We all know there are certain actions, habits, and behaviors that we should be doing each day to be a successful entrepreneur. I’ve read countless blogs, listened to hundreds of podcasts, and observed my mentors on the subject. I know that to be a successful and productive entrepreneur, I should be and need to be reading one great business book a month, exercise daily, drink water, wake up before 6 am, check emails before 7 am, eat healthy, find a mentor, plan your day, set goals, save money….and I completely agree with every single TO DO.
How many of you entrepreneurs out there hear the following on a daily basis?
“You work too much.”
“Do you have to work today?”
“Are you working this weekend?”
“So…what do you do for FUN?”
In the beginning, my responses were always a nod, half paying attention, half not caring and simply yes, yes, yup, uh-huh, ok.
But when it came to the FUN question, I tried explaining that my Work IS FUN. Building a business is so much FUN each and every day. Learning something new by meeting someone new is FUN.
But the reality is, non-entrepreneurs just don’t understand that concept. In fact, non-intrinsically motivated and un-passionate entrepreneurs don’t even understand that concept.
For those out there reading this who don’t understand where I’m coming from, let me just tell you the things about being an entrepreneur that are SO FUN every single day.
- It’s like a board game, the fun isn’t in the end when you win or lose, it’s the anticipation of setting up, getting started, and going through the course that’s the fun part. Entrepreneurship is like one never ending family board game night…. Complete with tears and impromptu victory dances.
- Succeeding through others brings extreme happiness.
- A “To Do” list is the most exciting read of the day for me. It’s never a “To Do” chore, it’s an “I can’t wait to get this done” activity.
- Meeting other entrepreneurs for the first time is like discovering a long lost friend or sister from another mister. There is an instant connection, bond, ongoing conversation and sense of comfort unlike any other.
- The glass is ALWAYS half full with an endless water cooler supply sitting right next to it. It’s incredible to look at the day and the world in front of you and know that opportunities are endless.
- There’s places you go where “Everyone knows your name.” If you create relationships, brand yourself, and consistently network yourself and your business, there is always somewhere you can go where everyone knows who you are, what you do and your name. That’s just fun.
- Freedom is fun. Freedom to create your own choices and then make your own choices. Freedom to create a life you’ve always imagined. Freedom to change directions. Freedom to change schedules. Freedom to work with whomever you choose. Freedom to do whatever you want.
Don’t get me wrong. This ‘ship is hard. There are times I feel like I’m in college going through sorority “Hell Week” all over again.
Entrepreneurship takes time, money, emotions, physical endurance, strength, love, passion, and discipline.
But at the end of the day, it’s fun and we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.
I’d rather go through the entrepreneur “Hell Week” every week because it’s more fun and exciting than going back to the corporate desk job life I lived before.
You know what wasn’t fun? Having anxiety if I hit traffic going into the office. Having a weekend “off” but not enjoying it because my work bestie in accounting just got laid off. Being told I do an amazing job, but there’s no room for growth.
That’s NOT fun.
Whenever anyone asks me and my Intrinsic Events business partner, “So how has it been starting your own business?” Our first answer is always, FUN.
We know it’s hard for people to believe us, but I hope this blog gives some insight as to why entrepreneurship is fun. At least for me.
I’d love for you all to share what you think is FUN about being entrepreneurs.
Stay tuned on my next blog for some steps to take in order to ensure you are able to have FUN as an entrepreneur.
FOLLOW @Intrinsicevents for more advice and of course, FUN!
Show Your Face.
Rule #1 in Gaining a Competitive Advantage is business is to create an edge over your competitors and to have something that no one else in the industry has.
Well guess what? Unless you’re a twin, no one else has YOUR face, so show it and use yourself to your competitive advantage.
My business partner and I are pretty much connected at the hip. We go to every networking event together, make decisions together, biz dev together, partake in happy hours together… anything, we do it together.
A LOT of people tell us we aren’t being efficient with our time, we say we are being strategic. People know us and our brand because of US. Whenever we walk into a room together, people know it’s @EventsIntrinsic.
It’s not a bad thing when you walk in a room for networking and people start saying, “Those @EventsIntrinsic girls”, “Those girls, are they sisters?” “Those girls, what do they do?” “Oh those are the girls that are partnered with those @Pixilated guys”.
We are two (fairly) young blonde girls who like to spiral curl our hair on occasion. We like to have fun. We like to talk and laugh with each other as business owners. We like to tag team a conversation not only because it’s fun but because we don’t want to repeat conversations. We value ourselves as the greatest marketing tool in our box. We celebrate who we are as our brand, Intrinsic Events.
It has been so critical for our business development and growth to get our faces out there, especially as a service based business. Even in those moments when you feel ugly or sick or tired, just get out there and show your face. People remember YOU more than they remember your website or tag line, trust me.
It is hard for me to network, I’m introverted, I am around people all day long planning events and at the end of the day, I just want to go home. But guess what? That’s not how you gain a competitive advantage. You gain a competitive advantage by putting on some mascara, black eyeliner, and power heels, and getting your face out there.
And believe me, it’s not just about showing your face. That’s just the first step. It’s about being consistent in showing your face and building relationships with your face, consistently.
As a service based business, our greatest leads and customers have come from referrals through networking or from direct networking contacts.
We keep the referral funnel plentiful because we are in front of people all the time, not over email, not over phone, but over good old fashioned handshakes, eye contact, and a smile. Not just once, but CONSISTENTLY.
There’s something to be said for the old tag line, “Put Your Best Face Forward”. I encourage you to use your face as the greatest marketing tool you have in the coming months. It will do wonders, I guarantee it.
Be a Category of One.
One of my favorite business books of all time is Becoming a Category of One by Joe Calloway. In this book, Calloway challenges businesses to not become the leader in a category but to create a new category within your industry altogether, thus becoming a “Category of One”.
Easier said than done right? Wrong. It’s really not as hard as you think but there are action steps you must take in order to identify who you are and what new category you want to create for your company. Calloway provides this advice to all business leaders in order to become a “Category of One”.
1. Have a story. Think about it. In order to differentiate yourself from anyone else in your industry, you must have something that no one else has. The easiest place to start in defining these unique attributes is your story. It’s yours, no one has it so learn how to tell it, share it, and use it to your advantage.
2. Adapt to change. The world is constantly changing and you need to be able to transform your company to the constant evolution and not become comfortable with where you are today. If you do, you will disappear and become a category of extinct like the good old T-Rex or Blockbuster.
3. Defy comparison. Find a way to take the basic, do it better than the rest and then make your competition a non-issue. Stop worrying about how to “beat” your competition. Instead, worry about how to “beat” your customer’s expectations….every single time.
4. Your brand is most important and your customers define it. Whether you want to admit it or not, whether you spent thousands of dollars for a marketing agency to brand the crap out of you, none of it will define you the way your customers will. Especially in today’s world of social media and instant content sharing, your customers’ definition of your brand is ultimately what defines your brand. In the most basic of explanations, perception is reality and you must deliver on what you want your customers to perceive every single time. If not, then you change your reality to your customer’s perception and market the crap out of it. Take for example. They started out
5. Be better, not different. If you go through your competitive advantage exercises and conduct your SWOT analysis and at the end your result is that you are completely equal in terms of product, price, place, service, and quality to your competition then what do you do? It’s simple. Be better, not different… to your customer. Know your customer better. Get closer to your customer. Emotionally connect with your customer better than anyone else out there.
6. Be Consistent. Delivering on the basics consistently will win with customers every single time. People like reliability, comfort, and the ability for others to meet (not exceed) expectations.
So now that you know the basic principles on what becoming a “Category of One” means, how do you create it?
Since I learn way better through real life examples vs. theory, here are some amazing examples of Baltimore-based companies who became a “Category of One”… whether they intended to or not. And since their new category creation, other companies have followed in their footsteps trying to compete in the same category vs. creating their own.
And I guarantee you, these “Category of One” companies below are not going to sleep at night worried about how they are going to “beat” their competition now. They are going to bed innovating how they can “beat” and exceed their customer’s wildest expectations in creating new categories. I encourage you to learn more about each of these companies and find out their strategies to becoming a “Category of One”.
Example #1 – Pixilated Photobooth (www.PixilatedPhotobooth.com )
Gone are the days of ugly, velvet curtain, crowded photo booths that cut off half the people in the picture like this.
And thanks to Pixilated Photobooth, welcome to the FUN photo experiences that never, ever get old or ugly or crowded.
Example #2 – Up Dos For I Dos (www.updosforidos.com )
After years of working in a well-known beauty salon, Founder Ashley Riddle, was tired of seeing brides come in stressed out, pressed for time, and downright uncomfortable for their wedding day hair and makeup.
Why not start a business where the salon comes to you in the comfort of your hotel suite, with mimosas and your entire entourage at your side? So that’s what she did and 11 years later, she hasn’t looked back!
When competitors started coming into her market space, she innovated yet again and started Up Dos For Us Too (www.updosforustoo.com ) which delights and entertains children with the fantasy of dressing up, princesses and tea parties.
Example # 3 – Gundalow Juice (www.gundalowjuice.com )
Founder, Dana Sicko, was tired of hearing her Clients from her personal chef business, Nutreatious (www.nutreatious.com ) complaining about disgusting flavors of cold-pressed juices and accessibility to cold-pressed juices on the east coast. So what did she do? She started her own, delicious, first ever cold-pressed juice manufacturing company right here in Baltimore.
Example #4 – Order Up (www.orderup.com )
Tired of the same old pizza, Chinese, and subs take out night after night? Confused as to how that same pizza from the same place could take 20 minutes one night and an hour and a half the next? Well Order Up solved every single complaint anyone could ever have about the take out industry. They expanded the offerings to real food from real restaurants and created an app to be able to track your driver from literally Point A to Point B.
Example #5 – Under Armour (www.UnderArmour.com)
And last but certainly not the least to Baltimore natives, Under Armour, who has completely changed the industry of athletic performance apparel.
“While playing football for the University of Maryland, founder Kevin Plank hated having to change his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirts over and over again during two-a-days. Knowing that there simply had to be something better, he set out to create a solution.
Plank named his new company Under Armour, and after extensive research on the athletic benefits of synthetic fabrics, he designed the first Under Armour HeatGear® T-shirt. Engineered with moisture-wicking performance fibers, the shirt helps keep athletes cool, dry, and light in the most brutally hot conditions.” (http://www.uabiz.com/company/history.cfm)
What a concept? Keeping athletes and exercise enthusiasts cool while sweating to death?
On behalf of myself, my friends, my Merritt Athletic Club-goers and the city of Baltimore, thank you Mr. Plank for always striving to be a “Category of One” company.
So let’s recap.
The best way to gain a competitive advantage is to eliminate the competition and become your own category of one.
Pay It Forward.
Gaining a competitive edge is one of the most important milestones in building any company, especially a startup.
But what does it mean to gain competitive advantage? Ultimately, it’s having an edge over your competition. Defining a competitive advantage is a challenge. It’s especially conflicting and difficult when your competition consists of your peers, your mentors, your colleagues, and even your friends.
It all comes down to value. A competitive edge is gained by creating a GREATER value to your customers and your partners. Often times that’s accomplished by offering lower prices or additional benefits. Sometimes it’s created by justifying premium pricing for premium services put out by established businesses with highly decorated leadership in place. Or, for startups, it’s offering the first to market niche idea that everyone has to have.
Whatever your competitive advantage strategy is, essentially we all have to answer the question, “Why should our customers purchase from us versus the competition?”
There are various strategies that I plan to touch upon during this series, but first and foremost, for @IntrinsicEvents, our strategy to gain a competitive advantage has been to Pay It Forward.
What does it mean to Pay It Forward?
The concept of Paying It Forward is not new. It dates all the way back to 317 BC, where it was used as strategic plot in ancient Athens. However, it became more mainstream after the 2000 movie, Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and that kid from the Sixth Sense (I highly recommend any entrepreneur to watch it if you haven’t already).
In the most simplest explanation, paying it forward means doing something for someone out of kindness and not expecting anything in return. As the receipt of an act of paying it forward, you don’t pay them back directly, but you pass it on to another.
Ok so what is the point of all this? We’re in business to make money, experience growth, and build teams. How does paying it forward play a role and contribute to these goals?
Because it’s proven that acts of kindness builds exponentially in a community and because deep down people believe that one good deed deserves another. It’s the golden rule in its finest form. Think about it, by building a community based around the pay it forward concept you are creating a following, creating a culture, and ultimately defining your values and brand within your business community.
Paying It Forward not only creates the world a better place. It makes the world (especially our entrepreneurial world), a more successful place.
Why does Paying It Forward Give You a Competitive Advantage?
In my experience as an entrepreneur in the Baltimore startup community, I’ve learned that those companies who pay it forward are ultimately….
- Obtaining the ability to recruit better talent because XX company is “A Great Place to Work For” - resulting in having that premium talent as an advantage.
- Taking advantage of word of mouth, the most inexpensive and effective form of marketing
- Surrounding themselves with like-minded people (because in reality, we like being around people who are doing kind and good things for us)
- Experiencing the pure Intrinsic Motivation that comes from helping others do well and make money
- Creating a culture of respect and admiration within your peers, partners, and employees
- Generating referrals that gives the ability to maintain a steady source of income throughout peak and low business periods
To be successful in building a business and being an entrepreneur, you need to identify those activities at which you and your company excel, not just the activities in which you perform equally well with your competition. In a very competitive environment, @IntrinsicEvents, myself @JesGignac , and by biz partner @IntrinsicRach, truly succeed in the ability to maintain an intrinsically motivated mindset and pay it forward at all times. That’s our competitive advantage.
So, I’d love to know, what does paying it forward mean to you and what ways does your company pay it forward?
For those of us who didn’t start out in the entrepreneurial world, this was the dreaded question on every single job interview.
For those of us who are entrepreneurs and own our own businesses, I’m sure we ask this question on a weekly basis of our employees and potential employees.
I get it. We all need to have a vision, have short term and long term goals, and ultimately portray the “entrepreneurial spirit” and attract talent that complements our vision.
I think this is the dumbest question to ever ask because there is never a right answer. The talent I want to attract as a business owner is someone who answers the question with…
“I want your job. I want to start my own company and be a startup success.”
But then, if someone does answer the question that way, how do you make the justification to invest time, money, and mentorship into that person?
So why do we ask this question? What is our reason and purpose? Is it simply to get to know that person on a deeper level? Is it to understand someone’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations? If the answer is yes, then I challenge you all to try for just one month to change the question to this.
“In the past 5 years, what have you done and what has happened in your life to you get you to where you are now? “
Because now you’re not just asking them a question, we’re are making them take action and reflect on their actions!
By changing the question in such a simple way you will instantly get a deeper understanding of who they are, where they come from, how hard they work, what their passions are, and what motivates them.
So, I took it upon myself to practice what I preach. Here are the Top 5 Moments in the past 5 years of my life that have gotten me to where I am today.
And the funny thing is…
Had you asked me 5 years ago, “Where do I see myself in 5 years?”, none of these moments below would have come out of my mouth, because the truth is, you never know where life is going to take you. I’m not saying don’t have a vision, don’t have goals, don’t have purpose. I am saying you can’t predict what will happen to you 5 years from now. I do feel it’s important to plan, to set goals, to take the right steps and actions each day to build up to where you envision your life in 5 years. But for the sake of job interviews and acquiring the right talent for your company, I think it’s time to throw out the dreaded question.
1. Little Joe O’Connor came into the world. Exactly 5 years ago tomorrow on March 14, 2010, my nephew, Joey, was born and I became an aunt. Not having children of my own, this is as close as I’ve come. My sister is my best friend in the entire world. I would do absolutely ANYTHING for this woman and when she came to me 5 years and 8 months ago to tell me she was pregnant (out of wedlock but with an amazing man) at 23, you would of thought my world was over. Who was I going to go out with? Who was I going to double date with? Who was not going to be living in a Baltimore City apartment with me like I had envisioned?
God. How selfish. How immature. Having my nephew and having a sister that I look up to every single day for the mother and woman she is, is the best thing that has ever happened to me in the last 5 years. I learned a lesson in how being selfish will get you nowhere in this world and how sometimes the most unexpected things in life are the greatest gifts
2. Big Joe O’Connor left this world. In August of 2013, little Joey’s dad, my sister’s fiancé, and one of my very best friends in this entire world, left this world. It was awful, unexpected, horrible, sad, and it still is. But you can’t cry forever. You find strength inside of you that you never knew you had. You use these moments to fuel the fire inside you to be the most amazing person and you can be. You use these moments to realize “What in the world am I waiting for?” Get out there and make something of this life - this short life we have here.
3. I found a business partner in a friend. In 2011, after spending 6 years working alongside a good friend, a past roommate, and amazing teammate, my business partner, Rachel Robinson and I started a dream of building our own event company. We were in San Francisco, CA running an event for the corporate company we worked for and although life was good, we had great paychecks, and traveled the world together, we realized we both had a vision that was much greater than where we were. After much more talk, a few cocktails, and sharing our “Where do we see ourselves in 5 years” dreams, Intrinsic Events was born.
4. The Ultimatum. A little over a year ago, the corporate company Rachel and I worked for gave us an ultimatum. Although we were always proactive and transparent in our life goals with this company, and were often complimented on our “entrepreneurial spirit”, it became apparent that Intrinsic Events was our passion. We were challenged on our loyalty and priority with the company and ultimately given a choice. Either stop doing Intrinsic Events or get out. Needless to say, we got out and never looked back.
5. Today. Reflecting on the Top 5 moments in the past 5 years today is one of the greatest exercises I have ever done personally and professionally. Putting it out there for the world to read is a different story. But as my beloved Michael Jackson would say, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change”. So that’s what I did, that’s what I’m doing and I hope that we can all make a change to stop the dreaded question of “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Please take just 5 minutes today and reflect on the Top 5 moments in the past 5 years thatgot you to where you are today and share it with this amazing community of entrepreneurs we’ve built here by commenting below. I promise you will be so happy you did.
“We need to talk.”
Let’s be honest. We’ve all broken up with someone - Friends. Clients. Significant Others. Peers. Mentors. Vendors. Suppliers. Service Providers. Partners. Employees.
OR we’ve all broken up with something – PC’s. Banks. Office Space. Software. Happy Hour. Coffee.
No easy conversation ever started with, “We need to talk”. However, we’ve all heard it or said it at one time or another in our lives. And the truth is, breaking up is hard to do. It inspires weakness, vulnerability and procrastination in all of us.
Even if you’ve done your due diligence prior to a breakup in terms of talking to mentors, weighing the pros and cons, crying to your friends, or facing the cold hard truth, the exit strategy out of any relationship can be brutal. Even without contracts and money at stake.
There are times when it may be blindingly obvious to everyone around you that it’s time to walk away from a relationship or partnership, yet in true entrepreneur fashion, you are still so stubborn that you need to come to the conclusion on your own terms.
So how do you know? First, simply ask yourself the following questions:
1. Have you lost respect for this partner?
2. Are your needs not being met in this relationship?
3. Are you only staying in this relationship because of a contract?
4. Is this relationship causing difficulty or danger to your brand or business?
5. Do you dread meetings with this partner?
6. Are you constantly keeping score in this partnership? Are you less forgiving if this partner doesn’t hold up to their end of the agreement?
7. Has this partnership stopped being fun & collaborative?
8. Is this partnership bringing out the worst in me?
9. Do your long term goals or business plans no longer match up?
If you’ve answered yes to ANY of these questions, it may be time to call it quits.
Just do it. Stop procrastinating. Stop having self- doubt. Stop second-guessing your gut.
Loyalty, cooperation, and commitment to work through difficult times are all admirable qualities in any entrepreneur but it’s important to be cognizant that these traits can also work against us to prolong the right decision and hinder growth in our business.
So just do it, put your big girl panties on and remember the following tips for breaking up.
1. Keep Calm and Never Attack the other person’s character. You are making this choice so there is no reason to be hostile or angry. It’s also important to remember that the other person may react with hostility and anger so it’s important to never attack them with your reasons as to why you are ending the relationship.
2. You are breaking up for YOU and what’s best for YOU – not the other person. Yes, it may hurt to see someone confused or upset, but that’s life.
3. KISS. (Keep It Short & Simple) No one needs a long drawn out goodbye. Simply state your reasons, avoid vague comments, don’t finger point, be polite, and move on. After all, haven’t you spent enough time investing in a relationship that isn’t helping you achieve your goals?
4. Time Does Not Heal. Growth Heals. – If nothing else, remember this. There are times when we have doubts about our decision to end a relationship and think of turning back. People often say time heals, but it doesn’t. It’s the growth that happens after a significant turning point in our lives that heals us. Trust me, I’ve seen it first hand in life, love and business.
Reflection & Action
In everything we do an entrepreneurs, it’s important to reflect on our decisions and the impact they had on our business. If you have recently gone through a breakup, in any capacity, I challenge you to this simple exercise.
Answer this question, type it out, and save as a draft.
“If I could get an email from myself 10 years from now, what advice might it have?”
FOLLOW My Business @EventsIntrinsic
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Can I just say, WOW?! It’s not exactly the first word that normally comes to one’s mind after a 4 hour night of sleep, waking up to a day full of meetings, proposal writing, blog writing and the Friday hustle.
But for this Baltimore Entrepreneur - who spent last night in a room full of 75 amazingly talented and crazy intelligent people – that’s exactly what I’m thinking. WOW!
Startup Soiree kicked off last night at the Pixilated Headquarters and the energy was contagious. The excitement and buzz just couldn’t stop and wouldn’t stop! Seriously, check out Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SouthBmore.com and The Daily Record to see for yourself.
Going into our first StartupSoiree event, I didn’t know what to expect. Why? Because there has never been an event like it here in Baltimore for entrepreneurs. I didn’t know what my big take-away would be, I wasn’t sure if everything IntrinsicEvents and Pixilated had dreamed possible would actually happen. But it DID and it was AWESOME!
As I was driving home reflecting on the night, it hit me. (And no, I’m talking about the Jailbreak Brewing Co. beer or the Nutreatious fantastic taquitos). I left last night recharged more than ever before in my business because of PRIDE.
PRIDE IN YOUR CITY
Ethan Giffin, #BmoreFounder of Groove , started off the night by stating, “"This city is so ripe...not even being from Charm City I'm so proud to bring attention to this place". Immediately upon finishing this statement, the Startup Soiree crowd began to cheer, hoot n holler, and ramp up the energy.
It’s amazing to see what Baltimore is doing and fostering in the entrepreneur world and Ethan reminded all of us to take such great pride in this amazing city we live, work, play, love and do business in.
PRIDE IN YOUR WORK & WORTH
Entrepreneurs strive for the day they are able to have an intimate, valuable, and memorable conversation with the leader in their industry. Last night, I had the privilege of meeting the insanely creative and driven business woman, Stephanie Bradshaw, #BmoreFounder of Stephanie Bradshaw Designs. During our conversation, she asked, “What is your biggest struggle in your business and growth right now?” To which I answered, having enough time, money and resources to execute on the Clients’ events we have, build new business, and build our business to where we want it to go.
Her advice to me was so simple, eloquent, and real. “That’s great, but always make sure you take pride in your work and your worth. You are talented, your Clients are important, and you need to show that to the world.”
Stephanie went on to talk about how in our industry, It’s not a competition when you have your brand and pride in your work and worth. In our industry of wedding and event planning, as well as our careers in entrepreneurship, it’s time to stop being in competition with one another and stand out. Be you, be a category of one, and take pride in all your work, and ultimately what you are worth to your clients.
It was the exact thing I needed to hear in that moment as I struggle with growth in our business. It brought me back to my brand and why it’s so important to keep your pride in your work and your value at the forefront of every day.
PRIDE IN YOUR PEOPLE
Another awesome thing that happened last night was finally meeting someone that you’ve been talking with via social media. For me that was Chris Jeffrey, #BmoreFounder of Order Up . As we were talking about branding and culture and new market growth, I referenced the first time I saw his street team of people during Fells Point Fun Festival hustling and getting the word out about his company and the expansion into Baltimore. His face immediately lit up, he smiled really big, and said, “That’s awesome, my people are awesome.”
Chris showed such pride in his people last night and the culture he has built. As I mentioned in my last blog post, people are the most valuable asset next to time in any startup. Take pride in your people and you will go so far in our entrepreneurial world.
PRIDE IN YOUR TALENT
Eddie Wingrat, #BmoreFounder of Flowers & Fancies, ended our night by thanking the Startup Soiree team for a wonderful evening. Eddie is an older gentleman who has been around in the Baltimore community for a very long time. He wasn’t sure if Startup Soiree was going to be the right place for him to be, as he isn’t exactly in Start Up mode. However, bringing it back to pride in your city, Eddie went on to tell us he was so impressed by the talent in the room. The room was filled with Online Food Delivery, Online Booze Delivery, Photobooths, Event Planners, Make Up Artists, Photographers, App Developers, Marketing Gurus, Chefs, and Floral Companies – quite the range of talent.
Everyone in the room had a sense of pride by being there, pride in their talent. Everyone no matter what their talent was invited to the event, they were accepted into the event, and they shared their talent with the community around them.
PRIDE IN YOURSELF
With any event, a debrief is always critical. And Patrick Rife, #BmoreFounder of Pixilated couldn’t have had a better After Action Review than this… “We did it. We had a vision and tonight, we made it a reality and we should all be so proud.” And you know what I am. I am so proud of our city, of our talent, of our work, of our worth, and of all of YOU who came out last night. Thank you for reminding me why I do what I do every single day.
