Category Archives: business women

How Being Nosy Launched My Business

People often ask me “What do you do?” or “How did you learn to do the work you do?”  This version of my bio answers those questions and provides insight into why I built a business around helping people with research and writing.

By the time I was in high school I had outgrown my plans to be a dancer, but I still wanted to be a writer.  After being on the newspaper and literary journal staffs in high school, I decided to pursue a career in journalism or public relations (now more commonly called communications) instead of being a novelist.  As I lived out my plan working in public relations for a technical/community college in South Carolina, I realized I had a knack for research (or as my mother put it, I was naturally nosy).  And I found that I was skilled at communicating the results of my research in reports, articles, grants and other official documents.

For almost 25 years I sold telecommunications.  But during that time I honed my research and writing skills.  Selling complex voice and data communication systems to a business, government agency or organization required understanding the operations and goals of the client.  Being nosy came in handy again.  Also during that time, I worked with many government, education and non-profit organizations to develop grant applications and budget justifications to help them secure the funding they required to pay for the new voice or data system they needed.

The next step for me was a culmination of all the experience and skill development I had acquired.  I opened a consulting firm, Leverage & Development, LLC, and began helping non-profits, government agencies and businesses with the things they did not have the time or staff or skill to do.  The name of the company tells what the company does –  Leverage & Development, LLC helps people leverage the assets they have (in reports, grants and other documents) and develop the ones they need (processes, programs, funding, etc.).   Since 2003 I has been in seventh nosy heaven reading reports, searching out statistics, interviewing people and conducting focus groups.  I have also enjoyed the opportunity to help people with grant writing, evaluations, assessments, report writing, process and program development and many other things that involve research and writing.  Here are a few of the things I have worked on:

  • Healthcare Workforce Needs Assessment for a 3 county area
  • Outside Evaluator for 2 Juvenile Justice Programs
  • Community Health Assessment for 2 counties
  • Outside Evaluator for a federally funded genetic science awareness project
  • Consultant/Counselor for the South Carolina Women’s Business Center
  • Consultant on program development and grant writing for an entrepreneur incubator
  • Evaluator and Researcher for a workforce development collaborative

 

I think one of the best things about owning a consulting firm that offers research and writing services is that I get to help people who are in a bind.  Many of the clients of Leverage & Development, LLC come to me because they have a looming deadline and they don’t have the time to meet it.  Others need information or evaluation and did not realize it until they were in a precarious position – if they don’t get it done, they lose funding or clients or partners.  Sometimes the clients are just overwhelmed with the amount of information they have and how to turn it into the document they need.  Occasionally another business or agency comes to me in search of a partner to round out their services on a specific project or client.  So those years of working on journalistic deadlines, meeting a sales quota and helping people do more with less make me not only skilled at helping other people in their difficult situations, it even makes me comfortable.

There is no deadline I can’t stare down, no mountain of information I am afraid to scale and no blank page that gives me writer’s block.

When Preparing Is Really Delaying

Delaying can be a pitfall for any person, organization or business.  Here is an excerpt from my book 101 Winning Marketing Actions For Small Businesses to help you understand when you may be delaying something important.  For organizations and agencies, the most common things to delay are reports and evaluations and anything involving research.

 

Action #13

Guard against spending too much time on “getting ready” instead of “doing”.

When doing something that is scary, risky, takes a lot of time, seems overwhelming or is boring/tedious it is tempting to put it off by “getting ready”. Some common delay tactics that are easily disguised as preparations are:

  • Buying supplies
  • Making lists
  • Getting others opinions
  • Reading inspirational stories or articles
  • Looking for an “easier” way
  • “Finding” time

Whenever you are faced with something you know you should do to market your business and you find yourself struggling to get started or to make progress, ask yourself if you are postponing by pretending to prepare. To help yourself decide, plug your situation and your activities into one of the following examples:

 

Example A – Making a Dessert

You have to make a dessert for a pot-luck dinner. You really want to make something unusual and impressive. You look through your recipes, but you don’t find one that quite fits. You ask some friends for suggestions. You look online for just the right dessert. You visit a bookstore or library and look through several books. You call a local bakery and ask for suggestions and prices. Now you have so much information you can’t make a choice. Finally, the day before the event you pull out an old recipe you have used many times and rush to the store to get the ingredients. You prepare your tried-and-true dessert and take it to the pot-luck dinner. You are dismayed to find that three other people brought the same dessert. Your dessert certainly did not stand out, you wasted a lot of time and you have to take two-thirds of it home.

 

Example B – Building a Birdhouse

Your mother tells you she wants a birdhouse for Mother’s Day. You think that building one for her will make it extra special. You search online for plans or kits, but there are so many choices. For inspiration you visit a local gift store that sells birdhouses. You go to a local hardware store and talk with a sales clerk about materials and kits. You buy some materials and a blueprint; you take them home to get started. You wait a few days until you can find time to build the birdhouse, but you can’t seem to set aside enough time. Finally, the Saturday before Mother’s Day you go to the gift store and buy one of their birdhouses. When your Mom opens the birdhouse, she smiles and says, “My friend Ella has one just like this.”

Before You Ask For The Grant, Be Sure You Can Fulfill The Requirements

Would you leave home naked to go to work, the grocery store or a movie?

Would you set off on a trip to a place you have never been with no GPS, directions  or map?

Would you attempt to eat a whole turkey with all the trimmings by yourself?

Not likely.

But organizations often seek funding before they know if they can fulfill all of the requirements.  They often seek funding for projects they hope they can fit their current programs or services into.  The lure of funding sometimes overrides good sense.

Organization and agency directors are always under pressure to see that they have adequate funding.  Urgency sometimes means they may not have set up the processes necessary to ensure that meet the requirements and expectations of a funder.  They may cause their organization to sacrifice something important by committing to requirements that take them away from their core programs and services.

Often it takes partnerships for organizations to operate or take on big projects.  This might mean a temporary partnership is necessary.   Not working out all the details of that partnership can cause many problems when it’s time for the partnership to operate.

I have worked with many organizations and agencies who were not prepared when they got the grant.   All of them suffered in some way from the lack of preparation.  No matter how big the pot of funding or how tempting it is to apply for it, it must be a fit or it can cause more harm than help.  I have seen evidence that an organization that knows it is prepared does a much better job at convincing someone to fund them.  They are confident in their abilities and that confidence comes across to funders and donors.

Remember that not being prepared leads to failure and failure can ruin your reputation.

%d bloggers like this: