- Selling products without the fulfillment hassles
- Having marketing largely taken care of (by Amazon’s worldwide draw)
- Not having to set up a website to get started (they’ve got you covered).
- Speed of implementation. You can check a market out quickly and see if your concept has legs.
The 5-Part Millionaire Success Formula is a series of posts about my entrepreneurial journey and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I hope you get some insights from these series of posts that will help you in your own journey.
Today we’ll focus on the power of your life story (through retelling a version of mine).
What got me thinking about this topic was this week’s recognition as a
And it got me thinking about this writing and entrepreneurial journey I’ve been on.
So today I thought I’d walk through some of the steps that have made this happen so you can see what happens behind the scenes.
Writing has never been something I’ve always wanted to do. There are plenty of writers out there who love to write. They are the ones who want to be published and are writing the next best fiction novel.
That’s not me.
Writing was more a way to express myself and the thoughts I want to share. Growing up (and still to this day) I’ve always enjoyed sharing my two cents about nearly any topic. A good discussion (or argument…depending on your perspective) was my go to method of communication. Sometimes it annoyed and frustrated people. But it was how I ended up constantly learning and growing. I needed to experience something and talk it through to really understand a concept. I had this physicality (had to move) to my thinking. I loved playing off other ideas. Whether from books or other people. Brainstorming (talking things through with myself or others) was my go to method of figuring things out.
My first real job was a paper route.
My first route was for the Tri Valley Herald. A daily newspaper that I delivered in my neighborhood. I had to get up at 5:30 every morning to deliver the paper. At that early age (I think I was in my early teens) that was just too early to wake up.
So I replaced that route with a new one – the Tri Valley News. This was the free-ish paper that was by the same company but delivered 3 days a week. And customers could pay for the paper, but it was optional.
In that job I learned to run a small business as a contractor.
I’d buy the papers, put in the inserts (ads) and deliver them. Then once a month I’d go collect. My sales pitch was weak. Basically stated, “I’m here to collect for the Tri Valley News”. Told them the price. Sometimes they’d pay straight away. Others would say no. And the third category asked, “Did I order that?” I would tell them, “No, it is a voluntary paper.” Some would pay me – some would not. The ones who paid me without asking if they subscribed would sometimes pay because they thought it was the “Herald” that they did pay for. At the time we’d deliver to people who got the Herald too. Later they excluded those people from my route.
That exposure was my first the writing business, subscriptions, and entrepreneurship.
I remember my favorite part was one of the year end events the newspaper company held for the “paperboys”. You got tickets for the number of papers you sold and could get prizes based on your performance. I think I got a Swiss Army Knife as one of my prizes. Which was pretty cool for a kid.
Intro to Writing.
My next experience with writing was 11th grade in school.
It was the first year computerized scheduling of classes was instituted.
I was a computer nerd, loved my computer classes. But this thing sucked.
I was trying to get into college. So classes that met my college requirements were important. But even though I gave my selections in advance, I did not get the courses I wanted or needed.
So instead of my college prep English courses, I got “Journalism” and “Mystery”.
It is funny though. Those two courses were very helpful later in life.
In Journalism I liked to do the editing. I was analytical so that was up my alley. I didn’t like the reporter piece since I was pretty introverted and not someone who like to ask people questions.
I did learn about the “Inverted Pyramid”. Putting the most important information first and being able to cut an article to make it whatever length you needed without losing the essence of the story.
In Mystery I was exposed to some great writers. I remember Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Telltale Heart”. And the teacher made that story come alive with her reading of it.
After graduating from Dublin High School I went off to Cal State Hayward. It was a local college that allowed me to stay at home and also work in a restaurant to pay for my part of college.
In that first year I took the entry level writing course, a undergraduate requirement. That was a shock to my system.
Every single writing assignment I got between a C and an F on and had to rewrite.
I had been an “A” writer in high school. How could I suck so badly?
What I found out was I was writing the standard boring 5 paragraph essay version I’d learned in high school. And to be honest, in my school there were not a lot of “A” students. So my work probably looked like “A” work by comparison to others.
But looking back at my college papers a decade later. They really work bad.
That was an eye opening and humbling experience.
My next step in writing was the following summer.
I had decided I wanted to transfer to U. C. Davis as my way of moving out on my own and also to go to a school my parents had both attended.
The only problem was that I didn’t have my English and Foreign Language requirements met from high school.
Learning to Think and to Write.
So that summer I took Intensive Spanish and Comparative Literature.
Comparative Literature was a course I thrived on. I got an “A” in that course and loved it.
What it taught me is something I’ve used through life and in my blog writing.