FOLLOW me @jesgignac
FOLLOW my company @EventsIntrinsic for updates & upcoming events.
It’s the beginning of a New Year and you know what that means. The gym is way too over-crowded, Whole Foods can’t maintain stock in your favorite brand of organic almond milk, and networking events are sold out in a matter of minutes.
For all of us 24/7, 365 days-a-year hustlers out there, the New Year can be an extremely frustrating time of year, especially when it comes to networking.
For me, the frustration lies in the fact that because I do all things out of intrinsic motivation, I expect that others do the same. I network because I love talking about my company. I meet new people because I receive pleasure in hearing their stories. I go to events because I get enjoyment in checking out a new venue. I offer my services because I know I can help others achieve their goals.
However, the sad truth is, the majority of the people I meet at networking events are there because of extrinsic factors such as punishment from their boss if they do not go to X number of events per month or hand out 100 business cards per week. They are there because they want a free cocktail on their company’s dime. They are there to practice their elevator pitch. They are there for a chance to win the IPAD raffle prize.
Time & People
As entrepreneurs, time is money and the most valuable asset in our daily lives. 2nd to time is people and relationships. Networking is a necessity for entrepreneurs and something we SHOULD be looking forward to, not avoiding.
By true definition, “Networking is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having common interest.”
As entrepreneurs it is up to us to bring networking back to creating this support system.
But How? How do we create this system in an environment flooded with extrinsically motivated individuals?
Be Autonomy Supportive.
A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine proves that the power of choice promotes the experience of autonomy, which enhances intrinsic motivation.
What does this mean in terms of networking?
It means giving others the CHOICE to engage in conversation with you, not FORCING them to engage in conversation with you.
It means actively listening to what they have to say in order to offer opportunities that are relevant.
It means giving them the opportunity to listen to what you offer and deciding for themselves if they need what you provide.
It means encouraging conversation and self-initiation in others to do the same.
It means offering optimal educational opportunities for them to learn.
It means creating cooperative networking opportunities by introducing them to others you know
Be autonomy supportive in your networking, enhance intrinsic motivation among the attendees, and create a supportive system for you and your business. By doing this, you are bringing networking back to what it should be.
Intrinsically vs. Extrinsically Motivated Networking: How do you know until you go?
You don’t. And really, any networking event is what YOU make of it.
However, if we bring it back to time and people being our most valuable assets, then we need to be wise in our networking selections. In my vast networking experiences, I do have critical components that I look out for in networking events. If 3 out of the 5 factors are present, I politely decline as those are the times I find the most extrinsically motivated attendees.
1. Giveaways or Raffle Prizes
2. No educational component or program
3. No support of an online or physical community pre, during & post the event
4. Event capacity is 200+
5. No commonality among attendees
On the flip side, if a networking event has 3 of the 5 following factors, I make it a point to attend because I know I will genuinely enjoy the time with the people I meet.
1. Guest speaker or educational value
2. The host of the event is present and engaged
3. Event capacity is 100-150 max
4. Shared interests among like-minded attendees is apparent
5. Opportunity to connect and build relationships pre, during & post the event
Bringing it back.
In 2015, I am so excited for the true networking support system that Startup Soirée will create among the entrepreneur community in Baltimore. Through intrinsically providing a networking environment that brings together like-minded individuals to collaborate, learn, inspire, grow, and build a community where autonomy is at the forefront is something that is truly motivating. We are bringing networking back to what it can and should be.
FOLLOW me @jesgignac
FOLLOW my company @EventsIntrinsic for updates & upcoming events.
Make That Change.
I am an event planner first and foremost. I spent 10 years as an event planner before deciding to take on entrepreneurship.
When most people are asked, “What makes a great event planner?” The answers are usually along the lines of - organized, detail-oriented, friendly, hard-working, creative, …
Never once are the words intelligent, smart, or genius used as descriptors.
Thank you Mr. Hawking for setting the record straight.
Stephen Hawking, one of the most notorious physicists, academics, cosmologists, and author of A Brief History in Time, once stated, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
For all the event planners (and now I know, entrepreneurs) out there, let me say, “Thank you Mr. Hawking.”
You see, all my life I was told by family and friends that I was intelligent, smart and destined for success. I thought I had people fooled in my skills somehow. Clearly my outstanding SAT score of 1090, my GPA of 3.0, or the multiple accounting classes I failed in college did not warrant extreme intelligence. But now I know, they saw in me an ability that eluded intelligence. An extreme ability to adapt to change with grace, a PLAN B, and a poker face.
Then I became an entrepreneur.
As an event planner, I never thought anyone understood what I went through on a daily basis when it came to change. So many colleagues and partners would look at me, shake their heads with a look of guilt and say, “I don’t know how you do what you do.” It was like they knew I was on a rollercoaster ride that was never going to end.
Then I became an entrepreneur and I realized, THESE people know what that rollercoaster ride is all about!
They knew the ups, downs, twists, turns, queasiness, dizziness, thrill, and LOVE that I knew.
I have met many entrepreneurs along my journey. Some of them I find extremely intelligent and can’t wait until my next chance to learn from them. Some of them, not so much.
I’ve realized that the ones I feel not so much about, are those that do not embrace and adapt to change. They don’t look at what is happening to their business, analyze it and make a change. Or in the worst cases, these entrepreneurs aren’t changing themselves to adapt to their partners, employees, competitors, and overall, world around them.
Change isn’t easy. Love what others don’t.
Nothing is easy as an entrepreneur, we all know that. Change can either challenge us and make us great, or threaten us and make us weak. As an entrepreneur, you HAVE to learn to not just accept change, but to LOVE change. LOVE it so much that you can’t wait for the next big change to hit you in the face, knock you down, and then hit you again as soon as you stand up.
Entrepreneurs are used to doing what others don’t, being what others won’t, and loving things others can’t.
I love change, but I understand that not everyone does. From one entrepreneur to another, I want you to love change much as I do, because it’s awesome – and it’s something that non-entrepreneurs can’t love because they don’t have to.
Here are a few ways I encourage and challenge you all to love change as much as I do this year.
Accept that change is constant.
It’s the same reason people love or hate surfing. It takes you so much time, skill and discipline to learn to get up and get moving, only to get knocked down again and again. You can never learn to always stand up because the waves and tide are constantly changing. Great surfers learn to adapt to the changing wave, accept that each ride will be different every time, and just keep swimming.
Believe that change brings something greater than the old.
This is always the case, whether you know it right away or not. Just believe. I’ve practiced keeping a journal of times when I thought change was the most horrible thing in the world. I document monthly how my life or situation are different because of that change. I challenge you do to the same. I guarantee over time, you will realize that change brought about something greater that what it was.
Focus your energy on fostering the new, not fighting the old.
Instead of trying to fight why things changed or who made the change, focus all of your energy and time on fostering the new that the change created. If you change your attitude, you change the entire outcome of the change itself.
Trust that small changes pave the way to big accomplishments.
The Baltimore Ravens didn’t magically get into the playoffs this season because of game changing moments. Joe Flacco’s completions to Torrey Smith for touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns for their success is a result of small changes every practice, every day, every week, every minute of every game…throughout the entire season. As entrepreneurs we need to keep this thought in mind at all times. Big accomplishments are the result of small changes every single day.
Wear a poker face. Move quickly. Make a change.
Changes happen at the drop of a hat. Our reactions and decisions in those moments, as well as the perception of how we deal with change to others are what define us and our intelligence. When sh*t hits the fan in your business, you have no other choice but to keep calm, wear a poker face, move quickly and make a change– whether it be the right one or wrong one at the time. As an entrepreneur, no one else is going to do this for you. The worst thing you can do in a situation where change needs to be made is do nothing.
If nothing else, remember the words of Stephen Hawking, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
“You can cry, ain’t no shame in it.” –
Will Smith, Actor
As entrepreneurs, business leaders & innovators, we are often looked up to as fearless, intelligent, & inspirational to the community around us. If you’re anything like me, you probably often look in the mirror & think “What am I doing?” We are our own worst critics & it’s in our nature to find the fault before the good in everything we do.
It’s OK. We are allowed to think this way & we are allowed to shed a tear every now & then… “ain’t no shame in it”.
Because that’s where we are different than the rest of the world. As entrepreneurs, we allow ourselves to feel this way for a split second, then we look back in that same mirror & tell ourselves, “Oh well, lesson learned, keep hustling, get out there, & keep learning”.
We all have these fierce conversations with ourselves. Entrepreneurship is a never-ending mud run. We’re going to face great risks, make mistakes, succeed tremendously, fall down, get up & have fierce conversations with ourselves. However, if you’re going to be successful as a business owner, you need to know when to have no shame. Each of us are different in our strengths, weaknesses, successes & failures, but there are certain times that all of us need to know when to never have shame in our actions:
1. Asking for EXACTLY what you want.
Be clear, be concise, be demanding, be honest, & keep it simple. There were many times in my professional life where I hesitated in asking for what I wanted because of fear of embarrassment, rejection, or shame.
Let It Go! As an entrepreneur, you cannot be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. Whether it be your fees, your website design, or your strategic partnerships- you will never get where you want to be in your business if you aren’t letting people know what you want. And believe me, most of the time, you will get what you’re asking for – or really close to it.
2.Talking about your business at all times.
You never know who is listening, who needs what you are offering, or who is looking for an opportunity like you were once upon a time. There is no better person to talk about your company or product than YOU. Your team will never learn to sell your service or product with passion & excitement if YOU don’t do it first. So start talking & have no shame in doing so. Some people will roll their eyes, some will walk away immediately, some will interrupt you, but who cares. You are on a mission towards greatness.
3. Taking time for yourself, your family, and your friends.
Entrepreneurs must work hard, it’s inevitable. Often times, we feel if we aren’t working, we are being lazy or unproductive & ultimately, feel shame. Here’s a thought- You are where you are today because of your family, your friends, & yourself. This support system is what has shaped your personality, your work ethic, your creativity, & your values. Think of the time you spend with these people as WORKING on being your best self.
Is this not that hardest work of all?
4. Having a beer at lunch.
As Jimmy Buffet would say, it’s 5:00 somewhere. We are entrepreneurs, we make our own rules, & we answer to ourselves. If a beer makes you feel better, be nicer or foster creativity, then go for it. Trust me, my business partner & I have acquired HUGE Clients, brainstormed the best ideas, & signed contracts over beers at lunch. One tip - just make sure it’s good beer.
