Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

In a continuous effort to counter-balance my fear of failure, I like the experience of “lack”. I’ve been a solopreneur for more than four years now and slowly slowly I see signs that the business is out of the nappies and has become a kindergarten child, ready to stay on it’s own with her other small business friends during the day. When I come home all she needs is a bit of checking on (bank balance), a bit of nurturing (invoices and business development) and a bedtime story.

I “practice poverty” by letting essentials such as coffee run out, living with an empty fridge, not having printing paper, wearing old shoes and asking the hairdresser for an extension of payment terms.

I would not say that my company is “successful” or broke even yet. Compared to others our growth is slow and this year I took on a job to cover my living expenses. Still, we send out invoices every month and we have a number of regular clients. The client base is becoming bigger and to my amusement former clients send us their wives and husbands.

I love to be the “family coach”. As a career woman I believe that the interests of the career-driving and the caretaker role need to be more balanced in most marriages. I also believe in long-term relationships and I know that with most of you I will be contact for a lifetime. Still, there are days when I feel like a failure or when I am concerned about ending up under a bridge.

Running a business requires that you confront your fear of failure every day.

When you “practice poverty” you watch all your resources better. In the first-world we are used to luxury and constant access of resources. Switzerland is highly productive because of stability, access to resources and a highly skilled workforce. Here, we cannot imagine a life where you cannot afford to buy anything, not even a cup of coffee. My aunt thought I was kidding her when I told her I did not have money to buy coffee last month. She saw that I was paying easily for our holiday in Italy but she could not see how I live without a certain standard.

I invest in having a cleaning person so I can use my time for the business, my loved ones and myself. I have months where I cannot pay the rent or run out of money to buy coffee. I admit, I was never good with saving money. I always had enough since I went to high school. In order to improve my business cash flow I had to learn to manage my finances better. Maybe you are in a similar situation and profit from my advice below.

I have summarized my learning in “seven cash flow habits for solopreneurs”.

1) Budget vendor expenses and pay in advance

I tend to create a lot of work around myself. In corporations usually my team would be happy to be involved in several projects but in my own business my supporting freelancers can be overwhelmed with the amount of work I ask them to do. About two years ago I started to pay them in advance either on a quarterly or yearly basis. We sometimes stop to work before the end of the year as we are out of money. I had to abandon projects due to a lack of budget.

2) Invest in your Business Priorities

Once you have clarity about what your clients need and how you can help them be more successful you will also know where your priorities for investment should be. Invest in those and abandon the rest.

3) Pay for Survival Tasks

You have survival tasks in every business such as invoices, accounting, making appointments, following up on conversations with prospects, digital media marketing and web-design. Not all of these tasks are your business purpose so you should pay someone to do them for you.

4) Maintain a Wish Book

To avoid impulse purchases I am writing all my wishes into a wish book. I used to buy a lot of books and many haven’t read yet. I don’t do that anymore. I used to have clothes that I did not wear. Not anymore. And I had a lot more shoes.

5) Date a Cook

In Switzerland dining out is very expensive and one of my good decisions was to date a man who loves to cook. Even though my cooking skills have lessened we enjoy a good home-made dinner almost every night. I am thankful for this.

6) Nurture your Spirit, Body and Soul

When we feel fulfilled either through our work or our contribution to the world or through little acts of kindness every day our spirit, body and soul are nurtured. When we feel full of love we do not need consumption to comfort ourselves.

7) Abandon Credit Cards

It’s almost impossible to live without a credit card in our society but I only have a business credit card now so I need to justify my expenses to my accountant. My bank does not give me credit either. So I cannot overspend. It helps.

 

I am moving out of my comfort zone with this post showing you one of my biggest weaknesses and how I handle it. Let me know if it helped you and if you have any questions.

 

Nine budgeting ideas for the start-up entrepreneur

My favorite bloggers write as if they are talking to me. I feel I know them. Great writing is a skill bloggers have shaped for years before anyone reads their posts. In our communication in companies we often write less perfect.

