Category Archives: Stop Doing That

New HuffPo: The Benefits of Business Gratitude

My latest article on The Huffington Post explores the profound benefits of a simple “thank you,” including business etiquette guidelines for taking care of your best contacts. Check it out here!


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AM Northwest: How to Build Your Business Game Plan

Last month, I had the great pleasure of being a guest on Portland’s morning show, AM Northwest!

Fun fact: it wasn’t my first time on the show. I was on 19 years prior to promote my high school musical. #Winning.

I spoke with host Helen Raptis about Game Plan, the myth of overnight success, and why shows like “Shark Tank” give entrepreneurs the (wrong) impression that all they need is a great idea to be successful.

Watch & share!


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Partner Jam: When Partnerships Go Wrong (4/4)

Partner Jam wraps up this week with perhaps the most common concern. Jeremy and I ask each other (and answer): What happens when parterships don’t go as planned? Is there any way to save the relationship?




There are (at least) two ways for a partnership to go wrong. One is where the parties don’t deliver what they were supposed to deliver or deliver the wrong thing or deliver the right thing at the wrong time. The other is where everyone does their part but the deal doesn’t deliver the benefits that the partners were hoping for.

The only way to deal productively with missed deadlines or deliverables is to be clear on timing and specs before the partnership launches since nothing can be objectively “late” or “wrong” without deadlines and standards. At some point in the deal process the parties need to lay out in writing what will be delivered and when. Having clear benchmarks will simplify conversations about whether things have gone wrong, what can be done about it, and how to value any specific misstep.

If a deal is not generating the type of value that the partners anticipated, the first thing to do is test the assumptions that were made about the deal in the face of real-world facts. If you identify a deal component that’s not working as you assumed it would, you can try to come up with fixes. If all your assumptions were right but you actually failed to identify a component, you can try to come up with fixes for that previously unknown component and, as a bonus, you’ll learn something valuable about your business.


Do the exact opposite of what people normally do. In other words, deal with it proactively. It’s important not to be accusational or make assumptions. Instead, ask questions like:

  • When do you expect xyz to happen?
  • Is there anything you need from me?
  • Is there any reason why we couldn’t finish that by the end of the week?

Make sure your partner has all the information as early as possible in the process, whether it’s assets to design a webpage or being aware of your client’s expectation for the project.

Can’t get enough? View all Partnership blog posts!

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Beware of Lexmark Printer Pricing

Remember Lexmark printers?

They sold for less than other printers, but the ink refills cost a fortune. So at the end of the day, Lexmark was making just as much as other companies (or more) off of their printer business.

Too often in business, we make buying choices based on price instead of long-term value. Take websites for example: you might find a cheap web designer, but if you’re paying for every tiny update and edit after the initial design, or if the website is only good enough to last for a year until it looks outdated, your “cheap” website may end up costing you more than going with a great designer who trains you on how to update the website yourself. (And that’s not even counting the potential customers who decide not to buy from you because of mediocre design or poor website user experience.)

Please, I beg you, make your business purchase decisions based on value instead of price. Isn’t your business, your idea, your customer worth it?

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New HuffPo: The Myth of Overnight Success

In my latest article over on The Huffington Post, I tackle a very delicate topic: is Passion the key ingredient to creating a successful business?

Spoiler alert: No.


(And in case you missed it: no.)

In my work with entrepreneurs, those who stay in business the longest tend to prioritize a very different character trait.

Check out the article for my run-down of entrepreneurial ups & downs, including the qualities that carry founders past the proverbial five-year mark. (60-second read)

Too many of us fall into the trap of believing that there is a “magic pill” for success — that any single step or campaign or award or client or funding round or hire will permanently tip a business from obscurity to celebrity. This dangerous mentality motivates far too many questionable decisions made in moments of desperation, from spending too much on a one-time ad to building a whole business around one client who could disappear in the wake of a weak quarter. Instead, the best business moves eschew emotion and rely on wisdom from experience, market conditions, expert guidance, and common sense.

Like any healthy portfolio, your investment in your business must carry a diversity of resources, people, growth strategies, and revenue sources. If you can handle enormous risk, fine, bet the farm on a single shot — but if you’re like most of us and want the maximum probability of a reliable return, balance it all with a long-term approach.

