What a Non-Mom Learned from a Mom’s Group

Right now, I’m wrapping up my last call with Mia Redrick, and I want to get some reflection in as I listen to her advice to our group. The fact that I, the woman who refuses to wake up before 7 and can’t imagine caring for anything that doesn’t walk on four legs, have been learning from Mia, who markets herself as The Mom Strategist, for the last year resulted from a combination of timing and need. After I got fired last year, I was in need of inspiration and direction. A travel industry client turned friend Tawanna of Mom’s Guide to Travel recommended that I have an initial call with Mia to learn about her services after telling me how much Mia’s guidance had helped her.

The first call was like talking to that friend/mentor/auntie who told you exactly what it was with a firmness and warmth. After discussing what I was trying to do for myself and my potential business, I had to mention the most obvious point: I’m not a mom. Knowing the insane amount of time management, patience and planning that women who are both mothers and entrepreneurs need to be successful, I wasn’t sure I was in need of the same guidance. Mia reassured me that her advice and insight applied to all, and that I would find value in the group setting combined with one-on-one conversations.

Value is just the beginning of what I found with Mia. Her straightforward approach and the fact that she could relate to nearly every heartache the group had been through gave us the space to be honest. From the importance of outsourcing, outreach and collaboration to product planning, the fact that I wasn’t a mom didn’t mean much as I gathered nuggets of wisdom. Above all, Mia preached self-care, which was the word that I needed after a year of stressing as a young professional.

I would recommend that anyone who wants to learn about how to run a business without running themselves into the ground reach out to Mia. I’ll miss being able to email her with my inner thoughts (I may still tweet her though) but I’ve gained some friends and contacts through the group that will continue to inspire me as I figure out what I’m doing while knowing it’s okay that I don’t have all the answers.

Thank you also to the ladies in my group:

Tawanna Browne-Smith – Founder of Mom’s Guide to Travel

Rani Robinson-Kiganda – Founder, CEO of Craft Web Solutions

Christine St. Vil – Author of Whose Shoes Are You WearingFounder and CEO of Moms In Charge

Rita Roane Blackwell – President, That Wine Girl

Mia Clapp – Clapp Studios (Photography)

Crystal Morgan Marable – Founder, Graceful Girlz

How to See the Forests and the Trees

Recently, at a catch-up brunch with a friend from college who is also in the communications field, we discussed the need for a side hustle. We both leaned toward consulting, and as such were discussing client relations.

As we had both discovered, and many other solo practitioners well know, those in need of communication assistance don’t always see the big picture. Potential clients sometimes believe that a tactic like customer newsletters, press releases or social media posts can make up for the lack of a true foundation of a brand and vision. My friend told me “That’s not the entirety of what we do, and it’s hard to translate that sometimes.” To which I nodded in agreement, because I’ve been there and done that.

So here is my two cents on the matter, for those entrepreneurs who are seeking to make a big impression through integrated communication:

  • Know thyself – Can you explain you and your services in a nutshell? If that nutshell is more the size of a coconut rather than a peanut shell, start shaving down to the essentials. There is a lot of competition out there, and the quicker you can get to the “How I can help you” point, the better to keep and maintain the attention of your customers.
  • Know thy budget – Find a balance between costs, both monetary and non-monetary. Recognize what you save in dollars by trying to do it all yourself may actually come out as a time resource cost. Nothing in life is free; know when to outsource to the professionals.
  • Know thy value – This message is for clients and communication practitioners both. Pricing your goods, for entrepreneurs, means the difference between feast and famine. Allocate, budget and track your sales to know when you can bring in partners – and yes, PR and marketing people should be your right-hand (wo)man in your journey – to help you go even further. Practitioners, know and ask for the true value of your services. Sure, you may think that writing out the plan takes only X hours. But consider also the time it takes to get in the head of your client, research their field and truly deliver an informed plan.

I hope this helped someone who is being challenged with a client who is limiting their own vision in the pursuit of short-term sales. Remind them that you are in the business of creating a long-haul journey, a foundational story and a valuable brand. And to those who are working with a solo practitioner, know that though they may not get you in Newsweek in the first month of working together, they will get you to the right place in time.

