Excerpt from Tory Johnson's SPARK & HUSTLE: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now
We both know why you're here. You were downsized. Your hours were cut. Your employer went bust. You need to make more money to get by. You've graduated from college without a job and your career path isn't clear. You want to use your own smarts and creativity to take control of your working life.
You are like (and perhaps among) the thousands of people I meet at my Spark & Hustle conferences for current and aspiring entrepreneurs. While the ages span generations, and backgrounds are diverse at these events, one thing is clear: people are eager to make a change.
Twentysomethings who abandoned job searches in favor of becoming their own boss. New moms who shudder at the thought of being beholden to a boss instead of their baby. Seasoned professionals who want to take the knowledge they gained on someone else's payroll to build their own venture. Employees who saw colleagues being fired and are determined to create a side business of their own. Retirees who dipped into savings to stay afloat and now must replace that income in their golden years.
We've all learned hard lessons in this new economy. The days of spending an entire career at one company, of a guaranteed pay- check with a pension to match are long gone. Job security, no matter how good you are at what you do, no longer exists. Many of us are still recovering from the downturn and anxious that storm clouds could gather again.
That's the end of the negativity you'll find in this book: being a naysayer won't get you far. Brighter days are most definitely ahead.
If the recession hit you hard or you were awakened by a reality check as peers were affected by a rough economy, it's time to strike back. That's the driving theme behind Diane Sawyer's on- going "Made in America" series on ABC's World News, which has challenged ordinary people to renew their pride in all things American, to help keep jobs right here at home and revive our economy. I'm convinced that one of the best ways to do that is the old-fashioned American way: start your own business and pro- duce goods and services right here in the USA.
We're entering a small business revival. The number of jobs may be stagnant, but the opportunities to launch a small business are not. In fact, small businesses drive most of the growth in our economy. By starting one, you can be part of the country's economic solution and, more importantly, your own.
Small business is booming because the barriers to starting one have never been lower. It's not a complicated or mysterious process to get going. Your computer can be your research and marketing department, even your storefront. Technology enables your corporate headquarters to be your kitchen table or corner coffee shop. A high-speed Web connection can be your road to success. In July 2010, I held my first Spark & Hustle conference-spark for the ideas, passion and expertise that so many women have, hustle for what it takes to turn that into cash. For three scorching summer days in Atlanta, two hundred smart, savvy women shared their vision and dreams, while soaking up all kinds of tips and tactics from our roster of handpicked speakers-women who had started with nothing but guts and created successful businesses. They built their destinies brick by brick and shared their hard-won wisdom with others who wanted to do the same.
The feedback from the Atlanta event was so strong that I decided to take Spark & Hustle on the road. I wanted other women with established or fledgling businesses to learn from people who'd been there and done that-sometimes with the gray hairs to prove it.
I've spent the last year meeting thousands of talented current and would-be entrepreneurs at Spark & Hustle events in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia and Tulsa. What I learned from these women made writing this book possible and affirmed what I know to be true: desire and hustle trump education, experience and economics. Forget the MBA. If you have one, great. But you don't need it; I'm a college dropout who launched a very successful business with very little money and no special connections. The women I work with are hungry to make things happen, but none of them have sugar daddies and I can't recall a single one saying she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. They know it's all about the hustle: the decisions they make and the actions they take each and every day.
Now it's your turn to hustle. I hope you're at least a tad crazy. It helps in this line of work. At my Philadelphia Spark & Hustle event, maternity retail pioneer Liz Lange said, "Those of us who succeed do so because we're nuts." She's my kind of girl-making me feel normal (whatever that is) for being somewhat insane. This was a sentiment echoed on our stage by many of the most successful women today. Stella & Dot cofounder Jessica Herrin said it, too: "You have to be a little bit (or a lot) crazy to make it as a small business owner."
If you're OK with that-in fact, ready to embrace it-then let's make your business dream a reality. Only you can define what success looks like for you, but on these pages you'll learn what I did on my journey and what I've shared with others at my Spark & Hustle events: the nuts and bolts of starting and growing a profit- able small business.
If there is a common trait among the women I meet who make it, it's this: they believe in themselves and what they are doing. That's the most potent fuel for an entrepreneur. Follow their lead and believe unflinchingly in yourself. And know that I'm rooting for your small business success.