Full article.

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On Maximization

One of the best (and most sobering) books I read this year was Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice.

It’s well-summarized in his TED Talk, but the gist is this: options bring freedom only to a point, and after that, they cause stress… or worse. We approach life as either maximizers (must have the best!) or satisficers (I’m good with that!), and suffer or prosper accordingly.

It’s easy to imagine how maximizing could wreak havoc on your personal life – constantly comparison-shopping, from choosing a winter coat to choosing a restaurant in Manhattan. Schwartz’s advice is to take decision stress out of the little things (breakfast, workouts) to free up space for the things that matter (careers, partners).

In a similar way, too much choice can lead to analysis paralysis in business. This is why my friends at Worst of All Design only deliver a specific number of logo options to each client: too many options results in lack of decisiveness and second-guessing one’s (often right) first instinct.

While it’s good to consider all your options for business growth and promotion, it’s vital to know your product and value proposition so well that those options are never infinite.

When I fall into the trap of too many options, the antidote is advice from someone who “gets it” – where I am, who I am, what I offer, what needs to get done. But even that can only take me so far.

Action – taking a reasonable risk and getting to work on one of my strongest options – is usually the best way to see if it’s going to be a freeway or a dead end. And then, once a decision is made, stick with it and see it through – give it all the resources, effort, and attention it deserves. Movement breeds momentum breeds results.

In marketing, I encourage my clients to do less maximizing when it comes to target audience and more maximizing when it comes to systems and impact. In other words: focus the audience you want to reach, but create as many strategic ways of reaching them as possible, supported by a strategic infrastructure that builds audience – and eventually clients, even fans, and in the ideal case, evangelists.

The way to do this is to make sure that materials, systems, and communications are polished and effective, empowering the rest of the company. Yes, it will evolve and improve over time, but selecting the right initial direction with strategy and style will ensure that your valuable time is spent perfecting instead of just planning.

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The Audience: Introducing My Webseries on Marketing, Business, and Career

The Audience

Today marks the online premiere of my webseries The Audience! This is my passion project, and I designed it for you if you are building a business or evolving your career.

Visit The Audience main page to watch, and please share to your professional and social networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

I’m delighted by this project, and very grateful to finally launch it.

But in the spirit of teachable moments, I want to tell you the real story of why it took 1.5 years to release three 8-minute episodes.

For the most part, I make it look like I’m hustling on the regular. Oh look, she’s running a business! Running a marathon! Running her mouth about what people should stop doing!

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of consulting people who have a vision for their ideal business or career, it’s that we find all kinds of excuses and distractions to avoid doing what we truly want to do most.

You know what my biggest dream has been for the past few years? To have a TV show about business: sharing success principles grounded in reality, interviewing people who have both succeeded and failed, and reducing the fear factor in going for it, full out. Using TV as a vehicle is not about being on TV, it’s because TV is the most widely accessible way of getting info out to everyone; helping as many people as possible identify their professional goals and develop a concrete plan to accomplishing them. I believe that good information should be accessible to everyone, not just those who can hire people like me to make it happen.

And then I realized: the Internet is the new TV. Duh.

So I grabbed my long-time partner-in-crime-and-creative-projects Pamela Ralat and we decided to make a pilot. A pilot turned into multiple episodes shot in one day at my office in Soho and on location at Tuffet, with generous participation from Camera Whiz Niknaz Tavakolian and the interviewees you’ll see on screen. Everything went perfectly!

Then I sat on the damn show for 19 months.

Why? Well, yes, we had to take care of graphics and editing to make it poppin’, but Pam is a pro so that happened pretty swiftly. The main reason I held up the process was out of my own fear. Because it’s no big deal if people don’t like something you don’t care that much about, but it’s a huge dent to the ego if people don’t love the thing you created and love most.

Meanwhile, I constantly sit across the consulting table from clients, just like I do in The Audience, and tell them that of course they can go for the thing they want to do most! My role is to give them a structure so that they do it with strategy and style, and of course, find their perfect audience. (And then I say that if they don’t do it, someone else will… which usually lights a fire under their ass.)

So, while I may not be the only advice-giver on YouTube, my goal is to be the best combination of useful, based-on-reality, clear, not obnoxious, more-discovery-less-guru-y, and delivering 110% more hip hop beats.

Most of all, thank you to the people who are my own OF COURSE YOU CAN team, whether they realize it or not: Babs, Brette, Gray, Jeff, Darbi, George, Neil, Summer, and The Audience crew. You are the olive in my martini.

Now go watch it already!

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There is no formula for professional success

I’m sorry to be the one to have to break it to you. But you keep buying into this idea that there is a formula for success and if you just take the right class, hire the right guru, or read the right book, you will be showered with fame and riches and respect.

I know because I do it too. I get sucked in time and time again to the latest buzzword, program, article, book. But the only time these things contribute to my success is when I selectively apply some (not all) of the concepts to some (not all) of my projects. No one book or TED talk or expert has ever laid out an approach that I could follow to the exclusion of other information in order to reach my goals.

One of my favorite business journalists, Nathaniel Hindman, published an excellent article in WSJ called “Why Startup Stories Are Not Blueprints for Success,” about how this is constantly ignored in the startup world:

Entrepreneurship makes for great stories… But great narratives aren’t the only thing fueling our collective consumption of startup stories. The road to building a successful company is long and winding, and everyone is looking for a map. So it’s only natural that in this uncertain world entrepreneurs sift through stories about their peers for signals to guide their own vision. They should be careful. Even the most objective accounts of startups are subject to media pressures that make them dubious as how-to guides.

When I teach, consult, and write, I am extremely careful to explain that I focus on teaching principles, strategy, and best practices. Yes, I do teach tools, but I will explain my reasoning based on that wider strategic perspective. Here’s how I explain it in my book:

The absence of five-step plans, specific roadmaps, and timelines may be frustrating, but a cookie-cutter guide that wants you to take the same approach as everyone else in your job market isn’t going to serve you well in the long run. Instead, take responsibility for your own career destiny, and continue the development of your own unique approach to your lifelong career path… I don’t want you to become dependent. I want you to be independent. Strategic. Smart. Creative. It’s more challenging terrain than simply following a map, but it will set you up for greater success and satisfaction.

I operate my business and my content based on the teach-a-man-to-fish proverb. I want you to understand the strategy so you can make smarter decisions, whether I’m on your team for two days or two years.

This is also why my expertise is potentially more effective: it is based on a very wide view of what has made real-world companies succeed or fail, not one specific process employed by one company or industry. Creativity and innovation die in a vacuum.

Whether you are working with me or another consultant, coach, teacher, author, or guide, it is up to you to think critically and make any process your own; to throw out what doesn’t work and keep what does through trial and error. But to think that there won’t be error is foolish. There is only one you; so there is only one unique path to your specific success.

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Be Picky About Your Board of Advisors

Did you know you have a Board of Advisors? Everyone does.

Your Board of Advisors can be conscious – your business mentors, networking group, or even an actual formal advisory board. But your Board isn’t limited to the people you actively ask for advice. It’s anyone you allow through your mental filter and thus allow to influence your actions, beliefs, and perspectives.

As I explained in Get An Outside Perspective, make sure the person who’s weighing in actually has good and accurate information on the topic. But in addition to that, be proactive about filtering out information that’s not really going to serve you as you work toward your goals.

Here are three simple questions I ask before I embrace someone else’s point of view:

  1. Does this person have the results I want in this area?  (Don’t ask an entry-level colleague how to advance to management.)
  2. Has this person actually gone through it or been part of a similar process? (Don’t ask a serial employee how to start your side business.)
  3. Is this person happy and healthy? (Don’t ask a miserable person how to have a fulfilling experience.)


That last one is key, because your goal is just the destination. The path there is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time and energy, so it has to be rewarding enough to drive, fulfill, and inspire you.


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New Video: How to Get the Best Marketing for Your Budget – via Alleywire

In my latest report, I share tips on where to spend vs save in your marketing.

As small business owners, we have to be strategic about our spending in order to get profitable. But viewing marketing as a luxury rather than an investment is one of the biggest mistakes new entrepreneurs make.

Watch the video, vote it up, & share it with your network!

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