Artisan Blog

Reflections: Competition

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It’s competition season all over: for actors and others in the entertainment industry, for Olympians across the globe, and even close to home as show choirs on the west coast have a contest almost every weekend for the next few months. With so many vying for honors, we have been struck with the different ways we can handle competition as creative entrepreneurs.

Oscar Style

“It’s an honor to be nominated.” But the nominees do a lot of branding and marketing to try to get more votes. The ones who sit back and let the chips fall where they may are more likely to go home emptyhanded unless their work is truly stellar.

On the other hand, they never say their competitors’ work is worse than theirs and they seem to generally get along on a personal level. After all, the actor you mocked could be across the table read from you in a month or two. And you hope he will because that means you’re working.

As creatives, we need to pay attention to personal branding and marketing and keep it positive, too. You never know whom your next client might--or might not--be.

High School Style

Teenagers can be mean, but I’m around literally hundreds of kids in active competition in the performing arts, and they surprise me all the time. They support and encourage each other. What they don’t like is injustice, for themselves or their competitors.

They’ll fight for points, but equally for the deserved points of others. They love to win but they cheer (almost) as loud for other groups. They know that the most important thing in a competition is to do their very best every single time and leave the rest of it to the judges.

We all live in a sometimes unjust world where the rules seem to change while the game is still being played. All we can do is our best work and keep our cool and hope things turn out well more often than not.

Olympic Style

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.” The Olympic Creed says it all. My favorite stories from the Olympics are not the Gold Medals, the perfect scores. My favorites are when the athletes stop and help each other. Wait for an injured athlete to catch up. Share water. The struggle is the same for everyone. Some will win, some will lose. Being human and struggling together is what makes competition a worthy endeavor.

As part of a team, and between teams, we can help each other over the finish line. Mentor, network, give advice. You might be the one who needs an arm around your shoulder next time.

Competition is exciting--it stirs the blood, motivates us and offers the potential for tangible rewards. If we rely on the quality of our own work, the energy and commitment we put into it and sometimes even the kindness of others, we can all succeed.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Leadership Lessons from Presidents

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Not all of our mentors have to be here in the room, having lunch or networking with us. If we are open to learning, we can find mentors anywhere, even in history. This Presidents’ Week, we thought we would get a little mentoring from some past US Presidents. Turns out they have a lot to teach us about leadership.

Team Building

Abraham Lincoln is well-known for creating a “team of rivals,” making sure that not everyone around him agreed with him. Instead of choosing those he knew shared his views, he chose the very best in their field, whether they agreed with him or not. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in some of those cabinet meetings, but there is no doubt that there was some great brainstorming going on in the Lincoln White House.

“Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” --Abraham Lincoln

Taking Risks

I’m sure there are Presidents who didn’t take many risks, but funny, I can’t remember which. Whether in bold initiatives, controversial foreign policy or changing the direction of the country, real leaders are memorable for what they try to do, what they are passionate about, what they make others want to join them in trying to accomplish. Playing it safe is not on their list of qualities.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly …” 
--Theodore Roosevelt

Being Present

With important and sometimes lifechanging decisions to be made at any moment, Presidents have needed to be able to focus on what is going on right now, deal with it, and move on to the next thing. Leaders are fully present, listening, processing and making choices. Right now, I feel lucky that the choices I have to make are not life or death.

“Come now, let us reason together.” --Lyndon Johnson

Never Giving Up

Throughout history, some people have run around saying “It can’t be done! It will be the end of the world! Too much too fast! We’re not ready!” Great leaders don’t pay attention to naysayers or the fearful. Change is inevitable, though often uncomfortable. Some will always need to be gentled into it, but leaders are right up front, ready and willing--and persistent.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” 
--John F. Kennedy

Leadership is difficult and sometimes unpleasant. But when the risks are worthy, when decisions are made with intelligence and expert advice, when the moment is right and we are determined, we can be leaders that everyone will remember.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” --John Quincy Adams

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Loving the Freelance Life

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

As it becomes more common--and easier--to choose the freelance lifestyle, more workers are finding out why their freelance colleagues love it as much as they do. They might even be getting a little jealous. Why do we love freelancing?

