Yesterday I posted an article from ForbesWoman.com on my member forums that came about because of a discussion on their Linked In Group message forum. Good to see there’s dialog going on SOMEWHERE! But I digress. :)

It really got me thinking. This discussion couldn’t have come along at a better time. I have long been an advocate of owning and valuing your worth and setting rates (or commanding a salary) that you are worthy of. As I read the discussions, even though I was comfortable about my decisions in changing my rates, monetizing some aspects of my businesses and restructuring the way I had been monetizing other areas of my businesses, I became more convinced that I did the absolute right thing. As you already know, I have stepped out of the recruiting world and decided to go full speed ahead and turn Empower Me into it’s own real live, sustainable, breathing business entity. I’ve been praised by many, chastized by a few. But in the end all decisions rest with me.

Here’s the deal. I’m going to break this down so that it makes you take a look at not what I’m doing, but how you should be viewing your own life/business/career.  Here are the business tenants I live by:

* When you’re in a business, you’re in it to make money and be profitable. You’re not in it for hobby or to pass the time of day. Once you throw up your shingle, it is your responsibility to generate revenue to sustain the business.

* Nonprofits have their place. But even they have some for profit activities, otherwise how would they survive? On goodwill, faith and prayer? Yes that is a small portion of it.  But rent, utilities etc. have to be paid somehow. Where is this money supposed to come from?

* Nobody is supposed to remain at the same salary level year after year after year. Times change, costs of living change, people change. I’ve never encountered anyone who has refused a raise. As your skills improve and your knowledge base grows, you are worth more. It’s only right that you ASK for it (in some cases demand it). Are you going to stay at the same salary through the life of your career? I should hope not.

* Charge for your VALUE. If you have nothing to offer, or if you offer crap, people will know it. Figure out what you do best and make that your specialty…and charge a premium for it. (Admittedly, I still struggle with this one sometimes). Don’t let people dictate what you can charge. You and you alone know what your worth is and what your financial goal is.

* When people want to complain about what you charge, release them. They’re not your core customer base. Why waste time and energy on trying to change you to fit what they want. People come to or hire you for a specific purpose. When they really want that, they will pay for it. Period.

Some of these may seem a bit harsh, but you know what? We live in a harsh reality. Women are the main culprits who don’t honor themselves by asking for what they are really worth. We let ourselves be used, force to give stuff away for free (through guilt or tug on the heartstrings….”my sista”, “my family” “woman to woman” can you hook me up? You owe me.) Say WHAT!!?? Yes, I’ve heard this. If free stuff was the best stuff, there wouldn’t be paid stuff that’s worth more than free stuff. I don’t think you heard me. Who wants what you can get freely everywhere? Not me. Some things I am willing to pay a premium for. While I’d LOVE free Coach bags, I know that if it came free or cheap, it’s probably a knock off of the original thing. I see myself, my skills and knowledge as a Coach Bag. I’m trying to give that type of service, not knock off service that doesn’t fulfill my clients.

I had a client (maybe she’ll read this, maybe not…I won’t mention names) who was so unsure of her rates. She felt “obligated” to remain low priced to accommodate the needs of the people in the community. But guess what? Upon further exploration, I found out those same people were NOT paying her to begin with! They would bargain her down, guilt her into discounts and make her feel bad about losing business if she raised her rates. I told her cut them off. Raise those rates to what was at least competitive. She has children, and bills to pay. Why should she live in poverty and risk messing up her credit and financial standing just to keep a few customers happy who weren’t paying her to begin with! That is insanity!  I told her to start looking for a better class (yes I said class) of clients.

Let’s look at it from a corporate perspective. Say you’re used to making $80K per year that allows you to comfortably pay your bills, save and invest, and take care of your family. A hot company comes by and they seem to be the right fit for you. You can grow your career with them, you can learn a lot by working with some extraordinary people. So you sit down to negotiate a compensation package. They offer you $40K. Yes, I can imagine the look on your face. Wait that’s not all. They go on to tell you that you should be grateful they are offering you an opportunity to work with a fantastic company AND that you’re capped at $40K per year. No increases, no raises, no bonus. How does that make you feel? Would you work for them?

And that ladies, is it in a nutshell. If you know your value and your worth, you don’t accept anything less, and you especially don’t let other people dictate what you’re supposed to make.  So why in the world would you ask ANYONE to give you anything for free or ask for the “hook up”?  It’s human nature to want to get the maximum for the minimum. I can’t lie. There are times I just don’t want to pay for stuff. But I know I have to, and I do. I don’t want what everyone else has access to. It makes it less valuable to me. I want what’s premium. I prefer Breyers over store brand ice cream…more money, but better quality. I want the Coach bag instead of the off brand look alike. More money, but better quality.  You should be viewing your own business and career in the same vein.

So, stop holding yourself back from earning what you’re worth! That’s an order. And further more, stop trying to hold other people back. Respect their abilities and pay what they’re worth.

