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professional tips

Arianna Huffington is the no nonsense co-founder of the award winning site Huffington Post.  Launched in 2005, she began the site as a news aggregator and blog and has grown it to become one of the largest and most read online destinations in the world with more than 89 million readers monthly according to StatShow. In 2011, she sold the site to AOL for more than $300 million and became Editor In Chief of Huffington Post Media Group.

Named as one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women and Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Huffington is a tech powerhouse who has some amazing business lessons to share. Here are her top five best quotes that as sure to inspire the inner mogul in you:

“Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It’s the mastery of fear. It’s about getting up one more time than we fall down.”
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.”
“We may not be able to witness our own eulogy, but we’re actually writing it all the time, every day.”
“We all have within us the ability to move from struggle to grace.”
“I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”

à bientôt

Charell Star | A Girl In A Dress

workingBeing more productive is a goal of every entrepreneur. We all want to do more in the short amount of day light hours we have. Getting everything you need done can sometimes feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here are a few tips to help you streamline your life in various areas to help you be as efficient and productive as possible:

  1. Cut the cord when you are doing something important

When you’re in the groove and extremely focused on a task, getting interrupted by a random phone calls or being distracted by the sounds of your TV can really set you back in terms of what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t answer the phone, unless it’s a true emergency, turn off the TV and log out of your email box.  Focus on the task at hand and move on to the next item once it is complete. It is that simple.

  1. Take care of your body

Your body is like a machine; it needs to be properly maintained and taken care of to run smoothly. Manage your stress  by doing exercise you enjoy each day, whether that is yoga at the gym, running, swimming, or even dancing. Sleep is also a vital part of your daily routine.  It allows your body to heal and your mind to rest.  Skipping sleep to get more done is ineffective. People actually get more done after a night of restful sleep. When your energy runs low, a quick nap is a great way to give yourself a boost.

  1. Stick to a schedule

Routines are great at minimizing the chaos within a normal day. While they should allow some flexibility you should always have your most important tasks listed first (including working out). Also, prioritizing one item a day will also give you a short term goal to work towards and make sure you don’t over commit yourself.

  1. Make sure you eat

Eating is fuel for our bodies and mind. Make healthy meals a routine to keep your energy high and your mind focused.

  1. De-clutter your mind

Your mind is full of all the things you need to get done. It is important to know that you can’t focus on all these things at once, so pick the one that is most urgent and focus on that. Creating an “Idea Dump” or “Brain Dump” book is also useful for writing down ideas bouncing around in your head taking up space and mental resources. It also allows you to circle back to that brilliant idea once you have more time in your schedule.

We’re all working with the same 24 hours, but how you use your time can set you up for success. Be diligent in making sure you are carving out an effective environment to be the most productive you as possible.

à bientôt

 

Past DueI’ve been in business for a few years now and, like all entrepreneurs, have experienced client payment issues from time to time. As I’ve mentioned before, cash flow can make or break your start-up, so it is imperative that you get paid for services rendered as soon as possible.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about ensuring you get paid for work performed:

Know who you are working for – You should not start working for anyone without having their full contact details including their full name, business name, phone number, email and company address. If they do not have a traditional company address, secure their home address. Under no circumstances should you go all Wild Wild West and show up at their house to claim your money. You simply need to secure a valid mailing address now, in case you need to serve them with legal papers in the future. You can’t sue someone you can’t find.

A Good Offense is Your Best Defense – You should never provide your services without getting at least a partial payment. Most smart entrepreneurs I know require at least a 50% payment up front and many (like my company) require a 100% payment before starting work. Some even offer a 10% discount to clients if they pay the balance upfront. This helps reduce the risk of not being paid or having to float bills while waiting for payment.

You may be tempted to waive your payment terms for potential business, but don’t. If you’re receiving a lot of feedback that your price is too steep than you can do a competitor price analysis and tweak your prices accordingly. Remember, what you charge is separate from how you bill it. Creating payment terms (when you get paid and how) will help reduce the risk of not getting paid for work you’ve completed.

Create a Statement of Work – Have your client sign a contact or statement of work (SOW) that that includes your payment terms and details the work you will perform. If you charge a fee for late payments, clearly list that within your payment terms and in your contract. This will help entice clients to pay on time as they will want to avoid the late charge and help you negate any carrying charges on your business debts and bills.

Have a Backup Payment Plan –  Require an alternate method of payment be kept on file (like a credit card number) to ensure that any balance due can be charged at the completion of the job. This gives you a backup way to secure payment if for some reason your client doesn’t submit payment on time. Make sure you clearly list your billing dates (i.e. the date you will bill the credit card if payment is not received) in your contract or statement of work agreement. You want to be clear on the actions that will will take if payment isn’t submitted by the due date.

