Amateur v. Professional - Which One are You?

Amateur v. Professional – Which One are You?

Last week I came across an article from Farnam Street that asked the reader if they were an amateur or a professional. Well, we are all professionals, right? In the wise words of College GameDay legend Lee Corso – not so fast my friend.

 

In the article, differences between the two were pointed out. Some made you get a little defensive and hot under the collar, but nonetheless, it made the point.

 

Let’s take a look at seven of them…

 

Amateurs stop when they achieve something, like a goal. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning, and have a process.

Goals are good to have, don’t get me wrong, but honestly, it doesn’t stop there. Goals should be seen as benchmarks along the way. Your career is a process, and the awards you achieve are goals along the way. You don’t end your career because of an award or a making a sales goal. You keep going.

 

Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence.

This is a rookie mistake we’ve all made at some point. We think we can take on everything and be the one source for our customers or clients, when in reality, we are not. One piece of business advice I received early on was to focus on what I was good at and outsource the rest.  Yes, I work in marketing. Yes, I could do a complete marketing package for a client, but I know where my strengths lay. One of my close friends is a CPA but she’s better on the audit side than the tax side – that’s her strength. Knowing your circles of competence, or strengths, will help set you apart and make you a better professional.

 

Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.

People do not like to have the negative pointed out, no matter how well it’s done. However, I’ve been on both sides of this one – early on in my career I didn’t want anyone telling me how to do something unless I asked because I saw it as criticizing me as a person. Now that I am older and wiser, I know my weaknesses and I do seek out advice from those whose opinions I highly value. This is a career (and personal) maturity journey.

 

Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak.

People want to be good at everything. That’s impossible. No one person can be good at everything apart from God. This is where the business advice I mentioned above comes into play – professionals will outsource what they are not as strong in to supplement. The sooner you realize this, the more time and energy you will save yourself.

 

Amateurs focus on tearing other people down. Professionals focus on making everyone better.

I came close to leaving this one out. I know “professionals” who make it a point to tear others down no matter how long they have been in business. And I know amateurs who claim to focus on making everyone better while their actions speak to the opposite. So be aware and be on guard at all times.

 

Amateurs blame others. Professionals accept responsibility.

This point comes from maturity – both in the person and your career. I understand fear – you may be scared to accept responsibility because of the consequences, but trust me, it’s always better to take that high road and be responsible. That’s what true leaders do.

 

Amateurs are scared — scared to be vulnerable and honest with themselves. Professionals feel like they are capable of handling almost anything.

The distinguishing factor here is confidence. It will come and go throughout your career. There are days I feel like I can conquer the world and there are days I feel like Chicken Little. As long as you are honest with yourself and know your strengths and take responsibility, it will be okay.

 

The article concludes by saying the main difference between the two boils down to two things: fear and reality. At any point in your career, no matter your age or how long you’ve been in your job, you will fall on either side of spectrum. If you read through to the article, you’ll see the other comparisons. There are some I fall on the amateur side, and some I fall on the professional side.

 

The goal should always be to be on the professional side more than amateur, and if you are on the amateur side, work on what you need to to move to the professional side. I know I am. Are you with me?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on amateurs v. professionals. Share with me below in the comments! This was an intriguing article and I’m curious your reaction.

 

Does Your Business Have an Exit Strategy?

Does Your Business Have an Exit Strategy?

Why would I ever need an exit strategy? You may be asking yourself that after seeing the title of this post.

 

In the past six weeks I have been asked that by three separate potential clients while we were meeting. Of course they prefaced it with, “we don’t expect it, but just in case.”

 

They all had a great point. You never know what is going to happen. People move. People die. Not all businesses live forever.

 

For me, with the work ethic I inherited from my dad, I could do this until I am old and gray (ha!), but most likely not. Whether your plan is to have your business for 10 years, 20 years, or build it to where you can merge with another, you need to know what the plan is when that days comes.

 

Having an exit strategy in mind will help you run your business better. After thinking about it, I did a little research and found some great insight into this.

 

Having an exit strategy will make you document everything – including your processes.

 

Imagine trying to explain 10 years of doing things to a person in a week. Without having anything written down. Documenting what you do and how will help in the end – it will also help if you hire people and delegate or if you have to step out of your role short-term.

 

Having an exit strategy will help you know how to value your business in the event someone does make an offer to buy your business.

 

Even if you have zero plans of selling your business, you never know who is watching you. I’ve had a few people over the past six years casually mention the word ‘partnership’ to me, but that isn’t something I am personally in it. I would love to buy another marketing agency and merge into that if the stars aligned (major long-term goal here). THAT would require an exit strategy.

 

Having an exit strategy takes some of the stress off of you, the business owner.

 

I am a plan-for-the-worst type. I like to have all bases covered, just in case. So knowing what my exit strategy is takes some stress off of me because I know what will happen and how things will go. Now, I do not plan for that to happen for MANY, MANY years (my husband has to retire first!) but it’s there… just in case.

 

All that being said, hopefully it’s given you something to think about. So, what is your business’ exit strategy?

 

 

References:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249065

http://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/business-planning/5-reasons-why-you-should-start-with-your-exit-in-mind/

work life balance

If Work/Life Balance is a Myth, How Do We Manage?

I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as true work/life balance. Anyone who has it figured out or is telling you how to achieve it is feeding you nothing but BS.

 

Everyone is uber-busy and as much as we’d like to achieve balance between our work and professional lives, it doesn’t exist in the form we like to think. You cannot manage time, you can only manage tasks.

 

In all of our lives, balance is not the ultimate goal, it’s just an average of what you are doing. We all juggle multiple things at once in our lives – businesses, kids, spouses, friends, charities, etc. To say you are not trying to do it all is a lie.

 

61% of Americans say they do not have time to do what they need to do. Click To Tweet

 

I’ll be the first to admit I can be an absolute hot mess at times. I’m married, have 2 daughters, one of which started middle school this year, own my own business and am deeply involved in my community. Late nights are nothing new. There are days that I’d rather sit and read Outlander than be productive.

 

Life keeps going and so must we.

 

Kiz Adams, Work/Life Balance Coordinator at the University of Georgia has become one of my new favorite people. A former UGA Law School professor (true story – she taught my husband when he was in law school there), she now holds a new position at our alma mater, working to help UGA employees balance out their professional and personal lives (kudos to the Provost for creating this role). Kiz spoke at the Terry College of Business Professional Women’s Conference I help with each year and her session alone was worth the price of the entire conference.

 

How do we manage all these moving parts in our lives? Here are some of the key takeaways from Kiz, and the biggest time wasters you will encounter, and hopefully by knowing these, you will be able to restructure your time so you won’t go about your day as one hot mess.

 

Five Takeaways

One of the first things to know is that…

Efficiency is not Effectiveness

Urgent does not mean Important

Clock is not a Compass

 

Set Goals

Make Professional Goals, then prioritize them. Make Personal Goals, then prioritize them. When making your goals, ask yourself, “What’s important at this time in my life?” This will dictate A LOT. We all go through seasons in our lives. My goals 5 years ago are different from what they are now. Once you make your choices, own it!

 

Brain-Dump Frequently

There’s a graphic floating around social media that talks about your brain functioning like an internet browser with multiple tabs open. It can get quite overwhelming. Doing a weekly brain-dump is a great habit to get into. If you’re not familiar with a brain-dump, it’s when you write everything that needs to get done on a list (this can be personal things or professional) and then prioritize it all. I do this every Sunday evening. Of course, things will get added throughout the week as I remember or as they come up. You can also do this via Google Docs or in your smartphone.

 

Figure Out Where Your Time Goes

You only have 168 hours every week. Do you know how you are spending your time? For one week, a normal week, log in your time – yes, every time you check your email, every time you look at Facebook, every time you blog, etc. – and at the end of the week, total it up and see what you spend your time on. Evaluate that.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • How much is applicable to my goal(s)?
  • Do I need to reevaluate my goal(s) (time-invested v. time-spent)?
  • Am I underestimating how long tasks are taking?
  • Am I interrupted often?
  • Do I procrastinate?
  • Have I taken on more than I was originally hired to do?

 

Restructure Your Time

It’s not enough to recognize when you have a problem managing your tasks, you have to change the behavior. Start with one area – don’t try to change it all at one time. Schedule your important, high priority stuff first. Also, tackle the stuff you don’t want to do first. That always makes things easier!

 

Stop Wasting Time – The Time Wasters that Haunt Us

It’s bad enough our attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish. We are easily distracted and good at wasting time. Some of these time wasters are ones you wouldn’t think of, so have an open mind.

 

No. 1 – Email

How many times a day are you clicking over to your inbox or checking in on your phone? Stop checking this constantly. Set aside 2 or 3 times each day to check your email (unless there is something urgent you are expecting). For example, check it at 8am, 12pm, and 4pm – and ONLY at those 3 times. Also, organize your emails with tags, reminders, folders, etc. to make your inbox easier to decipher.

 

No. 2 – Multitaskingimg_0416

 

You would think this would be a time-saver, right? Wrong! This is a myth. It takes more time to switch between tasks. Studies have shown that after a mere 30 second interruption, it can take 5 minutes to get on track and research has shown that most workers switch tasks every 3 minutes (Kiz Adams, Terry PWC Conference Presentation). So that’s about 160 switches each day. Doing Kiz’s math from the conference, you can also see in the picture, 160x5min=800 minutes of lost productivity (13 hours). Her suggestion? “Batch” your tasks in 90 minute- 2 hour time segments. That’s about all your brain can handle at one continuous time. I’ve started doing this and I get more done.

 

No. 3 – Meetings

Plan meetings carefully and always have an agenda and focus. Do not just meet to meet.

 

No. 4 – Reports & Memos

Avoid any unnecessary narrative if possible and use bulletpoints. Charts and spreadsheets can get your point across quite effectively.

 

No. 5 – The Internet

I could write a novel here, as I’m sure you could Google this and find more articles than needed. Just be specific on what you are doing and have a time limit.

 

No. 6 – The Chatty Coworker

Fortunately for me, I’m the only one in my office. My chatty coworker is a dog who likes to bark at anything that moves outside the window. However, for those who do work in an office, if you can, just close the door or invite that person on a walk. If all else fails, just gently talk with person about their talkativeness.

 

No. 7 – The Boss that Gives You More and More and More

It’s great to have the vote of confidence from your boss that you are doing a good job and that they value your work. However, sometimes that can be taken advantage of when they pile stuff on your already-full plate. If this is you, kindly ask your boss to prioritize the new task(s) and ask yourself if you have to do this and if you have the skills. And if need be, you may have to talk with your boss and come up with another plan.

 

No. 8 – The Travel/Commute

If you are one of the ones who spend a good bit of time in your vehicle (or on a train or bus) getting to and from work each day, you know you have time to waste. This is the perfect opportunity to catch up via audiobook on some business books, or compose notes on your tablet or smartphone for a project. Maybe you can just use the time for some coveted “you” time (the moms everywhere are jealous).

 

No. 9 – Procrastination

I am so guilty of this. The advice Kiz gave was spot-on and I couldn’t have said it better. Just jump in. Do something to force your hand. Narrow your focus. Break things into 10-20 minutes segments. Most people procrastinate because they get overwhelmed thinking about everything that has to be done, that’s why breaking it up is a good way to start.

 

No. 10 – Perfection

Perfectionists are the worst. We will tinker with something just to get it right, wasting who knows how much time just to make sure we have the right font, or something is spaced right, or we have the right wording. Here is where we need to let go or just outsource.

 

Wrapping it all up, what can we do to help make our lives more manageable?

Wake up Early

Get up early in the morning and get going. Getting an early start always sets you ahead for the day and makes you feel like you’ve gotten something accomplished before the day really starts.

 

Do the highest priority/most important task first

Doing the most important task first usually takes the biggest weight off your shoulder for the entire day or week. Same can be said for the most dreaded task!

 

Be 100% focused on whatever you are doing at the moment.

It doesn’t matter if you are pushing your child on a swing or writing a business proposal, be 100% focused on the task at hand. Your child or partner will remember the undivided attention you gave them. You will also find when you are 100% focused on what you are doing, you’ll be more effective and efficient because there won’t be anything to distract you.

 

Learn to unplug and put the electronics up.

This is hard, but you just have to unplug at times. We can frequently go into information overload and working in social media, it happens more than I care to admit. When your business is 24/7/365, it’s hard to unplug but trust me, you just got to. Your eyes, mind and family will appreciate it. After a refreshing break, you’ll find yourself more focused and ready.

 

Just say “no”. And do not feel you have to explain why.

You do not have to agree to everything. There is not enough time in the day to be superwoman (or superman). Busy makes us feel important, when in reality it doesn’t. We choose to be busy. We think if we go on and on about what all we have to do, we will be perceived as being someone important. We have to prioritize what we do. It could be your children, your spouse or something else. When you do say no, unless specifically pressed, you do not have to explain your reason(s) why. It’s no one’s business but your own why you are declining something.

 

Realize that YOU are in charge.

Only you have the power to say yes and no. No one else speaks for you. Do not concede to putting it in someone else’s hands. You have more power than you think.

 

Draw the line and defend it.

Being a working mom, I have boundaries. You need to have boundaries too. You need to know what you will and won’t do and defend that. This could be time with your kids, ethical business situations, things that pertain to your religious beliefs. We all have lines we won’t cross and when tempted, we need to defend it. On the same lines, find your family time and defend it as well. If your family time is from 5-8pm, for example, do not take phone calls or work during that time. Sometimes that balance means turning clients down. Remember, if they want to work with you bad enough, they will work with you on this.

