Charging Back Uphill: Blasting out of a Stall.

(Just joining us? Read our series on “3 Great reasons why what worked before isn’t working now” Start it here)

spark a new business life

Blast out of a career or business stall with these 5 approaches.

So, you got Stuck.

Your future used to be “So bright you had to wear shades”

Now you’re not sure you should appear in public at all. Maybe ever.  

Nah. You can do it. 

Here’s how to get started:

 

1. Get a fresh set of eyes to look  you over:

We’re often blind to our own need to change. Get some feedback from a new coach, some “disinterested” friends, teenagers (they generally don’t hold their opinions back, especially around social media). And consider what feedback you got recently and ignored. What didn’t you do or change because you “knew better”?  Give it some consideration. Perhaps try a small test, don’t realign your every principle or move your entire marketing budget, but give an alternate approach a real test, even if only in a small section of your business.

2. What is the other guy doing that is working? 

Look at your competition, both your old competition and any new players. What’s different? What’s working for them? Don’t instantly adopt it, just take a look, see if it might benefit your business plan.

3.  What are your 80/20’s? Put some laser focus on them.

Pareto said 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. Take a look at your 80/20’s. What’s working? Parse the ad budget, evaluate the social media push, streamline the plans to a manageable level. And then take a look at where you are spending a lot of effort and just not seeing the results anymore. Shoot the Elephant. Master the art of saying No. Pull the darn tooth. Have that Uncomfortable Conversation that ties your stomach in knots every day.  Refocus.

4. Tell a New Story.

No, this does NOT mean lying to yourself. It does mean looking for parts of the narrative of your business or personal story that you may not have paid attention to before.  I have always described myself as a business turnaround or start-up expert. But I am also someone who can focus and fix the areas of business that are messy and “un-fun”, which allows others to keep driving revenue by focusing on the areas that they’re great at while I handle the messy stuff. Some people are looking for me to do just that. So what’s your story? Are you telling people it in the way they need to hear it and how they want to hear it? Here’s some ideas on that  subject. And a thought or two on Reframing. A great book on how to do this on a personal level? Read “Body of Work” by Pamela Slim.

5. Try one new thing. Today. And do the same thing Tomorrow.    

And don’t spend too long thinking about it. Try a new route to work. Call ten new clients and try a different sales pitch. Take an online translation tool and transfer your resume or website into another language. Then translate it into another very different language (make sure they’re not similar, use something like a Romance language followed by a Cyrillic language). Then translate it back into English. Does the new translation give you any ideas? Sometimes it’s a word or phrase that can make all the difference. Change the way you structure your day, do the sales calls first and don’t answer email until noon.  Drop one of the activities that wasn’t working and replace it with something that makes you a bit nervous but that you have always thought might work. Get way out of your comfort zone with that one. Set a budget for “new things.” Big Businesses call it R&D but you can call it the “Rut Stopper” budget. Take a chunk you’re willing to risk and commit.

Need more ideas? Try some of these articles we’ve written before:

15 new things for 2014

10 Rules of Turnaround

The Sunday Night Dreads

Is this it? The Mid-Level Manager’s Lament

Deal with Other’s Great Expectations

Sell your story with Sizzle, Steak or Rainbows. Or just add a Giant Panda

Figure out why the team is fighting you on this.

Or just have a good laugh and start again tomorrow.

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And if you didn’t do it already, subscribe to our website and download your free copy of “Reading the Terrain; a Field guide for speedreading the Corporate Landscape”. No one’s going to bombard you with emails or sell your name to anyone. We’ll just send you a newsletter once a week you can forward to others who are trying to create change. And teach you some really good stuff. Take it from the woman who once lost out to the Fulton County Rat Poison Lady and a Freight train. There are some mistakes you don’t want to have to make yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Great Reasons why what worked for you Before isn’t working Now (Pt. 2)

 

rapid rise and descent of a business strategy

Your strategy was working great, then it stopped? Here’s three reasons why it may have stopped working.

It was Working.

Now it’s not working.

Why?

It’s hard to continually grow success. With rare exceptions, the line to the top of the success platform is more often a series of “one step forward, two steps back, a side step, a loop de loop,” and then, finally, “up we go”. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with in both business and personal life is when something that had worked so well for you previously is now not only not working, but may actually be working against you.

So why isn’t it working?

(Go Here if you missed Reason #1, “The ground under your feet changed”)

Reason# 2.  You mistook a one-hit wonder for permanent success.

Pet Rock? Business theory flavor of the month? You had a great run but suddenly its not working,  and now you’re stuck.  Hopefully if you intentionally produced a gimmicky app, product or snack food you knew it was going to be short lived and planned accordingly. But sometimes, you and your product are the beneficiary of lucky circumstances, timing or a specific moment in the market, which can create a false sense of a more permanent success.

Think of a musical group that has their song picked for the soundtrack of a hit movie. The song skyrockets to the top of the charts. Now it’s time for a follow up. Maybe it’s a winner, maybe they were the beneficiary of a moment in time. There will be a big difference in their future between living on the residuals of one mega hit vs owning the Rolling Stones catalog.

Notice I didn’t say that the musical group was any more or less talented or hardworking than any other musical group. Hard work and talent count but there are a lot of hard working and talented people out there and they’re not all giant successes.

In the business world, the markers of what made a particular set of circumstances unique often aren’t known until hindsight kicks in.  Years ago I worked in the non-profit arena where many large grants and funds were available due to a specific set of circumstances in the market (bank mergers coupled with mirroring a favored business theory of the then current government administration). The trend continued for nearly 5 years. If you began or started a non-profit in that space during that time, it was easy to raise funds and gain support, giving you a sense of success and a feeling that you “knew how things worked.” Except that was a moment in time, not replicated at any point for the next 11 years.

Were you attached to a popular business theory that “ran its course?” In the past few years we’ve had “The Secret”,”Get Rich Quick” schemes,  and a host of other short term mega hits. If your work is closely attached to a theory that is now discredited or fallen out of favor, even if your work is sound, you will need to repackage it and rebuild success based on a new foundation.

You may have even been the cute new “upstart” in a business sector, and now you’re the “middle-aged” stalled out player, not venerable enough to be one of the “big boys” you ran circles around when you started, and not youthful enough to be as nimble as new market entrants. Many of the “dot-com” wonders of the early 2000’s are facing this dilemma now. Your growth rate no longer thrills Wall Street, because it’s hard to match the early years of phenomenal growth, and the “new market” players may have more immediate upside potential. And the old boys either went under or figured out how to address the threat you made to their market share all those years ago. You’re in the middle, and need to regroup.

Our next article: Reason #3 “You’re wearing the wrong clothes”

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Taking Stock of this Week: How Effective were You?

time management

The year is already one quarter gone, what did you do this week?

It’s Friday. How did you measure up this week?

Did you:

1. Drive revenue?

2. Cut expenses in a way that will allow the business to grow?

3. Solve an ongoing challenge in a way that will allow the team to move forward?

4. Open a new market, test a new product, develop a new strategy for growth?

5. Say no to the things that weren’t working and cross them off your list?

6.Seek out a new perspective or new methodology that might help your team move forward?

7.Hold meetings that were relevant, valuable and not “birthday parties.”

8. Pull the tooth?

9. Look for new talent?

10. Have that uncomfortable conversation you’ve been dreading?

If not, what can you do to make sure that next week you spend your time on the things that really matter? (need some more ideas? try this)

Get your free copy today of “Reading the Terrain” by subscribing in the email box. It will help you have many more effective days!

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Is your “Confirmation Bias” Backing you into a Corner?

are your confirmation biases blinding you?

Confirmation Bias + Misplaced focus = Epic Failure

Confirmation Bias is a common phenomenon where humans view large quantities of evidence and choose to give greater weight (or even all the weight) to those items that support their theories. Think of it as a recipe for disaster:

Confirmation bias + Excess focus on the areas we know best (regardless of their importance)Epic Failures a.k.a. Projects that consume a ton of energy and yield little in the way of results.

In her recent book, “The Upside of Down” Megan McArdle gives two great examples of “confirmation bias”, one dealing with the “Truthers” who claim the 9/11 bombings were a secret government project and the other example an examination of how different groups view the reasons for the recent financial crisis, each “team” selecting the evidence that support their theory and rejecting other bits of evidence.

Lately it has become easier and easier for all of us to ignore or reject information that runs contrary to our internal views. Depending on your politics you can select a news channel that will then present the news in a slant that will endlessly confirm your world view. Any dissenting opinions will be cut off, minimized or mocked.  The speed at which an internet based news society disseminates information also allows for a minimum of in-depth journalism, much less fact checking.

Unfortunately we do that inside of the business world as well. Labels such as “negative,” “nit-picky” or “impractical” can be accurate, but they can also be used to ignore dissent, or worse yet, critical red flags. As a business leader, if you’re committed to doing great things, you need to be open to listening to your critics. There may be a nugget of gold in there.

Years ago I worked at a dot com. After working there for several months, I was told we’d be launching free websites for real estate agents, then charging for them at some distant later point. Having come from an accounting background I asked some questions about the timing of the future revenues vs. the cost of extending the free sites for an indefinite time. I remember being told very clearly (and somewhat condescendingly,) that I “didn’t understand the model.” I went home that evening, questioning myself, my brain, even my ability to function in a changing world. I ran the numbers, researched other similar models, and calculated the rough costs of the tens of thousands of dollars I knew that the company was spending each day. (Our “burn rate” was to the tune of about 500K per week). I decided I was simply “not getting it” clearly a dinosaur unprepared for the new world of the internet based business model. I was 33 years old and a dinosaur.

I was wrong. I understood the model. The company, however, did not. They shut down 8 months later, having been unable to convert the “business model” into a sustainable business fast enough. The investors were unwilling to provide any more funds as well. They apparently didn’t understand the “business model” either.

As you create your plan, your vision, listen to the dissenters. Ask questions, probe for why. Punch holes in your own plan. Play devil’s advocate and picture a model that operates on entirely different assumptions than the model you chose. Why is your model more valid? Where are your confirmation biases? When you’ve uncovered them, and examined the dissenting evidence and factored it into the model, that’s when you’re ready to begin!

Need some more ideas on how to make sure your project is ready to go? Start here.

Worried about your blind spots? Read this.

Afraid you aren’t seeing the bubble you live in? Try this.

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A great way to see all the moving parts in an organization is to review the lists of questions found in our free field guide. It’s free, simply sign up for our weekly newsletter (and no we won’t spam you or drive you nuts with crazy emails. We sent our a digest one time a week of relevant articles. That’s it.) There’s a box either at the right or just below this for you to sign up. And you’ll get your free guide right away.

Can you Make it Simpler?

Kiss graphicSometimes you need a fully designed, perfectly branded, heavily tested, peer reviewed and approved solution or product. (Highly recommended if you’re a brain surgeon or drug manufacturer). But if you’re not risking lives with your solution or product, what would happen if you kept it simple?

Lean Methodology uses the concept of a “Minimum Viable Product”, primarily as a way to test market response. Have you considered trying that approach on your next proposed business project?

You should consider all the angles and implications of a change strategy. But once you have, if a simple solution will increase efficiency and revenue for 95% of your core business, and not materially damage the rest, wouldn’t it be best to put your efforts there?

Start simple.  Start today.

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Subscribe today and receive Reading the Terrain, a field guide to understanding the Corporate Landscape.  It’s our free guide that will help you speed read an organization, especially before you try to change it.

Postcards on Change from Belgium

Jeanne Goldie, Organizational Strategist

Jeanne Goldie is a “Start it Up” or “Turn it Around” plug-in strategist for businesses. For the past twelve years she’s worked in the Financial Services industry leading organizational strategy after doing similar work in the government and non-profit sector.

I’m in Belgium this week, getting ready to present Anarchy and the Acco™ Clip:  Lean Startups in Government at the Lean Startups Brussels meeting.

Can you imagine preparing a presentation in one language and then, on a moments notice being asked to present in another language? Yesterday I attended a workshop of Agile experts (an approach to building products and software) explaining the best uses and applications for Agile and XP which was hosted at Sirris.be. The meeting started off in Dutch, and five minutes into the meeting, an audience member requested they switch to English (no, it wasn’t me!). The panel then switched to English, offering 8 presentations in rapid fire succession (similar to the “sprint concept” in Agile) with each presenter offering an aspect of working in Agile in 5 minutes or less. It was a fascinating “deep dive” into an area I haven’t spent a lot of time in, and the experience and enthusiasm of the panel was obvious. After the presentation, the audience was divided into smaller break out groups to discuss challenges with executing and adapting Agile to the workplace, proving some issues are universal. Most of the areas involved the challenge of managing product development in a situation with diffused authority, something not uncommon in any change project. From the discussions led by the presenters it was obvious that the flexibility they had demonstrated flipping languages was also repeated in their project management. An amazing workshop, with lots of great insight and strategies.

The second event was a pitch program at Beta Group Brussels where several entrepreneurs had 5 minute to pitch their products in a way to test their marketability, similar to giving an “elevator speech” for venture capitalists. Over 300 people watched and voted on different applications, it was exciting to watch people passionately pitch their ideas. One interesting note was that sometimes the best, most marketable idea was often buried or missed in the “pitcher’s” enthusiasm for their original concept. One team, creating an online shopping site glossed over their best attribute, creating a routine, simplified, glossy marketing approach for small business owners who were NOT technically savvy, basically letting the business owners subcontract that work inexpensively to a group that would ensure that the their marketing would meet all current technical standards, and marketing for them on a consistent basis across multiple platforms (a huge issue for a frazzled small business owner). It was a great reminder that sometimes we’re so close to our creations that we miss the forest for the trees.

On a side note, much like the US there were very few females in either group, and often the females offered more “service concept” type products rather than application development or strict product development. The females had good insight into the how and why a product would or wouldn’t work, clearly we need to get more women in STEM professions!

Many thanks to my hosts from Lean Startup Brussels who are ensuring I get a great whirlwind tour of the technology community in Brussels. There’s tons of food for thought that has been shared, and I hope to be able to share it with all of you in a slightly more coherent fashion once I get some sleep!

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Is this it? The Mid-level Manager’s Lament

 

getting out of business trap

Feeling boxed in? You can fix that.

I was talking last week with someone I met via an article I posted on LinkedIn. I liked him immediately. Why? He took a risk, contacting a total stranger to have a conversation about connections and change.  We talked for 30 minutes about how people get stuck mid-career, and why change projects can be instrumental in turning that “stuckness” around, either within the organization you work for or outside of it.

It’s easy to feel trapped mid-career. You’re good at what you do. You have a decent title. A good team, or maybe they’re only an okay team, but they don’t make you crazy. You make pretty good money. And you have kids, parents, spouses and others dependent on you staying that course and keeping that money coming in.  The “golden handcuff” syndrome.

You may try to move up through the ranks, but we all know the funnel narrows towards the top. The promotions don’t come as fast as they do when you’re good, and you’re younger.  And maybe when that opening at the top comes up, you don’t fit the management “flavor of the month” that year. They’re moving towards a more numeric based environment and your brand is the “people” guy. Or vice versa. Or maybe you’re not in the central core business, but you do a great job that lets everyone else get their stuff done. You’re the greatest at it, but they just don’t know what to do with you next because there’s not an obvious career path in the organization. And if they move you, your replacement may not be as easy to work with. So you clock in another year.

