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In Honor of My Father

DaddyYouthfulIt’s Father’s Day and I’m blessed to have a lot of wonderful fathers in my life. I have a good father-in-law, although he lives in Tacoma, WA, and he’s getting on up there in years and doesn’t travel anymore, so I don’t see him much. I’m grateful to him for giving life to his son, Leon, with whom I have chosen to spend the rest of my life.

Then, there’s my awesome son, who is the wonderful daddy to three of the most marvelous little boys on the face of the earth. Of course, his incredible wife makes it easy for him because she’s the best mommy ever.

Then, I have two brothers who have raised some great kids. I am actually enjoying my adult nieces and nephews more than I ever thought possible. I guess I thought they’d always be loud obnoxious little people. Now most of them are parents.

And let me not forget my own dear Leon, who has been a loving step-father to my children for 25 years. He decided years ago that he didn’t like the term “step” father, so since he likes to sit on the porch a lot, my kids call him their “porch father.”

I still get sad thinking about it, but my own precious father moved to the other side of eternity 25 years ago. He’s missed knowing most of this “tribe” that he helped to start. There are now 14 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and more due to be born this year. Including spouses and some “extra” kids that we all claim, there are more than 50 in our tribe.
Daddy would have loved it.

For several years after he died, I would buy special cards for him on Father’s Day, and just put them in the drawer and enjoyed what I would have said had he been here.

Here’s what my father gave to me:

  • An incredible confidence that I could do anything I wanted and do it well.
  • A knowledge that I was loved unconditionally every day of my life (my mother carries this on now…).
  • He passed on to me his love of books and learning.  Recently, we siblings were asked by my mother what things that had belonged to daddy we might like to go ahead and take out of the house.  All I could think of were his books.
  • He gave me an example of faithfulness to God and to his family, even when things were difficult and most people would have thrown in the towel.
  • He taught me to trust.
  • A love of music (and he paid for years of lessons so I could not only listen, but enjoy playing it for myself).
  • He demonstrated what it looks like to love one woman and in turn, take care of her and his large family.
  • A crazy sense of humor.

So, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.  And to those of you who still have your dads here on earth — enjoy!

Queen of the Tribe

I have shared much of my life with you in the stories I’ve written, and I want to tell you about my mom.

Her name is Carolyn and she’ll be 87 in about 10 days.  She married young, but has been a widow for the past 25 years.  She has lived in the same house for the past 42 years, near the mountains of SC.  She goes to the gym a couple times a week for “Silver Sneakers” workout time, but she can’t drive herself anymore, as of 2010.  We insisted that she take an actual driving test in 2009, all the while dreading the expected failure because we were sure life as we knew it would end if she couldn’t drive.  But, alas, she passed with flying colors that year, and her little half-smirk/half-smile told us what she thought about that.   But just a year later, in tears, she handed over the keys at our request; she knew we were just trying to keep her and the other people on the road safe. The hardest thing for her and for the rest of us to get used to these days is that she can’t remember details.  So, almost everything we ask her, the answer is the same, “I don’t know,” or “I just don’t remember.”  Then she smiles sweetly and tells us that she doesn’t like this any better than we do.

I am the oldest of 6 children; there are 4 girls and 2 boys.  There are 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.  Including spouses and stepchildren accumulated along the way, there are 54 people in our immediate family.  It’s a genuine tribe.  For special events, we have to plan outdoor activities and hope the weather cooperates.  A few summers ago, we rented a lodge with 10 cabins and a large dining hall and commercial kitchen, for almost a week.  We even had a wedding for one of my nieces there on Saturday night and didn’t even have to bring in outside help — my son is a pastor and did the ceremony; my daughter is a profressional musician and did all the music; one niece is an extraordinary wedding planner and decorator; my sister’s then-boyfriend  owns a Greek restaurant and he cooked the wedding dinner on site; my husband is a photographer…and the list goes on.  There are benefits to having a large family!  Two more nephews are commercial audio engineers, and they set up the finest sound system ever, and we danced and did karaoke until we literally fell over with exhaustion.  Even the small children stayed up VERY late and dropped into a deep sleep one by one onto air mattresses that we had put into the corners of the large dining/dancing hall in the main lodge to catch them as they fell.  We didn’t even bother to move them…they woke up the next morning just in time for breakfast.

