A business consultant once told me that when you read things or hear things and automatically find a way to weave them back to your career, you know you’re right where you need to be–solidly in the business you’ve created.
That rang true for me back in the early ’90s and it still rings true today.
I’ll read things in magazines or hear parts of radio interviews and I can immediately correlate them to my business. It’s like those sound bites or pull-out quotes are counseling me about matters relating to my very own Inside Out: A Style & Wardrobe Consulting Business.
Take this for instance, from page 108 of the May issue of House Beautiful. It’s an interview with Jane Scott Hodges about her New Orleans home. The interviewer asks “Where did you discover your decorator?”
The answer is: “Gwen Driscoll and I have been friends since college. She knows my family and how we live and entertain. She starts with a house and a client in a very personal way. It’s not her own look but what she sees through her lens for the people who live there.”
I think to myself, That’s exactly what I do in my style & wardrobe consulting business! It’s never about my look. I always start by listening to my client, learning about her and then through my lens of fashion, color, style and design, I can help her create her personal expression and make it work for her current lifestyle. It’s what makes her happy!
What I See Through My Lens
To translate a client’s personal style into her own look, right from the start I ask questions in a style interview. I glean information from the client’s responses to the homework I send her ahead of time. I always tell her at the beginning of the interview, “I am going to be asking you a bunch of questions. You may wonder how your answers relate to your style. I just want you to know that all the answers you give me are going into this computer in my head. I’m translating everything you’re telling me about your life into fabrics, colors, line, design. Your answers illuminate your style and provide us a blueprint to create your perfect wardrobe.” It’s the lens I look through to “see” her and it works every time. Each client is amazed at how uniquely personal her style is and she can’t wait for the next steps.
It’s affirming to hear how someone in a different business is serving her clients in a similar way. It gives me a mental pat on the back and a confirmation that I’m right on track.
Taking Action Creates Opportunity
In the New York Times business section on Sunday, May 24th, there was an interview in the Corner Office column with Lori Senecal, Global C.E.O. of the ad agency C.P.&B. and C.E.O. of the MDC Partner Network. She was asked: “When you went to college, did you have an idea what you wanted to do for a career?”
Halfway into her answer she says, “I ended up getting an offer to join the media department of an agency in Toronto. I decided to go for it. That was a time when I embraced one of the philosophies that I go back to a lot today, which is that action creates opportunity. I don’t didn’t know what the nature of the job would be, but I knew that if I took action, other possibilities would appear, and they did. Ever since then, I’ve often thought about action creating opportunity.”
I added the italics to those last three words. I LOVE that notion. I too believe that sometimes we take action and have no idea of what could come from it and yet, there are opportunities out there just waiting to latch on to that action we took.
Here are a couple of examples of actions I took earlier in my career that led to opportunities that profoundly enhanced my professional credibility. And I never saw them coming!
A handout meant for an SF presentation ended up in Chicago with Oprah’s executive producer
When my first book came out, 40 Over 40, my publishers were drumming up events for me where we could promote the book. One of these events was me giving a talk at the Union Square Macy’s as an add-on to some other promotion that was going on. I imagined myself in a dark corner with mostly empty chairs while people were scurrying past me to get their gift with purchase. Oh well, I thought. I’ll just do it!
Even though I had few hopes of selling books or gaining new clients in this setting, something in me decided to make the most of it. I took time to write a handout for the for-free presentation. I thought it would make my talk more interactive and memorable and it did.
A few weeks later the executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show called me about being on their show talking about fashion for women over 40. They’d seen an article in the newspaper about my book but they were stuck on how to structure TV content for the subject.
“I know how to structure it,” I said. “I just did a talk on this subject at Macy’s.”
“But how do we make it visual?” she wanted to know.
“Well, I wrote a handout on it and it shows lots of ways to make it visual.”
They wanted to see it. I faxed it over and they “got it” immediately. A few weeks after that, they were in my hometown filming the segments that aired on Oprah that fall. Who could guess that writing a handout (the action) would create an opportunity as big as that one was!
Getting my most famous client from a presentation she never attended
A store owner in a San Francisco boutique liked the way I worked with my clients and appreciated the sales I brought her. She was so dear, so sweet, and when she asked me to do a presentation in her store for free, I couldn’t say no.
As I was preparing the presentation and schlepping all my stuff to her store on Fillmore Street on a Sunday, I truly wondered why the heck I had said yes to this. I could have been hiking! Or reading the Sunday paper! Or taking a nap! Again, I really didn’t see this as a marketing opportunity for me for several reasons. But oh well, I was there and did my best to convey my philosophy about dressing.
Well, the morning after my store presentation, someone called me. She’d been in the audience the day before and was a store owner in San Anselmo, the town next door to mine. At first I thought, Oh no, she’s going to ask me to do a free talk at her store, too. But that wasn’t it. She wanted me to call a customer of hers, Isabel Allende. She told me Isabel was a customer at her store and she had been so impressed with my talk that she’d come home and called Isabel and told her about me.
Later that week I met with Isabel and she became my happy client. To have such a highly visible person on my client list was a real coup, especially since so many people don’t understand what image consulting is. She generously gave me a quote that I used in my marketing materials. It ended up going on the back cover of three of my books.
Her name recognition helped me so much in getting exposure for my services and my books. That one action, presenting a talk on a Sunday, led me to Isabel and that opened more doors for me than I can count. Talk about opportunity!
I so often tell my coaching clients to say “yes” as much as possible to things that come along because you just never know what opportunities will emerge. In the beginning of a career, it’s hard to know what your niche is, what kind of clients you want to work with, where you’ll make the most difference and get the most attention for your services. So saying yes a good amount of time is bound to yield opportunities that will point you in the right direction.
Keep reading those articles and listening to interviews. They may be telling you something you need to hear!
Let me know if this has happened to you too!