Happy Tuesday, everyone! I like getting to say hello to you every day :) Today I'm excited for two reasons:
I have a guest post up on one of my all time favorite blogs, Think Traffic by Corbett Barr. The post is called From Blogging to Published Book: The Nitty Gritty Pros, Cons and Considerations. I detail numbers and experiences behind my book publishing process to help other bloggers assess whether it's worth it for them.
Corbett is someone I have looked up to for a long time for his blog- and business-building prowess, and had the great fortune of meeting him in Portland earlier this year (and at a SF Blogger meet-up we co-hosted upon returning). Corbett's new assistant, Caleb Wojcik, is an awesome go-getter who attended my Seattle book tour stop -- and has since quit his job to work with Corbett, moved and gotten married!
Second, today's book giveaway is for The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You from the lovely Adelaide Lancaster (and her co-author Amy Adams). I met Adelaide at the Book Breakthrough NYC conference in July and we immediately hit it off. She and her co-author have created a co-working space in NYC for female entrepreneurs, and focus on helping small business owners create a business that works for their own lifestyle goals -- with the notion that not everyone has to be the next Google. I've included their book trailer and an interview with Adelaide below.
A recap on what I'm up to this week: September is one of the big months for book publishing, and as a thank you for being such great readers I’ve got some awesome books to share with all of you! I’ll post an entry each day this week (bear with me, email subscribers!) and you’ll have until Friday at 6pm ET to enter to win a copy of each book by answering that post’s question prompt. I’ll choose the winners via Random.org early next week.
The Big Enough Company -- Interview with Adelaide Lancaster
Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is a contributor to The Huffington Post, and a columnist for The Daily Muse and The Hired Guns. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter.
What was your first brush with entrepreneurship?
I never set up a lemonade stand or sold things door to door. But I have always believed in my ability to make things happen. Even when I was younger I had a hard time taking no for an answer. I often joke that my first brushes with entrepreneurship were actually my (successful) attempts to bend the rules in high school and college. For example, despite extremely rigid rules at my boarding school, I managed to arrange legally getting 20 kids signed out to the same town in North Carolina for the weekend and chartered a bus to get us there. The school was annoyed but we weren’t technically breaking any rules.
These escapades, which clearly involved exploiting loopholes in the rules, made me responsible for establishing three new rules between my high school and college handbooks. So I guess I was quite enterprising, although it admittedly wasn’t for the best reasons – at least at that age!
What inspired you to start In Good Company, and how did you find the resources (time, money, energy) to do it?
My partner and I already had a consulting practice working with entrepreneurs to start or build their businesses. We heard the same complaints over and over again from our clients. They were isolated. Many worked from home and spent much of their time by themselves, except when they were with clients. They also had pretty small networks as many of their former colleagues still held traditional 9-5 jobs.
Aside from being lonely, this isolation had a huge impact on their businesses. Our networks give us access to ideas, resources, suggestions, feedback, inspiration, motivation, etc. We could tell that our clients needed more of all of this. They also experienced some logistical challenges by not having an office. They didn’t have a professional place to meet clients and they also had pretty weak boundaries between their work and home lives.
We began to imagine a place where our clients could work when they needed to. Since we knew most of them didn’t need full-time offices, we were instead crafting a shared workspace solution (which has grown over time to include full-time space as well). Our thought was that having a physical location would also serve as a home base for a larger community and network. In Good Company would be the place for women entrepreneurs to work, meet, and learn.
Some people didn’t get it - it was in the days before coworking had become main stream, but most people did. We scaled back our practice to make time for the startup mode. We also held lots of focus groups to get feedback and also to cultivate the community. It was a fairly capital intensive business to start so we did raise money, in addition to invest a lot ourselves.
What has been your biggest failure-turned-success or blessing-in-disguise story (in life or business)?
When it came time to graduate from my Counseling Psychology program at Columbia I couldn’t find the kind of job that I was looking for. I wanted to be a career counselor for women who were deciding what direction to take their career. Since I couldn’t find the job I wanted, I decided to create it and started my own career counseling practice.
However, I was still ambivalent about my choice. I felt like I needed a backup plan. I decided to also apply to the PhD program at my graduate school, thinking I could do my practice in conjunction with getting my PhD and then have even more credibility, choices, and experience once the program was over. It seemed like a great plan until I didn’t get in. At first I was devastated but it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. Because I wasn’t tied up in a PhD program I plunged myself completely into entrepreneurship, building my practice and learning everything I could about small business.
That practice evolved over a number of years and through several iterations to later become the business I have today. I love being an entrepreneur and love the opportunities it affords me. I have the ability to create work that is meaningful and rewarding on my own terms.
The truth is that today I do much less counseling and consulting work. Instead I spend a lot of time doing things I enjoy just as much and often more such as determining the strategic direction for my business, cultivating our brand through social media, writing content for our blog and my columnist positions, designing programming and curriculum for each season, managing the operational (finances, billing, bookkeeping) side of the business, networking, and making myself available to our members for brainstorming etc.
I love the variety and I love that our business is always evolving. I know that had I done my PhD I’d still be an entrepreneur but I probably would have made choices that resulted in a much more traditional counseling practice, which I know would be much less rewarding for me.
If you could give the Life After College community one piece of encouragement or career advice, what would it be?
Two pieces, I can’t help myself!
You need to take small steps to get almost anywhere. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by your own big plans, dreams, and ideas! But nothing happens overnight and don’t underestimate the amount of work that goes into every success story you know. No matter who you are or what you want, the path is likely going to involved small, incremental changes. Embrace it, let it help pace you, and keep moving!
Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. As a new entrepreneur I remember believing that it was my job to know everything, especially when it came to my business. While I was always grateful for the good ideas that others gave me, but I would also think self consciously, “I should have thought of that.” I also believed, foolishly, that it was important to have clear and resolute answers and to never say “I don’t know.” Boy, was I foolish.
I learned that entrepreneurship is all about being a work in progress. You spend more time deciding where you want to go next then you do arriving there. It turns out that pretending to know everything comes a tremendous cost. Not only does it make the business of being an entrepreneur much harder than it needs to be, it also cuts you off from the most valuable resource you have – the ideas and experiences of others. Thankfully, I wised up and started to listen – carefully.
What are a few fun items on your life checklist?
I have three that I’ve had for a really long time:
- I want to go on a hot air balloon ride over a really cool landscape.
- I want to own a little pet goat – and the country house to go along with it. (Right now I’m a city dweller)
- I love 70 degree weather. It makes me so happy. I have this idea for a 70 degree world tour. Either for retirement or as a sabbatical I’d love to take a year to travel to 10-12 locations that are seasonally 70 degrees. For example Iceland in July, Istanbul in June, Johannesburg in September.
To enter to win a copy of The Big Enough Company, answer the following question in the comments:
If you could start any company, what would it be and why? What qualities would your ideal company have, and how would it fit your ideal lifestyle?