#43 You’re Cheap, I’m Lonely, Let’s Hang Out

By Kathy Korman Frey as part of the MDPT Series

Being a solopreneur can be lonely.  Today my day – and probably year – was brightened when my husband moved into my office. Well, officially he moved in last week, but today we made it look like a place that could be inhabited by humans.  Here he is:

He has fully outsourced every part of his business, and let go of his office space saving $18,000 a year. Nice honey! He’s launching another business basically teaching people how to run a million-dollar-plus business from one desk.  (He’ll be on CBS national radio on Friday…I’ll update with the link here if they stream). Because he is my husband, and we’re sort of heading toward this business/women’s education empire together, I have welcomed him into my home office: The Garage Mahal.

Loneliness and isolation is something women entrepreneurs deal with all the time. Maybe other entrepreneurs (e.g., “male,” “wookie”, etc.)  also feel isolated.  Here’s something I learned recently when prepping for a presentation to investor/advisors: According to the US Census

Read the rest of this post HERE

#40a – Entrepreneur TMI? On dealing with business crisis.

Click for post soundtrack

In my days as an analyst in the merger and acquisition/competitive analysis industry, I would listen with utter shock as heads of major corporations would pour their “business hearts” out to my team.  Product x was lagging in sales, and consumers hated it. They asked us for help.  They were getting killed by a foreign competitor. Could we help them? We were the business therapists for corporate America. I always wondered if they spoke this way to everyone, or just a select few. Whatever the methodology, they seemed clear on one thing:  Our clients had the wisdom to realize they must confront reality, to change reality.

Confront reality, to change reality.

A lot of entrepreneurs “spin it.” You have to, for funders, clients, etc.  “How is everything?” “Oh, greeeaaat! Greeaaaat!” But, when DO we share the truth? So, when I detailed the crisis which almost de-railed #sisUdc – Sisterhood University – last weekend, my husband:

  • #1. Couldn’t believe I survived without having a nervous breakdown and
  • #2. Discouraged me from writing about it.

Now mind you, everything turned out great (see news coverage), but it was quite the juggling act getting there.

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Me, on walk this a.m. with hubby:  “I wrote a post describing the fire-fighting I did behind the scenes before #sisUdc.”

Husband:  “Uuuuuhhhh, I wouldn’t write about that. I think you can use other examples of crisis.  So many people think you do great work. Why jeopardize that?”

Me:  “Because I go through the tough times like everyone, and have to balance a ton of stuff just like the women in the audience. It seems silly to pretend I don’t or that everything is perfect.”

Husband: “Veeeeerrryyy interesting.”

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So, I am still not sure I should “out” the series of crises that almost prevented #sisUdc from happening. Do I share what REALLY went on behind the scenes?  Please vote below.



Subscribe via email or follow us on Facebook (right column) to see if I wind up writing about this.


#38 Confessions and Reflections – Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time

This is the first time since I started this blog that I actually BELIEVE I will be able to build a million dollar business while working part-time.  The below summary of posts serves as a table of contents over the past year. It will help explain how I got to this point.

The next year will be key to see if I can really pull this off.

lg-share-en

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What is this, where I am, who are you? If this is your first time here, this is the insider’s blog for The Hot Mommas Project. We are a women’s leadership project housed at the George Washington University School of Business (where I teach) and have an audacious goal of becoming a million dollar venture…while being led by a mom working part time. Since I started this blog, we have become the world’s largest women’s case study library. We showcase the stories of the women in your life in a TEACHABLE format, and they are published in major textbooks and used by educators. Click here to nominate someone.  Click here for about page. Click here to check out our classes which are producing stunning increases in self-confidence for women and girls.

