Ready to Go APE with Guy Kawasaki? Write On!

apeAh, the idea of writing a book of your own: It’s tempting, isn’t it? And maybe scary too.

On any given day, you may draft a proposal for work, a testimonial for a friend, an acceptance speech, an opinion piece for the newspaper, or a blog. Each time you’re putting yourself out there, so now maybe you’re ready to write a book.

What’s stopping you?

For years getting a book published was part shooting in the dark, endless rejection, and disappointment. Traditional publishers held all the cards and often provided more obstacles than help. I certainly had my share of frustration and disillusionment when my book was published.

Fortunately, times have changed. If you have a book in you, the paths to publication are wide open.

Once again, Guy Kawasaki comes to our aid with his fabulous new book: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, written with Shawn Welch.

When the publisher of his New York Times bestseller, Enchantment, couldn’t fill an order for 500 ebook copies, he decided to self-publish his next book, What the Plus! That’s when he experienced the complex and confusing process of self-publishing and decided to sort it all out for us in APE.

Guy’s book covers traditional, ebook, and publishing-on-demand in his typically clear-cut style. He starts by making sure, we, as writers, understand these good reasons for writing:

Both writer and reader benefit when a book enables gains in the following areas:

  1. Enrich Lives
  2. Intellectual Challenges
  3. Further a Cause
  4. Catharsis

His challenge is this:

 Will your book add value to people’s lives? This is a severe test, but if your answer is affirmative, there’s no doubt you should write a book.

 Demystifying publishing

We live at a time where you, as a writer, can also be your own publisher. Guy notes that ebooks, although representing only about 10% of book purchases today, can be published and supported through sites like Kindle Direct Publishing, iBooks Author, and others that he identifies and explains.

He also grounds us in the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing:

The problem isn’t  that traditional publishers are dumb or evil…The problem is that traditional publishing grew up in a world with limits and logistics such as shelf space, access to printing presses, editing and production expertise, and shipping of physical books.

The shelf space for ebooks, however, is infinite, and anyone who can use a word processor can write and publish a book. These changes don’t mean that books are better…but at least the system is more accessible.

Guy goes on to cover the process, mechanics, approaches, and available resources for creating ebooks and publishing hard copies through print-on-demand, covering key steps and potential pitfalls.

He then drives home this point that, as a self-publisher, you become, by necessity, an entrepreneur:

Entrepreneuring is the most neglected and hardest of APEs three roles because it involves marketing and sales, which are foreign concepts to some authors and despised by the rest.

To sell we need to have a ready platform to tap into. He explains:

‘Platform’ is marketing-speak for the sum total of people you know and who know you….

The process of building a platform takes six to twelve months….If you don’t have a platform yet, you need to build one as you are writing your book.

Guy identifies what it takes to attract and maintain your platform:

Call me idealistic, but your platform is only as good as your reality. If you suck as a person, your platform will suck too. The three pillars of a persona brand are trustworthiness, likeability, and competence: TLC.

Artisanal publishing

If you’ve ever eaten from a great loaf of artisanal bread, you know what it means to have created something delicious from the heart. Guy’s notion of  “artisanal publishing” is:

The concept of authors writing, publishing, and lovingly crafting their books with complete artistic control in a high-quality manner.

The work of writing is still hard and marketing your book takes commitment. But the process, now, more than even is in your hands. That means it’s time to write on!

I give a big “thank you” to Guy Kawasaki for sending me a signed copy of APE so I could share my insights with you. His book has inspired me to take the self-publishing plunge. Now, I’ve got to get to work!

The Power of an “I Think I Can” Attitude | An Interview with Donna Hosfeld

I met Donna Hosfeld on Facebook. Her contagious enthusiasm for, of all things, insurance, struck me each time I read her posts. I have long been curious about what got Donna into the insurance business and why it matters so much to her. Her story is inspiring.

DL:  You’re a woman entrepreneur with an insurance agency. How did all this get started?    

DH: My career path is something I never could have predicted. No one in my family had gone to college, so my goal was to be an executive secretary in a big company. I developed award-winning secretarial skills and had a head for numbers which came in handy while working for a CPA during high school. That’s when things started to change. 

DL: What happened?  

DH: The CPA I worked for encouraged me to go to college, even though I hadn’t taken any college prep courses. I did, though, get strong SAT scores which got me accepted to Kutztown University. With the help of my high school guidance counselor, I earned seven cash scholarships and suddenly, I was on my way to a B.S. in business administration. Once graduated, I had what I thought was the ticket to a great job—a college degree. I was wrong. 

DL: The situation you were in sounds like conditions today for new grads. What were your next steps?   

DH:  After 100+ rejected job applications, I was really down but wasn’t going to give up. My neighbor hired me for a radio station commission-sales job that wasn’t right for me. Then a friend’s dad told me about Prudential’s management training program. I applied and was hired, working in a Claims office near Philly. I liked insurance work but not being so far from home. 

It all started to happen for me when I got a central office claims job with Erie Insurance in Allentown, PA. The management team had created a family-like working atmosphere. I worked there for eight years as an adjuster. I was again ready to advance. 

I applied and was rejected for an Erie home office position which would have included interstate travel to do claims auditing. I was crushed because I felt I was the most qualified. My branch manager, though, saw the job as the wrong fit for me. Instead he suggested I become an independent agent. Now, that was the real “see if I can” challenge. 

DL: Was that the first step to becoming an entrepreneur? 

DH: It sure was. Being an agent meant setting up my own office and making it profitable. I had to obtain a license to sell, find and outfit an office location, create a business plan, and build a book of policyholders. To get started, I had to invest my own money, just like any another other small business start up. 

My first office was in a basement. Over the years, I’ve literally come up in the world, adding space and employees. I participated in a merger with a large agency group for a time, but soon realized that I missed the advantages only a small, personally run agency can deliver. So I went back to sole ownership. Now, after 13 years as an agent, I am happier than I’ve ever been and writing more business than ever before. The business is in a great location and has a terrific staff. 

DL: What have all these experiences taught you about yourself? 

DH: If I thought I could achieve something in my life, I realized that I was usually right. I only wish I would have known that ahead of time to quiet the “doubter thoughts” that often plagued me.   

The most important discovery, though, was how much I care about my clients, about serving them, and about helping them stay safe. My clients are like my family; I feel protective of them. Insurance is my product but service is my passion. I’m where I am today because I believed in myself and others believed in me too. I try to pay that forward every day. 

DL: You really show how self-motivating it can be to want to prove yourself to yourself, thinking you can achieve something and then succeeding. Each time you tried something new, you overcame your fears by being fearless. There’s real power in that, something that we all need to put to work for ourselves.

Donna Hosfeld AIC, CPIW has over thirteen years experience as an Independent Agent. Her partnership with Erie Insurance extends over 20 years. She also offers coverage through Progressive and several other leading carriers. Her agency sells home, auto, business and life insurance products. You can follow Donna on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, her blog, and on her website.

Ready to Work for Yourself? | A Self-Assessment for Solopreneurs

It’s tempting and doable. All we need is an idea and, virtually overnight, we can launch our own business. But should we? 

An entrepreneur is someone who, by definition, “organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.” Interestingly, The American Heritage Dictionary 4th edition doesn’t have an entry for “solopreneur.” That surprised me since the term is widely used for individuals, like me, who are their businesses.

 Ready to go solo? 

I did—four times—and sometimes with two at the same time: (Egad!) 

  • Lennon Management Associates—specializing in veterinary practice management consulting (5 years)
  • Holly Run Farm, Inc.—race and show horse breeding, racing/showing, and sales (20 years)
  • Special Collections for Horsemen—equine art, antiques, and collectibles sales (10 years)
  • Big Picture Consulting—career and business coaching for individuals and small businesses (the remaining one, 2002-present) 

I knew nothing about owning a business before I started. Each venture was an education on how small business works. Those were the easy lessons. 

The real challenge was learning how to be in business by myself.   

Most of us who start solo businesses are focused on the “fun stuff.” We figure we’ll just announce our offerings and customers/clients will start calling. When they do, we’ll eagerly deliver our advice, services, or products. How complicated can it be? It’s just us doing what we do best. 

Well, as the line goes, if owning your own business were so easy, everyone would be doing it. 

Whether you plan to walk away from a steady job or keep it for a while (I was glad I waited) to start your solo business, take time for this self-assessment. It’s not all the questions you should ask but a good start. 

A Self-Assessment for Solopreneurs 

After each question, write your answers in clear detail. (Wishful thinking doesn’t cut it!) 

Business Planning 

  • What services and/or products will I offer at launch?
  • Who is my target market? What will they pay?
  • How will I contend with my competitors?
  • Am I business fit? Do I have the business skills and knowledge I need for:
    • Goal-setting, tracking, and performance analysis
    • Sales and marketing
    • Customer service, problem solving, troubleshooting
    • Recording keeping—financials, files, client/customer accounts, vendor agreements
    • Communications, planning, organizing, priority setting
    • Social media tools, outlets, and channels
  • How much revenue must the business generate to cover my business expenses and support me? By when?
  • Is it more prudent to start this business as a sidelight or just go for it?
  • Do I have enough money to invest to get off to a good start?
  • What’s my fallback position if the business isn’t successful?  

Self-Management

  •  Why am I doing this?
  • Do I have the personal discipline to manage every workday effectively, including the ability to:
    • Stay focused on priority work, not procrastinating?
    • Develop/improve/deliver services and products?
    • Make calls and meet with prospects?
    • Handle administrative details?
  • How will I handle disappointments? Success?
  • How much alone time can I tolerate and still be productive/happy?
  • What do I want from the business—money, personal growth, satisfaction, independence?
  • Who is my professional team (i.e, accountant, IT support, VA, attorney)?
  • Who is my support system—other entrepreneurs, mastermind group, confidants? 

