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5 Tips to Present Like a Pro

From the pages of In Business magazine.

One of my favorite things to do is watch people give presentations. I generally prefer business topics, but I am open to anything new, interesting, or informative. Not only do I like to listen to the content of the presentations, I like to carefully watch the speakers themselves.

What are their mannerisms? What kind of technology, if any, do they use in their presentations? How do they interact with their audience? Having seen hundreds, maybe even thousands, of presentations, I have noticed several things that work and a lot that don’t, and I’ve been able to identify a few characteristics that make a speaker great. Speaking can be an excellent way to build your personal brand and grow your business. However, if you present poorly, the negative impact can be just as great. If you want to give a stellar presentation, remember to keep these five traits of great speakers in mind:

  1. They are personable and relatable. No matter how important you are, people won’t listen to you unless they can relate to you. You aren’t a robot, so don’t speak like one. Let your personality shine through, and feel free to mix in some personal details about yourself. Ditch the stock photos and add in pictures that are truly relevant to the stories you tell and the examples you give. The more connections you make with the audience, the more likely they are to be interested in what you have to say.
  2. They make complex topics interesting and easy to understand. Last month, CONNECT Madison had the opportunity to tour the Carbone Cancer Center and hear presentations from two physicians about their research. The topics they covered were extremely detailed and complex. However, both presenters did an excellent job of explaining their findings in layman’s terms and helping us understand why their work was important and valuable. If they can make “regulatory molecular pathways that are used or dysregulated in different types of human malignancies” comprehensible to a group of 20-somethings, you can simplify your message, too.
  3. They have good visuals. I don’t know about you, but I have had a couple of near-death (by PowerPoint) experiences. Being trapped in a presentation where there are way too many slides or the presenter has used size-10 font to squeeze 10 paragraphs onto one visual is not helpful for anyone. Use pictures to emphasize your point. The audience’s attention should be on you and your message, not on a slide that has more text than a novel or a graph that is much too complex to read from a projector. Check out the free service Prezi (prezi.com) to find out how to make your presentations more visually appealing.
  4. They are great storytellers. Don’t script your presentation. Write out bullet points with key takeaways and examples you want to give for each point. Talk to the audience like you are speaking to one specific person instead of a large group. Everyone loves a good story, so create examples that draw in the audience and emphasize key ideas you are trying to convey. People are much more likely to remember an interesting story than a specific fact or talking point.
  5. They inspire people to take action. What is the point of your presentation? Is it to educate people on their finances? Teach them how to grow their business? Convince them to give to a charity or cause? You are talking to people about something they should take action on, so make sure that point is clear. Be specific about what steps people should take once they leave the room. If you make it easy for people to get involved and take action, they will.

Your Fast Track Action Items:

  • Check out TED.com and watch some of the most-viewed talks. Not only are the topics compelling and sometimes controversial, the presenters know how to capture the attention of the audience.
  • Arrange to have your next presentation videotaped. Watching yourself in action is an excellent way to see what you did well and where you can improve.
  • Start to look at situations in your daily life differently. How can something that happened to you be turned into a story to help teach a lesson or convey a point you are trying to make? Write down some ideas for your next presentation.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com to let me know what your best speaking tip is and how I can help you hit your next presentation out of the park!

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7 Steps to Killer Content

If you pay any attention to the latest marketing trends, it is clear to see that content marketing has been on the rise as one of the top strategies to drive business growth. According to the 2014 B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends- North America report, 93% of marketers report using content marketing, but only 42% consider themselves effective. In this article, I will give you the basics of what exactly “content marketing” is, why your firm should consider using it, and how to be effective with this tool to generate new revenue.

What is Content Marketing?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience- with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” The days of plastering your logo and brand anywhere and everywhere in hopes that prospects will know to call you when they need the service you provide are over. Consumers have more options than ever before. In order to differentiate yourself you need to provide valuable content that shows why you or your firm are the expert in a certain area and how you can solve a problem they have. Content marketing can come in many forms from white papers and research to videos and podcasts.

