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Networking over coffee

Grow a Powerful Business Network With This 5-Step Strategy

By | Business 'How-To' | No Comments

A comprehensive business plan considers numerous factors, including analyses of your products/services, markets, competitors, sales strategies, financials and much more. Its purpose can vary. For example, you might create a business plan to seek funding from a lender or from venture capitalists. Or, you might simply create a plan for yourself as a roadmap for your business. After all, if you want to arrive at a particular destination, it’s usually best to chart a course first and plan how you are going to get there.

A business growth plan, however, is going to be laser-focused on how to capture market share, i.e., get more of your ideal clients (or customers) in the door as quickly and consistently as possible, and serve them in the most efficient, profitable and satisfactory way. Its purpose is to help you grow your business, increase revenue, and, ultimately, increase profitability for the shareholders of the business.

The cornerstone of any small businesses’ business growth plan is its network. Essentially, the more people who are aware of the business and the services the business provides, the better the odds of capturing more market share (getting more clients). Whether the business is just you right now, or you and a few other people, it is still about meeting the right people at the right time to help you grow the business. Those people can be your best referrers, ideal clients, reliable vendors, collaboration partners, or mentors, coaches and advisors. In the end, it’s a numbers game.

That said, not everyone you meet will be helpful to you in your efforts to grow your business. The issue is: you can’t know who will and who won’t be a key person in your life and the life of your business until you meet them. If that’s the case, how then can you possibly create an effective “networking” strategy?

Quite simply, we start by getting clear on exactly whom we serve, how we serve them in a way that is unique, where exactly they (and people who refer people like them) hang out (online and offline), and what we want to say to them when we get in front of them to further the relationship (create intrigue). Lastly, we create a system for following up in a way that adds value and deepens the relationship.

So, let’s break each element down and go a bit deeper:

  1. Whom we serve. Make a list of the types of people you would like to meet. This could include reliable vendors, collaboration partners, mentors, best referrers, as well as (of course) ideal clients. Once you have your lists, create really detailed demographic and psychographic profiles of each. (Pro Tip: Imagine your phone rings today and it is the one person you would be so thrilled to hear from that it would make your whole month, or even year, that when you hung up the phone you would be doing your happy dance. That’s who we are talking about here. Now, describe that person: How old are they? Gender? Married? Children? Profession? Education level? Title? Position? Community involvement? Hobbies? Board service? How do they make their buying decisions? Who influences them? Think of all the information we need to know to know where they hang out. We want to be able to know what they are thinking before they know it.)
  2. How we serve them in a unique way. This is where we get crystal clear on how we serve our ideal clients. The clearer we are on how, exactly we serve our clients, the better able we will be able to communicate it to others once we are in front of them. The key, here, is to consider what sets us apart from competitors who provide a similar service. What is our unique sales proposition (USP)? How do we provide our service in a unique way? How do we solve their “wake up at 3:00 a.m. problem?” Be ready to answer this question with total ease. But only when asked.
  3. Where they hang out. Now that we know who our ideal clients (and others we want to meet) are, and we are crystal clear on how to communicate our USP, we are ready to find out and go where they hang out. This is networking. Networking can occur online or offline. It can occur at traditional business networking events like Chamber meetings, Bar association luncheons, and tradeshows and conferences. But business networking also can occur on soccer field sidelines at your children’s soccer games, or girls’ nights out, neighborhood gatherings, or in local coffeehouses. It also can occur in Facebook groups, through private Messenger chats, and on Zoom video calls, just to name a few virtual options. So many people get it in their heads that “networking” means putting on a suit and going to a formal “networking” event. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in today’s hectic world, more and more people are appreciating virtual networking options. For example, LinkedIn allows us to very specifically target our ideal clients or best referrers and initiate a relationship with them. (Pro Tip: The biggest mistake people make in attempting to networking on LinkedIn is moving too fast. They want to jump straight from “Hello” to marriage with complete strangers. If you wouldn’t act that way with someone in person, don’t act that way with them in the virtual world. It’s that simple, really.) Make a list of all the places the people you’d like to meet are likely to hang out—whether that’s online or offline. This could include:
    1. Professional organizations they belong to (Maybe you could join, too. Perhaps you could be a presenter.)
    1. Books they read (maybe you could write one)
    1. Magazines they read (ad opportunities and article opportunities for you)
    1. Videos they watch (If they are likely to watch a lot of video content, you need to be on Facebook Live and creating your own YouTube channel)
    1. Social media in which they are likely to engage (Instagram? Facebook? LinkedIn? Different demographics will show up in difference places and at different times. You’ll want to be where they are when they are with content they are most likely to engage.)
    1. Tradeshows, conferences, events (You’ll want to be there, too. Possibly as a vendor or sponsor. Maybe as a speaker.)
    1. Places of employment (Could you be a guest speaker or presenter?)
    1. Community organizations (Could you be a speaker or presenter? Could you join?
    1. Social clubs
    1. Church or religious organizations
    1. Children’s school activities, organizations
  4. What to say to create intrigue. Networking is about building relationships, not making sales. It’s a bit like dating. The purpose is to create intrigue, to get people interested in getting to know more about you and your business. It’s not about being obnoxious and hitting them over the head with your service offerings until they want to run screaming in the other direction when they see you coming. One of the best ways to create intrigue is the focus on the other person by asking them questions about themselves and their business. Ask. Ask. Ask. And then listen. Listen. Listen. In the beginning, it’s best to shower them with attention and leave them realizing that they know very little about you. Why? Because now they’ll be curious to know more.
  5. Create a follow-up system that adds value, deepens relationship. The magic is in the follow-up. Alas, follow-up often fails unless there is a system in place to ensure that it gets done, especially when you are on a mission to meet as many people as possible to increase your odds of meeting the right people. Good tools, like a CRM (client relationship management system), thank you notes, virtual coffees, virtual calendaring systems and the like, can help. However, the first step in creating any system is to sit down and map out exactly what you want your follow-up process to accomplish, and the steps to get you there. Do the same thing, the same way, each and every time, with each person, and your system will serve you well, and likely yield the best (and measurable) results.

    Following up is about deepening the relationship with certain people. There are some people you meet you might never care to see again (again, it’s just like dating in that way). However, there are some people you meet that you’ll want to get to know better because you think you might be able to have a good business relationship of some kind—either as vendor partners or collaborators, as servicer/client, or as referral partners, or as mentor/mentee. After the initial meeting, you’ll want to reach out to these people shortly after and suggest a follow-up conversation. How you go about this depends on 1) how you met them, 2) their status in relation to yours, 3) geographic location, 4) time constraints, 5) each of your goals and objectives, and 6) other considerations.

Not everyone you meet will want to engage in a business relationship with you, and you likely will feel the same way. In fact, over time, only a small percentage of people will have a major impact on your business. If we apply the Pareto principle, only 20 percent of the people we meet will be directly responsible for 80 percent of our firm’s growth. However, you increase your odds of success when you take a strategic approach to growing your business network.

Member Spotlight: Omaira Dauta, Esq., Churchill Wells

By | Member Spotlight | No Comments

They often come to her with a legal notice, threatening in its tone and foreboding in its language. 

Foreclosure. Eviction. Repossession.  

The stress of their situation emanates in every word they share, every explanation about their plight, every challenge they’ve endured. The lawyer assesses their status, looks them in the eye and begins to craft a plan full of confidence and reassurances. In that first consultation, she delivers not only sharp legal advice, but loads of calm.

Ultimately, the clients spell relief with six letters: O-M-A-I-R-A.  

“The lawsuit is what brings them to me, but we look at the big picture,” Dauta said. “’Okay, you have one lawsuit, but what’s the rest of your life looking like? What else do you have going on? And we see if we can address it.” 

Omaira Dauta, a consumer debt and bankruptcy attorney for Churchill Wells, who works out of the Rising Tide Innovation Center in downtown St. Petersburg, relishes the opportunity to steel the nerves of her clients. While some attorneys view dealing with clients as the most problematic part of their job, Dauta welcomes the opportunity to help.   

Through her efforts, clients not only receive relief from their legal issues but often improve their credit score in the process.  

