Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Now Hiring

I am on vacation this week, as I imagine many of you are, too, so I decided to send out a previous story that received numerous positive reviews the first time around. For some, this story is new to you; for those who have seen it before, I hope you enjoy it again. Happy Holidays!

I while back a college student asked for a copy of my resume. She was looking for ideas to create her own as she prepared to search for a job. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over twenty years and have rarely had the need for a resume. I began to daydream about what I would put on it, but then my mind started to wander, and I started thinking about all the jobs I would probably leave off. Now that would be a fun resume to create!

After all, no one really cares that I was once a dishwasher in a seafood restaurant despite my aversion to seafood, or that I worked as a telemarketer for a company that sold tools even though I didn’t know how to fix anything. I once sold kitchen knives with handles made from the same material as bowling balls, even though I could barely cook for myself. Then there was the summer I was hired to help assemble a stage for a concert by the famous Boston Pops. My co-workers were tall, muscular men, and I wondered how a short, scrawny kid like me got a job carrying heavy scaffolding. Then I found out: someone had to climb 37 feet above the stage to hang the lights.

I remember going door-to-door trying to sell solar heating panels. I emphasize the word “trying,” because I don’t recall selling any. Four or five times I dressed up as a clown and performed at children’s birthday parties (I think they called me Jingles). I pumped gasoline into garbage trucks. I mopped the floor at several fast food restaurants. I was a busboy, a waiter, and a bartender, and I never put any of these jobs on my resume. Why would I? At the time, I wasn’t thinking that any of these jobs mattered to my future plans.  In fact, I’ve blocked most of them from my memory. In retrospect, were they a waste of time? No. Did I learn anything from the experiences? Absolutely.

I learned to try new things. I was constantly searching for my passions, and with each job, I discovered something I liked (and plenty of things I didn’t). I had so many experiences that I became comfortable with change and learned to interact with many different people. I learned the art of selling… the hard way. So many people told me “No” and wouldn’t buy from me that I was forced to get better and learn to deal with rejection. I became so comfortable hearing the word “No” that I actually grew fond of it. I ultimately realized that it took lots of “No”s to eventually get to a person who’d say “Yes!” I learned about hard work, and to appreciate others who work hard every day. I learned how important every single job is, even the ones that aren’t glamorous and that most people leave off their resumes.

What does any of this have to do with living your dreams? It might help you realize that the road to success is often paved with seemingly unimportant experiences that ultimately help you become you. Living your dreams requires living boldly. Get out and trying new things. It’s not just about new jobs, but businesses you start, hobbies you pursue, and relationships you form, too. When you experience life, you get to explore your passions and zero in on your dreams. As you get older, you realize that it’s not only about what’s on your resume, but equally important are those rich experiences you leave off. Now hiring… clowns welcome.

Until next week…

Live Your Dreams

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Live to Give

Pedro had an unusual childhood. His father died when he was ten, and as the oldest son, he assumed the responsibility to provide for his family. He dropped out of school and began looking for work. In his country, it was not uncommon for a child to find work in a factory. Wages were low and the hours were long, but Pedro was ambitious and he had a family to feed. After a long day at the factory, Pedro would walk the city streets with a rag and shine shoes for tips. When he saved enough money he purchased some shoe polish and his tips increased. After several years Pedro was able to acquire a small kiosk with a permanent location. Every evening after working in the factory Pedro would shine shoes and people came to respect him for his hard work and punctuality. Life was a struggle but he always wore a smile.

By his late teens, Pedro had become known as a master apprentice. He would regularly teach kids how to survive on the streets by shining shoes. He was sort of a big brother and mentor to dozens of youth living in challenging situations.

In time, Pedro came to have a family of his own, a wife and four children. Six people living in a one-bedroom shanty would have been unbearable if not for the love they felt for one another. Still, Pedro wanted more for his family, and this led to one of the most difficult decisions of his life.