Problem is, your resume starts to look pretty stagnant after a while. But the kids need college tuition or your mother-in-law moves in because early Alzheimer’s disease is setting in. And the cuffs tighten. And if the company blew up tomorrow, where would you go?

You need to be an aspirin or a vitamin, not a cog in the machine.

That’s why I love projects. Projects help other see you in a new light, and expose you to new opportunities. I started working on the types of change management projects we talk about at www.52weekturnaround.com early in my career, using them as a way to meet people and learn new career skills that have allowed me to work in many wildly different fields. Lots of times I “made up” the project and assigned it to myself, just to get something started. Now people hand me projects and say, “Can you fix this?”

To create real change, for yourself or for your company, you have to stick your neck out of your comfort zone. That doesn’t mean doing something wild, or illegal. It means strategically looking at where you are and where you might like to go. What skills do you want to learn? What area is growing in your industry? What other industries use similar skills that you already possess, and what would you need to learn about their world in order to switch industries? What is the one problem in your company that is making everyone crazy? Do you have an idea how to fix it? Who can you have a conversation with that might feel a bit uncomfortable but would help you stretch? Pick a strategic action, one that will solve a real problem or create real change. Avoid busywork.

Crazy things that have happened for me when I went out of my comfort zone strategically

  1. Got the head of a 14,000 person business line as a mentor. By purchasing a United Way benefit ticket. For $75.
  2. Wound up becoming a regular guest personality on a local television station for five years.
  3. Helped open an African American Research Library in Atlanta (if you’re wondering why this is unusual, go take another look at my photo, and couple it with the fact that I grew up in New York).
  4. Moved out of a government job in a public housing authority into the technology sector.
  5. Had an article published in a famous law journal, (I’m not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV).
  6. Am presenting in Brussels (despite speaking no French and no Dutch) on Lean Startups. Want to come? Read about it here. My topic is Anarchy vs. The ACCO clip: Lean Startups in Government Agencies.

But here’s the thing. The wacky stuff doesn’t happen unless you’re prepared AND putting yourself out there. You have to be willing to go outside the box and share what you’re interested in. That doesn’t mean pestering every senior person you meet with “Hi, I want to change jobs, will you mentor me and by the way, know of any job openings or how I can get out of this dead end gig?”  It means having something new and interesting to talk about, that makes you memorable, and allows you to engage with people outside your usual circle. What’s your elevator speech? Has it changed in the last 5 years? In each of the examples above, there’s a bit more to the story. I had been doing my homework, growing myself and working hard at it, that put me in front of the right person at the right time.

Want to start creating some change? Take a look at our resolutions for 2014. Talk to someone in another department at work that you NEVER interact with and find out what challenges they’re dealing with.  Take a look at the elephant in the room and see if you’re the person that can solve it for your company. Look at how other industries, similar to yours, have solved the same type of problems your industry is dealing with. Can you have a conversation with a stranger to find out how they did it and why it worked?

Come to Brussels and hear me speak (along with my co-presenter Carl Danneels who will give a great presentation on Lean Startups in the Corporate world). And share with me some of the wacky things that have happened when you stretched out of your comfort zone, so I can share them with our readers and they can get the courage to stretch.

It’s free

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If you need help seeing your current organization with fresh eyes, get a copy of our free booklet, “Reading the Terrain” by filling out your contact info in the box on the right. “Reading the Terrain” is a field guide that asks you tons of questions about what’s going on in your business right now. By answering them, you’ll see where you can add value and where there are pain points.

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Lean Startups and Intrapreneurship: Brussels 2014

Join us in Brussels!

Applying the Lean Startup Model in Government and Corporations

Applying the Lean Startup Model in Government and Corporations

Learn about navigating the unique challenges and opportunities when creating Lean Startups in Corporate and Government Environments:

Lean Startup for Intrapreneurs!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

18:30 Kickoff

19:00 – 21:00 Presentations and Q&A

Brussels Enterprise Agency (ABE-BAO-BEA) – Free parking!

