Monday, June 30, 2008

Do-It-Yourself PR: The All-Important Press Release

I *was* going to go through the trouble of breaking down for you how to write your own press releases. In fact "Anatomy of the Press Release" as a post title has been on my editorial calendar for several months now.

BUT...in following up on a NYT story this morning—"Need Press? Repeat: 'Green,' 'Sex,' 'Cancer,' 'Secret,' 'Fat'"—I ended up at the website for PR Newswire and discovered that my brilliant idea has not only already been done, albeit named as "Anatomy of a News Release," but also done in a full-color PDF with actual diagramming, no less.

I'm sure I can still add more value to this topic, especially in how to how to use keywords in the body of your release and why to keep your quotes short and to-the-point, but I'll attempt it at a future date when I'm done licking the wounds of my bruised ego.

In the meantime, get started generating ideas for your business's press releases on your own. Each of the words on this list was cited in the NYT article as useful in getting editors' attention, so brainstorm headlines and subheads with the following:
toxic
long-term health risks
safe
easy
trick
breaking
green
environment
foreclosure
breakthrough

And, in addition to subscribing to "Ditch the Dusty Widget" and getting small business advice, stories, resources and inspiration via email, you can also sign up for PR Newswire's "Small Biz PR 101" newsletter.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

How Do You Define Success?

A headline in this morning’s NY Times caught my eye: “Why Some Succeed Wildly.”

The article is about the book Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don’t by Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink. In an excerpted paragraph quoted in 800ceoread.com, he says, “I want to convince you that the way we think about success is all wrong.”

Instead of looking at only the people themselves, he suggests, we need to consider their backgrounds and circumstances, as well as the contexts from which they emerged. As suggested the by NYT article’s author, Gladwell hints that it’s not so much the people who create success, as it is the necessity of the idea itself. If the timing is right, the wildly successful maverick is merely the most adept opportunist, able to take the ripe idea to its fullest potential.

As the book isn’t due out until November, the details of what Mr. Gladwell suggests will have to wait until later. But for now, the premise of the book and its title alone are enough to generate questions and thoughts from me about success.

Why do some of us reach for success and others find contentment where they are? What is it that makes some of us so damned dissatisfied with what we have and what we’re doing? Why is it that some of us always want more?

How do we know when we get THERE? Where exactly is success located? How is it that no matter where you set the bar for your own success—when you get there, or even come close to getting there, it always seems to move?

What exactly is success? How do I define my own success? What do I need to say I’m successful?

With just more than one year of self-employment to my credit, I still own my home. With no second income, no partner or husband or pick up the slack from my lost salary and no public assistance, I’m still afloat. I pay my bills on-time (at least as on-time as I ever did) and put healthy food on the table for me and my daughter.

I help small business owners reach more customers, convert more sales and lay the foundation on which they’ll grow and build their businesses. I earn money for my talents, skills and experience—and my ability to connect those with people who need them. My own belief in my value enables me to create mutually rewarding relationships and transactions.

I have friends who love me and help me. When I need a shoulder to cry on, when I’m scared, confused or not sure what to do next, I have a number of amazing women and men who are there to lift me and bolster me with their care and support. Whether they take me to lunch and listen to me vent, come help me work, or show up with wine and chocolates to just laugh together, they are the roaring, cheering fans who energize and excite me to push ahead.

I have a life that I share with my child. I am able to be both physically and emotionally present with her, creating and enjoying shared experiences—even the mundane ones such as making dinner together. I am also exposing her to the lessons of incremental success. When I reach my monetary goals and I’m taking her on trips around the world, she will know how it happened.

My daughter is not growing up with a mom who says “I wish I had done…” or "If only..." I’m teaching her that if you want something, you have to work hard and focus to get it. She watched me first try and fail to buy the business I wanted, then hang out my shingle as a copywriter, then work for my first clients, then form an S-corp and open an online store, then figure out how to juggle all of those endeavors. And she saw me do it all while still being there to pick her up at school on time (more or less). She knows that even as important as my own dreams and goals are to me, she is the most important part of my life. While together we may set a course for bigger, better things, the unit of “she & me” is the orbit around which those dreams revolve.

