The ABC’s of Business – 3/3

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Two weeks ago, I started a new series entitled The ABC’s of Business. It’s a series where I break down some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years as the CEO of a tech startup. Today’s post is the final of this series. If you missed part 1, click here. Need to read part 2? Check it out here.

Let’s go!

Q- Quiet – How can you learn if you’re busy being loud and expressing your opinions to anyone who’ll listen. The only time I’ve ever “learned” is when I took the time to ‘shut up’ and hear from someone who was speaking based on experience. In business, you need to always be listening – to customers, to advisors, to investors, and to your team members. When you do talk, concentrate on making it effective. Responsible, effective listening is a rare skill that will give you a sustainable competitive advantage over your peers and your competitors. It’s also a skill that can be developed with practice. You can never know enough in business, so even top entrepreneurs find time to be quiet and just listen.
R- Rest – Every now and again, get away from the hustle and bustle of your business. If you operate out of your home, give yourself permission to get away. As a business owner, your mind is likely running a mile a minute, 24/7. If you’re entrepreneurial, and my guess is you are, you need to turn it off in order to get back into brilliant mode. Avoid burnout by granting yourself some serious ‘you’ time.
S- Structure – Sitting down, first thing in the morning, and writing out your goals for the day can be a work-altering experience. Define your day and prep yourself for an absolute ‘winning’ mentality – it could look something like this:

8-9am – prep for prospecting calls
9am-11am – attack: make 30 calls
11am-12pm – prep for follow-ups
12pm-1pm – re-group (whatever that looks like – going to the gym, having lunch away from the office…)
1pm-3pm – organize and prepare for tomorrow
3-4pm – attack, yet again: make some follow-up calls and send out emails
T- Trust – This is honestly one of the hardest elements when it comes to business. You have this amazing idea, you develop it from the ground up, you fund it and then you hand it off to someone else. Whoa… that’s tough. BUT (and this is coming from someone who hates the word “but”) you must. Despite the fact that you think no one is capable of being YOU, there needs to be some serious trust applied to the person who’s receiving the hand-off. There’s a reason you’ve appointed them, after all. You believe in their belief that this is the best thing since sliced bread and in that spirit, you need to support their movement toward the goal. Let go of the small things, the unimportant facets. Quit playing the ‘I trust you/ hang on… maybe I don’t’ game and get on with it. If you trust, set them free and know that you can rely on this person to get things done. If you don’t… you need to re-evaluate your structure.
U- Unicorn – When running a start-up, you need to be many things to many people. You need to know and understand every in and out and if you don’t, you best have an explanation as to why you’re unsure. It’s a rough position to be in because startups on the whole are unpredictable and uncertain. You need to play the role of whatever is needed at whatever time.
V- Vision – Your product or service was developed because you saw a problem and you found a way to fix it. Your vision is your staple. It’s what you, and only you, can have a fighting passion for, an understanding of and a vigor beyond anyone else’s understanding. You felt there was a need, you developed a solution and now, you need to drive that vision home.
W- Work it! – Never underestimate the power of networking. Take advantage of every business related community event to shake hands, practice meeting new people and perfecting your pitch. Three networking tips:

  1. It’s about quality, not quantity. Your goal at any networking event is to have meaningful and purposeful conversations. You shouldn’t be whipping out your business cards and handing them out to everyone in attendance. Of course, you want to try to meet numerous people and you want to impress the powers that be but best to make use of the quality over quantity analogy here.
  2. Be kind to everyone. You never know who you’re talking to and making assumptions about who is relevant and who’s important could really come back to haunt you!
  3. Every hour you spend networking is an hour away from everything else. I actually enjoy networking but believe me, I make the most of every single event! Why? Because I understand that I could be at home, hanging out with my boys and enjoying my family. I’ve opted, however, to come out to this particular event. Why would I EVER waste one single moment.. seriously!

