand, the manager craves order, solves problems, and enjoys details. And the technician is the craftsman who actually gets the work done.

Every year, approximately one million small businesses literally or figuratively open their doors. One million! By the following year, 40% of them are closed. And four out of five don't make it to their five-year anniversary. Sad! I know you are out there trying to make the world a better place, and so, we need you to survive. Not only that, we need you to thrive!

Gerber says that the average small business owner is 10% entrepreneur, 20% manager, and 70% technician. Most small businesses fail because a technician isn't necessarily a good business owner. This guy/gal is a worker bee, but can't necessarily think long-term or accomplish large goals. They only focus on the task right in front of them. If that's the case, he/she is likely either burn out or continue to struggle because the work can only be sustained for so long by that one person, and they aren't making enough profit to bring in other people.

Likewise, if we rely too heavily on our inner entrepreneur, we'll have oodles of ideas, but never actually accomplish anything. And then the manager is stuck right in the middle without the other two, constantly pushing paper, answering emails, and posting on social media (hear: staying very busy), but with no direction or substance to back it up.

Which personality feels more dominant for you? Entrepreneur, manager, or technician? Gerber is right on target for me. I definitely have facets of all three, and value all three in myself, but I mostly rely on my technician, because she makes the moola. :) 

Oh, and this is a good exercise to think through even if you have a partner or small team. One of these personalities may be more prevalent across the board, and you'll need to find a way to bring some balance. 

Next week, we'll talk about Gerber's strategy for success. But I wanted to begin by understanding where we're all starting from. Again, his belief is that it takes all three of these personalities working in harmony for small businesses owner to achieve success.

I have no doubt that, like me, you got a little overwhelmed when you started your organization. You knew how to do one thing well, or maybe even a few things, but as a small business owner, you had to learn a whole bunch of skills to stay afloat . . . IT, marketing, admin, HR, fundraising, salesperson, social media manager, writer, coffee gopher, pep squad captain, etc. That definitely works for a while, but it's not sustainable. It's not going to allow you to grow (no matter how you apply that definition to your business), or help more people through your mission.

So, first identify your dominant personality. Then, consider ways that you can start developing the other two. Think of it as being holistic, well-rounded, or even just what it takes to be the #WorldsBestBoss. This is the beginning, the foundation.

Intrigued? Pick up a copy of the book. I highly recommend it!

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE IN ACTION

And if you're looking for some ideas of how you can work on your business, rather than simply in your business, here's some feedback from a few pros:

“I prioritize goals weekly and quarterly, and make sure to keep them in a place where I see them every day. This helps me remember what's truly important, and keeps me moving toward bigger goals on a daily basis.” – Joanna Waterfall, Yellow Co.
“One of the best ways I know to guard time to work on it, not in it, is by ensuring I don't schedule most of my time away in meetings. I ensure that no more than 50% of my time is spent in meetings. Ideally, it's 30%. That way, I have 50-70% of my time to dream, write, create, and work on it, not in it.” – Carey Nieuwhof, www.LeadLikeNeverBefore.com
“I use time blocks on certain days throughout my week, which are for specific, higher-level projects that make my work easier in the long run. One of the things I do during these time blocks is work on my content library. These are spreadsheets of content focused on evergreen—undated, but always relevant—blog posts and quotes that I can schedule into my social media calendar. Cataloging this content and repurposing it in this way helps me to keep helpful and interesting content in front of my customer's eyes on social media, without always having to take the time to create new content. Between scheduling out this evergreen content from my library of spreadsheets, I sprinkle in current, dated, timely content and information that keeps things fresh on my channels.” - Jennifer Wilder, Voiceover Artist and Social Media Manager
"I utilize a To Do List organized by order of importance so I'm always engaged with the most important issues of our organization." – Larry Witherspoon, Automotive Training Center
“I work with a coach. Having regular check-ins and accountability helps me keep my eyes on the prize, as it were. I also invest in my development (and the development of my team). Professional development budgets are often overlooked in small businesses and organizations, but it means so much to me and to my staff to be able to focus on learning and growth." – Cindy Wagman, The Good Partnership
“I do find myself in the trap of working IN vs ON my business more frequently than I wish, but my best approach for getting above it and feeling like I am giving real strategic thought and leadership is by connecting and carving out time with others not directly involved with the business, but whom I trust and respect. This may be a lunch date with one person, a working session with a peer group, or a professional speaker event within my network circles. This ‘space’ and time always allow me to hear from others, learn from their challenges and focus, and think about intersecting opportunities for SparkFire Active. Every time, I come out energized, refreshed, and with a clearer roadmap for the plan I want to be working on. The spirit of creativity and collaboration elevates my focus. – Samantha Hodgkins, SparkFire Active