“It makes me feel good that I have people call me who are so stressed out, and by me just doing my job, I can fix that for them. I can make an impact,” Dauta said. “I had a client last week, he had two lawsuits, each more than $50,000. I got both of those dismissed.” 

For Dauta, the work helps fulfill her mission of wanting to help others – a mission that started when she first took an interest in the law as a 10-year-old. We recently spoke to the attorney about how that dream first emerged, how she rose above some self doubt to become a lawyer, and why she loves the energy of the Rising Tide Innovation Center. 

How did you first get interested in being an attorney? 

So, I wanted to be a lawyer since I was like 10. I remember watching the O.J. Simpson trial and just the presence that the attorneys had, their commanding demeanor, the confidence and obviously the influence. I mean, they’re the ones that make or break the case. Of course, there’s evidence, but how it’s presented is a big deal. So ever since then, I wanted to be an attorney. I was in the law magnet program in high school (at Palm Beach Lakes). I got my first job with the law firm at 15, and I’ve worked exclusively with law firms since then. I worked for the biggest personal injury firm in the country while I was in law school. I was in law school in the evenings. I graduated and the rest is history. 

Who was it from the O.J. trial that inspired you? Was it Johnnie Cochran? Was it Marcia Clark? Was it Christopher Darden?  

So, obviously, a little bit of Marcia Clark as the female. Just seeing her presence, her confidence — that was inspiring. But obviously, it was more so Johnnie Cochran and his Dream Team. It’s not what I do now. I’m not typically in court fighting people like that, but I could.  

What did your family think of you pursuing a law degree? 

I am first generation everything in my family: first generation with an undergraduate degree (Florida Atlantic University); first generation with a post graduate degree; first generation attorney. My mom always supported the dream. So, whatever I wanted to do, as long as I did something. 

Did being the first generation create any doubts? 

For sure. Undergrad was just something that I was supposed to do. My mom worked very hard, it was, “I work hard so you don’t have to.” I’m a first generation American. She was a nurse in the Dominican Republic. She came to New York, worked in factories, just to support my brother and I. Obviously as the next generation, we had to be better. 

So, I went to college, and then I had this dream of being a lawyer. But all you hear is how hard it is, how many people fail. I had a fear of that. So, I graduated undergrad in 2005 and I’m working at law firms, all the attorneys that I worked for were like, “You don’t want to be a lawyer, you don’t want that kind of trouble.” 

What turned it around for you? 

The last attorney that I worked for (Ana DeVilliers) was like, “You can do it.” She was the first person I asked to write a letter of recommendation. She was my main support, the wind beneath my wings. I was her office manager and paralegal and she said, “You can do it.” That was the first time I’d heard that. Obviously, not the first time from my family, but I said, “Well, what do they know?” Ana had been through it. And she said, I did it. You can do it, too. So, I tried. It took that because I went to law school five years after earning my undergraduate degree. I didn’t start law school until 2010. 

Your mentor helped you overcome doubts. Was there anyone else? 

My husband, Jason (Dauta). He only had a high school diploma, but one day he decided he wanted to do more with his life, and he wasn’t like, “I only have a high school diploma,” you know? He went to firefighter school and now he’s a firefighter. Since then, he’s earned his associate degree. He’s still going to school. He wants more. All that was motivating to me. And then Ana. I mean, she’s very highly educated. She went to private school in Miami, went to University of Miami, went to University of Florida law school. She was successful in her career. I would consider us different ends of the spectrum. Both women, both Hispanic, but I thought of her as a success story, and she saw that I could do that. I didn’t see that in myself. I thought what I had accomplished, as far as from where I came from, was enough and maybe the next generation would do better. But she saw something in me. I thought, she’s smart and she knows some things, so let’s go with her bet. If she’s betting on me, I’ll bet on me too. And here we are. 

That’s nice. 

It’s amazing what words can do. Like you never know who’s listening. So, I think it’s important if you see something in someone, let them know because you don’t know what words will inspire that person to do better. I hope that in a conversation, when I tell someone something, it inspires them to do more than what they’re currently doing with their lives. That’s powerful. It makes you feel like you have purpose. 

How are you able to lend comfort to your clients and help alleviate their stress? 

A lot of times they’ll call me and it’s their first time ever being sued and they’re like, “Oh, what do I do?” And I say, “You’re fine. We deal with this creditor all the time.” I think there are a lot of attorneys who do a lot of things. This is all I do. So, I deal with essentially the same companies all the time, the same attorneys all the time. I know what we’re looking at and where it’s an unknown to them, it’s routine for me. So, just in that initial consult, they’re already feeling better. 

Tell me about Churchill and Wells. 

I work for a small firm. There are three attorneys. One’s in Jacksonville and one’s in Tallahassee. That’s the Churchill and the Wells. And I am the St. Petersburg office. So, the setup that we have is kind of like if I was a solo practitioner in the sense that there’s nobody here but me. But with the protection of they handle the advertising, they pay the bills. They bring in the business, but it’s my job to keep it, sell it, sell the product and find solutions for the clients. 

You had worked for a large firm. Why did you opt to work for a smaller firm? 

There’s something to be said about the small firms in the sense that everything is more personal. You know, there’s not 500 employees. There’s not this immense amount of advertising and money backing everything. It is very important to the small firm to keep the client happy, to have a competitive price, because you need every client and you want them to feel valued and you want them to feel that they’ve spent their money wisely. Also, as an employee at the big firm, you’re just one of many and you’re replaceable. I mean, they usually have a stack of other attorneys’ resumes.  

What do you envision doing longterm? 

I like what I do. I think if anything, I might want to do more. By more, I mean more areas of the law being covered that interconnect in some way. At the end of the day, what drives me is helping people. I like dealing with the clients. Some attorneys are more behind the scenes. The worst part of their day is the consult, but I like interacting with people. The consultations are some of my favorite parts where you get to know the people that are in front of you and, and what their issues are and how you can help. So, it would be this, but probably a little bit more.  

Do you like being at Rising Tide? 

The location is great. I can walk to the courthouse. There’s just the energy of being downtown. The people that are around here, the whole “Keep St. Pete Weird (laughs).” I’m not young anymore, but I’m young inside and the energy feeds you. It’s an energy that you don’t find outside of downtown. In here, it’s nice to look at, it’s aesthetically pleasing. The people are nice. Because of the way this place is set up, you’re just surrounded by different people from different fields and professions that you’ve never heard of. That’s inspiring in and of itself. 

Has it helped having the lawyers around who run Rising Tide? 

Being a lawyer is different. You don’t get to turn it off. There’s a lot of responsibility. Last week, I woke up at three o’clock in the morning because I thought I forgot a deadline. And by the time I realized I did not forget the deadline, I was already so amped that I didn’t go to sleep until 6, and my alarm goes off at 7. When you have days like that, you’re like, “I’m done. I’m going to go do something else, like buy a camera and become a photographer or something.” And you say those things out loud. I said that, and they (Fletcher & Fischer) were like, “I’m not going to let you do that. You work too hard. This’ll pass. You’re fine.” They’ve done that for me. That was really nice. Again, you never know how your words can affect someone. And I consider them very successful women. 


This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity. 

cowork to build your network

How to Use Coworking to Build Your Business Network

By | Cowork Culture | No Comments

There are numerous benefits to coworking, as we’ve covered in previous blogs. The one most people tend to think of first and foremost is the benefit of a distraction-free environment where you can be laser-focused on your work without worrying about Amazon ringing the doorbell (hello, Internet shopping), the dog barking, or piles of unwashed laundry clamoring for your attention.

There’s also the benefit of a professional environment, use of office equipment and resources, and, well, just being around other professionals (adults! for those “mompreneurs”).

But did you know your coworkers can also be one of your best resources for helping you build your business?

Maybe you’ve thought this, but you aren’t sure how to go about cultivating those relationships without coming off as a pest. No worries. We’ve got you. Here are some insider cowork community secrets to get to know your coworkers in a way that will not only help you grow your business, but will likely help them, and enrich everyone’s lives.

