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Knowing When It’s Time to Leave the Party

It’s important to have a reliable barometer that helps us gauge when it’s time to leave the ‘proverbial party.’ For me, the party I am exiting is located at the School of Management at Boston University. However, for you the ‘party’ might be a customer relationship that has gone awry, a business partnership that has seen better days or perhaps even the company you launched.

Do you know when it’s time to leave or do you often overstay your welcome?

Beth Goldstein

Sell High – Buy Low

Investors playing the stock market have searched high and low to know the exact right time to exit the market. For them, it means knowing when your portfolio has peaked and before it begins spiraling downward. Unless you’ve got some special insight, finding the perfect time to exit is hard.

Let’s face it, being able to walk away is an important skill set and something you need to do before the proverbial table is cluttered with empty beer cans, the pizza crusts are piled high, and your head is spinning. Sometimes your friends or colleagues are there to show you the door… other times you just have to listen to your gut, pick yourself up, wipe off the crumbs and exit…. remembering to always thank your host. Here is my thanks to my host for the past 13+ years – Boston University (BU).

BU is an amazing university – one that I have been proud to call my home (at least part-time) for over a decade. But eventually we must all recognize when it’s time to fly the coop. I started teaching at BU less than 18 months after I launched my consulting practice in 1999 and it gave me the grounding, support and credibility I needed to build a reputable marketing consulting firm focused on helping entrepreneurs and business owners grow their own businesses.

I learned an exorbitant amount from my colleagues and my students and had the opportunity to be introduced to publishers like McGraw-Hill (published my first book) and to travel to exciting places like China and Nigeria… opportunities that would not have happened if I had not made a connection that originated at BU (unlike Kevin Bacon – most of my connections were only 1 or 2 degrees… not 6 acquaintance links apart).

However, my gut has been shouting, ‘it’s time’ for quite a while. I believe I made a solid contribution to BU and my time there was well spent. But I’m ready to leave. Now, starting ‘Year 16’ of Marketing Edge Consulting Group, my passion for educating entrepreneurs and small business owners has grown exponentially. This has led me to create the Edge Institute – the training division of my firm. I am thrilled and blessed that I have found my passion so with a renewed energy and a focus on developing training programs for businesses; I am ready to leave the BU party.

This week I began the next chapter of my career. I am teaching entrepreneurship courses and even a class on ‘Creativity and Idea Generation’ at Babson College (ranked #1 in entrepreneurship for 20+ years) and focusing on the Edge Institute to ensure it has the bandwidth required to ensure its success.

But alas I will never fully leave BU. It’s been my home for too long as well as my alma mater (MBA ’91). My son, Ben will carry on the legacy as he becomes a member of the BU class of 2017 this Fall. So, there will always be a Terrier in the family (besides the two barking ones that rule our household). Thank you BU for being the amazing host that allowed me to get to this point in my career.

What’s On the Other Side?

As Alexander Graham Bell said:

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Here’s to not looking back with regret but with high hopes and renewed energy towards the new future that has opened. I look forward to seeing you on the other side.

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Use Yah Blinkah!

A few weeks ago the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed their latest digital sign, “Use Yah Blinkah” to remind those of us in the fabulous state of Massachusetts that communicating with other drivers about our next move is important. If you’ve ever driven through Massachusetts you’ve discovered that most of us consider the blinkah an optional gadget in our car. Seriously, it’s amazing we don’t have a major problem with road rage because, from my observation, most of us simply ignore this important safety rule.  This month we discuss the importance of speaking yah customer’s language!

Beth Goldstein

What Do Yah Customahs Hear?

DOT recognized that they weren’t getting  through to their customers but instead of pleading with drivers to be courteous, they decided to use humor to grab our attention. They successfully managed to gently remind us to observe the rules of the road by having fun with the fact that Bostonians are known for dropping their “r’s” when speaking.

I suspect that the DOT has tried more conventional methods of getting drivers’ attention. However, I missed the message and I wonder how many others did as well. Nonetheless, this creative tactic certainly got my attention and went viral pretty quickly. I found out about it through a Facebook post. At first I thought it was a hoax but was delighted (thrilled actually!) when I saw one of the signs on the Massachusetts Turnpike (aka Da Pike).

Imagine that – a government agency acting like a business to ensure their message was not just delivered but received! They became marketers – thinking like their  ‘customers’ to ensure that those who had gone deaf listening to this message in the past were now hopefully more engaged in the dialogue.  I think it was brilliant marketing and applaud the DOT for having the courage to think outside of the conventional box to appeal to its citizens using a voice they recognize and can smile at. Humor can be a very effective form of communication.

Why is it so important to think like your customers to ensure they hear you?
This reminds me of the personal branding story I’ve shared in my books and told numerous times during my growth seminars. Here’s the story, if you missed it… or simply want to hear it again.  I know this is my mother’s favorite!