  • Entrepreneurship--Freelancing is the simplest way to run your own business. It’s just you, but you are the boss. Enjoy it.
  • Flexibility--To be a successful freelancer, you must be disciplined about getting everything done well and on time, but when and how you tackle your work is up to you.
  • Giving back--My personal favorite thing about freelancing is being able to make time to volunteer for my favorite organizations, even during typical working hours--when they need me most because so many other volunteers have to be at the office.
  • Control--Most jobs require you to accomplish a variety of tasks, some of which you love and some of which you most definitely do not. Ideally, freelancing allows you to choose projects you are passionate about and pass on the ones you are not.
  • Diversity--As a freelance writer, I get to vary the topics I am writing about from day to day and sometimes hour to hour. It’s never boring!
  • Building Relationships--Freelancers meet new people frequently by necessity. The perfect networking opportunity is a freelance gig at a new company. Not only can you bond with the people you work with, you can demonstrate your skills and get referrals for more freelance work in the future.
Sure, there moments when I wish I had someone just tell me what to do and let me do it, check everything off a list, shut off the lights and go home. Only moments, though. Then I look around and remember how grateful I am to have a life that works for me, my family, my soul.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

The Active Voice

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, February 05, 2014

To those of us who pay a great deal of attention to grammar, the passive voice is at least correct. It doesn’t make our antennae go up. In fact, it probably makes our antennae go down, but not necessarily in the right way. It makes us stop paying attention.

The same can be said for hiring managers. Or rather--hiring managers might say the same.

The first sentence above is in the passive voice and the second in the active voice. Do they sound different to you?

In a job interview situation, you want to sound like a great prospect--maybe even the perfect candidate. Many people have trouble speaking of themselves and their accomplishments in the active voice. After all, you don’t want to start every sentence with “I” or sound like you are bragging. But you will never land that great new job if you cannot talk about your accomplishments as yours (or your team’s). Here are some examples of passive voice and a more active voice alternative:

Over 1000 PR packages were produced and delivered in a three day period.
Okay, but what did you do? What was your contribution? Glad to hear it. So what?

My team of 5 produced and delivered over 1000 PR packages in less than 72 hours.
Sounds like you managed a team to a challenging goal! Congratulations!


A new website was designed and launched ahead of schedule and under budget.
That’s nice. What were you responsible for on that project?

Designed and launched new company website 2 weeks ahead of schedule and 10% below budgeted cost.
I like that one--active voice and numbers. Great resume bullet point!


Facebook engagement went up 35%.
Okay.

My goal was to increase engagement 20%. I posted original content daily, which increased engagement on Facebook by 35% in 3 months.
Exceeded expectations. Great work!

Most of us are more comfortable using passive voice in our interactions. We eschew talking about our own accomplishments and skills in an active way. However, a job interview is not the place for self-effacing language. If you are the right candidate--and a great fit for the role--make sure the hiring manager knows it and knows you know it, too. Tell them what you did and why.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Freelancing in 2014

Wendy Stackhouse - Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Whether you are already enjoying the benefits of freelancing or still thinking about taking the plunge, 2014 is a terrific year to break free of office life and go it on your own.

Experience

Think about when you learned the most on your last job. Probably in the first three to six months. If you’re a fan of lifelong learning, freelancing puts you in a position to learn new things on every project, with every client.

Flexibility

Although successful freelancing takes a lot of self-discipline, it also reaps rewards in self-actualization when you can spend your time in blocks that make sense for your lifestyle and your temperament. Nightowl? Fine. Love volunteering? Carve out the hours you need.

Ride the Wave

Entrepreneurship is on the rise and you could be part of a generational shift in the best way. Rather than changing jobs every few years, you can have a chance to try out different companies, find a niche for yourself, make important network connections and be a part of the 21st century economy. Forbes is reporting that one of every three workers today is working freelance and that will be one of every two by 2020.

Environmentalism

Working offsite reduces your carbon footprint, from the gas in your car to the power needed to heat and cool that giant office building you’re not working in. You also have more control of your food (lunch local) and the indoor environment where you are working.

Healthcare

Whatever your political persuasion, you now have access to health insurance that freelancers have never had before. Letting go of employer-based insurance is no longer the risky and expensive prospect it was until recently.

I’m excited to be starting a new year of freelancing with many once-in-a-lifetime experiences ahead. How about you? Tell us what you have planned in the Comments!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Exchange Your Goals for Some That Fit

Wendy Stackhouse - Thursday, December 26, 2013

It’s Boxing Day (or the day after Christmas, if you prefer) and traditionally the day for us to take gifts back and exchange them for things that are a better fit.

It’s also the time of year when we look back at what we accomplished--or didn’t--and what we would like to accomplish in the year to come. Did you achieve last year’s goals or would you like to have chosen something different? Now’s your chance!