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MAC DADDY SUMMARY:

The major learnings for me have been:

  • Persistence: Keep pressing, pushing, and smushing on the idea until it “clicks.”
  • Mentors: Share with mentors, it will amplify your idea and impact.
  • Operationalize: The idea is part one, part two is creating the “machine” behind it.
  • Delegation –  The Org Chart in Your Head: The machine includes people, who you meet by actually talking…at events, via coffees, over the phone. That is when the TRUE connection happens. They will fall into place in the “org chart in your head.”
  • Get Your Affairs in Order: Have the talk with your spouse/partner. Tell them about your dream.  Tell them what it will mean for your life you’re successful.  See if they are up for it. GO THERE mentally. If those closest to you are not on board, and your idea takes off, you will still be a failure. Home ALWAYS wins. If you won’t think big, and dream, and make it real by discussing it with people….you’ve lost before you’ve even started.

Read more below….

POST SUMMARIES #28 – #37

(Summary of Posts 1 / Summary of Posts 2 / Summary of Posts 3)

#28 – Free Black Friday Gifts: The Gift of Mentorship

Topics: Promotional/launch strategies, effective use of deadlines

Post summary: In this post,  I use the excuse of “Black Friday” to launch the 2010 Hot Mommas Project case study competition.  It kind of didn’t work. Major lessons:

  • Lesson in Failure: SEO – While, in theory, the concept of leveraging searches for “Black Friday” sounds good, it resulted in ZIPPO nominations of women to tell their stories on HotMommasProject.org.
  • Win/Failure? – A lot of the promotion we do, especially in traditional media, leads people to say “I’ve heard of you” but does not produce actual nominations of women – directly. How far is the jump between what you’re asking someone to do (e.g. take an action, nominate a woman in their life) and the medium where they’re being approached (e.g., sitting on their butts watching TV). Twitter and other internet mediums = best for nominations. TV, radio, newspaper = good for awareness / credibility.
  • Win: Deadlines – I used the excuse to develop some great content tools that tell our story (listed in blog).

#29 Free Online Business Tools for Which I am Thankful

Topics:  Organization, time management, sanity for the entrepreneur.

Post Summary: Being organized, and having methods for detoxing are CRITICAL for successful entrepreneurs.  There are tips in here on those topics. Lesson:

  • Win: Great tools to find/re-claim time and sanity for a busy entrepreneur, mom, person.

#30 Would You Read This? My Book Outline for Women and The New Sisterhood of Success

Topics: New Sisterhood of Success, Book Outline, the “CLICK

Post Summary: This was major. It’s my first stab at a book outline.  I had been talking about it for years, drafting proposals for months, and finally – in a blip – it came pouring out.   Lesson:

  • Win: Let your freak flag fly. I keep a lot of what goes on in my head to myself so as not to overwhelm others .  On this occasion, I let some big/deep thoughts fly. After a heart-to-heart with my hubby on meaning-of-life type stuff, my brain was clear and the book outline was inserted.

  • CLICK: Every now and then, I feel/hear/sense what I can only describe as a “CLICK.” It’s like pieces of a universal seat belt coming together. This was one of those moments. Always be on the lookout for these times. This one instance led to important stuff later, like meeting with a famous book agent.

#31 Are Entrepreneurs Really Crazy? Escaping: The Vortex.

Topics: Entrepreneurial obsession

Post Summary: The Hot Mommas Project 2010 Case Study Competition is over. We are officially the world’s largest women’s case study library. I start to think I am officially insane as I  send the team emails about fixes and tweaks for next year, instead of taking some downtime. Lesson:

  • Win/Failure? – you decide: Entrepreneurs are obsessed freaks.

#32a How to Not Look Like a Tool in Your Business Communications

#32b How to Not Look Like a Tool in Business Communications Part Deux

Topics: Communication in business, social media vs “traditional” communications

Post Summary: As the popularity and visibility of the Hot Mommas Project grows, I start to get more and more emails/requests.  I also give more talks. I notice a trend: There are a shocking amount of questions about how to relate/connect socially with others. Example:

Me: “You need mentors.”

Audience members: “How do I talk to these people?”

