Commonsense Entrepreneur

July 21, 2009

Direction Needs Motion

Filed under: entrepreneurship — Tags: , , , , — Joel D Canfield @ 7:03 pm

Seems like a lot of folks are looking for a new direction these days. More and more unintentional entrepreneurs are trying to find their way through an ocean of choices. Too many choices, though, can be worse than too few. Faced with, apparently, an infinite variety of options for the future, paralysis sets in; our hero or heroine feels rudderless, trying to decide which direction to go.

But it’s not a rudder they’re missing. It’s motion.

A sailboat is a fine thing, even sitting at the dock. But sitting at docks is not what they’re designed for; they’re designed to use the wind to push against the waves and, between the two opposing forces, create forward motion.

And now, once the sailboat is under way, the rudder starts working.

You can sit at the dock ’til the cowfish come home, swinging the rudder from side to side, and you’ll never find direction. It’s only in movement that we can measure our progress against any kind of standards to see if we’re heading somewhere we want to go.

Feeling rudderless? Get away from the dock. Head, first, into the safety of a nearby harbor. Check out your rigging and stock the galley with supplies. Do what you reasonably can to prepare for the journey.

And then go. ‘Away from the dock’ is automatically ‘toward something new.’ Keep one eye on the compass to see where you’re heading, and one on the horizon, to see where you want to go.

And now, now that you’re moving, you’ll find direction.

July 20, 2009

Warning: the Following is Geek Stuff That Only Applies to Skype Users

Filed under: technology — Tags: , , , — Joel D Canfield @ 5:45 pm

I’m testing the Pamela Call Recording tool for my new Skype account. Problem is, I get an error every time I try to start it. The error says, more or less, this:

Unable to initialize Skype connection library, or Skype is not running

I found an answer at the Skype fora (isn’t that the plural of ‘forum’ ? No? Oh; okay) but it had errors in it. I posted my comments, which you can read right here if you log in with your Skype account: http://forum.skype.com/index.php?showtopic=352421&st=0&p=1756661&#entry1756661

The short version is, if you’re comfortable with this arcane command, it should fix it:

regsvr32.exe "C:\Program Files\Common Files\Skype\Skype4COM.dll"

July 16, 2009

The Magic Apology Trick

Filed under: Communication — Tags: , , , , — Joel D Canfield @ 5:26 pm

Having a lively conversation on Twitter a few days ago about exactly when the rock group Genesis was ‘pre Phil Collins.’ Collins joined the group in 1970, but the personality of the group was still determined by lead vocalist and primary songwriter Peter Gabriel. Collins did do some lead vocals during the 70-75 ‘Gabriel’ era, and took over entirely when Peter left. None of that is important, nor is it business-related. What happened next is both.

When the conversation reached this juncture, the other person wrote something about ‘wasting time in a silly argument about a band.’ Clearly, they hadn’t been having ‘a lively conversation’ but an argument. (Oblique lesson: remember, kids, that email, IM, Twitter, any written communication, reads much flatter than you meant; plain simple statements, without the warmth of a facial expression and tone of voice, can sound harsh and obnoxious.)

At this point, the right thing is to apologize for giving offense.

That’s not enough. It’s the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough. An apology might alleviate further damage, but rarely does what we’d like as far as cleaning up the mess.

Wouldn’t it be nice, instead of simply stopping the negative flow, to create a positive direction in the relationship? Here’s how: make the apology excessive. Make it a big, passionate, almost over-the-top plea for forgiveness. Now, it’s important that your motives are good, or this will come out sounding like sarcasm. But if you really feel passionately about reconnecting with someone, soothing hurt feelings, a sincere but excessive apology creates a sort of yo-yo of emotional energy; the other person actually feels compelled, now, to comfort you! They will almost inevitably apologize back, actively looking for a way to reconnect with you—which is what we wanted, right?

Here’s the bonus tip: if someone’s perturbed, and taking it out on you even though it’s obviously not your fault, apologize. Same trick, same results. In this case, any apology is excessive. “I’m really sorry about the traffic today; I can imagine how frustrating that was.” Emotional yo-yo again.

An apology where unwarranted, or excessive where warranted. Magic trick to smooth ruffled feathers and take the smoke and sting out of a conversation and let you get back to business.

July 14, 2009

Misguided Carrots

Filed under: employees, humanising business — Tags: , , , — Joel D Canfield @ 5:43 pm

What's up, doc?

It’s nice that businesses are grasping the concept of less stick, more carrot. Of course, if the person you’re rewarding is a carnivore, they’re not going to see the carrot as recognition; they’re going to see it as yet more evidence that you don’t know them, or don’t care about them.

I had an employer who, to reward me for my efforts, announced at a company meeting that he was buying me a car. Impressive, eh?

Well, sort of.

What they did was picked out a vehicle, let me register it in my name, and made the monthly payment. Nice vehicle, but it was red. Without a doubt my least favorite car color. Honestly, I would prefer little-girl pink to red. Oh; and when I quit the job about a year later, I took over the payment, of course. So, in reality, it was a $200/month raise, not a new car.