Setting better goals is not unlike finding better gifts for our loved ones. Asking questions helps a lot:
  • What did you love about this year? A more flexible schedule, better organization, more time with family or more time to build up your skills. Whatever it was, set a goal which will get you more of it.
  • What did you learn this year? Whether it was about yourself, about your abilities, or about your passions, build on that learning and hardwire it in 2014. 
  • What investments paid off this year? Time is your biggest asset: did you spend it well, splurge on something special or squander it? Put more into what worked out and less into what fell flat.
  • Where do you want to be a year from now? You might want to be right here, in a sweet spot, or somewhere entirely different. Set goals that will get you where you want to be.
In both gift giving and goal setting, it’s the thought that counts. 

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

En Garde! Artisan Founder Jamie Douraghy on Fencing and Entrepreneurship

Wendy Stackhouse - Thursday, December 19, 2013

Entrepreneurs POV: The inspiration for entrepreneurship can come from a variety of places. For Jamie Douraghy, a Los Angeles entrepreneur and champion fencer, the sport of fencing has given him the tools he needs to excel in business. Here are three ways fencing has helped Jamie become a better entrepreneur.

When I was 17, I joined the fencing club at my English boarding school and was introduced to what would become a never-ending source of motivation, pressure, excitement and strategic mental training. Thirty-seven years later, I’m still physically and mentally sharp thanks to the life lessons I’ve learned from this rewarding sport.

For me, fencing is more than a hobby; it’s a passion that has taught me as much about the tenets of being a successful entrepreneur as any classroom or boardroom experience. Here are a few things I’ve learned from fencing that translate to entrepreneurship:

Negotiation is in the non-verbal details

Fencing, like negotiating, is a game of cat and mouse. Both contestants are sizing each other up, interpreting every movement and waiting for the most opportune time to launch their offense. In fencing, the goal is to defend against your opponent’s attacks, while setting up your own moves to counter using his miscalculated decisions as a chance to strike. Foil fencing is about establishing "right of way" and convincing the referee that you had the final action and scored the touch. Negotiation follows the same logic, in that it's up to you to convince your client that you’re better than the competition. This requires a lot of back and forth (we call it “footwork” in fencing) and relentless determination to get to that final spot at the top of the podium.

This technique helped me tremendously as I learned about the importance of a successful negotiation in business. Instead of holding back and waiting, I choose to go on offense and score a few points early on as part of my plan to win. Fencing taught me how to anticipate my client’s needs, read their non-verbal cues and arrive at a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Development starts with discipline

Fencing has also taught me the importance of discipline. If I wanted to continuously improve as an athlete, I had to prepare, train and enter each match with the confidence that I would win. If not, I was defeated before I even put on my gear. The same applies to business. We can all perform at a higher level, no matter the venue; discipline in practice and a perseverance of goals are characteristics everyone needs to excel.

When I decided to start my business, I had to set the goal, make the necessary plans to accomplish the goal and then practice my sales pitch, elevator pitch, PowerPoint pitch, handshake, eye contact and smile. Then I would walk into every meeting with confidence, as I could no longer hide behind my fencing mask. I knew that if I hadn't practiced hard enough in business, deep down I wouldn’t believe in my abilities, and I wasn’t going to convince anyone else of my vision.

Learn to lose with grace

One of the most important lessons fencing taught me is the importance of never dwelling on a loss. As an entrepreneur, I have been dealt major upsets, and my history of fencing has taught me how to handle setbacks with as much grace as I would a victory. I’m confident in my movements, abilities and desire to win, though winning it all doesn't always happen. Sometimes I meet a competitor who simply bests me. One example was at the Veteran World Championships in Bulgaria this year. Earlier in the day, I had eliminated a higher seed. I was motivated and mentally ready for the next opponent. Though I gave him everything I had, he eliminated me. After a year of training and traveling, it was all over in less than 10 minutes. Instead of getting angry and derailing my focus, I accepted the loss, moved on, and during the long flight home, started planning how to qualify for the 2014 team.

I’ve been a competitive fencer for more than three decades, won two 40+ U.S. National Championships and represented the U.S. 50+ team three times at the World Veteran Fencing Championships. I also coach fencing to youth, teenage and veteran fencers. Fencing is an extremely challenging sport, and I owe a lot of my accomplishments to pursuing an interest that stimulates both my body and mind.

Can I say that all of my professional success is due solely to the lessons I learned while fencing? Of course not, but the sport did equip me with the skills I needed to achieve success in all avenues of my life. That’s one of the greatest lessons of all, learning without realizing I was ever being taught.

What do you do in your personal life which makes you a better entrepreneur or think more like one? We would love to know!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Entrepreneurs Organization kindly allowed us to reprint this article published in Upstart Business Journal.

Reflections: Perfection

Wendy Stackhouse - Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are you a perfectionist? There are certainly areas of my life where I would like to be perfect, but I’m comfortable knowing that I cannot achieve it in everything all the time. The quest for perfection can be motivating or it can stop us from ever feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Not everything requires perfection all the time and taking a moment to establish whether what you are working on needs that level of attention or whether the cost of trying is just too high can make the difference between a good day and a miserable one.

Ask yourself:
  • Is perfection possible? Be realistic about what can be done. You might have to rely on others for work product or be required to follow suggestions with which you don’t agree. Assess the situation pragmatically.
  • Is perfection desirable? If you are an artist in any medium, perfection is not really your goal, making art is. In my artistic life, I take the imperfections in stride. After all, if I needed perfect every time, I could make a recording and just play it, but that is nothing like the excitement of live performance.
  • Is perfection worth the cost? Sure you might achieve perfection, if only you didn’t have to sleep or eat, but that is a high price to pay, especially at the holidays when you want to spend time with friends and family. And while you might achieve technical perfection, you might lose on creativity if you don’t keep your energy reserves full.
  • Is efficient and functional more important than perfect? We’ve seen it in the Affordable Care Act website situation--what is needed is a site that works and works well. And quickly. Perfect could get in the way of what is truly needful under some circumstances.
  • Can I let go of perfection? If you are a perfectionist, you may have the most trouble with this one. Being able to walk away--even temporarily--when something has reached a good stopping place is a discipline worth fostering.
I’m grateful not to be a perfectionist. Except, of course, in music...and grammar...and spelling. Let me know if I missed anything!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

5 Tips for a Great Office Holiday Party

Wendy Stackhouse - Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The holidays have arrived and office parties are looming on our calendars. Artisan’s annual holiday luncheon is today, as a matter of fact. As much as we want everyone to have a great time at these festive events, we all know someone who has embarrassed themselves by making some unfortunate choices. Instead of sending a wish list to Santa this year, we would like to send you our list of ways to make your holiday office party what it should be--fun and successful.

  • Dress up--A little or a lot, depending on the specific event. Choose a festive accessory and do keep professionalism in mind.
  • Think ahead--Take the time to remind yourself of the names of co-workers’ spouses and children. Ask about activities they or their families like outside of work. Have a brief story ready for when you are asked, “How’s it going?”
  • Ask before you take photos--If you love to post pictures of life events on social media and want to take some here, make sure you have permission first, unless you are the company’s Social Media manager, in which case they’re probably used to you!
  • Keep it positive--The office holiday party is not the place for gossip or badmouthing. Happy holidays is the theme of the day.
  • Say thanks--The person in charge of the party has probably been under a lot of stress about it being perfect. Make sure to thank him or her for a lovely time.
Office parties are an opportunity to get to know the people in your company who may not be in your department, strengthen bonds within your team and make human connections that you don’t have time for during working hours. I know I’m looking forward to getting together with my Artisan colleagues today. Everyone at Artisan hopes that you have as much fun great time at your professional holiday gatherings as your personal ones.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Time Off from a New Job

Wendy Stackhouse - Thursday, November 21, 2013

With the short Thanksgiving work week coming up, we have some advice about what to do when you want to take some time off from your a new job. If you have been on the job less than 3 months, you are still getting settled and might not want to ask for any time off, but you might need a little breather--onboarding is stressful. A holiday is a great excuse. Here are our tips for success:

  • Ask, don’t tell--Your manager is still getting used to you, too, and you can make a good or bad impression here. Request your time off, don’t demand it or sound like you expect it.
  • Research--If your team has a big event or critical project deadline coming up, wait until after it is over to ask for time off. Take a longer view of the work calendar when making your plans.
  • Culture--Your new office might be very flexible or keep tightly to a a routine. Keep that in mind when asking for time off. Find out from a colleague what the typical policy is around holidays. Maybe everyone goes home at lunch on Wednesday and you just haven’t heard yet or maybe they have a tradition of working on a particular day.
  • Keep it short--Unless it was already booked when you took the job (and you told the hiring manager then), don’t plan an actual vacation until you have been in your new job at least 3 months. Even if your company doesn’t have an official “probationary” period, it’s a good idea to institute one of your own. And if you want to take a vacation in the first 6 months, make an appointment to discuss it with your manager before you make your reservations.

Artisan Creative will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. We are thankful that you are here and hope you have a very happy one!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

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