3 Steps to Naming Your New Business

three stepsStill trying to think of name for your new business? All your favorite names are already taken? How do you find a name that you love?

Here are 3 steps to help you name your new business:

1. Keep it Simple

Don’t overthink it. If you don’t already own it, buy your own name as a domain. If you have a common name, add your middle initial or maiden last name + your married name. You can start a business by branding yourself. The idea is to get started and dive in to your new business. Some people may not advise you to use your own name if your vision is to build an empire that you want to sell later. Others like Marie Forleo, Michael Hyatt or Seth Godin might tell you that YOU are your brand. You can always add additional services and products with different domains. My point here is simple – you can spend months and months planning to be in business. As the amazing company with a unique name called Nike reminds us…”Just Do It.” Which should also remind you that a great tagline is as important as your business name.

2. Do Your Research

Write down or type a list of word combinations as a domain and see how they look together with no spaces. Prioritize your list from most favorite to least favorite. Google is your friend (or whatever search engine you prefer). Be prepared to buy a domain if it is available at the time of search. There are people/companies that are domain name brokers and buy and sell domains that they think someone would be interested in. Also be prepared that your top ten or even twenty could already be taken. Think branding and check domain availability, facebook, twitter and any other social media you know you might use.

3. Try an online naming tool

Your name is taken. All your favorite choices are taken. You have to get creative and here’s an interesting online name tool that Seth Godin called the “naming tool of the year”. Maybe Wordoid will help you find a unique name that will help you launch your new business!

Check out these other great articles about naming your business:

How to Name Your Business – MarieForleo.com
How to Pick the Right Name for Your New Business – Mashable.com
Choose Your Business Name – sba.gov

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If you have started your business but still don’t have professional print materials, take a look at our marketing templates designed exclusively for photo organizers. Everything you need for print and your online presence is included in one marketing set. Don’t forget we also have amazing business forms so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel AND you can present yourself to clients with a professional image. Be sure to visit the business forms page to watch the short videos with tips on how to use each form. My clients love them and yours will too!

Staying Ahead of the Game

Kodak Brownie HawkeyeKodak’s employees were watching the market, collecting information, designing and discovering the technology of the future, but they couldn’t get the management and marketing arms of their company on the same page at the right time to leverage a place for themselves in the new and rapidly changing marketplace. Kenny Suleimanagich researched and wrote about the rise and fall of a photo giant, Kodak. The blame ultimately came down to “the disconnect between manager and engineer.”

So, how are you supposed to stay ahead of the game? If a company with the resources of Kodak can’t do it, how can you and your small business resources hope to navigate the waters of ever-changing technology?

A positive to being small is your ability to adapt and change. You don’t have a room of board members or managers to convince when you want to try a new technology or just keep up with the latest photo technology. But how do you keep informed without losing your day to the results of an online search?

3 Research Tips

  1. Make sure to use reputable online sources
  2. Ask other professionals in your network of industry experts
  3. Schedule a start AND stop time for research

As the old saying goes, “Leaders are readers” and reading and staying informed will help you to become a leader in the photo industry. But please, don’t get lost in trying to learn everything you can before you market yourself and your business. Become an expert skimmer!

3 Resources

Skim these information-rich sites and read a few articles that catch your eye or are about something you’d like to learn more about and perhaps even specialize in. You can subscribe via email. Or read through an RSS subscription using an app like Feedly or Bloglovin which will allow you to schedule a daily or weekly reading appointment with yourself. Clip or save the best of what you read to Evernote in a reference notebook that you can access on your computer, smartphone or tablet. (Look at all that technology you will be using!)

  1. Library of Congress – The Signal: Digital Preservation
  2. PMA Newsline – Daily Photo News
  3. Your Digital Life

Bonus tip: Cut your facebook reading time in half and use that “extra” time to read industry specific news.

Set a timer to stop reading and start your next task…

Maybe next on your list is this:
Develop a marketing strategy to get the right clients!

Psst…did you hear the internet is here to stay?

Love it or hate it, technology and the digital age is not going away. Are you embracing it and helping your customers wade through the endless choices they have with just one Google search? One of the best ways you can WOW your clients is to help them by narrowing down their choices based on your research.

What are you favorite technology tips you share with your clients and your colleagues?

