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How to Google like the Boss that You Are

Google.  That is how I started my first venture — a nonprofit organization.  I used Google to find a free course taught by the state.  I then used Google to find, download, and complete the 501(c)3 tax exemption application.  I Googled to learn about building a Board of Directors, how to structure the Board, what documents my Board should sign, and to read lessons learned by those that had come before me.  Finally, I used Google to build my first volunteer / mission trip — from contracts, documents, orientation, best practices, legal issues, safety, and organizations that we could work with.

Google is the cornerstone of the savvy business owner.  The big secret to starting a business you love isn’t having an MBA and years of experience with shiny titles from the corporate world.  It’s having the passion to drive you forward, and the ability to find the answer to any question you have.  Having a Coach to help you is definitely the most comfortable way to go, but Google is always available and can help you do anything.

Just this morning at a coffee networking event, I heard someone say, “I was up late working on my project because I’m not good at Googling”.  It’s not the first time I’ve heard this, but it reminded me that I take my ability to Google for granted.

So here’s my quick guide for getting good at Googling.

Strip It Down

The people I see struggle with Google give it too much information.  Google, like the library search system you may have learned in elementary school (am I aging myself?), doesn’t care about transitional words like “and” or “but”.  However, it loves “or” to help you compare two things.

Don’t try asking Google a question.  Just enter the keywords of what you’re searching.  The person I was instructing this morning was looking for help on coding a form which wasn’t working.  I told him to definitely include the main subject — C# (the coding language) — and the action he was having an issue with, forms.  From there, I told him to describe the issue in as few words as possible.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Use Synonyms

Using the above example in a search, I further instructed the person to start rotating words if he wasn’t finding what he was looking for.  The constants in your search are the main subjects — in his case, the coding language and the action he was having issues with.  Everything else can be swapped.

Let’s use my nonprofit as an example.  I needed to know how to file for tax exemption.  Finding the form was easy enough — I knew it was an IRS form and it was labeled “501(c)3 application”, so those where the words I entered.  But I work best by example, so the next thing I needed were other nonprofit examples of the different sections within the form, specifically for organizations specializing in my field.

This is where I started rotating words.  I didn’t care if the examples came from the IRS, so I left that word out.  I could have searched “501(c)3 application examples”, but I probably would have gotten a lot of really general examples, some good, some bad.  So I changed my wording to “501(c)3 applications disaster relief”.  It’s not an actual sentence, but just a bunch of keywords.  That’s how Google operates, and that’s the most important thing for you to learn.

If the results weren’t quite what I was looking for, I could have tried changing “disaster relief” to “relief organizations” or “humanitarian aid”.  This is where the synonyms work great.  My constant would always be “501(c)3 application” because that’s what I was working on, but the rest could swap out until I found what I was looking for.

Hack Google’s Search Options

There are several other things you can do within the search bar of Google, but Google doesn’t publicize them well.  I call them hacks, but they’re actually refinement options that make your search even more specific.  If the subject you’re researching is very narrow due to your nice, business structure, or innovation, then narrowing your search is a bad idea.  However, the internet is vast, and narrowing is usually very useful.

Here is Google’s fabulous guide for using their search refining hacks.  You can search specific sites only, exclude words that seem to come up in the options Google gives you but don’t fit your goal, and even force Google to focus on a certain word within your search.

Get Into Other’s Heads

My final tip is to try to get into other people’s heads.  This can be hard to do, but this is how I do it.  I think about the topic I’m searching, then consider every way I have ever heard it referred to by others.  That might include in-person experiences, television shows, conferences, radio, and dialectal variations.  Living in the United States means I have heard many ways to refer to everything.  In doing so, my mind doesn’t actually remember specific moments, but it pulls up a rotation of ideas and words.

I also try to dumb down my searches.  Not only am I stripping them of extra words, but I am using the simplest words and phrases.  Most web designers and copy writers suggest your online content be at a 5th Grade reading level.  If that’s the case, then the words you’re searching for are also at a 5th Grade level (because all Google is able to search are the words put online).

