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Archive for the ‘Daphne’s OpEd Corner’ Category

Your Startup Is Bigger Than You

After interviewing high level business pioneers and making headway on their book, here’s a big take-away: Most people have heard the phrase, “Know your *WHY* ” But what does it really mean and how do you apply it for sustainable success?

strategy

A little history lesson in product/service development and sales: Most young entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that their innovative product is king. Wrong. Others think it’s about the content–make sure your marketing and branding strategies are on-point, and you can fill the box with just about anything. Wrong. Oh, you might find a limited amount of profit and success that way, but you’ll also find it fizzling out, and you’ll need to scramble to find the next big thing to saty in the game, virtually starting over from scratch. That’s not sustainability. That’s grit (which is a great quality, but it’s not sustainability).

Instead, “Know your *WHY*” dictates that you understand what you want your product or service to do, and you get committed to that outcome. For instance, your *WHY* may be that you want to help people come together and connect at a table together, share stories and build relationships, because people are feeling alone and disconnected. That’s your *WHY* To answer that, you might productize bottles of wine for people to share together, but what your selling is a social tool meant to provide a shared experience more than a mere product or service.

Also, to really be sustainable, your *WHY* can’t just be about something that’s meaningful to you in a vacuum. It needs to be responsive to or reflective of a cultural need. In this case, data show that people want to put money in experiences and they crave connection. So, your *WHY* of wanting to help people come together and connect at a table, share stories and build relationships answers the cultural need for interpersonal connection and shared experiences.

Now, here’s the thing, because your focus is on your *WHY* and not the singular product (e.g. wine), when you expand or scale and decide to add new products/services to your offerings, they needn’t be more wine. They merely have to be reflective of your *WHY* So, a social club, exotic tours and retreats, books designed for book clubs and other groups, film festivals and other events, etc. all can be positioned to answer your *WHY* keeping you relevant even if drinking wine goes out of style (Although, I dare not think of such a travesty!).

#startup #whystatement #scale #strategicplanning #thinkbig #business #entrepreneur #legacycompany

THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

(aka: the selfish monologue in business = short term)

Philosophically, our only true ability in life is to generalize from oneself. The only true perception we will ever have is our own, even when we empathize or “see through another lens” it’s still our interpretation of it. So, self is always in play no matter how hard we may try to remove ourselves. That’s not a bad thing, but it can get complicated when you’re establishing a company.

Portrait of smiling businesswomanYou need to know your *WHY* but whether you consider that to be personal or universal will greatly affect the scale and ultimate sustainability of your business.

At first a company is but a seed, a beautiful idea. Then, we nurture it into existence. We feed it, water it, love it, even struggle with it, then it blooms! Still, we think of it as our own, but is that the best view for the long-term health of pure creation?

Maybe you grew an orchid — a boutique hybrid that is gorgeous and exclusive and very personal. That’s wonderful! But it’s not very SUSTAINABLE. It has a targeted quick lifespan that will be enjoyed by a very limited number of people who will get to experience it. Which is great if that’s the goal.

Perhaps, on the other hand, you’re growing a magestic cherry tree. Ahhh, that’s very different. Many entities have contributed to this successful incarnation and will soon come to rely on its existence. Sure, you planted the seed, maybe even started it in a small pot to keep it safe in its formative time, but soon it will be a critical part of a living ecosystem on the planet. Earthworms, bugs, microorganisms, squirrels, birds, owls, bats, raccoons, snakes, etc. will one day rely on its shelter, stature, fruit and other forms of its biology. Decay, sunlight, rain and dew will all contribute to it’s growth, though you may still contribute, keep it printed and healthy, it’s grown much larger than you. Frankly, it can even live without you, and that’s good. That was the point!

Using the analogy of growing these “plants” from seeds into maturity are similar in business. If you intend to stay small, as a rare flowing plant, enjoyed by an elite few, you’re allowed to be selfish with its mission — you’ll do no harm to it, and long-term sustainability that benefits many isn’t it’s goal. You’ll likely achieve success, then you’ll move on to your *next*

But, if you intend to build an empire or at least a mid-sized corporation that will be able to thrive, maybe as your legacy, long after you’re gone, you need a mission that isn’t about you but is all about the culture and ecosystem your establishing and sustaining. This is your *WHY* and it’s far bigger than *you*

You also need to ensure that this large sustainable *WHY* is something embraced by everyone and everything in your culture, from your workforce and investors to your customers and fans. The moment you think your *WHY* in this larger game is anything about you, you know you’re playing too small and threatening sustainability. Because if you think this majestic cherry tree is here to give you joy and shade, you’re not addressing the more important needs of the many contributing to it and relying on it. You’ll strangle it’s growth and prevent it from fulfilling its fullest potential for the greater good.

A small business can afford a selfish monologue for its *WHY* because its goal isn’t long-term sustainability for the masses. A larger company, intended for long-term sustainability, needs a more universal, cultural, ecosystem-oriented *WHY* to thrive and grow at the scale that is most suited to it.

#branding #scale #sustainability #corporation #mission #yourwhystatement #brandstory #startup

Proposal winning strategies – 7 tips

DaphnesGrant

[Pictured at left is an actual grant application Daphne wrote and submitted, directing a small team of clinicians and support staff. Daunting, no?]

 

Background: Daphne Street is a multi-million dollar award-winning grant and proposal writer, with more than a decade of experience in winning proposals spanning myriad fields within the nonprofit and for profit industries. From the fine and performing arts to substance abuse and mental health services and from technology developers  to transportation services, Daphne has helped transform businesses through establishing new revenue streams and fostering profitable partnerships. Far too often, Daphne says, companies are content on submitting proposals without doing the work needed to truly be competitive and win the game. Here are 7 winning tips from Daphne:

7 Tips for Winning Proposals

  1. Do what you’re told. Read, follow directions and gather appropriate content. Never skim an application. Completing award applications and proposals are not the time to get creative, decide certain questions are superfluous or bluff your way through. You must be exacting in every minute detail: from composition and submission instructions, to addressing every detail in the scope of services and search every section to discover additional areas you need to address.
  2. Points matter. If an RFP assigns points to certain sections or questions, calculate those compared to the word count. The more points assigned to a question or section should get a higher percentage of your word count dedicated to it. It is formulaic and expected.
  3. Information gathering. Do not attempt to do this on your own unless you solely have ownership of the vault that holds all of your company’s data and are its universal content expert. More likely, you have accountants, program/department heads, specialists and industry experts on your team that can provide invaluable content to strengthen your proposal. Take the time to engage them and be specific about the type of information you need from them.
  4. Money. Your financials and budget are often the strongest and most highly weighted sections of your application. Your financials tell a complete story of your company’s financial health and whether your company is a good investment for funding. This includes tax returns, independent audits, etc. Your budget is usually what really sets you apart from the competition, and there is no shortcut for developing a winning budget: analyze ALL of your costs associated with a project and pitch a budget that is as tight as you can get it while still making a profit. In terms of for profit government proposals, you tend to make your money on volume over ticket price, so consider that when you calculate your estimated profits.
  5. Interpretation. Reading between the lines is critical in winning applications. This requires skill and experience to know exactly what questions mean and the data, details, interpretations and focus points to include within proposal responses along with the best ways to present that information, using graphics, logic models, flow charts and time tables, etc. to drive key messages.
  6. Value-added. This is where proposals are won. What additional, extraordinary benefits and features are you bringing to the table? What is unique about your offering that sets you above the competition? Skilled proposal writers know how to sniff out these details and highlight them in writing in compelling ways. From your narrative to your budget, value-added wins every time.
  7. Hire an expert. Especially when you are dealing with high stakes, it’s worth the investment to use the expertise of a pro. They often don’t come cheap, and it’s important to vet them properly, but they know the tricks of the trade that can augment your chances of winning exponentially. While there is never a guarantee that your application will win, the outstanding news is that your investment in an expert proposal writer never goes to waist unless you fully scrap your project. The application they pull together often can be repurposed to submit for various funding opportunities. It’s never a “one size fits all” job—there will be significant time spent rewriting sections and addressing varied specifications and scopes of services, but you will often find subsequent applications written to support the same project far less cumbersome.

