start a business

Oct 232012

school teacherYou’ve probably been a schoolteacher if you’re a boomer woman over 55.  I was born in 1950 when women had three career choices. You could be a school teacher, a secretary or a nurse. I chose to be a teacher since I knew that I wouldn’t be one forever.

From university on, I wanted to have my own business. Little did I know then that teaching would give me the skills I’d use as a business owner. I taught for 8 years from 1972 to 1980. in the summer of 1978 I taught how to use computers in the classroom as a course BEFORE you needed credentials to teach it to other teachers. Nancy Murray a Superintendent in the Windsor Separate School Board took a risk on me. I had 40 teachers in my class that summer. That was the beginning of my self employment journey. I’d started.

Being a teacher is one of the best things you can do. Many of us have been teachers and most don’t know that teaching prepares you to become an entrepreneur who starts and runs your own business. Here are some of the many skills that teaching gave us.woman business owner

  1. being “teachable” and therefore learning what you need to know through professional development.
  2. short term and long term planning. (Do teachers still create “day plans” and “weekly plans”?)
  3. running a large group. When I started in 1972 I had 42 students in my first year. Did that ever prepare me!
  4. risk taking
  5. persistence
  6. patience
  7. goal setting. You set goals not only for yourself each year but especially if you taught special education as I did, you set goals for each individual student as well.
  8. speaking to a group. You know how to speak to a group and if you had the courage you also spoke to larger groups of your peers.
  9. educating!!!
  10. how people learn (3 modalities). As a teacher it was automatic for you to know this but those who didn’t teach learned it later — if they were lucky :-)
  11. how to research offline and online
  12. “reading, writing and of course arithmetic”
  13. creativity. You had to “make do with what you had” and therefore if you didn’t have something you used your creativity to make what you needed from what you had.
  14. listening to and knowing the individual needs of your students/ clients
    … and of course …
  15. being your own boss (I guess that’s why I liked Special Education so much.)

I could go on and on. Do you see how as a teacher you have the skills needed as a business owner? What you don’t know yet is how to start a business but you know how to learn, don’t you? Well that’s all you need. I and most entrepreneurs didn’t take courses on how to start a business. They (and I) learned what we needed as we went along by trial and error. Sure we made mistakes. Didn’t your students when they were learning? We read books, took classes, attended conferences and hired coaches.

Take a risk and start your own business. Ask for help when you need it. And keep learning. That’s what keeps us young!

Just do it as the Nike slogan says. What else would you add to this list?

photo credit: Old Shoe Woman via photopin cc
photo credit: JodiWomack via photopin cc

Sep 282012

my businessNo matter what anybody says, the business is yours. You are where “the buck stops”. You’re also the one who can leave when you want, have coffee with whomever you wish, and take holidays when you want them.

So why don’t you? You feel frightened and overworked and don’t get to have or do the business in the way you started. You CAN set up and “train” your clients in just the way you want to work. What? Yep, run your business just the way you want.

Do this as a startup business or later. Any time is alright. Remember that you lost a few “friends”  when you first began your business? If you do this, you may lose a few clients who aren’t “perfect” for you anyway. What’s important is how YOU want to live.

Set boundaries for your clients to follow. Remember that only you know they’re boundaries. Clients will think that’s just the way you run your business.

Here’s what to do …tell prospects how to work with you

  1. have a different phone number for your business even if you work from home. Answer this phone during the hours and on the days that you specify.
  2. pay yourself first before you pay any bills. Then pay the others.
  3. call or email back on certain days, at certain times or within x hours – you specify. With technology like voice mail messages, cell phones, and the internet, people expect you to return their “call” right away. If you want to – good. If you don’t, then do this. I’ve been a trainer and so was only available at lunch time or the next day. My clients knew that they’d get the same kind of service when it was their turn for training so they didn’t expect me to get back to them immediately.
  4. put your policies on your invoices, your brochures and your website so people know exactly what to do.
  5. tell people how to deal with you when you first meet them. It’s common courtesy.
  6. do exactly what you say you will. People don’t like it when you say you’ll meet them at 2:00 p.m. and then you show up at 2:30 p.m. without calling! (You can tell that bothers me.)

There’s a lot more you can think of now that I have you started. Sit back and imagine just how you want your life to be, then list what you have to do in your business to achieve that.

What have you done about how you work and what you’d like clients to do?
photo credit: Alex Osterwalder via photopin

Aug 272012

virtual assistantAs baby boomers we remember when there were secretaries. Now they’re called assistants. If you were a manager or higher you had a personal secretary who answered your phone and typed everything you dictated. Having a personal secretary was a mark of prestige. There were also departmental secretaries to whom one gave all the work of the department. (Image from )

If you were self employed you couldn’t afford employees and therefore you didn’t have a secretary. The explosion of technology resulted in virtual assistants.