 

Last but not least…

 

Success is finite; aim for significance.

Success can be a new client or an award. Significance means you made a difference. We all want to have success, but that really only lasts so long. Aim for something that you will be remembered by. If you are too caught up in the everyday busyness of our lives, we’ll never achieve that long-term success (significance) we are looking for.

 

How are you working your life out? How are you managing it all?

 

 

Another Hard Lesson Learned in Business

Another Hard Lesson Learned in Business

I have a confession to make. I screwed up this week. Royally.

 

I’m not a perfect person (or business owner or mom or wife or friend), nor have I ever claimed to be. I do, however, believe in walking the talk, and that’s where I failed.

 

As a social media professional, I have given umpteen talks about being cautious about what you post on social media – both as an individual and as a brand. Words can be taken the wrong way, interns can totally mess up a business’ image, accounts can get hacked – we’ve all heard the stories.

 

I have one to add to that list because I, Mandy Edwards the professional, did it to myself.

 

One of my business’ mantras is to always conduct itself with transparency and with complete honesty. We’re always upfront about everything, so every question can be answered. And this can be for better or for worse, but I have found through long, tough experience, transparency and honesty will get you a lot farther in business than lies and cover-ups.

 

So in that spirit, for better or for worse, I share this with you so you can learn from my mistake. See, you can be fresh out of college and new to this, or have been in this business many, many years like myself. Mistakes happen to everyone but how we handle them, I feel, says a lot.

 

This past week, I had a few business “events” (as we will call them) not work out like I had hoped, which left me in not a good place. At about the same time this last “event” fell through, I found out about yet another business “event” that I missed out on, which was what I call, the straw breaking the camel’s back. This all took place around 10:30-11:00pm (nothing good happens after 10pm – we should all just go to bed). Being the self-admitted hot-headed redhead I am, I sent out three cryptic angry tweets, one vague Facebook status, and an Instagram quote on my business account, which I re-grammed onto my personal account. Oh, and a ranting blog post as well. No organizations, businesses, or individuals were named in any of it. But I knew better. I knew better.

 

Feeling somewhat vilified, I go to bed and wake up six hours later feeling like the most horrible person in the world (and still felt that way for two days). Within a couple hours of waking, all the tweets (and the few replies) and the two Instagram posts were deleted. The Facebook status was getting a lot of response from a lot of business owners so I left it (it was joking about how being a business owner needs a guidebook on handling the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with it). The blog post got buried deep in the website thanks to backdating.

 

But in those 6-8 hours it was all up, even though it was the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, people took notice. The ones I was upset with took notice. Everything was taken down, but I still didn’t feel right. I felt bad because I knew better. I knew I messed up. I knew I did something I shouldn’t have – I didn’t walk the talk. I failed myself.

 

So I did what I thought was best – I publicly admitted (without the details) to my followers what I did and owned up to it. If I can’t be transparent and honest in my business in a time when there’s so much fake-ness going on online, then how can I be a good steward to my clients? I own up to them if I mess up, so I feel I owe the same to you.

 

I also reached out and messaged an individual who was upset about the posts and apologized to them. My fingers were shaking as I typed it. I felt like I was going to be sick. But I knew I had to – I felt the Lord telling me it was the right thing to do. I knew I was in the wrong and I had to own up it.

 

In our sermon in church Sunday, our Pastor made a statement that made me reflect on all of this. He said the words we speak reflect what’s really in our heart. It made me think, did I really mean those rash things I said as a result of a hurt ego and wounded business pride? No, but it’s a statement that’s made me more aware of what I will say in the future.

 

As a business owner, I royally screwed up. Someone recently called a good friend and mentor of mine a “loose cannon”. That’s the best way to describe what I was the other night. It’s not fun writing about this. Believe me – I’d MUCH rather write about 10 tips to increase your Instagram engagement or creative ways to use Facebook Live during the holiday season.

 

I just hope that if you are reading this, you see this as an example of what not do “in the moment” when you’re upset or so angry about something you need to vent. Social media is a great medium for a lot of things, but venting or releasing your feelings over something is not the place.

 

Mark this off as a lesson learned.

 

 

How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

Whether you’re a solopreneur, work for a major corporation, or fall somewhere in between, there is always a good possibility that you’ll travel for business purposes. Although a lot of business is conducted virtually and online in our modern society, face-to-face meetings are often invaluable for developing and maintaining solid business relationships.

Business travel slowed in the U.S. during 2015 due to a variety of economic uncertainties. However, the percentage of people traveling, at least for domestic business travel in the U.S., has picked up somewhat in 2016 so far.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which is the world’s premier business travel and meetings organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents, has been keeping tabs on multiple statistics which impact the rates of business travel. Most notable is the lower cost of airfare due to the plunge in oil prices earlier this year. As a result, the GBTA anticipates the overall increase in travel spend for 2016 to be around 3.7% in the U.S. They have forecasted an even more significant increase in global business travel spend over 2015.

The time and current economic situation are conducive for business travel. Get ready to pack up your laptop and/or tablet, appropriate business attire, and smartphones and travel like a pro.

Here are suggestions to make business travel less stressful and more efficient

There’s little doubt that business travel can feel overwhelming, especially when you are a new or infrequent traveler. Planning ahead will help you feel more prepared and less stressed.

In her article for U.S. News, Sienna Kossman shares a variety of useful tips for efficient and stress-free business travel. Her post provides a helpful, basic resource that you may find helpful as well. Consider these tips as you start planning your own trip.

Here are a few of Kossman’s pro tips for business travel:

  1. If you’re planning to be on the go regularly or need to be able to leave at a moment’s notice, make sure to keep essentials packed at all times. This includes toiletries and charging cables, for example.
  2. Remember to pack leisure clothing items. You probably won’t be in meetings for your entire trip so make sure you have comfortable clothes and shoes for sightseeing, going out on the town, etc.
  3. Avoid checking bags. You’ll save time and money when you pack what you need in a carry-on.
  4. Sign up for frequent traveler programs. These types of services will save you a lot of time and hassle since they allow pre-approved travelers to bypass traditional security checks.
  5. Make sure you have all the documents you need for travel (i.e., driver’s license, tickets, passport, etc.) and that you’re able to quickly access them. This will help further reduce the time you spend waiting in line at the airport.

As I mentioned above, all business travel involves planning ahead as much as possible. It can make all the difference between having an experience that is enjoyable or downright regrettable. There are two primary aspects of business travel which especially require diligent planning: packing and securing accommodations.

Here are recommendations for packing properly and finding affordable accommodations like a pro:

What to pack for business travel

Decide what absolutely needs to be packed, what can be left behind, and what can be bought when you arrive at your destination. Packing for a business trip is much different than for a family vacation. For business travel, efficiency is key.

TripCase, an itinerary management travel app, shares an excellent business trip packing checklist on their blog titled, “Packing List For A Stress-Free Business Trip.” As the author of this post points out,

Preparedness and planning are you(r) best weapons. With a well thought out, but simple plan of attack, it’s easy to avoid a large number of the plights and pitfalls that many travelers fall victim to.

The author recommends coming up with a handful of categories as a way of organizing your business travel packing:

Your attire

  • What is the dress code?
  • Will you need a versatile wardrobe?
  • How long are you going to be there?
  • What is the weather going to be like at your destination?
  • Have an extra outfit for each function at the ready, just in case.

Work-related items

  • Printed handouts
  • Business cards
  • Pens and a notebook
  • Laptop, mouse, and charger (or tablet(s) and charger)

Electronics and entertainment

  • Chargers
  • Power adaptors
  • Books for fun reading
  • Phone accessories

Choosing a place to stay

In some cases, the company you work for chooses where you’ll stay when you’re traveling for them. However, when you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, for example, you are most likely responsible for your own accommodations. Ideally, you want to find a safe, comfortable place to relax at the end of the day without spending a small fortune.

For short stays, you can go online and easily find discounted corporate rates for business travelers, either using travel sites or through specific hotels’ websites.

Kristina Portillo, the founder of the Business Travel Life website, shares useful tips for accessing corporate hotel rates as a small business owner on her blog post, “How to Get Corporate Hotel Rates.”

Portillo’s tips include the following:

  • Do not make your reservation using the 800 number
  • Request a corporate rate if you are doing business with a local company
  • Ask for an unofficial corporate rate
  • Do not approach a busy check-in desk
  • Ask for a non-refundable rate

Some business trips require you to stay for an extended period of time. Fortunately, there are many affordable and comfortable extended stay options to choose from. Whether you’re seeking a simple place to stay with a small kitchen and real “dishes,” or a furnished home or apartment – or something in between – there are many different types of accommodations available.

Here are a few ideas for extended stay business travelers:

Although planning for business travel requires a good amount of time and patience, it will be completely worthwhile when you successfully arrive at your destination. You’ll have time to focus on your business needs and be more productive with your work, rather than worrying about lost luggage, unsatisfactory accommodations or botched reservations.

What are other tips do you have for efficient and stress-free business travel? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions – please feel free to leave a comment below.

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