Along with my courses in “Logic” and “Public Speaking”, they all laid my foundation for critical thinking and writing.
Comparative Literature had you read two stories – typically ancient literature – and then find a common theme to compare or contrast.
For me it was great as coming up with new content was hard for me but editing it down or finding the sections of text that made my point and then tying them together with a transitory sentence was a piece of cake for me.
So that helped me get into U. C. Davis.
Losing Myself…Writing as Therapy.
Moving to U. C. Davis was a rough time as it was my first time living on my own. Growing up my brother and I shared a room and a bunk bed. Going to college I lost the one person I would share my thoughts with every night.
In college I had a roommate and that helped somewhat. But when you’re dealing with a lot of life transitions and trying to figure out who you are and where you’re headed, it can be tough. And it was for me.
I struggled through my courses in math and computer science. And the writing was on the wall that I wasn’t going to be able to graduate with a Computer Science degree as originally planned.
During that time I I had a lot of dark thoughts, I wrote much of that down. Kind of as therapy. And as my own way of figuring me out. Yes, thoughts of suicide bounced back and forth through my brain as I thought of myself as a failure and a loser.
My dad helped pull me out of that funk when I came home that following summer and told him I couldn’t go on and wanted to change majors.
He was very understanding and together we discussed my options. I settled on Economics because it seemed like something that connected with me. And I could still complete it in four years (that was something that was important to me both financially and as a point of my personal pride in finishing something on time).
So that was it for writing and I went on and graduated from U. C. Davis with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Economics and a Statistics minor.
Learning about Business.
Entering the work world I started with a temp job I’d worked the summer before at AT&T in Pleasanton, California. There I spent time doing research and data entry. The Baby Bells had just been broken up and I was doing the work to detail what phone contracts needed to be assigned to which entity (or something like that).
It was the start of a future telecom career.
I then went into residential real estate sales. Working for Tri Valley Brokers, a local real estate company. I didn’t sell anything. Kind of sucked at sales. And after draining my minimal bank account, got a temp job elsewhere.
In the temp job interview they asked if I knew Lotus 1-2-3. At the temp agency I’d done a brief overview of the software and knew that pressing “/” would get me all the commands. And given my extensive computer programming experience I figured I could figure out the rest. So I said “Yes!” and was soon working for a small healthcare consulting company.
There I learned to prepare financial forecasts, set up partnerships, and learn about business.
Not much writing happened but I grew my knowledge of the business world.
Then moved into Commercial Property Management and then Cell Site Development in the Telecom Industry.
Where I came back to writing was about 10 years ago. I became interested in business improvement. As the Director of Operations of RealCom Associates I was responsible for making sure everything was in place and operational to grow the company. I ended up learning a lot about marketing during that time.
And so in my off hours, as LinkedIn came on the scene, I would write answers to questions posted on LinkedIn. I ended up being one of the “Top 100” people answering questions on LinkedIn. I reached #70 on the list before they eventually disbanded that “LinkedIn Questions” application.
Becoming a Blogger.
Having that go away, something I used as an outlet for my self expression, I discovered blogging.
This was back in 2010. I got a “Blogspot” blog going (Nugget Insights) and had several posts on it – generally off-the-wall connections that brought typically unconnected concepts together in a new way. It also uncovered my quirky/different side and laid the foundation for what I’m doing today.
That then stopped in 2011 (other than one post) as I went through my divorce. Even though I thought I could compartmentalize emotions, I found I could not get the energy or emotional interest in writing upbeat, positive posts. So my blog and my writing went dormant.
I reemerged in 2014 with a single business post, How “Folding a Shirt” Applies to Your Business”.
Writing that post got me thinking again about starting a business and writing again.
That came together in 2015 when I decided to start a side hustle small business consulting business.
It was fun as it was an opportunity to personally explore marketing, sales, and business on a part time basis without the pressure of jumping into that as a full time job.
My initial foray with the “Profit Inspector” went nowhere as my $300 per month ad for 3 months in a coupon mailer went nowhere.
I then took a course with Troy White that gave me a few other options for marketing my business. But those didn’t pan out either. My marketing just didn’t connect with an audience in a way that was going to get them to buy from me right away. And my marketing didn’t have enough of a follow up sequence. Something you learn early on that it takes repetition, multiple touches, to convert a browser into a buyer.
I needed a website.
So I decided I needed to get a website put up and do some internet marketing as a way to move the business forward.
I then came across Kevin Hogan‘s Internet Marketing Course. It was really expensive (several thousand dollars) but very thorough.
And as a result I got a crash course in website design and marketing.
And this resulted in me setting my my site here and starting this blog.