READ PART 2 HERE!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Have you heard the phrase "work ON your business, not IN your business," made popular by Michael Gerber in The E-Myth? Since nonprofits and social enterprises are focused on the mission, and not solely the profit, it can be difficult to understand or maintain a traditional "business mindset." In fact, it may often be considered undesirable. But I think there are some valuable business lessons to pull from this book.

(Amazon links are affiliate links.)


Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Ask the Experts: Understanding Your Audience

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For August, I've invited my friend, Jen Gordon, to share about uncovering the hidden desires of your donors and customers. Understanding your audience will be a key to your success.

Uncover the hidden desires of your donors and customers.

Q. What are the latest trends in your industry?

A. What I’m seeing lately is a trend toward companies identifying their marketing strategy first, and then outlining the tactics they will take to align with that strategy. By “strategy," I mean really digging into the hidden and unspoken desires of your prospect, and developing your approach to that audience around those wants.

In the past I’ve seen marketers using tactics like, “Hey, let’s send out a direct mail piece like the one I saw from XYZ organization.” Or, “Oh, let’s send an email campaign about our next fundraiser,” before truly identifying why their prospects would want to engage the content.

There has always been interest in the marketing world around the psychology of marketing, but today there is a lot more content readily available about the psychological drivers that cause prospects to take a certain action, to leave, buy, or donate. Nir Eyal writes a blog that focuses on consumer behavioral triggers and habits. Though most of his work focuses on software development, the concepts he teaches are applicable to any industry.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making in regards to what you do?

A. One of the mistakes I have seen many times over the years of creating landing pages and sales funnels is that business owners may have a short-term plan or campaign they want to launch, but don’t have a clear roadmap for the year in terms of where they want to be in 30/60/90 days or six months, etc. They generally know what they want to achieve, but the path getting there is often unclear.

Right now, I’m working on a marketing calendar (with some inspiration from this SEJ post) for my own product, the Hope Deck, using Google Sheets, Google Calendar and Trello—all free tools!

Q. What is your best piece of advice?

A. If you aren’t trained on how to uncover your prospect, donor, or customer’s hidden, unspoken wants/desires, then find someone who is. :) Learning how to do this while working on the Hope Deck has completely changed how I connect to, and communicate with, my audience.

It has allowed me to understand how I can bring the maximum amount of value to my customers. I no longer assume that I am a part of my target audience, which I have done in the past. My mind is open to a wider range of problems people want to solve, and emotions they want to feel or not feel.

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?

A. Start figuring out what your audience really wants—not what they need, but what they want. I created a spreadsheet for the Hope Deck where I am in the process of identifying my customer’s unspoken desires. Don't get overwhelmed. Keep it simple to begin, and then edit or expand it over time.

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. The best way to uncover these hidden wants and desires is to actually talk to your customers or donors. I’d recommend recording the conversations, if possible, so you can review them later and pick up on details you may miss in the moment. Another option is to get them in writing through emails or surveys. You'll then use their language when speaking to them in your emails, social media, and any other communication pieces, so that it's familiar and relatable.

And be sure to ask them open-ended questions about why they choose to partner with, donate to, purchase from, or do business with you. Most of the time they won’t express their hidden desires outright, but you can infer from their answers what is important to them, and from there brainstorm motivation, emotional triggers, and things like that.


Jen Gordon is a momma, artist, and entrepreneur based in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past eight years of her career, she’s specialized in conversion centered design, working closely with marketers and business owners to increase sales by testing and optimizing their sales funnels. Her geeky passions include finishing stuff, brain rewiring, crafts of any sort, and anything Dolly Parton has ever said or sung. :) You can find her latest creative project, a collection of inspirational postcards, at www.HopeDeck.com.