Lessons on Finding Bravery In Unexpected Places: #Blog4biz Day 31:

Image Courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art
Today is the last day of the #Blog4Biz Business Blogging Challenge hosted by Fleur Management. It has been 31 days of blogging prompts about big things like business plans to small things like office supplies.

Today's challenge asks us to chose a business owner and (1.) write a pitch or proposal on how our businesses could collaborate and (2.) ask that business owner for a meeting to share those ideas.

This is a good challenge especially for small businesses. We can go farther if we begin thinking how can we work together to met a common goal. If you have been reading along, you know that I try to find some way to connect communication into every post. Today I am not going to that. In this last post, I am going to challenge you to open your eyes and find the lessons and chances to be BRAVE in everything you do.


How To Engage Your Blog Readers: #Blog4Biz Day 30:

This is the penultimate post in the #blog4biz challenge. Tomorrow's post will wrap up this great learning experience. But it isn't over until the end. So that means I have to write today's challenge.

Image Courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art
Today's challenge is about reader engagement. I need to come up with 5 ways to engage and involve you my readers. To answer this post and meet the 975 word count minimum, I'll tell you about my blogging experience.

1. Write honest content

I will be the first to admit I am new to real blogging. The whole reason I am relaunching the Living BRAVE Blog is because when I first started it over a year ago, I had no clue what I was doing. I muddled through for a while and life circumstances led me to eventually just leave it alone. I had maybe 3 people who regularly engaged with me on my blog back then. I emailed them all thanking for their support and let them know what was happening.


Approach Your Communication Strategy Like a Business Plan: #Blog4Biz Day 29

"Write the vision, make it plain" ~Habakkuk

"Clear language precedes clear thought" ~Immanuel Kant

"Begin with the end in mind" ~Steven Covey

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others" ~Jonathan Swift

"A business plan forces you to convert your idea into an actual blueprint..." James Carden

All of these quotes emphasize the importance of having a vision and writing it down. The business plan is the written vision and road map to success of any business. The executive summary of a business plan is the short answer to the "who", "what", "when", "where", "why" and "how" of any business or project. It is tailored to a specific audience.

Today's #blog4biz challenge asked us to write or rewrite the executive summary of our business plan. This is a challenging task for several reasons. Although it is the short answer, it is often the hardest to write. So much so, that some business plan coaches, templates, and advisors recommend writing the executive summary last.

Instead of copying and pasting my executive summary here. I am going to show you how to write your own business plan for your personal communication success. 

One of the services I offer my coaching clients at BRAVE Communication LLC is individual communication strategies ideation. Ideation is a new buzz word for "brainstorming" or "idea creation". I help you identify the  "who", "what", "when", "where", "why" and "how" of a communication issue to come up with the best strategies for executing your plan. 


Communication Lessons from the movie Vantage Point

Only  a few more days until you can enter to win a $50 gift card to Target. Click here for more information on the BRAVE-LY Back At It Giveaway!

Today's #Blog4Biz challenge is a super fun one...and super hard. I am suppose to think and write like another #Blog4biz participant. How would he or she solve one of my business problems?

What a creative concept. And it reminds me of the movie Vantage Point that was released in 2008. Here is the trailer to refresh your memory.
According to Wikipedia, Vantage Point is a 2008 American political action thriller film directed by Pete TravisThe story focuses on an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, as seen from the various vantage points of different characters.Dennis QuaidMatthew FoxForest WhitakerWilliam Hurt, and Sigourney Weaver star in principal roles. 

I remember watching this movie in the theater. I was looking to see how they would bridge all 8 perspectives and wrap up the story. I remember hearing the audience gasp each time the movie literally rewound to begin the story from another character's perspective. It was a novel concept that I enjoyed watching. Eventually, I just wanted to get to the end. But I realized, just like in real life communication, how you get there is just as important as arriving.

This isn't the first time Hollywood has cashed in on "perspective pieces". 2004's Crash  was a racially charged piece that showed how several character's lives connected in ways they didn't even realize. 

Thinking back on it now, both of those movies have a lot of communication lessons we could learn. I am going to stick with Vantage Point for today's challenge. 


Connect The Dots Of The Past For Insight Into The Future

Only 5 more days until you can enter to win a $50 gift card to Target. Click here for more information on the BRAVE-LY Back At It Giveaway!

Today the #blog4biz challenge has me thinking about my past jobs. What were the good parts of all the jobs I have ever had that I would like to incorporate into my business?

This is going to be a nice trip down memory lane...for me at least. I hope you like it too. You'll get to see all the things I did through out my life and follow the twisty road to where I am today.

Job 1: I got my first job when I was 17. My mom wouldn't let me work while I went to high school but the summer before I left for college was open season. I got a job with United Vision Sales as a kiosk salesperson for Magic Pens. I would stand at my kiosk and demonstrate the pens. They were really markers. They would write one color and when you went over that writing with the white pen, it would "magically" change colors. Something happened and the person who hired me, left and I was "promoted" to manage of that kiosk. As manager, I had to attend the manager training in New York City.


Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail: #Blog4biz Day 26

Today's challenge asks business owners to pull out, dust off, and crack open their business plan to check for neglected parts.

