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A Makeover

If you subscribed to this blog over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that, like dinosaurs, opposable thumbs and my dog’s ability to counter surf, it evolved.

I didn’t disappear as much as join forces with The Best Medical Business Solutions, a medical business consulting company, focusing on the cosmetic and aesthetic industry, that I run with my father.  (You can read our story, and see a super adorable photo of me and the-man-everyone-thinks-is-my-much-older-husband-but-is-really-my-dad here.)

And so this site forwarded to that site for a few years.

Now, though… I’m ready to take back the reins.  I still love what I’ve built at The Best Medical Business Solutions, so heck no, I’m not switching career paths.  But I do write… a lot… for other publications (you can see all sorts of samples on my business’s website here).  But with the start of 2016, I’m craving the ability to use the instant sense of wit and tales of reality that I’ve built and collected over the years.

So, with THIS makeover, you’ll see glimpses into my ridiculous life, packed with stories about daily personal life as an entrepreneur, the amazingly hilarious conversations I have with my 91-year-old grandmother named Babcia, and whatever else comes to mind.

If I’m being honest, so far, I have five stories written about Babcia and zero about entrepreneur life, so, be prepared.  She’s amazing.

Not what you signed up for originally and looking to unsubcribe? I totally understand.  Finding out that this blog is EXACTLY what you didn’t realize you needed in your inbox?  AWESOME!  Subscribe away at the link in the right hand column on the website

Either way, be prepared.  Awesomeness awaits.

Winter Park Maitland Observer

Stay Positive and Productive (featured in the Winter Park / Maitland Observer)

I always enjoy writing for some of the community’s local publications; it not only allows me to extend my talents as a writer to publications I read myself but, an equally important reason, is that it showcases the talents of The Leone Company.

I highly recommend any industry professional with a passion for the pen do the same thing in their own industry.  We’ve found success with this for our clients and know it’s a fantastic tactic.  For example, this past year I’ve written several pieces for Orange Appeal Magazine (here, on Central Florida community leaders Flora Maria Garcia and Barbara Hartley and here on tips to get involved in your community)  and the Winter Park / Maitland Observer here on growing your business in a down economy.

Winter Park Maitland Observer

Last week, I was able to publish another piece for the Winter Park / Maitland Observer, a weekly publication, titled “Stay positive, productive.”  While the essence was based off of this post, published right here on The Leone Company’s blog more than a year ago, it was updated and tweaked to fit the new audience.

I invite you to read the full piece hereand, of course, let me know what you think.  What would YOU add for a positive and productive day?  Go on… don’t be shy!  Let me know!

Follow me on Twitter: @marashorr and @theleoneco.

Follow The Leone Company 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.

How Do You Define Your Identity?

Source

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!

4 Reasons I Knew I Could Grow Business

When I left my former company just over two months ago, I had one, maybe two, strong prospects; that was enough to give me the confidence to start The Leone Company.  Why?  Because I knew the rest would follow.  (Okay, I hoped a whole heck of a lot and have worked really hard to push the rest to follow.)  In fact, Michael Schechter hits it spot on with last week’s post, “Making Something Magical.”

Am I nuts?  Well, my grandfather thought so.  But here’s why I knew I could build business.

  1. I let everyone know what I’m doing.  I was fortunate that, when I was letting my contacts know I was leaving my now-former company, my then-boss had no problem with my telling them about my exciting new adventure.  (This is how one of my first clients, edible Orlando, came to me.)
  2. I’ve been sitting on committees and collaboration meetings for, well, a really long time.  So when a project came up for the Association of Fundraising Professionals – National Philanthropy Day and for the Garden Theatre, the folks seeking help thought of me.  They know my work ethic.  They know my contacts.  They know my follow through.  They know my love for a morning bagel and schmear.  (Although that last one, I’m guessing, didn’t get me the jobs.)
  3. I’m not afraid to speak in front of groups.  It was through a course I’d signed up to teach with Centers for Animal Therapies that I’d met the founder of feline rescue group Candy’s Cats, Inc.  Turns out, she loved what I had to say so much in a one-on-one session she hired me within a week.
  4. I have my father’s gift of gab. When I was little, my father used to talk to strangers in the supermarket.  (A great way to network, perhaps, but a lousy way to please a hungry nine-year-old who’s shivering in the ice cream aisle.)  But today, more than half of the contacts I’m discussing relationships with are people I’ve met at those same types of random moments. Volunteering for a kids’ camp two weeks ago.  Dinner at one of our favorite German restaurants.  A glass of wine with friends.  I always carry business cards, and I’m always ready to tell people what I do, since what I do may just be able to help them where they need it most.
I love new secrets: What is your best tip for growing new business?  Please share!

A “P&P” Kind of Day

One thing incredibly obvious to anyone who has ever met me: I’m insanely close with my cousins.

Call each other several times a week (from three to four different states), have an annual Ladies’ Cousins’ Weekend, bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, pick pumpkins together kind of close.  I know that for some families, once the generation reaches adulthood and moves out onto their own, the close relationships “forced” upon us by our parents fade into family reunion pleasantries.

Not us.

The strange things is that we all lead incredibly different lives: the youngest turned 21 yesterday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RACH!), one is a high school Spanish teacher (and community theater actress) getting married this December, one proudly earned her MBA and is a stay-at-home mom of three amazing boys and one is the owner of Sassy Sweet Treats, a baked goods company that sells the best Chocolate Chunk cookies you’ll ever taste.

And this “Cookie Cousin” (with the awesomely tall bangs in the first photo and sitting to my right in the second) is who I’m thinking of as I post this blog.

Each morning (or perhaps four mornings each week), Jennie and I send a text back and forth, or, if we’re feeling in need of a bit more inspiration, a phone call, with this message: “Wishing you a P&P kind of day!”

P&P stands for Positive & Productive.

As the owner of a small business, those are two things that can make or break your day: not staying positive and losing productivity.  And, as the owner of a small business, things can sometimes get in your way.  A client doesn’t meet deadline.  Payments are late.  Meetings take far longer than you’d planned.  Or, well, this photo from Jennie late Monday morning…

But here’s my advice: Find your “Jennie.”  Find that person who wants to see you succeed, who you want to cheer for, who understands what you’re going through and will help cheer you on when one “P” slips.  Someone you can laugh with, someone you can share fantastic news with and someone who wants to share fantastic news with you.

It makes your day a whole lot better.

So, I ask: Who is your “Jennie”… your P&P Partner?