Ideas to Action

Getting started on a new project or business venture requires many ingredients, and one of the most important is passion. Also near the top is skill. Have you taken the time to think about your passions and skills and how they could translate into a new business or initiative? Maybe you have thought that you would like to start your own business (who hasn’t?), but you have no idea where to begin.

Start with your talents and interests and allow yourself to get creative. Start with a large piece of paper, a pen, pencil or favorite crayon, and start freewriting. I suggest that you write “My Interests” in the middle of the page. You can get another piece of paper and write “Things I’m Good At.” Start writing quickly and without editing yourself. This exercise could take five minutes or five days. It’s up to you. Keep going and fill the page, scribbling if you have to.  Most importantly, don’t hesitate and don’t avoid writing something because you think it’s silly or of no value.

After you have had a day or two to think about it, review what you have written. What do you see? Any themes? Anything surprising? Is there anything there that spurs ideas for businesses? Here are two stories that may help illustrate my point.

I have always received good feedback and solid grades on my writing. Whether the writing was for work, for school or community activities, I was always told that I wrote well and that my work was engaging and interesting. I also have an interest in career development and have done a lot of recruiting and interviewing. I was always amazed at the inconsistent quality of resumes that I saw. A few were great, but most were boring. More than a few were terrible. I thought, “I can do better than this.” After thinking and researching, I plunked down my $15 for a business certificate, set up a website and started telling people that I write resumes. Almost two years later, my business is growing well and providing some useful income.

A very close friend was helping a friend with her dog grooming business. He spent some time in her shop and overheard customers asking for dog feeding stands, the kind that raise the bowl off the ground so the dog has an easier time eating. Michael is handy in the woodshop and got the idea to tinker around and make a few models (single and dual-bowl, small,
medium and large). Now you can buy these feeders at the shop and at the festivals and fairs where he has a booth. His interests and talents came together with opportunity to create a new business.

No, these aren’t dissed college kids starting Facebook stories, and I’m sure that Wall Street’s next big IPO won’t focus on resumes or dog feeders, but they illustrate the point that your next opportunity can come from a little time invested exploring your own inventory of skills and interests. For more ideas on brainstorming, visit UNC’s website. To help you determine if your dream is for real or just a fantasy, check out John C. Maxwell’s book on the topic. All the best to you in your self-discovery.


Coke, Pepsi or Generic Cola?

Just what are you all about? Are you fizzy brown water in a red can, or fizzy brown water in a blue can? I spend a lot of time talking with my clients (while drinking Coke Zero, of course) about their career goals  and strategies to help them get there. Before we can figure out how to get to the goal, though, we need to know from where we are starting, and you need to know it about yourself. An important part of that is understanding what you are all about. What skills do you have? What are you great at? What do you love to do? What do you stand for? Are you Coke, Pepsi or a generic cola in a plain bottle? Unfortunately, many have trouble with this conversation.

Think about people who are accomplished in their fields. Steve Jobs is a driven genius who leads his company to create amazing technology that people don’t just want to buy and own. They lust after it. They have to have it. They stand in line for it. The Jobs brand is something that people expect to see and are disappointed if they don’t get it at the big Apple events. There is nothing fuzzy or uncertain about the Jobs brand.

John C. Maxwell is another person with a strong brand. If you are in any kind of a leadership position and haven’t read his books, I recommend that you get one, read it and use it. Today. Maxwell is a leadership guru who provides his readers with useful and inspiring tools that leaders can use immediately. Again, he has a strong brand that is compelling and offers value.

What is your brand? What does it say about you? What can you say about it? Are you seen as a tenacious, results-driven executive who builds effective teams that have delivered year-over-year growth for each of the last seven years, or are you a business manager with seven years of experience? Do you see the difference? Are you the former or the latter? Are you a real brand representing value, or a no name with no brand equity: buyer beware? Take some time and clarify that for yourself now. Your future depends on it.