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Why I decided to leave Facebook.

Four years ago, a good friend of mine who lives in Sydney, Australia, visited me. We had not seen each other for a couple of years. We missed each other and created the time to meet and enjoy each other's company. By the end of our meeting, my friend invited me to connect with him on Facebook. "It will be a great way for us to keep in touch," he said.

I'd been reluctant to join the Facebook bandwagon for a while until that moment. But, my friend had some good persuasion skills and the next day I created an account and started inviting people I know to connect.

I had a simple rule about accepting friends, I said yes to people I knew personally and to people I have some kind of a relationship with already. Soon enough the friends counter passed the 100 mark, then 200, then 300, then 400 until it peaked at about 480. That's a lot of people to know.

Facebook is a wild frontier of online communication. There weren't really any rules on to how to use Facebook. Everyone who is on it uses it differently. It was an interesting social experiment to observe how people chose to show up in this space and what they chose to say to the world. Some use Facebook as a way to vent out frustrations, some use it to share inspiring things they find on the internet, some use it to simply jot down random thoughts or share photos of important moments in their lives.

Facebook turned me into a voyeur. There was something mysterious, exciting and most of all, addictive about this space. I was seeing parts of people's lives that I would normally see or know about and frankly, most of it wasn't so interesting to me. Little by little, I hid people from my news feed as I was tired of seeing what they ate for breakfast or another YouTube cat video. Slowly, my newsfeed became sparse and even less interesting.

But, most of all, I noticed that I wasn't really connecting to my friends like I used to. Facebook turned us into lazy friends. We didn't seek spending real time together or having a real live conversation any more because we pretty much knew everything that was going on in each other's lives already. Facebook provided an artificial sense of connection.

Earlier this year, I took a three month sabbatical and logged off Facebook for that time. It wasn't easy, but it was part of my intention to take total time off. After returning from my sabbatical, I started to reconnect with friends and clients mostly via email. We set up time to meet or talk right away. We missed each other. And when we talked, we had wonderful, deep conversations, we shared the good and bad news in our lives and we made a deep connection. I believe this was possible to achieve only because we had time to be apart from each other without Facebook keeping us connected.

Last week, I stumbled upon an article by Owen Williams titled "Leaving Facebook is the best thing I ever did." Owen asked "Take a look at your Facebook search history. When was the last time you actually had a conversation with half of those people?"

So, I did. And discovered that the number was shockingly low. Out of almost 500 people, in the past year I had a real live conversation with less than 50. And of those 50, half were my family and the rest were my close intimate friends.

It became clear that there wasn't much value or interest in staying on Facebook to maintain relationships. I much prefer putting time and effort into connecting to the people I care about the old-fashioned way. I am looking for the kind of friends who are willing to make an effort beyond "liking" something I say.

Facebook is changing from being a social network of connecting friends and loved ones to a strong marketing tool for businesses. Earlier this year, I started a professional page where I've been posting insights, news and announcements. I currently have about 130 people who are getting my posts and those are people who are part of my tribe.

I see the value of keeping Facebook as a marketing tool. For some people, Facebook is the only channel of receiving news and information. That's what Facebook has become for me. I've been "liking" pages by my favorite recording artists, brands I am interested in and people who act as good curators to things I am interested in. I'm finding it valuable to visit my Facebook page for news and information.

Un-friending people one-by-one at first brought some guilt and sadness, but the kind you get when you're leaving a party, not the relationship. I sent each of my Facebook friends a personal message explaining why I am about to unfriend them and how I plan to use Facebook in my life from now on.

Surprisingly, many of my friends responded saying "I'm thinking of doing exactly that" when they received my message. Who knows, I may be starting a trend here. Until then, I'm going to enjoy my freedom and liberation and dedicate my time to things that matter more.

How to avoid nightmare clients (and keep the good ones coming back)

Have you ever taken on a new client only to discover you’ve signed on with a nightmare? Not long after the engagement starts, you come to realize that this client needs constant attention.  They are unorganized and unprepared.  They take forever to make a decision.  They don't listen to your advice.  They try to tell you how to do your job.  You’re miserable and you’re probably losing money by keeping them around.

This is not a client problem. This is a leadership problem. There can only be one leader in your client relationship and if you aren't the one leading, your client will, and that's when it starts becoming a nightmare.

Bad clients are no fun, but they are good for business in one way. Bad clients highlight the areas that need improvement in your leadership skills. Business owners need to recognize that we are the cause for the bad clients who keep coming back, and change our business.  The more difficult a client is, the bigger the need to look in the mirror and ask why this client was attracted to you in the first place.

Your ideal client is looking for leadership, not for execution of their bad ideas. When you choose to show up as a leader, you'll start getting clients who want to be led.  But those amazing clients need to trust that you will lead them to where they want to go.  And for that trust to develop, your clients needs to know why you’re in business.

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, teaches: "People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Unless you lead your business with what you believe, what you stand for and why you do it, you become just another service provider that's ready for the client to lead the way.

If you want to be a leader in your organization, you must have a clear vision of why your business exists. What's your purpose? What's your vision? What's your dream?

Many creative businesses waste time and energy on marketing activities that lead nowhere because most marketing is simply saying "look at me and how good I am" which looks needy, creepy and unattractive to your ideal clients.  Stop leading with your skills and start leading with your mission. That's when the ideal clients appear.

When I started coaching business owners years ago, I used to take on any client that had a checkbook. I figured that as long as money was coming in and I was busy, I was doing well. It didn't take too long before I started getting frustrated with my business as I was getting the wrong kind of clients. Even more frustrating, I wasn’t seeing the kind of results and change I wanted my clients to experience. 

One of my mentors told me, "It matters more where you are coming from, rather than where you are going." What he was talking about was the "why." Unless I was clear about my purpose (where I am coming from), every action I would take would be misguided and lead to bad clients and marketing that goes nowhere.  I realized that the problem started with me.  I didn't have a clear vision or purpose. I was in business to satisfy my own insecurities and fears. It was more about making money than making a difference. So, I took time to closely examine my why, connect to my purpose and show up as a true leader. And that’s when my business transformed.

If you want to be the kind of leader that your clients respect, listen to and pay well, here are a few ideas to consider: 

1. Get clear on your why.

Your purpose will be a powerful force when it's clear and defined.  Unless you are fueled by a purpose that is bigger than you and not about you, you'll keep attracting the kind of clients that only see you as a vendor and not as a leader.  When you are totally clear on your why it becomes part of what you are known for. That's a powerful way to attract amazing clients who believe in what you stand for and want to support that mission, too.

2. Tell a different story.

Your marketing is the story you tell the world, so choose to tell a story that comes from a place of expertise, knowledge and leadership. Your marketing needs to be less about the results you bring your clients and more about how you can lead them to where they want to go. Your marketing needs to always support a bigger vision that is in line with making a difference in your client's world. That's when you'll stop attracting bad clients and start getting advocates and supporters.

3. Raise your rates.

A client who says, "I can't afford you" isn't seeing your true value. That's probably because you aren't seeing it either. Clients who make their decisions based on money are acting from fear and will not be open to being led. They will want to control the process and not listen to your advice. As scary as it may sound, the best way to make bad clients go away is to charge more. If you are afraid to charge more you are probably afraid to lead your clients in other ways as well.  Leaders don’t come from fear.

4. Say "no" more often.

You probably take clients on quicker than you should. Slow down your client enrollment process and take the time to discern if the client is a good fit for you.  Don't be afraid to tell your clients how YOU work and what you are looking for in a client. By describing your ideal client to an interested prospect, you are leading them toward rising up to work with you rather than bringing you down to be seen only as a vendor.

Your best clients will come when you become a true leader.  Leaders come from love, purpose and the desire to make a difference. Leaders who know their value and believe in something that is bigger than they are will have no problems with saying no. Your best clients are waiting for you to lead them. It's up to you to make that choice.

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Where creative answers come from

Photo :: Sherbrooke Forest, outside Melbourne, Australia (by me)

Like a spring flower just coming up from the ground, I'm slowly emerging from a three-month sabbatical where I turned the noise down on my life, including contributing to this blog. I created a quiet space for myself with no external input (no email, no social media, no clients). As a result I got answers to several big life and career questions I’ve been asking.

Creating this quiet space was crucial to my continued growth as a coach, a creative person and as a human being. I was able to see clearly and listen to my inner voice. Some big a-ha moments happened.

All of us face big and small challenges in life and in work from time to time. And although not all of us can take three months off (it took me five years to be able to do it) the concept of quiet space can still apply in your life every day.

To get answers to our problems we can ask a friend for advice, hire a consultant, work with a coach, read a book, attend a conference or participate in a workshop. Those are all good options (I've used them all myself) but there's a closer and more immediate source that can help you figure things out - you.

You have the power and creativity to solve every one of your problems. Your inner voice knows what's best for you and if you listened to it more frequently and more carefully you would save yourself time, energy and money.

But how can we possibly hear what goes on inside of us if all we hear is noise from the outside?

We live in a culture of constant noise and opinion. Everyone has something to say and something to sell. Next time you scroll down your Facebook wall or Twitter feed, notice all the noise. Most of what you'll see is people (or companies) sharing their opinion or promoting something. It's really all about them. Noise noise noise.

I'm amazed at the solutions my coaching clients come to when they access their inner voice. But to hear that voice we must create a space where the noise is reduced and your higher self can be heard.

So how do I hear that inner voice? I take a walk.

Friedrich Nietzsche said "All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking". When Im facing a problem or whenever I find myself in a creative block, I take a walk. Staring at a computer screen searching for inspiration doesn't cut it. I need to move my body and circulate my blood so it can turn my brain ON and spark new ideas.

Walking is the universal way to solve problems. Most of us walk for the sake of getting exercise or to get from one place to another. We'll often have a pair of headphones on listening to music or a podcast, or we'll walk with a friend engaged in a conversion.

The kind of walking I am talking about is walking for the sake of walking with an intention to get present, slow down and listen.

Next time you face a tough problem, try this first: take a thirty minute walk. Leave your computer/phone behind, take no music and if possible, walk in nature. Gift yourself time and space to reduce noise so you can listen to a new voice - yours.

Start your walk by getting present. Take a few breaths and look around. Notice your landscape and connect to your surrounding. Drop your thoughts. Don't force anything. As you walk you may start thinking about your problem. This will come naturally. When thoughts come up, observe them and start asking questions like "what could I try?" or "What seems to be wrong with this situation?". Be curious. Don't expect an answer, just be in inquiry and play.

Suddenly, a path may open. Slowly, ideas may spark. You may see something new in the situation or get an idea about a different approach to the problem. It may not be THE solution but you might get an idea about where to go to get the right answer. And sometimes, of course, the answer will blossom before you like the most beautiful spring flower, waiting for you to notice.

The lessons of years past

I was blessed to coach some amazing creative entrepreneurs from around the world this year. Each person sought truth, growth, change and improvements in their business. And I watched it happen!  As I look back, I’m amazed to see in every case how real change in a person’s business life always followed change in their personal life. When we take ownership of our life and we pay attention to the real things that get in our way we can then make serious changes in our world. It’s beautiful to see.

I’ve asked some of the brilliant people I’ve coached to share one of their biggest lessons learned from 2012. Here’s what they said:

1.  Don’t Wait for Inspiration

“I can’t afford waiting for inspiration” said Matt Steel of Metagramme in Saint Louis. “I used to think of my creative muse as a maddeningly capricious vapor. I’ve learned that when I do my part – show up and get to work – inspiration comes. I’ve learned that creativity is a current that never stops flowing. I simply choose whether to tap into it or not. Embracing this simple truth changed my life.”

2.   Put Your Self-Care First

"Handle [yourself] with care" said Curt Cuscino of HypeLife Brands in Los Angeles. “As an agency owner, I've had a tendency to take care of everything around me first, and myself last. Every bill needing paid, every staffing problem, every client “emergency,” and every creative challenge to solve took precedent for me for many years. In the end, I ended up completely drained, my soul sucked dry. 2012 taught me the value of this important lesson: take care of myself first, feed me first. It’s not selfish. It’s for the betterment of me and everyone around me."

3.  Make a Personal Creativity Routine

"Having a creative expression routine for myself freed me from finding creative expression in client work" said Dustin Woehrmann of DW Design in New Orleans. I took on a challenge of creating something every day. Sometimes it was painting, sometimes it was writing. It wasn't easy, there were days that I had to really force myself to show up but eventually it became part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth. Creating for myself on a daily basis has given me a completely different outlook on what my role as business owner is."

4.  Be a Partner, Not a Vendor

"My value starts within!" said Chris Fewell of Curious Communications in Calgary, Canada. "My greatest lesson this year involves valuing myself and my company’s work. I decided to move my business out of the role of creative technician into the role of strategic partner and I cannot believe the difference it has made. Even with clients that we've had for 10 years, once I changed the way I approached our relationship, our value became more apparent to them. This shift also allowed me to fire 3 disrespectful clients, 2 of whom were in our billing top 5. As scary as the decision was at the time, the difference in moral, energy and creativity within the company since has been staggering."

