12 years old today & lessons learnt

12 years old today means lots of lessons have been learnt along the way.

To clarify – it is the 12th birthday of the day that the business name Dragon Sisters was first registered. It’s been quite a journey with lots of ups and downs.

 

Projects big and small. Short and long term contracts. Very public and behind the scenes. Each of these experiences has been part and parcel of our business evolution.

Along the way, we’ve been fortunate to meet some fabulous people who have so willingly shared advice, guidance and provided mentorship.

Learning is a life-long process

When you run your own business you are constantly learning and from some of the most unexpected and unlikely sources – which is what makes it all the more fun.

There is never a dull moment. Adventure. Drama. Action. Anguish. Satisfaction. These are all part of the journey as a small business owner.

12 Lessons Learnt

  1. Never underestimate the value you bring to the table
  2. Whatever is really easy for you is not for others
  3. You need to be constantly testing, measuring and tweaking
  4. Done is better than perfect – relates to point 3
  5. Never become complacent
  6. Creating connections is essential for your growth
  7. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool you can harness
  8. Be very clear on who your audience is
  9. Small, easy to digest chunks of information work best
  10. Ask for help when you need it
  11. Don’t be afraid to pivot
  12. Discipline and consistency are the keys to achieving goals
Having a great coach or mentor is invaluable! We’ve been blessed to have a few of those come into our lives.

Fly like a dragonFly like a dragon!

Michelle

COMPARISON – THE THIEF OF JOY

“Comparison is the thief of joy” Theodore Roosevelt

And the new trial by Facebook in Australia to reduce comparisons by removing the visibility of LIKES on a post is music to my ears.

With social media being such a dominant part of our daily lives, it is all too easy to get suckered into the vanity metrics.

Thanks to this move by Facebook content that is being posted should be a lot better quality and more authentic rather than a contest to get the most LIKES.

What you should be comparing

From a business perspective, it is important to measure your own progress and run your own race.

When you focus on comparison to others on a regular basis, you’re on a sure-fire track to go right off course.

My dragon boat coach used to say “momentum goes where attention flows” and he is right!

If you’re so busy looking around at what everyone else is doing, it’s impossible to concentrate on running your own race.

Your efforts become sloppy because your focus is elsewhere – I’ve seen this happen a zillion times in a dragon boat. Especially with excited new teams who feel they have to “watch” the competition to beat them!

Where to Focus

It’s your own race/business. Unique.

Once you’ve got your race/business plan bedded down, the focus should be on how you/your business is progressing against your plan.

Compare where you are today to where you were 6 months ago, a year ago, 5 or even 10 years ago.

These are the statistics that are meaningful as they are very specific to your own journey/business development.

At the end of each dragon boat race, the coach would review what went well, where we could tweak and improve. That would then be written into the race plan.

It’s the exact same with your business – move towards those goals/milestones. As you reach each goal, stop. Check how you are tracking. Decide where you may want to tweak a strategy but first run your race.

Engagement not comparison

Engagement means paying attention. In the dragon boat, we paid attention to each team member, to what each was bringing to the team in terms of commitment and effort in order to win the race.

In the business realm, this translates into a focus on what you are offering your audience – whether it is on social media, a blog, via email or in person.

The quality of your content and your service delivery is what leads to success.

Fly like a dragonFly like a dragon!

Michelle

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Here’s why you need a strategic plan – or an action plan!

Here’s why you need a strategic plan – or an action plan.

Whilst the words might make your eyes glaze over and conjure up images of boring boardrooms stick with me here….promise, you’ll gain an insight that will be super valuable.

A good strategic plan is not a large and boring document. It’s user-friendly and simple to read.

It lays out your pathway. A pathway that should be measurable, achievable and progressive.

It’s a tool that you should be regularly referring to because it shows you WHERE you are going.

Unless you have your directions clearly written down it is pretty much impossible to tell if things are on track and when you have arrived at a goal.

This is extremely valuable when you are tempted to go after a shiny object. You know something new comes onto the market, you hear a great pitch and decide immediately it might be perfect?

