Many of us are familiar with the concept that in order to get the life you want; you have you build it intentionally. However, how can entrepreneurs navigate the pivot from the life they’re living into the life they want? Bri Seeley, founder of the Inspirational Woman Project, explains how she began to live an intentional life when she began to live by this guiding principle: “Life does not get better by chance. Life gets better when you take action towards creating your inspirational life.”
She has spent the last year inspiring women to do the same. After stepping in to help her (current) business partner with an event, Bri found herself hosting what would end up being dubbed The Amplify Collective. Gathering over dinner and wine, about twenty women discussed their passions and vulnerabilities for about 2-3 hours. Realizing that they had stumbled upon something special, Bri and her partner began to throw several more events over the next few months, all of which sold out nearly immediately. But Bri wasn’t always living such a purpose filled life.
Prior to adopting this as her guiding principle, Bri admits she was stumbling throughout life. She was running a fashion company alongside her day job. While it was once her passion, she felt like she was running in a hamster wheel, “I was amassing massive amounts of debt. It was time to begin taking action in a purposeful way.” In 2015, she closed down her fashion brand and began going through the redefinition process.
Redefining her purpose proved to be tough. Because many people only knew her as a fashion designer, she had difficulty getting people in line with her new vision. “It was like walking up to a blank canvas and saying I get to choose what I create. And it was terrifying.” When crafting her new vision, she began to evaluate what she had accomplished in the previous years. Bri realized that in her previous entrepreneurial venture, she enjoyed inspiring women to look and feel feminine. She decided to take everything she had been doing for the last several years and translate those experiences into an organization that focuses on women empowerment.
Upon this newfound realization, Bri discovered that there was a certain persistence that had to be had in order to maintain her new direction. “I record an audio that details all of the good I want in my life for that month. It allows me to bask in the actions that I’m taking and the purpose I’m living in. I listen to it every day,” she says. Sometimes she doesn’t reach all of her goals, but she takes the time to appreciate what she has accomplished, “The more you hear it, the more you align it.” Bri also follows a morning routine that has allowed for her to stay aligned with her purpose. From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., she takes “me time”- sometimes, this involves coloring for hours; other times, she’ll go to her rooftop for yoga. “I just listen to my body and do what it wants,” she says.
By maintaining a balance between living intentionally, practicing self-care and taking the time to recharge, Bri transformed her life and now empowers other women to do the same. What steps have you taken to live an intentional life as an entrepreneur? Tweet us with your answers at @WiseNapkin.
Data is the new black. Over 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years; and on average, people consume nearly 30 GB of data per day. From entrepreneurs to CMO’s of Fortune 500 companies, people simply can’t get enough of it. But often times, organizations hit a standstill because they don’t understand how to properly leverage the data to drive actionable results.
In some cases, it’s simply because they’re not looking at data through the right lens. John Johnson is a trained statistician, data consultant, expert witness and founder of Edgeworth Economics, based out of Washington, D.C. Author of the newly released book Every Data, he explains how some businesses neglect to properly harness this information and what they can do to begin collecting purpose driven data.
“Statistics and data can be powerful, but very misleading. As a statistician, I think about the world from a data driven perspective. But what I’ve noticed is that averages are just like a snapshot,” Johnson says, “It just explains one frame and sometimes neglects to tell the whole story. This can lead to terrible decision making.” A good example to illustrate this point is to compare the average salary of a mayor across America (around $60,000) with the salary of a deputy mayor (around $80,000).
At an initial glance, it may seem confusing that a deputy major earns less than an actual mayor. However, these data points fail to consider that only larger cities like New York and Philadelphia have deputy mayors, while every small town and metropolis have mayors. “What you’re averaging can dramatically skew the results. Thinking deeper about data will help [business owners] make more sense of it,” he says.
Speaking of “average”, John is the exact opposite. Back in 2010, he developed a company of “wiz kids”, which wasn’t necessarily the norm. “In a typical firm like ours, you see older people working with their much young apprentices,” he explains. By refusing to settle for the average, he has since expanded his firm to 80 employees in three offices.
