Task Vs. Relationship

"What is missing?"

Many times in my work as a consultant I hear my clients making choices between two strategies to achieve results.  Often time the choices they are making are artificial and not mandated by the situation. Lets look at one example that we all face in our work relationships. Do we focus on the task or the relationship. The right answer is both! If we focus purely on the task and ignore the relationship we run the risk of shutting down what the other person brings to the “task”. If we focus purely on the relationship we may lose focus on getting the work done. So what is the choice we are making? We are chosing where to spend our time. If how we spend our time is out of balance by focusing too much on either task or personal we may feel we are forced to choose between the task and the personal. So what is the solution? Finding the balance. when I work with clients who are struggling with this issue I ask them to make the conversation about how we spend our time explicit.


I am curious how are others finding the balance?

Have you seen this math problem on Facebook? The answer provides good advice for Entrepreneurs

My son recently shared a link on Facebook to the following math problem.
40 + 40 x 0 + 1= ? Do you know the answer?

Is it 1?
or 81?

I have to admit my first guess was wrong! And last time I looked I am not alone in guessing incorrectly. There were about 300,000 people who were right there with me!

What is the correct answer? 41. Why is this the correct answer? because of an important math rule I have long since forgotten since my days in Algebra in High School. That rule is based on the order of operations. You must do the higher order functions first. Multiplication is considered higher order function than addition.  The right answer comes from first multiplying 40 times 0 than doing the addition.

I remember thinking once I completed High School I would forget the likes of Algebra, Pre Cal and the other forms of torture I endured in High School. I am a liberal arts major so I only needed what I deemed as practical math.

However I think there is  a lesson in this equation that helps me as an entrepreneur. Much like that logical world of mathematics some things come first in business too! There is an order to operations that is in place. It is definitely important to plan and replicate your idea before you add.

So my take away from this math problem? always take a step back before you tackle a problem and make sure you tackle it in the right order!

What do you say? Any other math problems teach important business lessons?


A Live BIG Lesson

Yesterday was a very bad day. It was one of those days where everything went wrong. I was late for a meeting. I conducted a training session that did not go well. My kids were home sick and I had to work. I am ashamed to say I took my bad day out on everyone. I snapped at several people I care about, yelled at the kids and the dog!

My worse offense came at the end of the day. I received a complimentary email from a colleague. Instead of thanking them for the nice note I sent them a negative email. I went up the ladder of inference and inferred negative meaning in their compliment! What a boneheaded mistake!
My behavior was very contrary to the “Get Your BIG On” philosophy! My personal mission is to make a positive difference every day by giving BIG.

So where is the lesson? It came today. I woke up and had what I term as a “bad mood hangover”. Like the movie Hangover I woke to a foggy recollection of all the havoc I created from the day before. I started my day apologizing to the kids and giving the dog a bone. I went on to apologize to everyone I snapped at.

Today I didn’t give BIG but I received BIG!

The last person I apologized too was the colleague who had sent the well-meaning email to compliment me on some work I had done. I explained to her in great detail what led up to my incorrect inferences and how I really did appreciate her recognition. She very graciously listened and let me leave the conversation with my self-esteem intact. She was definitely the bigger person.

This kind of BIG has nothing to do with size and everything to do with heart. She with meaning and with caring listened. She did not accuse, blame, yell, but just graciously accepted my apology. Her gracious acceptance of my apology made BIG difference.

Achieving this level of personal grace requires getting your BIG on. Grabbing big, bold, brave thinking and opening the door to not only living your best life, full of confidence and courage but also helping others live their life to the fullest.

The “Get Your BIG On” lesson? Follow my friend and colleagues example and when someone calls me admitting they are wrong and behaved badly, I hope I have the personal grace to allow them to leave feeling big.

People Skills

Today I received a phone call from a friend asking for my help with a difficult conversation. She credited me with good people skills. I really appreciate that complement. I thought this would be a good topic to share with other entrepreneurs and get their take on people skills.

As an entrepreneur, I frequently have to have difficult conversations. I have found the best way to take the difficulty out of the conversation is to “seek first to understand.” I am an avid reader, and one of my favorite authors is Stephen Covey. I had the great fortune of meeting him in person during my days working with Comcast. I believe it was Stephen Covey who made this phrase part of my daily speech. Just yesterday I saw a vanity license plate that read “seek2understand. ”

This was the essence of my advice to my friend.  She had a business situation where a vendor that she is using made a comment that she took as an insult.  She did not know how to approach the person or if she should. I suggested that she should approach the vendor. I suggested she approach them privately. I also asked her if she knew for sure that he meant to insult her.  She could not answer yes. I suggested that she go with the mindset of wanting to understand what he meant. Perhaps she misunderstood his comment completely.If she did if she approached the situation as wanting to understand.

