Looking for David

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Looking for David

Today I'm reminded of King Saul, the first king of Israel. The people didn't want God to lead them directly, they wanted a king like everyone else, so God gave them Saul though it wasn't what God wanted for his people. Then when Saul lost favor with God for his disobedience, God sent a spirit to torment him. Meanwhile, God has a young shepherd boy named David anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next king of Israel. 

It would be another 30 years before David would be king and for 15 years he and his army would live life on the run from Saul. David had two opportunities to kill King Saul, but he didn't because he was God's anointed one. So for 30 years, the nation of Israel would be led by a king that was out of God's favor. A king that was filled with jealousy and rage, randomly throwing spears at people. A king that would frequently take thousands of soldiers to hunt David down to kill him. A king that massacred the entire priesthood, over 80 priests, because he was upset that a priest inquired of God for David, which he had done for years because David was the commander of the Israelite army. 

What's the moral of this little story? That sometimes God gives us what we ask for even though it's not what's best for us...including a king. That while God may appoint all kings and those in leadership and we are to pray for and honor the king, it is very possible for that leader to lose the favor of God (and presumably God's people) because they fail to obey and lack character. And that God is raising up a David somewhere and I just gotta keep my eyes open for God's anointed one. And that it might take 30 years for the anointed one to come to leadership. And that though David's army was a drop in the bucket in comparison to the size of Saul's army, they were still on the right side of history. And that like David, we don't have to be the ones to kill the king; God will deal with the king in his timing and in his way so that our hands may remain blameless.

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5 Key Elements for Developing Your Brand

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5 Key Elements for Developing Your Brand

Every organization, ministry and entrepreneur has a brand, whether they've intentionally built it or not. There are 5 key brand elements you need to establish in order to lay a strong foundation for all of your marketing and design materials that you want to develop. Because each one builds upon the other, those brand elements are listed below in the order they should be addressed. 

#1: Brand Values

Brand values, also known as brand character, are about what the company is—its principles and beliefs. Values don’t typically change, even when messaging or target audiences do. Think of your values as who you are. You may change your hair or your outfit, but who you are as a person is still the same. The same goes for your organization. Values also have the power of pointing you to true north. When you hone in on what you really value, you can filter all opportunities and decisions through those core brand values. 

#2: Brand Personality

Personality is about the way in which the organization's character manifests itself—what the company does, its behaviors. Personality is about action. For instance, if you value honesty or authenticity, your personality might be warm, friendly and trustworthy. Your values and your personality will ultimately define your culture, which should be evident in your design and marketing materials. Knowing your personality will equip you to articulate what you are looking for when you communicate with your creative team, pointing to specific personality traits that are lacking or should be highlighted.

#3: Ideal Client or Supporter

Most people know that understanding your target audience is very important, but few actually detail their ideal client or supporter. We also have a habit of defining more audiences than necessary. I recommend honing in on a very specific person because it’s far easier to speak effectively to a specific person than to many people. When you understand who she is, what she is thinking, and what pain points she is experiencing, you can develop a message and position that will resonate with her.

#4: Brand Message

It’s always important to be clear on how you define what you do. Brand messages can be a completely internal tool or even a boilerplate for how you describe your organization to outside audiences. Once adopted by an organization, you should be able to walk up to any member of that organization and get the same answer to the question, "What do you do?" Sadly, this is not usually the case, and it leads to confusion in the market about who you are and what services you provide. 

#5: Brand Position

Developing your brand position is about determining what your organization does excellently and uniquely—what your differentiator is in the marketplace or sector. Your positioning statement should clearly say why your audience should work with your organization. It is the reason to buy or support and it gives value to your brand. Be sure to analyze your competitor's brands before deciding on your brand position so that you don’t claim the same thing that another organization already does.

Once you’ve worked through these 5 key elements, you will be well on your way to having a solid brand that will make your design and marketing development a breeze. If you need help developing your brand, I’d love to talk with you about your needs. Schedule a call with me now to talk. 

