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Yvonne
Professional blogger and consultant. I work with companies interested in learning how to use social media tools more effectively.
Interests: daydreaming. in daydreams, one can soar into the clouds and feel the shimmering warmth of the sun, no matter how dark the world below may seem.
Recent Activity
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by Yvonne DiVita "I'm just funning ya," the kid in the commercial says, to a famous football star. This after challenging him with ways he, the kid, is going to become even more famous and also become the football star's mother's favorite... "I'm just funning ya," the kid finally says with a lopsided grin. The football star smiles and nods, cause it's all in fun, don't you know? "Or am I?' the little kid ends. Or am I? The question isn't meant to be answered. The answer is... maybe, maybe not. The kid is yanking the football player's shorts, no doubt, but inherent in the teasing is the question of... what if? What if this scrawny kid is right? What then? Is there a big What if? in your life? "Someday I'm going to take over this company," the lowly secretary tells the other women in her office. "I am. I'm going to be CEO." If she turns on her heels, grabs her purse and rushes out to the parking lot to make sure she's not late for class...at the local college, she might be serious. If she returns to her desk and knocks over her tea, then spends the next half hour cleaning it up, she's probably not serious. Here are 5 Ways to Play this game, and BE serious about it... because it involves not only dreaming of success, but planning for success... what if you did that? 1. Choose a purpose to 'what if'... maybe it's completion of your next proposal... "What if I finish this today and send it early and Mr. XYZ loves it so much he approves it tomorrow and the boss is so impressed I get a bonus!" >>> What if, indeed. What if you just finish it, deliver it early, and congratulate yourself for a job well done. The rest of it will take care of itself. 2. Involve another person in your 'what if'... collaboration is a powerful tool to get things done. Often, the collaboration of two people accomplishes more than twice as much, it can accomplish 10x as much... if you're serious. The element of idea exchange in collaboration is only second to the purpose you have in accomplishing this goal together. >>>"What if we do this... or that... or, wait, what if we DO THIS..." Can you hear the hope and excitement? I can. 3. Be realistic in your 'what if'... reality is flexible however. It is what you make it. Just don't begin imagining your Oscar acceptance speech if this is your first go-round at acting or performing. >>>Instead, imagine the applause and the satisfaction of completing your performance. Save the dreams of an Oscar for next time...for when you're better prepared. 4. Think big when you 'what if'... in a complete turnaround of #3, do imagine that Oscar speech. Just don't wrap your whole world up in it. Embrace the hard work you need to do to make it happen and say, >>>"What if I blow this role open and a critic writes about my acting and I get a role in Tom Hank's new movie..." And be humble enough to know that isn't likely to happen, but... hey, it could. 5. Stop the 'what if's' and move on... understand that your 'what if' game is just that, a diversion to whatever it is you should be doing, a game you play to pass time, a way to avoid what you should be doing...and move on. >>>Shake off the what ifs for a bit and move forward in your life, letting a little bit of the hope an dream of your what if world settle on your mind. It can help inspire you, if you let it. But, it can overwhelm you, also, if you let it. What if you decided to build success one moment at a time, weaving in some shining moments of accomplishment and joy, understanding that the threads of gold from those shining moments are important in showcasing your life's tapestry...but that the tapestry is really built on performance and dedication. What if, like the folks in the video below, you made a commitment... to perform, regardless of anything else? Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Lip-Sticking
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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess Okay, I admit, I try to think and be positive. There are days when I figure if I just fake it, it will happen, right? Blah. Somedays I just want to be negative. I just want to wallow in a bit of self pity, drown my sorrows in a bowl of ice cream and wear sweats all day. Is that wrong? I don't think so. If your bad mood persists, then it might be time to seek professional help, but for Pete's sake, there are times when you can just be in a bad mood! Since my cancer diagnosis I have really tried to embrace life, stop and actually smell the flowers, give in to my poodle's "demands" for attention, and be present regardless of whether I am involved in something fun or in something I just want to be over. (And yes, I am thinking of it today as I write this post because two years ago today I received the, "You have breast cancer" words from the doctor) Chances are you’ve heard the clichés asking whether your glass is half full or half empty, or those telling you that every cloud has a silver lining or my all time personal favorite (note: high sarcasm) what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Who wants to go through something so crappy that while you’re not dead you’re somehow stronger? Did going through cancer make me stronger? Who knows. I do know that I made it through all of the crud associate with it and am still here to talk about it. Does it press in the back of my head on an almost daily basis that it could come back? You bet it does. Is my glass half full or half empty? What’s my silver lining? If I had a silver lining it would have been to not have gotten cancer in the first place, right? Anyway, here are some of the reasons that being an eternal optimist may not always be the best thing for us or our mental health: Turning every sow’s ear into a silk purse is exhausting. You’re allowed to give into not being optimistic. You don’t have to prop up everyone around you and be the PollyAnna of the group. If you’re always on a “good mood” high how will you ever celebrate even better moods? I heard somewhere that if you’re always optimistic and always looking on the bright side, how will you learn and grow and change? If you’re eternally optimistic you may think there is no reason to grow or change. Physiologically speaking our bodies and minds are already hardwired to think positively. Our body helps us deal with the hard knocks of life we are sometimes dealt. When you add an overly optimistic mindset into your already hardwired body, you’re going into overdrive. Let your body and mind help you with your good attitude. Focusing all of your thoughts and intentions on always being positive will distract you from your life. You need to be able to assess life’s situations and pitfalls with an open mind. You need to learn to manage the unhappy times and embrace the battles won. As women and as business owners, we sometimes feel it's our responsibility to make sure everything goes along swimmingly, that there are no kinks in the works, and that everyone is happy. I think, though, that we just need to be strong enough to admit, "Hey, I'm in a bad mood." Don't you? Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Lip-Sticking
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by Yvonne DiVita It's not enough to 'want' to succeed. It's not enough to pour money into your passion. It's not enough to pay for an ad in your local yellow pages, or online, or in Facebook. You need purpose. The desire to make a lot of money is not purpose. The desire to be successful in a career is not purpose. The satisfaction of a job well done is not purpose. Not so long ago, I was part of a CEO group in my hometown of Rochester, NY. The group met monthly. We had a faciliator, who I have written about many times (thank you, Bruce), and who continues to guide me in my business endeavors. We also had guest speakers. "You must be willing to support something bigger than you," our guest speakers said, one and all. They may not have said it just that way, but as we 8 - 10 people sitting around a boardroom table would learn, to build a business and make a success of it, there must be a purpose bigger than... money, passion, even people. Without that purpose... you may build your bank account and create buzz and make a good go of it, but, you will limp along wondering what's next, and slip into ordinary, over time. Purpose does involve passion. I have a passion for the human-animal bond and for working with women. The passion for working with women led me to creating this blog. I still had the passion for animals and how they impact our lives, but I didn't act on that. I concentrated on Lipsticking and the women who were part of it. I was happy. But, I wasn't making any money. I wasn't achieving anything remarkable. It wasn't until I met Caroline Golon, and she and Tom and I decided to do something for pet bloggers, that my passion became a purpose. I could still work with women - it turns out the majority of pet bloggers are women - and now I could make a living, and give back, too. When we founded BlogPaws, our growing pet community that hosts a yearly social media marketing conference, we did it to help other pet bloggers and to support shelters and rescues everywhere. It played so well into my passion to serve humanity by showing the importance of animals in our lives, as well as my desire to work with women, and also my deep, deep commitment to writing. To date, BlogPaws has held 5 conferences, with our 6th on the horizon in May. We've donated over $60,000 dollars in cash, goods, and support to shelters and rescues across the world. We've build a network of bloggers who can make money working with us and the brands who are eager to engage with pet bloggers. Where is my purpose - the bigger than me purpose - in all of this? How can I become remarkable, rather than ordinary? It's not like there aren't other places for bloggers to go, to engage with brands and make money. Or, for that matter, other conferences for them to attend, to learn social media skills. It's not like the women who are part of BlogPaws can't do it without me - indeed, they can. Here's where the purpose comes in - those other blog networks? They want bloggers. They're not that interested in the person who blogs, just the blogs. I try to get to know my bloggers. I have a smart, talented team that shares my purpose - to advance the human-animal bond initiative - and they work hard to build relationships with our bloggers. What about those other conferences? Why should pet bloggers come to BlogPaws? They can learn writing skills, photography, video, SEO, and more... at those other conferences, as easily as they can at ours. They won't likely meet many of the pet brands (folks who are selective in both their conference support and their work with bloggers), but they'll come away with great resources in education, no dobut. At our conference - you get to bring your pet. That's key. We are pet bloggers and our devotion to our pets is apparent in everything we do. To invite pet bloggers to spend a weekend in study about pet blogging, and ask them to leave their beloved pets at home, just didn't seem right to me and Caroline and Tom. Plus... at BlogPaws, you have a weekend of learning, networking, fun...and a chance to be part of something bigger... because we give away big checks (like the lottery) to selected shelters and rescues. We do not exist to merely be pet bloggers - we exist to be part of a purpose: promoting the good animals do, the value they bring to human beings, and the unconditional love they give us, each and every day. My purpose in being the leader of BlogPaws is to make the world a little bit better by sharing the wonder of the animal kingdom with people who would otherwise dismiss it. It keeps me focused. I spent many years finding this purpose, working towards it without even knowing it, ever looking for ways I could improve the world tomorrow, with work I was doing today, not quite sure what that meant, not quite sure where that was... finally grabbing this 'idea' of BlogPaws and running with it, never looking back. If you're struggling with purpose in your life and business, stop and think... pause a bit and take time to evaluate. Involve others who are having the same struggle. Work together - at BlogPaws, we embraced this quote from Margaret Mead, and we continue to believe in it: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead I am closing today with a comment from my PR Manager, Carol Bryant, whose purpose in life mirrors my own. At our recent Team Summit, she remarked, "We write the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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by Yvonne DiVita Saturdays are great for nostalgia. Here I am, watching the sun reappear through gray clouds, warming the day considerably. Spring is arriving in Colorado, at last. I crave the sunshine. It reminds me of why I came to Colorado. Why I love living close to Denver and Boulder. Yes, family brought me here, but the sunshine keeps me here. It brings such joy and such memory with it. I rejoice in turning off the lights. I get giddy at the prospect of going in the small backyard to... clean up after the dogs, and not have to wade through snow. I embrace the spring season with open abandon. Spring is also when Art as Action, a local artistic group of talented performers, launches for the season. This year, 2014, they will be holding their fund-raiser in one week, and I, for one, am marking off the days. April 4th is just around the corner, so if you're local to Denver | Boulder, you need to find a way to be at this event, yes, I mean it! Though I have not made as many local friends as I would like, and as I will...in time, I still reach out every spring and nudge the friends I do have to partake in the excitement of joining other fans of Art as Action in support of the group as it grows. I wonder, when many of them do not respond, how they can resist. I wonder if I'm just not conveying the power of this small but talented band of performers, in a manner that is enticing enough. I wonder if they even take time to consider not just the value of attending our launch party, but the power of being in a room FULL of artists of one sort or another. Isn't mingling with real people who offer performance art -unique and original to the core - better than... another Hollywood movie? Better than a night 'on the town' that will get expensive and be forgotten come morning? Better than snoozing in front of the boob-tube, drooling into your pillow? Attending a fund-riaser like the Art as Action 2014 launch party is money well spent. For only $10 -20 as a donation, you can have the best human experience there is... being with people who care about other people. There will be food and drink, a whole lotta talented people (and if you're a would-be performer, you should want to be there to learn more and consider being included next year)... and music, performing, laughter, good conversation, and an opportunity to be part of something bigger than you. Isn't that what we all want? To be part of something bigger than us? To contribute to the world in a meaningful way? We all go about our daily lives, work, work, home, home, clean, clean, shop, shop, waste time on TV, etc... and crave that one 'thing' that will remind us why we do it. We do it because we're human and in all of those actions, we believe we're making a difference... to ourselves and our family, if to no one else. Isn't it time to extend that...to actually achieve the "bigger than you" thing our lives are all about? Yes. It's time. You can attend the ballet... ok, that's appreciation of art, at some level, I guess. You can go to the movies and lose yourself in fantasy for a few minutes, then chat about it afterwards, knowing deep inside that your chatter means nothing. Or, you can come to the Art as Action 2014 launch and leave feeling more ALIVE than you ever have before! Alive and excited. Alive and happy. Alive and full of spirit...because you're part of something bigger than yourself. AND...you get to meet an innovative, absurdly talented woman named Sarah Leversee, the founder and director of Art as Action, and learn for yourself why I am so besotted! (yes, my daughter, Chloe, performs also...but, she's a small part of why I love this... I love it because being an 'artivist' is as important to me as breathing...) I'll be sharing this around my social media channels, hoping my local friends show up at the launch party. But, I also hope my not-so-local friends might consider supporting this amazing group of people. On my say so. Because supporting real art, live art, people who put their hearts and souls into their 'work', is a good thing. No matter who you are or where you live. Twenty dollars, folks. It's less than you'd spend on a dinner out, Friday night. Art as Action exists to be a positive influence on the human condition... At least, like their Facebook page. Join us in celebrating both/and... both to learn more about us, and to learn more about yourself. You might just be surprised by what you learn... about the both/and that is real life. "Truth is, Boulder's scene is one of the most interesting in the country. When you've got everything from circus acts to a bassoon quartet to a samba dance troupe in your city, ordinary can live up to all that hype." Art as Action is very excited to present ourboth/and SEASON LAUNCH PARTY: A Fundraising Event as a part of Boulder Arts Week. Every week in Boulder is an Arts Week - we are excited to call the community's attention to it! Thank you. For reading this, for liking their Facebook page, for thinking about attending or donating. Thank you ... for letting me share. Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit Visa Facebook Small Biz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business. When I started Lipsticking, back in 2004, I was part of a growing network of smart women intent on making their own way in this world of emerging technology. The purpose of this blog was to show how powerful women were on the net, and how to market to them. We knew the regular route of the day to day grind in someone else’s office wasn’t for us. As I grew my business, I discovered something interesting: women were not being offered the same chances to succeed that men were being offered. I learned from other women that banks sometimes laughed at them – without even considering the loan papers they’d painstakingly filled out. I learned that many prospective clients were wary of a woman-owned business. Especially a ‘new’ one, supporting a product or service that was an unknown, like blogging. I heard from other women, and experienced this myself…impertinent questions that make your eyes cross! “What can a woman possible know about <that>?” Or, “How do I know you’ll deliver?” As if being a woman makes you more undependable than a man. It was disheartening, to say the least. While I knew that many people were stuck in that old 20th century thinking of women being in the home with the kids, the cleaning, and the cooking, I also knew I could help change things for the better, for myself and other women. So, I did. I started this blog. Women-owned businesses aren’t new. Let’s state that right up front. I wrote about some of the early women’s businesses back in my early posts, on Lipsticking. The statistics show that women owned businesses are thriving and successful, and on the rise. And still, we’re challenged with proving ourselves. If you’re a new woman-owned business, you’re likely facing some of the same roadblocks and challenges that I, and my contemporaries in 2004, faced. We’re here to say: shoulder on! Embrace the hard work! Get creative! If you’re stuck in despair, there is help. Here are some thoughts on being successful in 2014: Build a network of business mentors. Understanding the business environment was a prime challenge in my early days. I struggled with the vernacular, meetings made me uncomfortable, and the very nature of having to be here, there, and everywhere, in order to represent my business across the board, was frustrating. I became selective in finding mentors. I attended chamber meetings and other networking groups, and made friends with some smart, talented folks. When things were confusing and tough, I leaned on them to guide me on the right path. Manage your time. Joining a business networking group, or a local women’s business organization, is helpful. Just remember to manage your time. Never miss a meeting. Become a mentor yourself. You learn as much by being a mentor, as you do by having a mentor. Build continuing education into your yearly business plan. Understand what’s expected of you. Nothing will stop your business in its tracks faster than not doing your homework. Whether you’re talking to a new prospective client, another business to partner with, or a bank, the goal is to ask questions until you’re aware of what needs to happen next. If you are planning to apply for a business loan, meet with the loan office first and ask questions. Find out exactly what you need to show, to gain the bank’s trust. And, if you’re not yet ready, get ready. The bank officer can be your best friend if you learn to listen well and ask questions. Women are often their own worst enemy. We expect to be dismissed. We worry that we’re not good enough. We shy away from challenges. The biggest lesson I can teach you, today, is that… none of what you’re going through is unique to you, as a woman. Yes, we may be on the receiving end of a misinformed society intent on pigeonholing us into a preconceived notion of woman as homemaker, but that should never hold us back! Embrace your passion. Rise each morning with high expectation. In moments of distress, channel the great Katharine Hepburn, who said, “I never realized until lately that women were supposed to be the inferior sex.” Here's a VISA infographic that will shock and surprise you, in a good way, I hope! Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Guest Post by Kelly Lucia Many small business owners and entrepreneurs use market research to learn more about their target audience. They use this same research to find out how their products or services relate to their customers, and they educate themselves on the best ways to increase sales within that same target market. This is standard procedure within the business and marketing world. But what if you wanted to take it a step further? Truly visionary business owners grow their businesses successfully by understanding more about their customers than their competitors do, and using those insights to their advantage. To understand as much as you possibly can about your current customers and your target audience, you’ll need to become a cultural anthropologist of sorts. Does that mean you should dress up like Jane Goodall? Well, no. But you’re certainly on to something. What you CAN do is look for ways to dive right in and examine the nature of your target market up close and personal: how they behave and react, plus what they really, REALLY want in general, and more specifically, what they want from your business. Observation is Key When we study a certain species of animal, how do we know how they behave? We watch them. And we watch them closely. We don’t just observe them a few times and expect to determine behavioral patterns with any validity. We watch them for several days, months, or even years at a time. We compare notes from one week to the next, identify patterns, and make hypotheses about their behavior. Using cultural anthropology to grow your business works in much the same way. But it’s less about what you’re studying, and more about how you study it. Anyone can make generalized observations about their target market, but it takes a savvy business professional to really delve into the unique behavior of their target audience—especially without preconceived bias. One way to successfully dive into those observations is to immerse yourself in your target market’s culture. Meaning: put yourself in their shoes. LITERALLY. Whether it’s going undercover and listening in on common conversations, or joining groups to which your target market belongs, you’ll want to become an intrinsic part of the culture to truly get an idea of how your potential customers think...and what they want. Compare and Track Distinctions Sometimes, small business owners need to go with their gut instincts. More often, it’s smarter to do your homework and make a decision based on facts. To grow your business through observation, you’ve got to record what you see, compare new observations to what you already know or believe, and move forward with those comparisons in mind. How do you record all of your various in-depth observations? Well, you’ll need a really goodsmall business CRM to help you track findings every step of the way with easy-to-use notes and comments. Your “findings” may include anything from conversations to interviews to emails to online research. You’ll need a place to keep all of that info handy and organized; a program to help you analyze your observations, as well as track and record your results. A truly versatile CRM will do all that, and help you be a cultural anthropologist for your business every step of the way. Features to look for include the ability to link items together to indicate dynamic relationships, ways to cross-reference large findings, and tags, which are a simple way to organize your findings so they make sense to you. Analyze Your Results Once you’ve made your observations, tracked them, recorded them, and started your analysis of the results, you can begin to understand what your target market truly wants, needs and desires. Only once you’ve started to understand what your target market secretly wants and desires will you be able to take advantage of those insights to grow your business. For example, if you thinkwomen entrepreneurs are your most significant target market, you’ll need to effectively understand what makes them tick, what’s missing from their lives, and what could make their lives easier. And THAT’S where your company’s products or services come in. Suppose you hypothesize that women in general want more responsibility and are ready to pursue entrepreneurial activities, but need an outside boost of some sort. If you can position your product or service as a solution to help women get on their feet and start a small business, then you’ve just figured out exactly how to approach your target market. If the in-depth analysis of your results supports your hypothesis, then you’ve successfully discovered where your business fits in the mix of your target market. Congratulations! You’ll still need to work on the pitch (or lack thereof, depending on your marketing strategy), but you’re off to a great start in growing your business successfully, based on your very own cultural research. Kelly Lucia is the Lead Staff Writer at PostsbyGhost.com. A ghostwriting service that provides businesses with the opportunity to build their online presence and grow their companies, Posts by Ghost offers strategic blogging, content marketing and SEO assistance to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Kelly hit the ground running as a web copywriter several years ago and hasn’t stopped since. Over the last few years she’s developed a vast range of knowledge within the realm of content writing, and she prides herself on being able to write clear and unique content for an immense variety of industries, from overseas blogs about raffle tickets to small business and marketing advice on ChamberofCommerce.com. Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Up a bit early on a Saturday. Awakened by a cold, wet nose nudging my foot. That will teach me to poke my foot out from under the covers! Apparently, our Emily wasn't feeling well, as evidenced by the early morning gift she left me on the upstairs landing and down three stairsteps. She was properly appalled and sorry - you can tell that by the sorry look on her face, don't let anyone tell you dogs don't know when they've been 'bad'. I reassured her she wasn't bad, she was just sick. Luckily, not very sick... whatever upset her tummy did not interfere with her climbing back into her little bed, curling into a ball, and going right back to sleep. How kind of her to raise me out of my half-awake state, I thought, to let me know the mess was there, allowing me to clean it up before it congealed into ... something even more unpleasant. And, to see Chester, our other hound dog, come strolling into the dining room where he proceeded to pee on the floor. I rushed him out, and he was followed by our little girl Olive, who was kind enough to wait until she in the backyard to do her business. Thus started my morning, at 5 a.m. on a Saturday. What has all of this to do with strategic thinking? A great deal. Here I am, wide awake, with no where to go. The house is cold and quiet. Morning is not yet peeking over the housetops. The darkness offers a measure of comfort I find inviting. It invites me to use this time wisely. To be thoughtful and strategic... it's time I would not have, were it not for my precious pups. Without the hustle and bustle of day to day activity, I'm free to think strategically about my business and my life. I'm able to put aside other tasks that need doing - they can wait until full morn. I'm free to embrace the opportunity. Here I am writing a blog post, while in the far reaches of my brain, I'm thinking about other things... I'm thinking about my niece who passed recently. The trauma was hurtful in so many ways, as cancer always is, but she endured in peace and beauty. She left us a legacy of warmth and love, and the knowledge that our purpose in life is not to work, work, work...it's to enjoy family and share love with others. I'm thinking about my company, BlogPaws, and how far we've come in five short years. I worked with one of our bloggers this week to help her understand her blog and its purpose - when some others were being unkind and leaving comments that were cruel and unnecessary, as she sought to find a sponsor to attend the BlogPaws conference. I helped her understand that trolls are a small part of her readership, and the better part of those who read her and love her, would be so disappointed if she threw in the towel... And, she is back blogging today. Strong and full of energy. I'm thinking about my Mom, who celebrated her birthday yesterday. She's 83 years young. She lives in Upstate NY with my sister (mother of the niece who passed), and has her moments of despair, when she feels a bit left out, what with everyone coming and going to quickly... a kiss on the cheek, a dropped of loaf of banana bread, a shout from the kitchen, "Hey Grandma, can't stay, see you later. Love you!" With a family of dozens in the area, she is seldom alone, but those moments she is, seem longer and sadder to her these days. Those of us 'away' call but... it's not the same, is it? This is not what she expected, in her golden years, I think. Because, sadly, her husband, my Dad, is in a veterans home, lost in the emptiness that is Alzheimers. Strategic thinking. About life and business. They are two sides of the same coin. My goal is to balance them carefully, and not let one or the other dominate. I know, family should always come first...and they do. But, food and shelter are nice things to have...and they are dependent on business...so, family also is dependent on business. After all, it's my business that pads my bank account and will allow me to go home this summer for a wedding and the birth of my third grandchild. In this calm morning, where I feel the comfort of my home surrounding my shoulders as a blanket, where I hear the soft breathing of my pets (who are my children these days), where the day is just beginning, and carries much promise with it, I welcome the time to write, muse on what's old and what's new, and be thankful for my place in the world. Strategically, I am better able to prepare for the next week or month or year, in these few moments before light and sound and all the trappings of modern life intrude. Mom in the middle. Younger sister and her daughter, as book ends. Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Me and Tom at last year's BlogPaws I was thinking over the weekend about my Friday Musings - those posts I used to do every Friday. I tried to be regular about them, and I failed. Does that ever happen to you? Do you plan to excute a schedule or campaign, and everything starts off swimmingly...then, it goes straight to...you know where? It's not because we don't have passion for the things we do. It's not because we aren't committed to our goals. It's not because we underestimate the importance of our tasks. It's because... life gets in the way. As my pet community grows (we're heading to 3500 registered members any day now!) and our yearly conference looms (May 8-10th just outside of Las Vegas), I find myself chained to my computer day after day. I attend meetings (necessary evil that they are); I write content; I answer emails; I mentor my team; I get mentored by great folks at Pet360; I talk to brands and our sales team... and all sorts of other things that go into running a community of passionate pet parents who look to BlogPaws for advice and education. That leaves little time for original content on this blog. Is the answer in time management? I could tap into my BFF, Maryanne Shew, who is amazing with her skills at time management and business coaching. Or, I could get up an hour earlier every day, and spend that time writing. Perhaps I could turn the TV off at night, and write a few blog posts, rather than laugh along with the many comedies I enjoy. I don't have the answer. What I do know is that I love Lipsticking and I love musing on life with my ladies. Life is complicated all around, from what I see. We're all stretched to our limits. We make plans to ... walk the dogs, and the dogs don't get walked. We plan to have dinner with family, and family starts without us. We plan to answer imporant emails (not about work) and... they disappear into a black hole because Windows does an update. Sigh. I'm giving this some serious thought over the next few weeks. Lipsticking is too important to me. I can't continue neglecting it, as I have been. You can help. Write a comment and tell me what's missing. Tell me what you'd like to see. Give me a hint on the kinds of content I should be producing and the kinds of content the other writers should be producing. It's a small favor and I would so appreciate it if you could share just that little bit, here, in the comments. Enjoy your week. More to come on this topic. I hope the image below will inspire me... and you. Yvonne Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess Rumor has it that spring will soon be arriving in Western New York. Honestly, I will not believe it until I feel it. Right now my yard is still covered in close to a foot of snow even with the "warm weather" we've been having -- I guess that 33 degrees is warmer than 6 degrees, but it's all relative. When I think of spring cleaning I think of the hours we spent, as children, with my parents on a whole-house overhaul. We cleaned from the attic to the cellar and every room in between. Once that was done and the winter curtains gave way to the summer curtains we were recruited to help clean up the ravages of winter from the back yard. These days I am focusing on spring cleaning myself -- I will get to the house eventually, I promise. What does self-spring-cleaning mean? Here are a few of my thoughts: What friends do you have in your life that are simply taking more energy from you than giving anything back to you? You may need to move away from energy zappers. What projects are you procrastinating about? Did you know it takes more mental energy to not do a project than to just do it? It's true. If the project is daunting though, break it into bite sized pieces and tackle it 15 minutes at a time. Anyone can do any task, however unpleasant, for 15 minutes at a time. What long held beliefs do you need to get rid of so that you can spring forward? "If I lose XYZ number of pounds I'll be happier," "If only I had a new job everything would be great." Those thoughts are self defeating, especially if you're not going to make progress toward change. Rather than saying you need to lose XYZ pounds, maybe you can say, "I want to get more daily exercise so I will walk the dog for 30 minutes on my lunch and I will have a healthy breakfast rather than a donut." That is an actionable goal that is easily measured for success. Take time to do a physical spring cleaning of your closet. If you're like me, you hang onto clothes that you either wore in your "skinny" years or your "fat" years. If you can't remember when you last wore them, chances are you will never wear them again. They could be a constant reminder of your "failures." Clean 'em out. Just as you may need to walk away from certain friends and family that you see on a regular basis, so too may you need to clear out the clutter on your social media platforms. Do you have social media "friends" who are always bringing the drama or who vague-book items (you know ... a post like, "if I have to deal with this type of thing again I will jump off a bridge") The status doesn't say what they are dealing with because they are being intentionally vague so people will jump in and say "OMG are you all right?" Drama is for the theater. What can you do to spring clean your life? I'd love to hear about it. Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Guest post by Ryan Currie Being a woman in business is hard enough without having to navigate the murky waters of social media. But in today’s increasingly-digital age it’s not sufficient just to own a business and smile your way through trade shows, you have to be involved and invested in social media! For women, this can be trickier than it seems for a variety of reasons. Here are a few social networking tips for female entrepreneurs to keep your business growing and your reputation stellar. Develop a Distinct Online Presence Too many women are tempted to roll their entrepreneurial venture (think: real estate or custom-made furniture) into their existing social media accounts. If your business has any hope of growing and standing on its own two feet you’ve got to start by setting up totally separate profiles on all the social sites you hope to use. Your message will stay more focused and your business will be taken more seriously. Use the Network You’ve Already Built Statistics say that over 78% of all women use social networking sites (compared to only 69% for men) which means women are at a unique advantage for milking their online network. Women are also responsible for about 62% of all online “sharing” that takes place so if you’re an entrepreneur, reach out to this demographic and let them spread the word for you. It’s smart to cross-promote your brand, occasionally posting about business on your personal pages while regularly updating your business profiles too. Don’t Get too Personal For women more-so than men it’s sometimes hard to separate business life from home life. This is particularly true for entrepreneurs who work out of their homes or consider their business secondary to raising their family. Often this translates to overly-personal, sometimes emotional posts on social media about subjects that just aren’t professional. The key is finding a happy balance between being relatable and upfront about your identity as a female entrepreneur and avoiding baby-picture overload. Get on Pinterest Immediately If there is one social site particularly suited for female businesswomen it’s Pinterest. Skewing over 70% female, Pinterest is an excellent source of referral traffic and is actually pretty supportive of female-owned businesses. If your business involves something that can be photographed, something that can be broken down into a tutorial, or something that’s food-related you’re golden when it comes to Pinetrest-worthy subject matter. Ask for Support Men do it all the time but women, for whatever reason, have a hard time “selling” their social connections. It’s important to be upfront about what you want to gain from social: do you want to talk directly to customers? Get more business? Change people’s perception about your industry? There’s enough clutter online that it’s crucial you’re specific about how you want people to interact with you and that you follow up and introduce yourself, even when it feels uncomfortable. Social is a terrific avenue for women to “sell” themselves if they’d only get past the stigma. Social media was practically created to serve women’s interests and needs and it’s truly changing the way small businesses work. If you’re a female entrepreneur and you’re not sure how to go about planning a social media strategy, keep these tips in mind. You’ll be surprised how quickly your business can gain traction online! About the author: Ryan Currie is a product manager at BizShark.com, with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development. In addition to web related businesses, he also enjoys the latest news and information on emerging technologies and open source projects. Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Guest post by Kelly Gregorio As an entrepreneur you’re constantly on the lookout for ways to get ahead. Investments, growth and productivity are keys to your business’s overall success. Unfortunately when it comes to securing additional working capital, the traditional avenues seem to put up roadblocks for the small business community (with demands like perfect credit and upfront collateral). However, there are alternatives. Some, in fact, that were designed with the small business owner in mind; for example, the merchant cash advance. Just as in life and in business, a preliminary education is the best way to guide your decisions. Read on to discover three options that will enhance your understanding of the flexible funding that’s ready to serve your working capital needs. Option 1: Spending Applying for a merchant cash advance means that you’re looking for funds anywhere between $5,000-500,000 and with funding in your account as fast as seven business days, speed is on your side. Unlike a traditional lending situation, say for example, grant funding (which would require you to budget out exactly how you plan to spend the funds) the merchant cash advance gives recipients the freedom to spend funds however they choose. This is because this type of alternative lending is not considered a loan, more of a business transaction. At a discounted rate, lenders make an advance purchase of your future sales and award you with a lump sum of cash. However, despite the funding freedom, strong investment recommendations cannot be stressed enough. Savvy entrepreneurs look at the merchant cash advance as an investment of money that should in turn, make them more money. Putting the funds directly back into one’s business is the ideal situation. Examples include inventory and equipment purchases, hiring new employees, making renovations or implementing a solid marketing campaign. With that being said, those who are looking to bail out an already sinking ship would be advised to look further. Option 2: Repayment Remembering to circle calendars and mail monthly checks are not required with this type of short-term lending. Instead automatic payments are made out of your daily batches (and are based on an already-agreed upon percentage). The repayment process of the MCA was designed with small business owners in mind; meaning, it works with the flow of your business. If you have a slower month, your payback for that month will be smaller. However, if business is booming, then your advance will be fulfilled that much quicker. While funding is available year-round, an ideal situation for small business owners would be to take out a merchant cash advance on the upswing of their busy seasons, thus speeding up their repayment process (which typically is fulfilled within six to eight months). Option 3: Guidance In the face of a tough economy and even tougher lending environment, the simple and seamless process of the MCA has increased in popularity, especially in recent years. Unfortunately as a result, many bandwagon lenders have been popping up. It’s wise to seek out a lender who has been in this business for a substantial number of years and who preferably has direct lending experience with your specific industry. It’s important to only work with lenders who put your business’s best interest first. Lenders who encourage you take more than you really need are running the risk of putting your business under undue pressure. Instead, only entertain patient and understanding lenders who are more than willing to guide you through any and all questions you may have. Finally, be sure to do your homework when considering the perfect MCA lender for you, and check up on reputations with reputable sources like the BBB. What do you know about alternative funding for small businesses? Share your input and insight with us! About the author: Kelly Gregorio writes about small business topics while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a provider of merchant cash advances. You can read her daily business blog here. Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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It can be easy as business women to get caught up in all the things we perceive as unfair in the workplace. While ten percent of Fortune 500 companies employ zero women on their boards and we haven’t seen an increase of female CEOs over the past few years, we still have a lot to celebrate too. It’s no secret that women make a great contribution to the workforce. Motherhood teaches many valuable lessons that can be implemented in the workplace and our unique multi-tasking abilities are certainly an asset. Whether discussing equal pay, policies or empowerment, there is certainly some positive dialogue. Focusing on what needs to be accomplished will encourage progress, but celebrating how far we have come while looking forward has the dual effect of pushing for further advancement and inspiring others. Here are three landmarks to celebrate in women’s strides towards workplace equity: 1963. President Kennedy signed the equal pay act aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on employee gender. This was a time when women earned around 59 cents to every dollar compared to their male counterpart. While the battle to narrow the pay gap is far from over, the Department of Labor does continue to keep tabs on the amount earned by women every June on National Equal Pay Day (it’s about 20 cents higher today). 1971. Phillips versus Martin Marietta Corp. sees a courtroom. Ida Phillips found herself in a situation where she was unable to get a job at The Martine Marietta Corporation due to their formal policy about hiring women with young children as they were assumed to be unreliable – while men were hired and promoted with children the same age. This case made great improvements for women when it ruled that an employer may not refuse to hire women with preschool age children while hiring men with children of the same age. While discrimination does occur all too often, the legal outlook for working mothers has greatly improved as a result of this case. 2009. President Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. The act restores protection for equal pay for women, minorities, and other groups that are victims of marginalization. Too often, employers hide their discrimination and aren’t held accountable for their actions. Lilly Ledbetter was one of many who experienced unfair pay based on her gender. The law was signed in an effort to make it easier for women and other groups dealing with discrimination to file a lawsuit based on unfair practices. The Obama administration believed that by signing the bill into law, other women and victims like Lilly Ledbetter would more effectively challenge unequal pay. Employees at all levels on the corporate ladder and both genders should be provided the ability to work hard, excel, and receive promotions. Think about Marissa Mayer – she’s a great example of how working successfully while pregnant and leading a Fortune 500 company is very possible. She stood up for what she believed in. Having the right tools won’t make you an expert, but skill will – especially when paired with hard work. While there are still battles to pick, there are many gains that have been made. Luckily, we have seen significant progress in the way women are treated in the workplace and hopefully the momentum can continue into the next generation of women workers. What positive changes have you seen in the workplace for women? Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Photo via Flickr on Creative Common Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess If you're a busy professional -- and who among us isn't? -- you may have great time and goal management skills and your to-do lists are done at day's end but let me ask you this: When is the last time you made time for yourself? This doesn't mean a five minute break from the computer screen or the telephone, although that is a great start. What I am asking is when did you last make the time to do something you truly loved and be engaged in that task to the exclusion of work or outside distractions? Chances are, you can't remember. As a breast cancer survivor, I have learned time is precious and if I don't finish those crochet projects now I may not get to them! I am still a driven solopreneuer and I complete my to-do lists on most days, but I have learned that in order to not only care for myself but to be at my best for my clients, I need to pursue activities that I love. Was it easy to get to that place where I step away from the computer and take an actual lunch or close the office door at 5 pm, eat breakfast before I open the door (it's easy to get drawn into work early when you work from home) and to not check my email on my smart phone 24/7? No it wasn't, but here are some of the benefits I've reaped and I believe you might as well: Taking time for yourself will help clear your mind. If you're involved in a big project that is mentally all consuming, taking a break will help clear the cobwebs and refresh yourself, switch gears and move onto the next project. How can you do this? Take a walk. Take a break and enjoy a chapter in a book you're reading. Pick up your craft project. Self care is crucial. Even almost two years out, I still get tired and achy in my surgery sites and odd places (like where my lymph nodes were removed). The medications I am on also tire me out. You have to listen to your body and understand if you get sick, your to-do list will never get done. Eat well. Exercise. Meditate. If you're a caregiver for aging parents as I am you also need to learn about and practice self care. Learn to let go and remember you can't control everything and every outcome. When you are diagnosed with an illness you soon learn that your schedule is of no concern to oncologists; when you're told to be at an appointment, you show up. Let loose of your controlling tendencies. Realize you can't bend everyone to your will -- hard to believe, but it's true! There is really only "so much" that you can control and you need to "Let go, and let God..." If you want to be more creative -- whether you're a blogger, a pet walker or an accountant -- you need to open yourself to more experiences and this means you need to get out of the house and mix and mingle. To be creative you need to be more than "your job." You need to be well-rounded. Take a class that is unrelated to your work. Take a class that will enhance the work you do and the services you provide. Take up a hobby; not sure what you want to do? Hop over to Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. What is truly important in your life? If you aren't certain, you need to step back and perhaps make a list. Once you've determined what's important, work toward those goals and embracing those items. What can you do to make time for, and rejuvenate, yourself? Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Creating so much content will leave your “brilliant idea” cup quite empty. Here are a few ways to find great topics for your website’s content. Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess I write frequently about conquering the overwhelm and what I am doing, and have been trying to do, since my breast cancer diagnosis. I realized I was operating on "I-must-do-it-all-all-the-time-mode" and I am not certain if my frantic, stressful lifestyle lead to my disease, but it certainly didn't help. When I was given the opportunity to review the book Say Goodbye To Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies To Stress Less, Seep More & Restore Your Passion For Life by Crystal Paine aka The Money Saving Mom, I jumped at the opportunity. I mean who doesn't want to stress less and restore her passion for life? I certainly wanted to see if any of the strategies were truly simple. I am certain you've all read boods about time management and ways to take control of your life that simply turned into more work and more stress. Some time management tips call for ridding yourself of particular tasks or duties but in reality, those tasks are part of your daily routine (ie your job) so they aren't easily tossed aside. I appreciated the way the author wove her faith into the writing and the way she used "story" to highlight the lessons in the chapters. Chapter One was: Stop Trying To Do It All and when I saw the title I assumed it was going to be a chapter I skimmed, rather than read fully and try to absorb the message. I am a driven, Type A personality and "doing it all" is in my nature. The subheading of the chapter, though, offered a Goal of: Streamline your life and cut schedule clutter so you can focus your time and energy on the things that matter most. Okay... I'm intrigued. The Strategy for getting there was: Create a personal priorities list and use it as a spring board for culling your commitments and to-do list. A "personal priorities" list? I'd never considered that nor did I have one. As I read the book I found myself agreeing out loud (I work from home so thankfully the only ones to hear my outbursts were my pets and they are well accustomed to the conversations I draw them into on a daily basis!). "Sure I can take on that project/meet that deadline/edit your book, etc." (Sadly, no one ever asks me to "bake those brownies" as the author is apparently asked to do -- my cooking skills are obviously not as highly evolved! Saying "yes" is a problem for many solopreneurs. If you say no to a project will your bank account suffer? Will you have to buy your own brownies? It's hard to not say yes and for entrepreneurs, it's sometimes feast or famine -- I understand that. The author teaches that if you have your personal priorities in place (and those priorities do and should include your work and career) you will understand what you should say "yes" to and what you should simply pass along to a trusted colleague. There is an art to saying "no." While I felt sections of the book spoke more to "mothers" than business owners, even those sections helped me gain control of my out of control household priorities and tasks. Crystal spoke about the time when she was offered an incredible opportunity to speak at a highly regarded blog conference and had to decide whether to do that or to go on the family vacation that had been planned well before the speaking gig was offered. It's a struggle I imagine many business owners are faced with -- career or family. She chose family and found that her business didn't suffer but her family thrived -- great lesson. Another lesson from the book was to take a typical day and block out how many minutes/hours you needed or wanted to spend on particular tasks. Doing this offers a way to see what you're spending your time on, what you want to be spending your time on and provides you a written road map so you can see what you need to do to get to where you want to be. I know that unless I write a to-do list for my day I will while away the hours on Facebook or Pinterest and the end of the day arrives and I have not completed any client work. Why? Because I wasn't focused on it so nothing got done. I'm sure we have all had days like that. The book also covers goal setting with tips that help you achieve them; discipline through the cultivation of daily habits (this could be a daily habit of exercise, meditation, or reading a book); managing your back account; keeping your physical house in order; what to do when you feel like a failure; and more. Even though the book helped me gain and understanding of how to gain control of my life it also offered tips on how to focus on myself and how to regain passion for things I once loved (crochet, walking with my dog, spending time with my mom) and find the time to do those things without feeling I have to sacrifice another part of my life. There were parts of the book that I will admit I skimmed -- some of the home/life struggles she went through but that could be simply because I am (a bit!) older and couldn't relate to the struggles of a young married couple just starting out. If I were in that age group though I can see its appeal. I enjoyed the book, marked up my copy by answering the questions and filling in the blanks in the various chapters. It will be on my keeper shelf and I have found myself referring back it on on multiple occasions. Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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by Megan Totka Some women want a higher position but are stalled as they worry about how to balance work, life, and family. In a Pew Research Center survey from October, 59 percent of millennial women say that being a working parent made it harder to advance in their career, compared to just 19 percent of millennial men. However, the tables are turning. Take a look at December 2013 – it was a big month in history: Mary Barra announced she will become General Motors first female chief executive officer. She’s moved up the ladder over a span of 33 years and when she starts her new position, she joins the ranks of 23 other women who head Fortune 500 companies. Barra is the first female to lead a major automaker. News like this is certainly not earth-shattering given the position of women on the executive stage but it does show that females are still making in-roads in otherwise male-dominated industries. Women are getting better at speaking up about their capabilities – and the workforce is responding in kind. Take a look at just a few of the reasons women have to be encouraged as they move up corporate ladders: Many Women Want More Responsibility This reason is a great one – many women want to climb the rungs of the company ladder. It used to be common for more men to express interest in promotions and positions of leadership because women felt the weight of obligations at home. Working mothers are actually more likely than working fathers to experience family-related career interruptions leading to fewer working hours, time off, turning down a promotion or even quitting their job. However, more women have realized that those who advance to higher positions often have greater control and are able to better address personal needs. Companies Want to Accommodate Women’s Desires There are changes going on within companies too. Together, the HR departments and leaders are realizing it is a good plan to make the work environment more conducive to women and level the playing field – and more businesses are taking action. A 2013 National Association for Female Executives report lists the top 50 companies for executive women including employers like AT&T and Target. These companies are making an effort to build a culture that identifies, encourages, and nurtures successful women. Most Employees are Indifferent about the Gender of Their Boss Most adult U.S. workers have no preference on the gender of their boss, while 35 percent prefer a male boss instead of a female boss (23 percent). However, the number of workers who prefer a female boss has risen steadily over the last 50 years from just 5 percent in 1953. Women Have an Edge on Leadership When it comes to men versus women, many women are considered better than or equal to men in many leadership qualities. Women often possess people skills that instill trust and build rapport. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey showed women scored higher in areas such as honesty and compassion too. Women have a progressive, modern way to lead employees that tends to be more collaborative and engaging than the leadership styles of men. Women frequently use positive incentives to motivate their employees and act as a teacher and motivator. Moms tend to have even more favor with their employees and have specific leadership strengths that parenting has taught them. Over half of all families have two breadwinners, which confirms the importance of women in the workforce. For women who want to climb the business ladder, stay positive. The future looks bright for you. How do you think women contribute to the American workforce? (Photo Source) Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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by Yvonne DiVita I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa's. For several years I resisted the idea of using my debit card or other plastic to pay my monthly bills. I was constantly bombarded with invitations to pay using my bank's online resources, including using cards, but I resisted, month after month. Old habits die hard – that's a fact. I was comfortable looking at my account online, but not paying bills with the options available. Checks, I surmised, were not dead and had served me well over the years. I would not abandon my paper! Enter the digital age of powerful technology designed to make our lives easier and more efficient. Enter the all-consuming needs of running a successful business and finding checks overwhelming, sometimes. Enter the need to focus on clients and contracts, not payments, with paper. Enter…using cards and online resources from my bank to pay my bills. Why did it take me so long to get efficient? Well, we're a small business. I can't always predict from week to week how much 'cash' will be in my account. I worried that using a card would too easily allow me to spend over my limit, or get caught in the "insufficient funds" merry-go-round, which comes with overdraft charges. I felt that not sitting at my desk, sometimes for an hour at a time, sometimes longer, to write checks and review my account, gave up my power to be in charge. What changed my mind? Time. I just don't have the time to sit at a desk and write check after check. I realized I was giving paper checks too much power over me! They were the ones in charge, not I! Yes, I still check my account and take time to understand my balance on a day-to-day basis, but I now know that using my cards gives me more control, not less. Since I already keep track of my account, I know what's available, and I know what my budget will bear. Using cards frees me by having the cash automatically deducted from my account. I no longer worry about overdrafts because I am always aware of what's available. Best of all, there are no checks floating around the Netherlands...waiting to clear. The account is balanced daily now. Not only do I save time and energy, which allows me to relax more, but using cards gives me better documentation. The banks are very good about allowing free downloads of your account information, and about sharing your spending habits over time. When tax time comes around, I just visit my bank online and I have an immediate view of all my business spending, all in one place – to share with my tax advisor. Each transaction is recorded by the bank, and is easily checked on, via my online account. And, one of the nicest things about not writing checks any longer is not having my fingers cramp up from signing my name over and over and over. It may seem like a small thing to appreciate, but I do all my work online, so having to 'write' a check and sign it, or just sign it after printing via my software, has become onerous. It's so nice to just tap, tap, tap my keyboard. Let's recap: how can you become more efficient in 2014? Use your cards responsibly, thoughtfully, and with purpose. You'll save a lot of trees and keep your fingers nimble for more important work - like creating new contracts for new clients. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner's success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa's small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business. Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2014 at Lip-Sticking
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by Yvonne DiVita "Create something unique. Something that can't be copied," he said. The audience leaned forward, eyes and ears intent on his words. He paced across the stage, first to the right, then to the left. He jabbed the air with his finger, as if pointing out the seriousness of his advice. He joked about his cat and laughed with the general assembly. The seminar was about succeeding in a complicated world. A world made smaller and smaller by social media. How do you get around the noise? How do you get seen and heard, a strong voice among so many others? You create something unique. Something that can't be copied. I submit that you ARE something unique, that can't be copied. Therein lies your challenge. How to tap into the essence of your being that stands above all others. Is it your humor? Tap into that. Is it your intelligence - your way of understanding what others find confusing? Embrace it. Is it your flexibility? Can you take a bad situation and turn it upsidedown, because you see the possibility beyond the error? Accept it. Things you do can be copied, but you can't be copied. You can be improved - we can all be improved. Always be in learning mode (what am I supposed to learn from this?)... always be open to suggestion and teaching. Build on the learning you gather as you move through the day to day world of your life - take each instance and see it for the endless possibility it is. See within the bubble of your life - all the gladness you create; for others. Let the worry fade away; you will endure it, we all do, but don't dwell on it. Know that you are unique among all others and your true essence cannot be copied. We watched the Matrix the other day. One scene struck me with amazement and insight. "Do not look at the spoon," the child told 'the one'... (who was sure he was not the one, by the way)... "There is no spoon. Instead, look for the truth." No spoon. No reality. No existence. There is only truth. What is your truth? The unique truth that is you? The reality that cannot be copied. Can you discern it? Can you step back, close your eyes, put your thoughts to rest, allow your ears to hear only silence, while beckoning the truth to come to you? Can you? Perhaps we do live in an alternate reality - a Matrix of our own making. Perhaps our lives exist only in imagination. Perhaps our world is only a dream. If so - shouldn't it be as wondrous and marvelous and fabulous as you want it to be? Yes. It should. It can. It is. Unique and uncopyable. It is you. Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
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by Yvonne DiVita A bit ahead of the actual New Year, I thought I'd muse a bit on things. Like - thumbs are nice to have when you're moving. Injure one and discover how difficult it is to grasp anything. Discover real pain when you reinjure it, over and over, as you go through packing and sorting and unpacking and lifting and moving and trying to get things done. Yes, moving is hard but like most experiences, good or bad, there is a beginning and an end. We are approaching the end. This may be remembered as our 'move from hell' ... which lasted practically two whole weeks, with its attendant ups and downs, but today, everything looks much brighter. Even the sun seems sunnier. The thumb still hurts but, pain is temporary. On Wednesday, following a night of quiet at our house, we'll be busy unpacking, moving furniture here and there, settling into our new house, along with the dogs and the cat, and because I will not likely be online much, I thought I'd share this poem, which surfaced during the dismantling of my office, at the old house. Very reflective and worth a read. I saved it from the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, NY... an old column from Dear Ann Landers. Many will remember Ann as a popular nationally syndicated advice columnist who answered people's questions and helped solve life's little problems on a daily basis. Enjoy. After a While by Veronica A. Shoffstall After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t always mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child and you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure you really are strong you really do have worth and you learn and you learn with every goodbye, you learn… Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess As a social media manager I was intrigued when offered the book, Social Networking for Business Success, for review. The book was written by an occasional guest blogger to Lipsticking, Hannah Morgan, and co-author Miriam Salpeter. The book's 22 chapters and its bonus chapters walk both the novice social media maven in the making and the seasoned business professional through the social networks offering advice, ideas and ways to measure success. The book begins with information on starting your own business and leads the reader through the start-up phase, to understanding SEO, branding and ways to monitor your efforts. One of the topics I find most important and it resonates with the clients I work with: How to choose the best social networks for your business -- hint, you don't need to be on all of them! Also, ask anyone who is involved in social media and they will tell you that once you have mastered the nuances of a platform (whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn) chances are the rules have changed. To be successful in social media the business owner needs to be flexible and willing to not only change with the trends but to understand what those changes are. It's a daunting task. As the authors point out, because of the ever-changing face of the economy and the realization of many that they will likely not get a job that they will stick with through decades and eventually retire from, many are taking the entrepreneurial route. Temporary and contract workers are becoming the norm, rather than the exception at many firms and that opens the doors to an enterprising individual with specialized skills. The authors take the reader through the questions of: do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur to how do I let people know I am available to the nitty gritty of search engine optimization and keywords for your social media profiles, website and blog. Whether you need to update your LinkedIn profiles, jump on social media as a first-timer, make a determination as to whether you even need a blog (some businesses might not!) to setting yourself apart in the noisy online world, the book offers practical advice, probing questions and provides insight that can set you on the right path. I am always pleasantly surprised when I pick up a marketing or social media book and have some "ah-ha" moments and come across items I can implement in my own client work -- this book provided several. Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
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Guest post by Katie Parsons Meeting the demands of work and home life as a parent is an admirable task. Most working moms may feel overwhelmed and wonder how to cope when life pulls them in every direction, but most manage to do it all – and succeed. A survey from The Korn/Ferry Institute even found that motherhood doesn’t necessarily limit a career – it can help some women earn promotions and perform their jobs better. Contrary to popular belief, motherhood does pay off and it isn’t an automatic detriment to a career. Working moms don’t need to feel guilty. Here are some lessons women learn from being a mom, and how to put those to great use in the workplace: Prioritize, just like you manage your household and kids’ needs at home. It’s all about prioritizing and taking charge. You know you have a specific number of things that must get done. So start working on your to-do list or delegate the tasks. Determine which are of highest priority and which ones can wait until later. You become more efficient and focused after you become a mother, so use that to your advantage. When you are busy at home and everywhere you look, juggling tasks become second nature. You do what you have to do to keep your home running smoothly. Your ability to manage your time well is a great trait to bring to your workplace. Allow those who work under you to become stars. Motherhood can help make you less controlling and more accepting of others at work. Just as you want your kids to succeed, you realize that it’s okay if they make mistakes. You can do the same in the workplace. Instead of fearing your team members will make a big mistake – or the opposite, totally outshine you – seek the best for them. Try to push aside your insecurities and let others grow. Doing so can help keep yourself happy and healthy in a leadership position. Be patient, even when it’s nearly impossible. Kids aren’t always easy. They push your buttons, test your patience and teach you to be calmer and a bit less demanding. That patience you’re taught from the relationship with your kids is a lesson you can take with you the rest of your life. Patience can help you become a better colleague and manager in the workplace. Take advantage of your ability to slow down a little and implement it into your daily work life. Being a working mom is a wonderful thing, particularly if your career is a big part of your identity. Motherhood isn’t an illness or a sign of weakness. It can actually impact working with great positivity. Remember that while you devote your time to teaching you children, they are also teaching you – so take those lessons outside the home. How has motherhood made you a better employee? Photo via forbes.com Katie Parsons is a part-time writer for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes in business news affecting major markets in the U.S. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She is also the administrator for a community blog for moms. Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
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by Yvonne DiVita I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business. Just got off a call with the team. We're focused on 2014, which is just a couple of weeks away now. When you're in business, the New Year takes on a whole new perspective. You might be looking forward to the company party and all that good food and wine, but if you're in any kind of leadership role, you're truly focused on strategic planning, along with the congratulatory "great job!" slaps on the back you'll be handing out. Pun intended. After much quiet deliberation; after many sleepless nights, pondering; after hammering my mentor with questions, I've come to a few conclusions about strategic planning, which I share with you today. If they help in your focus on 2014, I encourage you to share in the comments below. 1. First and foremost, be purposeful. Treat each and every day with intent. For instance, I intend to engage with my team more than I have in the past. I intend to see each day as an opportunity. I intend to make things happen, rather than allowing things to happen. Being purposeful is the first step to achieving goals, in my opinion. 2. Take the time to learn. I believe one of the most important things I learned from being in leadership groups is the concept of "always be in learning mode." This requires great listening skills. Imagine this: I come to you with a fantastic idea. Why is it fantastic? Because I say so. You listen to my opening statement, "You gotta do this...if we do this, we'll create more sales opportunities than we've ever had in the past... we'll this and that..." At this point, you may or may not be sold on the idea. If you have reservations, you may have stopped listening. I want you to keep listening. I want you to sit back, stop glancing at email, stop thinking about what you want for lunch... and listen. With open ears and open eyes. Absorb the idea. Maybe it's a bad idea, but unless you give it your full attention, you will never know. In the end, you’ll learn what's important to me and why I'm enthusiastic about the idea. You might even learn what to say - such as, "Nice job, Yvonne, but have you thought about this..." And, "How will it happen? Who is involved? What will it accomplish?" 3. And that leads into purposeful intent three... letting go. Maybe the idea was yours. Maybe you were the one over the moon about it. Maybe you convinced the rest of the team to get behind it. Maybe...it didn't really work the way you thought it would, and you are still hoping for positive results. During a leadership group session many years ago, one member was asked, "How is that working for you?" in response to her marketing program. "We're hoping for great results!" she said, as her smile covered her entire face! The facilitator gave a nod. "Hope," he said, "is not a plan. How do you plan to achieve great results?" You see, planning requires letting go. Anything that has been implemented and not returned a positive result (sales, engagement, brand recognition or loyalty) needs to go. No matter how great you thought it would be. Ideas that are stupendously wonderful...but require more manpower, more time, or more budget than you have, can be put "in the icebox"... not dead, nor forgotten, but saved on ice. Letting go requires a stalwart character and a true focus on success. You cannot succeed if you do not cull the underperforming ideas, programs, and even people. Start 2014 fresh. Start with strategic intent to be purposeful in your work, your planning, and your people. It will make the strategic planning for 2015 all the more powerful a year from now. To help you further your goals and strategy focus, I'm sharing a great infographic from my friends at VISA Business. Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
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by Yvonne DiVita I saw it again, on Facebook, this morning. Generally it's been posted by a family member... I have fairly vocal and opinionated family members. Sometimes, it's been posted by a friend. My friends are also opinionated and vocal. It goes a bit like this, "The Christmas season is being held hostage! Why do we have to say Happy Holidays? It's Merry Christmas and I don't care what anyone else says!" Sigh. I understand why some Christians feel the season is being held hostage... we hear on the news every day that one district or school or organization is being taken to task for displaying holiday (Christmas) decorations...and they don't like it. This is Christmastime, after all. It's all about... the manger and the Christ child and Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men and... all that. It's a celebration of Christ's birth. Or...is it? I think that's what it used to be. I think now, it's about Target, and WalMart and Cyber Monday and shopping, shopping, shopping... trampling anyone who gets in your way... putting up hundreds of decorations so you can get on TV, while you WASTE electricity...and it's about screaming at people who don't celebrate as you do... because they want to wish you a happy day, but they do not participate in Christmas. NO ONE is holding the Christmas holiday hostage. NO ONE is asking Christians to stop shopping and spending money they don't have. NO ONE is saying, "don't send those surypy holiday cards"... Go for it. If you do those things, if having all those presents under that fake tree, is important to you... I don't mind. Merry Christmas and all. But, I, for one, don't celebrate as much as I used to. I feel less and less celebratory every year. I see too many instances of anger, criticism, and prejudice all around me. I see people wasting time, energy, love, and even their good sense. Instead of understanding that there is a big world out there and that not everyone is Christian, and that even while some folks dont' celebrate "that" holiday, they do celebrate another... so, it makes sense to say, Happy Holidays, these people just want to denigrate anyone who doesn't think or feel the way they think or feel. Here's what I have to conclude with: Happy Holidays. Each and every day can be a holiday and I wish each and every one of you out there, a happy one. Now... go forth and enjoy. Because the world will keep turning, and Emily (below) will keep smiling, no matter which phrase you or I use to represent the time of year we're in. Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess What do I have to be thankful for this year? What has my year wrought? I lost my father in March. My mother was moved into a nursing home in October. We've adopted my mother's 15 year-old-dog and his transition into our multi-pet house has been difficult at best. I still struggle daily with the mental and physical after effects of breast cancer. I should be probably crying in a corner, right? Thanksgiving Day I counted my blessings and here are ten of them: My children are happy, healthy and employed. I have friends and family who love me I have a poodle who worships the ground I walk on (as long as I do her bidding!) My mom may be in a nursing home but she is still with is, is mentally alert and is recovering from the bones she broke during her recent falls. I had a great meal and a relaxing time with family Even though it's snowing and freezing cold in NY at least there were clear roads so I could make it to the family gatherings I am a breast cancer survivor! Fantastic doctors and modern day treatments are making that a reality I count every day that I see the sun shining as a blessing. I know many other women with breast cancer who no longer have that option I could have braved the Black Friday crowds but am thankful I didn't have any need so pressing that I would have to I have a job I love Do you have ten blessings that you can count? Every night before I fall asleep I take time to count at least three blessings that I encountered during the day. They could be as big as, "We were able to take my mom out of the nursing home so she could be with us (and her dog) for Thanksgiving," to as simple as, "I'm glad I didn't run out of coffee creamer this morning." No matter how hard or how exhausting your day is, I'll bet you could find at least one thing to be thankful for, right? I'd love to share your successes with you! Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2013 at Lip-Sticking
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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess I write a lot of articles for a client that have to do with caregiving and the role of caregivers in their aging parents' lives. When I started writing for them, caregiving was a foreign concept -- one that didn't impact me and one that honestly I didn't think ever would. Talk about burying your head in the sand. Fast forward a few months (I didn't even have years to prepare. Maybe if I had, it would have been easier or perhaps I would have just kept my head buried and thought "that only happens to other people.") My dad suffered the fate of many of the elderly. He started suffering dementia, then one day left the house, fell and broke his hip. He was hospitalized then moved to a nursing home. We lost him in March of this year -- five months after the fall. A month ago my mother, who has always had balance issues, fell and broke two ribs. Three days after that she fell and fractured her shoulder. She went into a hospital rehab but it was determined she will not be able to live on her own so we are now researching nursing home facilities. While you may not consider me a caregiver -- I mean, she doesn't live with me and I don't have to go to her house and cook her meals, etc. I still spend most of my waking hours talking to doctors, visiting my mom, being with her for her meals at the hospital, running errands. I'm not asking for a medal or a prize, but it is tough. I am, most days, emotionally and physically drained. I want to take a break but the guilt inside my head (some of it self inflicted some of it brought on by outside sources) won't let me. I want to scream. And I do. I want to cry. And I do. I want to go back and bury my head in the sand, but I can't. If you saw me in the store you'd never know the inner struggles. If you saw me in the store you'd never be able to tell I was a breast cancer survivor. If you saw me in the hospital you'd never be able to tell the emotional chaos that is eating me up. I have to keep it together -- for me, for my mom, for my kids. What does this mean to you and to National Caregivers Month? Reach out to someone that you know has an aging parent (in truth, aren't most of us Baby Boomers in that situation?) Here are some tips for helping out a caregiver because chances are they will not reach out to you for help: Offer to stay with the caregiver's relative so he or she can go run some errands, grab a cup of coffee, take a walk or just simply get away from it all. Offer to help decorate the house. Bring the decorations up from the basement or down from the attic. Unpack boxes. Did you cook "too much" food? Offer it to a friend who is in the caregiver role. Believe me there are many nights spent at the hospital so your parent doesn't have to eat alone and by the time you get home it's close to 7 pm and honestly you're not going to cook. A heat and serve meal would be much appreciated by a caregiver. Do you have a friend who will be hosting Thanksgiving and is not only going to be cooking the meal but going to pick up his or her aging relative? Offer to either keep an eye on the meal or better yet, offer to pick up their relative and take him or her back home after the festivities. What can you do, as a caregiver, to take care of yourself? Try and reach out to a friend and simply say, "I need help." Whether it's a shoulder to cry on or assistance with errands. If you don't ask, no one will know what you need. Think differently about the holidays. In the past you may have been the one responsible for the entire meal spread. Step back and take on two or three of your favorite portions of the meal and ask everyone else who's coming to contribute. If you need to cry, then cry. If you find you can't stop crying, then call your doctor. Caregiving is stressful and stress can lead to other health issues. You need to care for yourself. Are you a caregiver? How do you balance the tasks of your everyday life and career with caring for an aging relative? (Photo: Me and my Mom at Easter 2013) Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2013 at Lip-Sticking