Find Your Mentor

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Do you  know that mentorship is the single most important external factor for business success?  Every small business would benefit from having a trusted mentor.  The role of a mentor is to offer knowledge, support, and perspective.  Rule of engagement: the mentor has a sincere desire to help,  and the mentee has a strong desire to learn.  The best relationships are based on mutual respect. The killer benefits of a mentoring relationship: relevant perspective and advice, skill improvement, networking contacts, and encouragement.  When your family and friends are tired of hearing about your business, it may be time to enlist a mentor.  Ready to take the first steps?

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Simplify and Focus

Take the time to think about your goals for the new year.  Identifying and implementing something new requires focus.  When tackling a long list of nonessential, tedious tasks, focus is mission critical. Whether the bull’s-eye on your back is a hefty goal or a bunch of minutiae, adopt these tips to sharpen your focus.

Start by defining you what you want to get done. Goals are the big chunks of stuff you want to get accomplished, like find a new job, train for a race, or hire a new employee.  Now cull that list of goals into what is most important right now. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning the other goals. It means you are making a choice.  Too many goals sap your energy and dilute your resolve to achieve anything. Simplify! Pick one goal and identify it as the #1 priority.  You will now have laser-like focus on what you plan to accomplish. Goals without action steps are just words.

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Home Business or a Hobby: Is it Time to Take the Leap?

Maine is a place that seems to bring out creativity in people. It’s brimming with artisans, inventors and culinary creators who dabble in ventures at all levels. For many, it’s the genesis of a burgeoning small business; for others, it’s destined to remain a hobby. How to you know when it’s time to make the leap from an enjoyable pastime to a professional pursuit? Taking a close look at the key drivers for long-term success and asking yourself the difficult questions are the first steps in making a rational, objective decision.

1. Nail your idea

Does your hobby involve a brand or service that someone would pay for?  Crafting a product or service that is enjoyable for you does not guarantee you will be paid for your efforts. In the business world, it’s called a value proposition: defining the problem your business is solving. Engage family, friends and potential customers to provide critical feedback on your product. Ask what they like most about your product, how it helps them solve a problem and what they might pay for this product. Ask no fewer than 25 people and jot down their response.

2. Articulate your product promise

From your research, compose a 60-second message (often called an elevator speech) that clearly spells out your brand or service and three reasons why someone would pay for your brand or service. Test that message on 25 more people and refine it based on feedback.

3. Consider Your Costs

A business without a plan to make a profit is considered a hobby. If you’re seriously consider a business venture, take the time to determine what it costs to produce your product. Figure out your fixed and variable costs and develop a breakeven analysis: What is your breakeven point and do you have the financial resources to continue until you get there? Though it may be standard practice not to take a paycheck when you start out, the business should generate an income for your efforts. It’s interesting to note that personal savings are the most common source of funds to start businesses.

4. Take a personal inventory

Do you have the financial, emotional and physical stamina to start a home business? Running a business requires time, money, focus and support from your family. Evaluate yourself realistically. Ask yourself the hard questions. Exploration is an important part of your process.

5. Create a marketing plan

Who is your ideal customer? Is there a set of defined marketing activities to generate awareness and trial? Moving from a hobby to a business requires a marketing plan, and social media and a website are just the beginning.  Customers have to know, like and trust you before investing their hard earned money in your new product.

6. Find Your Customers

Nothing else matters if you don’t have customers. The majority of your time and effort must focus on sales. Make certain you are comfortable and confident talking about your product. Create a list of 50 potential customers that you’ll go after and begin making calls one by one.

7.Get serious about the process

A hobby balances flexible time with pursuit of a passion. Running a business has to be your top priority. You can’t assume your hobby will magically turn into a business; you have to invest the time and money in the process. Give yourself time to find the balance between creating and running your business. There is a subtle, but significant difference between “making the cupcakes” and the “business of making cupcakes.”

At the end of the day, the difference between hobby and home business is clear. Hobbies evolve from passions, and turning a hobby into a business is a lot more work and can squeeze all the fun out of your passion. If you want to make the leap, you have to refocus yourself as an entrepreneur.

Finding Life Balance Starting Now

Balance

For the better part of my career, I stumbled and struggled with balance.  Lesson learned is that balance is an internal thing. There is no  one-size-fits all formula on how to handle the wife-mother-career juggling act.  And here is the essential question: can you have it all?    Yes you can, but not all at the same time.  Here are my 3 best tips for cultivating daily emotional balance.

First, show up fully engaged. Learn to manage your energy as well as your time. Draw on three separate but related sources of energy:  physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, all combine to give a clear sense of daily purpose.  Take up exercise, it is a game changer for the mind and the body. Tune in to each of your roles, and figure out which one needs your focus, and shift as the day unfolds.

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