X- X-ray – Everyone has a different word or set of words for this. Ours is ‘strat plan’. Every month, every quarter and every year, sit down with your team and examine every facet of your business. This could be in the form of a SWOT analysis or if you prefer, you can go over the 5 main components of any business (Growth, HR, Financials, Marketing and Operations) and break out your goals for the next month, quarter or year.
Y- Yield – Here’s the thing.. I wear my heart on my sleeve. This means that I’ve made rash decisions, made the wrong comments at the wrong time and overstepped in times of feeling under-appreciated. None of the above noted behaviour was ever worth the outcome. Had I been wiser (and had a little more experience) I would have known that all I needed was a 24 hour yield period to think it over. To ponder over the situation, it’s potential outcome and my subsequent decision. There’s NEVER a need to make a rash decision. Better to be prudent than regretful in most cases and I genuinely believe that this is a lesson I’ve learned along the way that I hope to impart, so as to avoid anyone ever having to feel the brunt of a quickly made and under thought-of decision.
Z- Zest – This is a simple and great way to end this blog series. Zest is what I live for. I have never had a day where I’ve dreaded driving in to work. I love every day at the office. I love our team. I love our product. I have a passion that I could never even describe for what it is I have the pleasure, scratch that, the honor of representing every single day! I only hope that’s what all of you reading feel when thinking about your day to day. If you have that kind of zest, you’re bound to find an unrivalled success and ‘win’ every single day of your work life!

And with that… we wrap up this series. Hopefully you walk away with some great advice to help you with running your business. Have any other tips or tricks you’d like to share with others? Leave a comment below!

melblog

The ABC’s of Business – 2/3

abc (1)Last week, I started a new series: The ABC’s of Business, where I expressed what I’ve learned while running a startup over the last 3 years. Read part 1 by clicking here.

Let’s jump back into it…

I- Integrity – Do the right thing, even when no one is looking… a piece of advice provided to me a long time ago that I still remember every single day.
J- Juggling – You can call yourself the Founder, the CEO, the one at the helm… regardless of your ‘title’, if you’re running a startup, you’ll likely be wearing ALL hats — for a little while anyway. Juggling is my preferred word to the concept of time management. You need to learn to prioritize, get things done efficiently and manage yourself and your company to the best of your ability. It’s a large task and one that usually requires 60-80 hours/week. It’s a tough gig but again, I say: “Remember why you started this venture in the first place”.
K- Knowledge – In this particular case, I’m not talking about learning your craft. I’m talking about imparting your knowledge onto new entrepreneurs. In my opinion, it’s part of the gig. If someone asks to meet with you, give them a bit of your time (you may end up learning a thing or two yourself). Always remember those mentors who helped you along the way, and if you didn’t have mentorship, remember those moments where you wish you had someone as a sounding board. Give back — it’s as simple as that.
L- Listen to learn NOT to reply – To make my point here, I’ll use an example.

Scenario 1:

  1. Boss walks in after discovering an issue.
  2. Boss sits the entire team down and tells everyone his or her idea to resolve it.
  3. Boss now asks everyone for their input and ideas.

Result – the team is not only swayed (the person who is responsible for paying their bills has already expressed their brilliant idea) but also shies away from presenting an alternative because the inevitable outcome was already been presented by the person who manages them. The result here is a boss seeking reinforcement of his or her opinion from the team.

Scenario 2:

  1. Boss walks in after discovering an issue.
  2. Boss sits the entire team down and asks for their opinion on how to resolve the problem.
  3. A brainstorming session ensues.

Result – the team provides their opinions openly and freely leading to multiple potential solutions. The result here is a boss who’s willing to listen and a team who’s willing to contribute.
M- Mastery – You should know the sector/s you serve like the back of your hand. The language they use, their pain-points and the solutions they’re currently using or that are considered a competitor in your market. Join their memberships, attend their conferences/tradeshows and if you don’t have it your own arsenal, seek out a mentor from their vertical. Know their numbers as well as you know your own. This is information you should be able to rhyme off at the drop of a hat.
N- Never dull your shine – Being a woman leading a tech company, I OFTEN get asked: “What’s your biggest struggle as a woman in the tech industry?” The answer is multifaceted but for the purpose of answering to my concept of ‘never dulling your shine’, I’ll provide 2 points:

  1. Women are outnumbered by men in the world of tech. This starts in the Computer Science programs offered everywhere and leads to those numbers being translated to programmers employed by tech companies and the C-level executives within those companies. It’s simple math and it’s going to take a little while for us to grow those numbers across the board. When you choose to go against the current grain and trends, be steadfast despite the odds against you.
  2. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel that you have to tone down your personality, your looks or your opinions for the purpose of being taken seriously. Stay true to who you are and you can’t fail.

O- Open – Be open to ideas. Be open to criticism. Be open to anything that may have an impact on your business. Understand that someone’s ideas may have no fit or may have a massive impact on your day to day. Keeping yourself open to others’ opinions can be difficult, I get that… It may also have a pivotal effect on your business’ bottom line. In other words, be open and you never know what the outcome might be.
P- Price point – Set it and believe in it. Don’t hesitate when discussing your price point. Know your differentiating factors and be confident when expressing the cost of your product or service. Whatever sets you apart is what will allow you to set a price that makes sense to both your bottom line and your customer’s budget.

