Monday, August 20, 2012

Finding My Spark and Hustle, part 2

It has been more than a week (almost two, now) since I attended Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle conference here in Pittsburgh and I am still thinking about it.

(That's the sign of a good conference, right?)

Much of that had to do with the people I met and Tory herself. A lot of that had to do with the speakers we heard from, and the rapid-pace format of the day.

Yes, the format. Having worked in the nonprofit fundraising and communications field for 20 years, I've been to a lot of workshops and conferences. A LOT OF THEM. And this one was refreshingly different. We came to Spark and Hustle because we wanted to hear from Tory (check!) and to hear from others (another check!). I looked at the schedule of speakers, expecting the usual breakout sessions and, seeing none, wondered how they were going to fit all this in.

I need not have worried. These ladies had everything covered - from fitness, to branding, to sales and marketing, to social media, to the dreaded accounting and bookkeeping (which was anything but dreadful). And, best of all, no breakout sessions ... which meant we didn't miss any presentations. (There were, however, a few speakers/presentations that I missed and/or don't have many notes on, so I'm just going to highlight those that I do.)

Dr. Vonda Wright
After remarks from Tory (you can read what I wrote about that in Finding My Spark and Hustle, part 1), we heard from the invigorating Dr. Vonda Wright, who charged us to find our mantra, that one word that defines us and what we do as businesswomen. (Examples: For Disney, their word is MAGIC. For IBM, it's THINK. For Vince Lombardi, it's WINNING. Vonda's word is MOVE.)

This is different, Vonda said, from a tagline. A mantra is for you. A tagline is for your customers.

She also advised aspiring entrepreneurs (which is not a job but rather "a philosophy of working") to "be willing to eat tuna." Most interestingly, she told us that 70% of how we age is controlled by us and only 30% is genetic. I found that fascinating.

Dave Yunghans, Constant Contact
We then heard from Dave Yunghans, Regional Development Director for Constant Contact. I happen to be a Constant Contact devotee, having used it to create and produce e-newsletters for the last five years or so. Love it. We spoke about the need (still!) for email in a world that is seemingly dominated by Facebook and Twitter.

Dave spoke to us about the trust factor in online purchasing.

"People will never buy anything from you until they trust you," he said (in, I might add, a Philadelphia accent, which this Philly girl was beyond delighted to hear in this corner of Pennsylvania).

See, I trust this guy already.

Dave provided several eye-opening statistics in his talk:
  • 81% of people trust recommendations or online opinions. 
  • Only 36% trust advertising (all forms of it). 
  • Marketing used to take 7 "touches" to reach someone. Now, it's 33. 
  • The average person has 234 Facebook friends. 
  • Email that contains video is opened 30% more than email that doesn't. 
We can rise above the ordinary in small and large ways, Dave said, and he gave some great examples of that. Engaging with one's audience happens in small doses, and happens over time.

He also said that "hope is not a strategy," to which I tweeted that for a lot of nonprofits, hope is sadly very much their only fundraising plan. (I'll be doing a blog post on that at some point.)

Rachel Blaufeld, Back'nGrooveMom
Rachel Blaufeld of BacknGrooveMom (standing, in orange) being recognized by Tory Johnson.
At Spark and Hustle, I was thrilled to meet two local bloggers. I've been reading Rachel Blaufeld's blog, Back'nGrooveMom for a few months now. Same with Chaton of Chaton's World. Both ladies were at Spark and Hustle, and it was great to be able to put faces to ... blogs. They were delightful, and I hope our paths cross again soon.

Rachel was instrumental in bringing Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle to Pittsburgh; initially, the Steel City wasn't on the company's radar at all and Blaufeld convinced them to include Pittsburgh on their 20-city national tour. In this picture, Rachel is being recognized by Tory for her efforts.

Rachel also spoke later in the conference. "Your network is really bigger than the biggest ad," she said. We all have such a powerful network and I think sometimes we forget that.

Dawn Brolin, operator of Professional Accounting Solutions, and Stacy Kildal, founder of Kildal Services, LLC, both selected by Intuit GoPayment.

Accounting + Bookkeeping + Finances + The afternoon spot of a conference that is guaranteed to put people to sleep = A recipe for disaster, right?

Not with these ladies. Check out the photos to see how Dawn Brolin and Stacy Kildal took to the stage, with Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory" blaring at top volume.

THESE ARE ACCOUNTANTS, people. And they were absolutely hilarious. I want these ladies as my accountants and I'm willing to bet that every one of the attendees at Spark and Hustle do, too. Best takeaway from their session was giving a client an engagement letter right at the very beginning of the relationship, stating, among other things, "here's how you pay me."

"Walmart gets paid right away," said ... one of the ladies. (I forget which one; I was probably too busy laughing.) "You should too. Am I right?"

