Monday, February 28, 2011

The Fear Cycle

As mentioned in a previous post, I began reading John Maxwell's book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success as part of my "continuing education".

One of my favorite topics thus far is the "Fear Cycle" he discusses in chapter 4.  The cycle begins when a fear of failure develops due to a previous negative experience. 

"The fear creates inaction.  Because the person doesn't act, he doesn't gain personal experience in that situation--which is key to learning and overcoming future obstacles.  The lack of experience breeds an inability to handle similar situations.  And that ultimately feeds and increases the fear.  The longer the fear remains unchecked, the harder a person has to work to break the cycle." (p.39)

Maxwell discusses that the inaction which occurs when people are stuck in the fear cycle can take on these most common forms:
  • paralysis
  • procrastination
  • purposelessness

Other negative side effects of the fear cycle include:  self-pity, excuses, misused energy, and hopelessness.

Here is what John Maxwell says about breaking the cycle:

"People who want to get out of the fear cycle often spend time feeling guilty for their inability to change.  But one of the reasons they are stuck in the fear cycle is that they focus their energy on the wrong part of the cycle.  Since they know that fear got the cycle going, they believe that they have to eliminate the fear to break the cycle.  Yet most people are unable to do that.  You can't avoid fear.  No magic potion will take it away.  And you can't wait for motivation to get you going.  To conquer fear, you have to feel the fear and take action anyway." (p.40-41)

No one is without fear and it can strike any aspect of your life.  When your business is a "one man show," fears can create a lot of damage and hold your business back if allowed.  I have seen it in myself and in others.  A fear can keep you from achieving dreams, finding success, and reaching your potential.  It all comes down to your determination to act inspite of the fear.  It is a mind game!  You need to change the recording in your head to positive, encouraging thoughts and keep your own thoughts from discouraging you.

With so many powerful points, I am loving this book!  If you haven't read anything in a while or you need to pick yourself out of a rut, I highly recommend this book.

Inspirational quotes have always encouraged me and John Maxwell uses many in each chapter to emphasize his points.  I'll be sharing some with you later this week.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Questions for Consideration

Are you or a friend considering direct sales?  When looking for a direct sales company to join, do your homework and ask a lot of questions.  Don't be afraid to compare opportunities, not all companies are created equal.

Or, perhaps you are already in direct sales.  Learning the answers to these important questions could make the difference in growing your team.  Having this information ready when meeting with a prospect will convey professionalism, intelligence, and dependability.  Knowing the value of your company will give you additional faith and enthusiasm for your business.

Questions for Consideration:

  • How many years has the company been in business?  Everyone has to start somewhere but experience gives companies the time to work out the kinks, increasing organization, service, and support.
  • How many independent distributors or consultants do they have? The amount could indicate a wide-open or over saturated market.
  • Are they members of the DSA (Direct Selling Association)?  The DSA holds companies to a high code of ethics and works to protect the individual distributors.

  • Will the product appeal to a broad market?
  • Is the price point affordable for the majority of the population?
  • Ask about the quality and manufacturing of items.
  • Are you required to keep inventory?
  • What is the return or defect rate?
  • Is there a warranty?  Who handles returns?  Are there fees involved?
  • Are you able to purchase products at a discount?  How much and how often?
  • How often does the company release new products and catalogs?  Rotating product keeps customers coming back but having to change your samples or inventory too often can be expensive.
  • Are there customer specials?  These can increase your retail and rekindle a business.  Too many customer discounts can hurt your bottom line since customers may have less incentive to host a party or won't buy without a special.
  • Who delivers the product?

  • What is the initial investment to represent the company?  What supplies, services, and products are included? Is the value for what you are getting worth more than the investment?  You need to spend money to make money but it should be realistic!  Beware of "buyers clubs" -very low initial start up and pushing people to get in for the discount.  This isn't good for your business as it can over saturate the market and keep people from wanting to buy at regular price. 
  • Ask about additional costs: websites, shipping costs, business supplies, etc...

  • What is the company's average home party?
  • What percentage will you earn off the product you sell?  It usually varies from 15-50%.  Does it change based on sales, experience, or growth within your team?
  • Are there minimum sales requirements or quotas? 
  • Do you make a commission off people you bring into the business?  How does their commission system work?
  • How and when are you paid?  Some companies allow you to keep your earnings immediately, others mail you a check.
  • Are there opportunities to earn free product, trips, or other incentives?  Ask about program requirements.  Are they realistic?