Why You Should Consider Content Marketing

With the emergence of DVR, the internet and print publications that are too numerous to count, consumers can easily fast forward or page through ads that are merely a snapshot of a company with a logo and message about what services they provide. In order to catch a prospect’s attention in a world of seemingly limitless information at their finger tips, you need to create something they are interested in dedicating time to. Your competition is no longer just other businesses in your industry. It is every person and company that has a message they are putting out for mass consumption. The purpose of content marketing is to deliver valuable, interesting and consistent information to your target audience to stay top of mind as a niche expert and most importantly to keep your firm relevant. The advantages can vary depending on your specific strategy, but some of the top benefits include brand awareness, lead generation, customer acquisition and engagement and thought leadership. If any of these benefits sound like a good result for your firm, content marketing could be for you.

Although this marketing avenue may not have a large direct impact on your business development budget, it does take time, effort and consistency. Here are seven tips to help ensure your content marketing strategy is effective:

Start with a Strategy

When it comes to content marketing, there are many different ways you can generate your information and many channels you can distribute the content though. Who specifically are you trying to reach? What methods will you use to distribute your content- firm website, social media, blog, webinar or seminars? How much time per week or per month are you willing to dedicate to creating new content? What are your SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound) goals when it comes to content marketing? How will you know your strategy is working-number of new clients, new revenue or leads?

Know Your Audience

Before you create any content, make sure you have a specific idea of who your target audience is. This will have a large impact on not only what kind of information you produce, but how it is presented and where it is distributed. It is okay to have more than one “prospect profile” to create content for, but make sure to create specific content for each different niche geared towards the challenges they face and what they would find useful. The more specific you can be with your ideal prospect profile (whoever you want to consume the content), the more likely you are to be successful in engaging those prospects and potentially concerting them to clients. Keep in mind that you can consider audiences other than prospects such as Centers of Influence or industry leaders. If you can get these influencers to read, and better yet, share your content you will gain credibility as an industry expert.

Set a Schedule

One of the most crucial components for success is consistency. Unfortunately, one of the biggest hurdles for a content marketing campaign is lack of time to produce new content. If you decide that this strategy is a good fit for your firm, make sure to have a schedule of when new content will be created. One way to help lessen the time commitment is to have a rotating schedule of partners or staff who can take turns creating new content. Keeping information fresh and timely will ensure repeat visitors and loyal readers. The more information a prospect uses from your firm, the more likely they are to become a client or refer a client in the future.

Be Interesting

Not only does your content need to be valuable, it also needs to be interesting. Would you pass on a boring, generic advertisement to a colleague or friend? Probably not. One of the goals of content marketing is to create information and resources that people will be likely to share or pass on to other who might be interested in a certain area. For example, if a new law is passed that will have a large impact on a certain industry, how could you share the information in a way that gives life to the subject instead of laying out the implications in a black and white manner. How could you make it interesting so if one person from that industry comes across the information, they would be more likely to share it with others they know in that field? Create unique spins on information that will spark conversation amongst your target audience.

Don’t Recreate the Wheel

Once you spend time to create interesting and valuable content you should use it in as many ways and in as many forms as possible. For example, if you write a three page white paper that prospects can download from your website, you can use specific facts or important points as posts on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. You could break down the white paper into several smaller blog posts that can be distributed over a longer period of time. You could create a webinar that presents the information in a live format that allows time for interactions and questions. Create short video segments to post to YouTube or on your firm website. Be creative and find ways to repurpose your content to reach new audiences.

Gather Information

One way to be more proactive in the conversion process from prospect to client is to gather information from those who consume your content marketing and then add a personal touch. For example, if you create an e-book on “Ten Estate Planning Mistakes That Could Cost You Millions,” require prospects to enter their name, email and possibly phone number in order to download the content. You can begin to create a list of interested prospects and send them other relevant information. Better yet, you can send a personal email or make a phone call to ensure they received the resource and answer any questions they may have. This is a great way to showcase your expertise and open the door for a potential prospect.

Track Your Progress

One of the biggest problems marketing departments often face is measuring results of certain campaigns. Although tracking a new client back to a specific piece of content or even initiative can be challenging, there are certain metrics that can show progress towards your content marketing goals. Some areas to measure your growth from a content marketing campaign can include web traffic, prospect/lead quantity and quality, number of “shares” on social media platforms, SEO ranking (search engine optimization- where you show up in a Google search) and feedback from current clients and prospects.

Comment below or email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com and let me know your best tips and tricks for killer content.