Does this help?  Share your experience below to help others and ensure I give you the best advice!

8 Ways for Entrepreneurs to Avoid Losing Their Shit

Owning a business is thrilling — just like a roller coaster.  That new idea, new employee, new client, or new product excites the pants off you, but getting turned down feels like you lost your heartbeat.  Some days it feels like you’re on top of the world, others feel like you’ve been buried in the sand.

As an entrepreneur, people will challenge you.  They want to know why you started a business, who you are, and why they should trust you.  You will constantly be on the hot seat, scrutinized for every detail of your life (not just your business).  With that kind of pressure, it can be easy to get pushed around and forget your original goals.  Even worse, you can actually lose yourself as you try to meet external demands — demands that may not even fit your original goals!

I’ve been through all of it, and want to help you avoid some of those moments.  Here are eight ways to make sure you don’t lose track of yourself to your entrepreneur identity.

1. Write down your raison d’être.  

When you started your business, you probably had some lofty ideas and goals.  Maybe you wanted to change the world (or the industry).  As you began introducing yourself as an entrepreneur, were you asked why or how you got into your work?  With each answer you gave, did you have to mould it to your audience?  What if your audience was always a little different?  What happened to your truth?

I didn’t write out my goals with my first business because I didn’t know I should.  I actually didn’t know a lot of things when I started out, and missed out on a lot of resources and support.  Now that that business is four years old, things look way different, and it’s hard to recognize what I started.

If your business is already in full swing, try to think back to who you were the day you decided to start it and write down your motivations.  If you are just starting your business, write down why.  Write down a one year plan, and a five year plan, stretch goals, and anything else you can think of.  Don’t just put it away when you’re done.  Post it somewhere, or formalize it into a manifesto / mission statement.  It will help you know when you should (and shouldn’t) work with someone.  When it’s time to hire employees, show it to them so they can help steer what will become your company culture.

2. Ask why when someone says ‘no’.

Yes this is scary.  So is starting a business, and you did that.  The work of an entrepreneur becomes a part of our identity that it’s easy to internalize a ‘no’ as a personal hit.  While it can become hard to hear anything negative about your business, sometimes you need to.

Recently I had a client who told me ‘no’ when I thought we were a sure deal.  I mean, I had already done a little dance in my head about his positive responses leading up to decision time.  But when the decision came, I was shocked to get a no.  Instead of allowing my imagination to run wild with all the horrid things he must think of us (which it loves to do), I asked why.  Turns out I was right — they loved us — but they are a nonprofit and their budget couldn’t quite stretch far enough to hire us for our original proposal.  The awesome part is they hired us for some side work instead.

I can’t promise that every answer you get will be as nice, so don’t forget to use a filter.  Some people are assholes who drop bombs willy nilly.  You’ll need to filter through the crap to find the constructive part of their criticism.  Most of the time, however, you’ll receive feedback from kind people who have something real to say, and it will make you and your business better.

3. Keep that work / life separation.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about this one.  In fact, my partner came home last night and said he and some mates were discussing working from home.  They complained that clients often think that you’re available 24/7 when you’re independent, and he replied, “Oh yeah, my partner is militant about cut off times.”  I wouldn’t quite use that word, but I guess I am…

Without work / life separation, your work identity will bleed into your personal life, and the highs and lows of business will begin to affect who you think you are.  Imagine getting a ‘no’ from every client call of the day, but not internally separating the fact that they are no’s for your business, not for you.  Your self esteem would tank!

The people in your life will also be thankful for your work / life balance.  As entrepreneurs, we tend to disappear into our work, rarely coming up for air.  If you’re working from home, your partner probably knows what your ‘do not disturb’ face looks like.  I’m sure you don’t want to wear that face all the time (queue the old adage “your face will get stuck that way”).  Your friends and family hear about your work enough.  You don’t need to be working constantly, too.

4. Create a system for following up.

I know this sounds like a no brainer, but self-sabotage is a tricky beast that weeds its way into the best entrepreneur’s work.  Maybe you’re tired on a given day, or the work isn’t exciting (who wants to follow up on their taxes?), or something has zapped your excitement for your business.  You need a system to get around self-sabotage so, down the road, you don’t find you’ve missed a huge opportunity.

I love writing things down, and I love my Passion Planner, so I do my best to write down everything.  When I leave a potential client a phone message, I write down a reminder to call them back in a couple days.  It seems overly simplistic (at least to me), but over and over I have forgotten to return a call or email because something distracted me.

As an entrepreneur, you will be juggling many aspects of your business, and this will happen to you.  Do whatever it takes to create a system that doesn’t allow you to forget.

5. Reassess regularly.

I don’t just mean for your business.  Since entrepreneurship means that your work is very closely tied to your personal identity, you’ll want to reassess your personal life as well.  In fact, conduct an assessment for how your business is affecting your personal life, and vice versa.  You may discover an imbalance in friendships is burning you out at work, or that work is obliterating family dinner time.

Find a frequency that feels right to you, and mark reassessment days on your calendar.  I do it monthly, but you may find your business better fits a quarterly model.  Personal life can get crazy quickly, so monthly might be better.  Don’t set a frequency any less than biyearly, or things will get away from you.

Do them all at once so you can draw parallels.  Write, draw, or type out how you think things are going.  You can use a tool like the Passion Planner (I told you I love it), any number of questionnaires on Google, or make up your own.  I like that my planner keeps them all so I can flip back to see my progress or make comparisons.  In doing so, you’ll catch problems quickly and can ritualize what works well.

6. Take a vacation!!!

So often do I hear of entrepreneurs who don’t take vacation.  Listen when I say that there is no award for working yourself to death.  Sorry, ladies.

I have found that when I take a vacation (an actual vacation without a computer), I gain some serious clarity about my work and my personal life.  I realize where things have been failing, what goals I’ve forgotten about due to stress, and often return with new direction.

If you find it hard to go on vacation, put it in your calendar way ahead of time.  Actually, put it in your calendar on the same month of each year.  Now you have a task / event that is both in your way and something you can plan for.   If you don’t have a partner, plan something with friends, or go alone.  Vacation doesn’t have to be a resort in Jamaica — if you like stimulation, go to a music festival or explore a new city.  Take at least one week a year to get out of your entrepreneur head.  Your mind, business, and the people around you will thank you.

7. Start using affirmations.

Affirmations have kept me sane in more ways than one.  Affirmations are phrases that you repeat to yourself to reach a goal.  That goal could be boosted confidence, but it also could be working with the Law of Attraction to grow your business (Sarah Prout has a lot to say about that, so I’ll leave it to her).

This is a great way to reinforce yourself and your goals when things get busy, since you’ll choose phrases that you identify with.  Some people make them up, some pull quotes from movies or thought leaders, and some are written by someone else.  I do a blend of all three.

My favorite affirmations book is written by one of the elders I interviewed for my book, called Ribbons of Love.  It is divided in sections covering many topics and the pages are perforated so you can tear them out and put them where you’ll see them — and read them.

If you prefer journaling, however, the Happier Mind Journal may be the best way for you to do this.  It helps you track how well you slept, your moods, your goals for the day, and more.  This is a great way to stay mindful when you feel like you have eight heads and twenty arms trying to accomplish everything at the same time (or is that just me)?

8. Practice self care.

Self care is a hot topic these days, but it’s usually the first to go for busy entrepreneurs like ourselves.  That is one of the worst things you can let happen, as the trickle down will affect every aspect of your life.

Last year I realized that my self care had pretty much disappeared.  Had you asked me what I did for self care, I would have looked at you with a blank stare.  This led to some bad times and a giant stress ball named Veronica.  I don’t think I was very pleasant to be around, let alone the physical consequences of constant stress.  So I started thinking about what makes me feel good — things like tea, herbal baths, and yoga.  If you had told me then that I would soon be waking up two hours early so I would have time for yoga and a real breakfast before I start work (at home or at the coworking space) I would have laughed.

There are a ton of resources that discuss self care online, but the most recent one by The Mighty was really good.  Self care isn’t just about aromatherapy and meditation, it also includes doctor’s appointments and family.  Do some work to decide what will most benefit you, then stick to it.

What else keeps you sane as an entrepreneur?

Progress Halts Without A Business Name

(Identifiers have been changed to preserve my client’s privacy.) 

Two years ago I worked with a woman who wanted to grow her holistic business.  She had been working both from her home and as a contractor in an office, with the goal of building a client base large enough to be 100% independent.  I love working with women who do good for others, and was excited to help grow a care organization.

During our consultation, I walked through the answers she’d provided on my Client Brief and slowly began getting a picture of where she was, and where she wanted to go.  She’d been exploring the option of being an independent care professional for some time, but kept hitting a wall.  She wasn’t sure how to operate around the necessary digital presence (website, social media), but knew she needed it.  But what she didn’t tell me was that she didn’t have a name.

What’s in a Name

Naming your business is one of the most important things you will do on your journey as an entrepreneur. Names hold a lot of weight — they can conjure cultural and historical associations, emotion, and urgency, which is why some businesses get it so right, and some get it so, so wrong.

As you name your business, it’s not enough to simply consider the description of what the business is.  It’s also important to consider the ‘feel’ you wish for anyone who comes into contact with your business to experience.  Are you fastest?  Cheapest?  The best?  Is your business warm and fuzzy, cold and efficient, or neither?  Do you cater to children or adults?  Of course, all of this will be even more apparent with the right brand identity, but the name is the seed that grows the rest.

Often a business will choose a name that is seemingly nonsensical.  Take Etsy for example.  The name was intentionally nonsensical, offering the founder the opportunity to build the brand from scratch.  However, the name is short, to the point, and sounds similar to familiar words in the English Lexicon (like “easy” or “itsy bitsy spider” – linking it subconsciously to the ease of working with small craft artisans).  If you choose this route, working within a ‘sounds like’ framework is still important.  Too nonsensical a name will turn people off instead of inspire a “tell me more” response.

What Happened to my Client

Once I discovered that my client was stuck on naming her business, I zoned in on that problem and that problem only.  Her mind had been unable to settle on a single concept because she’d been thinking about all the possibilities the business held for her.  She was letting her idea be compromised by what URLs were available, by the various services she hoped to provide (including those she didn’t yet), and her competitors.

I could see a lot of passion in her for what she did, but it was dueling the logical need to position oneself in the community and make money.  And so fear became the motivator, not the love of her chosen career, and our meetings were muddled.  We went through many lists, and settled on several names, only to have the entire concept completely uprooted by the next time we met.  We even got far enough to purchase two domain names, just to let them default.  My client no longer could see her true self.

What to do if You Can’t Decide

If you’re stuck in a similar fashion to my client, step away.  I mean it.  Walk away and stop thinking about your business concept for a week.  Totally let it go.  I realize this is extremely difficult — stress makes us latch onto ideas as if our life depended on them.  Recall my article about burnout and the ‘fight or flight’ affect of stress; your brain thinks it’s life or death when stress is involved.

Fortunately, your business name isn’t life or death.  If you find you’re having trouble walking away, try this trick:  every time the thought bubbles back up, take some deep breaths, telling your mind to let go of the thought with each breath.  You could even imagine blowing the thought away, releasing it from your body.

By walking away from the stress of naming your business, you allow your brain to settle down and reprioritize back to what is truly important.  Typically a week’s reprieve is enough for an entrepreneur to remember exactly why they chose to start their business in the first place.  You had an idea, and it excited you for some reason.  Maybe it’s passion or maybe it’s opportunity, but that root is where you’ll eventually find a comfortable business name that communicates your excitement to others.

When you return to the drawing board, start with what brought you down this path in the first place.  List those reasons, and let the naming process begin after that list is complete and clear.  In my experience, the name will spark from that list.

Leave a comment below about your naming process and be entered to win a free half-hour coaching session!

