Open Letter to Spokane City Council Regarding the East Central Community Center

Dear Spokane City Council Members:

Considerable unrest and furor has been caused with the recent decision to hand over operations of the East Central Community Center to the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, as opposed to the current leadership, the East Central Community Organization.

Having observed the current staff at the East Central Community Center, and their reactions to having their contract renewed and then taken away, I can only conclude that the process by which the organization was selected has been skewed.

Following the story in the news has led me to the same conclusion: why have there been three votes? Why have people with vested interests in one community organization not abstained from voting?

Is there a solution that will preserve the current programs, and the people in the community which they serve, that does not offend anyone?

My concern is that the current programming be maintained: specifically, the after-school and summer youth program.

I encountered Matt West and Ryan Hamilton when I signed my son up for the Ben Burr Summer Program this past summer (2017). My son had been diagnosed with Encopresis and ADHD, as well as Sensory Processing Disorder.

Matt and Ryan treated my son with dignity and respect. They mentored him, included him in all activities, and they earned my respect daily. Ryan planned a wealth of activities for the kids all summer: field trips to local destinations, growing vegetables in a community garden, and trips to the swimming pool.

My son thrived under their care. I am grateful that they treated him like a regular kid (too often, adults treat my son as an amalgam of his problems). I am grateful that they offered this valuable service to me at a discounted rate, because my family had considerable financial distress last summer.

I am concerned that the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center has not announced any plans to continue current programming. I am also concerned that Ryan and Matt will lose their jobs, disrupting their family life and increasing their stress. I am concerned that the level of care and concern will not be continued in the new programming by the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center.

I am also concerned that I may need to find after-school care for my son in the middle of the school year. There are no other services like the youth program at ECCC in my neighborhood, and certainly none at a sliding scale.

I feel like I appreciate the complexity of the situation: the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center has long earned my respect in this community as well. I respect and admire Freda Gandy, and the work she and the Center have done in our community.

But I need some assurance of continuity of services: I need some assurance that the people who have taken care of my son so well will also be taken care of. In short, I need a plan.

It is my hope that this situation can be resolved without resentments on both sides: but it might be too late for that.

I advocate for the current leadership to continue to serve the East Central Community Center. I believe in them and the work that they do. They have earned my respect and regard.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Marie Martin

 

 

 

Five Questions for Entrepreneurs – Ted Schmidt, ActionCOACH

ted schmidt action coachI want to thank Ted Schmidt for graciously agreeing to be the first interviewee for my new series, Five Questions for Entrepreneurs. He has a wealth of information and insight about how businesses grow and become profitable.

 

 

Pre-interview snippet:

Anna: “You have the cleanest desk I think I’ve ever seen.”

Ted: “When I walk in, in the morning, I like to have a clean environment. I work on one thing at a time and then I put it away.”

  1. How did you get started?

“Wow. Well. I got started in business just as a summer job, working my way through college, and that was in the tool and equipment rental industry, and it was wasn’t anything in particular that I targeted or anything. It just happened to be something that was available and I took it, and I enjoyed that industry.

After I graduated college, I was working at a firm in Seattle. I finished college in Seattle. They offered me a management position, and I decided to take that. That led to me becoming a partner in the business. I started with them in 1980, and they had 3 locations at that time, and over the next 20-some years, we grew it to 22 locations and then we sold the business in 2000, my partners and I.

That was the bulk of my career in business up to that point. Then my wife and I decided to move back to Spokane. I’m kind of a serial entrepreneur, and I started another business. I got involved in house flipping and rental houses. I did that for a while, and my brother-in-law was really into that, and he did a good job with that, so I learned a lot. But I also learned that I missed the traditional business world, and I kind of got bored with it, and then the market crashed in 2008.

I was talking to a friend of mine, who is also an entrepreneur-spirited guy, and he was talking to me about what he was doing in his business. I mentioned to him that I thought maybe I’d like to so some consulting, because I had consulted with him and coached him a little bit over the years. He said to me, “You know, you’d make a great business coach! That’s what you should do!”

So he planted that seed with me. So I looked into the business coaching world, and I found ActionCOACH, which is a global organization. We have approximately over 1,000 offices in 60 or 70 countries.

