Brainstorming 101: A Primer

Jul 17, 2018

A primer on how to brainstorming might seem as necessary as a primer on how to scratch an itch. How can you NOT know how to do it? It’s intuitive. Everyone knows how to do it, right? After all, we are constantly brainstorming…what to have for dinner, where to take the kids on their day off, which shirt goes with those pants, and so on.

However, when it comes to business, brainstorming often works best when rules are engaged and a framework is used.

The goal of brainstorming is to come up with solutions to a specific question, problem, or issue. It can be done alone or in groups. There are a myriad of techniques and tools that can be used.

The Rules

Visualizing a brainstorming session conjures up images of people sitting around a table, free-associating and tossing out ideas, while someone frantically writes down words on a large pad at the front of the room. In fact, you do not need a large group of people (although, depending on the problem, that could help), and you...

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How to Tell You Made a Great Decision (Wherein I Share TMI)

Jul 10, 2018

Seriously, and please bear with me.

First, I’ll start with my TMI share: I’ve been endowed with Raquel Welch curves since I was 12. In a world that was more flat than curvy, this proved no advantage and only brought unwanted attention from strangers. And sometimes people I knew, like the time at my best friend’s bridal shower when her future mother-in-law asked me my cup size and couldn’t stop talking about my chest. (She felt she’d found a kindred spirit in me, someone who knew what she’d lived through as a woman with a large chest.) It was weird, especially at a time when we barely acknowledged our feminine bodies. Perhaps needless to say, I was never into lingerie.

That’s not to say I didn’t try to find or didn’t want sexy lingerie. I didn’t know about great advice blogs like The Lingerie Addict, so I was on my own. Victoria’s Secret bras were more padding than bra (and I really didn’t need more...

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Ugh. Not Again. (insert eye roll emoji here)

Jul 09, 2018

I like being able to easily find what I need, so I am a big fan of being organized. I have color-coded file folders for things we receive in paper form and need to keep (yes, really!). This include things like bills paid, paperwork for the kids’ schools, medical forms we receive from the doctors, car maintenance, bank statements, and so on.

I’ve had these same folders for many years, but there’s a new file folder that I recently had to set up: Stolen Data/Cyber Breaches.

Yes, I now have a folder for all those letters we’ve received over the last few years about the cyber breaches that Frank (the spousal unit) and I have received. The last one we got was in May, from TaskRabbit, Inc., one of the resources that Frank used to launch his home energy audit and weatherization business last year.

Also in that folder: Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase (twice), US Department of Veteran Affairs, IRS,  Verizon, Citigroup, CVS, Gap, Hyatt Hotels, US Army, Department of...

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Focus, People! (How to Cope with Entrepreneurial ADD)

Mar 09, 2018

I have a confession. Like many entrepreneurs (most?), I have EADD, or Entrepreneurial Attention Deficit Disorder AKA shiny ball syndrome AKA “SQUIRREL!” issues.

This simply means that, as an entrepreneur, I am an idea person and can be easily distracted. Sometimes this means my brain is constantly coming up with new businesses. Sometimes it’s coming up with ways to improve how something is done (my business or my clients’). Sometimes it’s because everything else seems to need to take precedent (kids, laundry, filing, email). Other days, like today, it’s visiting Facebook, LinkedIn, and taking calls, all while I’m trying to write this blog.

If you are an entrepreneur, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you’re an entrepreneur who isn’t working in your genius, you’re probably experiencing this nearly all the time.

Look, this does not mean that you have a problem. You aren’t a failure and you...

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Calling All Women Business Owners: It’s Time to Show Up & Own It

Oct 30, 2017

I recently took part of an online discussion among female founders about being visible to the gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are the folks who decide everything from which new businesses to feature in magazines to who gets VC money. The catalyst for the conversation was how magazines keep featuring ex-Silicon Valley employees, mostly men. Sure there are always exceptions to the rule, but the featured articles are often about startups founded by men. Needless to say, the irony is painful, given that women-owned businesses are expected to account for more than half of small business job growth by 2018.

So the question is: How do we women get past that?

There are undoubtedly many components to a satisfactory answer, and there are tons of articles online about the challenges that women face starting in business and running one. But there are two really important points that those articles seem to miss: Women need to show up and make sure the gatekeepers know we’re here, and we need to...

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Friends Gone Bad: When It’s Time to Unfriend

Sep 15, 2017

Just a few years ago, I was pretty much a social media neophyte. I’d only joined Facebook because my girlfriends from undergrad planned our annual adventures through that medium. At the time, I’d have been perfectly happy to stick with email.

My opinion on social media has since evolved, and like most of us, I could easily lose days of my life reading updates, laughing at memes and watching videos. I’ve met amazing people and become part of communities that have come to mean so much to me (shout out to Pantsuit Nation!). I even found a fun new pastime (trolling the trolls, which not something I actually recommend doing and have since stopped). But as I engaged in this brave new world, I also met a lot of people who apparently lacked all basic social decorum. I’ve had to unfriend people I knew in real life (in most cases, we’ve stayed friends) and block the crazier ones.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

When you accept a friend or connection request...

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Who Knew You Were So Popular? Deciding Who Is Worthy to be Your Online Friend

Sep 13, 2017

Social media is both a bonanza and a bane. It’s useful to stay connected to family and friends. And it’s great to grow your professional network. In fact, when you’re starting out, it’s natural to want to accept EVERYONE who wants to friend, connect or follow you. However that’s not always a good idea, because when you’re not discriminating, social media can become your bane.

People who do not have a business or don’t do much business online tend to be a lot more picky about who they accept as friends on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, see everyone as a potential customer. Networking for the purpose of activism—a trend that’s growing—is a hazy middle ground between the two extremes.

For the purposes of this article, I will use the term “friend” to also include whatever the connection is called on other social media platforms, like “connection” on LinkedIn or...

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What's In a Name? Why We Are CEO Toolkits

Sep 12, 2017

 What’s in a name? Everything, even when it wasn’t what you intended.

I arrived at the name of this website (and by extension, business) by circumstance. The circumstance was that I did not want to use my name, and that I couldn’t find a domain name that included the word “business” that didn’t cost thousands of dollars. (Don’t even get me started on how people buy domains and then sit on them…who can afford to pay $5600 for a domain with the word “business” in it?) And I really didn’t want to make up a name that was too clever or completely irrelevant and no one would know what I was talking about.

On my 1324th attempt to get a decent domain, I found ceotoolkits.com (at the standard price). It was more than perfect. The name helped me clarify what I wanted to do here, which is to help you cultivate the CEO mindset. This is crucial whether you are a start-up entrepreneur or you’ve bought an existing...

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Whether You Think It's Sexy or Not, Prioritizing Cybersecurity Is No Longer a Choice

Sep 04, 2017

I get it. The whole idea of cybersecurity is overwhelming and not particularly sexy to most of us.

The language is weird. (Phishing? Trolling? Doxxing? Ransomware?)

The requirements are so technical. (Install a firewall! Use encryption! Engage 2-factor authentication!)

And there are more acronyms than in the US Government. (SSL, TLL, HIPPA, PCI DSS, DDoS, OMG, WTF)

(Yes, those last two are acronyms for what first came to your mind. I added them because that’s what I felt like trying to figure this stuff out for you.)

Plus, how do you hide from cyberattacks when you need an online presence to promote your business??

If you’re a yoga instructor, or an online business coach, or have a small store downtown, the last thing you want to think about is cybersecurity. You want to work your passion, not learn a whole new industry, especially one that’s so technical and dry compared to what you do.

Seriously, who has time for that? Boring!!

Except for one small problem:

You...

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10 Areas of Your Business You Need to Review

May 25, 2017

This article is the second in a three-part series about business assessments and the importance of getting objective feedback on your business. My first article, The First Order of Business: Why Great Organizations Rely on Objective Feedback, can be found here

Whether we are conscious of the fact or not, we are constantly assessing the world around us: things, people, places, situations.

And we make decisions based on those assessments, too. These decisions range from the mundane (Is this a good time to cross the street? What should I wear today based on the weather?), to those that require strategic planning to get the best outcome possible (When is the best time to launch my product? When is a good time to ask my boss for a raise?)

Many of those decisions have layered options, depending on what you want to see happen. For example, a bad experience at a restaurant might result in you talking to a manager, or leaving a message on Yelp, or coming back another night, or trying...

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