This is the time to look at your plan and check if it aligns with your goals.

If it does great!

If not, then move on and keep your eyes firmly on the goals you have set.

Being strategic means being specific

It is important to be very specific about your goals. As an example, writing down “gain new business” is not clear. It is not strategic in the least. It’s a general statement.

Why do you want new business? Is it because you want more $$ in the coffers?

If it is just $$ ask yourself this question – could you gain these from existing clients/customers? Be clear on the $$ amount that would equate achieving that goal.

For instance, having 10 new customers at say $5000 each is not the same as having a goal of $50,000.

Which is it the 10 customers or the $50K?

The 50K could potentially be reached with just 5 solid contracts.

Here’s another example from my own life. To be able to live in Europe for a year.

Without being retired or having the capacity to afford a year without income, this was not an easy task to achieve. But I did!

How? By using my own personal strategic plan that involved an end goal and many mini-milestones to get there.

Want to learn how to formulate your own strategic plan?

Reach out to me as I’d love to help you just as I’ve helped so many others. Promise! Don’t take my word for it…check out what others have to say.

Fly like a dragon!

Michelle

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

 

Getting Results from your social media

Getting results from your social media is crucial when you’re in business and if you are bootstrapping, it is even more important to harness what is available at no cost.

In addition to the 5 key steps outlined in my article on understanding the basics, it is really important to understand just how busy social media is.

When you realise that Facebook now has more active users than China’s entire population you start to get an idea of how vast it is. More precisely how much traffic is out there!

It’s hard to be heard and seen. BUT… it is still a massive tool for FREE exposure if you are using the right strategies.

Getting Results

Three simple steps to implement to help you get results from your social media

1) Be authentic

Do not imitate.

By all means like and share, but…

Do not try to copy the style and tone of someone else.

Allowing your own brand personality to shine through is what helps build relationships.

Here’s the thing…

Buying a high ticket course or paying a “guru” lots of money does not mean you are going to achieve amazing results…

At least, not overnight.

More than likely you’ll need to do a whole load of hard work behind the scenes.

Remember, the results touted in case studies and testimonials to get you to buy are not typical. If you look carefully, you’ll see there are disclaimers saying exactly that.

2) Have a Plan

Getting results from anything comes down to having a strategy.

This means spending time thinking about the direction that you are taking and whether it is aligning with where you want to take your business.

Write down what it is you are aiming to achieve and then work out the strategy to get you there.

3) Build your mailing list

This is crucial because if Facebook shuts you down you will have lost that audience.

It is not as frightening or as complex as it sounds.

You can bootstrap by using MailChimp which is free up to 2000 subscribers.

Next Step

Try out the three simple tips above and you’ll soon be seeing a difference. Make sure you track what’s happening so you can really measure your results.

Leave me a comment and let me know if you have a plan, or if you need help formulating one.

Fly like a dragon!Fly like a dragon

Michelle

 

 

 



MAXIMISING YOUR LUNCHTIME

Maximising your lunchtime makes great business sense. And, I don’t mean having a sandwich at your desk as you pour over reports or jumping on LinkedIn, Facebook etc.

Making time to have lunch, to step away from your desk/place of business is essential to maintaining a helicopter perspective.

When you’re leading a busy life, especially if you’re running your own business, it can be really tough to squeeze the extra time out of your day.

BUT…here’s the thing…you need to eat!

So maximising that time for your own benefit makes good sense – right?

Put down your phone – at least stick it in your pocket or handbag – stand up and walk out of the office.

Walking down the street, stopping to say hello to people and having a quick chat. Sitting quietly in a park/at the beach and absorbing nature, or having lunch with people outside of your normal circle all serve to help either ground or stimulate you.

What you choose to do each lunchtime depends on the outcomes you’d like to achieve.

The key is to make a conscious choice to utilise your lunchtime wisely. After all, it is time. Time is a finite commodity and once passed cannot be recovered.

Alone Time

Choosing to spend time alone, to sit in the park/at the beach will give you silence.

