Secret to My Success

My business Kerry Rego Consulting celebrated eight years this September. I’ve been asked many times what I did to reach the level of success and respect I’ve achieved but I didn’t have an answer beyond “hard work” until just recently. Now that I’ve put my finger on one of the the most important elements, I want to share with you the secret to my success.

There’s a journey here

You may have heard of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As part of the federal government, this department is designed to support small businesses. “Since its founding on July 30, 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration has delivered millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses. SBA provides free individual face-to-face, and internet counseling for small businesses, and low-cost training to nascent entrepreneurs and established small businesses in over 1,800 locations throughout the United States and US territories.” Your local branch of the SBA is called the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Find your local branch here.

I don’t remember how I learned about the SBDC though it was most likely an internet search for business services. After launching my organizing business in 2006, I had questions about how to expand my business intelligently and I went in for assistance. I was amazed to learn that the services I received were FREE. Yes, really. Free. Continue reading

404 Error In Your Favor

Everyone has at one point or another found a website where something working or the page has been removed. This is known as a “404 Error” and no one likes to get them. In fact, it can anger online customers.

Did you know that you can design your own error page? I’ve seen some really great ones (I’ve done my own) but this one makes me chuckle.

Take the opportunity to make me smile when something goes wrong. They won’t blame you, they’ll move on just a little happier.

>>If you’re up for it, check out this amazing Hollywood-style error video. I love it! http://youtu.be/hXUwWljkNAI

Netflixing is My New Jam

Netflixing is my new jam. I love a random documentary and catching up on shows I never watched when they were on cable. I’ve been a member since around 2003, I think. I also have a Hulu premium subscription.

I  just read a great comparison of of Amazon Prime and Netflix and it makes me want to get one of those too. Check it out.

When my husband hands me the cable remote because it’s my turn to pick, I look at it in confusion. I interact with up to a dozen computer and devices a day. The fact that I’m slow to remember how to use a Comcast remote is a sign of the times. #endofcable

What’s your favorite gem you found on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime etc.?

Telephone Trainer

It is not lost on me that my job is the modern equivalent of “Telephone Trainer”. Never heard of such a thing? They actually existed. You and I both will laugh that Social Media Trainer was a thing back in the day. (Don’t worry, I’ll adapt.)

Chuckle at the telephone dialing PSA from 1950.

Angela Ahrendts’ Digital Vision is Boon for Apple

“We’re challenging ourselves constantly to stay ahead of the curve – be it mobile, be it social, be it physical. They’re all one. Life is forever blurred.  I grew up in a physical worldand I speak English. The next generation is growing up in a digital world and they speak social. Whether you are talking with customers or you’re talking with employees, you have to do it on a social platform because that’s the language they speak.” Angela Ahrendts.

Ahrendts is the former CEO of Burberry and was just hired by Apple as a senior vice president of retail and online stores. Listen to this video and hear her vision for dovetailing retail stores with digital elements.

Technical Differences Between Me and My Dad

I come from a family of readers.

My dad’s close relatives just love books and share everything they’ve read. The hand off books like warm loaves bread right out of the oven. When I was young, I wasn’t a part of their reading circle because the material wasn’t for my age range. My grandmother and father had a habit of communicating with me via newspaper clippings. When they had something tough they wanted me to understand (like when I was a smoker), they would send me an article with my name affixed to it and a note. It used to get under my skin because the subject matter was a judgement on my life. But now that I’m a woman in her mid 30’s and my dad still does it, I think it’s cute. He’ll drop by my house with a great magazine article about strong women. Female heads of state and powerful business owners. Usually women of color and often from foreign countries.

The reading on my bedside table. Notice the Newsweek magazine with my dad's note still attached.

The reading on my bedside table. Notice the Newsweek magazine with my dad’s note still attached.

My mother died when I was six, a black career woman with two small children. My Irish American father is repping for my mom. He is loving me and guiding me and helping to show me what a strong adult woman of color is capable of achieving. He is being my mother when she is unable. Maybe that’s just being a parent. It’s his way and I find it quite loving.

When I was little, he would take me to Santa Rosa’s downtown library, drop me off in the juvenile section, and it allowed me to explore my curiosities. He liked to go to the magazine section because it carried every periodical you could possibly want. He would read as long as I’d let him. When I was old enough, I got up the courage to go find him on the other side of what seemed like this massive building. I came across him reading and twirling his hair (a Quirk family trait). I felt brave and safe at the same time.

I love the library. I love reading and losing yourself in something great. My dad was always a big part of that feeling and the articles that he gives me to stress a point are always thought provoking, intelligent, well written, and LONG. Longer than I’m used to now.

This is my whole point.

We are both college educated adults, Kevin and Kerry. For reference, he has a BA in Psychology. I have two A.A.S. degrees in Computer Office Administration and Computer Business Administration.

He gets his news from the printed edition of the Press Democrat, the paper for Sonoma County, CA. I do as well but I read it a few days late and in spurts and because I also follow the PD on Facebook. Often I’ve read the best stuff before I even touch the physical edition. I am an odd duck in that I will always get the physical newspaper. I tried to cut it once and simply couldn’t do it. I grew up reading the paper while eating breakfast and I find that I read different news in print than in the digital version. But I can’t tell you how many times my dad has asked if I get the paper.

Kevin reads magazines like Newsweek, TIME, Life, Car & Driver, Pilot, Consumer Reports, Motor Trend, and a few more. Though I’m not a car and airplane fan like he is, I read individual articles from many of these magazines and MANY MANY more due to reading just the article I’m interested in, for free, the day it comes out on the Internet. On a sad but apropos note, in December 2012 Newsweek printed it’s last paper edition.

I don’t have to get into his feature phone vs. my smart phone. Or his dialup vs. my broadband modem. Or the fact that he checks his email approximately once per month. I won’t tell you how many times per hour I check my own.

I visited my parents one night for dinner and the 2008 Democratic National Party Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was on tv. Dad was watching it and was a bit irritated with me for chatting and not seeming to care about a very important moment to him. My 3 yr old was running around the table as I tried to talk to my stepmom. I fudged and told him that I was recording it on my DVR. He gave me the oddest look.

Truthfully, he was more right than he knew. I didn’t care. I don’t watch political content on tv. In fact, I don’t watch much tv at all and couldn’t tell you what was on regular programming on any given day of the week. I was expecting to read about it later in a variety of places such as Twitter, Facebook, the newspaper, or other periodicals of which I subscribe. I was making the point to him that if I were to want to, I could look up the footage and that I wasn’t beholden to someone else’s schedule. The concept of recording a show or automatic recording is a little out there for him.

It boils down to this:

The way I live my life, the work that I do, the communications I have with 80% of the people I know, and the way I get my news is outside his realm. He has a really hard time relating to my world and I don’t blame him. I understand his perspective because that was the way the world was as I grew. Now that I’m older, things have changed.

I love my dad, don’t get me wrong. I have respect for his intelligence, his accomplishments, his education, his work, and who he is as a person. Depending on the day, he is more than willing to have a conversation about the technology innovation I encounter but these lifestyle differences are becoming more apparent to me.

I work with my “dad” every day. He is my average client; the bank manager, the business owner, the consultant, the government official. Many intelligent people with families and jobs are watching the world spin away from them. There are so many similarities between yet so many differences. It feels like  the technology have and have-nots are drifting away from each other.

The Antidote to Technology

Quite by accident, I discovered the antidote to technology

Don’t get me wrong, I love tech. I love the buttons, design, functionality, the possibilities, and the experience of a great user interface design. I don’t love what it’s doing to us. Computers, communication, and social media are such an ingrained part of our lives now, it’s no longer about how to use them but about how not to let them rule our lives.

I spoke at the Northbay Biz Magazine’s BIZNOW event April 19, 2012 and was given a very specific request to talk about how computers and social media are changing us and how to cope. Normally, I’m asked to speak on social media in general or about an individual tool such as Facebook or LinkedIn. This presentation had an Ignite style delivery (see my O’Reilly Ignite talk titled “Everyone Is Afraid”) and was a welcome change. To cap off its dramatic flair, it was delivered in an air hangar beside a fleet of jets.

What did I talk about?

We have added work loads, increased stress levels, amped up demands on our physical and mental health, and invasive wireless wavelengths. How do you counterbalance all of that? I won’t simply give you the answer but show you how I arrived at it.

I was a California Community Colleges trainer for the Interactive Internet and Mobile Applications for Business (iima4biz) initiative and was brought down to Los Angeles to run a pilot of the course material in May of 2011. Let me set the scene for you. I was seated halfway down a long table in a conference room with 8 small business owners.social-media-dj There was one prospective trainer behind me observing the whole process. The grant coordinator and the curriculum writer were witnessing the interaction from the far end of the table. The equipment running simultaneously: my laptop hosting the presentation, an iPad with instructor’s notes, a paper workbook that matched what the attendees had in front of them, an overhead projector, my smartphone was receiving texts from my coordinators to guide my pace in addition to being used as a session timer, audio equipment, and a video camera both recording the session. I delivered 6 hours of curriculum, demonstrated websites, moderated conversation, and managed all of the people and technology like a social media dj. Then I did it again on Day 2.

After flying home, my family and I went to a property my husband manages near the Russian River that has little or no cell phone reception. It was a bright and sunny Mother’s Day and I ended up in the garden weeding. Now I’m not a gardener and I’ve never really had a desire to get my hands dirty. As a kid, weeding was practically a form of punishment. But when my husband asked me and my five year old if we wanted to help so we could get out of there faster, I agreed. I started to pull plants out of the ground, warmed by the sun, I was spending time with my little girl, and putting my hands in the dirt, I realized something. I was having a wonderful day. I had just spent two straight days with electromagnetic and wireless waves beaming through my body. The lack of cell reception plus sun, earth and family, I was in heaven. I felt healthy, happy, and alive. After weeding the whole garden, my daughter and I walked down to the river’s edge and I sat peacefully while she splashed in the water. It was the most profound and simple Mother’s Day I have ever had.

the-antidote-to-technology-is-nature-in-the-trees

I didn’t put it all together then. As the year has progressed, I started to pick up signs and pieces of the puzzle. It wasn’t until I spoke at BIZNOW that I had been asked to verbalize it. The antidote to technology is Nature. Not just dirt and trees but anything natural. From silence and meditation, working all of your muscles in exercise, interacting with humans and animals, not just being in a natural environment but experiencing it with your physical body, as well as self preparation and enjoyment of whole foods. We are biological beings and we are experiencing organic elements less and less in our daily lives.

We are stressed out. We are tired. We are sick. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take a walk. Play more. Eat fresh food. Dig in the dirt. Watch or swim in natural water. Listen carefully to your body and the world around you. The solution has no batteries. The power source is the sun.

Go play.

Technology to Take Your Breath Away

It’s cliche to say that something gives you goosebumps. But once in awhile, I see something that really does make the hairs on my whole body stand up and this is one of those videos. It features the Kinect from Microsoft. It’s a video game system that takes a 3D rendering of physical space and you interact with the game via your body. No wand or controllers. I believe that this is the best thing Microsoft has come out with since Windows.

This video shows that this isn’t just a video game. The possibilities for this tool are breathtaking. From music to science, art to medicine, we are only bound by our own thoughts. We have no limitations.

 

UUCSR Writer’s Forum Presentation

“How digital platforms are affecting the writer and the publishing process”

I discussed the variety of ways that your writing can be released to the reading public, including the explosion of self publishing options, how the differing cultures of internet niches effects writing styles and skills as well as crowdsourcing your efforts. Georgette G. deBlois asked me to speak at the UUCSR Writer’s Forum “From Chaucer to Tweets” 10/8/11 and I was honored. Below are my notes for the audience that wanted more information or those that may have missed it.

Ways You Can Release Your Writing to the Public:

Your own site

Own your own name, your pen name, any brand name you see fit and they can all point back to your website. Prices range from $3 a year to $11 a year for one domain. Add in ICANN fees and taxes and it’ll cost you about $75 for one domain for 5 years. Why 5 years? Google likes websites that the domains are owned for 3-5+ years because it shows you are in the for the long haul. You will be rewarded with a higher PageRank and better SEO.