Now, it wasn’t a total wash. I did need a more dependable vehicle, and it was a small truck, like I already drove.

But it wasn’t the recognition I wanted. What I wanted was, well, recognition. Sincere notice for my ingenuity and willingness to get the job done. What I got was a public announcement which made the boss look like a hero, and made it critical that I act enormously grateful since I’d obviously been rewarded beyond what I deserved. Nobody else knew that they hadn’t paid cash and handed me the pink slip, which is the clear impression I got when the announcement was made. (See my article on how nobody likes surprises . . . )

A little discreet inquiry would have uncovered the fact that what I really needed was a few bucks to fix up the old truck I loved, and what I really wanted was appreciation.

July 13, 2009

The Selfish Sore-Thumb Thief

Filed under: humanising business — Tags: , , , , , — Joel D Canfield @ 5:24 pm

Some time back we had a houseful of friends over to play music, eat, drink, and talk. Now, in this context, when I say ‘friends’ I don’t mean ‘other human beings who happen to fall within my sphere of attention.’ I mean people I’d trust to babysit my little girl. Friends.

All but one.

Two of the younger friends made a bad judgment call and invited someone who wasn’t my friend; who, in fact, was barely known to them. But my trust in them extended, initially, to this other person.

Cut to James, the oldest offspring living at home, coming home from the bank with a wallet full of money he’d taken out to buy a motorcycle later that day. Fortunately he took all the hundred-dollar bills out to put somewhere safe, leaving only $16 in his wallet on the desk in our home office. Yes, right there in the open, because these folks are friends.

Later in the day, the three young folks went out to pick something up from the store. While they were gone, James noticed that his wallet wasn’t where he left it. Neither was the money; the wallet was empty.

In a house full of people I’d trust with my life, plus one total stranger, the thief stuck out like a sore thumb. He didn’t admit it, but he also didn’t act very indignant when I called him a slimy thief in front of his friends (who were appropriately shocked and apologetic about the whole thing.)

Which brings us to the fairly unselfish and giving nature of the Twitterverse.

It still surprises me that folks will re-Tweet something just because you ask. If you’re fairly polite and generally unselfish, other Twitterers respond in kind. Twitter is taking on an aura of unselfishness I intend to encourage.

So, then, when someone behaves selfishly, sending a dozen tweets in a minute yelling at you to buy their life-saving business service, they, too, stand out like a sore thumb.

Tweet responsibly. Hey, how about being unselfish and kind in all your social networking? Imagine, in a very “Alice’s Restaurant” way, if nearly all of us used social networking to create a kinder, gentler form of business? Perhaps those selfish sore-thumb thieves would go away and leave us alone.

It’s worth a try.

(i) Megan Elizabeth Morris, that idea blueprint girl (@worldmegan in the Twitterverse) who showed today, once again, her massive unselfishness with ideas.

May 25, 2009

The Ever-Moving Target

Goals are rarely set in stone. What’s important, even vital, for your business today, isn’t necessarily so tomorrow, and almost certainly won’t be next year. We have to achieve the paradox of investing mentally, physically and emotionally in a goal as if it were eternal, while recognizing that it may cease to have value, even before it’s fully achieved, but will most certainly stop being a goal once it’s achieved—after all, it makes no sense to chase something you’re holding in your hand.

I’ve been in the chaos between two Sigmoid curves lately. My consulting, speaking and coaching business was originally called ‘The Commonsense Entrepreneur’, which is also the name of my first full-length business book. Lately, though, that name has come to mean the book, specifically, and not necessarily the business.

My speaking gigs and my coaching have leaned more and more toward two things: building a business based on the trust that comes from communication that’s more human, and being a career renegade; making a great living doing what you love.

Those aren’t best conveyed by the phrase ‘commonsense entrepreneur’ so I’m changing that.

For now, ‘The Commonsense Entrepreneur’ is the book and its accompanying website. My business is me; Joel D Canfield. (If it doesn’t have the ‘D’ it isn’t really me, and you might note the lack of a period after the middle initial.) Until a brilliant new name strikes me, I’ll be presenting myself as author, speaker and business mentor Joel D Canfield, co-founder of the Northern California Association of Entrepreneurs.

What are you changing today?

May 14, 2009

Don’t Depend on Your Memory

Filed under: Communication, entrepreneurship — Tags: , , , , — Joel D Canfield @ 5:26 pm

There’s a marvelous tool that will help you free up mental energy, while ensuring that you’ll remember important ideas, facts, and feelings.

It’s a notebook.

I’ve spent an hour this morning trying to remember the details of a conversation I had with a client, so I can write an outline for our next coaching session. I feel like I’m not providing the real value I want to deliver when I can’t get back in the emotional moment that sparked a very clear picture of our next chat; our direction for the next session.

Thing is, I really was taking notes—but on what my client was saying, not on what I was saying. I mean, I’ll remember my own words, right?

As a matter of fact, no; I don’t.

I’m planning on recording these calls, strictly so I can go back and review what was said and how it was said, to recapture the emotional impact. My benefit comes from changing how people feel based on what they think about, not just sharing facts for them to sort out in their own head.

My dad never went anywhere without a little thirty-nine cent notebook in his shirt pocket (he write in it with a fountain pen, in green ink—but that’s another story.) When he needed to remember something, he just wrote it down. Not only did he actually remember things later (reviewing the notes) but his mind was free to concentrate on the moment instead of spending part of its energy remembering the three simple little things he needed to remember—they were in the notebook, not his head.

May 11, 2009

A Lesson Re-Learned—Nobody Likes Surprises

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joel D Canfield @ 10:58 pm

I have mentioned that, after the age of three, no one likes surprises. If you forget that, as I did earlier this week, the results can be painful.

A reader commented on one of my strongly-worded blog posts. They disagreed vehemently. I was not surprised.

What surprised me was the offline contact from the reader who explained why they took the subject so seriously; it was something they were facing in a very real way, right now.

What followed was a 5,000-word email conversation about the issue, which finally ended in complete agreement with my original post.

Here’s where the ‘learning experience’ happens.

Re-reading the 10 pages of conversation I realized that this was information nearly anyone could benefit from. I asked if, perhaps, I could share an anonymised version of the conversation with others.

The answer was a horrified emphatic ‘no!’

I realized after some thought that I had changed contexts; from a private conversation to a public forum. No, nothing had really changed, and I certainly hadn’t shared anything with anyone. But simply asking the question was unexpected; the surprise we’re supposed to be avoiding.

Don’t go around surprising people. It doesn’t work.

April 30, 2009

There’s No Such Thing as Work/Life Balance (or, Why Business is Not About Money)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joel D Canfield @ 7:05 pm

Two themes come up frequently in my conversations with and reading about other entrepreneurs—work/life balance, and ‘the bottom line.’

The first doesn’t exist, and the second is not why you’re in business.

If you’re in business for the right reasons, you love what you do; it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. Of course you love your family; of course you have other interests besides work. No respectable person puts work ahead of family; no reasonable person only has one interest, to the exclusion of all others.

But you’d better love what you’re doing, especially if you’re self-employed. Honestly, why would you hire yourself to do a job you don’t like?

tightrope1So, let’s assume that your work is just another manifestation of your passion.

Do you really expect to take it off and put it on like a sweater? And what does it have to do with money?

Sometimes I work late into the night, missing some family time because I’m in the zone. Sometimes. But, just as often; more often, actually, I take time in the middle of a ‘business day’ to spend time with my wife, my daughters, my friends. I take time, right in the middle of the week, away from work and the office, to share in spiritual activities with my family. I stop work at 4:00 most days to work on an album of jazz songs I’m writing with my older daughter; then, I go back to what I was doing. Or, I don’t. I keep my goals loose and flexible where possible, so I can decide how to spend my time.

Work/life balance means being balanced in my own head, not balanced on a clock or calendar.

And money? C’mon; I’d do 90% of what I’m doing right now, even if I had enough money to retire. I love writing. I love coaching solo professionals, writers, musicians, helping them communicate with their prospects and fans better to establish trust and build relationships. I love my web business; sorting out what’s needed, designing tools, doing usability studies, helping clients build what they really need instead of what they think they need. (Okay, if I really had money, I’d offload the coding to someone more talented than me.)

I love to barter. If someone has a skill I can benefit from, and they need something I can do, I want to work with them. What I don’t want is to turn our genuine human caring into a commercial enterprise. Fer cryin’ out loud; the whole point of my consulting business and my writing is to do exactly the opposite, to get businesses to be more human, to stop behaving like abstract entities with no soul, and start speaking and trusting and caring like real human beings do.

Work/life balance is how you choose to serve yourself and the ones you love, every minute of every day; choices about the long run, not the moment.

And, in the long run, it’s not about money. Not ever.

April 23, 2009

Genuine. Artificial. Know the Difference.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joel D Canfield @ 5:35 pm

There’s a particular orchid which creates a remarkable product.

One flower produces one fruit. No mass production.

The flower lasts about one day, sometimes less, and so, growers have to inspect their plantations every day for open flowers, a labor-intensive task.

Like other orchids’ seeds, its  seeds will not germinate without the presence of a certain fungus. In nature, it’s a rare occurrence, which is why orchids aren’t on every kitchen counter.

Each flower must be hand-pollinated within 12 hours of opening.

It takes the fruits 5 to 6 weeks to develop but it takes around 9 months for it to mature.

Each ripens at its own time, requiring a daily harvest. To ensure the finest flavor each fruit must be picked by hand just as it begins to split on the end.

It is the second most expensive spice in the world, after saffron.

So why has the word ‘vanilla’ come to mean bland, boring, the brainless default option?

Imitation vanilla has given us all a bad impression of real vanilla. Have some good quality vanilla bean ice cream tonight; taste it like a fine wine, and see if genuine doesn’t, in fact, beat artificial.

Oh, and while you’re eating it, consider what that means in your marketing and your business.

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