Lets face it- the way we live and work is changing rapidly. We are clocking into the office less and are trading in corporate positions to start our own businesses. We are working from home, in coffee shops, and during our bus commute; our laptops are our new desk! Working virtual has amazing perks, however, our image suffers from not having the traditional office. We, at thinkspace have solved this problem by creating a way to maintain the flexibility of a virtual workspace while maintaining a flexible, secure and supportive, cost effective, environmentally friendly professional presence and space for you to grow your business. We are offering you a professional Redmond business address, fully staffed phone answering services, and an established and respected business infrastructure. Do your business a favor, introduce it to virtual office space!

1. Professional Presence: Establish yourself as an industry leader with a business. Present yourself as an invested, respected, professional and reliable business.  A business address allows you to look established and permanent.

2. Flexibility Our virtual office provides mobility and freedom! Our fully staffed receptionists ensure that you never miss a call. Work from anywhere and appear to have multiple locations (we have Redmond and Seattle office addresses). Don’t worry about having to sign long-term leases.

3. Cost Effective Let us provide all of the staffing, don’t worry about expensive monthly rent, or tenant improvement costs, cleaning and maintenance fees or maintenance of office equipment. Have an overall lower monthly overhead!

4. Administrative Support With our virtual office, you have complete administrative support. Let us handle the calls, the mail and incoming packages, the faxes and scanning, and odd jobs and administrative projects.

5. Security- Don’t use your home address or a P.O. box! Using a home address appears very unprofessional, and can be a security risk to you and your family. Using a P.O. box shows your potential clientele that you do not have company head quarters. This can break a close before you even have your first meeting.

If you are interested in hearing more about our virtual offices, contact me at Barbara@thinkspace.com, or call (425) 629-6206. To view our website CLICK HERE.

Thank you Michelle Hollomon, of Eastside Counseling and Coaching for bringing us today’s blog post! If you would like to meet Michelle, she is a member of the thinkspace community, and the Featured Entrepreneur for our October 13th Wine Wednesday event! Register Here.

Conflict at work: is it them or is it you? ~By Michelle Hollomon

Nothing can rev the engine like a hearty disagreement in the office. Whether sparks are flying or it is stone cold silent, conflict is a part of normal office life. You may not be able to resolve all conflict, but you can learn to manage it in a way that keeps you from losing yourself (and your shirt too).

Zack was a partner in charge of sales of a midsize company. His strengths included building relationships, product knowledge, and taking the attitude that, behind each sale was a real person. His team liked him and he liked his job. But he felt at odds with his business partner, Pete. When Pete offered a suggestion or ask about progress, Zack got defensive. The more this happened, the less he and his partner talked. This lack of communication affected everyone in the company, and it felt like the company was going in two different directions. Zack came into my office asking, “How can I talk to my partner without getting negative and combative?”

I consider Zack a superstar exec for two reasons; 1) he valued his business relationship more than saving face, and 2) instead of blaming his partner, he sought to resolve the conflict by owning his part.

It turns out, that Zack was acting more like an employee than a partner. Zack respected Pete’s expertise and sense of command so much, too much in fact, that he felt inferior. Zack was a partner in writing, and a subordinate in action. Pete’s self-confidence triggered Zack’s self-doubt. His insecurities resulted in passive anger, defensiveness and un-aligned vision for the company. This hurts the bottom line.

Zack and I talked about the value of the strengths he brought to the business. Zack developed a new script for himself that included “being an equal” and “having valuable input”. Zack was able to accept Pete’s strong style of leadership without taking offense to it, and was able to validate his own contributions to the business without considering them to be “less than”. This didn’t happen over night, but it did happen, and the partnership started to thrive again.

TIPS FOR TODAY:

Consider the value: there is great value in the synergy, effectiveness and creativity of working relationships. Sometimes, however, you will do better to cut an unhealthy relationship loose in order to build a healthier one. How important is it for your success to make this particular relationship work?

Own your part of the conflict: it is easy to blame the other person. However, a good leader takes ownership of his contribution to the conflict and seeks resolution.

