Monthly Archives: March 2016

More Things I Didn’t Know (When I Started My Business)


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Recently I wrote about some of the things that I didn’t know when I started my consulting business. My first list focused on money issues. That’s no surprise. I’ve had a few financial near death experiences since starting my business almost five years ago.

Now I’m back with a second list of things I didn’t know when I started my business. I’m betting I’m not the only one who didn’t know:

  1. Which services my prospective clients would actually consider critical enough to buy. My first efforts involved selling a service which I thought was important but no one wanted to buy. Clearly I had misjudged the market. So I started over, assessing what prospects and clients said they needed. Then I had to continuously tweak my services to keep up with changing demand.
  1. How to identify my ideal client and niche market. This is a corollary to the above point. I’ve marketed my services to plenty of businesses who couldn’t afford me at any price or didn’t care about human resources. So I created a spreadsheet of key data about each client to identify my ideal client. Now I regularly update my spreadsheet to continue defining my niche market. I recently listened to a presentation by Marcus Whitney, co-founder of Jumpstart Factory, in which he advocated reviewing client metrics every two weeks in order to continuously refine the profile of your ideal client. It’s nice to have validation that I’m finally on the right track.
  1. I’ll always have to talk myself off the ledge. Every time I got a new client I was ready to break out the champagne. Every time my services were rejected I wanted to throw myself into a volcano. Then a very good friend who also runs a small consulting business told me, “You’ll always be talking yourself off the ledge.” That’s a typical day in the life of a small business owner.
  1. That my stubbornness would be one of my best skills. Okay, call it persistence. I sell a service, not a product. That means I must meet dozens of people each week, educate them about my services and what my ideal client looks like, and then hope for a referral. I prefer coffee meetings since it’s less expensive than a lunch or dinner and eliminates the awkwardness over who pays for the meal.  But a meeting does not a referral guarantee. I’ve had many days with caffeine highs when I wondered if I made the right career choice. Then my stubborn streak would kick in and I refused to accept failure.  Ironically, my stubborn streak was a detriment when I was an employee.

The list could go on because owning a business is a process of experimentation in which you never really get it “right.” You just keep learning and that’s fine with me.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website:

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Leadership Lessons:  What’s Your Style?

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I was fortunate to have two years to plan for my presidency of our synagogue’s Board of Trustees.  And for several years before that, I was a member of the Board and Executive Committee.  Those prep years were invaluable for helping me to observe the presidents who came before and to learn about various leadership styles.  One thing is clear: there is no “perfect” way to lead.  As in politics, there are many different types of leaders and it is important for each to bring her unique skills and talents to the table.  I do, however, have some observations about various styles.  Here they are, in no particular order.

1. The Micro-Manager

We’ve all worked with and for these folks.  They love to have their hand in just about every aspect of an organization and, if you’re not careful, will “check in” several times a day with staff and others to make sure things are “going okay.”  This is really their attempt to control all aspects of the organization, project or event.  Micro-managers can be sweet and lovable, but also very annoying.  Give good direction, trust your team and then let go.  If they need you, they’ll ask.  If you see someone veering off course, you can always jump back in.

2. The “Hands-off” Leader

Everyone likes to say they are “very laid back,” but in practice a laid back or “hands off” leader can be difficult as well.  This person, while well-meaning, is often not very confident in her abilities as a leader and, consequently, doesn’t lead.  Relaxed is good, empowering others is great, but a strong leader models the behavior they want to see in their team.  If your leader lacks vision and drive, if she gives no direction, things can fall apart quickly.

3. Where Does the Buck Stop?

Some people really want to be a leader, but they lack something I believe is one of the most important qualities: accountability.  Regardless of who falls down on the job or which ideas don’t pan out, the leader of an organization must be willing to take responsibility.  No, everything is not your fault, but making decisions and managing outcomes are key parts of being a leader.  Be mindful of who is on your team and what they can deliver and manage your own expectations.  When things don’t go as planned, be ready to face the music.

4. “I’m Just Not Organized”

Not everyone is a detail oriented, chart-making, list-keeping type of leader.  But it is important to develop your own way of staying organized.  In any organization there are many things that require attention on a daily basis.  Some things are more urgent than others, but it’s important to be able to prioritize and manage time.  Remember, everyone is looking to you to set the tone.  If being organized is simply not your innate style, enlist the help of a trusted assistant.  Just remember you cannot blame the assistant if the system breaks down.  See #3 above!

5. “I Can Do It All Myself”

When I was young, my mother told me that a good leader knows when to ask for help.  Along with accountability, I believe this is also one of the most important skills a leader should have.  In planning for my presidency, I got to know a lot of people in the congregation and developed key relationships with people I knew I’d want on my team.  For an extrovert like me, getting to know people is one of the most fun parts of being a leader.  I admit I am still amazed when people agree to help or be on the team, but it is gratifying to work together toward a common goal.  Do not be afraid to ask for help.  No one can do it all by themselves.  Those that try are doomed to either failure, or plenty of sleepless nights and frustrating days.