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Lunch is Not a Strategy

When it comes to business development I am constantly working with our partners to help them develop stronger relationships with centers of influence, prospects and, of course, current clients. When I ask what the next “touch point” with one of these contacts is, a common response is “we are getting together for lunch.” Lunch is great, don’t get me wrong, but purely scheduling a lunch with someone isn’t enough. People are busy and sometimes their lunch hour may be their only free time all day. As a matter of fact, some people suggest never asking an important person to lunchand instead invite them for a quick coffee first thing in the morning, or drink after work. So, if someone is indeed willing to give up their lunch hour to spend it with you, you better make sure it is worth their while. Here are some tips to set up, host and follow-up from a successful lunch meeting. Notice that the lunch itself is not the only component and the initiation and follow up are critical as well.

1- Have a purpose. This seems simple, but I think it is often times abused. Make sure there is a reason to ask someone to meet with you. If it is a current client “touching base” is fine, but make sure to bring additional value to the conversation. Maybe an article you read that would be relevant to them or a new idea that they can implement. Always make sure you have a goal for the meeting.

2- Keep the invite concise. In a recent Radicati Group study, it was found that in 2014 people will send and receive an average of 191 emails per day. That is a lot of messages. In order to be respectful of a person’s time, keep your email brief and to the point. I suggest three sentances tops. First, a casual greeting and introduction if you have not yet met this person. Second, the reason you would like to get lunch and third, suggest a few times and dates. Here is an example:

Hi Bob- Got your email from Sandy Smith, she told me about your current project at ABC Corp. and I’d love to learn more. Would you be willing to grab lunch and discuss how I might be able to help you move this project forward? How about 9/14 or 9/15 at noon at a restaurant convenient to you? Look forward to hearing from you soon.

3- Confirm. If the meeting is accepted, send a confirmation the day of the lunch. This shows courtesy to your guest and also helps remind them in case it was not top of mind. Something as short as this will work:

Hey Bob- Just wanted to confirm we are still on for lunch today at noon at Ruth’s Chris. Looking forward to speaking with you soon.

4- Have an agenda. No, I don’t mean you need to have a physical agenda in front of you, but have a specific idea of what you would like to discuss at the lunch. Once you get there and share a greeting and some small talk, it is very helpful to tell your guest up front what topics you would like to discuss and reiterate why you asked them to lunch. It helps you stay on task and shows the person you are with that you have thought this through, are prepared, and respect their time. You can always add more topics, but setting out the major goals for the lunch up front helps create a framework for the discussion. For example:

Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to grab lunch with me today, I really appreciate it. Like I said, I would love to learn more about your background and ABC Corp. Then, I can tell you a little bit about what I do and how I might be able to help you with your current project.

5- Show genuine interest and listen more than you speak. Normally, when you ask someone to lunch you have your own objectives and motives for the meeting. However, make sure you put their interests first. Ask questions and listen more than you speak. This isn’t a sales pitch.

6- Pay. If you are the one who initiated to lunch, regardless of age or gender you pick up the bill. Simple as that.

7- Say “Thank you.” After the meeting, make sure to tell the person thanks again in person for having lunch with you. Once you get back to the office, send an email thank you and recap any “to-do’s” or discussion points that require follow up from either party. If it was your first time meeting a person or if you are looking to cultivate a new important relationship, a handwritten thank you is always a nice touch as well.

8- Follow Up. Do whatever you said you would do after the lunch meeting. One of the quickest ways to lose credibility is to say you are going to do something and not follow through. Make sure to complete the tasks you said you would do and email your guest to close the loop.

If you follow these steps from initiation to follow-up, your business lunches will be a better use of your time, and more importantly more valuable to your contacts. Remember, a lunch meeting is just one tool in your overall strategy to build and cultivate meaningful business relationships.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know your best strategies for scoring an important lunch meeting and then making the most of it.

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How to Make 6 Figures in 60 Seconds a Day

I am guessing if you’re reading this that you are a person who would like to be really rich and successful. To hit that magic six figure income, all you need to do is follow these easy, quick and really vague steps and you will get there no problem.

Ever read an article like this? I come across at least several of these “get rich quick” sounding articles every week. They have tempting headlines that draw in the reader, but most don’t give great advice or an actionable road map to achieve what the title promises. The last article I read like this on “How to Make Six Figures A Year At Almost Any Age,” starts off by talking about the five things you need to achieve this goal- effort, knowledge, optimism and personality. Thanks, that is super helpful. The article ended with the really great advice of going to a good college and then being smart about your finances and credit score…seriously. Not only was I not any closer to bringing in more cash after reading this article, I had wasted five minutes of my life I’d never get back.

The truth is I can’t tell you how to make six figures in sixty seconds a day (no one can) because it isn’t possible. Reaching financial success or any other worthy goal takes a lot of hard work and in most cases a lot of time. I’ve seen a lot of negative press about Millennials and younger generations expecting to get things right away- great jobs, promotions, lots of money, ect. But maybe, the reason they think this way is because they were raised in a society that promotes how “easy” and even expected it is to have the best of the best right away. Regardless of what magazine or television is telling us, we need to realize you aren’t going to get a five star meal out of a two minute microwave lunch, just like you aren’t going to get six pack abs in six minutes a day. You aren’t going to achieve overnight business success by waiting for it to happen. Here is my non-sexy, non-attention grabbing advice to be successful. Work your ass off every day. Keep doing that and when things don’t work out, try new things and don’t give up.

Here are a few more action steps you can take today that won’t make you six figures by tomorrow, but will get you going in the right direction:

1- Be clear on your goals and write them down. Studies have shown people who write out their goals and review them on a consistent basis are more likely to reach them. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many new goals. Aim for 3-5 monthly goals, short term goals (6 month time frame) yearly goals and long-term (5 year time frame) goals. Also, try to think even longer term (maybe 20 or 30 years) what success and happiness in life would look like to you. Make sure those things are a priority in your daily life and are reflected in your shorter term goals.

2- Do one thing to better yourself each day. Success is a compound effect. It is achieved over time by continuously improving and building on what you have already done. It is easy to get wrapped up in daily tasks and events that life throws at you and to lose focus of what is truly important to you and what your goals are. Make it a point each day to intentionally do something that will get you closer to a goal. Get a workout in, sign up for a course that provides professional development, turn off the tv and read a book. It doesn’t matter the size as long as it helps you get even the slightest bit closer to reaching one of your goals.

3- Take time to appreciate the journey. It sounds very cliché, but it truly is important. Always having your eye on what’s next, helps you grow and improve, but you don’t want to lose sight of what you have already achieved. Practice gratitude daily and you will be a much happier person. Every morning, think of three things you were grateful for in the previous day and write them down. When something doesn’t go as planned or you have a set-back, this is a great resource to look back on and realize things aren’t as bad as they may seem. You will always be able to make more money, go on bigger trips, be in better shape, be more successful, but if you only focus on what you have yet to achieve, you will miss out on all the greatness you already have.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know your “tricks” (that might not be so tricky) for success.

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Three Life Lessons from Robin Williams

I was shocked and saddened to hear yesterday that Oscar-winning actor and comic Robin Williams had taken his own life at age 63. He starred in some of my favorite films growing up including Good Will Hunting, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji to name a few. If this guy couldn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what could. For everything that happens, I think it is important to try to find something you can learn and look for the good in even the most negative situations. I think the life and death of Robin Williams can teach us many things, but here are the top three that jump out to me.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Robin Williams was an expert at his craft. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times and received an Academny Award for Best Supporting Actor. He received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.Even with an incredible resume, he wasn’t shy about being over the top and doing whatever it took to make people laugh. There were many accounts of Robin doing outrageous things in real life situations. Comedy wasn’t just acting for Robin Williams, it was his personality, it was who he was. Whether he was on set or at a lavish dinner party, he was constantly making jokes and doings things to make others laugh with him and sometimes at him.

Laughter can sometimes be the best medicine. Although in the end his sickness was too strong to be cured by his incredible talents and comedy, Robin provided hope an inspiration to millions of people throughout his career by making them laugh. He was known to perform and numerous charity events and for U.S. troops stations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He supported St. Jude Children’s hospital and was a part of Comic Relief fundraising efforts to help raise funds for those in need- particularly America’s homeless. Charity work was a huge part of his life. By sharing his talents and making people in even the worst of situations smile and laugh it helped give hope and let people imagine better days to come.