Ask for Help: often two people need a mediator to help resolve an issue. The working relationship between the two may be important enough to seek outside help.

Take a Break: if you are committed to finding a solution, take a break to think things over with a time and place to reconvene.

Some Places That Michelle Can Be Found:

web site: www.hollomoncoaching.com blog: www.lifesolutionsblog.blogspot.com

Today’s Blog Post is Written By: Brian Hansford, of Zephyr 47 Brian is a thinkspace member, and someone we feel honored to have a part of our community.

Email marketing is not dead… nor will it die anytime soon.  Even with the rapid proliferation of social media technologies and platforms, email remains a preferred channel for predictable and private communications.  Here are three check points that entrepreneurs can follow for effective of email marketing.

1.       Precious Permission and Privacy

A well developed email marketing strategy recognizes that customers provide permission to have email sent to them.  Many organizations lose valuable prospects by not developing an annual plan for email marketing campaigns and customer communications.  Random messages that occur too often will lead to perceptions of spam mail.  According to Rackspace/Pingdom.com, there were 90 TRILLION emails sent in 2009.  An estimated 81% of those were spam.  That means 200 billion spam messages were sent each day!!  (Focus.com also researched email volume and sources and their findings put spam as high as 97% of all email.)  Don’t fall into the spam category through poor planning!  When you gather contact information from your customers or prospects, set expectations on how their email address will be used and how often.  Also, make it clear with your privacy policy that no information will be sold or shared.  Gail Goodman, CEO of email service provider Constant Contact has a perfect saying to remember:  “Permission is perishable with email marketing.”

2.       Content and Cadence

Send the right content to the right people.  Existing customers may be more interested in content that confirms their purchase decision and future promotions and value added services.  Prospects may need content that helps educate them on offerings and nurtures them closer to a purchase.  The effort to segment your audience based on roles and stage is important.  Also, schedule your communications with a proper cadence or tempo.  Typically B2B companies can deliver content in customer loyalty communications once a month or every other month.  For prospective customers regular nurturing programs should be followed for various campaigns.  But it’s wise to give your prospect database “a rest” from time to time especially if you notice response rates or conversions are declining.  We all receive emails from organizations that initially create interest.  But I myself hit the “unsubscribe” button when I get too many emails that have irrelevant content.

3.       Channel Integration

Email is a single channel for communication and marketing.  However email is not the ONLY exclusive channel.  Social media platforms also offer channels of communication as do company web sites, events, and PR.  All of these platforms and channels should support each other with consistent messaging and correctly targeted content.  Ultimately these channels should help create meaningful direct relationships and brand awareness.  Don’t think of email as the only channel to reach your customers or prospects but a spoke in the wheel of overall communications and marketing.

Email marketing is alive and well and one of the most effective marketing channels.  Respect the contacts and customers you are reaching.  Provide them with the content they want and keep the messages consistent and supportive of all channels including social media, PR, and events.

Brian Hansford is the president of Zephyr 47 in Redmond, WA.  Zephyr 47 is passionate about helping organizations gain and retain customers and does this through services in marketing automation, online marketing, social media marketing and events. Brian’s Twitter handle is @RemarkMarketing and LinkedIn profile is available at www.LinkedIn.com/in/BrianHansford He can also be contacted via email Brian@Zephyr47.com

I own my own business. I have only owned the business for a year, and have struggled to no end with getting it off the ground. From general accounting and law related issues, to the alienation and frustration from working at home, I honestly was not enjoying my situation as much as I thought I would have. While I still own my own business, I also recently started working here at thinkspace.

Let me tell you folks, and this is straight from the heart: I had no idea how important it is for entrepreneurs to surround themselves with other entrepreneurs. My view and understanding of the way a sole business owner operates, and has the potential to operate has done a complete 180. I now feel like climbing the tallest mountain around, and yelling down to all of the entrepreneurs that are floundering about “YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORK THAT WAY ANYMORE”. At this point you are wondering what on earth I am talking about, what IS a community of entrepreneurs, and what is the big deal. OK, allow me to explain why my view of entrepreneurship has shifted so radically.

When Immersed in a Community of Entrepreneurs, you could:

  • Have the ability to ask each other for help
  • Have seemingly endless referral and networking opportunities
  • Have focus, drive, and organization
  • Be immersed in an energy and buzz that could never be found at home or in a coffee shop
  • Have opportunities to partner and collaborate with each other
  • Have access to intensive educational seminars by Industry superstars

I happen to know of a place like this… e’hem!

Honestly, this is not a sales-pitch for thinkspace (click HERE for information and to purchase office space from thinkspace) <– just kidding. No really, the boss doesn’t even know I am writing this. I just wanted to share this intense, real and amazing new energy surrounding me.

If you would like to know more about us, what we do, and why, please feel free to call or email any time. We would love to show you around or invite you to an event or party. We care about you, and want you to succeed [insert big thinkspace hug here].

Last week, as I was leaving the dog park, a child approached me and asked if my dog was a “good boy today”. I chuckled and told him “of course”! He then asked if I would like to purchase one of his home made dog cookies to reward him. After watching my dog gobble up the carefully made, bone shaped “cookie”, he turned to me, and with overt eye contact, a smile on his face and a glint of charm in his eye, he shook my hand, and said “it was nice doing business with you”.

I bought 10 more cookies.

This 9-year-old kid was no ordinary dime-a-dozen lemonade stand entrepreneur. His vegan peanut butter dog treats were wrapped in a beautifully designed paper wrapper, displaying a company name, logo, and phone number “where you could order more”. I give it 3 years before this young whipper-snapper is the richest 12 year old in the world…. I hope he will be.

My encounter with this child has left me delightfully dumbfounded. The way he interacted with me shows that his business is not a product of parental pressure. He was clearly innovative, a great marketer, and possessed a natural ability to close a sale. Way to go lil’ dude! After a little research, I have learned of many other micro-mega-noggins. One thing that has really struck me, however, is the lack of emphasis put on child entrepreneurs. While some may argue that kids should stay kids, I believe in supporting a child who has a a leaning towards business. A woman called me today here at thinkspace to tell me about a new young business owner here in Seattle. After getting his information (I will contact him this week), we had a discussion about they way our school system prepares children to become good employees, rather than nurturing entrepreneurial minds. She had a lot of great points.

I would love to hear your opinion on this, and get feedback on this topic in general. Also, we are seeking child entrepreneurs to interview, please use the comment forum below for commentary, and email me at Barbara@thinkspace.com to nominate the lil’ business brain that you know of!

Here is the story of a fella that has been featured all over the country as one of the best new brains- Jason O’Neil, the creator of Pencil Bugs. He is truly inspirational!

A Note from Jason O’Neill, Age 12 Pencil Bugs

When I was 9 years old, I had an idea to make a product that I could sell at a craft fair.  I’ve always liked school.  I get good grades but I know school is hard for many kids.  I started thinking about ways to make homework just a little more fun. That’s when I came up with the idea for Pencil Bugs.

With the help of my parents, we bought the supplies and made my first Pencil Bug.
I wanted to make them unique so decided to give them each a name and birth date. To keep them healthy for a long time, care and training instructions were also important.  I decided that a Certificate of Authenticity was the right touch to include with each Pencil Bug.

I hand paint each head in one of the eight colors.  I use twisted black wire for tiny antennas, glue on small googley eyes, and attach black fuzzy pipe cleaners for their bodies that wrap around the pencil. They are removable so you can still use the pencil eraser.   In fact, if you leave them a little higher than the eraser, they’re quite fun and boingy .

After a few months, I came up with the idea of making t-shirts to match and then started making laminated bookmarks in all 8 colors of Pencil Bugs .