You will have many options for the kind of site you can have. The most important things to consider are that you can easily publish and have the ability to sell your work. Ecommerce will allow you to make money off your own writing whether you are signed or not. Your website is your home, you control it, and that’s where you want to drive your traffic.

e-Books

It’s confusing how many types there are so here’s a breakdown of e-book types and formats for your consideration. There is no industry standard which is why there are so many formats. You can have your e-book available in multiple formats but it is wise to pay attention to quality control because your work will shift from version to version. When migrating to digital, here are six key questions to ask.

Many writers believe that e-books are for those that can’t get signed, that they aren’t real publishing, or that they simply aren’t for them. If this is your thinking, take a look at this information from the Association of American Publishers from June 2011. In the last 12 months, adult paperback sales have dropped 63.8% at a loss of $85m, hardcover sales down 25.4% while ebooks, via Kindle, iPad and Nook +167% for the month,  gaining $50m. Is that enough to convince you that e-books are a valid form of publishing?

Many believe that if you use e-books or self publish, you won’t get signed. If you are able to prove you are a sure thing with dependable sales, the odds of you being signed actually go up as traditional publishers don’t have the budget to bet on unproven talent. You can leverage this information to get a better contract rate as well.

I mentioned in my presentation that in my field of technology, e-books and pdfs are really the best way for me to get up-to-date information. When I get a bound tech book (some call it a dead tree edition), the first thing I look at is the copyright date. If it’s before 2010, it’s ancient and the information is most likely no longer useful. This isn’t a judgement, it’s a fact that the second a book is printed on technology, it’s out of date. That’s how quickly my industry changes (like you weren’t aware). Every industry is different but I wanted you to be know how important this type of publication is in my work and possibly others.

Distribution of e-books is wide and varied from iTunes with the iBook application, simple pdfs that can be sent via email or posted to websites and forums, Amazon has the Kindle store, Scribd, and many more options.

Print on Demand

The one thing everyone can agree on here is that there is little everyone can agree on. Making sure your work is “future proofed” is important because of the constant developments in technology. Again, quality control is very important as your work moves from digital to print.

Options for services: Lulu, Completely Novel, Blurb, Wordclay, Createspace. Createspace is a great option because it is owned by Amazon. You upload your digital version to the Kindle Store and can print it at Createspace, fairly seamless.

Options for self publishing:
  1. Start your own publishing house. Pros, lots of freedom. Cons, takes lots of your time and quite a bit of up front investment.
  2. Self publish using online tools. Pros, takes little upfront cash and there’s quite a bit of flexibility. Cons, you will have to learn some new skills (I don’t think this is bad).
  3. Use a self publishing house. Pros, requires little time on the part of the writer. Cons, you’ll end up paying for a lot you don’t need.
  4. BEWARE of the vanity publisher! Those that will tell you your work is wonderful yet charge you and arm and a leg to print, market, and promote your work. You end up paying  a lot for a very little return.

Social Media

The democratization of information is the best thing that has ever happened to non-profits, small businesses, oppressed societies and people. You can set up shop on any social network or online tool to share and promote your work. Look to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning, Tumblr, WordPress, StumbleUpon, and so many more. Social media is #1 about conversation #2 about sharing.

This is the most frequent question I get, “How do I get people to read or see my work?” My answer is, if you get a brand new phone number how will you get me to call you?…….. Give me your number. I can’t intuit that information. You HAVE to tell me.

There is another type of  tool at your disposal, content curation. You can share your work with the world and then curate what you’ve written. Storify is great for that. They’ve also recently added SoundCloud to their services so that now you can curate your writing and add audio, like the Director’s Cut of a movie.

The one thing you have to remember about social media is that each platform or tool is it’s own universe. These are different rooms with differing cultures. They have their own language, rules, and styles of communication. When you decide you want to try one, make sure you research what it’s all about, set up an account and observe the behavior of the natives. It’s so easy to barge in and make a fool of yourself. Go slowly. If you need help, ask me. I know a thing or two about social media.

Crowdsourcing

The last item to consider is crowdsourcing, formerly known as collaboration. You can use Crowdspring to get freelance writing projects. There is also a few sites like WeBook, Authonomy, and Inkpop that you can post your work in hopes that you will get valuable critiques and be spotted by an agent or traditional publisher.

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