The business plan is the scaffolding on which a business is built...at least in theory anyway. Many people question whether or not you need a business plan. For example, if you aren't planning on asking banks or investors for money, do you need a business plan? If you plan on your business every growing past a solo operator, do you need a business plan? If you are independently wealthy and doing this new venture for fun. do you need a business plan?

The answer is yes!

When I first started BRAVE I went to the library to find what I could about writing a business plan. After combing through tons of books, I came across a resource that spoke to my sanity. It promised you could write your business plan in one day. Of course, I was a skeptic and knew a plan couldn't be written start to finish in one day. But the book gave me hope that it could be done quickly. I chose that book because it was the only resource that didn't have me spending years writing my plan. I wanted to think about my plan, write my plan, and get to work.

What She REALLY Wants From You When She Is Overwhelmed

If you have ever heard your

female friend....
female cousin...

say she was overwhelmed, stressed, or tired, this is post is to help you understand what she really wants from you. Trust me, if you implement these tips you help relieve her burden and gain major brownie points in the process.

Disclaimer: My tips assume that your relationship with said female is a relatively close one. Your success at using these tips greatly diminish if you don't spend significant time interacting with said woman.


The Lesson Instagram Revealed About Growth: #Blog4Biz Day 25

I am absolutely amazed at the lessons I am learning as I do this #blog4biz daily blogging challenge. I want to write about those lessons but I am restraining myself.  Just in case the Day 31 prompt is write in a 1,000 words the lessons you have learned doing this challenge, I want to make sure I have enough material to meet the word count.

Today's challenge forced me to sign up for an Instagram account. I have never used Instagram before. I am not completely sure I will continue using it. My task today was to take a picture of my favorite office things and share that photo on Instagram and my blog.

What You Need to Know About The Bravely Back At It Giveway!

August 1, 2013 is only 1 week away!


.....7 days

.....168 hours

.....10,080 Minutes

......604,800 seconds

until you can enter the "BRAVE-ly Back At It Giveaway!"

Here is what you need to know:


My Work Day Could Use Some Work!: #Blog4Biz Day 24:

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. To celebrate, I am giving away a $50 gift card to Target. I call it the "BRAVE-ly Back at it" Giveaway. It starts August 1 and runs through August 8, 2013. Click here for the official rules.

Today's #Blog4Biz challenge asks what does my business day look like. I don't have a typical business day. Since I work from home, I am always trying to juggle all my demands. So I'll tell you about my day today.

7:30a. The alarm goes off. I quickly turn it off and pretend that I can get more sleep through osmosis. I turn over to grab my tablet and open the Bible app. I need to prepare mentally and spiritually for my day.

8:00a. I hear the pitter patter of 4 feet descending the stairs. They are up. Despite all my efforts on lessons on manners and privacy, my kids charge through the door asking "Mommy, is it time to get up yet?" They ask because if it before 8a I say no and send them back upstairs.

8:10a. Breakfast. At breakfast I'll check email, facebook, and other notifications. After breakfast, I spend time making decisions and graphics for the "Bravely Back At it Giveaway" that starts August 1. You could win a $50 gift card to Target. Be sure to visit my blog on August 1 to enter!


Oops! How I Hurt My Mom's Feeling!

In today's #Blog4Biz challenge I am supposed to tell you about one mistake I wish I could undo. After thinking about all day. I finally came up with something. 

In order for you, dear reader, to grasp the full weight of the story I am about to tell. I have to introduce you to someone first. Blogesphere, I'd like for you to meet...wait for it....my mother! (I would have loved to insert a picture here but she would kill me...literally)

I have to give you some background about the type of person she is. She is loud and spontaneous. She is funny and caring. She is generous to a fault! She will give you the clothes off her back. She is the life any party. She is persistent and stubborn and she is wise and extremely resourceful. 

Three points about my mom to frame my story:

1. She can not stand unruly, disrespectful children. A child who disrespects an adult sends her over the edge. So much so that if we were in the mall and she saw an unruly disrespectful child, she would go over and verbal chastise the child...in front of the parent or guardian. 

You would think a parent might get angry about this, right? I mean who is this woman coming over uninvited. NOPE! My mom always did it a way that made the parent/guardian feel empowered and made the child examine his or her behavior. I never knew what she said because I was too embarrassed to follow her in her righteous indignation. I hid in the bushes or sat far off on a bench until she was done.

Even to this day, she will still put me in a headlock when she thinks I have gotten a little "too big for my britches". 

2. She is very quick to ask for help. I get that from her. She taught me asking for help was never something to be ashamed of because it the only way you grow. 

3. She is hot tempered. In her defense, thanks to a little bit of age and whole lot of Jesus, she has learned to better control her temper. Even still, when she gets mad, she'll let you know.

Ok...now that you have met my mother and learned a few interesting facts about her, let me answer the challenge.

One day about 6 years ago, my mom sent me a text asking for help on a computer issue. I am not a tech person but she sent a string of texts asking about something. I was in a bad mood that day. I saw the first text, then the four immediately following it and rolled my eyes. She is was bugging me. I was irritated. Why does she always assume I know stuff? I fired off my response. 