What is a virtual assistant or “VA”?

A virtual assistant is generally self-employed and provides administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients from a home office. They do what a secretary does without you having to hire them as an employee.

The history of a virtual assistant

Go back to 1996. Thomas Leonard a business and life coach had a phone conversation with his secretary in which he mentioned the phrase “virtual assistant”. She used it to create her new business and in February 1997 virtual assistance was publicly announced as a profession. It’s been used as a term ever since and is a growing field.

What do they do?

Virtual assistants can do almost anything that to you is “administrivia” or “too techy”. You may need more than one depending on what you want them to do but a good one will tell you what they can’t do and then refer you to someone who can. I’ve included an article link that lists “50 Things A Virtual Assistant Can Do For Your Business”. Read the list and find out. If you can think of it a VA can probably do it.

Why do you need one?

“My business is small and I can do it all myself. Besides I can’t afford one.” You can’t afford NOT to have one for some tasks. There are many reasons to hire one but the top three are …

  1. Virtual assistants are independent contractors (a US term) or self employed (a Canadian term) rather than employees and therefore you’re not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits.You avoid the problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies.
  2. They’re less expensive than an employee. You only have to hire them for what you need. That could be as little as two hours a week and they focus on only your work for that time period and bill by time.  Virtual Assistants usually work for other small businesses.
  3. They can be anywhere. As a result of technology you could be in Toronto and your virtual assistant could be in San Diego and you may never meet in person.

Two things to do BEFORE you get a VA

Do the task yourself so that you know not only about how much time it will take a VA to do it but also the steps for that task and what you need done.

Make a list of tasks or projects you want done. That way both you and the VA know exactly what you want done.


I’ve hired different ones. One did data entry from all of the business cards that I had collected at network events; one posted the articles I wrote on several article sites; and one took my Word documents that I used as “giveaways” and converted them to pdfs.

What did you have a virtual assistant do for you?

Feb 242012

attend conferencesHave you ever gone to a conference? They usually have a lineup of speakers, panels, and topics to pick from. They have concurrent sessions and sometimes two of the sessions you really want to go to are at the same time. How do you choose? By the speaker? by the topics? do you “toss a coin”? Decisions Decisions …

1. How do you find out about conferences?

Ask the same people you asked about what newsletter to subscribe to  (#3 in my list of 8 actions) or courses to take (#5 in my list of 8 actions) or books to read (#4 in my list of 8 actions). I’ll repeat them and I’ll add one more.

  • Ask your mentor and your coach which ones they go to. Ask them which ones they recommend. Have a list of what’s offered that you’re considering when you ask them.
  • Read websites and the conferences the business owners suggest. Add these to your list and ask your mentor or coach or someone who’s attended before.
  • Ask other women at networking events.
  • Check out the ones the writers/ owners of the newsletters you subscribe to attend or speak at.
  • Ask someone who’s gone to AND participated in the conference you’re thinking of attending.
  • Use a search engine on your computer like google. Enter a word or phrase that best describes what you’re in/ looking for. For example: marketing, startup, chiropractic, alternative health or lifestyle coaching. How do you describe your business when you tell others what you do? Enter that phrase.

2. How do you choose whether to attend or not?

Location. Is it too far for you to go or is it in your city?

Cost. Add up accommodations, travel, attendance fee and your time and get the REAL cost of an event. Can you afford it?

Contacts. How many will you make? Remember you don’t just want to meet the presenters in person but you should network with the other attendees.

Professional Development. What will you learn? Could you read it in a book? Take a webinar or telecourse?

Timing. Do the dates conflict with anything you’ve already committed to?

Use the criteria above. If the contacts and your professional development and learning outweigh the costs and you can make the time for this then go. Don’t let yourself be swayed by the urgency that many conference organizers put on deciding. Do your “due diligence” just as you did before starting the business then decide if it’s right for you.

3. How do you choose which sessions to attend?

Speaker. Is there one of them you really want to hear and meet and that’s why you came?

Topic. Would you learn more from one topic than the other?

Recording. All events record the speakers. Could you buy the recording of the one you choose NOT to attend?

Is someone else going to that session and taking notes? That’s why networking is so important. Ask the people sitting near you at the conference what they do. Arrange to meet them for coffee or lunch or dinner. Which sessions are THEY attending?

Associations. Do you have any associations you belong to who have an annual conference? Who attends this?

Do This …

Share with us which conferences worked “best” for you. Tell us the name so we know, too :-)


Feb 142012

take courses, webinars and teleclassesYou take courses for at least two reasons to learn and to meet people. Keep learning! Keep networking!

