Monday, July 6, 2009

How Women-Owned Businesses are Surviving the Recession

Women are starting businesses at rapid rates and thriving, despite the economic downturn. According to a recent study conducted by Florida International University’s Center for Leadership and The Commonwealth Institute of South Florida, women-owned businesses are doing better in the recession than most.

Key Factors:
* Women traditionally take on less debt and thus have more flexibility during tough times.
* Women also try to strategize and reach out instead of jumping to cost-cutting measures.

This is exactly the route Rachel Sapoznik, CEO of Sapoznik Insurance, took to grow her business without eliminating staff. See the full story on how Sapoznik’s and other women business owners’ determination and networking led to success in hard times.

Looking for recession proofing tips? Sign up for my tip of the week or follow me on Twitter!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Celebrate Life and Loved Ones

You've heard it a million times: Don't take things for granted. Yet, it's difficult for us to grasp the concept in our everyday lives that seem to move at the speed of light. We're so busy. We have just one more thing to do and then we can have dinner with our kids or grab a drink with a friend we haven't had time to see.

With the recent loss of several American icons, it makes me once again take a step back and admire all the wonderful people I have in my life. My family, my friends and my co-workers.

Don't take those around you for granted. Re-connect. Reach out to those you haven't seen or talked to in awhile. Maybe it's just a quick catch-up on the phone, or maybe it's a long weekend with family. No matter what, thank them for being a part of your life.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend and call at least one person who you've been thinking about!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kindle Lovers… This is for you!

Amazon’s Kindle allows you to download and read thousands of books, newspapers, magazines and now blogs. This is great news for people like me, who read multiple blogs daily.

There are tons of blogs listed in categories ranging from arts and entertainment to business and investing to travel, lifestyle, culture and more.

And as of today, the Real You Incorporated blog is also available on Kindle blogs!

Other blogs available for download include: The New York Times- Latest News, Huffington Post, The Onion, Seth’s Blog (Seth Godin) and Vanity Fair’s VF Daily Blog, among others.

Blogs downloaded via Kindle blogs provide you with full text content and images and are updated wirelessly throughout the day. To learn more, visit Amazon.com and download your Real You Incorporated Kindle blog!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Questions to Ask when Beginning a New Job

If you’ve earned a new position, congrats! When beginning a new job, it’s important to feel comfortable with the company and your new boss and team. During your first couple of days on the job, ask some of the following questions to help focus your work and set goals.

  • What are the top priorities for the company and our team? This question is vital to your success. If you think their priorities are XZY but they are really ABC, all of your work may be in vain. Also, ask which projects take top priority. You need to learn to budget your time.
  • How do you prefer to communicate and approve projects? Establishing a strong communication pattern with your boss will save you endless headaches and wasted time. If your supervisor is not one for interruptions, they may get upset if you keep dropping by to get their feedback. It may be best to set appointments.
  • How and when will my performance be evaluated? Asking this question will help you structure your work so it is easily measured and evaluated. The more profitable/positive results you can show, the better.
  • Will there be opportunity for advancement within the company? This will let your boss know you have long-term goals in mind. Caution: This is a question to ask after you have been there awhile. You may want to ask a co-worker you’ve gotten to know, “Do people move around a lot in this company?” This will give you a feel for the type of answer your boss will likely give.

Make sure you start off on the right foot and familiarize yourself with the operations of your new company and your team/boss. And to those lucky folks who are growing their team and bringing on new employees, please express the above info to your new hires! A welcoming work environment is positive for everyone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Here’s the Story of a Lovely Lady…

…who was bringing up three very lovely girls.

For many years Carol Brady was a classic American female icon and many women could and still can relate to her. But while many of us cannot afford to hire our very own housekeeper named Alice.com!

For all you multi-tasking moms and busy entrepreneurs out there, there is a new site to help you save time and money. Eliminating the middleman, Alice.com allows you to shop directly from the manufacturer to help cut down costs.Other money and time saving features include free shipping (and fuel savings because you don’t have to drive to the store), price comparison charts and coupon clipping with discounts taken off automatically at the checkout. Alice.com also keeps track of what products you buy and sends you reminders when its time to restock. You are also able to keep track of your spending and compare it to other families like yours.

With money and time being such valuable commodities, this site will help you manage both. And to me, that sounds amazing.

See for yourself, visit www.Alice.com.

Just for fun…

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Help Save Ohio Libraries

As a book lover and author, this news of library funding cuts breaks my heart, but we can all do our part to save Ohio libraries!

What’s happening: On June 19, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland proposed a budget cut that would reduce state funding for public libraries by $227.3 million in 2010 and 2011 fiscal years. This reduction would cut Ohio’s public libraries funding 30 percent in addition to the 20 percent cut due to the decline of the state’s General Revenue Fund. A total 50 percent cut in funding. :(

What it means: As a result, branches may close, hours of operation will be reduced, new book and material orders will be halted and other vital summer reading programs and services would end. With the economic hardships that thousands of Ohioans are facing, trips to the library have provided some relief for families, and I can’t imagine what some families would do without those opportunities.

How you can help:

  • Call or email Ohio legislators. For phone numbers and emails, click here. To email all legislators and senators at once, click here.
  • Join the Facebook group, and update your Facebook and Twitter status with:

“I contacted my elected officials to help save Ohio libraries, and you should too. Find out more: http://www.saveohiolibraries.com.”

The Ohio Library Council site has provided the image below for you to save and upload as your profile picture on social media sites.












  • Spread the word! Let friends know what is going on, how you have helped and how they can, too.

For more information, visit www.olc.org/SaveOhioLibraries.asp. The General Assembly Conference Committee is likely to make a decision this week, so act fast!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Personal Recommendations Beat Out Online Sources

As I was reading my daily marketing news, I ran across a study that found most online purchasers bought because of a personal recommendation from a friend/relative (34%), followed by spouse/partner (25%), then a blogger (5%) and a chat room (5%).

Truly, this is no surprise to me. Personal, one-on-one connections are gems. These are the people you trust and depend on. If Oprah tweeted, “Acai is amazing”, but my friend Jane said, “I tried it and it’s not worth the price,” I’d go with Jane. Sorry, Oprah.

If you’re out there trying to make a splash in cyberspace, get the movers and shakers talking online and off. And talk to women! Women, your most valuable consumers, are twice as likely as men to recommend a product/service to a friend.

Start with a core group of “sneezers”, as Seth Godin calls them. These are influential people who are sure to tell their friends when they’re into something new. Then keep the momentum going. Ask those people to write online reviews or blog about your product/service. This will begin your online and offline publicity.