 

That wraps up part 2! Stay tuned for next week’s post as I conclude this series! Feel free to share any business advice you’ve learned in the comments; whether you’re in your first year of business or your tenth, I welcome all advice!

melblog

The ABC’s of Business – Part 1/3

abc (1).jpgDisclaimer: I was quoted for the first time on Twitter last month. It was kind of cool to see something I said get posted by the organizers of the event and to see some retweets on the quote itself. It went a little something like this: “Running a startup is the best education you can’t buy”. The following is a glimpse into what I’ve learned over the course of the last 3 years.

A- Accountability – It’s inevitable. You’re going to mess up. Whether you work for a company or you run the company, you need to be able to learn to be accountable. Running a business means that you’ll be dealing with vendors and customers on a daily basis. Think back to the last time you know someone messed up and how insulting it was when instead of taking the high road and apologizing, they had their back up and insisted it was everyone else’s fault. It’s frustrating when you’re on the receiving end. Never be the person who feels they have to prove they were right, you’ll save yourself a lot of energy and the other party a lot of frustration.
B- Bravery – Doubt, fear, anxiety… it all comes to the forefront when you’re responsible for bringing something from concept to success. There will be days where you feel confident in your product, your service, your team, your direction and your vision. There will be days when you can’t find your footing and you’re uncertain about everything. I’m not saying it’s easy in those moments to spring back to ‘optimistic you’ but ultimately, you need to find it within yourself to continue. Remind yourself of why you started this venture in the first place.
C- Celebrate – …everything! Milestones — small and large — deserve to be talked about, applauded and acknowledged! We have a bell at StaffStat and whenever it rings, everyone gets excited. It could mean something small (ie. a new sales person got their first contract signed) or something big (we were awarded a huge contract). One thing’s for sure: EVERY milestone gets a ring because every step in the right direction is a step toward our goal of bringing our solution to the masses!
D- Delegation – Everyone has a weakness and this just happens to be mine (although I am working on it). It’s easy to get attached to every task or find it more convenient to do everything yourself. If you ever want to get to the place where you’re able to focus on the higher-level conversations, meetings and decisions, you need to delegate some of those tasks you’re possessive about and move them downstream. Everyone wins! You are freed from feeling like you have one more thing to do and the person you assigned the task to feels trusted. Not to mention, if you assign the task to someone whose strengths are aligned with it, odds are good that it’ll be done right.
E- Energy – Self-care is a huge component to your business. If you run a company and/or a team, you need to be at your best. Learn to ‘turn it off’ every now and again. You would be amazed at the impact when you hit the power button back on after a reset!
F- Fail – While there are many quotes on failure, my favourite is by Colin Powell: “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence”. Failure presents with it an opportunity: we can either learn from it or we can dwell on it. Your character decides which road you want to travel. My guess is a successful business would be led by the individual who takes the opportunity to learn from the situation.
G- Growth – It’s always risky to add to your team. It’s a hit or miss and the bull’s-eye is a very small, finite mark. When hiring, you’ll stumble upon amazing and questionable people alike. In my opinion, each person you bring on is there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Growth is inevitable, it’s up to you to make the best decisions you can along the way and learn from all hiring experiences for future additions.
H- Humility – Business is NEVER a ‘me’ effort. Even if you don’t have a team in-house, where would be without your customers? Every business that survives and thrives is of the ‘we’ mindset! Always remember to be thankful and grateful and everything should line up nicely.

That wraps up part 1 of this series! Stay tuned as I tackle the rest of the alphabet in parts 2 & 3… coming soon!

melblog

There’s NEVER a Bad Time to Sell

Summer.jpgI hope you’re enjoying your summer so far!

The thing is, in sales… there’s never a bad time or an excuse not to sell. This has never been more obvious to me than with our product, StaffStat!

I’ve heard over and over that “end of day is a bad time to sell”, “start of day is a bad time to sell”, “Mondays are bad for decision-makers”, “Fridays are bad for decision-makers” and more often than not I’ve heard “summer is bad for business”.