"Why do you always ask me this stuff? I don't know!"

I knew I shouldn't have sent it. I knew she would get mad. But I sent it anyway. I waited for the phone to ring and was ready to take an earful about being disrespectful. The phone never rang. No text ever came.

Hmm. That is weird. My mom doesn't miss a chance to put me in check. Then it hit me.

I hurt my mother with my words. 

If she didn't respond, she wasn't angry. She was hurt. I didn't know how much until much later.

You may be thinking "what was so hurtful about that text?"
The problem wasn't just in the words of the text, it was in the tone of voice! 
With computer mediate communication you can't hear the tone of voice and you can't see the body language. But this doesn't stop the other person from applying your tone of voice as they read and interpret your message.

This is what my mom did. In her head, she "heard" me snidely saying that text and she "saw" me "suck my teeth" and "roll my eyes" as I said it. That is what what hurt her.

Because she is my mother and knows all the nuances of my gestures and vocal intonations,  she applied what she knew to what I said. So to her, it was as if I had said that to her face. Given what I told you about my mom's feeling about disrespectful children, she was hurt that her own daughter would treat her in such a way.

For months she never addressed this exchange. One day she informs me that she has signed up for basic computing classes at the local career center. When I asked why she suddenly decided to do that. She said, "So I don't ever have to bug my child again." Ouch!

One mistake I made that I wish I could take back was hurting my mother with a thoughtless text message. I apologized of course. And even though we have long ago made up and have moved past it, the thought of how I hurt my mom with poor communication and careless words still stings.

You never know how people filter your messages. As human beings, we naturally fill in communication gaps. And when we do, it is not to the benefit of the others.

While we can't take responsibility for how others receive a message, we can and should take as much care as possible on how, when, where, and why we send a message. 

Have you ever used technology to send a message that intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone? What happened?

Word count 917


#Blog4Biz Day 22: I Gotta Risk It!

When I saw this photo, I thought it was oxymoronic or contradictory in nature. On one hand you have a common child's toy. These well worn blocks might bring back memories of simpler times when you were building fine motor skills or developing early reading and vocabulary skills. On the other hand the blocks are not set against a colorful animal printed children's rug. Instead they are set on a austere, cold surface that feels almost institutional. The surface setting does not reflect the warmth that the blocks give.

This is the perfect metaphor to use to talk about today's #blog4biz challenge that asks what is my next business risk. For me, the blocks represent my business. Like the blocks, my business is personal. It is well worn. It exudes warmth and love. It bring good memories and happy times. 

The surface, represents the outside world. The world that says that communication skills are too "touchy feel-ly" to cause any real damage or make a real change in an organization. I think of all the hard nosed people who question its return on investment. The traditional business world says communication performance is a "nice to have" not "a must have". 

This is the dichotomy of the world of interpersonal communication skills. Professionals who operate in communication skills and see the value are already in "helping" jobs. Therapists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and clergy, for example, know the value of developing and exercising good interpersonal skills. In those circles, having a good communication skills is essential for job performance. 

In the traditional business or corporate setting, the opposite it true. When you think of business school, law school, or medical school students, do you think of them exuding good interpersonal communication skills? Probably not. You probably think of a concentration of high achievers striving to get to the top rung first with little regard for others.  A bunch of brainiacs trying to prove who is the alpha male. 

In computer science and information technology jobs, most professionals admit to having better "relationships" with technology than with humans. Some even prefer it. (NOTE: of course there are exceptions to every rule and I only intend to illustrate a point not further stereotype a group of people).

Though my business is my passion, it is often not viewed as a necessity that needs to paid for. People call my work common sense. Here is the problem with that term. Common is only true if we all have the same reference point. We don't! The sense (or lack thereof) that I have is not the same as the as others. So we need a bridge.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing industries are technical ones like health care, information technology, or manufacturing. None of these scream great interpersonal skills.

They do scream opportunity! We need a common ground. A common reference point when it comes to communication. I want to be in the position to help create and provide that for companies.

To answer the challenge question, my next business risk is to invest in the operational structure that will align my business to be a "must have" service to the fastest growing industries. Since their focus is technical in nature, I have the opportunity to increase their competitive advantage and consumer appeal by showcasing the return on investment of their intangibles things. I want to bridge the dichotomy. 

It will take a lot of planning and restructuring...all of which that I don't even yet know how to do. But it is a risk I need to take in order to continue to be relevant in the future.

The key for me is to remember this picture of the children's blocks. I have to remember the warmth and love. I have to remember the happy times. I have to remember the skill development and the emotional satisfaction I get when I teach, train, and coach on these skills. I have to remember that my techniques are well worn and proven. I have to remember to have some fun. 

I have to remember all of that when I am gunning for industries that typically don't seem like a good fit. At this point, I am not sure how it will happen but it will happen. 

One definition of risk is exposure to the chance of injury or loss. I am willing to expose myself to potentially losing. The first major client in a technical industry I go after might say no. I am willing to risk that. I have to be BRAVE enough to try. I have to be committed enough to stick with it. And I have to be organized enough to get it done!