* Text taken from http://www.pencilbugs.com


Nicole Donnelly, Founder of BabyLegs

I’ve always thought of my friend Nicole Donnelly, founder of Baby Legs, as being absolutely fearless. She defines it. Look up the word “fearless” and you see a picture of Nicole. I see her as a person that see’s no walls or if she does she goes right through them. I started to read her book “Ride Like a Penguin” and got some valuable insight into how she appears to have no fear.  In her own words on page 10 of Ride Like a Penguin:

Fearless

“I’ve been described as fearless.  I’ve been told I live without barriers.  Sometimes it’s easier to recognize bravery in others than in ourselves, so it is with great ease that the girl flying through the air on a snowboard is the one we often identify as having a torrent of courage.  It isn’t that I live without fear — it’s that I choose to live with my fears until they subside; I walk alongside them, embrace them and then harness them into a means of preparation and self-navigation… It’s this method of not allowing my life to be ruled by the question of “What if?” and choosing instead to get out there and feel the world around me that has consistently brought me pain as well as every next great chapter of my life.”

Nicole has an amazing and inspiring story (see her bio). She’s a person that has had tough times in her life.  She’s shared with me that while she was trying to get her professional snowboarding career going (at a time before she had sponsors) that she didn’t have much money and used to sleep in her car. It’s not about the suffering and pain, but, it is about how tough she is and how she overcame it. She visualizes the best possible outcome and then makes it happen.

Major Obstacles

Most people have some sort of adversity that they have overcome. For me, I look back at one of the toughest times in my life and it was when I lived in a foreign country. I was 17 years old and just finished high school.  I moved to the city of Taipei for one year because I had absolutely no focus and felt like I really wasn’t ready for college. I wanted to travel and experience a different culture. I uprooted to a place where I had no friends or family there, no support group. I couldn’t afford much and slept on a bed that consisted of plywood with a sheet over it, at least I had a pillow.  One of the hard parts was when I had nearly run out of money and my parents would not accept a collect phone call from me.  I had to stretch the cash that I had.  The cheapest thing I could buy was plain white bread.  I survived for an entire month living on just loaves of bread and water and wondering why my parents wouldn’t take my phone call.

Another person that I’ve gotten to know well over the last year is Alyssa Magnotti, my Community Manager. She also had a tough situation back in college where she was working two jobs, taking a full load of classes, and captain of the college soccer team. For quite a while, she survived on cereal and water.  She didn’t even have enough money for milk. When I hear things like that I know that she’s capable of facing most anything… in business, you rarely face a similar kind of adversity. If on a personal level you can get through something like that, you certainly can handle most business challenges.

Overcoming

Hearing Nicole’s story and myself having slept on a plywood bed, I know how hard it can be. I look back at the biggest work related obstacles/challenges that I’ve faced such as working 37 straight hours and having to sleep on the floor in my office or having absolutely insane project time-lines where not only have I had to work long days and weekends but I’ve also had to motivate my team of 12 others to do the same with me for a long period of time.  It’s through these experiences that I know I can make it through. Starting up a new business in the midst of the worst economic conditions known to our generation has definitely created fear for me, but, it also has allowed me to gain greater clarity on what I have to overcome in order to survive it with an ultimate goal of thriving in it.

If you would like to meet Nicole Donnelly, she will be doing a book reading and signing inside thinkspace on May 20 at 4:30pm.  For more information about this event you can go to Nicole’s website: www.saltywaffle.com.

Today I spent half my day at an Entrepreneur Organization (EO Seattle) event.  Mark Moses was the speaker.  Mark spends the majority of his time working one on one with CEO’s and organizations helping them with strategies to grow their business, grow revenue and increase profits. He knows what makes ordinary people do extraordinary things. He knows that a CEO doesn’t grow a business, but grows people who grow the business. Mark is known for using unconventional strategies for making his point. When he wanted his young company to “think big” he rode into the annual meeting atop an 8,000 African elephant. The elephant immediately took root in the company’s culture and “thinking big” became second nature.

