2018 Word of the year: STRONG

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I want to share a little story about my 2018 word.

Last fall, while I was at a retreat they announced we were going to play capture the flag.

Capture the flag, like most team/group sports or anything that puts my physical skills on display really brings out my deepest darkest fears – shame, embarrassment and guilt about being so terrible and not being a team player.

I've done a lot of work on myself over the last number of years so there are a few things I now know about myself that came up when the game was announced.

1. My reaction wasn't rational. I knew I was being irrational, but I also knew thinking myself out of it and just enjoying the game wasn't going to happen.

2. I was learning to work on my boundaries. Turns out capture the flag makes me miserable, I could have opted out and just not played. I had that choice!

I decided that I would go and watch the game but not play. Boundaries. Go me!

When I arrived at the field they asked me to play. I said, "No thanks, I just want to watch" and then the universe said to me, "Let's test these boundaries, Lara" and collectively the group then said,

“Awww... C'mon. We're an uneven number of players - we need you!”

And the people pleaser in me, the person who doesn't like to let people down, the person who was terrified of being blamed for the whole team losing screamed, "Oh my God! You have to do it now! It's going to be terrible and you're going to suck, but they're all looking at you, so you HAVE NO CHOICE!!"

So, full of dread (always an excellent way to ensure fun during a game) I walked on to the field.

People ran by me and I didn't know what I was doing…it was going badly! This was worse than any other time I had played because now I knew the solution to those feelings was to NOT play and on top of suddenly being in the game I knew it was my own damn fault for not sticking to my boundaries.

Tears started streaming down my face and a kind person (I honestly can't even remember who it was) told me it was okay if I just wanted to leave.

So, I walked off the field and into the woods on a that crisp fall day, and, surrounded by the beauty and calm of trees, I sobbed. I sobbed for almost half an hour as I walked through the woods trying to calm down.

Walking off the field was far from the end of my shame and emotional breakdown. I was angry at myself for having played at all. I was angry at myself for not sticking to my boundaries and for so easily being swayed into doing something I didn't want to do.  

I was angry at the ladies on the field for getting me to play (trust me, my rational brain knows that's ridiculous, "c’mon, we want you and need you" is hardly some kind of evil pressure tactic of villains).

Over the last few years I have picked a word for the year. In 2017 the word was "open." I wanted to be open to learning, open to being guided, open to letting go of control. I was in the midst of trying to figure out what my 2018 word should be while at this retreat and as I stood in the woods beating myself up and going through a million emotions all about an insignificant game of capture the flag I had known all along that I couldn't handle, I figured out my 2018 word: STRONG.

Strong wasn't about muscles. It wasn't about the strength to stand up to people. It was about being strong enough to look even further within to see what was going on. It was finding the strength within to hold my boundaries and to learn to not feel guilty about or responsible for everyone else before myself. It was about feeling like the Lara I was WAS strong and it was time to own that, it was time to get out of my own damn way.

And I did. The incredible year that was 2018 is the subject of another story entirely, but here is what I hope everyone can take from this:

  • Your mindset and your subconscious can impact everything in massive ways. Don’t beat yourself up for the struggles you have because we all have them and there ARE ways to work through them.

  • You are strong and you are capable, even if it doesn't feel like it some days.

  • You might need to get out of your own way too, and you might need help doing it. I've needed a team of people and 10s of 1000s of dollars to just start that process, but it's been worth every penny!

What was your word in 2018? Will you choose a word for 2019? 

Reflection and setting intentions can be the kind of work we know we should do but avoid. Join me for a special call on New Year's Day at 1 pm. I'll be guiding participants through a series of prompts helping and supporting everyone to step into 2019 feeling empowered and on the right path for their unique selves, dreams and strengths. Sign up here - and don’t worry, if you can’t make it live, a replay will be sent following the live broadcast.

2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Business Owners

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With the holidays quickly approaching I have once again updated the gift guide I have created the past couple of years. Take a look at this year’s gift list for the entrepreneurs in your life - because business owners are special!

If there's one thing business owners are always looking for, it's more time. The more organized they can be - the better. There are a lot of really fabulous planners out there, and here are a few I've used or know are really popular and people find a lot of success with them:

Help them plan

Planner Pad - This is a planner I've purchased several times over the years and works on a funnel down approach. You list everything you have to do at the top of the week and funnel it down to when it will actually get done. 

Passion Planner is a planner I haven't personally used, but know a lot of people who really love it. They like that it balances the personal side of what needs to be done with the business side, It also includes sections that help you figure out what you want to do and how to break down the steps to achieve them.

Self Journal is a planner that's also a journal. There is a lot of room every day to map out your day but also to map out how you're meeting your goals, your wins, your lessons and your gratitude. Each journal lasts for three months (I also haven't used this one, but it looks fantastic!).

Bullet Journal is a great concept because you can turn any notebook into a planner, and it's also great for non-linear thinkers (though I couldn't get it to work for me...). You can mix your brainstorms, your monthly plans, your weekly plans, your daily plans, and you can also buy one that is pre-setup for you. 

  I love my Moo business cards!

I love my Moo business cards!

Productive! This planner is designed by business coach, Shelagh Cummins, and is all about figuring out what your power moves are and working towards them. Check them out.

Paper, pens and stickers!

Entrepreneurs like me, like pretty stationary and fancy pens. Like, we really love them. Whether it's a gift card or a pretty journal, these are almost always a great gift idea (with the exception of a few people who have fully embraced the paperless way of life. :) 

  These vinyl stickers from Sticker Mule are super durable

These vinyl stickers from Sticker Mule are super durable

Scribe Delivery - My husband got me this for my birthday and I literally squeal when I get my package every month. So many fun notebooks and pens!

Stickers - I love stickers and you can get so many fun ones, including custom ones of your logo! Sticker Mule is one I've used a couple of times (you can get branded mailers and packing tape from them too. (Use that link to get $10 off your first order).

A gift certificate for the things they are regularly ordering - Vista Print, Moo, Staples, etc. - search gift cards if it doesn't seem obvious how to find them! 

Pens! Lots of pens! (I think I could get 365 new pens every year for Christmas and still have days where I can't find one). ;) 

Technology

Entrepreneurs use tech a lot, and if you're anything like me, it wears out way faster than you'd like. I'm going to admit to my Apple bias here, but I'm sure there are great equivalents in Android and whatever the other tech is that I pretend doesn't exist.

A new computer - last year I was ready to move away from my all-laptop-all-the-time computer ways and get an iMac for my desk and start using my Macbook Air just for traveling. What a difference that has made for me - no more issues with over full harddrives or rebooting a computer not designed to deal with the amount of video I was trying to get it to deal with. I can’t imagine going back to running my business from a laptop again!

A smart watch - I got my first Apple Watch last year too and it’s been nice, but I admit, I don’t LOVE it. I’d love to hear how other people feel about smart watches. My next watch might be a fitbit instead :)

Noise-cancelling headphones - I had no idea until this past fall what the magic of noise-canceling headphones is all about. I work at home and I'm all alone most days so I didn't think there would be any value in them for me. It turns out that the noise-canceling feature is incredibly calming for my ADHD brain and helps me be more productive, so you'll often find me wearing huge headphones with nothing more than a light whooshing noise being broadcast through them while I'm sitting at my desk getting work done!

No more cleaning, no more cooking

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A huge theme that comes up is having someone else take care of the cooking and cleaning (a lot of my examples for these are local, but I'm sure you can find something similar close to where you live).

There are all kinds of great local services for cleaning that you can look in to and you can also check out personal chef services (The Magic Fridge is a local one run by a friend of mine) that take the stress out of shopping, cooking and cleaning up after you cook.

There are also lots of services like Hello Fresh and Chef's Plate that will mail you all the ingredients for a set amount of meals per week, taking the stress of planning and shopping out of your weekly schedule and also making the recipes really easy to follow with relatively little prep required. There's also Supperworks where you can go and assemble everything you need for your own meals or pay a bit extra and they'll assemble everything you need.

But if they do need to cook, they might love some cooking classes!

Pampering 

A gift certificate to their favourite spa or for a massage was high on the list for many of the entrepreneurs in my group.

A day away at a spot like Le Nordik or Scandinave Spa for example. A massage from a local clinic is also always appreciated, such as Byward Massage Therapy Clinic or the Massage and Treatment Clinic in Orleans.

Bring on the drinks!

Beer, wine, coffee, tea - we like a variety of drinks as entrepreneurs, whether it be for during the day or for when we put our feet up at the end of the day. Here are a few ideas when it comes to the drinks department. I'm a big fan of subscription services in this category. :) 

Beer subscription service - we have Brew Box here in Ontario but there are many great ones. 

Nespresso is a popular coffee machine with lots of varieties of coffees - even better if more comes to your door every month. 

How about a box of wine delivered to you every three months? If only I liked red wine this would be perfect for me. 

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Meaningful bling

A piece of jewelry that speaks to our goals and dreams is a thoughtful way to commemorate all the hard work business women do.

I know for one I would love a bracelet like this from Citrus Silver with your word for the year.

For the “geek” in your life - check out Geeky Delight necklaces! Perfect for the Doctor Who or Harry Potter fan!

The gift of creativity

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Unique, colourful and one-of-a-kind, Red Raspberry Studios creates art pieces that are as whimsical as the owner themselves! A piece of art from this studio will bring joy to whoever receives it - just check out the piece created just for me.

If the business owner in your life is creative, give them the gift of a full-day creative retreat experience! “Joyful Flow” is happening February 2nd, 2019. Includes light lunch, wine, guided meditation, intention setting, acrylic painting. No artistic experience required. Visit InDetail.ca for more information.

I had fun thinking of all the ways we could celebrate the entrepreneurs in our lives - maybe this sparked a few ideas for you. Leave me a comment letting me know if you'll be adding any of these to your shopping list!

To note: A few of these are affiliate links, most are not, but all are things I truly believe in and nothing is included just to make a buck :) 

How to find time as an entrepreneur

How to find time as an entrepreneur

If you feel like there is ALWAYS too much to do, trust me when I say – you are not alone.

Almost every business owner I talk to feels like they never slow down. There is ALWAYS so much to do. It’s discouraging to constantly look at a to-do list longer than a city block (those people who only have to-do lists as long as their arms… pfft!). 

It even seems like the all “gurus” are telling you that working harder and more is the only way to reach success. “If you want to sleep and watch TV, I guess you don’t want it badly enough!

This JP Sears spoof video was just what I needed when it comes to this mentality because it points out how silly some of it is. Working long hours, not getting enough sleep, trying to do ten million things at once, trying to be everywhere all of the time…not only is it going to exhaust you, but it’s also not effective.

So, here are a few things for you to think about when you feel like there is ALWAYS too much to do:

  • We’re entrepreneurs – We’re always going to come up with MORE to do. Once you understand that you can’t possibly do all the things that you’ve set out for yourself, and you know that there is always going to be more (if you find space in your schedule, you’ll fill it!) then you will understand that your to-do list isn’t meant to ever be finished. You’re not failing if it’s always long. Cut yourself some slack when it comes to how much “more” there is to do.

  • What is working really well right now? Even more specifically, what is working really well right now that is helping you to achieve your goals?

    Are there certain tactics that help you make more sales? Get more prospects?

    If increased sales is one of your goals, make sure that you’re doing THOSE activities first and don’t worry as much about all the other things you think you “SHOULD” be doing. I often tell my clients to stop focusing so much on social media and to just go out and make personal connections with people – because sometimes it’s about connecting and making relationships with new clients, not just “having a presence.”

    There are always things that you can stop doing or do more effectively. Most of us get so busy just DOING that we don’t stop to make sure we’re doing the right things.

  • What is taking up a lot of your time but not getting results? Make a list. Can you skip it for a day or a week? Can you just stop doing it? What takes you a long time because you hate doing it or you’re not very good at it?

  • Is it time to outsource? If your to-do list is beyond manageable with client work here is another thing to think about: is it time to hire someone to help you with that work?

Having a really long to-do list isn’t failing and nor is feeling like there’s always TOO much to do. On a regular basis take a breath and assess what you’re trying to get done and why. Then prioritize and decide what can wait, what can be deleted off the list and what can be outsourced.

You’ve got this! 

If you want more support in figuring out what the right priorities are for you and your business, one of my coaching programs might be a good fit. Book a consultation so we can figure out which one.

Creating clear marketing goals for action, success and more money!

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Business owners often know what they want in their businesses, but they don’t have clear goals on how to get what they want. They just know they want to be successful. They know they want to make more money. They know they want to do the thing that their business does.

Here’s the thing though: having clear and specific goals makes it easier to do everything else. Having clear goals even creates more time in your business because you’re not spending time on things that won’t move you forward. Clear business goals also help you define clear marketing goals which will ensure your attention and messaging is focused on what will have an impact on your business. And good marketing turns into more leads, which turns into more sales!

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

Spend time thinking about your business goals, specifically about what you're hoping to achieve through your marketing. It's probably (though not necessarily) a given that one of your goals is to make more money, but we want to get more specific than that today. Your goals may include things, such as:

  • Being known as an expert at something

  • Being seen as a resource on a certain topic

  • Expanding your audience geographically or demographically

  • Getting more engagement online and building community

  • Increasing sales in a certain part of your business

  • Getting other people to talk about you to their communities

  • Filling a certain program

  • Increasing sales online instead of in person

Because it always helps to see specific examples, I'll share some of mine and create some fictional examples:

  • Be seen as an expert in explaining social media for small business

  • Be seen as an expert in nutrition and wellness

  • Expand audience beyond the Ottawa-area

  • Expand audience to new moms 

  • Increase sales in one-on-one coaching and speaking (or sign two new clients per month)

  • Create content that is linked to by other bloggers and media outlets

  • Be more findable in search

You can be even more precise and create goals that are channel-specific:

  • Increase Facebook likes by 300 people

  • Establish a presence on YouTube and get 1000 video views

  • Get retweeted and tagged by industry experts on Twitter

  • Get three media hits per month


REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO ACHIEVE

The more you work to figure out these goals and why you're setting them, the more likely you will work them into your plan efficiently. Take a few minutes and write down an explanation of what you mean by each one and why they're important to you. For example:

  • I really enjoy helping small business owners figure out how to use social media for their business in a one-on-one setting. I get energized and excited when having personalized calls with business owners and hearing them figure out what they could be doing. Their lightbulb moments make my day, and their wins and increased revenue are my wins too. I want to do more of that so I need to make it clear that this is something that I do, like to do and I am good at.

  • I feel that it's time to expand beyond my local market. I like to spend time in Toronto and Boston and want to start by growing my audience in those specific cities. To do that, I need to start to grow an audience in those cities, so there is already a start of a customer base in those cities when I arrive to hold an event or launch a product. I need to figure out where my audience is spending their time (online and off) in those cities so I can create a custom plan.

  • I want to grow my online sales. I know that if I focus more of my attention on driving people to my online store and the products I sell there, I can increase that revenue stream. That may mean decreasing what I make in person while I focus on online or working extra hours to carry me through the gap.

TIME TO DO THE WORK

I challenge you to spend 10 minutes right now coming up with three or four marketing goals for the next six months. Really think about what you like to do, what you want to be doing and why you want to be doing it and give yourself some real explanations on why those are important and meaningful goals for you and your business and your marketing right now. Then leave a comment and share some of those ideas here!


NEED MORE SUPPORT?

I’m running a 6-week program to help you TAKE ACTION.

Join me and a group of entrepreneurs in exactly the same position to create a solid foundation and action plan and then START IMPLEMENTING!

Join by October 1st and you will get a bonus group coaching call before the program starts, as one free month in the Biz Advantage (value $197).

Let’s do this together! :)

How to get more out of your blog content

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One of the most frustrating things about writing a long piece of content is feeling like only a few people saw it and hours of your time writing had almost no impact.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to blog content that will help you feel like it was well worth the time invested. It’s as simple as making sure that nobody (including you!) thinks of your blog post as a “one and done” piece of content.

1)   SEO juice

Quality content on your website will help you rank higher in search engines (otherwise known as search engine optimization or SEO). Even if you just think of SEO as being there to help you rank higher in search - that alone is still not a bad reason to create good content for your website (some businesses get most of their leads through search!).

Every time you create new content, your website is crawled by the search engine bots. So, when you create new blogs posts, make sure you’re using the kinds of words you want to be found for. You should also keep your blog posts to a minimum of 300-500 words for them to be considered quality, and whenever possible, link to other pieces of your content within your site and try to get other people to link to your content from their web sites.

2)   You’re giving people a reason to visit

Without new blog posts, there isn’t much of a reason for people to keep coming back to your website. How many times can you promote your ‘About’ and ‘Sales’ pages and expect people to take the time to come and visit again?

By consistently creating new content that you know is of interest to your audience, you have an opportunity to entice them to return and make them feel like they’re getting value out of what they’re reading.

Once you have posted new content, make sure you tell your audience you created the content. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and on Pinterest. Also send an email to your mailing list letting them know you created the new content.

If you don’t tell people you created new content, they won’t know to go and look – so, promote, promote, promote!

I once heard you should spend as much time promoting a post as you spend writing it, if not more. Keeping that in mind will help you figure out just how much effort you have to put into getting people to see it for you to feel like it was worth writing.

A few other tips for promoting:

  • Share it multiple times – on Twitter you can share it 5-6 times over 48 hours easily. On Facebook you can share it again 24-48 hours later.

  • If you’re worried about seeming repetitive, use ICYMI. It stands for “In case you missed it” and recognizes you’ve posted it before, but that you know not everyone will have seen it.

This next piece is really critical:

3)   Don’t forget about it.

Once you’ve promoted the content, plan to share it again over time. Not all of your content may be evergreen, but if it is it, plan to share it again in two weeks, six weeks and nine weeks later. You may even want to schedule it to share again in those time frames while you’re posting it the first time. It will save you time and make sure you don’t forget to keep re-sharing it.

4)   Reuse pieces

Don’t think of your blog post as just a blog post. Take pieces of it and do different things with it.

Reuse it as a script for a short video, take quotes out and share as tips on Twitter or create visuals and share on Instagram. 

Creating great content can be time consuming, but if you make that time well worth the investment then you will see results - results that make it easier to keep doing. By making sure the content is being properly promoted and shared on a regular basis, you’re going to see far more results with one piece of content than you did before.

Spend some time thinking about the content you’ve written in the past – how can you apply these things to it now?