Kinds of Courses

  1. “Live” Course. This is just as it says. You’re in a seminar or course with a group of people in a physical place like a hotel. Pros: networking with people, “personalized” attention from instructor Cons: cost – your time to get there, parking and fuel, no free “recording” of the course.
  2. Telecourses (phone courses) or Webinars These are a new use of an existing technology – phones or computers. Pros: recording of the sessions if you have to miss one, cheaper, no travel time for you or the instructor, no cost for parking, can get a replay if you’re not available, you can use your laptop computer for webinars Cons: networking with other participants is difficult or impossible, you may be at a client and therefore no access to long distance or computers, difficult to get to someplace with wireless access for webinars

You can see that both types have their pros and cons. For me who can’t travel as easily since my stroke (if a seminar is in town I either have to pay for a taxi or find another participant to give me a ride) the telecourses and webinars are perfect. I can take several each year and I never have to leave home. Thank goodness for technology:-) But choose for yourself.

Why Take Courses?

  1. Well, as a lifelong learner I believe in education and learning. So you should never stop learning. Even if it’s a free teleclass as long as the advertising of the speaker’s next course they’re offering is kept to a minimum, sign up for them. The good news is that all teleclasses are recorded. The bad news is that the slides used in a webinar aren’t always available.
  2. Networking is the first kind of marketing I always suggest. At a live seminar you can choose the other students you wish to and talk with them or set up to meet them. You also have an opportunity to meet the instructor in person (skype takes care of that if you take a telecourse).

How do hear about them?

Ask the same people you asked about what newsletter to subscribe to (#3 in my list of 8 actions) and books to read (#4 in my list of 8 actions). I’ll repeat them here.

  • Ask your mentor and your coach which ones they go to or listen to. Ask them which ones they would recommend. Have a list of what’s offered that you’re considering.
  • Read websites and go to the ones the business owners suggest.
  • Ask other women at networking events.
  • Check out the ones the writers/ owners of the newsletters you subscribe offer.


Remember to check them out before you spend the money. Take a free teleclass they give. Make a list of what matters to YOU. Make sure professional development costs are in your planning budget.

Early in 2011, I  took a group coaching program/ telecourse for 10 weeks from Tsufit  – “Step Into Spotlight Live” at and it was very productive. Often I’m called a “marketing expert” and that’s because I keep learning – through books, newsletters, telecourses and conferences. But I learn the most from YOU – my students and followers. YOU ask the questions and if I know I tell you the answer. If I don’t know I tell you and then search to learn it and then tell YOU :-)

That’s how it works. It’s okay to not know the answer. Just ask … then you’ll know :-)

What don’t you know? Ask here and I’ll give you answer AND so will others!

Feb 102012

Reading is wonderful. I’ve always loved to read – anything :-) Buying books is one of my only my booksaddictions. So entering a bookstore is a “dream come true” for me. I was so happy when they first opened coffee shops IN bookstores. Now I can start reading what I’ve bought. But enough about me.

Have passion for your business topic and love to learn.

You can learn a lot from books. Recently I decided I wanted to learn more more about a concept called neuromarketing. I had the name of several books so when I had the opportunity to go a bookstore I could scan them and decide which ones were for me. I ended up buying two of them.

read booksForms of books

It used to be that there were two forms for books – hardcover and paperback. I know you could also get “books on tape” or books with large fonts. Now there are also ebooks. More authors are making sure their book besides being on paper is also an ebook.

It’s really difficult to choose an ereader because each book chain has its own. But that’s another post.

What should you read?

  • It goes without saying that you need to read books about your topic. It’s professional development (here in Canada you can deduct Professional Developments books and not just courses) or Research and Development and it should be ongoing. So if you took a course and think you can stop learning then you can’t.
  • Go beyond your topic. Stay at the leading edge. That’s why I’m reading books about “neuromarketing”.
  • Read about how to start a business and how to market. Remember that you can’t know too much.

Where can you learn what you should read?


Tell me what books you’re reading. As you know, I love to know about them :-) Share the titles with everyone!

Feb 082012

You’ve chosen a mentor and hired a business coach. What else should you do?

subscibe to newslettersDo you remember when all newsletters were printed on paper and came by mail? I do. In the 80s when I co-owned an Apple computer store in Toronto, we had a one page one. It was even before desktop publishing. We would type it (on computer), print one, give that to a printer, tell him how many copies to make, pick them up, fold and stuff them in envelopes, put a label for each customer on the envelope (Yes. We had a database program.), put a stamp on each and go to either a mailbox or the post office to mail them. WHEW! No wonder we were one of the few companies that did them :-)

Ezine or newsletter? What are they called?

newsletterThey’re now electronic and are called either ezines (pronounced like magazine) or newsletters. Some businesses still have a paper one partly because their clients don’t have/ use/ know computers. We use them because it’s “free” to start and postage (here in Canada as of April 1, 2014 it costs 85 cents to mail inside Canada) is too expensive.

