Leadership: Connecting & Communicating Purpose

Many leaders hype their devotion to communicating purpose. On the same hand, many employees don’t believe their day to day activities connect to a purpose.

Employees not connecting their jobs to a purpose could be why statistics show that up to 70% of employees suffer from disengagement. Also, 79 percent of people who quit their jobs cite ‘lack of appreciation’ as their reason for leaving. Let me connect those two statistics through a short story.

When I was a new manager I made a simple, but a huge mistake. I’d ask my team to perform specific tasks but would explain the “why” or the purpose. Luckily, I had a leader, thank you Amar, that sat me down and taught me this vital lesson:

  1. When asking your employees to do something, a good leader spends 5 minutes to connect & communicate how those daily and weekly tasks relate to a higher purpose.

  2. They explain how an individual employee or team fits into the overall strategy.

  3. By connecting and communicating purpose, you can increase employee engagement and make your team feel more appreciated.

  4. Not only that, but this process also helps develop your employees for more significant roles. They start to see the bigger picture through the fine details.

 So, I have two question for you:

  • How can you spend 5 minutes TODAY to communicate how your team’s daily or weekly activities connect to a higher purpose?

  • I’m not talking about making a big speech. Think about it on a smaller scale: email, one-on-one, or during a meeting

  • How can you change your daily communication and actions to support your organizations declared purpose?

  • Remember, purpose doesn’t concern what you do. It involves “why you do what you do.”



Why & How I Became an Executive Coach

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Don’t get me wrong, strategy consulting is exhilarating, and I’m damn good at it. For some reason, I am blessed with the ability to simplify complex problems and find real, executable solutions.

But, not too long ago I found myself wanting more and I couldn’t quite figure it out. I was successful and making money, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be. I wanted more. And, I found it.

Finding Happiness and Satisfaction

How did I find happiness and satisfaction? At first, deep self-reflection. I looked back at my life and career. I asked myself what I enjoyed most? My answer: Helping and developing people on an individual level. 

Well, what the hell do I do with that? How do I balance helping individuals with continuing to solve complex problems with strategy and executable solutions? Executive Coaching.

After extensive research, I went through the best Executive Coaching training program, iPEC. I spent months and countless hours completing their professional coaching certification program and becoming an Energy Leadership Index – Master Practitioner. I met and learned from the most amazing people. Now … I am an Executive Coach.

I couldn’t be happier! The energy I feel when coaching my clients is incredible. My head and my heart are connected. I’m in the zone! I love supporting my clients (testimonials)

Who I work with? 

As an Executive Coach, I support three different clients.

  1. Clients that are climbing the corporate mountain (ladder) but have realized they are on the wrong mountain and they are looking to make a career transition.

  2. Client’s that have full schedules and on-going responsibilities, but want to reduce stress, find greater satisfaction, happiness, and purpose in their current role.

  3. Corporate clients that are interested developing the leadership and team skills needed to succeed at all levels of the organization.

All of my client’s go through the Energy Leadership Index (ELI) assessment. The ELI is a mirror that reflects your world. It is a one-of-a-kind assessment that enables leaders to hold up mirrors to their perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and overall leadership capabilities.

The ELI is an attitudinal assessment, which is based on an energy/action model. This assessment differs from personality assessments as it is not intended to label a person and have them work well within that label. Instead, it measures your level of energy based on your attitude, or perception and perspective of your world.

Utilizing the results from your ELI, you can alter your attitude and perspective, make a shift in your consciousness, and increase your energy and leadership effectiveness.

I was blown away by my ELI results. I have no doubt you will be too. You'll understand how to become your ideal image of who you need to be as a leader for your situation, division, team, or company. 

You Have The Ingredients. I'd Like To Help You Put Them All Together

As your coach, I’ll motivate, advise, and keep you focused on achieving your goals. Through the coaching process, we’ll remove the personal roadblocks stopping you from reaching your highest potential. We’ll develop strategies to reduce stress, increase engagement and satisfaction.

We work as a team, but you define the outcomes. We develop your definition of enlightened success. We work in partnership, but you set “New Rules” for your life. The goal is for you to acquire the knowledge, insight, and skills to handle all situations successfully. 

You are enlightened and empowered with the freedom of choice

Are you’re ready to break free from what’s holding you back and start your journey to a new life? Schedule a free strategy call with me today. We’ll discuss your situation and goals. You’re in charge, and there’s no pressure or obligation. 

**Mention this blog and receive a free 1-hr coaching session. I look forward to working with you.**




7 Tips to Reduce Stress at Work (6 Powerful and 1 Super Quirky)

Tips to Reduce Stress At Work

7 Tips to Reduce Stress at Work (6 Powerful and 1 Super Quirky

Your profession doesn’t matter. Everyone experiences stress at work. Reducing stress in the workplace is one of the most discussed subjects with my clients. If we can reduce stress at work, we tend to lead happier and healthier lives. Below I’ve listed out 7 ways to manage stress at work. There are many more, but starting with these will put you in a better place. 

1.    Plan your day, the day before

Many people walk into the office, open their calendar, and then plan their day. This means they spent a ton of time worrying Leave your planning at the “office,” don’t take it home. Take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to review progress and plan for the next day. Once you’ve planned for tomorrow, clear that stress out of your head. You can go home knowing you are prepared for maximum productivity tomorrow.

2.    Everything has a solution

You are a problem solver. There is a solution. Take a deep breath and relax. The longer you hold onto your negative reaction to a stressful situation, the more it weighs on your mind, the worse it gets. The stress reaction you are experiencing is acting as a filter and limiting what you see as potential solutions. Remove the stress reaction, remove the filter, and shift your mindset problem spotting to solution focused.

 Consider purchasing a Problem/Solution rock (pictured below). As a problem arises, take the time to reflect on the challenge. Close your eyes. Hold the stone in your hand as you rub the problem side. Take a few deep breaths and relax. Let go of the stress as you flip the stone to the solution side. Feel the texture of the engraved letters spelling out “solution.” Allow ideas to flow into your mind. You have the solution.

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3.    Build Supportive Relationships

Having supportive and happy relationships is one of the most important ways to reduce stress. Avoid relationships that revolve around negativity. Subjecting yourself to constant drama, office politics, complaining, and general negativity only brings you down.

Develop strong relationships at work and at home. Having healthy, supportive, and positive relationships provide something to look forward to before, during, and after work. By surrounding yourself with positive people drains away your negative energy.

4.    Get up and take a walk

If you can feel the stress building, get up from your desk and take a walk. Spend 5-10 minutes away from your desk and the stressing situation. Breath in and out slowly as you are walking. Try to clear your mind or think about something pleasant. If you can get outside, take in some fresh air. No matter where you decide to walk, take a break from the negative emotions building up.

5.    Build a stress-busting playlist

Numerous studies show the impact music can have on our mood. If you want energy, you can listen to music that pumps you up. If you need to relax, you can listen to music that’s slower and chills you out. Music is extremely useful for reducing stress, as it connects to our emotions. Try making a calming playlist specific to reducing your stress.

6.    Learn to have “prioritization or timing” conversations with your boss (or client)

There’s only a certain amount of time in one day, week, month, or year. There’s a finite amount of work one person can complete without going insane. Keep a list of the activities, tasks, or work that you have on your plate. When your boss assigns another “priority,” revisit your list. If your list is too much for a certain period, you need to have a prioritization or timing conversation. Always bring several solutions to your boss, not just problems.

First, start with the pleasantries such as, “Hi. How’s your day going?” … All that fun stuff. Then, jump into the conversation –

Your beginning to the timing conversation (please put in your own words):

You: Boss, here’s my list of tasks to complete this week. According to the timing, I’m supposed to complete these ten tasks. This morning you asked me to finish this additional task by the end of the week. For me to complete this new task, I’ll need to adjust the timing of the other ten items. My suggestion is that we can move the schedule of X to next Wednesday and Y to Monday. What are your thoughts?  

Your beginning to the prioritization conversation:

You: Boss, here’s my list of priorities for this week. According to our agreed upon prioritization, I’m supposed to complete these ten items. This morning you asked me to prioritize this additional task. For me to prioritize this new item, I’ll need to adjust the prioritization of one of the other ten items. My suggestion is that we can move X down to the end of our prioritization. Moving X down means I may not complete it until next week. What are your thoughts?

 Your boss may say no, but this is an excellent way to start “managing up” in an organization. You can even have this type of conversation as a manager for your team. Remember, nothing is a priority if everything is a priority.

Reduce Stress through screaming

7.    Find a private place to yell, scream, and get it all out

Maybe you’ll think I’m weird because of this one, but guess what … it works. Screaming to release stress feels damn good too. I’ve done it many times but never knew there was an official name for it until writing this article. It’s called, “primal scream therapy.” Who knew! It’s a legitimate form of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety, trauma, and even stress. Don’t lie; you know you want to try it now! Ok, so now that’s established, let’s get to the fun stuff.  

