Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Do You Have the “Right Stuff” to Become a Free Agent?

I am a free agent and love it. Earlier in my working life, I worked for both San Diego County and for Kaiser Permanente HMO (west & east coasts) and enjoyed both a great deal. But as my professional career has matured I’ve gravitated to working for myself as a sole practitioner, independent contractor, business owner etc. I’m all those things rolled into one. Yes, I work harder, but I enjoy the challenge of using my years of experience and expertise in any way I want.

But being a free agent is not for everyone. Here are three questions I would suggest you ask yourself before making the leap into this new way of working and of being.

  1. Do you have the initiative and drive to build a business from the ground up? It takes focus, commitment and a large dose of optimism to stay with it. Do you have those qualities?
  2. Are you willing to learn the new skills – or hire someone who does – to market your business, to establish the infrastructure and to do the business of running the business?
  3. Is the rest of your life fairly stable? Do you have a separate income that can help pay the bills until this new venture is profitable? Can you commit the necessary time and energy?

No time is a perfect time. But with some careful planning you may find that becoming a free agent is just perfect for you in this time of your life. Lots of other people of all ages are embracing this idea – think about it!

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Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, by Guy Kawasaki, 2011.

Is it possible to convince people to dream the same dream that you do and then to inspire them to invest their hearts, souls & actions into making that dream a reality? That’s tough for any experienced leader to do.

But Kawasaki tackles this challenge in a most unique way. He believes that any of us can “enchant others” into making positive, sustainable changes in their own lives and in our global world. Examples include initiating a major social change, launching an innovative product or taking your company to that next profitable level.

Is that too unrealistic? Maybe not . . . as I read further, I realized that this is exactly what great world leaders and the most successful entrepreneurs do – they enchant others to believe in causes bigger than themselves. And we all benefit as a result. It’s a fascinating book!

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Be Enchanting – Learn How to Smile Like George Clooney

The first step to enchanting anyone is “likeability”. Coming across as a grumpy old man too tired to learn new tricks (now that’s a personal brand no one wants) is not going to help you enchant anyone to go over and beyond. Instead, we need to ensure that people like us and we start with the most basic skill – smiling.

Try to smile like George Clooney. He has a smile that radiates from his eyes. Yes, the muscle surrounding our eyes is called the orbicularis oculi muscle and this muscle is what squeezes together to create those crow’s feet or laugh lines (as my sister calls them). A smile that uses all of these eye muscles has its own name – the Duchenne Smile – named after Guillaume Duchenne, a French neurologist.—

It’s actually not hard to have a radiating smile if you practice this simple tip – as you are walking into a room this holiday season think about some pleasant memory or upcoming fun plans. Let yourself dwell on those thoughts to give yourself that nice lift. Now keep them in mind and let your smile shine through!

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Dogs Sit in the Front Row of Life

I had to look twice!  It was early evening on a beautiful warm night in Greece.  And here are two doggie pals sitting together on the tin roof of a house along the main street of Amadaoli, Crete. Would they slide off?  Nope.

They were perfectly content to watch the action down below on the street and when something really exciting happened (like their Greek Orthodox priest owner coming home) they would dash down to the first floor barking wildly to greet him.  After taking care of that task, they would scurry back up to the roof to take their front row seat again and resume watching the tourists, party-goers and Global Volunteers (that’s us) returning home from our day of work.  It was the best seat in the house – they didn’t miss anything and were right in the middle of the action.  Why don’t we all do that?

It’s Simply a Habit – Hiding in the Back Row

Every evening they were there . . . and I had to think they certainly had the right idea.  They were positioning themselves to be right in on the action.  Sitting in the front seat of life not hiding in the back row.  How often do we figuratively sit in the back and avoid being front and center.  We find lots of reasons to do that . . . it’s our personality; the situation isn’t right; it’s too risky, etc.  But it’s actually simply habit.  We simply go to that comfort zone and default to pushing the “No, I don’t think so” button over and over again.

But what does that get us?  Not very far and probably a bit bored.  Yes, it’s comfortable and there are no surprises.  And that’s the problem . . . it’s very, very comfortable and there are no changes, challenges or opportunities to stretch our wings.

How’s It Working For You? 

Sitting in the back row of life may have worked just fine for you over these last few years.  But is it working now?  Is it getting you to where you want to be next?  For many of us, that answer would probably be no.  So I encourage you to move up a row or two – stretch that comfort zone until you’re sitting in the front seat of life like the doggie pals sitting on the roof.  And I bet they are still there too!

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Supporting Families & Businesses in Greece

It was interesting to see that the majority of businesses in Crete, both in the main city of Heraklion and the outlaying communities, are all being operated by families. Aside for the occasional super market, the stores,restaurants and hotels appeared to be owned by individuals with their extended family members providing the extra hands to keep the doors open.  Other people may also be working there but often there was a “family friend” connection. And if you asked, you learned about the wonderful Greek family culture.

Compared to the USA Business Model

That’s a real difference from how business is done here in the USA.  The small business owner just can’t compete on any significant scale with the box stores and the chain restaurants here in the United States.  Just look around you.  Every mall in every community seems to have basically the same stores often built right next door to each other.  A Best Buy is next door to PetCo which is next door to Barnes & Noble.  It doesn’t change much whether you are traveling in Seattle, passing through Phoenix or stopping in Washington D.C.

And restaurant chains are the same way . . . you can find an Olive Garden, Claim Jumper, TGIF anywhere.  Starbucks and McDonald’s have become incredibility successful offering the same products with the same brand of service anyplace you go.  Same with hotels who offer creative rewards programs to encourage you to stay in their same hotels (even the floor plan is the same) no matter which city you are traveling too.

Customer Loyalty – It’s Different in Greece

But do we really feel loyal to those big box stores, restaurants and hotel chains?  Only to the extent that we always know what to expect – what we’re buying – no surprises.  It’s a given.  That’s very different in Greece. When a business is owned by an individual there is a very different feel as soon as you, as the customer, walk in the door.  It looks different, it’s unique and the people helping you seem to be more interested.

What makes the difference?  When we as customers get the chance to meet the business owner and chat to them a bit about their business there is real observable shift in energy.  Now you’re helping an individual, a family, a business stay afloat by doing business with them.  You know where your money is going – not just off to corporate headquarters.

The result?  People do business with people they know and like.  The Greeks patronize their favorite cafe houses, taverna and shopping spots stores because they know who owns them and they want to support those businesses.  And if you are invited for a coffee and conversation in the back of the store that’s even better.  That’s where I’ll spend my money each and every time.


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