Pedro asked his wife, Maria, to leave the country and find a higher paying job in America. She arrived in New York and was hired to work in a factory. She worked for two years to save enough money to buy a plane ticket for Pedro to join her. Then Pedro made another big sacrifice and left his four children with relatives so he could come to America and begin saving to bring them all together again. Pedro found work in a shoe factory, where his skill and experience with shoes allowed him to excel. He moved into manufacturing, where he made shoes for unique people and events. His shoes were worn by the famous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, ballet dancers, and even the Smallest Man in the World in the Ringling Brothers Circus. Within two years, Pedro had saved enough money to bring his children to New York for a permanent family reunion.

JP was Pedro’s youngest son, and at age four, he had hardly spent any time with his parents. Pedro made up for this by teaching JP important life lessons about working hard and not forgetting where you come from. JP recalls numerous family trips back to his home country of the Dominican Republic. He never understood why his family traveled with so many suitcases on those trips. He often complained how heavy they were and found it curious that they were so light on the way back to NY. As a teenager, he learned that his father would pack the bags with clothes and supplies for people in his hometown less fortunate than him. This taught JP one of his dad’s favorite lessons firsthand: giving back unconditionally.

Pedro died in the summer of 2000 but his legacy lives on. JP, better known as Juan Casimiro, grew to be one of the world’s leading experts on youth empowerment. He is a Big Brother and mentor to over 100 youth. Juan travels the world, having visited over 30 countries, and never arrives empty-handed. In 2002, Juan started a toy drive to personally deliver toys to deserving children in developing countries. That first year he provided 50 toys to kids, and he knows from experience that one toy often gets shared and passed down to three younger children. Ten years later, the Casimiro Global Foundation has donated over thirty-thousand toys to children all over the world. This year they have a goal of 10,000 toys to benefit 10,000 children in 10 countries.

Remember that everything you do matters. Pedro’s life and lessons impacted his son Juan, who in turn has impacted hundreds of thousands of children all over the world. Their story inspired me to donate to their charity, and I hope you will consider donating toys or funds too:

Many people are looking to attract abundance into their life. Just remember that giving always precedes receiving.  This Holiday season, I give you the gift of the Live to Give Mindset.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Secret Recipe

Dave grew up in Chicago, the son of Native American parents.  He struggled in school and was often bullied. His father was a blue collar worker who instilled in Dave the importance of hard work and never giving up. When Dave was 18 he heard a motivational speaker deliver these words which forever changed his life: “If you believe in yourself and have passion, you can succeed.”  Dave decided to leave college and start his own business. Despite his enthusiasm, his first venture wasn’t a success. Dave still had a lot to learn.

Dave wasn’t ready to give up. His next idea was to make and sell miniature gardens to local florists in Chicago. He scraped together just enough money to make a few samples.  His designs were so impressive that a florist wanted to place a really large order. The problem was that Dave didn’t have enough money to fulfill the order, so he tried to talk the florist into ordering less. But the florist surprised Dave by offering to pay up front, and wrote Dave a check for $737.  At 19 years old, it was the largest amount of money he’d ever earned in his life.

For the next seven years, Dave worked long hours and formed relationships with every major retail florist in Chicago.  As a way to make extra income, he and a friend came up with a plan to buy a truckload of house plants from a grower in Florida to sell to local college students. By eliminating the middlemen, Dave and his friend were able to mark the plants up and still sell them for much less than normal retail price. They made $20,000 in two days. Dave felt invincible! Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last long.

Dave used his large profits to purchase truckloads of new plants to sell. Then one of the worst storms in history hit the Midwest. Dave’s entire inventory was ruined and he wasn’t experienced enough to have insurance to cover his losses. Not only did he lose all of his money but he was forced to file bankruptcy. Dave fell into a state of depression. He started drinking, and one night he almost died in a car accident while alcohol-impaired. Dave was lucky to be alive, and he still wasn’t ready to give up on his dreams. He was out of money, so he decided to get a job selling paper goods to restaurants. He started slow and made his share of mistakes, but within six months he had taken a territory that had been last in the company and made it number one. More importantly, Dave discovered his true passion.