Adrienne Graham

radioiconIt doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. Sometimes women feel they have so much more to prove than men, that they keep every task, project, or issue to themselves. This can lead to destruction if you’re not careful. Ladies, you can be a leader and still delegate critical tasks to others, while maintaining control. There’s no rule that says in order to be successful you HAVE to do it all. Join me as my guests and I discuss how women in top positions handle leadership and delegating. We will be discussing how to learn how to delegate in order to lead effectively, the pitfalls of not delegating, hiring the right people and deciding what should be delegated, and how to create an environment where people will gladly follow your lead because they believe in your vision and mission. Tune in live at 9AM EST at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/viewsfromthetop and join the conversation in the chat room. Call in with questions or comments at (347) 215-9362.

24036885Hi ladies!

It’s that time of year again.  It’s almost the end of June. Have you met your goals and objectives for 2009 yet?  I usually stop and take a look at my progress at the mid-point in the year to see where I have succeeded and where I may need some help. I’m pleased to say, I’m on track!

At the beginning of the year, I made some decisions that I didn’t know I’d be able to accomplish this year. I have to admit, at times I felt discouraged and overwhelmed, and felt like I was in over my head. Admittedly, even with this network, I felt like I was failing. Maybe I was missing something. But you know, at one point I had to shake that #$&^%$ off!  For one thing, I have a ton of great and hugely supportive people behind me. I am eternally grateful to them for sticking by me every step of the way of this journey. Even when I feel “blah” they are wildly excited about the things I’m doing.

I have a strong determination to succeed. This country has been hit with some pretty brutal times this year. We all know there is no quick fix and that we have a long road ahead of us. But I proudly stood up and declared “I will NOT participate in this recession”.  Some folks say “easier said than done”. True, to an extent. But I think attitude and mentality play a huge role in success. It is often said that times like this is when great companies are formed, and when people reach down deep and come up with that fighting spirit to succeed. I’ve had that in me and continue to have it in me. And it is my hope that you all have it in you…or dig down and find it and bring it to the surface. I run two businesses, a recruitment firm and the publishing/media/professional network company that is Empower Me. Recruiting has taken a hit, but strangely, I am not phased by it. I continue to have clients, just not as intensely as before. I know that the market will pick back up. I’ve been through this before. Not as intense, but I have. Ironically, other opportunities have surfaced. I’ve seen an uptick in coaching (or rather strategy consulting) and brand building through social media. So my consulting firm is working itself out. In fact I have recruiting clients in the wings for when the economy picks back up.

In terms of Empower Me, wow, what can I say. I’m AHEAD of my goals. While the network part is still moving along slowly (I’ve learned to not blame that on myself as much), other areas are picking up. My first book was written and released this year. I’m working on two more to be released by fall. I’ve developed a whole brand based on the premise of the first book Go Ahead Talk to Strangers- The Modern Girl’s Guide to Fearless Networking, which is Fearless Networking. Participation in the webinars and requests for the book and companions books are growing. I’ve been asked to speak at events and conferences and share my knowledge of Fearless Networking. I’ve been traveling meeting new people to network with and in some cases, taking our online relationships offline (finally). I debuted my radio show Views From the Top. I had NO idea I’d be doing a radio show at the beginning of the year, but it was a pleasant and scary surprise. I’ve been getting some wonderful feedback on the show. We are 6 shows in and I am just getting started. I’m very excited about the upcoming show. I’m in talks to consult on a pending tv show idea. I won’t go too much into that as not to jinx it. But this was another unexpected twist that wasn’t in the plan. I’m loving it!  And the plans are underway to launch the magazine! That has long since been my dream and I am pleased to say that it is well on it’s way. Look for a January launch! This one is more personal to me because it’s something I wanted to do for years and to see it unfolding now brings tears to my eyes.  So Empower Me is morphing into this publishing/media/professional network. Just watch out for what’s next. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Am I done yet? Heck no! This is only June. I can’t wait to see where this road leads me. And while I’m not a millionaire (yet) I’m enjoying the ride.  It’s not about money for me. That will come in time. My son has graduated from high school (May) and on his way to college this fall. So now my parental role shifts and will allow me to step into the mogul/businesswoman/power broker role that I can freely assume. Life without restraints…wow, what a concept. I hope you all come along for the ride with me.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

businesswomanI was listening to the pastor deliver his sermon yesterday and a few things he said struck a chord with me. His words moved me to blog, but I had to get my thoughts together before blogging.  The one consistent message he delivered was about changing your circumstances and making your own way. If you don’t like the circumstances you’re currently in, CHANGE THEM.

I’ve always been a firm believer that nobody should be stuck in a job that they can’t stand. Yes, I understand that REALITY dictates we need a paycheck to pay the bills. But I choose not to live my life by that edict.  I was never the type to commit to a long term position with any one company. My agenda was to get in, do the job, learn all I could and make as many contacts as I could before heading off to another position. This kept my skills from getting stale and kept me from getting bored. Once I’ve mastered something, or have completed my goals, it’s time for me to move on and find another challenge.  With a full time permanent position, in recruiting anyway, this was not possible.  My job has a beginning, a middle and an end. Once the mission is complete, there really isn’t much more for me to do. Many companies don’t want someone to come in and change the way things are done. Shame on them. I’m all about innovation and change.  That is why I love being a contractor.