5. Demanding what you, your service, and your product are worth.
Enough said. You are worth something, you are valuable, & you set those parameters. It is no one’s place to tell you you’re wrong or ridiculous but yours.
6. Rocking your personal style.
Whether it be a suit & tie, leggings, jeans or a t-shirt with a hole in it… if it represents who you are & what you’re about then have no shame & own it. You are an entrepreneur because you are staying true to yourself & your dreams. If you want to rock jeans to a meeting & think it’s the best decision at the time, then do it. Above any dress code or expectation, confidence is what attracts business.
7. Making a mistake.
We all make them. Everyone, everywhere does. No great entrepreneur has gotten where they are without making mistakes. So don’t beat yourself up, don’t be ashamed, learn from it, move on, & become great.
8. Asking for help or advice from a competitor in your industry.
I once read that great leaders should always make sure they are NOT the smartest person in the room, and I agree. One of my personal goals in life is to learn something new every day. What better way to do that than to ask for the help or advice of someone who has been where you’ve been, who is struggling with your struggles, & ultimately taking a piece of the market away from you. There is NO shame in asking for help or advice and that is what I’m most excited about with Startup Soiree. It’s a catalyst for this type of conversation and environment where sharing is fostered and shame does not exist.
The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Been Given.
This is the worst advice I’ve ever been given as an entrepreneur. The last two years of my life have been nothing but hard work. Physical, emotional, and mental hard work. I thought I must be doing something wrong. The words of my restaurant boss in college kept coming to me in my sleep, “Work Smarter, Not Harder.”
What does this even mean? To work smart, you must first work hard, bottom line. You must first go through trial and error and a little pain before you realize what the “smart” way even is.
The Best Advice I’ve Ever Been Given
“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” - Chuck Close, American Painter and Photographer
For the last month, I’ve been waiting, dreaming, and listening for anything that could maybe give me some inspiration to write my first Startup Soiree blog post.
A topic that would be so interesting and inspirational to all of you potential soiree-ees out there who may or may not read my blog. A topic that would define my credibility as a founder of StartUp Soiree.
I was looking for a way to “Work Smarter, Not Harder”, by reading endless blogs, by listening to podcasts and You-Tubing commencement speeches given by the great Jim Carrey, Steve Jobs, and Charlie Day.
I thought to myself, “Ugh, this blog writing thing is HARD.” And then it hit me, I was working hard to work smart. Stop searching for inspiration and get to work. Pick up a pen and paper (because I’m old school like that) and just get to work on this blog. And that’s when the inspiration “came to me”.
Lessons in Hard Work
Luckily for me, I learned the art of hard work at a young age from my Dad.
My Dad is no entrepreneur. He is a 30-year Electrician, Union Member, Blue-Collar, Trade-School Graduate, Home-Owner, Happily Married for 30 Years, and an Inspiration of Hard Work to three awesome Gignac kids.
As the oldest child, I was bossy, impatient, and a know-it-all. I remember becoming so frustrated by my Dad in so many ways growing up. For example,
Thanksgiving Morning Breakfast:
Every year as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would start at 9:00 a.m., my Dad would ask, “Who wants breakfast?” It was immediately met with Yes! From everyone – family, friends, boyfriends - but me. Why you might wonder? Because it was never breakfast, it was ALWAYS a way too big and ridiculous Thanksgiving Lunch. But, my Dad would go for it because he LOVED doing it, he LOVED the joy is brought everyone around him, and he LOVED the outcome of his hard work.
DIY Home Projects:
My Dad was the biggest early adopter of the DIY craze. I don’t remember a single month in my childhood that our home was not under some construction or project. Drywall, Wall Paper, Fancy Lighting, Sound Systems, Retaining Walls, Sheds, you name it. My Dad did them all, he did them himself, and at the young age of 16, I finally had my own room!
It was frustrating and tough and annoying, but you know what, all of my friends and family still RAVE about my Dad’s Thanksgiving Day Breakfast/Lunch and our family home is now valued at three times the amount they paid.
In my eyes, my Dad’s hard work paid off. He used to always tell me – when I was complaining – “If you’re not going to do it the right way and with pride and enjoyment, then what’s the point?”
So with everything I have accomplished in my adult life, I credit it to hard work and these lessons from my Dad. I have been so inspired by my Dad’s ability to work hard everything he did and continues to do, even if it’s in the most simplest of tasks.
My Advice to You: Just Work Hard.
If there is one piece of advice I can offer any of you after my two years in business, it is this.
Just Work Hard. Starting your own company is hard work. Just when you think you’ve accomplished something difficult like finding investors or landing your first huge client, something else that’s hard comes along – like blog writing.
But you can’t avoid it, you can’t wait for inspiration, and as a startup you can’t always outsource it right away. You have to get to work and work hard.
To this day every BIG moment that has happened to Intrinsic Events and every great opportunity has come out of our hard work itself.
Success and inspiration do not magically appear. They come to us from a story of a time when someone else worked hard and it paid off. And it will continue to be just that until we are able to get out there, do the hard work, and become an inspiration for ourselves, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for us.
FOLLOW my company @EventsIntrinsic for updates & upcoming events.