Throughout his life, Dave loved to experiment in the kitchen. He made a hobby of creating unique sauces and interesting meals. One day he met an entrepreneur who had an idea to open a theme-based restaurant. Dave became a consultant and was invited to join the restaurant as a minority partner. The restaurant was called the Rainforest CafĂ© and it became a huge success. While Dave enjoyed working with partners, he had a dream to open his own restaurant serving his favorite comfort food… BBQ.

Dave was living in a small town in Wisconsin. His friends begged him not to open a BBQ restaurant in that little town. They explained that the residents were primarily Nordic and wouldn’t know what good BBQ was. Dave said he had been perfecting a secret recipe for barbecue sauce for over 20 years and once people tried it, he would become famous. He was so confident that he named the place Dave’s Famous BBQ Shack.  But due to an error at the printer, the name came out Famous Dave’s.  He liked it and it was an instant success, selling over 8,000 meals a week to a community of only 1,800 people.

Famous Dave Anderson went on to franchise his BBQ chain, and it became one of the hottest concepts in the country. I first met Dave shortly after he started franchising. We were both speakers at a youth empowerment conference. Today there are over 175 Famous Dave restaurants in 37 states and they generate 500 million in annual sales. I saw Dave two weeks ago and jokingly asked him what he’s been up to the last 15 years and he said, “Oh, just selling ribs.”

Dave’s passion and determination to never let failure get in the way of his ultimate success provides a lesson for all of us. Here’s hoping you find your own secret recipe.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shaping the World

As a child, Sara experienced a tragic event that changed her life. While riding her bicycle, she saw her best friend run over and killed by a car. From that day forward, she was determined to pursue life with a sense of urgency, and wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of her dreams. Her dad helped her in this regard. Each night at dinner, he would ask what she had failed at that day. His point was that if she wasn’t failing at something, then she wasn’t trying hard enough.

Identifying problems and solving them came naturally to young Sara. She found clever ways to do her chores, like organizing a weed-pulling competition among her friends. She financed her own Halloween parties by charging admission to the haunted house she created in her backyard. Instead of babysitting for one family, Sara set up a kids club at the beach so she could watch dozens of kids at the same time. She was an entrepreneur long before she understood what that really meant.

Sara’s dad was a lawyer and she planned to follow in his footsteps. But when she graduated from college, she failed the entrance exam for law school twice. Living in Florida, she still needed a job while she figured out what to do next, and so she applied at Disney World. She was too short to wear the Goofy costume but was hired to buckle guests into the rides. This wasn't her long-term plan, but she believed that every obstacle and failure was a gift and a chance to learn what to change. So she persevered and moved forward.

She applied for a job listed on a billboard and within a few weeks was working at a large office supply company, selling fax machines door-to-door. She was determined, staying not just positive, but grateful for the opportunity, and this attitude helped her excel in the difficult business as she lugged the heavy machines from one cold-call to the next.

Sara’s “a-ha” moment came one night while getting dressed for a party. The panty hose she’d always worn to work were hot and uncomfortable in the Florida heat, but she liked the slimming effect on her form under the slacks. In a moment of inspiration, she cut the feet off her panty hose to increase the comfort while maintaining the shaping quality. It was a partial success, as she found them riding up her legs, and realized that she wanted a simple undergarment that just didn’t exist… yet.

At age 27, Sara was selling fax machines during the day and working on her idea at night. She invested her$5,000 life savings to launch her business. The money quickly disappeared as she researched fabrics and made samples. After four years of hard work, Sara invented a new panty hose without feet that combined body shaping and comfort. She made up the name "Spanx" and went door-to-door selling her creation to department stores.

After sending samples to Oprah Winfrey’s stylist, Sara received an invitation to be on the show, and was advised to make sure her website was ready for big volume. The problem was Sara didn’t have a website. She scrambled to put one together, and was just in time for Oprah's announcement that Spanx was one of her favorite products of the year. Spanx sold over $4 million in product that year.

Sara Blakely has grown Spanx into a company with over 200 undergarment products, and Forbes magazine just named her the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. I met Sara this weekend as she was inducted into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, and asked for advice I could pass on to people pursuing their dreams. She said, “Having no knowledge or experience can be your greatest asset if you don’t let it intimidate you. Don’t let failure be an option and connect your passion to a cause you believe in.”

To all my readers, Spanx may be shaping the way their customers look, but if you follow Sara’s advice, you can live your dreams and positively shape the world too!

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Idea to Opportunity

When my first son was born it didn’t take me long to realize that  he didn’t come with an instruction manual. Over time I learned some of his baby cries meant “Feed me,” some meant “I’m tired,” and some even meant “Change my diaper.” With practice I became a pro at giving baths and making him giggle. I never really figured out how to keep my clothes from getting dirty when I put him on my shoulder and patted him on the back after a meal.

Then one day I had an idea: What if I created a bib I could wear to keep my clothes clean when burping my baby? A bib for parents…a PIB. I loved the name so I did a little research. Most of the parents I spoke to had their own solutions and they weren’t that interested. That’s when I realized there’s a difference between a good idea and a good opportunity. An idea may sound interesting, but an opportunity needs to make business sense.

I recently heard the story of Brandi, an ordinary mom with four kids. Brandi wanted her children to dress well but she often couldn’t afford to buy them new clothes especially as quickly as they grew out of them. She had an idea that it would be cheaper to make the clothes herself. When she was a little girl her grandmother taught her to make dresses for her Barbie dolls, so she asked her husband for a sewing machine for Mother’s Day.

Brandi set up her new sewing machine in a spare room, ordered some fabric, and started making dresses for her little girls. Her neighbors and family friends loved them and asked if she could make dresses for their children too. To save money, Brandi made a dozen dresses that all looked the same. Then she embroidered them with the initials of each child to make them more personalized. Her dresses were a big hit and she had stumbled into a little business. She wasn’t making much money but she loved doing it so it felt more like a hobby.

She posted some photos of her kids on Facebook and friends in other cities asked if she could make dresses for their children. Other moms in the community were also posting photos on Facebook and their friends started asking where they could buy the dresses. Brandi created a Facebook page to make it easier for people to share photos of their kids in her specially designed clothes. She used the nickname she gave her niece for the name of the Facebook page, Lolly Wolly Doodle.

One day Brandi had some extra fabric, so she made a dress and posted it on Facebook with a comment, “Would anyone like to buy this $15 pink dress with your child’s initials embroidered on it?” Within an hour she had 80 orders. That turned out to be the easy part. Brandi had to figure out how to make 80 dresses. She moved her sewing machine from her spare bedroom to the garage and engaged her kids and even her husband to help. In 2010 her husband lost his job. Brandi decided this was an opportunity to turn a bad situation into a good one. It was time to make this hobby into a real business.

If she opened a retail store she could only reach the 4,000 women with children that lived in her hometown. It would be expensive and she would miss her kids. Instead, she decided to launch on Facebook. Within months her Facebook page had 37,000 fans and today, less than 3 years later, she has over 400,000 fans! Brandi’s business grew so quickly that she had $100,000 in sales the first year and over $500,000 in sales the second year. After hiring all of her relatives, she started employing neighbors and friends, and today over 100 people work at Lolly Wolly Doodle.

Brandi sells around 900 items of children’s clothes every day on Facebook. Her business is now in the millions and is considered the largest e-commerce site on Facebook. This ordinary mom is doing extraordinary things and you can too. Your dreams do come with an instruction manual. On page 37 it says, “Passion is the fabric that dreams are made of.” The time is now so get sewing.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams