What to Consider When Hiring a New Employee

I’ve been writing blog posts for another business I’m involved in, The Best Medical Business Solutions, over this past month.  While some of these posts aren’t valid to The Leone Company’s clients or blog post readers, this one, on employee selection, is indeed.

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Therefore, I’m sending you along to that blog here.

And so, without further ado, enjoy “What to Consider When Hiring a New Employee.”

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco.

Follow The Leone Company on Facebook here.

Speaking at Pookie’s RescueFest tomorrow

Last year, I was invited by Centers for Animal Therapies to speak on “Fundraising For Your Animal Non-Profit” at Pookie’s RescueFest, located here in Central Florida.   The crowd of intelligent, hard-working founders of rescues was incredibly engaged and interested, and I was able to combine my passion of pets and non-profits.

This year, I’ve been invited back to speak on “Social Networking to Market and Enhance Your Business,” open not only to founders of rescues but also anyone who has adopted a pet themselves.

(On a side note: The Leone Company actually established its first client from a similar lecture!)

See below for a short video from last year!  After all, how can you NOT love puppies?

Video by Henry Maldonado

And, if you’d like to join me in Lake Lily Park tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., you can see the full list of speakers here.

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco.

Follow The Leone Company on Facebook here.

5 Tips When Traveling on Business


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The Leone Company has a client that takes me out of town, on average, once every four to six weeks.  I now have him speaking regularly at industry conferences across the country, as sharing his expert knowledge with hundreds, if not thousands, of potential clients within his target market is the best way to cultivate new business.  (Side note: I’m happy to discuss opportunities like this for you!)

Without a doubt, this increased amount of business travel took a bit of getting used to.  I had grown accustomed to staying in town and, most recently, I had been used to working from my home office, enjoying organic snacks throughout the day with a set routine.   But, let’s be honest: there’s something exciting about breaking up a regular work schedule with the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Here are just a few tips, tricks and systems (would you expect any less from me?) I’ve picked up and created along the way:

  1. Use travel time to catch up on reading.  For some people, a few hours on a plane may be an extension of regular office work, but for me, it’s pure, uninterrupted time to get those things done that have been piling up on my desk.  Literally.  Like that stack of industry publications that I love to read but always come in quicker than they hit the recycling bin.  (Driving instead of flying?  Audiobooks are still amongst my favorite ways to pass the time.)
  2. BYOS.  Bring your own snacks.  One’s brain, stomach and budget can only survive on the mini-bar and sugary morning danish for so long.  My personal favorites include my own stash of herbal tea, apples, peanut butter with crackers and a few protein bars.  For others, it’s their own coffee with their favorite creamer.
  3. Remain loyal to your hometown time zone.  As tempting as it may be, know that it’s just going to be harder to get back in the groove when you return to the office.  That series of late nights in Sin City hits harder than you think when returning to the East Coast.
  4. Let your staff (and other clients) know of your change in schedule.  If you’re going to be generally unavailable for more than a day, make your staff and clients aware of the best way to reach you, even if you think they won’t notice you’re out of town.  When you’re new to the role of freelancer, contractor or agency employee, people sometimes forget they have more than just one company to report to.  And, let’s be honest, you’ll need to plan ahead with them anyway.
  5. Be sure to get a few minutes of YOU time daily.  With conferences, client dinners and answering emails in the day’s remaining minutes, it’s easy to go a few days without a breath of fresh air, a walk to clear your head, or a few stretches to your favorite tunes.  In order to continue to be productive, make sure you re-group.

Have a favorite tip?  List it below!

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco

Follow us on Facebook here.

Growing a Business in a Down Economy

With a new year on its way, I wanted to share a piece I’ve written, published in an issue of the Winter Park/Maitland Observer last month.

WP Maitland Observer

I’ve had an incredible amount of inspiring discussions outlining how, in its own way, The Leone Company has grown.  Amazing discussions with both casual colleagues and close friends, all over coffee, tea, juice, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and, on one occasion JUST after Thanksgiving, pie.  (Thanks for that delicious slice of homemade apple love, Emma!)

And so, this seems like a great time to share the piece.  Head on over to their site for the full story and incredible amounts of my wisdom, and let me know what you think below!

For a full list of previously published work, head on over here.

Remember Janee

One of the first posts I ever read by Kate Walling, founder of Scrappy Face, was this one; that post was dedicated to her grandmother, who had just passed away.  When I emailed Kate for the first time (we met on Twitter),  she let me know that, although she may not blog consistently, when she does, she has something to say.