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Doing Work of the Heart

heart and paint brush
Meaningful work is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Over the years, I have coached clients and friends as they moved from business to business, from full-time to part-time work (and vice versa,) or to completely new careers. All in search of fulfilling, rewarding work that makes a difference.

I’ve been lucky to experience several careers myself. I worked professionally as a college professor, a high school teacher, in direct sales, as a business executive, and as a small business owner. Looking back, it is amazing to see how all these experiences prepared me for the next — even when the path wasn’t immediately evident.

I’ve also learned that how we live our life away from work influences who are in our career. Over the last couple of years, I worked (and sometimes struggled,) to put together the important pieces of my life so I could be my best in all things. I learned to cook healthy food, became disciplined in my yoga practice, found a new church, focused on my family, learned to paint (well, kind of), and made more time for friends.

One of the most rewarding experiences has been volunteering for our local Hospice. Over the last two years I made phone calls to bereaved families, provided respite care for patients, worked in the office and helped with special events. Like Hospices across the nation, I found that our organization is one made up of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. I wondered if there might ever be the opportunity to work alongside these people professionally.

Recently, a position was posted in the Volunteer Department at our Hospice. The job description listed skills and tasks that perfectly fit my own experience.

I got the job.

What I know with utter certainty is that this is what I am meant to do.

What I also know is that saying goodbye is never easy. Sherra is an amazing business partner. Our business, Big Picture Coaching, sprang from her vision. I will be forever grateful to her, and to each of you.

Thank you for your time.  For reading our blog, working with us on the phone, corresponding by email, and for always striving to be the best in your own business. I admire each of you as small business owners and as great people.

As I leave this phase of my career, I ask you the same questions I have asked myself over the years: 

  • Where are you in your career?
  • Are you doing work that counts?
  • Are you leading a life that makes you better in all things?
  • What is your next step?

If you need help finding the answers, get in touch with Sherra! As she continues the work of Big Picture Coaching, I promise she will help you discover your heart work.

I wish you the very best.

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Are You a Leader? Four Ways Small Business Owners Serve

leadership signWho do you think of when I say, “Leader in the world of business?”  

A Warren Buffet or Bill Gates type? Maybe a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg?

Perhaps the phrase doesn’t bring to mind a particular person, but rather a “type.”

A CEO in a well tailored suit. The company President who is firmly rooted behind his desk.

If you own a small business, you are not only in business for yourself, you are probably in business by yourself. Even if you employee a small staff, my guess is that you don’t think of yourself as a “Business Leader.”

As Sherra and I work with our clients, we are reminded time and again that small business owners are the real leaders in the world of business.

If you are struggling to see yourself as a Leader, here are a few reminders of the things we see you doing. Day in and day out:

1. Serving as Leaders in Your Industry.

You are involved in professional organizations, networking groups, and continuing education. You represent your market with professionalism and a constant thirst for knowledge. Most importantly, you share freely with others, knowing that helping others be successful is a leader’s greatest gift.

2. Serving as Leaders in Your Community.

Small business owners often have flexibility in the work week. You choose to invest time in service. Whether at your child’s school, a local non-profit organization, or in small town politics, you model ways to give back to your own neighborhoods and cities.

3. Serving as Role Models in Your Family.

Small business owners have vision. You share that vision with your family and find ways to work together toward a shared goal. Many of you put your family right to work! Others remind your children and your spouses that time invested in business hours has a tangible pay off — a vacation, family time, bills paid, dreams made real.

4. Serving as Leaders for Your Clients.

This one is my favorite. For me, a real leader is someone who builds up other people. A real leader shares confidence, skills or products that make life better. You encourage others with a smile, a compliment, and a helping hand. Simply put, you make a difference.

As we wrap up February and look forward to the renewing energy of Spring, allow us to take one more opportunity to share our love and respect for those of you who work diligently to build something of your own. And to serve others at the same time.

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Jen Tufford – A Sales Success Story

Jen at conference
Direct Sales is a wonderful industry for men and women who want flexible hours and the ability to work from home or alongside a full-time job. These small businesses offer a way to add income to an existing family budget, or to provide full-time income by building and leading a team. Jen Tufford’s story is inspiring! She offers great tips and advice for those who are thinking about joining a party plan business, or who have been working it for some time!

Tell us about your business and the products you offer.