Chapter One: My "Why"
My entrepreneurial path began in 1990. An exciting summer internship, which ended with an entry-level job offer at ABC News, prompted me to quit college in favor of moving to New York City. From there I landed a position as a publicist at NBC News, promoting the network's superstars-Jane Pauley, Maria Shriver, the late Tim Russert, investigative ace Brian Ross, among others-and the programs they anchored. I loved the pace of breaking news, the thrill of working with the best in the business and the paycheck that afforded me, then a twenty-one-year-old kid, a decent lifestyle.
I was a solid performer-great at pitching and securing media coverage for NBC in the biggest newspapers, magazines and TV programs in the country. I loved what I did and where I did it- iconic 30 Rock-and I couldn't envision working anywhere else. NBC was home. Then it all came apart. The newly appointed head of NBC News called me into his office. Sitting back in his big leather chair, hands clasped behind his balding head, he matter-of-factly explained that anytime someone takes over, change is inevitable. New protocols, new processes, new people . . . It took me a few moments to catch on. I stammered, "Are you firing me?" His response was cold, bloodless: "You have thirty minutes to leave the building."
I wasn't ready to be fired without a fight. As a Florida state debate champ in high school, I had always been quick on my feet. I began rattling off my accomplishments, as well as a list of colleagues internally and externally who would vouch for me. His response was a dull, blank stare.
I regrouped and suggested that he let me prove myself. "Give me three things to accomplish in three weeks, three months- whatever time frame you want." He glanced at his watch.
It became clear there was no way I was going to change his mind. As I got up to walk out of his office, struggling not to lose it, he offered a parting thought. "Tory, it's a big world out there, and I suggest you go explore it."
I didn't know it at the time, but that was some of the best advice I ever got professionally and personally. Yet in the moment, I was very tempted to tell him where he could take his exploration.
I spent months hiding in my apartment, shades closed. I hunkered down with Ha¨agen-Dazs and daytime TV, filling my days and nights with self-doubt and panic. Venturing outside and meeting old friends or new people meant explaining my status. I knew how I had cringed when people said, "I'm in transition," or "I'm looking for my next opportunity." Losers. I didn't want any- one to think about me that way. My pity party turned into a misery marathon, financed by my severance pay, unemployment benefits and the 401(k) I stupidly cashed out because I figured it was easier than finding another job.
Between rent, ordering takeout and retail-clothing therapy, my cash vanished quickly-and I faced two choices: return home to Miami Beach, or snap out of it and find another job. Nothing wrong with Florida, but I wasn't going back. So I got out of my pajamas, picked up the phone, and eventually landed in corporate communications at Nickelodeon, the kids' cable network. I worked with fun people in a beautiful skyscraper overlooking Times Square. I had a nice office with a view, a six-figure salary, and I was all of twenty-three.
But that panicky feeling stuck with me-the one that comes from having been canned without warning. I was still angry and hurt. I resented the notion that, despite my hard work, an arrogant man in a suit could take away my paycheck and, in the process, rob me of my dignity and self-worth. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake it.
At the time, I thought my malaise stemmed from working for faceless corporations. So after three years at Nick, I decided to try something new: I accepted a marketing and public relations job for a start-up lifestyle magazine for twentysomethings.
We were a young, brash, enthusiastic staff on a mission: pro- duce a glossy book that would change the world. This was a scrappy, entrepreneurial environment-no big expense accounts or fancy offices. None of that mattered because I was energized by the opportunity to be creative and resourceful in my new gig.
I did well there, but at some point my post-traumatic-pink-slip syndrome resurfaced. It wasn't something I thought about every day, yet the scary "what if?" always loomed. What if the magazine folded? What if financing dried up? What if my position was eliminated? If you've ever had the rug pulled out from under you, "what if?" takes on a whole new dimension. It can consume you.
I shared my "what if" worries with friends and family. The advice was always the same: "Just keep doing a good job." "Make sure the boss knows how hard you're working." "Keep your head down and give it your best." I knew they meant well, and they weren't wrong to say or think any of those things, but the conversation was very different in my head. Then another friend chimed in with advice that hit a nerve. She said, "Stop worrying about what you can't control."
