Where Are All the Women Entrepreneurs?

My colleague, Denise Brosseau, tackles this question in a recent Inc. post. And she should know. Denise is a co-founder of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and co-founder of the Springboard Venture Forums that have helped women raise over $5 billion for their businesses.

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Creative Visualization

ImageHere’s a quote from a book written in 1910 by Wallace D. Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich. It’s available for free on Google Books.

“There is nothing wrong with wanting to get rich. The desire for riches is really a desire for a richer, fuller, and more abundant life; and that desire is praise worthy.”

Wattles was one of the first to practice and write about creative visualization. This technique, frequently used by athletes to enhance performance, is a practice of seeking to affect the outer world by changing one’s thoughts and expectations.

You may be familiar with one of the most well-known studies on creative visualization in sports in which Russian scientists compared four groups of Olympic athletes:

Group 1 received 100% physical training;
Group 2 received 75% physical training with 25% mental training;
Group 3 received 50% physical training with 50% mental training;
Group 4 received 25% physical training with 75% mental training.

The fourth group demonstrated the best performance results, indicating that certain types of mental training, such as evoking mental images of successful performance, act as a prelude to muscular impulses. It has since become widely accepted in neuroscience and sports psychology that mental training causes the body to respond favorably to achieve consciously desired outcomes.

As you look forward to 2013, take a page out of sports psychology – envision your best year ever. Let your imagination create a vision of success in as much glorious detail as possible, then visualize it over and over again with all of your senses (what do you see? what do you feel? what do you hear? what does it smell like?).

Don’t forget to imagine the after party! What’s your reward when you’ve achieved financial success and abundance? A trip to Paris? Sailing in the Caribbean? Sales executives have long known that sales incentives significantly boost sales revenue.  Create your own sales incentive – then imagine the experience in glorious detail.

One of my clients imagines her trip to Paris at the end of 2013 when she’s launched her new business and hit her financial goals. She is in a boat floating on the Seine near the Eiffel tower. She is wearing an evening gown, and her husband a tuxedo. They are sipping champagne and toasting a year of unprecedented success as they watch the lights on the Eiffel tower change colors.

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Future Think: The Next Big Idea

ImageLinkedIn has launched a virtual holiday party blog post featuring 50 of the smartest and most accomplished people in business blogging on the Big Ideas of 2013. Great fodder to spark your visionary thinking as you plan for the new year.  

With a sleep-deprivation at an all-time high for Americans, 46% of whom report work-related stress keeping them up at night, I love Arianna Huffington’s call to eradicate stress in 2013.

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What Compels Us to Change? It May Not Be What You Think!

ImageIn HBR Blog article, Ten Ways to Get People to Change, Morten Hansen compiles research on the topic of how you get leaders, employees, customers and even yourself to change. It’s a great article.

The three ways that stand out for me:

  1. Focus on one change at a time. Sequence to change more than one behavior
  2. Paint a vivid picture. Use images, stories, metaphors and objects to paint an ugly “before” picture of where things stand now, and a glorious, compelling vision of the “after” picture.
  3. Tweak the situation. Hansen uses the example of how Google changed where things are located in the physical flow of their cafeteria to get people to choose healthier foods.

This third one intrigues me. How does tweaking the situation work? A book Hansen cited in his blog article is Switch, How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The Amazon description perfectly captured my daily struggle to stick with my exercise and nutritional program: “Psychologist have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems – the rational mind and the emotional mind – that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie.”

Yesterday my emotional mind was clearly running the show when I reached for that delicious Haagen Daaz bar.

I’m only on the second chapter, and I’m hooked. The book starts with a study: a research team gave moviegoers two sizes of free popcorn – both way too much to eat – one medium sized and one large. They carefully engineered the popcorn to taste wretched, “one moviegoer later compared it to styrofoam packing material.” Yet the moviegoers ate it anyway. The study was designed to determine whether someone with a larger inexhaustible supply would eat more than someone with a smaller inexhaustible supply.

The result: Those with large buckets of wretched popcorn ate 52% more than those with medium sized buckets – the equivalent of 173 more calories, 21 extra hand-dips of wretchedness. The ran the studies again, in different cities with different movies and the results were the same. People eat more when you give them a bigger container.

If you want people to eat less popcorn, change the situation, not the behavior. The easy way is to shrink the bucket – the hard way is to figure out how to motivate people to adopt healthier snacking behaviors.

How many of our most challenging changes are situation problems and not behavior problems? What if you could change the situation (eat off a smaller plate) to make it possible for you to get the outcome you want with less effort and discipline?