Thirty-One Gifts is a direct sales company in the fashion industry. We sell handbags, totes, and a great spirit line that features many colleges and universities. Our new Spring 2013 catalog has an amazing new organizational line! Many of our products can be personalized. We also offer an incredible business opportunity that can do everything from getting you out of the house a few times to month to replacing a full-time income…or more!

Direct sales is a great business for women – what specifically do you like about the party plan model?

I think women crave positive, fun relationships. Often in the workplace and at home we receive little to no recognition or support. I love that the party plan model introduces us to a whole group of women that we may never have met otherwise. Many of my hostesses and customers have become some of my best friends.

You are a Senior Executive Director at Thirty-One Gifts.  What exactly does that mean and how did you get there?

Jen's teamThis is the second level from the top of our career path (until recently, it was the top level, but we grew so quickly, another level was added.) I am responsible for celebrating, encouraging, and rewarding my entire downline organization for their achievements and successes.

Direct sales is not hard work, but you do have to work hard.

After my husband was laid off, we had no regular source of income. I had to work even harder to further develop relationships with my customers, hostesses, and team, and to improve my customer service so that I could get referrals to continue to grow my business.

What do you like best about being a small business owner?

Jen's FamilyI love that I work mostly from home. This allows me to not only be there for my kids at their school and sporting events, but also for my husband and me to spend more time together (after a layoff, he was able to start his own business as a result of my Thirty-One success). The flexibility and the income can’t be beat!

What are the frustrations?

Staying self-motivated and focused! Because there is no one looking over my shoulder or giving me deadlines, it can sometimes be hard to come down to my home office to do what I need to do.  Many times, I’d rather than go to lunch with a friend or watch TV!

What advice do you have for other women who are looking for a small business and think direct sales might be the answer?

Choose a company whose products you LOVE! I wasn’t planning to do Thirty-One as a business; I just liked the products. Go to a local vendor show and talk to the people in the companies you are looking at. Most importantly, be sure you like the person who will be your sponsor. If you don’t connect, or she isn’t answering your questions during the “courting” phase, chances are good that she will not be any easier to work with once you join.

What advice do you have for women who are working out of their home?

  1. Hand out 5 business cards per day, Monday-Friday. Make it a game to not come home until you do.
  2. Set office hours, and STICK TO THEM! I do not answer my phone or check emails outside of my office hours. Trust me, this will make your spouse and children much more supportive when you keep business hours rather than constantly answering the phone during dinner or family movie night.
  3. Stay consistent – in whatever way works for you. It is so much easier to stay motivated with your business if you are consistent.
  4. Remember that your family is the reason you are working your business, not an excuse as to why you AREN’T working it!

Melissa Draut: Grant Writing That Matters

Like many of us, Melissa Draut left the corporate world and found her dream job doing work that makes a difference in the lives of others. As a Grant Writer, Melissa has built a business based on her past experience and the desire to do meaningful work as an entrepreneur.

You are in the grant writing business; tell us a little bit about what you do and what a typical day might look like.

I help non-profit organizations raise funds for their programs by writing and researching grants. A big part of what I do is to help identify what foundations are the right funding prospects for the organization’s program. That part of the job involves using databases, research and talking to people at foundations to see where we might have a fit for possible funding.

A typical morning may be writing a grant, researching leads and calling foundation contacts.  Since the job is so “head” oriented, I work out at lunch and actually get some of my best ideas when I am lap swimming. The afternoon could be spent meeting with a client, heading to the post office to mail a grant package or interviewing a program manager to get details for an upcoming grant.

How did you come up with the idea to go into business on your own?

I was very resistant to running my own business after leaving the corporate world. I figured I would freelance for a while, and then return to the next job somewhere. Well, one thing led to another, and I ended up with five clients and enough revenue to sustain myself. After going through rounds of corporate layoffs, I think this is more secure financially since my livelihood is not dependent on one source.

What do you love about grant writing and working for yourself?

I love being a grant writer for my clients because I am truly passionate about the mission of these organizations. From promoting financial self-sufficiency for domestic violence survivors to ensuring talented students have visual art education, I am working in the middle of some exciting solutions that address community needs.

I like working for myself because I have a healthy workplace and a good boss. I’m also lucky that my IT expert husband has supported me every step of the way with technology recommendations and set up so I can work effectively and efficiently.

