Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

►Shipping unfinished work

Artists are never satisfied with their work.
Feedback…not always easy to take.

Recently I published a book chapter to a circle of clients before official publication mainly to help one or two people in the group for whom I thought it could be helpful. What happened next is that I got a message from an old friend. He offered his feedback on the chapter.

I immediately felt discouraged, knew that everything was wrong and wished I had never put the document out there. I quickly skimmed through the document. “What has he found? Structure, spelling, grammar, meaningless content, wrong entry into the topic…” I had the full horror scenario in my mind. I was about to hit reply “Thank you but the document was already edited professionally. I did not ask for feedback.” I was angry and emotional.

Then I read the comment again with which I published the document and noticed that I might have solicited the feedback. Was I even fishing for compliments? Did I not ask people to tell me if they found the chapter helpful?

I muttered that my friend should not have given me feedback on my work. I did not ask him for a proofread. I did not want to have a Skype conversation with him.

Then I remembered my words from a training I recently gave. Most people give feedback and advice without permission. I advise clients to assume positive intentions. I thanked my friend for the offer and pushed the date for the Skype conversation. I wanted to hear his ideas but only when I feel secure, professional and ready. I almost asked him to send the feedback in writing. Then I remembered that he was not paid for it. I remembered that he is in fact a great logical thinker and proofreader and that I might be able to get a perspective that only he can provide.

►Ignoring critical feedback or waiting until you are ready

Being ready for critical feedback is the key. I am a sensitive person. I have a very high standard for my work. I do not like criticism. I only like appreciation. I do not like to read seminar feedbacks. Even if the feedback is positive I “hear” the negative feedback more. Most of it is positive and constructive. I get great advice from clients and seminar participants.

However, my own insecurities get in my way.

Recently I heard a podcast. One very successful writer said he never reads reviews from readers because all that does is asking for permission. He says, that critical reviews often gives you a reason to procrastinate. It is one of the most common reasons not to ship your work. As an artist or writer it is essential though that you ship. You have to publish in order to be heard and in order for your products to be recognized as your work.

It’s one reason why I keep postponing the publication of my workbook for Global Mobility Professionals. I am genuinely worried that the content is not good enough.

I already procrastinated the reviews for months. The feedback I received is generally positive and appreciative. The suggestions for improvement were helping me to put a better structure to my work. Writing a book is humbling already but self-publishing a book gets me close to wanting to live in a psychiatric clinic (i.e. it drives me nuts). As a publisher you have to consider everything from layout to editing to the right pricing.

►Maybe it is time to let go of an old belief

In  order to make progress I needed to hear what my friend had to say. So, a few weeks later we finally had a call. I tried to keep calm and professional but I also told him that I was quite anxious about what he had to say. At the end of the call I seem to have looked shattered and tired. It was tough to listen. I knew I could do better. I knew I had to improve the work but I felt sincerely demotivated.

►Taking the lessons from feedback

The feedback actually was helpful but it also reinforced my belief that nothing I will ever do will be good enough for the world to see. I will always find a flaw or a chapter that could be written better. Also it is a lot easier to use a handout in a coaching session and give a lot of background information orally than it is to write a workbook where all the instruction should be self-explanatory. Keeping a reader engaged in self-study in our current times of constant distraction is near to impossible. I believe I will go back to classroom training. I want to be old-fashioned about everything I do. I want to stay in my comfort zone.

Assuming positive intentions...
Assuming positive intentions…

►Feeling the fear, staying humble and doing it anyway

As I am writing this I am one month away from publishing the workbook without the help of a big publishing company. While I feel that we did well there is still a doubt about the project. But then I read an article about how great artists were and are never happy with their work. Some were even poor during their lifetime. I guess it’s the way it is with art.

 

Does this resonate with you? Are you procrastinating to show your art out of fear of failure? Tell us about it in the comments.

by Maria GorskiMariaMaria 2013_21-2-1 (1)Maria

We are still unpacking the remains of our container, which arrived from Zurich last week. This is our third international move and we have arrived back in Denver, Colorado after almost 7 years abroad. When we decided to move back to the US, I was prepared for a bit of “reverse culture shock”. My initial mixed feelings are slowly waning as life returns to some level of normality.

Reflecting my experiences

As I adjust, I am reflecting back on my experiences of new cultures from Sydney and Zurich. Both have taught me so much. Sometimes I have a tough time pin pointing exactly what I am feeling because the changes in my perceptions are so subtle. For instance, the first time I spoke to my sons’ elementary school principal, I was shocked that he had referred himself as “Chris” and not “Mr. Goydin”.

