Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #14b: Confessions and Reflections

This is the second of two posts reflecting on what has worked, and what hasn’t, since conceiving and implementing the Hot Mommas Project case study competition. See first Confessions and Reflections post.

It ain't pretty. Computer + Face Mask = Fake Relaxation

It ain't pretty. Computer + Face Mask = Fake Relaxation

Pictured here, I am “relaxing” with my computer open.  Quite unsightly on a number of levels. First confession: I may be a part time working mom physically, but I am full time-plus mentally. I am constantly thinking about the project. I’m freaking exhausted. I seriously think I have carpal tunnel in my shoulder. Continue reading

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Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #14a: Confessions and Reflections

Starbucks

Helping me fight the fight every day: Starbucks

Here is a little review of what held true and what didn’t for the Hot Mommas Project journey since March (when this insider’s blog was started). Things that turned out not to be true – that was not by design.  I think I was just hopeful. You know, like, “Here’s how we’re going to do this. YEAH!” Then, reality unfolds. Continue reading

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time # 13: Leadership and Management

Here is another installment in the Hot Mommas Project path to becoming a million dollar venture/organization…while being led by a mom working part time. Can it be done? We’re here to figure that out. Our big thing right now is the Hot Mommas Project Case Study competition. Click here to nominate someone. As you’ll learn below, we need to get 200 women to write their cases by January 31, 2009. (We are double checking – now – that this is REALLY the number we need to achieve. Oy. I hope it’s not. More on this later.) This blog post is on management and leadership because:

1. I’ve read a lot about this area (hasn’t every business junkie?)

2. As discussed above, I’ve been going through some semi-useful OTJ training lately.

3. Heard Cameron Herold speak, former COO of 1800GotJunk, and I plan to regurgitate a lot of what he says with which I agree.

Management

The Team

Team

This is who I’m managing right now. Pictured here Achin Jain, Esther Leff, and Kaitlyn McAuliffe. We’ve recently added Ximena Iacono, primarily because her name begins with an “X” which is really cool.

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INTERLUDE

[Music starts: Marvin and Tammi rocking out to “Aint No Mountain High Enough“–because that’s what’s on Kaitlyn’s iTunes right now]

First, let’s have our interlude about self-management, perhaps the hardest management of all.

9.00 – 9.45 am – Extensive conversation with director of my son’s school. Don’t ask.

10.00 am – Back home, at computer. The team and I need to get 200 women to write cases by the end of January. [Voice inside my head] “My number one priority today is to do this blog so Kaitlyn can work her social marketing magic and drive people to www.HotMommasProject.org to write their cases.” I click on my email inbox to find notes from Cameron Herold’s talk to EO.

10.53 am – “What was I looking for?” I spent the past 53 minutes cleaning out my emails. Bad girl!

[music stops]

11.10 am – My window of opportunity is lost. I have to start prepping for a client meeting.

3.00 pm – Back from client meeting. Open email in box again to look for Cameron Herold notes.

[music starts]

4.23 pm – I’ve spent the past 83 minutes finding a new photo for www.HotMommasProject.org. Bad, bad girl!

[music stops]

5.30 pm – It’s time for a call with Esther. I have spent the past 67 minutes texting with Achin about the website, emailing with Esther and Kaitlyn about their tasks, emailing with Jennifer Moore (of Pink Heels), answering student questions via email, and posting stuff for my course on Facebook.  

[Music starts]

That’s management folks. It’s balancing, powering through, doing what needs to get done….and, if you miss one goal, you clean up real fast. I prioritized things above the blog because – well – they were more important. Including the next event. 🙂

5.45 pm – Both my kids run into my home office naked and laughing. I inform Esther our conference call is officially over. I think she says “okay.” Am hoping I didn’t hang up on her.

11.00 pm – In bed with computer. Husband is next to me in bed on computer. Blog is STILL not written. frankensteins_monster_boris_karloffWatching Skins get spanked. Trying to resist Twitter. Feel like this: “Must.Pick.Brain.Up.Off.Floor.” (Said in Frankenstein voice – Go Mary Shelley!)

END INTERLUDE

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What’s the big deal about management and leadership?

People talk about management and leadership all of the time because it’s hard. Really hard. I realize now I was a very spoiled manager. I’ve walked into situations in the past where killer teams had been picked or were part of a machine-like recruiting process. I’d manage them, and think I had something figured out. Even my past teams of Hot Mommas consultants (see first or second post on this) were pretty plug and play. They had all been senior executives and what not. On top of it, they were moms so – by definition – they could run a small country. Now it is a whole different ball game.

So, what’s really been a bad idea? The following things have been a bad idea:

1. Hiring a warm body – In the past, I have hired warm bodies. Someone says, “I want to work with the Hot Mommas Project” and I would say, “Great!” Those days are gone. (This is not true for you Liz and Meredith!)

2. Going with less structure – I work with a lot of students. Structure, structure, structure seems to work best for me and for them. (Examples below).

3. Not praising or encouraging – These people are not slaves, they are people. I see a lot of entrepreneurs treat employees badly. This is namely because they treat themselves like badly.

So, what’s been working?

The top 3 list.

First, here is the Top 5 list basic principle which I learned from Cameron Herold.

1. Always have a sense of the top 5 most important tasks you’re working on.

2. Write it down.

3. Carry it with you. Review it throughout the day.

5. Spend the last 5 minutes of each day making a list of the top 5 priorities for tomorrow.

6. Be accountable – Every day, an email should be waiting for you in your inbox from your staff with their top 5 from day before and what they hit or not and why.