Be kind to everyone, you never know the personal battles they are fighting.Robin Williams seemed like a man who had everything. He was successful in his career, rich and famous, was married and had three children whom he loved dearly (in fact his last Instagram post was about his daughter Zelda).

However, he still battled many personal demons. He had struggles with drugs, alcohol and severe depression. On the outside he made millions of people laugh and smile, but on the inside he was having a difficult time. Just because people paint an image for the public to see on the surface, doesn’t mean there isn’t things they are struggling with as well. Treat others with kindness and always be willing to give a helping hand- you never know who might need it the most.

Today, pause for a moment and take a deep breathe. Things that are causing you stress aren’t as bad as they seem.”

Be thankful for everything you have and the people in your life. Call someone important to you today and tell them you love them and that you appreciate everything they do. Small gestures can make a huge impact and you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know what you are going to do right now to seize the day.

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Are you highly successful? Try this.

The beginning of 2014 was a very busy and challenging time for me. I got married, bought a house, continued to lead our fairly new young professionals groupCONNECT Madison, worked full time, played in three sports leagues, and also participated in several other projects.

It was getting difficult for me to balance my professional and personal obligations. After talking with some peers at work, at CONNECT Madison, and with friends at other organizations, I realized that they were all facing similar challenges. So I did what any typical millennial does when he or she has a problem and needs more information: I Googled it.

I always try to be open to new ideas, so I decided to take action and dig a little deeper. I figured if I was going to test out this “life coach” thing, I might as well go with the best. I contacted Madison’s number one life coach (according to Isthmus), . I explained to her my situation and goals and asked if she could help me. She said, “Absolutely.”

To be honest, I was still a little skeptical about the whole life-coaching concept, but I decided to give it a shot. We started with a two-hour, in-person initial discovery session.

She laid out our objectives and the foundation for the coaching relationship and then gave me time to talk about my current situation and what I was looking to achieve in the future. I also filled out a questionnaire that helped give her a better understanding of my background, areas where I wanted to improve, and future goals. After the initial session, we scheduled two 45-minute phone sessions for the next two months.

During the meetings, we talked about my goals for the coming weeks, struggles I was having, and options and ideas for overcoming those hurdles. It was great to have a non-biased person to talk with about different situations and to get feedback and advice.

Darcy ensured me that everything we discussed in our conversations was strictly confidential, so I felt comfortable sharing things with her that I wouldn’t with anyone else.

We also set up a system in which I would email Darcy every Friday with progress toward the goals we had discussed. It was a really helpful way to get motivated and be held accountable for finishing tasks even when things got busy in my life. I was forced to look at problems and situations in new ways and was encouraged to move things forward.

As a millennial who sometimes needs a little extra structure and guidance, I think a life coach is a great option.”

In the beginning, I felt that asking for extra help, whether from a life coach, parent, therapist, or mentor, could be a sign of weakness. What this process taught me is that trying new things and asking for help is actually a sign of strength and leadership. As Darcy told me,

Coaching is all about creating positive change, and acknowledging you want help to improve in any area of your life is the first step.”

So how do you know if a life coach is right for you? One sign is that you are struggling to juggle many different priorities and goals. Another is that you are a high-achieving, successful person but feel unfulfilled or are concerned that you don’t have balance in your life. Coaching can also be a powerful tool for teams that experience conflict.

There are plenty of other times a coach can help you achieve the next level of success. If you have a question about whether it would be right for you, send a coach an email or give him or her a call. According to Darcy, people receive the best return on their coaching investment when they are fully committed to the coaching relationship and want to take action to see positive change. If you are looking to take your career, relationship, or life to the next level, there is no better time than now to take action!

Your Fast Track Action Items:

  • Evaluate all the things going on in your personal and professional life and make a list of your top three priorities.
  • Say no to things that do not align with these priorities.
  • If you are struggling with keeping everything organized, or are facing challenges that you haven’t been able to work through on your own, consider looking for a life coach.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below and let me know your best tips for staying focused on your priorities and staying organized during busy times.

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Be More Productive- Don’t Read This Post

I said don’t read the article! Even though the title specifically says, “don’t read this,” you still clicked on this link. As a matter of fact, the title and picture probably even made you more compelled to spend your valuable time reading this.

