Monthly Archives: July 2014

Problems I see again and again

Magda straightWhen people find out about Flash Consulting, there are a few common questions they ask, so I’m going to address those. The first one is “Do you see repeats of problems?” The answer is YES. I see a lot of the same problems just wearing different outfits. I’ll break down some of the common ones.

Small business problems are, in some ways, the most fun for me because they usually involve crossing disciplines. Think about it: The small business owner is very good at what they do, but a small business has all kinds of tasks and issues and problems that don’t have anything to do with the core business or talents of the owner. It’s not even reasonable to think that a small business owner would have the slightest idea how to contextualize those issues, let alone solve them. I’ve seen a lot of different business areas, so I can see that a solo-practice lawyer’s problem is about cost accounting and organizational dynamics or that a marketing consultant’s problem is about strategy, or that a small ecommerce business’s problem is about marketing. I’m not inside the business, so I don’t have any blocks about what area of expertise the problem is in.

It’s different for people working in a corporate environment. Most of those external issues that stymie small business owners are performed by someone else, so, in theory, my clients could focus only on their content area and just be awesome. Except that then there are issues of butting up against The Machine (meaning the corporate environment itself) and that’s where the problems are as an individual employee (especially in law and any client-facing positions. Also academia.). And that can feel complicated, especially when you’re trying to account for home, too. The solution to that is to cut down the noise and focus on what your actual long-term priorities in all areas are, then find the intersection of those and just ignore everything else. (“Just”–ha!)

Managers have a different problem, which is doing their own jobs plus trying to figure out what’s going on with the teams they manage. The solution to that is to set up a system with a solid framework for keeping your people on track and in a good feedback loop so you’re not taking time away from your own job to put out management fires, and your people can start working together to help manage as a team. But again, it’s easier for me to see this from the outside and know where to start than it is for someone who’s caught in too much input and too many demands to be able to pull it apart to untangle it.

Another problem I see again and again is people who just can’t force themselves to do something, whether it’s work-related (academics, I’m looking at you) or personal. Even with heaps of motivation, they’re still blocked. The solution is different for each person, but it’s never “Just do it.” (Why would you pay me $250 to tell you just to do it, when you could tell yourself that or download any of 5,000 FB graphics with inspirational slogans for free?)  People (including you) are not stupid or weak or inherently losers. There’s always something behind an inability to act. This is when I listen and read very carefully, ask a lot of followup questions, and use my experience working with parents and kids and my own kids and just being a lover of people and their issues in general to help figure out what’s going on. I’m not a therapist, so I find something that will unstick people through reframing or action first. And then if I’m sensing a pattern that is preventing them from working toward what they want, I point out that pattern with the suggestion that they can learn to change their behavior with the help of a therapist to get what they want consistently. (I love good therapists. More than I love good wine, even.)

The easiest personal problem I get is too much input. I sort it out, find the patterns, present a few options for paths to walk through the noise calmly, and prioritize those paths. A subset of that is people who are doing the wrong job for them, helping them sort out what they want to do next and how to do it without going rogue suddenly.

The final category of problem that I see a lot (and that can cross over the ones I’ve already mentioned) is people feeling guilty about doing or wanting what they really secretly want to do. The solution to that is really easy: I think your ideas are great, ESPECIALLY if they’re not what everyone else is doing. I’ll come up with a plan for you to do this crazy thing you’re afraid to admit you want to do, and that will tell you how much effort is involved. If you’re willing to put in the effort, do it. If you’re not willing to put in the effort, then don’t do it, but know that your idea is valid and it was worth having.

Next time I’ll write about the case I didn’t crack, and the few that I’ve cracked that turned out to be way different from what the client and I thought they were going in.

Find your own solution with me. The how-to and details are at FlashCons.com.

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Testimonial: GeorgiePorgieKids.com

1401373721615-690449374Here’s a new testimonial that came in this morning from Amy Rowland, CEO of GeorgiePorgieKids.com. We worked together several weeks ago when she was stuck on marketing her products online and how to increase traffic to her site:

“While I don’t know Magda well, I knew that she would be honest. She wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything, so I was eager to hear her opinions on my small business and how to market my products. She gave me an action plan with several components, but more important than that, she articulated differences between my two product lines which would have an effect on marketing. I had certainly thought of the differences before, but didn’t really contemplate how this would impact marketing efforts. I would definitely work with Magda again and will recommend her to others!”

Ha! Yes, I am honest. And I thought her two product lines (children’s products like plates and aprons and placemats) we both really interesting and delightful (and that I would buy for my own kids if they were still little*), but that they were teaching different things and in two different styles. That plus a couple other things about their old website made me think their marketing was a little muddled so people weren’t easily finding these jewels.

So I suggested marketing the two different product lines separately. Making use of any common target markets, but separating out the messages we wanted to send with each one. Then we did the classic marketing thing: who wants to buy these, where are those people, and how do we show them how fantastic the products are enough times to get them to buy. And came up with a plan for each of these questions for each product line to generate traffic to their site.

Amy just sent me the testimonial and the link to their newly designed website. You should stop over and look at how cute these are, both the ones that teach table manners and the ones that teach nutrition.

* I would actually buy a full set of the Nutrition plates if they were adult-sized and ceramic.

 

Find your own solution with me. The how-to and details are at FlashCons.com.

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Testimonial: CareCartons.com

Here’s a testimonial I got from Gina Willner-Pardo, author of a dozen YA and children’s books, about her new project CareCartons.com:

“I know Magda Pecsenye by virtue of the fact that we went to the same college. (Of course, I went 13 years before she did, but that is neither here nor there.) When I learned that Magda was doing flash consulting, I knew I had to ask for her help.