Avenue du Port 86C, B211- 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Carl Danneels of Plethon and Jeanne Goldie of 52weekturnaround.com will share their expertise on how to navigate the special challenges, responsibilities and politics when working in an existing corporate or government structure. Understand how to apply the Lean model, communicate the vision, measure and valuate results while managing the politics of Intrapreneurship. Please join us for this informative session.

Food will be provided. Admission is Free.

The Speakers:

 

Carl Danneels

Carl DanneelsCarl is manager of Plethon, a company established in 2003, offering Integral project and portfolio management services to customers in different industry sectors.

He is a bridge builder across cultures and management paradigms and a strong supporter of sustainable/agile project management approaches (focusing on self-organisation & emergent order rather than top-down control). He is a board Member of the Agile Consortium Belgium and a former Board Member of PMI Belgium. Update: Carl’s Presentation

Jeanne Goldie

Jeanne GoldieJeanne is a startup and turnaround strategist for businesses, the person hired when a business wants to fix something that’s broken or create something entirely new. For the past fourteen years she has worked in the Financial Services industry leading organizational strategy after doing similar work in the tech, government and non-profit sectors.

Jeanne shares her insights at 52weekturnaround.com, a website that helps teams reevaluate, restructure and rebrand their current trajectory using strategic change management. Gathering the best resources, coaches, and advice the site helps readers see challenges with fresh eyes and deliver real-life solutions.  Update: Jeanne’s presentation.

Need More Information?

Contact Jeanne here

 

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Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move in your organization? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

What can “Breaking Bad” teach us about Organizational Change?

Learn a few lessons from Breaking Bad, in this tongue in cheek article by Richard Lewis, an Organizational Development Consultant in the UK. What can a mild mannered science teacher teach us about employee engagement, brand management and marketing?

Read it here: Breaking Bad’s Management Lessons

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Turnaround Rule #10.5 Know When to Go.

 

Know when to exit a turnaround situation

The dirty secret of completing a turnaround is knowing when to leave.

One of the dirty little secrets of being a change agent is that sometimes it’s time to go once your best work is done.  It’s good to go out on top.  The part no one talks about is that sometimes you have to create such a shakeup, there will be those with their knives out waiting for your first misstep the second your triumph becomes public.

Classic example.  I was a senior director at a large government services agency where the entire management team had been brought in to create an amazing turnaround. The executive director had taken on a complex, politically fraught (and, given the environment, often life-threatening) job, and executed an amazing turnaround. She was feted first in the industrial journals, then more publicly. The majority of the turnaround took three years culminating in national recognition. The agency, previously rated at a 33, was given a perfect 100 score by its regulator. There was talk of a Cabinet appointment. The director demurred, feeling there was more work to do.

A few more years went by. A different political party took office for the next 8 years. No more Cabinet appointment-speak…but still some acclaim. And slowly but surely, those whose apple cart she had upset were waiting with knives drawn.  Suddenly there were whispers about her salary, two of her contract arrangements, and talk of having her removed. By the time the next “friendly” national  administration was in place, the damage was done.

Was she perfect? No. As a matter of fact, I didn’t care for one of those contracts and felt a better deal could be negotiated locally.  But she took one of the single most daunting tasks of cleaning up a notoriously corrupt agency and turned it around.  In record time.  Which everyone conveniently forgot about 8 years later.  They forgot what it was like when the post office decided not to deliver to one of the facilities because the hail of bullets were so bad. That area that now hosts national golf tournaments, a model community and a fantastic magnet school.

Go out on top. Go out when the work is 99% done. There is nothing over 100%, no awards that equal A+++. If you’re good at this, you need to move on to the next challenge.  I am in no way advocating a “band aid” cure as a permanent fix but get out while the next opportunities are flying in the door. Otherwise you’ll forever be talking about your triumphs in past tense, because once you have everything thriving, the world collectively forgets what it took to get there all too quickly.

Have you ever overstayed after a project was done? Share in the comments box!

Did you miss rules 1-10? Get them here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

© Jeanne Goldie 2015