Celebrating love … business-owner style

This month marks my second anniversary. It was just about two years ago that I closed my eyes, held my breath, and took the leap. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, except I was in love.

That’s when my business was born.

I think it’s fitting that my firm’s anniversary falls in February. As a sassy, single, 30-something, it’s not only nice to have something to celebrate on Valentine’s Day, but I get to honor a relationship that I have complete and total confidence in … the relationship between me as a person, and me as a business owner.

I’ve learned in the past few years that these are two very different people. In fact, in any other circumstance, I wonder if they’d even be friends. I’d like to think so….

One prefers to sit back and chill out, while the other is constantly chasing challenges. One needs to think before she acts, while the other doesn’t always have that luxury. One can easily live in faded jeans and hiking boots, while the other is way more comfortable in pencil skirts and high heels. One is introverted and shy, while the other can work a room at a networking event. One is happy to let someone else take the lead once in awhile, while the other wouldn’t dream of handing over the reins. To anyone. Ever.

Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs. Sometimes I want to throttle myself when I’m not giving myself enough attention or feel I’m taking myself for granted. I don’t hesitate to holler in protest when I have to concentrate on what needs to happen at the firm instead of ducking out early to get a jump on the weekend. Don’t even get me started when I have to walk away at the end of the day simply because I promised me I’d be home at a decent hour for a change.

But, when push comes to shove, amazing things happen when we work together. When we score another big client, celebrate a record-breaking revenue month, or enjoy the freedom to cut out in the middle of the day to go to a nephew’s ball game or a niece’s choir concert, I know we’re in it for the long haul. I’ll never doubt that I’ve got my back, and I know every decision is in the best interest of me, myself and I.

I know quite a few small-business owners, and I think something we all have in common is the love we have for what we do. We’re absolutely nutty over the clients we serve, we’re head-over-heels crazy about the process of growing a company, and we don’t hesitate about the sacrifices we make to feed our entrepreneurial spirit. We all work hard to balance who we are with who we want to become. We’re forever stumbling, which I’m sure has some wondering if the struggles are worth it. But, ask just about any business owner, and the answer will be a resounding “Yes!”

As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, I want to give a heart-shaped shout-out to business owners both large and small. Whether you run a one-person shop out of the corner of your basement or work out of the top floor of the high-rise building you own, I celebrate you and the love you have for your business. It’s truly a relationship worth celebrating.

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From handshakes to hugs

j0406204-main_FullLast week I attended a customer-appreciation event  for one of my clients. He owns an accounting firm that has been growing by leaps and bounds the past few years, and every year on the anniversary of launching his business, he hosts a great party at one of the local restaurants for all of his clients, friends and colleagues.

My town is a pretty small town in terms of small-business owners. You don’t need to be on the networking circuit very long before you start running into the same people at local business  events. From there, it doesn’t take long for some of these folks to morph from introductions, to passing acquaintances, to referral partners, to full-blown friends. I’ve seen it happen in three events, tops.

This point was driven home at my client’s party last week, when I recognized one of the guests coming through the front door. Instead of walking up to each other with hands outstretched for the perfunctory handshake, it was a big smile, a friendly hug, and questions about her family.

What’s interesting is that I never hang out with this person outside of the professional realm. I’ve never seen her house, met her husband, or even know where she went to college. We’ve gotten to know each other strictly through networking events, shared associates, and business functions.  In fact, we’ve probably never had more than a 10-minute conversation at one time.

But the friendship stars aligned and, within a few business events and one cup of coffee, we seamlessly went from handshakes to hugs.

This particular exchange is indicative of what I see happening every day in my little corner of the world. The number of hugs I share at every event I attend is steadily growing the longer I’m in business and the more involved my firm gets in the local business community. Friendships are quickly forged over cocktails and coffee,  tales from the small-business trenches are shared, and we all seem to share a single, primary goal … to make our mark as successful businesses.

I freely admit that this has become a most unexpected perk of what I do. I mean, I fully expected to be active in the business community and work tirelessly to make the right contacts, build my professional network, and partner with like-minded folks to continue growing our respective organizations.

What I didn’t expect was to see formal handshakes turn into hugs…and how I’ve realized that we need these friendly exchanges just as much as we need the formal introductions to the decision-makers. 

These brief exchanges with newfound friends at some local event allow you a moment to catch your proverbial breath, smile at someone who is out there working as hard as you, and who isn’t expecting to hear your 30-second elevator pitch. You get five minutes of friendly banter with someone you probably never would’ve become friends with had it not be for the fact that you’re both out there fightin’ the good fight for your business.

So, think about that next time you share a friendly hug or pat on the back. They don’t want to hear your sales pitch; they want to hear about your family.

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Where’s MY book??

Welcome back! We were on a bit of a hiatus in July, enjoying a little time away. But, we’re back with a list of things we’ll be yammering on about in The Virtual Fast Lane – from small business to virtual assistance to everything in between. So subscribe today and tag along for the (sometimes eye-rollingly irreverent) ride!

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I’m starting to get a little frustrated.Stack of books

In order to be successful in business and continue growing my virtual assistant firm, I am on a constant quest for knowledge. There have been — and always will be — people out there who are wiser, more experienced, and with advice that’ll truly make a difference in how I do what I do. For those who have wisdom to share, I am an enthusiastic student.

But, I’m also a discerning student.

In addition to having a business coach, I’m always filling in the gaps reading endless magazine articles, following expert blogs, perusing lists of books, checking RSS feeds, and sitting in on webinars and workshops.

The challenge? There’s too much. Way, way too much. How will I ever find the message that speaks to me?

I once worked with a CEO who was wildly successful following the organizational system developed by one performance expert, and I’ve talked to others who’ve been equally successful  by learning to let go of the details and trusting that the process will emerge if their vision is intact.  I’ve known others who clearly practice leadership with expert guidance, and yet others with a penchant for cultivating the leaders from lower ranks on the corporate ladder.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m certainly not looking for a business guru to blindly follow. It’s just that I’m (sometimes painfully) aware of my weaknesses as well as my strengths as a business owner. I’m convinced there has to be someone out there who shares these attributes with me; someone who has used their experience and expertise to develop a system or methodology or way of thinking that I can get on board with…right?

Well, you’d think so. But, instead, I find myself wondering…

Should I be improving my weaknesses, or strengthening my strengths?
Do I need to kick more ass, or be more compassionate?
Invest in Post-it notes, iPhone apps or a color-coded filing system?
Should I be thinking to grow rich, focusing on my 7 habits, or trying to become a manager in a minute?
Will I really win friends by influencing people?
Should I duct-tape my marketing, or kick it thought-leadership style?

Luckily I’m discovering that no matter what books or blogs I read, which podcasts I listen to, or which mentor I turn to for words of advice, most of the underlying themes are the same …. set goals, be creative, stay  driven, believe in your business, pay attention to the numbers, develop systems, have a clear vision and, most importantly, believe in yourself. 

So, until I find that way that works for me, I’ll just keep piecemealing the tidbits that make sense to me into my own little self-help/build-your-business/daily-meditation/get-thin/kick-ass/retire-early/make-new-friends pile of educational goo.

Who knows. Maybe one day I’ll publish it.

 

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