One of the great things about having high speed internet at our fingertips is that we have access to seemingly unlimited resources and information. One of the problems is also that we have access to seemingly unlimited resources and information. What I mean is that it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the data constantly surrounding us. According to Mashable in one day, enough information is consumed by internet traffic to fill 168 million DVDs. Each day two million new blog posts (including this one) are written- that is enough posts to fill Time Magazine for 770 years. In addition 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook and 864,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Want more of these crazy statistics? Check out the full Mashable article here. (But don’t get sucked in too long!)

Even if you start with the best intentions, it is easy to get sucked into a black hole of content. Maybe you begin your day with checking out the local headlines, then you see a related article that seems interesting, then a video pops up that can show you how to grow your businesses and 45 minutes later you are watching funny cat videos. Sound familiar?

As someone who loves learning I know firsthand that it is easy to convince yourself that reading that one extra article or viewing that one more training video or attending one more webinar will give you the coveted information you need to get the upper hand on your competition.

However, the truth is it isn’t more information that will give you a competitive edge, it is more action.

I finally had enough of the information black hole and decided to make a rule for myself. I could read an article or watch a video, but could not move to the next until I did some kind of productive action from it. For example, if I read an article on how having a complete LinkedIn profile was important, I would review my LinkedIn profile and make updates as suggested before I could read another. Same with videos or any other information consumption. This helped me really get full value out of each article or piece of information instead of just reading and quickly moving onto the next piece of content. If you find yourself getting lost in a sea of information, this might be a good tip for you to test out too. Here are two ideas to help you take action right away from this article:

– A similar kind of time suck of information can be the numerous subscription lists you need to sort through in your inbox. Checkout Unroll.me to see a full list of everything you are subscribed to and delete what you no longer need. I did this and found I could delete over 200 lists that I had added my name to over the past several years! The free program helped de-clutter my inbox and free up some extra time when sorting through email.

– Another app for you fellow information lovers is pocket which you can get for free here.You can put articles, video or other content into your pocket app from your web browser, email, phone or with hundreds of other apps. Basically, if you come across a cool piece of content, but don’t have time to check it out now the app stores it for you to view later. This is awesome if you don’t want to read something immediately, but don’t want to forget about it. Plus, you can always have a queue of content you want to check out on any device you want!

– Lastly, before you click onto another article, video or piece of content take action NOW!

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know how you avoid the information black hole and strategies to balance learning with doing. Do you have any other apps or tricks that work for you?

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5 Business Tips You Can Learn from Whoopi Goldberg

This past weekend I was watching one of my favorite old movies- Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie here is a quick summary. A lounge singer in Reno, Nevada (Goldberg) witnesses a crime and is put into witness protection program where she poses as a nun in a convent- totally believable. The church is in a rundown neighborhood and has minimal attendance and involvement with the local community. Somehow the nuns find out she has a “background in music” and she is given the task of taking over the struggling choir. After adding some hip hop flair to their musical arrangements, new and younger crowds start attending church and the nuns become much more involved in the community to help their parish grow. In the end the church has a huge new congregation and even receives a visit from the Pope!

Check out one of my favorite scenes here.

What does any of this have to do with business? Among other things like “dating a known gangster probably won’t end well,” there are also a few good business takeaways from this story.

1- Don’t ask for permission- act first and then ask for forgiveness if it is needed.When the choir performs the first “nontraditional” rendition of a song the head nun is enraged that she was not consulted and did not give her permission to move forward with the idea. However, if Whoopi would have asked- the answer probably would have been “no.” She took action on the idea and it lead to good results. The priest of the church was impressed and excited to try out the new ideas. In your business don’t be afraid to follow your gut on ideas. Don’t let people stop you before you start. Take action and if something doesn’t work out as planned you can usually recover and apologize if needed.

2- Doing what you have always done just because you “always have done it” is not a good reason. The church was failing because the people in leadership held their positions for many years and were not willing to try new things. Even though attendance dwindled and their methods didn’t appeal to younger generations, they stayed the course because it was what they had always done. It is important to once in a while take a step back and say “if we were to start this organization again today, what would we do differently.” As people and technology change, make sure your business moves forward with it and doesn’t get left in the dust.