When my son Ben was a little boy we decided to have the shutters replaced on the outside of our house. It was the middle of the winter and our contractor placed a large blue tarp over our house to protect us from the pending blizzard. When Ben asked why our house was covered in blue, we explained that there was a huge blizzard coming and we needed to be protected from it. Unfortunately this caused  a lot of fear for our 3-year old and Ben had nightmares for several days until  we figured out what the root cause of the problem was.

It turns out that 3-year olds don’t know what blizzards are but they do know what lizards are. Ben didn’t comprehend what we said (we failed to think like him) and he believed that we needed to be protected from the huge lizard that was about to attack our house. You see, perception is reality and Ben only heard what he was able to comprehend – lizard…. not blizzard.

It seems that the DOT understood that they weren’t getting their message delivered any better than Ben’s dad and I had. Message delivered but NOT received – as anticipated is a problem in business and well, in all aspects of life.

How Effectively Are You Communicating Your Brand?

Check with your customers and see if the message you’re delivering is the one they are receiving. How? Simple – either ask them to describe your value to them or  use social media to check. Social media can be a great way to determine how well  you’re explaining your company values, benefits and brand. If the buzz about your business, being shared through the voice of your customer, is different than the  one you believe you are delivering then it might be time to USE YAH BLINKAH and  starting communicating better with customers and prospects that clearly influence the success or failure of your organization. Remember, don’t let your brand be a lizard.

 

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Hope is NOT a Strategy – It’s Fuel For Your Dreams

Hope is NOT a Strategy – It’s Fuel For Your Dreams

If you’re a fan of the show Lost you may recall the episode during season one when they discovered a hatch on the island they’re mysteriously stranded on. Before they figure out how to blow it open, there are many discussions about what could be in this covered opening.

John Locke brilliantly points out that whether it’s Twinkies or equipment enabling their escape, it’s clear that the one thing this this hatch holds is hopeHope for a future. Hope for a better life or the achievement of one’s dreams. I thought this was brilliant and in this month’s newsletter I will share a few stories of hope that have inspired and motivated me.

If you’re located in New England, remember to Register for the National Small Business Week Celebration at the NERD Center in Cambridge on May 15. It promises to be an incredible day of networking and learning for small business owners.

Hope Helps Us Take Critical Leaps of Faith

With this issue I launch the fifth year of writing this newsletter, designed to provide tips, guidance and hope to small business owners. One of my first articles was entitled, “Hope is Not a Strategy.” I wrote about the importance of not waiting or hoping for positive business achievements but creating critical action steps to ensure you turn your dream into reality.

Looking back I wonder if I was too dismissive about the role hope plays in success because without it, the best tactical plans will not likely work. Why? As I’ve learned over the years, hope on its own won’t ensure your dreams but it clearly is the fuel that powers your plan. It’s what motivates us to work late into the night, on weekends, even in the shower thinking about our next steps. When it’s lost (even temporarily) the energy to move to the next phase of growth or make a risky move isn’t there. We become lost and either find ourselves standing still or thinking only about the past… without any motivation to move forward.

Like all of you, my business and personal life have taken hits that temporarily damaged my hope. We all go through negative turns in our lives, but once we find that thing we call hope, we discover the power to envision our lives or businesses as they can be.

The First Hit is the Hardest
This past fall my son Ben was presented with a personal challenge that hampered his hope. He was quite happy during his first six weeks in college in the Midwest but his situation suddenly turned ugly (very ugly) and he was put in a position where he needed to withdraw from school and return home. He didn’t have a Plan B since this turn of events was quite unexpected. He decided to take classes at a local university until he could determine next steps. You could see that hope was no longer a part of his every day life.

As an 18-year old this was quite clearly the first major blow to his spirit and he didn’t have the benefit of past experience to know and truly believe that things would improve. The first blow to hope is always the hardest. It wasn’t until he began the application process in January that I saw the light come back on… his spirit lifted and his sense that ‘all would be alright with his world’ once again returned. As a mother, it was devastating to watching. However, I am confident that this important life lesson – while brutal and hard to experience – will be one that will empower him in the future… and allow his recovery time from the next hope-destroying experience to be much shorter.

Lessons from the Boston Marathon

The running of the 2014 Boston Marathon was Monday.  A few weeks ago I was honored to moderate a panel held at Boston University run by Boston’s former Mayor, Tom Menino (he now heads up  a program at the university entitled Initiatives on Cities). The forum,   “Leading Cities Through Crisis: Lessons learned from the Boston Marathon” was a fascinating and informative assessment of how the city of Boston came together during and following the bombing, a crisis unimaginable to many people. There were panels of survivors and first responders who spoke to the audience of city officials from around the country. It was quite clear that hope played a key role in their ability to move forward and provide the support needed to overcome the crisis. It was also inspiring to hear how much individuals acting collectively could do to help others in need.

PhiloSophies Heads to the Big Apple

My final thought on hope focuses on Joanna Alberti, owner of PhiloSophies. I wrote about her Kickstarter campaign in February and many of you have asked about her final results. With a great tactical and strategic plan, Joanna managed to more than double her goal of raising $3,000…. hitting over $6,200 in donations. She’s now furiously planning for the May conference where she’s sure to be a huge success. Hope fueled her through the last few months and gave her the strength to take some calculated risks to scale her business.

Share with me! What gives you hope for the future? What motivates  you or has motivated you through hard times? I love to hear your stories and look forward to being inspired.

 

5 Tips for $5,000

I just shared 5 #businesstips for a chance to win $5,000. Join me: http://bit.ly/smbtips via @Company_Corp

via 5 Tips for $5,000.

 

Can Your Business Benefit From a Midlife Crisis?

Beth GoldsteinHappy Holiday Season. I’ve spent a lot of time this year pondering the direction of my life and my business. You see I turned 50 earlier this year (good opportunity for you to feign surprise) and, as anticipated, I had my proverbial midlife crisis.I’m still in the midst of wondering where all the years went and did I make the right decisions along the way. I’m confident that I made a lot of really great choices, but trust me, when I made bad ones – they were doozies. Let’s face it, we all have “dirty laundry” but to be successful it’s critical to decide what to clean up and what to discard.

As we approach the new year, this month we’ll explore how a midlife crisis might just be what the doctor ordered for your business to rise to the next level!

 Beth

Sometime it Just Takes a Few Grey Hairs…

I have learned a lot from my choices over the years (both good and bad) and am diligently trying to use those lessons learned to guide my future decisions. A colleague recently asked me if I was worried about becoming obsolete as I get older and I reminded him that I work at two universities where the median age (of most educators) is still older than 50. But, after making that statement, I thought further and have to acknowledge that, regardless of the age of my colleagues, staying on top of my game must become an even more significant priority as I enter this new decade.Can you have an empowering midlife crisis that catapults your career or business to the next level? I’m counting on it!The questions I’ve been asking myself about choices I’ve made over the past 50 years (well, the first 10 probably don’t count) have proven to be quite powerful. They have demanded that I carefully rethink and reconsider every aspect of my business and personal aspirations. I admit it, I am terrified of becoming obsolete as I get greyer (I already spend too much time with my hairdresser) and there are many things that I need to carefully review as the clock ticks.The world is a different place than we knew it 20 or 30 years ago and the pace of change continues to hit us at an unprecedented rate. Therefore, we must each learn how to avoid obsolescence while ensuring we remain passionate about what we do every day.  Are you still passionate about the things you cared about 20 or 30 years ago? How about 5 years ago?

The same soul searching questions I’ve been asking myself this year about my personal decisions have to be asked about my business choices. Not just this year (because I’m of ‘that age’) but every year because time slips by rapidly and none of us can afford to not ask these questions routinely (I suggest at least once a year but not daily or you’ll make yourself nuts).

Let’s review some soul-searching questions (you may have already asked yourself these):

  1. Are the things I care about today the same ones that led to my current business or career choice?
  2. Do I love getting up every day (or most days) knowing that I’m going to be doing something important?
  3. Am I restless and in need of a change?
  4. What would life look like if I could wake up tomorrow in my perfect job or running the ‘ideal’ company or non-profit?
  5. Do my answers terrify yet also excite me?
  6. Finally, (and this is the million-dollar question), What am I going to do in 2014 to create the change I desire? 

Remember, only you can make the change you need to have a successful midcourse correction. It’s never too late!

Enjoy the holiday season and I hope that you begin 2014 with a renewed energy in your walk and in your talk.

 
 

From Worst to First: Lessons from the Red Sox Comeback

TBeth, Ben & Jacquihis month I’m thrilled to co-author this blog with my 18-year old son, Ben Weiner, whose knowledge and love of sports is at an All-Star level compared to my young rookie status.

Together we apply lessons learned from the amazing comeback story of our beloved Red Sox (Worst-To-First) to help you think about your business in a new light.

Whether you’re struggling to grow your firm or to turn your losses into World Series caliber wins, there are valuable lessons to be learned for everybody (even Yankees fans)!

Beth

Just over 13 months ago the Boston Red Sox found themselves in the cellar of the American League East Division with a 69-93 record, the worst the franchise had posted in nearly a half century. The team had over a year’s worth of clubhouse problems ranging from drinking beer before and during games to players flat out not getting along. Plus, there was so much bad karma in the locker room that it couldn’t help but affect their on-field performance.

