Monthly Archives: September 2014

Even though I started to prepare the steps needed for launching my business back in 2010 it still took me about two years until I dared to jump ship and leave my well-paid manager job at a large professional services firm and a long-term career in International Human Resources. Quite frankly, my ego was boosted by my work and starting a company you need to have a lot of self-confidence because you might lose everything: Money, status, your partner, sleep and a lot of your beliefs.

What no one tells you when you start out is how long it actually takes to be sustainable. I heard rumors but I did not believe everything. Also, I might have approached my business development from the wrong angle. I am not the cold-calling type and I am not the email marketer. When I look at writers or marketers from the US I see how they offer their services and I know now that I still have a lot to learn.

What I would like to tell you is that you will eventually get rewarded and you will eventually have a better life altogether but you need to be persistent, patient and pragmatic.

What I wish someone had told me in 2012:

1) Prioritize your clients. Use 70% of your time for delivering an outstanding product or excellent service to your clients. 20% of your time you should network with current and future clients, 10% you need to do accounting, marketing and other business development work.

2) Build and maintain your network. In the beginning work with your personal contacts before you start traditional business development.

3) Analyze your niche. Understand your competitors, their products or services and price structures. Define your ideal costumer. Focus on where you stand out.

4) Market, market and market. Spend time and money for Marketing, especially in a professional website. If you have zero money but time start with Social Media. Facebook still creates attention. Know where your ideal clients hang out. It might be LinkedIn, Pinterest or Twitter. Go there.

5) Get the basics right. I know too many business owners who have never made a business plan. If you do not know the meaning of cash flow and break even your work is a hobby not a business. Cash flow is a constant challenge in the first two years so learn to manage your invoices and hire an accountant. >> Work with your business plan.

Angela Weinberger

 

6) Limit your financial risk. Start with a limited financial risk by opening a limited liability company. If you want to sell handmade socks you might not need to do that but in general it is better to protect your personal assets. Most business advisors will tell you that you need to be able to survive the first year without income. Check as of when you need to do a proper annual statement.

7) Learn everything about running a business. Work in all areas of a business from Accounting to Social Media Marketing. Then when you have done it once you can outsource the areas you have no passion or patience for. Study all the time. Challenge yourself by asking yourself questions outside of your comfort zone.

8) Find your strategic “friends” in the market and build partnerships. Build strategic friendships with business owners you like and who support and motivate you. Find likeminded peers and use each other as a support group.

9) Plan what you give in exchange for “favors”. Offer time exchange and internships if you cannot afford to hire someone. Respect other people’s time commitment and aim for balance between giving and taking. Give more and go the extra mile.

10) Enjoy your profession and build your life around your business. Get a cleaning person and other support for your household, childcare, shopping because this will give you more freedom to focus on your profession. I try to shop online only (but I regularly buy my groceries in the neighborhood). I had to minimize expenses but I love to buy gadgets that are tools for my work.

#1 Psychologise* your Price

Price in the professional services industry is nothing else than a value we give to an experience. I have already mentioned that when we spend there are pain points (like repairing the car) and there are pleasure points (like a manicure). Sometimes spending money on an experience that gives us a good feeling about ourselves or improves our general well-being feels like a treat. You probably feel great when you can buy a bottle of champagne on a weekend trip or book a wellness spa instead of an ordinary hotel. Today we slave away so we can have more luxury in our lives. We are normally way beyond the basic needs of the Maslow pyramid.

But wait. You are an entrepreneur. You just started your business a year ago? You still can’t pay the bills? You still depend financially on your spouse, your parents or in-laws or the state? Well that’s normal but remember: You are not your clients. You have to separate your sense of worth from your clients. Usually we serve clients in a higher income bracket than us. We solve an issue that they cannot or do not want to solve themselves because either they are too busy with other stuff or they have enough money to buy your services so they can have more free time to play golf, hang out with their children or go on spa weekends to de-stress.

#2 Create your Client

So, before you even think about service packages and pricing create your clients. Imagine you can decide how your client functions. Understand what bothers them. Understand how they would love to spend their time. Understand what their pain and pleasure points are. Keep an inventory. (I run a regular list of the 10 most annoying items when moving to Switzerland and one of the 10 most cherished items. These lists are discussed in trainings. Most participants instantly get it, some don’t. I prefer to work with the ones who connect. I also prefer to work with clients who get my humour BTW.)

#3 Target the Threshold

For some reason it is always easier to pay an amount that is slightly lower than the next bigger amount (even though the price might be ridiculously high in the first place). For example I accept to pay CHF 95 for a manicure but if it was CHF 100 I would not buy this service anymore. So target the next big number but then stay slightly below. Obviously you should do market research and find out what competitors are charging for similar services but your clients normally don’t just come to you because of your price. Often it is a mixture of trustworthiness, competence that you are eluding, recommendation and good reputation. If your service was interchangeable they would get it online for free.

#4 Package the Pain

The pain is in the beginning. In the meantime I prefer to pay for packaged deals. Slowly I am introducing this idea to my clients as well. For you it means: Less minute-counting, less invoices, less hassle and better cash flow (if you can agree advance payments). BUT for your client: It means that they have the pain once and then for a long time they feel good and enjoy your service. J

#5 Reduce the Rebate

In the beginning of our business we tend to work with a small group of people we already know. We give them better prices than our usual clients. While it is natural that you want to give a favourable rates to your family members and their friends consider the impact this will have on your annual turnover. Over time you need to reduce those rebates and freebies. I prefer to work pro-bono once in a while and clearly call it charity to having clients that cannot afford me. Also, if you feel insecure about your own performance or if you test a new service you can run a pilot and ask people to spend their time giving you important feedback and suggestions in exchange for a free ride. Make sure that you always communicate the real price value of a free service. If you get squeezed by clients let them know on the invoice which services you provided in addition to what you got paid for. (Don’t let them squeeze you all the time though.)

 

Task: How will you create a good pricing model for your business?

 

*I do not think “psychologise” is a commonly used verb but this is actually what you need to do.

Have you ever been in a situation where your initial reaction was fear showing by you getting worried that you’ll be losing everything, been found an imposture or knowing that you’ll be criticized for something you knew was a bit risk

 

With a bit of distance you probably noticed that all of these situations were harmless and that you made them a lot bigger with your fear.

I have probably told you already that even after having graduated more than 15 years ago I still have a recurring dream that I failed at Math (which funnily enough was one of my best subjects ever).

Seven Shades of Fear

I thought that if I am ridden by fear, it might be that you face fears as well. Have you recently had any of those?

 

  • Fear of not being genuinely likeable and just being liked because you have money, work for a brand, you have influential friends etc. (1)
  • Fear of not being good enough and being found out (2)
  • Fear of not taking enough charge and being considered slack (3)
  • Fear of losing everything and ending up under a bridge (4)
  • Fear of spiders, cats, airplanes (5)
  • Fear of your imminent death (6)
  • Fear of getting too close to someone and possibly getting hurt (7)

 

As we become older (not wiser) we see more risks and it is legitimate to decide that certain risks are too high for us to take in this situation of our lives. However, fear should not stop us from doing anything that is important to us.

Just do it and work with your fear

That allowed me to attend a wedding in Pakistan (probably the safest trip I have been on in the last few years), start my own business by leaving a well-paid job and going on a two-day alpine hike with sneakers (sliding down a snow field on my butt).

 

Fear is a compass but when fear turns into anxiety it blocks your ability to live the life you want. As a coach I advise you apply these seven techniques:

 

1)   If you are afraid of a project: Break it down in very small items and tasks. Manage one task every day.

2)   If you are afraid of not being likeable work for charity. Do something for others without expecting any reward.

3)   If you see yourself procrastinating write of your fear to friends. Commit to a first action step.

4)   If you are afraid of losing everything start to budget your spending, learn about finances and start saving money.

5)   If you have an anxiety disorder such as fear of animals seek therapy. There are ways to heal these anxieties.

6)   If you are afraid of dying work on your physical health and get advice how you can improve your health. Start small walks.

7)   If you are afraid of loving someone who might break your heart love someone who loves you first and shows you love through action. (Or get a dog.)

 

Task: Which fear would you like to tackle first?

More reading

Do you wish fear didn’t hold you back? ​

7 steps to overcome the fear of pursuing your passion or basically anything

Feel the fear and do it anyway – Amazon

Grundformen der Angst

 

Fear of something can be a sign of a “shadow” according to C.G. Jung

http://www.schattenarbeit.de/wasist.html

 

by Christine Syrad

...in the Swiss Alps
Christine

I moved to Zurich in 2009, fresh out of University and clinging tenaciously to the vision that Zurich would be a year-long detour on an otherwise London-based career path. Back then, given the turmoil the economy was facing, it looked as though my two obvious choices were to either go home and live my parents (in Japan) until I found a job or get a waitressing job in London to keep myself afloat for the “time being”.  I actually really enjoy waitressing, so there was the risk that I’d end up too comfortable doing that to find something my degree had prepared me for. Having said that, I read English and Italian literature, so it’s not as if I was expecting a call from NASA to tell me I possess just the brain they were looking for.

Skiing was the best outlook about moving

So when the offer presented itself, despite not knowing anything about Zurich and regardless of the fact that my so-called “career” ambitions were nebulous at best and, to top it off, I didn’t fully understand the profile of the job I’d be doing, I went for it. I saw the move as a chance to do plenty of skiing and…well, that’s where the thought process ended, truth be told.

