There’s a group of people that I follow on Twitter who are fascinating and annoying. In high school, we’d have thought of them as the Cool Kids. You remember them, don’t you?

They had their own little posse and allowed the rest of us to watch them. They wouldn’t have been caught dead talking to us, of course.

The grown-up Twitter version of this isn’t much different. The Cool Kids are mostly male with one female who has been allowed into the club. Most of their posts are conversations between themselves or promotions for their own events and products. The female also likes to share glowing testimonials she receives, but the males are more modest.

According to her profile page, the female follows more than 6,000 people.You’d never know it from her Tweets, however. She never shares resources or interesting articles from anyone outside her “awesome peeps” (her term of endearment) clique. She loves slang and acronyms that are a kind of secret code known only to insiders.

Now, of course, there are no rules for how to function on Twitter or on a blog or on any social media site. What we need to understand, however, is that Twitter and Facebook are actually powerful magnifying glasses that seem to enlarge and enliven who we are.

I’m not saying that to scare you. In fact, I think if you aren’t using these free resources to connect with others, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice.

I’ve always thought that having your own business is where you go to earn your Ph.D in human relations. It’s a long curriculum with plenty of room for error.

Here’s lesson number one: When it comes to your clients, customers and potential clients and customers what’s your sign? Are you putting out the Welcome Mat—or hanging a Do Not Disturb warning?

I  learned about the Do Not Disturb sign from years of flying with Northwest Airlines. Apathy and indifference seemed to pervade the corporate culture. The planes themselves got grubbier and dirtier. Questions were often treated as an irritation and passengers were the enemy.

There wasn’t much smiling going on during the million miles I logged with them.

Once I was not limited to NWA (now Delta) as a carrier, I avoided them at all costs. In fact, I’ve not touched my frequent flyer miles with them despite the fact that I could have a free trip to Europe if I was feeling the need for  more abuse.

On the other hand, my trips these days are mostly on Southwest Airlines and I find myself anticipating these trips because I never  know what friendliness may be in store.

Is the flight attendant heading to Las Vegas auditioning as a standup comedian? Will the passengers be invited to sing  Happy Birthday to a fellow traveler? Will I manage to read all the interesting articles in their in-flight magazine before we land?

Even if you consider yourself to be an introvert, you can assume the position of welcoming host to your business. Start with the Golden Rule and make it your policy to treat everyone as graciously as you possibly can.

In every part of your business where you’re connecting with other people, keep the Welcome Mat  out. (And, certainly, there are times when the Do Not Disturb sign comes in handy—especially if you live with other people who don’t understand that you have a business to build.) Here are a few other reminders:

° Answer all telephone calls with friendly expectation. Yes, it might be a telemarketer on the other end, but unless you’re a really gifted psychic, don’t risk it by sounding grumpy. You voice message also needs to be upbeat as well.

° Get into the conversation on social media sites. If you’ve got gas or you’re bored, keep it to yourself. Praise, share, ask questions, interact. That’s not difficult stuff, but a lot of people  seem to have forgotten.

° Respond quickly whenever possible. Set aside time, if necessary, to catch up on e-mails and phone calls. Dazzle people with your fabulous and thoughtful good manners.

Recently, Alice Barry and I were talking and the conversation turned to something that mystifies both of us. As Alice put it, “Everyone says they want community and want to meet with other self-bossers, but few people take the initiative to put a group together.”

 

Honestly, I can’t think of anyone who successfully launched a business without intentional and regular contact with other entrepreneurs. Such invaluable connections were encouraged in Napoleon Hill’s success classic, Think and Grow Rich, where I first encountered the concept of the Master Mind group. After reading about it, I realized that it was an idea I’d seen in action many times. Every town in America (and elsewhere) probably has informal Master Mind groups which meet all the time. In small towns, you see clusters of businessowners gathering for breakfast or lunch to discuss local issues and create plans for making their spot of Earth a better place.

 

A true Master Mind group is small and members have been invited or selected to participate. The focus is sharp and the purpose clearly defined. It goes beyond simply meeting for companionship. For solo entrepreneurs, such a group is essential, it seems to me, and many small businessowners recognize that. However, waiting for someone else to take the initiative to get a group rolling is dicey. 

 

If you want to be the one who creates a local group of your own, here are some things to keep in mind.

