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Friendly Competition Wins

October 26, 2021

Tuesday Thoughts for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Business Owners

A couple years ago a woman walked into an event and sat down alone at the table. Realizing she was new to our programs; I went over to introduce myself and make her feel welcomed. Although the event was in a comfortable room at a country club, as an event planner, I wanted venues to be reflective of my home thereby greeting guests like I would at home was my philosophy.

At the end of the event, the woman came up to me and thanked me for my hospitality and asked me to contact her about sharing my challenge of running a company after a medical diagnosis in a new book she was collaborating on with other women. Earlier this week, that book arrived with my story right next to hers because of the alphabetically spelling of our names and because being a gracious, warm hostess established an instant bond.

By nature, people are competitive beings, in sports, school, organizations, and economic pursuits. Growing up participating in all of these activities combined with a keen Scorpio personality, I excelled in competition until opening up my first business where some competitors embraced me and one in particular went after my clients. I was almost given a sizable contract, my competitor and I were vying for, until the prospective client told me the other company told them I spent too much time with my children and not on my business.

Five Star Events Owned by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

As I pushed my chair away from the interview table I said, “I would suggest you speak with my clients, not a competitor about my dedication to their work.” By the time I stomped my way back to my office five blocks away because I was furious at my competitor, I told myself I wouldn’t take the offer if I was given it because of the question and assumption on the part of the interviewer. Sure enough, he offered me the job, and I turned it down, because sometimes other things in business matter more than money.

So today as you contemplate vendors, customers, partners or advisors that sometimes doubt your work ethic or value, take time to consider if the business is worth your time and effort, especially if your gut instincts are shouting at you. When you turn down a potential bad project, you end up opening your time to a better one, and you’ll be happier, and most likely richer, in the end.

Monday Money Motivation: Save With Multiple Quotes

October 25, 2021

Monday Motivation, Business Success Strategies for Women EntrepreneursFemale Business OwnersSmall Businesses

She arrived dressed in crimson attire standing ten feet tall, at the entrance to our house. She was a beauty to behold. As I approached her majesty, I wondered her name. Quietly I heard the wind rustle between her delicate limbs quietly saying, “Skarlett Oak’Hara.” The reason she appeared in our yard one beautiful autumn day was simply due to mastering the art of obtaining multiple contracting quotes on a home renovation project that saved us $500.

Yes, Skarlett Oak’Hara is a gorgeous Skarlett Oak tree to adorn our property and yes, I love trees more than most people; but I also love saving money like most women entrepreneurs. The thrill of getting extra quotes which lead to similar quality services for less money so the spare dollars can be used someplace else, is exhilarating. If we don’t shop around once in awhile to ask for bids on major entrepreneurial expenditures, projects, contractors, or staple items, we’ll never know how much we are saving by choosing the right vendor.

When we were searching for the perfect oak tree to accompany our existing century-old maple trees, we also found distinct differences in the quality, service, and knowledge of the landscaping companies. You won’t be surprised to discover a young, educated college salesperson who worked for the last company we checked on for our tree, was a bright, helpful female who won my money from the start. Her exceptional knowledge of trees, big smile, and warm tone of voice made me want to buy more than one tree if it meant she got the commission. This was just another reason the new tree had to be named after a woman – as a gentle reminder that our money went in her hands.

So, what does this short story have to do with you today? As you know there are lessons in all fables if you search for them. On this Money Monday, I hope you are inspired to get multiple quotes when working on any small or large projects because that extra time on the phone asking questions could land you big savings. Secondly, remember your customer service attitude could seal the deal especially with unfamiliar customers with a pocket full of money to spend, landing the sale in your bank account. Also remember, if you aren’t the main salesperson for your business, your staff reflects the friendly, helpful, and expert advice you want portrayed.

Sometimes the simplest sales transactions lead to an instant customer-fan for life. I know for one thing the next time we need another tree to compliment Skarlett Oak’Hara, my new friend Sarah, the landscaping saleswoman from Chittenango, will get the money we saved by obtaining quotes on another project. Remember, don’t just say “Frankly Dear, I don’t give a damn” about saving money, make it happen.

Thursday Thoughts: Letting Go of Outcomes

October 21, 2021

Inspiration, Motivation, Success Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs, Females, Small Business Owners

Onondaga Lake by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

At a literal fork in the road, I had to make a decision which thoroughfare I’d travel on another gorgeous warm, sunny Syracuse October morning. The weather has been atypical, most likely due to global warming, but putting my future grandchildren’s environment aside, I truly adore this autumn weather.

Today instead of thinking about the number of miles I would pedal, how many calories I’d burn, or choosing an even longer trek than the last one, I let outcomes fall to the side and chose biking the flatter trail right next to the glimmering lakeside with the full sun on my face. I wanted to see the water. I told myself I’d bike until I wasn’t “happy” anymore. There were no time limits. The hell with fitness outcomes.

As the rock and roll music playing in my ear pods took me rhythmically on my way, each pedal push, stride, downhill speed, and uphill tests of thigh muscle strength added to the experience.  Smiling with bugs bumping into my legs once in a while, nodding to fellow bikers, and zigging my way around restored lakeside grasslands where flowers and weeds still blooming so I rejoiced in my decision. That’s when it hit me, the thought that I shouldn’t always care about the exercise outcomes of my ride but the pure enjoyment of it instead.

Have you too thought about caring less about outcomes – like giving up calorie counting for the day or not weighing yourself methodically? How about just eating what tastes good? For many women entrepreneurs, reviewing our daily, monthly and quarterly income figures is enough to make us self-critical about monetary and work outputs. Could we use a break from always knowing and checking, wishing, hoping, and criticizing? How about measuring our worth by how we feel about running our companies some of the time instead?

By Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

I think it is time for women to stop self-blaming and living their lives with limits, outcomes, restrictions, and expectations in every area of their lives. Take it from me as I shouted, “Wee” just happy with the sun on my bald head, clean wind in my face, fluttering butterflies whizzing past my eyes, and happiness oozing out of every pore because I choose the road, I wanted to take this morning – the sunny, water view one – not the most challenging or longest one to hit more fitness outcomes. Sometimes we really need to care less, and enjoy more.

Wednesday Wisdom: Chart Your Next Adventure

October 18, 2021
Ellis Island Receiving Room by Tracy Elaine Lauri Chamberlain Higginbotham

Crossing the brown metal Queensboro Bridge, as the very spark of light crested the horizon, the dark-blueish black sky appeared the perfect backdrop for the tall, slender buildings that shone like polished silver as that first shimmer of light hit them. It was stunning, simply stunning.

As my car wound its way, with different colors, makes, and models of cars, buses, vans, and taxies from Long Island City onto the FDR Highway to take me home via the George Washington Bridge, the dark blue sky dissipated to a pastel blue one with wisps of golden-pinkish-orange clouds dotting the horizon. It was hard to keep my eye on the road because the painted sky evolved so beautifully.

Statue of Liberty by Tracy Elaine Lauri Chamberlain Higginbotham

It seemed in a blink of an eye, the colorful atmosphere became white, crystal clear light now helping thousands of commuters manage their way out of the dark down the bustling highway. Red tail lights dotted the cars ahead of me and bright white headlights in single file, four lanes wide, standing still in typical Monday Morning traffic fashion, reminded me how lucky I was leaving the city in the right direction.

Before my 60-hour New York City trip to visit my sons, a florist vendor heard me tell the cashier I was driving into the Big Apple, he said, “You don’t drive in there yourself, do you?” With a grin on my face, I replied, “I certainly do. I’m a risk taker and honestly the drivers in NYC are really calm compared to Boston drivers.” He shook his said and said, “I would never do that!” I shrugged my shoulders, took my flowers and gleefully bounced to my car ready for a NYC adventure.

Long Island City, NY – Tracy Elaine Lauri Chamberlain Higginbotham

What I’ve learned navigating my way from Syracuse, through the picturesque Delaware Gap in New Jersey, and over the George Washington Bridge to either the West Village, where one of my sons lives, or to Long Island City, where the other one resides, is the fact there are so many misconceptions about New York City, and difficult driving into it is one of them.

Freedom Tower 2021 – By Tracy Elaine Lauri Chamberlain Higginbotham

Sure, I’ve ended up at times in Harlem after a wrong turn, but no one cares if you keep to yourself. I’ve also ended up in the middle of Times Square crosswalk at rush hour with people giving me the finger at times. I just sweat and apologize. And one time I ended up at the base of the Freedom Tower after never wanting to see it after losing a friend in a plane that hit a Twin Tower. But there I was facing my fear, staring right into the new shimmering blue structure, awed by its beauty.

Today’s blog post is to remind you that if you want to focus on life being dark and scary, it will be. If instead you want to look at life as an adventure with colorful experiences, happy endings, and periodic wrong way turns that we learn from, then that’s another thing.

Luigi Lauri – Grandfather of Tracy Elaine Lauri Chamberlain Higginbotham – Arrived in America 11/14/1911 – Line #26

I can tell you with all certainty as I left Ellis Island this weekend, after seeing my Southern Italian grandfather’s name on the registration records on November 14, 1911, after he arrived in America at the age of 3, with his older brother, mother and father after traveling weeks across the wide-open dark sea to America for a better life, is that you must lay fear aside and realize fear mustn’t stop you from living your own life of dreams.  

If you want to look back on your life, as I witnessed it this morning, with pockets of dark and pastel colors, simmering landscapes, diverse colors and sounds, at times secure and sometimes not, then don’t be afraid. Venture on, my friend. Live and chart your own adventures, big or small.

Thomas Scott Higginbotham and Tracy Elaine Lauri Chamberlain Higginbotham

Wednesday Wisdom: Training, Funding & Teamwork

October 13, 2021

Wednesday Wisdom, Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Businesses

Another historic Boston Marathon occurred Monday, six months after being postponed due to the Pandemic, but that didn’t stop runners on Boston streets and virtually everywhere running 26.2 miles for a charity team or their own pride. As Facebook flashed memories from my 2017 Boston Marathon accomplishment and friends I ran with tagged me in photos, it showed that a combination of hard work, enthusiasm, and self-confidence can get you anywhere your heart desires.

Underneath the glossy photos were the golden nuggets of that running success – training, fundraising, and teamwork. I couldn’t have crossed that blue and yellow line in downtown Boston without these three pivotal elements. When I come to think about them, I realize just like crossing marathon finish lines, owning a company requires similar components.

Most of us couldn’t have started our companies without some type of entrepreneurial training from an organization, course, or book. Jumping into business ownership is something you have to know something about in addition to having a “road map” aka business plan. Once we took the risk to create our companies, we also learned training continues to be an important part of succeeding especially in new fields, like technology, that are introduced along the way.

Kathrine Switzer and Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham, Hopkinton, MA 2017

Although the fundraising part of my Boston dream was raising $8,000 from 120 people to give to my charity, so I could earn a bib to run in it, female business owners have to muster money from somewhere to start their enterprises or grow them. Money doesn’t fall from trees so creative funding is another component of necessity for starting a firm.

Finally, although many women entrepreneurs are solo entities, we all know there is a low percentage of success if we don’t have some type of team around us to provide advice, physical help, knowledge, or even pep talks. Many of us end up with staff or interns or partners so teamwork becomes a part of our business lives. When running the marathon, knowing I had 100 other fearless sisters on the road with me that day for our team, fueled my energy to finish.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham, Scott and Adam Higginbotham, after the race was done!

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is not to inspire you to train for a marathon, unless it is a dream or bucket list of yours and then give me a call, but rather to remind you that ongoing training, funding, and team support goes along way in adding to business success. Make sure you have all three at your disposal before you start or grow your company. By having all three, you have greater odds of crossing the finish line of your own race. 

Celebrate Your Big and Small Entrepreneurial Moments

October 7, 2021

Thursday Thoughts for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners

It was September 1996 on the aqua shore of Skaneateles Lake under a white tent rented to shade guests from rain or sunshine earlier in the day. Music spilled out of the big glass windows above the tent’s ceiling and laughter intermixed with the band adding its own chorus lines. The moon was out, sparkling on the water now, as I paused to catch a few silent moments of success before returning to check on my first big official client for my new event planning company.

I heard myself say, “You deserve it, Tracy. You did a wonderful job today. Take it in. Don’t rush away quite yet. This moment will soon be replaced.” So, I stood there allowing all five senses to enjoy the moment of success. This particular success was extremely important because the client was my husband’s boss and the wedding of his only daughter. If I failed at this very first event as a woman entrepreneur, not only would my new career be over, but perhaps my husbands too.

Photo by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

At the end of the night, the bride and groom rode off after watching brilliant fireworks display and the bride’s parents thanked me for a job well done. I rode off into the moonlight with wisdom that accompanied me from that starlit night until today, 27 years later. The lesson…..always relish your successes, no matter how big or small, especially if you are a solo entrepreneur, because it is up to you, and only you sometimes, to realize and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.

Unlike a wedding crowd throwing birdseed or toasting to you with champagne, often entrepreneurship can be a lonely, hard-fought experience if no one is watching or there to cheer you on. Women don’t go into business for themselves for heaps of praise, but once in a while, they need it to sustain a rough period, after accomplishing a large risk, or if staff or advisors are lacking in quantity to notice.

Photo by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

Just like selfies are okay to take and post, so is patting yourself on the back, buying your own champagne, and toasting to yourself periodically for a job well done. If it is a really big success, don’t be afraid to throw yourself a party complete with fireworks with favorite customers, associates, and staff around to celebrate all you have done, and still plan on doing in the future; but don’t let those really special moments or milestones go by without noticing them.

Women Entrepreneurs: How to Plan Now for Another Social Media Marketing Outage

October 5, 2021

Whether you want to admit it or not, most of us are addicted to social media mostly because it has developed as a free promotional, messaging, marketing, and communication tool for small woman-owned companies who tend to lack funds and staff. If you are like me, you use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn as often as you use Kleenex, and Xerox. Brands whether good for us or not creep and then seep into our normal routine making them hard to break.

We have become so dependent on these business and personal mediums that when an unexpected outage occurs, we think we are the ones to blame. Yesterday, I must have tried 10 or more times to check into my social media accounts blaming the impossibility as my own fault, the wireless in my house, my oldish-new computer, and just having a bad tech day; never did it occur to me there was a massive outage. If that’s not the sign of overdependence and hyper-regularity of a product or service, nothing is.

Many people are asking today, “What did you do yesterday when you didn’t have access to your social media accounts,” my response, “After taking a biking lunch break to destress from it assuming it was my computer’s fault, I thought about what I would do if these marketing tools didn’t exist anymore.” Human nature likes familiarity and busy woman entrepreneurs really do as they strive to complete multiple tasks on a daily basis with less or no staff and limited technology education. We don’t have time to work at a snail’s pace.

It is not that we can’t live without tweeting, posting, or blogging, but for many of us it is the best, cheapest and easiest way to communicate with our friends, customers, and potential clients about our companies, products and services. It is for me at least, and I think I represent many women in business. So today we should at least contemplate ways to substitute these platforms if they get too regulated, start costing money, or go away all together. Do we have a plan for that in our business plan?

Maybe 2022 will be the year of good ole marketing flyers, knocking on doors, face-to-face coffee meetings, old fashion letters, paid print advertising, or big billboards instead of online promotion. Now is the time to think about what you left by the wayside when social media became the major way to appeal to others. Let’s not wait until the next social media blackout to realize we are in the dark and at the hands of multimillion dollar companies.

Wednesday Wisdom: Be the Light

September 29, 2021

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs and Female Business Owners

Aquinnah Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard taken by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

Taking a detour from a previously planned trip, my husband and I ended up in the quaint seaside community of Chatham, Massachusetts on beautiful Cape Cod for our week vacation. There was something magical in the air and water as this brand-new destination unfolded its glorious early morning sunrises, sparkling waves, and perfect, and I mean perfect, 72-degree, sunny weather every day. After four days there we traveled via ferry to Martha’s Vineyard to a place we never been before which is where an adventure began with lessons in humanity spilling out on the roads.

Eager to make the most of this new destination and fueling an adventurous spirit, we decided to rent e-bikes to take us from the old whaling city of Edgartown, on the eastern edge of the island, to Aquinnah, the western bluffly edge of the island. With bike helmets on, $10 in our pocket, and 2 water bottles between us off we went.

Aquinnah Bluffs taken by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

10 miles into the trip on roads much hillier than we imagined, we stopped to get more water and a cookie to split when we realized we didn’t have enough money for the fare. The female cash register attendant grabbed a dollar from her tip basket so we could afford the cookie, even though I had put it back. “No, you must have it. I don’t mind sharing my tips with you,” as I glanced down at my bright pink Women TIES shirt that said, “Women Supporting Women.” We had enough water to continue until we could refill our water bottles at the lighthouse tourist area ten more miles ahead and then let a bus take us and our bikes back to our hotel.

As the old brick lighthouse appeared at the end of the road, we realized all the places to buy water were closed due to labor shortages. We realized we had no way to get drinkable water again with 20 miles to bike back since we found out we had missed the bus. Striking up a conversation with a couple biking with a group called VBT (Vineyard Bike Tours), the woman offered me her bottle of water and said, “Take it, I can share my husband’s water.” Once again, I said, “Oh gosh, no thank you, you’ll need it.”

Biking in Cape Cod? Check out Vineyard Biking Tours

“Follow us,” she said as they biked us towards a VBT van. There a man filled our water bottles, gave us some snacks for the trip back after we told them how far we were going, and wished us luck. As we biked hard up and down the same hilly roads to get back to our hotel, now making it a 40-mile unplanned trip, we smiled and waved to some of the generous people who helped us as they passed by. I instantly feel in love with these giving strangers who made sure we had a safe trip back.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is really very simple – it is to remind you in business and life, we have the ability to make a stranger’s day or a customer’s day with simple acts of kindness and generosity. A dollar here, free water there, helpful tips off our lips, and sincere community spirit, is so easy to give to those we know and don’t know.

Cape Cod sunset by Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

As a woman entrepreneur, I’ll never forget the relief I felt from VBT for helping us out and sending us on our way with confidence and resources. What can you do today as a woman business owner to make the same lasting business impression on a stranger that happens along your way?

Business Advice to Chew On

September 28, 2021

Tuesday Thoughts, Business Advice, Wisdom for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners

Sitting across the table from me during lunch was an amazing woman who is a principal of a major engineering company with 4 branches and millions of dollars in contracts. I’ve always been fascinated by women who run extremely successful companies hoping their wisdom will rub off on me and motivate me to higher goals.

Our luncheon conversation lasted an hour but what an hour it was! As I hung on every detail of their latest client portfolio which includes ESPN, a movie set in Hollywood and some recognizable government buildings, I envisioned my company having the same clientele one day! I was thrilled listening to how they land bigger contracts, solicit for new clients and hired a 40th employee, I knew I would have to share the advice I picked up over lunch with others. Her advice made me dig deeper and push farther for my own company’s future. I hope it does the same for you.

* Her company was tired of having old leads – the business cards left in tradeshow bowls, names given at business luncheons and casual acquaintances – not turn into customers. So the company hired a sales person to follow-up on all their “warm” leads and it turned into a handful of very financial rewarding new contracts. If they never made the follow-up calls, they would not have landed the new business. Tip: If you aren’t following up on warm leads because you don’t have the time or staff, consider hiring a temporary sales person just to handle this duty. It will pay tenfold more in contracts then you’ll pay the staff person making the calls.

* Once a month, plan a strategic sales trip where you schedule business appointments from day to night in regions you already have existing customers. Ask for a 15 minute appointment to get in the door. Share your company’s information with the leader of the company you are prospecting. Typically my friend’s 15 minute appointments turned into one hour appointments and landed her a new client. Tip: Be more strategic by scheduling a day a month to be on the road, making new client appointments and walking away with new customers.

* Take a risk to grow your company now and stop waiting to make the move. This woman has decided that in the next ten years she will work day and night to secure a strong financial income for herself and her company knowing after that time period she can walk away from the business tired but with enough money to retire and live really well. Tip: If you are starting to reach the middle or end of your entrepreneurial career, make sure you are doing all you can to utilize every piece of energy you have to push beyond your limits now in order to reap financial rewards in the future to live on.

My final piece of advice is to make sure you find time to have lunch with business owners who are more accomplished than you are and take in their valuable tips and wisdom over a hot lunch. They mirror what you still want to do with your company and make you realize there is still plenty of time to achieve more success!

Throwback Thursday: Red Pepper Pricing & Making More Money

September 16, 2021

This popular blog post from 2016 is today’s “Throwback Thursday” blog post for all my female business friends and small business owners struggling with setting pricing after the pandemic. I hope it inspires you today.

The phone rings again. It is a call from my son heading to a job interview. Every time he has an interview he calls to rehearse his background, experiences and references. Always at the end of the call I say to him, “Make sure you ask about the salary and ensure you get the pay you deserve and if not ask for more.” The answer is always the same, “I know, I know, Mom.”

I’m sure I am not the only woman who gives advice and shares mistakes with others, especially life lessons like landing a first job or first client as a fresh entrepreneur. I am also positive I’m not the only person who didn’t get a larger salary in the beginning of her professional career because I didn’t ask for more. I recall my first job living in Philadelphia as an Assistant to the Corporate Vice President of an Investment Banking Firm as my “red pepper experience,” because I was only making $12,000 a year (with a $3,000 bonus promised at Christmas) and cried in a neighborhood market one day when I couldn’t afford to buy a fresh red pepper. It might be a silly story but I wanted that red pepper and I couldn’t afford it.

Honestly as a three-decade entrepreneur, I still sometimes struggle with the amount I list on a contract for business services, always going back to thinking I’m asking too much. When I do, I drift back to the big red pepper sitting in the palm of my hand wishing I had more money to buy it. The vision triggers me to implore my son to make sure he gets paid well for his first job. It also forces me to make sure I am asking the right price for my services because my experience says I deserve it.

Today blog post is to invite you to think of the meaning of the red pepper when you are in the middle of pricing your services or products, preparing a proposal, asking for a raise or accepting a new job. Make sure you are getting the price you deserve for the amount of education, experience and wisdom you have to share with your customer or employer. We are responsible for what we get paid, no one else is. We must be stronger, wiser and more confident when it comes to asking for our fair wage.

I love red peppers. I love making money. I sometimes don’t like asking for money but the only way to be a truly successful entrepreneur is to ensure getting paid the right amount the first time so we can pay the bills, pay ourselves and pay for those “red pepper” items we deserve.

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