Ain’t Mission You All

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

I have a soft spot in my heart for nonprofit organizations. And a huge understanding of how they work…or don’t work, as is too often the case. There are so many things that can endanger the success of even the best-intended nonprofit. A poorly defined mission tops the list.

 

In some cases, as the organization is formed, a definitive mission is never clearly defined and the organization never even gets off the ground. In other cases, the mission is strong at the beginning as founding board members have a clear vision and purpose, but eventually erodes as new board members, who aren’t as personally tied to the original mission, attempt to redefine it over time.

 

Recently, I met with the leader of a 6-year old organization who wanted my company’s help with fundraising through community events. When asked what type of event she had in mind, her only response was, “The one that will bring in the most money.” As I attempted to find out what her budget was, what her financial needs were, what types of events would best relate to her mission; I accidentally drilled down to the root of the problem. She had lost sight of her mission.

 

As the conversation continued, I heard so many facets of that mission; each one making it a bigger, less achievable goal. While it was nice to hear how many issues she wanted her organization to solve – no one nonprofit organization can save the whole wide world. It’s altruistic, noble and sweet, but highly unrealistic and will turn off potential board members and donors.

 

The key to having a proper mission is similar to an elevator pitch; make it clear and concise, easily understood and, frankly, believable. Your mission statement should tell people what problem you plan to overcome or solve or what great ideal you plan to further. Following that, your vision statement should tell people how you plan to do this.

 

Want to know what makes a bad mission statement? Here are some fine examples: 9 Worst Mission Statements of All Time.

 

Now, take a look at some of the good ones: 30 Inspiring Billion Dollar Startup Company Mission Statements.

 

Sometimes it’s difficult to define all the wonderful things you want your nonprofit to accomplish. It’s like writing a résumé; you want to brag, but want to seem modest, but most of all you just want everyone to understand your strengths and believe in your abilities. It’s great if you and your board can achieve this together, but it’s also very common to have an objective outsider facilitate the conversation and help guide the organization to better define their mission.

 

You’ll be amazed at the excitement and additional support having a clear mission can garner for your nonprofit. The board and staff will be able to recite it more easily and others will understand it more readily, which means everyone starts to have a more immediate tie-in and buy-in.

The Terrible Two’s

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

 

Something exciting happened this April Fool’s Day: my company turned two! But then I began to wonder: is this like raising children? The period where so many questions are asked, and even more boundaries tested, many of them completely shattered.

I quickly realized the unequivocal answer is yes. Yes, year two of running a small, but growing, company is exactly like raising a speedy toddler who is now mostly stable on his legs, zipping around the house, asking 800 questions a minute and getting away with whatever he can in the span of time it takes a parent to run to the restroom.

There is never a dull moment. It’s all uncharted territory; even if you’ve done this before, every company – like every child – provides a vastly different experience. It’s simultaneously thrilling and frightening in equal amounts.

Parents can testify: before your first child is born, you have certain assumptions about what you will be like as a parent…and how fantastically your child will confine themselves within the very fair, realistic boundaries you will set.

And then they’re born.

And then you blink.

And they’re off….

All of your illusions shattered.

The great thing about parenting is that this person you’ve brought into the world can’t be defined. You have no idea who they will become, but you get to witness and nurture the whole journey.

This is what I’ve learned in my two years with this fantastic new venture/adventure I began. I’ve created another being and it’s taken on a life of its own. The ideals I had when I formed the company were mere fantasy. Luckily, the reality is far more exciting and gratifying.

Not only has Resonance grown and become more familiar to the community, it has started to define itself in new and unique ways. The strength of its services has intensified as the definitions of what it can do and offer has been tightened and honed. Skills that I assumed would be a large part of what the business utilized have become secondary, making way for the expertise that seems to resonate more with clients and other business leaders.

Equally as gratifying as watching this two-year old find and define itself, is realizing how much it’s teaching me. The more confident and competent I feel about this company and the direction it’s taken, the less unruly it seems.

Just like with parenting, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the place this business has resided in my life and in my heart. And we will only grow and strengthen from here.

To all of my family, friends and fellow business people: thank you for the tremendous amount of support you’ve given and for helping me make it through the first two years. I’m looking forward to many more!

 

Benefits of Employee Turnover

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President  

 

We’ve all heard the reasons that employee turnover can be undesirable; it may indicate poor leadership, noncompetitive wages, or bad working conditions. As a current business owner, former manager of a large staff and previous employee several times over, I have learned to appreciate the benefits of employee turnover.

That’s right, I said benefits.

When I was an employee, which I was from the age of 14, I was constantly looking around, trying to find a way to advance, learn more, and earn more. It wasn’t that I didn’t work for any great companies. I was simply motivated and ambitious. Companies that I worked for longer than others typically recognized that spark and rewarded it with additional training, advancement opportunities, and regular reviews with the possibility of pay increases. But ultimately I would move on.

As the manager of a staff of about 25, I quickly noticed that many of the employees who had been with that company the longest were the ones who least personified the image and direction I had been hired to accomplish. They were complacent, and generally lacked motivation and customer service skills. As I came on board and started to shake things up, no one remained indifferent. Several employees decided that if the job wasn’t so “cushy” anymore, they weren’t interested and they quit. This gave me the opportunity to hire new recruits and train them to be more active and engaging.

Several of the employees who remained did so because they were inspired; they welcomed a fresh perspective and change, they wanted to be part of something that was improving. They were rewarded with new responsibilities, which they relished.

The problem with no or low turnover is that it creates a sense of stagnancy and complacency. Have you ever heard people say that you should hire the person who wants your job? Those people are interested, motivated, engaging, determined to do better, to seek more. Of course, they need to be skilled, intelligent and willing to do the work, but I believe every business owner and manager should want their staff to be made up of employees eager to learn new things, advance, make changes and improvements, to someday be sitting in your chair.

In many cases, this will mean that you will lose great employees. They will find new and better opportunities elsewhere. The best thing you can do is give your employees opportunities to learn more, to earn more, to implement change, nurture them to grow. And sometimes to shake their hand and congratulate them when they leave you to seek a new direction. Those employees will either become one of the best assets your company has ever had, or a wonderful ally in your business community.

If they go, it also gives you the opportunity to promote the next best human asset your company has and to hire new employees with fresh perspectives. If you foster the type of business atmosphere where employees feel comfortable speaking freely, where they are encouraged to introduce creative ideas and solutions and where growth from failure is as common as rewards for success, then every new employee you bring on board has the potential to become a valued asset, even if only temporarily.

Encourage your employees to keep learning and growing, rejoice in their successes both inside and outside your company and welcome every new opportunity to hire a worthy and fresh set of eyes, ears and hands.

Too Many Hats

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

As business people (or as human beings in general) we often wear “many hats”. Sometimes we wear too many hats. It just “is what it is” in our fast-paced Age of Information.

I can remember when my children were little, I thought I’d topple over from the sheer weight of all the hats I wore. I was the cook, the maid, the chauffeur, the scheduler, the shopper, the tutor, the disciplinarian, the nurse, and the organizer. And I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few hats; selective memory at this point, I’m sure.

I willingly wore all those hats because I was sure that I HAD to wear all those hats. No one else would take those responsibilities. No one else was as good at handling those responsibilities. There wasn’t enough money to pay someone to handle any of the responsibilities.

As I formed a small business, I took on the same attitude. There isn’t enough money and no one who can do things quite like I do.

It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t want my eternal business card to read “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer”. I didn’t have enough hours in a day to accomplish all that I wanted my business to do, if I handled every task on my own. I also realized that I’m not the most capable person for certain tasks. (Shocking self-realization!)

As I began planning how my business would grow, and the best methods for guiding it in that direction, several things became clear:

  1. I have BIG plans for my company and I can’t do it alone. No woman is an island, right?
  2. I have a few, very distinct specialties; the areas that aren’t my specialty ARE someone else’s.
  3. If I want people to value and pay me for what I specialize in, I need to return the favor.
  4. In order to grow a business, you have to learn to trust the capability and integrity in others.

I also realized that I never intended to be my own worst boss; working myself 24/7 just wasn’t good for anyone. Me, myself and I considered going on strike for the long, insufferable hours without overtime pay or additional benefits.

I quickly started shedding hats. Paying a graphic artist to design my logo. Hiring a web designer to create my web site. Allowing a social media specialist to handle my growing number of accounts. Contracting a part-time person to help identify new marketing opportunities and more modern apps and platforms the business should be utilizing.

Was I spending more money? Without a doubt, yes. A lot more money. Did it offer me additional benefits? Absolutely! I was no longer working round the clock. I was no longer doing things that weren’t really my forte. In the end I started making more money since my time was being spent strictly servicing my clients and seeking out new ones. And the ultimate benefit: my limited number of hats and I have a lot more time to enjoy ourselves and participate in life –  and THAT’S why I went into business for myself.

Leveling Up

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

Not too long ago I published an article on narrowing your focus, as related to defining your company’s target market. Basically, it was a wakeup call for entrepreneurs who believe everyone can become my customer. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize that I was guilty of doing the exact opposite: assuming that certain people couldn’t be my customer. This is just as bad.

It was mentioned to me that what I had done for one nonprofit organization could be duplicated across the state. My response was that there are national and state funded programs that offer the same type of assistance to these particular organizations at no charge. Why would a nonprofit organization pay me for services they could get for free?

The problem: I wasn’t thinking big enough!

As the wheels began turning more quickly in my head I realized that the state programs are typically understaffed and their small departments can only provide a limited amount of time and resources to each of the several organizations they are set up to support.

The solution: instead of approaching each organization individually, approach state programs with a consulting proposal.

As this idea began to cement in my mind, I quickly shifted to the thought that for every potential client my company would like to work with we should be “leveling up”. By leveling up, I mean that we should not only be going after the clients we want, but also targeting the people and entities that support those clients.

Every organization has a hierarchy that reaches beyond that organization. As you begin to plan more strategically for the success of your business, you need to consider your plan for escalating your marketing and communications efforts. Imagine how much more effective you can be by targeting the one entity that’s responsible for supporting 25 organizations that you consider to be potential clients.

Try to think of who your ideal customers are. Then try to imagine who or what is on the next level above them. It’s so much easier to spend a reasonable amount of time and energy going after the few at the higher level than to spend a great deal of time trying to reach the myriad of those occupying the level below. It’s the old trickle-down theory.

For example, if you have a deck building company and you see a new housing development of 300 homes being built in your town you might be thinking it would be great to market to each of those brand new homeowners.

Thinking more strategically, however, imagine how much easier it would be if you only had to talk to the developer. Would that company contract with yours to build the decks on those homes as they’re being finished and sold? Would they refer you to the homeowners so that you can build decks for those who want them later? Once the development is complete, would the homeowners’ association allow you to advertise in their newsletter or on their website?

By this way of thinking, you have two companies to market to, where the previous method means approaching 300 homeowners.

Planning and communicating more strategically can save your company precious time, money and other resources. Additionally, the benefits are potentially limitless, especially as you continue to find the next higher level.