 

√ Decide if you prefer a general group where members are doing a variety of things or if you want one made up of people with a common interest (such as writers or life coaches). Also decide if you want a mix of new and more experienced folks, or if you prefer one or the other.

 

√ Solicit participation by personal invitations to people you know or put out the word via Twitter or MeetUp. The most successful groups I’ve seen have been largely handpicked. However, an elitist approach won’t produce the best results.

 

√ Keep initial membership small. If your group attracts more than a dozen people, consider splitting into smaller groups.

 

√ Make it clear that a commitment to the group is important and no one should get involved if they aren’t willing to make participation for at least six months a top priority.

 

√ Unless all members are personal friends, hold meetings in a neutral location such as a coffee shop or restaurant—not in your home. Many libraries have free meetings rooms which can be reserved.

 

√ If you are meeting for two hours, use part of the time for a planned program or discussion and the rest for informal networking with each member sharing progress and problems.

 

√ Shared resources, book recommendations and so forth can be a regular feature of your meetings with members volunteering to share good ideas they’ve discovered.

 

√ Let leadership/planning responsibilities rotate.

 

√ From time to time, plan a Success Night to celebrate accomplishments and offer applause. This is especially important for people who are working solo and don’t get regular recognition. If you have several groups operating in your city, this could be a joint affair.

 

√ Remember, too, that when it comes to relationships, not all of the people we meet remain a permanent part of our life. If your first group doesn’t work out as planned, be willing to try again with a different cast of characters.

Last week I went hunting for a new entrepreneur who had disappeared from Twitter. I discovered that she hadn’t closed her account, but hadn’t participated for months. She had posted some interesting things so I wondered why she’d gone quiet. I sent her a message inquiring into her whereabouts and got a quick, but terse, reply saying, “Decided Twitter’s not for me.”

She’s not the first person I’ve heard voice such an opinion, of course. Another more seasoned entrepreneur, who is currently struggling, refuses to even consider social networking, blogging or any of the handy free tools at her disposal that could ultimately open new avenues of opportunity for her. In fact, she’s never understood the concept of e-mail as a form of conversation.

At the same time, almost everyone agrees that the best marketing–even in our sophisticated high tech world–is word of mouth. As Gary Vaynerchuk, host of Wine Library TV, told CNN, “Twitter is word of mouth on steriods.”  Why wouldn’t you want to take the time to be part of that?  At the very least, it’s an opportunity to promote other joyfully jobless folks. In fact, many social networkers enjoy giving support as much as they enjoy receiving it. (Not surprisingly, they’re the same ones getting lots of support in return, I’ve noticed.)

New entrepreneurs, especially those who are nervous about marketing, tend to hide out behind conventional forms of advertising, keeping a distance as it were. What they fail to realize is that all of us like to do business with people we know and like. And we can’t like you if you don’t let us get to know you.

When it comes to marketing, to creating visibility, to expanding your reach, what’s your sign? I’m not talking about billboards or astrology here. I’m talking about the subtle signs that convey your attitude.

Alas, I see a lot of Do Not Disturb signs, almost daring anyone to come close. That is not the path to healthy longevity in business. If you’re going to succeed, you’ll find a Welcome Mat is far more effective. Connect, collaborate, welcome newcommers into your life. You never know when you’re the answer to somebody’s prayer.

Man without a smiling face must not open a shop. ~ Chinese proverb

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If you’d like to add to your marketing toolkit, join me for Cheap Tricks: Marketing on a Shoestring. I’ll be sharing dozens of free and inexpensive ways to put out the Welcome Mat in Madison, WI on June 18th. I’ll also be teaching Cheap Tricks in other locations this fall. 

Some of the treasures I found this week will require a bit of your time, but they are all a good investment.

How could I resist sharing Chris Elliott’s Top Five Travel Fears? If you’re into metaphors, think about their equivalent in taking the Joyfully Jobless Journey. 

This  video has been making the rounds this week and it deserves to be seen. I first heard about it from Peter Shankman who said, “Imagine if HARO didn’t exist, because I wasn’t an entrepreneur, and I didn’t take risks. Because I didn’t have the idea, or the courage to start it. Imagine a world where no one did. Don’t let that happen. What’s your idea?” Watch this video, then pass it on.

Sometimes we need a reminder of things that we know, but are overlookiing. Steve Strauss’ Small Business Advice From Mom  does just that.  

Intimated by Twitter? Given up trying to figure it out or why it would be a good thing for you and your business? You’re not alone in your frustration. Those who love it (like me) have gone through the Four Stages of a Typical Twitter User. Take a look and maybe you’ll be inspired to give it another shot.  

Finally, this excursion takes a little longer (20 minutes more or less), but it’s so worth it. Hear what Seth Godin has to say about The Power of Tribes.  

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest.  If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change.  Only then will you know what the sea is all about. ~ Sterling Hayden

This past week, the Ideafest focused on the importance of inspiration. Not  surprisingly, all sorts of inspiring things kept popping up including this e-mail from Julie Fewster who lives in Northwich, Cheshire UK:

I took a look at Inspiration Station  earlier this month, when after a joyful Christmas I was trying to get back into the swing of a heavy workload.  The “take a fresh look at your workstation” element seemed to speak directly to my heart! I have two work areas, my creative space and my kitchen. I generally work in the kitchen of my house as it has most light and a wonderful view of our garden, which even in the depths of an English winter can be uplifting. 

On the day I read your article I was struggling to focus on the work I was meant to be doing. I took a look around me and realized I wasn’t surprised, there were too many distractions about, dishes to be done, stuff to be put away. Fighting back the little voice that said “You’re just avoiding work, Julie” I decided to take 15 minutes to tidy up around me. I went through the place like an angelic whirlwind. 15 minutes later I sat down at my PC and worked 5 hours straight, finishing more than I thought I could achieve that day. I am delighted I had spent 15 minutes decluttering.

Last week I found time to look at my “creative space”. I used to love sitting in the work space I had created whilst working, or should I say playing, my way through The Artists Way some years ago, in recent months I haven’t used it.  No, if I’m honest a year or more has passed since I spent any time there. It was sadly neglected, and I guess that reflected also the amount of attention my creative spirit has been getting too.  The good news is I have taken some simple steps which transformed it. I have my desk facing the window so I have space to gaze into and think big, I have changed the scenery, the pictures and the objects I have around me and fairy lights for added sparkle and I find that I am rejuvenated.  Thank you for the nudge in the right direction, 2009 seems more exciting just as a result of these simple actions.

My friend Peter Vogt, author of Career Wisdom for College Students, shares my desire that colleges offer more entrepreneurial options. Peter alerted me to a terrific piece in the NY Times called Dreamers and Doers that highlights some colleges who are doing just that.

I also tried to convince Peter to become part of the Twitter community. Here’s the message I sent him about that:

I don’t understand many of the tools and tricks, either, but I do know that it makes me smile at least once a day…usually more often. Here are three examples:

1. Just found this in my box and linked to a great article: Hammering With Bananas, Or How to Build a Freelance Career In Bad Conditions http://ping.fm/00Nwf

2. I finished up a teleclass the other night, checked messages and there on Twitter was one that said, “I’m taking Barbara Winter’s teleclass right now. This woman is a walking encyclopedia. I wished she lived next door. I’d bribe her with fruit pies.”

3. My Gmailbox has a message I will never delete. It says, “Barack Obama is now following you on Twitter.”

I rest my case.

Here’s another discovery I made this week thanks to Twitter. If you’re a freelance writer, or want to be, check out Jenny Cromie’s The Golden Pencil, a luscious resource for freelancers.

Speaking of luscious, Springwise, the site that gathers new business ideas from around the world, was bursting this week with articles on everything from mixers for moms and babysitters to League of Rock, where amateur musicians can join a rock band for ten weeks. If you aren’t already on their mailing list, I urge you to sign up at once.

Rick Steves says it’s the most fascinating place he’s ever visited. He’s talking about Iran and his one-hour program, which I found spellbinding, is currently making the rounds on public television in the next couple of weeks. If it comes to a station near you, don’t miss it. 

One need not be wealthy, well connected, or even well educated to come up with a good new idea. Building a vision on excellence is open to anyone who wants to do good business. ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It felt like an entrepreneurial cyclone hit this week. Besides all the intriguing resources I’ve collected, there was much rejoicing all around me. The week began with learning that yes, indeed, there will be a revised and updated version of Making a Living Without a Job before the end of the year. Longtime friend and Rhinestone Gypsy Linda Gannon sent an update on her booming business along with a hysterical story about her rock star customer. My sister Margaret started a creative profit center that has generated so much enthusiasm that I can feel it 300 miles away. To top things off, there was much whooping and hollering when my daughter Jennie called to say she got her first client for her doula business. And it’s only the first week of the new year!