My mother sat in the middle of all this like a queen.   She was my dad’s queen for 42 years and now, she’s our queen, sans the king…with a bunch of rowdy princes and princesses.

She is a very loving mother and she has devoted her whole life to nurturing babies and then caring for her children as we grew.  None of us have even come close to living our lives as mother has lived hers.  In some respects, our ways are better and in some ways, they’re poorer.   But, as I say so often, “It is what it is.”   I don’t connect on every level with my mother, and I know she looks at me sometimes and wonders if she really gave birth to me — after all, she was SO conventional and proper and I’ve been anything but.  But there’s one thing I can say absolutely:  “I have been loved unconditionally every day of my life on this earth.”   And so has she.  It’s a good deal.  My children can say the same, and I tell them every year, “Thanks for the cards and the presents and phone calls, but for me, EVERY DAY IS MOTHER’S DAY with kids like you!”

And now, I’m going to stop writing and call my mother…

Thankful Me – Ode to “My Guys”

FriendshipI write this the day after Thanksgiving, 2013.  I would have posted on Thanksgiving Day, but I was too swamped with cooking, serving and cleaning up (plus I was stuffed and almost in a turkey coma :)   I’ve actually been writing this in my head for the better part of a week, and so today, I’m putting my thoughts into words.

The past 12-14 months have been some of the most amazing and difficult I’ve ever experienced, except perhaps 1989, when I walked (limped) through divorce, a cross-country move, empty nest and the death of my father, all within a 3 month period.  I also met my sweet Leon in the middle of all that upheaval (silver lining, for sure).  But, back to my story…

In October of 2012, I met some men at a conference in Las Vegas who changed my life.  When I consider this conference, it seems almost unbelievable they were all there at one event, in one room.  I’ll just go ahead and tell you who they are:  Mario Brown, Brian Anderson, Jack Mize, Mike Cooch, Costas Peppas, Derral Eves, Jeff Smith, and Syd Michael.  WOW!  They were all so gracious, so real, so talented, and I fell in love with each of them for different reasons.  I’ve met  most of the wives (except Syd…LOL). Having met these amazing women helps me understand why their husbands are successful.  I knew when I left that conference that my life and my business had taken a turn, but I wasn’t sure exactly how.

Almost 6 weeks later, I found myself absolutely devastated with a loss and a grief almost too big to bear.  Completely brokenhearted.  The pain was so deep and the grief so raw, I could only process it with a few close friends and my precious children.  But, I’ve always looked at the proverbial glass as half full, not half empty.  So, I dug deep, leaned on God for strength I knew I didn’t have, and I decided to heal.  The holidays were a blur.  Most mornings found me sitting outside weeping, reading my Bible and gathering strength for the day.  It came.

A few weeks later, in  January of this year, Sue (my business partner) and I were invited to Ft. Lauderdale for a marketing conference. I got to see many of my new friends again – Mario, Brian, Jack, Costas, Syd (Jeff…were you there?  Sorry, I can’t remember)  Derral and Mike were missing at that one.  I was invited to share on stage what Sue and I were doing with our educational marketing to the Chambers of Commerce and SCORE.  Mario and Brian suggested that we should be sharing that training with other marketers, and with some apparent enthusiasm from other attendees, we began coaching with Mario to help us build a training product to help other marketers.  What a ride that was for the next few months!

I’m diabetic, and high stress always sends my blood sugar out of control.  Still reeling from the personal grief I was dealing with, I found that the only way to control the blood sugar while in Ft. Lauderdale was to go out in the parking lot and jog around the building several times.  Yep, it worked!  I’d come back in, check it, and see it had dropped 50-60 points.  So maybe people thought I was just big on exercise, but that wouldn’t be true.  I’m incredibly lazy about real exercise.  (Maybe there’s hope in 2014?)