THE TOP 3 LIST – our version of the above. (In a total contradiction to an earlier post, much of the team works virtually. Also, my team is part time because they are undergrad and MBA students.)

1. On your desktop have a document which says has the following: Top 3/On–Deck/Accomplished. Our Top 3 are focused on a specific goal or outcomes (measurable), and each week the actions change to meet that goal or outcome. It is immediately clear from the updates if weekly actions support a Top 3 item or not. These are our major goals right now.  Hit the following case number (number of written cases on site):

Kathy – 100 (How: Partners, personal network, HARO, Twitter, Facebook, PR, events like the American Mustache Institute Stache Bash and BlogHerDC. Earlier post =full scoop)

Esther – 40 (How: Partners with social media/women’s groups, personal network, PR, events, Twitter)

Ximena – 30 (How: Academic/faculty focus, e.g., “assign case writing to your students”)

Kaitlyn – 15 (How: Personal network, bloggers)

Achin – 15 (How: Personal network, bloggers)

If anyone out there has other ideas for us, please post here. P.s. We have no money. We spent it all on @djuth from FMS (We love you Dave! You’re worth it! ) I am so busy with the above goal have no time to raise money and am almost completely relying on GW’s development department.

2. Monday the Top 3 list is sent from the team to me.

3. I spend Monday to Wednesday coaching the team on the list and supporting them. I do this via email and/or phone. Email really takes a long time unless the list is pristine. We’ve worked a lot on that, strangely…formatting, business writing, info I need to know.

4. Wednesday is a team meeting. Since Monday through Wednesday was spent on task management, I try to focus the mid-week meeting on a discussion of results and visioning (e.g., This is where we’re heading).

5. Friday – Another update is sent. The team is cutting and pasting their list for the week, and beginning to project their top 3 for the following week. Coaching takes place via email on Friday and over weekend (when some of my team members catch up on some of their work, especially if it was mid-terms…which is was last week).

6. Rinse repeat.


7. Motivation and inspiration. Esther also mentioned that having goals, and reaching them, is inspirational/motivational/etc. So, I send out frequent updates with things that are happening. “XYZ just said they’d be a judge.” or “Look what this case-writer said!” or “This company just signed on to provide prizes.”  I put FYI in the subject line so the team can filter. We also did the a version of the “can you imagine” wall described below after last Wednesday’s meeting.

Esther’s wants to see Hot Mommas Project become a datasource of women-friendly companies.

Kaitlyn’s wants to get the Millionaire Matchmaker, who she loves, to write her case.

5 things to do to build a company and wrap up:

Kaitlyn has suggested I do shorter posts, and post more frequently…so, I’m taking her advice. Before I sign off, here are a few leadership nuggets from Cameron Herold5 things to do to build a company:

1. Painting a picture – Visualize the future of your business and communicate it to employees. Show them an example. Share it. It is not about “how.” Example: The “can you imagine wall” at 1800GotJunk where staff wrote creative ideas and dreams for the business. Here is Cameron Herold’s painted picture.

2. Great people – Like Jim Collins says, “Get the right people on the bus.” Use Top Grading by Brad and Geoff Smart plus a scorecard (letter grade for employees every 6 months). Example: Group interview process at 1800GotJunk focused on core concepts: “Do I like them and do they fit?” The goal is to raise the average skill set of the group with the hire.

P.s.

The Dream by Matthew Kelley. If you care about your staff’s dreams, they’ll go through brick walls to help you.

– At 1800GotJunk, all employees get 5 weeks vacation. Wow!

3. Reverse engineer the future – Look at every sentence of the painted picture and say, “What can we do to make this come true? What are the missing pieces?” Rank in terms of urgency and impact. Use a spreadsheet in conjunction with the painted picture to clearly see the complexity of the future. Example: 1800GotJunk asked, “How many trucks will we need in x years? What are the bottlenecks? Have we called the truck supplier?” They did. It changed their supplier relationship and way they did business. Numbers also gave them the ability to think about people they needed to hire. They were growing 3 or 4 percent a week. We did this the other day when we mapped out, numerically, how many individuals we’d need to contact to make our case goals. It was an eye opener.

4. Meeting rhythms – Plan your work. Work your plan. Example: 1800GotJunk has a very regimented process for running meetings. The basis are:

a. All meetings have a purpose and a maximum of 3 desired outcomes.

b. No agenda, no attenda – If there is not an agenda, no one will come.

c. Book for half of the time you need – You’ll get it done. This didn’t work for us Wednesday, but will keep trying.

5. Technology Accelerators – Accelerate performance through technology. Examples: Buy staff lap tops, not desktops (Employees will work additional hours for free at home). Have 2 to 3 monitors up at one time for time savings (clicking between screens wastes time). Blackberries and iPhones at blackberryguy.com (Manage the blackberry, don’t let it manage you.) Turn off notifications. Buy headsets (www.headsets.com). Have wireless in the office. The list goes on and on.

At the end of the day, Cameron believes that the secret formula is an equation: Focus, faith, and effort. Read more in his book BackPocket COO.

PARTING THOUGHT:

Since I’m giving our promotional card to everyone ranging from my Zumba instructor at Golds to strangers on the street, I feel it would be hypocritical not to give you the plug as well.

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning women’s leadership initiative housed at the George Washington University School of Business. We’re building the world’s largest women’s case study database which will be free, online, and available to women, girls, and educators worldwide. Read this for detail. Read promotional postcard for short attention span version. Go to our main site and WRITE YOUR CASE! Be a Role Model…Tell Your Story…Help Others…Get Published.