Besides all the excitement close to home, I came across so many articles and resources this week that I wanted to pass along, but decided my list needed to be edited or you’d be linking all weekend long. Here are the ones that made the cut.

For years, I’ve been raving about Rick Steves. Not only do I use his travel guides and have watched his PBS programs for years, I also admire the way he has built and run his business. I paid a visit to his Website and found a charming list of his Top Travel Memories for 2008. If you go to his site, you can be lost there for hours.

One of the first things I plan to do on my upcoming trip to the UK is to sample as many Innocent Drinks as possible. I’ve been writing about this wildly creative business ever since I discovered them. Alas, their products aren’t available in the US so I have to be content with reading their weekly mailings. Nobody uses humor and whimsy better than the Innocent Drinks geniuses. Here’s a little sampler from this week’s mailing:

If you’re a bit skint after Christmas and are resorting to drying your teabags on the radiator and milking the cat, then here’s something sure to cheer up both you and your bank manager. Our smoothies are on special offer for the next few weeks in a store near you, meaning you can save a few pennies and walk off that second layer of chocolates. What’s more, since our veg pots are new to Tesco, for the next few weeks you can also save £1 on them too, leaving you free to indulge in one hundred penny sweets, a bag of scampi fries or a ‘sorry’ present for the cat.

Yes, I know, I’ve been babbling about my love affair with Twitter. Even so, I have failed miserably in bringing converts along. As one friend asked, “Why would I want to read about someone having a ham sandwich at the airport?” Fair question. That’s what I thought it would be like, too, so I avoided it for ever so long. Now I’m wiser…and wiser because of Twitter. The folks I’m following post all sorts of fascinating stuff and I find a gem or two every day. Here are three that came my way this past week:

7 Tips for New Twitter Users

from Zen Habits You Can Do Anything in Your Underwear

from Copyblogger How to Stop Being Invisible 

By the way, even if you aren’t writing a blog, I urge you to get acquainted with Copyblogger which has lively articles for anyone interested in communication. 

Jewelry artist and creativity coach Sally Evans shares her insights at Embracing Creativity where she posts articles, suggestions and resources. Check out her Creativity Just for Fun section. Sally’s also offering a terrific e-course called Design Your Inspired Life that’s getting rave reviews from past participants.

Want to take your Muse out to play? Go to Jackson Pollock.org and move your mouse around your screen. Click on your mouse to change colors. Warning: this can be addictive.

Don’t miss Seth Godin’s blog post Time to Start a Newspaper and see where he says the next frontier is.

Finally, there’s still time to join me for my upcoming teleclasses. We’ll be exploring A Beginner’s Guide to the Seminar Business on Monday, January 12 and A Dozen Ways to Build Your Expert Status on Wednesday, January 14. All teleclasses are now being recorded so even if you can’t attend in person, you can still hear the entire class.

A good idea will not become a reality until it has a champion. ~ Colin Powell

 

Entrepreneurial inspiration and information are everywhere. Here are a few—in no particular order—that I’ve collected this past week:

* Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. I have no idea why Twitter is so addictive, but it is. I’m new to Twitter world, but find myself checking in frequently since the folks I’m following leave such interesting tidbits.

Publicity Hound Joan Stewart had a story in her mailing last week about Rebecca Shapiro, an artist from Portland, OR, who got a regular gig on a local tv show thanks to Twitter. Want to know what all the fuss is about? Read Copyblogger’s How to Use Twitter to Grow Your Business.

You can find me on Twitter by clicking on this link. 

* Long before I moved to Las Vegas, I became fascinated by hotel impresario Steve Wynn. When his newest hotel opened recently, he pointed out that Encore is short on gimmicks and long on great service. As he told the press, his focus is on getting back to basics. Successful entrepreneurs seem to make that discovery over and over.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Wynn and the other entrepreneurial forces in my hometown, I recommend Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley. It’s one of my favorite books of the year. 

And if you want to focus on basics like goalsetting or building your expert status, join me for one–or several–of my upcoming teleclasses

* Nevada Public Radio just replayed their interview with Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City? Florida said something in that interview I’ve thought to myself, but never heard anyone verbalize before. In the Idea Age, says Florida, we need to rethink our notions about home ownership. After pointing out that home ownership came about as a result of the Industrial Age and led to our crazy love affair with consumerism, Florida said, “If you want people to be able to respond to creative opportunities, the worst thing you can do is trap them in a house.” 

