LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY

We hear many sayings or idioms over and over again, but ever had one of those moments when you hear one for the millionth time and they suddenly, you just get it? Like the words sink it to your pores and it resonates to your core?

That has happened to me twice in recent memory. In both cases, it almost felt like a cartoon lightning bolt striking my head, or the bop to the head like in those old V8 commercials.

Today I’m going to write about the time my friend Annie was trying to help me navigate a family situation I was wrapped up in. I was waist-deep in a scenario full of drama, stress and tough decisions. There just didn’t seem to be an easy way to get through this situation without someone being hurt or pissed off. Exasperated, Annie looked at me and just said,

“Well, let the chips fall where they may”.

And I was like “Yup, those chips are just gonna have to fall their little hearts out”.

There was suddenly a level of acceptance I hadn’t felt before. Or rather, a weariness that had taken over my body and soul which left me unable to fight anymore. I was not going to be completely consumed by the fear of shitstorms happening. I was going to stop freaking out and let go of thoughts like “Well, then she is going to do this! And then he is going to say that! And then I’m going to look like a such and such!”

For some reason on that one day in Annie's kitchen, I decided not to care where the chips - or the emotional shit - was going to land. I was just going to let it all happen and relinquish control.

Most of the time, we are freaking out about what MIGHT happen, and it rarely does. Or it isn’t as bad as we think. Or, on rare occasions, the results are actually WORSE, but they lead to something amazing or transformative and were necessary stumbling blocks to navigate.

We simply cannot control everything and everyone around us. I know, it seems so obvious you might be wondering why I am bothering to write this. But in those tough moments when family is screaming or a client is freaking out, we need to remind ourselves of this. As long as we are making the decision we feel best about in that moment, then we just have to let those chips fall. I am definitely NOT recommending you make rash decisions without regard for others’ feelings. No, I am saying we have to let go of always wondering HOW things will transpire and WHAT the consequences will be. Simply because an obsession with HOW and WHAT paralyzes us, makes us doubt our true values, and stops us from expressing ourselves authentically.

What is so interesting is that I often think of Annie saying this phrase to me whenever I am in a touch decision-making moment. And it is so liberating. It allows me to take a step back and yet move forward at the same time. I even picture myself throwing my hands up in the air - with a bit of Delta Burke sass - and purposefully walking away with confidence in my decision and compassion in my heart.

To your brave success,
Alana

FUN FACT :: The idiom “Let the chips fall where they may” apparently comes from the world of logging - at least the internet says so! When you chop down a tree using an ax, every time you hit the tree, pieces of wood - the chips - scatter about. While you are cutting, you do not worry about the various chips flying around; you don't really care where they land. (Source here)

When to rebrand

So you have a business.

And that business is doing okaaaay, but not really as awesome as you would like it to be. And - le sigh - every time you look at your website or business card you feel something just 'isn't right'.

Sooooo.... is it time for a rebrand?

Well, let's first define rebrand. A rebrand is creating an entirely new look for your business, with new messaging as well. This includes a new logo, graphics, website, photography, copy, and a fab new marketing strategy. It can be a Big. Effing. Deal.

Meanwhile, you can also do a refresh.

A refresh is a term used in the design/marketing industry to basically say 'Ya, we are going to update things, but it won't be totally, totally different.' It is like keeping the bones of an old house but replastering the walls and adding modern furniture. A refresh typically involves refining typography or changing a font, modifying colours, and/or updating photography. The brand maintains the same core feel, but it is updated to reflect current trends and styles. 

The need to rebrand or refresh is often real, but I write this post to warn you of one very key business secret:

No matter how amazing the branding, it will not save a crappy business from eventually tanking.

At the end of the day, in order to succeed, you have to have a killer product or offer something truly needed and loved by others.

This is why some multi-million dollar companies have 'meh' branding and thrive (think Costco - I mean, that logo is hideous but definitely legible!). While I do believe you absolutely need awesome branding to reach full potential, you can actually coast for a while with mediocre branding IF your business offers an incredible product, is reaching millions of customers AND resonates with your ideal client.

To help you decide if the time has come for you to rebrand, here is when I think yes, you SHOULD rebrand.

  • You have changed the focus of your business completely. For example, you have a makeup line that is all natural and vegan. Previously you marketed to baby boomers who wanted an all-natural look, but now you see an opportunity to capture the millennial market which is all about saving the planet. Totally different marketing is needed.
  • You are getting consistent feedback from customers that they couldn't find you online, or didn't know that you sold (fill in the blank). If customers are confused or not interested, that is a red flag.
  • Your logo is dated and illegible. I got no time for ugly and neither should you.
  • You have changed your company name.
  • You have proof that people love your product or service, but they are not buying. This could also be a pricing issue, or simply your mindset as an entrepreneur. This one is't black and white.

And here is when I think you SHOULD NOT rebrand:

  • You are bored with your business. Sorry, not a good enough reason. I got bored of looking at my own branding two months into this new business venture but too bad - suck it up, buttercup. Consistency is key to developing a successful brand so you have to keep going with it and learn to love it for a long, long time.
  • Your cousin Vinnie says it is not cool. Cousin Vinnie can get back in his rusty Ford Taurus and head home. Pronto.
  • You have already rebranded multiple times in the last couple years, and you are not seeing a change in your bottom line or your personal confidence. This is a sign there is a MUCH bigger problem lurking beneath the surface of a shiny new logo. This level of indecisiveness and flip-flopping is fatal. Chances are you business doesn't need a rebrand, you need to regroup.

I hope this gives you some golden nuggets to consider. I always have to ask clients WHY they feel driven to make a change in their business. Is there evidence and proof that it is needed? Are customers complaining? What does your gut say? While there is so much to consider, remember that whether you choose to rebrand, refresh or stay exactly as you are, there are always people out there to make the process easier AND help you become the million dollar brand you know you are.

To your brave success,
Alana

PS :: If you are thinking of a rebrand, be sure to read my FREE ebook 8 Tips for Hiring a Designer You Love - available for instant download! 

STUCK IN STORY TIME?

This post is a tagalong to my most recent FB live video on October 9th you can see here.

Nope, I am not talking about getting stuck into the Hunger Games trilogy for the second time (hey, I totally support that!). I am talking about those fun but oh-so-destructive stories we tell ourselves - and others - that keep us low and stuck.

A story can be something you think or say over and over such as:

I will just never be good at sales. It has been that way since I can remember. My aunt used to make me work in the stock room because I was always so terrible at closing the deal. I actually liked it there better in the back of the store anyway. It was so cozy and safe, and who wants to deal with people all day anyway??
or
It is impossible to find high-paying clients. I always attract the kind of clients who want things for cheap or free. It is so frustrating!! I just want to go live on an island and hang out with cute, fuzzy monkeys. I bet they would pay me more than these cheap-ass clients. Maybe they will pay me in yummy bananas. Mmmm, I love bananas...

I tend to think of 'stories' as animated, full-colour narratives of our beliefs. They paint a glorious picture of what is really going on below the surface. And these stories can be addictive -- addictive to think about AND to talk about. Over and over again we tell them to anyone who will listen, because usually they get us sympathy or attention, and most importantly, they prove our beliefs to be true. And as humans, we loooove to prove ourselves right as often as possible. These stories are evidence that yup, we should just be hanging out with those damn monkeys. We may secretly dream of jetting off on a speedboat as far away from Monkey Island as possible, but nah, that is just impossible. I will stay right here where I am and keep choosing to stay married to this (often stupid) story. That way I can prove that "Ya, I suck", or "No, I can't really ever attract awesome clients" (hellllloooooo, self worth issue calling!! - and um, ya, you need to call me).