3- As your clients get older, it is important to bring in younger generations. When there were scenes of the congregation, it showed mainly an older demographic. When the church changed their ways to add new, younger sounding music and got more involved with people in the community- younger people started to attend the church services. Whether you like it or not, your clients and your leadership team are getting older. Make sure you are planning now for the future of what your business will look like. Is that utilizing new marketing avenues? New messaging? New training programs to get emerging leaders ready? Continue to look on the horizon of how to best attract and retain top clients and staff or else your business will be as empty as the church!

4- Use people’s strengths, but work as a team. In the choir there are many different voices and strengths. Before Whoopi took over as the leader, everyone was going their own way. Some voices were too loud, some were too soft to be heard and some just didn’t belong at all. In your business, take the lead on projects and learn to use everyone’s strengths to the advantage of the group. When everyone is working in harmony (pun intended) you will have the most success.

5- Sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. In the beginning of the movie, the nuns are not allowed to go and actually interact with the community because it is “too dangerous.” Whoopi encourages them to get out and meet the people of the neighborhood, build relationship and give hands on help whenever they can. Today with all the easy access to technology it is easy for us to sit behind a computer screen and never interact in person with our clients and prospects. However, building personal relationships is more important than ever. Get out to networking events, take a client or prospect to lunch or put together a team to volunteer in the community. The more people see you truly care and are willing to help however you can, the more likely they are to want to build a relationship with you and your company.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know how your business is staying on the forefront of new trends and ideas to continue being an industry leader and retain top talent.

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5 Surprising Business Lessons from Homeownership

About four months ago, my husband Matt and I bought a house in a short sale. It was on a one acre lot and had lots of potential, but needed work. No one had lived there for over a year and the people who were there before hand clearly didn’t take much pride in keeping up the interior of the house or the large amount of landscaping. Since Matt is a great handyman and we both like a challenge we decided to go for it and see if we could uncover our very own diamond in the rough. The process has been both rewarding, and at times, frustrating. Since I always try to find learning lessons in every situation, I want to share with you the top five business lessons I have learned since becoming a homeowner.

Focus on one thing at a time. When we first moved into the house everything was a mess inside and out. Everywhere we looked was a new project. At first we would do one thing in one room then jump to a project in the yard then back inside to another room. We got frustrated and overwhelmed because we never saw any definitive progress. This can also be a problem in your professional life. At times there can be so many different projects underway or so many new ideas pulling you in new directions you don’t focus enough on the most important tasks or opportunities. Take time to analyze everything you have going on and what is truly the most important. Focus on those items one at a time instead of trying to multi-task and move too many items ahead at one time. You will see much better results.

You don’t always get what you pay for. One thing Matt is much better at that than I am is doing research and finding the best value for a purchase. I am guilty of sometimes just assuming the most expensive option or option that shows up first on Google is the best choice. In reality, we have found there are huge advantages to doing your due diligence and researching different options. Higher price does not necessarily mean higher quality. If you put in the extra time in the front end, you will most likely save money and find higher quality products and services.

Sometimes you need to get down and dirty. In the long list of projects for the house there were plenty of things I enjoyed doing- picking out new paint colors for each of the rooms, buying furniture and seeing things come together.However, therewere also plenty of projects that I dreaded like scrubbing out our spider filled garage and hand picking rocks out of the muddy landscape. Unless you are going to hire out the work, you need to stop whining about it and just get it done. No one is going to care more about your projects than you. Take pride in the details- even the dirty ones. Maybe no one will know all the hard work that went into your great final project, but you will, and sometimes that is all you need.

Know when to bring in an expert. Luckily for me, Matt is really handy. He can fix just about anything and if he doesn’t know how he can learn from a quick Google search and watching a few YouTube videos. In many ways this is a great trait, but other times it can be a set-back. Let me explain. As I already stated our house has seemingly endless projects. Matt is one guy. Learning new skills and trying new things takes time. Completing tasks takes time. I wanted certain projects done in the house before we both turned 90. I had to convince him that just because you “can” do something doesn’t necessarily mean you “should” do something. Your time is also a resource and cost for a project. You need to factor in that cost and decide when it might actually be more cost efficient to hire someone who has the expertise in a certain area and can bring faster and higher quality results.