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. This post is a part of that challenge. If you want to join the challenge, click here.

word count 785


#Blog4Biz Day 21: What A Trip to Oklahoma Taught Me About Disaster Proofing Your Business

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. To celebrate, I am giving away a $50 gift card to Target. I call it the "BRAVE-ly Back at it" Giveaway. It starts August 1 and runs through August 8, 2013. Click here for the official rules.

Protecting my business from disaster is not something I have ever really thought about. My business is so small that there isn’t really much damage that can be done, right? Wrong! 

The creator of the #Blog4Biz Challenge, Shai Cooper of Fleur Management is a virtual assistant. She has a passion for many things… productive organization, business building, social media branding and marketing, and emergency management. 

In today’s challenge, the emergency management side of her asks us to think about protecting our business from disaster. As I write this I am in transit back from a trip to Oklahoma visiting my in laws. Disaster is something I think about often when it comes to my loved ones there. Every time there is a tornado, I am waiting with betted breathe to hear if everyone is okay.

Oklahomans know about disaster. During our trip, I was struck by the vast number of disaster prevention, disaster relief, and disaster preparation billboards and other advertisements I saw. Insurance agents, local advocacy groups, and lawyers toting the message of “be ready” or “if need help call us”.

My husband took us on a driving tour down memory lane.  We drove past every school he attended. Elementary, intermediate, junior high, and high school stops were shrouded in memories of yesteryear and a little envy.  The buildings had been upgraded and he was only a little jealous that he didn’t have access to some of the newer amenities. 

Being the wonderful wife that I am I tried to be as enthusiastic as he. I tried to engage as much as possible and find interesting things to ask.  One of those things was about the tornado drills. Once a year, his school would have a tornado drill. The tornado bell would ring, the students would go to the hallway, sit pretzel leg style facing the lockers, thread their fingers behind their head and tuck their heads in their laps. That was the drill. Disaster has a name in Oklahoma and residents there anticipate and prepare for it.

What do business disasters look like?

Natural disasters like a flood, tornado, hurricane, earthquake count. But there are other disasters too. Burglary, vandalism, fire, water damage could all wreak havoc, if not permanently close, a small business who is not prepared. 

Then there are customer related disasters like malpractice, liability, breach of contracts, law suits, slander etc. 

Consider also that we live in the digital age. Electronics are a staple of how we live and do business. Firewalls, spyware, malware, hacking, and viruses are all possibilities.

Shai shared a digital disaster that happened to her recently on her post Rebuilding My Digital Life.  Note to self, back up your computer immediately

On Day 19, I confessed that working ON my business is a task I don’t particularly like. Disaster prevention planning or emergency management plans are at the top of the list in the category of things that I mentioned I hated doing.

Let’s be real! Thinking about EVERY possible thing that could go wrong in your business and then trying to install a plan, policy, or preventive measure is a major downer. It is a buzz kill of epic proportions. It is enough to make a small business owner throw in the towel. Once you become aware, you can’t undo awareness. Once awareness hits you have two choices. You either take action or you don’t. 

If you are like me taking action can seem daunting, so here a few ways I am going to take action to disaster proof my business.

1. Baby steps. You’ve heard that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Well that is what I am going to do. My head swirls with anguish when I think about all the things I might need to do. First I will back up my computer. Cloud based storage systems ensures that if my computer, flash drive, or external hard drive are ever physically destroyed, the files are somewhere. 

2. Consider your business type and location. Disaster management for a construction company, a bakery, and a fitness gym are all different. You can save some headache by finding out what applies to you.  I will be checking with my small business counselor and other small businesses similar to mine in my area to determine what else I could be doing. 

3. Set regular reminders.  Once in place, these policies generally only need updating. The hard part is initiating or creating them. Once done, maintenance is easier. Therefore I will be checking in regularly as my business grows to make sure I am still compliant.  

Like I said, these things are not the fun part of being a business owner. But they are the responsible things. Taking a lesson from the Oklahomans, preparation could mean the difference between life or death. I want my business to live. 

What prevention methods do you have in place that I should know about? 

Word Count 841

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. This post is a part of that challenge. If you want to join the challenge, click here.


A Peak Inside My Classroom: #Blog4biz Day 20

“Alright, for this next section I need 9 volunteers” I say.

The 40 eyes in the room make contact with everything in the room except me. The participants busy themselves flipping through their training manual. They pretend to review the material thus far. I laugh internally and wait. I have grown used to this. Most people aren’t quick to volunteer but I know this is the “fun-est” part of the training (according to evaluations that is).  They are about to have the biggest laugh and the biggest “ah ha” thus far. So I wait. I never have to wait long until the awkward silence births the boldness in some brave soul. 

“I’ll do it!” shouts a deep voice from the back of the room. 

“Eddie! Thank you for being our first volunteer” I say. “ Let’s give him the efficient clap. One-two- three….” Then the room explodes like a single clap of thunder. 

The efficient clap is a technique I use in a training session to encourage and reward. In adult learners, it is important to create a safe learning environment and important to put them in charge of their own learning. The efficient clap does both. On the count of three everyone claps once. This technique gives everyone the same reward regardless of outcome. It also can be initiated by anyone in the group. Peers can encourage peers with a simple one ..two. three.

Eddie has made his way down front. 

“Eddie, for being the bravest soul I will reward you with the simplest yet longest lasting part in our role play. You only have one line…buuuut”, I emphasize, “you have to say that line 8 different times to 8 different people. Easy enough?”

“No problem,” Eddie agrees. The levity of the situation is already taking its toll and his eyes are telling me he is excited.

“Great. Ok Eddie, you have a toothache. You are going to be visited by 8 “friends”. They will come up to you and say ’Hi Eddie, how are you today?’. Then you will say ‘Not so good. I think I have a toothache.’ Then 8 different “friends” will speak to you from their cue cards. “

Eddie is comfortable in his role. The other participants are looking on with curiosity. What in the world is about to happen? 

I turn back to my class. “I need 8 volunteers to come visit Eddie about his toothache.” This time I don’t have to use the silence to squeeze out more volunteers. I pass out the costumes and corresponding short scripts. 

The activity goes off without a hitch. The participants chuckle at their peers in costumes. Men in old lady chignons and glasses. Women in grim reaper costumes. Bosses in Sherlock Holmes detective gear. After Eddie is visited by his friends, we spend the next few minutes debriefing the nuggets of wisdom gleaned from that activity. While wading in the pool of epiphany comments like:
 “Wow, that is so me!” 

“Oh my goodness, do I really do that?”

“And wow, no wonder she doesn’t come to me.”

splash up like Las Vegas water fountains dancing in the sunshine. For many of the participants, this is the first time they come face to face with very specific ways they are unknowingly hindering communication flow between themselves and others. 

Today’s #Blog4Biz challenge asks what tasks do we love doing. The above is a scene that describes a very popular training session I do. After we establish some ground rules, outline our objectives, we get into the activity based skill building portion of the session. It is during the debriefing, after I get the participants comfortable and even laughing that they can begin to make the connection that perhaps the ways they habitually communicate is not as efficient as they thought. For those who don’t care whether they are or are not good communicators, they begin to see the benefits of improvement.

These are the tasks that I love. 

It is the reason I started BRAVE in the first place. I wanted to introduce caring, empathetic, communication tools that work to a cynical, callous, often jaded world. A new toolkit of communication that is based in respect AND that produces results is a win for everybody.

We see so many images of people belittling and berating people. We encourage the ratchet. We feed off of the gossip. The more outlandish the better. The more over the top the better. It makes for good television. But it makes for complicated destructive day to day reality in companies across the country. Instead of thriving, people are barely surviving under the distrustful, micromanaging, verbally abusive work culture. If you are a horrible boss or employee you are you competitors biggest asset. 

Any task that has me training, coaching, or speaking about being BRAVE enough to initiate a better way to communicate is a task I love most deeply. 

What do you love to do?
Word count 817

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. This post is a part of that challenge. If you want to join the challenge, click here.


#Blog4biz Day 19: How to get through tasks you hate

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. To celebrate, I am giving away a $50 gift card to Target. I call it the "BRAVE-ly Back at it" Giveaway. It starts August 1 and runs through August 8, 2013. Click here for the official rules.

About  6 years ago, I read a book called The E-Myth Revisted : Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work  and What To Do About It by Michael e. Gerber. It was first published in the late eighties and was republished again in the mid-nineties. The premise of the book is simply that most entrepreneurs go into business for themselves because they are good “technicians”. A technician is a person who is good at her or his trade. A technician could be a lawyer, landscaper, doctor, plumber etc.  Gerber says the technician goes into business under some pretty broad assumptions (or myths) and soon faces the harsh reality that doing what you love does not make a successful business. 

Faced with the mundane details of operating a business, the stress of working too many hours, and financial setbacks, the technician eventually quits because she or he goes broke. Even more devastating than the financial loss is the disdain the technician feels towards a “skill” he or she used to love doing. In his book, he distinguishes between working ON your business and working IN your business. He goes on to talk about his philosophy on how to overcome the common mistakes and be a successful entrepreneur. It is an interesting read that I recommend if you have your own business or are thinking about it.

In today’s business challenge, I was asked to name the task I hate the most. For me there is no one task but I can group them.  As Gerber points out in his book, entrepreneurs assume that since they  have a good product or service,  they should be able to make a living. But there are a lot of behind the scenes business operations that is a necessary evil in running a business. In other words, you have to work ON your business. Those are the tasks I hate doing the most. 

Depending on the business, you have to be legally compliant to federal state, county and/or township laws. You have to set up operating systems, accounting systems, sales and marketing procedures, write policies and procedures, etc. Those are the things I hate doing the most. You can get so bogged down in all of those details. It may seem as if you are spending more time doing that than actually doing the very thing you love to do.
As an entrepreneur there are many businesses and organizations aimed at helping you grow your business. But depending on how you set up you capital and funding structure, you may not be able to afford those services. 

One of the ways I am navigating these pathways is through leverage and fun.


I am constantly on the lookout for other business owners who are willing to share the wealth of resources or lessons they have learned. I return the favor, in kind. Establishing deep networking relationships allow others to think of you if a resource comes their way that might be interesting. 
The other participants in this #Blog4Biz Challenge have shared blogging tips and resources I would have even thought of. Likewise, I shared articles or posts I came across that I think might be helpful. It is a win-win.