Hostess Benefits
  • What will a hostess earn when they host a party or show?  Generally you will find a percentage of free product is given.  There may also be host specials, bonuses, or discounted merchandise opportunities.  Hostess benefits are a major incentive for booking a party or show. 
  • Who pays for free merchandise- the consultant or the corporation? 
  • Is there a minimum sales requirement for the hostess benefits to be afforded?
  • Do the benefits change based on the type of party?

  • How do you get your business started?
  • What kind of training and support will you receive when beginning your business and then further down the road? Local events, conferences, online, DVDs, audio trainings, etc...?

Direct sales companies are a fabulous way to begin an at-home-business.  For many years direct sales had a bad reputation and sometimes family and friends will try to talk you out of joining a company.  Decide what your needs are and establish your goals, then identify whether the company you are looking at will meet those.  Ask questions until you have all the information to make a clear decision. 

The lives of many women and their families have been forever changed by their business, yours can too!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Visual Love & Encouragement

Crayola window crayons.  How are they inspirational?

These began as a Valentine's Day gift for my husband since "Words of Encouragement" are one of his top love languages.  I use them to write words of love and encouragement on our bathroom mirror regularly.

You could use them to write:
  • a goal, since writing and visualizing them are so important in achieving them
  • a favorite quote or bible verse to inspire, motivate or positively influence your thoughts
  • the names of people you want to keep in your thoughts and prayers
  • love notes, words of encouragement, or reminders for family members
Have fun loving and encouraging yourself and others!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

2009 Statistics

While researching for another post I'm working on, I found these new statistics on the DSA website for 2009.  (Click the 2009 link to see the full list of statistics.)

Here are a few of my favorites:
  • 16.1 million Americans are in direct sales.
  • 82.4% of the sellers are female.
  • 32% of sellers are college graduates and 10% have post-graduate degrees.
  • Direct Sellers sold an estimated $28.33 billion in 2009.
  • 73.3% of the sales took place, face-to-face, in homes.

View the pie chart for types of direct sellers by clicking the 2009 link above.  You can see the percentages of who doesn't do anything, who is just retailing, who is growing businesses, and who just buys.  Very interesting!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Building Your Business During Daily Activities

Making new contacts and word-of-mouth advertising are critical for small businesses.  Meeting someone in person and establishing a relationship is a big step in gaining trust.  Your current daily activities will build your business if you take advantage of the opportunities.

Here is a list of places you may frequent to get you thinking.
  • Bank
  • Stores, Malls
  • Schools
  • Jobs
  • Doctors, Dentists
  • Services- Salons, Spas
  • Church, bible study
  • Mom's groups, playgroups, story time
  • Parks, play grounds, kid play areas
  • Restaurants
  • Sporting Events
  • Libraries

Make a conscious decision to identify people you can begin a conversation with.  To make yourself more comfortable, plan ahead for these opportunities.
  • Create a 30 second commercial and decide what you will tell people about your business.
  • Brainstorm a list of general questions that you can prepare to ask people you meet.  You can compliment someone, ask a question, or comment on what is going on around you.
  • Keep literature pertaining to your business in your bag or car so you have something to offer people.  This could include: fliers, brochures, business cards, samples, catalogs, coupons, etc...
  • Plan your errands and activities for when you can spend time talking to people, unrushed, making them a business building opportunity.
  • Be a name collector.  Have a notebook and pen handy to gather people's contact information.  This is critical.  People will rarely call you!  Tell them when you plan to follow up with them.

You may see people regularly when attending activities with your kids or frequenting certain places and never mention your business!  Or, sometimes a stranger will approach you first, maybe with a comment or a compliment; you utter a quick response and walk off.  If someone starts a conversation with you, steer it towards your business. 

Talking to people with intention may be outside your comfort zone.  While that can be an issue for me, I have another dilemma.  People confront me regularly acknowledging my twins.  Repetitive questions or really stupid/rude questions are common and frustrating.  I find myself avoiding eye contact just to get in and out of the store without a big commotion.  Sometimes my solution is to make late night quick trips looking less than stellar.  I'm missing out on so many opportunities! 

You may give yourself a number of excuses to pass by opportunities: you are in a hurry, embarrassed about your appearance, in a bad mood, too scared, or your family is with you.  Decide before you leave the house to make at least one new contact that day.  Be prepared with your polished look, a 30 second commercial, prepared questions, and something to give your contact.  You'll feel ready to go and less nervous.  Find someone and start talking!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Working With Your Spouse?

There are several successful couples that come to mind when I think of spouses who work together.  Someone I know from high school posted a cute article (The Truth About Being Married at Work) on her site this morning that got me thinking...

My ultimate long-term goal for business has been to grow to a point where my husband, Jason, could leave his job.  His employer requires him to work late hours, Monday through Saturday, 60+ hours a week.  I'm sure some of you can relate to husbands with jobs that keep him from spending time with family.  Doesn't this remind you that working for yourself and setting your own hours is fabulous?!

Jason and I (2005)

Jason took two days off in early January to spend time with our boys while I attended a conference.  I was thrilled that he would get a firsthand look at how challenging my day is and how difficult it can be to accomplish much with two busy one-year-olds.  He promptly asked me at the end of his two day reign if I'd prefer to go back to teaching rather than stay at home with the boys!  Well, that wasn't the point of this little experiment but I did accomplish my goal of getting his attention!

I'm not sure that Jason would be happy to be home all the time.  I know several parents who don't feel that being at home full time is right for them.  But we'd get to spend more time as a family if he were to work-at-home with me.  He wouldn't miss out on so many special moments.  Having his business background, full time, would also be valuable for my business.  Being together 24/7 and working together would definitely require some adjustments.

All you happy co-working couples out there, I want to hear from you!  Tell me why you LOVE working with your spouse.  What were some aspects of your business, household, and/or marriage that needed tweaking to make it an effective arrangement?

And the rest of you, how would you feel about working with your spouse?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Message Does Your "Look" Convey?

According to a study done by New York University Graduate School of Business, people make 11 assumptions about us in the first seven seconds of contact:
  1. education level
  2. economic level
  3. perceived creditability and believability
  4. trustworthiness
  5. level of sophistication
  6. sexual identification
  7. level of success
  8. political background
  9. religious background
  10. ethnic background
  11. social and professional desirability
While you may not feel it is "fair" to be judged by your outward appearance, giving people incentive to know you better begins with making a good first impression.  It is important to note that the brain is receiving far more visual cues than verbal, hence the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words". 

What you wear to a wedding is different than what you wear to a playground.  Professionally, a baseball player would dress different than a judge and a kindergarten teacher different than a police officer.  There is a reason why certain professions and even school children have uniforms. 

Perhaps you've heard of this communication rule:
7% of communication is through words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language/appearance. (Albert Mehrabian)

Your attire should be appropriate for your work climate or social situation.  The traditional idea of "Sunday Best" is that you save your best to wear to church on Sundays.   The type of outfit you choose conveys a message of importance and respect to those you are with.  Think of how a bride and groom would feel if a guest showed up in a sweat suit! 

Not taking time to look professional for a home show or an appointment may come across as indifferent or unorganized.  Customers should have the impression that you are serious about your business.  Dressing one step up from the customers you are with is a good rule of thumb.  People should be able to identify you as the professional in the room. 

Elements of a Polished Look:
  • An updated haircut and color- If you haven't received a compliment on your hair in a while, you may need a change.  Of course, make sure your hair is clean and styled.
  • A natural make up look- Just enough, well applied, makeup can enhance your natural beauty. 
  • Solid-color, basic wardrobe pieces.  Be sure they are wrinkle free and do not show wear.  Adding a variety of accessories changes the look and style of your basic wardrobe stretching your fashion budget. 
  • Eye catching accessories- Hats, jewelry, shoes, handbags, scarves, belts, glasses, etc...  Adding accessories to an outfit can update the style, add visual interest, and give it a finished look.  Most stylists will suggest 2/3 of your wardrobe budget be spent on accessories.
  • Personal style reflects our personality but keep it tasteful.  Hair, nails, jewelry, tattoos, or clothing that is too crazy or offensive could hinder relationships.
93% of lasting impressions come in the first 4 minutes of meeting someone.  Everyone you meet could be a potential customer so it is important to regularly have a polished look.  Even when running quick errands, apply some makeup and style your hair.  Add cute shoes and some colorful jewelry to spice up a casual outfit.  It only takes a few extra minutes.  You may run into customers or strike up a conversation with a new contact.  Be memorable and not in a bad way!

We all have those days where we throw on a baseball cap to run into the grocery store, hoping we don't see someone we know.  If this tends to be a common occurrence, perhaps there are a few changes you can make.  When others notice the changes or offer compliments, it will give your self-esteem a nice boost. 

Something to think about!