  1. Start with an open mind and an open heart. That sounds a bit woo-woo, I know, but hear me out. If you to into this process thinking “I need to meet X, Y and Z or I’ve failed!!” you’ll likely fail. Instead, embrace curiosity. “I wonder who I’ll meet today at Rising Tide?” “I wonder what interesting new members will join us this month and what they will bring to our community?” You never know who knows whom. One person you meet may not be the one who is an ideal client or your best referrer, but they could be the one who introduces you to the person who opens up huge opportunities for you. The key is to be open minded and willing to engage in conversation with new people.
  2. Always ask: How can I help? When you see others in the cowork space—at events, working day-to-day, in the breakroom—be the first to strike up a conversation. Pretend you own the place and you are the host (this works in almost any social occasion where you feel uncomfortable). Questions are your friend! Ask they how their day is going. If it’s appropriate, ask how you can help. Think about people you might introduce them to. Perhaps there’s someone you know who could use their services, or maybe there’s a vendor you can put them in touch with if they have a particular issue for which they are seeking help. If may be that they never return the favor, but it doesn’t matter, because that’s now how communities and collaboration work. If everyone on the community thinks and operates in that manner, others will be doing the same for you. As the founder of Business Network International, Ivan Misner says: “Givers gain!”
  3. Be consistent. You are more likely to grow your network effectively if you show up and engage with your cowork community consistently. Plan to be and work in the space at least several times a week. Engage with others while you are there. Do not just come in and sit in your favorite corner, and then leave without making a point to have a conversation with at least one or two other people.
  4. Participate in community events. Community events are for the benefit of the members. We create them just for you, so be sure to let us know what you like! Show up and participate as often as you can. Engage with the other members and with the staff. If you don’t know someone and would like to get to know them, but you are shy, ask us and we’ll introduce you.
  5. Remember: Building your network isn’t always just about meeting prospects. Yes, you’d love to meet ideal prospective clients, but how great would it be to meet your future best referral source? Or how about a trusted vendor partner on whom you can always rely? Or one who saves you thousands of dollars? Or a collaboration partner with whom you can team up on bigger projects?
  6. Ask us how you can participate in leading events. At certain membership levels, you are invited to lead and host events to showcase your expertise and share with use how you and your business serve others. Imagine: instead of introducing yourself one-to-one, now you are introducing yourself one-to-many. How does it get any better than that?
  7. Go deeper. Once you have had an opportunity to get to know people on a surface level (around the cereal bowl as we say around here), it’s time to dive in. Select a few people you really want to get to know on a deeper level, folks you think perhaps would make good collaboration partners, and invite them to join you for lunch. Ask them about their business and how they best serve their client. Ask them who their ideal client is. Tell them about your business. Tell them how you like to serve your ideal clients. Tell them why you think they two of you might be a complimentary team and how you could easily refer business to one another, or team up to pitch to prospective clients. Perhaps propose some upcoming projects. Listen carefully to their thoughts and ideas.
  8. Use the Rising Tide Community Forum (the Nexudus Intranet) to post, share and connect with other members. Reach out and ask for what you need! Looking to outsource or team up? Look within the Rising Tide community first. You might be surprised that what you’ve been looking for has been two desks down all along!

“Networking” can feel like an intimidating word, especially to those introverts among us. It doesn’t have to be, though, especially if you remember the person sitting next to you is probably just as intimidated by the prospect of starting up a conversation with you. Remember these eight tips and know that the goal of EVERYONE here at Rising Tide is to help you and your business succeed. It’s a safe place for you to experiment, try new things, meet new people, and ask for exactly what you need.

Get a write-up in the paper

Why Earned Media Still Matters and 5 Steps to Create a Winning Pitch

By | Business 'How-To' | No Comments

Some may lead you to believe that a prolific social media campaign can compensate for a lack of attention from traditional outlets. 

And it’s true that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have changed the landscape of how startups and small businesses can extend their reach. Now companies routinely focus on how to build branding through marketing campaigns that weave together such social outlets. 

It’s a mistake, however, to eschew newspapers and television for the newer forms of communications. The smartest companies may craft social media approaches that generate business, but earned media lends an intangible that no Facebook post can deliver: authenticity. 

When your business earns media coverage, it earns credibility. A measurable value comes when you can promote your company with one of these phrases: 

  • As seen on … 
  • As reported by …  
  • As heard on … 

Complete any of these sentences with the name of a prominent newspaper or TV station, and you have an endorsement that money can’t buy. It’s not just a message that reaches the general public, it’s a calling card you can put in portfolios, post on Facebook and Twitter, and link to from your website. An article or news report can catch the attention of potential investors. It sends a signal you’ll explore every avenue in promoting your business and enhancing that investor’s return. It can capsulize your business mission, sometimes better than you can. 

And it’s objective.  

But there’s a reason it’s called earned media. You do indeed have to win over a reporter, editor or producer to give your company a place in the media spotlight. Given the potential windfall that a positive report can yield, you’re wise to make the effort by making the pitch. 

The tried and trusted media release remains viable in the world of journalism, but they must be sprinkled with the proper amount of pixie dust to really fly. Here are five steps you can take to help garner coverage and make the magic work for you.

Step 1: Understand the Mission 

Journalists are busy. Their newsroom staffs have shrunk, while the demands on their time have grown because of the need to expand their efforts to the digital world. So, to efficiently make the connection, you must meet them where they are and speak to their needs. 

That doesn’t require enrolling in a collegiate course on journalism. But it may require letting go of some half-truths like newspapers are going out of business and TV newscasts are comprised only of sensational stories and crime reports. Each outlet continues to have a place for stories on startups and successful businesses. 

It is true that technology has changed the landscape. The business model for newspapers, once stable, now sputters because the money generated by print revenue must be invested in a digital presence that doesn’t offer a high return. The profit margins for local TV stations have narrowed in the new 500-channel universe, especially with people cutting cable cords and turning to downstream services. 

However, the content generated by these media outlets remains valuable. It actually serves as a large part of the foundation for Google and Facebook. They realize massive profits from their digital advertising in part because newspapers and television produce the content that participants post and ultimately drive traffic on social media. Of course, pictures of what someone had for dinner and photos of pets also drive traffic, but informative stories are critical. 

In fact, the information provided by journalists always has held an integral place in our society. We’ve valued storytelling, history, messaging and accuracy since the dawn of time. What’s changed, because of digital advances and social media, is how the story is told, how the history is recorded, how the messages are delivered. If you understand that, you can ignite a conversation with a journalist, but that’s just the first step. 

Step 2: Be A Media Consumer 

If you want to be featured on a television newscast, watch the newscasts to gain an understanding of how that station defines news. If you want to be profiled in a newspaper, read the paper to learn how it categorizes business news. 

Too often, companies and trained public relations professionals make a pitch to an editor or producer that reveals they have no familiarity with the outlet. This is unwise, to say the least. But it happens more than you might think. Some PR practitioners readily admit, “I never read the paper,” or “I never watch a newscast.” Really?  

Journalists have egos. They want to be love. You can’t win them over with an introduction that starts with, “What exactly do you write about?”  

Even if you aren’t a regular media consumer, given the access you have to media outlets through web sites, apps and social media, there’s no excuse not to familiarize yourself with the TV station or newspaper and accordingly frame your pitch. 

The research will not only help you gain a foothold, but it’ll help you target the correct reporter or editor. With newsrooms experiencing tremendous turnover, it won’t help to rely on distribution lists. Blind darts may be a fun pastime inside an Irish pub after a few pints of Harp, but it’s no way to go about earning media attention. 

Step 3: Envision your coverage 

Understanding the mission and familiarizing yourself with the outlet also will help you envision your coverage. The question is not do you want to be featured in the paper or on the newscast, it’s how do you want to be featured? Do you want to be profiled as an up and coming business leader, or do you want the innovation your company offers to be highlighted?  

Do you hope to have the media attend a grand opening or ribbon cutting, or do you want them to advance the event so people will attend? The more you know about the daily operations of a media outlet, the better you can plan the kind of coverage you want, the happier you will be with the result. 

Step 4: Make the pitch  

Once you’ve learned more about journalism’s modern-day mission, increased your media consumption and envisioned your coverage, you’re ready to make the pitch. Most media outlets prefer pitches to be made through emails. It’s difficult to catch a producer, reporter or editor on the telephone. 

However, here’s a note about emails: More than 100-billion business emails are sent every day. On average, an editor or reporter will receive between 75 and 100 emails during business hours. So, when you email your pitch keep this in mind: The primary objective of a news release is to influence coverage, but your first goal is to make sure it gets read. Consider these three steps: 

  • Send a direct email. Again, email blasts prove impersonal, and making the pitch personal will heighten the chances of it being read. 
  • Utilize the subject field. If you put the person’s name in the field, it distinguishes the mail from other emails. If it’s about an upcoming event, put the event name and date in the subject field. Almost anything is better than “MEDIA RELEASE.” 
  • Follow up with a second email. If you haven’t received a response, you can forward the same email or take the time to send a second email with “RESENDING” in the subject field. Be considerate and respectful, try not to pester, but understand that emails can get lost. 

As for the content, be succinct but include the needed information. A headline or phrase that reflects your business can help: “Widgetry: The Uber of Widgets.” Start with the trusted 5 Ws and H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Don’t worry if you struggle with the Why and How. After that, highlight surveys or trends that reflect positively on your pitch. Are there internet metrics that reflect a rise in popularity? Also, is there statistical data that backs your product’s or company’s potential success? 

You also want to make sure you include contact information and be prepared to be contacted. Your web site and/or Facebook page needs to be up to date. If you promise to do an interview, be prepared to deliver on that promise with flexible times and accommodating locations. Sometimes, the difference between gaining coverage and not gaining coverage can be as simple as availing yourself when it’s convenient for the journalist. You might be surprised to learn those willing to rise for early morning newscasts often find themselves gaining valuable airtime. 

Step 5: Make the Personal Connection 

 The success of a media pitch and earning prized coverage can hinge on personal connections. The value of networking is as high with journalists as it is in other situations, maybe even higher. If a pitch arrives from an acquaintance or someone the producer or editor met in a professional situation, it invariably will carry more weight than if it’s coming from a stranger. 

It all goes back to the Chinese proverb: “Dig a well before you’re thirsty.” 

  • Meet before the pitch. Invite the reporter to coffee or a tour of your cowork space. Share some casual information. It’ll be challenging to establish a face to face connection, but it doesn’t hurt to try. 
  • Send emails – again, before your pitch — that reflect consumption. Compliment or comment on an article. Even a valid criticism might help you establish a connection. Some journalists don’t care what you call them, as long as you call them. 
  • Use social networks. Every journalist has a Twitter or Facebook account. You often can establish a connection via social media. 

In the end, these results may or may not yield success. Sometimes, media pitches fail to connect through no fault of the person making the request, and through no fault of the journalist. With shrinking newsrooms, the demands on journalists are greater than ever. But if you succeed, you’ve gained a valuable tool to help launch your business. Earned media often leads to more earned media which ultimately can be a key factor in your success or failure. 

Make the pitch, and you might just end up making magic for your startup or business.  

Valerie Lavin

Member Spotlight: Valerie Lavin, ActionZone

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 As a child growing up in rural Missouri, Valerie Lavin’s father instilled in her a sense of community. 

“Get a job, pay your taxes, be a good neighbor,” he would tell her. 

The desire to be part of something bigger than herself became engrained in her DNA. Joining the U.S. Army only enhanced the drive to serve, not only her nation, but her fellow soldiers. 

Now after 21 years in the military, the retired first sergeant carries on her sense of community with ActionZone, a nonprofit funded through a grant from Veterans Florida that aims to help veterans make the transition from the military to entrepreneurship. As co-owner of a healthcare staffing firm with her husband, Lavin knows all too well the challenges veterans face. 

“ActionZone is a veteran entrepreneurship organization created by veteran entrepreneurs for veteran entrepreneurs,” Lavin said. “The advantage of that is we’ve all been through transition. So, we understand the transition from the military to the civilian sector, and we’ve all transformed from the military mindset to the entrepreneurial mindset.” 

Lavin maintains a collaborative relationship with the Rising Tide Innovation Center, holding meetings for her latest cohort at the center and partnering with Rising Tide to stage Military Mondays when veterans and their family members can use the cowork space for free. 

“Our collaborative relationship with the Rising Tide Innovation Center works really well because we’re able to hold our classes and workshops in an environment that will draw people from all walks of life and all different businesses.  

“Some aren’t even entrepreneurs, they’re just interested in the topic and will come and be a part of it. What that does is help our veterans integrate and assimilate into their civilian community as well as network.” 

We recently spoke to Lavin as she prepared to wrap up ActionZone’s first cohort and start another. She spoke about the challenge veterans face, the five-step plan ActionZone uses and why her own drive spurs her to help. 

Why is it so difficult for veterans to make the transition to being entrepreneurs? 

When you are serving everything is about what’s behind the front gate. That’s your world. That’s your life. That’s your community. When you step out of the gate for the first time, you don’t have that community anymore. The landscape changes, and it’s a huge change. Some of them go in when they’re 17 or 18 years old. When they retire at 37, 38 or 39, for the first time in their life, they’re really on their own. 

You have five phases of your program: 1) Entrepreneurial Mindset; 2) Validation Camp; 3) Business Model Development; 4) Storytelling; 5) CEO Mindset. Let’s talk about them. 

The first phase, Entrepreneurial Mindset, helps them discover whether they’re entrepreneurial or not. The entrepreneurial mindset isn’t about becoming an entrepreneur or small-business owner, it’s trying to determine self-discovery and what kind of mindset you have. 

Essentially, there are three types of people in the workforce: There’s the employee who comes across a problem at the workplace and says, “That’s somebody else’s problem because I can still clock in at 9 and clock out at 5. It doesn’t hinder me from doing my job. I’m getting paid to do this.” 

The “intrepreneur” comes across a problem in the workplace and says, “Oh I think I have a solution for that problem. It’s not only going to better my productivity and efficiency, it’s going to better the entire workplace.” 

Then there’s the entrepreneur who comes across a problem in the workplace and says, “I have a solution and I think I can make money off the solution.” There’s no wrong answer to any of this because some people should just be employees. But we help the military family member discover their mindset and introduce them to the fact that what they learned in the military does translate into entrepreneurship. 

And the second phase is, “Effectuation Validation?” 

We literally take them on a camping excursion, a chartered camping event, and we take away their technology and essentially help them go through the process an entrepreneur goes through when they’re trying to validate a concept. We break them up into small teams, they come up with a fictitious business and they try to validate that through discussions with their teammates. They go out and do customer discoveries, so they’re going to different campers in the campsite and asking questions. 

We do that because it helps with camaraderie. In Veterans Florida surveys (of past cohort participants), one of the comments that came up often is that they didn’t get a chance to network or get to know the other people in their cohort. 

What about the third phase, business modeling and development? 

That’s a program called Co.Starter and it walks them through basically shaking out their business concept and idea. 

Tell me about the fourth phase: Storytelling. 

At Action Zone, we strategically place the storytelling, delivered by the Homefront Foundation, just before the marketing block. One of the Homefront Foundation’s theories is that veterans have a hard time with transition because of a communication gap between the veterans and their civilian counterparts. So, the foundation teaches them to connect with their experience and they help them articulate and tell that story so the civilian can receive it. 

Do veterans feel like civilians don’t understand what they’ve gone through? 

In many cases, yes. But I would say in an equal number of cases, the veterans just don’t know how to communicate their story outside of military acronyms or talking to a fellow service member. 

And finally, the CEO mindset? 

After the business modeling development and after they learn how to connect their story to their business pitch, if it’s appropriate, we take them through the CEO mindset. So, we can actually teach them how to run a business. A lot of times, small business owners, once they launch, they’re essentially solopreneurs. It’s just them against the world, right? But they really need to learn how to be the CEO of themselves, the CEO of their company. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to go hire 50 employees or 100 employees. If you decide to outsource all your needs, you have to be able to run your business like a business. That’s the final key to that transformation from the military mindset to the true entrepreneurial mindset. 

So, how was your transition from the military mindset to the entrepreneurial mindset? 