Mark went over 1) Vision; 2) Cash; 3) Right People in Right Jobs; 4) Relationships; and 5) Learning

I’m only going to touch on a couple points…

Continuous Learning

While Mark didn’t spend a lot of time talking about learning, I really think that is one of the key things that an entrepreneur, CEO, key employee, should always be doing.  It doesn’t matter what size company you are running be it a $250K, $1M+ and even a $100M+ company.  You’ve got to have a thirst for knowledge. I’ve learned an incredible amount from being in the Entrepreneur Organization over the last few years. There are things that I’ve learned from other successful entrepreneurs who are running $1M+ companies that have allowed me to side step potential landmines. Also working inside a place like thinkspace has also helped me make invaluable connections to other entrepreneurs. We’ve also created a place where there is easy access to learning. Each month is have a Brown Bag Lunch in which we bring in successful entrepreneurs who share their amazing and inspiring stories.

Right People in Right Jobs

Prior to attending the event, we were instructed to take a Leadership DISC Survey and then review the Behaviors and Motivators Report.  The report is designed to increase the understanding of an individual’s talents. My report is 47 pages long. I think it’s incredibly interesting to understand what makes me tick and the report provides me suggestions on how to communicate with others. I want to be a good communicator, I also want my team to have good communication. I’m looking into hiring a business coach to work with my team so that we can have amazing communication within our team and with our customers. The other key thing is hiring the right people. Mark suggested that you ask yourself a question “Do you ever compromise on quality when hiring?”. He also said that you should make a list of people that you wish you could hire.  Hiring mistakes are very costly and in EO there’s a motto: “Slow to hire, quick to fire”.

If you’re interested in hearing more or seeing the packet that Mark provided to us, swing by and tell you more!

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

I was reading the Harvard Business Review and stumbled into this video about “The Anti-Creativity Checklist“. I watched this video and loved it, so I wanted to embed it over here on the thinkspace blog. Everywhere I look, I see companies with imagination, innovation, and out-of-box thinking. We’ve got an amazing community inside thinkspace! When you come by to visit thinkspace, ask to see our team wall where everyone on the team contributes ideas regardless of title. It’s our “Dream it”, “Like it”, “Work it” wall.  Post-its full of ideas, sometimes crazy ideas!

Listed below are the ways to be ordinary, soul-less, and boring.

  1. Play it safe. Listen to that inner voice.
  2. Know your limitations.
    • “I’m not an artist.”
    • “How should I know?”
    • “I’m not an innovator”
  3. Remind yourself:  It’s just a job.
  4. Make skepticism your middle name.
    • “Our organization’s not set up for that.”
  5. There’s no evidence that will work.
  6. Respect history. Always give the past the benefit of the doubt.
    • “We’ve always done it that way” — (I absolutely hate this one)
    • “The industry will never accept it.”
  7. Stop the madness before it can get started.
    • “How are you going to solve the human resource problem?”
  8. Been there, done that. Use experience as a weapon.
    • “You haven’t been around long enough to understand how things work.”
  9. Keep your eyes closed. Your mind too.
    • “I refuse to get caught up in all these technology fads.”
  10. Assume there is no problem.
    • “It was a tough year, but we can blame the economy.” (I hate this one too! No excuses!)
    • “Our next product release will kickstart our turnaround.”
  11. Underestimate your customers.
    • “Our customers are not going anywhere.”
    • “They are not ready for that.”
    • “They aren’t used to that.”
  12. Be a mentor. Give sound advice to the people that work for you.
    • “Just keep your head down and do your job.”
    • “I got where I am by not rocking the boat.”
  13. Be suspicious of the “creatives” in your organization.
    • “Those guys just don’t understand business.”
  14. When all else fails, act like a grown-up.
    • “I really don’t have time for this.”

I just finished reading Crush it! a book written by Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) creator of Wine Library TV and built a $60M business. He’s got three rules. Rule #1: Love your family. I look at these three rules and I can’t disagree with his list. One of the guiding principles that I’ve put in place for thinkspace is “We respect our associates’ responsibility for putting family first”. That to me is similar to his first rule. We feel a happy home means a person can focus at work and be productive. Rule #2: work superhard. Every successful entrepreneur that I know that has built a million + dollar business eats, sleeps, and breathes their business because it does take that much energy to get it to that point. Rule #3: Live your passion. I’ve always believed this, whether I was working for someone else or building my business. Early in my corporate career, I took a job that was in line with my passion which was working on databases and sports. In fact, I took a significant pay cut in order to work there, I started out at $38,000 per year. I worked 50-60 hour weeks, was on-call on Christmas day, but absolutely loved what I was doing. In fact, everyday I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to perform that job. I think that because of my passion, plus hard work, not to mention an awesome boss, my salary quickly increased and then it was three steps forward.

