Articles and Insights on Business and Entrepreneurship

Starting and owning a business is an amazing adventure, a ton of fun, a tremendous amount of hard work, and an ever-evolving journey. We learn new things every day, meet inspiring mentors and brilliant thought leaders, challenge ourselves to do and be more, and push ourselves harder than anyone we know.

Below you will find a collection of articles on owning and running a small business; first-hand insights on working from home and working with your spouse; advice, lessons learned, and stories from our day-to-day experiences in the small business trenches; and the best “nuggets” of inspiration and information we glean from events we attend, speakers we hear, books we read, and products we buy.

Where do you get your business advice?

Ali Brown Elevate Event Thrive Live 2013

I am a firm believer that no one knows everything about building and growing a business — at least I know I don’t!

In fact, most business owners and entrepreneurs (like me) start businesses not because they know how to run a business, but because they are exceptional at what they do and seize an opportunity.

In my experience, learning about business and how to run one effectively comes along the way

A few years into my business, I received a great piece of advice: Know the path you want to take and surround yourself with people who are farther down the path.

In other words:

  • Find the people who have achieved what you want to achieve and learn from them.
  • Find out what they did wrong and what they did right; what worked and what didn’t work; what they wish they had done differently.
  • Find a mentor or mastermind group who can answer your questions and guide you in the right direction when you need it.

Learn where I go for business advice and how I find the right coach, mentor, or mastermind group

Not Enough Clients? You’re Probably Networking In The Wrong Place

Feast Or Famine Networking

Recently I was being interviewed about owning a design business and how we have successfully built a brand and grown the business (and the profits) year after year.

About halfway through the interview the conversation turned to clients and client attraction — how to get clients, where to find clients, and how to keep clients — and inevitably we started discussing networking.

After all, no one can hire you, buy from you, or learn from you if they don’t know you exist

So you must market your business, get out from behind your computer, and network with others. You must share with other people what you do!

The problem is that a lot of business owners, especially designers view networking as not-working, and believe that if you are not working, you’re are not getting paid. So instead they sit behind their computers working and tweeting, and waiting for someone to hire them.

But the reality is that networking is the cornerstone of growing a successful business. Through networking you can expand your network, build strong relationships, find strategic partners, find clients, grow as a business owner, and more.

Learn why some business owners who are actively networking still don’t have enough clients

Same Tools, Same Strategy, Different Result

Differentiate Yourself By Being You

I see it happen over and over: A coach or expert sells “how they did it” or their process for achieving results. A business owner wanting to achieve the same results hires them to learn how they did it. The business owner learns tactics, uses the same tools, and applies the same strategy… yet they don’t achieve the same results.

In many cases, they don’t even come close to achieving the same success. Why is that? Why can you do everything exactly the same and not enjoy the same success?

There is one major difference that wasn’t accounted for

You are not them! The person, the expert, the history, the experience, the story, the brand, the positioning, the relationships — the person at the center of everything is different.

So while you can use the same tools and the same strategy, and you can achieve the same results, you can’t just copy a cookie cutter formula. You must adjust your approach and customize it to fit you, your brand, and your business.

How Strong Brand Positioning Can Eliminate Competition and Grow A Community

How to take a real vacation (tech-free), even if you own a business

How to Detach from Business, Unplug, and Take a Tech-free Vacation

Entrepreneurs and business owners are the hardest working, most dedicated and committed people I know.

With a vision in mind, and a goal ahead, they do whatever it takes to achieve success, often sacrificing their own personal well being along the way and never taking a break or a vacation to recharge, refuel, re-energize, reinvigorate…

I used to be that business owner. In the first few years of my business, I worked 14-16+ hours a day, at least 6 days a week, and I NEVER took a vacation — because I didn’t think I could.

Then when my team grew and I grew as a business owner

I began to take vacations, but the weeks leading up to the vacations, and the week after returning were so awful, that I often wondered if it was worth it. Plus I often pulled multiple all-nighters to finish everything before leaving, so I was exhausted and cranky the first few days of the trips!

And, if I am really going to be honest, my vacations weren’t really vacations, as I took my computer with me to check email and work if I needed to (which I always did).

Learn the Mindset Shifts and Actions Needed to Take a Real Vacation from Your Business

Step-by-Step, How to Close The Sale During an Enrollment Conversation

How to Close the Sale During a Discovery Session

Our clients may hire us to design their brand, create a killer WordPress website, and design and map out an online strategy — But more often than not, we end up consulting on much more than branding and website strategy.

During our initial discovery phase, we ask our clients A LOT of questions and require that a lot of decisions be made — that’s where the consulting comes in.

One area our clients have a lot of questions about is ironically, how to close the sale when speaking to new prospects AFTER the site has generated the lead — which is good, because it means they are confident we’ll deliver a site that does its job.

These conversations — referred to as sales conversations, enrollment conversations, discovery sessions, free strategy sessions, get acquainted sessions, complimentary consultations — are uncomfortable for many business owners because they don’t know what to say, what to ask, what order to present information, etc. As a result, they talk too much and feel like they are being too salesy, they don’t make a strong enough connection, or they never ask for the sale.

This past week, after walking a client through a sample sales conversation step-by-step, she shared with me how helpful the process was and how much clarity and confidence she felt she gained from no longer having to “wing it” on her calls.

And she suggested that I share it on our blog so you could benefit too! So…

Learn how to close the sale during your next enrollment conversation, step-by-step

One Profound Question That Can Drastically Improve Your Marketing

Improve Your Benefits-Based Marketing With This One QuestionI’ll bet you started your business to follow a passion, to do something you love, or to create your own future.

And yet, marketing is what you find yourself wrapped up in all the time.

After all, you need leads, clients, and customers, and no one can hire you, buy from you, or learn from you if they don’t know that you exist!

Why Marketing Is So Hard

You’re good at what you do. You know it. In fact, you’re brilliant at what you do. But unfortunately, for most of us marketing isn’t what you do best.

Learn the one question that will make marketing with benefits easy

Making Decisions Based On Where You’ve Been vs. Where You Want To Go

Decision Making Mindset

The ability to make decisions in business is critical to your success — as long as you’re using the right frame of reference, and frame of mind for your decision-making.

For the sake of this article, I’ll assume that you are not a business owner satisfied with the status quo, but an entrepreneur striving to improve, evolve, and grow.

The Wrong Decision-Making Mindset

There is a popular phrase often tossed around by business coaches: “What you focus on expands.”

With that belief in mind, one surefire way to stay where you are and stunt your business growth is to focus on the past — what has happened before, what was true before, what worked before — and let it hold you back.

Focusing on where you’ve been will result is staying where you are.

The same is true for your decision-making mindset. To move your business forward, continue to grow, and achieve your goals, it is imperative that you stop making decisions based on where you have been.

Learn The Right Decision-Making Mindset For Success

VIP Treatment: A Smart Marketing Lesson From Lego

Lego Valentine's Day Special PromotionWhat does VIP treatment equal?

For your clients and customers, feeling like a VIP often equals spending more money!

I think we all can learn a valuable marketing lesson from Lego this Valentine’s Day on marketing and VIP treatment.

For Valentine’s Day, Lego put together a special promotion. As a VIP member, I received a gift in the mail containing special early bird opportunities, discounts, and opportunities to earn double VIP rewards.

It’s no secret we’re HUGE Lego fans in the Bourn household.

Heck, we’re remodeling our entire bonus room into one giant Lego utopia. So when this little package arrived, we were excited. We’ve received special Lego packages like this before and they’re always brilliantly done and well designed.

Learn the Marketing Lessons Lego Teaches Us

Take Your Business Into Your Own Hands

If you want to be a leader you must improve your skills

After a three week staycation, we got back to back to business as usual in January, back to the trenches, and back to being crazy busy with new projects … But we’re never too busy to keep learning!

If you want to be a leader, you must continually improve your skills and take your future into your own hands with action.

Above is a photo I snapped of the kids on the Sutter’s Fort cannon crew! Natalie is in fourth grade this year and since she is learning all about California history and the California Indians, I took the kids to the California State Indian Museum — and lucky for us it was also a special historical re-enactment day at Sutter’s Fort. The kids loved it, they learned new things (like what a thunder mug is), laughed a lot, and Natalie brought back some great information and souveniers to share in class.

The schools no longer have the budget to take students on fields trips like they did when I was a kid, so now it’s up to the parents to provide the hands-on learning experiences that come only with experiencing history first hand. We have to be proactive and take education into our own hands and take action.

Surprise! Business works the same way — You must be proactive!

January 24-26, I was in Los Angeles to co-lead a weekend retreat for Today’s Innovative Woman with entrepreneurs and friends Joy Chudacoff and Cathy Alessandra. I was so excited to be surrounded by 20 women who are choosing to be proactive about growing their businesses in 2013, choosing to create a plan of action, and choosing to go big — and the weekend didn’t disappoint!

Get Tips on Being Proactive In Your Business

6 Smart Marketing Tips to Increase Your Networking Results

Networking tips to maximize small business marketing successNetworking is how I built my business. Networking got me to where I am today (along with A LOT of hard work). Networking taught me the right way to do business, how to speak about my business, and how I wanted to show up.

I started my business when I was 25 years old. I had no idea what I was doing and when I walked into my very first networking event packed with professional business women, I was so nervous and scared! Joining networking groups helped me grow up as a business owner and grow my business. It has also yielded some of the strongest relationships I still have today.

But there are things you need to know and understand to be successful at networking — and there are definitely wrong ways to network.

Here are six tips I have learned over the years that have helped me maximize my networking results and my marketing at networking events:

Learn My Marketing Tips to Increase Your Networking Results