Archives for July 2010

They Told You What?

Today’s post is a guest post by A. Michelle Blakeley, small business expert from Simply Mastered and radio host of Simple Truths for Women Entrepreneurs
Originally published Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 8:50AM

counselor--300x200As entrepreneurs, it is impossible to have all the answers and sometimes we need a little assurance that we are moving in the right direction. You are often encouraged to seek outside help, support and guidance. Professional counsel, a colleague or close friend can be fantastic resource.

However, the caveat is that sometimes the advice you receive is not sage. Despite your need for guidance, sometimes you sense that what you are being told is flawed or just doesn’t sit right. When you seek the guidance of outside counsel, stay alert to your intuition, do your own due diligence and make sure they are providing you with an objective perspective and not “tainted glasses.”

Some savvy entrepreneurs shared some of their worst business advice with us and a lesson or two that can be learned along with it:

“If you build it, they will come.” Meaning just because your product or service is better, that does not determine the success of your business. How often have we seen or heard of great products, but the business failed to get off the ground? (J.Kaney,

Lesson: The organization and development of your business is more important than the product or service you are selling.

“You need to have a downtown office.” Since I started my business four years ago, I’ve worked from home and I am glad I didn’t take this advice. Using extremely conservative numbers, I’ve saved at least $25,000 in this Internet-driven era. (D. Clark,

Lesson: It is unlikely your client will questioned your credibility because you choose not to spend money on an expensive “corporate headquarters.”

“Just do what you are passionate about and everything will fall into place.” While I do believe that being passionate about what I am doing is important and makes focusing on my business more enjoyable, without clearly defined goals, ways to reach them and giving all areas of business equal attention (even the areas I’m not passionate about), I know I wouldn’t have succeeded. (K. Gutierrez,

Lesson: Passion is great, but you still need to a plan and the appropriate skills, systems, mindset and resources in place to ensure all areas of business are functioning properly.

“Don’t attend tradeshows” where I normally sold my handbag line and to book appointments in my NYC showroom instead. (S. Shaw,

Lesson: You always want to be where you have direct access to your target market and potential clients. Sometimes this can cost you and sometimes it can “cost” you.

“A DVD broker who told me that I should purchase 5000 copies of the program instead of printing on demand because the price was about two thirds less if I purchased the bundle.” (B. Michaelian,

Lesson: Before you buy 5000 of anything, you have to make sure that you know your ideal client, that your product will solve one of their biggest pains, that you have a clear marketing strategy to get the word out about your product and that there is a high level of demand for the product that you want to sell!

“Never compliment any of your people for doing a good job. If you do, they’ll get soft and lazy.” You’ll lose your authority over them. (B. Lampton,

Lesson: The work environment you cultivate will have a direct effect on your client service. Pride of ownership goes a long way with employees, staff and even sub-contractors and independent contractors.

“Not to worry about the future and things will take care of themselves when I want to sell my business.” (A. Bettencourt,

Lesson: The worst thing a business owner can do is to not have an exit plan. Document your systems, so in case of an emergency, someone can help minimize your business down time. For solopreneurs/micro business owners, remember, even your database has value. Don’t just close your doors, take a close look at your assets and inventory for value to competitors and others. Also, give your clients notice before closing your doors and transition them to referrals whenever possible.

“Never give up; never listen to what others tell you.” (M. Nguyen,

Lesson: If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. Although that is true, when things are not happening correctly or when perspectives change, the idea to give up should be used to examine strategy and then define the situation. Don’t listen emotionally – but rather, listen analytically. Be prepared to objectively analyze your business …often.

“If I cut my fees in half I could double my client base.” Somehow working twice as hard for the same revenues didn’t really appeal to me.

(D. Furtwengler,

Lesson: Enough said.

“Sign a personal guarantee on the half million dollar company bank loan. If we go bankrupt and the bank tries to collect, you will pay pennies on the dollar.” Well, the bubble burst and $375,000 later plus over $25k in legal fees was not pennies on the dollar in my book! (G. Fernandez,

Lesson: Whenever you feel or sense apprehension, that’s a flag. Pay attention to that flag and trust your own intuition. Due diligence is an essential skill for business owners.

