Tag Archives: Pamela Slim

Don’t Just Dream Your Startup. Do the Work.

Dream Your StartupI’ve seen this in surveys several times: Americans dream of owning their own business. We’re a culture of startups. But don’t just dream your startup. Do it. Make it happen.

Just because you love it doesn’t make it easy

I really like this from Pam Slim, author of Body of Work, in Who says following your dreams shouldn’t be hard? She says:

I have come to the realization that we cause ourselves a lot of stress by believing that if we just choose the right business, or quit our loathsome job, or find the perfect Internet marketing system, or get that book deal that things will become easy.

She goes on to point out that most of what we get in life, most of the good things, are also hard. There are lots of clichés on that point. Pam suggests that there is good hard — such as “Meeting unexpected life challenges with both pragmatism and optimism” — and bad hard — like “Spending twelve hours on an administrative task that is complex, boring and not your strength when someone smart could do it in 30 minutes for fifty bucks.”

There was a scene in one of those old black-and-white movies in which the fabulously rich guy is asked the secret of success and he answers: “Choose rich parents.”

For the rest of us, it has to do with work. As in another old saying I like: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Success takes a lot of work

Which brings me to one of the basic fundamentals of building a new business, or running an existing business: it’s a lot of work. You have to build it around a need that other people have, or something that other people want. It has to be not just what you want to do, but what somebody else will pay money for. You develop strategy, tactics, and of course the business offering. You gather a team and necessary resources. You make decisions. You take risks. You spend a lot of time. You do a lot of work. You make a lot of mistakes along the way

Be your own boss? Well, maybe, but the toughest bosses are their own bosses. The buck stops with you. You make the decisions. Even the work you don’t do is still your responsibility, so you have to develop tasks and measurements and accountability. You plan constantly, because you do a simple plan and revise it frequently.

Somewhere embedded in all this is that you work on what you love, because to be successful you’re going to work on it a whole lot, so you’d better love it.

And, also, that the opposite of hard is boring.

Which brings me to my title above. Following dreams isn’t enough. You have to build dreams.

Body of Work is the Best Career Book Ever

Pamela Slim Body of Work

Pam Slim’s new book Body of Work is out. You may already know of Pam as the author of the bestseller Escape From Cubicle Nation. This one takes a brilliant new tack on the whole idea of careers, refocusing your work life as a reflection of who you are, who you are becoming.

I’ve already bought two copies — for a daughter and a sister — even though Pam sent me an early copy for free. Both are in different inflection points related to what they do next, gathering in what they’ve done so far, and Pam’s way of looking at things is perfect for that.

I don’t give a lot of endorsements or recommendations on this blog, but I can’t recommend this book more highly. I bought copies, one for a daughter and one for a sister, both of them brilliant people looking at what comes next, professionally. Pam Slim is a brilliant writer, a natural empath, and the best source of thoughtful career advice I’ve ever known.

I can’t resist quoting from Bob Sutton, Stanford Prof author of The No-Asshole Rule and other great books, who said of Body of Work:

I was struck by how useful, engaging, and downright fun that Body of Work was to read.  For starters, Pam applies a compelling frame — as the title says — where she advises that each of us would be better off as thinking of our career as a body of work rather than climbing a ladder or taking the path to the top. I found that so simple and so powerful — both because I think it is a more accurate frame, and because it focuses attention on what gives each of us intrinsic joy, not just on the competitive nature of work and the money.

And here’s a quick video summary:

NYTimes Offers a Welcome Note of Small Business Reality

I was happy to discover major media dose of reality in Maybe It’s Time For Plan C in yesterday’s NYTimes.com. While it’s so much more popular to talk about entrepreneurship as a matter of passion and persistence and living the dream, I think it’s also important to recognize that failure is common, and failure can be miserable.

The Plan C in the title is a reference to Plan B as people moving out of their corporate jobs to start there own business.  Alex Williams sets the scene with the glamor of the post-recession entrepreneur:

In recent years, a wave of white-collar professionals has seized on a moribund job market, a swelling enthusiasm for all things artisanal and the growing sense that work should have meaning to cut ties with the corporate grind and chase second careers as chocolatiers, bed-and-breakfast proprietors and organic farmers.

Indeed, since the dawn of the Great Recession, more Americans have started businesses 565,000 of them a month in 2010 than at any period in the last decade and a half, according to the Kauffman Foundation, which tracks statistics on entrepreneurship in the United States.

The lures are obvious: freedom, fulfillment. The highs can be high.