Occasionally when I was stressed out, I’d find a private place. Then, I’d scream as loud as I could. When I was screaming, I’d release all the built-up stress. My heart would start pumping, no ... it would begin racing. Not only was I releasing the stress, but also creating blood flow and energy! Once I stopped screaming, I’d start taking slow and deep breaths. I’d bring my focus back to the challenge ahead of me. Now I had all the energy needed to find and execute the solution.

What are your fun, quirky, or interesting ways to reduce office stress? Oh, and if any of you have “primal screaming” stories, please do share in the comments!

“Become the Cause of Your Life, Instead of at Its Effect”

Are you unsatisfied at work or considering a career transition? Download my free “Career Satisfaction Quiz.” Once you complete the quiz, you’ll learn if you’re well suited for the type of work you’re doing and what’s directly impacting your desire to change careers. Is it the type of work, your manager, and/or company? 



* Shocking and Sad Workplace statistics * (Video)

* Shocking and Sad Workplace statistics * Click here for the article

 53% of US workers are currently unhappy at work. That’s greater than 65 million people.

 That just crushes me. Think about that number. 65 million people are spending half of the time they are awake “unhappy.”  

 I mean, how does spending 8 hours of a day “unhappy” effect the rest of your life? When you get home from work, how does that impact your personal life, family, friends, and general well-being?

 Please, whatever you do … stop living that way. Stop allowing yourself to be unhappy 8 hours a day. Stop talking about how work sucks.

 Stop waiting for someone or something else to bring you happiness. DO something about it. Be the cause of your life. Be the cause of your happiness at work.

 There are many ways you can increase your happiness at work. I’ve left a link to my article that gives you 10 tips.

 But remember, only YOU have the power to change your life.

Stewart Swayze

“Become the Cause of Your Life, Instead of at Its Effect”

Are you unsatisfied at work or considering a career transition? Download my free “Career Satisfaction Quiz.” Once you complete the quiz, you’ll learn if you’re well suited for the type of work you’re doing and what’s directly impacting your desire to change careers. Is it the type of work, your manager, and/or company? 



10 tips to feel happier at work

increasing happiness and fulfillment at work

10 tips to feel happier at work

As an Executive Coach, I work with business professionals climbing the corporate mountain but have realized they are on the wrong mountain. I work with them to reduce stress and increase fulfillment, happiness, and well-being.

I’m often asked: “How can I be happier at work?” This question is not surprising. In a workplace happiness survey it was found that over 50% of the US workforce is currently unhappy at work. That’s ~65 Million people if you only consider the full-time workforce. The answer is specific to the individual I’m coaching. However, I’ll do my best to provide tips that anyone can use to increase happiness.

1) Identify what kind of work you are doing

A study by Amy Wrzesniewski, Yale School of Management, revealed that we can divide work into three categories: A Job, a Career, or a Calling. So, if you are pursuing happiness at work, the first thing you need to do is identify and categorize what kind of work you are doing.

Job: Your primary motivation is money. The work is a means to an end, getting paid. It helps you to pay for household bills, debts, and hopefully entertainment or activities.

Career: You appreciate or enjoy your work. Your primary motivation is advancement. Your goal is to gain promotions and climb the ladder (mountain). Each “role” is an opportunity to prove yourself and earn a promotion to the next role.

Calling: Your work is in direct alignment with your values. You are contributing to society or a worldly cause beyond yourself.

Once you’ve identified the type of work you are doing, you can reframe how you view the everyday grind.

Job: If you’re in a job, you could view it as “temporary.” It’s a way to make money while you work on other things. Once you pay off those debts, you’ll move onto something you love.

Career: If you’re in a career, but don’t like the work assignments in your current role, you can reframe it as a learning experience. You may dislike the work, but the skills you are gaining will lead to your next promotion. 

Calling: If you’ve found your calling, you’re in alignment with your values. Lucky you and high five! But, maybe your some happiness is negatively impacted because you aren’t making enough money. Reframe how you view it, you’re one of the luckiest people on the planet! Consider finding an enjoyable part-time job or side project to supplement your income.

Now that you’ve picked a category and reframed how you view your work, let’s move onto a few other tips.

2) Develop meaningful friendships

The fact that friendships can lead to happiness is a simple concept, but backed up by research. If you have a few good relationships at work, you look forward to going to work. If you have friends outside of work, you can look forward to social activities at the end of your day.

Officevibe conducted a study on work friendships. In this study, they found that 70% of employees said having friendships at work is the most crucial element to a happy work life. A Harvard Medical School study found that “having a friend who’s happy improves your likelihood of being happy by 15%.”

Get off your coach or from behind your desk and build those friendships.

3) Practice gratitude for YOUR work

There are numerous research studies correlating gratitude with increased optimism and an overall feeling of satisfaction. In one study, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami found that after ten weeks, participants who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives than other groups in the study.

When you start feeling down or unhappy, take 10-15 minutes to write down why you are grateful for your work.

4) Practice gratitude by praising others

Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a positive psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of several positive psychology interventions on 411 people. The group that wrote and personally delivered a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been adequately thanked exhibited a drastic increase in happiness scores. The impact was more significant than any other intervention and lasted a month.

Compliments amplify positivity. They not only deliver positive effects to others, but also the person providing the praise. Find opportunities to personally appreciate and praise others at work. Please, don’t just send an email!

5) Find your happiness at home, more specifically your sex life

Has anyone every told you to separate our personal and professional life? Ha! They are interrelated; one impacts the other. If you’re happy at home, there’s an increased likelihood you are happy at work.

Keith Leavitt, a professor at Oregon State University, found that “those who prioritized sex at home unknowingly gave themselves a next-day advantage at work, where they were more likely to immerse themselves in their tasks and enjoy their work lives.” Who doesn’t want that advantage at work? The study also showed that bringing work-related stress home “negatively impinges on employees’ sex lives.” Nope. Don’t do it.

 I’ll leave the summary tip to you. Just know that happiness at work can start at home.

6) Stop believing that the only way to be happy at work is to “find something you’re passionate about and go do that!”

We are humans. Our passions are hard to prioritize. They also change over time. Your passions might not be your strengths or what the market demands. There are indicators, other than passion, that have a higher positive correlation to happiness: work-life balance, autonomy, and income.

Consider finding work that allows you to pursue an outside passion. If your passion is nature photography, you could work as a freelance graphic designer during the day, and pursue your passion on the weekends or vacations. 

7) Make your workspace a mood-boosting sanctuary

What boosts your mood? Inspirational quotes? Pictures of your family? How about plants or flowers? Think about what you can add to your workspace that will inspire you. Find items that make you smile.

It’s your workspace. Take a step back and find that creative designer deep inside you soul. Now, try making it your happy space. 

8) Connect your work to a higher purpose also called “Job Crafting.”

Author David Zax describes job crafting as carefully crafting how you think about your work. Amy Wrzesniewski (again) studied janitors at hospitals. She wanted to see “what strategies they might employ to find satisfaction in their admittedly low-skilled, low-paid jobs.” The results were fascinating. Some of the staff:

Felt their labor was highly skilled, they described the work in “rich relational terms,” says Wrzesniewski, talking about their interactions with patients and visitors. Many of them reported going out of their way to learn as much as possible about the patients whose rooms they cleaned, down to which cleaning chemicals were likely to irritate them less. “It was not just that they were taking the same job and feeling better about it, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and whistling. It was that they were doing a different job.”

This second, happier group didn’t see themselves as custodial workers at all. One described forming such a bond with patients that she continued to write letters to some of them after they were discharged. Another paid attention to which patients seemed to have few visitors or none at all, and would make sure to double back to spend some time with them... What these workers were doing, Wrzesniewski came to realize, was quietly creating the work that they wanted to do out of the work that they had been assigned -- work they found meaningful and worthwhile. Wrzesniewski and her colleagues call this practice “job crafting,” and they think it could be the key to happiness in all sorts of jobs.

A-Mazing! You can craft how you feel about your job. Even if it’s only certain parts of your work, you can connect those parts, or the whole, to a higher purpose that increases your happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

9) Find another line of work

You can only do so much by putting lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig. If you are thoroughly drained and unhappy, it might be time to make a move. Remember, the best time to find a job is when you have a job. I’d recommend putting in the effort to find happiness in your current work. However, don’t settle for life-long unhappiness.

Find a job that aligns to your values and provides the income you desire. As an Executive Coach that works in the space all the time, believe me when I say this, find work that makes you as happy as possible. If you’re having trouble, consider creating your dream job through entrepreneurship. Take the time to understand what you value the most. Develop a plan of action. Then go get what you desire. Finding work that brings you happiness for the rest of your life is worth the time it might take. Who wouldn’t exchange 30+ years of pure happiness for 3 months to 1 year of minimal discomfort?