“Give up and be an employee. Being an entrepreneur was “too risky”.” (S. Raisty-Egami, My compensation and “job security” are now completely determined by the real value I bring to clients, and not by the shifting winds of office politics at a “big company” employer.

Lesson: Yes, being a business owner is not for everyone. However, for those who have the right mindset, capacity, tenacity and determination, entrepreneurship can be extremely rewarding emotionally and financially.

“Hire a high powered publicist” to help get my book the national coverage it needed. The decision to follow that advice has done wonders to get my publicist in front of the media where she was suppose to be taking me! (A. Zindler,

: Do your homework on those you welcome into your fold. Know what their motivation is to help you further your goals.

“Don’t focus on quality of performance…we all provide that. Focus on customer relations.” That firm eventually became the largest CPA firm bankruptcy in history, until it was recently surpassed by Arthur Anderson. Fortunately, I had the wisdom to leave before that. (J. Lerer,

Lesson: Great product/service AND great client service go hand-in-hand. One simply cannot function without the other. They are interdependent on each other.


For over 18 years, Simplicity Mastered™ founder and CEO A. Michelle Blakeley has owned or managed small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Expert in her field, Blakeley personally guides her clients out of their Business Brain Freeze™ to streamline operations, increase return on investment, and attain quantifiable results. and each recommended her as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter, joining the experts who know that Blakeley is a master at growing small businesses … and doing it with “Simplicity.”

Want to Be Happier? Take Action About Whatever You Care About

What do you do when something in your life, family, city or job displeases you?

Most of us grumble, complain, grouse. We do everything but take action to resolve the problem or make a positive change in the situation.

When Mrs. Harris fell on a misaligned sidewalk in Oswego, NY she was told by the city that they were not responsible unless they had received notice of the sidewalk problem in writing. So watch the video below to check out what Mrs. Harris did. Then think about something that is bugging you and go out and do something about it.

Want to be Happier? Connect with Your Family

Farmer'sMarket--7-10-10As we gathered to celebrate our family reunion this weekend, I noticed the interactions as the family arrived. We had food prepared, t-shirts, amenity bags and games. Everyone was looking forward to our bus tour and banquet. But the thing that drew everyone the most was the wall sized family tree chart that my son, Herbert, created.

Our family could trace ourselves back to two brothers who were born in Texas in the late 1800’s. It was our ability to pinpoint our origins and see the connecting points that deepened our bond.

Weeks before the reunion I called various family to see if they would attend. The common response from those who had no plans to attend was, “I don’t know any of those folks.”

“That’s the purpose of the reunion,” I pointed out.

Family flew and drove in from four states and yet some who lived within a short distance of the celebration didn’t see the value in attending. They clearly shortchanged themselves.

Researchers have discovered that people who describe themselves as happy have strong relationships with family and friends.

We connect with our loved ones not because they are perfect or share all of our interests. Every family has positive and negative dynamics that have contributed to the way we have become. Shake any family tree and skeletons, hurt feelings, jealousy and unresolved issues will fall out. And yet, connecting with family is still important.

While a family reunion isn’t the time to resolve old issues or erase hurt feelings, avoiding family will only serve to keep these painful issues buried inside you where they are destined to keep inflicting pain.

When we connect with our family it can give us insights that help us to better understand ourselves. Recognizing the difficult times our ancestors endured and how those experiences shaped their lives and their parenting can be helpful in giving us understanding, compassion, strength, resilience and coping skills.

I enjoyed hearing about my mother from her cousins who remembered her as a girl and shared stories of the times they spent together.

I also enjoyed watching my grandchildren run their fingers across the family tree chart and pinpoint where they came in, as well as well meet many relatives for the first time.

Even families who have only a few members or adults who only know their adopted families, connecting with each other is very important to rekindle old bonds, be reminded that you have an anchor and be able to establish ties that have been broken by distance and time.

