I am a huge believer in the fact that there are learning opportunities to be found in all aspects of everyday life. So to pay homage to my past career on the ice, today we’re going to take a closer look at the sport of figure skating, and the lessons that we can learn by paying close attention and listening to the swish of the blades.
Lesson 1: Determination and perseverance pay off
By far the most heartwarming figure skating story of the Vancouver Olympics was that of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao. Married since 2007, Shen and Zhao returned from retirement to compete in their fourth Olympics at the ages of 31 and 36 (unheard of for modern figure skating). They broke through to win the Olympic gold medal.
From Xue and Hongbo, we learn that things get better with time. The couple had been skating together since 1992, but only fell in love in the last few years of their partnership, and only reached Olympic gold in 2010, after eighteen years of working towards their goal.
While hopefully it won’t take you eighteen years to reach your business goals, it’s important to know that you will continue to grow and define yourself over time. Your business and your industry will evolve and you must be willing to stick with it, work hard and work smart, and trust that the solid foundation you lay will help catapult you to success when the time is right.
Lesson 2: Healthy competition only makes you better
What do the ice dancing teams of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have in common? It used to be their coaches – Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband. Then Belbin and Agosto left Michigan and began training with Linichuk and Karponosov. Only two of these couples went on to become Olympic champions.
So why did the teams of Virtue and Moir and Davis and White (who are good friends in addition to being training partners) rise to success so quickly and ascend to the highest level in their sport? Aside from their phenomenal talent, the fact is that training together pushed them to raise their game each and every day.
Although competition might seem scary at first, it’s something you should welcome. It will raise the stakes, but that is what allows you to challenge yourself and become even better tomorrow than you were yesterday.
Lesson 3: How you handle controversy defines you
It wouldn’t be an Olympics without a figure skating controversy and Vancouver was no different. Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko were 1-2 after the short program, with the slimmest of margins separating them. In the free skate, Evan’s all around skating skills were enough to vault him to the gold medal, and Plushenko settled for silver.
The battle didn’t end on the ice. And while we won’t debate the ins and outs of the code of points here (suffice it to say that I think they both have nuggets of truth in their arguments), what we can take away from this experience is that your poise and grace under pressure – your ability to handle controversy – can define you in business.
- Do you crack under stress?
- Do you write or speak without thinking?
- How do you respond when someone lashes out at you?
As a small business, you are your own public relations, so be cognizant of your actions and their impact on your image, and on your business results.
Lesson 4: Costumes can make all of the difference
Notice, if you will, the difference between the costume on the left and the costume on the right.
Same couple, my friends.
So what can we learn from Domnina and Shabalin? Well, it’s simple. No matter how great your skills are, branding is important.
- How do you differentiate yourself?
- Is your website design consistent and pleasing to the eye?
- Do others see you as you want to be seen?
Your design, and not your talent, is the first thing that someone sees when they visit your website. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
So there you have it, four lessons that figure skating can teach us about business. What other life and business lessons can you find from my favorite sport?
You’ve read my previous post about deciding whether you’re ready to start a blog and the green light has appeared. Now what?
Step One: Name Your Blog
(If you are a vendor with an existing company name (and you plan to add a blog with your existing company name on your site) move on along to Step 2.)
It sounds quite obvious but naming your blog is not as easy as it sounds. After brainstorming blog names, you will first need to verify in the US Trademark Database (TESS) that your chosen name is not taken. You will also want to verify with Whois that the .com of your chosen name is available for purchase.
Step Two: Branding
I cannot stress enough how important cohesive visual branding is to your new blog. This includes color schemes, fonts, and most importantly your blog logo and header. You want your blog to be a reflection of you, your company, and your content.
Think of brands you use on an everyday basis. What makes you choose Tide vs. Cheer? Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi? A generic granola bar may taste almost exactly like Quaker, but how likely are you to choose generic? What makes you lean towards brands that you trust? It isn’t always taste, usefulness or tradition – in some cases it’s as simple as the overall appearance and packaging of the product on the shelf.
The web is the same. You may have the best content in the world but if your blog/site is poorly designed and difficult to navigate, you’re not going to generate the readership you want. So when you’re branding, as difficult as it may be, you’re in Field of Dreams land. “If you build it (and have excellent content, and market yourself, and make sure you SEO your site properly, all of which we’ll discuss soon!), they will come”.
Step Three: Sketch Your Layout
In Photoshop, Powerpoint, or with stick figures (my preferred method), begin sketching out your blog’s look and feel. Do you want a 2-column or 3-column layout? How do you want your front page to appear? Do you want to immediately display excerpts or full-text posts? What information do you want to display in your sidebar? What information do you want included in your posts’ headers? Their footers? What navigation elements are essential?
This is a daunting task but before any technology is implemented you need to have a vision! Review as many blogs as possible for elements you want to incorporate into your preliminary design. This is also the time to work with your graphic designer on any special illustrations for your site, or to gather the best photos of your work to display.