We have not learnt in university how to write an email that another person will understand. In my school, there was no course on business communication but we learnt a lot of crap about marketing.

We do not write English at a level where engage a native speaker. Most native speakers will find errors in our emails and probably find your style rude (German) or long-winded (French).

We perform anyway. We pride ourselves with the average number of emails we digest every day. Despite more communication there is less understanding.

Do we see a major change or has the shift happened and we feel the consequences? What is the change in the global society that influences us, creates ambiguity and sleepless nights?

The funny haired propaganda talkers of this world fuel the illusion (or delusion?), that if we all sat together with the people who look like us, talk like us and think like us, everything that is “wrong” with the world (economic challenges, unemployment, hate, scarcity of resources, war) would go away.

(#Bazinga)

You and I know that that we can only change the world if we model the behavior we wish to see in others. Only action creates change. (Thank you Mr. Gandhi)

Ask yourself: Can you reduce your emails and act instead?

Consider yourself privileged

Clare Joy and I held a workshop on Saturday for the CapacityZurich Refugee and Migrant Business Mentoring Program called “Building relationships and Enhancing Business Communications”. We held the workshop in English and German and most of our participants were native speakers of a third mother tongue. It required rethinking for me. We worked with a volunteer translator Viola Zoller (who did an amazing job) and Clare and I learnt to pause. We all spoke slower than normal and I noticed that even though we did a good job it was hard to keep everyone engaged.

The workshop made me understand once again how privileged I am, that I had the chance to live in English-speaking countries and learn the language at a level where I can now work in English. It also made me aware how we often exclude people based on a lack of language proficiency, how we do not take them seriously if their grammar is flawed or their pronunciation hard to understand.

I encourage you to watch your own behavior around others who are not in the culturally dominant group. I promise that I will try even harder to listen to anybody and to speak slow and use simple language.

 

What is Ego?

After years and years of success in a corporate role my ego had been quite inflated until I

  1. a) moved to another country and
  2. b) started my own company several years later.

I notice an overinflated ego when I believe the world should be centered around me. Don’t get me wrong. It is ok to be self-confident, assertive and to believe in your own abilities but once in a while we need to accept that the world does not revolve around our needs alone. I think it is also healthy to learn that we are not perfect robots and that we embrace our fears and weaknesses.

Sometimes I feel offended if anyone acts as if I did not matter or if I did not have a say in a decision. Same is true if someone doubts my competence on a matter in which I feel highly competent. I hate when someone points out a mistake I made, even if it is a small one because in my self-image I don’t make “mistakes”. My self-image is that of a competent professional. However, competent and perfectionist is different. A competent person can do the job in a reasonable time. A perfectionist wastes time on detail that does not add value to the process or should be automated. Think of additional flowers you paint into a landscape.

As opposed to the image others have of you, you might feel that you do not always meet your own standards. When I am in a good mood, I tend to blame my lazy inner PA Amber Valentine, who sucks at her job.

When I am in a weak mood though (angry, hungry, lonely or tired), it could happen that a small error triggers an emotional landslide with elephant raindrops coming out of my eyes. Most of the time I later admit to myself, that most of these incidents are not about me and if I assume positive intentions, than I often see the other person’s perspective. We all just try to find solutions with the means and ideas we have at hand.

I also noticed that often we all misunderstand each other more than we actually understand each other. We easily feel criticized, when the other person tried to support or help us.

How does Ego get in the Way of Collaboration?

Once your ego has been hurt you will probably look for ways to “repair” the damage. This could happen by getting into fights with colleagues about nitty-gritty details or by showing constantly to others how superior you are too them. It’s a habit of highly intelligent colleagues, that they like to point out the flaws of an idea or that they push away an argument with a derogatory comment. (Isn’t it obvious that my argument makes sense?)

As a leader, you need to simplify and find explanations that are easy to grasp.

When you apply mathematics for example, I always liked, how one of my best math teachers in high school would teach us the way to derive the formula instead of just learning the formula (which unfortunately was often asked in business classes at university). Why would you waste brain space to learn something by heart that you can now easily recreate with a macro. If you don’t understand the macro, then you have an issue.

When you struggle with simple calculations

A few weeks ago it took me at least 15 minutes to figure out why I did not get a simple balance sheet calculation. I would say, I am good with numbers, but I need to have a bit of clarity in presentation too. This takes a bit of practice though and most of us think, that our presentation and writing is clear to others, while most of the time it is only clear to those who come from a similar background and have gone through a similar kind of education, training and practice. Someone with 20 years of work experience might judge cases more based on gut feeling than fact data. I remember hearing the same from Risk Managers, Doctors and Lawyers. I sometimes don’t know how to explain my judgement other than gut feeling so I need to rationalize it for others to understand where I am coming from.

It’s the same with delegating tasks. If you are not explicit what you need, by when and from whom you might not get anything or you only get half of what you expected. Most of the time you will therefore be disappointed by your collaborators or team members.

However, if you ego is in your way you might feel that you should be irreplaceable and you will create barriers to the flow of knowledge and barriers to collaboration. These barriers could even be sub-conscious. When we work with global, virtual teams to improve collaboration and performance, we teach you basic rules for true collaboration and we also practice ways to build trust and reduce ego-driven moves.

As a manager of such a global, virtual team, you will face challenges of compensating your team members in a fair manner and one or the other might have a better way of showing their contribution to a project and getting the credit.

Four Tips for Reducing your Ego-driven Actions

Nurture yourself: Your inner child most probably has not fully grown up yet. Nurture it and feed it. Look at your needs.

Develop collaboration principles: If you want to collaborate with others develop a common set of principles that you can fall back on in case of doubt.

Accept new tasks and projects with humbleness: Accept that you will have to learn when you move into a new role, a new project or a new task. Learning takes energy and effort. Stay humble.

Show true compassion: You could start with balancing your ego with moments of true compassion and support. Then you have a chance to become a leader, instead of a manager.


Pricing in the professional services industry is nothing else than a value we give to an experience.

When we spend, there are pain points such as getting the car repaired and there are pleasure points such as a manicure. Sometimes we love to spend money on an experience that gives us a good feeling about ourselves or improves our general well-being. 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.

We are normally way beyond the basic needs of the Maslow pyramid. Most of the people I know don’t really know how much a liter of milk costs. We happily spend money on holidays and luxury items. Being in a managerial function, this is what you do. You slave away and on weekends and holidays, you indulge. You want luxury in your lives. I used to consider myself a “high maintenance chick” with a feel for quality clothing, weekend trips to NYC and a no-budget policy for daily expenses. I used to say that I apply Reaganomics to my personal life (I spent more than I earned).

Today, I am more sensitive to this topic. As a solopreneur, I learned what it meant not to have money at all. This was a healthy experience (which has now found an end). What about you? 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? Or maybe you are an expat spouse, who has not found a job yet?

I hope these four methods will help you put a price tag to your service offering.

#1 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 and write down the story of your ideal client.

#2 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. Target the next big number but then stay slightly below. 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, recommendations and good reputation. If your service was interchangeable they would get it online for free.

#3 Package the Pain

The pain is in the beginning. I prefer to pay for packaged deals for example for a holiday and I prefer to make the payment a few weeks before the holiday. I have introduced this idea to my clients as well. For you as an entrepreneur, it means less minute-counting, fewer 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.

#4 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. I don’t like to work with clients who cannot afford me or don’t know how to pay for the coaching.

