Category: Celebrating Successes

Highlighting best practices.

How being an entrepreneur is like a road trip

Guest post by Maggy Sterner,brand & business coach

After eight hours, three cups of coffee, and a bag of Twizzlers, I’d completed the first day of My Big Road Trip Adventure: a cross-country solo drive from Washington, D.C. to Portland, Oregon.

I wasn’t even sure I would make it out the door of my apartment.  It all felt too daunting. My covid cocoon isolation had gotten to me.

But I’d said I was going. I chose the date (April 5, 2022). Nobody did it to me.

So I went.

Remember to breathe

We’ve all gone through the wringer for the past couple of years. In March 2020, the world shut down and we were tossed into a scenario nobody had anticipated.

Fortunately, I’d been running my business as a brand & business coach via Zoom since Zoom was launched.

Unfortunately, I don’t thrive in captivity. I need freedom and mobility to feel alive.

After two years, I couldn’t take one more second of being in my very pleasant apartment, work-work-working, living on Zoom, not traveling.

What I discovered once I got going is this: A road trip experience is just like being an entrepreneur. They share the same qualities and types of experiences:

Pick a destination, it’s your choice

One way to guarantee you don’t get where you want to go is to not know where that is.

My target was Portland. But I headed south – not west – and people were like, “Uh, that’s not the way to Portland.” I know. We get to choose our own path to the place we’re going.

I’ve gone down side trails with my business, cooked up ideas for things that were out of alignment with my values or my superpowers.

My motto is: Everything goes into the pot, keep stirring. There are no mistakes.

Follow your business’s GPS – your brand statement – if you get lost

Get your a$$ out the door

Hit the “go” button. I could make all the lists I wanted about what to bring and my itinerary, but the going is the whole point.

I felt so alive heading out into the world, not knowing what was going to happen next.

For your business, you’ve got to be visible – nobody can see invisible things, especially not the people who need precisely what you offer.

Show up by networking, on social media, do speaking engagements, produce your own or be a guest on podcasts, writing a book, and giving away a free worksheet.

If you say, “I need to … ” or “I should do …” – stop it. It doesn’t matter what you do. Do what’s fun.

You’ll veer off course

Now I know I never need to visit Marfa, Texas again. Ever. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t done it. There are no mistakes, just plot twists.

I’ve spent way too many hours focusing on things that weren’t important to my business. I went down roads that didn’t serve me or my business. But that money’s gone, it’s already happened, so move forward.

Get a grip, reel yourself in, pick a new direction.

When an engine light goes off in your dashboard, that’s a clue something big needs your attention

Just as I pulled into my first hotel on day ONE – literally, the very moment – a yellow light went on in my dashboard: Either my car had gone into submarine mode (that’s what the symbol looked like to me), or uh oh.

The “engine lights” for your business can be a lack of consistent income (your bank account is the “engine light”), spending too much time with clients who are not a good fit (you’re feeling drained instead of joyful), you’re working all the time and burned out (have fun!)

Road angels are everywhere

I hit a patch of hiccups during my first week. Dashboard light, computer shouting, “I HAVE NO MORE ROOM FOR ANY OF YOUR STUPID FILES!”, balancing work time and drive time, no place to have a client call.

I found what I call “road angels” everywhere: the geniuses at the Apple store in Knoxville, Tenn; The desk guy at the hotel who said, “I can’t give you a late checkout but I have a conference room you can use.” And then he made it nice for me.

My friend who found me a mechanic in Austin, Tex. Sean turned my fear of a $2k bill into $126.17 by cleaning one dirty filter.

The hottest of all my hot tips

Ask for help. Don’t hesitate. We’re not here to suffer in silence.

I said this a lot, “I’m wondering if it’s possible to have . . . “. The only possible answers are “yes,”, “no,” or renegotiate.

Ask for what you need. None of us can do this entrepreneurial (or life) road trip along.

Road angels are everywhere.

About the Author

Maggy Sterner is a brand & business coach. She helps coaches, consultants, creatives, and healers learn how to talk about what they do so the right people say, “OMG I need you!” And then they make da monies.



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Build a Business with Relationships

Guest Post by Dr. Marie Gould Harper, Program Director of Management at American Public University

Recently, I had the opportunity to reconnect with a business that I frequented years ago. One day I felt the urge to visit only to find out things had changed. The two business partners elected to go their separate ways. The one remaining was at the crossroad of deciding whether to keep the physical location or trying something different.

As we discussed short- and long-term strategic planning, the owner responsible for the physical location explained how she wanted to come up with some thoughts on how to operationalize the strategic plans.

One of her biggest concerns was marketing. In her mind, she was in a catch 22 situation. There weren’t enough funds to conduct a marketing campaign, but a campaign was needed to grow the business.

My suggestion – re-build by developing personal relationships. While this type of action would require a lot of time, it is more personable and can be rewarding on so many levels. Although I believed it could work based on the information she was sharing with me, I wanted to find a model that applied the concept and could allow her to see the correlation of what I felt in my gut.

The Brand as the Relationship

One of the resources I discovered introduced the concept of “transitioning from thinking about having a relationship with a brand to thinking of the brand as the relationship”.  If one were to define a brand’s relationship, a business could increase the level of engagement with potential customers, create opportunities for differentiation, and establish a new market of loyal clientele.

How could this concept be applied to this company’s “rebranding” efforts?

First, I took into consideration the owner’s mental state.  I posed questions that required a response which addressed where she saw the business in the long-term (vision) versus where she saw the business in its current state (reality). After spending many hours comparing the list, we were able to agree on what was necessary to move forward with the next step. A step that she would feel comfortable embracing.

What we found out through this exploration was that her comfort zone was meeting the needs of customers by developing a customized program. Although I believed this practice would be time consuming, it was what made the owner happy. She would be able to increase personal performance via guided instruction. The 1-on-1 relationship increases the level of engagement with one’s client base.

Impact of Differentiation

How does this example move towards creating opportunities for differentiation? End results. The customer experience can create future ambassadors for the service. They can share their experience with others and showcase how using the service was a value added to their lifestyle. Her client base began to share their experiences with friends, family, and co-workers.

In one situation, one of the clients went to her employer to find out how the service could be incorporated into a business activity to relieve stress and anxiety in the workplace. At this point, the business has gone from “providing an individualized experience” to “providing a corporation the opportunity to experience a service focused on improving the mental well being of its workforce”.

The owner has gone from the personal experience with direct pay to individuals participating in a collective experience for a group of employees desiring to a change to improve mental wellness in the workplace.

Ambassadors for Life

We have gone from individualized experiences at a studio to individuals being able to experience the service in their workplace, at the studio and/or online. Thus, creating an environment where the company can meet an individual’s need by giving different modes of participation. In addition, by creating an opportunity to offer three modes of delivery, we have created additional markets that encourages loyal customers via satisfied experiences as testimonials.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

What that APR After My Name Means

I chose to earn the APR – Accredited in Public Relations – credential years ago. I have maintained my accredited status since then to assure my clients and myself that I am offering the highest levels of expertise.

Unlike CPA and other professional credentials, APR is not well known. Here are the highlights of what it means:

  • The APR is a mark of distinction of a PR pro’s solid ethics, judgment, strategy and knowledge.
  • The APR process provides excellent training in comprehensive and strategic public relations.
  • APRs commit themselves to continuous improvement for the professional and the profession.

Accredited in Public Relations Level of Service

For my clients, the APR means that I offer you validated expertise in public relations and communication. I need to take continuing education to maintain the credential, so it also tells you that I am staying up with the latest in the field. It is your assurance that working with me brings you significant value.

For me, the APR keeps me current in my field. I enjoy learning through the workshops I take, as well as through working with other professionals who want to attain the APR. Through this process, we challenge one another to attain a level of excellence. We also act as a collegial body to sustain and advance the profession.

Learn more about the APR credential at the PRSA website.