Whose Voice Holds You Back?

One of my favorite books to peruse time and again is Julia Cameron’s  The Artist Way.  The first section of the book is dedicated to cleansing yourself of all the negative input you’ve received in the past regarding your creativity.  You see, if your parents or friends told you your passion (drawing, dancing, singing) was stupid or a bad idea, it’s likely that those comments were internalized.  For some this means that they (over)work to defy these comments.  But for others, sublimation of their passion occurs, and they avoid their creativity.

Likewise, entrepreneurship is about big ideas based in passion — ideas that no one else has.  It requires us to be self-empowered and self-motivated.  This makes us specially unique to accomplish great things, but also means that when we hold ourselves back, there often is no one to get us back on track.

If you have ever told yourself that your idea isn’t good enough without a factual / statistical reason, it’s time to decipher where the reasoning came from.  Why does it matter?  Because stopping yourself from taking a leap can become a habit, and just like with writer’s block, you may become entrepreneurially blocked.  Ideas being our livelihood, that’s bad.

How to Find the Source of the Negative Commentary

You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?  I want to help you find where that negative reinforcement is coming from, so you can heal it (or tell it to bugger off, if you prefer).  Note that I’m not a psychologist, I’ve just done this for myself to great benefit.  I am only able to instruct you based on personal experience.

Each step will take time — how much time varies with each individual.

Step One

Think about the last time you had an idea for your work that you gut reacted negatively about.  This may take some time — I know my memory is odd with things like this, and sometimes I need to tell my brain to find a fact, then step away from the task for a while.

Once you have the moment in mind, we can proceed.

Step Two

Think hard about what stopped you from pursuing the idea.  We’ve already decided that it wasn’t a fact or statistic, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this exercise.  Did you stop yourself because the idea felt silly, wrong, or too ambitious?  Perhaps you felt it was selfish, or would be too much fun (not ‘work’).  Nail down exactly what it was, otherwise the next step won’t work.

Step Three

With the reason pinpointed, you can now consider who in your life might have left that impression on you.  This could be through the language they used, or the attitude they exuded toward things similar to the idea you had (or toward entrepreneurship in general).  I see a lot of entrepreneurs hold themselves back not only from individual ideas, but from success because someone, somewhere, once left a negative impression on the pursuit.

For many of us, these internal conflicts formed when were were too young to write off the attitude of the person we were with.  That is why this exercise is, at times, necessary.  Basically, we’re going to go back in time and re-teach ourselves that what we were taught was wrong, and release it.

Use the reason you abandoned an idea as an indicator.  90% of the time, my clients immediately know who it was who negatively affected them, even if the actual event isn’t remembered.  Just like your best friend may be the only person you know who uses the word “rad” anymore, the attitude or words left with you by someone is quintessentially them.

If you can’t remember, despite your best efforts, it’s alright to proceed to the final step.  Sometimes things happen to us at too early an age, or weren’t consciously remembered because, at the time, they seemed to be insignificant events.

Step Four

Was it a parent?  A friend?  A teacher?  With this person in mind, are you able to think about the moment this attitude was taught to you?  What was that moment really about?  Sometimes, as young people, we don’t realize that the comment or attitude wasn’t directed at us.  We pick things up because we are learning at break-neck speed, and garbage gets rolled into the good.

If you meditate, try to enter the space in which the event occurred, and see it for what it really was.  If directed at you, it’s time to forgive the person, and yourself (I know I get frustrated at myself for internalizing other people’s issues), and let it go.  It will be easier to let go of something that wasn’t directed at you, but it’s nonetheless important.  If you don’t meditate, do your best to put yourself in the shoes of the person in order to acheive the above result.

This is a process, and I expect it to take time.  Ultimately, business decisions should be based in fact, so if you find yourself negatively reacting unnecessarily to a new process, growth, or idea, take the time to go through this exercise again.  You may have more than one incident to clear up, or require positive reinforcement for the change to stick.

If you try this, please tell us about your experience in the comments!