So fellow entrepreneurs how do you handle difficult conversations? Share your advice here!

Tools to Help You with Your Website

Happy Fourth of July!

Many entrepreneurs ask me questions about SEO and websites. This weekend while celebrating the Fourth I gathered with some fellow entrepreneurs and we discussed our websites. While I am no expert I love to share what I know and the tools I have found helpful.

One tool I love is Hubspots’s website grader. http://websitegrader.com.  This free site gives you up to date advice in how to improve your site. It assigns a “grade” which being a type A personality I love to follow the suggestions it provides to improve my grade.

Another site I like is backlink watch http://www.backlinkwatch.com. This site is also free and provides you with details on what backlinks you have and the page ranks of these back links.

Also check out www.Alexa.com. Downloading the Alexa toolbar allows you to see your traffic rank. It is a free tool that not only lets you watch traffic ranks for your site but others as well.

For  Ipad users and owners you should check out all the great SEO apps! For less than five dollars each you can get some great stats on your site. I love SEO Ranking. It tells me my keywords and how my site is doing for those words. There is also an SEO course. It contains short videos to help educate you quickly on how to improve your position in search engines.

What tools do you like? Please share. As entrepreneurs we often have to wear many hats. I know for this entrepreneur I am loving my new role of understanding SEO.

Women and Power

I recently participated in a fantastic workshop on the topic of Women and Power. It is a topic that, as a female entrepreneur, I find myself pondering. In this workshop we reviewed the amazing statistics about how women have progressed through the years by gaining higher degrees of education and filling more management positions. However, we are still woefully behind our male counterparts in positions of clout. What is a position of clout? CEO, COO, President, etc.

Another interesting idea presented is that women often don’t aspire to a particular named position but rather to type of work. I think back to my blog on mind mapping. I know that I have always imagined the type of work I wanted rather than the name of the position.

As the field of women entrepreneurs expand,s I find myself wondering if this is also part of the archetype that drives women to entrepreneurship. We know no glass ceiling when we are creating the workplace. We also seek to create the work we love rather than to strive for position. I am curious about this.

Other women entrepreneurs…please weigh in!

Social Media and The Entrepreneur

I read a statistic from Laura Dugan of Mediabistro about Twitter that surprised me:  92 percent of people have heard of Twitter but only 8 percent are using it.

I have found that I have met and networked with more entrepreneurs from my time on Twitter than almost any other mechanism.  I find myself wondering what percentage of the 8 percent using Twitter are entrepreneurs? I imagine it is a high percentage as I believe many entrepreneurs are often early adopters.

So please weigh in Twitter users and entrepreneurs!  Do you use Twitter? If so, what motivates you? Are you an entrepreneur?

Female Entrepreneurs Then and Now: Giving Back - Is this a New Breed or Just How Women are Wired?

Recently I read a post by Huffington Post blogger, Patricia Handschiegel. She asserts that there is  ”a new breed of female leader taking over the country: ‘Power Girls’ — entrepreneurial dynamos who are taking lead roles in both business and their communities.” She says that these women are inspired by icons like Oprah and Hillary Clinton, and these fresh female powerhouses have already learned that giving back is just as important as staying on top.

As I meet the extraordinary women entrepreneurs who we spotlight at Get Your BIG On,  I am amazed at how many of these entrepreneurs are not just giving back but making it there life’s work.   North Jersey mom Filomena Laforgia in July 2010, four years after her three-year old son was diagnosed with autism founded Filanthropists.com. Her site is a one-stop online shopping mall for the purchase of cause-related products.  The site features a variety of products from merchants and local and national organizations that are committed to the sale of these products to support fundraising efforts for their specific cause. The site’s name not only plays on the founder’s first name, but also shows how a socially conscious individual can make a difference through the simplest of acts. By buying a cause-related product, we can all be Filanthropists.

Similiar to Filomenia’s story is that of  Tania Mulry’s.   Tania is an entrepreneur who used the experience with her child to inspire her to use her talents to help others. She quit her stable job creating mobile marketing campaigns for big brands to launch an idea that she had to help address the nation’s school funding problems. This 37-year-old mother of three had grown frustrated by the constant flow of fundraising requests from her boys’ school, but also couldn’t stand the idea that teachers use hundreds of their own dollars to purchase classroom supplies every year. She knew there had to be a better way. So she devised, designed and developed a new mobile application that pairs companies’ need to attract loyal consumers and educators’ need to obtain supplies for their students. The app, called edRover, just became available for free through the iTunes App Store with versions for other popular smartphones to follow later this year.