Mario held our feet to the fire, and our product, Success With Webinars, launched on Valentine’s Day.  And it was SWEET!  I remember being out to dinner with Leon and I could hardly pay attention because my cell phone kept dinging with each new PayPal notification.  But he understood…we had worked hard for this, and he shared the excitement with me.  Next came launches with the other guys…Jeff, Jack, Mike, Costas, Derral, Syd…and other new friends we met along the way.

Leon has incredibly good humor about my reference to “my guys.”  If I mentioned a name he couldn’t remember…I’d say, “You know…they’re one of ‘my guys.’ ”  Oh yeah…one of them!
The great news is that during this past year, Leon has been able to meet many of you, and that has made me so happy.

About halfway through the year, Leon decided to do a couple really special things for me…so he booked a cruise in early May, and bought us a new RV on my birthday at the end of May.  But his timing was pretty bad because unbeknownst to him or me, his health was in jeopardy and he almost died the day after we took delivery of the RV.  Geez…could this year get any more weird?  Yes, it could.  After 7 years, I had to deal with breast cancer again, and I missed Mike’s conference in Denver in Oct.  All is well on that front, (Big sigh) and Mike promised to catch me up on the event.

So, the RV sat there all summer; but, in October we took it for a trial run and things went well, and we just got home a couple weeks ago from a 30-day cross country trip.  On that trip, Leon and I were privileged to spend time with Derral and his family in one of the most beautiful places in the country – Zion National Park.  Then, we discovered the night we would be in Memphis, Mike and Sarah were there at a conference – so we had dinner together and a night out on Beale Street.  Way cool!  And the best thing was meeting Sarah.  Mike, you married UP!  Sarah is beautiful, articulate, and smart. After leaving Memphis, we found ourselves in Atlanta the next night, where we were graced with the hospitality of Brian and Rebecca. After experiencing her home cooking, I don’t know how Brian will ever lose weight easily.  That gal is charming, a great cook, and a real winner.

Jack, I know I threatened to come park the RV in your yard, but we never made it that far south.  Maybe next time, but I promise we’ll find an RV park nearby and not alarm your neighbors.  Thank you for straightening out Nanacast for us on the eve of our launch.  And for those coaching calls you didn’t send me a bill for.  Costas, sorry we missed you in Memphis, but next time Nashville will definitely be on our route.

So, here I am, a year later, a different person with a different business than I ever expected.  Knowing all of you has, indeed, made my year rewarding and special in ways that cannot be counted.

I remain grateful.  Here’s my short gratitude list:

I’m grateful for:

A relationship with my Heavenly Father, without Whom all else would be pointless.
For my children – two of the finest adults on the planet, whose lives honor me as a mother and now as friends.
For my husband, with whom I am privileged to share my life, with all its twists and turns, ups and downs.  My love for you is boundless.
For a business partner like none other – Sue White
For my health – I didn’t get the good genes, and I’m grateful that through heart surgery, diabetes, and cancer…all is well at this time.
For my naturally optimistic spirit – a gift from dear old Dad.
For the unconditional love of my mom and my extended family.  Life is never boring.
For my business skills, and mostly for my unquenchable thirst for knowledge (again, thanks, Dad!)
For my friends.

I’m also grateful that I’m naturally a “People Person,” and relationships bring me joy.

I’ve always said that I’m a rich woman, regardless of my bank account. I’ve been content with far less, and I’m grateful for the financial success I’ve enjoyed.

I am SO grateful for all of you.  Your friendships are one of my greatest blessings, and you were instrumental in my survival and success in ways you could not have known in 2013.

I wish you all the best, and I’m looking forward to 2014.

 

 

 

The Joy of Rabbit Trails

Wild rabbit

I got up this morning at 4 am…just so I could do nothing.  I don’t mean “nothing,” but to do what I wanted to do, not what I needed to do.