Now that you have a good idea of the look and feel of your new blog, it’s time to get technical! Next up: a series of posts on Building Your WordPress Blog!
As small business owners, entrepreneurs, or hobbyists, if you are considering adding a blog to your business the first question that you should ask yourself is:
“Why am I blogging and what do I hope to gain?”
- Social media managers
- Intellectual property experts
- Graphic designers
- Advertising execs
- Marketing gurus
Blogging offers lots of amazing rewards but comes with a great deal of responsibility, and each time you put a post, a tweet, or an email out into the blogiverse you are representing yourself or your business… that’s a lot of pressure!
Sit down to think for a moment about the blog you hope to create, the audience you want to reach, and the true reason you want to start a blog. Make a pro/con list. Consult your business plan. Read other people’s blogs to get an idea of the audience you may want to reach and the network you want to join. Then ask yourself…
“Am I qualified to blog about _____?”
Whatever your chosen topic, you should be a subject matter expert in that field. Your field may be yourself. It may be your business. It may be your own taste. Clearly you are an expert in all of those! But let’s say you want to start a blog about gardening. What can you add to the gardening blog industry? Do you personally garden? What do you know about growing specific plants, vegetables, or flowers? Are you prepared to answer questions from readers and advise them on making their garden grow? If the answer to these questions is no, stop here. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and do not start a gardening blog. But if you’re a bona fide gardening pro, then the last and most important question is…
“Do I have time for this?”
For many of us, blogging is a full-time job (on top of our full-time job). It’s a huge commitment. You must take the time to realistically assess whether or not you will have the time and energy to devote to your site.
If you’re a brave soul and are ready to jump in feet first, I’m going to be doing a series of posts to help you get started building your WordPress blog. I remember vividly how it feels to be brand-new to the blog world and tackle the setup of a website, so we will go back to basics, answer all of your burning questions, and you will be blogging in no time.
If you’re on the fence, well, that’s OK, too. Starting a blog is not a decision to be made lightly, and we’ll have much more discussion on the realities and benefits of blogging, and why it may or may not be for you.
For all of you experienced bloggers reading, what other factors should those who are thinking about creating a blog take under consideration?
I’m beyond excited to unveil Edit and Post to you. My name is Ami and I’m so glad you’re here! Many of you may know me through my wedding blogsite Elizabeth Anne Designs or via my travel site Entouriste. Through Edit and Post, I will be sharing the blogging knowledge that I have gathered over the last eight years of writing and managing Elizabeth Anne Designs and Entouriste as well as general business suggestions and tips. Welcome!
Let’s get to know each other!
A little bit about my background…
Founded in October 2007, Elizabeth Anne Designs welcomes thousands of visitors daily and is one of the leading wedding blogs in the industry. In 2013, I founded Entouriste, a community-based site featuring the travels of the world’s best photographers. Each of my projects are WordPress-based blogsites, for which I do all of the design and coding in addition to editing and publishing each post.
While I may chat about weddings and travel each day, my education and experience is in finance and accounting. After graduating from Converse College with Bachelor’s degrees in both Accounting and Finance, the husband and I made our way to the wonderful city of Chicago. I attended DePaul University and received an Master of Science in Finance, and rounded out my education with a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago, where I concentrated my studies in Strategic Management and Organizational Behavior.
I’ve worked in the accounting and finance field for over 13 years, always in mid-size, high-growth environments where I can truly get my hands dirty. I love to get into the details and understand all of the complexities and intricacies of a business. I want to know what makes them tick—where their strengths and weaknesses lie, how they handle their human capital, where efficiencies can be gained, where investment is needed, and where technology can improve their business model.
We are all CEOs
We are all doing what we love—be it planning weddings, blogging about our home renovations, trying out new recipes, or crafting with glitter (who doesn’t love glitter?). But the moment we earned our first dollar from Google Adsense or bought our first set of supplies for making jewelry, we instantly became CEOs. For some, that’s a scary prospect. We just wanted to make pretty things! We’re going to delve into the issues faced by small businesses, from accounting to social media strategy, and along the way, we’ll learn from each other and become smarter business owners.
Knowledge is power
Edit and Post will get quite technical at times, but along the way I’m going to try my best to give clear and concise instructions for those of you looking to code aspects of your site. And even if you are never going to code one line of your site on your own, knowledge is power! Familiarizing yourself with how WordPress works will allow you to intelligently talk with your developer and better assess how your money is being spent. Learning a bit about built-in functionality will allow you to decide whether you are spending your time efficiently. So if you don’t know a z-index from an index.html or CSS from RSS, you’re in the right place.
My goal is for Edit and Post to be a forum for discussion so please comment or contact me with any specific questions you may have or topics you would like to see on Edit and Post.
I’m looking forward to getting to know each of you—thanks for coming along for the ride!