Are you looking for more tips on getting your product/service seen and heard in the marketplace? Sign up for my tip of the week, delivered to your inbox every Friday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Businesses Use Twitter to Engage Customers Online

If you haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon, hop on! More and more companies are coming up with creative ways to engage their customers online. According to Marketing VOX, a recent study indicates that more than eight in 10 Twitter users, most of which represent small businesses, expect their company's use of Twitter to increase in the next six months.

And if you know me, you know how much I love Twitter and believe in its power. Nestle is taking an interesting approach to get moms talking about their product. The company is running a Juicy Juice ad that asks questions like: “How do you help your child shine a little more every day?" and "How do you stimulate your child's mind?" If you go to CafeMom and BabyCenter, you can tweet your answer, and it will be live on the ad, wherever it’s running in cyberspace. Talking about the love(s) of our lives and being an online celeb for a day. Who doesn’t love that?

How are you using Twitter to grow your business and increase awareness?

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's time to commence.

This year, I have two kids achieving milestones. My 8th grader's recognition ceremony was yesterday, ending his middle school years and celebrating his move to the “big house” of high school. And my high school senior will graduate next weekend and head to Chapman University in the fall.

Commencement speeches are no doubt hard to write and hard to deliver with power. There are infamous examples of famous people who delivered bombs—and famous people who delivered eloquent still oft-recited commencement addresses. To me, the point of any commencement address is to inspire those in attendance to be the best they can be—as individuals and as part of the greater community.

And with that, I will share Mr. Bruce Brombacher's theme with you. Mr. Brombacher has been a middle school math teacher since 1976 and is considered the patriarch and heart of Jones Middle School. He also has been named Ohio Teacher of the Year in 1981, the National Teacher of the Year in 1982 and received many other awards of distinction in an amazing career. He has decided to retire this year, and thus his speech was poignant (many tears by him and us), eloquent and to the point, much like the man. (Even though he was interrupted mid-way through by a pulled fire alarm prank, Mr. Brombacher remained calmly at the helm, standing at the podium until the alarms were quieted five minutes later.)

His message: Just as a triangle has three sides, so must a successful person: belief in yourself, belief in those around you and belief that you can make a difference in the community.

Perhaps not revolutionary concepts, but at the core of the new society that the Millennials will help to create—and the one all of us find ourselves in the midst of today.

It's the same message found in Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and it's the start of any speech I give. To succeed, in work, in life and with your family, it all starts with you. It's believing in yourself and your unique gifts and building on those gifts to create your unique competitive advantage in business. And while women are uniquely in tune to the more emotional aspects of personal branding, men are embracing the message, too.

It's time to commence. It's time to believe in yourself and those around you. It's time to put the real you in your business and make an impact on the world. You can do it. It all starts with you! This is not the time to allow fear to immobilize you. This is the time to put your passions into action. Much like the college, high school and middle school graduates during this season of commencement, change is here. You must face it and get moving.

Have a fabulous weekend! And congratulations to all of the 2009 graduates out there—and to those who believe in them with all their hearts!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Self-Bailout Contest for Small Businesses

Survival of the smartest! Office Depot is awarding more than $1,000,000 in prizes in the Office Depot—Adopt a Small Business Contest. 500 small businesses will win more than $2,000 in prizes!

Want to enter? Upload a two-minute video about what your business is doing to survive during these hard times and how Office Depot can help you get through the challenges. The entry deadline is 11:59 PM EDT on July 31, 2009. Click here to enter.

By entering the contest, you have a chance to win $1,300 Office Depot gift card, one year of Tech DepotTM services tech support ($599.00 value) and $110 gift card toward copying, printing and shipping services. Gotta love free tech support and gift cards. For official contest rules, click here.

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer (Business) Reading Recommendations

Summertime is here! And that means choosing a few great books (or magazines) to take along on vacations…to help your business.

Here are a few recommendations:

If reading magazines is more your style, try:

And of course my summer favorite, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It always gives me inspiration.

What are some of your favorite summer biz reads?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Finding the right entrepreneurial community for you

Finding a women’s community that is just what you’re looking for can often take some time. To help you out, I’ve listed a few different online women’s communities that I think are fantastic.

Startup Princess—Startup Princess is a community where women can grow together while learning from one another. If you are looking for a fairy godmother (mentor), this is the place. The site is full of stories from women just like you. Features on the site include a blog, directory of women-owned businesses, videos and more. They recently featured me in a blog post. (Thanks, Kelly!)

Savor the Success—Here women come together and share trials and tribulations about business and life. You can connect with other members through blogs, message boards and events. For those living in the New York or California area, there are chapter events you can attend. Find a chapter near you! In addition to being a networking site, Savor the Success also features a PR Co-Op. Providing tools and references for you to use in expanding your business, this is a great resource.

Metromom—Their slogan is: Connecting Women. Creating Change. The site has a blog and hosts events for members. Events range from free calls to virtual and live events. They also have a marketplace where members can sell goods and post opportunities for other members. In addition to their free community, Metromom also has a paid membership club.

EMwomen—Based in Hot Springs, AR, this community focus is Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders Today. You can upload your blog and join forums and special interest groups. The site also features recipes and cooking demonstrations. They also offer two levels for paying members.

Real You—(Of course I had to include our community.) The Real You community features success stories of women entrepreneurs, member brand boards, podcast interviews and updates, the Real You Chart Creator and more. Each Friday, I publish my tip of the week. Click here to get your weekly dose of inspiration!

Now go out and explore the wonderful world of women’s entrepreneurial communities!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ready, Set, Launch – Gulp

As an entrepreneur, you know the feeling! Whether you're a solopreneur, mompreneur, intrapreneur (an entrepreneur within a company), a multi-million dollar entrepreneur—whatever level—that moment when the project is finished and you launch it to the world is daunting. You *think* you've thought of everything, dotted all your I's as they say, but invariably, something isn't quite perfect.


But it's still great. That gulp feeling, that nervousness, is all because we put too much expectation on ourselves, and our team, to be perfect. Perfect isn't sustainable or real. Perfect is a place where there is no room fo
r improvement, and there always is. Always. So if you're like me, and you've for too long held on to that perfectionist feeling, try to work it through. Realize, as I had to, that each mistake is a chance to learn and that when you're being realistic, you realize nobody—and no product or service launch—will ever be perfect.

Guess who reminded me of the whole problem with perfection? My middle school son. He is one of those guys—straight As, great at sports, a mentor, teachers love him, tons of friends. That guy. One night, tucking him in, I said something to the effect of you're just such a perfect kid. He looked at me, incredulously, and said: “Mom, nobody's perfect. I'm not. That's too much to expect from yo
urself.” Yes, he said it. Now I call him my “almost-perfect” son, with a smile.


That said, there's nothing wrong with doing your best. I just launched a new Web site for my Real You business—GULP. It's a work in progress, but it's a great start. I say that even while I acknowledge to you right now that I wasn't going to tell you about it today because it's not perfect. It isn't. But, then again, it never will be.

So, with pride, and a nod to imperfection and the entrepreneurial spirit, I hope you'll check out my new site: KairaRouda.com and watch with me as it evolves. Because a Web site, much like the business it represents, always evolves. And once you realize that fact, and the fact that your best is good enough—even if it isn't perfect—you'll be able to share more of the Real You with the world.

The best of you. The real you. And believe me, that is as close to perfect as you need to be.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tips for Writing Effective Emails

While email marketing can be trying with those pesky spam filters, it’s a great tool to reach your target audience. Remember, a poorly completed email can negatively affect your brand. To put your best foot forward and connect with consumers, try these tips.
  • Clearly state your purpose in the first couple sentences, and never mislead you reader.
  • Use bold text, lists and bullets to make the most important parts of your message easy to find for your busy reader.
  • Don’t write in all caps or use smiley faces and other emoticons.
  • Avoid attachments.
  • Don’t forget your call to action. Make it simple and clear.
  • Include your contact info.
  • Proofread your email. Having a friend or colleague proofread your message is best since you’re very close to the content.
  • Use permission marketing—when people consent to allowing you to send them messages. You’ll get much better response rates when your reader wants what you’re sending.
  • Be concise and clear in your subject line, putting your most important info first.

While overall shorter subject lines correlate with higher open rates, a recent study by Epsilon shows that subject line word order and content can be just as important. According to Epsilon, most people look to the first 38-47 characters of the subject line, and what they contain. It is important that the reader thinks the subject is relevant to them, and feels like they will miss out on something valuable if they don’t open the email.

Share your best practices for writing effective emails!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

About Reinvention and what it really means to entrepreneurs

General Motors - fresh from yesterday's Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement - unveiled a new 60 second television spot titled Reinvention. The spot is full of Americana images - baseball, big cities, folks hugging, sports fans, a tattered American flag, some familiar product shots, and the now, also cliched, nod to going green: plants growing, solar panels, windmills. You get the picture. And in case you don't, you'll see the spot, along with newspaper ads, radio spots and the like soon in your market.

Nothing about a 60-second television campaign says reinvention, except for saying the word "reinvention." You know and I know nobody watches television commercials anymore, and for a company in bankruptcy to spend our money (yes, we own GM now) on image advertising seems, well, business as usual. We all have a stake in seeing GM succeed now. How about a little reinvention here? (For more on the traditional campaign tactics being employed read this AdAge article.)

Which got me to thinking about entrepreneurs and how we must constantly reinvent ourselves and our products and services. Especially now, in these tough times. We know a federal bailout isn't coming our way. Instead, we need to rely on good 'ol American ingenuity. Creativity. Teaching ourselves new things - like twittering, and blogging. Pushing ourselves out of our own comfort zones to network, to pitch our business, to learn new skills everyday.

We know reinvention isn't a word you try on - it's a way of life. It's not taught - it's felt, it's born through struggle, and worry and yes, from fear of failure. Can a huge company like GM ever really get it - get the true meaning of reinvention - if there is never a true fear of failure? I'm not sure.

But I am sure about this: women entrepreneurs are helping to reinvent the way business is being grown across the U.S. and beyond. They are helping change companies from within (although not enough are there yet) and they are launching companies that are defining success in a whole new way. I hope the "New GM" has some women inside helping it reinvent itself. The chair of the board of directors is a man, the CEO is a man, and well, you get the picture.

And speaking of the picture, the images I see on the new TV spots are all of men (I think I saw a female hand, but I'm not sure), and the voice over artist is male. But GM's customers are female. Women make or influence 85 percent of all car buying decisions. A reinvention without taking women into account - internally or as customers - is really no invention at all.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Real You in the Workplace: Act Your Gender


Women in the workplace often try to act like men in order to get ahead. However, this can sometimes backfire and cause more damage than it’s worth. Women just aren’t wired like men. And when women approach others with a male attitude, it can be a turn off.

Instead, I strongly encourage you to be yourself. Don’t put on a male front. We need to be strong and stand up for ourselves, but in the appropriate manner. It’s really the only way that people will take us seriously.

Women also need to remember we are natural networkers. So don’t isolate yourself—even if you are in a position of authority. Ask questions and get involved with mentors and other people in a similar line of work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In addition, don’t hesitate to ask questions. And definitely don’t live in a vacuum. It just won’t work.

Friday, May 29, 2009

You are smart.

You're smart. You really are. And so are each of your kids, your spouse, your co-workers and your boss. But what kind of smart may be vastly different. I love the book 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences by Thomas Armstrong. His theory of multiple intelligences transformed my thinking about what it means to be smart—because in our culture, the traditional way we view smart is very limited. And limiting. Our society values logical and verbal smarts while often overlooking all the other amazing attributes that make each of us truly gifted.

So, you wonder, what exactly are the types of smart?

• Word Smart – expressing verbal intelligence

• Picture Smart – thinking with your mind's eye

• Music Smart – Making the most of your melodic mind

• Body Smart – Using your kinesthetic intelligence

• Logic Smart – Calculating your mathematical and scientific abilities

• People Smart – Connecting with your social sense

• Self Smart – Developing your intrapersonal intellect

Oh, and he added two more in the revised edition: Nature Smart and Existence Smart, but stick with the list above and think about it for a minute. If you could get beyond your Myers-Briggs Personality and think about your wonderful type of smart (you'll have a mixture of many, but one will shine), how would that help you appreciate the world? Couldn't you see yourself being less self-critical?

Same with your kids. My oldest is off-the-charts on picture smarts. It's truly incredible, but it doesn't translate necessarily into SAT or ACT tests. Meanwhile, my youngest is the music and people smart guy, so he has a lot of trouble sitting still in school and following rules. My middle son is pure word, logic and body smart. He's the scholar athlete of the group, and he's got all the types valued in traditional society.

Think about at the office. It's never great to have your office physically divided with people smart people clustered together and logic smart people clustered together and kept apart. It inhibits the ability to learn from each other.

How can you better utilize the skills of each type of intelligence on your team—and celebrate them? As business moves to valuing emotional intelligence, creativity, intuition and team work, understanding yourself—The Real You and your particular brand of smart—makes sense. (Plus it bolsters your intrapersonal intellect.)

Cut throat competition is being replaced by collaboration and networking, giving, reaching out to others through an appreciation of their unique personal brands. To do that effectively, you need to know yourself. And, once you understand you and how truly smart you are, use that new lens to appreciate everybody around you just a little more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Navigating new jobs and new personalities

If you’re one of those fortunate people who have found a new job, you’re probably busy learning the ropes and getting to know your new team. Each business and office environment is different. They all come with their own set of quirks and personalities. When starting a new job, it’s often important to understand everyone’s personality and how they interact. This also allows you to figure out who to watch out for…those pesky snarks.

While it may seem difficult to escape their negativity, dealing with snarks is a part of life. Here are a few things that will help you navigate those snark-infested waters.

· Protect your ideas. Whenever possible, avoid the middle man and take your original ideas directly to the boss.

· Don’t share your contacts with people who you suspect might use your relationship for their benefit only.

· Don’t rely on people-pleasers. Their inability to make decisions—especially unpopular decisions—means that you can’t depend on them when times get tough.

· Don’t share confidential information with complainers and whiners.

· Don’t share your dreams with bubble-busters. They’ll only bring you down.

Find the real people in your new environment, and stick with them. Looking for more business advice or snark-busting tips? Sign up for my tip of the week!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Make radio interviews work for you.

I love radio interviews! They're a blast—but only if you're prepped and ready. Here are a few things I learned while on Real You Incorporated's radio tour.

• Do your homework, and get to know the station and its personalities. Learn their style, tone and audience. Are they jokesters, serious, down-to-earth? Listen to a few broadcasts. Most have a listen online feature.

• Know what you'll be asked ahead of time. If you're not provided with questions, send a few to the producer. Also include your background info—bio, product, Web address—to help educate the DJs and let them tell the audience about how great your product/service is.

• Ask for a copy of the interview before the broadcast begins. Some stations won't record it unless you ask. Use the interview on your site for promotion or a demo reel down the road if you're trying to book other interviews.

• Go into the interview knowing the key points you want to cover. This is about you and your product/service. So make sure you convey the right message. You don't have a lot of time, so be concise and powerful with your words. Remember, no technical/industry jargon.

• Rehearse with a colleague and avoid one word answers. Be ready to introduce yourself and your product/service in case the host doesn't.

• Promote your interview to your clients/community. Let them know you're going to be on. It brings you credibility and hopefully new business!

• Go to a quiet room and turn off all distractions, especially your email and cell phone. Call from a landline for the best reception, and don't use speakerphone.

• Send the hosts a thank-you note, and let them know you'd be happy to be a guest in the future.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A female friendly auto industry is our future!

In today’s world, walking into a car dealership is still like walking into the old boys club. But hopefully not for long! I just interviewed an inspiring woman, Jody DeVere, CEO of AskPatty.com. DeVere created AskPatty.com to offer automotive advice for women. It’s a site where women can shop for cars, tires and repair shops through the network of Certified Female Friendly retailers across the U.S.

A Certified Female Friendly retailer is one that has created a safe and comfortable atmosphere where women are welcome and experience is enjoyable.

In the podcast below, DeVere talks with me about how she is informing women about the industry and educating dealers and sales people on how to give women a better car buying experience and appropriately market to them. Did you know there’s a dealership offering spa services for patrons while they wait for their vehicle?

DeVere gives us the inside scoop on how the auto industry is changing…for the better. Finally!






Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Of jellyfish, hurt knees, DC, sweet sixteen and the joys of end-of-school

This post will fall into the category of: Oh, my goodness. Is school almost over or what? These last few weeks of the school year feel like a perpetual full-moon, day and night.

The kids are:

#1 excited for summer, spending more time outside and getting hurt (trampoline + my oldest = bruised knee and two weeks physical therapy at least) Oh, and also planning high school graduation, college, yikes;
#2 Anticipating the weekend spent at the lake with good friends, and next week's driver's license test (car + my 16-year-old daughter = lifetime of worry)
#3 Enjoying an 8th grade trip to DC (packing + middle son with no dress clothes that fit = late-night sojourn to Target, much consternation, but eventual on-time departure) and will return just in time for his 8th grade Graduation;
#4 Hibernating. With sinus infection, missing choir concert tonight and opportunity to dance as a jelly fish (me + strange to me environment of fabric store + yards of sparkly fabric + hours of constructing said costume = no performance due to sinuses + an unused, but quite impressive jellyfish costume.)

And me? Taking things one day at a time, trying to remember all the blessing that accompany even the numerous doctor's office visits and trying to make sense of why a McDonald's Baconater helps a sinus headache when you're 12?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Collegiate Entrepreneurs Start Your Engines

Are you or do you know a college student with entrepreneurial aspirations? Show off your business by entering StartupNation Dorm-Based 20, which ranks the top 20 leading collegiate entrepreneurs in the country.

To enter the contest, you must attend a college in the U.S. (not necessarily living in a dorm), your business must have a Web site, and you have to fill out the online form.

The judges will be looking for:

  • Innovativeness of business concept
  • Potential for growth
  • Cutting-edge business practices
  • Demonstration of business fundamentals
  • Potential for overall impact
  • Financial performance

Check out the 2008 Dorm-Based 20 winners:

A Slice of Paradise

Ablaze Custom Cleaning

Affordabook

Bizooki

Brett Adams Design LLC

CaptainU

Collegeffect.com

Digital Wingman, Inc

E SCRAP Ohio

EnMobile

Hurricane K-9 Waste Removal, LLC

IsThatOneGood LLC

Note2Home

ROCS College Student Staffing

Sand Shack

Shelby Burford Design

The Magic of Jared Sherlock

Vortex Web Solutions

World Gaming Center LLC

Zach’s Computers LLC

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stop apologizing already.

It's a fact that women apologize more frequently than men. Many times we do it just to be polite. But is it diminishing our credibility? Our power? Yes.

Do you ever find yourself saying any of these phrases?

• “I'm sorry, but I think...”

• “I'm sorry you have to do this, but...”

• “I'm sorry to bother you with...”

• “I'm sorry, this might not be exactly what you wanted...”