In that stillness, you have the chance to reflect quietly. You’ll often get to hear your inner voice that has been drowned out by the chattering monkeys.

Many of our clients who work in front-facing roles that demand they are “on” for most of their business day love these kinds of lunch breaks.

Actively Being Out & About

If you’re working in isolation, then getting out and about helps to switch off that intense focus your work demands.

Walking down the street and stopping to chat with a couple of people can often provide that human connection that is so important to people who work alone all day.

Alternately, if your work causes lots of pent-up frustrations, bursts of physical activity like a brisk walk, jogging or working out at a gym full of people can be a great tension reliever.

Group Lunches

Getting together with a group of like-minded individuals, from different industries is another productive way to spend a lunchtime. You gain a different perspective which is so very valuable.

I’m not talking about a boozy lunch at a fancy restaurant. You know, where everyone talks about how great they are and no one remembers anything much afterwards. I’ve been to a few of these over the years. Enjoyable but really very unproductive.

Rather, I mean a quiet place where you actually get to connect with authenticity and help each other out through the sharing of information in a supportive environment.

Lunch & Learn Sessions

Lunch and learn sessions are common in large corporations. Often used as a means to minimise downtime, and maximise employee engagement.

Now, if you’re a small business or solo operator you won’t have this luxury BUT… a group lunch and learn for others in the same boat is not too hard to organise.

We know because we’ve facilitated quite a few over the years.  Topics are always varied so attendees choose which they are interested in.

The objective is always that participants leave having learnt something of value – not just had a great lunch.

Scheduling

The key to successfully maximising your lunchtime and being able to get away all comes down to scheduling.

Consider it an important appointment with a very important person. Yes, that’s you!

If you are struggling to get started with this habit, begin with a day a week, and gradually increase it over a period of a month.

Once you start consciously working on maximising your time, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes. More importantly, the benefits that you gain are invaluable.

Speaking from a personal perspective – my lunchtime habits are one of the ways that I have been able to keep sane during challenging times. As an added bonus they’ve also brought Dragon Sisters new business connections.

Fly like a dragonFly like a dragon!

Michelle

PS – let me know in the comments how you spend your lunchtimes – I’m always curious 🙂

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING – UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS

Social media marketing is here to stay.

Yes, it can be a moving feast of pixels, insights, reach, engagement and algorithms.

BUT…before you even start to think about those, there are a few basics to get a handle on.

Talking basics

It is very important to understand that marketing is not the same as sales.

Generating on the spot sales is not what marketing is about. It is very rare that a sale will come from a cold audience.

When you are engaged in marketing you are actively building the know, like and trust factor with your audience. You are keeping your name out there and in front of mind.

Social media marketing is huge. There are so many channels to choose from. You do not need to be on all channels.

Do one and do it right. You can always add others later.

The key is to choose the ones that are right for your business. The one where your audience is likely to be hanging out. It’s the place to build the relationship and get your name known.

Often times these people may not buy from you but end up referring others to your business.

The key focus is on building your audience.

It’s about creating a relationship.

Facebook is the biggest platform and that’s why we always recommend it as the best place to start.

Your 5 Essentials

Social media marketing is a changing landscape, but there are five key steps you need to take to make sure you are “dressed” for business.

In the online world this means:

1) A good clear profile picture/logo

If using a photo of yourself, remember it does not necessarily have to be studio shot but it does need to be clear and recognisable.

This means no hiding behind sunnies or under a big hat.

If you can afford a professional headshot – get one done!

2) Link your personal page to your business

This is important because if you interact in a group you are interacting as yourself when you make comments.

If folks are curious about you, they click your profile to learn more. Naturally, you want it to lead them to your business page. Check out the video clip on why here.

3) Join groups where your target audience hangs out

These can be really great sources of market research. Watch, listen and get a feel for what is happening.

Be helpful without the expectation of gaining anything.

Be interested in what others have to say – like and comment as appropriate.

Remember, social media marketing is not about what you have to sell.

4) Be consistent

It’s a crowded marketplace so consistency is key.

This means showing up regularly. Not just on your own page but visiting others too.