5.  Respect Your Own Expertise

"I started taking my own advice" said Stuart McFaul of SpiralGroup in San Francisco. "It's easy for me to give advice to clients and peers but when it comes to my own business, it was time for me to listen to the best consultant I know - me, and to start taking myself seriously.  I fired clients who didn't treat me like a serious business partner and took serious action towards those who owed us money, which in turn, got us paid in full from every single client. I'm still going to be the same lighthearted guy but when it comes to my business, I'm going to listen to my own advice more and act from that place."

 6.  Celebrate Your Unique Gifts

"I stopped comparing myself to other agencies" said Dan Kuss of Creative Grease in Australia. "When I compare myself to others I learned that I am not truly serving my clients but rather working from ego and trying to look as good as others. I got with the program and reminded myself that no one thinks like I do and that it's time for me to think bigger for my clients. I stopped comparing and started creating from my unique perspective. I brought more of my unique genius to my clients and that changed everything."

7. Be a Leader, not a Pleaser

"I learned that my clients want me to lead" said Diann Cage of Diann Cage Design Company in Saint Louis. "After a decade, I finally realized my client relationships had been backwards. "The customer is always right" had been my mantra. I'd bend in every direction to make clients happy, often against my better judgment. What I'd failed to understand is that a good client (which most are or have the potential to be), doesn’t want to call the shots, they want to be led. Our contract is evidence of their trust in my expertise. I let go of the notion of pleasing the client in favor of serving the client; both my outlook and business changed for the better."

 8. Have Fun

"If I'm not the person in the room having the most fun, I'm not doing it right" said Cheryl Taylor Bowie of Right Angle Advertising in Laffayette. "I learned the value and importance of having fun at work, especially when meeting with clients. When I claim ownership for bringing excitement to the client's experience and they see that I'm having fun too - it's infectious. The energy gets lighter, the client is more open and I am able to relax and serve the client best. So if I'm sitting in a meeting and it's NOT fun, it's up to me to change that, to energize the room."

 9. Stay Reality-Based

"I learned to manage expectations" said Lisa Mullis of Blue Marble Creative. "In hindsight, any of our projects that had less than ideal outcomes were a result of us not setting expectations in the beginning or not readjusting those throughout the course of the project. In all cases we had expectations, and our clients had expectations, but the times when those expectations morphed into assumptions were the times when things got derailed. I learned to manage the expectations and create more agreements with our clients so we can always be on the same page."

10. Create a Community

"I don't have to do this alone" said Gretchen Schisla of Enrich Creative in Saint Louis. "I stepped our of my 'safe' world and joined Peleg's mastermind group that created deep relationships with other creative business owners from around the country. I learned that we are all vulnerable and that we all face the same challenges every day. The power, brilliance and problem solving support I received from others was astounding. I learned that when I open myself to others I get much more in return.”

 11. Count Your Blessings

"I learned not to take anything for granted" said Ed Gandia in Atlanta. "I started daily gratitude practice and noticed that I'm no longer taking people or things for granted. Even little things that before seemed insignificant now feel more special. This new mindset is helping me attract better things into my life, including new, higher-quality clients. Within days of starting this practice, I became much more aware of all the blessings in my life — not just in the morning, but throughout the day as well. This has certainly changed the way I show up in the world, and it has helped me approach the day with a higher sense of joy and purpose.

 12. Take a Break

"It's ok to take time off" said Karen Simon of Simon Does in New York. "Last year I took a two month sabbatical from my design/strategy business. I was afraid to tell my clients I would be unavailable for two months, but I took a deep breath and took the step, taking the chance that my clients would seek out other firms in my absence. Operating out of my truth, knowing what I needed to do to nurture my creative soul, was a step in the right direction. I lost no business, and my clients, all of whom I shared the experience with, were supportive and ultimately benefited from my restorative experience.

Wishing you all a creative, fearless and abundant 2013. 

See you in the spring. 

From passion to profits

At the last HOW Design Conference I presented a half day marketing workshop titled "From Passion to Profits". Attended this workshop was David Michael Moore, a brilliant illustrator who captured the content and essence of the workshop in a beautiful illustrated poster.