* A tiny little book that made a huge impact on me was Phil Laut’s Money is My Friend. I now read his Emerging Entrepreneur mailings and was struck by what he had to say this week: “People are more powerful than money.  You are more powerful than money. Economics claims to be the study of money and tends to imply that money has a mind of its own, separate from human intervention.  Such an implication is very far from accurate.  If someone dumped a truckload of currency in your back yard today, it would stay there until a human came along and told the money what to do. The same is true for the money flowing through your personal economic system right now– in and out of your checking account, piggy bank or anywhere else you keep your money. You are the one telling it what to do. For this reason, the study and understanding of your own personal money psychology offers the greatest potential for rapid improvement in your financial situation.”

* An photo essay in the LA Times caught my eye. Recycled Living: A bohemian LA loft is decorated with flea market finds showcases the home of realtor Robert Heller and fashion designer Elizabeth Kramer. It looks like a place designed to inspire creative thought.

* The Work-At-Home Success Expo is up and running–and it’s only a mouse click away. Leslie Truex has assembled a month’s worth of resources, ideas and expert interviews. You’ll even find an interview with me. Check it out.

* Then there was this idea from Florida reader Elizabeth Bonet. “A couple of years ago I started doing goal setting every year on my birthday. I set one goal for every year I am (so 39 this year!). At first, it was hard to come up with so many. So it forced me to get creative and also learn how to break goals down more as well—into smaller steps to accomplish a bigger goal, each one counting for one goal. Since I have these set, I don’t feel any pressure to make New Year’s resolutions either.”

What moves those of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.–Eugene Delacroix

 

Inspiring people were turning up everywhere this week. The January/February issue of Ode magazine arrived with its cover story called 25 Intelligent Optimists Who Are Creating a Better Tomorrow Today. Most of the people profiled aren’t famous, but they’re sincerely making a difference. If you aren’t a subscriber, track this issue down.

Sir Richard Branson posted a video on his blog of a day in the life of Sir Richard. Fortunately, it was edited so it doesn’t take an entire day to view.

Since moving to Las Vegas and making frequent trips to California, I’ve become a huge fan of audiobooks. I’ve been listening to the audio version of The Millionaire Next Door which is a brilliant study that explodes many of the myths of the wealthy. The authors point out that even though less than 20% of all Americans are self-employed, a whopping two-thirds of all millionaires work for themselves. The values that showed up repeatedly in this group are thrift, discipline, economic achievement and financial independence. 

Another audiobook that I recently enjoyed was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Good Business. One of my favorite quotes from this book comes from the late Anita Roddick who was asked what advice she’d give to a young person planning a business career. Here’s here answer:

Well first of all, I wouldn’t talk to them like that. I’d say, “Listen, don’t even talk about business—don’t be controlled by language. Don’t even say the word ‘business.’ Bury it. Talk about livelihood. Talk about a livelihood that you can create for yourself, an honorable livelihood that gives you freedom.” So what is the skill that you’ve got? Maybe you’ve got a skill and you can mold it into an interest that can create a livelihood…And don’t think big, because that’s the obsession with this bloody culture. It’s always got to be the biggest. Why don’t you just be the best or the most creative or the funniest or something?

Once the holidays have passed, it’s a perfect time to lay down a strong foundation—or strengthen the one you’ve got. To help you do just that, I’m planning to hold an Ideafest! in January and share fresh ideas and not-so-fresh reminders each and every day. In addition, four of my most popular teleclasses are making a return engagement including Goalsetting 101, How to be a Thrifty Entrepreneur Without Being a Cheapskate, A Beginner’s Guide to the Seminar Business and A Dozen Ways to Build Your Expert Status. If you register for 2 or more at the same time, I’ll give you a discount of $5/teleclass. You’ll also receive an audio download so you can relisten—or get the information even if you can’t make the live class.

Twitter is turning out to be my new hobby. Come on over and join me in the fun. 

I think entrepreneurship is our natural state—a big adult word that probably boils down to something much more obvious like playfulness. Drudgery and clock-watching are a terrible betrayal of that universal, inborn entrepreneurial spirit. ~ Richard Branson