As a traditionally published children’s book writer for many years, I haven’t had much experience with business per se. (And yeah, I know writing is a business, but whatever.) But a personal situation has required that I make some extra money, and I had an idea for an e-commerce site that I thought might prove profitable. I was able to launch the site myself but was stumped as to how to market it on a strict budget.

Magda understood immediately what I was trying to do. Within 24 hours, she had given me a roadmap, a way to begin to think about marketing and advertising in the digital age. She provided specifics, described in language that someone less comfortable with technology could readily understand.

She was encouraging, down-to-earth, and professional. She made me feel that the idea I’ve been toying with for months may, in fact, be a good one.

Highly recommended.”

I was so happy to hear that the experience was so good for her, because I was thrilled to work with her. I LOVE product/service/website ideas that are based on what the creator was looking for but couldn’t find anywhere else. (Be the change, etc.) Gina told me that when she’d tried to send care packages through the internet to her two adult children, the sites she found only offered pre-selected packages, and most of the things in the packages were candy. She wanted to be able to pick what she sent her kids, and have it be interesting stuff, not just cheap sugar her kids didn’t care about. (Candy’s not that exciting when you’re an adult and can buy it yourself whenever you want it. Except for Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, which are always exciting.)

So she created CareCartons.com. A huge selection of interesting things to choose from (with new stuff added as it comes in and seasonally), all shipped for a flat fee of $5. It’s easy to market really good ideas that people need, so I just put together a plan for Gina to find those people and let them know it exists.

Find your own solution with me. The how-to and details are at FlashCons.com.

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Case study: Rubric for decision-making about divorce

Someone emailed me at FlashCons.com to ask if I could help her figure out whether or not to get a divorce.

For anyone who doesn’t know me already, I’ve been a blogger since 2003 and have written a parenting advice blog since 2005. I got a divorce in 2008. Since then, I’ve been a little like Wallis Simpson, in that I’m famous for being divorced*. That means that people who are considering divorce sometimes think of me as non-scary divorced person**. As I’m a generally happy person with a decent relationship with my ex-husband, I think sometimes I’m the only person people “know” who isn’t living some horrible post-divorce bitter regretful scenario***.

So I get a lot of questions from people that usually boil down to “Should I get a divorce?” Now, there’s no way for me to answer that. I’m biased toward NOT getting a divorce (divorce is a horrible process that teaches you things you might not want to know), but I’m more biased toward emotional and mental health for everyone. And I can’t see the future. If you’re in a bad relationship, maybe it can become good again. If you get divorced, maybe being free of the bonds of that bad relationship will let you work on all the other problems you have. There’s no way to know.

But I do think there are some constants, some things that are always true. About marriage and divorce, and kids inside marriage and divorce. So that’s what I laid out for the anonymous person who asked for my help. What she told me of her story: She and her husband had been married for ten years. They had two elementary-aged kids. She was happy in her job and so was he. For the past 3+ years things had been painful between them. Unresolvable fights, lack of common viewpoint, disconnection, lack of trust, lack of sexual interest. They’d done individual and couples counseling for several years, and had understood each other’s positions, but didn’t like each other any more than before counseling. She was clearly in pain in the relationship, but was afraid of splitting up her kids’ family when there wasn’t something obviously horrible in the marriage (addiction, cheating, abuse). And she was very concerned that the level of pain she was feeling was “normal” and that she didn’t have a right to complain about it or consider leaving her marriage, because what if everyone else had it just as bad and they stayed?

She was spinning and spinning, caught between the things she knew about herself, her husband, and her kids, and what she’d always thought was true about marriage and family, without knowing how much of that actually was true objectively or specifically to her. She was trying to fly without being able to see the horizon. And her husband wasn’t actively participating in making a decision. She asked if I could help.

I told her that I could tell her what decision to make, but that wouldn’t actually be a solution. So I proposed instead that I come up with a rubric of sorts that led her through questions to find a path that made sense.

I asked her questions, about what the relationship had been like, what made them get married, what her husband thought about their marriage, what her core values were, what relationships/marriages she admired, what she wanted her kids to know about marriage and family. And then I came up with questions to help her use those answers as yardsticks so she could measure how the marriage she could create realistically compared to her own values and needs as a mother and person. I prefaced those questions with several things that are true about marriage and divorce that we don’t always understand (but that Louis CK talks a lot about) but that frame the decision as creating healthy function and peace for everyone in the situation instead of as Bad vs. Good. I asked her to think about the work she’d need to do if she decided to get a divorce.

I sent her the write-up and she replied that the questions were “spot on” for her situation, and were a “valuable framework” for her to make decisions.

I don’t know what she’ll decide. It’s not my life and not my decision. I could only help her recognize things that were important to her and use those to help her sort through things. I hope she reports back in once she’s decided.

* I would NEVER have let Edward abdicate for me.
** As opposed to Wallis Simpson, who I think was a little scary.
*** Most of the people I know who are divorced are pretty happy and well-adjusted, and their problems are normal problems. But I don’t think regular, content people get a lot of media time.

Find your own solution with me. The how-to and details are at FlashCons.com.

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Testimonial!

I just got this testimonial in from Pooja Makhijani:

“When I approached Magda with a “harebrained” idea (my words), she said, “Nonsense! This is a very *good* idea!” And within 24 hours, as she promises, she sent me a detailed road-map for execution. It has served as a checklist — printed out and hanging in my workspace! — as I prepare for the launch of my product.

Not only did Magda provide concrete actionable advice and responses to several emails-worth of follow-up questions, she also provided encouragement and cheerleading to help me access the skills I need to make my idea a reality.”

Pooja’s idea is fantastic and when she’s ready to go public I’ll let everyone know what it is so you can all subscribe.

Find your own solution with me. The how-to and details are at FlashCons.com.

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