I’m here to tell you that as a sales person, there is never a bad time to try to sell your product or your solution. Of course there are ups and downs in the sales cycle but if persistence is the key then obviously you need to push yourself during those down times with prospecting, making the most of your contacts, taking advantage of timelines and fostering your relationships. Here’s how:

  1. Prospecting: You never know who might be sitting at their desk, needing exactly what it is that you’re selling. Sure, summer can be seen as a season where everyone is on vacation but on the flip-side, I prefer to think of it as a season where every company is trying to operate with a skeleton crew. This often highlights holes or problems within their systems, their procedures, and their overall inefficiencies. If the person who is struggling with a pain point for which you have a solution happens to open your email or answer your call during that time, the stars have aligned.
  2. Making the most of your contacts: This is the time where you can connect with your current contacts and customers and ask them for testimonials on your service and your product. You can also use this time to market a referral program. While others are resting and taking their summer vacations, you’ll be making the most of the contacts you already have, leading to inevitable future sales.
  3. Taking advantage of timelines: I’ve mentioned a few times throughout my blogging that September is often seen as the “Business New Year”. When you’re trying to do business in the summer always keep in mind that a lot of decision-makers want a fresh start effective September 1st. Let them know, early on in the summer, that you will work throughout the ‘quiet season’ to get them running and operating by that deadline. Encourage them to see that starting fresh in September is a wonderful opportunity that you would like to seize and they will definitely benefit from being ready to go, effective the Business New Year.
  4. Fostering your relationships: We’ve managed to sign corporations during the summer and that’s because we have persisted throughout the year and built those relationships. Of course, some decisions are put off because some of the key people are on vacation! Your goal during this time is to build cheerleaders for your solution. You need to prove during this quiet time that you have what they need. When those decision-makers come back from vacation, all they’re going to hear about is how wonderful your product is and how much their organization needs it.

The lesson in this blog is that no time is a bad time to sell. You can lean on summer as an excuse or you can use summer as a great way to move forward with prospects, contacts, connections and relationships. 

melblog

A Monthly Ritual

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On the last day of every month, I sit back, look at everything that’s happened over the last 4 weeks and set my sights on what’s ahead. I pick up a pen and write out my goals for the upcoming month. Some are personal, some are professional, the key here is that every line I write is important to me. Whenever there’s anything that I can share that might make a difference for someone’s self-motivation, I’m always game and this blog post is just that; me, sharing a habit that has a positive impact on my life.

The Ritual:

  1. Details matter.

I set monthly goals. Again, this is a personal choice. My projections at work layout my yearly and monthly expectations (that helps me determine what my professional goal will be for the month). As an example, I’ve set a goal to personally add 1,000 users to our platform in the month of July and that’s what’s on the monthly goal list. From there, I break down that goal and specify the ‘who’ and the ‘how’.

  • Who – what customers, specifically, do I plan to bring on? Where am I at with each of those people and what will it take to get them on our platform?
  • How – looking back at the last question above, I take into consideration timing, method and resources and plug away.

In other words, it’s great to list that you want to lose 10 pounds this month but how do you plan to achieve that? Meal plans? Workouts? When will you workout? If you add details and thought to the goal you can guarantee 2 things. First, you care enough about this goal to flesh it out. Second, you’ll have a detailed plan to help you achieve or maybe even exceed your goal.

  1. Include things that matter to you.

Fleshing out a goal and divvying it up across your month as a plan can be done for anything: saving money, losing weight, career advancement and the list goes on. What’s important is that every goal you list has a legitimate reason for taking up space as a monthly goal at all. I list things from date nights with the hubby to which books I plan to read. I think of my career, my family life and my home. I have goals to advance and/or nurture each one of those. While my focus might shift slightly from month to month, I always ensure to only add things that matter to me. When you care about the ultimate outcome, you’re bound to put the energy needed to check those boxes off at the end of the month.

  1. Push yourself.

Most people have heard the term ‘SMART goals’, right? There’s one letter in that acronym that bothers me, the “A” for achievable. Depending on what article you’re reading, it stands for different things but overall, it always comes back to setting goals that you know you can attain. That, to me, is the wrong way to go. If you think you can save $1,000 this month, push yourself to save $1,200. Why even bother to write it down if it’s a safe assumption and achievable? What satisfaction will you gain from checking it off if it was a given anyway? I’m a believer in pushing yourself beyond your limit. Our limits are set by what we allow ourselves to believe. Why not try harder, believe a little bit more and come out ahead?

There you have it—Mel’s goal setting 101.

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Rise Together

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There’s no doubt that StaffStat has seen its fair share of success over the course of the last few months.