My skills are improving. I learn every day.

I am getting better at trusting myself. I am getting better at trusting other people, and knowing how to protect myself.

I have dreams to which I aspire and in which I believe.

No, I cannot afford a new car; I can barely afford the one I have. No, I cannot afford to landscape my yard or hire a full-time assistant. I cannot afford to begin my travels yet.

But that is not how I define success.

By my definition, I am already wildly successful.

How about you?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Power of Humor, or, Goodbye Mr. Carlin

I laugh at myself every day. I usually try to laugh at other people just as often.

And as I've ventured into so much unfamiliar territory over the last year—new business relationships, new responsibilities, new mistakes, new opportunities, new situations—humor has been essential to keeping me sane through it all.

Some situations, like the time I spent almost $6,000 on a customer acquisition campaign that was poorly conceived and yielded nothing, have been so painful and tough to swallow that it was hard to know whether I should laugh or cry. But given the choice, I almost always prefer laughing.

And when it comes to healing my self-doubt and rebuilding trust in my own decision-making, humor is a magical balm. Taking myself less seriously is a necessary step to forgiving myself when I screw up.

Humor is also a fantastic antidote to fear. Consider the moment in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Professor Lupin shows the students how to disable the Boggart, a dark creature that appears to each victim as her greatest fear. The spell that defeats the Boggart turns it into something comical. By putting roller skates on a giant, blood-thirsty spider, you can laugh at it. The thing of which you were most afraid loses its power; you regain control.

Starting up a business is a journey rife with moments of stark terror. I use humor often to shore up my courage so I may conquer my fear.

The news yesterday of George Carlin's death made me pause to consider how much I value humor in my life. Knowing he isn't here anymore to skewer hypocrisy, play with language, mock our sacred cows and dismantle the power of obscenity makes me sad. But that he left us to much to laugh about is a rich legacy indeed.

Mr. Carlin, you will be missed.

Following are some of George Carlin's jokes to help you keep laughing along your entrepreneurial journey:

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?


Some people see things that are and ask, Why?
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that shit.


Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.


Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.

Weekly Affirmations for the Self-Employed

I am at the helm of my business. I am captain of this ship.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Google AdWords Instruction: Coming Soon to a City Near You

If you've thought about advertising your company, services or products in the sponsored search results of Google (the largest search engine in the world and source of the majority of Internet traffic), but weren't sure how to get started, consider attending an upcoming Beginner course in AdWords, presented by Google.

The Beginner & Intermediate course includes all the basics in the morning—opening an account, creating campaigns, selecting keywords, modifying settings—plus a full afternoon of optimization techniques and instruction on how to track ad performance.

If you already know the ropes, the Advanced course might be for you.

The advance seminar explores more complex ways to manage and optimize your sponsored search advertising programs, including:
  • Introductions to My Client Center and the AdWords API
  • Sorting and viewing statistics
  • Copying or moving between campaigns, ad groups, and accounts
  • Location targeting
    Demographic bidding
  • Using the Website Optimizer
  • Dynamic Keyword Insertion
  • Goal setting and analyzing reports with Google Analytics
At $249, the seminar will pay for itself. Registration entitles you to a $50 credit to your AdWords account. For a net cost of $200, this is an affordable way to get yourself quickly oriented to AdWords if you've never used it before. AdWords novices can easily waste more than $200 in the first few days of online advertising. Don't be one of them!

Click here to view the calendar and registration information for Google's AdWords and Analytics Seminars for Success.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Amazing Women, Amazing Businesses, Amazing Kids: Who Says You Can't Have It All?

This winter, I became a member of Mamapreneurs, Inc. (formerly Portland Mamas Inc.), a business networking and support organization for entrepreneurs who share a common trait: first and foremost, we're mothers.