Well, I’m hooked. Off to read more about how I can unite the rational and emotional minds to stay clear of the Hagen Daaz.

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Need More Mental Energy? Limit Your Choices

ImageRegardless of what you may think of the president, most of us would agree that Barack Obama makes an incalculable number of vital decisions every day, and does so in the midst of an unrelenting schedule. So how does he do it? What can we learn from the President about how to manage time and energy in our own busy lives?

In his article in the October Vanity Fair, Moneyball author Michael Lewis posed this question to Obama: “Assume that in 30 minutes you will stop being president. I will take your place. Prepare me. Teach me how to be president.”

Obama’s response: “You have to exercise, or at some point you’ll just break down. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” he tells Lewis. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

This advice is often heard from other highly successful people who report eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. In Brian O’Keefe’s Fortune article Leadership Lessons from Nick Saban, he reports that Alabama’s multiple national championship winning football coach Saban “sits at this very table every day and works through his lunch hour while eating the same exact meal: a salad of iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes topped with turkey slices and fat-free honey Dijon dressing. No time wasted studying a menu.”

Research studies confirm the correlation between too many choices and less effective decision making. A study conducted by Iyengar and Lepper (2000) found that consumers who faced 24 options, as opposed to 6 options, were less willing to decide to buy anything at all, and those who did buy were less satisfied with their purchase.

A recent study by Kathleen Vohls and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota further explores the relationship between choice and decision making energy. The study concludes “that decision making depletes the same resource used for self-control and active responding. In 4 laboratory studies, some participants made choices among consumer goods or college course options, whereas others thought about the same options without making choices. Making choices led to reduced self-control (i.e., less physical stamina, reduced persistence in the face of failure, more procrastination, and less quality and quantity of arithmetic calculations).”

So if you want more mental energy throughout the day, it’s best to make fewer decisions.

How might you pare down your choices to free up metal energy and improve decision making? I love clothes, so you won’t see me fill my closets with only blue and grey suits. But I can let go of choices at breakfast. And perhaps I’ll create a very specific master grocery list so minimize choices at the grocery store. What a great place to start! Talk about overwhelming choices.

Let us know what decision you eliminate, and if making fewer decisions gives you more mental energy for the decisions that matter.

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Women Board Members Help Companies Weather Downturn

What’s wrong with this picture?

Credit Suisse’s recently published report reveals that companies with at least one woman on the board have outperformed those with men only by 26% over the past six years. Interestingly, during the period between 2005 an 2007 when the economy was more robust, there was little difference in performance. The performance gain started in 2008 as economic volatility increased. Continue reading

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Business Lessons from Riding My New Beach Cruiser

It’s summer, the weather is delightful, and I decided it’s time to stop driving my car everywhere. So yesterday I went and bought myself a brand new one-speed beach cruiser bike with a basket on the front. There’s nothing like riding a bike to make you feel giddy and free, kind of like a kid again.

Cruising along this morning, I found that riding my beach cruiser gave me a whole new perspective on my work. Continue reading

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7 Sales Mistakes that Lose Deals: Part III

This is the final part of a three-part series that outlines the seven most common sales mistakes you may be making and – most importantly, what you can do to avoid them. Part I and Part II addressed Mistakes 1-5:

  • Letting leads go “cold”
  • Failing to create urgency
  • Failing to “trial balloon” price in the first meeting
  • Not talking directly with the true economic buyer
  • Taking too long to write the proposal

This post addresses the final two mistakes: letting your proposal go into the “black hole” and not staying in control while overcoming objections. 

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7 Sales Mistakes That Lose Deals: Part II

This is the second in a three-part series that outlines the seven most common sales mistakes you may be making and – most importantly, what you can do to avoid them.

Part I addressed Mistakes #1 & 2: letting leads go “cold” and failing to create urgency.

This post addresses Mistakes #3 – #5: Failing to “trial balloon” price in the first meeting, not talking directly with the true economic buyer, and taking too long to write the proposal.

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7 Sales Mistakes that Lose Deals: Part I

As a coach for professional service executives and consultants, one of more frequent concerns I hear about is the daunting challenge of continually seeking and expanding new business leads.

So it may be surprising to hear that the fastest way to boost sales and grow revenue isn’t to generate more leads. Most professionals can get a 10-20% increase just by quickly and successfully working more of the leads they already have, and increasing the close rate for proposals. The best consultants and executives have an 80 to 90 percent close rate on the proposals they submit. And it turns out the real key to their success is that they avoid the most common mistakes people make that cost them business.

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