So there you have it, my take on leadership styles.  How do you find yours?  This process takes soul searching, honesty, observation and trial-and-error.  If you’ve already completed this process before you take leadership, good for you!  If not, remember #5 on my list:  ASK FOR HELP!  There are plenty of mentors out there waiting to give advice and guidance.  And if you don’t have someone, contact me here at  I would love to be a part of your team!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Check it out at  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Listening for Effect

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Since becoming a full-time artist, I spend a lot of time working alone. When I worked in an office building, I sometimes hummed while working, or played the radio. I tried to keep the humming confined to my personal office. Now that I am working on my own, I often listen to music or audiobooks, enriching the day, making me feel happier, and engaged, or something. I tend to use particular types of music at varying stages of a painting. At the start, instrumental music of the classical nature, or contemporary stringed instruments. No lyrics to distract, just instrumentals to inspire.  After I am well into a piece and feeling the direction is solid, I move to pop or rock, something with a good beat.  When feeling free and focused while cooking or cleaning, I sometimes turn the rock up loud. Music has always played a major role in my life, having begun playing piano and violin in grade school.

Curious if others used music as a tool to achieve certain moods or effects, I polled some friends. A professional therapist said she did not listen at work though she used classical, instrumental music to unwind and the hearing of her favorites station invoked a visceral relaxation effect.

An attorney friend said she didn’t listen at work because it was difficult to focus and her mind would shift away from the task at hand. For cooking she enjoyed classic rock & roll; for resolving angst, Bonnie Raitt or other blues artists and for background music for parties, it was folk rock or classical. She pointed out that music lifts spirits and is a great way to connect with other people.

Another attorney listens to specific classical composers, technically baroque music. “It perks me up and makes me feel happier,” she said. She uses classic rock like The Beatles, to inspire housework. Particular music was so tied to an activity that actual pieces affect her mood and thoughts. For example, some classical guitar that she listened to when reading a favorite author could bring her thoughts immediately to plot points in her books. Some Bach pieces for cello reminds her of the soundtrack from Schindler’s List and produces a “downer” feeling because of the atrocities of WWII and Auschwitz.

A business consultant friend listens to jazz, mostly contemporary jazz, and if she needs to concentrate deeply, complete quiet. For relaxing, she chooses the smooth jazz of Boney James, Walter Beasley, Marion Meadows, and Chris Botti, to name a few. She noted that her 22-year-old son listened to jazz through headphones while studying. Ah, youth!

What are you listening to for effect?
About Renee
Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville. Renee is inspired by nature and enjoys hiking, birding, and the garden. She contributes to HerSavvy, a blog featuring writings from a group of well-informed women wishing to share their support and experience with others. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, enjoying flora and fauna is a family affair.

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The Other Side of the Couch – What’s with the Weather?


No, I am not going to rail about El Nino or debate climate change; neither am I going to use such weather clichés as, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes” – attributed to Mark Twain.  (In considering this topic I did a search on weather quotes and found that the attribution to Twain was unsourced; however, he did give a talk to the New England Society’s Seventy-First Annual Dinner, New York City, Dec. 22, 1876, in which he reported counting 137 different kinds of weather in New England within 24 hours! He might have been exaggerating for effect, being Mark Twain.)

Today I am more interested in the topic of inner weather.  We human beings like to think of ourselves as higher than or perhaps exempt from the effects of environment on our experiences.  We live our lives in this country, often, in urban centers filled with noise and traffic.  We spend our days in office cubicles surrounded by the twitters and whirring of computers, ringing phones, printers and all the other technological advances of the 21st century.  We go home to televisions, streaming video, video games.  Many of us don’t get outside more than the ten minutes it takes us to move from home to car, car to office.  Perhaps we live in cities with public transportation, and we ride subways or ells or buses.  If we are fit and lucky and it is safe, we might get to ride bicycles.  We spend more and more time removed from the weather.

We are told that we need to spend at least 15 minutes daily getting outside sunshine in order to have appropriate levels of Vitamin D, a vitamin that has in recent years been determined to be both very important to human health and very likely to be deficient in many people in the United States.  We don’t get out very much these days.

I am not (yet) an outdoor person.   I don’t like to sweat, and I don’t like being cold.   A perfect day would be sunny with a slight breeze, about 72, with a lovely, relatively easy trail that goes through a beautiful forest filled with deer and other wildlife, but NOT filled with insects.  As it happens, such a beautiful place exists about a mile from my home; however, the 72 degree days happen rarely, and the insects disappear only with the appearance of much colder weather.  What to do.

My goal for myself is to become more of an outdoor person so that my inner weather will be fortified by all the good things the outdoors can offer – increased Vitamin D, but more than that, the experience of beauty, the joy of movement, the removal from the pace of life that we experience these days.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Want to change your own inner weather?

  1. Take a walk at lunchtime – any movement helps, even through a steel canyon.
  2. Get up 15 minutes earlier and GO OUTSIDE – rain or shine. Even a balcony on a high-rise will do.
  3. Get a dog. Dogs are great about making us outdoor people.
  4. If you have a pet, pet your pet. Even if you are not outside, the act of interacting with a pet has beneficial effects on anxiety, blood pressure, even digestion.
  5. Create something beautiful. Just for the joy of it.
  6. Really look at a leaf, or a stick, or a stone. Think about its life journey.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at

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