How to Prep When You're Ready to Press "Record"

The iPhone was in position, we were in our seats, our intro was prepared, and yet, hitting “record” on our first video still felt daunting. It sounds easy to record a 1-2 minute video. While the recording process might be, the rest is not. The prep work should not to be taken lightly.

Here are a few things we learned launching our video channel:

Background work. We took time to learn the how and why of using video. This came in the form of listening to several podcasts, even before watching videos. One interview that was particularly insightful came from Jenna Kutcher’s Goaldigger podcast 246, Hit Record. I’m a big fan of her business acumen. We took to heart her comment that sometimes you just have to press “record.”

This is not the place for snap decisions. We made the decision three months before we hit “record” to launch a video channel. We’ve been asked many of the same questions by clients and artisans, and from our research, this seemed like a good way to answer those questions. Recording itself takes a minute or two, but those minutes take weeks to research, plan and execute.

Say what? Prior to this, we had very little experience with a video platform and the steps to establish a channel (thus the iPhone reference in the intro). This includes determining which video platform to even use. (We chose You Tube.) Our website, and other social platforms, have been our initial priority. I had to add in the learning curve time – and frustration – of technically how to do it. (And we’re not done yet.)

New meaning of App-titude. It’s not just You Tube you have to download, but the YT Studio for editing. Since we don’t have a professional thumbnail, yet, we use what the Studio gives us for three photo choices. (Yes, just wait until you see the first three photos you can pick from as the “face” of your video. Hot tip: make sure you’re smiling when you hit “record.”) Test recordings, editing options (not yet), uploading, adding links, it takes time to learn this stuff.

What’s the story. Next we had to decide what we wanted to discuss on the videos. And not just the first one, but what’s the schedule for the next few months? What are the topics people ask us about, and what specifically will be valuable or interesting to share in a few minutes?

Integrate it into your content. How does this video content integrate into all the other content you produce? For example, how does this upload into a newsletter? And the web site? How will you promote this, and on what timeline? We decided to post one every two weeks, which we realize is like 10 years in internet time, but a reasonable commitment beats and unrealistic one.

Cut! Take 2,3,4… Ugh, can we just tell you it takes a lot of attempts to get one you can manage to use (assuming video isn’t your natural calling). Even though it’s not live and you can delete anything, it’s funny how being on camera suddenly elevates all your personal appearance issues to a new level. And, it’s not just what you say, it’s are you staring at the camera like a zombie? What do you wear? How’s your energy level? What do you say first? How do you close it out? The list is long. We originally wrote a list of points to keep by the video as it was recording so we wouldn’t forget. Then we stared at the list and not the camera, so we had to ditch that idea! (Hot Tip: You have to be willing to laugh at yourself!)

Press the red button. We are novices in this area, however, I’m proud that we’ve made the leap and entered a brand new era for us. We’ll evolve and laugh about this one day, but the plan is that folks out there in internet-land get to know us and learn a few things that are helpful too. We’re willing to try to bring new ideas to you, our subscribers, site visitors, followers and customers. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but we’ll be smarter business people for it, and have some laughs along the way.

Lights, Camera! Action! See for yourself here… (be sure to subscribe for bonus editions and we’d love a “thumbs up!”)

Cast a Line and Connect the Dots

My husband isn’t one to enjoy casual networking, he still can’t believe lunches and latte conversations lead to meaningful new business. The issue for him is the time and patience it takes. By the time new orders, or something significant happens, he’s lost track of how that connection appeared in the first place. But I haven’t forgotten, I know we had that line in the water for some time. In my career, I’ve seen how genuine, patient, follow up can lead to new sales, strong partnerships and important visibility. I’ll share a few examples for the non-believers.

First, I was asked to speak on a panel recently on the topic of women in business. This wasn’t a hospitality targeted event or a corporate gifting audience, we were speaking to women working in all stages of their careers - full time, contract, just starting out, mid-career, with families, and seasoned empty nesters. I agreed because I was committed to sharing my story in the off-chance it might resonate with a woman in the crowd. After the panel, I received a message via LinkedIn from an attendee who said she thought her CEO would love knowing about our artisan gifts. She connected me with the CEO’s Chief of Staff, and I followed up. They then connected me to another individual, more follow up. Fast forward, and we’ve now delivered repeat orders to that global client, all based on the fact that I spoke on a panel months ago.

Second, even though our main target is corporate, we do sell gift boxes to individuals too. You never know who those individuals are giving a box to, who else they know, and/or where they work. Our marketing “speaks” to corporate, however, individuals order off the website from our full Gift Box Collection. In one example, customers have loved our gift boxes so much that they referred us to their favorite luxury vacation resorts. After several emails and phone calls, the resort executives then ordered our gift boxes for their VIP guests.

Lastly, years ago I read the book, Small Giants, and loved it. I enjoyed it so much, I took a train to New York City to hear the author (an editor at Inc. Magazine) and a featured CEO from the book, speak at Columbia University. Before the session began, I introduced myself to the speakers and invited them to come speak in Central Pennsylvania , where I lived at the time. I went home and followed up on my request. We worked on the details, and Bo Burlingham and Norm Brodsky came to Harrisburg to speak to entrepreneurs in Central Pennsylvania. Somehow, I managed to get two editors from a major publication to speak – no speaking fees – in our small city. It was a big success with entrepreneurs attending from all stages of growth. Later, I took the train back to Manhattan, to have lunch with Bo, ask questions and hear more of his insights on writing content. Looking back, that was a big moment in my life, when you realize what you can accomplish when you set your mind to something.

In our current business endeavor, we are lean and I don’t have time for days full of coffee meetings and casual lunches, I’m not suggesting that. I am saying that creating opportunities for selective outreach, with genuine intention, and persistence can be productive if you’ve laid the groundwork.

You can create your own path forward. Find your spot, set the environment, and cast your line. You might be amazed what it nets over the coming months.

Below is my signed copy of Small Giants (of course!) and a picture of our event coordinator (Jeanmarie Kline) , myself (the one with the rebel blonde streak), Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham. Still a favorite photo of mine!

Working the Second Shift

In recent weeks I’ve had several conversations with folks who’ve hit a season in life where change is looking pretty darn attractive. The voice calling them to blaze their own trail, launch a new company and step out of an unsatisfying office environment is growing louder. Many of the issues in the current corporate culture make it appealing for people to launch a second opportunity. They feel compelled to leave an uninspiring environment to forge their own path. Going out on your own is an exciting proposition filled with promise, high expectations and the thrill of tackling the unknown. It also brings a new level of unpredictability. One question to ask upfront, is this a business or a hobby?

Here are a few thoughts on the realities of this decision:

  • Should I stay or should I go? The dilemma of deciding to move to part time in your day job or save money while you’re full time is complicated. I’ll say upfront, it’s also very personal. Remaining full time means all your business activity is relegated to evenings and weekends, which I’d suggest isn’t viable long term if business growth is the goal. On the flip side, scaling back your day job has a real impact financially, one that requires serious considerations of the ripple effects. I’ll address the part-time option here, since that’s the decision I made one year after we launched Red & Rugged. While going part time means you do have more hours to focus on your business, it also means you have to bring a daily focus to time management, because you’re now splitting that time with another role. Jumping back and forth between emails and phone calls related to two different roles is not ideal, and it decreases your ability to focus consistently on issues at either company. I dedicate full days to one role, to stay on one agenda and one business. I’ve learned to be more diligent about planning the week and what I have to produce each day – appointments, client communication, web content, social content, writing etc. Otherwise, the days slip by and little is produced. You have to be committed to the Sunday evening planning time, even if it’s 20 minutes. Discipline is key.

  • Sustaining the pace. In the first year, you’ll have crazy energy due to the excitement and enthusiasm of the new business. Long hours can even be fun, especially if you love what you do. I’ve seen it many times with co-workers and colleagues. And I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in years past. Year two of a business is different. Assuming you require some level of normal sleep, self-care, from the beginning, is crucial. Translated, if you burn yourself out in year one, with late nights, all work, no play, you’ll burn yourself out for future years too. Looking ahead, you’ll need that energy to sustain, persist, and plow through the long days. Year one is setting the foundation, however, year two and beyond will test you even more as you learn valuable (some say painful) lessons that are inevitable and unpredictable. Brand building, closing sales, product development, finding talent, and of course, financial management, are just a few of the tasks that require a founder’s attention.

  • A business or a hobby? You read it all the time in the business books: it takes twice as long and always costs more than forecasted. So true. That’s why investors love serial entrepreneurs. They’ve learned on someone else’s dime first. It’s also why the stats on successful businesses that make it past year three and five are so dismal. People run out of money, and/or the energy and will to keep going. (Remember, you are supposed to be enjoying the business.) Sales are key, and consistent, predictable sales is the goal. Revenue matters, and cash really is king.

Nothing happens without capital to invest and grow. If the decision is to run a business, you’ve got to attract revenue to gain momentum and offset your personal investments. This moves your company toward being a financially viable business, not an expensive hobby. There’s nothing wrong with a hobby you love, just make sure you know the difference.

Office Renovation: Lessons in the Purge & Pack

It’s late in the day and we’re staring at our huge filing cabinet and bookshelf (read: heavy), trying to figure out how to move them out of the office. Since this involves a flight of stairs, it’s not a trivial task. My husband is looking at me, but I can’t carry those huge things down steps! We’re now into week five of the renovation, which has gone slightly past the targeted one week I had planned.

I’ve discovered that renovation is like a giant puzzle. It’s tricky and everything has to keep moving in sync for all the pieces to fit into a pretty picture - on time. I love the managed chaos of coordinating pieces for gift boxes, but not so much for my own office revamp.

To be fair, my husband got all his assigned tasks done on time; ripping out carpet, replacing the flooring and painting the room. Check! The challenge was really mine in not having all the furniture ordered a month ahead of time. (Where we would have put all those huge boxes, I don’t know, but that’s not the point.) Maybe some of you can relate on the patience this requires? Searching, reading reviews, dimensions and specs, delivery date changes… Lots of painful administrative details.  

This process reminds me of that little traffic toy where you have to move the cars around to get your piece through the traffic jam. You need to be thinking three steps ahead on shredding, purging, packing. Yuk. Who likes to do this stuff?! We need to pitch stuff from the storage room, to then make room for containers to move from the office to storage. Hmm, that means buying storage containers, doesn’t it? Next, deciding what to discard, what to shred, and then what you don’t need immediate access to because it’s now out of the office. The list is long.

In the midst of all this, the business still runs. Products need to ship…by the way, has anyone seen the shipping tape, and where the heck did we move the bubble wrap? Oh vey. This is the not-so-glamorous stuff, between family vacations, new client appointments, and traveling to meet artists. In the end, I had to suck it up and do it. Period.

If you’re still wondering about the bookshelf and filing cabinet I mentioned, two nice gentlemen arrived with a piece of new furniture, and we gave them cash to move the old stuff for us. We saved our backs and they had weekend cash! Yay!

The office is now 95% done. (It WILL be done by August 31st!) We’re waiting on one last furniture piece to arrive (the original piece was delayed until Sept so I had to nix it and start looking again). It’s already so much more clean, crisp and bright in here, and I do believe one cannot call forth creativity and new ideas, if you’re surrounded by clutter. If that's the case for you, as you read this, I feel your pain, but stop procrastinating and let the purging and packing begin!  (If you're not sure, here's my earlier blog on how this got started.