I got coffee, sat on the porch and checked email on my mobile phone. There was an email from my friend, Nicole Dean, (NicoleOnTheNet.com), inviting me to come to Pensacola beach and have a girls weekend mastermind with some very successful women. Sorry, Nicole, but I can’t come – I’ll be in Denver. But, then, there was mention of another friend, Kelly McCausey. So I clicked over to her website, SoloSmarts.com. Really good stuff. Then, I saw a link for TheSoloPreneurLife.com. So, I went there…more good stuff. Links to some great books…so I headed on over to Amazon and added a few to my Kindle, in preparation for some good reading time on an upcoming trip in our new RV.

It’s now 5:30 am, and it’s time for more coffee and another trip to the porch. I notice the ducks on the pond are making a lot of racket…I wonder if the local alligator is out there threatening to put an end to their upcoming weekend. I get to wondering…what do ducks eat? So I head on back to my office and Google the question. Grass, vegetation, insects. Note to self: Think again before adding herbicide to the yard…it could ruin a few meals for the ducks.

In all those rabbit trails with the Kindle books, I find one that looks really interesting…something about Life in a Suitcase. I put it on my Amazon WishList. That makes me start thinking about my hubby and me preparing to take our RV on the road this fall and learning to work from anywhere. I wonder if I should set up a separate blog about that, so I start to search for an appropriate domain name. But the ones I want are taken (with words like digital, nomad, gypsy, etc.) I’ll revisit that later.

I think about my love of communicating, my passion for writing, and how I could weave that into the next stage of my life. How am I going to fit it all in? After all, I’m running two very busy and time-consuming businesses (actually three, if you count the online training courses to other marketers). But oh, how grateful I am that I started years ago developing a lifestyle that would let me work from home, serve others, be with my family, and have time for “rabbit trails.”

When I come up with a new idea, or have a vision for a unique project, my husband is famous for saying, “Oh, you’ve been down another rabbit trail!” I was wondering whether I should be saying “rabbit holes” or “rabbit trails,” but in looking in the Urban Dictionary, I think rabbit trails is the term I like best. I even found a blog called “Chasing Rabbit Trails.” It’s about productivity. It even says there’s a study that smart people aren’t as productive. Oh, I feel better already.

So, now it’s 7:30, and the email is starting to pour in, the Skype notification is dinging, and I guess I’d better get back to the tasks at hand. But, I’ve truly enjoyed this morning of rabbit trails, and I don’t feel a bit guilty.

I’d love to hear from any of you with rabbit trail syndrome, and how you handle it.
But for now, I’m off to have a fantastic Friday the 13th (I just noticed the date)!

The Benefits of Failure

No one wants to fail.  Certainly not me.  But sometimes failure can actually produce unexpected positive results.  Let me tell you a story of how I learned this.

A couple years ago, my hubby and I decided to ride our BMW motorcycles from Myrtle Beach to Watkins Glen State Park, in the Finger Lakes area of NY.  It was early in September and the weather was as close to perfect as it could be.  We drove 1100 miles through the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and arrived safe and exhilarated.  We pitched our tent among the trees and decided to ride into the nearby town to pick up some ice, drinks and other supplies.  The road leading into the town was full of curves and hills.  As we approached an intersection, my hubby (who’s always in the lead), raced to the top of the hill, glanced both ways, barely coming to a complete stop, and made a quick left and off he went.  I didn’t quite make it to the top of the banked, curved hill.  In one horrifying moment, I realized I was off balance, and there was no way I could straighten the bike on that angle.  Over we went – the bike going one way, and me rolling in the other direction.

Now, let me stop and tell you that my greatest fear had been to go to this rally with 1000 other riders, and have something like this happen and draw attention to myself.  I had only been riding a few years, and even though I had about 50K miles under my belt, I was far less experienced than most of the other riders.  Almost all the riders were men, and the women who were there were primarily riding on the back of their guy’s bike.

So, with my husband nowhere in sight, I picked myself up and immediately was surrounded by men pulling over to see about me.  Mercifully, I wasn’t hurt because I had the good sense to ride with proper protective clothing and leather gloves.  It was my pride that was hurt.  Several guys picked up my bike, and one even offered to ride it over the hill to the other side of the road (where it was nice and flat).  I readily accepted the offer.  About this time, hubby came roaring back down the road – he had finally missed me! – and asked where in the world I had been.  I explained I had been in the middle of the road – thank you very much! So, what did I learn?

Here are a few lessons:

1.  My greatest fear came to pass, and I survived it.  I think I internally relaxed about it, and I rode hundreds of miles around the Finger Lakes, and never even came close to another incident.  The worst had happened, and I was over it.

2.  It actually created a sense of “belonging” among the other riders.  They were gracious, kind, and talk around the campfires included the old saying among bikers: “There are only two kinds of riders – those who have dropped their bikes, and those who will.”  I was now part of the club!

3.  One man gave me a well-written motorcyclist’s manual with some nuts-and-bolts tips on handling a big bike.  I tried some of those techniques, and became a better rider.  I even learned how to counter-steer through sharp curves.  What a blast!

And last but not least – hubby decided to ride in such a way that I wasn’t a fading dot in his rear-view mirror!

So, what are you afraid of?  What failures have you experienced in life and business?  Can you stop and make a list of how those failures produced good in your life?

Leave me your comments and tell me your story…I want to hear it!

What’s Your Reputation Worth?

Here’s what a very wise King Solomon said, Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.” ~~ Proverbs 22:1

Now before you think I’m saying that all people with good reputations must be poor, let me put that to rest.  That’s NOT what I’m saying.  I want to take this Scripture at face value, and say there’s not enough money on earth to make up for a bad reputation.

There’s another great quote I’d like to share with you:  “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” ~~ Abraham Lincoln

So, it used to be that all we had to do to have a good reputation was to treat others well, be good to our family and friends, and conduct our business fairly.  But today, it’s not enough.  What???

That’s right…and I’m talking about the internet and social media.  I love America and free speech, and all my liberties; but with all freedoms, there are abuses of those same liberties we all hold dear.

Let me tell you a true story (a story still being written)…

I got into the internet marketing field about two years ago, and began developing training products for small businesses to access online, rather than having to travel for seminars, etc.  That led to many of those businesses contracting with me to help them be found online.  So, I began helping them develop an online presence and become involved in the social media conversation.  What great fun this is!!  I’ve discovered many wonderful tactics and strategies that are valuable to my clients.

Then, one day I had lunch with an old friend in another city, whom I had not seen in years.  As we were catching up, she began to cry when she told me about a vicious online attack against her husband.  I was horrified.  The attack was coming from just one man, who was disgruntled over something personal.  This attacker is brilliant in his use of the internet to create havoc.  My friends are very successful in their lines of work, but have absolutely no experience online.

She found out what I was doing professionally, and wondered if I could help.  I told her I would look into it.  So I did.  I studied what was on Google when I searched for my friend’s name.  I began to see a pattern with what was being done.  I studied the keywords, the frequency of the posts, and all the sites that were being used to crucify my friend.  It really was a cold, cunning, calculated vicious attack.  The man launching the attack happens to have a high-ranking authority website with a lot of “muscle” online and he was using that muscle for his own perverted pleasure.

I began a campaign to help my friend.  I studied everything I could get my hands on concerning Reputation Management online.  I soon learned that it’s a wide-open field.  Many large companies are hiring Reputation Management companies just to police the internet and push down the negative and boost the positive.  I bought courses…I studied from the best.  I tested, measured, and tested again.

I’m happy to report that if you were to Google my friend’s name right now, there’s “good stuff” at the top, and the negative is being pushed down.  It’s been a process and a journey.  It seems so unfair, that anyone can go online and say anything at all and get away with it.  It doesn’t have to be true.  It’s protected under free speech.  The only way around this is to actually hire an attorney, take it to court and prove fallacious content has been posted with malicious intent.  That’s a tall order.  In the meantime, while the court docket has my friend’s case scheduled for early 2013, the attacker is free to continue.

