Intown SW Atl Biz Bootcmp

Getting Ready for Session 9

I'm kind of afraid to check my email.  Not really. . . well, sort of.  It's the day before our final session for the Business Bootcamp.  We asked our participants to send in the their presentations so we could take a look.  It’s something that is a measure of success on a lot of levels.

Making an ask like this - homework - is the hardest thing we do in a program like this.  We have a class of adults.  There is a dynamic at play about accountability that can be difficult to navigate.  And it’s important to show visible respect in a way that people can feel it.  We ask for submissions knowing that we might not get them, but at the end of the day it’s a necessary element of development. 

Sitting down to assess your progress in a class is the hardest thing any student has to do.  This is especially true of high achievers and perfectionists.  These types of people gravitate to the deficiency in their work. . . and they are also disproportionately attracted to being the boss.  The presentation highlights all the things you haven’t done yet – even if you have been working like crazy.  It’s a moment to decide if the time spent was worth it for you and for some it’s hard to say that it wasn’t. 

I empathize with the students in so many ways, but right now I’m feeling the other side of it.  I want to take a minute and talk about why this is hard for the instructors.

  1. When you don't get a submission, you can be sure that the person is struggling.  They might not have confidence or be short on time or think that talking about their business is no big deal.  All of these things are evidence of the struggle to show up and be engaged.  The more we know, the more we can assist.
  2. The results are the feedback that we need as instructors.  Our aim is to give people real knowledge they can take away and turn into better planning and progress in their business.  If we can't see what you are doing with the information, we don't know if it works. 
  3. We've asked people to come see the presentations and we want to make sure the people we've asked are of benefit to the participants.  So the more we can see about where people are in their development and where they have questions, the better we can do with invitations for people who can help.

So I need to open my email and see who submitted their work.  Let’s hope for the best.

Getting Ready for Session 7

When we finally work out how to make money or get the cash flow that we need, the first thing we do is start hiring people to do the things that we should not do.  For me, this is cleaning and bookkeeping.  I shouldn’t clean because I do too much and spend too much time doing it.  It’s a way for me to avoid work.  Which brings me to the bookkeeping. . . I should not do this because I will do anything to avoid it.  Perhaps we will talk about this more on the NEX blog, ;).

So we start hiring people.  For me personally, this is where it gets very dicey.  The basic issue for me is that I do not trust my own instincts.  When I acknowledge this, I ask the people I trust the most to help me.  Here are just a few things I have learned – most of them the hard way.

Hire small first.  There are so many great ways to do this today.  Hire a part-time bookkeeper or outsource your social media.  I’m not one to recommend interns – see below – but I really love professional services people who have small business packages.  For instance, you can hire Tamay Shannon as your social media strategist for one price.  She can do the daily execution and engagement for a higher fee.  But if you really want the best deal - $47 per month – you can join a facebook group where you get templates, training, advice, feedback and have email access for questions.  Perfect!

Hire slowly; Fire quickly.  Take your time to interview.  Maybe establish a trail period to see if they are a good fit.  Have an established point of review at 90-180 days where you can end the employment without repercussions.  Make sure to keep a journal of what you see.  Address problems directly.  Document the conversations and interactions.  Then, if and when you see an issue, give it your full attention and make a decision about what to do.  If you choose to establish a remediation period to correct behavior, stick to the agreement and deadline.  Be ready to have a termination conversation – talk to your lawyer first.  And be decisive.

You cannot hire a partner.  Someone is either an employee or a partner. These are two totally different things.  An employee is someone you are responsible for providing direction and guidance and making sure their paycheck is cut without question.  A partner is someone who works to figure out how they (and you and everyone else) can actually get paid.

Maintain your standards.  I recently picked up a phrase from Yvonne – “It’s ok.  It’s just not good enough for me.”  I find it to be one of the most comforting things I have learned in the last 6-7 years while founding the business.  It’s got enough room to tell someone that what they did is good and would be acceptable to many people.  (This translates as, “I am not criticizing you.”)  But in this case, where it is for me. . . well, I have really high standards and it’s my business and that is that.