You may also be interested in this post on how our actions create "Lasting Impressions".

Monday, February 7, 2011

Making Mistakes

The fact that I continually make the same mistakes has been really frustrating me.  Last week I posted "A New Day," where I listed some great quotes about failing and not focusing on those failures from Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages.  Wow!  I needed to "hear" that!  While I shouldn't dwell on past mistakes, I do think they can be the catalyst for change!

I've been reading more books to grow professionally and personally.  I ordered several new ones and am anxiously awaiting my Amazon order.  Meanwhile, John Maxwell's book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success has been sitting collecting dust, unopened.  So, today I decided this will be my next read.  I've been so aggravated with myself regarding some customer service situations, procrastinating on business to dos, and not keeping myself as organized as I'd like.  Often, I seem to be making the same mistakes over and over.  Alas, I am human; therefore, I must remember I am not perfect.  But I still need to learn from my mistakes and make the necessary changes to improve.

Some people may resolve to think flaws are their inherent nature and give up.  I have decided, and keep deciding to decide, that I want to improve and work to change some of my "problem areas". 

I've never claimed to be perfect- ok, maybe jokingly to a select few!  With my blog, I strive to impart information to help others find success but I'm walking the same journey.  (See my "Who Am I" page.)  You must admit, there is a sense of relief knowing we are not alone in our struggles.  This is why I feel a support system is so critical!  Learning how others solve our same issues, finding tips for success, and sharing strategies will help us keep our motivation!

What are some areas in your personal and professional life that you would like to work on?  I'd like to hear from you, please leave a comment.

(So as I work on editing this before posting, I receive a relevant devotion in my email.  Click here for the link to view this Purpose Driven Connection Daily Hope.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Working The Nooks & Crannies

In a past post, "Making Time For Business," I mentioned the idea of working the "nooks and crannies" of your day.  The idea is to take advantage of small amounts of time to accomplish tasks off your to do list.  Americans spend an average of 1 hour per day just waiting.  Take advantage of this time to grow your business!

Find Your Nooks & Crannies
  • Waiting for an appointment
  • Waiting for a prescription
  • Waiting in the pickup line at school
  • Waiting in line at a drive-thru
  • Waiting at the DMV
  • Waiting for the bus or subway
  • Waiting for dinner to cook
  • Waiting for your child to finish sports practice, ballet, or piano lessons
  • Waiting for a table in a restaurant or waiting for your food to be served
  • Sitting in traffic
  • While your children play on a playground or in McDonald's play area
  • While your children are napping
  • After your children go to bed
To effectively utilize these nooks & crannies, you must organize and plan.

Choose an organizational tool
  • A cell phone- if it is capable of storing all the elements
  • A paper calendar and/or binder

  • Create a detailed to do list daily (or the night before). You may have room to do this on your actual calendar page or you can create a binder with sheets that look like one of these:

I borrowed this idea.

A modified version.

  • Be sure to include addresses, phone numbers, and any information you will need to complete tasks. Information can easily be stored in your phone or written in a paper calendar for regular access. 
  • In my business, I use guest surveys, customer order forms, and file folders for reference, so taking these with me is helpful.  You could tuck paperwork like this in your calendar or binder pockets.  Even if you are home all day, having everything available will prevent you from wasting time looking for what you need when you only have a few minutes.
  • Keep call lists handy: customer service follow ups, potential hostesses, vendors, merchants, downline, upline, etc...  Touching base provides good customer service, builds relationships, and creates business opportunities.
  • Pack a small bag of business materials- stamps and note cards so you can mail a bill, birthday card or write out a thank you note.  I have catalogs and promotional materials that I stamp with my information or put labels on for mailing.  You can add items like these to your bag and work on them while you wait somewhere.
  • See my post on "Continuing Education" and check out my Book List page for great reads to grow personally and professionally.  Keeping one of these books handy would be another great way to take advantage of a few spare minutes.

Using an organizational binder or calendar creates a great record of your completed tasks.  You can look back to see when and how many times you contacted a customer or on what date you called the telephone company.  If you are like me, you may forget whether you actually spoke to someone on the phone or just thought about doing it!

I rarely come across someone who isn't super busy.  You may not have a large block of time to devote to completing tasks but by planning and preparing your to do list, everything you need is readily available when you can take advantage of an available moment.

Do you have a different way of organizing your take-a-long tasks?  What do you bring with you to occupy yourself while you wait?  I'd love for you to share additional ideas!