Pick Up the Phone –  If you’ve done all the above and you still run into an issue with getting paid by a client, you shouldn’t let it drag on. If they are 7 days or more past due, give them a call and inquire about the payment delay. They could be waiting for a client to pay them or waiting for money to clear in their account. Ask when they will be able to pay. See if they can make a partial payment now and pay the balance in 14 or 30 business days. You want to try to minimize the risk by getting at least some of the money due now.

If they cannot make a payment now, make sure you identify a clear date on when they will be able to process payments. Avoid being too emotional in your communication and clearly state the facts of the situation. You want to be direct, but not burn any bridges. This can be an uncomfortable conversation and the client may even feel embarrassed by the situation. You want to reassure them that you understand delays happen and that you simply need to get an accurate date on when the payment will be submitted. Send them an email to confirm the conversation and reiterate any penalties that were agreed to in the signed contract and statement of work.

Call in the Heavy Hitters – If more than 60 days have passed and you haven’t been able to work out a re-payment plan with the client or they’ve gone MIA, then you may need to take legal action. If the amount due is $5,000 or less you can file a claim in Small Claims Court (please note the value may vary in different areas). You’ll need to provide the contact details for the client you are filing against. You’ll usually receive a hearing date within 90 days of filing.

If the amount owed to you is more than $5,000 then hiring an attorney may be your best option. Your lawyer may be able to get the client to pay by sending a notice of Intent to Sue. If that fails they can take them to court. You have to keep in mind that most lawyers charge by the hour, so you’ll need determine if the amount due to you large enough to justify the legal fees. Have an honest talk with your lawyer before fully engaging them. They may be able to help you determine if it is worth moving forward or may be able to sue for the amount due to you, plus any legal fees you’ve incurred.

Not getting paid for work you’ve performed is awful. Hopefully, by following the tips above you can reduce your risk and focus on your company and what you do best.

à bientôt

 

 

Sometimes the best place to find inspiration is the same places you found it as a kid. Like most adults, I’ve been a Dr. Seuss fan since I was little and have read just about every book he’s written. It might seem odd, but the same man who penned The Cat in the Hat provided some sound advice in his children’s books that can be re-applied to your business and life.  Here are my top 10 favorite Dr. Seuss quotes sure to bring a little light and clarity to your day.

photo 11. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

photo 22. Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

photo 33. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

photo 44. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

photo 55. “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”

photo 16. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

photo 27. “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.”

photo 38. “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

photo 49. “Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.”

photo 510. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Feel free to share these Dr. Seuss quotes to bright the day of others in your life.

bientôt

Planning an event, no matter occasion, is not easy. Some events can take months to plan and the process of plotting out every single detail can be tedious, but it can also be fun. We all want to create the best event we can. Here are some important tips to follow to make sure your next event is a success.

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Guest gift items that doubled as table decor for a My Black is Beautiful Event – Pretty (mechanical) Butterflies in a jar, we got on Amazon and branded with labels.

Set a clear vision –  Before you even start planning your event, make sure that your overall vision and goal is well defined. You can begin by answering this question: How do you want your guests to feel or what would you like for them to think when they leave the event? Once you have answered this, then you can laying out the logistical details.

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Simple flower displays and bright table drape to pull together the room. Event Tip- Preset the salad if you know you have a tight program schedule.

Identify your team – Even if you are producing the event solo, you should still tap others to help you brainstorm the concept and be a sounding board for your ideas. You don’t know what you don’t know. Make things a lot easier and don’t do your planning in a vacuum. This doesn’t mean that your trusted comrades  get to dictate what you do, but rather they get to help insure that what you do makes sense.  This will save you create a clear theme and plan and avoid a lot of headaches in the later stages of your planning.

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Tables angled instead of in rows provide all guest line of sight to the stage, so everyone has a great view.

Hold yourself and your team accountable – Deadlines need to be met. If you commit yourself to certain results, you need to make those results happen. If in the end you can’t produce the results needed, you need to access what happened, proactively update your client and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Always have a back-up plan – Even the best laid plans sometimes fail.  This doesn’t mean your event will be a disaster. Take the time early in your planning stage to create a back up plan and you’ll be able to keep everything moving forward. I know. I know You can’t plan for everything, but you can take a smart approach to make sure you are prepped for the biggest challenges. Planning an event outside? What will you do if it rains? Planning an event at a sporting event? What will you do if someone gets hurt? There is no way that you can predict every potential pitfall, but if your cross off the big ones it will be easy to work through any small ones onsite.

Looking for some ideas on how to promote your event as well? Check out my post on leveraging social media for events.

Happy planning.

 

 

 

Work life and home life are not really separate. They’re both part of your time on earth, and it’s important to make that time worthwhile. Use these tips to balance your numerous responsibilities and be happy while doing it.

Cut Your TV Time
Don’t get rid of it entirely; you’re not punishing yourself. FamilyEducation.com suggests hitting the ‘off’ button when you sit down to eat, even if it’s just Monday through Thursday. Not only will you enjoy less noise and better dinner conversation, but you’ll be amazed at the amount of time that opens up for reading, playing family games, or taking a walk.

Prioritize a Family Meal
Schedule eating together for a certain time every night and work everything else around it. For some, it’s dinner: parents go into the office early so they can make it home in time. Or, you can get everyone up early and have a nice breakfast as a family. Make it a peaceful time by avoiding phones and discipline issues during this time. The time together will help you feel connected, even when you’re apart.

sleep

Sleep at Night!
Very few people are getting the sleep they truly need to feel calm and rested during the day. Try going to bed by 10p.m. and waking up early to do all those evening tasks like paying bills or listening to the news.

Work for the Good Guys
Companies like Motorola, Philips and American Express have the kind of benefits that make a difference in your home life, such as outdoor meetings, flextime and emergency childcare. If you can snag a job with one of them, you can get paid to have a balanced lifestyle.

Don’t Let Perfection Stand in the Way
Jobs.ac.uk, a major Higher Education recruitment website in the UK, recommends that you ask yourself this question about every task: does it need to be done, or done perfectly? The times when it has to be done perfectly are rare, so get the task done and release the stress of multiple revisions. If you come to realize that an assignment doesn’t have to be done your way, you can delegate it and move on to the next task.

Be Nice to Your Brain

You’ve only got one, and she’s beautiful. If your brain is overloaded with work tasks when you’re at home and obsessed over home details when you’re at the office, help her out! Tasks go on your to-do list and intrusive thoughts go in your journal, whether paper or digital. Write them down and forget about these distractions until you’re ready to take action.

Every now and then, take a moment to congratulate yourself for everything that you’re doing well. Leading a balanced life is a process, and everyone is doing the best they can, including you!

How do you balance work and family?

Everyone should gain learn how to speak in public. It’s a life skill that can help propel careers in various fields. Public speaking can also be fun and even exciting if you take some advice from Toastmasters, the nonprofit that helps people worldwide to improve their public speaking and leadership skills.

Know Your Topic

Do enough research for the speech and then a little more so that you can speak with authority ans answer questions.

Pick a Good Topic

Choose one that interests you and makes you light up when you talk about it.

Use Personal Stories

As long as they’re relevant, an audience loves a good story.

Practice.

Do it often and out loud.  Wear the outfit you plan to wear and use all the equipment you plan to use on the day of the speech.

Arrive Early

Check out the room, meet the A/V person and practice with the microphone.

Visualize

Boost your confidence by picturing yourself speaking with confidence and the audience applauding your genius.

The Audience Already Loves You

People in the audience are on your side.  Keep in mind that they are ready and willing to be entertained, informed and stimulated.

No Apologies

No one will notice that you are nervous or squinting unless you mention it, so don’t.

Concentrate

Focus on the message you wish to convey to the audience.  Let that focus take your attention off of yourself and your nerves.

toastmasters

Gain Experience

Toastmasters clubs are all over the world and meet at a variety of times in order to reach as many people as possible.  Visit a Toastmasters group and practice your skills in a safe space until you are an expert.

 

How do you feel about public speaking?

Great leaders share certain qualities:  a clear vision, an appetite for inspiration and versatility.  Jeremy Johnson, president of undergraduate programs at the online education company 2U, wrote about these traits in an article about how leaders can ‘get unstuck.‘  The qualities he described form a strategy for addressing insecurities and pressures that arise as leaders build companies in a tough economy.

 

Richard Branson
Richard Branson – Virgin

Clear Vision

Today’s great ideas are yesterday’s impossible dreams.  Don’t let anyone tell you what’s  impossible.  Continue to take steps towards success, and soon you’ll start to encounter people who smack their foreheads and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  Leaders are the ones that others follow, so of course you’ll see the destination before anyone else.  Trust your vision.

 

Be Inspired

Steve Jobs Think Differently
Steve Jobs – Apple

Never stop learning and asking questions.  There are lessons and sources of inspiration everywhere you go.  Talk to the person who sells you lunch.  Read the ads on the subway.  Look at what consumers need and want, and determine if you could provide those products or services.  Allow your employees, colleagues and your cab driver to inspire you and provide insights into their world.  Great leaders closely observe the way business is changing and use it to their advantage.

Versatility

Reed Hastings Netflix
Reed Hastings – Netflix

Not so long ago, the only way to get a degree was to go to a brick-and-mortar college building with professors and a lovely grassy campus.  Remember when the best way to watch a movie was a VHS from Blockbuster?  Leaders are primed and ready for change.  They know that the ‘best way’ can evolve in a short span of time.  To lead effectively, you must be ready to embrace and even initiate change.

 

 

Do you have some of these qualities, or all three?

Beyonce and JayZ

Together they’re worth over a billion dollars, they’ve conquered nearly every existing form of entertainment, and they seem truly happy, kind, and fun!.  What can we learn from Jay Z and Beyoncé, to capture just a small fraction of their success in our own lives?  Here are three ways to get started.

Trust Yourself

BeyonceBeyoncé has famously said, “I don’t like to gamble, but if there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself.”  She didn’t always feel that way.  In her self-produced documentary, ‘Beyoncé: Life is But a Dream’, Mrs. Carter revealed a personal fear that she shares with many women:  “I used to be afraid of people thinking I was difficult or too critical, and you know, I don’t really care about that anymore.”  She learned to speak her mind, and now people listen.

Jay Z doesn’t follow fads, he’s true to himself.  He told Men’s Health, “My brands are an extension of me.”  In an interview with Forbes.com, he said, “…there are a number of people in the world who can relate to what I’m saying, and are going to buy into what I’m doing. Not because it’s the new thing of the moment, but because it’s genuine emotion.”

Never Stop Learning

JayZThese two will continue to acquire knowledge as long as they are breathing.  Jay Z says, “I’m hungry for knowledge.  The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That’s what this world is about.”

It’s hard to believe, but every night on her tours, Beyoncé takes home a DVD of her performance and takes detailed notes.  Her motivation?  Never ending improvement.  “I try to perfect myself. I want to grow, and I’m always eager for new information.”

 

 

Embrace Multiple Revenue Streams

bey&jaysingMr. and Mrs. Carter know how to rock a monopoly.

Music critics have called Beyoncé ‘the most important popular musician of the twenty-first century,” but she does so much more than sing and write music.  She has formed her own brand of entertainment through her acting, lines of clothing and perfume, and endorsements of Pepsi and H&M clothing.  Her husband follows suit.

In 1994, Jay Z started his own record label, Roc-A-Fella records, then quickly branched out to film and fashion, beauty, a nightclub, beer and liquor, sports and real estate.  In both name and ambition, the Roc-A-Fella name alludes to John D. Rockefeller, who owned everything that had to do with oil, from refineries to barrels and railroads to shipping in the U.S. and overseas.  Jay Z and Beyoncé have built their legacy, and they’re not done yet.

What will you do to channel Beyoncé and Jay Z in 2013?

 

 

Networking is one of the greatest opportunities to show off your expertise and business. By networking, you’re allowing yourself to showcase your skills in a public domain without actually selling your service or your product to anybody.  This may initially seem like a very difficult thing to do, but it doesn’t have to be. If you equip yourself with the correct tools, skills, and the right attitude, you’ll succeed.

Here are some very important tips that you can follow that will help you successfully network and expand your circle.

 

canstockphoto6495441Always be prepared. Being unprepared is one of the most common mistakes that a business owner can make. When you are networking your business to other businesses and potential customers, you must make sure that you are as prepared as possible. Always make sure that you carry enough business cards on you to hand out to people. In fact, make sure that you have a lot of them on you at all times, because you never know when you might have to dish out a few here and there.

 

canstockphoto6866946Always be interesting and unique. Boring businesses and boring people are not good for marketing. If you are looking to stand out from an already crowded market, you must make sure that you and your business are as memorable as possible. You need to make sure people realize that you are offering them something that they cannot get anywhere else, otherwise you will just blend in with the rest of the companies that are also networking. Tell a story about a client you’ve helped, offer a lead or connection or share why you love what you do. Be an original.

 

canstockphoto13068806Always follow up with the people that you network with. What happens after the initial meet and greet is just as important as the first hello. If you promised to follow up on something, then do it. Otherwise you will lose their respect and confidence. You do not want to just make new contacts; you want to maintain them for a very long period of time.

 

 

Follow these important tips and you will be well on your way to becoming a networking master who will essentially boost the sales of your company.