What do you wish you had known before starting your own business?

That it really isn’t as hard as you think it might be. I thought running my business would be such a hassle, and it really isn’t once you get systems in place. Sure, it took me awhile to figure what to do with taxes, bank accounts and office equipment, but I learned to ask and hire experts for help instead of trying to figure everything out myself.

I bet others say this – I would have jumped into this sooner had I known how much I would thrive doing this work.

What advice do you have for women who are seeking to leave the corporate world and work from home?

My advice to women and men who are considering a change from the corporate scene to their own world: have confidence that you can learn something new. Review your track record – if you’ve been successful in doing new projects and reaching goals for someone else, you can do it for yourself and your new clients.

Find Melissa at MelissaDraut.com

Reinvention: Figuring Out Who You Will Be

This is the third post in a series about reinventing yourself — all based on real life experience.

In Part 1, Getting Unstuck, I outlined six steps toward reinventing yourself. #6 is a technique that will get you closer to figuring out who you want to be:

Focus less on who you want to be, and more on who you don’t want to be.

Reinventing yourself is not easy. It’s not something that happens overnight, nor is it a process that is completed on a deadline. It’s not a cut and dried process that begins one day and ends the next.

Two years ago when I was struggling to be the person I wanted to be, I decided that the best way to start was to begin with who I didn’t want to be. Here’s my list from back then:

  • Someone who is thoughtless and says unkind things
  • Someone who is oblivious to others’ hurts and needs
  • Someone who is impatient and gets angry about stupid stuff, or things that should be forgotten
  • Someone whose ego and insecurities get in the way of her true self

Have I eliminated doing all those things? Well certainly not all the time. But I can say that these days I am much more likely to stop and breathe, remember who I don’t want to be, and move forward in a more positive way.

Here are a couple more things I have added to that list since then:

  • Someone who is stressed by work and so loses sight of what is really important
  • Someone who allows herself to be defined by career, instead of who she really is
  • Someone whose major goals in life revolve around the goals of her job

Please hear me — I believe wholeheartedly that career can play an important role in feeling fulfilled and whole. For many people (including me) it is a vital piece of the puzzle.

But I’ve also seen a career (or some other aspect of life) not only take up most of the hours in one’s life, but also an incredible amount of emotional space and ultimately one’s well-being.

For me, the realization that I no longer wanted to be the person I had become came in mid-life; and it was a bona-fide crises. It often happens that way…but not always.

Researcher, author, and storyteller Brene Brown explains,

“People may call what happens at midlife ‘a crisis,’ but it’s not. It’s an unraveling — a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re ‘supposed’ to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”

If you’re starting to feel that pull — the one that says “this is NOT who I am supposed to be”, then don’t wait!  Make your list and start exploring. It’s never to late to make a change.

It’s never too late to be that person you are meant to be.

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Click below to read:
Part 1 – Getting Unstuck ~ 6 Steps to Reinventing Yourself
Part 2 – Reinvention: 6 Steps to Change

Simply Begin

Hope you all enjoyed your 3 day weekend and took some time off from work this Labor Day!

Loved this printable quote and wanted to share it with you here.

You can download the printable at paper coterie
Quote by Meredith Winn featured in the book Elevate the Everyday.

Reinvention: Six Steps To Change

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Like a lot of people, my career history has not been a straight trajectory to unqualified success. Instead, it’s been a quirky, jerky road of sharp rights and lefts and sometimes even u-turns.

I won’t bore you with the details of my resume. Let’s just say that what I thought I would be when I was a student in college is not what I am now.

On paper, my job history looks like a hodge podge of employment with no real connection or relation. Like random jobs fell into my lap. Like I took a job simply thinking “what the heck, this might be fun.” Like there was no career counselor or long range plan whatsoever. And this would all be true!

In retrospect though, I can see how beautifully the puzzle fits together. Each job or degree or experience led to the next.

Everything I learned on the crazy journey prepared me for what was coming next.

The moral of this story is that life happens and so do careers. Most often, where you start is not where you end up. Or even a place you ever dreamed you be. And that’s ok.

So, if you’re feeling stuck, or bored, or thinking it might be time for a change; or if you’re worried that where you are now is so not where you want your future to be. Or if you feel like you have one last great career in you but your running out of time…

Then let me share what I have learned over the years. These steps will help you get over the worry by being proactive.  They will lead to real change in your life:

#1. Learn all you can.

Take a class. Do some continuing education. Read a book. Subscribe to a trade magazine. Get a degree. Don’t be worried about being locked into learning only about topics that apply to your current career. Keep your mind sharp and be ready for whatever might be coming next.

#2. Know what you are good at.

Be aware of your strengths. Sit down and make a list of all the skills and experiences you have. Be ready to tell people what you do well. But also know that what you do, or what you are at this moment, is not necessarily what you will do, or be, or do well in the future.

#3. Be open to the possibilities.

We live so much of our lives with tunnel vision, focusing only on the things that are right in front of us. Open up. Talk to people and ask questions. Explore! Be ready to accept an offer, a challenge or a new opportunity.

#4. Get to know your colleagues and nurture those connections.

Sometimes when you leave a job, or move on to the next thing, you can’t help but say a mental “goodbye forever” to your colleagues. Resist. You will be surprised how often you will find yourself working again with former fellow employees. There will be a time when you need a recommendation, some advice, or even a bit of reminiscing when you are feeling nostalgic. Or someone will need those things from you. It’s what business is all about. Making connections. Helping one another.

#5. Find some help.

Getting some outside expertise or advice is a great thing. I have relied on business coaches and mentors time and again. There are times when we just need a little outside perspective and expertise. Ask for recommendations. Read experts on the internet. Invest in yourself.

#6. Trust.

Regardless of whether or not your believe in a “master plan,” believe that all things work for good. We just have to be ready.

What about your career journey? How has it surprised you? We would love to hear from you – leave a comment below!

Getting Unstuck ~ 6 Steps Toward Reinventing Yourself

glue army

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Two years ago I resigned from my corporate job.

It was a job I loved for a really long time. A job in which I invested countless hours, logged thousands of travel miles, and worked with really smart people whom I respected, admired and just plain enjoyed being with.

Quitting my job was a really big deal for me.

Not because I’d no longer be traveling, or even because we were losing my income and my family’s lifestyle would change. It was a big deal because I lost my identity.

Besides being a wife and mother (even bigger deals,) being who I was in my former career defined me and gave me confidence. In that role I was who I thought I wanted to be.

But I was stuck.

I had done what I dreamed of doing when I took the job. In some ways I was just going through the motions.

It took a lot of courage and a lot of tears to finally make the decision. Even then I dragged my feet. I was scared and sad.

I’d like to say that from the moment I quit I felt light and happy and free. But that would not be true.

In true Southern fashion I took to my bed and stayed there for several days. I was tired — physically and mentally. Most of all, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be.

I wish I could tell you that recreating my identity was as easy as pie. The truth? It is really, really hard work.

If you are ready to make a change but you don’t know who you’ll be and you’re scared about what will happen when you finally make the decision — well, here’s what I learned about that time and the steps that helped me:

6 Steps Toward Reinventing Yourself

1. Have a Plan

Don’t quit unless you have another job. Or have a plan to live on savings or your partner’s income.  It’s no good trying to figure out who you are going to be next AND worrying about paying the bills.

2. Go to Bed

Most likely you are going to be tired. Even if you haven’t been working a ton of hours, making big decisions can really zap your energy. I am a firm believer in going to bed when you are tired. Stay there if you want. Watch an old movie. Catch up on a tv series you missed. Read some books (see # 3.)

3. Read

Choose authors who have experienced a transition, had a life changing experience, or who just write beautifully. I read Marianne Williamson, Anne Lamott, and Mary Oliver.

4. Be Ready for the Unexpected

I swear, every time I coach someone through making a job change and they plan on having “time just to breathe,” something happens. For me, it was a serious injury and an extended hospital stay for my Mom. For a colleague it was a death in the family. My neighbor found out she was expecting. It never fails.

5. Volunteer

As a young wife, I trained and volunteered for our local Hospice, but stopped when I started having kids. I long dreamed of going back and I did. Doing something for someone else is key.

6. Focus less on who you want to be, and more on who you don’t want to be.

More on this in a coming post, but know that being healthy, sane and open to the possibilities can bring things into your life you could never have dreamed of.

Change is inevitable. Most of us reinvent ourselves several times over a lifetime. Sometimes its better to just accept what’s coming and find out who you are meant to be.