And if you pause to reflect, there’s a whole lot of that new entrepreneurship going on. And I’m all in favor. I post a lot about starting your own business in this blog and elsewhere, and I’m a frequent recommender of books like Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation  or Melinda Emerson’s Become Your Own Boss ; not to mention my own book 3 Weeks to Startup . But all of those books temper the optimism with reality and planning. And that’s what Alex adds in the piece yesterday: the other side of the picture.

But career switchers have found that going solo comes with its own pitfalls: a steep learning curve, no security, physical exhaustion and emotional meltdowns. The dream job is a “job” as much as it is a “dream.”

Many are surprised to find the hours and work grueling.

Amen to that. I say yes to those who want to start their own business, but a careful, fully aware yes. Go into it with your eyes open. As this piece in the New York Times concludes:

Plan B, it turns out, is a lot harder than it seems.

Brace Yourself. Success Brings Detractors.

It’s funny — well, maybe annoying is a better word — how one of the so-called trappings of success is criticism. Get up in front of a crowd to speak, launch a website, develop and launch a product, start a business, and you’re in front of people. And that means you open yourself up to criticism. angry mob

I’ve been meaning to write about this since we talked about it together a month ago at Pam Slim and Charlie Gilkey‘s LiftOff 4 retreat in Portland. The subject that night was the negative thinking, the worries, the fear and the doubts that are part of launching a business. Somebody brought up this problem of dealing with critics. We talked about it, and agreed, basically, that it comes with the territory.

Reminds me of the cliche: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

What I like what my daughter Megan said in 5 things I learned From Haters, on her Part-time Perfectionist blog. This is point one of five:

If you have haters, it means you’re on to something. Think of all the cliches I can spout about this: the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. All press is good press. Haters gonna hate. Trolls gonna troll.

Success generates detractors. Expect it. It comes with the territory.

(Image: Daliborlev/Flickr CC)

Pam Slim’s 10 Keys to Startup Sanity

I was sorely disappointed to miss Pamela Slim’s keynote speech for the Willamette Angel Conference 10 days ago. I’m a member, but I had to be away, and had to miss it. I hear she was great. Eugene and Corvallis startups are still talking about it.

She called her talk 10 Keys to Maintain Your Sanity While Hustling Your Startup. Great title. Especially when you listen to it.

I was glad, though, to see Pam has posted it for all as a slide show with her audio. If you’re involved with a startup, or thinking about it, give yourself the luxury of Pam’s real-world advice.

Thanks Pam.

5 Good Quick Reads for Small Business Owners

These are some posts I noticed during the week. I keep track of them because I intend to do a post of my own on the same thing, but sometimes it’s better to just highlight them and share. These all seem useful to the small business owner and entrepreneur.

  1. Six Companies That Did Not Survive 2010 on NYTimes.com is a great collection of quick but still very useful summaries of failures.Who they were, what they did, and what happened.
  2. How to turn dating agony into sales success, by Pamela Slim, on Copyblogger. Don’t you love that title? I’m a big fan of Pam’s work, this one is longer than most blog posts but also rich in practical suggestions and thoughtful and well worth the extra length. Good for one-person entrepreneurs and small company owners alike.
  3. How to fire an employee the right way, by Shira Levine, on Amex OPEN. Somebody told me the other day that she was good at firing people, and I was amazed. Can anybody be good at that? Hence, this post.
  4. The 5 things you need to do before approaching investors, by Eileen Gunn on entrepreneur.com.
  5. The Top 50 Blogs for Small Business Owners is a pretty good list, and I’d say that even if it didn’t include this one.

(Image: Kotomiti/Shutterstock)

10 Blogging Tips. My 1,000th Post on This Blog

Last night I was halfway through a draft post patting myself on the back, illustrated with champagne glasses, when my youngest daughter, Megan, called from San Francisco, where she lives now. That’s @MeganBerry to you, blogger and social media expert,  marketing manager of Klout.com. So I asked her this: “What do I do with my 1,000th post?”

stacked stones“Do something that matters,” Megan answered. “Do something special.”  She talked about favorites, lessons, advice, and reflections.

So, about 12 hours later, this is it, number 1,000. Gulp.

I started in 2006, but did only a dozen posts in the first year. I really started in April 2007, with reflections on family business, a personal note about passing the torch to a second generation. I changed jobs then – my choice – from owner-entrepreneur-president to blogger president of Palo Alto Software.

My personal favorite posts are on the sidebar here to the right. My favorite search is the one for fundamentals, particularly the series of 5 posts on planning fundamentals. My favorite categories come straight from the blog title: planning, startups, and stories: that’s specifically the categories planning fundamentals, true stories, and starting a business. And I also really like advice, reflections, and business mistakes. But I like most of my posts here. You kind of have to, to keep doing it.

Here are 10 blogging lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Imitation isn’t just flattery, it’s learning. When I said I wasn’t a blogger, Sabrina Parsons said “you will be. Just start reading blogs.” So I did. And I imitate a lot of other bloggers I like to read. So many that I can’t name them all here; but my thanks to Guy, John, Pam, Anita, Ann, Steve, Seth, Matthew, Ramon, and so many others. Every blog on my blogroll here to the right.
  2. Titles make a huge difference. That’s not just blogging. It’s been true for a long time. My son Paul, CTO at Huffington Post, teamed up with his younger sister Megan to teach me titles. And Ironically, what they taught me was a lot of what I learned at UPI plus the power of questions, and lists of 5 and 10.
  3. Short and simple: short sentences, short posts. Short thoughts? I like one-word sentences, and one-sentence paragraphs. And short posts, in theory: despite how much I admire Seth Godin’s short posts, I try, and usually fail.   
  4. Break grammar rules. Carefully. Rarely. Like right here. There’s no verb in either of the previous two sentences, so this post would have gotten me an F in Brother Salvatore’s 12th grade English class. 30-some years later, I’m glad he gave me that F on a 10-page paper for using “it’s” instead of “its” once. That lesson was worth it. But jeez!
  5. Pictures add meaning. Thanks to John Jantsch for that one. And to Shutterstock for supplying me with the bulk of the pictures I’ve used on this blog for the last year. And don’t ask me to explain the illustration on this one. I didn’t want champagne glasses or cakes and candles.
  6. Write Often, and keep writing. Find your pace. Honor consistency. Once a month doesn’t feel like a blog, but three good posts weekly is better than two good and three not so good. Break your routine occasionally for mental health. I write a lot and like it.  I’ve done 1,000 posts here in three years. Plus 700 on Up and Running, and another 200 or so on Small Business Trends, Huffington Post, Amex Open, Industry Word, and Planning Demystified. Plus some guest posts on others. It’s easier to maintain momentum than overcome inertia.
  7. Love the comments. Thank you. Not you spammers. But even you critics with annoying comments. Especially you critics with smart well written disagreements. Not the dumb generic praise intended only for your own SEO benefit, which I delete.  But I love the comments, they make it live.
  8. Love Twitter. Twitter has done wonders for my blogging, my daily work flow, and my growing satisfaction with web 2.0 or social media or whatever you call it. If you don’t get twitter, it’s not clutter, it’s not what they had for lunch, it’s blog posts and links and what’s going on in the world, as shared by people you like, now. My 18-point Twitter Primer feels as valid today as when I posted it.
  9. Tell the damn truth. You can’t fake it for long. Keeping track of all your various personae is exhausting. Write as yourself, or maybe (just maybe) who you really want to be. I know this is a lame old quote, but I heard it first from Chris Guilleabeau and I like it: “I have to be myself. All the other people are already taken.”
  10. Tell don’t sell. Lots of us blog for business. Much as I sincerely love the books and software I’ve done, I don’t blog about them here. Sure, the sidebar sells, I hope, but my posts don’t. 

Here’s advice, in honor of this being post number 1,000:

  1. Anything anybody can believe is an image of truth (paraphrasing William Blake).
  2. Time is the scarcest resource. Time, not money.
  3. Your relationships with the people you love are WAY more important than proving that you were right.

Dear reader: thank you. 

(image credit: Arsgera/Shutterstock)

Humility, Leadership, and Self Promotion, Oh My

What happens if you make light of your achievements, shun the spotlight, and pass the microphone on to the next person in line? Will this stunt your career growth?

microphoneI’ve worried about this for years. I used to deal with a guy who did very well as a professional expert, while knowing not much more than what he’d read the in a trade journal or two the night before a presentation. That never bothered him. And he did very well. And it kind of bothered me.

And then we have the new world order of personal branding, led by experts like Dan Schawbel, Jonathan Fields, Pam Slim, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, John Jantsch, and many others.  Dan is the leading expert as defined by Google. Those others are great personal brands, acknowledged experts. What does personal branding say about humility? Can you get there with humility? (hint: some do, some don’t.)

I’d like to think that the world rewards people who let others tell their achievements. But does it?  Can someone who doesn’t love the spotlight be a leader?  A leader is defined by followers. What if you never take credit and stick in the background? Will your would-be followers ever find you? Will they give you credit?