Long story short, I decided to go with ActionCOACH. It’s a franchise situation. I started with an existing franchise, to test the waters, and to see if it was a good fit for me, and when the opportunity came about, I acquired my own franchise. I’ve been coaching for about 6 years now, a little over 6 years.

That’s how I got started; it’s kind of a winding road. If you’d asked me 15 years ago, or even 10 years ago if this is what I’d be doing, I probably would have said, “What?” but I really love what I do. It’s very rewarding, it’s very satisfying, gratifying, and it’s very important to me.”

 

  1. What can you tell me about your company or about your current project?

“At ActionCOACH, we do business and executive coaching. We mostly work with small business owners and some executives. That’s our focus – primarily business coaching, and there’s some executive coaching as well.

We generally work with businesses that are anywhere from $500,000 in revenues up to the tens of millions in revenues. Most of our clientele is probably up to $10 million in revenues.

My focus, typically, when I engage with a client is I want to help them finish the business.  What I mean by that, is we talk about their destination, how they want to finish the business, when, how they want to finish it, under what terms do they want to finish it. And obviously, exit the business.

Because we’re all exiting at some point. Whether voluntarily or involuntarily, we’re all going to exit our businesses. I like to say, you’re either going to walk out under your own terms or get carried out feet first. I try to help them position themselves and do the things that they need to do, and make the changes that they need to make, in order to be able to walk out under their own terms. Maintain their quality [of life] and the lifestyle that they choose, that they would like or desire.

That’s really what I do. Basically, in order to do that, we have to look at where they currently are, and then we talk about where and when they would like to finish and what that looks like, and then we start formulating a pathway to achieve that.

There’s usually an evolutionary process. We have something we use called the Six Steps. It starts out, the lowest step is Mastery, then Niche, then Leverage, Team, then Synergy, and Results.

  • Mastery
  • Niche
  • Leverage
  • Team
  • Synergy
  • Results

When you’re at the Results level, basically, your business is finished. What Results looks like, is a “commercial, profitable enterprise that works without you.” In other words, the business will run without you. Then it gives you a lot of options and ability to do a lot of things. It gives you options on how you can exit, and maximize what you’ve built.

Because it’s really an investment, when you think about it. You’re investing in your business, for your future return on that investment.  So we have to look at that. When you go through the Six Steps, there’s years of things to do. For the mastery part, we use the analogy that it is the foundation with which we build that we can sustain that growth over a long period of time.

There are four areas of Mastery:

  • Destination – where are we going;
  • Time mastery / self-management;
  • Delivery mastery – delivering your goods and services to your customers; and
  • Financial mastery – your numbers mastery.

For example, do you understand your numbers? Do you understand not just your financial statements, but do you understand how your leads are being generated, where they’re coming from, what your conversation rates are. Things like that. So you need to understand if you do something in the way of marketing, what sort of return on investment are you getting on that marketing campaign?

So Mastery is really important, then we’ll move into Niche, and that’s a little more about consistent cash flow and eliminating the chaos that’s going on. Once you’ve got the Mastery level down, then the chaos is pretty much eliminated. You can start building and growing your business, and then we focus on that.

Then we have something called The Five Ways, which are kind of the keys to the kingdom for us.”

 

  1. When you think about your career, what were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

“I think it was understanding how to build relationships and doing it well. That’s really the key. You have to build confidence. You have to build your ability to believe in what you do, and believe in yourself.

Those are challenges, especially early on, when you’re young and you’re not sure about yourself.  When you lack a little confidence, and you’re a little insecure about things.

You don’t necessarily see the value in building those relationships, and you want to get it all now and be successful and you don’t want to take the time to do and you have to be patient. The relationships you build are really the keys to opportunities that will present themselves, and success.

You have to build your ability to believe in what you do, and believe in yourself. – Ted Schmidt

You never know. I kind of believe that things happen for a reason. You never know who knows somebody you would really benefit from knowing. You just don’t know where a relationship is going to go and how it can benefit you in the end.  So you always want to build positive ones. So learning that over time. It’s more about understanding what people want and need and being able to provide that for them, and if you can do that, then you’ll get what you want as well. But it’s a challenge. It’s hard to do.

Another challenge for me was balancing my life – personal and business. I tended to be a workaholic, and understanding that there’s more to life than work was a challenge.

You have to build for the future and invest time and effort to provide for your future.  But you don’t want to pout all your eggs in that basket, cause you don’t know what the future holds. So you have to live for today as well, especially if you have a family and kids. It’s important to find that balance.

When you do find success, the different levels of success, or achieve success, don’t feel guilty about it because you earned it.

That was one of the hardest things when I was back in the equipment rental industry. When I became a partner and I had a level of success, I’d have a lot more latitude in my schedule, I could do anything I wanted whenever I wanted.

I started to feel guilty about that because I knew that I had a lot of people who were working really hard. Once I was able to recognize the sacrifices that I had made, and the financial risks that I had taken, and all the long hours that I had worked, I became comfortable with the fact that I had earned some perks, so to speak. So I could actually go out and play a round of golf in the afternoon during the week and not feel guilty about it.

That was hard for me. It was challenge for me. It was really hard for a few years there. But I’ve gotten past that and now, it’s a lot easier to balance things.”

 

  1. What person or advice has made the biggest impact on your business?

“I think that early on, it was my dad. He had a really strong work ethic. He was part of the Greatest Generation. I learned from him what it was to get up and go to work and go to work for your family, and to have self-discipline, and to do what you needed to do. You had to earn it. You just didn’t get it.

So I’d start with my dad. Then kind of my second dad was a guy named Doug, and he was the senior partner in the equipment rental business that I was working for when I was still in college in Seattle.

He took an interest in me, and he really inspired me. He presented me with the opportunity to be a partner. He took me under his wing. He was really great at building relationships and he showed me how to do that, and how important that was.

From there, mentors, I would say that there are a lot of coaches in ActionCOACH that are just fantastic people. Right from Brad Sugars, the chairman and founder, who is still very active, to other coaches around the world. I could start naming the coaches I’ve had contact with who have really influenced me and helped me become successful, but they are too numerous.  I’m grateful to them.

I currently have two different coaches that I’m working with that are coaching me. One is coaching me in business and one is coaching me in mindset.

I think everybody needs a coach, really. I think it’s important to keep your mind open to learning and continue to try to improve yourself and get better. Improve your skills all the time, always.

That’s probably the best lesson I’ve ever learned, is that if you think already know it all, you stop. Believe me, nobody knows it all. Fail and fail fast, and fail often, and you’re just that much closer to success. Just keep learning. Keep improving everything. It doesn’t have to necessarily be business – your personal life, your health.

Do something every day that helps you become a better you.

That’s really what the people who care about you, who surround you in your life – that’s what they want more than anything. They want you to be good; they want you to be happy, and a good you. Then you’re going to be at your best for everybody else. That’s the way I look at it, whether it’s family or my clients.

Probably the best lesson I’ve ever learned, is that if you think already know it all, you stop. Believe me, nobody knows it all. Fail and fail fast, and fail often, and you’re just that much closer to success. Just keep learning. Keep improving everything. – Ted Schmidt

If I’m not “on” and in a good place, I can’t be my best for them. I do something every day to improve myself.

It’s important to recharge, reenergize… Sometimes you just need to sit and think.”

 

  1. What’s next for you?

“Grow this firm. We’ve already grown: we now have an employee coach, Stella Fox.

The next thing would be to add another employee coach, and just continue to grow. Out a few years, add more locations. Obviously, at some point we’ll need a bigger office space, but immediately, it’s to grow this firm.

Which we’re kind of in the process. Continue to grow the firm, I guess.

Find ways to leverage better. And if you look at it purely from that perspective, help Stella be more successful. I would love to see her be more successful than me. My clients as well.

I’m also thinking about providing other services, maybe proving marketing services, evaluation services, accounting services, to add to our repertoire, so to speak.

Surround yourself with people who are better than you, and don’t be afraid to do that. A lot of people struggle with that. Once you’ve done that, let them do their work. Let them do their jobs, and get out of their way. I think about it, that’s probably the best lesson I got from Doug, and he surrounded himself with great people, and he didn’t have to do anything, except cash checks!”

Ted Schmidt’s ActionCOACH website.

Ted Schmidt’s LinkedIn Profile.

Five Questions for Entrepreneurs – The Series

One thing I value greatly is listening to people’s stories. People have a wealth of information and insight. Creating opportunities to be seen and heard in our noise-filled culture is valuable work.

One thing that I’ve noticed as an entrepreneur, is that it can be difficult to develop relationships with other entrepreneurs – isolation can be a problem. It’s too easy to vilify competitors and think that there is not enough business to go around. Being deliberate about building relationships can seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you are just starting out.

This series is designed to bridge that gap – to help small business owners share their wealth of experience and knowledge, to build community, and to help the interviewed entrepreneurs promote their businesses.

If you would like to be interviewed or would like to nominate someone, please email me at anna@spokeanna.com. Thanks very much.

6 Elements of a Written Content Strategy

There is a lot of great material out there about writing a content strategy for your business, but let’s make it simple, shall we? As a small business owner, you’re pressed for time, and so here is a rundown of the essential elements of a content strategy.

  1. Keyword research: If you have a Google AdWords account, you can access their keyword research, and get ideas for which keywords you should be using for your website. Another great keyword tool is Moz Keyword Explorer.You can identify which keywords you want to rank for, and search those keywords, but an even more valuable search would be long-tail keywords, which is a keyword phrase which contains at least three words.

    Long-tail keywords in some industries would be easier to rank for. For example, your small business sells life insurance. It might be easier to rank for “life insurance Spokane,” or “independent life insurance agent Spokane,” rather than for “life insurance.” “Life insurance” as a search term gets millions of hits, but a more specific search term might net you better results.

  2. Competitor Research: You’ve been told, “be true to yourself!” But the internet is one of those places where you want to pay attention to what the other kids are doing. If the other kids have better websites, they will get the traffic that you want for your business.You want to look at the information your competitors have on their websites, as well as their page structure, ease of usability, visuals, and overall layout.

    If you haven’t updated your website in a few years, it’s likely that it shows. It’s not always necessary to do a complete website overhaul, but keeping up with best practices is always a good idea.

  3. Content Audit: What content is on your site? How well is it performing? What are your best-performing and worst-performing pages and blog posts? These are questions you should be asking. Here is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) tool from HubSpot that will help you rank your pages.
  4. Creating Personas: Personas drive so much of content marketing, that they really deserve their own blog post (I’ll get on that).A persona is a research-based representation of your ideal client or customer. At its most basic, the persona section of a content strategy should answer these questions:

    Who is your ideal client?
    What sort of questions do they have?
    Are their questions answered on your website?
    What is their buyer’s journey?
    Is the information they need to distinguish you from your competitors on your website?

  5. Brainstorm Ideas for Content: No content strategy would be complete without a brainstorm for content. At this point, you need to set aside time to do a real brain dump on all the areas of your expertise, all those questions your customers have for you, all the problems you solve on a daily basis, even the goings-on of your mascot. (Moz’s mascot is Roger, the robot.) At this time, no idea is to be discarded because it’s half-formed or it doesn’t make sense. You can go back and edit your ideas later.
  6. A time frame for reevaluation: Once you implement the strategy, it will be important to pick a time in the future (six months to a year is good) to look at the results of your efforts. Hopefully, it’s up and to the right on your Google Analytics page!

Once you’ve written all of this down, you have the basic elements of a content strategy for your business. Thanks, and if you have any questions or comments, put them below.

 

 

Email Signatures   

If you are a small business owner, you should use your email signature to promote your business.

Email signatures are a great way to tell people about your business. Since you email people you’ve met in real life, or who have signed up from your website, it’s a great way to promote your brand.

If you are a small business owner or the manager of a huge corporation, your email signature should have some basic information:

  • Your Name
  • Your Title
  • Your Phone/ Cell Number
  • Your Email
  • Your Website

After this information, you have a lot of leeway to promote your business.

For example, if you regularly post great content on your blog, you could add a link to your blog. If you have a specific blog post that you’d like to perform better, you can add that link.

Here are some other ideas:

  • You could also add social media links to your social pages.
  • You could also add a picture, so people begin to associate your face with your name and your brand.
  • If you want people to come into your store, you could add that you serve coffee and cookies. (You should deliver if you promise this, seriously.)

You can get creative.

Here’s what my email signature looks like:

print screen email signatures

Someone told me once that I needed a motto – I know, it’s pretentious, but if I can start a business, everything you can imagine is real.

(This is about as nonsexy a blog topic as will appear on this blog. Just so you know.)

Marketing by Generation with Neil Patel

In this article, “How to Reach Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials with Your Online Marketing,” Neil Patel explains how to reach each generation using different tactics and strategies. He argues that it makes sense to segment your marketing efforts by generation, especially if you have a product or service which would appeal to multiple generations.
A few surprises:
  • Gen-X has money! (Just kidding! Well, it was sort of a surprise to find that my own generation, Gen-X, has disposable income. We just spend it all on our student loans.)
  • Baby Boomers are on Facebook. You would think they want to see pictures of their grandchildren or something.
  • Millenials are far more likely to listen to a peer recommendation than the other two generations.
Just a reminder:
  • Baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials – born between 1981 and 2000
Enjoy! marketing by generation
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marketing by generationmarketing by generation.gif

The Origin Story of SpokeAnna

It started with a request: a mutual friend introduced me to someone who needed some help. Could I help with writing and editing?

“Sure,” I said.

The catch was that I’d need to have a business license. I knew I could help this friend: I knew I had writing and editing skills that were marketable, but what I didn’t know was how it would grow into its own thing and become a business.

So, I did what I do: research. I unleashed my Inner Hermione. I asked everybody from my mom to my husband what they thought of me starting my own business. (Somehow, “having a business license” transformed into “starting my own business” really fast.)

I asked my former boss, Ed Reese, for a meet and coffee, and asked him about the marketing world of Spokane, and whether or not I should start my own writing business. Remarkably, he took me seriously (a fact for which I remain grateful to him to this day).

Not only did he take me seriously, he encouraged me. “Sure there’s a market for better storytelling, better writing on company websites. You’ll have to convince people that they need you, though, which is typical no matter what business you’re in.”

So, “yeah, go for it!” was what he said.

Being dramatic, I asked him, “What happens if I fail?”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Eh. You’re out a hundred and fifty bucks.”

So I went back to my new friend and now client and said that I would help, and we met for coffee (another typical move on my part). When I had my business license, I began to do the contracted work.

The name, “SpokeAnna,” was not even my own invention – a friend sent me an email that said, “Thus Spoke Anna,” and it stuck in my head. (At the time, I didn’t notice that it might have been a reference to Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which is a book I tried to read several times and just didn’t get.)

The business plan, the branding, the website, the blog, and the networking all came later. It started with a request – and, like always, I was happy to help.

 

Starter ideas for your business blog 

As a small business owner, it can feel like you never have time to do anything, let alone update your website.

In the early days of the internet, it was enough to simply establish a website and leave it up for people to discover. This is no longer the case: you have to update your business website periodically in order to stay in the search engine results pages (SERPS).

A great way to keep your website fresh is to have a blog. I can hear you now, “I don’t have time for that!” Do yourself a favor: make time. Your new customers will thank you.

How do you make the time to write? Here are a few ideas.

  • Keep a small notebook in your pocketbook or on your desk to write down blog ideas. When you have a list going, start writing.
  • Start small, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. You’d be surprised what a dedicated time can do for your writing.
  • Pick a consistent time to write. Once you get a routine established, it will be easy to remember.
  • Keep a commonplace book. Jot down ideas on index cards and then rearrange them as you need to.

Here are a few blog post ideas:

  • What problems do you customers have that you can solve?
  • How do you solve their problems better than your competitors?
  • What is your favorite part about working with your customers?
  • What made you go into business? What is your business’s story?

Once you have a few posts ready, start posting. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it has to be grammatically okay – but if you are waiting for a post to be perfect, you could wait for a long time. As Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

Of course, if you get stuck, it’s always okay to ask for help. That’s why I’m here. Cheers! Let me know how it goes.