On a less serious scale, there are small businesses out there that really need to pay attention to what is being posted online.  Restaurants, dentists, plumbers, hotels, etc…  After all, Google is the new Yellow Pages, and if someone is searching on Yelp for a good restaurant, and the first thing they see is a bad review, trust me, they’re moving on to the next one.  Reputation matters.  Period.

In closing, there is one last quote I’d like to leave with you.  Benjamin Franklin said this:  “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

This topic of reputation online will be coming to the forefront more and more and you’ll begin to see national media coverage on this topic.  I’d like your comments…please post below.

Working at Home Successfully

I’ve worked from home most of my adult life.  For the past 20 years, my work at home has revolved around the computer and in these recent years, the internet.  There was a few short years in the early 90’s when broadband wasn’t available out here in the “country” near Myrtle Beach, and I worked from an office in town, but as soon as Time Warner laid their cable on my country road, I closed up shop downtown and was comfortably back at home, where I belong!

For me, the most wonderful part of working at home is that my husband has also worked from home, and we’ve learned together how to coexist and thrive under one roof.  But, that’s a different story.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like to say goodbye each morning and go separate ways.

I’m always a little taken aback when people say things like, “Oh, I could never work at home!”  When I probe for the thinking behind that statement, I find that usually people think they couldn’t manage their time successfully without some sort of outside influence.  I don’t say it, but I would like to ask why they would perform more responsibly for other people than they would for themselves.

Why would I cheat myself by foolishly spending time watching TV or chatting with friends when my own income and sense of accomplishment rests on managing my time properly and getting things done?  Over 30 years ago, when I was a pioneer in the home school movement, (some of us were actually arrested!), I used to tell my children that cheating of any sort would be silly because it would be themselves they were cheating.  I would say, “If you don’t learn such and such, you’ll be the one uneducated – I already have my education!”  Same thing goes for working at home – if I don’t do what it takes, there’s no hiding from it – my income will dry up.

I’ve learned over the years that working at home successfully is a dance – sometimes a tango and sometimes a waltz.  But for me, it’s the only lifestyle I would ever choose.  I’m incredibly blessed to have the support of my husband and children, the very ones who cheer me on the most.  I also have the love and support of wonderful friends, who by now know better than to think that my day is free because I’m at home.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to successfully work at home.  It doesn’t happen by accident, and  I believe I can speak with authority on the subject.  So, I will do that in a few future blog posts.  I will talk about everything from mindset to office setup and the tools you need. We’ll cover time management, software, hardware, and even cooking and eating healthy.  Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you.
Do you work from home?
If so, how long have you done it?
What are your frustrations?

Leave a comment; I really want to know.

3 Things That Drive Me Nuts Online

As I become more and more involved in the different social media, I am able to observe the different ways people act online.  Personalities definitely shine, even in 140 characters. This can be a really good thing – an art form, really.  But it can also be boorish, annoying and a waste of my time and yours.

Here are my top 3 Things That Drive Me Crazy Online

  1. Profile pictures that don’t match who you are. I do not care about your favorite cartoon, your dog, your cat or your bird.  I’m happy you have a family and I hope you’re enjoying them immensely, but I don’t want to see cute baby pictures – and that includes childhood pictures of YOU!  One notable exception:  Post those pics on Facebook, but not as your profile picture.  Put them into an album, and then one night when I just want to cruise around on the net and get to know someone a little better, I may pop in an take a look at your DisneyWorld vacation.  But that’s only after I’ve gotten to know you a little.
  2. Assuming I want to play dumb, mind-numbing, time-wasting games on Facebook. I don’t. Find your Farkles somewhere else. And if you’re so intrigued with farming, move to Kansas. I also don’t want to receive flowers, hugs, puppies and kittens, and I am not interested in the twisted theology that departed loved ones have come back in the form of angels and need disbursing on Facebook. (Angels are real, but people don’t become angels – sorry).
  3. Don’t send me an auto-generated message on Twitter and ask me to go to your site and check out your stuff. How about a nice hello first?  Can you imagine going to a party, walking up to someone and saying, “I’m Jeanne. I’m drinking a margarita and I want you to go to my website and see what you might like to buy.”  People would be wasting no time getting away from me.  Yet, that’s what I see people doing everyday on Twitter.  It annoys the %#$#$ out of me and it’s all I can do to not hit the Unfollow button.

 

What really attracts me is when it looks like someone has offered something of value, or at least information that is interesting. Many times, I’ll click on a link and read an article, and then it may lead to my wondering who was behind all this great information, and I’ll click on their website and possibly bookmark that site.  That happened twice this morning.

The internet is a fascinating place to work and play.  Be thoughtful and use some common sense.  You’ll be oh, so much more popular.

What about you?  What drives you crazy?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Marketing Used to Be Like Golf – Now It’s Like Tennis

SMART MARKETING IS NOT OPTIONAL!

The world of small business is changing, sometimes faster than what we can keep up with.  Many factors contribute to these changes – increased competition, the social media revolution, the recession – and as a result, we’ve all been forced to rethink our marketing and advertising strategies and tactics.

Since the economy tanked a couple years ago, many small businesses are finding it more difficult to compete.  The biggest question we ask ourselves (I’m a small business owner, too!) is, “How do I make my business recession-proof?”  Really, the only way to do that is to give marketing a front seat ride.  It’s simply not optional anymore.

I can think of another dozen things that I consider important. For instance, customer service, a solid accounting process, employee training.  But none are more important than a good, smart marketing plan, especially during a recession.  Knowing how to market and then actually doing what you know (or what you learn) will make the difference in whether you stay in business or close your doors.

I heard that during the Great Depression, several companies actually became super stars and some are still in business today.  They learned how to take a bad situation and turn it around for their advantage.  During hard times, we learn the importance of making the most of every marketing dollar.  We study, and train ourselves to see things differently and we watch every dime that gets spent—and we consider it an investment, not just an expenditure.

I am a small business coach, and therefore, I look for ways to help my clients thrive, not just survive.  The first thing we need to realize is that people really have tightened the belt and aren’t spending money like they used to.  Therefore, we have to be wise in searching out the prospective buyers, and we must learn to use new and innovative ways to find our audience and get them to listen, and ultimately, to buy from us.

Marketing used to be like a game of golf.  We just walked out to the tee box, lined up the shot, took dead aim, and swung the club.  We hoped the ball came close to the cup and if it didn’t, we just hit it a few more times, and then we scored.

But today, marketing is more like a game of tennis.  We hit the ball and our opponent (our customer) might hit the ball straight back to us, or they may just hit it somewhere else entirely.  Literally, the ball is in their court.  Our goal is to get them to hit it back to us.  So we’re not just pushing a message out there (the golf example) in hopes of scoring,  but we’re engaging in a back and forth game in hopes of winning by confidence, skill and persistence (the tennis example).

I am going to write a series of articles that address this subject of smart marketing for the small business owner.  This is the first of the series.  I hope you’ll come back and join me for all of them.   It’s really a wonderful time to be in business, if we’re careful to make marketing a priority.

One way of enhancing your marketing is to begin to market with email.  Here’s a link to a fantastic course I’ve prepared for business owners who want to start with email marketing and don’t know how.  http://YourEmailMarketingSuccess.com Be sure to check it out – it could be your best move yet!

eLearning – Your Golden Ticket to Business Growth

If you are a small business owner or a sales professional, or perhaps, what I call a “solopreneur,” and you’ve survived the past few years in the worst economic downturn in recent history, then you are looking for ways to take it to the next level – to not only survive, but to thrive!  I believe online training or what we call eLearning can be an extremely valuable tool if used properly.

Several questions beg an answer for a success-minded business owner.

1.  Marketing Budget

The marketing landscape has morphed – almost while we weren’t looking – traditional methods just aren’t working anymore, even if we had the cash to throw in that direction.  So, how do determine what to do…how do we prepare ourselves?  Simply put – how do we spend our marketing energy and money?

2.  The Social Media  buzz

Another burning question at the top of the list for every small business owner is whether to jump on board the Social Media train.  Is it just hype, the latest buzz words?  Is it a waste of time…or just for youth, or mainly for grandparents wanting to see all the pictures of their kids and grandkids?   Is it really beneficial for businesses?  These are all questions that deserve an honest answer.

3.  Getting Accounting Processes Under Control

Let’s move on for a moment to some in-house nitty-gritty issues that you know need attention in order to thrive this year.  Maybe your accounting is a mess, and by June, you know you’re going to need serious help sorting it all out.  Are you doing business straight out of your checkbook?  You know you need a simple, easy-to-implement accounting software and you need it quick!

4.  Sharpening Your Office Software Skills

Next, you KNOW that you should be making some spreadsheets to track important information.  Perhaps you’ve been making hand-written lists and adding things up with an adding machine.  You KNOW that Microsoft Excel is a dynamite tool, but how are you going to find time to take a class or work through a massive tutorial by yourself, with no one in sight to answer your questions?

5.  Using Email Effectively

OK…you’ve been using email for awhile, and maybe even have an employee or two who uses it on a regular basis to communicate with customers and vendors.  But, do you have that nagging thought that perhaps your company’s email communication needs an overhaul…that perhaps you’re sending the wrong message with simple errors which could be easily corrected.  How do people get those nice electronic “signatures” at the bottom of their emails…how can I improve my image?

6.  How Do I Market My Business Online?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) companies who know what they’re doing can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month…and it’s money well spent for the ROI.  BUT…is there a cost effective way to do it yourself? The short answer is yes.
Read more below under “Solutions.”

Solutions

Now, these are just a few of the problems that a small business owner can encounter when considering how to grow his business and THRIVE in 2014.  There are several ways to look at solving these problems.

  1. On-site classes – either at the local college or seminars held by professional companies specializing in the specific area of expertise you desire and need
  2. Private tutors – even hiring a college student who is proficient with some of the software you would like to learn
  3. Your CPA – for help with setting up an efficient accounting system.
  4. Online training – also called eLearning

For me, option #4 – online training – is the TICKET to growing your business in 2014.  And here’s why:

  1. No travel time or travel expenses
  2. Flexible schedule – you work at your pace on your schedule
  3. Low, low cost

When searching for online training, look for a company that offers training from a variety of experts, not just one or two people are doing all the training.  Look for a company who will respond to you personally when you send an email or make a phone call. And finally, look for a company with cutting-edge, relevant material spanning a wide range of small business needs.

I’m a partner in such a company – Business Training Team.  I’m proud of the training videos we have in our membership site.  They’re in-depth and come with workbooks.  I wish all this had been available to me years ago when I started my first business.  I invite you to take a look:  http://BusinessTrainingTeam.com
Everything here is free.  Be sure to look at the Archives on the right side.  

If you want to do your own online marketing, using an computer savvy employee, a family member or even a college intern, please visit:

http://LocalInternetSecrets.com/business-owner

There is a small monthly charge, but you’ll save thousands of dollars in the long run.  This training is much more intense than the free training on Business Training Team’s website.

This is for the truly serious company owner, and covers everything from soup to nuts in easy-to-follow steps.  Videos and printable documentation are done in small “coffee-break-sized” training. Online marketing is not rocket science, but it is both a science and an art form.  You don’t want to tackle it without a guide and without being sure what you’re doing is totally up-to-date.  Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain excpect death and taxes.”  I’d like to add my own twist on this…”Google will change the rules regularly and without notice.”  My company, The Business Force, spends a lot of time and money to keep track of all the changes necessary for a small business owner to be successful online.