For companies looking to improve their data collection or analyzation methods, John suggests the following:
1. Make sure the data you’re reviewing is correct: The first step in analyzing your data is to make sure it’s the correct data set. When the temperature control company NEST was bought by Google, the ticker jumped by 1900% in one day. Unfortunately, that ticker wasn’t for NEST – it was for a similarly named penny stock that had gone bankrupt. Slowing down and taking time to review which data you’re looking at is essential to the success of your data analyzation efforts.
2. Determine what question the data is trying to solve: While some people can be data hoarders, this leads to massive efforts for data mining that isn’t even useful or applicable. Take the time to sit down and decide which problem you’d like for your data to solve, prior to gathering several data points.
Have you ever fallen victim to bad data practices? What did you do to fix it? Let us know by sending us a tweet at @WiseNapkin.
Are you a victim of squirrel syndrome? Based on some fairly unscientific research, about 2 in 3 entrepreneurs are burdened by this affliction. The biggest symptoms include being attracted by every “shiny” thing that comes along, coupled with the inability to say no. But is this hurting your business? Joe Calloway, author, consultant and Executive in Residence at Belmont University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, argues that it is. Having worked extensively with organizations of all sizes and growth cycles, Joe credits the success of many entrepreneurs to one simple adage: “Say no to almost everything.”
Inspired by Warren Buffet, this idea is what separates normal successful people from very successful people, Joe believes. At the beginning of his career, Joe struggled with saying “no” and suffered the consequences. After adopting this concept as his mantra, he began to say “no” more often and started to really hone in on the things he was saying “yes” to.
Another side effect of squirrel syndrome is becoming frozen due to a lack of tunnel vision on the ultimate purpose. Having worked with entrepreneurs for years, Joe has witnessed organizations struggle with this repeatedly. “More often than not, it’s better to make bad decisions than to be frozen. Entrepreneurs will always learn from their mistakes, but they will learn nothing from standing still. As opposed to being frozen, mistakes help you learn your strengths,” he adds. He also suggests that entrepreneurs measures what happens after these decisions.
In addition to learning how to say “no”, it’s important for entrepreneurs to leave room for the “yes”. Joe advises that entrepreneurs should learn how to prioritize their “yes” based on their brand values. “Entrepreneurs and companies should learn to do three or four things extremely well, and with great consistency. It’s all about balance,” he advises.
As leaders, entrepreneurs need to become skilled at saying “yes” to the right things at the right time. “Company owners must remain consistent about the things they say ‘yes’ to,” he says, “Consistency coupled with innovation is how leaders become great.” He also advises that company owners align their entire team on their “yes” – that is, a single vision which encompasses the one thing every team member will always say “yes” to.
Refusing to say “no” to things makes it impossible to simplify your purpose, cut out the noise and move forward. What are some of the things you will begin to say “no” to? Can you identify three things you’ll always say yes to? Let us know in the comments below.
Nothing quite compares to the beauty of a Rembrandt. While many of us have only gazed at the priceless artwork behind the glass, imagine having one of his paintings in your attic. Think for a minute about the wasted value of having such a beautiful piece covered up and hidden in your attic.
Long time Paper Napkin Wisdom fans may remember speaker and author Andrew Sherman’s Paper Napkin Wisdom when he appeared on the show back in 2014. Today, he’s back with another gem that he hopes will help organizations of all sizes to reduce their intellectual waste. Using agricultural metaphor, he says, “Be an intellectual capital agrarian. Harvest your intangible assets before they rot on the vine.” That’s a heavy statement, so let’s dissect it a bit.
“I hate waste. I hate it so much, I gave a TED Talk about it,” Andrew explains. He began to think about waste even more when he read the Kevin G. Rivette classic Rembrandts in the Attic, nearly 15 years ago. After ten years of living by this philosophy, he realized one critical flaw in the book – “Rembrandts retain their value but most intangible assets do not,” he says. The notion was straightforward - inside companies of all sizes, intellectual capital assets or Rembrandts are being wasted. To find them, business owners may have to look in places they normally wouldn’t.
These lessons ripple out over several industries. Several companies have gained popularity by noticing the potential wasted assets in other verticals. Take Hotwire, for example. Instead of letting rooms “rot”, they learned to harvest those assets and have turned them into something useful for consumers.