Eat What You Kill

I’ve been working for others about as long as I have been self-employed, and I’ve learned only one thing throughout all this time: value = delivery. I began the bulk of my professional career as a grant writer, and as a grant writer you are charged with paying for yourself, plus. Usually you are required to bring in three times your salary to justify your job. Seeing as how I was never a highly-Screen-Shot-2012-06-13-at-10.40.13-AM1paid grant writer, but I did win many 6-7 figure awards, this wasn’t difficult to accomplish. My jobs have always been secure…

Now that I am a freelancer, however, I’ve noticed that my personal expectations of what I deliver to clients changed a bit. I expected pay for work–competitive pay–pay commensurate with my skills and experience. What’s wrong with that? Work is a deliverable, right? You need writing services: a blog, a book, web copy, a press release, business proposal, a grant, flier, etc. I should get paid for the work I do based on my experience, talent and quality and the value of what I deliver. Right? Not so fast.

“Eat what you kill.” I have been in the land of commissioned sales, of percentages on projects with little cash laid up front but with lots to gain on the back end, based on the overall success of my deliverables. Some people cower at the thought while others thrive with the sense of empowerment to create their own revenue. I am the latter. I like knowing that the cash in my hand is a direct result of the work I have done. In other words, “eat what you kill.” If I bring money in the door, I get more money. In this strategy, my value is directly correlated with the money I generate.

As a writer, that may sound like a strange principal, and arguably it’s not the right strategy for everyone. It’s not the right strategy for every project, either, or for every client. But, over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that this is exactly how I work best. Pay me most not just when I produce, but when what I produce turns a profit or is deemed measurably valuable to you in some meaningful way.

I’ve watched so many employees walk into businesses with a sense of entitlement that made my eyes water from the stench. They had no sense of hustle, no desire to bring efficiencies or ingenuity to the game, and felt no responsibility to add to the immediate bottom line of their workplace. Yet, they felt completely entitled to continue receiving a salary for breathing, whining and taking up space.

I’m not saying that all staff or contract positions need to conform to this philosophy, but I am saying that if you want to be deemed truly valuable, take on an “eat what you kill” mentality. Take risks that force you to deliver in big ways for you to see real pay-offs. Justify your salary by developing systems that save your company money, eliminate waste and redundancies, produce innovative products and services, commit to constantly increasing your performance and the quality of your work, or better yet bring hard cash through the door in the form of contracts, or developing a new customer base. Eat what you kill.

Stress Buster Series Part 1 – PERCEPTION – 7 strategies to reduce stress

Here are seven ACTUALLY EFFECTIVE ways to deactivate stress.

There’s no joking around about the seriousness of stress. At the very least it eats away at us, preventing us from enjoying life fully. At its worse, it is deadly—a major contributor in obesity, high blood pressure and other critical health conditions and diseases as well as mental illnesses, including problems with alcohol and other drugs, anxiety disorders and depression. It even has been linked to many instances of suicide. Tame the beast—take action to help manage stress.

  1. Experience—everything tends to work out no matter how badly I worked to screw it up
  2. Looking Forward—decide to do one thing every day that you look forward to doing (going out for a drink, watch the sunset, watch a movie, spend time with a friend, write a story, paint…)
  3. Positive, Creative Intelligent & PLAY—surround yourself with positive, creative, intelligent and playful people and spend enough time alone to stay sane
  4. New Beginnings—Know that there is an ever-present opportunity to pick up and start over
  5. Nature—never lose your connection with the Earth, and go for a hike, a swim in the ocean, climb a tree, play in the rain, sit or go for a run in a park, exercise outside, sail, stare at the horizon across the water; it’s the connection to the planet that reminds us of the infinite nature of our true reach and how insignificant humanity is and thus our problems…
  6. Quiet—spend time in silence: mind, body and spirit; profound calm creates a space for creative thought and for the imagination to run wild; day dream, meditate… whatever speaks to you
  7. Enjoy—remember that very little is all that important anyway, so enjoy!

stress

Murder and guns in America today–would amending the US gun law reduce murder rates?

First, here are some interesting statistics about murders from a global perspective. Most people are aware that the United Kingdom has outlawed guns (for most citizens). What’s the correlation between that and murders? Well, in the USA, which proudly upholds its government’s Second Amendment, in one year there were 15,241 murders (2009) – that’s 5 murders per 1,000 people (RPT).

In the UK, 724 murders were calculated in one year with an RPT of 1.2. I’d say that’s a significant correlative difference. Did the difference in gun laws “cause” the problem – I’m not sure. Let’s look at more numbers…

The country that reported the highest number of murders in one year was Brazil at 43,909 with a RPT of 22.7. Falling just behind Brazil in number of murders is India with 40,752 reported but with a RPT of only 3.4 because of the incredibly dense population of the country.

Now, examining the significance or RPT, check out Honduras, reporting 6,239 murders in one year but with an RPT of 82.1!!! El Salvador reported 4.085 murders in a year with an RPT of 66!

Data comes from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDC). As you can imagine, the United Nations explains that it is somewhat difficult comparing these statistics accurately. Nations have different views on what constitutes murder, they report on different years, reporting methods differ, etc. However, this data does paint what I think is a fascinating picture.

It seems that developed nations have fewer murders (rate per thousand – RPT) than non-developed nations. And about those guns…

I still want to point out that there is strong correlative evidence that suggests having a loose gun law in a nation (e.g. USA) leads to increased murders as opposed to a nation with far stricter gun laws (United Kingdom). Still, there is more going on here. America is unique because of it dense and mostly developed sprawl. If you look at data maps, most murders occur in cities that are heavily populated with poverty, gangs and drug trafficking.

Therefore, if the US enacted heavier gun control laws or even outlawed guns for most citizens, the argument that many gun rights activists use, “only criminals will have guns,” could very well come to pass. I question if heavier gun laws would have a great impact on people who are career criminals–a sociological construct that already exists without much indication that we have a solution to curb this activity. If this is so, they won’t get rid of their guns, and they will continue obtaining guns from other criminals. These are groups that already, as a rule, operate outside of laws. The only regard they have for law is that it dictates to them that which they must keep hidden, as hidden as possible to try to not get caught.

How does all of this relate to the Colorado shooting? It doesn’t. When a society looks for solutions to reduce murders, by rule it has to eliminate anomalous causation. A psycho on a shooting spree in a movie theater is not a common profile for murders in America. Therefore, an act like this isn’t successfully addressed through policy or law. Most likely people around this individual ignored warning signs that he was a sociopath with homicidal tendencies that turned wrong — way wrong. But hey, what the hell do I know. I’m just a writer here, tapping out letters… What do YOU think?

Do you want to travel for free (or at least really cheap)?

I think humans are in deep need of three things. These things are dangerously rare as we concentrate evermore on the everydayness of hectic lives and responsibilities–chaos, confusion and emergencies–chores, deadlines and all sorts of gadgets and media that serve as distractions from feeding our minds, bodies and spirits with all that keeps us craving more and more of the greatness around us and in us.

 

What are the three endangered things?

  1. Adventure
  2. Imagination
  3. Creating

I challenge you to find one thing a week–or even per month–for you to do alone or with a friend or with your family that offers you a sense of adventure or sparks your imagination or allows you to create something–anything.

This could be as simple as reading a book, visiting a museum, volunteering in an organization, planting a garden or taking an art class. You could travel locally to a neighboring community and be a tourist for a day. Try hiking or yoga or just daydreaming on the beach–maybe a late-night stroll. Skip the high-priced family reunion across the country this year, and instead book a room in a beachside Florida motel and reunite with your own family 1 on 1 (and you get to run home for that camera you forgot to pack).

Go out and explore your own back yard! Follow your cat around the neighborhood, if you can keep up. Invite your friends over for a seasonal fruit and veggie tasting party. Create a comic book using stick figues and a pencil or finger paints. Buy a hammock and daydream or write a short story. There’s so much to see right in front of you, you can be an adventurer for the cost of the mere courage it takes to dare see the world through a fresh set of eyes! You can be an artist with just the thoughts in your head and the skills of a 5-year-old.

Go do something right here. Right now. I dare you.

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