Of course, he called me by my first name as well. It took me a few minutes to figure out why this seemed so odd. I had to get used to talking to someone with this level of informality, which wouldn’t necessarily happen in Switzerland. After that experience, I really began to appreciate a certain level of casual friendliness amongst people here. It just makes the daily chores and errands less stressful.

Kai
my son in the boxes

Finding Patience and Kindness for oneself and others

Emotionally, I think the key to adjusting is patience. Finding patience and kindness for oneself and others, especially those closest to you can make all the difference. Unexpected problems will inevitably come up. When multiple “little problems” keep cropping up day after day, the point might come when you are pushed into a rage over a relatively minor thing, like the garage door opener not working. It is times like these when humor can save the day.

Keeping a sense of Humor

Looking for the positive in situations and keeping a sense of humor also goes a long way to ease the stress of starting anew. As the cliché goes, “every cloud has a silver lining”. Lots of rain makes for lush green scenery and lots of rules make for a predictable, well-functioning society. After it’s all said and done, I have to say “it is good to be back”. It has been great to slip back into old friendships, feel free to chat with strangers, and enjoy my new community. Though we are still finding our way around the area, as the place has changed.

I love tricky issues of my clients.

Solving them in seven Steps
Solving them in seven Steps

Actually, this is a wacky part of my personality and according to a test I had this ability already in grade 3. The school told my parents that I make mistakes when I have an easier task in math but when the task is difficult I solve it. I like challenges and I like to find solutions to situations that seem hard to sort out. That’s probably why I enjoy Global Mobility.

Often you need to look at an issue from various angles (technical, relational, cultural and legal) in order to find a good solution. Recently, I was asked to solve an issue, which was tricky for the person involved. So, I thought about this a bit more and came up with the seven-step process below.

The issue seems profane but I will use it here for illustration purposes. My client moved from the USA to Switzerland. He wanted to bring his car over. We knew that the car would need a few technical changes before it would pass the Swiss emissions and technical test that is a precedent to have the car registered. Without registration the car cannot be insured and without insurance the car could not be driven in Switzerland according to the relocation service. The part that did not seem to work out was the question how to get the car from the warehouse (where it would be unloaded) in Spreitenbach to the car dealer in Waedenswil who would take care of the technical changes. The available interim insurance would only cover damages to the car but was not going to cover any third-party liability damages. So if my client had an accident he would be in a very risky position. Also, the police in Switzerland is very strict so they would probably fine him if they saw him drive with US number plates.

The seven Step Approach to solving tricky Issues:

Step 1: Get the full picture and sketch it on a piece of paper

I thought we might have overlooked something critical in the process so I started to call all the involved parties again (relocation agent, insurance broker and garage owner).

Step 2: Add all the involved parties and how they relate to each other

I knew these people were not competition technically so that every one would provide one part of a service in a chain. I asked all of them for ideas to solve the issue and got a good hint from the insurance broker.

Step 3: Open up any closed communication channels between involved parties or play the communicator between all of them.

As three parties did not communicate with each other I had to ensure that they would all communicate with me now instead of my client. They all trust me so that was easy. I also asked the garage owner if he could give additional support and how much he would charge for picking the car up with an interim license plate.

...you don't really need cars in Switzerland.
…you don’t really need cars in Switzerland.

Step 4: Design a solution

After I had spoken to all of them I gave my client advice to change the process so that the garage owner could actually pick up the car for him in Spreitenbach. My client liked the idea. He will also save about 400 CHF for the company.

Step 5: Pilot it

In real life there are often little details we overlook so I am a big fan of piloting new processes and projects before implementing them. In this case I just have one chance to get it right but the risk is a lot lower now as the garage owner will use his own number plates and he will be able to speak to the police. What we learnt in the pilot is that there can be capacity issues and that planned processes need a bit of buffer time. (Here the container was delayed and as it was the middle of summer holidays we did not have the capacity to get everything done fast.)

Step 6: Develop a process

After the pilot we will use this method to solve similar issues. Once you apply the same method you basically have a process or methodology in place.

Step 7: Review and improve until it becomes a routine

Every year you should review all your processes. In the meantime there might be better technological developments or you can take out complicated steps in.

Which issue did you recently solve with the seven step plan? Tell us in the comments.

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.