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Bad Clients Don’t Get Pearls

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Bad Clients Don’t Get Pearls

Sometimes in business, we find ourselves working with clients that just aren’t the right fit. Maybe they started off ok (read “sane”), but somewhere down the road they became a painful burden. I had a client like that before, and found myself sharing this wisdom with my design team: 

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
— Matthew 7:6 (emphasis added)

Jesus said these words in the infamous sermon on the mount, and while he wasn’t there to give business advice, this is still very applicable to the marketplace. As skilled professional entrepreneurs who actually have a choice of whom we work with, we have to have the courage and self-respect not to give our valuable time and energy to clients that simply don’t deserve it. You can make money from other sources, but your time and energy are things you can’t get back. 

Clients who are more like pigs often take so much from us that we can’t give to the clients who really do deserve our pearls. So what do you do if you’ve been tossing your pearls before pigs? 

Address it with the client

If the frustration is arising from an issue that can be rectified, perhaps the client just needs some training in what is appropriate or acceptable behavior in a business relationship with you. This can be anything from managing rounds of revisions, creating realistic timelines or paying their bill on time. This also assumes that if you can fix these issues the client would then be a keeper (and there aren’t any additional reasons they are not a good fit).

Let the client go

But maybe the client just isn’t worth keeping, and you need to cut them loose. You don’t have to burn bridges or be rude, but cut cords sooner rather than later. I remember having a hard conversation before when a client was being abrasive over the phone with one of my team members. A big no-no! I had to get on a call with the client to let him know that we would not be accepting that kind of behavior and that I would be sending all of his files on a CD so that he could move on to another designer. This was also important for me to do as an employer. It told my team members that I valued them and would have their back. 

Protect your pearls

Regardless of what you do, value yourself and your business by protecting your pearls. Not everyone is worthy of working with you. Entrepreneurship is hard enough as it is. There is no need to make it harder by constantly lowering your standards and crushing your self-esteem by continuing to work with clients that are trampling your treasures under their feet, and might even turn and tear you to pieces on the inside. 

If you’d like some coaching on a problem you’re experiencing, schedule a free 15-minute call with me to get some candid and honest feedback. 

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3 Reasons Why Every Organization Should Define their Brand Values

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3 Reasons Why Every Organization Should Define their Brand Values

Everyone has a set of values they live by. Values are your beliefs, standards or principles that govern how you think, behave, or react to situations. Even if you haven’t defined them, they exist. Otherwise, you wouldn’t find yourself saying things like, “I would NEVER do THAT!” Why? Because it goes against your values. The same should be true for your business or organization. There are things that would be out of character for your organization to do. When you have multiple people representing your organization, it becomes critical to list and define your values on paper so that they can be properly adopted and implemented throughout your brand.

Values Lay the Foundation for Your Brand

When we take our clients through our Trust Activator branding process, helping them get to identifying and defining their values is priority number one. These values represent who the organization is…something their audience can always trust to be true. It is the foundation that positioning statements, colors, graphics, marketing campaigns, and media messages are built on. The values tell the brand what it stands for and therefore does. When thinking about what this looks like for your organization’s brand, consider statements like, “Because we value X, we implement Y programs and deliver our service in Z fashion.”

Values Remain Consistent

Unless your organization is changing who it is and what it does on a fundamental level, brand values remain consistent. They are tried and true. Your marketing strategy may change, your website may change, even your positioning statement may change, but your values should be the same. Very similar to a person, she can change her clothes, her hair style, and diversify her skill set, but her values—who she is—remains consistent. If you decide to change your values, you will be changing your brand.

Values Help You Point True North

When you have strong values in place, it is easier to make sure that everything your organization takes on is the right fit. If you or your board comes up with a great new project to tackle or another organization approaches you about a potential partnership, run that opportunity through your values. If that opportunity doesn’t reflect or reinforce your values, don't do it. Too often, we see organizations take on a mash-up of programs and services because it all sounds good and is helpful in some way, but it dilutes their core values and ultimately their brand.

NEED HELP? If you need help clarifying your brand (or perhaps you have no brand) by establishing your organization’s core values, contact us and we'd be happy to do a Branding 101 presentation for you and your leadership.

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Just Go…Doing What It Takes to Follow Your Calling

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Just Go…Doing What It Takes to Follow Your Calling

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” […] So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
— Genesis 12:1,4

God told Abram to go, to leave all that was comfortable and secure. He was told to leave his country, his people, and even his father’s household, and was not even told where he was going. God simply said to go to the land that he will show him. 

God didn’t layout a 12-step plan or provide a Google map. He just said that he will show him which implies he will give directions as Abram went. Abram wouldn’t know the next step until he took the first step. All he know was that God promised to bless him and that was good enough. 

And the scriptures say that Abram simply went as the Lord told him. He didn’t make a pro/con list. He didn’t pull out his bank statement and run a spreadsheet to calculate how long he could follow God to this unknown place. He didn’t have to get a second opinion or wait until there was a better time. He just went…at 75! He wasn’t some young kid without responsibilities, using his parents as a backup plan. He was an old dog being taught a new trick called, “Go where God tells you to go NOW, no questions asked.” 

I can be the opposite of this in business. Sometimes my analytical and logical mind pushes out my spiritual mind. I battle with how much am I supposed to seek wise counsel and be a shrewd manager with how much I’m just supposed to operate in pure faith, trusting that I actually heard God command me to go, and so I go, no questions asked. 

I think this is where you have to be sure of your calling. There are going to be many things that you will need to count the costs on and make the wisest decisions based on the facts before you. Then there are those things that are going to be directly tied to what God has called you to do, and you just have to go trusting that he will show you how to get there, and qualify you along the way. 

Father, help us to quiet all of the noise in our hearts and just hear your voice when you tell us to go. We don’t need to have a strategic plan for your will and we don’t need to know exactly where we going to end up when you send us. We just need to obey your command to go and trust that you will show us along the way. In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Be a Compassionate Leader

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Be a Compassionate Leader

This morning I found myself reading in the book of Esther, where I kind of stumbled on a sentence that spoke volumes about good leadership, or lack thereof. In verse 15 of chapter 3, it says, “The messengers scurried forth with the king’s order. The edict was issued in Susa the citadel. While the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was in an uproar!” I’ve read the book of Esther a number of times, but this was the first time this almost small note jumped out to me. 

The commentary on this passage is shameful, but there are great lessons to be learned as a leader. In this story, the king and his highest official send out an edict that permitted the killing and plundering of all the Jews. And as the edict went out, they threw back drinks while the people in their kingdom were in disarray. 

While we as business leaders may never issue a similar decree, we have the power to make decisions that will dramatically impact the lives and welfare of the people we employ and lead, and we have to stay sensitive and compassionate toward them. We can’t be like the king and Haman, who were only concerned for themselves.

In business, we have to make tough decisions. We have to decide if we need to fire or layoff, if we can afford to provide health insurance and adequate paid time off, or if we ask our team to work well above a 40 hour work week or to enjoy a balanced life. Some of these decisions are purely a matter of what we can afford to do, but I encourage business owners to make these kinds of decisions through a compassionate and caring lens. To consider others better than ourselves. Over the years, I made several decisions to provide and care for my team, understanding that it meant that I would take home less profit, but I have no regrets. 

And this isn’t just about being a nice person…it’s building your business’s brand. Will you create a company culture that encourages team members to stay onboard, or to leave at the first opportunity presented to them? Your team will work harder for you and be extremely loyal and trustworthy when they know that you give great weight to their happiness and wellbeing before you make decisions that would impact them.

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Creating the right plans for your nonprofit

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Creating the right plans for your nonprofit

Communications, strategy, and business, oh my! Running a nonprofit organization requires a lot of planning on behalf of the leadership and a common struggle that comes up is which plans and in what order. We often see organizations put the cart before the horse when it comes to these major types of plans. And worse yet, we’ve seen organizations spend so much time on one plan that they never get around to the next necessary plan (or never finish the first plan).

Why spend all this time on plans anyway? Well, it should be because it will help you operate better and drive you closer to achieving your mission. One note that I would like to make is when you hire consultants for these various plans, they should be there to walk you through a process. They should not be there to tell you what to do. You are the only one who knows what you do and what your culture is. With that in mind, let’s dive into the different types of plans and when you should do them!