HEY! If you, or someone you know is a role model whose story could help women and girls, and could be taught by educators in classroom, email us and include “nomination” in the subject line. Click here to see how cool it is to be nominated.

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #11: Top 7 Low/No Cost Stuff To Use In Business

The alternative title to this post is, “How to fake like you’re a big company” or “Running it lean and mean.” Let’s get right into it since I’m on vacation in Vermont.  One little story, then onto the top 7.

(Note: See past posts for our long-standing, co-dependent relationship with coffee. Nintendo recently rejected a sponsorship request from us. Starbucks MUST be involved in some way. WE ARE SOLICITING ANY AND ALL IDEAS FOR SPONSORS FOR OUR CASE STUDY LIBRARY, KICKED OFF BY OUR COMPETITION OCT 13.)

Intern for the Hot Mommas Project? Now that's a man confident in his masculinity.

Intern for the Hot Mommas Project? Now that's a man confident in his masculinity.

Hey everyone, welcome Achin to The Hot Mommas Project! He is a George Washington University MBA student. Here, he holds the Indian equivalent of Starbucks.  He is in India right now and will join us in the fall.

 

 

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INTERLUDE [Samba music plays, rudely interrupted by “You are My Friend” the horrific Barney  themesong]

Setting: The Posh Frey Honda Pilot (recently downgraded from an Acura MDX as Kathy has a gripping phobia of investing in depreciating assets).

Location: Driving from Lake George (our rainy-day plan) back to Vermont (our vacation location, where there is nothing to do in bad weather).

Josh (my husband): [Seeing a shirtless, blonde Grizzly Adams looking hitchhiker] “Hey! Let’s pick him up.”

Kathy: “Ha! Yeah.” [Pause] “Well, we do need to start looking for a new au pair.”

Josh: [After passing shirtless Grizzly Adams] “He could have been a good one.”

Kathy: [Feigning “interested friend” voice] “Your new aupair is so great! Where did you find him?” [Feigning response] “Oh, we found him on the side of the road one day on vacation.”

Josh: [Feigning response] “Yeah! Just south of a federal correctional institution in New York! No problem.”

And so goes the cost-effective search for a new au pair for the Frey family.

END INTERLUDE [Barney Theme song ends]

P.s. Did you know there is a full-on anti-Barney trend? Riveting.

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This is a really odd, tangential method of transitioning into the Top 7 Low/No Cost resources for businesses (no, we will not suggest you pick up Grizzly Adams hitchhikers for subsidized staff members):

1. Advice. Advice is the best free thing you can get.  How to get good advice:

– KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. If you are someone who thinks, “Oh, I’ll just figure it out” you’re in trouble.  I’ve noticed the willingness/ tendency/ propensity in certain people to spend 5 hours on the internet searching for something versus 5 minutes on the phone solving the problem.  I make sure my interns don’t do this (see item #7). I have a list: “STUFF I DON’T KNOW THAT IS CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF THE HOT MOMMAS PROJECT.” Then, I search for smart people who can help me with those issues (see next item).

– HOW TO GET A NETWORK: Social media allows for relationships never before available to folks outside of the right schools or social circles. Go to www.Alltop.com to see who the players are in your industry. If they’re blogging, you can reach them.  I have also seen entrepreneurs benefit tremendously from EO (forum) and like groups. Personally, I have relied on all of the above plus I have specifically sought out role models/business luminaries I admire and am in varying stages of contacting them/working with them. For example: Ted Leonsis, Bob Prosen, Guy Kawasaki, and Stewart Friedman. The latest are Tim Ferriss, Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, and I am trying to get in touch with Gina Bianchini who co-founded Ning with Marc Andreesson of Netscape.  Based on this, Esther – my right hand woman – approached Senator Lieberman (whom she idolizes) at the movies, told him about the Hot Mommas Project, and is emailing with him. Go Esther!

– EXAMPLE: I posted the following on Twitter the other day

how atrocious is our website? We need free help for exposure. anyone? www.hotmommas.org

2. Low Cost Web Templates. I thought I was all cost efficient using the $5 GoDaddy template when I first took the Hot Mommas Project online.  Good: It’s cheap. Bad: It sucks. As we became more tech-savvy, I realized: a. It was pathetic-looking and b. It was incredibly slow  (shared server, not dedicated server).  Here are some resources suggested by Frank Gorton (fgorton on Twitter), who is a social media expert and worked with AOL and Monster.com, among others, during his career:

– http://www.wordpress.com –  Good templates, says Frank.  Even though I am doing our insiders blog on wordpress, I didn’t realize that you could use a wordpress template for your whole site (click here for Hot Mommas Project non-insiders blog). Frank recommended this to us based on our needs at this stage of the project (Nutshell of our project: Building world’s largest women’s case study library. Kicking off w/ case study competition launching October 13, 2008. Read more here.)

http://www.templatemonster.com– Frank told us about this, and Achin (new intern) had heard of it too. I have zero time (as I am doing this part time, have two kids, and yada yada) and really need to rely on others to cut through the mess and act as the social media Consumer Reports for me.

http://www.ning.com. Everyone thinks Ning is awesome (“awesome” word count from past 2 blog posts: 3). You can start a community for free using their software (with a Ning address), and for a nominal fee use your own address. It was founded by Gina Bianchini and Mark Andreesson.  Here is a cool video c/o Robert Scoble.