The most important thing you can do in terms of growing your business is to hire the right people.  In a small business, you want people who care as much about what is happening as you do.  It might not be realistic at first, but your employees should be committed and understand the important of them doing their job well.  This will be the hardest thing you do in business, but if you work at it and find your way it will pay off substantially.

Getting Ready for Session 6

When I think about where to find money for your business, there are a few things that come to mind immediately.  A lot of people are afraid of money; maybe I should say that a lot of people are in awe of money.  They are controlled by their feelings about it.  At the same time, there are so many lies about money.  That it will make you happy.  That people with money don’t have problems.  Lies, all lies.  The one truth that I know for sure about money came from my mom.  She said, “Money is a like a hammer.  It is a tool.  You can use it to build something, or you can bang a hole in the wall.” 

Never talk about money.  This isn’t what it seems on the face of it.  I do believe in the saying that if you want money, you should ask for advice.  I don’t think this because it’s a good way to get someone into the conversation, but because it’s a good way to learn more about how they really think.  And you NEED TO KNOW HOW PEOPLE THINK if you are going to take their money.

So, ask for their advice.  Listen carefully.  Take notes.  Go back and unpack what they say to you.  See if you are on the same page – values, integrity, community, or whatever might be important to you.  If you are, go back and ask for money.  When you ask for the money, really do it.  Be direct.  Be clear.  Make sure you use numbers and understand the value exchanged.  Know what it means to you to ask this person.  Make sure to do what you did before – listen carefully.

Ask, always ask.  This is a truism about money of any kind.  As a kid when I sold Girl Scout cookies, this was the key.  Pick up the phone.  Go to their office.  Send an email, if you must; but follow up with more direct contact.  Ask people.  Don’t be afraid.  Someone out there is waiting for just the opportunity that you are presenting.

Always stay in the conversation.  Often people are so nervous about talking to someone with money or about the fact that they are asking for money that they kind of black out when they ask.  They are listening for a yes or a no, but often what we really get are questions.  The person wants to know more.  The other time this benefits us is when it This is especially comes to debt you owe or owed to you.  People want to pay back what they owe, but when they can’t they will avoid the conversation – mostly out of fear and anxiety.  Instead, stay in the conversation.  Do what you can.  Be honest. 

The only thing that is a no, is NO.  After you have asked and they have asked their questions, after you have listened closely, there is more listening.  A lot of people are looking for rejection and so they are listening for a YES because that is clearly not what they are expecting.  But there are a lot of answers that are not a yes and are also not a no.  “Let me think about it.  I need to talk to my spouse.  This is something to consider.  I’m not quite ready.”  These are all things I have heard and in my inexperience, I interpreted them as a polite way of saying No.  They were not.  The only thing that is really a no, is when someone says, “No.”

On that note, I want to give you a little new age-y concept to take with you into the world as we prepare to talk about how to find the money you need to grow your business.  Most systems in the world are based on a Theory of Scarcity.  This means that there is only so much to go around.  This is a law of the physical world.  For some things that might hold true. . . when someone takes the last brownie, well, you know.  But in the creation of value, we’ve seen some amazing things in the history of the world.  The pie is always growing.  We can create value in a place and a way that did not exist yesterday.  It’s quite amazing.  This is a Theory of Abundance.  The world is awash in value AND money.  Each of us only has to connect with what is right and beneficial to each of us.


Getting Ready for Session 5

I’m not even sure where we met, but I have been a HUGE fan of Charles Green since the beginning of our relationship.  I think it was sometime in 2009 or 2010.  He’s a really funny guy, likes to have drinks in midtown (where we both live), knows a lot of good people and is just amiable in that southern way that some men are.  So, it’s such a fantastic thing that on top of all of that, he’s always looking for ways to spread information around in order to open doors.  If you know me at all, you know this is my #1 mission in life.  Knowledge is power.  And knowing how to open the door is 90% of getting to the other side.

If you want to learn more about Charles’ resume, check out his Linked In profile.  If you want to really get to know the guy and his genius, sit in his Small Business Finance Bootcamp (SBFB) classes.  He’s not doing them on the regular right now, but I’m working really hard to change that.  So stay tuned to the NEX Calendar and our newsletter for upcoming sessions.

The SBFB is the primary program of Charles’ project, the Small Business Finance Institute.  It sounds pretty fancy, but at it’s core it’s about demystifying the process of finding lending capital for your business.  He walks people through the rules of thumb used by lenders everywhere and shows you what they are looking at on all of those documents they ask you to submit.

In 2011, we hosted the first of these classes at HUB Atlanta.  Charles came with us when we moved to Grant Park and became NEX.  The classes came also.  I did what we always do and negotiated a deal where I, or someone on my team, could sit in on the class each time it was presented.  It was 2 days of non-stop and utterly amazing information.  I went home after the classes on both days and went on and on to my husband about how astoundingly simple the whole thing is.

The is the genius of SBFB and Charles – he takes something we all fear and worry about and makes it into something that makes SO MUCH SENSE.

I just love his guy.  He’s opening minds and doors everywhere he goes.

Getting Ready for Session 4

Yvonne is BACK!  I would never begrudge someone the opportunity to travel.  Especially if you are going out into the world to do something that you really believe is important, but oh my!  Last month was nerve-wracking for me.

First, a little bit about Yvonne's trip to Ghana.  She was traveling with Chop Art.  They are an arts organization that uses art instruction to help kids process their feelings about being homeless.  They work in shelters in Atlanta, New Orleans, India. . . and now Ghana!  The trip was to establish relationships with organizations on the ground who can help in implementing programs.  So, so important.  Cheers for Yvonne - and Chop Art - on a job well done and hopefully you will see something on her blog about the trip.

So this month feels like the band is back together and it's really great.  When we work closely with other people, it's easy to fall into a rhythm where you bounce the project back and forth until it's finished.  One person may do more outlining and the other more presentation design.  With the two of us, our conversation goes back and forth over the whole month between sessions.  In addition to that, we have been working in close proximity to each other on entrepreneurship development for a few years. . . all the while knowing we are on the same page.  So, in some moments we are like two sides of the same coin working to create something.  We respect each others expertise and have similar styles.  The knit-picky things - like text on slides - we are on the same page.  

So, when she was out of the country it was like trying to work with only one hand.  The little decisions take longer.  And that person who knows you know what your are doing isn't there to give support before you can even ask.

Just in case you wondered, this blog is really just a thank you note to Yvonne for being such a great partner-in-crime on so many projects.  It's great working together and I look forward to a lot more fun projects in the years to come.

Getting Ready for Session 3

I'm being really methodical about getting ready for this session.  It's a little different for me.  I've got my list and I'm just working my way through it a little bit each day.  It's a good way to do it.  Very sane.  Very measured.  And totally not how I usually work.

This is called tranquil inertia.  It happens to people when they are stressed.  This time it's presenting itself as movement, but often it can be a standstill.  I think the steady forward movement is a happy accident and I'll take it.  If you are a business owner and you read this description above, you are more than likely nodding your head and sighing. . . tranquil inertia, what a great description for it.  I have to remember that. 

The stress right now is coming from a few different directions, but the biggest is that my partner-in-crime is away in Ghana on a site visit for ChopArt.  It's an amazing trip, I'm sure and I wouldn't ask her to not go. . . but it's stressing me out.  Yvonne and I do a lot of things together - this class is just one of them - and we are used to talking about projects and prep work and decisions a few times a day.  This isn't bad though. . . because for me, this is REAL PROGRESS.

A few years ago, I wouldn't have been phased by this.  I also didn't have a solid support system around me with amazing partners like Yvonne.  I was incredibly lonely and it turned into some very severe burnout and depression.  It's not unusual for business owners to feel this way; that's why I'm sharing this.  What is unusual is to be able to pull out of it while keeping the doors open.