Entitling his book Harvesting Intangible Assets, Andrew explains, “I decided to look at innovation as if it was similar to the agrarian process for farmers. The book is meant to help small businesses notice the intellectual property within their company.” Some smaller businesses may argue that they don’t have as many intangible assets, but Andrew’s idea encompasses the notion that small businesses should also look for licensing opportunities or “Rembrandts in other attics”.
Much thought was put into the agrarian metaphor. By definition, an agrarian relates to the cultivation of land or a person who advocates a redistribution of landed property, especially as part of a social movement. Business owners who look to apply this method to their organizations need to follow the agrarian process closely. For instance, farmers plan out their crops months in advance of the planting and harvest seasons.
This is comparable to business owners making sure that there will be a need for the asset in the coming months and years, while waiting on the planting and harvest seasons to commence. When looking at this concept on a global scale, Andrew thinks that other international companies are “eating our lunch”. He believes that in order for North America to compete on a global scale, there needs to be a mass adoption of this concept.
While developing new ideas is never frowned upon, entrepreneurs should look to cultivate the talent and ideas in their backyard. What Rembrandts may be hiding in your attic? How do you plan on discovering and cultivating those assets?
The business math equation S (sales) – E (expenses) = P (profit) has been widely accepted for years. However, entrepreneur and author Mike Michalowicz doesn’t quite see it that way. “83% of small businesses in the US are surviving check to check, some of whom follow this model. From a behavioral perspective, what happens last matters least,” Mike says, “Take your profit first and you will reverse engineer your profit forever.” While some may scoff at this notion, in today’s Paper Napkin Wisdom, he explains how a shift in thought process and subsequent actions can revolutionize small businesses forever.
This concept is best compared to Parkinson’s Law, which states that our behavior adjusts around the supply. Take toothpaste, for example. Upon purchasing a new tube of toothpaste, most people are less frugal with it than when they’re on their last squeeze of the same tube. To apply this theory to business, Mike argues that if companies follow a different equation – S- P = E – they will reduce spending and maximize their bottom line. It’s similar to a popular personal finance method – the 401k. By readjusting your spending based on what you’re bringing in, it will increase your bottom line over time.
Additionally, operating this way forces business owners to become radically innovative. One of the businesses Mike owns, a leather manufacturing company based out of St. Louis, was running into a problem. The equipment they needed to develop their product cost a whopping $40,000. Instead of making that investment, which would have greatly reduced their profit, they got crafty. After a few trips to Home Depot and some trial and error, they invented a molding mechanism that only costs around $200 to produce. “Our competitors were using the same [$40,000 machine], and our profit margins sky rocketed,” he says. He urges that using this model forces businesses to think outside of the box.
But in 2008, Mike would have probably initially scoffed at this advice. He had sold two companies and became an angel investor, which he recalls being a horrible experience. He hit rock bottom. “I was $50,000 in credit card debt, and I was driving a beat up Durango that only had two radio stations,” he admits. Deciding that it was time for a change, he began reading The Richest Man in Babylon and similar books. A light bulb went off – he realized that while people had applied the “Pay Yourself First” mentality to personal finances, no one had taken that approach to business. He began to test the concept with his own business and the businesses of friends, and noticed he was on to something.
So, how can a company go from their current approach to Mike’s method? He suggests starting small -open a separate savings account and allocate 1% of every check into this separate account. “If you can run your business on $10,000, you can probably run it on $9,900. Set that extra $900 aside. While you may not amass a life changing sum of money, your mind set will definitely shift,” he advises.
After making these changes, Mike urges businesses to not reinvest that money into the business, “When it’s not profitable, we will start to resent our business. Those distributions and profits help you celebrate your entrepreneurship and your innovation.” Every quarter, he has a quarterly pause where he and his business partner discuss their successes from the month, along with any failures. This occurs after they both receive their quarterly distribution. While Mike doesn’t reinvest his distributions into the company, he does ensure that he reinvests the profit into his employees. “It’s very important that everyone has a vested interest in the success of the business,” he says. While the profits may not be publicized, he does make sure to explain to each team member how they can benefit from being frugal with company funds.
By combining a shift in mindset with a pivot from traditional methods, Mike’s formula has led to profit increases for hundreds of businesses. What do you think of his method? Tweet us with your answers at @WiseNapkin.
