Two dozen favorite tips, tools and inspiration from two dozen years in business

My 24th business anniversary is this week (August 15).

It blows my mind to reflect on all the places, projects and experiences that my business has taken me over the last two dozen years. I am so grateful for it!

Last year, I wrote 23 lessons from 23 years in business. This year, I wanted to share some favorite tips, tools and inspiration that have kept me fueled all these years.

Thanks to all of you who have been with me on any part of the ride!

My 2 dozen favorites

1. My clients

Through all the years, in up economies, down economies and in between economies, my clients have been my rock. Whether we were creating learning programs for 50,000 employees, launching first-time side hustle businesses or building a powerful, scaleable world changing business through IP, my clients bring me daily joy, growth and challenge. I am here because of you, and my meaning at work is because of you. Thank you for keeping me and my family financially stable, allowing us to grow as a unit, and experience life in a full-color, full-contact way. And thank you for bringing me into your families, and witnessing the joy that your thriving business brings to you. As I always say, #weallneedeachother

2. The Tuckman Team Development Model

Way back in the early 90’s as I was deep in learning about organizational development in my role at Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors (now Blackrock), my boss shared the Tuckman Model of Team Development which described common phases a team goes through. Developed originally in 1965 by psychologist Bruce Wayne Tuckman, then amended to add a new step in the process in 1977, the Tuckman Model explains why so many teams go through difficult times as they grow, and provides suggestions for what to build at each phase. I have used it hundreds of times throughout the decades and it always makes a team feel better knowing their “storming” behavior is perfectly normal. Learn about the model here.

3. The Google Search Bar

Really? A search bar? Yes, really. I cannot count how many times during coaching calls I pull up Google and find a pertinent piece of information. A client may say “I sure wish I knew how to reach CPAs in Georgia!” to which my response is always to quietly Google “Associations of CPAs in Georgia.” Inevitably, at the touch of my fingers, I find a helpful connection or next step for my clients. I have lived long enough to remember life before Google, and it was filled with trips to the the library to do research. Not knocking libraries (I still love them!), but it sure is more efficient to get an answer in 5 seconds from the comfort of my own home.

4. Instructional Design

I have done a lot of things throughout the course of my career, but the one constant has been education and training (my major in college was “International Service and Development with a concentration in non-formal education as a tool for social and economic change.” Say that 3 times fast!). When I worked in corporate training in the early 90’s, I did a certificate program in Training and Development at U.C. Berkeley Extension. Each class was a revelation, as I discovered frameworks and tools I have continued to use for over 30 years. the basic instructional design process I learned was the ADDIE model, but in subsequent years, all kinds of research and innovation has come about to help us design effective learning experiences. Here is a comprehensive list of models. If you want my help with designing a certification, train the trainer or online learning program, check this out.

5. Bird by Bird

When I was writing Escape from Cubicle Nation, I got in a few states of really bad funk. What saved me was keeping my very favorite book on writing by my side, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. (Interesting, she just came out with the 25th anniversary edition!)

6. Kolbe

I have been in the learning and development/self help space for over 30 years, so you can bet I have taken just about every assessment out there to help me and my clients become better, more at ease and more effective in our natural zones of strength. As a business coach, one of the most insightful of these tools is the Kolbe index, which measures your “motus operandi,” or way of taking action. It is a super helpful key to understanding how to set up natural systems of taking action, so you don’t beat yourself up for doing it your way. To take the standard assessment (there is a fee of $55 — this is my affiliate link) go here.

7. Conversational Case

One huge benefit of working with really smart clients is that I get exposed to new IP and content every day. Tamsen Webster has been a long-term client, and I also have done work with her on my own messaging for my new book. I love the way her brain works, and the specific tools she creates to help her clients explain their ideas in compelling ways that drive action. The Conversational Case is a useful tool for anyone who has to communicate why something you are selling is valuable and essential for the buyer (aka every one of us!)

8. John Legend

My interest in John Legend started with a love for his music, then expanded as I learned about his commitment to social justice, background as a management consultant, then recent expansion into just about every area of pop culture possible. I wrote about him in Body of Work, and will have him as a case study in my new book, complete with an ecosystem network analysis of the evolution of his work. And then there is his music, which always accompanies my writing. Thanks John!

9. Email Newsletters

I first learned about newsletters in 2003, when I followed Robert Middleton’s work at Action Plan Marketing. He introduced me to Ali Brown, who at the time was branded as the Ezine Queen. I took her class, then started this newsletter in 2004. I have been writing it ever since. It is the single thing that has connected me with so many great people all over the world, as well as driven a lot of business. And despite huge leaps forward with social media and paid advertising, email is still the stickiest way to keep connected with your ideal clients and customers.

10. The Praxis of Liberation

My best friend of 35 years Desiree Adaway has been with me every step of my personal, learning and business journey since I was 18. Her own body of work in diversity, equity and inclusion is deep and wide, and encapsulated in her Praxis of Liberation. While a core purpose of my work is to build the leadership capacity of small business owners, it is in a bigger context of liberation and justice. As Desiree always says, “let’s get free together.”

11. Canva

I first learned about Canva from a long-time mentor Guy Kawasaki. He had just joined the company as Chief Evangelist, and was excited about expanding the subscriber base. Through the years, Canva the company has grown into an Australian unicorn. But my favorite part of it is how dang easy it makes it to create professional looking design without needing any training or talent in professional design. You can also blend professional design with do-it-yourself updates. My amazing designer Michelle Sanchez makes templates for me in Canva, making it easy to quickly update materials, designed according to my brand guidelines

12. Cash Flow, Visibility and Opportunity

I spent three years running the intensive Lift Off retreat with my dear colleague Charlie Gilkey. Charlie is a veritable fountain of tools, frameworks and helpful metaphors, but it is the Cash Flow, Opportunity and Visibility framework that I use on an almost daily basis with my clients. It is a simple concept, but can be extremely helpful when you are trying to decide where to put your energy in a given day, month or year.