That's the one that got me, which I'll never forget. I didn't want to have to wonder if someone else would continue to find me a valuable asset to the company. I didn't want to worry about protecting the status quo and building something, only to be suddenly canned again. I didn't want to have the threat of another pink slip hanging over me. It was bad enough when I was younger. But now I was a wife and mom: the stakes were much higher. The idea that I couldn't control whether or not my paycheck was steady weighed heavily.
It became obvious that I was never going to shake this pink- slip scar while I was on someone else's payroll. I wanted to build something on my own, bet on myself and see what I could do with that same hustle I used every day to make someone else's company thrive.
If I made the leap from the employment track to an entrepreneurial path, maybe that lingering layoff worry would begin to heal. If I went out on my own, the "what if?" would turn into "what's next?" Everything would be up to me. That concept is terrifying for many people, but it was exhilarating to me.
So I quit the magazine, which was the most freeing personal move I could have made. Ask anyone who has quit corporate America to go out on her own, and many will say the same thing. I didn't quit to make more money or pursue a specific passion. My rationale for what so many people called a risky and irresponsible move was much deeper. I never, ever wanted my family to suffer as I had because of the impulse of a corporate exec. I wanted to provide my family with security that no one could take away. By founding and creating Women For Hire, a company that would produce career expos-pairing leading employers with professional women-we'd bank on me. I told myself I couldn't go for it until I knew exactly what kind of business I'd create. For six months before going on my own, I thought day and night about how to start something based on my interest in promoting women, which stemmed from my admiration of the network news stars I had once worked with.
I found myself hanging out with my brother David's college friends, many of whom were women. This was just before their senior year at New York University. I expected tremendous excitement and enthusiasm about finishing up and getting out on their own. Instead, I learned they were anxious about landing jobs and launching careers. These were sophisticated girls: no lack of ego in this group. They were genuinely concerned about their ability to get in front of employers to beat the competition. If they felt this way, I could only imagine what was going on among students at less competitive schools.
So I began to envision creating a venue for bright women from all colleges and universities-not just the big ones-where they would feel comfortable and confident as they met face-to-face with top recruiters. In essence, I'd give them that foot in the door. I made lists of the companies I wanted to attract to my events. I could see women walking through our doors in perfectly polished business attire, re´sume´s in hand. I heard the buzz of the busy ballroom as hundreds of conversations took place amid the smiling faces and the exchange of business cards. I even scouted locations and got cost estimates from my top choices.
It was then that I had a very strong sense of what the business would be. With my focus sharpened, I put together my first career expo just three months after leaving that magazine job. When I meet aspiring small business owners today, they're usually bursting with excitement over their big ideas. Their faces light up as they tell me about their incredible product or service. They envision customers lining up to buy. They can't wait to get going. To these people I always ask one simple question: "Why? Why do you want to do this?"
Most times, the responses fall into the same categories: earning money, pursuing a passion, being their own boss and making the world a better place. All noble goals, of course, and I happen to share them. But I think to improve your odds for success, you need deeper and more personal motives. The further you dig, the closer you are to unlocking your true motivation. Only when you own your "why" will you know you have that commitment to be ready, willing and able to tackle all the challenges that small business ownership will throw your way. That "why" is the fuel to keep you hustling.
What's really behind your desire to launch a business? Are you determined to insulate your family from the financial blow of a future pink slip? Do you want to control your time so you're more available for others? Have you sworn you'll never work for "the man" again? Do you believe that you could have greater influence and success by going out on your own?
Insulating my family from the repercussions of a corporate decision was my initial impetus. So right before I started Women For Hire, I created a visual representation of my why. It was a heart-shaped poster with photos of my husband, Peter, and our kids. I laminated it at a copy shop. Looking at it every day was all I needed to stay on track, to focus on the big picture. Get out your photos and do the same thing when you discover your "why." Create a visual reminder and post it as your silent cheering squad to help you find focus and to fuel that fire in your belly.
Chapter 2: Discovering Your Spark
While your "why" is your motivator, your spark is the heart of your business. Your spark fills your thoughts during the day and keeps you awake at night. If you're lucky, it's the thing you're most qualified to do based on your skills, knowledge and expertise. It's what you're crazy about. Combine your spark with some hustle and you have a winning formula.