Don’t let your missteps get you down.

Each of my businesses brought in plenty of revenue but only the current one is truly profitable. When you ask a solopreneur how s/he’s doing, most will say “great,” although that may not mean profitable or even happy. So please don’t measure yourself against success illusions others put out there. 

It’s important to start your business with boundless optimism: That’s what helps you slog through the bad times. Reality can quickly take the shine off a dream, but hard work and perseverance can restore it. Being a solopreneur can be a great ride.  So hold on and feel the energy.  

How about taking some time this week to complete that self-assessment? Or share it with an entrepreneurial friend.  It may be just what you need.

Reinvent Your Career—Preserve Your “Self” | An Interview with Cherry Woodburn

I met Cherry Woodburn on an NPR talk show for Women’s History Month. We were part of a panel of women entrepreneurs who were also authors. Cherry was an on-air veteran, having hosted her own radio show, and I was a rookie. She graciously helped put me at ease. 

Her career history struck a chord with me. She’d done it her way, always pushing forward to follow her talent and her principles. So we decided to meet for coffee and, in short order, became friends. Cherry’s story is an important one, so I asked her to share some of it with you. 

DL: Starting out, what were your career aspirations? 

CW: I had really BIG plans. I fully intended to save the world. 

I came of age in the 1970s, graduating from college with a B.S. in sociology with a minor in education. I assumed my first job would be for a non-profit, serving women and children in abusive or deprived situations. 

Instead I got a job in urban renewal which, in the final analysis, was about demolishing homes for green space, turning people’s live upside down. It didn’t take long until I knew that job was the wrong fit. 

DL: How did you deal with that realization?

CW: I thought an advanced degree would lead me to the right career. So I got a master’s degree in public administration from Penn State. Then back I went into the job market. 

I got a series of contract jobs with quasi-governmental non-profits in health planning and City administration. I spent most of my time trying to find grant funding and/or justifying expenditures for my own job, ugh! After three years in this arena, I was done. 

DL:  That was a hard realization. What kept you going? 

CW: I’m not afraid of change, so I decided to move into the business world. I wasn’t going to save the world, but at least, I could grow and see where that would lead me. 

G.E. hired me into their leadership development program. I was assigned to employee relations, handling primarily internal communications and assessment center work where I interacted directly with frontline employees, managers, and executives. I did well there. 

Employees in the leadership program who successfully completed their first job assignment were expected to relocate anywhere in the country for their next one. When my time came, I was pregnant with my first child, and explained that I was unwilling to relocate at that time. G.E. let me go. 

DL: How did you ever have the courage to sacrifice that big career move?  

CW: After considerable reflection, I determined family, rather than moving up the corporate ladder, was my priority. But what I hadn’t expected was that in a few years I would be a divorced single parent with two young children. 

As someone who started out wanting to save the world, I realized that my sons were my world. I was determined to find a way to make a living that allowed me to be at home with them as much as possible. 

Little by little, people started hiring me as an independent contractor. Suddenly, I was an entrepreneur! I did freelance copy writing for training manuals and video scripts. I wrote procedure manuals, developed and conducted training, and taught statistics to production employees at manufacturing companies. 

Then I was asked to work with a team to develop curriculum materials on total quality for elementary school teachers. The American Society for Quality selected our model as their model, and I ended up training it across the country. I could make enough money in a week to cover a month’s living costs and that week’s babysitters. Perfect!  

DL:  Even though you’ve reinvented what you do, you’ve still held on to your ideals. Where is that taking you now? 

CW: I still want to save the world and have a passionate concern about women’s issues. 

I see how women get stuck in self-limiting paradigms and I want to help them.

I’ve consistently defied unfair limits placed on me, but I, at times, still struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem issues. I think I’m typical of lots of women. 

Social media provides me with an amazing platform for reaching “the world.” I have embraced it so I can reach women who need someone to help them overcome their self-limiting beliefs. 

I have come full circle, having weathered many storms.  This current career reinvention stage enables me to connect who I am with what I do. What could be better? 

DL:  For everyone who struggles with “what they want to be when they grow up,” you remind us that we need to understand and follow what really matters to us, our drivers, and our passions. Then it’s a matter of taking responsibility for our choices and pursuing what’s important to us with courage. Thanks, Cherry. 

Cherry Woodburn blogs at Borderless Thinking. She is featured, along with Stephen R. Covey and Brian Tracy, in the book, Mission Possible, a compilation of interviews on reaching your potential, conducted by David E. Wright, President, International Speakers Network. Her services include speaking, live workshops, and on-line programs. You can follow Cherry on Twitter and Facebook.