13. TextExpander

As much as I love to write, I really do not love to process email. I love to be responsive and engage with people, but the act of replying itself always felt like busywork. A few years ago, my friend Tim Grahl told me about TextExpander, a simple tool that allows you to create “snippets” of common replies. So instead of typing out two full paragraphs, you can hit a quick key of something like “x1” and the entire reply will fill in whatever you are typing (an email, a direct message).

14. Buffer

I spent over a decade being stubborn about posting my content individually to different social platforms because I did not want to be impersonal and transactional. It was not the smartest move. Using Buffer, I can create a piece of content (like this blog post), then share it across multiple platforms, while quickly customizing the right text for each channel. It saves so much time, and furthers the reach of the content you take so much time to create.

15. Scope, block and tackle

Because I work busy and growing entrepreneurs, it is common for my clients to come to a call with 12 different priorities and projects in their head. A big part of my job is helping to sort and prioritize the projects, according to which is the most important. I developed the Scope Block and Tackle process to make the sorting process simple.

16. Digit

I don’t know about you, but I have not always been the best at making sure I have backup funds in case of emergency. I always cover the needs of our household and business of course, but it is also nice to have a backup to your backup fund. Digit is a service that connects to your bank account, and takes out little tiny bits on a consistent basis, according to an algorithm. You set goals in the app for what to save for, and it does the rest. If at any time you need to withdraw money to your bank account, it is fast and easy.

17. Angie’s advice

My youngest has always had sage advice, even when she was really little. We used to call her Rosie, from her middle name, but when she got older, she wanted to be called Angie, from her first name. Here is some flashback startup advice from “Little Rosie” that stands the test of time! You can do it!

18. Scrivener

I wrote Escape from Cubicle Nation using Microsoft Word, and as the tens of thousands of words piled up, the scrolling back and forth between chapters became overwhelming and frustrating. For Body of Work, I was introduced to Scrivener, a writing tool that makes it much easier to jump around when writing, while not losing the thread of the big picture. It make the writing process so much easier, and I will be using it again for The Widest Net!

19. Profit First

Of all the tools I have implemented in my clients’ businesses, Profit First has been in the top 3 of total impact. It is a straightforward but powerful tool that allows business owners to see the true financial picture of their business, leading to better decisions, less stress around cash flow, and higher profitability. You don’t have to implement the entire system to see good results.

20. Simple planning tool

There are some tools that I use in just about every long-term client engagement, especially in my all-day intensives. I created a video about it 5 years ago that still hold true today! While I love to use post-its, I also have used it with sticky index cards on a whiteboard, or with straight text in virtual sessions.

21. Audible

I was a very late adopter to audio books. Convinced that I needed to hold a book in my hand to truly grasp the concepts in the book, I resisted listening to books. Then one day, while getting ready for my 23 minute drive to the Main Street Learning Lab, I downloaded an audio book. I have been hooked ever since! I actually finish the books, and get the concepts in a deeper way. I narrated my own Body of Work on Audible — check it out!

22. Peet’s Coffee

While the only Arizona Peet’s Coffee store I know about is at the Phoenix Airport, I remain a steadfast loyal customer of the brand. I tell the story why in my TEDx Fargo talk. I have been happy to see them maintain their heart, integrity and brand voice while expanding their footprint from their origins in Berkeley, California. Needless to say, I could not run my business without coffee!

23. Tiny Marketing Actions

Every few years, I develop or share a business concept that deeply resonates with my market. In the early Escape from Cubicle Nation days, it was the use of “side hustle,” which I learned from Desiree’s youngest daughter Taylor. The last few years, it has been the concept and process of Tiny Marketing Actions, which just fits in the natural rhythm of so many of my clients. I use it every day, I teach it every day and I believe in it more each day.

24. Peloton

I know, I know. It feels so cliché to jump on the bandwagon of Peloton, but I have to say that after researching it and pondering it for a long time, we finally ordered this fancy exercise bike for the family. In past decades, I have been super active in martial arts and group classes like hot yoga, which is obviously not possible these days. Some people detest working out, but I actually love it. I get TONS of business ideas while working out. I had not had a good sweat in a long time, and the first couple of weeks were painful getting started. But now that I am in my morning groove, I have been loving the mix of four things: 1) A set period of time to work out. Once I start, I won’t stop, unlike when I walk and decide to skip my third loop around the neighborhood. 2) Fun music. I love music. It moves and inspires me. Being able to choose classes by genre is really fun. 3) Instructors. I love having a guide, and so many different personalities mean I can adjust on days when I want a different vibe. 4) Community. I am inspired watching people celebrate 10, 100, or 1,000 rides. Iike high fiving other riders in my session. If you are a Peloton person too, my handle is pamslim. Let’s sweat together!

My favorite part of the whole experience is getting off my bike, breathing heavy and sweating, and going to the kitchen to high five Josh who is always up early working out or cooking breakfast. I get kind of weepy when he looks at me and says “Good job Mom!” It is a shared passion, and it feels so great to have him in my corner.

Finally, to Darryl, Josh, Jeff, Angie, DC, Rocky and Tsili (my human and fur family), I do this with you and for you every day. I love you!

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