By Guest Blogger Alison Kramer
We should probably begin by defining success.
To me, it meant spending my days doing something I loved. Having the flexibility to be present for school concerts, sick days and summers. Travel. And rarely, if ever, being told what to do. If you look at that list carefully, you will note I am basically unemployable – or as others like to call it – an entrepreneur.
When I was pregnant with my third child, a little girl now in third grade, I placed my first order for bras and officially opened my company. Since becoming a parent I’d become passionate about supporting moms and moms-to-be. Motherhood had finally brought me the confidence in myself I’d always wanted – and I wanted to create something that would help make women feel beautiful. I worked with a manufacturer and created a line of maternity lingerie I loved – that was functional, comfortable and allowed women to look and feel great in the clothes they loved. It was a challenge, a success and a journey that would shape my next six years. The company would also lead me to the next stage of my work and back to one of the loves of my life – writing.
Over the years at Nummies, more and more people would ask me how I’d done it. How does a mom of three young children get a company started? Questions about balance and priorities, time management and off shore manufacturing, marketing and design came as often as those about size and availability. It seemed I was spending as much time talking about my business as I did about the products themselves. And I loved it. In the end, I ended up getting more from writing and speaking to people about my business than I ever did from actually running it.
Nummies also lead me to social media, where I started out looking to connect with potential customers and ended up finding a community. I am one of those “social media changed my life” stories – falling madly in love with the Internet.
There I found my best friends, my partner, a parenting support system and my online water cooler of entrepreneurs. I launched the Nummies blog and started writing again – something I hadn’t done since University. My relationship with Scott Stratten, who I met on Twitter, grew and I spent less and less time focusing on Nummies and more on our work together. The success of his online platform lead to a book deal and our writing together began.
I doubt anyone’s list of “Five Steps to Becoming a Published Author” begins with:
1. Start a maternity lingerie company while pregnant with your third child.
Our fourth book together, UnSelling. The New Customer Experience launches this fall and marks a kind of coming out for me. This is the first time I am listed on the book as coauthor and our first book where I’m not also running a company on the side – after closing Nummies one year ago. UnSelling turns traditional wisdom on its head. Looking beyond a narrow sales funnel, and seeing what really influences purchase and repurchase decisions today. The book teaches why one negative review can outweigh a thousand social media followers if it isn’t handled correctly and why a blog post with a catchy headline can actually be bad for business if it isn’t written well. Our passion for consumer advocacy leads us to understand that the people you hire matter more than the tasks you hire them to do. These and countless other underappreciated truths add up to a new way of thinking about business that will completely change the way you sell, for the better.
One of my favorite chapters in UnSelling is called “Beware of Mountain Climbers Selling Equipment.” When we see people doing things we admire, we can’t help but ask how they got there. Bookstore shelves are filled with stories of how others succeeded at business, relationships, academics, health and wellbeing. Picture a successful mountain climber standing on the summit. Exhausted and exhilarated, but if he gets his arm caught in a crevice, he may have a book/movie deal waiting. With success comes people who want to learn about the climber’s strategy. What equipment did he use? How did he pace the ascent? These are the so-called best practices we look for in business.
What if this climber, instead of listing all his equipment and strategies, threw all of the stuff off the other side of the mountain and said, “You don’t need anything! Except my new book/course/consulting: ‘How to Climb to the Summit of Success.’” It has become way too easy for today’s experts and successes to ignore the tools that took them up the mountain and instead sell us “five easy steps to success” in their place. There is no such thing as an easy trip to the top without hard work, luck, and a whole lot of tools.
“Alison’s Five Difficult Steps to Success”:
- Value and respect other people. Sounds like the kind of step we teach children in Kindergarten for being a good person, right? But it’s not. The older we get and the more success we reach, the less we value and respect others. We never know what opportunities lie around the corner and we never know when we’ll be standing out on that corner. In the rain. In heels. Needing a little help because we locked our keys in a still running car… True success is about people.
- Discomfort isn’t avoidable. I don’t care what people tell you about balance or downtime. There has never been a successful person who didn’t get there through discomfort. There are extra hours in the day – you just need to want to use them badly enough. Sleep later. If you are too afraid of negative feedback to share your business online – then you need to grow some thicker skin. There are a lot more no’s in business than there are yesses. You need to find the positive intrinsically.
- Be honest with yourself about what you want. Sometimes we can get caught up in what other people want for us, or in other people’s idea of success. I could have done a lot of things – but that doesn’t mean that happiness lay down those roads. I decided flexibility with my time was more important to me than time off. I’d rather work weekends but be able to take a Tuesday off to make Latkas with my daughter’s class at Chanukah.
- Collaboration. For me, collaboration with someone I trust, who also challenges me, has been the key to finding success. Like any relationship, a collaborative one takes time and can be elusive – but when you find it, the things you are capable of grow exponentially. Collaboration means things take longer. It means you need to put another’s ideas ahead of your own sometimes. It means you need to share.
- Remember why you started. Late a night packing boxes, or answering email or planning your morning meeting, it can be easy to forget why you’re doing all this. When we’re 30,000 words into a 60,000 word book, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and walk away – but we can’t. Whatever your reasons are, keep them in front of you.
I once saw an interview with Madonna, one of my heroes, where she credited her success in part from having a “high tolerance for pain.” So for Madonna and all of us no matter where we are on the mountain, remember whether we’re looking up or down, that no one got there easily. There is no one path, and there are no shortcuts, only mountains of success we create for ourselves.
About Alison Kramer
And check out Alison’s new book with Scott Stratten, Unselling: Www.UnSellingTheBook.com
Would love to know your thoughts about today’s post. Can you relate to Alison’s journey from entrepreneur to writer, or about giving something up to get something else? Have you ever decided to chase your dreams?