Lessons Learned on Networking

Meet (almost) anyone that you can.

CoffeShopNetworking I was an avid networker, and in the past six months have slowed down for many reasons. First and foremost, I am incredibly busy running a company and the thought of heading to an event or meeting after work (or being offline for an hour during the day) often stresses me out. In the spare time that I do get, I attempt to plan my fast approaching wedding. Second, I am always weary of bad meetings. Not that the meeting won’t go well, but that the other person has a sales agenda. I detest taking an hour of my time for someone to simply pitch me their business – be upfront and clear that you want to meet and sell me something and I’ll save us both time.

So, this week I was quite hesitant to schedule not one, but two coffees, on the same day, during, and after business hours. Fortunately, these two coffees reminded me why networking and meeting new people can be so amazing. The first woman has a fantastic non-profit that was incredibly inspiring and wonderful to discuss. I left the meeting excited to brainstorm with my team and help this non-profit further its mission. The second meeting was scheduled at 5:30 and I went into it hoping to be at the gym by 6:15. Well, the coffee went until 7:40 and I didn’t look at my clock once in between. The person that I met with had incredible insights into all aspects of the business world and I could have listened to him talk for hours more. I am lucky to have had the pleasure of grabbing coffee with him, and am thankful to have learned so much and to have had such excellent conversation in those two hours. We might even do business together in the near future (although I will still be perfectly happy with the meeting if we do not).

Moral of the story, meet with as many interesting people as you can because you never know what you might learn or what wonderful connection you might make. That being said, make sure you understand the other person’s agenda up front. If I have a feeling the meeting is sales focused, I inform the person upfront that I will not be buying their product/service, and if they are still interested in meeting we can arrange something. That simple email has recently saved me hours of coffee shop sales meetings and has ensured that my time has been well spent.

Photo courtesy of marfis75

Advice From Karen Finerman at the 30th Annual NAWBO Chicago Achievement Luncheon

Karen_Finerman

I tend to be weary about keynote speeches during luncheons, because they seem to either be brilliant or capable of putting someone to sleep. At the NAWBO Chicago Achievement Luncheon, I was fortunate enough to hear one of those keynotes that left me feeling inspired. Keynote speaker Karen Finerman is co-founder of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, a permanent member of the CNBC show Fast Money, and the mother of two sets of twins! I couldn’t stop taking notes, and below are some of my key takeaways.

Everyone has their own decision making process, but hearing Karen’s highly logical six step process made me rethink my sometimes rushed decisions. Time is money, but making the proper decision is incredibly important.

  1. Frame the problem
  2. Understand your emotions and take them out of the situation
  3. Know your options – ask questions and explore options to help make a better decision
  4. Look for the 51% solution – surrender to the grey, the world is not black and white so when you make a tough decision try for the answer that will work 51% of the time
  5. Recognize what needs to be decided now and what doesn’t. If it’s a big decisions, you should wait until the last possible second because you might get more information
  6. Cut your losses – clear mistakes where it’s obvious (like wrong hires), just say your wrong and reverse course

A few other random tidbits that I took from the keynote:

  • Just be where you are (working from home is the worst of both worlds; when you’re home, be at home and focus on your home life and when you’re at work, be at work and focus on nothing but your work)
  • Put things in the schedule, even date night! It’s all about writing down your priorities
  • Execute and finish – no multitasking

(image via Tory Burch Foundation Get Inspired)

Team Building Lesson From Evernote CEO Phil Libin

While traveling last month, I was fortunate to read the article “Why It’s Wise To Hire People Smarter Than You” by Evernote CEO Phil Libin in Inc. magazine. When I came across this article, I was struggling to unleash the potential of an employee and I was at a loss for what to do. I always hear “hire slow, fire fast” but in this case I held on out of uncertainty, fear and the thought that there was something more there. This article put everything into perspective for me.

Mr. Libin’s rule is this; “Everyone who reports to me has to be much better at doing his or her job than I could ever be”. His rationale is that if the employee is not as skilled as he, he will always be tempted to think I can do that better and in turn micromanage. No one likes a micromanager, and I detest being a micromanager. It holds people back, and honestly there is no time for micromanaging at a lean startup.

I took a step back and looked at our small, but growing team and make an incredibly difficult decision. That incredibly difficult decision turned out to be the right decision for both myself and my employee. She was frustrated by my micromanaging, and felt it was hurting her work quality. I had no choice but to micromanage because we have extremely high quality standards.

Working with a team that is better at their job than I could be is refreshing. Our strengths play well off of each other, allowing us to continually learn and grow together. Not having to micromanage means that I have more time on my hand, which is invaluable in a startup environment.  I am glad that I came across this article now, and that I learned this lesson early on. Now I more fully understand why I should hire slow, and what I should be looking for when hiring.

To sum it up:

Hiring people smarter than yourself is the long-term answer to your micromanagement problem… This is hard to do, and we’re certainly not perfect at executing the rule all the time, but we come pretty close. – Phil Libin

featured image courtesy of MightyBoyBrian

Lessons Learned | Week of January 7

2013 is off to a great start, and I’m already learning a lot. Here are two important lessons that I learned this week: 

1. Leave your emotions at the door. This is going to take a lot of work because I’m an emotional person by nature, and I deeply care about everything I do and everyone I work with. That being said, I cannot let emotions take hold of me while making business decisions. Although this is going to take a lot of work, I know this will make decisions less stressful and more business-focused and myself and my business will move forward in a very positive direction. 

2. Never undervalue your work. Even in the early stages, it is important to stick to the value of what you do because you don’t want clients who expect the world of you for next to nothing. 

Lessons Learned, 2012

2012 taught me more than I could have ever imaged, and I am so excited to take this knowledge into what I expect to be an amazing 2013. Here are the top lessons I learned last year, that I look forward to implementing in the year ahead.

1. Surrond yourself with a good network
I can easily say that I would not be in the position that I am without such an amazing, strong network. Sometimes it’s the little things, like having someone to vent to, picking someone’s brain or talking through a strategy. Sometimes it’s the big things, like client referrals or invaluable business advice. Whatever the reason and whomever you choose, take time to nurture your network… I can guarantee it will be time well spent. Thank you to everyone who was a part of my 2012; like I said, I wouldn’t be where I am without you and I can’t wait for 2013. (Side note: building a network does not work for selfish people. If you build a network expecting to take and not give, you might as well skip building the network all together.)

2. Build a good team
You often read about the importance of building a good team, but I think this is hard to fully appreciate until you personally experience the trials and tribulations. Seeing the positive impact that the right team member can make is inspiring, the impact of the wrong team member is disheartening. Having to let someone go that you genuinely enjoy as a person? Close to impossible, but in the end it’s not only better for the business, it’s probably better for them too. Let them excel at a job better suited for their expertise. I cannot wait to build an all star team in 2013.

3. Find a good mentor
I always thought this was cliche advice, until I found a really good mentor. One that was able to clear the fog after an hour. One that listens, and then coaches and advises. One that shares experiences, then lets you come to your own conclusion. One whose business experience aligns well with your career goals and objectives. And one that you feel comfortable enough around to really spill the beans, because if we can’t honestly and openly admit our faults we will never grow.

4. Live each day and moment
There are two reasons for which I will focus on living each day and moment in 2013.
1) We are entrepreneurs, living and breathing successes and failures day in and day out. Some of us will make it, others won’t, but when it comes down to it we are sharing in experiences that many people will never have. We are building businesses, and that is really exciting. If we don’t remember to live in the moment and treasure the small successes, all of the fun will be gone before we know it.
2) Things change in a moments notice. I can, and have, theoretically planned out 2013. In fact, planning and forecasting is crucial for any business owner. That being said – based on experiences from 2012, this plan will be thrown off track any moment now and I will adjust accordingly. Whether it’s unexpected referrals, the need to hire new talent immediately, or a new platform that will change our daily routine… there’s always something that keeps me living in the day and moment, ready to react to unforeseen changes immediately.

5. Take time for yourself
Well, at least I will keep telling myself this… but, it’s true that if you never make time for you, you run a greater risk of burning out. Plus, stepping away from your work for a short period of time often allows you to think in a new way, inspiring creativity and fresh ideas. I did learn that taking an hour to go to the gym, or taking half a day on Sunday, does not result in the business crumbling around me and often results in increased productivity. I’m aiming for a little more time at the gym, and a little more time spent on hobbies in 2013 – I fear this will be the hardest to accomplish.

6. Do Good Work
Last, but certainly not least, is to simply produce good work. My number one priority has been, and always will be, to produce the highest quality work possible for my clients. Everything else, including my own brand, has always come second. I don’t think any entrepreneurs would say they are in the business of producing mediocre work, and I like to keep this at the core of everything that I do.

What lessons are you taking into the new year?

Lessons Learned: Week of December 17, 2012

1. Turn stress into excitement! Stressed over a deadline or a large workload? Get excited! If you do work you love, you should be excited by these challenges, and by the fact that you have the opportunity to work towards these goals. Get excited about the deadline you have tomorrow, because you know you can produce something amazing in your time frame. (Again – so thankful for my mentor! He really helped change my mindset)

2. I never did this for the sake of business, but since it has helped develop business I feel like sharing. In reality, the lesson I want to share is to simply be a good person. If someone chooses a different product or service provider, or doesn’t have the budget to work with you, that is no reason to write them off. Offer advice, provide moral support, and keep the relationship moving forward. You never know what might happen a few months down the road.

When all else fails, shut down the computer, turn off the phone, and spend some quality time with family and friends, especially during the holidays.

Lessons Learned: Week of December 3, 2012

1. “You can’t build a better past” – Don Shannon. This is so incredibly true, so stop worrying about what you could’ve done; instead learn from the past, and then start thinking about what you can do to be better.

2. On that note – get yourself a good mentor. An hour with an amazing mentor can do wonders for your career. I always leave with a clear vision and inspiration for weeks to come.

3. Employee reviews are so incredibly productive and positive for both employers and employees, I highly recommend doing them as often as you are able (whether monthly or quarterly).

4. Breakups don’t have to be hard. If you are feeling like the working relationship isn’t productive, chances are so are they. Schedule a call and talk it through, and the outcome will most likely be a positive one.

5. As hard as you might try, you can’t always please everyone. In the off chance that this happens… work your butt off 20x harder to get out of the “penalty box” (as a wise acquaintance so called it).

Lastly – drink good wine. It makes everything better 🙂 Tonight I’m enjoying 2010 Jericho Canyon Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
Jericho_Canyon