Monthly Archives: April 2017

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

by Gail Z. Martin excerpted from Fresh Start Success: Reimagine Your Work, Reinvent Your Life, Re-Ignite Your Passion

Are you denying your inner entrepreneur? If all of your work experience has been in corporations or working for other people, you may view owning your own company as being ‘too scary’ to contemplate. Maybe it’s time to take a second look, especially if entrepreneurship creates the opportunity to use your gifts, follow your passion, and build the lifestyle you desire.

Entrepreneurship can be learned. Many colleges offer seminars and degree programs that cover all aspects of running a small business. Community colleges also offer workshops and courses on various aspects of being an entrepreneur, and so do many local business centers. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. You might discover that your vision takes you to amazing places and grows into something much bigger and even more satisfying than you ever imagined.


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Filed under Coaching, Gail Z. Martin

Organizing For Success

by Gail Z. Martin excerpted from Fresh Start Success: Reimagine Your Work, Reinvent Your Life, Re-Ignite Your Passion

Sharon McRill earned a degree in General Studies, but had no idea what she wanted to do. She took a lot of English and Film/Video and Women’s Studies credits while in school, then decided she wanted to work at Borders Books’ headquarters. “I banged on the door every week until they hired me,” she says. At Borders, Sharon was hired to be a Vendor Liaison and helped buyers track shipments and purchase orders, handled special deals, and managed corporate accounts. She also was in charge of new media, CDs, video, and DVDs.

Borders as a chain got into financial trouble, and Sharon was downsized. By that point, she had been part of Borders’ dot com group, which grew from five people to seventy in the time she worked for them. After being let go, she discovered the company had sold the website, which was a complete surprise to the employees. Although Sharon got a buy-out package and severance, she was very bitter for a while as she looked for a new job.

At first, Sharon wasn’t interested in being an entrepreneur because she had seen her parents and grandparents run businesses and thought being self-employed seemed hard. She landed another corporate job but it didn’t last. At that point, she sat down and made a list of what she knew how to do and was good at, what she trained to do, what she didn’t want to do. She liked project management, working with people, and simplifying things, so that was where she put her focus as she decided to create a company of personal organizers, which is now The Betty Brigade.

Sharon’s company was a hit, helping people clean out their homes, pack up to move, and generally clear out clutter and organize their lives. She hired her first employee after eleven months in business, but really wasn’t sure what came next. “I had no idea how to grow my company,” Sharon admits. “My parents and grandparents had bought existing companies, so I didn’t know how to do that part.”

She went looking for resources, and received coaching from local entrepreneur groups. Then she created a volunteer board of directors as advisors. She bought them dinner on a quarterly basis, and talked candidly with them about the business’s numbers and the issues she faced. That’s when she realized her company’s growth was being slowed by her own difficulty letting go and delegating. “I didn’t trust my staff to do it as well as I did, but they could actually do it better. Now I delegate like crazy,” Sharon says.

Most of Sharon’s family was very supportive of her shift to self-employment. She gave herself a year to make it work, using her unemployment benefits and severance. “I think my family initially underestimated the size of what I was doing,” she reflects with a laugh. Other business owners were very supportive, and she found her tribe of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Sharon’s work and planning paid off, and she broke even her first year. “That was shocking because of how much I didn’t know,” she admits. “We have a goal of thirty percent growth every year, and so far it has been reachable. Everything still goes back into the business because it’s still growing. The big thing I’m working on is how to get new employees up to speed faster. I want to get them in gear in thirty days instead of ninety so we hit profitability faster. Eventually, I’d like to license the business,” Sharon adds.

Along the way, Sharon learned what was really important in her Fresh Start Success. “It has to do with who you are as a person,” she says. “I wanted the company culture to reflect who I was as a person of service. I wanted to create a community of family, co-workers, and vendors. Every person you contact, you can be of service. Bring that commitment into your business and hire people who share it,” she advises.

In 2013, Sharon was very proud that The Betty Brigade was able to donate more than $31,000 from unwanted items from clients. To put that in perspective, their donations included recycling forty-seven cubic yards (almost eight forty-yard dumpsters) of glass, plastic, metal, and paper. They also recycled household toxic waste like paint, cleaners, and unwanted medicine. Sharon enjoys finding unusual ways to recycle. For example, her people often find old fur coats that are un-wearable because they were not stored properly. Sharon discovered a “Coats for Cubs” program that makes fur beds for rescued wild animal babies, which recover faster when nestled in real fur. Unwanted wigs are recycled for cancer patients.

“What can you do that helps the community at large?” Sharon asks. “She encourages the staff to take part in volunteer activities every week. At the end of the month, the staff member with the most volunteer time gets a small prize like movie tickets or candy.

As Sharon’s vision has grown and she’s become attuned to meeting customer needs, The Betty Brigade has grown, too. Her vision has expanded to include not only organizing and de-cluttering services, but also specialized corporate relocation assistance and other niche services.

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Be Serene

pLMC0503by Danielle Ratliff

I started out my professional life as a Registered Dietitian on the surgical floor of a hospital in 2006. I quickly realized this wasn’t the enviroment for me, so a year later I transfer to a weight management clinic thinking I would be happier in an outpatient setting. Although it was an improvement from the hospital setting, I still was unfulfilled in my career. The last straw was when I was raped in 2011 in my neighborhood. As a result of the attack, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder complicated with anxiety and depression. I was at the lowest point in my life and attempted suicide a few months later. Luckily, I did not succeed in my attempt, and after lot of counseling and support from family and friends, battled my PTSD head on and went back to school for massage therapy.

GM-FSS-Amazon-2A month before I graduated from massage school, I had the opportunity to purchase Serenity Now Massage Therapy in August of 2012. It had been in existence for a year but was a failing business and the prior owner was moving to Asheville. I jumped on the opportunity even though my business experience was limited. In the beginning, there were two other therapists beside myself and now, less than five years later, I have grown the company to support and employ fifteen therapists. Under my leadership, I was able to turn a profit in six months and have had a 40% increase in net profit year over year, with the exception of last year, which was 30% given we are literally out of room space. I now own the building where we practice and just signed a lease on the building next door to double our current capacity.

My long-term career goal is to expand Serenity Now to the point where it can support both myself and my husband, who currently has a full-time job at an IT services company. He supported me during my difficult times, and I would like to allow him to take a step back from the corporate world. We do not have children, but I consider our three cats to be our “kids” and “furbabies”. I am thankful every day for my family and network of close friends and know that each day is a gift.

In closing, I believe that our thoughts shape our actions and our actions shape our realities. I think we can constantly reinvent ourselves and grow provided we think positively and find the good in our situations. I believe in this evolution of self so strongly that I had a phoenix tattooed on my back as a reminder that I refused to be confined or defined by negative experiences in my past. Instead, I have risen from the ashes and learned to look towards the future at all times.

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Filed under Business Planning, Guest Blogger

New book! Fresh Start Success: Reinvent Your Work, Reimagine Your Life and Reignite Your Passion—41 True Stories Show You How! Now available on ebook and in print!

Within these pages, you’ll meet forty-one people who made successful big changes in their lives and work. They come from all different industries and career paths, following a wide variety of interests, and redefining “success” for themselves along the way. They hail from all over the world, represent a range of ages, and came to the decision to make a change in their own unique ways, but every single one found success from following his or her passion.

Our Fresh Start Success profiles include Katana Abbott, Amber Allen, Christine Bové, Debbi Dachinger, Melissa Darnay, Teresa de Grosbois, Jo Dibblee, Barbara Edie, Sheri Fink, Dawn Fleming, Marla Goldberg, Tamara Green, Oksana Gritsenko, Christine Hassler, Steve Hobbs, Wendy Ida, Mike Jaffe, Lisa Jendza, Grace Kelly, Karen Kessler, Poonam Gupta-Krishnan, Lisa Manyon, Sharon McRill, Lisa Mininni, Faith Monson, Sheevaun Moran, Loriann Oberlin, Debbie Peterson, Lauren Brett Randolph, Danielle Ratliff, Sherri Richards, Cha~zay Sandhriel, PhD, LeeAnn Shattuck, Pierette Simpson, Susan Sklar, Gail Watson, Patryk Wezowski, Lisa Woodie, and Wendy Woodworth. My husband and co-author Larry N. Martin and I round that number out to forty-one since we made our own big personal and professional reinventions, and the experience sparked our interest in finding how other people coped with change and reimagined their lives and work.


Starting over doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. The easiest way to pick yourself up and dust yourself off is to look at where you’ve been and find the elements that worked best for you—then look for more of those same things going forward.

The 41 people Larry and I interviewed for our new book Fresh Start Success: Reinvent Your Work, Reimagine Your Life and Reignite Your Passion—41 True Stories Show You How!  all had several key mindsets and behaviors that helped them create successful new beginnings. Figuring out how to ‘recycle’ your skills, experience, education and expertise and build a fresh start is one of the crucial behaviors for making a successful shift.

Grab the book and discover how to make a successful big change in your own life! Buy it now!

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Filed under Business Planning, Coaching, Gail Z. Martin