I was happy to see this note included in Startup lessons learned from Warren Buffett published on VentureBeat over the weekend:

Like self-deprecation, humor has a disarming effect.

In context that’s more about humor than self deprecation, but the quote itself, coming from Warren Buffett, has some power. Right?

I also like Humility as a Leadership Trait by John Baldoni at HarvardBusiness.org. He writes:

A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity. We humans are frail creatures; we have our faults. Recognizing what we do well, as well as what we do not do so well, is vital to self-awareness and paramount to humility.

He goes on, in that post, to list ways to demonstrate humility in the workplace. Temper authority, look to promote others, acknowledge what others do.

And yet, much as I like this idea, I think it has to be tempered with reality. People are busy. People need to be told what they think. If you don’t take credit, somebody else will. Baldoni says:

Can you be too humble in the workplace? Yes. If you fail to put yourself, or more importantly your ideas, forward, you will be overlooked. Chances for promotion will evaporate, but worse you will not give anyone a reason to believe in you. All of us need not lead others, but those who do seek to influence, to change, to guide, and to lead their organizations, need to find ways to get noticed. Again humility comes to the rescue. That is, if you celebrate team first, self second, people will notice what you and your team have achieved.

Damn: paradox. Lack of a general rule. All of it case by case. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a conclusion there about doing the right things in moderation. What do you think?

(Image: Marie C. Fields/Shutterstock)

Why Men With Pens is Written by a Woman. And Why That Matters.

Honestly, except for the name itself, I’ve never cared or wondered whether the author of Men With Pens was man or woman. It’s a good blog for writers. I did assume man, of course, because of the name of the blog, and the byline. This isn’t something I think about.

But I was shocked to read Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants as a post in CopyBlogger yesterday. It turns out that James Chartrand, author of the Men With Pens blog, @menwithpens on Twitter, is a woman, not a man.

Why do I care? I don’t care that she’s a woman and not a man. It makes no difference to the value of the content.  But I do care about the story she (James Chartrand) tells, and why she uses a man’s name.

Taking a man’s name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.

No hassles. Higher acceptance. And gratifying respect for my talents and round-the-clock work ethic.

Business opportunities fell into my lap. People asked for my advice, and they thanked me for it, too.

Did I quit promoting my own name? Hell yeah.

I do believe that the difference between genders is the most interesting thing in creation. But I don’t believe in gender differences in jobs or opportunity and particularly not in writing. My favorite bloggers are about half and half, men and women. I just want the posts to be useful, interesting, amusing, and good. I’m as likely to read Pamela Slim or Anita Campbell as I am to read Seth Godin or John Jantsch. I like to think the world has come a long way since I was born in 1948. That the chauvinism we took for granted without even thinking about it in the 1950s and 1960s has given way to a better, more equal world.

Maybe so; but “more equal” isn’t the same as “equal.” Damn. Ask James Chartrand about that.

Everybody should read Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants. And everybody who cares about writing and blogging should subscribe to her blog – not because of her gender, or her surprising revelation about gender disguised, but, rather, because it’s got a lot of good content.

Social Media Serendipity; or, the Social in Social Media

I like serendipity. Not just because the word sounds like a refreshing drink in the shade on a hot day, but because when serendipity happens, it’s always good. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely. …

So I had a great Friday: a nice drive from Eugene to Portland on a bright clear sunny early summer day, then lunch with Pamela Slim (@pamslim on twitter) and the second half of her Escape From Cubicle Nation workshop, with me included for a short guest spot on business planning. Then dinner with Pam and friends.

So what’s the serendipity here? It’s a reasonable question. It’s not like I didn’t already know Pam through telephone and email, and a lot of twitter; so I knew she does an excellent workshop. No surprise there — it was. And maybe you already take this for granted, but for me, at least, an old guy, the process of finding the real people through the blogs and tweets is a very special thrill. I’ve never been that good at cocktail parties or networking. But, through the magic of this new world, I’m meeting new people, and loving it.

So on Friday, I met Pam and several of her good friends, fellow bloggers and tweeters. We had a dinner hosted by @chrisguillebeau of The Art of Nonconformity and his wife Jolie; and I also got to know Matthew Scott of The Strategic Incubator (@MatthewRayScott on Twitter) better. Matthew is a wealth of really interesting stories, wisdom of both the real and folk variety, and business experience.

So I’m reminded that there really is a social in social media. Or at least there can be. It might start with blog posts, and tweets, but over time, as you follow people’s work and share (podcasts, phone calls, other posts), you get to know real people. And, when you meet them, they are real people.