And now, I have something to say. Truth be told, since this past Memorial Day, I’ve taken time to wrap a bandage around my heart after June 11 left it broken.

This is a longer post.  With that said, let me start from the beginning.  Know there’s a lesson in here somewhere, but, truly, I’m getting “back on the blogging horse.” This is my story:

Over the past two years, my father had created a brilliant, much-needed consulting business, The Best Medical Business Solutions, helping practices strengthen their operational, financial and administrative core; it took off faster than anyone thought it would.  He and my stepmother had big plans to travel around the country in what they called their “retirement,” as neither one could sit still.  Janee couldn’t wait to cheer him on as he spoke at conferences, giving his wisdom to others who so desperately craved it.

His client list grew, and their own medical practice was booming.  (My father had served as Janee’s practice’s vice president of operations.)  Janee’s  tiny, high-heeled, well-dressed pace quickened, and they were excited at what their futures held.

And then my stepmother, a brilliant doctor, got sick.

What started as back pain turned out to be horrific, mind-boggling, stage four terminal cancer, diagnosed the week of Thanksgiving, the week of her 65th birthday, in 2011.  Their dreams shattered into a million pieces: the dermatology practice she worked her entire life to build fell to shambles with her inability to consistently see patients, and touring around the country for my father to see clients and attend conferences became impossible, since planning for tomorrow beat planning for next week.

I had started writing a post of her journey nearly four months ago, but Janee didn’t want her illness broadcast at that point in time, seeing cancer as a sign of weakness.  She held her head high for as long as she could, and, when she wasn’t strong enough to do so any more, just after this past Memorial Day, she entered hospice.

I spent her final weeks with her in hospice, as did the rest of our family.  We remained with her around the clock.  I took my trusted MacBook Air with me, and my clients were understanding, many relating to what I was going through.  They were patient with me, and, for three weeks, I worked at whatever hours I could, sending e-mails at midnight… because the days were filled with spending time with Janee.

On June 11, this strong, courageous woman, lost her battle.

I purchased and edited her obituary through my tears, sitting across from my father at their kitchen table.

Once the final Shiva visitors had left and I had stocked his freezer with as many prepared meals-for-one as the shelves could hold, I left my father’s home in South Florida to come back to Russ, our dogs, cat and life in Orlando.  I returned a different person.  A person who felt defeated; for the first time, there was nothing I could do.

But life had to go on, and I had a business to run, as did my father.  I took time to re-strategize with my current clients, regrouping with them on anything I had missed.  But, for the summer, I held off on additional growth until I knew I was ready for it.

And now, I’m ready.

With the help of one of my best friends, I’ve laid out a plan, which we’re currently activating.  (Even the strongest of women need a crutch when they’re broken and a compass when they’re lost.)

Perhaps you’ve noticed we now have a Facebook page, allowing The Leone Company to share snippets of knowledge with you daily.  I’m blogging again.  We’re creating an e-newsletter.  I have client prospect meetings and I’m again an active part of the non-profit organizations I love so much, sitting on committees and grants panels to boot.

All of the things I typically do for my clients, I’ve finally done for myself.  Because the stronger The Leone Company is, the better I can serve my clients.

And, as I’ve said before, I know I can’t do it all myself.  Because if there’s anything this year has taught me, it’s exactly how important it is to work with clients I value… and who value my role as a family member, too.

And so with that, I’m dedicating this post to my father, in honor of the ninth anniversary of his wedding to Janee.

Knowing When to Grow

When I tell you life’s been busy, that’s an incredible understatement.  In five weeks, I spent two weekends at home, with a mix of business and pleasure occupying that time.  We’ve  named my suitcase, since she’s my constant travel companion.  (Russ decided “Victoria” was appropriate, and I decided that I was too tired to brainstorm names for a green L.L. Bean product.  Victoria it is.)

I’ve been to South Florida.  I’ve been to Vegas.  I’ve been to Amelia Island.  I’m heading BACK to South Florida again soon, with possible trips to Vegas, Cape Cod and Jersey City before the summer’s over.

I’m not complaining.  As far as travel plans go, there are far, far worse places for conferences and birthday celebrations.  But ultimately, I’m looking forward to having a clear agenda for a few weeks in a row.

But I have realized, thanks to a recent post by Ali Brown, that it was time to ask for help for The Leone Company.

I’m excited to be working with a few different people, growing The Leone Company in a way that, six months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed possible.  I have someone helping with administrative work and research, a brilliant marketing strategist assisting with projects I know are her personal strengths and another person assisting with a community relations and outreach project.  It’s an exciting time to be a business owner.

The best part?  All three of these wonderful players were already within my network.  One is a former intern from my days with the Florida Film Festival, the other two women I had met and come to admire over the past seven years as a Central Florida resident.  We’ve kept in touch, over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and, when I knew it was time to grow The Leone Company, I knew exactly who to reach out to.  As I have mentioned before, I never stopped networking… and neither did they.

And being able to contract out pieces of projects, or just the research that needs to be done to do a project WELL, is just the thing that is going to allow me to take on more clients and grow the business.  Because, as Gini Dietrich so brilliantly put it, I need to remember to remember to take time from working IN the business and put aside time to work ON the business.

And I’m thrilled to be growing with a great team.

Birthdays, Beaches and Brand New State-of-Mind

I started writing this blog post while facing the ocean last weekend.  With no internet connection, I was thrilled to be able to get back to a bit of writing for my blog, neglected with the daily needs of fantastic clients.  While that’s a great problem to have, I’d broken the cardinal rule of working ON the business, not just IN the business.

I started writing from Amelia Island, to be exact. Other than the fact that I’d spent the weekend with a few extraordinary ladies, who utilize powers I can’t even fathom possessing, what you need to know about Amelia Island is this:

It is one of my mother’s favorite places in the whole world.

My stepfather, a loving, caring, brilliant man (and marketing genius) who has treated me as his own daughter for more than half of my life, reserved this very penthouse (and, therefore, oceanfront balcony) as our escape from reality. The weekend was reserved for my mother and her friends; she says that she considers me one of her very BEST friends, which is how I came to find myself listening to the waves.  Henry joined us on Monday, making the drive with my grandmother, their suitcases… and an extra bag just for her wrinkle creams.  When you’re 87, you, too, can have an entirely separate bag just for wrinkle creams.

And we did all of this for one simple reason.

My mother’s birthday.  She’s forbidden me from telling most people how old she is, although, between us, it may just rhyme with schmixty.

And so, in honor of my mother’s birthday, I forced myself to take a deep breath and think about exciting things for the future.  As I waited for Carla, Joan and Patti to return from their day of facials, haircuts and shopping excursions to Chico’s, and for my mother to rise from her mid-day birthday nap, I’m grateful I made the three-hour drive and stepped away from an internet connection for a few days.

I received clarity on my next steps with The Leone Company from these extraordinary entrepreneurs… and I got back to a calm place that had long since fallen to the wayside.  Any small business owner can relate, I’m sure.

I’m excited to be back home, rejuvenated, centered and ready to improve this year.

I’m excited to have spent time with some of the most inspirational ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited waking up to the sound of the ocean.  And that Swedish massage.

How Do You Define Your Identity?

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I love superheroes.  Perhaps it’s because I grew up stepping on my younger brother’s Batman figures.  Perhaps its because my cousin’s oldest son wholeheartedly believed, at the age of two, that his father looked just like Superman.  (For the record, while he does have dark hair and flies…planes, John is not Superman.)

As an adult, I notice their abilities to keep their two identities completely separate.

Often, as an entrepreneur, small business owner, large business owner or, honestly, just someone who adores his or her job, we wrap our identities into our careers.  (Ali Brown does a fantastic job of discussing the subject here.)  For years, I was “Mara Shorr, Radio Producer,” “Mara Shorr, Fundraising Producer,” “Mara Shorr, Director of Development and Community Relations” and so on.  And now, indeed, “Mara Shorr, President of The Leone Company.”

When I started The Leone Company, I had a goal I wasn’t sure I could accomplish.  I wanted to represent “The Leone Company” when I was out on business, but represent “Mara Shorr” when I was persuing activities that relate to my personal life.  For example, at networking events, business meetings and strategy sessions with clients: Mara Shorr, President of The Leone Company.  Grocery shopping, wine with friends and dog park trips: Mara Shorr, Lover of Wine, Dogs and Friends.

The more I have attempted to keep the two “Mara Shorrs” separate, the more I realize this may not be possible.  After all, potential clients and opportunities for business are always just a conversation away.  At the grocery store, over wine and at the dog park.

I am, after all, the proud daughter of a father who is known for never having met a stranger, a man with the gift of gab.  It’s been a successful strategy for him, as even when he’s out with my stepmother, a brilliant doctor, playing poker, they meet potential new patients holding the hand next to them.  It’s not abnormal for my stepmother to examine a stranger’s skin right then and there, handing them a business card.  And then receiving a follow up call scheduling an appointment at the office the following day.

My biggest strength, and what sometimes turns into my biggest weakness, is my ability to build strong relationships.  Relationships with family, with friends, with clients and with potential new supporters for said clients.  I enjoy constructing new way to work with the people I admire, including some of my closest friends.  But, does doing so blur the lines between personal and professional identity?

I believe, more and more, that while it’s healthy to have two separate identities, chances are high you’ll have to quickly transition from one identity to the other, acknowledging a potential new client from someone you just met at the grocery store… and knowing when to show a bit of yourself in a business relationship.

I welcome your thoughts: how have you handled your two identities?  Do you believe you should have two… or perhaps more or less?

(And in case you were wondering, this past Halloween, I was absolutely a rockin’ Batman.)

Pookie’s RescueFest (and Video of Puppies)

Life’s been busy.  Incredibly busy.  But last weekend, I was lucky enough to have been invited by Centers for Animal Therapies to speak on “Fundraising For Your Animal Non-Profit” at Pookie’s RescueFest, located here in Central Florida.   The crowd of inteligent, hard-working founders of rescues, was incredibly engaged and interested, and I was able to combine my passion of pets and non-profits.

Public speaking is something I’m always excited to do, and this local opportunity was a win-win.  (On a side note: The Leone Company actually established its first client from a similar lecture!)

See below for a short video on the day, and enjoy!  After all, how can you NOT love moving images of puppies in strollers?

Video by Henry Maldonado

If you’re interested in assistance with your animal (or human) non-profit, don’t hesitate to contact me at Mara@TheLeoneCompany.com!

New Year’s Resolutions: Vitamins, Dishes, Lists and Happiness

Almost everyone I know has New Year’s resolutions.  Before she had her daughter, in fact, my friend Lyndsay, used to have a series of them which she grouped by category and then deadline.  If you know Lyndsay, believe me, this makes sense.

In fact, this blog was the product of a 2011 New Year’s resolution, before The Leone Company even existed, when Heather Whaling at prtini.com let me know that, like, Nike, I should “Just do it!” and get blogging already!

And so, more than a week into the new year, I’m laying mine out there.  Hold me accountable, please:

  1. Always put my dishes in the dishwasher before going to bed. (Dad, you’d be ashamed at the piles that we woke up to some mornings!)
  2. Take my vitamins every night.  (Yes, sometimes I count chewable Airborne tablets as my vitamins for the day.)
  3. Always work with clients and projects that make me happy. (Check out that rockstar list of The Leone Company’s clients here.)
  4. Keep a daily, running “To Do” list that, each day, must have items that have been crossed off.

The clients? This is more to keep me on track. I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of wonderful clients through The Leone Company this year, ranging from fundraising to community outreach to marketing projects.  Even contracts that have ended did so on a high note, and something I pride myself on.  Going into the new year, I always want to keep a focus on this.

The “To Do” list? It’s working out well!  Each day, I start out with a freshly printed list (on the reverse side of previously used paper, of course!).  A clean list makes me feel like I’m not bringing yesterday’s baggage into the next morning.  Each list has four categories:

  1. To Do: The Leone Company. (Remember my post about Dedicating Time For Company Growth?  Those are the items on this list.  Updating my website.  Working on potential new clients.  Blogging.  )
  2. To Do: Insert “Client Name” here.  Each client has their own list.  This gathers all of the social media notes, random thoughts I had in the shower, phone calls to return and tasks that require an action item in one place.
  3. To Do: Errands. Taking client packages to the post office.  Picking up dry cleaning.  And yes, even returning two lampshades to Lowe’s because, well, why not just buy three and decide on your favorite at home? (Don’t judge me.  Or my dishes.  Or the fact that I have the vitamin habits of a five-year-old.)
  4. To Do: Personal. You know what goes in this list.  Really, just send your cousins’ holiday gifts already!

After trying apps and other electronic options, I’ve found a hard copy of the list just makes me happier. But I’m always up for new things!

What are your resolutions this year? Send me a note, a tweet at @marashorr or leave a comment below!

This week, I’m a guest blogger at i.seekissimmee.com, the website for the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.  Check it out!