When the team at National Mortgage Professional Magazine asked me to write an article, I was thrilled because I am literally brimming with ideas on how to help businesses succeed in the upcoming year. But Josephine, you ask, “How can we grow when the industry is still reeling, when our teams have shrunk, guidelines have tightened, and our lives are still in seeming disarray?” Well, sit back, pour yourself some coffee (although you may not need the caffeine after you read this article), and enjoy the below outline of five action steps I’ve listed to help you succeed. I. Sharing is caring We all have a unique value or talent that we bring to the business world, and the minute we share that with others is the minute we become more successful. How often has a business tip you’ve picked up from a friend or business acquaintance given you just the right amount of knowledge or confidence you needed to close new business? An exchange of ideas and information that you have learned from business experiences not only makes you and the one you are sharing this information with richer, it also establishes a quality business relationship, which results in more closed business. I’m a longtime, successful entrepreneur and I know this works from experience. For example, most recently, I have taken this concept and decided to help people in my immediate community who are wondering, “How can I be that expert the media calls on and interviews?” Many people don’t know where to start and the tips I pass along at no charge have resulted in net closed business of more than I could have even imagined. II. Smaller is better Pick a part of your business where you want to see huge growth and pursue it with complete focus, and don’t tell me “I want to see huge growth in my bottom line,” because what I’m talking about will result in an increase in your bottom line. For example, you could say that you want your processing times to become more efficient, your people to buy more into your vision, your team to work as a unit instead of a hodge podge of unconnected efforts, your lenders to understand you and your clients more, your community and local media to respect your market knowledge, or numerous other goals. When you focus on these “smaller” items, individual items that you can work on very specifically, you will in turn see growth in your bottom line. Find coaches, curriculum, trainers, advisers, and others who can help you focus on these things in your business, and watch the seemingly miraculous growth. III. Steady on Sometimes, it’s simply about pursuing, very diligently and effectively, those things that you do best, or even about being the one organization that is still there in the aftermath of tragedy. An organization I work with, the CMPS Institute, is a pretty great example of this concept. CMPS’ founder and chairman, Gibran Nicholas, has stayed firm to the original intentions of the company, to be the standard of excellence in the mortgage industry, and the leading training and certification organization in the mortgage industry for mortgage professionals who want market-based training and to be a part of something wonderful and bigger than themselves. CMPS members were very loyal to the Institute through the last couple tumultuous years, and Gibran was faithful to them, continually churning out relevant and timely curriculum. CMPS members hold their designation proudly and tell the Institute they are proud to be associated with an organization that has upheld its reputation and continued steady on through industry crisis. When you are true to your company and yourself, when you show people that you are here to stay in the ebb and flow of this industry, they will gravitate to you, and you will see growth. IV. Embrace change and don’t waste your time They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result—I find too many people that are doing this in their businesses. Holding onto old mentalities, ways of doing business, preconceptions, marketing strategies, and so on, will get you nowhere but left behind. It’s important that we don’t waste our time in 2011. For example, let’s take women in executive positions, or as leaders, are any of us still stuck in the old mentality in this regard or are we recognizing that, as more people are looking at alternative forms of income, we are seeing more and more women make the leap towards being an entrepreneur and taking leadership roles across the board? Along with their market knowledge, women have a tendency to ask the most personal of questions in a natural way, and this sets the stage for relationship building; we know that true relationships with clients, vendors and peers are the foundation of any successful business, and that relationship building is an essential skill for growing in this market. Growing in 2011 will require that we don’t waste our time with the old ways of thinking and embrace change. Speaking of change, how many of you are using the “new” social media tools—Facebook, Twitter, and more? If you are not, commit to using one or more of these tools going forward. When you do, remember that the key to leveraging social media for business is to use it as a platform to provide your network with valuable, timely and relevant information. In this age of information overload, people are constantly being bombarded with an overwhelming flow of information and noise. This means that people don’t need more information … they need relevant information. If you are the one providing it to them, it elevates your value and transforms your network of friends, clients and prospects into a referral-generating sales force. Also, if you are in management, embrace change when it comes to how you relate to your employees; those who succeed and grow in 2011 will be those taking a regular pulse of their employees. Be well aware of the unique value contributions your team members make, and you will be uniquely equipped to position employees in just the right places in the company where they will thrive; thereby growing your business. Remember, companies that grow are companies that consistently change with their environment and grow to meet the needs of their markets, engendering customer loyalty. V. Get rid of the desert mentality and think like an entrepreneur An entrepreneur specializes in seeing what others have seen and thinking about it in such a way that nobody has thought about it, thereby creating an innovative idea. This initiative then creates a spark of change, which leads to improvement in whatever area of humanity they are contributing to with the idea they’ve created. Others look at these situations and see only the “desert” around them—dry, empty, hot and an environment in which it’s virtually impossible to succeed. If you are, instead, someone who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation, you will see tremendous growth in 2011. I firmly believe that the great upside to the massive amounts of tragedy we’ve seen is that men and women who felt stuck in certain positions and afraid to pursue their dreams are now free—if not forced—to pursue their passions. The economy has forced people to re-evaluate their priorities, reassess their skills and pursue entrepreneur mindsets without being held back by a job to which they feel tied down. If you are facing changes, take a moment to look at things with the entrepreneur’s hat on, and see how that helps you grow. Market changes have also caused a significant shift in the needs and wants of consumers across the board. In any industry, an innovative entrepreneur who identifies and addresses this shift creates an unbeatable connection with consumers. Deep inside us all, we have a desire for our vendors to know our names, and to supply our needs because they anticipated them before we even voiced them. When we address this desire and do everything we can, at our own expense, to instill trust in skeptical consumers, we will see a significant upturn in growth. Josephine Nicholas runs her own PR agency, Insert Catchy Headlines. She specializes in mapping out individualized media campaigns, and offers a comprehensive array of services to handle the diverse PR needs of her clients. Her clients have appeared regularly as local media experts, and have also appeared in other national and local media outlets, including, but not limited to, MSNBC, Fox Business News, CNN, and NPR; in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Advisor Magazine, Financial Planner Magazine, CPA Magazine, and various entertainment and lifestyle outlets. Josephine is passionate about giving back to others, and, together with siblings Gibran, Jaad and Jihan, runs Party with a Purpose, the Nicholas family’s non-profit arm. She may be reached at by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (734) 385-6170.