A talented member of our team constantly apologizes, even for situations she has no knowledge about and no control over. Another young woman, who had a different opinion from the rest of our group, began her sentence during a meeting with, “I'm sorry, but I think we could do it this way.” Just like that, she gave her power away. She weakened her point with that little word.

While “I'm sorry” CAN be very meaningful, and it should be set aside for the moments when you want to correct a situation—something you did that hurt someone's feelings or a mistake you made—overusing the word has a diminishing effect. What happens when you really are sorry for something? Will the person on the receiving end know you mean it?

Overusing apologies makes them lose their meaning. Limit the s-word in your vocabulary. Start using strong phrases. If you bump into someone, say, “Excuse me.” Know that it's OK to have a different opinion and express it. Don't apologize for the things you like or don't. And most of all, don't use “sorry” as your linguistic crutch. You can overcome this self-effacing mechanism by being conscious of it.

Be real, be you, and you won't have to be sorry. Have a fabulous weekend!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Attending NAR Mid-Year Conference?

If so, I'll see you there! I'm presenting "Putting the Real You in Your Business" tomorrow at the Women's Council of Realtors' education session at the Capital Hilton in Washington DC. I'll be focusing on branding with personality and speaking to your No. 1 customer. I love presenting to real estate folks. They're a powerful group of passionate entrepreneurs who know how to roll with the punches and stick with it in good times and bad.

If you'll be a Mid-Year, please stop by my session. I'd love to meet you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taking the time to plant a tree




As I helped out with my son's 6th grade class Tree Planting Day, I looked around at all the other "parent leaders" and noticed the diversity represented in the volunteers. Of course, there were a couple dads, but I was focusing on the moms. We represented the reality of moms today. Some of us work full time, some are full-time stay-at-home moms (SAHMs). Many work part-time. Most all have more than one child. We were a wide range of ages - from early 30s to mid-50s. We were, with our shovels, today's moms. One took a call from work while we dug; another a call from a nurse about a sick child at elementary school.


There are more than 82 million moms in the U.S., (82.8 as of 2004 - and I'm sure there are more current figures but these stats were on the cover story this Sunday for a Mother's Day piece in The Columbus Dispatch.) A full 80 percent of women ages 40 to 44 were mothers in 2006, with each mother having 2.1 births (?). The number of SAHMs in 2008: 5.3 million.


We are a powerful group, and if you're part of it, congratulations! If you're marketing to us, know we are diverse; and if you see one of us with a shovel and a big smile, that would be me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bullseye Gives is a Win for Target

I just love corporations with compassion. Today I came across a blog regarding the Target charity promotion on Facebook, which is part of Target’s Community Outreach program.

The promotion is called Bullseye Gives and is hosted on the Target Facebook page. To participate in the challenge, everyone is invited to the Facebook page where they can help decide how Target should allocate $3 million among 10 charities. Each charity will receive a donation. The amount of the donation will be determined by the percentage of votes each charity receives.

Charities include:

You can cast one vote per day until May 25. Happy voting!

Monday, May 11, 2009

What does it mean to be a “green” business?

Green is the exceptionally popular, and widely over-used, phrase everyone seems to be attaching to their business these days. It is very important to be green—at home and at work—but before you label your biz, make sure you know what it means.

Check out this article from Startup Nation for the scoop.

Here are some tips for greening your business:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tips for young professionals entering the work force

As summer approaches and graduating caps and tassels begin to fly, many young professionals are entering the workforce. So to all you young professionals, congrats! You have made it. You should be very proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

Now that you are in the workforce, there are multiple ways to start rising to the top.

  • Start building your personal brand. Your skill set, attitude and social aptitude make up your product—you. After all, you had to “sell” yourself to get this job. Now it’s time to think about how you’ll get to the next level.

So, here are a few things to consider as you move forward.

  • Identify the top five things you want your superior to say about you in a reference letter. Then, strive to be those things.
  • Be personable and connect with others. Email is obviously an efficient way to communicate, but if you show up in person from time to time, you have a great opportunity to build on the relationship.
  • Volunteer. If there’s a project that’s up for grabs, take it and use it as an example of what you can do when given the opportunity.

As you jump into the pool head first, I know times are scary but you will succeed. You have to believe and know that you will succeed. Good luck and have fun!

Use meetings as a training tool

For many of you up and coming entrepreneurs, your best learning experience is your current job. As a future business owner, the most beneficial thing you can do before you even start your company is to take notes from your current company and other employees.

Long meetings are a great place to start. Consider it training for your future and how you will conduct business in your office. What do you like or dislike about the meetings? When do other employees in the meeting start to “zone out”? What helps meetings run more efficiently? Ask friends and other co-workers for their input. They may be your future employees!

Remember, you can take everything you learn with you. And that’s the beauty of it. You’re learning from both the good—and the bad. So, doing your homework now—even if it is during a dull meeting—will reap great rewards for you in the future

Monday, May 4, 2009

Get some new insight. Expand your mind.

You are pretty conversant in what you already know, let's hope. Your industry, your hobbies, your kids, your neighborhood. Great. You should be. That's easy. But what have you done lately to expand your mind, your knowledge? How have you challenged yourself?

I just attended the Marketing to Women Conference in Chicago for the second year, and I love going because I always learn new things. Because I'm outside of my typical focus on entrepreneurism and real estate, my mind gets a break and a chance to focus and expand via a different channel. Sure, marketing to women is one of my passions, but it's not often I have a chance to mingle and share information with a group of people who share that passion. It's amazingly mind-expanding. And what, you ask, did I learn? Here's just a sampling for your consideration!

• Today's women are living fully kinetic lives, according to a Lifetime TV study. 84 percent feel they are busier than the generation before them, and busier now than they were five years ago. They are leading multi-tasking lives.

• Today's men are pitching in more, but it's far from equal at home. The interesting news is husbands who do pitch in have more sex. Go figure.

• Stress is on the rise. 55 percent of all women say they are frequently stressed out, while 85 percent have trouble sleeping. Women are searching for simplification and an unscheduled day every once in awhile.

• Oh, and while there are fewer vertical and horizontal corporate barriers, only 12 Fortune 500 CEOS are women, and women still only make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. Leading to the rise of my passion—and many of yours—women are turning to entrepreneurship.

You don't need to travel to expand your mind. Head to the bookstore and pick up a “how to” or business book (subliminal plug for Real You Incorporated inserted here) about a topic you've always wanted to learn more about. If you have a Kindle, you don't have to leave your home for an entire wealth of knowledge to be delivered into your hands. Of course, the Internet provides a huge, immediate resource, but it also provides innumerable distractions so if you want to focus, and if you want to learn, I'd suggest making time for it through. A book. A conference. Or taking an online course.