My transition was masked by helping others. … When I was transitioning, my goal was to use my G.I. Bill, go to school and be a physical therapy assistant. That was the plan. I recognized very early there were challenges for my peers that I was transitioning with, retiring with, whether they were transitioning after six years or 26 years. It was my job as a first sergeant to oversee the feeding and training and caring for troops, so I decided to continue to do that by helping them figure out resume writing, job searches and guiding them through that transition process. 

Tell me about your business 

We provide staffing services for advanced healthcare providers, allied health, and everything in between: doctors, nurses and other professionals for government and commercial hospitals and clinics. What I really love about this company is at first, when the opportunity was presented to us, even though I had dabbled in staffing before with helping veterans and my husband has 16 years of experience in staffing, healthcare staffing was very foreign to me. I’m not familiar with a lot of medical terms, I’m not familiar with medical education, but my husband’s very first job out of college was medical staffing. Not only as husband and wife, but as business partners, we excel because we’re very aware of our strengths and weaknesses. I trust him. When he said the numbers are right and we can do this, we dove in, head first. 

What sets your business apart from other staffing firms? 

What sets us apart from other staffing firms, I believe, is we not only see the hospital or clinic, whether its government or commercial, as a client, but we also see the providers as clients because we are working for them just as much as we are for the healthcare systems. The reason for that is, especially, when it comes to the government, whether it’s VA or Army Medical Commander … I’m putting a provider in a place where they are taking care of my comrades. That’s important to me, right? I don’t want to send a provider into that environment where they’re upset with me because I didn’t take care of them. 

There’s nothing worse than going to see a doctor that’s angry, right? So, it’s my job to make them happy and to be happy going in to take care of my battle buddies, if you will. Especially with the younger ones who are just graduating, the new providers, I’m the first person helping them get their first job, and I want to make sure the job or position with the clinic is a good fit. If the culture doesn’t work for them, or the position doesn’t work for them, that might set them up for a terrible career down the line. We take care of our providers as much as we do the client. 

How much do you enjoy partnering with Rising Tide? 

I love Rising Tide. I think the culture that they’re developing here is amazing. For all the benefits you receive here, I don’t think you can beat it. 

Valerie Lavin – ActionZone 


The Secret to Success for this Cowork Community: Diversity + Collaboration

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A sense of community and purpose permeates the Rising Tide Innovation Center. Kari Ahlschwede stared intently at her computer as she prepared for a conference call. As a customer support lead for You Need A Budget, work can grow hectic. Whenever she needs to step away for a moment of relaxation, Ahlschwede never has to stray. The “Room of Requirement” sits just feet from her standing desk inside the Rising Tide Innovation Center, an award-winning cowork space in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg. 

“My company encourages to have ‘clarity breaks,’” said Ahlschwede, one of the first members to join the space. “That room is perfect.” 

The Room of Requirement, named after the fictional secret chamber from the Harry Potter series, features bean bags, a relaxing chair and the kind tasteful décor you find throughout the Rising Tide Innovation Center. 

It’s just one of the features that helps the center not only draw clients but create an inviting atmosphere that fosters community and purpose. Rising Tide is distinguishing itself with collaborative efforts, networking events and a contagious spirit of community. 

Less than a year after law partners Leigh Fletcher, Tina Fischer and Anne Pollock merged their search for new offices with a desire to create a unique cowork space, Rising Tide thrives with more than 50 members. The law firm calls the center in the old McCrory building on St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue home. So too does media marketing specialists iSocrates, Equality Florida and the pretrial justice solution research company Luminosity. 

Luminosity’s Marie VanNostrand said the center is, “good fit” for the work they do. “It gives us access to space that we wouldn’t have on our own as a small business,” VanNostrand said. “It’s a group of people who I think share a sense of civic duty and social responsibility. That seems to be a theme with many of the people who have offices here.” 

Valerie Lavin underscores the theme. She heads community development for Action Zone Tampa, a nonprofit that helps military veterans make the transition to entrepreneurship. Rising Tide partners with the organization with Military Mondays, which provides free coworking for military members and their family members. There are also one-off Mission in Motion workshops on Mondays, and it stages Fireside Fridays, an intimate gathering for veterans where they can pick up pearls of wisdom from successful entrepreneurs. 

“Our collaborative relationship with Rising Tide Innovation Center works really well,” Lavin said. “We’re able to hold our classes and workshops in an environment where it’s a community center. There are people from all walks of life and walks of business. That helps our veterans integrate and assimilate into the civilian community as well as network.” 

For Fischer, herself a former veteran, creating time and space for military veterans was a goal. For Fletcher, who also owns multiple water treatment facilities in the Caribbean, connecting with St. Petersburg’s burgeoning marine science industry was a desire. She’s done that by opening the center to 500 Women Scientists, a group that meets monthly at the center. 

“You don’t have to be a woman,” said Merrie Beth Neely, the St. Petersburg pod coordinator for 500 Women Scientists. “If you’re pro women in science, our doors are completely open to you.  If you’re a scientist at any career level – because our focus is job enhancement and helping scientists with their career skills – we could use mentors. If you’re job seeking, we can try to get you placed or give you tips for interviews and what you can expect. 

“We love this place. It’s a really cool location.” 

Working Women of Tampa Bay also periodically holds events at Rising Tide. In December, business coach Guenevere Morr presented, “Calling All Control Freaks (You Say Control Like It’s A Bad Thing). In February, it’ll present author and coach Liz Lopez, who will speak on “Permission to Dominate: Shattering Barriers for Women in Leadership.

Working Women founder and executive director Jessica Rivelli appreciates that the center’s mission goes beyond just providing snacks and desks and copier machines. 

“I admire what the founders of Rising Tide are doing by creating a gathering space for entrepreneurs and executives to connect and create together,” Rivelli said.

Of course, Rising Tide also draws the praise of independent workers like Ahlschwede who finds a home away from home at the center. Ahlschwede takes advantage of the center’s “Mavericks” category. That designation provides her with a dedicated desk/workspace and other accommodations such as work storage and access to the conference rooms. 

She needed it considering she lives in a sailboat at the nearby marina and needed a work space that wouldn’t be subject to wind currents and the occasional sea gull. She found it, ironically, at Rising Tide – where the oceanic themes match her love of the water.

Kelsey Buxton also has a dedicated desk on the center’s third floor. She works as a platform growth specialist for Fluent. She appreciates the clean areas, rooms to conference and her fellow cowork members, who are “super respectful.” 

“I love it,” Buxton said of Rising Tide. “It’s nice to get out of the house. My gym is right around the block.” 

Attorney Omaira Dauta recently shifted from space she was renting from a firm in Kenwood to a dedicated desk at Rising Tide. She also raved about the downtown location, but echoed a theme expressed by many at the center. 

“There’s a different energy here than being in a more formal space,” Dauta said. 

The Breakers category provides members with hotspace desks, where they can drop in on the center’s open desk areas and get work done. 

There are some accoutrements — décor, furniture, snacks, Keurig machines, private phone booths – that many cowork spaces can boast about. But they might be hard-pressed to match the energy, the vibe and the sense of community being cultivated at the Rising Tide Innovation Center.  

“I think that the culture they’re growing here is amazing,” Lavin said. “For all the benefits you receive here as a member, I don’t think you can beat it.”

Member Spotlight: Marie VanNostrand, Luminosity

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Marie VanNostrand choose early in life to pursue a mission so daunting some may have labeled her a modern-day Don Quixote. 

VanNostrand’s sense of fairness, fostered during her upbringing on a dairy farm in upstate New York, led her to take on the challenge of changing the nation’s pretrial justice system. 

Changing any system steeped in history can prove intimidating but attempting to reverse the injustices of a system rooted in our nation’s Bill of Rights might lead some to say she was tilting at windmills. 

They would be wrong. 

How did her quest begin? When VanNostrand started her criminology career as a probation and parole officer in Virginia, she interviewed people who had pled guilty or were found guilty and wrote reports to help guide the sentencing decisions of judges. 

“When I would do these reports, people would either come into my office for me to interview them – they were on bond pending sentencing – or they would be in the jail and I would have to go over to the jail,” VanNostrand explained.