Another leveraging option is the government. SBA.gov had tons of resources for small business owners. They also have branches or affiliates on the local level for small businesses to connect to.  I recently signed up to get FREE business counseling advice. 


I have decided that just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun.  
I try to inject some element of fun into the mundane tasks. Take for example today's #Blog4Biz challenge. I was having a time meeting the word count. I decided that I would write as much as I could in the car ride to my in-laws. I made it into a game. While I don’t feel particularly inspired by this post topic, knowing that I had a 20 minutes car ride gave me a goal and little bit of adrenaline. 

Most entrepreneurs go into business with a dream. The dream of helping someone, meeting a need, or solving a problem is a powerful motivator. In the hard times, think about the reasons you started your business and use that to motivate you forward. You can leverage the people and resources around you. Then make it fun.

How do you make yourself do tasks you hate but know that you need too?

Word count 744.

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. This post is a part of that challenge. If you want to join the challenge, click here.


I'm "Back at it" in 2 weeks: Here is a special announcement!

Two weeks from today, on August 1, 2013, the Living BRAVE Blog will be "Back at it" with new features and new content. I am so excited! I have been working hard to bring you some great stuff. 

To celebrate the relaunch I'm feeling generous...how about a $50 gift card? Use it for back to school shopping, that handbag you've been eyeing, those socks you need to buy but just don't want to spend your money on, or give a gift to someone else. The possibilities are endless.

Official rules and how to enter are here. No seriously, READ the official rules people!

Do Not Enter before AUGUST 1, 2013

I'll be giving more details as we get closer to August 1, 2013! Spread the word!

What would you do with a $50 gift card from "Tar-zhay"?

Earn the right to give advice: #Blog4Biz Day 18

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. To celebrate, I am giving away a $50 gift card to Target. I call it the "BRAVE-ly Back at it" Giveaway. It starts August 1 and runs through August 8, 2013. Click here for the official rules.
There are two types of advice. (Ok…so there may be more than two types but for the sake of this story…let’s go with two.) There is advice we need to hear and advice we want to hear.

The advice we want to hear may come from that good friend who agrees with us that we have been wronged and tells us all the fun ways we can and should retaliate. We want to hear that because it gives legs to the desire already in our heart. It validates us.

The advice we don’t want to hear may come from a mentor who won’t allow us to wallow in self-pity. It sternly tells us what we need to do. We don’t want to hear that kind of advice because even though deep down we know it to be true, we aren’t ready to receive it.

There is value in both of these types of advice. Yet, it's the right combination of both causes us to grow.

I get career/business advice from one of my best friends.  I call her my sister from another mister just because best friend doesn’t quite capture the depth of our relationship.  She and I met my sophomore year in college. She was busy preparing to become pre-med and I had just settled into my latest Communication class sure that it would eventually become my major.

Over the course of the next 3 years we forged our bond. We tested the nature of our friendship and reaped the rewards of extending mutual trust. Through these times she has earned the right to speak truth in my life. In fact, I want her need her to always be honest with me. It is an expectation of everyone I consider to be a friend. 

When it came to her career, she always seemed to have a clear path about what she was doing and where she wanted to go.  She is published, accomplished, and well connected. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She has had experiences that I haven’t. She has this uncanny ability to take any snatch me out of any self-pity and whining sessions. I don’t always agree with her method but the truth she speaks is still…well…the truth. 

You have to earn the right to speak into someone’s life.  

Earning that right implies two things. 

1. You have to work for it. 

It doesn't come free. You work for it with your words and your actions. If trust is a bank, the only valid deposits occur when your words and your actions are perfectly congruent. Saying one thing and doing another will never earn you the right to speak. We have to conduct ourselves in a way that causes the receiver to invite our words in their heart for a  good long visit.  

2. You aren't in charge of when you‘ve done enough. 

This is the part we don’t like. The speaker is not in the driver’s seat in this case. The receiver is. The receiver decides when you have made enough valid deposits in the bank. You can browbeat and try to convince them to listen. But ultimately, the decision to allow your words to come in for a cup of tea is up to them.  

Does this mean you have to tip toe around people sugar coating everything? Or do we have to say it pretty or perfect every time? No! But we must be consistent.

For over a decade, I watched as my friend interacted me and with others. I’ve tested her with small fragments of my heart to see what she would do with them. She acted consistently. She cared for others and for me. So when I ask her for advice, I know I am going to get a nugget of truth that will change my point of view. I also know I am getting support and encouragement. You need both to grow.

Do you have people in your life who will tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it? Tell me about them. How have they helped you grow?

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Five Ways to Improve Customer Service: #Blog4Biz Day 17

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. The challenge is designed to help business owners focus on certain aspects of blogging that will expand their skill, boost creativity, and focus their message. If you want to join the challenge, click here.

Today is about improving customer service. One of my favorite subjects from a communications skills stand point. How would yo suggest improving your customer service skills? You might say," Julia, this doesn't apply to me so because I don't have a customer service job." To which I would reply, "Oh yes you do!"

There are two types of customers. External and internal. 

External customers are what we typically think of when we talk customer service. They are the people directly buy or use the product or service of an organization. 