3. Low Cost “Other Stuff” for Our Site. Aside from the basic “how to pimp out your blog” items (see first post reference to Seth Godin’s article on this), Frank specifically noted the following beyond the basic widgets and RSS stuff:

www.Vimeo.com – get a free account and build video content. Frank suggested we film our Hot Mommas Project case study protagonists to connect people with our educational tools and take “role models on paper” to “role models on film.” We had dreamed of doing this for a long time, and were even approached by some Hollywood folk, but this is quick and does the job.

www.Brightcove.com – Here are some syndication products from Brightcove (think “Alliare” – inventors of ColdFusion software).  This could be useful if the above (Hot Mommas video case studies) are a hit or there is other content we want to syndicate (like our research on best practices in work life balance).

http://www.Twitter.com – Twitter – it’s everywhere. Frank suggested having a Twitter widget on our site would, again, humanize it and help connect people with our cause: Providing academic tools to serve as role models for women and girls (Cool Daddies beta – too!).

If you’ve ever gotten an email from Guy Kawasaki, here is something he uses that he lists as part of his signature: SpinVox(will convert voicemail to email). You can also usually find lots of fun widgets on Guy’s blog.

4. Low Cost Developers and Designers.  Achin, our newest addition, found a developer in India to convert our whole site onto a blog template if we don’t have the fortitude to do it ourselves. Frank uses a developer who charges him about $12 per hour. Contact Frank (fgorton) if you want to know who this is. Here is who Achin found for us: http://www.compose.co.in/.

P.s. Re Designers, I’ve heard of folks using eLance. I use Brad Imburgia who developed the Hot Mommas Project logo. I also used our interns to do some work. (see #7) I’m sure India also has designers.

5. Low Cost and Professional Sounding Phone System. In love with eVoice (I’m pretty sure these are the eFax people). Husband knows the guy who runs Got Voice Mail, also.

6. Low Cost and Professional Looking Printing. Big fan of Vista Print. If you plan far enough in advance, can be UNBELIEVABLY cheap.

7. INTERNS. This is a biggie, so, if you do not care about interns stop reading now. When thinking low or no cost, my personal favorite is interns. My favorite place to list them is at GW’s career site. You can also integrate your post in with NACElink which lists nationally. I also have friends who have used Craig’s list (under part time or your industry). In 1 or 2 years, these interns are going to cost someone $40,000 to $70,000 plus benefits. So, why not receive help from their fabulous brains NOW. I have had to learn to do the following to be successful with interns:

– LIST AT THE RIGHT TIME.  Think student. When are they looking for internships? Post in between January-April for the spring semester (by May you’ve probably lost them to finals). Post by early August for Fall. Post in the Fall before Thanksgiving for the Spring semester. I cannot tell you how many business owners contact me during finals in May and say, “Can you tell your students about this internship?” I give it a 1 in 100 chance at that point.

– BE GOOD AT TRAINING If you suck at mentoring, or don’t have the time or interest, don’t bother.

– HAVE AN “IT” or specific thing they can do.  There is no such thing as too much definition or clarity. Consultants, project managers, and individuals who think this way can usually easily get their brains around this.

– HAVE A WAY TO MONITOR the “it.” I discuss this in an earlier post. It is easier if you have done a good job setting a clear goal or “it” (mentioned above). I am CONSTANTLY adjusting this based on what I see in the person’s performance (e.g., If I sense they are overloaded, I stop sending lists of things to do and re-focus them a la “HERE’S WHAT WE MUST DO BY TODAY.” I will ask them to tell me, with hours by tasks, how they are spending their day…in this way, we work on time management together).

– HAVE SPACE FOR THEM. I have had experience with the student population through teaching. One thing I’ve learned is: It is HARD for most to work on their own and deliver what they say unless they are EXTRAORINARY. So, ixnay on the virtual/independent working.

– HAVE A COOL COMPANY NAME/INTERNSHIP NAME. We got infinitely more resumes with the Hot Mommas Project vs. Vision Forward. hot-mommas-internship-flyer_summer2008.

– SELECT GOOD ONES. I try to select interns where I see a minimum 1/4 ratio. That is, for every 1 hour I spend with them, they can do 4 hours of work. If I can combine several interns into the one hour, great, that is an exponential amount of work being done when everyone goes on their merry way to do a project.  A list of questions I ask is below:

HOW TO INTERVIEW INTERNS:

Interview #1: Phone interview. Min = 15 mins, Max = 1 hour

a. What drew you to the Hot Mommas Project? (Desired answer = They are interested in/passionate about the project. This is KEY.)

b. Tell us about _______________. (Ask about several items on resume to get a sense of  responsibilities). We ask about GPA if there is a problem. Below a 3.0 is a red flag (see “e” and “f” below).

c. What are your top 3 strengths? Draw from group projects, other internships? (We like to see social sophistication and a drive to succeed. If this is not apparent, we ask another question later).

d. What is something on which you’d like to work or improve. (We like to hear them admit a real weakness vs. some B.S. At this point we figure they are an over-achiever type anyway, a couple chinks in the armor show self-awareness which is ESSENTIAL for self-correction).

e. How do you organize yourself? Explain an example – beginning to end – using a major assignment or work project. (We like to see someone with an actual process for organization. If they suck at organizing themselves this means your tasks will not get done, as much as you may like them in the interview. You can turn a B+ into an A, you cannot turn a C or D into an A is our experience).

f. Do you tend to overextend yourself? (This is BEYOND CRITICAL for students who are doing MANY MANY things and often will get into the semester, freak out, then bail on you. Ask this up front. Dig a bit.)

g. What questions do you have for us? (We like smart questions, but, many are overwhelmed so we assign it to them for the next interview. We say, “Come with three questions to the next interview” if they proceed to the second round.)

h. Of the items I’ve described, what sound the most interesting to you? (If you have some flexibility and can match the intern’s interests to specific functions, you’ll have a greater chance of a happy worker.)

Interview #2 (if we ran out of time, but had a good vibe about the person, we’ll send some of the above questions for them to answer via email in between Interview 1 and 2).

a. What additional questions do you have about the project? (They should have been assigned 3).

b. What ideas do you have for the project? (They were assigned a “task” of coming up with 1-3 ideas to make sure they “get” the project).

c. Are you interested in the project (usually already apparent by end of first interview and email interactions in between interviews 1 and 2)?  (If we like them) Rate your interest from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. If not a 10, what would make it a 10? (Take notes to integrate into their job during the internship to – again – create happy workers).

d. (If we like them) We’d like to formally offer you the __________internship. (Discuss start date, weekly schedule, their ability to continue beyond one semester, confirming they understand the internship is unpaid, making for-credit arrangements, other logistics. WRITE THIS DOWN and make sure you EACH HAVE A COPY.)

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PARTING THOUGHTS: Gotta run, on vacation, need to go look for hitchhikers.

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #10: How We Are Getting Press & Buzz

Let’s continue our discussion of how to do marketing and pr, shall we? Especially since Esther and I spent all %*$#i day organizing our email folders since we are so overwhelmed by the response to our project (good) and seem to have had the email-organization part of our brains partially lobotomized (bad).

We are a tad overwhelmed at the Hot Mommas Project right now and looking forward to Fall reinforcements

We are a tad overwhelmed at the Hot Mommas Project right now and looking forward to Fall reinforcements

Left, please find the metaphoric “Rock Holding Steamroller.” It is the visual representation of how we are feeling right now.  I am not sure if we are the rock, or the steamroller, but I think we are the rock.

Here are things we’ve learned about PR over the past couple of months which is a mix of:

1. Stuff we’ve read

2. Stuff we’ve done

3. Meeting with experts, namely Hot Mommas Project case protagonist Susan Apgood who owns one of the nation’s largest radio PR companies (News Generation) and Racine Tucker-Hamilton at the George Washington School of Business communications office.  Also, White Trash Mom from the BlogHer conference says she’ll help us. Note: PR is completely new for me as my background is in nerdy service-type businesses where no one cared what we did (see “pre-steps” section of older post for more on background).

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INTERLUDE [Samba music plays]

First, let’s start with a quick story about how MUCH we had to learn about PR, buzz, and getting the word out there for the Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition.

Setting: Bus on the way to Guy Kawasaki’s party.

Esther and I are sitting toward the rear of the bus and the women in front of us learn, through Twitter, that another bus is lost. Esther and I were about to learn we were WAY behind in the social media department.

Women in front of us: “Hey! Are you all up front on Twitter?”

Voice from front of bus: “Who’s NOT on Twitter?”

All: Laughter

Me and Esther: [Blank stare. Silence]

Women in front of us: “Hey driver! The people on Twitter on the other bus just told us they’re lost.”

Bus driver: “What’s Twitter?”

All: Laughter

Me and Esther: [Blank stare. Silence]

With social media tails between our legs, Esther and I immediately sign up for http://www.Twitter.com on our mobiles. I am “chiefhotmomma” and she is “hotmommasintern.”  I had not gotten on Twitter before thinking it was sort of stalkeresque.  However, in Silicon Valley I felt like Bert – my father-in-law –  when he said he “couldn’t be bothered with all that email mumbo jumbo” and that his grandkids could, “pick up the phone so he could hear their beautiful voices.” (Sorry to out you Bert.) I am happy to report now Bert is on email…and we are now on Twitter….”Tweeting.” Feel free to “follow” us as ChiefHotMomma and HotMommasIntern.

END INTERLUDE [Samba music ends]

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Now, on to our PR takeaways:

1. PR is the cheapest form of marketing. If what you’re doing is newsworthy, work it. And, if you THINK you are creative, think again. Esther and I thought we were creative. We developed this press release titled “Hot Mommas Project Produces Role Models on Paper for Women Across the Globe.” Ha! We were totally delusional. Look what Racine Tucker-Hamilton came up with: http://business.gwu.edu/news/archive/2008/0703.cfm

2. Develop a media plan.Racine shared a one-page media plan with us that articulated the following:

– GOALS: What is the goal? To increase news coverage, create awareness, all of the above? Articulate these goals in 1 to 5 bullets.

– AUDIENCE: Who is the audience? For us, it could be women, but, we’ll probably also be targeting their husbands, partners, and leaders in education and policy. Articulate this in 1 to 7 bullets.

– MESSAGES/PITCHES: Write out the message points in 1 to 5 bullets. My friend who has a long history in PR used to say, “Focus on 3 message points max.” So, my guess is that we will draw the 3 best points from our list depending on the conversation. Make it clear how you are different. Click here for some sample what, where, when, why message points I am going to run by Racine and Susan along with the following:

Exposure to role models increases one’s sense of self efficacy, or the feeling of ‘I can do that.’ The Hot Mommas Project approach of providing role models on paper hits the nail on the head and fills a void that exists in women’s leadership education today.

-MEDIA TARGETS: This can be as big as one needs it to be, however, Susan recommended we target folks like Working Woman, Pink, etc. News release service providers like Cision, Vocus,and MediaMap (which was acquired by Bacon’s, which merged with Cision) can help as well.

