Category: Business Consulting


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When I moved into my cute little apartment on the beach ten months ago, the previous tenant left me two gifts: a sleek, modern glass desk and a whiteboard on the wall between my office/bedroom and the rest of the apartment. Of the two items, even on the first day, I was more excited by the whiteboard.

Whiteboards have always been magical for me. When I worked in the corporate world, I used whiteboards as a way to process ideas, brainstorm, find clarity and communicate ideas to others. Being highly visual, I like to draw diagrams, timelines, mind maps and pictures to articulate my thoughts, especially to others.

The great thing about having a whiteboard within my home environment is that I never worry about losing a thought, idea or epiphany. The second an idea pops in my head, my immediate response is to move quickly to the board and capture it. It may sit there for a couple of days after the ping, or it may be utilized immediately. I always know when it is time to clear the board when nothing on the board is calling me, it has all been digested into knowing.

Of particular value now are my nocturnal musings. For years, I have kept a notepad by my bed to capture dreams, ideas, to do tasks and troublesome thoughts. It has always been necessary to get them out of my head ASAP and let the thoughts simmer down, allowing me to fall back to sleep. I learned this process when I traveled every week and was very focused/worried about logistics which would keep me up all night. What time was my taxi, my flight, did I have my credit card, my tickets, was dog care arranged? Writing down my worries and tasks reassured me that I would take care of them in the morning.

Now, I use my whiteboard instead of a notepad, with even better results and a sense of creativity that I fully enjoy. I will awaken from a dream, stumble toward the bathroom, stop at the whiteboard, write a jumbled mess without opening my eyes and fall back to slumber in minutes. The next morning, what should be unreadable scribble triggers the memory of the entire dream, the idea that was created or the task that needs to be done. A few additional notes on the board and I am ready to take on my day.

An added bonus of the whiteboard, in combination with my iPhone, is documentation of each whiteboard before it is cleared. Before I wipe it clear, I take a picture of the board, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. This provides me a lovely timeline of ideas and reminder of my thoughts and unfinished threads that deserve more focus.

While I am also a fanatical journal keeper, I find that this process keeps ideas front and center, relevant and available for the creative process to unfold.

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A 3 Part Business Model

Are you the kayak, the paddle or the paddler?

An image came to me while I was in yoga the other day of a kayak and it explained why some business models can get too complicated for small business owners.

Before I go any further, think for a minute… which would you prefer to be? The Kayak? The Paddle? The Paddler? Don’t think too hard on this, go with your gut.

Ok, here is why this is important.

The Kayak is your platform.  It is the vehicle that gets you moving.  In a business model, it is the services or products, whatever it is that delivers value and drives revenue.

The Paddle is your locomotion.  It is the propeller that drives you forward.  Or think of it as sales, marketing, networking, word of mouth, distribution….whatever the mechanisms are that get your kayak into market.

The Paddler is, of course, you.  It is the leadership, the decision maker, the strategist.

What happens for most small businesses is that they are trying to be all three all the time.

I started documenting this list last year and thought this would be an interesting annual exercise, so here goes for Y2011.

As I explained a year ago, I subscribe to Seth Godin’s Blog. If you don’t know Seth yet, and you are a marketer in any form, you really should become familiar with his writings. One of Seth’s ideas that has really sunk in for me is when he talks about “Just Ship It”. Meaning actually completing a project and letting it out into the world, even if it isn’t exactly perfect. I like Seth’s idea of reviewing the previous year from a task completion perspective, sometimes actual accomplishments fly by without any recognition.

Here is my 2011 “Shipping Report”, in no particular order:

  • Home renovations: new heat & air, new plumbing, new roof, new bathroom, updated kitchen, refinished wood floors, updated lights & fans, new paint inside & out – 3 months of living out of a suitcase & crashing at friend’s houses, I have very kind friends.
  • Yoga Teacher Training Weekend – I miss my yoga teacher & mentor- Carson Eiferd who is living in California now.
  • Delivered consulting engagement to Smart Online to organize their sales message, processes and deliverables to the nonprofit sector – I recognized I have a unique perspective on audiences that most technologists do not have.
  • Heart & Soul internet radio interview, very cool process to be interviewed and my ideas (and Heartmath’s) captured in perpetuity! Read my original blog post here.
  • Ski trip at Snowshoe – I realized I do not like skiing at all. I did enjoy lazing around and catching up on my reading once I gave up on that whole ski thing.
  • Co-delivered the Virtual Vitality Showcase, a 1-day online webinar with talented wellness resources. My co-collaborator in crime – Denise Starrett is AWESOME!
  • Exhibited and attended NTEN’s NTC2011: a conference in Washington DC for Nonprofit Technology Professionals. Met with American Heart Association – very smart & mobile saavy team of folks.
  • Initiated, crafted and managed project for mobile application for Susie’s Law to help supporters take action for animals.
  • Crafted mobile application requirements for Bethesda Lutheran Communities for annual fundraising campaign.
  • Attended the Humane Society’s Taking Action for Animals Conference in Washington, DC. Met lots of very passionate animal advocates, including Mercy for Animals a gutsy organization that tackled McDonalds’ egg supplier and got results!
  • Crafted and presented Mobile ROI webinar to help nonprofits justify investment in mobile applications. Great attendance & interest in the subject.
  • Attended NC Tech for Good Conference, learned all about video and how the NC Museum of Life & Science in Durham was leveraging social media.
  • Family Wedding & Reunion at the Outer Banks, NC over Memorial Day. A happy/sad event, as we had lost my father four days before the wedding. RIP Gabriel E. Maravetz.
  • Attended NC Association of Fundraising Professionals Annual Conference. Participated in lively discussion about mobile fundraising.
  • Yoga Retreat in Wilmington, ahhh relaxation & camaraderie with my fellow yogis.
  • Co-launched The M Gen, LLC with my business partner – Tonia Zampieri– a strategic consulting firm focused on introducing mobile to nonprofits.
  • Attended the NC Center for Nonprofits Annual Conference, assisted in mobile presentation. Have you checked your website on mobile yet? Where is your donation button?
  • Volunteered at Digital East in Washington DC. Lots of commute time in Virginia = high stress.
  • Participated on experts panel for WALDE, sharing my perspective on mobile technology innovations for fundraising. Really amazing people in Wisconsin.
  • Attended Internet Summit 2011 in Raleigh, NC. Mobile is a disruptive force to be reckoned with now.
  • Attended Rural Coalition Annual Conference and Gala, organized mobile application requirements for RC. Collaborated w. National Crop Insurance Services & USDA.
  • Reconnected with my Pilates teaching as I began to teach in Evolve Movement‘s new North Raleigh studio. Very lovely clients.
Well, there are still 3 weeks in 2011 so this may be a bit premature to publish, but this is also a winding down time of year, as people focus more on celebration than undertaking huge new efforts. But perhaps I will find to my happy surprise that more big wins(or at least shipping projects) await me as 2011 winds down. If so, I will update 🙂
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Data Visualizations

Last night, as I do many evenings, I was scrolling through the latest news feeds on Facebook. The thing I love about getting my news this way is that there is usually some nugget of information that I wouldn’t find any other way on the internet. This is the beauty of a having a community such as Facebook, that delivers a of “sort-of” like-minded group of people that can expose you to new ideas and concepts.

Anyway, back to my Tuesday evening scrolling. First I saw this little article about when people break up in relationships, based upon status updates on Facebook. Interesting, but what intrigured me was the graph. How did they figure this out? Turns out it was David McCandless, a brilliant statistician, designer and communicator.

So I followed the link to the actual TED talk .This is brilliant. What I enjoy so much about this approach to data information is how intuitive the final results are. When you see the data expressed in a visual image or picture, all the confusing data processing in the brain settles down and the answer or result is self-explanatory.

My brain has worked in pictures and images for a long time. Pretty much anytime I am working with a business owner about their strategy and vision, when I look at my notes later, a mind-map has emerged. I don’t even mean to do it, it is just how my brain takes in information and transforms it into a plan. Timelines are another favorite device of mine, often just drawing a line, some small hashmarks to represent the intervening months and I have a clear pathway of what needs to happen when and by whom, in what order, and viola, the project plan is underway!

So getting back to this TED Talk, which I highly recommend you view or take a look at David’s website. I believe the benefit of adding more information/data into the picture creates the compelling argument necessary for pursuading a larger audience than perhaps the small business owner in front of you. By crafting a single image or comparison of potential results without much explanation does the important job of moving the vision forward. Provided of course, that your graph/image/visualization is answering the right question for you.

PSB

Problem, Solution, Benefit. For as long as I have been in sales (too many years to count) I have been trained in the idea that anything to be sold should be wrapped in a PSB. What is amazing is that when you actually start thinking in this way, you begin to see that pretty much anything can be wrapped in this framework.

Problem: The economy has caused a huge drop in business, clients are not coming in and the business in is danger of bankruptcy.

Solution: Begin to rethink the services that are delivered. What services can be provided for a lower cost of sales? Is there a new target market that hasn’t been approached yet? Is there anyway to deliver to a wider audience at a lower price? What can be done to widen awareness of the benefits of the services that you provide?

Benefits: New clients and a new market are exposed to your services and business. Your business become more robust and flexible in response to the economy.

Try this for yourself, think about one problem that your clients are facing right now. What solution would you offer them? How would they benefit from working wth you?

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