Business Essentials: Know Your Value!

Know your value The Story

I’d like to share with you a quick story about your business and why you need to know your value.  It is my hope that by reading this, you may be more willing to understand and demand what you are worth.

A colleague and I were sitting down with a potential client not long ago.  This person had heard that we had recently written a book and wanted our help in writing one.  Of course, we are happy to help people to write a book, but we also consider it a service to the client to ensure that what we do is actually going to benefit the client.  In accordance with good practice, we had a long conversation to try and isolate the desired outcomes for the planned book project.

After some discussion, we began to realize that the client has developed a highly specialized skill set in a very close knit industry.  There are generally only a few dozen practitioners of this particular service.  The client’s boss had carefully crafted a set of processes that could be employed for tremendous value in uncommon but critical moments.  The boss was widely known and respected and, consequently, had great demands upon his time.  Our prospective client had approached the boss about capturing these skills in a book.  The boss had indicated that the idea had merit, but indicated that due to the demands on his time, he couldn’t write the book himself, and he challenged our prospective client to write the book.

And that is how we came to have this conversation.  Our client wanted to create a book describing how the firm did what they did.  It was at this point that my colleague and I both started recognizing some real concerns about the business case for the book project.  We found it unwise to provide detailed descriptions of the “secret sauce” of their corporate expertise.  I was trying to draw the client’s attention to the value proposition of book idea.  In any business, it is important to know your value.  But after raising our concerns, our client didn’t seem to understand the basis of our concerns.

Undeterred, I tried to illustrate our concern in the following way:

I asked, “How long has your boss been performing this service?”

“Ten years.”

I then asked for the boss’s hourly rate.

“$175 an hour.”

“So, assuming a conservative workload of 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, we can estimate your boss works at least 2000 hours a year.  He’s been doing this for 10 years and at an hourly rate of $175 an hour, this means that your boss’s experience and expertise could be fairly valued at least $3.5 million dollars—and here you want to give away that much value for the cost of a paperback.

After that comment, our client’s face looked confused—struggling to grasp the significance of the comment.

I continued, “Listen, I think it is a great thing that you want to pass on useful and specialized skills to others in your industry.  It’s obvious that this will benefit them.  All we’re saying that it should work for you, too.  Don’t you think that the value you offer is worth more than the cost of a book?”  We then went on to talk about creating educational content for participants at a more favorable price point.

Takeaway

The point of the lesson is that it is vitally important to appropriately value your offering.  Not only is this a function of one’s realization of the economic value of what you have to offer, but also to have the self-esteem necessary to demand appropriate compensation for that value.

I’m Sorry: The Art of the Apology

NOTE: This is the text of a speech I will be delivering to my Toastmasters Club this evening, but I wrote it with all of you in mind.  (SPOILER ALERT for those who would rather hear it first this evening.)

The thoughts expressed below are my own and should be not be seen as representing the thoughts of the Alternative Book Club or its members.

Pain, Fear and Bile

Fellow Toastmasters.  I have honestly struggled with what to say in this this evening.  Never in my adult lifetime have I seen such a need for people to know how to make peace.  This has been a rough week for us all, but I’ve been tortured what I have seen erupt between people I care for over the course of the past seven days.  This week has laid bare the deep emotional wounds of people all across this nation.  From the streets of Baltimore to the hills of West Virginia, from the maelstrom of the college campus in Oregon to the dark and deserted factory floor in Michigan, people are hurting.  The pain out there is palpable.  Fear is all over my Facebook feed.  There is bile between my best of friends.

If there is anything that Toastmasters has taught me, it’s that, words are powerful.  And few things are more powerful than the words that bring about healing and reconciliation.

Healing and Reconciliation

One of the things my chapter talks about is the concept of unfinished business—those raw emotional wounds that we have yet to heal with our brothers.  Sadly, I think much of the unfinished business in our nation cannot achieve closure, because the truly evil perpetrators of American atrocities have long since passed away.  Whether it is the abomination of slavery, the brutality of manifest destiny, the waging of war upon our own citizens, the United States, like every nation, has dark elements of its history.

There simply is no way for the villains of the past to apologize for the crimes perpetrated against others.  There will be no closure, no healing, no reconciliation.  That chance for redemption is past.  But, another item I talk about in my chapter is the concept of apologizing on behalf of who you represent and apologize to the extent of your responsibility.  So I ask that you allow me to do that.  To black Americans, on behalf of my country, which once gave legitimacy of holding people in bondage and subsequently treated them brutally, I’m sorry.  To my native American brothers, I’m sorry for the lack of trustworthiness and brutality that my government has shown you over more than two centuries.  To my friends in the LGBTQ community, I’m sorry for the centuries of shame and silence that you have had to endure.  To my lady friends, on behalf of the line of men going back millennia, I’m sorry it took so long to fully integrate you in public life.