Starting the blog and initially blogging a couple times a week, I never thought I’d be able to keep going this long.
I thought I’d run out of ideas.
And sometimes I’d hit a little writer’s block. But then something would get triggered in my head and the words would start flowing out.
It has now been over two years since I’ve started writing this blog. Nearly 200 posts.
Over that time I’ve honed my skills and fine tuned the direction of my business as I discovered resume writing and career coaching as a niche I’m good at.
This has now resulted in my recent recognition as a “Top 100 Career Blog”.
So what’s my point in all this?
- You never really know where you’re headed in life.
- Follow the breadcrumbs. Every experience and every skill you pick up has the potential to feed your future success.
- Enjoy the journey. It is a necessary part of getting to your destination.
- Life is short. Make the most of it.
- Find your niche. There is something you’re great at. You probably don’t recognize it – but those around you do. Ask them or find out by the feedback you get. By blogging I found what does and does not connect. It can be measured. So for an introvert, it is a great way to be supported in your craft.
- Live with Passion. Something Tony Robbins always said at the end of his “Personal Power” tapes I got back in the early 90’s. Words to live by.
- Contribute. Helping others, contributing to the world around you, gives your life purpose.
- Stay Connected. Whether with family, friends, or those yet to meet. Connection is critical to a life well lived. What is the point of doing fun and exciting things if you have no one to share them with. So pursue those connections. And nurture them.
- Humility. When you achieve success, don’t let it go to your head. Successful people are still just people. They’ve just chosen to put intense focus and effort into something and luck started to come their way. It can all be taken away in a heartbeat. And if you burn bridges or push people away they won’t be there when you need them.
- Market Yourself. My mentor Kevin Hogan called it marketing time. The most productive hours of your day as a business owner should be focused on marketing. Marketing builds businesses. My other mentors, Jay Abraham and Troy White also demonstrated the power of marketing and thinking outside the box. Whether you’re a business owner or employee, you can always, subtly or otherwise, market yourself. That gives you visibility to others and opens up future doors.
I hope you got something from the story I shared here about my writing, entrepreneurial journey, and personal growth that you can apply to your situation today. Would love to hear your feedback too.
Other posts in the series:
There. It’s out there now.
I feel better…
Oh, you want more?
Okay. Here’s the thing.
In our email, text, Facebook world, people don’t talk.
They are so caught up in themselves and their problems, they forget about you…the customer.
I’d heard that often the first vendor to answer the phone or call a prospect back gets the business.
Is it really that bad?
Yes, it is.
Here’s some of my new mantras for success. Forget about perfection.
- Show up.
- Show up close to on time.
- Answer the phone. Or call someone back quickly.
- Do the expected (it is the new version of unexpected).
Now I really never thought it would be this bad. But I see it day in and day out. Employees who demonstrate through their actions that they don’t think that working is a requirement but something that should fit around their schedule. No, it isn’t everyone. But it sure makes what used to be the average worker start to look like a superstar.
But what really shocked me was business people whose livelihood depends on giving decent customer service. Not awesome, just okay.
But when you’re dealing with a very important transaction. A life altering one. And you get half-baked emails and texts…only after you pester them for an update…rather than a phone call. Really?
And when you do talk to them on the phone or though the electronic phone thingy’s messaging center, they act like you they are doing you a favor by even talking to you. And when negotiating a deal on your behalf, the other party seems to get more representation than you.
But then you see their communications with the other party’s representative and it is equally pathetic. Quick snippets without any true communication or insight.
And it really made me see the value of a decent salesperson. Someone to guide you and help you make a decision in an area you aren’t already an expert.
So what is this rant really about?
It is about how just being mediocre is the new normal. But by being excellent, there truly is no competition. And you can corner the market.
Just something to consider as you’re mapping out your career or business future.
Have you experienced something similar? Comment below and share this with your social followers. Or do it the old fashioned way and call me. I promise if it goes to voicemail (yes, I’ll send you to voicemail if I haven’t preprogrammed your number into my phone…this is 2017!) I will call you back. 🙂
7 Handy Branding Tips For Entrepreneurs
Establishing a new brand to the point where it becomes even relatively well-known is hard work. It takes time, effort, consistency and planning. If you’re just starting out, don’t make the mistake of putting all your concentration into stuff like sales targets, market research and logistics, thinking you’ll figure out how to build your brand later on. You should be thinking about your branding story and strategy, as well as ways to boost brand awareness, right from the start. Here are 7 essential and handy branding tips every entrepreneur can benefit from:
- Choose a memorable name
A name can make or break a new business, no matter how great the concept. Your brand begins with, and should be summed up by, its name. Choose something memorable, catchy and totally in tune with your brand’s core values. (Ensure you know what those values are before you begin.) Be unique. Research name ideas to avoid potential legal trouble. Make sure matching URLs are available. If you’re a little stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for their ideas and opinions. Consider getting hundreds of name suggestions submitted by professionals for as little as $200 by running a Squadhelp naming contest.