“The first year on the job, I could not figure out and I couldn’t predict who was going to come to my office versus who I was going to have to go see in the jail. There was no rhyme or reason. Then I realized it was because I didn’t know their financial status yet.” 

VanNostrand soon realized the court determined people’s pretrial release or detention not based on the risk they posed to the community or the probability of them appearing for court proceedings. No, it was solely about their financial resources. 

“It was at that point that I saw release decisions were being made purely by money and not by risk, and it was disproportionately affecting minorities and the poor, and it was just wrong,” VanNostrand said. “It wasn’t in anyone’s best interest. It wasn’t in the public’s best interest because the highest risk people were getting out and endangering the community while the lower risk people were being incarcerated because they were poor. We call it the criminalization of poverty. 

“That’s when I became really, really passionate about eliminating the disparity and the discrimination in the pretrial justice system.” 

That passion led her to shift her work to a pretrial agency. At the same time, she enrolled in Old Dominion University and attained masters degrees in public administration, and urban studies and a doctorate in public policy with a specialty in research methods and statistics. Her dissertation helped Virginia create one of the country’s first pretrial “risk assessment tools.”  

In 2003, she started Luminosity and continued gathering data in an ongoing push to make pretrial systems risk-based instead of resource-based.

Now VanNostrand and her team will spend the next two years developing an “Application Programming Interface” to help any jurisdiction input their data and leverage it to monitor their pretrial justice system performance and identify and modify practices contributing to racial disparity and discrimination. 

VanNostrand recently explained the progress she’s made, why she opted to amp her efforts instead of retiring and what lies ahead for the company. 

What are the basic goals of Luminosity? 

Our approach is to use data to help inform pretrial justice system decision making. One of the biggest challenges in the criminal justice system is that people don’t know how the system is performing. I try to explain it like this: If you were given the job to be the CEO of a hospital, a multimillion-dollar hospital, the first thing you would do is ask some basic questions, right? Are people happy with your services? Is the hospital profitable? Just some really, basic questions. 

Now, take a similar criminal justice system, which in many states costs hundreds of millions of dollars. Nationally, we spend billions of dollars. Most communities in this country cannot answer the most basic questions about their pretrial justice system, the front end of their system. They can’t tell you how many people are released or detained pretrial. They can’t tell you how much they expend detaining people pretrial. They can’t tell you their basic performance measures of new crimes committed by pretrial defendants, court appearance rates for pretrial defendants. If you were running a hospital, you would be out of business in no time if you couldn’t answer those basic questions.  

But we spend billions of dollars every year on the pretrial justice system in this country while not being able to answer those basic questions. How can we improve these systems if we can’t answer those basic questions and can’t identify opportunities to make improvements? That’s really our focus – taking criminal justice data and integrating that data to answer those questions. 

You’ve made it your life’s mission, to try to find a way to change the system. That’s a challenging mission. 

The past couple of years, we’ve made some real progress. The money-bail system, a resource-based system was the prevailing system, but I wanted it to be based on the risk that was posed by defendants. We needed to identify a way, an alternate way, of identifying that risk. … By 2003, I really wanted to dedicate myself to doing this work and knowing there was no organization that was really dedicated to doing this work and not much attention was being paid to this work … we started Luminosity, data-driven justice solutions. We wanted to bring light to the pretrial justice system and the harm it was doing to the community and the harm it was doing to defendants. We really thought research and data was the way we could demonstrate that. We’ve had Luminosity for 15 years and we’ve done a lot of that research.  

I really learned about this issue from the documentary 13th, which devoted time to telling the story of Kalief Browder, a young man who couldn’t afford to post bail and spent in an inordinate amount of time in Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex.  

I spent 20 years talking about these issues to anybody who would listen. Then, the most unfortunate thing happened with Kalief Browder. He was accused of stealing a backpack. He spent three years in Rikers as a young man in isolation. He refused to plead guilty, and ultimately, he took his own life. For whatever reason, that struck a chord with America. Even though things like this had been happening every day, to hundreds of thousands of people every year, his circumstance was just so egregious, people could relate to it. That really has helped pretrial reform in America.  

Was Kalief Browder’s death the catalyst that helped bring attention to this issue? 

I think a couple of things happened. That was one of them, and the other was the Arnold Foundation (now Arnold Ventures). Laura and John Arnold are a Houston-based couple who are self-made billionaires, and in their 30s, they started this foundation and endowed it with $1 billion of their own money. They made the decision that the pretrial system was one of the best places for them to invest. We were one of their first partners to conduct pretrial research. We were able to develop the public safety assessment (PSA), pretrial risk assessment. We also conducted research on the hidden costs of pretrial detention which showed that short periods of incarceration for low-risk defendants does harm.  

Low-risk defendants who are incarcerated pretrial are more likely to plead guilty, they’re more likely to be sentenced to incarceration, and they’re more likely to be sentenced to longer periods of incarceration than similarly situated people who are released pretrial. They are also more likely to commit new crime in the future. As that research was released publicly, this issue really started to get attention. Once we had the funding to conduct research on the pretrial justice system and started showing how ineffective and inefficient the system is and people started hearing cases like Kalief’s, I think that was the perfect storm.  

With the help of the Drug Policy Alliance, you were able to integrate New Jersey’s data and show who was being incarcerated pretrial. Tell me about that.  

There were 15,000 people in the jails in New Jersey, and 12 percent of the jail population was in there because of their inability to pay $2,500 or less. We did the study to shed light on the people we were incarcerating pretrial. That served as a catalyst for criminal justice reform in New Jersey. Within a few years, they passed legislation that essentially eliminated money bail. Now in New Jersey, when a person is arrested, a public safety assessment is completed on every defendant. It’s given to the judge and a defendant is released, either on their own recognizance or with some conditions. Ninety-five percent of all the people arrested are released in New Jersey, and 5 percent go through a preventive detention hearing, and the judge deems them to be so dangerous they need to be detained before trial.  

Money has been completely taken out of the equation. The jail population is down 40 percent from when we did our study. It’s less than 9,000.  

What makes gathering the needed pretrial data so difficult?  

If you want to know release rates or court appearance rates or public safety rates, you need data from systems that are really siloed. You need data from law enforcement, from jails, from courts, and you need criminal history data. They’re usually maintained by different agencies. They’re independent software systems that were never intended to communicate with one another. That’s the big challenge, being able to integrate that data, track a person through these systems and be able to answer these questions.  

What brought you to Rising Tide? 

I was at a point about a year and a half ago, where I could either retire early or commit to trying to do something bigger and better than we’ve ever done before. Retirement seemed really attractive, but we had this idea of what we thought would be a major contribution in the next five years that could get us to the next tipping point in pretrial reform, and it’s around data integration. But in order to do that, we needed a good workspace, a creative workspace, a place where we could attract good talent and meet with people. We had all been working in home offices and coordinating that way. Our business partner moved from Virginia last year for us to do this work and we clearly needed an office. This just seemed like a really good fit.

How to Transform Your Business in Just One 12-Week Year

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If, at the beginning of the year, you got one of those cool new calendars for your desk – maybe one with cute kittens or funny puns or beefy firemen – you may have a problem. 

The months and dates on the calendar are incorrect. They lead you to believe there are 12 months and 52 weeks in a year, and the end of 2019 occurs on Tuesday, Dec. 31. Wrong, wrong, wrong. 

Well, sort of. Sure, the calendars reflect an adherence to the Gregorian calendar most of society has embraced for more than 2,000 years, but according to authors Brian P. Moran and‎ Michael Lennington, the dates also create a mindset that can impair your bid to achieve your business goals.  

In their best-selling book The 12 Week Year, Moran and Lennington challenge business owners to redefine the calendar and create a new endgame when it comes to setting goals and reaching benchmarks. The authors’ invitation to infuse your work ethic seems simple in concept, but dynamic in its results. 

If you’re laying out your business plans, you need to read this book. It may redefine how you approach every aspect of your work. 

From the start, Moran and Lennington lay out their perspective with a challenge to maximize your abilities. To engage and excite readers about their personal potential, they embrace a quote from Thomas Edison on the first page: “If we did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” 

This is not a book for slackers. 