Monsters of Today and Yesteryear

As I’ve said, I teach in my chapter that it is important to apologize up to the extent of your responsibility, but no further.  I acknowledge the sins of my ancestors, but I do not accept the guilt of their crimes.  Their sins are not my sins.  People who pretend that they are will invite backlash, as we have seen.  Today’s monsters should be rightfully condemned and I join with you in their condemnation.  However, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the reason we recognize monsters for what they are is because they are so rare, and that’s a very comforting thought.

Problems

Our politicians and our pundits like to talk about issues—women’s issues, minority issues, class issues.  In this petty bickering about who’s issues need to be addressed and in what order, it’s easy to forget that we all have challenges and that we will continue to fail to come together to face those challenges if we don’t take the time to listen to each other or pretend that “their problems” aren’t really problems.  I admit that I have not been subjected to frequent harassment from neighbors, but I have been in places that had me looking over my shoulder and I have been physically attacked on neighborhood streets.  I admit that I’ve never been pulled over for “driving while black”, but I have been pulled over for “driving while young and male,” which is also a thing.  I admit that I haven’t been the victim of systemic racial inequality or sexism, but I have been in interviews, where it was clear that my race and sex were a dis-qualifier for the position I was seeking.  Twenty years ago, in a world history class, a large majority of students chose to give oral reports on the patriarchy and systemic misogyny.  No one seemed concerned when I said I was dropping the class “because of the irony”.  The environment for people who look like me on many college campuses is more hostile than 20 years ago. I’ve been victim of a layoff 4 times.  I’ve had to deal with times of personal trial.  I’ve had to deal with personal loss that no decent person in the world should ever have to.  Yet, the message from many out there is that the problems of people who look like me aren’t real.   And that is unfortunate.

I share these stories, not because I want to gain sympathy points with you, but rather to engage with you, to show that I can empathize with you, and to perhaps break bread with you as we discover ways to tackle the challenges that plague us both.  The sooner we discover that our interests are much closer than many of us expect or others want us to believe, the better.

A Better Future

I’ll close with a bit of foreshadowing.  In our next collaboration, a key part of my chapter will be centered on the topic of optimism.  No matter if you liked or disliked the outcome of last Tuesday’s election, we all should be happy that we live in the times that we do.  Despite hysterical claims to the contrary, we don’t live in the 1860s, 1930s, or the 1960s, we are blessed to be living in the 20-teens.  Not that we don’t still have some deep problems that need to be addressed, but we should look back and see how far we have come.  Look at the faces in this room!  Just in the past few months, we’ve been able to collaborate on things in ways that would have been unthinkable 100 years ago.  So long as we can continue to do that—to work together despite our differences, physical, philosophical, and ideological, we can still be proud of our nation.

For those of you who are scared or hurting out there, I’m sorry.  But the sun comes out.  Never forget that the good people in this world far outnumber the bad.

For those out there who feel they have been silenced or made to think their problems aren’t real, I’m sorry.  I will continue to do what I can to help you to find your voice and make sure it’s heard.

And for the haters out there who think America’s best days are behind her, I’m sorry, but this nation will continue to surprise and inspire the world, even if the world doesn’t understand the meaning of events in the short term.

This nation is a wonder and I’m happy to be in it.   No apologies.

 

If you are interested in hearing more about The Art of the Apology, you’ll find more in Spotlight on the Art of Grace.

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Spotlight on the Art of Grace has been Released!

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Spotlight on the Art of Grace

This weekend, our new book, Spotlight on the Art of Grace has been released.

The first book issued by the Alternative Book Club is now out and available for purchase from Lulu.com.

By reading, Spotlight on the Art of Grace, you will be moved by powerful stories of personal loss and triumph. You will learn important tips on how to learn, how to mend fences, how to make the world better, and all the while do it with energy and with a smile.

Drawing from the overall category of Grace, the book spans a variety of fascinating topics, from bringing good energy into your interactions, to effectively using humor, to being thankful even when things don’t work out the way you thought, to making effective apologies, to stepping our of your comfort zone, and to being conscientious in the workplace.

Nine of our authors collaborated on this extraordinary collections of stories and life’s lessons.  The book will move you and educate you.  We know you will discover Grace in your life.