So, I'm teaching this one alone.  It's ok; we've done this class a few times.  We have even turned it into a webinar.  So the content is there and in that way, spending time working on the class is sort of like spending time with Yvonne.  Until she returns. . . 

Transparency & Vulnerability

The aim of a program like this is to create real leaps forward and help the participants rid themselves of blocks and barriers to growth and success.  These obstacles can be personal issues or a lack of a skill or resource within the business.  To get to the real issue though, everyone has to talk about what happens in the business across the board.  And to do THAT, the key is to develop both Transparency & Vulnerability.  

We will share more on both of these topics as we go, but I want to give you a quick explanation of what we (Yvonne & Michelle) mean when we say this.  Transparency is a willingness to share details which you might think of as private, like how much you pay yourself; look at the differences between what you say and what you do; and answer questions about all of it.  Vulnerability is the acceptance that we cannot control much of what happens and it still affects us.  It's important to acknowledge that both of these are hard in terms of business and not usually topics of conversation at business networking events.

Show Your Work

In 5th Grade, I had a wonderful math teacher.  She was a family friend and I loved her from the time I was a really small child.  We are a lot alike & I think we could tell it from the very beginning.  I was a little bit of a math prodigy.  So, I was a little surprised when she told me I had to stay after class one day to talk about my work.

Argh!  Gasp!  Who me?

Yes!  She wanted me to show my work.  I asked why.  Were the answers not correct?  She said they were, but she wanted to make sure I knew how to do the work.  I remember telling her that I didn't know how I knew. . . I just knew.

Business can be a lot like that.  You just know.  Especially when you are getting it right.  Here's to hoping that we all have a teacher like Miss Pat though.  Because when you force yourself to work through the problem, you can see the process - not just the answer.  When the problems get harder, you have the process to lean on and it will get you to the answer.  Or if your best friend (who is not a math prodigy) asks for some help, you will be able to at least show her what you did.

For every business owner, there comes a time when the work is more than you can do on your own.  You have to turn it over to someone else and you will need to show them how to do it.  You might encounter a problem where something that used to work isn't cutting it anymore.  When you go to ask for help, it's so much easier if you can show someone what you have been doing.  We all want to help our business community and when we get together, it's so clear that I know how to do some things and you know how to do others.  If we can show each other, we can teach each other.

So, we start early, showing our work.  

Session 1: Homework

Ok, so you are probably feeling like there was a lot to remember from our first session.  It was pretty intense with all the assessments and asking so many questions about how things are going.  We learned so much about each of you though.  Now, let's talk about the work you were assigned to do between Session 1 & 2.

Ice House Reading:  Make sure to read Chapter 1: CHOICE in Who Owns the Ice House? by Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoeniger.  Be prepared to talk about how this relates to your business and experience.

Finish all Assessment Exercises: Make sure to keep working through the assessments from Session 1.  The First Quarter Assessment should be finished before Session 2.  The Clean Sweep is something that might take longer and also provoke a lot more of a response from you about the overall state of your life.  Just keep working through it.

There were a few other exercise that need to be completed for Session 2:
1.  Time Management: Document 3 days of your work life and make notes about how you spend your time
2.  Mission Statement: Create a draft of your mission statement
3.  Priorities & Focus: Write down your goals for 2016 or the next 12 months.  You should have at least 3 and probably no more than 20.  Feel free to include as much detail as you like, but try your best to make them quantifiable; i.e., Increase monthly revenue to $12,000 per month.
4.  Brand Assessment: We did the first page in class.  Make sure to work your way through the rest of the hand out.

For each of these, just make sure that you are working on them regularly; maybe once a week, you should make a pass through the worksheets.  There will be parts of it that are really easy to answer and others that you need to consider the questions or even do some research.  Write out what you are thinking.  And if you have questions, make notes.  There will be time to review and ask questions in Session 2.

