I Found My Voice (and I didn’t even know it was missing)

A few years ago I was on the executive board of a non-profit organization that was being steered in the wrong direction by an executive director who was, quite simply, power-hungry. In his self-focused ambition to contort the mission of the organization to suit his own personal needs and desires, he had lost sight of the goals and purposes of the organization and the needs of the people we were trying to serve.

For months I wrestled with how to influence the situation in a positive manner. Long discussions with him and among the board and other leaders repeatedly led to no real resolution. When his behavior moved into the arena of being unethical and he refused to hear any voice but his own, I made the difficult decision to resign from my position as Secretary of the Board. I could no longer align myself with something that was simply not right. I had found my voice.

Within two days, more than half of the remaining board members resigned as well. They, too, had found their voices. While I had had no intention whatsoever to lead a mass exodus of board members, I had not realized that so many of the others felt the same way I did and had been afraid to say anything or take any action. I was immediately shunned by the director, who firmly rejected my offer to continue to serve in a less visible capacity on the advisory board. He also refused to even let me volunteer in any capacity within the organization.

As a direct result of me (and others) finding and using our voices, there was a subsequent overhaul in the leadership structure of the organization and today I both volunteer in the office and serve on the advisory board. The former director has “moved on.”

You may be asking yourself right about now, “Why is she telling me all this?” My reason is simple – to encourage you that in the face of a difficult situation you can and must find and use your voice to affect the positive change that needs to take place. As in my situation, you may not realize that others agree with you and are simply waiting for someone to take the lead and speak out.

And even if they don’t, speaking up and using your influence to affect change is empowering. Whether it is in the voting booth or the board room, from the sidewalk to the sandwich shop, find your voice and use it. Don’t be afraid of what others might think, say or do. Your approach to life and the situations you encounter is as unique as you are, and your voice really does matter.

So, clear your throat and step up to the microphone. Speak up. Speak out. Be the positive influence that will make the difference.

Watch brief video by John Maxwell on “Voice.”



Advertising Mistakes to Avoid

Are you making mistakes in your advertising? Advertising is a key weapon in your quest to win one more customer. But one of the first lessons you’ll learn when you begin advertising for your small business is that not all ads are created equal, and they can cause you harm if not used properly. What are the biggest advertising mistakes you can make when you are coming up with your approach? There are specific kinds of ads you want to avoid, because they won’t help your business, and will end up only costing you money.

What Are Institutional Ads?

When many businesses start advertising, they end up creating institutional ads. These are ads that are designed to tell the audience how great and wonderful you are. Their primary purpose is to just put your name out there where people can see it. How can you tell if an ad is institutional? The answer is simple: institutional ads are not trackable; there is no definable action you can measure the effectiveness of the ad by. They can be funny, serious, cheap, or expensive—it’s any ad that just puts your name out there without a feedback channel. The problem with institutional ads is that they’re usually a complete waste of your money.

Why Are Institutional Ads a Mistake?

The problem with institutional ads is that they ignore the reality that advertisement is nothing more than salesmanship in print, in the mail, or on the air. Avoid them! The public doesn’t care how great you say you are or what you want. What people care about is whether you can offer them something that improves their lives, whether you can benefit the customer. An institutional ad ultimately says nothing about how you’ll help people who give you their business. They say nothing, make no case, and compel no action. And even if they do bring in customers, you have no way of quantifying their impact because there’s no specific, measurable action associated with the ad. In the long run, running institutional ads is a good way to make local media outlets rich without bringing any benefit to yourself. They’re a huge advertising mistake.

What Ads Should You Create Instead?

Instead of institutional ads, you need to focus on creating ads that outline a tangible benefit of doing business with your company and direct-response ads. First, ads that tell the audience why and how you can help them are beneficial. If you have a lot of experience, if you have special qualifications, if you’ve received specific recognitions, let people know! That’s different from an institutional ad that simply puts your name out there without any real, specific information; it provides a very specific reason for people to come to you—in this case, your expertise.

Most importantly, your ads need to inspire direct and immediate response. Advertisements are expensive, and you need them to direct people to your business in a real, measurable way. The response can be a qualified inquiry, a phone call, a visit to your business, or an instant sale—these are all quantifiable actions that you can gauge the effectiveness of your ads and see if they really are bringing you more customers. If it doesn’t bring you additional customers, the advertisement is a mistake.

Think about what kind of ads you run for your business, and make sure that they are measurable and doing more than just blindly tossing your name out into the marketplace. If you avoid these advertising mistakes, your advertising strategy will help drive customers to your business, rather than driving money out of your bank account.


The preceding article was provided by the staff writers at GoSmallBiz.com. For membership information, click here. For a benefits overview, watch this brief video.