In today's multi-minding world, make sure your mind has a chance to focus on expanding, and not just moving from task to task. Enlightenment and learning opens your mind and can change the direction of your life.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Step into the spotlight.

Here's the thing. Whether you're an entrepreneur, a corporate employee, a SAHM or a college student, the time will come—and it probably has already—when you need to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight to claim your power. This could take the form of not letting somebody else take the credit for your paper, your proposal, your cost-cutting idea. Or, it may require the actual stepping into the spotlight, on stage or at least in a large group meeting.

Does that thought terrify you? It did me, for too many years in fact. My fear of public speaking (and its accompanying fear of failure, fear of not being good enough) held me back in my business and in my life in general. It forced me to thrust others into the spotlight to say my words and present my ideas, instead of taking the responsibility and the challenge of doing it myself.

Oh, and then I wrote a book. One of the first things you learn when that dream of being a published author—of getting an agent, and a New York publisher and a book on bookshelves—actually comes true is that you must let others know about said book. Without promotion, books, like all products, don't get very far. And in the case of a book especially, even more so in today's publishing environment, the author and her brand are critical to selling any copies. Guess what that meant: No hiding. There isn't anyone else who can speak about my words, my book, for me. (I tried to figure out a way, trust me!)

So, I hired a voice and speech coach. He was amazing. We worked together for a year and still have tune-ups now and again, but truly, it's fun to speak to groups now. Folks with our company can't believe the change. And I can't either some days. If I can do it, you can, too. So let me give you a few tips I've learned as I've stepped into the spotlight. To grow your business and personal brand, I hope you'll decide to take the plunge and step into your own spotlight, too.

1. If speaking terrorizes you, get help. There are speech coaches, Toastmasters and all types of organizations to help you get the tips you need to grow into your comfort zone. You know your material. It's time to get credit for it.

2. Start small. I'm still grateful to the first Rotary group who gave me a chance to speak about my book. They were gracious, warm and not too big in mass.

3. Be prepared. Practice. Be prepared. Repeat. You'll feel better if you've rehearsed and can toss the notes and crutches.

4. And, a big point once you've agreed to take the microphone: Power Point is supposed to be visual, a supporting image of what you're speaking about. Duplicating your speech on slides is a sure-fire boredom creator. Promise. My goal is to get to where the real pros are and use no slides at all!

5. Remember, audiences, no matter how big or small, want you to succeed. They are there to hear your story, your message.

Have a wonderful weekend. And start envisioning yourself in the spotlight!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What your heroes say about you

Many of us may not take the time to stop and think about what and why we admire our heroes. However, it is important because the qualities we admire in them are often qualities that we aspire to.

When you identify your heroes, you also identify common characteristics they uphold. It’s likely that these characteristics are the reasons you admire them. Think about it; test it out. You’ll discover that it’s true. You share a common value system with your heroes, or they wouldn’t make your list.

Remember, heroes don’t need to be famous. There are countless everyday heroes that come into our lives—friends, relatives, teachers, coaches—even co-workers and bosses. In a sense, the characteristics you admire in these folks are a take away—a bonus. Now, apply what you learn from these individuals to your own life and career. You won’t stop being yourself. Instead, you will move another step closer to discovering the real you. Best of all, uncovering that information can be extremely valuable—both personally and professionally.

Some of my heroes include Gloria Steinem, F. Scott Fitzgerald and my grandmothers.

Who are yours?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Learning to Say No

By nature, women are nurturers—the ones always helping others. While it’s admirable that we are always trying to be there for others, between work and family, our lives can get chaotic. In striving to be SuperMom, we often forget how and when to say no. Then, being overcommitted with no time for ourselves, we’re left feeling frazzled, burnt-out, despondent and not much good to anyone.

Fortunately, there are a couple things we can do. First, learn to set limitations for yourself. Instead of saying yes to everything, define the specific tasks that inspire you. Commit your time and talents to the tasks and organizations that make your heart sing. By doing so, your actions will be in sync with your heart, and that translates into a happier you.

Also, develop a support system of family, friends and co-workers who can help you. Surround yourself with these individuals and establish them as a network of real people in your life. Don’t try to do it all. Instead, let others help you.

Learning to say no and having others help you may take some getting used to, but the end result, a refreshed and rejuvenated you, is well worth it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tips to keep female consumers happy

Female consumers are often demanding, but they make a majority of all purchasing decisions—meaning they’re your No. 1 consumer. It’s in your best interest to make sure she’s happy. Here are some tips for doing just that.

  • Brainstorm how you can best touch base with your customers
  • Discuss which methods are working and which ones have flopped
  • Consider what you might do differently or better
  • Style your logo, colors and font in a way that is attractive to women
  • Design a Web site that is consumer-friendly and easy for busy women to navigate
  • Know what she likes and, more importantly, what she dislikes

Remember, your goal is to stay one step ahead of your consumer. Women are world-class consumers, making or influencing 85 percent of all purchases. That means they deserve your time and attention.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Say no to time thieves

Make sure you're focusing and not allowing time thieves to take advantage of you!

Did you know interruptions consume 28 percent of an average workday? It's true. And interruptions can be even more time-stealing if you're working from home and not setting limits. Case in point: the other day I was working from home. That's typically a great place to work, especially during school hours. But, one of my kids was home sick. She slept most of the time, but still needed checking, food and comfort. Then, I answered the home phone, instead of letting the answering machine grab it. A mom looking for help with the Lacrosse car wash this weekend. And finally, my oldest signed himself out of school and arrived home with a big project.

And what time does that leave for the things on my list? None, if I allow that to happen. But I can't. I've made a commitment to my business, to me and my team. If you're looking for a job or starting a business, this is vitally important. No matter what comes up, you need to remember that if you don't manage through the interruptions and still accomplish your tasks for today, you'll feel more stressed and less available tomorrow. And that ruins your weekend.

For me, my kids and for everyone else, I need to find a way to get it all done. Here's how:

1. Don't lose steam. Even if you need to take an hour out to comfort, to help, to run an errand, to go to an unexpected meeting, to whatever, get back on track as soon as you can.

2. If you're frustrated, let it out. Go for a walk. Express your frustration. Simply tell your kids, your spouse, your friend, your coworker that you're on a deadline so you need to make this meeting, appointment, errand, call, whatever, quick. To the point. It's ok to tell others you're rushed.

3. Practice saying this little word: NO. I'm not good at it yet, and you probably aren't either. Let's work on it, shall we?

4. Remember each day is a journey, just as your career and life are a journey. There is no straight path. Look at it as a continuum. Perhaps during this interruption, something you are learning, listening to or helping with holds a kernel of truth you can apply when you're back tackling your job at hand.

5. Just do it. Really. Now that you've paused to read this tip, you are fired up to get back at the task at hand. No more excuses.

I feel better. Hope you do, too. According to many surveys across numerous fields, we all want to feel joy and a sense of purpose about the work we do, the career we pursue. Have you found that? You deserve it. In this time of uncertainty, make a plan for yourself. Remember, it's about defining yourself in one word, and then defining your passions—your hobbies, interests, loves. Within those things, you'll find the answers, and you can begin to pursue them. The answers to fulfillment are within you. And—if the task you're putting off is one that is crucial to your new passion path, you really have no excuse! See #5.

Have a great weekend! Follow me on Twitter, and I'd love to be a friend on Facebook!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Entering the Business World Knowing Your Passion

This past week I was approached by a graduating college senior, and she had an excellent question.

“While my first choice is to find a job on my own, my family owns a business and they’d love for me to join them. Given the current state of the economy, should I consider joining the family business my best option?”

And after talking with her, I started to realize that is about the time when students are planning to set foot into the “real world” and are unsure about what’s next and which direction they should go. So to answer her question and to try and calm the fears of other students in her position, I say…

Don’t alter your passions. Do you really want to join the family business? Is it part of your passion? Or are you altering your passion for security? Will it make you wake up in the morning excited and ready to take on the world? That said, it is an option, and it’s one to consider temporarily if no alternative rises to the surface. In the meantime, here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

· Are you passionate about your family’s business?

· Is joining the business your dream—or is it your family’s dream?

· Do you have experience in the field, or will you have to learn?

· Will you have equal share in the decision-making, or will that evolve over time?

· Will there be times when you feel awkward because you came on board as a family member?

To all you graduating college seniors, find your passion, build your personal brand and start searching for companies with cultures inline with your passions. That is where you will prosper. And to future employers, start building a culture that will attract our Gen Y workers. They are entering the work force and desire inspiration!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Learn how Successful Women put Personality into Business

Does your business reflect your personality? My business, Real Living, does—it’s spunky, like me! And it is part of a new eBook that was recently released, called The Personality Project: “Women of Personality”. This free eBook, by Rohit Bhatgava, author of Personality Not Included, features 20 women who have successfully melted their personalities into their businesses.

Find out how they did it by downloading it from the Personality Project Web site.

Bhatgava is currently accepting submissions from women to be part of the second edition, scheduled to launch in early June. To submit yourself or someone you know, send an email to pnibook@gmail.com or post a short introduction to yourself on the wall of the Women of Personality Facebook Group.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's time to de-stress, if ever so briefly!

It's tough out there. Whether you run your own business, work for somebody else or work at home taking care of the kids, things are tight. People are grumpy. Budgets are cut and, well, it's just plain stressful. That got me to thinking of tips I've heard and used to create a little peace and relaxation in the middle of the day.

Always remember, if you're stressed and in a bad mood, you project it through everything you do. Personally, my jaws clench, and I become short with people. And that's no fun, for me or them. I'm not as effective as a leader, a mother or a friend. And while a little stress is good for performance, a lot of stress throws you and your nervous system out of whack, leading to nasty physical consequences as well as leaving you vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

So, it's time for a break! Here are my five favorite tips.


1. Have a personal jam session. Get out the headphones and listen your favorite up-beat song. Nothing gets me moving like Tina Turner.

2. Get out of the office, or the house. Change the scenery! Take a 15-minute walk and get some fresh air. You will be more productive if you give your brain a rest.

3. De-clutter your desk. You will feel better instantly—I promise! The distracting call of “the piles” will be silenced, enabling you to concentrate on your next feat.

4. Connect. Talk to your team. Ask others about their day. If they're smiling, you're going to smile back. It's contagious! If you work alone, or you're home alone, call a best friend. She needs you as much as you need her right now.

5. Laugh. Yes, laughter is my cure all. Here's a great stat from my book: Preschool children laugh up to 400 times a day, but adults only laugh 17 times a day on average. C'mon! Take the edge off and have a little fun.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coworking Spaces Help Entrepreneurs Connect, Reduce Isolation

If you are like many other women entrepreneurs starting your own business, you are probably working from home. But for those who are use to working in a traditional business setting with lots of co-workers this transition can be isolating.

If you miss your co-workers to brainstorm with, the personal connections, and water cooler conversations, my suggestion is to try relocating your office to a coworking space. Coworking is where independent professional elect to work in a shared space. This type of work space always you to get out of the house and socialize with like minded- professionals and eliminates the need to spend hours at a local coffee shop. At most coworking locations, for a monthly fee, you are provided with all the essentials to help you launch and grow your business. To take a further look and see what coworking is all about check out Qwirk, location in German Village Columbus, Ohio.

Also, here is a video about coworking taking place in Austin, Texas.



So, if starting your business from home is to isolating join a coworking space. It will have you feeling inspired all over again. And best of all, you’ll leave that feeling of isolation behind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sharing Your Secrets. Good or Bad?

Whenever women business owners get together they like to talk about their families and their business.

Unlike their male counterparts, women business owners, counterparts seek out the opinions and input of others. We know this from research conducted by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO). I believe that women benefit from this behavior. Of course, there are boundaries you’ll need to adhere to, but that shouldn’t stop you from gaining the wisdom and insight of others.

Connecting with others is a natural instinct for women. So don’t be afraid to get out there and start connecting by sharing trials, tribulations and success stories. Once you open up other women will too. But like I said there are boundaries, do share all the ins and outs, but be willing to help. And always remember, watch out for the snarks! They are out there and they will try to bring you down.

Still, it goes way beyond talking with friends and people you meet. And beyond talking to other women business owners, if you have a team, ask for their ideas too! It’s important to solicit their input as well. In doing so, you’ll make them feel like valued members of the team, and you’ll benefit from a variety of opinions and perspectives.

So as you head off to your next gathering don’t feel like you have to hold back. Be open and willing to share. Those you are sharing with will be appreciative and you may even learn something from them!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Building a Culture that Empowers

When starting and building a business, one of the most important components is your competitive advantage. And with that unique competitive advantage, you are able to build a great culture.

You culture should be a reflection of your combined personal and business brands. To start building your culture, envision your workplace.

What spells success for your company? Is it an open floor plan or cubicles? What colors are the walls? How is the space lit? What are the attitudes of your employees as they walk in the door on a Monday morning?

Also, consider the following questions and more.
•How do you define culture? Words, symbols, images? Get specific.
•What’s your dress code?
•Will you offer flexible hours?
•Will you have holiday parties?
•Are employees free to work from home or the local coffee shop?

These are just a few jumping off points for building a culture. You are a unique individual with specialized talents. Be sure your culture truly represents you and your business.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Every experience enriches you - cherish every moment!

You were born to succeed. You need to believe that. It’s true.

It’s also true that if the life you’re living or the path you’re following starts to get you off track, you’ll be given guidance in order to get back on the path. The guidance may be subtle – or it could be a big and painful lesson. But either way, you’re learning. It’s so hard to realize this as you’re living your life, especially while we’re all in the middle of the global cultural and financial shift. And – as an entrepreneur - as you work to make your business dreams come true there never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish your goals, let alone the time to reflect on the lessons you’re learning along the way.

The truth is, there never will be enough time. Ever. Once you realize this basic fact, you free yourself to cherish the moments, the minutes. To celebrate holidays with family, while taking a break from work by turning off your computer for awhile. Take a walk with a friend, or simply sit peacefully and watch the sunset even if you’re not on vacation. Laugh and play, even if you don’t have kids around you – but especially if you do. Enrich your soul this weekend by filling your heart with joy and spreading that joy to everyone you encounter.

And if you’re celebrating Easter this weekend, celebrate! Make plans. Hug. Step away from the business and look around you and realize your blessings. They are plentiful, as plentiful as your unique personal gifts.

“Every experience we have and will have upon earth encourages the alignment of your personality with your soul.” ~ Gary Zukav

Note: I sent this out as my Tip of the Week today, but if you aren't signed up for it, I thought you may enjoy reading it today as it's a timely message. To sign up for next week's tip, click here!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Empowering Cultures Attract Positive People

Businesses often go through growing pains. Sometimes good; sometimes bad. And right now, many companies are facing the pressures of having to downsize. However, there are some companies that are prospering and need to hire more employees.

To ensure that you hire the best and most well-fitting employees, my advice is to create a great culture; one that is inviting and represents your company’s outlook. Potential employees will use your culture as a guide for gaining insight on your company. And, if you misrepresent your company’s culture, you may end up wasting time interviewing candidates that are not a good fit for your company.

To ensure your culture is truly representative of your company’s brand, first take a quick inventory of your surroundings. How would you define the culture you’ve created up to this point? Is it stiff or fun? Casual or crazy? Formal or informal? Do these qualities really represent your company? Although these things may seem small and relatively insignificant, they’re not.

Simple, inspiring cultures attract A-list candidates. It’s no secret that people want to feel inspired by their jobs. They want to participate in something sustainable and worthwhile. That’s why creating a real, creative and stimulating culture will contribute to your success.

Make sure that each employee understands your brand essence and your vision for the company. It goes way beyond just telling employees what you’re about. You’ve got to live it daily.

Remember, if your personal brand and your business brand are in alignment, it shouldn’t be hard to attract the right individuals. You want real people who are attracted to your company and what you’re trying to achieve. Now, go get ‘em!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's never too late to tell you about trends, is it?

Ok, here's a funny story. My friend Stefan Swanepoel is THE real estate trends guy. He publishes a well-researched, well-read Trends Report each year and the industry folks who are smart, read it. I realize it's April, and first quarter is over, BUT I am finally reading the report! In my defense, for some unknown reason, it took two months to arrive from California to my mailbox in Ohio. (Yes, even reports don't want to visit Ohio if they're from Laguna Nigel.) But enough excuses. I learned a lot, and here are the trends that resonated with me:

1. Real estate is in the "transformation years", and those years will continue until 2012 (yikes!)

2. Social media is a real estate agent and company's friend! (yay!)

I'm not going to dwell on the negatives surrounding point 1 above, as I'm sure if you live in a home or know someone who does you've heard just about enough even if you aren't a real estate agent. But point 2 is exciting! As Stefan writes, "some 530 million individuals are now participating in some sort of social networking . . .and each person on average belongs to two or three social networks."

That's huge, in my industry and yours. If you aren't out there blogging and tweeting about your expertise in a meaningful and helpful manner—as a real estate agent it is your local market knowledge and your niche knowledge-you're missing out on customers. As Stefan writes: "Real estate professionals have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of this emerging trend by influencing others through creating meaningful content and releasing it through blogs, online communities, wikis and social networks....only 18 percent of online Americans actually create content or publish an article or blog at least once a month."

So get out there and get writing. You are an expert in your field, and you have something your tribe wants to read about. Write it, and they will follow!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Building a Professional Network

We always hear that building professional networks is vital to success, but it should also be noted that your network should reach beyond family and friends.

Family and friends are great, and most of us would be lost without them. They create a great support system in a wide variety of situations—including helping you fulfill your dreams. However, if you’re talking business, you really need to expand your network. Most women rely on family members as their primary network, but these individuals don’t always have access to meaningful business information—like new leads, business experts or financial advice.

Your contacts should be people who will help you develop your competitive advantage. You need diversity of opinions and backgrounds, so as you build your network, try to include individuals with varying backgrounds and expertise. Ideally, it should be people who don’t work for you. That way you can benefit from different perspectives and ideas. You can begin by joining and participating in social media sites and joining local professional networking groups. So, get out there and start reaching out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Finding a Balance that Works for You

Women continually struggle with work-life balance. There are many women who believe there is this set, generic and ideal form of balance. However, that is just not the case. Balance differs for everyone. What works for your co-worker may not work for you. And what works for you may not work for your neighbor. Everyone is different and has a different job and your work-life balance should reflect that. Also, many women believe that their personal and business life should be completely different. But instead hear this: Your business is your personal life.

By that I mean if you develop your business around your personal brand essence, then the real you will rise to the surface. You’re a package. Your values, personality—even your passions—they all come together to create a personal brand that defines you. Now take it one step further and incorporate that brand into your business.

There are steps for accomplishing this goal, and I talk about them in great detail in my book, but the basic concept remains the same: Make your personal brand and your business brand one. And don’t forget that it all has to happen within the guidelines of authenticity. Don’t be a fake. Stay genuine and true to your passions and your ideals. Balance is only achieved if and when you stay true to your passions—and you refuse to separate your business brand from your personal brand.