Author Archives: Anna Brindley

What’s purpose got to do with it?

By Anna M Clark

Interesting factoid in publishing: one of the best-selling non-fiction books ever written is  Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It has sold 30 million copies since it came out in 2002.   Success of any given book is contingent upon many variables, but one of the most important is whether the book addresses a “felt need.”  If Warren’s book is any indicator, purpose is a need that people are absolutely responding to – even more than the need to make money.  Case in point: Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grown Rich has also sold 30 million copies – since 1937.  “Purpose” has attracted as many people in 8 YEARS as “get rich” has in almost 80.

This little bit of trivia landed on my radar about 8 months ago while gearing up for the launch of my book Green, American Style.  Searching for the secret to turning out a bestseller (what else can I say?), I bought  Purpose Driven Life. I can’t believe how simple the message is (though admittedly not easy).  While Warren’s book communicates a sound message, I’m not crazy about his churchy, goody-goody style.

On the other hand we have Think and Grow Rich.  This is a great book. I love how it uses real-world/historical examples as well as insights into the psychology of motivation. My only issue with this book is that its main objective is to teach the reader how to make money.  Certainly not a bad thing in itself.  But from my experience, chasing monetary reward can sap my energy and push me away from activities that fuel my sense of fulfillment.

So what about a book that mixes the best of both worlds?  I don’t mean a preachy book about why God wants us to grow rich.  I mean a smart, insightful, and practical book about how to gain richness in life by achieving our God-given purpose.  If you are still with me here, then you now know the topic of my new project.

I started my company EarthPeople because I believe that when you change the way people think, they can become capable, enthusiastic catalysts for a fairer, more just society.  I believe that people are a renewable resource. Empowering others is my personal way of unleashing a source of clean, abundant energy to feed the world’s needs.  In pursuit of said goal, I work in renewable energy both literally (brand consulting for clean energy companies) and figuratively (motivating people to contribute their gifts for a better world). I uncovered this dual PURPOSE, unique only to me, five years ago.  I set out to pursue both the branding and training part of the work, but somehow the branding stuff took over (because people actually wanted to pay me to do it).  As a result, for the past several years I’ve spent more time wordsmithing than world-changing. You might say I’ve been so busy protecting the trees that I’ve lost sight of the forest.

When we lose sight of our purpose (or even half of it), work becomes stale.  When work becomes stale, we stop being good at it.  When we stop being good at what we do, we stop wanting to do it altogether.  (For this reason, I’ll be focusing more on training again).  This is something that all entrepreneurs face. Naturally optimistic and passionate, we may have an easier time of pursuing our purpose than some other personality types. Then again, being ambitious, driven, and capitalistic, we also have an easier time of losing our purpose if it isn’t directly tied to our immediate income. As we manipulate our businesses to maximize dollars, the reason for which we start the can get pushed aside.

Of course, losing sight of the higher purpose also happens with doctors and lawyers, as well as frustrated teachers and clergy.  Nobody is immune.  The thing to do when you feel it happening is to correct the course as soon as you discover the problem.   I’ve got my own ideas for how to do this but until I solidify them, I’m keeping the experiment open. (Amazingly, only a week after I made this decision, I signed a new client for a project focused exclusively on training and behavioral change!)

Ironically, for all my initial judgments about it, Rick Warren’s book really does have a lot of great material to say on the subject of purpose.  Who knew?  Some of us just have to learn things the hard way!

It’s all about you

By Anna Brindley
Well, sort of.

Recently, Victoria of Ladies Who Launch wrote a post “Telling Your Story”.  After reading it, I remembered how I always had the most success selling my products when I was face-to-face, telling my story.

So when my friend Anna (co-founder of Think Tank Society) asked me to help her prep for a speaking engagement on her book Green, American Style, she presented me with her talking points. About half way through the conversation, I stopped her.  “I think you just need to tell your story,” I told her.  She paused and said, “Really?” “Yes,” I said, really!”

Since she hadn’t told it in awhile, she wasn’t even sure which part was the most interesting.  “Just be yourself,” I told her.  We worked on weaving her story into her outline, making sure to include the “who, what, why and how” while emphasizing her key points. When the day came, she opened up and let her story speak for her product. And wouldn’t you know it, after the presentation, the group lined up to buy her book.  “It works!” she told me on the phone afterwards.

For tips on how to tell your story, read Victoria’s post http://www.ladieswholaunch.com/magazine/victorias-launchtip-34/12109

Lessons from TLC’s “Millionaire Mom”

By Anna Brindley

Shows about entrepreneurs always catch my attention. Since I have a friend and mentor on an upcoming episode of “Millionaire Mom” on TLC, coming up, I’m especially interested in this season’s episodes.

Thanks to DVR technology, I am actually able to watch this show – once the children are snug in their beds, of course. The first episode covered women who have products in the beauty category. It was nerve-racking to watch because I truly want all of the gals to win.   I get nervous for each of them as they participate in their contests.

In the premiere episode, each one of the contestants had excellent products. I suspect that was the “price of admission” – a basic requirement in the casting. But when it came down to the final two women, who were competing for the chance to partner with HSN, I could tell they earned the opportunity in large part to their ultra-refined pitches. When everything else is equal, and the judges are impressed with all products, it’s how well you articulate your purpose that makes the difference. In the end, Presentation is Everything.

So how did it end?  Out of all the contestants, down to the last contest between the final two, the best presenter is the one who won.  Amongst all the sellable products emerged a single individual who was able to sell herself.  This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over.

Even when I was in the food and beverage industry (granted, as a a waitress and a bartender, but a very experienced one!) I remember that concept being drilled in repeatedly. A customer will eat or drink with his or her eyes first. If you served a drink where the whipped cream was perfectly swirled and the cherry perfectly placed on top in a sparkling glass, the customer would “like” the drink even if the taste was unexceptional.  Why? Presentation is Everything.

It is a good lesson to practice, practice and practice your pitch some more. Even though the show makes me want to squirm, the lessons are there for the taking.  Tune in on TLC Friday nights. http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/homemade-millionaire/

When “No” means opportunity

by Anna Brindley

Hearing no or seeing no in an e-mail can feel like a kick in the gut. Not only can it cause physical pain, it makes you want to crawl in a hole and stay there. Doesn’t this person see how special I am? Don’t they know how hard I’ve worked?  Don’t they have a clue that I’m doing all this on a shoestring with some extreme limitations? Can’t they appreciate how creative I am?

It takes everything I have to pull myself up by my boot straps and ask for an opportunity.  And nothing makes me want to quit quite like hearing no. It is humbling to ask for feedback, but I’ve found that learning why something didn’t work can be a key step in moving forward.

Recently when I approached a big retailer and got a no, I gulped and called the buyer back. “Can I have a few minutes of your time?”  I found out was that their buying requirements limit them to vendors that offer complete collections. In other words, I needed to show them more products that would merchandise well together on the floor. Asking the question gave me some great information about this retailer.  It also leaves the door open to try again in the future. “If it’s okay with you,” I told her, “next season I may be coming back with a full line.” The buyer said, “Sure, pitch again.”  Just like that, the “no” turned into a “maybe.”  Not a bad use of 10 minutes on the phone.

Bouncing back from a “no” can be difficult, but learning to pick myself up quickly has helped me develop the mettle I need to persevere.  If you happen to be licking wounds of your own as you read this, I’ll leave you with this: quit b*tching and start pitching.  Start by calling anyone who has told you “No” lately.  You may not close the deal, but at the very least you could open the door to a relationship.

Shoestring and a dream

by Anna Brindley

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines shoestring as: a small sum of money: capital inadequate or barely adequate to the needs of a transaction.

The synonyms – chicken feed [slang], chump change, dime, hay, peanuts, pin money, pittance, mite, song, two cents – made me laugh when I thought about potential titles for this article: Chicken Feed Dreams, Chump Change Dreams, Peanuts and Dreams???

Recently on HARO there was a query for entrepreneurs who started their businesses on a shoestring. Because I had done so much on my own for my business with so little money, I epitomized the shoestring startup concept.  Here is an excerpt from my article on that topic for ShoestringVenture.com:
I worked as if I had no capital. Anything I could do on my own, even with a learning curve, drove my strategy. I quickly became, as Entrepreneur magazine called it, the Chief of Everything Officer .  I wrote my business plan, designed the pajamas/loungewear, sewed the first prototype (and a few other WIP prototypes), designed the logo (friends gave input and voted), built (with templates) my website, presented and sold the product to a couple of boutiques, wrote my copy and blog entries, sent my PR queries, created my hangtags and labels, wrote my own patent and applied for my trademark—to name a few. Pattern-making, marking, grading, and sample production are all outsourced within the US. I employed a legal services website to help build my LLC. In hindsight I would take less expensive route on that as well.

I’ve learned loads of lessons on this journey. Check out the full article for the rest of the story (still unfolding as I write this)…

Will you endorse me?

by Anna Brindley

It’s election time and candidates are asking, “Will you endorse me?”. One such politician asked me for mine. He came to my house in person talking about things that are important to me.  He told me that he felt he had to make a stand and get involved. And then he closed me – I was sold. After we spoke, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in our worlds:

Since the beginning of September, I have been working on my promotional campaign for next spring. I took pictures, wrote clever marketing words (at least I hope they were clever), and packaged it all together in a bulk mailing of postcards. After the mailing, I started dialing the phones, essentially asking:

  • What do you think of my policies?
  • Do we care about the same things?
  • Do you think I have your concerns in mind?
  • Do you think I will do what I say?

 

My purpose for all of this?  Of course, I want the “big kahuna” endorsement. If I could align with the big dogs – in my case Neiman Marcus, HSN, and Travel and Leisure magazine as of this writing – then I could get my message to the masses and hopefully get more endorsements.  The expected return on my time is more customers as a result. So, what if I don’t get these “endorsements”? At a minimum, making personal connections is still worthwhile. In fact, it might be the best thing I get out of my campaigning efforts.  Valuable feedback is another benefit of mixing with the people.  For example, one “voter” told me that she loved my product, but that her “people” may not understand it. She also said she might be more willing to endorse my policies if the price of admission were a little lower.

As I try to round up my big endorsements as a still unknown “candidate”, I have to go to the people.  I may even need to go “door to door” to get my votes (i.e. grassroots marketing and word-of-mouth PR). Who knows, that may be the best strategy anyway.  After all, the business experts all say you have to “create one customer at a time.”