Be the cause of your happiness

10) Become the cause of your happiness

You are either at the effect of something else or the cause of your life. If you are unhappy at work, your happiness is at the “effect of your work.” Become the cause of your happiness, instead of surrendering your life to the effect of your circumstances. I’ve provided tips above that can help. However, you have absolute control over YOU. Work on “the who,” your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Work on “the what,” your plans, actions, steps, strategy, and tactics. Only you control how you react to, feel about, or view your job. Only you control the actions you can take to increase happiness.

Stop waiting for someone or something else to bring you happiness. Go forth my friend. Connect your head and heart. Take control of your life. If you need help, consider hiring a coach to guide you along the way.

Take care and be happy!

- Stewart Swayze

“Become the Cause of Your Life, Instead of at Its Effect”

Are you unsatisfied at work or considering a career transition? Download my free “Career Satisfaction Quiz.” Once you complete the quiz, you’ll learn if you’re well suited for the type of work you’re doing and what’s directly impacting your desire to change careers. Is it the type of work, your manager, and/or company? 



Discussion: Entrepreneurs - What you are working on? What are your challenges? What are you struggling with personally or professionally?

Challenges of Entrepreneurs

I originally posted the question below in the LinkedIn Group – Entrepreneur’s Network. However, I wanted to share the conversation outside the group. It’s an interesting discussion on the challenges Entrepreneurs are currently facing. Those challenges span both their personal and professional lives. Many people believe we can separate our professional and personal lives. In theory, this concept sounds appropriate. However, let’s be honest for a moment … when we face difficult challenges in our professional lives, it will impact our personal lives. If we positively improve our personal lives, it will enhance our professional lives. Everything is interrelated.

As an Executive Coach, I focus on building dynamic leaders and solving business challenges by increasing overall happiness and well-being. You have no idea how many times I’m hired by a client to work on a “business” challenge, but through the coaching process, we discover the correct answer comes through removing a filter or mental road-block. As leaders, we view our business circumstances through filters that based on our experiences, values, assumptions, etc. Those filters either limit or expand our ability to access potential solutions.

Often, we already know how to solve their business challenge (The What), we are just having trouble accessing the solution. Once we remove our filters or mental roadblocks (The Who), there’s an almost instantaneous shift in focus and energy … answers begin to flow and the energy to execute increases.

As you read through the discussion below, can you spot the interaction between “The What” and “The Who”? Can you see instances where our personal and professional lives are impacting each other? 

Quick Concept:

The What: Systems, Process, Structure, Strategy, Tactics, Plans, etc.

The Who: Our filters, assumptions, limiting beliefs, mental roadblocks, etc.

The Question:

“Over the last few weeks, I've been watching my LinkedIn groups. There's a lot of people posting articles (I do too), but not engaging. I'd like to change this if possible. I'd enjoy hearing about YOU, your business, and/or what you are working on? What are your challenges? What are you struggling with personally or professionally? Anyone open to that?”

The Discussion (copy/paste):

Andrea Richardson – Founder @ ICPromise

Sure! For me, it is finding the time to do more and still have time to stop and smell the roses.

Stewart’s Response: Andrea, I obviously don't know your circumstances. However, how much time is enough time to stop and smell the roses? 5 minutes? 1-hour? 1-day? It's a personal question. You are the only one that knows the answer best suited for you. But, it's extremely important to our well-being to have those moments. Have you considered always keeping a fresh set of roses near you? Maybe always having roses nearby can be your mental reminder to "stop and smell the roses." Maybe it will remind you to take 5 minutes, be present and celebrate the small wins too. Even if that small win was finding time to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. 

Heck, maybe stopping for 10 seconds to actually smell the roses could help. :)

Eric Block – Network Marketing Trainer

I hate to say it, but is it ego/false pride that keeps people from opening up and engaging in true dialogue on any given topic, less they expose any kind of weakness. I mean for me to tell you I am a struggling network marketing distributor, I worry that will show me as being an unsuccessful person, and I won't attract anything useful for my life here, and pity is not useful lol.

Stewart’s Response: Eric, thank you so much for your comment. Very bold and brave! I’ve experienced that in this world, there are so many people that are ready and willing to help others. People have amazing hearts. Many of those people have struggled as well and all they want to do is help others going through the same challenges. I’d be willing to bet if you reached out to the world, presented your specific challenges, and asked for advice … the advice will come (for free). Think about this discussion group. Look at all the people presenting their challenges. I’m doing my best to give them my thoughts and advice. Have you considered finding a group or platform specific to your niche, energetically presenting your challenges, and seeing what kind of advice comes back? Maybe find a few groups on here and FB. Posting a question or series of questions on Quora comes to mind as well.

Last, you mentioned the term “attract.” Remember, energy attracts like energy. Consider reframing how you are thinking about your challenges. Instead of “worrying” about showing yourself as “unsuccessful,” be PASSIONATE about the fact that you can “learn and grow from others!” The energy you present will attract the same energy. Worry attracts worry. Passion attracts passion. Do you want to appeal to people that “worry” too? Or, do you want to appeal to people that are excited and passionate about Network Marketing?  

Kevin Roney – Owner (Acting CEO) – Energy by Design

Struggles....great topic.  Personally, I have had a number of projects that failed to execute well recently.  So, I've temporarily shrunk the funnel and active projects to try to regain strong execution before taking on a number of new requests...but, you know...that has only really resulted in a lot of lost revenue.  While there are times when it's appropriate to say no to business...I've learned shrinking the portfolio is not the right approach.  Raise the bar fast, solve the issues, and take on every bit of business you are awarded.

Stewart’s Response: Kevin Roney that is super tough. For me, some days/weeks/months I am so busy that I barely have time for anything else. An amazing shiny object pops up. Oh, that is awesome. Yes, I want to do that! I start thinking ... I need to hire somebody else to help. I don't. I push through, hit the deadlines, and over-deliver. Then, everything slows down again. "Nah, I got this." No need to hire. Then, the cycle happens again and again and again. I'm trying to break that cycle. Do you or anyone else have recommendations?

Kevin’s Response: Stewart, great comment (#ShinyObjects).  I see this happening so much to myself and others in my circle.  So many comments...but I should not type a book.  Bottom line, create a vision, structure a strategy around this, with limits and milestones.  Anything that supports, take on.  Anything that doesn't, don't.  Set a threshold when something becomes sustainable (to hire, grow), otherwise, gut it out and absorb with the current team.  I should write a many thoughts and advice!   

Joe Hancock – Marketing Consultant – Virtual Financial Group

I'm all for that. I do try to engage with people by asking questions when I post stuff, but all I get are likes. Kinda frustrating at times. I confess though, I'm guilty of not posting in the groups as much as I should. I will do better.

Stewart’s Response: Joe Hancock thank you for your comment! I agree it is frustrating. We have all done it too. All we can do is focus on and improve what we can control ... our actions. Keep up the great work!

Ashley Renia - Owner – Blue Sky Bookkeeping

Hi! I am starting a bookkeeping business from nothing and my struggles have been trying to get my business noticed, learning how to market it, and not forgetting how to do bookkeeping while I learn to be a marketer! I haven’t had much engagement either, so that would be so helpful. I don’t have much of a budget for advertising so using platforms like LinkedIn are important for me. I am trying to learn how to make posts that will get engagement, but so far no luck! I do read through what others are sharing and share and like when I enjoy what they shared. I try to do my part!

Stewart’s Response: Ashley Reina congrats on starting your new business!!! It's an amazing adventure. Each day you'll get better and better at marketing your business. Take it one day at a time. Have you considered informational interviews with prospective clients? Anyone you meet and/or people on LinkedIn ... if they're a potential client, you could always ask to do an informational interview, NOT a sales pitch. You are simply trying to understand the challenges of SME business owners, what they look for in an Independent Bookkeeper, how they learn/find contractors to help them, etc? I'm sure you could put together 5-10 questions to ask someone over 15-30 minutes. 1) You learn more about your potential customers and can translate that into better marketing. 2) They become indirectly aware of your services. Caution: If you tell someone you are doing an informational interview ... DON'T sell them your services (unless they ask). Conduct the interview and learn from it. Just something to consider.

Ashley’s Response: Stewart Swayze I have tried to do that! I have put together a few questions about what they need and the problems they have. I haven’t gotten any responses yet, though. I am going to keep trying! Thank you for the kind words and the free advice!

David Arandle - Owner, Art Director – Animation for Business

I'm pretty new to LinkedIn in the sense that I've had a profile here for years but only in the last few months have taken the time to really understand the platform by taking a couple of courses.

Both courses said groups are the real benefit of LinkedIn for finding leads and making connections but the majority of groups I've joined all I see is an endless stream of reposted articles.

Articles are great but it's a bit like running around a network event with a magazine and saying 'Have you read this article?' and then waiting around to see if the person has interest in it. You probably wouldn't do that.

I feel the better approach is to take an interest in people, start actual discussions (like this one), and just get to know who's in the room with you and what they're about. Don't pitch but, you know, let people know what you do naturally through discussion... or just be interesting enough that people are motivated to look at your profile... that's one approach any way.