-PLAN/KEY ACTIONS: These are action steps that will be taken based on the above goals. 5 or so bullets.

-TIMELINE: These are dates associated with key actions, like creating a press release, creating media lists, distributing press release, pitching, and follow up (to include thank yous to contacts).

-MEASUREMENT/KEY NUMBERS: Susan also mentioned being very clear about what we want to accomplish (e.g., x media impressions, or x placements in certain types of magazines or newspapers). We need to have a way to measure hits (aka coverage).

3. Develop a press kit. Again, we consulted Susan Apgood of News Generation on our story angle.  We had it completely reversed, so, were glad we had spoken with her. Here is a pretty concise article on developing a press kit. If there is no interest in the story, Susan says you can sometimes resort to a “what’s in it for you” approach (e.g., we are targeting professional women and you will have exposure).

4. Distribute the press kit/press release.

4a. Push the story out through press releases or Hot Mommas-initiated contact. Here are a couple of resources: Peter Shankman’s “Help a Reporter Out” which is AWESOME and FREE. He sends 3 emails a day on stories reporters are looking to write.  Michelle Woodward, who is a master-certified life coach (sort of like the Mr. Miyagi of life coaches) put us onto this. Also, you can distribute mass news releases in a targeted fashion with Cision & Vocus.

Note: This same method can be used with organizations (see #5 below) where you might want to promote something to their membership or employees.

4b. “Pull.” For instance, George Washington University School of Business did a newsletter piece on the Hot Mommas Project. Then communications for the entire university put it out there. Then the story was picked up by newswires. People started calling. We just sort of sat there. It was awesome.

4c. There may be some other way of which I’m unaware, so, adding “c” in here.

Side note: Make it easy for the reporter.  A year or so ago our cases were being used at Western Michigan University and we wrote a press release, looked into media outlets, and followed up. At the end of the day, it failed miserably because we were making the reporter work too hard to figure out the story.  So, being clear on our story is key, as is running it by some PR experts (as to whether it is a good story…or, whether it totally blows). We have our facts, figures, quotes, and sources teed up.

5. Interviews and Appearances.

– INTERVIEWS: Susan says before meeting with anyone, have a media training session and prepare for potential questions. Have fun facts memorized, and learn how avoid answering certain questions. I am still working on this and talked with a really amazing reporter the other day who gave me some great feedback.

– PRESENTATIONS: Know audience and practice. For example, I delivered a presentation recently at an Entrepreneur’s Organization  retreat (formerly YEO, like YPO but funner. Yes, “funner” is a joke people): “What Women Want: 3 Secrets to Attracting and Retaining High Performing Female Employees.”  I thought the presentation went pretty well, and was right in the sense that the presentation received one of the top scores. (Here are the presentation notes eo_what-women-want_61108.) However, I recorded it with my video camera and realized I said “uh” a bunch of times (hence, the practice concept mentioned at the top of this paragraph).

6. Whatever works in your industry.  The ultimate caveat of caveats: Remember to adapt any PR or marketing strategies to your industry. For instance, friend and Hot Mommas Project Host Committee Member Richard Barney said that in his former industry (real estate), the company tried tons of cool stuff and events and giveaways. But, it all came down to referrals, referrals, referrals. Whatever works in your industry, do it. We are figuring it out right now. I have some creative giveaway ideas with which www.OnSalePromos.com is helping us. (OnSalePromos on Twitter).

7. Create buzz. To create buzz, we are largely relying on the world of social media and membership organizations. To the extent that it links in with coverage in press, great. So, what are we doing?

– Now: Blogging. We are not sure if this is working, but then we get out to BlogHer and people say, “Oh! We’ve heard of you!” Maybe it’s because we’re listed on http://moms.alltop.com.  Sample research and role model series posts. As you read in the vignette above, we’ve also gotten ourselves wrapped into Twitter.

– Now: Twitter.Twitter is like the “what are you doing now” application on Facebook. That’s it.  I’ve heard some folks say it drives traffic to their blog, their site, or whatever they’re posting in their status updates. See our last post mentioning Chris Brogan’s ideas on how to use Twitter.

– Now: Podcasts (examples SBTV and Hip Tranquil Chick). We’ve had a good reception with these. After this we were approached by Pink Heels and others and will be doing some partnering.

– Now: Partnering with bloggers. For instance, really cool bloggers from the BlogHER conference – like White Trash Mom and Your On Ramp – are blogging about us in September and October near the time of the Oct 13 Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition launch.

– Now: Partnering with organizations. For example, Women’s Presidents Organzation, SBE Council, WE Inc, and the American Mustache Institute (this second one for our Cool Daddies beta section of the case study competition). They work with us to communicate with members about the competition in exchange for formal recognition as a marketing partner.

– Now: Partnering with connectors. There are some folks who we call “connectors” (like Malcom Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point). They are people with extensive networks who are enthusastic about the Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition. Many of these will become marketing partners, like Julie Lenzer Kirk. Others will become Host Committee Members like Michael Goldstein of Content Now or Brian Scudamore of 1800GotJunk (host committee members will email their networks for us).  Also, in a major win, Guy Kawasaki of www.Alltop.com (we’re listed here) is going to advertise the competition for us.

Future: More press. Will also ask Susan at News Generation if our stuff is radio worthy and see if she can help us get on some talk shows, etc.

Future: Facebook group, cause, or “fan.”

Future: Group on LinkedIn…if this can be done…someone told me they could put me in touch w/ the founder and that hasn’t happened.

Future: Search optimization/Google. Shashi is the man on this.

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PARTING THOUGHTS: So, at this point it’s probably pretty easy to see why I am overwhelmed and very behind on my sponsorship contact goals. Time to pick that baton back up and run with it. (Click here for sponsor post).

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #7: How to Implement

I also affectionately refer to this post as: “How to get s*&t done.”

What are the big takeaways from today’s post?:

1. Focus

2. Focus

3. Focus

Queen Esther with The Original Hot Mommas Project Business PartnerEsther, pictured here (with our original business partner), and I have been religiously and regularly deploying the “F-word”: FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS. We have been very focused on results, and – unfortunately – not fun stuff like blogs.

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What is the Hot Mommas Project: In case you are lost, the Hot Mommas Project (www.HotMommas.org) is an award-winning research and curriculum endeavor on how successful professional women balance it all.  Click here for main blog. Our goal this year is to build and launch a global case study competition in which women write their own case, tell their story, help others in doing so, and might get just get in one of the nation’s top textbooks by Prentice Hall! (Let’s not forget the cash and prizes). Click here if you would like to nominate someone you know, or be notified when the competition is live. Now, onto our post:

Focus – What has NOT been happening. I started this post about a month ago and am only finishing it now. Why? I’ve been focusing. Two of my three team members bailed on me.  A set back, yes, but it forced a high level of prioritization.  Here are some keys and tips that are working:

1. PRIORITIES AND FOCUS: KEYS TO THE UNIVERSE. The Hot Mommas Project survey research (data from highly successful professional women who also want to have a life) indicates that PRIORITZATION AND FOCUS are the keys to the universe.  More on this in the future, just trust me.

2. SAY NO. SAYING NO IS A PART OF PRIORITIZATION AND FOCUSING. Newsflash to some of us overachiever “oh…I’ll just do it myself” types.  Men focus this naturally because of the way their brains work.Toilet paper roll not changed? Bed not made? It’s focus ladies.  The beauty of what’s NOT getting done COULD be – gasp – FOCUS. Not on the top three list, not getting done.

Note 1: See brain book which I’ve mentioned before.

Note 2: This of course does not allow frat boys doing beer bongs to claim they are “focusing.”

TIP: HAVING TROUBLE? Develop a DO NOT DO LIST.Works wonders. Did it when I was pregnant/post-preggo, hormonal, and nuts.

3. DELEGATE: THIS MEANS GOOD PEOPLE.  Esther is like having 2 staffpeople. And I don’t mean multiple personality disorders. I mean, she is on top of it.  So, the lesson here is GOOD PEOPLE ALLOW YOU TO FOCUS. Here is my time triage with a bad person/staffer:

TYPICAL DAY WITH BAD STAFFER:

2 hours – meeting and download with staffperson.

4 hours – staffperson works independently on project, I do my stuff.

2 hours – clean up of staffperson’s crap work. Assign staffperson some other less meaningful task I feel they can’t mess up.

2 hours – staff person works on their menial task, I get some work done.

After work: 1-5 hours – worrying about what crap work I’m going to see tomorrow.

-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 6 hours

-Total time spent worrying: 1-5 hours

-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 2?

TYPICAL DAY WITH ESTHER:

2 hours – meeting and download with Esther.

4 hours – Esther works independently on project.

.5 hours – Approve and press “send” on project with Esther.

3.5 hours – Esther moves onto her next thing, I move onto my next thing.

1-5 hours – thinkng how awesome Esther is and how I am looking forward to tomorrow

-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 7.5 hours

-Total time spent being positive and happy: 1-5 hours

-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 7.5 hrs

GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE. Can’t say it enough. I finally get when the business books/business experts say “get good people.”

4. HAVE A PROCESS/FORUM FOR TOUCHING BASE ON PRIORITIES. Esther and I are really, really, really focused on results. We are constantly in touch about the big picture (where we are heading) and what steps we need to be taking NOW to get there.  In addition, I want to make sure to this is a rewarding experience for Esther so that we are in a mututally beneficial situation. Here is how we accomplish the above:

4a. Bi-Monthly Culture Check Ins.We sit down every other week at the beginning of the week. I ask her, “How is it going? Poor, Good, Great, Really Great?” Esther told me in our first meeting that things were going “Great.” I said, “What would get it to ‘Really Great’?” She said, “Talking with more contacts and coming to more meetings.” So…that is what we did. When there was a meeting, I included her. When there was an opportunity to speak with a partner or the media, I assigned it to her. By our next meeting two weeks later, Esther was giving the experience a “Really Great” rating. It has to be a two-way street, however. Employers working with Generation Y may be tempted to make it all about what the employee wants. However, this does not allow for growth or mentoring. During that same meeting, I rated the experience a “Great” also. I told her that when we started producing actual deliverables, I would probably lean more toward a “Really Great” rating. So…that is what we have been FOCUSED on: Actual Results. Not a lot of chasing your tail.

Tip: Think – if I could only do 3 things today, what would they be?Then FOCUS! Screen/test your answer by following up with this question: “Will these three things get me closer to my major goal MORE than other tasks?” If not – time to REPRIORITIZE.  Tim Ferriss is a real hard a*& about this stuff in The Four Hour Work Week.

4b. Daily Check Ins.  Esther and I check in daily. We work off a list of priorities. The list is shaped based on:

a. Our goal (in this case launching a case study competition) and

b. Meetings with experts (please, don’t try to reinvent the wheel…such a time drain).  For example, we met with a PR expert who told us NOT to lead with information about the Hot Mommas Project survey research.  Susan Matthews Apgood, owner of News Generation, told us, “The case study competition is much more interactive. There is something in it for people. They can participate, tell their own case study, help others, and be honored by winning prizes and getting their case published in a text book. LEAD with the story about the case study competition.” Well, this conversation changed everything for us. We had to be able to quickly adjust, and re-assign tasks based on the readjusted priorities.

5. RE-PRIORITIZE, RE-FOCUS. If you have a regular process for meeting to discuss goals and steps for achieving those goals, it allows for quick correction and re-prioritization. Catch as catch can meetings don’t always allow for this. It’s part of the criticism about virtual workplaces.  Thus, a formal structure needs to be created for communicating – even if it’s just a “call staff” note in Outlook. I would say that at every other meeting, Esther and I slightly bump up or down an item on the list.

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PARTING THOUGHT: Ted Leonsis talked about the relentless drive to execute in a Cool Daddies case we did on him. He checked in with staff regularly. He was basically seeing if they were getting the job done, and what they needed to get it done. He had a saying, “No bad days.” A bad day would lead to a bad week, a bad week would lead to a bad quarter, etc. It is about having processes for early correction. I think he was probably effective in building AOL, and achieving his other successes, because of this trait…but also because people wanted to do well for him.  Thus, steps 4a and 4b – and this post as a whole – is my attempt to model these behaviors. 

Building A Million Dollar Business Part Time #6: Help Arrives

Pictured here is one of the team members selected for the Hot Mommas Project competitive internship. My first thought is “YAY. The cavalry has arrived.” Albeit, the cavalry looks like a Barbie doll. (No offense Jen). Why do I – and why should you – love Jennifer? We love Jennifer because she represents HELP. And a lot of you out there – you know who you are – try to do it all yourself. You just do, because you can. I did too. Now, I must stop if I want to build a million dollar enterprise part time.

Here’s me: 50 – 75%

Here’s Jen: The rest.

YAY! Also joining Jennifer will be Esther about whom you’ll be hearing soon.

First order of business – unearthing the action plan I originally authored in Post #3. This was a beast. Doing it by myself would have been impossible. Now, and have I mentioned this already?…the cavalry has arrived.

Jen and I discuss her action plan and decide on the following:

1. Overall training

– Give her download of project, history, future direction, and her part in this future direction.

– Do something relevant and semi-fun/different by having “mavens” (interns) participate in a power-chicks bookclub selection: “Go Put Your Strengths to Work” by Marcus Buckingham.

– Develop Action Plan and report out weekly. Here is the action plan with which we came up today in our first meeting.

2. Develop Objective: Global Case Study Competition with goal of ready-to-launch by end of summer and 100 cases end of 2008

CHAMPION: JENNIFER

3. Develop Action Plan for May:

5/19/2008
kkf/Jen Intro and training/blog and tech netherworld
5/20/2008 Jen Make mock up of case study competition page
5/20/2008 Jen Look into domain name/blog format for case study competition
5/20/2008 Jen Research tech models/tools
5/22/2008 Jen Research: Women’s case studies (list sources – talk w/ kkf to get started)
5/22/2008 Jen/KKF Meet with Luke and Dave (tech advisors)
5/22/2008 Jen/KKF Talk with Neel (tech advisor)
5/22/2008 Jen Training: Blog and social media
5/29/2008 kkf/Jen Decide on going forward strategy (software vs manual submission)
5/29/2008 kkf/Jen Develop list of social media/online marketing, and legal/publishing advisors

Jen has already had some brilliant ideas. I am happy. This is what I have asked her to do to facilitate our working relationship:

a. Manage up – I need to be managed. Remind me of stuff. Plan 2 or 3 weeks out and start telling me what I/we need to be doing to make the objective (stated above) happen.

b. Don’t assume I know everything, and am just delivering instructions over the course of the summer. We are figuring this out together. It will be a push and pull of brainstorming, mushing it around, and having something great come out. (Not unlike the experience of having children…did I just say that?)

c. I don’t remember. I need another coffee.

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Lil’ nugget (how g is that?) – Here is my token little bit of info to help you/us/we women because – Lord knows we don’t get enough of it. In fact, in the afterlife, I hope to be someone’s husband (see that past life regression on Oprah the other day? You might have been a man. Or a princess. Or a ferret. Anything is possible ladies.) Back to the lil’ nugget:

The concept of strengths. There is a little debate going on in the business community at large about scenario A vs. B:

Scenario A: Strengthen weaknesses – Employee sucks at spreadsheets, throw him in a “killer app” spreadsheet development class.

Scenario B: Leverage strengths – Employee is amazing at networking, throw him out there to develop business and build brand. Screw the spreadsheets.

This is massively over simplified, however, you can read more and do an online seminar. Click here for links to book, free seminars, etc. on Go Put Your Strengths to Work” by Marcus Buckingham (mentioned earlier). Very easy read, and, makes you think a bit about – gasp – yourself!

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Parting Thought:

I actually think this is going work. It’s an equation. I’m at 50% or 75% in terms of time and brain space. From my mavens, I plan to get 50% work hours (and hopefully brainspace depending on how hard these gals party). I officially have a team. Jen says, “I’m blonde…so I probably have less than 50% brainspace.” (And FUNNY too!) My vibe is this will work. I’ve tried a lot of different permutations and combinations over the years – but, it was managing other people that the HR department helped bring in. Now, I AM the HR department. I’ve kissed a few frogs, but, I think these are the princesses.