Or maybe it is, if the slacker wants to shed the shackles that have held them back. 

The 12 Week Year asks us to look within and determine if we possess two lives: the one we lead and the one we we’re capable of living. 

“It’s the latter that intrigues me,” writes Moran, an industrial ecologist, lecturer who possesses more than 30 years of experience as a CEO and entrepreneur. “It’s the life that we know exists somewhere deep inside us that we wish could actualize. This life isn’t driven by the you who settles or gives in to procrastination and doubt, but by the optimal you, the best you, the confident you, the healthy you. The you who shows up with your best stuff, making things happen, making a difference, living a life of significance.” 

The motivational words are an important place to start. Moran promises his advice will help business owners produce “staggering results,” but almost as a caution, the book notes that, “creating greatness in your life isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s quite uncomplicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.”  

The book downplays some conventional tenets of business. While it concedes knowledge, new strategies, networking and talent are factors in the world of business, they put the emphasis on execution as the greatest differentiator. The words almost come across as the hardened demands of a taxing fitness instructor or drill camp sergeant. 

“The barrier standing between you and the life you are capable of living is a lack of consistent execution.” 

Of course, sometimes changing a mindset requires that kind of urging. 

And The 12 Week Year is all about operating with a sense of urgency – every day, every week, every month, every moment. 

Yes, it discards what the book calls “annualized thinking.” It’s simple. They say a lot of companies achieve their annual goals by meandering through most of the year and then making a big push in the final quarter. They don’t deny the exhilaration that comes from the rush to meet annual goals in November and December.  

“Year-end is certainly a rousing time in most industries. Activity is up and people are focused. With little time to waste and with clear objectives to meet, workers focus on the critical projects and opportunities. Tasks that are not directly related to driving results are pushed aside for what really matters in the short term.” 

So, the authors ask, what would happen if a business operated with that intensity and focus throughout the year? Surely, the results would improve. 

Thus, you shorten the year into incremental 12-week periods. You bring that year-end rush to each day. Procrastination gives way to action. Achievement becomes more attainable because the finish line isn’t some far-away benchmark that comes after Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

“The great thing about having a 12-week year is that the deadline is always near enough to get things done, yet short enough to create a sense of urgency and a bias for action. It’s human nature that we behave differently when a deadline approaches.” 

See, simple. At least in theory. 

One caveat they explain in later chapters: the 12-week year is not creating “quarterly plans.” That, they say, is part of outdated annualized thinking. With the 12 week plan, every period stands alone as a separate “year.” 

“Every 12 weeks is a new year and a fresh opportunity to be great.” 

But Moran and Lennington don’t just espouse tips. They lay out a structured approach to help implement the theories: 

    • Emotional Connection challenges business leaders to create a long-term vision, a “life vision,” of their future; they desire more than the comfort of short-term accomplishment. 
    • Planning and Goal Setting stresses the advantages of periodization and an incremental approach. Those advantages include predictability and focus. 
    • Weekly Planning explains how the incremental approach can lead to daily action. 
    • Confronting the Truth illuminates the importance of measuring achievement or as the authors say, “keeping score.” 
    • Intentionality stresses the importance of managing your time, a “supply that is completely inelastic – and perishable.” 
    • Accountability challenges the entrepreneur to redefine the word and see it as “ownership,” an empowering outlook that, “… confronts the truth and confronts with freedom of choice and consequence.” 
    • Commitment explains how people need to keep their promises to others and themselves to achieve, create strong relationships and build character. 
  • Greatness in the Moments speak to the importance of committing to being great each day. 

The second half of the book takes all of these tenets and more explains how to implement. It provides charts and work sheets to layout the plans and goals. A subsequent companion piece, The 12 Week Year Workbook allows for greater organization. 

The book and the philosophies espoused by Moran and Lennington, when applied properly, can infuse the success of any business. However, its popularity also may lie in its constant emphasis on using the principles to not only change your business, but to change your life. 

It pushes to make the most of every life, but it never ignores the need to refresh, recharge and make time for pursuits outside of the business. 

If you spend too much of your time staring at the calendar and daydreaming about funny puns and cute kittens, this is a book that can electrify your outlook.

Want to read all about it? Click here to grab your copy. 

The Big Boost Theory: Helping Women Scientists Advance Their Careers Helps Everyone

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Merrie Beth Neely can speak with expertise about fisheries, sea grasses, water quality, harmful aqua blooms and even the scientific appeal of the characters on The Big Bang Theory.

It’s impressive for a woman who found a passion for sea life while growing up in landlocked Slippery Rock in Western Pennsylvania. Despite the expertise, however, the certified program manager, phytoplankton ecologist and oceanographer once found herself struggling to find a job in her chosen field after an unexpected 2012 layoff from a management job with the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C.

Neely returned to Florida, where she earned a marine science undergraduate degree from the University of Tampa and graduate degrees (masters and doctoral) from the University of South Florida. She eventually regained her footing in the science industry.

Now she’s the St. Petersburg pod coordinator for 500 Women Scientists, an organization bolstered by St. Petersburg’s burgeoning marine science industry. The group helps women navigate career opportunities in the science industry, much like Neely did back in 2012.

The organization, which holds monthly meetings at downtown St. Petersburg’s Rising Tide Innovation Center, seeks to make science open, inclusive, and accessible with three specific goals: empower women to grow to their full potential in science; increase scientific literacy through public engagement and advocate for equality in science.

Neely recently spoke about the organization; the challenges women face in the industry and how women sometimes hurt themselves in the pursuit of jobs.


What is it about the world of science that necessitates 500 Women Scientists?

The group originally came about sort of around the Women’s March and in response to the disappointment of the Trump election, but I would say the movement has been building for a while – in particular the perceived attack on science in the Trump administration. The 500 Women Scientists found a niche at the intersection of the Women’s March and the March for Science. There have also been a lot of national, high profile reports commenting on gender and diversity and the sciences.

It’s not where we would like to see it, is it?

It’s definitely not, and there’s also a vast belief – we could owe it to hubris but sometimes it’s deeper than that – that as scientists we would never be subject to a bias because that’s what we strive for in science. We’re scientific, just the facts. We remove all bias. So, there’s been a state of denial, if you will, about gender and diversity problems in academia and science. These things all came together at the right time.

What did a recent National Academy of Science study reveal about the topic?

It reinforced the knowledge that sexual harassment occurs in the science sector and science is no different than any other sector. But it also gave recognition – which was really empowering to me – that the term gender harassment and belittling statements or sexist comments … in science on every level can be just as damaging as the original quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania with this desire to be a scientist, did anyone discourage you because of your gender?

I was discouraged in other ways. I was certainly told, even within my own family, “You can do that, but you should also get a career as a teacher so you can have a Plan B.”

Was that gender-related or concern about making a career in a scientific field?

It’s hard to tell. Within my family, I think it was probably both. Certainly, in school, undergraduate school, the faculty that I was presented with was 85 to 90 percent male. I saw opportunities presented to my male counterparts – maybe not overtly – but they were given opportunities in laboratories that I was not.

Do you share those kinds of stories, tales of discrimination, at your 500 Women Scientists events?

We have occasionally. We have a lot of younger members and a few of us that are more mature. It usually starts with career … so we talk about those scenarios. Sometimes we say, “Be careful. Don’t let them do this or that to you.” But we’re not man bashers. Basically, what we’re trying to do is help women advance in science fields.

I recently saw supermodel Karlie Kloss on the Today show pushing for more girls to enter STEM fields. Do you feel like more women are being drawn to the field?

Absolutely, and that’s great and certainly necessary. We feel like the STEM pipeline has been filled. That’s what a lot of employers and agencies and efforts recently have been aimed at, let’s get more undergraduate girls to enter STEM fields, and they’re graduating. More than 50 percent of the (USF) College of Marine Sciences are women and they have been for a while. But what happens when they get into their careers and they’re five years out from that degree. Are they still in a science? I can tell you there are a significant number of people that I went to graduate school with who have the same or similar degree that I do, and they are no longer in science. Most of those who have made a career change are women.

They made the career change because they couldn’t find a viable job?

They could find a job, but they couldn’t advance here in Florida. It’s sort of a dirty little secret in science here in Florida, the profound lack of pay in the natural sciences. It’s not across all sciences. You can make a lot of money in pharmaceuticals, in IT. In some aspects of traditional science, there’s an avenue to higher pay. But in life sciences, natural sciences and biology, the pay is terrible. You can do the same job for the state in Georgia that you do in Florida and you get paid 50 percent less.

What’s one of the challenges women scientists encounter in trying to advance their careers?

We as women suffer from being modest, whether that’s inherent in us or conditioned. One of the things we laugh around the table about involves job applications. The statistics say that wotj a gender-neutral position, 200 men will apply, and 75 percent are wholly unqualified. Meanwhile, 50 women will apply and almost all of them are qualified. As women, we will look at a job description and the list of things, we go through that list in our mind and put a check mark next to each requirement. If we don’t have a significant number of check marks, we won’t apply. If men do the same thing, if they have just a couple of check marks, they’ll still apply. I know as a former hiring manager, you throw the kitchen sink into a job description and you will be more than happy with people who tick off 50 or 60 percent of those skills. I also know that job descriptions are a lot of hooey. You hear a lot of people say, “I hire the person.”

You also help coordinate the Tampa Bay Science Networking Happy Hour in St. Petersburg. Can a group of scientists really get together and have fun?

We try to have fun. Nobody has been hauled away by the cops, but I always tell the establishment where we have it that we’ll clean up after ourselves.

Do you think the television show The Big Bang Theory has helped the general public see scientists in a more likable perspective?

We love it. It’s totally true. All of us scientists know one or more of those characters or the traits exhibited by those characters.

In closing, tell me your sales pitch for 500 Women Scientists.

You don’t have to be a woman. If you’re pro women in science, our doors are completely open to you.  If you’re a scientist at any career level – because our focus is job enhancement and helping scientists with their career skills – we could use mentors. If you’re job seeking, we can try to get you placed or give you tips for interviews and what you can expect. It’s a lot of stuff they don’t teach you as scientists. And, we have a really cool location (with the Rising Tide Innovation Center). We love this place.





Deploy This Strategy to Map Out Your “Best Year Ever” for 2019 

By | Business 'How-To' | No Comments

Every year, we turn to those fancy year-end lists and retrospective reviews of all that happened in the year. 

It’s an irresistible deep-dive into those memories you cherish and some you may have forgotten. Did you marvel over the wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle? Did you wonder if North Korea’s vow to denuclearize was real? Did you root for the brave rescuers to free the 12 boys trapped in the Thailand cave? Who didn’t? 

From Bitcoin’s fall from grace to the instability of the stock market to the midterm elections and the controversy over illegal immigration, the year filled with notable news and memorable moments. 

And when you turn to pop culture, it’s a reflective look that leads to a responsive debate. Wait, Vanity Fair called NBC’s The Good Life the top show on television? While we’re at it, how come Paddington 2 keeps popping up on best-of lists? And why didn’t Ella Mai’s Boo’d Up make Billboard’s year-end top 10? 

But after you read all the articles and watch all the shows that capture the good and bad of 2018, or maybe before you do that, you need to produce a show about your own 2018. Don’t leave it up to Facebook to put together one of those animated collections of top photos. 

If you really want to develop a clear image of your 2018 business venture and create a strategic vision for 2019, you’ll have to do it yourself. Yes, every business consultant stresses planning, but if you do it correctly, it can be fun. 

Here are five steps you can take to help you land on one of those “Best of” lists in December 2019. (Okay, maybe not, but at least your own, personal, “Best Year Ever” list.


Review Your History 

Remove the rear-view and side-view mirrors from your car, and then try to drive somewhere. You may arrive at your destination, but if the journey is of a considerable distance, you’ll find it difficult to make the trek. 

The point is you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’re coming from. How can you build a plan without a review of what you achieved in 2018? 

Professional development specialist Ellen Huxtable says look closely at the successes you enjoyed: “(Look at) the clients you especially pleased, the marketing channels and messages that worked, the processes which were efficient and effective, and anything else which was a winner, and which propelled your business forward.” 

This is a process that needs to be empirical, not emotional. 

Of course, just as those big-event lists contain highs and lows, so too may your business year. The question is what are you going to do about the bumps in the road that made your path more difficult? 

Everyone makes errors. Don’t ignore them, but don’t obsess over them. 

“Take the lessons you learned last year and apply them to the next,” said Louis Mosca, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of American Management Services. “Don’t dwell on your mistakes. It’s how you perform versus your plan, not versus last year.” 


Check Out the Trends 

Once you’ve figured out where you’ve been, turn your focus to where you want to go. 

There’s probably some market data and research that prompted you to launch your business. As you focus on 2019, it’s important to revisit the data, trends and inclinations that first inspired you to become a startup entrepreneur. What’s changed? What’s expected in the New Year? 

Crafting a plan and preparing for another year means embracing a life-long learning approach. Continuing education matters, from sales to technology to the rising importance of remote working and cowork spaces, it’s critical to read, watch and learn. Here’s one article from Business News Daily forecasting 20 business trends and predictions for 2019: 

It’s equally important to continue developing specific expertise about your business. Consult with those who operate in your industry. What were their highs and lows? 

You also can benefit from developing relationships with mentors and those with more expertise. Let them help shape your plans for the future. Also involved key stakeholders, even assistants. 

As Mosca notes, if key people “aid in the development of your plan, they’ll be more invested in the plan.” 

If you don’t have someone who serves as a font of advice and information, identify two or three people and work to develop a relationship with them in 2019. 


Set The Business GPS 

To plot a course for continued success in 2019, you have to program your destination. Where do you want to take your business in the new year and what is it going to take to traverse the pitfalls and obstacles to get there. 

Setting the GPS must involve both the short- and long-term goals you want to reach. Maybe you need to address some pressing issues that created detours in 2018. Or, perhaps you need to make a U-Turn and steer your business in a completely different direction. Most business consultants will tell you goals need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). 

Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, advised dividing the goals into three distinct categories:  

  1. The Obvious: sales, costs, expenses, savings. 
  2. The Business Specific: repeat customers, renewals, leads. 
  3. The Milestones: Opening a new location, refreshing the website, reaching a specific number of customers. 

Berry added that it’s important not to over-complicate your plan. 

“Start with a simple plan that just covers your main goals or what you focus on first,” Berry wrote. “Don’t sweat making it perfect. Just get it started.”  


Create ETAs    

This is all about prioritizing. Some goals can be achieved in a relatively short time, others take longer. Targeting an estimated time of arrival for each goal heightens the possibility you’ll show up on time. 

Deadlines also will help you determine what goals can be achieved first and what goals need to be set aside for the future. It’ll also help you determine if you’re trying to move in too many different directions. Your business can’t be all things to all other people, especially if it’s still in upstart stage. 

Huxtable says it’s a matter of being realistic. 

“One or two specific tasks with deadlines you meet are far more effective than ten great ideas which you never implement,” Huxtable said. 


Be Flexible 

On the road to a successful 2019, you might hit a pothole. Or you could get a flat. Chances are something will go awry. Boxer Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” 

A solid plan for 2019, however, will allow you to get off the canvas and keep fighting. If (or when) something goes wrong, don’t look at the plan as a list of failures, see it as a motivational roadmap. Pat yourself on the back for realizing it’s better to dig a well before you are thirsty.  

Most of all, be flexible. Maybe the plan will need an adjustment. Maybe the deadlines can be set back. But the most important thing is to keep going.

“There is no such thing as a perfect business plan, and the closest anybody comes is a plan that helps you manage by laying out goals, tracking results, and highlighting the progress and problems along the way,” Berry says. 

If you’re not in the right environment to build a success plan for 2019, if you’re uncertain about the support you have for your business, consider joining the Rising Tide Innovation Center. We’re all about maintaining a community that can help you create the right course in 2019.

As Drake would say, perhaps it’s God’s Plan.  

And in case you’re wondering, yes, that was the No. 1 song for 2018.