5) Interact

When people visit your page, make sure you interact.

If they leave a review make sure you thank them.

If they’ve left a comment, at the very least like that comment. Even better respond! After all, that’s what you’d do in a face to face encounter.

Let me know in the comments if you found these tips helpful.

Fly like a dragon!Fly like a dragon

Michelle

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CHANGES = NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Changes are part and parcel of all our lives. From the day we arrive in this world, change is inevitable. We are constantly changing as we grow. Learning. Evolving. This goes on for our entire lives.

Being in business it’s exactly the same. Periods of growth and evolution. Changing is not unusual. Adapting to meet the demands of the marketplace and the needs of clients.

Sometimes changes are planned…other times they are thrust upon us by circumstances.

I’m currently finding myself in one of those “thrust upon you” changes. Not planned but something that has to be dealt with.

My ageing parents (almost 80 and 90) mean that I now need to be physically close to them. I have a lead role to play in helping care for them in their own home.

And you know what? I welcome the role.

They have taken care of me for my entire life, stood by me and seen me through ups, downs and bumps in the journey of life.

It is my turn to give back. To be close by. At hand to help as needed without being asked. It’s what our family does.

But of course this does have a massive impact on my business; big changes need to happen.

Changes needing to be managed

I’ve travelled my entire life. It’s never been a big deal for me to hop on a plane to meet clients, or to take Skype calls across time zones at weird hours.

BUT…that cannot continue…at least not for the immediate future.

So what does it mean for my business?

It means lots of juggling and in a nutshell, a bit of a restructuring.

I’ve spent many hours mulling everything over and thinking about what is possible in these new circumstances.

Challenges are actually opportunities…to explore other ways of doing things.

Opportunities

Opportunities come in many guises if we are open and receptive.

No point in looking at a door that is closed. Instead, it’s important to search for openings that lie ahead.

The result for me is:

1) Moving further into the online market.

What I have done for the last 10 years is help businesses move ahead by helping them to learn HOW to tackle challenges that prevent them from moving forward.

This can be done online; it actually works out a lot cheaper than having me on the spot. It makes my services more affordable and is actually a win/win.

Below are some of the things now available via online teaching:

  • Identifying your Unique Selling Point
  • Creating a Strategic Plan for your business
  • Elevating your brand profile without being ‘salesy’
  • Building a marketing/sales funnel
  • Understanding the power of social media and harnessing it to help your business
  • The key steps to take to CLOSE a sale without coming across as pushy

I am still here to answer the questions, but there is a component delivered via online modules.

Benefits

Way cheaper for a start!

Access to the modules at a time that works for you.

Queries are answered through weekly online sessions and via a private Facebook group. It’s not quite as instantaneous as one on one but the cost benefits make our services more affordable to many.

2) Less Travel

I can’t just hop on a plane to fly overseas or around Australia. Bookings for my in-person presence need to be scheduled well in advance.

3) Increasing the Writing Bureau output

Ghostwriting, grant writing, sponsorship proposals and of course our favourite area…

…supporting authors taking them from the idea stages to the finished and marketed product.

Never widely promoted previously, this is an area that has been steadily growing since Sasha joined the team; we’ll be ramping it up further.

Coping with changes

Coping capacities are determined by mindset and attitude. Being individuals means we each react in different ways, but being in business means it’s important to be proactive.

I’m getting feedback that I must be Wonder Woman, being able to put together business proposals, deliver workshops and also deal with current family circumstances. I’m no such thing – although it is flattering 🙂

The reality is simply this – learning to be resilient and excellent time management. It’s a skill I’ve picked up over many years.

I’ve also learnt that when you are open and using a smarketing mindset, there is always an opportunity.

The opportunity often means adapting to what circumstances present themselves. Looking forward…not backward. Being grateful for what you have.

I’m extremely grateful to still have my parents.

If you’d like to help me with this next phase of my business I would love you to get in touch or recommend me to anyone who’d benefit from my new model of service.

Fly like a dragonFly like a dragon

Michelle

CREATING BUSINESS GROWTH

Creating business growth is essential to the survival and success of your business.

If you’re one of those lucky ones who always has more than enough – well done! You don’t need to read any further…unless you’re just curious.

Creating business growth is something that has to be something you consciously work on. Not an afterthought. A regular part of your business life.

It all starts with developing a specific mindset. A smarketing mindset.

The smarketing mindset encompasses sales, strategy and marketing rolled into a system that becomes a part of how you work, and everything that you do.

Smarketing = Business Growth

Smarketing is all about knowing how to recognise, create and maximise opportunities that present themselves to you each and every day.

Problem is, more often than not, you may not recognise the opportunity.

You are not alone!

Smarketing is a mindset that is all about creating business growth.

The good news is that developing a smarketing mindset is not hard…if you really want to learn.

The starting point

It all starts with knowing exactly WHO your audience is.

If you want to grow your business you need to know who you are serving.

Ask yourself these three questions:

1. “Who is my message important to?”
2. “How will it add value to their lives?”
3. “Will it help solve a problem they are facing?

Once you know the answer to these questions, you’ll be able to more effectively communicate to the right audience for your business.

A targetted approach is far more effective than a random splatter of information.

Why? Because it is deliberately aimed at a particular group.

Ongoing learning

Smarketers are always open to feedback, have a willingness to keep digging deep, to tweaking and measuring results. When you’re smarketing you are always learning.

This can be challenging but it’s also very rewarding because once you nail it, the results speak volumes.

Measuring ROI, lead generation, industry, countries, client feedback, sources and a whole bunch more is all a part of smarketing.

Not only is gaining feedback an interesting exercise from an information perspective, but it’s essential to the survival and growth of your business.

Smarketing, is a combination of strategy, sales and marketing – it is part of the formula to famine proofing your business.

Not sure where to start?

It can be daunting when there are so many balls to juggle. The list of things to do is never ending but…STOP.

MAKE time…take time to discover what will work best for your business.

Fly like a dragon

Michelle

PS – Check out my FREE guide to help you build your LinkedIn Profile


Strategic Planning = Achieving Your Goals

Strategic Planning is most often associated with a business.

Yet, if you stop and think about it… when you need to reach personal goals, it becomes so much easier with planning.

Strategic (adjective) as identified by the Oxford dictionary is defined as – Relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.

Putting time and thought into how we go about achieving both business and personal goals is equally important. Yet this is not something very many of us tend to do. At least not consciously.

For the most part, we often don’t think of our personal lives in terms of strategic planning. Yet strategy really does play a huge part in each of our lives.

Achieving Outcomes

If you want to achieve a certain outcome then you need to have a very measured approach.

A pathway. A series of stepping stones that take you forward towards your goals.

Without that pathway. The map. The strategy. Life tends to just wander along in a leisurely (or perhaps chaotic) fashion.

There is no firm direction.

Without strategic direction, there is less chance of achievement and satisfaction.

Strategic planning is all about aiming for what is right for YOU and for your business.

You are unique and your plans will be different from mine – but there is a commonality to all plans…

Strategic Direction

As we move along with our business/life/career we each NEED to know the direction we are heading in and WHERE we want to end up.

Why? Because without clear goals it is impossible to tell if we have actually achieved our goals and arrived where we want to be.

Naturally, goals can and often do change as we move through life. That’s part and parcel of business growth and life in general.

So many times I speak to women who have achieved an enormous amount in their lives and yet still feel a sense of lacking.

A sense of lacking

The sense of lacking can often be as a result of lack of clarity. The clarity is missing because there is no clearly defined goal.

Goals are not set and so there is the constant sense of needing to strive for more because it’s never clear that the destination has been reached.

Think about it… we experience the truest sense of achievement when we know we have actually got something we were aiming for.

In my own life, I have received lots of accolades, but these did not really provide that sense of achievement. Other people may have defined these as achievements, and yes, in a way they are right.

BUT …because these were never my goals I did not gain the sense of having “arrived” anywhere. It was a bonus to be recognised for a job well done. It was never a goal to achieve personal recognition.

Personal achievement

For me – one of my most recent biggest senses of achievement came when I was able to spend a year living and working in Europe.

It had been a goal I had for many years.

Planning out how this could be possible without enough language skills to operate at a corporate or community business level and still earn enough money to live on was a challenge. A big challenge!

I made it a reality by putting together a 4-year strategic plan that would get me there. The plan involved ticking off each of the steps one at a time.

Small goals. Bit by bit.

The result was achieving my “sabbatical” year in Spain.

Fly like a Dragon Fly like a dragon

Michelle

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Changing things up…for business growth

Business growth means changing things up.

But change is not a natural state. It’s something that often brings resistance.

Our natural state is to want to stay within our comfort zones. It’s what we know, it’s usually predictable. We’re not taking any risks and it’s…

Boring!

Comfortable

There is comfort in waking up each day knowing exactly what you are going to do.

It’s nice knowing what’s going to unfold. How the day will play out. No hidden surprises.

You know what you’re going to be facing when you step into your office/business. You can handle whatever the day is going to be throwing your way. Sure there may be a few little waves of disruption, but that’s okay…you can handle it.

This kind of comfort comes from the familiarity of a set routine.

It’s mundane and certainly not a challenge. It is not an atmosphere for growth!

Challenge

Facing challenges makes you grow, develop new skills and expand your horizons.

I know from personal experience that it is during the times when I’ve been facing the biggest challenges that I’ve really grown.

One of the biggest challenges I ever faced and that had a huge impact on my future business pathway was…speaking in public.

I was always the one in the background. I was happy doing research, speaking to people one on one, writing speeches etc.

I had the wordsmith gift but I was missing an essential ingredient… the confidence to stand up in front of a live crowd. TV and radio were okay because the audience was not actually right there. Not sitting right where I could see them.

For many years I was able to coast along and avoid public speaking.

However, this all changed in 2004. I won the Telstra Business Woman of the Year (NT) Award. Part of the expectation was that I would be willing to speak in public.

It frightened the daylights out of me…

Embracing the Challenge

I listened to experts on how best to tackle the problem of overcoming nerves and what a good speaker needed to do. Tell a joke, warm the crowd up etc and so on went the advice.

I am not a natural at telling a joke. I’m hopeless and forget the punch lines every time, so no way was that going to work for me. I also tried (in the privacy of my home) practising a bunch of other techniques.

The very best advice I got was from a very unlikely quarter.

It came from Veronica Macauley Cross (dec). She was the Queensland representative for BCNA at the same time as myself. Her advice was simply this…be yourself, and don’t ever let anyone try to tell you that catch in your voice needs to go. It’s the emotion that you convey that makes you such a powerful speaker.

It was also empowering to know that people genuinely wanted to hear what I had to share. Veronica passed away in 2007 (she was living with advanced breast cancer from the first day I met her) but I vividly remember Veronica and the very solid advice she gave me.

I changed things up by becoming a (reluctant) speaker because the business needed me to do so. The message needed sharing and there was an eager audience spanning the globe who were all waiting to hear what I had to share.

Business Growth

My work as a breast cancer advocate and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia was definitely business. The business was promoting awareness of breast cancer.

A business can only grow when you are willing to embrace change.

You need to have systems in place. Without systems, it’s a struggle to keep the performance level high – it’s also impossible to effectively grow.

No matter what kind of business you have – regardless of whether it is for or not for profit it is absolutely essential that you are willing and able to embrace change.

Change = Opportunity. Opportunity = growth.

It often means stepping right outside your comfort zone.

The challenge is being willing to step out, to step up and to make changes. To learn. To adapt. To release a little control through automating, delegating and outsourcing… so you can achieve your business goals.

It’s often just a few small tweaks to the way you’re doing business that can make a huge difference in your results.

It can be tough to work out what you need. But, it’s definitely worth spending time on.

If you are not sure where to start and need some help figuring it out…reach out to us...you’ll soon be creating and maximising opportunities to take you to the next level. Promise! Don’t take our word for it…check out what others have to say.

Fly like a dragon!

Michelle