I start to hypothesize that certain social skills are degenerating.  This post provides helpful tips I then took back and used with my students at the George Washington University School of Business. Lesson:

  • Win: Winners of the future will master both social media AND traditional communication (talking to actual people on the phone/in person.)
  • Mini-CLICK: The mounting confusion around social skills really stood out to me.  It is, I believe, going to be a significant teaching point in the Hot Mommas Project /New Sisterhood of Success future book.

#33 Giving Myself a Wife for Mother’s Day

Topics: Delegation for women/business people

Post Summary: As the amount of communications, and appointments, and other dreck mounts…I know it is time for reinforcements. Thus began the real and serious thinking about additional staff at work, and home. Lesson:

  • Win: Many women say, “I want help, but struggle with delegating.” There will be a point at which it’s so painful, it’s more of a struggle if you DON’T delegate. All women who want to be successful must practice and employ delegation. MUST.
  • Win: Home culture. The focus. The safe place. Treat it that way.
  • Win/Failure: I was also, with this post, testing a partnership with HelaSpa wherein they acknowledged our 2010 winning case authors via a Mother’s Day marketing campaign.  The win was treatments for our deserving case authors. The failure was no additional spike in nominations. Maybe awareness increased? It’s hard to know. We don’t have any great measures in place which is why we now have Amber Wason heading up our marketing.

#34 How Entrepreneurs Deal With Failure

Topics: Failure, learning from failure

Post Summary: This post expresses my disappointment, and resolution strategies, around trying to get a teleclass off the ground. I changed the title, and the price, resulting in a more successful result.  Lessons:

  • Win: Capitalizing on failure is a MAJOR skill, but, it takes a really strong person to say “Wow, I screwed this up.” I seriously think 99% of the population can’t do this. So, if you can, consider it a strength.
  • mini-Click: Accepting the failure, instead of beating my head against the wall (a fav of Type-As) resulted in a teleseminar 2.0 which taught me something CRITICAL about word usage and messaging around the Hot Mommas Project concept. This knowledge paid off BIG TIME in my later meetings with an angel investor/mentor and literary agent.

#35 Letter to a mentor: I’m kind of freaking out right now

Topics: Success, learning from success

Post Summary: This was the big “CLICK.”  I was able to focus on the ONE THING I think is MOST IMPORTANT for women and girls to do to reach their potential.  It’s my “it.”

  • Win: Figure out the pattern that produces top notch results for you. In this case, it was – just as in post #30 – having a heart-to-heart with a mentor, then waiting for the “epiphany” or outpouring of good stuff/ideas/content. This is my pattern. I think everyone has one.
  • Failure: I realized I was onto something, and then kind of freaked out and didn’t know what to do about it. What about “do nothing?” what about, “Sit back and enjoy?” Somehow, neither of these options occurred to me.
  • Win: I met with the mentor/angel investor discussed in this post, then did a plan, assembled a team,  did a book proposal, and met with a book agent – all within one and one-half months of writing this post! Like the picture up top says, it CAN be done…but, it will just need to be your way…a different way…that you create.
  • CLICK: This presentation worked. It represented my long-time-accumulating thoughts on what I considered to be THE most important thing for women. The underlying message was:  “The New Sisterhood of Success” is what will propel us to our potential. And I have the research to prove it, and the how-to manual to do it.

“The New Sisterhood of Success” is what will propel us to our potential. And I have the research to prove it, and the how-to manual to do it.

#36 Meeting with Book Agents

Topics: Literary agent meetings, spreading self thin

Post Summary: I set a meeting with a book agent, then scramble.  The person with whom I met is a major book agent at a large agency who is constantly rejecting people. Had I known this going in, I might have been nervous.  This is one of those ignorance-is-bliss cases.

  • Win: I asked around and asked around and shared my book outline with advisors and mentors. Guess who set me up with the book agent? One of my mentors. So, here – EXACTLY  – is the point of the New Sisterhood of Success: Put yourself out there, ask for help, and the power of two, or three, or four will always exceed the power of one.
  • Failure: I was so exhausted from pushing myself to get the book proposal done, the presentation at MasterCard, and the meeting with broadway producer Ken Waissman (both later that day) that I literally I barfed on a ferry out to see my former b-school professor and mentor @RosabethKanter.  Immune system = gone.  So when I’m running gunning in the future with wherever the New Sisterhood of Success and Hot Mommas Project takes me, I think I’m going to have to do the OPPOSITE of what Emeril says, and “Kick it DOWN a notch.”

#37 Is Business Un-FUNNY?

Topics: Women underselling, humor in business, writing style

Good news: She loves my writing style (the literary agent)

Bad news: There is a time and a place for funny. The place is NOT my bio. She pretty much told me this straight-up.

I decided to turn this experience into a post and discussion about the appropriate and inappropriate use of humor in business.  “Discussion” is a generous terms since no one cares about this topic, and there are no comments… Well, except for this one:

Мы поможем Вам решить квартирный вопрос – у нас Вы найдете объявления, новости рынка недвижимости, все о квартирах, о ремонте, о ЖКХ, о текущих ценах и многое другое

Lessons include:

  • Failure: Women….don’t undersell yourself! Bad bad bad. I did that in my book proposal.
  • Win: If you listen for the “CLICKS” you can get meetings with famous literary agents, angel investors, and do what it takes to move your idea forward.

With a business model, book interest, message focus, fans, and the discussion with the spouse of “Hey, this could be successful” under my belt, I’m looking forward to the next year.  And, no, I have not written about the business model yet. That is going to have to be my little secret pending further testing….stay tuned, and wish me luck.

#32a How to Not Look Like a Tool in Your Business Communications

On Brazen Careerist the other day, Ed Barrientos introduced a topic about verbal pet peeves. You know…words, etc. that drive you nuts. As a hater of the word “moist” I jumped right on this. This post takes communication preferences one step further.

People of the world:  There are many atrocious behaviors going on out there.

Lesson #1: You look like a tool if you are not thoughtful

I have foregone my office at the George Washington University School of Business and am here in my pink fuzzy slippers, listening to Metallica, tallying the winners of the 2010 Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition.  What a sight. Here is the communications metaphor: Don’t let a casual appearance, feeling, or vibe inappropriately impact your communications or…as the title states…you will look like a tool.  (Note, this is not to be confused with the BAND “Tool” which my three year-old daughter calls “Toodle.”) This point will be made over and over again over during these posts. The social media and work-at-home revolution has created a Darwinian dividing line. My hypothesis:  Individuals who have ALWAYS had a good understanding of people EXCEL in these ambiguous or contradictory social/business communication situations. They can handle it, because they get people. This is something you can practice and grow into, but – you have to want to.

Lesson #2: Students – you can get away with murder. Normal people – not so much.

Here is an actual email I sent to a student yesterday after he – shall we say – threw me under the bus with a contact I gave him.  The rules were “introduce yourself and say you’re a fan.”  Instead, he sent my contact a “can we talk and can you look at my resume and here is the attachment” email. Aaack! This kind of stuff makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, this kid is great. He owned up right away and I bear no ill will. But, here is what I told him:

Email (names are disguised, of course)

From: “Student name”
Sent: Monday, March 15, 2010 5:38 PM
To: Kathy Korman Frey
Subject: Re: FW: Kathy Korman Frey Follow-up / “Famous Person” Book Title

Student Name.

When we originally spoke, hitting “Famous Person” up for internship ideas or a call was not part of it. It was about making contact and letting her know the impact of her book. Hitting someone up for advice, looking at your resume, etc – in my world view – are things that come later, once an acknowledgement of your email is established. Also, assuming someone of her stature will look at an attachment and set up a call with you makes you look naïve. (I am saying this in a nice “I-want-you-to-come-off-looking-sophisticated” way vs a super critical way).

[….Other stuff, other stuff, other stuff…..]

Prof Frey

Lesson #3. EARN your way into a relationship.

There is no finger-snapping, just-add-water relationship building. Even getting to know folks via Twitter or Facebook is a process and investment. Later in my email, I told the student,

“Don’t be the naïve undergrad who fails to recognize how RIDICULOUSLY busy a person  like ‘Famous Person’ is. You need to EARN your way into relationships.”

These are my rules of thumb for communicating with busy / famous people:

  • 30 seconds – First, you earn 30 seconds – MAYBE – via a glance at an email (less if it’s a Tweet).
  • Follow up – You earn NO additional time if they don’t respond to you. Instead, you earn an additional follow-up via phone (novel concept) where you leave a message saying you sent an email, and the bottom line of that email. And/ or, you forward the email and say in a non passive-aggressive way a la “I just wanted to be sure this came through. You made a big impact on me.”
  • Off the grid – The BEST next thing you can do is try to attend something they are attending and meet them face to face. If that is not possible, approach them on Twitter or Facebook or Linked in and remind them of who you are (that person who knows such and such who emailed you). If there is some advice you want, mention that, and how quick it will be.
  • Five to fifteen – When you approach for the advice, plan on getting from the person a five  minute email – minimum – up to  a 15 minute phone call – max.
  • Bonus Round – Anything else is a miracle and you should be thanking your lucky stars.

Wrap up: Treat a busy person’s time as they do (VALUABLE)

You’ll be an immediate stand-out in their minds versus the scads of other folks constantly asking them for things.

PARTING THOUGHTS: Has basic communication gone by the wayside? Perhaps I am old-fashioned in my advice.  However, I strongly suspect that being courteous and thoughtful will never be out of style.

Stay tuned for my next post including advice like, “Don’t be a user” and other strong opinions on communication.

Related Links

Your Image is You – Project a Professional Image in Writing

Back to basics? Here is a great grammar bootcamp (as you can see from the title, I believe infinitives can be split)

Find me on Twitter www.Twitter.com/ChiefHotMomma

Find me on Facebook www.Facebook.com/KathyKormanFrey

See the blog for my class at GW www.WomensLeadershipClass.wordpress.com

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What is the Hot Mommas Project?

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business.  We make women’s stories teachable using our “case wizard” at www.HotMommasProject.org . The Hot Mommas Project library is the first of its kind, providing scalable, global access to role models and virtual mentors that can be used by educators, trainers, and parents. We’ve been featured in Prentice Hall textbooks, the Washington Post Magazine, NPR and are the winner of a national Coleman Foundation case award.

How you can get involved: Write your story, or nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older.

Our call for 2011 nominations has begun. While the contest runs through January 31, 2011 – Start now! There will be prizes this spring and fall for early bird publishers.

How it works: Nominated women come online, write their story using our “case wizard,” and click “publish” to be permanently archived in our case library.  Winners will be published in a leading Prentice Hall textbook in addition to other honors and prizes. To participate, nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older (yourself included) here or find us on Twitter. No, you do not need to be a mom.

#31 Are Entrepreneurs Really Crazy? Escaping: The Vortex.

Enter: THE VORTEX. (click here) Prior to the semi-calm and orderly exchange pasted below, I entered what I called “the vortex.” This means I was nuts.  The Hot Mommas Project process is based on nominating dynamic women over the age of 18 to act as role models through writing their stories. Thus, I nominated women, re-nominated women, sent reminder emails, got the team to send reminder emails…the list goes on. This was all because of my passion for my project (combined with an inability to accept failure and a kind of control-freakishness). It was a gravitational pull.

The VORTEX IS REAL. It turns out, that many entrepreneurs literally do suffer from a kind  “Hypomania.” Only, because it makes people money, we celebrate it and call it “drive” and “persistence.”

Below, I deconstruct the VORTEX and explain how I escaped it. This was yesterday, however.

1. The situation (no, not my abs) If this pop culture reference escapes you – click here. Last night at midnight the second annual Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition came to an end. Today, we are playing clean up on some technical errors on the site.

What I want/deserve/should be doing: Watching Lady Gaga and Elton John’s Grammy performance as a reward for hitting nearly 200 case studies and – officially – being the world’s largest women’s case study database!

What I doing instead: Sending nerdy emails – like the following- because I am an obsessed entrepreneur. It’s a problem. Below, I not only address the current issue at hand, I start speculating about the future, the team that will get together, and roles. I’m thinking, “Can’t I just CHILL for ONE DAY?”

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Cast of Characters: “Dave” – Dave Juth, our developer at FMS Inc. , “Achin”Achin Jain our Learning Community Manager (in India), “Luke” Luke Chung – owner of FMS Inc.

Dave,

THE WOMEN HAVE ROCKED IT OUT!!! Our second annual case study competition ended last night. We are almost up to 200 cases now and officially the world’s largest women’s case study library. I was wondering about using FMS’s site, again, for judging. Thoughts?  Here is what Achin says:

“It would be nice to see whether Dave would let us use FMS server again for judging. Tell him that I will send him the database file whenever we are done fixing the technical errors and ready to move to the judging phase. He will just have to do a copy and paste job.”

Tell me if I need to ask Luke about this. Overdue, anyway, to talk to him (see PS)

Kathy

P.s. For LATER, planting seeds:

I also now have a list of things we need to fix, update, etc. and need to have a conversation with Luke.

Looking ahead, I was wondering – also – about including in our meeting some social media guys as experts to say “this will work, this won’t, this will be better for SEO and communities and mobile apps” and yada yada. I need to figure out what is possible for Achin to do, and what FMS needs to do, as we move forward.

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3. So, Are We REALLY CRAZY? Well in looking over this, I skipped #2, and am too lazy to go back and fix it. So, that’s not a great sign. A book by John Gartner on the topic of nutty entrepreneurs has the following quote:

Hypomania–a mild form of mania–drove many of America’s most famous leaders and entrepreneurs to succeed.

4. UH, OKAY, MAYBE THE VORTEX JUST = CRANKINESS. I read VCMike’s blog, I realize I bear almost NONE of the traits of hypomania. Here they are:

  • pressured speech; rapid talking
  • inflated self-esteem or grandiosity;
  • decreased need for sleep;
  • flight of ideas or the subjective experience that thoughts are racing;
  • easy distractibility and attention-deficit (superficially similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder);
  • increase in psychomotor agitation; and
  • involvement in pleasurable activities that may have a high potential for negative psycho-social or physical consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

I do tend to have a racing mind. But, that’s about it. So, basically my nuttiness was not leading to a grandiose entrepreneurial success. It’ s just nuttiness.  Time to ESCAPE THE VORTEX.

5. ESCAPE THE VORTEX – To escape the racing thoughts and panic, I first tried to do what earth-beings call “Letting Go.” I envisioned everything turning out okay, and that my worrying was pointless. It didn’t work.

6. ESCAPE THE VORTEX – PART DEUX – So I was onto Part Deux. One realization is that I had failed to set up “shifts” between the team members in advance of the last week of the contest. It made me feel better to recognize this blunder, and plan more effectively for next year instead of fashioning voo-doo dolls and putting them on a shrine in the corner of my room and lighting three candles and…KIDDING!

7. ESCAPE THE VORTEX – PART THREE. Sealing the deal of “Escaping the Vortex” was MOVING ON. I mentally moved on from this year’s case study competition, and started thinking about next year’s. Who would be nominated? Would we do year-round training on case writing? What about early-bird submission prizes? Thinking about SOLUTIONS and moving on is what helped me fully exit the vortex…until this morning.

8. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. THIS IS YOUR LIFE ON CRAZY ENTREPRENEURSHIP. My kids did not in any way, shape or form agree to this last sentence. Yet, somehow I feel very frustrated when I am on my Blackberry needing to respond to case-writers about technical issues, and the munchkins claiming they are mine are relentless about wanting to play in the snow and watch Spongebob. Aha! In addition to having shifts for my staff and myself in next year’s case study competition, I definitely need to set up shifts for my FAMILY! For instance:

  • Example 1: If I had a staff member on a shift this morning, I handle the kids stress-free.  It would not be “battle of the Crackberry.”
  • Example 2: During the 11th hour of the competition, my husband was out of town and we had no sitter. And it snowed.  So, now I am getting my husband’s travel schedule for the ENTIRE YEAR so I can plan better next time.
  • I’m sure I’ll have some other brilliant realizations, but, now I am just tired from the Vortex’s G-Force.

9. DELEGATION & EXECUTIVE-LEVEL TOOLKIT BUILDING. This is really the key.

  • Lesson 1. Learning to manage and delegate – not just lead – is what I am growing here in my executive-level toolkit. My workplace is virtual and flexible. It requires a few more check-ins than a traditional office environment.
  • Lesson 2. Furthermore, when we entrepreneurs try to do it all ourselves, and then enter the VORTEX, that is when we feel bad, overwhelmed, unsuccessful.
  • Lesson 3. And, let’s be honest. Those close to us feel it right along with us. Escaping the VORTEX is not just a “nice to have,” it’s a “need to have.”

Conclusion: So, my belated New Year’s Resolution is to think and plan ahead as I never have before.

The goal: STAY OUT OF THE VORTEX.

10. FINAL ACT – TAMING THE VORTEX. In the final taming-of-the-vortex act, I WILL watch Lady Gaga’s Grammy performance. Heck! I may even watch Pink too!  And Beyonce! I am going to walk the Hot Mommas Project talk and realize that smart Hot Mommas know when they are using their powers for good, or using them for evil. And, the Vortex is EVIL! Time to exit, and focus on Grammy playbacks, reading over fabulous and inspiring cases that never cease to amaze me, and a night at home with my little munchkins while daddy is at a Wizards game.

What are your tools for escaping the “Entrepreneurial Vortex?”

***

What is the Hot Mommas Project?

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business.  We make women’s stories teachable using our “case wizard” at www.HotMommasProject.org . The Hot Mommas Project library is the first of its kind, providing scalable, global access to role models and virtual mentors that can be used by educators, trainers, and parents. We’ve been featured in Prentice Hall textbooks, the Washington Post Magazine, NPR and are the winner of a national Coleman Foundation case award.

How you can get involved: Write your story, or nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older.

Our call for 2011 nominations has begun. While the contest runs through January 31, 2011 – Start now! There will be prizes this spring and fall for early bird publishers.

How it works: Nominated women come online, write their story using our “case wizard,” and click “publish” to be permanently archived in our case library.  Winners will be published in a leading Prentice Hall textbook in addition to other honors and prizes. To participate, nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older (yourself included) here or find us on Twitter. No, you do not need to be a mom.

#21 Get Happy, or Get Out – AKA “Making a Deal With Your Entrepreneurial Spouse”

Two busy entrepreneurs, one happy, one sad

Two busy entrepreneurs, one happy, one sad

My husband and I are both entrepreneurs.  Everyone we know has had to lay people off, us included. It’s a  tough time. The other night we were on the porch talking for the umteenth time about how he is worried about cash flow in his business.  My old boss and mentor Zane used to pace the halls when cash flow was at a worrisome level. However, THEN I did not take that problem home. NOW, I do. We do. It’s hard. It’s money, it’s home, it’s family, it’s “Am I successful?”, it’s all of that. Everything is tied together when you’re an entrepreneur.*  Continue reading

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 #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.