My Vegan Struggle

So…this vegan thing, let’s talk about it.

I’m struggling, y’all. So many delicious foods are made with dairy – ice cream, cookies, ice cream, pizza. My significant other is doing a much better job than me, I must say, which only makes me feel (slightly) worse. With age, I’ve become more aware of the importance of my diet and how it affects my physical health. Since I transitioned to (99.999) vegetarianism, I can say there is a difference in how quickly I can gain muscle tone, even after a junk food/no workout binge, and my skin has significantly fewer hormonal break outs. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I learned about how dairy affects your cholesterol, adding fats to your blood. But I keep coming back to the deliciousness of ice cream, and my soul hurts. Just like I don’t believe in diet cookies or ice cream, these goodies without the dairy just seems blasphemous.

Since it’s all a journey, I’m still working on it. Bryant Terry, who I consider one of the best vegan author/cook in the game, released his new book today. If you’re in the market for a new resource, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, transitioning or a full-fledged non-apologizing meat-eater, pick up a copy of “Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed.” I’m going to get a copy for me and my mom (who is kicking butt at veganism and putting us all to shame over here).

Other resources that I love:

Vegan Soul Food: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine” – took this one from my mom, best thing I’ve taken from her aside from this one super-comfy sweater.

Happy Herbivore – great community of vegans, includes an informative website and some fun cook books.

Dallas Vegan – good online resource for local vegans. Check out their Instagram as well for some yummy food shots to get you hungry.

Local restaurants: Cosmic Cafe, Kalachandji’s, Spiral Diner (Two words: tofu scramble. It’ll change your life.)

Do you have any vegan cook book or Dallas-area restaurants recommendations? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to check them out.

Does Being a Leader Mean Never Having to Say “I’m Sorry”?

Think about the last time you made a public mistake, be it in your personal or professional life. How did you handle it? Were you apologetic? Did you immediately make amends to anyone affected? And then, when the dust had settled, did you reflect on it, file the information and move on? Those are the “right” things to do, according to anyone with a lick of sense. When it comes to me, though, you won’t find one phrase in my acts of contrition: “I’m sorry.”

Now, this is not to say that I don’t experience regret or feel that I’m wrong, because it definitely happens. What I’m saying is that the words “I’m sorry” are not part of my vocabulary (usually). They’re right up there with the act of crying – there are just some things that can’t be taken back.

Let me explain my rationale. I want to solve issues, preferably before they become full-fledged problems. When a problem does arise, I’d rather dedicate time to quashing it than explaining it, apologizing for it and then resolving it. The act of saying “I’m sorry” puts you on the back foot. Unless a person has truly goofed in an irreparable way, there is always a way to make things better. Being solutions-focused means I’m looking ahead at next steps, not down at where I am currently still in the mistake.

To give an example: I encountered a situation in which, though it wasn’t me who screwed up, it fell to me as the person responsible for the one who did screw up. My response was to take responsibility, in writing, and begin discussing what could be done to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, the phrase “I take responsibility” didn’t have the same effect as “I’m sorry” to the superiors, and I was admonished specifically for not apologizing. Even years later, I believe this was one of the best examples of mismanagement I’ve encountered. Instead of focusing on my desire to fix the problem, the manager instead only saw the lack of the specific words that made them feel better. Even after pointing out that I had not shirked my role in the situation, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. The manager’s reaction confirmed what I’d already suspected about some people: To say “I’m sorry” is akin to groveling, laying prostrate and allowing someone to be “right” in your wrongness.

Since then, I’ve stood in my anti-sorry stance. Thankfully, the people that I work with now are of the problem-solving variety rather than the make-me-feel-better type, which means that when it comes to it, we’re on the get-things-done team.

What about you? Do you find yourself apologizing unnecessarily? (The way people, especially women, apologize for the littlest things is whole ‘nother post.) Or are you team no-apologies-necessary? What’s your fix-it tactic?

The Internet Is Lazy

But you already knew that, right?

This week, the Internet went through its usual paroxysms over the “hot topic” of the moment. This time it was the “First Kiss,” a video purporting to be footage of complete strangers kissing for the first time. My usual reaction to seeing all the You MUST see this video, ERMAHGERD! comments is to completely ignore it, hoping the hype goes down. This time, I bit. And as I expected, the hype let me down. Because truly, who wants to watch people awkwardly mash faces.

I digress. As the social media about the video reached a fever pitch, the other shoe dropped, so to speak. The kissers, gasp, they weren’t only strangers. Apparently, they’re also models. And the video wasn’t just for the sake of showing the intensity of initial physical contact. It was an ad for a clothing line. Color me surprised…

At this point, I’d checked out because nothing is ever as it appears online. But The Internet had other thoughts. Article after article about the “value” of the video, whether the fact that the people were models mattered, were we duped because it was an ad instead of unaffiliated viral content. The next wave of reaction posts were, predictably, folks’ takes on the “First Kiss” – a “real” version with non-models, a joke take on hand jobs, even one with dogs.

Now, I post this all to say that I wish it wasn’t all so predictable. Every five days or so, someone uploads an article or a video or a photo that takes over the conversation. The hot topic isn’t limited to social media, since the traditional outlets trawl social media for their filler content. After the first wave of shares and posts, then the response (#thinkpiece) from everyone with an opinion comes down the pipe followed by the responses to the response. It’s ubiquitous, it’s everywhere, and it’s exhausting. Most of all, it’s lazy.

Knowing how limited our attention spans are when we’re online, and how much information is out there, I encourage everyone to expand beyond their current outlets. Look for new writers, new perspectives and stories that maybe aren’t BuzzFeed-worthy but worthy of your attention. Think for yourself, don’t be lazy like The Internet.

The Four Lessons I’ve Learned Since Getting Fired

Photo via Flickr user C4 BOO
Photo via Flickr user C4 BOO. Image license.

I sometimes manage to miss anniversaries – like when I started blogging – but an upcoming date has not missed my notice. It’s been (about) a year since I got fired for the first time. In those (nearly) 365 days, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself, professionalism and coping with personal setbacks.

Make a plan – I saw my fate coming from a distance, so it gave me time to prepare. Once it happens to you, it’s normal to want to sit down and sulk, kick rocks and curse and generally be mad at life. If that helps, do it…but do it short-term. Then you get up, dust yourself off and start making a strategy. Nothing good comes from wallowing in your misery. Most importantly, piss poor planning prevents proper performing (thanks band years!). Takeaway: Always have a plan B (and C), even if you think you’ve found the dream job.

Maintain a network  – As I mentioned, I had a bit of a head start so I was able to reach out to my network before the hammer dropped. The fact that I had kept in touch even during the times I didn’t need anything likely helped move things along when I did need them. When I reached out to them about opportunities, it wasn’t from a perspective of “I need” but “How can I help you?” That subtle shift got me more opportunities and recommendations than submitting dozens of online applications. Takeaway: The most important question someone in need can ask isn’t “Can you help me?” but how “How can I help you?”

Invest in yourself  Losing my main source of income naturally made me want to shut down all “unnecessary” spending. I reconsidered this stance when a work associate, Tawanna Browne Smith, someone who knew my industry and had provided me with great feedback, recommended I link up with Mia Redrick. In the past 10 months, Mia has provided me with a blueprint for entrepreneurship and personal and group accountability. If you’re thinking of coaching, seriously, check her out. Takeaway: Strategic investments in your skills – continuing education, professional development, coaching – is a worthy measure if you believe it will help you get past your current situation.

Brand yourself – During a group session, we were asked if someone had to describe our services or expertise, had we given them enough to do so? A year ago, I’d been blogging but not about my area of knowledge. Since then I’ve launched my own website (where you are now), and I’ve begun using this site and my Twitter account (@VeleisaP) to tell more about myself as a professional. Another investment, but very much worth the price when it comes to search results on my name and my brand. Takeaway: Your name is often your entree into opportunities; make sure you are the one telling your story both in person and online.

That’s my wisdom. What advice would you give to a professional going through the transition that comes from being fired? I’ll share your comments via my Twitter account.

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