How I failed, until now, to mention this fantastic organization, encourage Portland-area mamapreneurs to join, and pass on any of the opportunities presented by PMI is a mystery to me. To my fellow PMI members: I'm sorry to have neglected to mention you. To those of you Portland-area mothers who have your own businesses, are thinking of starting your own business, or who are looking to work for a mother-owned business...check us out.

There are lots of active, vibrant business groups in Portland, and plenty of strong, quality associations for women both here and nationally. But PMI has some of the most engaged, creative, attention-getting, talented, smart, ambitious women I've had the pleasure to meet. That so many of the members can achieve so much, work so hard, and still have so much fun—while also raising our kids, being pregnant, and fitting it all in between school hours—amazes and inspires me.

It's been an honor to be welcomed so warmly into the group and to be supported by other members.

Visit the PMI website and check out upcoming events, read the articles that range from tips to launch a product to believing in yourself as a mother, and support the mama-owned businesses listed in the membership directory.

And if you're a mamapreneur with five years experience or less in running your business, check out the upcoming two-day conference just for you: "The Makings of a Mamapreneur." It runs September 23 & 24 from 8:30 am - 12 pm (we *do* have kids after all) at Design Within Reach, located in Bridgeport Village, Tigard.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

Finding Free Stuff for Your Business

I will let you in on a little secret I've learned as a boot-strapping entrepreneur and small business owner: the Internet is a wealth of special deals and free stuff.

Sure, you already know you could search on eBay or Amazon for great prices on name-brand merchandise. And maybe you've learned from my previous posts about how much free advertising you can get on Craigslist and how many free ways there are to promote your business online.

But did you know that you can find discounts, coupons, promotional codes and giveaways on many products and services that you use for your small business?

Bloggers like more successful than me, for example, arrange deals from the likes of Yahoo! and MSN to provide discount offers for new advertisers in their sponsored search programs. Don't believe me? Type "Yahoo advertising promotional code $75" in Google search to find some. When I opened my advertising accounts with Google, Yahoo and MSN, I loaded them up with more than $200 in advertising credits.

Similarly, I was able to refer a friend of mine to a partner website that offered a coupon code for 20% off all services for new e-newsletter account sign-ups. My friend saved a bunch on her custom designed e-newsletter and account management services.

I recently found another resource on John Jantsch's DuctTapeMarketing blog: free magazines. Makes sense. After all, publishers are always looking for ways to reach new subscribers. It doesn't cost them much to give away samples or subscriptions of their magazines—they print and mail by the tens of thousands; what's one more?! Sign up to receive free Business Week, Creativity and other business rags.

Free pens from promotional imprinting companies, free shipping boxes from the USPS, discount digital printing of postcards and business cards, advertising special offers...everybody wants your business, so every price is negotiable.

What are your favorite scores or resources for free stuff? Share!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Beta Test Opportunity for Retail Stores

I received an invitation today that I thought I'd pass along to the rest of you.

Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, is beta-testing a smaller-scale version of their Point of Sale module. Bearing the straightforward name of QuickBooks Point of Sale Simple v1, the program is designed for owners of retail stores with one location (note: you can probably use this if your retail store is online, too). The module replaces your cash register and credit card terminal, combining the tools you need into one streamlined system for processing purchases and transmitting the banking information electronically.

I presume that other value-add of this service is that it will simultaneously track the customer information, if obtained, sales receipts and inventory changes into your QuickBooks records as well.

Interested retailers have to apply online to be considered for beta testing. If selected, you will be asked to:

  • Start testing in the next few weeks

  • Provide data files and logs when requested

  • Install the product (desktop products) or access the product (web-based products) and use it

  • Submit bug reports at the tester website

  • Complete specific testing tasks through Fall 2008

To apply, submit your online application by Sunday, June 29, 2008. Apply here: http://beta.intuit.com/signup/testapp.cfm?id=260&refsrc=I285

If you're selected and allowed to share the experience, let me know!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yet Another Resource for Do-It-Yourself PR

I expect be adding quite a few more resources for small business owners who want to dip a toe into the waters of PR. Like many things related to having my own company or two, I'm enjoying a steep learning curve when it comes to figuring out the ins and outs of successful public relations.