Fast forward to now. I’m passionate. Always have been. I’ve shaped by business to focus on the things that I’m passionate about. One life lesson that I can share is is that I’ve made compromises in the past. Rather than take a job offer from Microsoft, I stayed with Washington Mutual because they offered me a big pay increase. After one year, I came to recognize that I stayed for the wrong reason — money. I will never do that again. Through that situation, I’ve also come to recognize the one thing that sucks more life and energy out of me are the people that complain about how they are unhappy with their job, hate their boss, don’t make enough money, or unhappy with their situation. Get up and change your situation, quit and do something else. If you’re just earning a living, then you deserve what you get. For me today, it’s critical to surround myself with people that know what they want, know what success is, and won’t compromise their happiness for money. Those are the things that help keep me energized and stay charged up.

@garyvee shares that he’s seen many businesses close. One of the most important thing is to “know how to tell your story”. The other day I was talking with Nicole Donnelly, entrepreneur and founder of BabyLegs about a new business idea that I’m considering to pursue. One of the things that she said to me is what is your story? Just like @garyvee, Nicole, understands that in order for a business to differentiate itself, there’s got to be a really great story behind it and you have have to be a good story teller too. The one thing that @garyvee emphasizes is that you also must know what your medium is in order to convey that story. “Know yourself. Choose the right medium, choose the right topic, create awesome content, and you can make a lot of money being happy”. The key thing is to infuse it with personality and everything that makes you unique.

One of the best things about this book is his discussion on creating community and ensuring authenticity in your approach. Once you figure out what your passion is, you focus on creating a community around. For me, thinkspace is my passion, but, I’m also focused on creating a community. In fact, a main focus of my business is building up my community both inside thinkspace as well as the community outside (physically and online). I even created a position in my business called “Community Manager” to focus on this with me. @garyvee says it perfectly, “Making connections, creating and continuing meaningful interaction with other people, whether in person or in the digital domain, is the only reason we’re here”.

So, when I look around at the members of thinkspace, I would have to say that most people here are definitely living their passion. Everyday I get inspired working side-by-side other entrepreneurs. You can find office space anywhere to run your business, however, it’s invaluable to surround yourself with people that “crush it” every day.

James Wong came in and told us all at the December Brown Bag event a little bit about starting up a company.  James Wong  is a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of three successful companies and is currently the co-founder and CEO of Avidian Technologies, the world leader in Outlook based CRM software. Under Mr. Wong’s leadership, Avidian was a winner of the Seattle Mayor’s Small Business Award, honored for excellence in marketing, management, employee relations and community involvement. Avidian was also honored in 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Washington CEO magazine as one of the “Best Companies to Work For” in Washington State. Mr. Wong is a sought after speaker, writer and leading expert on CRM, SFA, contact management and groupware applications.

James was able to share with us a few lessons he’s learned while starting up 3 successful companies. He touched on 3 lessons learned from each of the first 3 stages of growing your own company. I will outline what he shared below:

Formulation Stage:

  1. Know Thyself (Socrates)
  2. There is never a perfect time.  You just have to do it.
  3. What is your commitment to this venture or life? (Time & Money)

 Building the Company Stage:

  1. Know Your Values / Guiding Principles
  2. Building a great company that pays well.    -What can we be the best in the world at?
  3. Be clear about what you want, what the company will look like, what your ideal customers look like.

Running the Business Stage:

  1. Cash flow is the lifeblood of any small business
  2. Startups work in step up trends vs. rounding trends
  3. Slow to hire and quick to fire.

Those were just some of the things that James covered in his talk for December. If you would like to know more abut our Brown Bag events, please email alyssa[at]thinkspace[dot]com.