My B-Permit expires in a month’s time, meaning I’m approaching the five year mark, so it seems a fitting time to reflect on what my credit-crunch dodging move has unfolded for me.

What have I gained?

This is what I have gained as a result of my move:

  • General fearlessness – I knew nobody here and spoke three words of German when I boarded my plane. I had a job but I didn’t even really know what my job entailed. Did I survive? Of course! Was it always easy? No. Was it worth it? 100%.
  • Heightened sense of curiosity – this ties into the first one. Now that I know taking a leap of faith can yield favourable outcomes, I’d very much like to see what lies waiting around each bend I choose to navigate towards.
  • German language skills – my German is not perfect, but it’s functional and I can use it in a working context, more or less. The learning process has been fun and has opened many a cultural door.
  • Financial independence – one reason I left the UK was the allure of lower taxes and higher pay (relative to the UK). It meant leaving my Uni friends behind, but the payoff has been that I am debt free and financially securer than I most likely would have been had I not moved.
  • Last, but not least, the fire I need to chase my dream – I’m usually reluctant to reveal this to anyone I don’t know because it sort of reeks of cheesiness. Having overcome a few obstacles since getting here, I get the feeling that now, equipped with the positive vibes from the above four points, taking the path towards my dream career seems far less turbulent.

 

Contact me

You can contact me via facebook.com/reikalein and reikalein.com

 

By Rebecca Wheatley 

Rebecca Wheatley
Rebecca Wheatley

In 2010 when I first landed at Zurich airport, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I would love it or hate it – I had been told. I knew people spoke Swiss-German and that wasn’t the same as German, which I didn’t speak anyway. I knew people paid their own taxes and that the public transport was amazing. I came over with my job on a short-term assignment, so I was lucky enough to know that I would have somewhere central to live, help with signing up/in/out and would be going back in 5 months.

That was about it though. I won’t forget the fear that I felt waiting to be picked up at the airport, with my huge suitcase in tow. Going straight to register and then being dropped off at my new apartment, which I had not seen before, then going out to try to buy the garbage bags (in English!).

That was nearly four years ago and it’s unbelievable how much my life has changed. After a short stint back in the UK, I returned to Switzerland in October 2011 on a permanent, local contract with the same employer. It was my dream job – European responsibility, projects that interested me and exposure to the top of the EU organisation.

I moved into my new apartment – again I had not seen it before applying and being accepted. It was huge. I went to Ikea. I started to learn the lingo. But something didn’t feel quite right.

After 6 months back in Zurich, I had everything I had ever hoped for – money, job, friends – but I felt the most unhappy I had in my working life. I realised that this wasn’t what I wanted at all.  The only bit that made sense was being in Zurich and learning German. Everything else was completely wrong.

So by the end of 2012 my life had changed for good. I worked with my amazingly supportive company to take redundancy, unsure what that meant in another country and how I would survive as I’d had a corporate job continuously for 16 years. All I knew is that my gut was telling me to stay. I was on my own.

 

Enter stage left Impact Hub Zurich: A network of amazing professionals

Enter stage left Impact HUB Zurich. It was my first business interaction ‘outside’ and has benefited me from day one. I found a whole new network of amazing professionals who wanted to make a difference in the world. I spoke and heard more German and learnt how to feel comfortable just trying and risking making mistakes.

I learnt how to deal with anxiety, the unknown and to have faith in my own abilities, even if I wasn’t the best at shouting about them. I started to write and reconnect with my love of art and my creative roots. Most of all, I learnt the value of my skills, experience and personality and how well they actually fit in Switzerland.

Of course, every day is a new challenge. I may be able to administer my life and go to the Doctors in German, but I am yet to get to a point of holding a meeting. Local connections are priceless, but take a lot of time to develop. Luckily I am pretty patient – it’s starting to pay off after 2 years. The true value is the push it has given me as an English national and back in my home community and to revisit my value to the corporate world.

Through the Hub network, I am back working in the UK as well as in Zurich, which brings creativity and innovation to my work. I took back with me skills, views and experiences that can only be directly attributed to living and working in Switzerland. A friend mentioned to me just this week that my outlook and confidence now compared to 2 years ago is unrecognisable.

Learning a new culture, language and way of living life may seem a huge challenge, but I would do it again tomorrow, without a doubt. Coming to Switzerland nearly broke me, but at 35, it made me myself again. And that can only be a good thing.

Contact me

Rebecca Wheatley is Founder of Five Brand Communication – a business that works with teams across UK & Switzerland to build their brands from the inside, by engaging employees in their skills and creativity, connecting their personal and their brand’s identity and creating human-centered communication solutions.  She also blogs about her personal development and art projects over at Life in Zuri.