If you feel insecure about your performance or if you test a new service you can run a “pilot”. Ask potential clients and friends to spend their time and to give you feedback and suggestions in exchange for a “free ride”. Make sure that you communicate the real price value of a free service. In Switzerland, you have to have a price list. Even if you won’t share your prices on your website, you can send a price list to clients on request.

If you feel under pressure from larger clients, let them know on the invoice which services you provided in addition to what you got paid for. This happened to me in the early days when I was too accommodating in order to win a corporate client. I avoid these deals now. If you gave reductions or rebates in the early days of your business, reduce them over time or return to the price you have on your price list.

Let me know how you will you create a good pricing model for your services and contact me if you struggle.

 

Angie

 


Guest Blog by Reinild van der Vecht

My relocation story starts like many similar ones.  It’s been three years since I moved to Switzerland following my husband, who got a great job here. For him going to work every day was business as usual. My challenge to make a happy life here has been quite a struggle. I was going to three changes:

  1. The career I had back in Holland needed some reviewing; it felt right to leave and start orientating on new possibilities.
  2. I was pregnant with our first child.
  3. The relocation itself: starting over in a new country.

I started on the third part: integrating into Zurich by taking intensive language courses and following the women’s integration course organized by Stadt Zürich. I enjoyed it! In the meantime I had my medical files translated and changed into the Swiss system of pregnancy controls. Via my husband’s company, I became part of the International Dual Career Network (IDCN), where I started orientating on the Swiss job market. Also, I was quite busy organizing our move and the administrative tasks. These first months I had lots to do and to discover.

Then after almost 6 months, our son was born. Finding a new rhythm with the baby kept me quite busy, not to mention all our family and friends visiting us. I made new friends, new moms like myself I met at the “Mütterberatung”, at the integration course and at the “Rückbildung”.

Three months after the birth I was making plans again: I was visiting network events, getting my B2 German diploma, I planned to send out applications and I put my son on the daycare waiting list. By the time he was six months, I remember I felt like he was strong enough to be in daycare and I really needed time for myself. I wanted to be seen as Reinild again, not as ‘just’ someone’s wife or mother.

That’s when the real challenge started.

I applied for several jobs, tried to have a daily and weekly routine with my son and friends, but somehow I felt lost. Looking back, I didn’t really accept the situation I was in. I enjoyed the time with my son but was missing my professional life. The applications I sent were too different, not very well targeted.

And to be honest, I didn’t send that many…

I decided I needed help. With a coach, I researched my situation, my strengths, skill set, ideas, and dreams. We brainstormed what jobs and companies would fit and I checked on additional education possibilities. Following an additional educational program at a Swiss university made the difference. My son went to daycare (he was 18 months by then) and I had time to go to school and to study. It was hard because the program was new to me (I was changing industry), everything was in (Swiss)German and making a real connection with the other students was not that easy. But I managed and eight months later I received the certificate and was eager to find a job.

This time, I really took it seriously. I started telling friends what I was looking for. I asked some of my colleague-students for lunch to discuss their careers and companies. It helped me to figure out what I wanted and which job titles and companies fit that. In the meantime, I followed a very hands-on workshop* on how to apply and get hired in Switzerland. With a big portion of luck, I found a job and I love it!

My lessons learned, which I hope will help you:

  • Take your time to relocate physically and emotionally.
  • Acknowledge your situation and accept it.
  • Make a plan, set achievable goals, be confident that your competencies are valuable wherever you are.
  • Broaden the way you look upon your life and career. I once read an interview with a Swiss director saying: “Es sei nicht tragisch, wenn man seinen Traum nicht leben könne; es gebe immer eine gute Alternative.”

 

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Reinild van der Vecht works as Process Manager at a Swiss cable company. In 2016 she successfully completed the CAS Logistics Strategy and Supply Chain Management at ZHAW School of Engineering. She lives with her family in Zurich, volunteers as treasurer in her local Turnverein Fluntern and is an active member of the Powerhouse Network.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Reinild had joined one of our first HireMe! Groups. Join the next one.