Family reunions are also a great leveling time when family of all different income and achievement levels gain perspective on the love, hope and perseverance that we all share.

Family connections are not limited to blood relationships. There is strength in discovering your heritage in whatever form it exists.

To increase your happiness, connect with your family where you can transmit your experiences and values, as well as absorb and pass on pride from generation to generation.

Practical Success Tips: Five Erroneous Beliefs That Are Blocking You From Achieving Your Goals

p_043A key part of achieving your goals is planning. Maybe your goal requires some extensive planning, but there is a point at which planning becomes procrastination. If you examine why you are procrastinating, you may discover that you are afraid of the unknown. We all are. So don’t let that stop you.

Or you may be procrastinating because you don’t really want this goal anymore. And that’s a good thing to discover.

Now you can set a new goal, but don’t spend time in the planning stage for too long. There are five erroneous beliefs that may be blocking you from achieving your goals.

1. You need lots more knowledge.

Having knowledge and skills before starting a project are admirable, but you cannot wait until you know all there is to know about the subject before you begin. Much that we need to know is gained along the way as we work toward a goal.

2. You need lots more money.

There are successful entrepreneurs who can attest to the fact that they began toward their goals with very little money. Some raised startup money by taking on extra jobs, saving, reducing spending and partnering with like-minded colleagues.

Start with whatever money you have to begin stepping toward your goal. As you enjoy small successes you will also increase your capital and know-how.

3. You must wait for just the right circumstances

There are no perfect circumstances.

4. The timing must be perfect.

There is no perfect timing.

5. You must wait until you feel completely confident.

Delaying to get started toward a goal actually erodes your confidence. It’s working toward and achieving your goal that builds confidence, not the other way around.

If deep in your gut you want this goal so badly that you can taste it, procrastinate no longer. Jump in. Success and achievement await you.

Want to Be Happier? Embrace Art

When we think of being happy we may not think that art plays a role. It’s likely that each of us even has different ideas about what makes something art.

But we didn’t always wonder about this. Leave any child on their own for a minutes and it’s likely they will rearrange toys, make configurations out of spilled food, draw circles in the dirt or stack objects as high as they can. They even find practical uses for items we considered only decorative. They clearly enjoy creating and participating in art.

Much of what we call art today wasn’t even created as art by its originators.

While visiting a museum exhibit of bygone civilizations, for example, we often see practical items that were created for cooking, eating, and furniture. And yet, we label them art because they are unique curiosities and now decorative items for us.

One of the contestants in Oprah’s OWN reality show competition tackles this issue of what makes up art and hopes her pitch will be selected so she can share an expanded view of the world of art with us all.

Erica A. Wall, a museum educator, said the following to introduce her pitch. See her pitch for her show “That’s Art?!” here

I’m going to get America excited about art! If you’ve never been one who was into art, you soon will be! If you’ve ever looked at a work of art and thought a child could do it, then this is the show for you. We are going to bust the art world wide open and explore its glamour, its dynamics, its surprises and its quirkiness. We are going to ask and answer some age-old questions like, why does some art sell for millions? What makes a work of art a masterpiece? Why is some art considered fine art and other art is not? And of course, what makes art, art, anyway? I’m also going to talk to people about art and see what kind of art the rich, famous and the not–so-rich and famous (but pretty unique) collect and create. I am going to show you just how much fun art can be and that you don’t have to like it but, you can learn how to appreciate it. There is something out there for everyone. NO ART HISTORY EXPERIENCE REQUIRED.

When I interviewed Erica on my radio show today, she shared her ideas for how art can make our lives richer and more joyful, ways that art venues can become more accessible and gave us ways to experience art on a daily basis.

Erica says there are five stages of looking at art:

  • observing to identify what’s there
  • assigning value/worth to it compared to other things
  • classifying it
  • interacting with it
  • returning to view it again as a friend
  • Enjoy the interview with Erica and you will discover that art is not separate from our lives, and from our happiness, but a part of it.