If you’ve spent any time in the world of business, then you’ve most likely been in this position –struggling with daily drama that has nothing to do with the actual business you’re running or working in. Unfortunately all of this negative energy has a huge impact on what you deliver for clients and eventually, if unresolved, on your bottom line. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re consumed with these diversions, but in order to achieve your true goals, focus is a MUST!

So how did the Sox launch their turnaround and what lessons can you take away and apply to your business? The first big move to clean up the club was made in late August 2012, when the Red Sox agreed to send big name players Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford to the LA Dodgers in exchange for lessor known and prospect players. Beckett was in the middle of many of the clubhouse troubles that had followed and haunted the team over the course of the season and the 7-20 September collapse the previous season. This deal sent over $250 million in future salaries to LA and cleared up plenty of space for offseason acquisitions.

But they didn’t stop with the rank and file, they took a hard look at the leadership too.  The Sox dropped manager Bobby Valentine just one year after bringing him in to replace Terry Francona. Valentine’s relationship with players and management in the clubhouse was poor at best and identifying a leader who was a better fit became a top priority in the offseason.

Business owners: when was the last time you cleaned house? Have your star performers begun to disappoint you but you haven’t addressed nor corrected the situation? Are all your players in their proverbial “right seats on your bus” or do some seem out of place now that your company has grown? If you are experiencing any of these common growing pains, then you know it’s impacting your performance.

 These challenges go beyond personnel so when cleaning house you also need to review your systems, processes and even your products and/or services. Are these working in your favor or have they outgrown their original value? As business owners we wear so many hats that sometimes we don’t spend the precious time required to sit down and evaluate what is no longer a logical part of our business operation. This time of year is perfect for re-evaluating all aspects of your business and making much needed and oftentimes overdue changes to people, processes and products. Do you need to clear out space for new acquisitions?

For the Red Sox, the 2012 offseason was a huge success from the start, trading with the Toronto Blue Jays for manager John Farrell, who was the pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007, when the team captured their 7th World Series title, until 2010. Farrell brought back a familiar and well-liked face to the clubhouse. Farrell’s prior success with the pitching staff was a result of the respect they had for him and he quickly recreated a will-to-perform that the pitching staff had lost. The Red Sox also signed free agents. Not only did these players perform on the field, but they also brought a will-to-win to the Red Sox clubhouse that was truly lacking.

The phrase ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ clearly epitomized the performance of the team in the past season and helps emphasize how critical it is for every organization to ensure their passion to win (however winning is defined) isn’t lost at any level. This lesson can clearly be applied to businesses that have lost their way. Comebacks don’t just happen in baseball. They happen all the time in business but ONLY when the team and the leaders strive to make it happen. I have had the honor of watching many business owners go from being in the red to driving profitable growth. 

World Series Caliber wins are never easy – they take courage, leadership and a team willing to put the time into the dream to ensure the turnaround happens and sticks!

Finally, Spring training in Fort Myers, FL brought a revamped and refreshed team committed to making a splash in the AL East. Heartbreakingly, just 15 days into the season, on April 15th, 2013, the city of Boston was struck by tragedy when 2 pressure cooker bombs exploded on Boylston Street near the finish line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox had just finished a 3-2 victory at Fenway Park that afternoon when they received the horrific news. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks tweeted out his condolences for the tragic event and added a hashtag: #BostonStrong, which grew to become not only a motto for the city, but a way of life.

The Red Sox returned home that Friday, April 19th for 10-game home stand but the first game was postponed due to ongoing searches for the suspects of the bombing attacks. The next day, the Red Sox felt it was safe enough to play and they wore home jerseys that did not read the usual “Red Sox” across the chest, but instead “Boston,” and David Ortiz grabbed the microphone prior to the start of the game to talk to the Fenway Faithful and yelled out, “This is our f*****g city!” and from that point on, this was a different team.

They had one vision and a new camaraderie. They had something important to play for; the victims, the fans, and the city they loved. What are YOU playing for and who’s inspiring and supporting you and your team? Without support and motivation – those big wins are really hard to achieve.

This determination played out through the season and proved the adage: Where there is a will, there is a way. The Red Sox went on to win the American League East Division title, their 7th all time; the American League Pennant, their 13th all time; and their 8th World Series title, all in dramatic and heroic fashion. The team dreamed of winning, they had a passion to win, and they proved it through every pitch, every hit, every walkoff win (all 11, impressive!), and every single awesome beard.

When the dream is bigger than the obstacle, nothing can stop you.

A lesson learned over and over by sports players, fans and business owners. Ben and I have never been so proud to call ourselves Bostonians. From worst to first, anything is possible.#BostonStrong 

 
 

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.

 

Beth

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!
 
 
 
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