Wild applause.

They spoke about technology and how we're moving toward a "zero data entry world." (More wild applause.)

They really need to take this on the road. (Well, I guess they kind of did, with Spark and Hustle.) They've got accounting gold, right here.

Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University
Among the people I was thrilled to meet was Rebecca Harris. (Especially, as I wrote in "Any Road Will Take You There. Maybe." I tried to take one of her classes almost exactly a year ago!) She has such a wonderful reputation here in the Pittsburgh area. At Spark and Hustle, she spoke about the fears that keep us from starting a business, including the fear of
  • failure
  • change
  • hiring
  • selling
  • taking chances 
  • (and probably many more.)
"We have to take risks," Rebecca emphasized. "The person who risks nothing, has nothing. These fears are actually causing havoc in your life and you have to overcome them."

At this point, I had to leave in order to pick up the kids from camp on time (The Husband was out of town on a work retreat) but not before I heard one more piece of advice from Rebecca.

"You are not a product of your past experiences, abilities, or behaviors."

That keeps so many of us held back, doesn't it? Especially those of us who have been downsized, laid off, fired. I thought about this as I drove home, how this really does play into the fear and the notion that we're not good enough and makes us scared to take risks. I know that has been true for me.

No more, I decided. Whether it is work or whatever it is, we all have the power to reinvent ourselves, to find our own spark and hustle.

Starting now. Today.

  As I mentioned in my previous post, I took Tory Johnson's advice and boldly asked for what I wanted ... a signed copy of Tory's newest book (Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now) to give away to one of my blog readers. If this is of interest to you, leave me a comment on this post to be entered to win a copy. (If you left a comment on the previous post, you can leave one on this one too, to double your chances.)

I'll draw a winner next Monday, August 27.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Finding My Spark and Hustle - part 1

At first glance, you wouldn't think that Tory Johnson and I would have much in common.

Yeah, that Tory Johnson, the one pictured with me here. That Tory Johnson, she of the bestselling author fame (more on that at the end of this post) and of the Good Morning America contributor, and founder and CEO of Women for Hire, and Spark and Hustle and more.

But as I listened to her story yesterday here in Pittsburgh during her last stop on her national, 20-city Spark and Hustle tour, I quickly realized we had much more in common than I thought - right down to being mothers of twins.

It has been an ... interesting summer, one that I've spent reflecting, questioning, writing - and yes, job-hunting as a result of The Layoff back in June. That layoff made the answering of the "so, what do you do?" questions yesterday at Spark and Hustle a bit awkward, but I realized that a good many of us were in similar positions as mine.

Even someone as successful and as accomplished as Tory Johnson.

"Sometimes you don't voluntarily give up the paycheck," Tory said in her opening remarks, referencing being fired 20 years ago as a publicist from NBC News. "Sometimes the paycheck gives up you."

Even after subsequently getting another job, there was always a sense of "a nagging panic" which was "the pain of a pink slip." The thing that Tory couldn't shake was that she would always be working for someone who had the power to say that she wasn't needed or wasn't good enough.

She knew that she had to make a change, which led to her founding her company Women for Hire and then Spark and Hustle.

Yesterday, in her fast-paced, no-nonsense style, Tory dispelled many of the common myths about starting a business:

you don't need to have an MBA (Tory didn't finish college);
you don't need to have a fat Rolodex (Tory didn't know many people)
you don't need to be tech-savvy and have a fancy office (she had an AOL dial-up account and baby twins crawling afoot)
you don't need a lot of money ("we've all seen people with a lot of money not be a success.").

What you do need is a spark, an ember of an idea, something that awakes your passion - and the hustle.

It is "all about the hustle - the decisions you make each day," Tory said.

That led into Dr. Vonda Wright as the perfect first speaker. In a separate post, I'll talk about her and the other speakers (which included one of Pittsburgh's most inspiring and well-regarded business leaders, Rebecca Harris of Chatham University's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship; the awesome Rachel Blaufeld from Back'nGrooveMom who was instrumental in bringing Spark and Hustle to Pittsburgh, and Stacy and Dawn, two absolutely hilarious ladies who made accounting systems seem downright fun). Intermingled between the speakers were remarks by Tory - it was a jam-packed day - and I'll cover it all in my next few Spark and Hustle posts. But one more thing!

One of the things we learned was that we have to take risks and to ask for things we want. So ... I asked Tory if she would consider providing an autographed copy of her book for me to give away to one of my blog readers. She gladly agreed, and I am incredibly grateful.

You will want to read this if you are a small business owner or considering becoming one. Simply leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win an autographed copy of Tory Johnson's latest book, SPARK AND HUSTLE: LAUNCH AND GROW YOUR SMALL BUSINESS NOW.

More to come.