Questions and Answers with Career Expert Jane Pollak
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Jane Pollak is an internationally known entrepreneur, artist, professional speaker and author of Soul Proprietor: 101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur. See our review of Soul Proprietor.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||If you were absolutely forced to choose just one of the 101 lessons in your book as the one lesson that is the most important and without which entrepreneurs simply cannot succeed, which one would you choose and why?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Undoubtedly, it would be No. 56 about persistence. [Editor’s note: The exact title of Lesson 56 from Pollak’s book, Soul Proprietor: 101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur, is “Until they say, ‘Never call us again!’ don’t give up. Keep calling.”] I heard early on in my business sales training that it takes six no’s to get to a yes. However, it’s not only asking for the business that requires persistence.
I’ll never forget exhibiting for the first time at a trade show in Baltimore. The gentleman in the booth behind me made what I considered mediocre jewelry. His orders, however, were much higher than mine. I had time to notice, as I wasn’t writing many myself. He made a comment that was memorable. Several of his buyers remarked that they had seen him at this show year after year and never bought, but since he was still there, he must have something worth selling. I know there is something to be said for longevity, showing up and being there.
Think about your own experiences with newspaper advertisements, members of organizations you belong to or stores in your community. Sometimes, just by the mere fact that they’re still there causes you to pay attention, to even try out their offerings. Imagine if you continue in your business, make yourself known on a regular basis and offer quality goods what a blueprint for achievement that would be.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||We felt that there was a “Lesson 102” implicit in many of the lessons you presented in your book, Soul Proprietor, so we were a little surprised not to see it officially as one of your lessons: You make numerous references in the book to attending workshops, seminars, classes, and conferences for your own professional development and personal growth. Can we nominate as Lesson 102: “Get as much education and professional development as you can. Never stop learning”? How important a role have these workshops, seminars, classes, and conferences played in your success? About how much time would you say you invest in these endeavors in a given year? Are there ever times where you feel the time and/or money invested in them is oppressive? Do you budget a certain amount for these activities? Have you attended any that you felt were a total waste of time and/or money?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| “You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” Once I heard these words at a seminar I attended as a neophyte business owner I knew that there would be only one choice for me — green and growing. What that has translated to is being a perpetual student.
Fortunately, I always liked school. Academia offered structure and a clear track to success. By comparison, entrepreneurship doesn’t provide such an obvious route. Most successful entrepreneurs understand that lifelong learning is an ingredient in the recipe for achievement. Those who haven’t gotten the message are playing perpetual catch-up.
Before I continue, I should mention that each of us has our own distinct learning style. I’m sure there are legions of successful business owners who get their post-graduate knowledge through reading. Everything I’ve picked up in a course or seminar is available in book form as well. In addition to academic tomes on every subject having to do with business ownership, there are also abundant volumes explicitly for “dummies” and “idiots” wanting to learn.
The classroom environment, however, has always appealed to me for these reasons:
Here’s a recent example — I attended a workshop for professional speakers on how to add more showmanship to your talks. What I got out of it:
Continuing education has been vital to my success. I am unable to separate the learning component from the networking part that goes hand-in-hand with being in a learning environment. I have made friends, received invaluable contacts and been inspired by other participants at nearly every event I’ve attended. There will be someone there who shows me a new direction in which to take my business, what I need to avoid, or adds a tiny puzzle piece that solves a current issue — the name of a vendor, a software program or an Internet site.
I’m grateful for the computer software classes, seminars for fine-tuning my speaking business, like articulation and use of the voice. At each bend in the road, I become aware of a whole new arena for learning and growth. Above all, it’s stimulating to be out there learning and hobnobbing on the cutting edge.
As far as how much time and money to spend: I’ve heard it suggested that you spend 5 percent of your income on education. I haven’t added up what I spend. I attend at least one learning function a month, usually more. What do I recommend to others? If you go to one or two seminars per year, try doubling that for the next year. If you’re going every other month, add three more to the mix.
Recently I attended a well-publicized convention in New York City hoping to meet the best and the brightest. I was severely disappointed. Because of the structure of the panels, no one had enough time to develop any material in depth. There was quantity but little quality. It may have been useful if I had wanted to meet a particular player in that field, but I was going more for information. I got little.
I know an experience has been a success for me when I can’t wait to get back to my office to type up my notes and create an action list for follow-up. I continue to savor the learning sometimes for months after the event.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||How can the self-employed worker discipline himself or herself to work outside the organizational structure of a typical workplace?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| First, acknowledge that there is a greater discipline inherent in a work environment than the ease found at home.
Here are some suggestions the business owner can begin implementing over time:
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What was the biggest “reality check” you faced when you went into business for yourself?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Actually, what continues to be a reality check for me is that in spite of all the success I’ve had and how well known I have become, I still have to continually operate under the assumption that most people have never heard of me or know what I do. Humbling, to say the least.
What this realization has forced me to do is develop a comfort level with introducing myself and listing my credentials as though it were the easiest thing in the world. I am occasionally surprised and delighted when I make what I consider to be a cold call to hear the respondent say, “I know who you are.”
I also am continually amazed that other people can’t figure out the relevance of my talents to their business/life. It’s so clear to me that they need my services/product and simply don’t know it. I have to continually clarify what it is that I do and for whom I do it.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Your book cover describes you as a “lifestyle entrepreneur.” On the back cover Susan Keane Baker offers a definition of a lifestyle entrepreneur. Do you agree with her definition, and can you expand on it?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Susan says that “a lifestyle entrepreneur is someone with a successful business and a meaningful personal life.” I like her definition because I get to define what I consider a “successful business.” For me, it’s definitely not the number at the bottom of a spreadsheet. I do say that that number has to appear in black, but how many figures are in it is my choice.
I consider that I do have a successful business based on continuing sales of my product, an excellent track record, legions of customers and a healthy pipeline feeding me opportunities. What also makes the business successful, in my terms, is that I love what I do. I bound out of bed in the morning and often eye the clock resentfully as time has passed by too quickly. I find it difficult to calculate my working hours because the line is often blurred between what is work and what is fun for me.
As for having a meaningful personal life, again this is up to each individual. I measure the meaning of my life by several criteria-such as having been available to my children throughout their lives, being a loving family member and a friend in a large community and making a contribution to the growth of other individuals.
I like to describe “lifestyle entrepreneur” another way that encompasses Susan’s description. You are a lifestyle entrepreneur when your business is a reflection of who you are.
Named by the Small Business Administration as the 2002 Home-Based Business Advocate of the Year for Connecticut and New England, Jane Pollak is a living example of how to turn one’s passion into a thriving business. She is an internationally known entrepreneur, artist, professional speaker and author of Soul Proprietor: 101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur. Recently featured on the Today’s Woman segment of the Today Show, Jane’s book is a road map for turning passions into profits by consulting one’s heart and soul for the right decisions. “The lessons I’ve learned — and share in Soul Proprietor — show that both a successful business and a meaningful personal life can be built at the same time,” says Pollak. In her wise and honest account of her rise from artist to highly successful entrepreneur, Jane Pollak offers, in 101 highly readable lessons, a step-by-step guide to building a business that reflects one’s own values, priorities, and unique view of the world. Small business experts like Jane Applegate (www.SBTV.com) and Terri Lonier (http://www.workingsolo.com) have selected Pollak’s book for their resource guides.
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