But some would-be entrepreneurs only have one, not the other. Take the accountant who is brilliant with numbers, but if she has to audit another balance sheet or prepare another tax return, she'll lose her mind. The skill is there, but the passion is not. She dreams instead of opening a garden shop that stocks a beautiful assortment of flowering plants, though she lacks a garden of her own. As long as she's committed to learning this new trade, there's no reason why this business can't be successful. It may just take a bit longer-and present more growing pains-than a business built on existing skill and passion.
When I launched Women For Hire, I knew nothing about selling to human resource professionals or planning and executing large recruiting events. But I knew my marketing and PR skills- combined with enough determination to make pigs fly-would allow me to overcome my lack of experience in sales. I also knew my interest in promoting women, which originated during my competitive years in high school debate when all of my opponents were guys, and grew stronger while I worked for some of the most powerful women in America, including Barbara Walters, Maria Shriver and Jane Pauley, would lead me to figure out how to learn whatever I needed to know along the way. Your spark probably exists inside you already. But the daily grind, fear and uncertainty can make it hard to recall or find. Most people talk about career reinvention. I like to think of professional evolution, which builds on bits and pieces of all of your endeavors and leads you in new directions. You may very well know you're ready for something new, but not yet know what your next progression is going to be. Don't fret, though, as your ideas and experiences will no doubt lead to that discovery. If you aren't sure what your spark might be, read on. But if you've determined your spark, then jump ahead to "Fanning the Flames" on page 39.
Ultimately, if you dream of being on your own but haven't found your spark, you have to trust your head and heart to guide you to the right place. A healthy dose of your own instinct helps, too. So take some time-perhaps a few hours, maybe even a few weeks, months, or even longer-to consider some key questions, which will help to reveal your spark.
While growing up in Miami Beach, I was a high school debater who dreamed of being on TV. I had no clue what I'd say or do on TV, but it was on my mind. My inspirations were Oprah and Barbara Walters. My first step toward fulfilling that vision was successfully pursuing an internship at ABC News' 20/20 after my freshman year at Emerson College. I moved to New York for the summer and lived above a smelly restaurant on the Upper West Side. I was blown away when I got to meet Barbara and help promote her newsmaker interviews. So much so that I jumped at the chance to intern there again the next summer. When a vacancy opened, I dropped out of school for a full-time job in public relations at the show. That led to a communications role at NBC News.
Years later, when I started my own business, I used all of that PR savvy to promote Women For Hire and attract attendees to my career expos. I booked myself on radio and TV and began drawing on my ideas and public speaking skills to offer other women career advice. This wasn't about my ego; it was a necessity to promote my events when I had zero dollars for advertising. But the TV bug bit hard about five years into it when I landed my first Good Morning America segment. Piece by piece over time, I merged that early dream of being on TV with the business I'd built serving women in their careers, even though I could never have predicted this particular path from Day One. In retrospect the signs were there, which is what I hope you see in your answers on the previous pages.
Cindy W. Morrison didn't wake up one morning with an epiphany about the business she would build. Quite the contrary. She says she planned to retire as an award-winning TV news anchor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after her third face-lift (her words, not mine). But on the cusp of turning forty and in her career prime, Cindy's boss gave her the bad news: he wasn't renewing her con- tract. She was out.
After her pink slip, Cindy poured her soul into writing Girl- friends 2.0, a book honoring the women who supported and encouraged her during this transition. She self-published and sold more copies in a month than many authors sell in a lifetime. Her not-so-secret weapon: social media.
Knowing she'd have to market the book without money, Cindy converted her TV fans to followers on Facebook and Twitter. Throughout the promotional campaign, Cindy found herself answering questions from people who also self-published books and wanted advice on how to build a following to promote a book online.
Cindy realized that her spark-from her days as a reporter and anchor, and now as an author and online promoter-was connecting with people in person and through social media. She turned those talents into a business: she now teaches the same skills to entrepreneurs and corporations, showing them how to use social media to launch, expand or re-brand their businesses, just as she did with her book and herself.
Cindy's success is not a happy accident. She took action by engaging with new people every day. Along the way, she discovered how to monetize the process. Her story is important to consider because when she walked out of the newsroom on her last day, Cindy had no clue what a social media strategist was. In fact, it's fair to say she didn't know what one was until she had become one a year later-and was making money at it. She never dreamed of being a small business owner, but turned into one as her career evolved.
Your Simple Sentence
For a segment on ABC News Now, I interviewed Daniel Pink about his best-selling book, Drive, where he recounts a conversation between playwright, congresswoman and journalist Clare Boothe Luce and President John Kennedy. She felt JFK's ambitious plans diluted his focus and ability to succeed. "A great man is one sentence," Luce told Kennedy, giving him two very clear examples.
PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN: "He preserved the union and freed the slaves."
PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: "He lifted us out of a Great Depression and helped us win a world war."
Luce's point to Kennedy was simple: What would his sentence be? That story resonates with me when it comes to business success. (You can watch the original Drive video on the importance of one sentence, as well as submissions compiled from readers around the world, at danpink.com/video.) I've lost count of the times I have heard people ramble endlessly when I ask about their business. That lack of clarity sounds alarms. If you can't clearly say what you do, people will lose interest fast.
The simplest one sentence for Spark & Hustle is this: "We help women turn passion and purpose to profit through small business success." That single sentence invites the listener to ask me how we do it, opening the door for me to talk about our conferences and consulting, as well as the work I do in the media about small business. That single sentence tells my target market- current or would-be women entrepreneurs or those who want to reach them-that I know how to help them succeed. I can use that single sentence at a networking event, on television, at a cocktail party or in a social media post. Your one sentence should be equally versatile.
Here are tips to developing your one sentence:
? Include touches of realism and optimism.
? Leave out jargon.
? Spell out specifically what you do and for whom.
? Test it on a few people. Does it leave them scratching their heads or do they get what you're talking about? Do they simply nod and mumble, or do they ask questions? You want them to be intrigued, not mystified.
? Nothing is set in stone. As your business evolves, your sentence can, too.
Invest time in this to make it great. Share your one sentence with me at facebook.com/tory.
Now that you've distilled your business into a single sentence, move on to the rest of your one-page business plan.
There are seven components:
1. Your simple statement: The single sentence that clearly states what you do. You may opt to elaborate here if your work is mission- driven. For example, I might add that my mission with Spark & Hustle in 2012 is to help ten thousand women double their income through small business ownership.
2. Your why: This is your motivation for launching your business. Why are you doing this? What's driving you? What will keep you hustling when you're disappointed, frustrated or afraid? This is on the sheet to remind you why throwing in the towel isn't an option. Are you creating a service to support families with special-needs children because you've experienced the challenges firsthand? Are you developing a jewelry line to generate awareness for a cause you care about? Are you, like I was, starting a business so you're never beholden to an employer? Whatever your why, this is the deep motivator that's put you on the small business path, and nothing will derail your mission.
3. Your what: What you will sell or create for your customers or clients. Include the value proposition of what you offer and why what you offer is better than the existing options. Be specific and concise.
4. Your who: This is the target market you'll sell to, serve or support. Create a picture of them, using all of the information you know to be true. Describe what they want, the problems they face or the solutions they seek, and explain what makes them the perfect market for you.
5. Your how much: Your money plan includes how much you want to make, how much it will take to run your business, and your pricing plan. This section includes your sales goals, which should take into consideration all of your expenses and your anticipated profit.
6. Your hustle: It all boils down to how you plan to accomplish your goal. This marketing and sales strategy should be the bulk of your business plan because it will spell out exactly what you're going to do to make your anticipated success a reality.
7. Your measure: How will you measure success? For me, business revenue is the best way. Remember this is not a hobby, nor is it a charitable venture. You're running a business. What are the monthly, quarterly or annual benchmarks that you'll use to determine whether or not you're on track?
This document is fluid. It's developed in pencil, not ink. You reserve the right to change and tweak as you roll up your sleeves and get to work. It should serve as a road map, keeping you focused on the essential tasks. If an action doesn't support the goals outlined, you should question whether you should be doing it. You may write a plan from the ivory tower, but you fulfill it on the battlefield. This is your chance to showcase your agility and armor as a small business owner. Feel free to ask me questions about writing your plan on my page at Facebook.com/Tory so I can support your efforts.
Teleclasses Serve and Sell
Teleclasses, phone-based seminars, and webinars, web-based seminars, are phenomenal free ways to market your products, services, brand or message. It may be how you came to know me. I've offered teleclasses to my email subscribers and social media followers for years. But it wasn't until about three years ago that I realized the income potential.
I had just announced that I planned to host my very first three- day Spark & Hustle retreat in Dallas. I decided to host a free (free for me to offer and free for anyone to dial-in to listen) teleseminar to drum up interest in the program. I promoted it a week in advance-twice to my email database and three times each on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Some women shared the invitation with friends and followers.
During the twenty-minute call, I gave some of my best small business advice. I spoke quickly, covered material that I knew would interest many listeners and mentioned just once that I'd be hosting an upcoming retreat in Dallas. More than five hundred women phoned in to the class and about thirty of them asked for additional information on the re- treat. Within twenty-four hours, four women paid the $4,995 fee to register. Two days later, two more women signed up.
That one twenty-minute call generated $29,970 in revenue- and I didn't have to leave home or spend a dollar on advertising. You can accomplish the same results for your business. One week prior to the call, announce your teleclass by email to your subscriber list and include details on the specific topics you'll cover. Share the invitation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Ask ten people (not four, not seven-go for ten) to promote the call to their email subscribers, as well. A short lead time-about one week-is better than announcing your call too far in advance. This way people are excited and don't forget.
To receive the dial-in number, ask each person to send an email to a designated address such as email@example.com. This allows you to gauge in real time how many people are interested, capture names and email addresses of those who want to call in, and provide an automated response with the dial-in number and participant passcode. That is one less detail for you to manage manually. (I use FreeConferencing.com.)
Ignore the standard hour-long teleclass format and go for one that requires a shorter time commitment from your guests. Since I'm trained to jam a lot of information into three-minute TV segments, I can pack quite a punch in a twenty-minute call, which is my preferred call length. You'll get better attendance and stronger results if you respect everyone's time.
Give your best content on the call. Hold nothing back.
Never be afraid that you're giving too much. When you give away your best content-in a speech, consultation or teleclass-most people won't walk away thinking, "Great! I'll never need that woman again." Instead, they're impressed by your expertise, intrigued by the depth of your knowledge, and they think, "If that's what she's giving away for free, imagine how great her paid content or consulting must be." That leads prospects to buy from you or hire you.
Assume for a moment that you're attending a teleclass presented by an attorney, detailing the specific steps to safeguarding assets for your loved ones through estate planning. If the lawyer offers her very best advice, she isn't worried that everyone will hang up assuming they can do it themselves. She knows that she's likely to generate new clients because they're impressed by her expertise and her willingness to share it in layman's terms. By wowing prospects, she earns their trust and ultimately their business.
This works for a product business, too. If you sell accessories for fashion lovers, your complimentary teleclass may focus on the hottest style trends for the season. Women dial in to hear your ten top tips on how to update their look to be on-trend without breaking the budget. As a thank-you for participating, you can offer a limited-time discount to shop your new collection or you can invite listeners to contact you for a personal showing.
Finally, never view, present or execute teleclasses as sales presentations. This is a service that keeps you connected to your audience. With mine, I offer a very brief introduction and then get down to business quickly. My introduction includes a reference to something happening today so it's clear to listeners that they're on a live call, not something that was prerecorded months ago. For example, "Hey everyone, it's Tory Johnson. Thanks so much for dialing in this afternoon. Not sure about where you are, but it's a pretty miserable day weather-wise here in New York City, which is why I'm happy to be indoors on this call with you. Grab a pad and pen because I'm going to dive right in with the eight marketing ideas that I promised we'd cover on this call."
Expect to generate some business from the teleclass. Focus on serving a wide audience who may not buy from you today but will appreciate your information and stick with you for the long haul. If you'd like to hear my teleclasses, you're welcome to listen to any of my recordings at Sparkandhustle.com. They may inspire ideas for your own calls.
Your Top 50 List
When I decided to host my first-ever Spark & Hustle retreat for twenty established small business owners, I didn't simply create the offer, email it to the masses and wait for the phone to ring. Before I announced the program, I created a list of fifty women I felt were ideally suited for the three-day intensive. I emailed and called each of them to share details.
I used the same strategy when I launched Women For Hire and began planning my first career expo. I made a list of fifty companies I dreamed of doing business with and that I felt would get the most value out of my event. Then I reached out to each of them.
Some people on both lists said no for any number of reasons. When they did, I'd cross them off and add new names-always ensuring that I was working from a master list of fifty targeted women or companies. I never had to wonder about whom I might reach out to on any given day. The lists kept me focused and on task.
Before I make calls or send emails, I know exactly what I'm going to say and why a specific company or person might benefit from what I'm offering. When I started this with my career expos, executives on the other end of the phone could have easily dismissed my event and me: neither of us had any track record. But I'd like to think that many of the people I spoke with recognized and appreciated that I had done my homework. I explained exactly how Women For Hire could serve them. As a result, they took it on faith that I would deliver. And I did.
When I launched Spark & Hustle, I followed the same process-explaining to current and aspiring women entrepreneurs the topics we would cover and what we would deliver over the course of three days. Many attendees told me that they signed up because my staff and I answered all their questions and concerns promptly. A good number of them said we delivered more than we promised, that the conferences were even more fulfilling and nurturing than they'd expected. That felt good. Instead of simply marketing to the masses-hoping you get some nibbles and maybe a few sales-approach each product or service strategically. Continue your more broad-stroke marketing efforts, of course, like posting on Facebook, blogging, creating videos for YouTube, attending networking functions and pursuing media coverage, but reach out to each of those fifty prospects directly.
The list will evolve over time. When you get a no or when you make a sale, cross that name off your list and replace it with a new one. Ask for referrals and add them to the list. This keeps your prospect pipeline full and flowing.
Your Story is Your Best Asset
You know my fired-to-hired story. What you may not know is that pretty much anytime I speak to a group of people about job- searching or career advancement, I share it. Why? Because it resonates with anyone who has ever worked in corporate America. Many have received a pink slip, some fear a layoff and everyone knows someone who's been fired.
Your story doesn't have to be as dramatic as mine to make it part of your sales process. But you should take time to answer the question of why you do what you do. Maybe you're like me: you had a passion for a specific niche and a burning desire for financial independence. Use your story to convince your prospect that buying from you is the best option and that you are the Real Deal. Keep this in perspective. Don't share your story hoping to convert pity to cash: this is a chance to let others know who you are and what makes you tick. It's about leveraging the challenges, experiences and circumstances that have shaped who you are and how you're able to best serve others today. It infuses your business with an authenticity that will draw people in and effectively carve out a space for you.
Take a moment to consider your own path and how you got to where you are right now. How does your core story intersect with the work you do for clients? Write it down and review it to get comfortable making a natural connection.
Pounce, Pause, or Pass?
I hate missed opportunities. When you dive into small business, you're surrounded by opportunity. You'll have to train yourself to pounce on the right opportunities and turn away the wrong ones. In my office, we have a Pounce List that we always act on immediately. For instance, when a woman who attends a Women For Hire career expo mentions that the company her sister works for should be a part of our next event, we pounce.
We ask for the sister's name and reach out to get her company for our next career expo. The same is true when small business owners come to me at Spark & Hustle events and say they wish they could "bottle my advice" or have more access to me during a specific phase of their business growth. Instead of just smiling politely and accepting the compliment, I share brief details of how we can work together.
Far too many business owners think of pouncing as some- thing to be done only when huge opportunities present themselves. Opportunities to pounce usually surface every day, so keep your own key pounce list top of mind.
On the flip side, sometimes pouncing too soon is a bad idea. I'm pretty good at judging whether a proposal or idea is wrong for me, and if it is, I say no right away. But sometimes I lie awake at night thinking of ideas, or my staff comes up with something good, and I'm tempted to pounce on it immediately. (Remember my brilliant T-shirt idea?) So on ideas that ostensibly look terrific I've trained myself to sit for forty-eight hours before I commit. I've learned that if it was brilliant on Wednesday, it'll still be genius on Friday. But many ideas don't survive the forty-eight-hour rule.
Set parameters for when to pounce immediately and when to pause before deciding to pass or proceed.
Connect with Tory directly online or at her events. Ask her your specific questions at Facebook.com/Tory or Twitter.com/ToryJohnson--and learn more about her events at SparkandHustle.com.