I still have some foibles to share with you from my earlier mistakes experiences, but there have been some good finds, too. One new resource I just discovered is the free Small Business News press release repository from the Small Business Trends blog.

Okay, okay, so submitting your business news to the source above won't really get your release picked up by anyone who's not a reader of Small Biz Trends...but you never know. Link building. 'Nuf said.

Got news? Send your next press release here: http://www.smallbiztrends.com/2008/06/submit-small-business-news.html/

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And I Thought Persuading Businesses to Use a Copywriter Was Tough

Meet Jeff.

Jeff Deck isn't the type of guy you really *want* to meet in person, though. Because if he's showing up at your doorstep, he's probably there to tell you that you've made a mistake.

Searching for a way to give back to the world, Jeff chose as his mission to bring national attention to the pervasiveness of typographical errors, misspellings and poor grammar. Earlier this year, he founded The Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL), dedicated "to a more perfectly spelling union."

Together with like-minded public editors armed with black markers and White-Out, Jeff traveled around America from March through May, correcting misplaced apostrophes and misspellings found in signage everywhere.

A man after my own heart, Jeff spent months approaching managers, owners and clerks with his helpful attempts to make them look smarter.

A night in Las Vegas summarizes Jeff's uphill battle. Look what happens inside Circus Circus when Jeff finds a giant typo surrounded in lights:


GREASTEST! GREASTEST! An abomination against all that is right and true. We
needed to inform someone in charge. It was our only hope for seeing this
perversity wiped from the land. The problem was, we couldn’t actually find
anyone in charge… everyone in the garb of Circus Circus was trying to sell us
something. We wandered around until, finally, someone directed us to a
thick-necked man scowling at some register tape. His reaction to our crucial
piece of intelligence?

A blank look, then: “I’ll… uh… have to tell someone
about this.”

Which you can recognize by now, cherished readers, as a synonym
for thudding indifference. We tried to help you, Circus Circus. We wanted to end
the era of you looking like a fool. But it seems that era will go on into the
foreseeable future.


I want you to meet Jeff because you probably have typos in your business material, too.

As a copyeditor and copywriter, I find mistakes, misspellings and flagrantly offensive grammar in all kinds of business material—from e-mails and letters to signage and advertisements.

I understand that not everyone is fluent in grammar. Not everyone can tell when a word is possessive or plural and which of those two distinctions warrants an apostrophe. Not everyone is a spelling champion and no spell-check program can completely prevent us from word misuse.

And if common mistakes like these plague all varieties of businesses in all parts of the country, why you should care?

People know what you mean, regardless of whether you promise to serve the most delicious mochas (correct) or mocha's (ick, incorrect), right?

The best case scenario is that no one notices your mistake. Then there's the possibility that some do notice and they laugh at you. You probably don't care about that either.

But in the worse case scenario, your poor grammar and misspellings can turn off potential customers and clients. Witnessing your gaffe, they may perceive you to be either careless or ignorant, and therefore, not trustworthy. I'm not going to try a dentist who offers free teeth whitening for new customer's.

Another possibility: your mistakes may change the actual meaning of your message, rendering your communication efforts less effective. Many years ago, my parents received an invitation to an educational event sponsored by a large public health agency. Imagine their shock when they showed up the event and its signage and brochures said they were at the city's pubic health event!

In that example, it was just embarassing for the agency and funny for the guests. But at worst, these types of errors can doom your marketing efforts and waste your money.

For these reasons, it's really worth the extra money to hire a professional writer to create your business materials. And if that's really out of the budget, then at least consider hiring one to proofread your most important materials. Rates can be as low as 10 cents per word.

With that little extra care and professional assistance, you won't have to meet in Jeff in person.*
*Good catch, Jeff. No, really, I was just testing you. ;-)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Extra! Extra! Do-It-Yourself PR Resources for Small Business Owners

What business owner doesn't want press coverage? More valuable than advertising because of the credibility that's implied, press coverage is a key ingredient to growing a business.

