Today's Sunday Spotlight is with Rebecca Shapiro of Integrative Mentoring. I met Rebecca a couple of years ago now and have worked with her in the development of my business. She is thoughtful, honest and extremely professional. Rebecca has years of experience working with many entrepreneurs, helping them to see more clearly; encouraging them to move forward and do what feels good. Rebecca has helped me grow and I think she might be able to help you grow, too!
Please share a bit about yourself and the services you offer:
I am a small business mentor and a professional fine artist. I find that entrepreneurship and art are both highly creative and complimentary. I often use my skills as an artist and mentor when I consult with business clients.
I work with my clients to develop an actionable plan so they can successfully accomplish what they want. We do this together so they’re fully engaged. It doesn’t work when I end up telling a client what they should do. If they’re not invested, it won’t stick and usually fails…even if it was the best solution.
Most of the time my clients are in transition and are having difficulty seeing where they need to go or what they need to do for their business. I use creative principles and exercises to get the juices flowing so clients can see what they’re doing in a new way and make the best decisions for their business.
You can read more on my website at www.integrativementoring.com.
What are a few of the biggest challenges facing businesses today?
Fear is probably the biggest challenge I see businesses face today. It prevents them from thinking clearly and strategically. It keeps them from investing in themselves and their business. I see so many businesses freeze in their tracks when the economy slows down. They’re so afraid of making a mistake but guess what…they just made a huge one by freezing up.
This is the very best time to reevaluate your personal and professional goals. Once you’ve taken some time to sit down and look at what’s going on, you can determine what you really need. It’s a great time to invest in your business, get some additional guidance or bump up your education. It’s also an excellent time to put some money and effort into building relationships with new customers so that when the economy does turn around, you’re way ahead of everyone else who was frozen in their tracks.
This is the time when I carry my soapbox around and tell everyone to reinvent themselves. It truly is the best time to do this sort of work. Most people need a little help so working with a coach, consultant or mentor can offer guidance and motivation so you stay away from freeze mode.
In an age of DIY, how can a business mentor help an entrepreneur?
DIY is great! Business owners can save a lot of money and have greater control when they DIY. BUT…there comes a point where DIY can actually get in the way and businesses can lose profits. It’s sort of sneaky…you get to a tipping point where you actually must reach out and bring other support on to keep your business going or growing.
A business mentor can help you through that DIY transition time. I commonly help my clients determine whether this is the best time to bring on additional staff or create a contractor position. Sometimes they need to relinquish control and delegate. Other times, they just need an expert eye to help them see where they can be more effective by having a good mix of DIY and hiring help.
What is the importance of design and marketing for entrepreneurs?
A well crafted design is attractive and people want to know you. The old adage “put your best face forward” really is true because first impressions do last. When your business has an eye-catching design, it tells potential customers you’re successful and have something to offer. It also tells your existing customers that you care about your business and you’re flourishing. Everyone wants to be part of something attractive and successful.
Design is also part of your marketing plan. In fact, a good design is part of your branding strategy which is part of a solid marketing plan. A lot of businesses skip over the branding work and go straight to the marketing. I discourage my clients from this pitfall. The branding work can be tough but when done right with a well-expressed design, it makes your marketing so much easier.
I’m a firm believer that owning a business is a community effort, so the more support you create, the better you will be.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who want to grow their business?
Get expert help. There are business advisors all over the place, especially now that entrepreneurship has been on the rise for the last several years. A strong business advisor who has experience working with your genre of business (this is very important) will help you identify and achieve your goals much more quickly than if you try to figure it out yourself.
Look at it this way…If you needed surgery, you would look up surgeons and pick the one that specializes in what you need because that surgeon is an expert in that field. It’s the same with business. You need help, research and find the best possible person who can help you grow your business. It might be a private consultant such as myself, it might be someone at your bank or someone at your community college. Don’t be afraid to say you need help and want to grow. Do be sure to ask questions and make sure the help you’re getting someone who has experience with your type of business.
You use social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN. How did you decide how to use it and how does it fit in your overall marketing strategy?
I use these tools because they fit my personality and my way of communicating with other people. I am social and outgoing and enjoy helping in a public way. Having an online presence and personality helps me reach many more people than usual. It’s part of my brand.
BUT…social media isn’t for everyone. It may not fit your personality or personal bandwidth. You may not want to market and grow your business further. You also have to remember that social media has “flavors of the month.” Right now Facebook is the hottie but it could experience what happened to MySpace. My-what? See what I mean. You have to stay on top of the online trends and be smart about how you use them. If you’re not seeing any new customers or an increase in sales after a good solid effort over a good solid amount of time, then it may not be the best marketing strategy for your business. Just because “everyone” is using it doesn’t mean you should.
I help my clients assess whether or not they can maintain an online presence and where their business can see the most returns when recommending social media as part of their marketing plan.
How has using social media evolved for you since using it?
I’ve had an online presence for many years and as mentioned earlier, I’ve been online long enough to see trends rise and fall. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that if I’m going to participate, I need to keep my branding and message consistent, I need to be active and contribute to the global conversation and I need to stay on top of the trends and measure if I’m getting a good return on my time. Twitter used to be very lucrative for me. I still use it but that’s shifted and now Facebook is more productive. I know that this will change at some point, too. When people are frustrated with social media it’s usually because they don’t know how to use it for business and they’re not measuring whether or not the effort is paying off.
What advice do you have for using social media?
If you’ve never used social media, find a business or marketing consultant who has a lot of experience using these tools. They should be able to help you assess whether or not you can or want to maintain a social media presence, how to use social media and which sites will serve your business best.
I also recommend that you understand yourself and your business brand VERY well. Some types of businesses and business owners can combine personal and professional tweets and Facebooks posts seamlessly. That’s because it’s part of their brand and they understand how to use it. Other kinds of business should not post anything personal but find other ways to participate and contribute to the online community.
Of course, never post what you ate for lunch (yawn), or how much you hate your neighbor or boss (stupid) or load a picture of you last night at 2 am with a shot of tequila in hand. Common sense is necessary because once something is on the internet – it NEVER goes away. If you even hesitate for a second, don’t post. If you can’t tell, don’t post. If you don’t care, you could really hurt your business.
Are you reading any business related books? If so, what are they?
Yes. I’m reading Jackie Peterson’s new book “Better Smarter Richer” for creative entrepreneurs. It’s very good and I like what I’m reading…especially since I work with creative entrepreneurs who are launching a business or are in transition with their business.
How has your business evolved and what have you learned in the past year?
I’ve pretty much focused on consulting with small business owners and my art. It’s where I get a lot of energy and am excited the most. I spent the year prior letting go of things that don’t serve me. I also learned that if I’m involved in something I really don’t want to do, I can’t sustain it. It’s not an avenue worth pursuing. I tell my clients who are thinking about launching a business that if they’re going to be an entrepreneur they better like what they do and get energy from it because it’s going to be a huge part of their life.
As a business mentor, where do you go to find assistance and advice for your business?
I actually spend a great deal of time building and nurturing my business support team. As I’ve grown I’ve collected people that I can count on for different things. I use my bookkeeper and CPA for financial questions. I have several coaches…some for personal development and others for business development. I also have friends that I trust and are successful entrepreneurs I admire that I can turn to when things arise. I also keep cards of people that may be able to help me in the future and make sure to stay in touch from time to time so I’m building a relationship with them.
I’m a firm believer that owning a business is a community effort, so the more support you create, the better you will be. And, your support team isn’t just for use when things come up. It’s good to have coffee with someone from time to time and just do a check in…see how you’ve progressed. It’s amazing how we forget all the things we accomplish in a short period of time. These support people can help you mark your progress and feel good about your successes.
Do you have any current specials right now for business owners?
I offer a free 30 minute consultation so people can experience the way I work. This way we both test drive one another and see if we’re a good fit for teamwork.
What is the best way for entrepreneurs to contact you?
The best way is through my website: www.integrativementoring.com. There is an intake form tab you can click on and fill out the form and leave me a question or comment. I’ll get back to you quickly.
When entrepreneurs sign up with you, what three things can they expect?
First, that I will carefully listen to where they are and what they want to accomplish. I’m very good at listening “between the lines”, too. This is where a lot of information is stored that people don’t know about themselves.
Second, I make a clear assessment of where I think you and your business are headed. I’m very honest with my clients so they understand right away that our relationship is based on trust. The assessment is candid and without judgment.
Third, I offer recommendations for steps my clients can take to achieve their goals. Together, we carefully craft a plan that they can follow. We build a support team so they stay on track and execute quickly. When goals or transition work isn’t planned properly, people lose their inspiration and motivation resulting in lost momentum. That’s why I meet with people every other week and we stay on track, checking in and making sure progress in being made. What invariably happens is people discover other things in the process that they can incorporate into their business. The result is they have a business that is more appealing to others and more enjoyable for themselves.
Rebecca Shapiro : Integrative Mentoring