Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #8: How We Got Our First Sponsors

We got our first set of sponsors for The Hot Mommas® Project 2008 Case Study Competition. This blog talks about who they are, and how we got them.  The bottom line is RELATIONSHIPS. (Click here to get to the main Hot Mommas Project site which has links about the case study competition).

Pictured left is my son, Maxwell, and daughter Lilah who is traumatized by Maxwell hitting her with one of those noodle toys people use in the pool. If Maxwell could read, he would learn from this post that relationships make everything happen and that he should not – I repeat NOT – hit his sister with the noodle.

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 business textbooks by Prentice Hall! (Let’s not forget the cash and prizes). Click here and type “CSC” in the subject line if you would like to nominate someone you know, or be notified when the competition is live. Now, onto our post (How We Got our First Sponsors):

1. Consult with experts.

First we consulted with social entrepreneur Julie Silard Kantor of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship  (NFTE) on how to approach sponsors. She ran one of NFTE’s top offices in the nation.  Now she works for NFTE national. She gave us the following advice:

a. What’s in it for me? Be sure to answer this question for sponsors. For some it’s the networking at an event, for others its the visibility, for others a combination and/or other goals.

b. Ask, don’t tell. Ask them what they liked and didn’t like about past sponsorships. Be cognizant of this during your interactions.

c. Search Guidestar. Julie also encouraged us to search www.guidestar.com and print the c90s (tax forms) of similar causes to get a flavor for who is sponsoring what. 

d. Use templates.  Like a little sponsorship angel, Julie encouraged us to check out the NFTE DC office’s sponsorship links as a sample (sponsors, form).

e. Develop host committee. Getting a host committee going was another suggestion – this formally honors champions who are tapping their networks for your cause.  We’ve decided to tap people who are willing to email their network of over 100 people.

2. Develop a sponsor packet.

Click here for our sponsor and partner packet. It is a pretty shameless copy of NFTE Greater Washington’s.  As a rule, I like to find friends who are willing to share their templates. I do the same thing from my end.

3. Develop measurable/trackable goals, make asks.

Esther and I (Esther is my “right hand man” – see previous post) have developed a very specific goal of 5 asks per day (each). This is a little more involved than it sounds, because many pre steps must happen before we can approach a potential sponsor or partner (research, writing letters, editing letters, getting coffee, etc.). Having a TARGET NUMBER has helped us a great deal. We agree that the 5 asks per day (and – this is part time – so it is 2 days per week) is our number one priority. Although, one might not guess this based on how miserably behind I am on my target. But, 5, each, Tuesday and Thursday is the target.

Because this is the first Case Competition we are willing to operate without salaries and cover costs only. Of course, the ideal is to have a salary and have a cash reserve for next year.  We have developed a budget, which I’m sure will change. Click this link ( module-3-exercise-3-4_33108) for a really basic financial planning curriculum I developed for NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation and Visa’s Practical Money Skills (start at page 7 if you want to build very simple financials).

4. Results – Secure Sponsors.

Here are the sponsors we just confirmed this week. We want sponsors to INCREASE our revenue, and/or DECREASE our expense line items.

The George Washington University, Center For Entrepreneurial Excellence (through the generosity of Linda Rabbitt).  Dr. Erik Winslow – who is pretty much the mac daddy of the Women’s Leadership Program at GW – walked into my office last week. He tells me Linda Rabbitt – big time entrepreneur and donor to GW – was interested in the Hot Mommas Project and part of a donation is being earmarked for us. That is the REVENUE side. GW also donates office space to the Hot Mommas Project thus allowing us to reduce an EXPENSE line item.

What led to this: I have been updating George Solomon and Erik Winslow (GWU Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence Co Founders) for years. They have been there every step of the way.

Linda Rabbitt: Click here or here for additional info on major stud Linda Rabbitt.  At the bottom of this post, you will find article from when she was honored as a Washingtonian of the Year.  She is such an incredible person I had to include the entire piece.

 -FMS, Inc. FMS is our technology partner. They are reducing an EXPENSE line item for us.  FMS is owned by Luke Chung (an EO member). Veteran FMS employee Dave Juth (a GWU Alum) is our project lead.  What can we offer? Aside from being fun and interesting, we included them in some news coverage of the Hot Mommas Project coming out of GW. Click here to see article.

What led to this: I have been friends with Luke Chung for years. I am a huge fan.  When I needed to talk with a tech expert, he came to mind first. I was shocked when Luke said they could help us out.  Because we are cause-related, they are giving us a discount. 

The big takeaway here is the people you know can help you.  We are in a good position because of the connections with which we are starting. This is why people say networking is important. But I don’t like it when people are just users. My goal and approach is to be a decent person and maintain the relationship out of genuine interest, not because of what the project or I can get.  I love these guys (mentioned above).  Lots of good business karma going around as a result.

5. Looking ahead: Diversification

For ongoing sponsorship development, I’ve been advised by Tony Sudler – head of the Alzheimer’s Association, National Capital Area – to diversify the sponsor base…ideally 25% for each category an organization might have (e.g., planned gifts, corporate, individual, etc.). This is a smart tactic which helped the association post 9-11 and post Tsunami when many donors’ dollars were diverted.

6. Other resources.

 The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit was recommended to me, but I have not been using it. I have used it in the past.

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Linda Rabbitt

from The Washingtonian

Washingtonians Of The Year 2003

By Leslie Milk , Ellen Ryan

“My father taught me to always leave things better than you found them.”

“Volunteering is a way of life for me,” says Linda Rabbitt. Owner of Rand Construction, a business she built from the ground up, she is involved in so many community groups that her husband has threatened to enroll her in “Just Say No” school.

Rabbitt is the immediate past chair of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, only the third woman to head the 115-year-old organization. She spearheaded creation of the Washington Collaborative, moving the Board of Trade and community organizations that work with the business community into one building where they could share space, resources, and ideas. Rabbitt also raised almost $1 million in in-kind contributions to rehab that building. “We’re building communications through physical space,” she says.

As CEO of the area’s third-largest female-owned business and a leader of the Washington Building Congress and CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), Rabbitt has encouraged women to build careers in construction and commercial real estate. As president of the International Women’s Forum, she pushed for creation of a Leadership Foundation to fund a fellows program for women moving up the corporate ladder.

Three years ago, Rabbitt survived breast cancer. Even before she’d recovered, she was working with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Rand Construction built the coalition’s new offices pro bono. In her spare time, Rabbitt has helped raise funds for My Sister’s Place, a program for battered women.

If you ask her, she says she does so much for selfish reasons. “The only things you really keep are what you give away,” Rabbitt says.

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PARTING THOUGHT.

I am so thankful for the incredible, and generous people and companies involving themselves with The Hot Mommas® Project.  Reading about Linda Rabbitt has been so inspirational (here is ANOTHER link…page down for story).  Can’t wait to see what happens next. 

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.