What Does Success Look Like???

Let’s face it – the unknown is daunting.  Even extensive planning can’t always prepare you for challenges you may face in your entrepreneurial endeavors – whether you’re a startup CEO, a handbag designer or an aspiring indie author. Sometimes you just need to trust in yourself and be confident in your abilities. Obstacles may seem insurmountable at first glance but if you are dedicated to your efforts and you do the proper research, you WILL work through them.

You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. If you have it, it’s only a matter of time before you find your niche. Each “failed” attempt has to be viewed as a lesson learned. The real failure comes about when you don’t take anything away from the experience, when you don’t apply any of your newfound knowledge to your next endeavor.

My advice is simple. Embrace the unfamiliar and power through. You’ll never know the full extent of your capabilities if you don’t navigate outside your comfort zone. We can’t always be the best at everything but we should always strive to be. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Sure, you may accumulate a mound of debt in the process (something your husband won’t ever let you forget) but you will have taken control of your future.

Clear strategy concept as a straight road going over confused paths for achieving success in the future as a symbol of business vision and planning to solve the maze.

Be passionate! If you aren’t, find a new goal. You’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. It takes too much time and effort to launch a new business and if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll never get it off the ground. If you’re not willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, preserve your sanity and come up with a new game plan.

Take a risk. You’ll never have all the answers or the insight you need to feel comfortable in EVERY situation.  But that’s okay, because you have faith, drive and ideas to propel you toward your goal.  Sometimes, that’s all you need to achieve success.

Believe in yourself and what you can do. SEE yourself creating, developing, designing, writing, and selling. The powers of the subconscious mind are astounding. Envisioning success is just more positive reinforcement you can apply to your effort. Never let negative thoughts permeate your mind – they will only hamper your efforts. See yourself hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, see a Hollywood A-lister clutching one of your evening bags as she graces the red carpet at the Oscars, see your gadget in the hand of Mark Zuckerberg as he sings its praises to the press. See it, believe it, and make it a reality.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  That only really happens when you give up on your dreams. Outcomes that don’t match your expectations aren’t an indication of defeat. Think of them as lessons learned, pearls of wisdom to draw upon at a later time, things that need to be tweaked as you progress toward meeting your goals.

Try new things. Be creative. Think outside the box. Do something nobody has thought of before. Find the whitespace and clutter it up with your ideas. Don’t try to create demand; figure out what people need and give it to them. Why waste precious resources building something that nobody wants?

Life is all about taking chances. If you play it safe ALL the time, you’ll never uncover your true potential and untapped talents.

LEAP. Nothing worth having ever comes easily. Even if you crash-land, you can still say you tried.

And finally, never give up… on your dreams or on yourself.

Business woman celebrates successful deal at office. Business People

 

Why Authors Should Adopt The Mindset of An Entrepreneur

I’d recently guest posted on The Authorteers and wanted to share with you all here as well. =)

I don’t accept criticism well. Oh sure, I say I can handle less-than-stellar feedback. But then when it comes, I sit with my eyes open wide, nodding my head as the critiques pelt me like icy cold drops during a monsoon-like rainstorm, a tight smile stretching my lips so they won’t quiver… yep, I crumble like a house of sand. Worst poker player ever. You always know what I’m thinking… always.

I think this is attributable to a few different factors. First and foremost, I’m an approval seeker. I crave accolades, and positive reinforcement totally charges me. Second, I have an insane amount of passion for my endeavors, whether it be handbag design, writing, blogging, or my career in general. I work hard and when I really believe wholeheartedly in the quality of my efforts, I want them to be recognized. It’s not enough for me to be satisfied with the end result. And when people I care about are less than starry-eyed over something I’ve done, well, it’s a tough pill for me to swallow.

Such was the case this weekend. My husband and greatest supporter, read a book I’d recently finished. He is not a romance reader, but he loved my other books to the extent he could, as someone who much prefers reading Michael Creighton. I felt certain he’d love this one too and truth be told, I was excited for him to read it because I think it’s my best one yet.

But there were no kudos for this story. Instead, I got a boatload of Post-Its and an overall assessment of “it’s… okay.”

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Heartbreaking is the only word I can use.

So by now you’re probably wondering – why is she telling me all this?

Trust me, there is a point.

I took a chance with my manuscript. Publishing a story with a predictable plot isn’t going to send people flying to Amazon and elicit gasps as the scenes unfold on their e-readers. I chose to push the envelope and navigate outside the norm. Maybe it will be to my detriment but I wanted to give my readers something a little different. I took a risk that may turn people off or make them die-hard fans because I believe in myself and my work.

Criticism is tough to swallow but it’s not always a bad thing if it drives you harder and helps you perfect your end product. Don’t give in to self-doubt. Stay true to yourself. Embrace any feedback that will help you achieve your goals.

My advice? Think like an entrepreneur! Establishing an author platform is similar to launching a new business, so why not adopt the mentality that will help you sharpen your focus and build your brand?

Start Up Business Launch Success Office Desk Concept

Passion Is A MUST! – Trying to gain traction with any new endeavor can be extremely disheartening at times so the more you believe in your offering and your ability to sell it to the masses, the more effective your end product (and outlook) will become.

Listen To The Naysayers! – Don’t delude yourself into thinking your offering is the end-all, be-all.  You need a thick skin if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. People will slam your ideas. Get used to it. Graciously accept criticism and feedback then figure out how to respond to objections. Figure out what your key differentiating points are and highlight those to everyone and anyone.

Never Be Complacent! – You’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before to create momentum and then work even harder to KEEP it. I heard a really cool quote this weekend that totally applies. I was at a writing conference and a number of bestselling authors were presenting on sales strategies. They all said market yourself like you’re nobody EVEN IF you’re somebody. This applies to ALL business endeavors.

Be Restless! – Let your creativity flow! Don’t be complacent and accept the status-quo. Dig deep and figure out to disrupt. Take risks! It’s okay to incorporate new ideas into your offering. Make it as compelling as possible and if at first you don’t succeed…. well, you know the rest.

Hot Cars, Panty-Dropping Grins & A Giveaway

The trailer for “Nothing Ventured” is LIVE!!! Just so you all know, Liam Hemsworth has jumped straight to the top of my list. Prepare to swoon, ladies! And gentlemen, there’s a bit of eye candy for you as well… =)

ENJOY! I know I have…

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to help me share the news about Nothing Ventured!

Startup Spotlight: Let’s Go Du+ch!

Sharing experiences, creating memories, engaging with like-minded people, enjoying a richer life… this is the concept behind going “du+ch.” The company was born of longtime friends Vincent Paradiso and Debora McCleary, who partnered to create a social network for travel and entertainment. Both entrepreneurs in their previous lives, Vincent and Debora created a unique way for people to connect with others who would share the cost of excursions they may not otherwise have been able to experience due to excessive costs. Their efforts established a marketplace for sharing life’s adventures, big or small and I had the pleasure of catching up with Vincent to chat about some of his hopes, challenges, and goals for the future. I was also excited to gather a few sound bytes from Deb, who founded the premier New York beauty directory, The Debb Report. And you all know I’m a sucker for all things beauty and fashion… =)

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Vincent, prior to co-founding du+ch, you had a very successful professional career in ballet. What made you decide to delve into the world of entrepreneurship? 

I’ve always been bit of an entrepreneur. I love ballet, but I always knew I would do more. I’d always had an interest in real estate so I formed Paradiso Properties. My goal was to have multiple investment homes that I rent and manage, along with a real estate license to sell homes. But I quickly grew bored with my new career choice. I made money, but it wasn’t my passion. I started contemplating new ideas. I thought of all the amazing things I did with colleagues while on tour with NYCB, and how we would split the bill. We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy as much had we not shared the cost. I knew I had something but wasn’t ready to dive in. One night out with my girlfriend, I wanted to book bottle service at a club but didn’t want to pay $1,500. Our friends couldn’t join, so we skipped out and the idea for du+ch was born.

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Deb, what differences have you experienced between building du+ch and building the Debb Report? What unique challenges have you faced with each endeavor and how have you addressed them?

The first challenge with the Debb Report was having my partner drop out. I ended up funding the entire site on my own, and found a few friends to help me write all the salon bios that are (almost all) now in place. Updating my site is still a challenge, because aside from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updates, I have to be on top of so much information. I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own, especially with the time du+ch now needs. I recently hired a wonderful beauty/fashion blogger to help create original content to help grow my site and SEO. Having a partner who is fully engaged and committed is a necessity. Vincent and I definitely have a give and take when it comes to growing du+ch. We complement one another very well and have complete trust in each other, which is invaluable.  Because du+ch is an e-commerce site, it is a much more involved endeavor than my directory so Vincent and I are having to learn as we go. We constantly seek expertise from those who have done this before and people have been very generous with their time and knowledge.

Choosing the right partner is so important when founding a brand-new venture. How do you work through differences in opinion and what qualities do you each bring to the table?

(Vincent) Deb is a long time friend. We have great chemistry. When I approached her with du+ch, she was immediately ready to jump onboard. The key for us is making sure we always keep open lines of communication. She helps ground me and work through new ideas. As I’d mentioned earlier, the ideas don’t stop. You can’t attack all of them at once, you have to stay focused. du+ch would be nothing if I’d built it, then decided to go out and work on another idea. Being able to keep everything organized helps a lot. We have yet to have any major disagreements, but I believe we both are the types of people who will listen. We will acknowledge each others’ points, let them sink in, and compromise on a solution.

(Deb) Vincent and I agree on most things day-to-day, but when we disagree, we have a real ability to listen to one another and come to a joint agreement fairly easily.  Luckily we are both sane, thoughtful and committed to making du+ch a success, no matter how long it takes us.

What is the best part about running your own business?  

Exactly that, it’s mine. I’m directly responsible for its success and/or failure. I take great pride in bringing an idea to life. It’s challenging work, but when you know your hands are involved in every working aspect, it is so rewarding. I look forward to each and every day. I am constantly learning about every aspect of my business.

Du+ch is such a unique concept. Do you have plans to expand beyond more elite and trendy events? Do you see a market for couples, families, businesses?

Absolutely! We’re now in all of those markets. The beauty of du+ch is that everything on the site is user-generated. The same way you can sell anything on eBay, you can share anything on du+ch. It is a marketplace that puts the power of the sharing economy in the hands of the masses. You no longer have to build an app to enter this space, you can use our platform to share anything you want. Every user, individual or corporate, can host and search for anything they want to share. The look of our brand is luxurious, but users can share free events, basic group packages, or even ultra luxe experiences. We take the social element of Facebook events, the payment features of Eventbrite, and combine them into one site. The greatest thing is you can reach more than just your current circle. The point is, friends cannot always join in the fun. With du+ch, you can find those who can, get to know one another, and pool your funds to make anything within reach. The great thing about du*ch, and what separates us from a Groupon/Eventbrite, is our social transparency. Every user has a profile with reviews and verifications, so you can meet new people and feel comfortable sharing with them.

If you knew then what you know now, how might you have advised yourselves before launching du+ch? Any big aha! moments?

I would have been a lot more specific in the design and build of the website. I had it in my head, but translating it to developers was difficult. They needed every single specification and I didn’t anticipate providing them that level of detail. I would have also done more research on payment processors. When we create the app, I am going to document every last detailed requirement for the developers. I won’t leave any stone unturned.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? 