Why subscribe to newsletters?

There are several reasons and each newsletter ALWAYS has a way to unsubscribe. It’s the law in Canada and the U.S. So subscribe to several for now. You can always unsubscribe.

Get several that are run by people in your business (your competitors). Here’s what to look for:

  • do they publish in text or in html (the “pretty looking” format) and do they give you a choice
  • what do they write about (you may want to write on their topics)
  • do YOU learn something (you should always be learning and this one way)
  • do they give you solid information or do they just advertise their products (the rule of thumb is 80% knowledge and 20% sales)

How do you know which newsletters to subscribe to?

  • Ask your mentor and your coach what they subscribe to. That’s why I had you get a mentor and a coach to start.
  • Read websites and go to the ones the business owners suggest.
  • Ask other women at networking events.


Well. What newsletters do YOU subscribe to and why? Tell everyone so they know. I get ones about blogging, about marketing to women, about small businesses, about PR, about networking events here in Toronto, …. You can see that I subscribe to many.

Every once in a while I “clear the clutter” and unsubscribe to a few. How do I decide? Well for me they’re often ones I don’t read any more. You’re just starting so which ones have you chosen?

Feb 032012

What is a coach and how is it different from a consultant?

hire a business coachThe Merriam Webster dictionary defines them this way .. “a coach instructs or trains. … a consultant gives professional advice or services; an expert.”

That doesn’t really help you, though does it? A coach can and should be expert too. But what matters is that the coach is a teacher who is also your cheerleader and trains you so you can do it yourself and the consultant gives you advice and possibly does something for you.

You’ll eventually need a consultant but you need a business coach first.

Why should you have a business coach?

This is your first business, isn’t it? You were very good at your job and may have moved up through the ranks. You may have worked for a large corporation that had multiple offices. But this may be the first time you’ve had your own business and you probably don’t know what to do.

Don’t worry. If you hire the right coach, you will.

A coach knows the right question to ask. A session with a coach could be a mini “steeping” (like tea) session where you shut out the world and just steep and reflect inwardly.

Who is the RIGHT coach and how do you find her/ him?

Here are some ideas.

  1. Make a list of these: who you are (do you ask a lot of questions?), how you’d like to work (daily or weekly, by phone or in person), how you learn (are you visual, auditory or kinesthetic?).
  2. Talk to friends or colleagues who have their own business and ask who they used. Would they use them again? Refer them?
  3. If you don’t know anyone with their own business call a “stranger” who has a successful business that’s similar to the kind you want to begin and and ask them.
  4. Ask your mentor. That’s why you you get one first :-)
  5. Make an appointment with several people who are coaches. Many have a free session. See who “fits” with you.


  • it’s YOUR decision. YOU choose them not vice versa.
  • You’ll have a lot of no’s before you have a “yes”
  • Trust your feelings.

Let me know what happens. If you’re already in business then what criteria did YOU use to choose YOUR coach?

Jan 272012

This is the first post on 8 actions to take for your startup business. The very first thing to do is to find a mentor.

pinterestWhat is a mentor?

Many people have them in their jobs – someone experienced and trustworthy who already does the job one aspires to. I’d add wise. My Oxford dictionary defines wise as “… having … or showing experience and knowledge judiciously applied; sagacious … sensible; discreet …”

In business the same thing applies – have a mentor.

Kinds of mentors

1. Unreachable (for now) but someone who you aspire to be like. Use Oprah as an example. You may want to be like her – a successful and well known business woman who does everything with integrity. You would like to meet her but assume you’re too “unknown” for her (for now).

2. Someone nearby who you could contact. The TV show “The View” today had each of the hosts talking with their mentor. That person followed them through the years, always believed in them and their dream, gave them advice in a kind and gentle way, helped them up when they were down, and felt pride (and showed it) in each accomplishment along their path.

Qualities of a mentor

Believe you can do it and tell you to your face
Someone you aspire to be like
Gives you advice in a kind and gentle way


You really need a mentor when you have a startup business. I aspired to be like Mark Victor Hansen for marketing and Jack Canfield for self esteem. They’re remembered best as co-authors of the Chicken Soup book series. In 1982 I met each of them. They each helped me in their own ways and today if I call they call back.

That’s what a mentor is. Do YOU have one yet? Who did you choose?

 January 27, 2012  Posted by  Mentor, Startup Business Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »