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Stoking the Fire

Posted by michelle in Enterpreneurs, Small Business on November 6, 2009

Over the last few posts I’m sure you could see the bite from the Entrepreneurial bug – though no radioactive spider – has been working its transformative power.  By the end of September, as the impending battle with HiringFreeze and LayOff seemed each day closer and more menacing, I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to sharpen my own super-networking and entrepreneurial powers by attending Network Solution’s Grow Smart Business Conference.

What an amazing day! If my super-boots hadn’t been holding them on, I’m sure my super-socks would have been knocked right off. I was so impressed by the program line up and the organization and presentation by the hotel. For the first time in many years, it felt like the “good ol’ days” in the online world.

When I arrived at registration and was invited to stop down the hall for breakfast before the conference began, I was expecting  the usual dregs of the half-bagle and stale croissant plate and warmed over coffee. Imagine my surprise – and delight – to find a beautiful full buffet with eggs, bacon, gorgeous pastries,  plenty of fresh fruit- and full table service.

And check out this beautiful table at the break – no generic granola bars here: instead mixed nuts, dried fruit, and plenty of TAZO Earl Grey.

Grow Smart: mmmm Snacks

Grow Smart: mmmm Snacks

From a customer standpoint I would definitely recommend and attend other events at the Renaissance Marriott. Kudos to the NetSol team for a conference that went above and beyond the expectations of everyone I spoke with.

The deal was well worth the $99 I paid for the event, but you can still catch most of the same goodies and great advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs – minus the delicious breakfast, lunch and snacks for FREE.

Some of my personal favorites –

Truly inspiring day. I found myself wishing that I had time to really dedicate myself to my renewed entrepreneurial energies.

Well, you know what theay say…

What are your intentions?

Posted by michelle in Strengths on August 9, 2009

This past Wednesday, I attended a great event entitled “Unintentional Entrepreneur”, co sponsored by Network Solutions, SCORE and Outright. As I get back on the Entrepreneurship horse on-the-side-show myself, I just couldn’t pass this one up for a number of reasons:

  • 1) Since 1992 when I started my first consulting business – intentionally – I’ve been both an intentional and unintentional entrepreneur several times over
  • 2) I was really curious to meet people who considered themselves “unintentional entrepreneurs” because on the occasions when I’ve been an unintentional entrepreneur, I’ve found living the dual identity of entrepreneur/job-seeker to be very challenging
    NB – I didn’t meet anyone who considered themselves unintentionally there 😉
  • 3) Shashi The Social Media Swami was hosting. Besides having one of the coolest titles in the business, every time I attend one of Shashi’s events, something magical happens. Wednesday was no exception.
  • 4) I guess I consider myself an “unintentional employee” at the moment. I was just getting TBD off the ground when my current gig sort of fell in my lap. I wasn’t looking for it, but it found me.

So along with enough ideas for a regular cornucopia of blogging material for several weeks to come, it’s got me thinking a lot about “intentions.”

As an errant yogini and erstwhile coach, words and intentions are powerful concepts for entrepreneurs and everyone.

We’ll explore them together soon. In the mean time, here’s a great article on one interpretation of the difference between intentions and goals.

Ten Months, Ten Days – I’m burning, again

Posted by michelle in Strengths, Super Heroes on July 25, 2009

That’s it no more Reign on my Fire.

I can’t believe all this time has slipped by. Where did it go?

September 2008 was a slow return to reality after BRC, followed by October’s fast and furious assimilation by the “Borg” –  my own personal Kryptonite, a “real job”.

Lured by what promised to be, at last, the perfect opportunity to work using only my strengths: Strategy, Coaching, Team Building, User Experience Design, and Introducing Social Media, I leapt at the chance to “build my own team.” I never imagined I’d be hanging up my brand new super-hero suit so quickly.

I envisioned a slow ramp up as a sort of Charles Xavier, culling through my network of ultratalented friends from the online world – designers, developers, social-media gurus and online strategists, to assemble a best-of-the-best league of super online mutants to fight the good fight against an unwieldy navigation scheme and general lack of brand strategy. It seemed so close, so real, so easy. Heck, I was going to work for the American Association for Justice, it already sounded like a superhero gig. Moonlighting as TBD would be snap, right?

But, the world and the economy had other things in store for me and my team. Just days after arriving, out went The Memo. You know the one. Chances are pretty good you’ve seen one or more of these in the last year or so –  the, “cutting back, tightening belts, hiring freeze” memo.

(I think Hiring Freeze must be a distant cousin to Mr. Freeze, and one cold, heartless bitch, tho not as rotten as her paramour, LayOff.)

So my team of soon-to-be-six, was instantly frozen at 2.5, and 9 months of way too many 80 hour weeks, a layoff, a scapegoat and an implosion later, it’s just me and two wonder twins.

I lived so much of this last year so far outside of my Strengths Zone that I feel drained and depleted. But at the same time, I’ve taken on – and beaten – technical challenges I could never have imagined previously. (POW! take that web server scrub! BAM! RedDot LiveServer redundancy! BANG! you’re done, ever- crashing-nightmare-giving website! No more!)

Still, even though TBD would brush through my thoughts with a melancholy longing, there seemed no possibility to pull out the suit, to ignite the Fire of Desire. But in the last several months, with my darkest of foes defeated, I’ve felt her whispering to me at every turn. Teasing me with signs and symbols.

And so feeling like Peter Parker in Reign, or Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Returns, older, slower, surlier, hopefully a little wiser, yet nonetheless compelled, I must don the suit again.

I had my Hiatus removed

Posted by michelle in Small Business, Strengths, Super Heroes on September 15, 2008


After a brief stint in the hospital for a very minor health issue (Hey, even superheroes need health-care sometimes.), and a not-so-brief, but all too fleeting stint on The Playa for Burning Man 2008, The Adventures and Observations of The Burning Desire (TBD) will continue next week with tall tales and keen insights into small business superheroes putting their innate talents and signature strengths to work to make the world a better place.

Still GrOwing…

Posted by michelle in Small Business, Strengths on July 15, 2008

Michel(l)e Day RoseOkay, technically no longer growing, but last week I wrote about my great experience with Palace Florists. A week later, the rose looks practically fresh cut. No easy feat for a rose in July heat!

Newly discovered Strength/Superpower – superior product.

Note to self: find out secret ingredient in spray applied to rose.

The LAST time I want to be FIRST

Posted by michelle in Strengths on July 14, 2008

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to post on Friday. Like a million others (or 425,000 others depending on who you believe) I was waiting in line and at the Apple Store for my new 3G iPhone – for a total of 7 hours!

Now, to be honest, I was ready for a long wait. I knew it was a little silly to be in line at 7:30 am, but there I was. I realized, of course, that being in line at 6:00 am would be truly insane and besides would only mean being a little closer to the door – with 2 hours more to wait until the store actually opened. But after waiting a year and 11 days, I was prepared for 3-4 hours in the thick of things for the thrill of being one of the First, even if it was the second time around.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the utter lack of competency and caring on behalf of AT&T. (My alternate title for this post was “AT&T made me cry.”)

At 10:30 and with just a few people ahead of us (my husband and owner of an original iPhone for a year and 11 days was with me to acquire his own bigger, faster, stronger gadget), I was pleased that my estimated hours of anticipation were right on the money. However, I was also nearing full-on panic because we’d been on the phone with AT&T for over half of that time. Not withstanding endless loops of IVRs and vague menus that naturally had no selection for “If you’re one of the million people we hope will buy a new iPhone this weekend – Press 7″, not a single one of the 11+ real live (supposed) people we spoke with could seem to solve this puzzle:

Hi, I use your service and send you quite a lot of money every month. I’m planning on buying something that I really, really want and know I will love that will enable [a.k.a force] me to send you even more money for even longer, doesn’t that sound great? can you help me? In other words, I’m a current AT&T customer with an iPhone, I’d like to UPGRADE to a Family Plan with another iPhone. Can you do that?

I’m sorry, Sir, you’ll have to buy your phone from an AT&T store. I’m sorry sir, we can’t help you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

Are you kidding me? How did they not foresee this particular scenario? Wouldn’t this be the very definition of “low hanging fruit”? Didn’t they imagine that lots of wives and sons and daughters and lovers and all sorts of iPhone-maniacs that have “family” would naturally think, “hey, honey, you should get one now too?” Apparently not.

And though I’m sure between my husband and I we must have read every blog, factoid, rumor and innuendo in the previous month, no where did we think that we would have to go to AT&T to get our new phones – or we certainly would have been in another line!

So there we were, the next in line, with no way to get a second line! Well, alright. Lucky for us we were at Montgomery Mall, where there is an AT&T store around the corner from the Apple Store about 20 yards away. So around the corner we go. Only to find a line full of other disappointed Apple fans. The lady with the baby carriage who had been a little ways ahead of us. A family with two kids whose cheerios and sippy-cups had long ago run dry. Oh, and the “Manager” of the AT&T store, informing us that they were sold out. He – another real live person – shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, made a face and said, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”

How sad. What a heartbreaking story of…uhm…I can’t think of the word…D’uh-ness? With over 5 million phones in the market, AT&T had hundreds of thousands of opportunities to turn current customers into loyal fans, and new customers into delighted buyers who loved the ease and sophistication of switching to AT&T. Instead, they became The Bad Guys, the ones keeping me (and lots of others) from what I loved and longed for.

But what’s worse, instead of Insidious Masterminds or Evil Geniuses, they just seemed ill-trained and un-empowered. A legion of bumbling henchmen and loser lackeys who are always the ultimate undoing of any brilliant plan. And they made me feel almost as stupid. They made me regret my feverish excitement about being the First. That’s the Last time. Because they also made me dig my heals in and refuse to buy my phone from AT&T. (I did not, I’m happy to report.)

I was ready to love them by association. Instead, every day in my contract with them is just another day closer to the end of their exclusive agreement. The day I jump ship. When will the cell-phone industry realize that indentured servitude isn’t the same thing as loyalty?

For toppers, now more than 48 hours later, my phone is still not receiving calls.

But tune it next time to learn why I can still love Apple, even though they broke my heart, a little.

Today was Michel(l)e Day

Posted by michelle in Small Business, Strengths on July 7, 2008

Image Palace Florists

I’ve lived near, worked around the corner or down the street and passed by Palace Florists at 19th & N near Dupont Circle for many of my nearly 20 years in DC. I don’t remember when I first noticed the sign, but for several years they have had a sign out front that reads “If your name is ______(fill in a name) come in for a free rose.” There is a different name everyday. They seem to roll through the alphabet.

It always makes me smile, but I’ve never seen my name before. Once I sent an email to my friend Lisa that worked around a different corner nearby to let her know it was Lisa day.

Well, today was Michele day. With one “L”. That’s what the sign said. I smiled, and also felt sort of desperate and full of anxiety and wondered would they turn me away for my extra-L? After all these years of telling people, “Hi, my name is Michelle with two L’s, like the song” would I come to regret the traditional French spelling? Would they card me?

As I entered the lushly green store, there was a female customer at the register. From behind one of the counters filled with beautiful arrangements appeared another woman who obviously worked there – the single rose in hand gave her away. As she notice my “gee-I-wonder-how-this works” look, she smiled brightly and asked, “Michel(l)e??”

She asked in the way you say someone’s name when you go out on a blind date or think you recognize someone from Jr. High, full of hope and anticipation. I didn’t recognize her. I felt that brief deer-in-the-headlights sensation. What a coincidence to run into someone who knew me here. How did she know me? My mind raced…then I remembered why I had come in to the store. 😉

She must see that same look on lots of people’s faces each day. It turned out the woman in line was also Michele, with the requisite single L. But it turned out it didn’t matter. They didn’t card me after all. But they did gain a loyal customer. No more plain old FTD or 800flowers for me.

No, from now on Palace Florists will be a part of my family too – check out their tagline.

Strengths & SuperPowers – Kind Trusting Service, Engaging Anticipation

Seth Godin is a Superhero

Posted by michelle in Super Heroes on June 27, 2008

Ever since I began thinking about writing this blog, I started imagining ways I could connect my readers with Seth Godin because he is one of the members of my League of Legends – thought leaders and provocateurs who inspire me, mentor me, and sometimes just make my brain hurt and my heart ache because they are so brilliant.

How serendipitous (I love it when I get to use that word!) that Seth has recently written an article entitled, “Superheroes”. I’m not kidding.

Seth and his cast of characters at Squidoo are holding a promotion to write Squidoo pages or “lenses” about your favorite everyday superheroes to raise money for charity. I wish I’d read this sooner because the contest part ends on July 1! It will be a challenge to write 5 lenses in 5 days, but it’s certainly worth a shot.

My head is spinning with ideas of people that deserve superhero status in my book. Who are your superheros?

Welcome to The Burning Desire

Posted by michelle in Small Business, Strengths, Super Heroes on June 20, 2008

Hello, and Welcome!

Today is the longest day of the year – here in the Northern hemisphere. That means more daylight hours to devote to doing what you do best and what you love the most.

What’s that you say? You can’t remember the last time you spent more than an hour doing what you do best? You hardly ever feel like you get to really shine at work and lately it seems like every day is so draining? Well…maybe last quarter there was that one great strategy meeting…or a few months ago you got to work on that special project for a couple weeks. But it’s certainly not an everyday occurrence, right?

Unfortunately, studies show you’re not alone. Over the last decade, the Gallup Organization has gathered information from the more than 10 million participants who have taken their Clifton StrengthsFinder profile. Data indicates that only 30% of respondents strongly agreed that they have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday at work.

So that means a vast majority of us spend a vast majority of our time doing things we may not be very good at, or even like very much. For employees, that means things like dreading going to work and spending a lot of time telling people about the terrible place they work. For companies it means disengaged employees and higher turnover. And for small businesses, it can be the root cause of stagnant business growth.

Like most superheroes, we all have a few things that we can do better than almost anyone – innate talents and signature strengths that make us soar high and shine brightly. (Okay, maybe not fly or wield a golden lasso, but, hey, we’ve got planes and polygraphs for that stuff now.) But in this Universe, individuals with the innate abilities for developing loyal customer relationships, strategic planning, innovative conceptual thinking, or mad number crunching can save the day faster than any magic bullet.

Yet the sad truth is that, also like many superheroes, we spend most of our time masking those talents or pushing them to the periphery, focusing our energies instead on our weaknesses or “areas for improvement.” Essentially, hiding our x-ray eyes behind our horn-rimmed glasses.

So, if you need rescuing from your mild mannered life – welcome to The Burning Desire. Here at TBD, you’ll find a fun, lighthearted approach to help you identify your innate talents and signature strengths so you can get more of what you want from life whether it’s a new and improved career path, better team dynamics and collaboration, or a new business venture.

Along the way, we’ll look at ancient wisdom, new research, and comic book philosophy to help you identify your strengths so you can ignite your passion, create focus and “unmask your inner superhero.”

You’ll also meet the “League of Legends” – thought leaders, business gurus, and Jedi Masters of everything from music to gardening to database developing, inspiring people who seem to live by The Burning Desire’s philosophy –

  • – Do what comes naturally and what you do best
  • – Do what you love the most and with the greatest of passion
  • – Do what you do to make the world a better place

Oh, and of course, you’ll learn more about The Burning Desire herself.

So tune in next time…