First: Strategic Planning

Your strategic plan lays the foundation for where you are trying to take your organization. It’s your opportunity to confirm your mission, vision, and values, and then develop your priorities for the coming years. Keep your strategic plan realistic and digestible. You should be able to distill your overall plan in a single view as opposed to pouring over a never-ending plan that no one will read once it is done. I’m a big fan of a one-page strategic plan!

Set your priorities for the next 3-5 years, as opposed to 5-10 years. We all know how quickly the sector (and funding) changes, so be flexible and come prepared to answer the question, “Should we still exist or is it time to go home?” This is a fair question. There is no point in laying down a strategy if either you’ve solved the problem already and are no longer needed, or if there is another organization that is doing what you do better, with more reach and more funding. You’re a nonprofit after all, not a regular business. You exist to meet a need so if you’re not the best org to do that, it’s okay to move on or merge.

Second: Business Plan

The business plan is an annual plan that is all about tactics, resources, and attracting new people to your organization, and it is sometimes crafted at the same time as the strategic plan. The business plan should focus on implementing your strategic plan with priorities and resource allocations that will move you in the right direction. When I’m doing my own business planning based on my strategic goals, I like to dissect by quarters so I can see what builds upon what. And then as I approach each quarter in real time, I break out my monthly goals with big sticky notes and put them on my wall. There is something gratifying about taking a marker and crossing things off as I achieve them!

Third: Communications Plan

Now that you know where you are going and the tactics and resources that you have to work with, you can now tackle your communications plan. Your communications plan will lay out your communication objectives, positioning, target audiences, and desired actions. It’s also a great tool for developing your content strategy. Which platforms are you using? What kind of article topics or message themes will you have? What are the key organization dates to build excitement around? What kind of fundraising or advocacy campaigns will you launch? And don’t forget to include your metrics for success. Where are you starting from and where do you want to end up? Be sure to include intermediary goals to see if you are on target for achieving the end goal.

Finally, branding is a part of communications. Be careful not to make the mistake many organizations do of constantly “rebranding” and redesigning their website. Your brand is not your logo and it is not your website. Your brand is your reputation…it’s how people see you. Your reputation has to be managed wisely and has to be authentic. If you knew someone who was constantly reinventing their reputation (or trying to), you would think they were fake or unstable. So don’t do that to your organization. You want to carefully build a brand that will stand the test of time.

If you need help thinking critically about the plans you have in place, or what you should be doing when, I’d love to talk with you about your specific needs. Take a look at my calendar online and schedule a free 30 minute consultation now for some immediate clarity!

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Thinking Clearly: A look at Jacob and Esau

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Thinking Clearly: A look at Jacob and Esau

Desperate times call for desperate measures, or at least that's how the saying goes. But sometimes we only think we're desperate. In the book of Genesis we find the story of twin brothers. One was a skilled hunter and the other was content working among the tents (and was apparently a good cook)! Let's peer inside the scriptures for a minute to look at their story.

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Go In the Strength You Have

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Go In the Strength You Have

This #CallingQualified devotional comes from the story of Gideon in Judges 16. If you ever feel too weak or small to do what God is calling you to do, be prepared to be encouraged.

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Open Your Eyes

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Open Your Eyes

Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35

There are times in life when God is right in front of us, talking to us, listening to us, and we don’t even perceive it because our minds are too dull, too unbelieving, or too distracted. 

When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight.
— Luke 24:30-31

I find it no surprise that when they sat down and broke bread with Christ their eyes were finally opened and they recognized that it was Jesus with them all along! To me, this makes communion so important. We need that time to stop and break bread with Jesus in order to see him sitting beside us, walking with us, and talking with us. We get so caught up in our weeks that we function as though Christ is not right there. We feel downcast and sad about the circumstances and recent events in our lives, not realizing that Christ is alive and living in us! So we need this moment to pause, to welcome Jesus to the table of our hearts, and break bread with him so that we can clearly see him in our lives, and have our own faith increased. 

Father, help us commune with Jesus on a daily basis. Let me not go around downcast by life’s events, but to always carry the hope of our risen Lord in our hearts, knowing that he walks with us, talks with us, and forgives us. 

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