Being a contractor allows me to create my own work opportunities. I get to pick and choose the companies I want to work with and how long I work with them. I can work on just one or several projects if I like and as long as my work is done and my deadlines are met, I don’t have anyone to answer to but me. I wasn’t always a contractor though.  When I first took a chance on contracting, I was what is referred to as a Temp.  Yes, there is a difference.  A temp is someone who works a job for a specific period and is in a sense “owned” by the agency who places them.  The agency sets their rate, places them with a client, and handles their payroll and taxes.  A temp also has specific work hours they have to honor.  A contractor is one who works with companies independently, handles her own billing, files her own taxes, and, in a sense, is running her own business.  As a contractor, I determine the number of hours I want to work and what hours I will work.  A temp works for someone else, a contractor runs her own business and manages her own projects and clients.

As I learned the difference, I had to make the business decision to outfit my home office to accommodate my business and clients.  As a recruiter, there are certain tools I need that big companies often have exclusive access to. Thankfully, these tools have been made affordable for small businesses and independent contractors.  One such tool is an applicant tracking system. I use this to manage not just my candidates, but also my projects and clients.  Since this was a vital component to my work, it made sense to get it.  I also have the other standard tools (computer, internet access, headset, Blackberry, etc). Not only can I be independent, I can also work anywhere in the world I want.  With my recruiting business and the work I do as a writer, coach and webinar facilitator, I can create my own opportunities.

I have always been entrepreneurial in spirit.  This is not my first business nor will it be the last.  I have had a catering business, promoted career fairs and seminars, and I even had an adult toy business. Yes, I did.  But it wasn’t through that Passion Parties or any of those other vendors.  I found my own distributors and  did my research so that there was no middle man.  I made my own way.  My point in sharing this is that I don’t like to wait for opportunities to find me. I make my own. And you can too. You just have to step out on faith and make a conscious choice to make your own way.

Take an inventory of your skills. What can you do well? Are you a whiz at cooking? Start a side personal chef or catering business.  Are you a math genious? Well, if you don’t have a CPA, start a part time bookkeeping and/or payroll company. If you’re great at taxes, you can do taxes part time.  H & R Block has a course you can take to become certified as a tax preparer.  Or if those kinds of numbers don’t appeal to you, start a math tutoring business.  If you’re a teacher or aspiring teacher, a tutoring business may be right for you.  If you have strong organization or administrative skills, a virtual assistant business is a good idea.  Have a bunch of grandma’s home made soap and lotions recipes sitting in the draw collecting dust? Start your own product line.  If you have skills with jewelry, start your own line. Can you channel your skills into consulting? Do it! Just make sure you investigate all of the logisticvs and legalities of starting your own enterprise.

There are a million and one ideas out there.  All you need to do is tap into your self. Bring what your good at to the surface and you could be making your own way.  Never settle on “just a job” or “just a paycheck”. That line of thinking keeps people poor or just getting by.  You must not be afraid to stretch your limits and do what you love. Maybe your side venture will only serve as just a side venture to go along with your day job.  That’s ok. At least you’re still creating your own opportunity. Or, if what you do doesn’t make a good business for you, figure a way to apply those skills to your current job.  Set your mind for achievement.  Don’t be content with staying in that one job.  Always look for ways to move up and out.

Some people are destined to be in the corporate world.  And that’s ok too.  But if you choose to remain in corporate, have a plan for advancement.  Don’t get too comfortable in any one job. When you see yourself getting complacent, or stuck in routine, it’s time to explore growth opportunities. Find mentors who are willing to help you advance. Get more visible within the company. I know you’ve read my other blog posts about branding and networking. Establish yourself as an authority in your area of expertise.  Get others to see and believe in your work so they can be legitimate references for you.  Volunteer for more projects and always continue your education.  And the most important thing you can do is surround yourself with positive people. That is self explanatory.

We all have the capacity to do more. Not everyone has the desire. If you have the desire, keep that going.  As long as you train yourself to not settle, you will be able to achieve and good enough will no longer be good enough.  Don’t be resigned to complain about your circumstances. You do have the power to change them.  Lie throws some unexpected curves at us all. But how you adapt and recover is in your hands. You can remain a victim and always wonder why you can get ahead, or you can be a proactive agent for yourself and achieve any professional goal you want. Read inspirational stories about other women who have taken their fate into their own hands.  Magazines like Black Enterprise, Working Mother, Inc, Fast Company, etc. often showcase stories of women who did it. Maybe this will inspire you to step out on faith.  For me, those stories are affirmations. But the real motivator for me is wealth building.  I’m building professional capital for myself and wealth for my family.  Marinate on that for a little bit. Then go out there and make things happen. You can do it.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

There was an article written on the CNBC Nightly News website about the increase in Black Women Entreprenreurs.

Please check out this video and read the accompanying article and give your thoughts. Read more here

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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