Internal customers are the staff that work in an organization that directly or indirectly contribute to making a product or service. These are your co-workers, your bosses, and your subordinates. 

Now that is cleared up you can see why I say we all have customers. And when it comes to customer services, we need to think about both types of customer. 

Here are my 5 tips for improving both internal and external customer service. relations

1. Listen up!

Customers respond with loyalty when they feel like they have been heard. I recently had a technically issue with my website domain host. I called the help line. I knew this girl and I would have an issue because I had to tell her multiple times what I wanted to do. 
She was more interested in impressing me with her big IT words, than listening for understanding. She didn't come across competent but arrogant. She didn't understand and proceeded to take step by step down the WRONG path. At the end, we had to undo everything because she "misunderstood" me. Make sure you know exactly what your customer wants and why before offering a solution

2. Know when to stop talking!

Most businesses over promise and under deliver. You can improve your customer relations simple by saying what needs to be said and then being quiet. If you don't know. Say so and then point them in the right direction. To do this you must get comfortable in silence. State the issue as you hear it, confirm, state your solution or deliverable and then zip it! Most people are uncomfortable in silence and therefore try to fill the space with...you guessed it...words. When you speak from a place of discomfort, you may not remember your words, but your customers will and they will hold you to. 

I needed my air conditioner serviced recently. I was on the phone with the technician who said he could get to my house 3 days after I needed him to. I asked if he could arrive sooner. A myriad of "Uhs" and other unintelligible sounds came out of his mouth before he halfheartedly committed to arriving the next day. The truth was he really couldn't get to me the next day but the silence was so uncomfortable he needed to fill it with something...and that something was a promise he couldn't keep.

3. Go the extra mile!

There is always room on the extra mile. Customers expect that are going to do what you say you will. By doing this you are just being average. Go the extra mile to leave your customer feeling like you went above what was expected. In my business, the best way I do that is be concentrating on the feeling factors. Your customers will associate a feeling to your business. If that feeling is positive, they will come back. If that feeling is negative, they will look elsewhere to get their needs met. 

4. Ask for and then acknowledge feedback!

Build a feedback process into every client interaction. Ask customers to tell you how you are doing. When they tell you, let them know you heard them. This goes beyond the "thanks for your feedback" page at the end of a survey. Some customers will never take your poll or survey. Have a live person call them and ask for feedback. Then once you have that feedback, if at all possible, contact the customer to tell them how their feedback was used. This reiterates that you listen and that you go the extra mile.

5. Help your customers grow by growing with them!

Life is all about growth. Our customers and clients are always growing so why not grow together. If you are learning a tool that might be helpful to your clients, share it with them and invite them along as you grow. Serving together on a volunteer project, or learning together in a professional development event is a great way to further engage internal and external customers. Take the computer class and invite your customers along with you. Host a training course on....oh gee I don't know.....communication skills let's say...and invite your clients and the community to attend. They will get to see that you are committed to growing. You will show that you aren't just a business but a responsible corporate citizen.

Customers are what keeps us in business. Invest in them and you see the return. What do you think of these suggestions? 

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#Blog4Biz Day 16: No Regrets!

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. The challenge is designed to help business owners focus on certain aspects of blogging that will expand their skill, boost creativity, and focus their message. Initially, I wasn't going to publicly share my posts, but as I started writing these posts, I saw the value in sharing...and some of this stuff is really good!  If you want to join the challenge, click here.

Today's challenge asks us to reflect on our regrets. What do you regret as it relates to your business? Not starting sooner? Not believing in yourself? Not talking to that prospect?

The noun regret means "a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction . Or a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act or loss."

I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is my answer to this question is short and sweet. The bad news is I have 625 word count minimum to meet so I have to stretch my answer, but honestly if you have been reading my posts you know I have no issue with that.

The simplest and most honest answer I can give you is this. I have no regrets at all. In the purest form of the word regret implies a deep wish to have or not have done something. I don't live my life that way.

Just about every post in this blogging challenge has exposed some part of me I'd rather keep hidden. I mentioned on Day 3, I  never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur and why. On Day 11, I talked about my deepest fear. On Day 13 I video taped a new elevator speech that I didn't like.  On Day 14, I laid out a plan to connect with three people. I then wondered if they read the post and now know I am coming for them :). On Day 15, I touched on controversial topics and wondered if anyone would start an argument with me for my view.

Though I felt exposed and wondered what consequences might come. I don't regret writing it because I have grown so much.

There are some really talented people doing this challenge me. Socamom.com has a recently published a new children's book. Ambitious Diva and Epiphany consulting services have businesses that are doing amazing things. I have never met anyone as passionate as Sister Source. I hope to lose weight and eat great with Nutrition With Soul. There are others participating in this challenge who have given me inspiration and encouragement behind the scenes.

I could look at each of them and wish I was doing or having the type of success they are. I could say I wished I realized my entrepreneurial spirit sooner. I could say I wish had more confidence sooner. I could say I wish Shai at Fleur Mnagement would have lead this blog challenge sooner. I could in theory come up with a long list of things I wish were different. There was a time in my life I would have been envious. I would have wished I could be like them. But now I freely celebrate and support the accomplishments of others.  

