Twitter Tales

For her blogaversary Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni, asked her readers to submit their Twitter Tales.  She asked us to “write a short post describing how a connection you made on Twitter, first, lead you to an opportunity and opened new horizons”.   While I have many, many Twitter tales of deep and lasting friendships and professional relationships that have developed from chance meetings on Twitter.  There are a few that stand out as examples of how small and connected our world truly has become and how wide we make it when we reach out to those we encounter on Twitter.

The first story occurred shortly after I joined Twitter.  I had become “pals” with a wonderful lady by the name of Kim (Haynes) Hollenshead (@kimhollenshed) who lived in Austin (I live in Philadelphia).  Kim and I had exchanged pleasantries and had some Twitter convos for a few months when she happened to Twitpic a photo of her new home.  I responded that it looked a lot like my father’s house north of Austin.  We chatted briefly about the area and the fact that I am originally from Texas.  During our Twitter exchange and telephone calls to our respective parents, we figured out that not only were our families from the same very small town but also that her uncle had been my father’s best friend all through school.  Two women that would never have met, had it not been for Twitter, have now become close friends and have brought our families back in touch after 30+ years.

Not only has Twitter opened doorways for me personally, allowing me to develop deep sincere friendships with people I would never have met, but it has also been a cornerstone of my professional development.  Every day on Twitter I learn something new.  Someone reaches me with information and knowledge.  They open my mind and stretch my imagination.  Being actively involved on Twitter led me to people like Beth Harte (@bethharte)  and Annie Heckenberger (@anniemal) who welcomed me with open arms into the social media world and Social Media Club Philadelphia.  These generous women who took time to teach me, mentor me and eventually encourage me to start my own social media consulting practice.

Twitter has touched me in multiple ways, personal and professional, and it has also touched my heart and my compassion.  My first couple hundred followers were the result of meeting Connie Reece (@conniereece) and Susan Reynolds (@susanreynolds) and becoming involved with the Frozen Pea Fund.  Twitter helped me find others who were as passionate about the fight against breast cancer as I am.  From these initial connections has grown my Twitter “family”, the people I laugh, cry and share triumphs and tragedies with.   Twitter’s involvement with my philanthropic side does not end there.

I first met Melissa Thiessen (@melitami) at PodCamp Philly 2008.  We shared a love of so many things, geeky and otherwise, we quickly became inseparable friends.  One of things that Melissa and I share is a belief that life is about giving back.  That we are not complete as human beings unless we are doing our best to help others.  Twitter has allowed us to live that belief in the form of Twestival.  When the announcement was made last year that they were recruiting volunteers from cities all over the globe to hold events that would raise money for charity:water, Melissa immediately stepped up to make sure that Philly was represented.  Knowing me the way she does, she never even had to ask if I wanted to participate, it was a given that I would be her partner in charity.  Together with a wonderful team of volunteers, we built Twestival Philadelphia.  On February 12, 2009 Twestival Philly joined 201 other cities globally to raise $250,000 to bring clean drinking water to third world countries.   And we did not stop there!  Twestival HQ decided not to wait another year so the Twestival cities were encouraged to choose a local charity and hold a Twestival Local event between September 9th and 13th.  Cities around the globe, including Philadelphia, again brought together their communities to raise money for deserving charities.  Twestival Philly’s charity was Gift of Life Family House.  We helped this deserving organization raise money to build a safe, supportive affordable place for organ transplant patient families to stay.

None of this – my friendships around the globe, new business relationships, the speed and depth at which I learn and grow from shared knowledge, the privilege of being a part of something so much larger than myself – it would not have been possible without the power and reach of Twitter.  There are not enough words, time or space to acknowledge all of the people from Twitter who have touched my life.  Everyone I have met, interacted with, developed relationships with, they all have a special place in my heart.

My final words are a Thank You to Valeria for collecting these stories.  Showing the world what Twitter means to us.  How powerful these 140 character conversations are in building meaningful, productive personal and business relationships.

Are you running your business or is it running you?

As entrepreneurs, freelancers, small business owners – take your pick of what you want to be called – we are called upon to not only wear many differents hats, but shoes, shirts and pants too.   In seconds we may have to go from being the receptionist to the CEO to the janitor.  Then, somewhere in the midst of doing all of that, we also have to do the things we get paid to do, the things we are passionate about, the things that we took that risk and started our businesses to do.

When a business fails one fairly consistent response from the owner, if they are being honest, is “I was overwhelmed. There was so much to consider”.  There is a lot to consider and a lot to do.  The key is to stop your business from running you and turn to running your business.  This means spending significant time identifying just what your goals are and a solid, realistic plan on how to achieve them.  It also means accepting your limitations and knowing when to ask for help.   We are not all good at everything, as much as we might like to be or think we are.  Most of us have gone into business for ourselves because there is one or a few things we are really good at.  One of the keys to making sure we are running our business rather than it running us is to acknowledge what we are not good at.  You may be The Rock Star graphic designer, but if you are lousy at writing, your proposals will suffer and so will your business.  If you are the world’s best writer, but you are lousy at math, your books are going to suffer and so will your business.

Almost as important as what we are not good at, is what we don’t have time to do.  The bottom line to having our own businesses is exactly that – the bottom line.  Primary in our decisions should be the lifestyle that being an entrepreneur allows us to have, but if the bills are not getting paid, there is no lifestyle.  If you are spending too much of your time running your business and not working on the things that build your business and bring in the money, you are losing out on opportunities.

So how do you make sure that you are the one in charge of your businesses destiny?  Start with identifying your end goal and your plan to get there.  Then take a long, hard, probably soul-searching look at yourself and, if necessary, your team.  What are you good at?  What do you like to do? What are you passionate about?  If a team, what are your combined and individual strengths, and more importantly, what are your weaknesses?   Once you have honestly assessed what you should be doing – the things you are good at and passionate about – now you can begin to evaluate the things you are not good at or don’t have time for.   Is your bookkeeping piece the one that needs work?  Do you fall behind on new contact/potential lead follow-ups?  Are you bad about remembering appointments or your clients’ birthdays and company anniversaries? Are you lost when it comes to marketing or think that social media is filming your friend’s birthday party?    Once you know what you don’t know, you can begin to develop a plan to overcome the gaps in your knowledge or your processes.

Maybe the answer is something as simple as taking a quick class and re-learning skills you already had, maybe you need to reallocate the resources your team already has to better play to their individual strengths, maybe the answer is to turn to a professional.  For everyone and every business, the solution will be different.  One key thing to remember is that occasionally spending money to hire someone to do the things you don’t like to do or are not good can ultimately be a savings.  It is a savings in the aggravation, wasted time, worry and lost billable hours you would otherwise experience.  Now this does not mean turn over the reins to your business to someone else!  It is still your business and you should always be actively involved in every aspect of it.  What it does mean is you find someone with skills you do not have to be your partner.  Make sure they understand your business and your vision as clearly as you would have your team or employees understand them.

So now, the question for you is what do you need to do to stop your business from running you? Or more importantly, away from you?  I’d love to hear your answers – so please keep the comments coming.