As mentioned in my FB video, all of us tend to really commit to our stories and then hammer them home whenever we get the chance. This blog post is simply to tell you to stop. Shut that down. Please and thank you. 

But -- how can you get out of story time when you may not even know you are doing it?

It really is all about developing awareness. You have to start listening to your words and your thoughts. This is not always an easy task, and personally, I think this is the number one reason to work with a coach. I know in my experience, I made HUGE shifts in my business - and life - when I let go of certain stories I didn't even know I was married to (ummm... think Monkey Island).

But even without a coach, if you stop yourself once a day from fully engaging in a negative story, you will be setting yourself up for success. As soon as you notice yourself back in boo-hoo storyland, change the narrative - and for pete's sake, stop talking! I like to have a go-to positive statement to snap me out of my woe. I usually choose "I am strong, able and calm" which I took from an old Robin Sharma book. While generic and non-specific, it sweeps me back into a happy, positive headspace. Alternatively, you can choose something more specific such as, "I attract high-paying clients like a moth to a flame", or go uber minimalist with something like "Cancel, cancel!" Choose anything that is easy to remember and will tell your brain that "Oops, I didn't mean to get caught up in the Monkey Island story again - forget I said that!"

Once you begin to be aware of your stories, trust me, major goodness will start to unfold in your business - and your life. Remember: our thoughts become your beliefs and your beliefs dictate your success. 

And on that note - to your brave success!
Alana

Photo: Angello Lopez

 

YOUR BRAND PROMISE

Hello Brave Ones,

I wanted to get back to some branding basics, so here is some juicy stuff for you!

When creating a brand for a product or service, I believe you must have three ducks in a row.

Together these 'ducks' are crucial to brand development and will formulate your Brand Promise. Your Brand Promise is simply what you have promised to give to your client or customer when they purchase your product or service.

When developing your Brand Promise, here are the three 'ducks' - and they all start with P.

PACKAGE. PRODUCT. PRICE.

All three have to be in alignment. If they are not, then your brand promise is broken. And likely, your business will be a little sinky rather than nice and swimmy.

Let’s look at each P individually.

PACKAGE

Often thought of as a physical box or wrapper, but it is actually the first touch point your client or customer has with your product or service. Your package is how you visually present your wares. And your wares can be a product or a service.

If your business sells a physical, tangible product, it could be the box your candle is shipped in or the cellophane and ribbon around your flower arrangement.

If your business is a service, such as a life coach or an accountant, then your website, business card, and all visuals your clients are given is your package. They are often the first things your customer sees and will instantly start making a judgment on your business (websites are judged in 3 seconds, fyi).

In fact, YOU are also part of your package, but more on that in a later post.

PRODUCT

This is what you are actually selling. Again, it can be a physical item or a service.

You must be clear on what you are offering to your client or customer. Too often an angry customer is a result of them simply not knowing what they are getting. I mean, hey, we have all had an Amazon dud or two, am I right?

PRICE

Pretty obvious here. Price it is how much you are charging for your product or service. Is it a price that makes sense for what the customer is getting? Is its perceived value worth the price tag?

To fulfill a Brand Promise, clients or customers need to look at the package, then look at the product, then the price and need to feel like you haven’t over-delivered or under-delivered. They need to feel satisfied, whether it is a cheap or expensive experience.

Let’s use an example:

I worked for a while in food packaging design. Many of the clients in this particular agency were mid-list big brand products – think Stouffer’s or Lean Cuisine. If the product is a mid-list, not fancy, average-joe kinda meal, then you have to present it just like that – in its best possible, strategically savvy way.

You can’t be using high-end photography and fancy-pants gold foil and create a package that makes it look like a gourmet meal from a Michelin star restaurant. Because when they take it out of the microwave and taste some sad, rubbery noodles, it will be a serious debbie downer. No bueno.

You can’t OVER deliver on your promise because then the customer feels totally jilted. You can't show one thing then offer up something totally different. Especially if you are charging $2.99.

If the frozen meal cost $9.99 then you better have a spectacular package and when you take it out of the oven it better look damn tasty.

So part of your job as a kick-ass entrepreneur is to keep checking in with these 'ducks' and make sure they feel aligned and cohesive. It seems super simple, but often we get so wrapped up in the marketing and social media side of things and forget about the basics. Make sure your Package, Product and Price all feel like they are working together in harmony. Your branding and any visual graphics you have will be paramount in helping these 'ducks' feel all happy. If you have been ignoring the branding side of your business, time to get on it!

I will be diving into more on the topic of VALUE and pricing - which is sometimes the part that trips us up when we develop our brand - in an upcoming FB live. Stay tuned!

To your brave success,
Alana 

I SEE YOU

This is somewhat of a follow-up to my FB live "My thoughts on Toastmasters" (September 21).

We are back to regularly scheduled programming! Because I was competing in a Toastmasters Humourous Speech contest, I had to skip a week of blogging. It was an intense ten days of writing and rehearsing and practicing. It was also a lot of me freaking out with thoughts like, "Oh fuck. How the heck am I going to get through this? I think I need to barf. Why am I doing this? UGG. I need wine. No, I need some chocolate. No, just everyone leave me alone, ok?!!" Good thing I have a VERY patient husband.

I was super nervous, unable to efficiently focus on work, and I felt super ungrounded. I also had a doozy of a headache for two days before the competition. I think my brain was literally fed up with my speech - it had heard it on a continuous loop for too long! It no longer thought it was funny. Lol.

But I survived! And I'm pretty excited to have won 2nd place in the Club Contest and 3rd place in the Area Contest with my speech titled 'The Mullet' (yes, it was indeed about a hair catastrophe - just keepin' it real, Mavens). More importantly, however, I gained some serious - yet simple - insight as to why this speaking club is so powerful.

As I watched and supported a bunch of new friends and total strangers get on stage and speak their little hearts out, I was truly inspired. The entire room was filled with people willing to be brave and face the uncomfortable. One after one, people from all backgrounds and of all ages put themselves out there. They risked stumbling on their words, forgetting parts of their speech, looking weird under horrific fluorescent lighting, and flashing sweaty pits. They made mistakes – and they also delivered some moments of brilliance. Ultimately, these courageous people let their voices be heard.

The evening brought to mind something I was once told by a very compassionate grief counselor. I can't remember how it came up, or if she got this from a book, but she said we all need to feel that this phrase is true:

I see you. I hear you. What you say matters.

We, as humans, need to be heard. We need to know someone is listening.

Sadly, there are few times where we get people's undivided attention. When you are in a Toastmaster's meeting, you get exactly that. Cell phones are off, eyes on you, and you get to say pretty well whatever you want. The ball is in your court and the encouragement is palpable. 

I could literally feel the energy of the room rising with every word spoken. Even during the awkward stumbles and fumbles, you could tell people were gaining confidence and feeling a healthy sense of validation. I think it is simply because for just a few minutes at a time, the participants got to intimately feel that YES, we see you, we hear you, and what you say does, indeed, matter.

If you are feeling frustrated or low in certain areas of your life, ask yourself if it because you feel you are not being seen? Is no one listening? Or maybe the tables are flipped - are YOU the one not seeing or listening to others? You need to put out what you want back, so at the risk of sounding a little too hippy dippy unicorny, take one teeny tiny moment in your day today to a) really listen to someone who means something to you and b) make the space necessary to let your voice be heard by at least one person who you respect.

To your brave success,
Alana

PS sidebar: And while yes, Toastmasters does attract some people that just want to talk and talk all day and hog the stage, my experience so far is that these members are the minority. Also, there is no kool-aid in sight. For reals. For more info check out

PHOTO: Alexandru Zdrobău