We hope you’ll consider checking it out!

Conquering Procrastination: Nothing’s Going to Change

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The Sign I Keep Above My Desk

This is the sign I keep above my desk in my office. It constantly warns me of the dangers of procrastination.

Many of us want to make a change in our lives.  We want to be more successful, improve our relationships, or go after our dreams.  The terrible truth is that willful change is hard.  It is easy to continue to go about one’s routine.  Routine doesn’t put much stress on your mind.  (If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you have ever found yourself getting out of your car at work and you realize that you don’t remember the drive.)

Procrastination

Many of us struggle with procrastination. The biggest separator between the dreamers and the doers may be how one contends with the challenge of procrastination. Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is just showing up.” It’s absolutely true. The challenge of procrastination is so pervasive that the vast majority of people share it. While your procrastination is certainly a challenge you’ll need to overcome to make a difference, be content in the knowledge that since everyone contends with it and so few transcend it, you will find that if you can clear this hurdle, there are far fewer contenders who remain in the game than you think.

“You can mess around all you want, but nothing’s going to change.” Like everyone, I struggle with procrastination. I’m often tempted to jump on facebook, youtube, or consume internet news. My sign reminds me that every second I do that, I am not doing what will empower me to make my life better.

Empower.

I don’t use that word lightly. If you believe, as I do, that procrastination may be the biggest roadblock to success you can face, then success is simply a choice. It is a choice to do the hard thing when you’re tempted not to.

I challenge you to draw up your own sign to prompt you to nip procrastination in the bud. Put it in a prominent place where you have to see it every day. You owe it to yourself to get off the couch and get about the business of delivering yourself the life you want!

When Things Go Wrong: Five Minutes of Terror

crisis, not, low

crisis

When things go wrong. Five Minutes of Terror.

So I had about 5 minutes of pure terror this morning.

I’ve been seeking to add plugins to the WordPress framework upon which this site has been built. The plugins are intended to make better interaction with social media.

As is often the case with software development, generally, the routines that programmers put together do what they are intended to do internally. Most problems occur when bits of code written by one individual have to play nice with bits of code written by others. That is what happened today.

I added a plugin and immediately got an error.  Nervously, I proceeded to try and deactivate the plugin but found that the plugin had created an internal error. It wasn’t possible to deactivate the plugin. In fact, I couldn’t do anything. I was effectively locked out of my own website.

I’ve found that when you get hit in the gut, it’s important to take a moment, collect your thoughts, and think slow. Work the problem. I went to another computer to ensure it wasn’t something at my end. Sure enough the problem was server side. I then made a cup of coffee. I thought about what I should do. Let’s consider the wisdom of others. Google is your friend in such times. After a minute I learned that perhaps a solution would simply to go into the file structure for the site and change the name of the folder for the offending plugin. That way wordpress couldn’t find it and would hopefully as normal.

One of the virtues of the wordpress platform is it’s modular design. Plugins are self-contained in most cases so changes such as these are of lower risk. I made the change and low and behold… I am now typing this blog post on the site with fully restored access.

Whew!

Lessons Learned

There are several good lessons here.

  1. We remember the importance of good design and the separation of concerns. The more cross connected your structures area, whether that be in design or other organizational systems, the more difficult problem solving is.
  2. We further are reminded that it is at the point of connection when systems are usually most vulnerable. That is true for business units just as it is for coding.
  3. When problems emerge, it is important to stay clear headed and maybe to take a step away for a moment to ready yourself for problem solving.
    Work the problem by diagnosing and isolating the issue through testing. It does no good to randomly try “something” and hope things work out.
  4. Finally, try and tap into that vast reservoir of knowledge, wisdom, and experience that exists in the large community. Know that most people will try to help you if you simply ask.

Entrepreneur’s Challenge: I Don’t Feel Comfortable with Self-Promotion

The Challenge of Self-Promotion

Stand out from the crowd

Stand out from the crowd

Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to us.

In general, Americans have a distinctive mentality.  Americans love the underdog story.  The United States’ democratic tradition means that we have a natural predisposition toward egalitarianism and that it is somewhat taboo to set ourselves apart from others.  Humility is a wonderful virtue.

When it comes to marketing and promotion, however, excessive humility becomes detrimental to one’s ability to touch and impact others.  One challenge of new entrepreneurs is to how to resolve the conflict between one’s predilection for humility and one’s need to promote oneself and one’s business.

Of course, there are some people who never struggle with humility (often much to their detriment and to those near them). They have a natural gift for self-promotion and these people don’t have that psychological challenge to overcome.  But many of us are uncomfortable with self-promotion.

We are afraid that we will come off as arrogant or narcissistic.

This concern is completely understandable. But if we are going to be successful in being an effective advocate for the value that we offer, we must find ways to transcend this challenge.

Overcoming Self-Promotion Resistance

Overcoming this challenge, however, isn’t as difficult as we might first think.  It requires a change of perspective.  The key isn’t to promote yourself.  You must promote what you are offering.  More specifically, you must promote the positive outcomes what you provide brings to those who buy it.

I become a fully aligned and integrated advocate for my business when I truly believe in my heart that when people choose to buy from me that I am helping to make people’s lives better by the help I provide to them.  In this vein, self-promotion is benevolence.  I have to believe that when someone buys from me, that it is in their best interest that they do so.  Whether it be through my books, my talks, my educational activities, or my coaching, I believe that what I am providing to others is of great value and that the payment I receive for them is a portion of the value returned to me in appreciation.

Charlatans can sell stuff for their own benefit.  People with integrity can only sell when they know that what they are peddling is worth more than the price being paid.

If you don’t believe that, then you either should work more on improving your products or you need to have an honest conversation with yourself about your self-esteem.  The challenge of self-esteem is itself a challenge and will be the subject of a future post.  For now, remember this.  if you believe that what you are sharing with the world has value, then you should not feel guilty or self-conscious about advocating for it.

Be as worthy an advocate for your message as your message deserves.  

Author Challenge: Create Your Author’s Bio!

Author's Bio Hello Authors!  As we all know, we must prepare our One-Sheets.  In addition, we need to work on individual author’s bio for promotional efforts.  As discussed in the article referenced below, authors should have several versions of their author’s bio, depending upon their use.  Each of us will need to prepare a long form, a medium length, and brief biography.

How to Write a Killer Author Bio

How to Write a Killer Author’s Bio

You also may want to create a slightly different author’s bio for the different audiences you plan to touch.  Like all communication, always start from the point-of-view of the audience and emphasize the aspects of you that are most likely to resonate with them.

Of course, all of this takes time, but you’ll find that if you can build the long form first, it’s easier to select the highest priority information for the more concise versions.  Like all marketing material, in general, the effort is an up-front price, but once paid, it’s much easier to maintain and tweak rather than create outright.

I challenge each of you to write your long form bio this week.  The author’s bio from Spotlight on the Art of Grace should serve as a good basis from which to build.  Now incorporate the information from the article!

I’m working on my bios over the next couple of days.  I’ll share them as I complete them.  Your feedback would be appreciated.  When you post yours, I will also provide you feedback.

If you are willing to commit to this, reply to this post with a comment stating your commitment–not to me or us, but to yourself!  Then post another comment when you meet the commitment!

Marketing is finding more people to help.  Good hunting! 

Spotlight on the Art of Grace is Now an eBook!

Update:

Spotlight on the Art of Grace is now a published eBook!spotlight-on-the-art-of-grace

I’ve just adapted our book to a eBook format.  This format works for Ipad, NOOK, and other eReaders, with the exception of Amazon Kindle.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/nick-wolff-and-christine-jones-and-mark-fegan-and-rebecca-fegan/spotlight-on-the-art-of-grace/ebook/product-22883194.html

The next step will be to build Grace on Amazon’s CreateSpace platform so as to release the book on Amazon.

Lessons Learned

Adapting the manuscript to an eBook format is a little tricky.  I’d like to take a moment to share a few of the lessons I took from the process.

  1. No text boxes.  In our original manuscript, I had included text boxes to provide captions for illustrations.  Text boxes are verboten in Lulu’s eBook building tool.I actually chose to copy the illustration and its caption to a picture editing utility to make both the photo and the caption a single .jpg image.
  2. Table of Contents.  eBooks are unique in that the a table of contents serves as a navigation tool for the work.  I had to remove the Table of Contents from the original manuscript. At the same time, I needed to retain the Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 styles.  These styles were used to populate the Table of Contents created by the eBook conversion tool.
  3. New ISBN.  Just so it’s clear, every format of the book requires a different ISBN.  Fortunately, both Lulu and Createspace provide ISBN’s for free and in real time.  Those ISBNs are tied to Amazon and Lulu, but since authors can simply republish under a differing free ISBN, there is no penalty, particularly for the first time author.

I am excited about taking another step down the road to success. I’m glad to share the journey with you!

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