Discipline, focus and creativity. It is so important to stay disciplined. There are too many distractions surrounding us everyday – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. You have to resist the temptation and prioritize. You also have to focus on your goals, plan your short- and long-term strategies and then execute your plans to achieve them. That said, you have to remain creative, think out of the box and fill a perceived need. Always strive to disrupt the status quo.

What have been some of your failures since launching du+ch, and what have you learned from them?

I assumed once the site was built, the audience would come. I thought people would just find it, sign up and leverage the network, which wasn’t the case. I also focused too much energy on creating the perfect user experience. Marc Cuban once said, “Perfection is the enemy of profitability, you can try to make everything perfect, but you’re losing opportunity somewhere else.” What may seem perfect and simple to one may not be the same for others. I also mistakenly assumed that upon launch, I would play a support role. I didn’t realize I was going to have get out there and sell. That is the biggest challenge. Once you fill the need, you need to let the world know you’ve filled it. You have to make your own opportunities.

To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Taking the lessons I’ve learned from the ballet and applying them to the business world. For both, you need to exhibit the discipline, focus, and creativity mentioned earlier, but you also have to be willing to fail, deal with rejection, perform, and not let anyone define you. We failed all the time while dancing. If a step wasn’t executed as expected, you didn’t give up. Instead, you figured out what went wrong, fixed it, repeated it, and tried to perfect it.  We dealt with rejection on a regular basis. In business, you have to do the same. Not everyone will love you or embrace your vision and that’s okay. So many of my most rewarding experiences came from taking a leap. Never be afraid of failure.

How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Getting the word out is our biggest challenge, especially on a shoestring budget. I have seen a big jump in traffic when I advertise and share available listings on Facebook, but it hasn’t converted much yet. One experience that did convert was dinner with a private chef. The price was extremely reasonable and users wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. We are working on lining up fun yet cost-effective experiences. Giving corporate partners a chance to list group deals as they would with Groupon, but without the heavy fees, will help line up some great offerings. I also notice that when I do interviews like this, we get a major boost. I think it helps so much to get the word out. This interview engages a new audience and helps us connect with them. Some readers may skim our story, some may read the whole thing, some will love it, some will hate it, but either way I just grabbed the attention of a potential user and was able to get my entire message across. It is the best way to acquire new users and highlight interest in our brand.

Follow du+ch: Website  Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Instagram

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What Would You Do To Win A $50 Amazon Gift Card???

Maybe you’d sign up for my super-awesome exclusive reader list???

If you’re reading this and have already signed up, FANTASTIC! Thank you!!! But for all of you who are still not convinced, give me a chance to make you a fan!!! I think I’m a lot of fun! And you may find we have a lot in common!!

You’d get a monthly email with great giveaways, the inside scoop on book updates, new releases, my favorite beauty and fashion finds, contests, and cool posts from my entrepreneur blog, The Idea Mama.

So, for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card, all you need to do is sign up by clicking this link!

The giveaway will be open until August 5 at midnight EST. Don’t miss out!

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Take Control Of Your Future And Reap The Rewards

Self-published authors have a pretty steep learning curve if they want to joint the ranks of the bestsellers. And I’m not talking about the Amazon bestsellers, I’m talking about the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. Not an easy feat. It also doesn’t happen for everyone. Authors can bust their tails for years and years, writing book after book and never make it.

So is it possible to make their dreams become a reality?

Absolutely – through education and execution.

I watched a video tonight, hosted by Nick Stephenson, bestselling fiction author and entrepreneur. His book, Supercharge Your Kindle Sales, is flipping fantastic!! He provides invaluable insight about self-publishing and how to launch a successful author career on his website, Your First 10K Readers. But what I want to point out to you here is a really great point made in the video… one that’s not only applicable to self-pubbed authors but also to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Here’s the gist. Authors have a choice. They can endlessly spin their wheels, trying to figure out how the publishing industry works while using trial and error to test new ways of gaining traction and visibility for their work.

OR…

They can make an investment in their careers and pay for that knowledge. Learning from someone else’s missteps can save a tremendous amount of time and money. It can also preserve their sanity. =)

Then, they can apply their newfound knowledge and execute their success strategy.

Business training group organization concept. Team of students learning from mentor sharing common vision for education success as gears and cogs shaped as human head on gray background.

Business training group organization concept. Team of students learning from mentor sharing common vision for education success as gears and cogs shaped as human head on gray background.

This advice definitely hits home for me as an author as well as an entrepreneur. What Nick is saying makes so much sense. If you’re looking to build a business – whether it be in publishing or another industry – spend time up front to figure out how to avoid common pitfalls. The intelligence you can gather is worth the investment and it will help guide your decision-making processes. Save the time for doing what you love and apply the tried-and-true methods of building your success. Leverage lessons learned and reap the rewards earlier.

Why put off until tomorrow what you could definitely achieve TODAY?

FOCUS!!!! And Then Drink To Your Success

I came across a quote from Lori Greiner the other day and it is flipping brilliant. For those of you who don’t know who she is, if you’re an entrepreneur, Google her. Like, right NOW. She’s the reigning “Queen of QVC” and one of the stars of NBC’s “Shark Tank” – the one they refer to as “the shark with the heart.” LOL. But it’s true. She’s smart, insightful and knows a good deal when she sees it but she always exercises sensitivity to the plight of the aspiring entrepreneurs that parade their wares around the tank. Okay, so clearly I have a girl-crush…

“Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist–while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of wine, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist!”

See? She loves wine, too. How can I not be smitten?? =)

But this quote holds true for me in so many respects (other than the booze…LOL!). More often than not, I have at least fifty things going on at once. The past month has been particularly busy – between building up Author Navigation, blogging, editing two of my books and writing a brand-new one, my creative juices were leaking all over the place. My focus was…hell, there WAS no focus, just endless lists of to do’s and never getting dones.

Do you know what that means?

Potentially missed opportunities. I would have been snoozing on that glass of wine because my mind was full of scattered thoughts with no definitive paths to meet any discernible goal. A jumble of ideas is absolutely useless if you can’t flesh them out and apply the ideal amount of focus. Multi-tasking is all well and good but we’re best when we keep our eye on the prize. Remember that. =)

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Why Employers Should Aspire To Be Like Captain America

It should come as no surprise that I saw The Avengers: Age Of Ultron on opening night. And while I am disappointed to say it was not my favorite installation, I still enjoyed it. Kind of. Well, as much as I could after three Jack and Cokes at ten o’clock at night, sprawled out in a big La-Z-Boy seat. Way past my bedtime. =)

Anyway…

I’m definitely not happy that Tony Stark has lost his swagger. That was one of the most fun parts of these movies. But what was really cool to me was seeing Captain America really take charge and lead his troops, so to speak. There’s so much to respect about a guy who strives to always do what is right and just. But not only that. He knows people. He understands their strengths and weaknesses and aligns them to the tasks where they can best deliver value to an endeavor.

Employers, take note. You can learn a few things from Captain America’s leadership style.

1. Check your emotions at the door – During The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cap realized that what he’d wanted out of life before he’d been frozen was very different from what his life’s mission had become so many decades later. He has a duty to support the greater good and lives to fulfill it. His needs are pushed to the back burner as he strives to conquer evil and protect the lives of the innocent.

2. Stay true to your moral center – Tough decisions aren’t always the popular ones but a strong leader understands the potential negative impact of ambivalence and complacency. Cap always strives to do what’s right even if he knows the decisions will not be embraced wholeheartedly. He never backs down from what he believes is the right thing to do.

3. Be loyal to your brand – Just like Cap is recognized for traits such as individualism, justice and fairness, employers should make sure they are exemplifying the elements of their brand – what sets their company apart from the competition.

4. Take care of your own – Employees are the backbone of any business. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses is critical to ensuring you have the best people making decisions on your behalf. Cap knew which of his counterparts he could count on to deliver results. Hulk, SMASH!!!!!

Courtesy of www.imd.com

Courtesy of www.imd.com

Drawing Inspiration From The Silver Screen?

I read an interesting article in Forbes today titled Four Movies Every Entrepreneur Needs To Watch.

Cool picks, couple of my faves made the cut. Definitely check them out. Chris Myers has some interesting perspectives to share and I have a few of my own selections to add to the list.

The Pursuit Of Happyness

Chris Gardner. If his story doesn’t make you want to grab life by the horns and charge, I don’t know what will. The guy had no resources, a young son whose livelihood depended on his success but man, did he have the will to win. Entrepreneurs often face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and the successful ones never let themselves get burdened with a defeatist mentality. Frustration may reign temporarily but at the end of the day, they’ll do what they need to grow and prosper.

Take away? Never let a lack of resources hold you back from accomplishing your goals. Stay true to your dreams and push forward until you reach them.

Moneyball

I bet Hubby will like this one. =)

An interesting pick from me but in this case, it totally fits the list. Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s, figured out there were certain stats that were better indicators of offensive success and it turned out those stats were cheaper to buy on the open market than more commonly tracked stats, like speed. By re-evaluating the way the industry identified and paid for talent and fundamentally changing their win strategy, the Oakland A’s made it to the playoffs in 2002 and 2003 with a fraction of their competitors’ payrolls.

The end result? Management transformed their way of thinking and strategizing, yielding huge returns for the team for years to come.

Iron Man

Okay, this one is a no-brainer and not just because I have a tiny celebrity crush on RDJ. Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist…hello!!! He’d been kidnapped and forced to make a weapon of mass destruction. Instead, using a box of scraps and his engineering brilliance, he created a powered suit of armor used to escape his captors. Yup, Tony Stark, probably the sexiest entrepreneur to strut the Earth, transformed himself into a superhero whose cutting-edge technology ultimately saved the world.

Message? A new take on an existing product can make a business explode with possibilities (no pun intended).

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Women Make Better CEOs…Just Ask Mr. Wonderful

Women make better CEOs.
At least they do to Kevin O’Leary, the shrewd and calculating entrepreneur of ABC’s Shark Tank. But this isn’t conjecture; he’s got numbers to prove it.
According to Mr. Wonderful, female-run companies offer him greater returns on his investments and quicker exits.
“If I want high returns with low volatility, that equals a woman.” You heard it here, folks.
But why? What key attributes make these CEOs more financially successful? Why are 55% of the companies in O’Leary’s portfolio run by women???
Courtesy of www.entrepreneur.com

Courtesy of www.entrepreneur.com

“Attributes that I have observed are that they take less risk, they are more goal orientated in terms of setting targets and meeting them. If they say, ‘I am going to expand capacity or we’re going to increase distribution in the next quarter’, they deliver,” he explained. “It’s not an intuitive feeling. It’s actual hardcore results.”
Less cowboyish, less rogue, more strategic…yes, I can certainly see the rationale. =)
However, despite their obvious successes, we still don’t see a lot of female infiltration within venture capital and angel investor boards. It’s still a very male-dominated environment but one thing stands out. Networking plays a huge role and if you’re not rubbing elbows with the right people, you may not get the opportunities and visibility you deserve.
Women have always been great at networking…with other women. There are so many groups and associations and advocates for females in business but they are limiting because they only provide access to 50% of their potential partners. That’s just not good enough. Business people need to be smart and forward-thinking about their goals and understanding how all peers and competitors operate will offer significant insights for how to augment company growth.
Here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice. If you’re trying to run a business or launch a fledgling company, don’t limit your networking reach. Establish relationships with everyone who can possibly have an impact on your growing business. Learn how they work and use it to help shape your own strategy.
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