Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for January, 2016

Thinking about going out on your own?—It’s a wonderful and insecure journey.

I met with a colleague for coffee this morning. We’ve been in similar businesses for over 25 years, and it’s great fun to compare notes about the work and journey that we love. I always find it validating and energizing to meet with other people who took that leap and have been able to sustain their businesses, and most importantly, sustain their enjoyment for what they do. Anyway, it got me thinking about what it takes to do it successfully. There are a ton of books and lots of information about starting a practice or business, and if you’re even considering the idea I would encourage you to get all of the information you possibly can to assess your readiness, capabilities, and desires—including interviewing others who have done it.

As I was reflecting on this today, I thought I might offer my personal experience and perspective about being a sole proprietor and what I believe it takes to launch and sustain a business, and what you may want to consider if you’re thinking about sole proprietorship. So here you go….food for thought and a few recommendations:

– You have to really want it….badly, because the amount of time, energy and focus it takes to launch a business is significant and will need to be a major priority for years. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a life meanwhile, but frankly, especially during start-up (again, months to years) it does mean that in the midst of all else, you should expect to be preoccupied with your business desires and goals. And, most likely, you’ll be working long hours. I should mention here that this preoccupation and hard work can be downright exhilarating.

– Unless you have a hardy second income in your household to support the slow upswing of building a business, you’ll need more money than you may think to get it off the ground. In addition to start-up expenses, you could easily need double the funds you’ve planned for, saved, or borrowed to support you while you’re building your business.

– You’ll need to be somewhat comfortable with insecurity and the unknown. After 26 years, whether I’m having a fair or stellar quarter, I still can only accurately project the next three to five months’ income at any given time. If you’re like me and you thrive on the unknown, this may work well for you. Yet, if you’re someone who is looking for consistent surety of your short and long-term future, you may want to revisit the anticipated roller coaster of a ride that you may be choosing.

– The flexibility that being your own boss allows is awesome. Although, with that flexibility comes the need for unending self-discipline, which at times, may not feel awesome at all.

– Let there be no mistake on this one—You need to be comfortable with selling yourself and your product or services. In other words, you need to be well-equipped and consistently determined to make connections. There is no avoiding the sales and marketing focus that is particularly important in the first several years. And although tenure does generate more exposure, referrals, trust, and repeat business, you’ll want to continue to keep yourself acutely aware of marketing for as long as you want your business to thrive. Continue to make connections and build your reputation in your business community with a virtual presence, speaking, writing, identifying new prospects and serving them well, serving your community, sharing your expertise, and of course, providing your clients with quality value-added service.

These are just a few general considerations that came to mind immediately that I wanted to share from my personal experience today.

Are you a sole proprietor or a small business owner? What key points or recommendations can you add to this list from your experience?

I hope you find this helpful whether you’re entertaining the idea of sole proprietorship or you’re already in the midst of it. Either way, every success, and enjoy the ride!

Email subject lines can be so much more useful!

A simple shift in usage of the subject line when sending emails can make a significant difference in response and/or retrieval time, and overall efficiency with written communications.

Say you’re sending an email to a colleague requesting feedback on a document that you need to send out by the end of the day, tomorrow. Here are a few common subject lines we might see in this scenario. Which do you think is going to grab the reader’s attention and offer you what you hope to accomplish?
– Can you take a look?
– Document I mentioned
– ABC Project, your input please
– Your input requested by noon tomorrow, if possible, thx!

If someone is swamped with email, how thoughtful might it be to state the following in the subject line of an email they don’t need to open today?
– ABC Proj-for your reference next week or ABC Proj-for your file

And how about the subject line that lives on forever throughout a thread of emails that ends up evolving into varied topics or initiatives? Why not shift the subject line to reflect the current discussion? When you go to review data in an email, or if you want to identify the email from weeks or months prior (we’ve all been there, done that) you won’t have to peruse volumes of email content in order to retrieve the info you’re looking for 🙂

One last tidbit that we’re seeing more and more—You can use a subject line like a text. For example, if someone responds with a quick email and you want to say “Thanks”, or “I’ll be there, see you Mon!”, place it in the subject line and just end it with a bracketed acronym for “end of message” (eom) or “no text” (nt).

I love quick and simple tools that can save time, minimize frustration, and increase efficiency. If you try this one, you and/or your colleagues and clients will appreciate the difference.