Are women entrepreneurs who recognize the power of giving back really a new breed or how women are wired? According to a recent study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the University of Indiana,  says women are as much as 40 percent more likely to make charitable donations than men.

The findings, reported in Time magazine, paint a flattering picture of female philanthropists and a less attractive one of their male counterparts. Women at nearly every income level are more generous givers — and not only do they give more than men, they give more often.

Next meet Jacqueline Novogratz founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund. Jacqueline is definetely a women who gives back. The mission of the Acumen Fund is to create a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders, and breakthough ideas. Jacqueline  authored The Blue Sweaterthe memoir of her quest to understand global poverty and to find powerful new ways of tackling it. It’s a powerful read.

From her first stumbling efforts as a young idealist venturing forth in Africa to the creation of the trailblazing organization she runs today, she creates a series of insightful stories and unforgettable characters — from women dancing in a Nairobi slum, to unwed mothers starting a bakery, to courageous survivors of the Rwandan genocide, to entrepreneurs building services for the poor against impossible odds.

Sharon Davis found herself thrust into giving back when natural disaster struck. She is the coordinator for her town’s sister city exchange program with Otsuchi in Northeastern Japan. The story of how the relationship began is compelling- a young man whose father was lost at sea would sit on the Otsuchi headlands waiting for him. Eventually, it occurred to him to wonder what was on the other side of the ocean and so he followed their latitude across the Pacific and found Fort Bragg, California. He made contact and and the two communities became sister cities. This year is the 10th anniversary of the formation of the program.

Needless to say, this small coastal town has been completely and utterly destroyed by the March 11th 9.0 quake and subsequent tsunami. Of the 15,000 residents 10,000 are still missing. The town was leveled and ravaged by fires. Sharon and her town have created the Otsuchi Recovery Fund. She has created a Facebook group for the sister city program and now it’s become a place to share information on this tragedy. So far, they have raised over $75,000. Not bad for a little community of just over 8,000. The small community has been devastated by the events that have harmed their sister city.

But is this trend really new? What about the likes of  Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, (October 26, 1874 – April 5, 1948),  a prominent socialite and philanthropist and the second-generation matriarch of the renowned Rockefeller family? Referred to as the “woman in the family”, she was especially noteworthy for being the driving force behind the establishment of the Museum of Modern Art.

As we look to the past there are numerous examples of these power women. Alice Sheets Marriott (October 19, 1907 - April 17, 2000) was an entrepreneur  and philanthropist.  Alice and her husband opened their first motel, the Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Arlington, Va., in 1957. This one motel grew into a chain of Marriott hotels.Marriott served two ten year terms on the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.. Marriott provided endowments to educational institutions. In 1988 she provided funds for the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. The University of Utah opened the Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance, which houses the University’s departments of Modern Dance and Ballet, on September 25, 1989.[

Another notable entrepreneur  Helena Rubinstein born in 1870 started a comestic empire and was noted for her drive to give back to  others. There are also examples of women thrust into giving back at times of war like Elizabeth Blackwell  1821. Blackwell opened a dispensary in the New York slums. Her sister, Emily Blackwell, joined her shortly after; Emily also had earned her degree in medicine. In 1857, the practitioners established an infirmary for women and children.

Elizabeth Blackwell organized the Women’s Central Association of Relief during the Civil War.  She trained nurses for war service. Elizabeth, along with Emily, and Mary Livermore, played important parts in developing the United States Sanitary Commission.

Shortly following the war, the sisters established the Women’s Medical College in New York. Blackwell served as the professor of hygiene until 1869, when she moved to London to help form the National Health Society and the London School of Medicine for Women.

So what do you think? Are women the more generous sex? Are women entrepreneurs who give back a new breed?  Does gender matter, or are many entrepreneurs giving back?

Meet Female Entrepreneur Lisa Renda!


Lisa Renda
President and Founder, BPA Quality

How important have good employees been to your success?

I believe BPA’s success can be linked to not just excellent employees but also “good” employees.  When developing a business we can all agree that we want to make sure our organization is surrounded with excellent talent and that our employees are second to none. As BPA UK spread to the opening of BPA US, we learned pretty early on that recruiting excellent employees was not enough,-we didn’t want BPA to just be known for excellent output,-we wanted our clients to also enjoy working with BPA staff and to feel that they were dealing with “good” honest people who cared.  We work hard at creating a team that is undoubtedly excellent in their field but one which also shares common ideals and a sense of integrity.  We strongly feel that our commitment to this combination of “excellent” and “good” helps distinguish us in the marketplace.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Do your research so you don’t have to take it personally! As an entrepreneur, your ideas, products and concepts are wide open to public scrutiny and sometimes even criticism.  Concepts, products or ideas that have been tested and researched thoroughly allow you to logically respond to questions and even possible negative perceptions in an objective and educated manner.  Don’t make it about you - make it about what your product or idea can offer!

Don’t give up.  If your research shows that your product or idea is a winner, then don’t give up.  Things might not always happen according to schedule but if all logical and objective information shows that you are onto a good thing then keep on working at it.  Remember, if being an entrepreneur was easy - -wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

Be positive, calm and logical. Re-assess when things don’t go as planned.  Drawing on personal experience, BPA has a wealth of experience in the travel industry.  Our clients represent  major airline, hotel, cruise,  and car rental chains worldwide. We have a strong reputation in this arena and have always been very been very proud of this experience. However, in the initial aftermath of 9/11 the travel industry was severely shaken and, in turn, our business was suddenly confronted with an extreme and completely unpredictable challenge, happening virtually overnight.  Our team worked hard to stay focused and positive as we sought to expand our expertise and client base into other industries.  While BPA still maintains a strong reputation in the travel industry, we have now acheived a similar reputation among many diverse industries.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

1.The commitment to stay positive.  Being an entrepreneur is exciting, challenging  and rewarding. But be prepared, things won’t always be easy.  Be positive and stay focused on your goals. Being positive is a choice that requires commitment.  It does not always come naturally.

2.The ability to be objective. A successful entrepreneur needs to be able to look at themselves and their products/ideas objectively.  Don’t be proud, be realistic.  Great things can be achieved from an “honest”  look in the mirror!

3.Tenacity - Don’t give up!  Constantly assess your performance and goals to make sure you are on target,but don’t give up. Successful entrepreneurs never do!

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

If you are working as hard as you can and there is little or no movement with your idea, it’s probably time to re-assess your strategy and/or your idea.  This doesn’t necessarily mean giving up, but you may need to tweak your product/idea, change your advertising or marketing strategy.  Tenacity is important provided your approach to “sticking with an idea” is based on solid research which supports your hard work.

Is your company profitable or what is your profit for last year?

BPA is profitable and was highlighted on the 2010 Inc. 500|5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies.  We hope to make the list again for 2011!

Little Tips for Starting Your Own BIG Thing!

My message today is a departure from my entrepreneur series.  I had a request from a client to review with their employees email etiquette. It is a really dry topic but one we probably all can benefit from an occasional reminder!  The words we chose to convey our message whether in person or in writing matter.

An Example

I heard a story once about a military Sargent whose job entailed distributing apricots at the end of the lunch time. Being bored with this seemingly trivial task,  he varied how he presented the apricots. Sometimes he would say, “You don’t want any apricots do you?”  The person met with this response generally did not take any apricots. Sometimes he would say,  ”Would you likes some apricots?”  This question led to more soldiers having apricots. Finally he tried, “Would you like one or two servings of apricots?”  This led to the highest take rate of apricots! Almost double the amount of apricots were selected then when asked “You don’t want any apricots do you?”

As we review email tips remember the words you chose are important when talking with your clients, contacts, customers, and employees!

Email Tips!

  • Always consider who you are sending your email message. How do they like to be addressed? Are they formal in their email or more casual?
  • Always review your message content before you send it out.
  • Use polite terms like please and thank-you, hello and goodbye, etc.  When you are in doubt it is always good to be more formal!
  • Always have a title to your message. Try to make sure it is a relevant title. This is important when forwarding.
  • If you forward a message to somebody else to deal with, tell the original sender so they know who to expect a reply from.
  • Do use emphasis where its useful to do so.
  • Never  reply to an email message when angry , as you may regret it later. Once the message has been sent, you will not be able to recover it.
  • Don’t type in CAPITALS as this is considered to be SHOUTING.
  • Don’t make personal remarks about third parties. Email messages can be easily forwarded or misdirected.
  • Don’t send unsuitable email or attachments, especially anything of a sexual nature as they may well be found by a third-party later.
  • Never, ever, use scanned images in a signature as these tend to be very large. Be careful of large attachments of any kind.
  • Don’t mark things as urgent if they aren’t, because then when you really do have an urgent message it may not be treated as such.
  • Be careful when adding recipients I recently had a client add an unintended recipient to an email. They shared confidential information with a third-party.
  • Use spell check! Always reread your message incase words are auto corrected inappropriately.

Today when you write an email think of the apricot story! Chose your words carefully and double your results!

For more inspiration check out: http://www.getyourbigon.com/start-big