Each week I’ll post a short podcast, usually between 3 to 5 minutes long, just talking about how to apply the Paper Napkin Wisdom 5 Step Plan to Life and Business Success in an everyday kind of way.
As I was speaking to a group of entrepreneurs about execution this week, we discussed the value of changing our Perspective as leaders to not think that we were out front, but rather out back of our teams supporting them as they charged forward.
The discussion evolved toward understanding the value of how elephants lead. While elephants have obvious size and strength, that's not how they lead. The alpha female is the leader of the herd and she leads from the back of the group using skills like Problem Solving, Social Intelligence, Openness, Decisiveness, Patience, Confidence, and Compassion to guide the group.
Make it a great week!!
In an age where everyone can pick up their smartphones and become an instant “expert” on any topic, how can entrepreneurs market their knowledge to their consumers? Millennial money expert and author of The Broke and the Beautiful Life, Stefanie O’Connell thinks it has a lot to do with packaging. No, she isn’t referring to big bows or pretty wrapping paper. She poses that while information isn’t propriety, experiences are. Instead of hoarding knowledge, entrepreneurs should find a way to package their experiences in a way that’s meaningful for other people.
In 2008, Stefanie was a recent college graduate, utilizing her degree in theater to travel the world and live her dream. However, due to the late 2008 recession, she was forced to return to New York. “I got a job that paid $225. While it was very fulfilling, it wasn’t exactly financially viable. I was the epitome of a starving artist,” she recalls. After taking up a friend’s offer to read Suze Orman’s The Young, Broke & Fabulous, she became enthralled with the idea of money management. She ended up becoming a resource for her friends and began sharing her money management advice on a blog. This turned into a book (The Broke & Beautiful Life).
“Financial advice is pretty straightforward and some view it as boring,” says Stefanie. However, she paired her own experiences with age old financial advice to develop a platform that was both relatable and helpful. Instead of telling readers to start an emergency fund, she details the time when she broke down in tears at a dentist’s office because she was unable to pay $2000 for a necessary procedure. “By tapping into the details, you evoke an immediate emotional response from a reader or consumer. I create the urgency by sharing my experiences,” Stefanie says.
Balancing information and experiences can often be tough, especially when entrepreneurs find themselves in situations where they’re not driving the conversation. Stefanie likes to have “talking points with a point of view” for these situations. She draws on her drama background to pair words together to drive home certain points for her audience. “The aspect of storytelling is very valuable, no matter what industry. No one is going to care what you know if you’re not coming across in a way that’s relatable,” she says. Stefanie also stresses the importance of knowing the audience and finding ways to add segmented value.
Being relatable and changing the conversation from a monologue to a dialogue means doing research to discover your audience’s needs. Stefanie spends a lot of time dialoguing with her audience in order to do just that. “I even look up Amazon book reviews to see which books in my sector have received two or three stars and check to see what was missing,” she says. Additionally, as a financial advisor who specifically focuses on women and millennials, she takes caution to only listen to feedback which will add value to her audience. “If someone begins to tell me that I need to focus on providing Baby Boomers with retirement advice, I typically shy away from that because it doesn’t speak to my niche,” she says.
For entrepreneurs that worry they will run out of experiences to share, Stefanie says that she hunts down other experiences by simply taking interesting people out for coffee. “I know that the first thing financial advisors typically say is to cut out coffee from your budget. But I have enjoyed an incredible ROI from that tactic,” she laughs. And, when talking about what experiences she plans to share in the future, she started doing a dream bio exercise, where she writes up her dream bio then compares it to her to-do list. “It’s very important that I’m intentional about that alignment,” she notes.
What are some ways you can package your experiences into something that’s helpful for your audience/customers? Tweet us with your answers at @WiseNapkin!
Each week I’ll post a short podcast, usually between 3 to 5 minutes long, just talking about how to apply the Paper Napkin Wisdom 5 Step Plan to Life and Business Success in an everyday kind of way.
This week I visited a group of entrepreneurs for a workshop on Execution. On the way back, I had huge challenges getting back home for the weekend. Apparently there was some sort of computer error, which took a ton of time to fix and, predictably, let to me missing the flight home.
The challenge was that 1000s of other passengers had the same challenge as I did that day.
I never quit, nor did I think of quitting ... in fact, I've never quit on anything.
This week I share why.
Make it a great week!