In my heart of hearts I can't say that I feel "a sense of loss, disappointment or dissatisfaction  Or a feeling of sorrow or remorse" over anything.

I believe in the timing and purposes of God. And that each phase of life has its lessons. Spending unhealthy time longing for what was or what could be or what should have been is a waste of energy. I like to look back to see what lessons I have learned. 

I wasn't suppose to learn the lessons I have learned, at any other time except for when I learned them. Yes, I have to live with the consequences of past decisions, actions, and choices. Some of those consequences are harsher than others. But the pain of those consequences serves as reminder of how I can grow in the future.

I am gathering much momentum in relaunching my blog and starting my business in another state. I am looking forward. Ultimately, the choices I am making today will shape the lessons I learn tomorrow. I am ok with that. I am determined not to live in regret. 

What do you think? Are regrets helpful or hurtful to your future?

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#Blog4Biz Day 15: Emoti-bombs going off over here

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. The challenge is designed to help business owners focus on certain aspects of blogging that will expand their skill, boost creativity, and focus their message. Initially, I wasn't going to publicly share my posts, but as I started writing these posts, I saw the value in sharing...and some of this stuff is really good!  If you want to join the challenge, click here.

Today's challenged rubbed me the wrong way when initially saw the prompt. 

"Fill in the blank: I sell myself______"
Ex. ..short because I lack confidence.
....for pennies on the dollar because my prices are too low.

The list could go on. I get, at least I think I get, the point. It is a challenge on self worth and value. A provocative look at how business owners view themselves, their time, and their product or service.

I took issue with the word choice. My initial reaction was am emphatic. "I sell myself for no one. Period."

After calming down, I realize that my reaction to this prompt is the same reaction some of my coaching clients feel about my approach to communication skills. I strongly believe that we can and should adjust our communication styles to our audience. The first line of resistance usually comes in the form of 
"I am not changing for anybody. This is me. Like it or leave it".

This is a self defense response that has hit nerve. In my workshops, I refer to them as "Emoti-bombs" (pronounced like emoticon). These are internal emotional explosions that occur in all of us when a deeply held belief or fear is challenged.

For me, human traffikking is a social issue that I feel strongly about. The issue affects men, women, and children all over the world. It is a cancer on society that threatens my deeply held belief that people deserve respect simply because they exist, not for what they can or can not do for you. 

When I read the prompt challenge this morning, my emoti-bomb went off. I began thinking about selling people. Pimps and traffickers selling little girls and boys to the highest bidder. Yeah, I know too deep for a business prompt right?!?! But this is the nature of emoti-bombs. Once they go off you all of your thoughts filter through them and you can not get beyond your emotion. 

Everyone's explosion looks different. It may be outwardly expressed. If may not. The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial set off emoti-bombs all across this country. Depending on your stance on the topic, you may not be able to "hear" any other reasoning that goes against yours. Why? Not because you personally knew the Martin family or the Zimmerman family.

But because the trial brought you face to to face with beliefs you hold deeply. 

Be it racism in America, the validity of the justice system, or your fear that one day, your son, daughter, nephew, niece could be either killed or accused of killing. No matter what the trigger, our emoti-bomb literally cloud our judgement.

So how do we recover from our "emoti-bombs"? 
  1. Acknowledge them. It is ok to admit you are upset, annoyed, livid, hurt...whatever the emotion is. This blog starts with me admitting I was offended by the word choice in the prompt today.
  2. Identify them. Why are you upset? Try to put a finger on the issue that is really frightening you. For me I linked the word choices to human trafficking and the heartache it causes.
  3. Seek higher ground. You can't see for the cloud. So seek to get a perspective that gets you high enough to get clarity. I had to think very hard about why I couldn't come with a 600 word answer to the prompt. I needed to step away and find perspective. I decided to use this as a showcase of one of my coaching techniques.
  4. Remember your responsibility. You only have control over a few things in life. Take responsibility for your actions. For me the goal of this challenge is talk about the worth and value I have in my business. I could either not answer the prompt because I was offended or find a way to answer the prompt.
Having coached myself the way I would coach clients who have had an emotional explosion, I can see my task more clearly to answer the question. I know the organizers of this post weren't trying to offend. Offense is like a coat, you choose whether to put it on or take it off. I picked up the offense and I now I choose to put it down to answer the question.

As I am revamping my business I realized that I am selling myself short not because I am not confident in my services, but because I am too sensitive to the needs of my target audience. Small businesses with even smaller budgets can't afford the big names training programs or coaching services. But they still need and deserve them nonetheless. I want to help to help small business get a competitive advantage by having a culture that rivals their rivals. I also want to be well compensated for my work. Even though I know my price structure is fair, even a little below market value by industry standards, I still wonder if it is fair to small business owners. 

In this blog, I share my heart with you and show some of the why behind my business, in an attempt to build your trust. In posts like this, where I take the prompt and show you how everyday situations can cause interpersonal conflict and what you can do about, I hope you see the value in paying for my service. 

I try to make my business case as tangible as possible but in all honesty, people call me for clean up and damage control. Not for prevention. Of course, it doesn't matter to me when you call me. Just call me! 

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