  • Innovator’s Den winner at the OLTCA Fall Conference
  • Ahead of the Curve Innovation Award – Business With Brian Awards
  • Innovation Award – Bell Business Excellence Awards
  • 2017’s Intrapreneur of Year Award – BPW

Of course, recognition, above all else is something we strive for. It’s wonderful to win an award but being nominated in and of itself is something to be proud of. The best part about this entire journey is when someone else comes around, taps you on the shoulder and says “Hey, I think you deserve this nomination”. We’ve been lucky to have the support of our entire community along the way and this blog post goes out to them!

I want to encourage everyone to be a cheerleader! I know this sounds like fluff and it may be something that you feel you have very little time for however, helping someone else rise oftentimes comes back to you (not that I’m suggesting this is why you should do it)!

Here’s what I know: since we’ve launched StaffStat, everyone is obsessed with the concept of competition. Questions like: “Who else is out there that’s doing what you’re doing?”, “How easy would it be to replicate what you’re doing?”, “Are you worried about who’s coming down the line with a similar product?” are frequently asked. Don’t get me wrong, the wise thing is to always be aware of what’s going on in your space and we would be fools if we didn’t acknowledge that we keep a pulse on anything and everything that’s similar. However, what I am suggesting is that beyond keeping your eyes peeled for the threats either to your own company or someone elses, remember to keep an eye out for what’s happening around you; what’s innovative, what’s up and coming and what you can help elevate by supporting!

Based on what we’ve experienced personally here at StaffStat, I can say with 100% certainty that when you receive encouragement, it can be a game changer. That can be in the form of mentorship, nominations and/or advice. It doesn’t cost a penny to take a little time out of your schedule to help someone else. The feeling you’ll get from helping someone else will long outlast and will undoubtedly outweigh doing nothing at all.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. When you hear of upcoming awards, consider the people you know and nominate someone that fits the bill. Just a few minutes of your time could have a major impact on that person and their business.
  2. If you’re ever asked, take the time to meet with budding entrepreneurs and provide them with sound advice based on your experience. Do this without the expectation that the person will follow your advice but with the knowledge that something you say may trigger and impact that person’s company for the better.
  3. Become an official mentor. Here in Sudbury, places like the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and the NORCAT Innovation Mill are open to seasoned entrepreneurs providing mentorship to startups. If you’ve got the goods, you can certainly lend your expertise to someone who may have little to no knowledge regarding some of the aspects of running a successful venture.

Above all, open your eyes and your mind to the possibility that the next best thing could benefit from your help. Why not be play a role in that? Rather than focusing on what can threaten an up and coming company, let’s focus on how we can help each other and rise together!

melblog

It’s OK to Make Mistakes

MistakesEvery business, every employee, and every leader fails at some point in their career, but the difference between a success and a failure is what you learn. Mistakes are a valuable resource that should never be overlooked — here’s why:

  • It’s ok to make mistakes – seriously. As an entrepreneur I try to look at every mistake as a lesson. I want to understand why the mistake was made and how I can avoid making the same one in the future. More importantly, I want to understand how that mistake has changed or affected our business. Whether it’s a significant error in judgment or a minor oversight, I try to find value in the outcome.
  • Mistakes teach you to forgive. When a mistake is made, especially a big one, forgiveness is an essential aspect of moving through it.  Most of the time there is no malicious intent by the person who made the mistake (us or others).  Sadly, we tend to spend and waste a lot of time and energy either with blame or resentment, instead of focusing our attention in a more productive, positive, and healthy direction — forgiveness. If we can remember that most of the time we’re doing the best we can (as are others), we can hopefully get off our own backs and allow ourselves to be human (which means we aren’t perfect, nor is anyone else).
  • Mistakes fuel you. Once you make a mistake you are determined to do better. Mistakes help you better yourself. Mistakes push you in ways you never knew you could be pushed. No matter how many mistakes you make, you will have chances to make them better. You need to make mistakes to encourage and inspire you.
  • Mistakes help you grow as a person. Making a mistake seems like the end of the world, but it’s not. It means that you have to fix it and start over. After making a mistake, the best thing you can do is try to fix it. You can reflect on your decisions and learn the right way from the mistakes you make. They help you learn more about yourself and grow. Inevitably, they help you realize what is right and wrong to you. You can’t learn anything without messing up and trying to put things back together.

Ultimately, when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again. Don’t engage in days, weeks or months of self-blame or battering your self-esteem because you should’ve known, should’ve acted differently, or should’ve been an ideal person; you’re not, and neither am I. That’s just life.

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