Patience is a virtue. This is easier said than done and I have learned this lesson more than ever with our home. Great things don’t happen overnight. Whether than is fixing up a house, building a business or growing in your career. Enjoy and appreciate the process. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Action Items

– Make a list of your priorities and get the most important tasks completed first, even if they aren’t your favorite thing to do.

– Do your research on an upcoming purchase. Is there a vendor or company that can better fit your needs? Is there a more cost effective option that will give you the same results?

– Complete a project you are dreading- it gives you a sense of accomplishment and character!

– Consult with an expert on a project you are stuck on or that you need top notch results for, even if you don’t end up hiring them their feedback and suggestions can be very valuable.

– When you are feeling discouraged about slow progress on a project, take a step back and look at what you have accomplished so far. Focus on how far you have come, not how far you still need to go!

Shoot me an email at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com and let me know what business lessons you have learned from being a homeowner or, on the flip side, from renting.

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You’d Never Guess This Component of Success

On May 9, 2014 I did the scariest thing I have probably ever done. I got married. To anyone who knows me personally, this sounds especially crazy because Matt and I had been happily together for over six years and lived together for three. We were already practically married and in recent months I was less than discrete about the fact that I wanted to get engaged. Finally the day came that I had been anxiously waiting for, he planned a thoughtful and romantic proposal and even had a surprise party waiting at my friend’s house to celebrate after I said “YES!” I was thrilled. Without getting too gushy, Matt is the perfect man for me- caring, hardworking, thoughtful and much more. Overall, I had no doubts he was “the one.”

 

But, a few weeks after the excitement from the engagement had settled, something strange started to happen. I started getting really scared. I started questioning things that I already knew the answer to or that had never even crossed my mind previously. Can I really be with one guy for my whole life? What if in ten years I get bored? What if in twenty years we have an argument so bad I can’t even look at him anymore? What if, what if, what if. My mind spun around these questions all day and night and it was affecting me negatively both personally and professionally. Why at one of the happiest times in my life was I having such anxiety about something I had known for years I wanted to do? After weeks of thinking, reading, journaling and discussions with family and friends I realized the reasons why. The first reason was that I was making a large commitment that I took very seriously. The second was that I was not in complete control of the outcome. And lastly, it meant things were changing.

 

What does all of this have to do with business? Just like deciding to get married, there are a lot of things in your professional life that you feel to your core are the right thing to do, but for some reason fear is holding you back. Those voices of doubt from the back of your mind start sounding louder. Can I really start my own business? Do I really have enough expertise to make this business decision? What if I fail?

 

If you read interviews from elite performers in any field, whether they are new to the public eye or veterans in their craft, most have one thing in common. They get nervous. Even when you are at the top of your field there are going to be opportunities and situations that arise and will make you scared and question whether or not you are prepared. Being afraid doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong, in fact when dealt with the correct way fear can be helpful. In order to move forward in your life, career, or business taking risks is essential to success. There is a saying that says “Do something today your future self will be thankful for.” All great things start out a little scary. Remember that nothing is as scary as staying in a situation where you no longer belong. Take the leap of faith and you will be amazed at the outcomes. Next time you start to you feel nerves starting to take over quickly go through this three step process:

 

1- Acknowledge your fear. Being afraid isn’t a weakness, it’s natural. Dig deeper and ask yourself why you might be feeling this way.

 

2- Access the fear. What is the worst that can happen? Is your fear rational or unreasonable? Is there a Great White Shark swimming towards you or might your ego just be bruised if something doesn’t go as planned?

 

3- Re-frame and Take Action. If your fear is purely insecurity based, re-frame the scary situation as an exciting opportunity and take the leap of faith!

 

By implementing this strategy, I was able to overcome my fear and am proud to announce I am the happiest I have ever been as Mrs. Jenna Atkinson! Now it’s on to the next challenge…

 

Your Fast Track Action Items:

 

– Take the next step on a project or idea that you feel you might not be ready for.

 

– Create a Pinterest board, journal or Word document (whatever works best for you) of positive affirmations that you can reference when you are starting to feel doubts about moving forward.

 

– Find someone who has overcome the fear you have and ask to talk with them about how they got past nerves they had and what the results have been.

 

Email me at my NEW email address jennaatkinson1@gmail.com and tell me about something that has been holding you back and how I can help you take the leap!