Are YOU a Game Changer?


Regular readers of my blog know that this summer was pretty exciting for me as I had the opportunity to teach at two universities (Brandeis and Boston University) and visit Lagos, Nigeria where I spoke with over a thousand students about innovation and entrepreneurship.

However, the lesson that stands out the most from this summer is that one-time speaking engagements and short-term (3 to 5 day) conferences don’t really ensure nor support meaningful change. It’s great to speak with motivated students and business owners about change and innovation but it can also be quite disappointing if the impact you are aiming for is fleeting.

How many times have you left a seminar charged up and inspired to execute change within your organization only to return to your ‘daily life’ and ‘business as usual’ never implementing the much desired change? I can personally attest that this is something that plagues me and sometimes leaves me pondering why I bother attending or speaking at conferences if it isn’t going to make a difference.

This month we explore how to shake things up and become the game changer you need to be!


 We all know that change is hard, really hard, but if you (and I) don’t take the steps required to execute on our dreams, then nobody is going to do it for us.  Change is in your hands but it won’t happen simply by attending a few workshops or networking occasionally to make the ‘right’ connections. These are activities that are great starting points but you must take the time to create very specific and measurable goals in order to achieve the vision that you are aiming for.

As a trainer, my desire to have a long term impact on individuals I have the privilege to work with led to the creation of a business card handout used to capture an important SMART goal. It asks ONE simple question: “What SMART goal do you want to achieve in the next 30, 60 or 90 day period (you pick the time frame)?” Plus, there’s space for only four actions to be executed during that period to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed with too many activities that simply won’t get done.

Since I started handing these out at seminars I have been thrilled with the responses I have received. Months later participants in a workshop or talk I gave have come up to me to show me their SMART Goal card and tell me that they carry it around to ensure they actually do what they had committed to. This takes the prize when it comes to my own job satisfaction. Would you like your own card? Feel free to click here to download the SMART Goal Card.

 I’ve seen the benefits of follow up in my workshops and in the classes I teach at BU and Brandeis. One example is a course I taught over the summer called the BU Urban Business Accelerator. This is a 10-week course designed to help students gain expertise through consulting with small business owners in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The students achieve solid experience as they begin to truly grasp what it means to be a small business owner and see first hand the obstacles encountered in growing and maintaining a business. The business owners get support from dedicated, hard working students who research their specific industry (e.g., beauty salons, electronic stores) and help them better understand how they are doing relative to others in the industry and learn how to manage their business by the numbers.

This course, masterminded by a BU student in his senior year, has a unique twist that is at the heart of its success and differentiates its impact and value from other programs. There’s a 24-month follow-up.  The program doesn’t end when the course does, unlike most traditional classes and business growth programs. This follow-up provides a chance to review what’s working, what’s not and what midcourse corrections need to take place to ensure the companies are using the new tools provided to them by the students. While we are still in the early stages of gathering this post-initiative data, I am convinced, based on early data collected, that this is a critical element that will help make this program a true game changer. In fact, I believe it makes enough of a difference that I am reviewing other business growth classes that I offer to determine how I can ensure that the lessons taught are lessons executed

Long-term success has a better chance of occurring when individuals measure their success not by the strength of their idea but by the actions they take to directly achieve their goals.

Like a great diet or exercise regime, success depends on what happens when we leave the protected environment of the classroom and return to working IN the business. Without making time to work ON your business and make appointments with that very important VIP – you, you may have had a nice experience but the bad habits return quickly.

Ready to set your SMART goals now? Simply visit the SMART Goals page here on my website for a worksheet to help you define your goals and executable action steps and to download my SMART Goal card.

Nigeria – Hope On the Edge of Chaos, Crime and Corruption

Market2 Selling
Ever wonder where all the Volkswagen Microbuses from a bygone era disappeared to? It turns out they’re alive and bustling around, albeit at a very slow pace, in Lagos, Nigeria where I just returned from a speaking engagement on innovation and entrepreneurship.This month I share with you my impression of Nigeria, a place filled with paradoxes… the people are beautiful, hopeful and impassioned about making change happen while the streets are littered with garbage, rotting with sinkholes so enormous they could consume small children.There is a level of chaos that I have never experienced previously, not even during my multiple trips to China. Everybody is on the move yet they’re getting nowhere fast because there’s no order to the flow of traffic. This is a place void of traffic lights and seemingly traffic laws. The lack of infrastructure was haunting, yet the call for change from the people with whom I spent four days inspired me and I hope my stories will inspire you as well.Beth

Hope on the Edge of Chaos
Nigeria overview

Lagos, the largest city in Africa, is a blend of chaos and pollution mixed with passionate, energized Nigerians aimed at saving their country from the crime, poverty and go-slows (traffic jams) that plague innovation and growth.

This is a city filled with energy that can be deafening and yet defining as the tin and cardboard shacks that are home to millions of their citizens sit juxtaposed to the slowly growing middle class homes. I found it to be both scary and scintillating, but my feelings about the people that reside there was not conflicted in any way – I fell in love with their warmth, passion and drive for change.

A true urban adventure, the economic powerhouse of Nigeria was exactly what I needed after months of seven-day workweeks focused on teaching and consulting. Who thinks of “Nigeria” as a getaway for the weary? I certainly didn’t but it turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered.

I knew I was in for an adventure when I found it impossible to purchase Naira (Nigerian currency) in the U.S. Everybody from my two banks to the currency exchange experts at Travelex informed me that they don’t carry Nigerian money. Most looked at me perplexed that I was going to Nigeria — you would have thought I had told them I was going to the moon. I assumed I’d have an easier time exchanging my money once in Nigeria but discovered that they don’t accept Traveler’s Cheques, my credit cards were considered foreign and therefore unacceptable, and my ATM card was rejected in the hotel’s machines. I eventually found a location that accepted my card at a heavily guarded ATM Gallery.

What did all of this tell me?
Nigeria, beyond its reputation as the hotbed of scammers trying to extort money from innocent email recipients, does not yet have the infrastructure to support tourism – an industry that could help infuse capital and business into their country. But it begs the question: What will it take to overcome their reputation so outsiders will think of it as a country to visit and experience?


So how did I end up traveling to Nigeria? This has been the most popular question posed to me over the past few weeks. A former graduate student of mine invited me to participate in Nigeria’s Annual Business Competition. She came to Boston University with the goal of learning more about running a national Business Plan Competition for her country, Nigeria. She was working for a US-based organization whose focus is to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills necessary to become socially responsible business leaders.  With skyrocketing unemployment this organization helps students develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, skills that are not just nice to possess but are clearly necessary for success.

I felt proud to watch her realize her dreams. Students from the 36 states in Nigeria participated in this competition. Each team represented a year of planning along with the execution of their proposed business models. As part the competition, teams were required to prove that they had achieved measurable economic, social and entrepreneurial impact.

I had the privilege of not only speaking at this 3-day event but also judging in the semi-finals round. It was quite moving to be in the room of over 1,000 students and experience their energy and enthusiasm as they simultaneously burst into applause and dance when the winning team was announced. This inspiring team had to work through bombings in the northern part of Nigeria that they called home and risked incarceration because they broke curfews mandated by the dangerous conditions in which they lived.

A chaotic city filled with noise, pollution, bumper-to-bumper traffic at all hours of the day and a lack of public utilities resulting in ongoing power outages, Lagos is clearly struggling with the enormous population growth that it’s experiencing. Unemployment is as high as 35% for 20 to 35 year olds. It makes one ponder how they will ever get past this poverty-riddled position to realize the small wins that most Americans take for granted every day.


Nonetheless, the spirit of entrepreneurship clearly lives in the souls of their youth. You can experience this firsthand in the streets and roadways while traveling in your car or catching a ride on a VW Minibus (their national transportation system). While on the ride, you can purchase practically anything you need before arriving at your destination including plantains, soda, candy and fruit as well as mouse traps, car mats, jewelry, towels, videos and stuffed animals. If you dare to get out of your car you can even pick up a sofa, toilet, bathtub or a couple of dogs (I was tempted but realized it was simply not a good idea).
What are the takeaways for me? Where there’s hope, there is an accompanying entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and change that can transform a person, a business and even a country. This spirit, enabled by amazing women like my student, who have dedicated their lives to change, will be the driving force that empowers developing nations like Nigeria to find their place as a viable economic power. I hope to be a part of that transformation because observing that level of hope and energy is a privilege that every entrepreneur should experience at least once in his or her life. It will change your perspective forever.

Everything Critical About Business I Learned From My Dog

biscotti_ben_spaghettiThis month’s newsletter is dedicated to my recently departed dog Biscotti (pictured above with my son Ben about 10 years earlier showing their beautiful trusting relationship). Biscotti reinforced in me (and my children) the values that we hold true in business and life. After 15 years of loyal companionship and love, Biscotti is no longer with us, except in spirit.
The story I share this month is about a disastrous lobster bake I hosted for Ben’s high school graduation (he’s grown up since the picture was taken) and exemplifies the best and worst of people in business. I’m confident Biscotti is looking down upon us grimacing at the horrible traits that not even a bad dog would exemplify and secretly wishing he had been there – simply to have feasted on the lobster that splattered to the floor after 3 hours of cooking.Beth

Lessons From Our Canine Friends

Beth GoldsteinWhat are the most important traits that define a business and exemplify its brand? They include: establishing relationships built on trust, being loyal, making good connections, following through and showing unconditional compassion. Those characteristics are ones exemplified by our canine companions and the reason we call dogs ‘man’s/woman’s best friend.’ Biscotti held these traits, and as a member of our family, he was loved and respected by all. In the best business relationships, these same characteristics are self-evident. In the worst, they are completely mutilated, and my Lobster Bake story unfortunately shows the complete obliteration demonstrated by the owner while his young crew showed the best of these qualities.

It all began when I saw a Groupon for a Lobster Bake and thought – wow, what a great idea for my son’s graduation. I looked up the company, Saldoni’s in North Chelmsford, MA, (yes, in this rare instance, I am sharing the company’s name) and didn’t find anything negative about them. Since the Groupon was a bit vague, I called the owner directly to make sure I understood what was included, and he pitched me an offer to go directly through him. Knowing that Groupon would have provided him just 25% of what I paid, it sounded acceptable, and I hired his team months in advance. He told me his crew would arrive at 5 p.m. on the day of the event to setup and we’d be eating around 6 p.m.

A few days prior to the event, he called me to confirm, and we reviewed times again. Things, however, went downhill from there. On the day of the party, no one showed up at 5 p.m. The owner didn’t answer or return my calls to him at 5:15 p.m., 5:45 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. My messages began in a gentle tone and then escalated as time passed. I grew annoyed as my guests grew hungrier. At 6:20 p.m., he finally called back. That’s when the ugliness began. He told me he was sorry, he was catering another affair, and didn’t know where his crew was but that he would solve the problem ASAP. They showed up a few minutes later looking innocent and honestly surprised when I asked them why they were so late. They told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30. Nonetheless, they could not have been sweeter. It was obvious that they felt terrible and quickly pulled things out of their car to begin the lobster bake.

Immediately, I felt better seeing this as a communication gaffe that wasn’t their fault but clearly the owner’s responsibility. I was watching them work hard to set up the equipment in my back yard when the owner called back and told me, “My crew had a flat tire!” Really? I exclaimed because they told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30 p.m. I asked, “Which lie is the correct one?” and he got mad at me and said, “This is my business, and they had a flat tire.” I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth but checked with them any way. They were as surprised by the lie as I was and they were looking me in the eye telling me there had been no car problems.

The situation then went from bad to ugly. After learning that the owner had thrown his team ‘under the bus to protect himself,’ I then discovered there was a problem with the equipment. To make a long story short, they couldn’t get the water to boil because the equipment wasn’t working. Two hours later, we gave up with their efforts and attempted to cook the lobster on my stove (in my lobster pot) and finally got them semi-cooked by 9 p.m. The rest of the food couldn’t fit in my home-style pot so it had to be thrown away or frozen (anybody interested in frozen corn? I have a lot).

Talk about a WOW (NOT) experience! This was beyond disappointing. To top it off, the owner told me his policy was to never provide refunds (even when he’s at fault?) and kept insisting that I accept another meal on ‘the house’… personally cooked by him. Seriously, the last thing I wanted was this dishonest business owner, who treated his staff with disrespect, to cook a meal for me and my friends. It took me two days and one nasty YELP review (social media can be quite powerful) to convince him to give me a refund. Let’s face it, people make mistakes and equipment fails. I am very much pro small business and would have forgiven him (and not gone to the web to voice my disgust) if he had been honest.  But when he tried to place the blame on his honest employees… that was the last intolerable straw for me.

What does this tell us about his business and his brand? Nothing positive, for sure. He’s not trustworthy, doesn’t deliver on promises made to customers, is unfaithful to his employees and doesn’t follow up. If only he had taken a lesson from my dog BIscotti or perhaps yours, and shown loyalty and compassion… he wouldn’t have a really awful review on the world of social media (feel free to check it out).

In closing, as you manage your business, always keep in mind the important lessons of honestly, trust and loyalty that our four-legged friends teach us every day.

Now, please excuse me as I go give our other dog, Twizzler, a belly rub! Next month I will share stories of my adventure in Nigeria as I head out next week to speak at conference on innovation and entrepreneurship in that fascinating country.

What’s Your Bucket?

ImageEverybody has a bucket…and no, I’m not referring to the ‘bucket list’ of things you must do before you die. That list is likely more interesting than the bucket to which I’m referring. This bucket is the system or process that you know you need to fix or establish to manage your business but haven’t quite gotten around to implementing. In this month’s issue I will help you reveal what your own bucket is and what you can do to make it disappear.



Discovering & Fixing Your Bucket

Beth Goldstein

At Boston University I am the co-faculty director for a program called the BU Urban Business Accelerator. This program, started by a recent alum, Nathan Bernard, focuses on helping business owners in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods develop the skills and systems they need to manage their businesses “by the numbers.” Undergraduate and graduate students work with business owners in inner cities in Boston to implement QuickBooks and often a Point of Sale (POS) system for these businesses.
Many of these business owners have very unsophisticated, and oftentimes nonexistent systems. The students were floored one day when the owner of one retail shop pulled out an actual bucket of hand written receipts for all of the items sold that week. The business owner understood the value of tracking his data in a more formal manner, but he simply didn’t have enough time nor knowledge to create a system. He was basically doing everything by hand because he didn’t know where to begin, which led to pricing, profit and inventory challenges.
With thousands of SKU’s sold in this store, you can imagine the value of creating a computerized system to track how much each item costs, what it was sold it for and when to reorder (or not). It’s easy to look at this business from the outside and think of dozens of ways to improve it. But when we are working IN our business versus ON it, these growth challenges can surface quickly and have long and very hazardous impacts.
We all have a ‘bucket’ that represents a part of our business that we know isn’t working efficiently. Oftentimes we know precisely how to fix it so…it’s just a matter of finding the time to do so. You probably don’t have a team of students ready and willing to identify and then fix your bucket, so it’s up to YOU to find the time to correct the problem on your own. Let’s face reality; unless you MAKE the time to correct the situation, you’re not going to easily find a few hours or days readily available to you.
Now is the time to fix this year’s bucket. We’re almost halfway through 2013, so begin by making an appointment with yourself to identify your biggest bucket then create a plan (nothing fancy) with dates of how you’re going to correct it. Here’s a simple 5-step process to follow:
  1. Identify your bucket – what’s the one problem you have that if corrected would make running your business easier, better or perhaps more profitable?
  2. Outline 3 reasons to fix it – how will your business improve or your sanity be increased? This is a great reminder of WHY it’s so important to do this NOW!
  3. Outline the steps required to fix it
  4. Define who will fix it (it doesn’t have to be JUST you)
  5. Create deadlines and then simply DO IT!
I’m off to address my own bucket. Curious? I’ve started teaching a few new classes at BU and at Brandeis this summer, but my schedule isn’t designed to prepare for classes, write my next book and manage my consulting projects. I’ve been working in a very non-linear, circular manner trying to get things done on time and it’s driving me crazy. I’m revising my own schedule so there’s time set aside literally written into my calendar (Yes, I’ve made appointments with myself) to prepare for classes and ensure that the first draft of book #3 (The Next Chapter: Turning Your Passion Into a Thriving Business) is completed by the end of the summer. Wish me luck!

The Power of Reinventing Yourself

Bob CrowtherThis month I am excited to share the story of a man I met at a training course I ran a few weeks ago. Bob C. (pictured above) is in his early 60’s and he inspired me to think about the power we all have to reinvent and transforms our lives and businesses. If his pictures don’t inspire you to consider how YOU can change your life or business, then I’m confident his story will.