Stewart’s Response: David, thank you. Amazing insight. Be present. Actively listen. Build relationships. I like it!

Kaur Lass – Managing Director - Conscious Initiative PLC &; Planning Expert & CEO at Head OÜ

Hi! It seems that when LinkedIN restricted the length of comments some years ago the platform took more superficial approach. It used to be deeper discussions and true exchange of know-how. I loved those old long discussions! Now it has been for several years more superficial.

I see that superficiality is a major problem all over the workplaces. I and my team once wrote the story about this:

This very superficial approach also causes lack of engagement not only here, but also with the work that people do. So, the lack of employee engagement and also mental health problems are taking more and more epidemic proportions!

Stewart’s Response: Kaur Lass thank you for your comment and insights! Very interesting. What would you recommend we can do to solve this?

Kaur’s Response: Stewart Swayze Well there is listening and there is listening with full awareness: - we should try to post less and more meaningful things (do not post, if your post is not really giving anything besides superficial tips and tricks) and then listen what people have to say! How does this sound?

Steven B – President/Founder - Refined Strategy LLC

I like Ashley Reina, I am trying to learn how to market my new business. In January I started a business consultancy firm. Which is fancy for, "I share my knowledge and skills with anyone for a price." When I first opened the doors I thought that I would be able to find clients pretty quickly. After all I could clearly see those who needed my services. But I quickly learned that creating a strong consistent message which communicates the value of your services is A LOT harder. I also started my business with under $1K. Thus far I've had only one sale. I have not leveraged the groups here yet. I hope this is the start of a real valuable exchange of ideas and strategies.

Stewart’s Response: Steven B. I know exactly what you are going through! I've been an independent strategy consultant for several years now. I've grown my business through a multi-channel approach. Social Media Marketing, Partnerships, Referrals, Networking, etc. I'm really focusing on partnerships and referrals now. As I look back, I'd say 90% of my closed deals came from those two sources. You should also find ways to generate alternative revenue streams. Revenue/Cash flow will be variable. Look into ways in which you can continue to use your skill sets, but not be dependent on a "project." Example, digital courses, community workshops, speaking, etc. 

Heather Becker – Online Fitness Coach

Good morning! I’m an online fitness coach with Beachbody. My biggest challenge is time management with family and work!

Stewart’s Response: Heather Becker that you so much for your comment. Time management and work/life balance is a really tough one! I've been trying to do a better job at prioritizing my time and delegating to virtual assistants/contractors. I break my time down into 3 categories: $1000/$100/$10. Anything that's a $10 task, I immediately delegate. $100, might delegate/might do myself. The $1000 tasks are my highest priorities. One, I can focus on the highest value tasks. Two, I free up time for other personal activities. Have you done anything like this?

Dora Herrera – Owner - Yuca’s Restaurants

Stewart, thanks for getting the ball rolling.

Our current challenges are:

1. Translating being liked into sales.

2. Having people understand that our quality product requires a price consistent with that quality (no .99 tacos)

3. Increasing awareness in a younger customer base since we've been in business 43 years.

Stewart’s Response: Dora Herrera thank you for being so transparent about your challenges. Obviously, I have only the information you've provided.  It sounds like you are targeting the "younger customer base." Is this the group that is liking, not understanding quality, and hard to increase awareness with? If so, have you conducted VoC to determine what they value from the products (tacos) that you sell? Where they like to receive information and awareness of your kinds of products? My only thoughts are that maybe you could target a different group that values the quality? Then, use that group to bring in the younger generation. Or, if your most strategic customers don't value quality, you might have to consider adjusting to the market???? I've always learned that the best way to understand what your customers want ... is to ask them. Of course, everyone will say, lower price, but you might be able to find out more than just pricing. You have 43 years of experience, I have no doubt you'll figure this out

Jack DiMatteo, CPA – President – Executive Overdrive LLC

 Thanks for opening the discussion Stewart. Third time this week I’ve seen a post about the lack of engagement. Seasonality seems to be partly to blame (or maybe just a convenient cop out). I see these as the main reasons people engage on LI:

 1) Job seeking

2) Recruiting candidates

3) Building a list of valued contacts

4) Exchanging ideas with like minded professionals

5) Marketing or selling their services or products

 Over the years 1&2 have begun dominating the site. 3 always makes sense. 4 has really fallen off because the members I speak with don’t see a return on the effort it takes to stay engaged. Usually 4 is being done in the hopes of assisting with 5. People are horrified when they get “pitched” on LI.

 My take is that an ever increasing number of users aren’t seeing a great enough benefit for staying engaged.

 Stewart’s Response: Jack DiMatteo, CPA thank you for your insights. Do you have any thoughts on how to correct the challenges of 4 & 5? Your comment on people being horrified when they are pitched on LI, do you believe it's because nobody understands or has received training on "social selling?" tactics?

 Michael Jordan, MBA, PMP – Founder – AnthroDesk

 I've been trying to engage more recently myself, but if others are like me, it takes a little while to get used to opening up on a platform like this.  One challenge I experience is balancing my business and personal life.

 Delegation has been a big focus this year!

 Stewart’s Response: Michael Jordan, MBA, PMP thank you for your comment. That’s a really tough challenge that Entrepreneurs face. What tools, techniques, and/or tactics are you using or exploring to overcome it? Value-based prioritization, delegation, time management best practices, etc.?

Join the discussion. What are your thoughts? What challenges are you currently facing?



Being Intentional With Personal Development (Video)

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” – Vernon Law. Right now, ask yourself, what can I do today that will make me a better person tomorrow? Learn more

Personal growth doesn’t happen automatically. You have to be intentional with your actions. You and only YOU must make it happen and learn how to grow. Stop waiting for the perfect time. Stop waiting for something or someone else to motivate you.

Be prepared, but do not fear, for anything worthwhile requires a price, trade-off, or some sort of sacrifice. Let’s be honest, if you’re not willing to “give in order to get” then you won’t succeed. Use your passion to generate the energy needed to conquer your fears. 

Keep faith that as you move forward both success and failures will help you evolve into a better person, leader, or entrepreneur. 

Be bold. Set your intentions and go! Move forward. Take action today. Growth is not easy. It’s time to stop worrying about making a mistake. We ALL make mistakes.



The Benefits of Walking At Work (Video)

 I challenge you to start taking short walking breaks at work. Research shows that you’ll improve your productivity, concentration, and creativity.

Learn more

• Take your next coffee break outdoors and in motion for 10 minutes
• Hold non-confidential one-on-one meetings, updates, check-ins while walking around the block or building
• Walk for 5 minutes around your floor or up/down the stairs every hour
• Spend a few minutes on your lunch break taking a walk outside to clear your mind

Stanford University: “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity,” the researchers noted. They found that compared to sitting, walking increased the participants’ creative output during cognitive exercises by about 60 percent.

Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science: People who walked three times a week during lunch felt a lot better after walking for just half an hour:
• They were less tense
• They were more enthusiastic
• And they were more relaxed, too

Researchers from the University of Colorado: Frequent, brief walking breaks were more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work. Results suggest that “even a little bit of activity, spread throughout the day, is a practical, easy way to improve well-being.”



How Does the “Illusion of Control” Impact Your Leadership or Business? 

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One of the earliest and most exciting lessons that we learn in life is that specific actions produce specific results. If we scream or cry, someone quickly appears to help us. As we progress through life, we continue to learn. We talk, walk, write, sing, hit a home run, make an A on a test, drive a car, change a tire, and on and on. Our efforts produce results. We are in control, and it’s a great feeling.

But is being in control always great? Is it even possible? 
Well-meaning teachers and parents reinforce the notion that we always can and should be in control. 

  • “Next time, try harder.” 
  • “Figure out what you did wrong, so you do it better next time.” 
  • “Remember, how well you do is up to you.” 

While all of this is good advice for some situations, many times, it just isn’t right. Even worse, it can lead to frustration and failure to adequately prepare for setbacks.

Psychologists refer to the Illusion of Control as a specific type of cognitive bias. This bias makes individuals or even entire groups -companies or legislative bodies- believe that they can control outcomes which, realistically, they cannot.

We may be in control of specific individualized outcomes like whether we lose five pounds or learn to play a particular song on the piano. However, it is not possible to control more complex interactions, nor is it always in our best interest to try and do so.

On a personal level, we may recognize that we can control our actions and feelings but not those of others. But, how does the Illusion of Control bias impact our decisions and actions as successful entrepreneurs and business leaders? 

The Illusion of Control and Our Employees
While controlling others may seem to be a sign of strength, true leadership means bringing out the best in our employees. The notion that we must control our employees can lead to inefficiencies such as micro-management or not empowering employees. Or, even worse, we may hire less competent employees that we feel we can control more easily. Instead of focusing on control, successful leaders ask:

  • How can I empower my employees?
  • Do my employees have the tools that they need to do the job?
  • How can I encourage my employees to achieve the best results?
  • What traits can I hire to help my business grow?

The Illusion of Control and Our Customers
Customers make or break any business. You can control many factors that may influence customer behavior, such as developing what you believe is a great product and conducting a well-designed marketing campaign. Ultimately though, you can’t force anyone to buy from you. If customers aren’t flocking to your door, do you try harder to control their behavior, with more product features and more advertising? Maybe. But first, try finding answers to these questions:

  • What do customers really want?
  • What are my potential customers buying as an alternative?
  • Are there other potential customers that I have not considered?

The Illusion of Control and our Competitors
While you are busy running your business, the fact is that many other aspiring leaders are out there running theirs as well. You may be executing your strategy with military-like precision, but military strategy tells us, “the enemy gets a vote.” In other words, what your competitors do impacts the effectiveness of your strategy. Suffering from Illusion of Control bias can leave you vulnerable, believing that you do not need to have contingency plans. However, one of the characteristics of a leader must be flexibility.

  • What will you do if a more significant competitor opens near you?
  • What if the competition slashes prices?
  • Can you develop other products, customer bases, or revenue streams so that you are not so vulnerable?

The Illusion of Control and External Circumstances
Maybe you have developed great relationships with employees and customers. Your team has created a good product, and the company is profitable. Is this the point where you finally get to feel that you are in control? As an Executive Coach, I would recommend that you keep in mind that anything may change. 

Are you prepared for the loss of a key employee? What about damaging PR that affects customer relationships? Or, what about external factors such as a severe economic downturn or a natural disaster? Maybe even a disruptive product appearing on the market and almost overnight everything your company produces becomes obsolete? 

Find Opportunity In Chaos
These are all factors that you cannot control. If you suffer from Illusion of Control bias, you won’t even consider these kinds of events. However, developing your leadership skills and growing your business also means planning for worst-case scenarios such as these. In fact, it may even mean seeking ways to benefit from adverse situations. You might have to learn to be a surfer. Don’t fight or control the waves, but ride them instead.

- Loss of a key employee? Prepare by investing in the training and development of all employees. Allow others the opportunity to stretch their wings and make new contributions to your company.

- Damaging PR? This is an opportunity to show customers that you'll do what it takes to make things right.

- Economic downturn? Offer affordable alternatives to the competition.

- Natural disaster? Reach out to the community. This may not be a time for selling, but it is an excellent time for relationship and community building. And, if your physical location wiped out, maybe this is a great time to focus on your online brand.

- Disruptive technology from the competition? How can you adopt it too?

Instead of believing they are always in control, successful business leaders believe in embracing market changes and profiting from it too. They see opportunity when others see chaos. 

Recognizing how little you cn control is the first step to empowering yourself to deal creatively with the many things that are beyond your control.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with others. As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments. 





Don't be a victim of the "Curse of Knowledge."

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What is the Curse of Knowledge bias?

Many successful entrepreneurs and executives get their start as experts in their field. For example, tech giants Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were experts. And, what about local business people that you know? Your doctor, beautician, and auto-mechanic all may be experts in their field and may also be the owners of their practice or shop. They are probably very knowledgeable and have much to offer clients and customers.

With so much expertise, what could go wrong?

The aspiring entrepreneur or executive, who is also a subject matter expert in their field, may suffer from what psychologists call “curse of knowledge” bias. So, what does this mean and how does it impact our success?

Successful entrepreneurs and executives need to communicate effectively. Think about it. Business success depends on relationships and relationships depend on clear communication. This is where the “curse of knowledge” bias gets in the way. The expert tends to communicate with others as though they are experts too. They have difficulty breaking down complex concepts that they have long understood and struggle even to find words to use other than the specific jargon of their field.

How does the Curse of Knowledge Bias impact a business?

Let’s look at a few hypothetical examples.

Example 1:

After a successful performing career, professional ballerina Nikita decides to open a dance school. She meets with a website designer. Nikita insists that the website feature the fact that she is trained in the Vaganova method and that all classes begin with a traditional barre and progress to the adagio. The website is built and Nikita loves it! It gets decent traffic, but very few parents actually enroll their children in Nikita’s classes. Why? They have no clue what the Vaganova method is. They just know that their children want to have fun and be princess ballerinas. So, they signed up at the other local studio, the one with the website featuring pictures of smiling children in tutus. Nikita’s website doesn’t really speak to them. Curse of Knowledge bias = Marketing Fail!

Example 2:

Joe went for some medical tests and was more than a little nervous about the results. The doctor ever so patiently explained about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and neuro-transmitters, but Joe didn’t really understand what those words meant. He ended up feeling more anxious than ever. Confused and upset, he decides to see another doctor. Curse of Knowledge bias = Client Relationship Fail!

Example 3:

Lonnie’s family has been in the nursery and greenhouse business for three generations, supplying plants and trees to landscapers and homeowners. Lonnie grew up in the business and knows everything there is to know about plants. It’s almost fall, and Lonnie is very busy. He hops in his pickup truck and before taking off, asks a couple of students that he recently hired to move all of the deciduous trees to the back of the lot of potted trees for sale. They are left staring at each other, wondering which trees, exactly, they are supposed to move. They find oaks and maples, as well as cedars and pines, but nothing called deciduous. As you may or may not know, Lonnie simply wanted them to move the trees that would soon lose their leaves, but his employees did not understand the instructions. Curse of Knowledge bias = Employee Management Fail!

5 Tips to Overcome the Curse of Knowledge Bias

There is nothing wrong with being an expert. In fact, it is usually a tremendous advantage. If you are an expert though, be wary of the Curse of Knowledge bias. You can use these five tips to overcome it in all your communication:

  1. Know your audience - Like a good speaker or stand-up comic, know your audience. What is their background? Nikita’s potential customers aren’t ballet aficionados, they are suburban moms. The patient, Joe, is an engineer, not a doctor. And the students who work for Lonnie? They are willing to work hard, but one is studying music and the other is learning software development. They are not botanists.
  2. Check your vocabulary - Are you using words that your customers, employees or others may not understand? Joe didn’t get “neurotransmitter.” If the doctor had explained that it is a substance that sends an impulse from one nerve to another, Joe, being a reasonably intelligent person could have understood better.
  3. Know your customers - This is at the heart of effective marketing and customer relationships. Just because you think something is great doesn’t mean that your customers do. In the case of Joe, some reassurance from the doctor that he would feel better soon would have gone a lot further than a science lecture.
  4. Educate your customers, but do it gradually - Start with what they want, then show them how it can be even better. If Nikita had managed to gain those suburban moms and their adorable children as her customers, she could gradually introduce them to the wonders of classical ballet and what it takes to truly become a star.
  5. Consider the “why” - Sometimes that is the most effective way to communicate. All Lonnie needed to tell his employees was, “Move the maples and the oaks to the back. They’ll be losing their leaves soon and we don’t want leaves everywhere.”

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. I always enjoy hearing from you.


Stewart Swayze 




Decision Making - 5 Best Practices to Overcome Confirmation Bias

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So, you started your own business. Making that choice indicates that you probably have many great entrepreneurial characteristics. You are confident, smart, willing to work hard, and don’t mind making decisions.

Growing from solo entrepreneur to a successful business owner, you will be faced with more and more decisions: hiring, location, finance, business planning, products to develop, marketing, and more. Even if you wear many hats, good decision making is possibly your most important task. Ultimately, though you may seek advice, it is the one task that you must do yourself.
How can you hone this critical entrepreneurial ability?
It may come as a surprise, but your confidence, smarts and willingness to work hard can get in the way. Having a sense that you are right about a lot of things can contribute to what psychologists call confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek or perceive information in a way that reinforces what we already believe, even though we think we are seeking the truth. And, for the aspiring entrepreneur, that terrific willingness to work hard may make it worse, since we believe it is possible to push through problems rather than consider them seriously.
How does Confirmation Bias impact our decisions?
On a simple level, most of us realize that certain biased hiring practices are wrong and that it is a good idea to bounce ideas off a spouse, partner or trusted friend. But avoiding confirmation bias goes much deeper. It involves developing specific standards for how we seek information, how we interact with others and even how we think. That sounds like a big ask, so first, let’s explore why it is so important.

Hypothetically, Zach thinks he has an excellent idea for a product. All his friends think so too. Zach does a lot of homework. He knows what it will cost to make this product and where he can have it made. Zach knows some people at a great marketing agency, and they even have some preliminary designs. Zach does some random surveys at several local coffee houses that he frequents, asking people if they would buy this product. The results are overwhelmingly enthusiastic. He checked all the boxes and is ready to take out a line of credit on his house.
Good for Zach, right? Wait.
When was the last time you drank a Crystal Pepsi or checked your Instagram from your HP Touchpad? Not recently, probably never. Both colossal business failures came from companies with much more money and recognition than the average entrepreneur. If they can fail, anyone can. The flaw in our hypothetical friend Zach’s approach, and in the approach of many large businesses, is that merely because it's ours, we think it's an excellent idea. Even under the guise of researching, we are just seeking confirmation. Zach’s research would have served him better if he had also asked what people thought was wrong with the product. And, chances are, people at the places he frequents already think like him. Seems that maybe he wasn’t seeking data, after all, just confirmation.
Confirmation bias can, unfortunately, lead to fundamentally flawed decision making.
Let’s look at how confirmation bias affects our staffing. Yes, not being swayed by gender, ethnicity or religion is the fair, legal and ethical approach to hiring, but it also can strengthen the business. Hiring only those who are already likely to think like you, coupled with the fact that you are the boss, makes it unlikely that you will benefit from having your ideas questioned. It may be good to have employees who encourage you to put on the brakes when you're heading towards a cliff. Great entrepreneurial leadership isn’t about always being right, but instead, seeking the best answers.
How do we recognize confirmation bias?
You must recognize that we all have biases. We are wired that way for our protection. On a simple level, our biases mean that we don’t eat things that smell bad, try to shake hands with a bear, or give our credit card numbers to scammers. On a more complex level though, biases prevent us from seeing all nuances of a situation.

Our efficient, basic survival brain seeks confirmation. Our complex, business survival brain needs to develop the entrepreneurial skills to see all angles. The online entrepreneur navigating the global marketplace and the brick-and-mortar venture navigating the neighborhood both have much to consider.
How do we overcome confirmation bias?
Can we grow past this fundamental, built-in tendency? Here are five practices you can start now to improve yourself and your business.
1 – Sleep on It. It may seem strong and smart to shoot from the hip and make an immediate decision. But, it’s almost a sure-fire way to depend mostly on your own biases. The world won’t wait forever, but it usually will wait at least overnight.
2 – Play or Find a Devil’s Advocate. Instead of seeking evidence that you are right, look for all the reasons why you may be wrong. Even better, encourage your employees to do this. Find a coach or advisor. Be okay with disagreement and keep the channels of communication open.
3 – Use the Rule of Threes. Instead of trying to prove that one idea is great, why not try to find out which is the best of three ideas? Or the best of three perfect candidates, or the best of three ideal locations?
4 – Integration of Ideas. Once you listen to opposing ideas, maybe you realize that your first take was wrong. But none of the proposed alternatives seem right either. Sometimes the best solution is an integration of ideas.
5 – Realize It Isn’t About You. You want to succeed, don’t you? Love your business more than your ego. Ultimately, whether an idea you have is right or wrong is neither endorsement nor indictment of you as a person. But a successful business is a lasting legacy, a reflection of your leadership and wisdom. 

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

- Stewart 



How to Make Failure Count

Learning from failure

"The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail." ~ Edwin Land

It’s time to get out of your head and start taking action. No matter the size of your action, start moving forward. You cannot succeed or fail until you get that idea out into the world. The truth is, sometimes you’ll be right, and sometimes you’ll be wrong. Either way, you will learn from the journey.
Doing something new, challenging the status quo, or testing limiting beliefs can be a scary process. But staying safe by not acting, that gets you nowhere. The key is to track your data. Learn from success and from failure. Know your data like the back of your hand. All data is useful data. Stop guessing what went right or wrong.
Learning from failure
A while ago, I was about to run my first AdWords campaign. As a Strategy Consultant, I’ve recommended AdWords campaigns on numerous occasions. However, designing and executing an AdWords campaign was something new to me as an Executive & Business Coach. I was nervous as hell. There was a real risk of losing my cold hard cash. Gulp!
Guess what?! My first AdWords campaign flopped. Zero Conversions. ZERO! At first, I was disappointed. Some might say I wasted money and should have hired a professional. But, that disappointment quickly changed into positive insights. I had an idea in my head. I took action. I reframed the experience and learned.
My Executive & Business Coaching services were new, and I only had few clients. My AdWords campaign was set up to drive traffic to a landing page and convert unique visitors into new clients. Here’s what I learned from that “failed” campaign:

·     Detailed demographical data for my target audience

·     Time of day my audience is surfing the internet

·     Precise locations of my target audience

·     That my landing page needs optimization

·     That my AdWords campaign needs optimization

·     The average Cost Per Click (CPC) for my keywords

·     Exact keywords for future blog posts, copywriting, marketing, ad campaigns, etc.

·     More … more … more

I could go on, but I’m sure you understand the point. You must move forward and take risks. No matter how big or small the action, take that first step. Then, make the next one. As you move forward with each step, inertia takes place. Next thing you know, you’ll be flying down that path towards success.
Failure is a course corrector
Let’s go back to that AdWords Campaign again. Sure, I lost some money and a few hours of time. That sucks. But, what if I didn’t run that campaign? What if I didn’t learn those lessons and collect all that data? What if I waited until I spent several months putting together a giant online video course (coming soon) and then ran my first AdWords campaign? If that were the case, I wouldn’t know, in detail, all the lessons learned from above. Months of time and money could be lost.
Wait, but Stewart, you already knew your target audience and a lot of the other information too. You conducted research and developed Buyer Personas, right? Yes, yes I did. However, my research and Buyer Personas were based off hypotheses, not hard data. Now, I have actual data. Now, I have well-informed Buyer Personas, demographics, and psychographics of target my audience.
My “failure” in one campaign has already led to the success of many others. That failed AdWords campaign corrected my course of action for the future.
Find a process to track your actions and decisions
Always track your actions. The process to track your actions and decisions doesn’t have to be automated or complicated. It can be as simple as a journal. Consider using a cradle to grave analysis. Write your actions and decisions in a journal from the beginning to the end. Once you reach the end, analyze the wing-to-wing process and decisions you made along the way.

What went well? What didn’t go well? What were the strengths? Where are your opportunities for improvement?What were your lessons learned (positive/negative)? How can you apply those lessons learned next time?

Preserve and Pivot
When something goes well, preserve those findings. Adapt, rinse, and repeat successful actions. If something didn’t go well, take the time to develop a deep understanding of why. What happened that was under your control? What happened that you could have influenced differently? What happened that was entirely out of your control?
Start with what you can control. Pivot away from actions if they resulted in negative results. Then, look at what you could have influenced. Determine steps you can take, next time, to positively influence the outcome. For anything outside of your control, relax and smile. Understand sometimes this happens. I’d still analyze what was out of your control. You might find ways to mitigate or reduce your risk moving forward.
To wrap it up, take action. Move forward. Learn from each step by developing a process to track your data. Use data to preserve the positive and pivot away from the negative. Have fun and enjoy your journey!

- Stewart 



How to Determine Your Rates as a Freelancer, Consultant, Coach, or Professional Service Provider

How to determine your rate as a freelancer coach consultant


Setting rates is a personal decision, but I’ll provide insights into my process

 If you google “what’s the average rate of an ABC123 freelancer," you'll find all sorts of recommendations and information. Determining your rate can be extremely difficult. It's a gigantic “depends burger” with a side of fries (the market) and a shake (your competitors). You'll have to sort through the plethora of information, test, and decide what the market will accept. You’ll have to look at your knowledge, skills, experience, and unique selling proposition. You’ll need to find comparable competitors to analyze.When I started out, I spent hours researching rates specific to consulting. Then, rates specific to sub-categories of consulting. Next, I spent more time adding in factors such as my education, experience level, and all that jazz. Finally, I built an Excel with segmented rate and financial models. None of it held up. The depends burger strikes again.

For me, my rates as an Executive & Business Coach are different than my rates as a Strategy Consultant are different. However, I've gone through a lot of trail, error, and analysis to come up with my rates. The exercise below will help you deteremine the rates that are appropriate for you. 

At first, you might think the next few pages are more personal finance advice versus rate advice. You are correct! Personal finance plays a central role in setting your rates. Stay with me. It will make sense in the end. Let’s cut to the chase and try to simplify this process a bit. 

I’m going to provide an illustrative example. The math is NOT intended to be perfect. Instead, it’s designed to help you think through your rate-setting process from a holistic perspective.

 High-level steps to determine rates

1) Determine how much you NEED to make in a year to survive2) Add a small, but "wants" amount (vacations, entertainment, dining out, new furniture, personal electronics, etc.) 

3) How much for your contingency "oh crap" fund? 

4) How much do you want to add to your savings and retirement accounts?

5) Add a tax estimate on top of that. I use a conservative number of 30%

Let’s use an illustrative example with round numbers to see where we stand: 

1) NEEDS: Rent/Mortgage, Clothes, Utilities, Food, Car Payment, Credit Card Payments, Student Loans, Healthcare, and any other needs = $120,000 / year

2) Wants ($7500): $120K + $7.5K = $127,5003) Contingency ($7500): $127.5K + $7.5K = $135,000

4) Savings & Retirement ($10,000): $135 + $10K = $145,000

5) Tax Estimate (30%): 30% of $145K = $43.5K; $145K + $43.5K = $188,500

Again, let’s keep it simple and round up to $200,000. You’ll understand why I added another $11,500 in a second. 

 How does this illustrative calculation help you? 

Now, you have a goal that you can use to determine your rates. “Whoa, wait! I’ll have to generate $200K in revenue to cover what you need, savings, contingency, wants, and taxes … Yes. This example isn’t to scare you. Instead, it’s to make sure you think through and plan for the reality! Now let’s talk about that extra $11,500. 

 We are missing something in this calculation

The amount could be large or small about depending on your business. Within the 5-step process, we didn’t calculate your startup or operating expense. Enter the extra $11,500. I have no way of determining your startup, monthly, or yearly operating expenses. Keep them as low as possible. $11,500 could be extremely high. You’ll have to estimate and factor those expenses into your rates at some point. For now, let’s use extra $11.5K as your startup and operating expenses and keep the overall revenue goal of $200K to continue the example.

How do we translate our above calculations into rates?

If we need and want to generate $200K in revenue, we can determine our “desired” rate. If you do a little research, you’ll find there are approximately 260 working days in a year. Now let’s do some calculations:

•    $200,000 / 260 = $769 dollars per day

•    $769 dollars per day / 8 hours = $96 dollars per hour 

Great! So, if your goal is to generate $200K in revenue, you just calculated your rate. Your rate is approximately $100 per hour.  

Sorry to do this again, but wait, this is an illustrative example. More than likely, you won’t have 40 hours of work every single week of the year. So, you’ll need to mitigate the potential for a variable workload. To do this, consider increasing your rate to $150 — $200 per hour. 

What if you plan on charging a per project or flat fee rate? How do you calculate that rate? We’ll discuss that next. 

Wait, I don’t charge per hour. I provide a flat rate per project

Hmmm…this might be true. But, if you aren’t calculating hours within your flat rates, you could be charging too much or too little. When I charge on a per project basis, I estimate how many hours the project will take. Then, I multiply the number of hours by my hourly rate. This calculation provides me with an estimate for my flat rate. 

Example: 30 hours to complete Project A. Hourly Rate of $200. Flat fee rate of $6,000. 

At this point, I may add or subtract from that number. Here comes the depends burger again. If it’s a new client with the potential for on-going projects, I might reduce my project rate. If it’s a rush project, I might increase my rate. There are other factors to think through as well. Will the “market” accept your rate? Or, is closest comparable competition charging less or more?  

Where do people make the biggest mistake? 

Let me be frank and excuse my language a bit. You WILL get kicked in the butt if you don’t KNOW your NEEDS and set aside money for taxes. You’ll be rolling along, having a great year, thinking, “Damn, I made $120K this year! Freaking amazing. I’ve covered all my needs.” 

Then, boom! It’s tax season. You needed $120K. You made $120K. But wait, you forgot about taxes. “I owe what in taxes? Oh crap! I’m short. My cash flow is crushed. My bank account is sunk. Mom, dad, friend, brother, sister … can I borrow some money?” 

Your mistake, you generated a “pre-tax” gross revenue of $120K. THIS IS NOT NET INCOME! If you don’t plan, set up your accounts, and automatically set aside part of your revenue for taxes, this can literally put you out of business. Done and dusted. 

This happens all the time when someone switches from a position within a corporate environment over to solopreneurship. When you’re working for a company, your taxes, retirement, healthcare, and everything else is automatically deducted from your paycheck. It just happens. You don’t do a thing. You know your take-home pay and budget based on Net Income. 

Now you’re in charge, and it’s a whole new ballgame. Don’t make this mistake. Talk with your financial advisor and accountant. Set up a bank account that, if possible, automatically transfer a certain percentage, for taxes, into a separate account. 

The moment revenue drops into your business account, transfer funds into separate accounts for taxes, savings, retirement, etc.

This article is an excerpt from my Free Guide: “Going Solo – An Introductory Guide to Service Based ‘Solopreneurship.” If you found value in this article, feel free to download the guide here. It provides a ton of information on the fundamentals of starting and marketing your business.  



Overconfidence: The Silent Killer of An Entrepreneur’s Dreams

Overconfidence Entrepreneurship

What is Overconfidence Bias in Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is a challenging journey. As an entrepreneur, you need to be confident in your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Confidence allows entrepreneurs to step outside of traditional corporate America, start a company, and take risks that result in massive action.  In fact, as an entrepreneur, you have to make decisions with limited time, resources, or people to ask questions. But, you must be aware of overconfidence. 

Overconfident entrepreneurs increase their risk of failure. “Overconfidence is overestimation of one’s accuracy, or, alternatively, an overestimation of ability relative to others, and links with increased failure risk of firms (Hayward et al., 2006).” 

Simply put, you believe you are more likely to be correct than you actually are. You don’t try to improve your understanding of a challenge, risk, or assumption. You don’t crosscheck perceived “facts” or seek alternative perspectives.  

How Does Overconfidence Impact an Entrepreneur? 

When you are overconfident, you use hindsight to reinforce your decisions. You look back at previous successful results and automatically assume a positive outcome without considering the full spectrum of possibilities. You overestimate your talent and underestimate the risks. Your mind forms an answer that seems right and you take action without all of the facts.

The problem with this mindset, you eliminate any notion of activities that were out of your control, but positively impacted the previous outcome. 

What if your previous decision was successful due to luck? Maybe, the stars aligned and you correctly guessed the timing of the market. In hindsight, your mind turns that “guess” into a fact. The worst part, you won’t even know it’s happening. Hindsight coupled with overconfidence is a dangerous activity. 

Research shows that overconfident entrepreneurs tend to ignore the strengths of their direct competitors (Moore & Cain, 2007). Next thing you know, your competitor disrupts the market and steals your customers. These entrepreneurs introduce a high-risk product. Then, they are surprised when that product fails. They rely heavily on their knowledge instead of asking for advice, help, or resources from others (Hayward et al., 2006). Or, they seek out the high-familiar option while neglecting any other option (Winston Sieck, Ed Merkle, & Trish Van Zandt). Any of these mistakes can be fatal to your business. 

How to Reduce the Risks of Overconfidence  

Self-awareness is the first step to reducing the risk of overconfidence. Reading this article and thinking through your decision-making process is a positive action. You need to set up counterbalancing or self-regulatory mechanisms (Hmieleski & Baron, 2008). Guess what, you don’t have all the answers. Welcome to the club, neither do I! Check yourself. 

1) Take some time to seek out alternative perspectives

Assign one or two people from your team to be the skeptic or devil's advocate. During a short discussion, have them sell or present other options. If you don’t have a team, how long does it take to phone a mentor? Consider finding an experienced mentor that understands your business. Develop a network of diverse advisors, people outside your area of expertise, market, or niche. Example: I’m a Success Coach for Entrepreneurs. Some of my best advisors don’t know anything about Entrepreneurship, Coaching, or Business. They ask questions that completely challenge my assumptions out of pure curiosity. They have the best BS meter and aren’t afraid to call me out. Hire a coach to bounce ideas off. 

How much longer will seeking alternative perspectives take? Maybe, you’ll need one-hour tops. I’m willing to bet you can wait an hour, especially when it’s a high-risk decision. 

2) Consider conducting a more research 

Seriously, I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You can find anything on the Internet. You’ll discover a ton of information on blogs, in downloadable white papers, and on your competitor’s websites. It is crazy how much information I find conducting competitive intelligence. As long as it’s public information, you are good to go. 

3) Reach out to experts

You might have to reach out to a few people, but I’m sure you’ll find experts happy to share their knowledge with you. For my business, I interview experts all the time. Some experts will ask for you to pay for their time, while others will speak with you for free. Either way, let’s say the right answer will generate or save you $10,000. If you pay eight experts $200 for an hour of their time was the $1600 worth it? You have opinions and advice from eight experts! 

4) Hire based on diversity of thought

Teach your employees the skills they need. Don’t build a culture of “Yes” people. Encourage alternative perspectives and challenge the status quo. But, find a balance. You’re the leader, when you make a decision your employees will work together, act fast, and execute at the highest level. 

Final thoughts

Keep your high level of confidence. Go out there and build the company of your dreams. Increase your self-awareness around overconfidence. Use the techniques above to create a simple process to keep yourself and/or your team in check. I’ll leave you with this quote: 

"If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?" – Henry Ford

I hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. 

- Stewart 

Learn more: Entrepreneurship Coaching 




Organizational Skills Can Significantly Impact Your Success! (Video)

Learn more:

I remember the first year I filed my self-employment taxes. I was sweating, frustrated, and a bit scared. Not because I didn’t know how to file taxes. Not because how much I had to pay. Nope. None of that bothered me.

There was another more significant problem. It was my total lack of organization. I couldn’t find anything. I had receipts in my desk drawers,in my “receipts” case, laptop bag, filing cabinets, and even found a few in my luggage. Yep, buried deep down in my luggage.

Think about it this way, my unorganized mess caused unneeded stress, inefficiency, anxiety, and time. We all know time is money! Lesson learned.

The second time, damn I was organized. I had everything in the correct place. I had bookkeeping and accounting software ... with the click of a button, financial reports printed off in perfect format. Opened up one drawer, receipts in hand. Zip, zoom, bang, and done and off to the accountant.

If you want to be successful you must work on your organizational skills. This type of organization includes offline and online, paperwork in filing cabinets, or cloud-based folders.

Organization increases efficiency. You reduce the time spent on mundane tasks and free up time to work on growing your business.

Thanks for watching and see you next time. As always, if you have any success tips, feel free to connect, comment, and share!



Article RoundUp: The Psychology of Entrepreneurship

The Psychology of Entrepreneurship

Often overlooked or overshadowed by the thought of making millions of dollars, Entrepreneurs and Solopreneurs need to understand the psychological impact of starting a business. Here are five articles you might find interesting to read and digest.   

1) What Is a Digital Nomad? The Psychological Impact of Entrepreneurship – By Mark Goddard (Health Guidance)

  • Nomads lack roots, but people need to belong
  • Nomads might be surrounded by people, but often these relationships lack intimacy and are superficial
  • Loneliness can be a major problem, find ways to develop deeper connections with people

2) How Temperament Impacts Entrepreneurship – By Petra Starkova (Psychology Today)

There are four noted personality types in entrepreneurship

The Sanguine

  • Advantages – Composure, Good at Marketing, PR, and Communication
  • Disadvantages – May lack the ability to understand others deeply or empathize

The Choleric

  • Advantages – Act quickly on Impulses, excel when daily change = seizing on opportunities to create $Cash
  • Disadvantages – Easily thrown off balance and into fits of anger when things don’t go their way

The Melancholic

  • Advantages - Reliability and Stability as both business and relationship partner
  • Disadvantages - Disposition to pessimism and solitude

The Phlegmatic

  • Advantages – Cool, calm, and collected
  • Disadvantages – Slow to react to change

3) What Makes Entrepreneurs Burn Out – By Eva de MolJeff PollackViolet T. Ho (Harvard Business Review)

  • Survey of 326 members of Business Networking International
  • Entrepreneurs who reported high scores of obsessive passion were more likely to say they experienced burnout than those who reported high scores of harmonious passion
  • Obsessive Passion: “The job is important to someone because of the status, money, or other rewards that it brings”
  • Harmonious Passion: “Someone is motivated by the job because it brings them satisfaction and is an important part of who they are”

4) Entrepreneurs Should Watch Out for Cognitive Biases and the Curse of Knowledge – By Yair Harel (Entrepreneur Magazine)

  • Entrepreneurs face many obstacles, but the most treacherous obstacles are in their own minds
  • Cognitive biases - mental gremlins that sabotage the ability to collect the right information, assess it properly and make good decisions
  • As an Entrepreneur, you are highly susceptible to cognitive biases
  • Two of the most hazardous biases to the entrepreneurial process are:
    • Confirmation bias – “The tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms one's own existing preconceptions, beliefs and opinions”
    • Curse of knowledge - Causes a better-informed person to find it difficult to look at a situation from the point of view of a lesser-informed person”

5) The Psychological Reasons Women Fall In Love With Entrepreneurship - By Julia Novakovich (

  • Women are entering Entrepreneurship at an unprecedented rate
  • Forty percent of American businesses are now owned by women (NAWBO)
  • There are still institutional barriers to successful business operation for women, but by understanding why women fall in love with entrepreneurship, organizations can better support women entrepreneurs
  • There are six reasons women go into Entrepreneurship:
  1. Independence – “they are able to craft their own messages, build their own businesses, and create the vision that they see for themselves.”
  2. Family – “women may choose to run their own business rather than leaving the workforce entirely. Entrepreneurship may give them the ability to pursue a fulfilling career as they are a caregiver for their family.”
  3. Drive – “Starting their own businesses may give them the opportunities to pursue as high a career path as they can manage.”
  4. Pride – “Building something from the ground up can be an incredible source of pride.”
  5. Passion – “When women are passionate about something and can seek success in its creation and completion, the satisfaction can be astounding.”
  6. Freedom – “Women who go into business for themselves often find that they are more free than they have ever been within the corporate structure.” 



A Solopreneur's Guide to Content Curation

Solopreneur Guide to Content Curation .jpg

What Is Content Curation?

Content curation is the process of finding and providing 3rd party content that is relevant to your buyer persona or audience. You, the curator, find the best and most trusted content from sources on the Internet and then share it with your followers on social media platforms or via email marketing. 

Why Is Content Curation Important to a Solopreneur? 

 First, as a Solopreneur (Coach, Consultant, or Freelancer), you don’t have a marketing department full of content creators. You ARE the marketing department. To have a well-rounded Content Strategy, you need to use Content Curation. Curating content reduces your workload. You can provide value to your audience without spending hours generating 100s of blogs. 

Second, content curation helps build your Personal Brand. As a content curator, you become the filter and expert resource on specific topics or themes that add value to your prospects and customers. You find content, read the content, and write a few short insights on why it’s relevant to your followers. Then share it with them. By providing small and relevant insights on the curated content, you can build brand authority over time. 

Third, you learn! By curating and reading the content, you stay abreast of all the trends, topics, tools, and news within your area(s) of expertise. It’s a win/win scenario. You learn, and your audience learns. 

Fourth, it breaks up your sell, sell, sell strategy. People are tired of getting slammed by sales pitches all day. If you over-promote, your audience will unfollow you, ignore your emails, and stop visiting your site. 

Where Can You Share Curated Content?  

Content Round-Up Blog Posts – Pick a theme relevant to your audience. Let’s use “Email Marketing.” Now, find five good, but different articles on Email Marketing. Read each article. Write a short paragraph summarizing the article with your twist on the key insights. Hyperlink the articles and provide the correct attributions. Boom, now you have a value-add blog post that you can share with your audience on social media as well.  

Weekly Email Newsletter – Just like the Round-Up Blog Post, first find relevant content. Then, organize the content within your newsletter. Next, provide context or your insights. Last, send it off to your email list. You can include curated content alongside your content. Or, you can send this as a separate Content Round-Up email. The option you choose is up to you.

(Note: Your “theme” doesn’t have to be as narrow as “Email Marketing.” Just make sure to organize the curated content around a topic and not a random slathering of unrelated articles.) 

Social Media – Of course, you’re going to share curated content on your social media platforms. Social Media is the obvious one! As you curate the content, share it with your social media followers. Don’t forget to add your insights as well. One more thing, highly consider tagging the author or company in your post.

What Tools Can Help Me Curate Content? 

  • Pocket:Install Pocket’s browser extension and app for easy curation. As you read an article, save and tag (categorize) it for future sharing.. 
  • Twitter Lists: Twitter can be horrendous. Create Twitter Lists to organize the accounts that you follow. By using Twitter lists, you can save or retweet great content provided by those you follow.
  • a topic and not only generates the most relevant articles to view and share, but also includes complementary topics and other users to follow
  • Feedly: Use Feedly's free option to aggregate news and articles to share with your audience on social media or email.
  • ContentGems: ContentGems scans hundreds of thousands of articles from the best online sources and presents a stream of relevant content

Now that you have the basics of content curation down, get out there and start sharing awesome content! 

If you're new to Solopreneurship, I recently wrote an Introductory Guide to Service Based Solopreneurship. It’s free and 100+ pages packed with content on starting and marketing your business. DOWNLOAD IT HERE



Solopreneurs: When Starting Your Business Define Your Skills, Not Experience


When starting your business, one of the first things you need to do is take an inventory of your skills. Your skills are not your work “experience” as written on your resume. A skill is “the ability to do something well; expertise.” You need to identify two sets of skills -

  1. Skills you have to run your business
  2. Skills you have that you could sell to a client 

Take some time. List ALL of your skills out. Don’t forget to consider skills outside of your traditional work experience. Maybe, you’re really good at organization and project management. But, neither one of those skills were a part of a job title or highlighted on your resume. Both are very sellable KSAs. Both will come in handy when running your business. 

Once you develop a good list, identify any immediate gaps. As a personal example, I considered Accounting a skill gap. Not because I don’t know how to do it. I really hate it! So, I immediately filled that gap via software. 

Let me give you another example from my own experience. When I started, I had years of experience in marketing. However, my “experience” is in Marketing Strategy. At that point, I had a skill gap in the Design and Execution of a Facebook Ad Campaigns. Over the past two years, I’ve learned how to design and execute Facebook Ad campaigns.

Follow this exercise to get started: 

  1. What skills do you have that will be useful to running your business?
  2. What skill gaps do I have for running my business? How can I overcome these gaps? (Training, Technology, Hiring a Contractor)
  3. What skills can I sell as a service? 
  4. What skill gaps do I need to fill to increase my service offering? 

This is a short excerpt from an Introductory Guide to Service Based Solopreneurship. It’s free and 100+ pages packed with content on starting and marketing your business. DOWNLOAD IT HERE