Yet not every business is ready for a full-on PR campaign or can afford to retain a professional PR firm to secure those mentions.

Sometimes, serendipity occurs and a reporter from Time magazine just happens across your website and thinks your company is the best one to feature in an article about your industry (this recently happened to a colleague of mine).

But to take matters into your own hands, take advantage of these two free, highly reputable opportunities to dialogue with the media.

Public Insight Journalism

First, there's the Public Insight Network from American Public Media. Sign up to be part of the network and receive opportunities to send your opinions, stories and news to some of the journalists of public broadcasting.

For example, Marketplace, the business show on public radio, is currently seeking entrepreneurs to respond to several queries, including one on unproven, untested business ventures ("Are you a bold entrepreneur?") and another to women business owners experiencing a tougher time securing funding due to SBA cutbacks ("How are women entrepreneurs getting funding?").

"An open door to our newsroom" at American Public Media? What's not to love about that. Sign up now.

Help a Reporter

Another great way to get direct access to reporters for some of the biggest TV, magazine and newspaper outlets nationwide is through Help a Reporter Out. By signing up to that e-mail list as a source, you receive three daily e-mails brimming with actual queries from actual reporters on a variety of topics.
Will your area of expertise be covered? No, not every day or even every week. But if you receive any opportunity—even if it's only once per month—to pitch a reporter from a major new outlet on a topic that's relevant to you or your business—SCORE!

Here's the caveat about HARO: if you're a PR novice, it's really, really easy to get yourself blacklisted from this source and to make a poor impression to the very reporters you want to impress.

There's a reason most people don't have direct access to reporters at The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal: it's because we do stupid things like annoy them with off-topic pitches, blatant self-promotion or useless emails that say things like "please call me, I can help you with this story."

If you do any of those things, or send attachments to your responses, fail to communicate why you're a relevant and trustworthy source, or otherwise act unprofessionally and disrespectfully to any of the reporters using HARO, you will be mocked and held up as an example of how not to interact with members of the press. Even worse, you'll be removed from the list and the reporter you contacted will also block your emails.

Then again, if you act appropriately, send on-target pitches and make a convincing statement as to your expert status on a given topic, you may just end up getting mention for your and/or your company in a national magazine, newspaper or online outlet.
Personally, I'm looking forward to letting you know when my interviews with the reporters from Parenting magazine and Bitch magazine get published and if the image consultant in Houston I spoke with mentions Maternitique's pregnancy-safe sunscreen to her TV show audience.

For important instruction on how NOT to use the HARO queries, start your orientation here: "How Not to use Helpareporter.com."
Have a success story? Let me know. Good luck!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Portland Women Entrepreneurs Event Tonight

PDX Ladies:

Head over to Aura tonight at 6:00 for the annual networking event of Entrepreneurial Women of Portland (EWOP).

The $25 entrance fee at the door gets you one drink and light appetizers for nosh. The real benefit, though, is in guided group discussions with some of Portland's most successful boutique, salon, and business owners.

You grow, girl!

(PS: I'm bummed I can't go this evening, but I have a previous commitment. So go and tell me how it is!)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Breaking Free from Employment

When I first heard Elvis's voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody and nobody was gonna be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.
~ Bob Dylan

How did you decide to become self-employed? Did you grow up in a family of entrepreneurs or did a dramatic event occur that turned you in another professional direction?
My moment happened last April.
I had worked for four and a half years at a small business and loved it, despite having some severely unhealthy dynamics at play in the office. The work engaged my creativity, challenged me, and provided unending variety and nourishing interactions with customers and vendors. It also brought me a great deal of satisfying achievement: in three short years as sales manager, and then operations manager, I doubled the company's sales.

Record-breaking month after record-breaking month, I watched my boss, the owner, grow more and more wealthy.
"Hmmm..." I thought, "I've been doing sales and marketing for more than a decade and everywhere I go, I make other people lots of money. What's wrong with this picture?" It became clear to me that if I wanted to be the one who benefitted from my talents, I'd have to be making much better commissions or be the person who ultimately owned the whole organization.

I spoke to my boss about her plans for passing on ownership of the company and she assured me that she wanted to sell it to me. In 5-10 years.

No good.

So I began looking into other businesses to buy and applying for commission-based sales jobs. Finally, after nearly a year of searching, I found a sales position I was excited to try. I gave notice to the boss and mentioned in my letter of resignation that I'd appreciate her keeping me in mind when she was ready to sell the company.

"I'm ready now," she said. "Let's do it. I really want you to have it."

We had our attorneys draft terms and I hired a team of advisors to investigate the legal and financial issues of the company. I withdrew from the sales job, explaining the surprising turn of events to the new company. Then, for two and a half months, I performed due diligence: getting the company's first ever accurate inventory count; reviewing the tax records and month-by-month financials; creating balance sheets, P&Ls, and pro forma cash flow projections for the next five years. I wrote a business plan, met with representatives from the SBA, and obtained two independent valuations on the company. I rounded up money—more than I ever thought I could ever get. With bank approval and the nod from my attorney and advisors, I made her a cash offer for what the SBA and my accountant had concurred was the full value of the company.
In the end, negotiations failed. The deal was off and I was out of a job. I picked up the phone to call the sales manager at the new company who had hired me, confident that she would still take me on if I asked.

But I couldn't do it.

I realized, with my hand on the phone, that I absolutely, undeniably never, ever wanted to work for another person again. The process of crafting my business plan and securing a large sum of money, being coached by advisors and encouraged by mentors...it all changed me. I had greater understanding of what others could do for me, and most importantly, what I could do for myself. And to be that close to holding it all in my hands...I couldn't walk away and not have it. I had to try again.

That was my moment.

What was yours?

Weekly Affirmations for the Self-Employed

I do not have to do everything on my list today.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Electronic To-Do List Tool

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about my own explorations in creating an on-screen to-do list.

As it turns out, that's been a very popular post. Well, let me clarify: people searching for to-do list widgets has been very popular search. (If that's how you got here, see this post for a link to one.)

But if you haven't yet tried moving your to-do list from your desk to your computer screen consider these benefits:

Get serious
On a scrap of paper or post-it, tasks on the list appear to be less important. Typing it up your list makes you give it the kind of attention that you would a letter or business outline. Doing so sends a message to your subconscious that this is serious business to attend to.

Editable
The things you first write down on your to-do list may not be the highest priority, but on paper, if they stay at the top, you are more likely to try to get those done first. You risk not taking care of your highest priorities if you don't re-arrange the list. Even putting numbers next to the items in order of importance doesn't change the visual impression of what's most important. If your list is on paper, you have to waste time rewriting. On-screen, you can cut and paste quickly.

Visible
Lists on paper have a way of disappearing. On your computer screen, you're able to keep your list open and up all day.

The folks at 37signals (makers of Basecamp, a popular project management web app, and Backpack, an online sharable notepad) have Ta-da List, an easy, free to-do list tool that you can share with others, if you choose.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Top Five Surprisingly Necessary Qualities For Small Business Owners

(Note from Tara: This post is by Mark Silver, and appears on his Heart of Business blog. Used with the author's permission.)

It’s no joke, many small businesses end at a young age. Their owners, burnt out, broke, or simply preoccupied, give them up for good.

It can be a long, winding, rough path to get a business going. I’ve heard the same stories you have about the overnight sensations. But, for the vast majority of small business owners, it can take a lot of elbow grease and a lot of time before there seems to be any solidity.

When someone does move the sewing machine back into their home office, dusts off the resume, and heads back out into the job market, sometimes my heart aches for the missed opportunity and broken dreams. Other times I just nod, thinking it’s the best choice.

When is it which? And, more personally, how do you know whether you should stick it out and keep pushing, or give up?

A baseline assumption before we begin.

There are obvious questions: Are you providing a quality product or service? Do people need, use, and pay for things similar to what you’re offering? I’m going to start with the assumption that these are already established.

The real issue is that business comes, but not easily. You’ve been working really hard at it, and you’re exhausted and wondering if you should give up.

What does it really take to raise a business?

It doesn’t take an MBA from Harvard, or anywhere else. It doesn’t take spiritual enlightenment (although a grounded spiritual practice helps tremendously). And, it certainly doesn’t take a once-in-a-era miracle.

But it does take certain qualities. Five of them, in fact.

The Top Five Qualities

Everyone I’ve seen who’s gone from struggling to successful in business has been able to access these qualities, perhaps imperfectly and inconsistently, but they’ve got ‘em, and they cultivated them. And it pays off.

1. Vulnerability.
It’s okay to take off that armor, Lancelot. It’s too heavy and hot, anyway. Vulnerability is when you are open to letting things in. Want more money? You need to be vulnerable. Need help from others? Vulnerability. Learning about your blind spots, or something new about marketing… yup, vulnerability.

It’s the ability to say “I don’t know.” It’s the willingness to risk falling in love, and opening your heart. It’s when you say: “I can’t do it on my own. Can you help me?”

On this entire list, I rate vulnerability as the single most important success indicator for small business owners. Without it, you’re alone in the world, and can’t receive what you need. And, it’s hard to access the other four qualities without it.

2. Creativity.
Here’s how I define creativity: the ability to see how unlike things go together. Kinda like Sufism and Business, right? Creativity isn’t the power to create something out of nothing- it’s the insight to see what odd, strange, unlike things can be combined to be useful.

This helps in creating unique offers. This helps in finding a place to fit your home office when there isn’t a spare bedroom. This helps in spotting opportunities and niches.

It’s actually a poetic quality- and successful business owners cultivate this ability to fit odd pieces together in (sometimes) useful ways.

3. Trust. (or Faith.)
The stereotype is working seven days a week, late into the night, getting it all done. Yet, you can’t work ten to twelve hours every day and be truly productive. Things start to break down. You miss opportunities, fall blind to miracles. You need spaciousness.

And to get that spaciousness, you have to have trust. Without the deep trust in your heart that you are going to be okay, you can’t wrestle your to-do list to the ground and leave things, sometimes important things, undone, so you can access your creativity and aliveness.

4. Sovereignty.
You are in charge. It’s important, with vulnerability, to get advice, to learn, to let other sources of wisdom and experience guide you. But, when it comes down to it, you set the course.

Your business is a precious being, a vehicle for hopes, dreams, and transformative work in the world. It can provide a living for you, and perhaps others, and can help many people with some problem that’s creating struggle for them.

Finding inside yourself the willingness to act, sometimes with less care and more boldness. To take actions and make decisions, even if they are at times messy and imperfect. To be the captain of your ship. Without Sovereignty, you don’t have a business, you have a job.

5. Patience.
Wait for it… wait for it… Actually, the quality of Patience isn’t about waiting for your ship to come in. Patience is described by Sufi author and scholar Neil Douglas Klotz, in his book The Sufi Book of Life, as a pathway:

“This pathway can also help us work with projects or relationships where
progress is likely to be slow, over a long period of time. The heat of patience
and discomfort may, like a cooking compost pile, produce amazing future effects,
ones we couldn’t dream of…”

You aren’t going to make (six figures, a million, insert your lofty goal here) by New Year’s. Or by next New Year’s. But maybe three or five New Year’s hence, you just might. If you have Patience.

Can you order these Qualities on Amazon?

Uh… no. You can’t. That’s the troubling thing with these kinds of intangibles, you can’t buy them, you can’t create them, you can’t quantify them.

So, how do you get them? Let’s do the quick one-two-three.

Finish reading this article at Mark’s blog...go.

Mark Silver is founder of Heart of Business, a business consulting and healing practice that incorporates the Divine into work. He’s a Sufi healer and successful independent business owner in Portland, Oregon. Read more about Mark at Heart of Business.