The Power of Reinventing Yourself
Beth GoldsteinI’ve hear that we have a new layer of skin approximately every 7 years. We know that thisnew layer doesn’t magically appear on your body one day. It happens over time, slowly and without really being noticed. The same can be said about our satisfaction with our careers and businesses.They take on new appearances and transform over time. Sometimes that’s great, especially if you’ve been in control of steering the direction of your business. But have you ever awoken and realized that the new skin your company has assumed just doesn’t fit who you are now?

How many of you are pondering if the business you’re working in or running is the one you want to be enveloped in for the next 5, 10 or 20 years? Have you considered reinventing yourself but are not sure where to begin? While this can be a problem for individuals in every generation, I have definitely noticed a trend amongst Baby Boomers who are looking for their next career or company… perhaps the one they consider to be their last before they retire.  According to the US Department of Labor the number of people 45+ who have been jobless for more than a year has quadrupled since

2007, accounting for nearly half of the 3.5 million Americans out of work for more than a year. Are you or is a friend or loved on in that situation? Regardless of your age or the circumstances surrounding your need to make a change, to reinvent yourself for the 1st, 3rd or perhaps 20th  time, the power is within you but the first step is always the hardest. 
Do we have to have a big ‘aha’ moment that propels us into taking the first step or, like the transformation of our skin, does this feeling happen slowly over time? Either way, unlike our skin, change only happens when we make it happen.  

I met Bob Crowther (seen above) at a seminar I was running at the Small Business Development Center at Clark University in Worcester, MA. Before the seminar began, we had the opportunity to chat and he shared his transformational story. Having spent his life in biological research, he found himself, in his early 60’s, unemployed for an extended period of time.  Having dealt with chronic back pain due to lumbar arthritis he had begun to attend hatha yoga classes after several friends had suggested this might help him strengthen his core muscles and alleviate his pain. Bob told me that, “Despite my inexperience and obvious lack of abilities during this initial yoga class, I had fun. I recognized yoga as a means of dealing with decades of back pain as well as a way to recover from major thoracic surgery.”

Bob had tried traditional methods such as physical training sessions and weight lifting but yoga appeared to be the one elixir that truly worked.
Bob Warrior_smAs yoga became a daily ritual, it informed his lifestyle choices and Bob found himself taking four classes a week, becoming leaner, stronger and more flexible. He realized that he wanted to share his remarkable recovery with others to, not only help them but to inspire individuals of all ages that they could master this, just like he did. It was time to reinvent himself and turn his passion into a business. He recently launched Yoga Fitness and Nutrition LLC to address the short and long term goals of Baby Boomers with aches and pains. While his business will be open to individuals of every age, he is focused on people living with the consequences of various medical conditions including a heart attack, diabetes, arthritis and weight issues, offering physical evaluations, one-on-one instruction and nutritional advice. He has found a unique niche and is the poster child for his business.

Bob is in the process of reinventing his career just as he reinvented his body. For me, and perhaps for you as well, he serves as an incredible inspiration of the pure strength not only of body but soul and spirit at any age.  If you want to learn more about Bob, you can connect with him via LinkedIn and watch as he continues his transformation. I certainly will be!

So ask yourself, “Is it time?” Is the old skin feeling itchy? Are you ready to make that change? If you answer “yes” or even “maybe,” here are 5 simple steps you can take to begin your own transformation:

  1. Imagine yourself in 3 years. You’re in a great place in terms of your career and business aspirations. With words (unless you’re artistically gifted) draw a picture of what you’re doing that makes you so happy. Describe your business and your life as if you were telling a friend you hadn’t seen in a few years what your life is like now.
  2. Write down 5 thing that you love about this new life.
  3. Next, write down what is so different about your futuristic life compared to your present one.
  4. Write down what’s stopping you from taking steps to get to this new life – then cross out those negative thoughts.
  5. Finally, write down 3 things you can do in the next 30 daysthat will help you start down the road of achieving your dream job or business.

I’m off to sign up for a yoga class (haven’t done one since college). However, I’d love to hear what your dream is. If you would like to share, send me your 5-step list. Perhaps (with your permission) I will include it in my upcoming book: Reinventing Yourself – Creating the Business You Always Dreamed Of (working title).