- Come up with an effective slogan
Just like a name, a slogan (or tagline) should never be an afterthought when kick-starting your brand. A slogan should be emotive and short – aim for five words or less. Your slogan could convey your brand’s attitude – think Nike, and “Just do it”, or it could describe what you do, e.g. Nokia’s “Connecting people”. Remember, the shorter your slogan, the easier it is for consumers to recall and retain. Aim for precision and punch when coming up with a slogan. Squadhelp helps small business owners to choose great slogans. Run a contest, and get hundreds of professionals submissions within 24 hours.
- Don’t forget an effective logo
Not only should your logo be an appropriate visual reflection of your brand, it must be truly original in design, and, just like your brand name and slogan, it should be as memorable and uncomplicated as possible. Squadhelp can help with logo design, too.
- Build an effective online presence
We live in a “social” world and you must engage with it. Right from the start, devote some time and attention to building profiles on the social networks most appropriate to your brand. These could include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Don’t wait until your business reaches a certain stage before starting to build an online platform from which you can engage with current and potential customers. Post regularly, and be relevant. Let the personality of your brand shine through. Remember to build an email list. Ideally, aid brand awareness by providing information and insights consumers in your sector will find useful, either on your own blog, or by utilizing guest blogging posts.
- Don’t try to be everything to everyone
We all know you can’t please everyone, all of the time. Keep this in mind as you work to develop your brand. If you try to appeal to everyone on the planet, you’re bound to end up with a watered-down, boring brand personality. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Look to be the best brand you can be to a specific audience of target consumers.
- Get leverage via other brands
Connecting with other brands is a great way to help build brand awareness. Leveraging yourself off of other, stronger brands gives you credibility via your association with that brand, helping to build your brand equity. Think event sponsorship, brand ambassadors, or endorsements from clients who are themselves more well-known and trusted as brands than you are.
- Get creative
You may think building your brand will end up costing a ton of money in advertising or agency fees. And it can. But you can also get creative and come up with less costly, and often more effective ways to spread the good news of your brand all by yourself. You could set up a referral program for instance, that gives existing customers a perk in exchange for referring a friend. You could host an informative podcast. You might want to wrap your vehicle with ads. Or consider running a competition on social media.
Dan Taylor is responsible for content marketing and branding at Squadhelp.com, a crowdsourcing platform that lets companies host competitions to find a name and logo. He writes about topics related to startup naming, branding and entrepreneurship.
From time to time I’ve found myself watching the home improvement and flip this house type of show on TV. They are great shows to stimulate ideas about home improvements you’d love to have in your home. Whether it is that awesome outside entertaining space with water feature, built in grilling kitchen area and surround sound entertainment system and wet bar. Or it could be that incredible kitchen remodel or maybe you’ve always wanted to build your house from scratch.
So when Tane came to me with this infographic and “Story of Houzz” I checked out the “Houzz App” and was blown away. Incredible concept and very user friendly.
And in talking to people after being introduced to it, I found many of my interior design type friends had already discovered it and loved it too.
But beyond that, I also loved the story and it can teach you a lot about starting and running a business. And how when you’re open to it, opportunities often appear out of nowhere. And they can be the start of something incredible. Here’s some highlights of the story.
- How the couple met on a bus journey from Bangkok
- How a frustration turned into a business idea
- How that idea came up while chatting at the kitchen table
So check out this infographic and story provided to me by Tane Clark, Marketing Manager with the home improvement solutions provider HalfPrice.com.au. And if you haven’t gotten the Houzz app and find yourself watching home improvement and real estate shows and thinking, “I’d love that in my house!” get the app and check it out. It is pretty amazing.
The Story of Houzz – Home Design Platform
What started as a simple idea has become one of the biggest websites in the world. From a chat at the kitchen table, a community of over 40 million has been created. Houzz’s strength is in the size of its community and it relies upon people sharing their home design ideas with the world.
One particularly effective use of Houzz is in communicating with interior designers. You may have an idea in your head about how you would like your home to look, but explaining this to a professional can be difficult. You may be unaware of the specific terminology that should be used and might completely miscommunicate your message to a professional. The wonderful thing about Houzz is that it has 12 million pictures and the eyes never lie. You can simply show a professional a photograph of what you want and it will avoid any potential confusion.
Check out this infographic and accompanying guide for more information on the growth of Houzz.