As you do all of the exercises, homework and reading, ask yourself a few things:

  • What comes up in your head?
  • Where do you feel particularly strong and where do you feel inadequate?
  • Where do you want to delegate the thinking and doing?  This can be because you aren't confident or you just don't like doing it.

Best of Luck!  And don't forget to call your partner from class.
See you on May 17th!


This week’s session was an overview of where the businesses are.  These activities are assembled to understand if the major obstacles for each business are financial, stress-related, lack of a network, need of a particular skill (marketing) or even just a general feeling that they are not in control of what is happening.  So this session, likely felt like a doctor’s visit, but this is really an invitation for the business owner's to open up and share about where they are.  

The class had to bring a few things with them.  You can see the pre-work in our Welcome email.

In the first session, we reviewed the pre-work, each participant got up to give a short presentation of their business, and we went over a series of assessments and checklists.  The biggest chunk of time was spent on the presentations.  With 9 participants and each person talking for a maximum of 3 minutes, plus 3 instructors doing the same*. . . well, it took a little while.  We asked that everyone cover the following:

  • Who am I?  What do I do?  How do I do it?
  • Here is my binder with information about my business and this is what I have in it?
  • Where do I want to focus in the coming months?  What is most challenging for me?  What needs attention right now in my business?
  • Finally, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do I feel like the boss?

In terms of the last item – about being a boss – there were some interesting answers.  Two people actually said they were not a boss because they had a partner and so that meant they were not THE boss.  Some things to work on there, right?  And another person came out of the gate with a score of 10.  I’m all for confidence, but I’m a born skeptic and this sent up some red flags for me.  We will have to keep you updated as both of these situations unfold.

The rest of the class was spent doing a series of personal & business assessments along with reviewing some checklists about brand, operations, and money**.  For the most part, the age of the company was commiserate with the operational and financial development.  In my experience there are some moments when your mental state doesn’t match the age though.  So, a 12-month old business team may feel they have their operations together more than someone at the 6-year mark.  This is a matter, most times, of just not knowing what you don’t know or more plainly stated, “Ignorance is bliss.”  It’s also a factor of outgrowing a manual or labor-intensive system and needing to upgrade your process.

And the syllabus for the 8 sessions shows what we will be doing from now until November.  It’s a lot of work and in some ways a lot of time.  We assigned partners in class so that people can check in and support each other through the process and also hold each other accountable for making consistent effort.

Lastly, We like to end each session with asking, “What are you leaving with tonight?”  For different people, this can be an A-HA moment, they might have learned that someone next to them has an expertise they need, or you might see a weakness or deficiency of your own that you just couldn’t see before.  It’s important to see all of these things as information.  They feel like high’s and low’s, but they are all just moments in the journey.



*It’s important for the team members to actively participate in these exercises too.  The playing field has to be level to build trust AND if you own a business, you should be doing this work regularly anyway.

**Here’s a quick list of the Assessments: 1st Quarter Assessment, Mission Statement Exercise, Brand Assessment, Clean Sweep Assessment, Business Operations Checklist & Money Checklist

Creating the Binder

So last Friday Yvonne & I got together at NEX and reviewed the homework for the SW Atlanta Intown Business Bootcamp.  There are a few things we are asking the participants to put together so they can show the group where they are in terms of organizations and stress levels.  We have people in the group that are just establishing their business all the way to a 10-year veteran of the entrepreneur hustle.  So, it's exciting, but it will take a little bit of time at the beginning for us to establish expectations and coordinate working with a wide range of development.

The primary task we assigned was for people to create a binder with their vital documents in it.  These can be a whole host of things, but there are a few key elements like your Yearly Plan, current cash flow, collateral (like business cards or postcards), and legal registrations (business license, Secretary of State filing, etc.).

This kind of thing can be overwhelming, so we made this quick video showing you what we each put together to give everybody an idea of what we were looking for.

Good luck, y'all!