Blog Posts

Business Lessons of 2011: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

We are getting ready to dive into 2012 and it's a good time to take a moment to reflect on our accomplishments over the past year and start setting new goals for next year.

With that in mind, the question I asked our experts this week….

What was your big takeaway lesson from 2011 – either good or bad?

Dr. Mani of says:

In The End, Quality Always Wins Through

The BIG thing this year was the Google Panda ‘slap' that devastated many websites and online businesses. While opinions differ, the consensus is that the algorithmic update was harsh on sites that tried ‘gaming' the system in different ways – while it rewarded those who provided value and quality through their content.

Having been in content marketing as an Internet infopreneur since 1996, I've always favored the approach of writing (or recording) useful content that informs, entertains or inspires viewers and readers.

I cringed through the phase when software generated ‘spun' word-soup and $2 per 350-word SEO optimized trash not only thrived, but also dominated SERPs – crowding out the really high quality expert content that matters more.

Now, even though the ‘slap' hurt some of my Web properties, I'm overall happy with the shift in emphasis back to creating quality content that's valuable to human readers.

It's a shift every infopreneur welcomes – and proves that quality will always win through. That's my biggest takeaway from 2011 – and it will impact the way I work in the years to come. I'm also positioning myself to take advantage of the growing demand for top-notch content by providing syndication of my content to other publishers (details at

Connie Ragen Green of says:

2011 proved to be my best year ever since coming online in 2006, and I was anxious to take a closer look at what could have made this possible. There were three target areas that I focused on that accounted for my increase in income without having to spend any additional time working in my business.

#1 – I finally outsourced everything in my business that I wasn't good at or did not enjoy doing. This meant that by the end of the year I am actively engaged in each day are writing and product creation.

#2 – This year I made it a goal to seek out JV (joint venture) partners with whom I shared a common interest. This helped me to grow my list and create more products and courses than I ever thought possible. It's also lots more fun to work with partners sometimes than always working by yourself.

#3 – I wrote two more books. Becoming an author has given me more credibility and visibility, and this has led to greater profitability. Take some time and repurpose your blog posts and articles into digital and physical books and it will change your life forever!

My biggest takeaway from 2011 is that you can accomplish anything you want to achieve in your life, both personal and professional, if you are just willing to write it down, focus on it every day, and then take massive action to achieve it within your time frame.

If I can do it, you can do it, too!

Jeanette S. Cates, PhD of Organize Your Online Business says:

My biggest takeaway lesson from 2011 was the Power of Systems. I was “out” of my business for nearly three months, battling a bad case of depression. During that time I didn't even send an email! Yet the systems I have set up over the years continued to work – with traffic sources like articles and scheduled blog posts leading to optin pages – which led to autoresponder sequences – which led to sales. Membership sites continued to chug along with content dripping out automatically. My affiliates continued to promote. Customers continued to be served through our help desk and friendly support staff. Affiliate payments continued to come in. All in all my income actually increased in that three months!

I cannot stress enough the importance of laying a solid foundation and putting all of your systems into place. If I've changed one thing – it's to pay even MORE attention to my systems!

Shannon Cherry of The Business Building Live Intensive says:

Looking back on 2011, I've really come into my own in my business. I feel more confident in my abilities than ever.

But sometimes learning to follow my gut, not what others thought should be done was a difficult lesson for me.

I asked a few colleagues how to launch my own live event coming up in 2012. All of them had done events before, so their insights were valuable. I started on a path, following what they had done, and it didn't feel right to me. But I ignored my feelings because I felt what they said mattered more. Then as I took a break from the project, I saw these same people lose thousands of dollars at their live events. So what had worked in the past, as I had thought, wasn't working with the success it once did.

Lucky for me, as a planner, I had time to revamp my whole marketing plan. And now I feel confident that it will be not only successful, but something I will have fun doing. (And if it's not fun at all, why bother?)

I had to learn that advice, even good advice from great people, is just advice.

Lynette Chandler of Tech Based Marketing says:

Reflect, Purge and Focus that's probably the biggest lessons for me this year. I realized going into the year I was doing several projects that made me unhappy every single month. Completely unproductive and definitely not good on the bottom line.

Once those things were identified, I purged them. It sounds so easy now but wow it was such a tough thing to do then.

It's kinda like breaking up with a boyfriend 🙂 but I did it and feel so much more energized and ready to pour myself into the areas I've chosen to tightly focus on. It has already paid off and I'm so looking forward to 2012.

Lain Ehmann of Business Love Potion says:

2011 was a year of huge change and growth for me and my business. The biggest lesson I learned is that though planning is essential, you have to take the cues from your market and audience.

I've floated a few things out there that I thought were going to be sure things, but no one grabbed them. At the same time, something I threw together without anywhere near the detail and analysis was a huge hit. Who woulda thunk?

Sure, I could hold true to my beginning-of-the-year planning and refuse to change my plans. But at what cost? It's much smarter to go where the market tells you it WANTS to go, even if you think you've got the best plan and products in the world. Maybe you got it wrong, or maybe you just didn't notice this hidden demand. It doesn't matter. Take advantage of the momentum and go with it!

There's an old saying: “Would you rather be happy or right?”

I encourage you to amend that and ask yourself, “Would you rather be profitable or right?”

I know which I choose!

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

Wow! Those are really really good answers. Now the pressure is on. 🙂

What did I learn this year?

1. The power of coaching.

I always knew that I was blessed beyond belief to have friends who I could turn to when I needed to think something through. However, I guess I never realized that others NEED what I have and that I can absolutely impact their lives by helping them one-on-one. But this year, I've seen my coaching clients take HUGE strides. It's so funny because oftentimes it happens in the first 15 minutes and they say “OH MY GOSH! I never thought of that even though it's so obvious!” Not exactly an ego-booster for me (lol!) but it does make me very happy that their fuzzy overwhelmed brains can get the clarity and focus that they so much need to move ahead.

Recommended! If you need someone to tell you “THIS project” is the one to focus on or “THIS traffic technique is what you need to be doing” – I recommend my friend (and mastermind partner).

Kelly McCausey is GREAT with direction especially if you're still unclear in your message.

Or you'll find mine here: Nicole Dean Private Confidential Coaching. (Yes, I have many clients whose names you'd recognize. But I can't tell you who they are. I promised them confidentiality.) 😉

OR here's my coach. Who coaches Nicole Dean?

 2. Beyond Transparency. It's ok to be Personal.

I've always tried to be personal on my blog and in my newsletters, keeping my readers up to date on what is going on in my life. I've tried to connect and show them/you that I care. And, I try to be transparent.

However, I'm always amazed by the love that I get back when I do share the more private areas of my life. For instance, when my Eddie puppy died this year,  I was devastated. It was emails from my community (yes from YOU) that got me through it.

And, again, as I'm hosting a child from a Children's Home in Latvia over the holidays – I received prayers, well-wishes, and even monetary gifts towards her travel. I am absolutely humbled and am so grateful for you.

Now I'm not saying to talk about last night when you sneezed while you were drinking a glass of milk. But, share … and see what happens.

3. Hire Based Upon Personality as Much as Skills.

You can always teach someone a new skill, but you can't easily teach a person to have a postive outlook.  I don't know about you, but I want to spend my work time with positive people. It's an ongoing process to outsource effectively, but there are plenty of people who are in need of work – so pick the ones that make your day.

4. Balancing Being NICE with Being STRONG.

I know a lot of women, especially, have a hard time with this. In fact, one of my coaching clients talked with me about this exact topic yesterday.

We WANT to be nice. However, we're also running a business … so we can't always be nice, or we'll get walked on.

So, direct communication is essential in order to get things done. You can be nice, but the second you see an issue address it, so that it doesn't build into a situation where you have to get mad.

Examples that you can use:

  • “I need to clarify ______.”
  • “I need to know if you can meet the deadline that we agreed upon. If not, I'll have to get another contractor to do this project for me. Please let me know by (date) or I'll assume you're too busy to take on this work and I'll reassign it.”

You'll notice that I use the word “need” rather than “want”. I only do that during a conflict situation to emphasize that this is not optional.

Other examples:

  • “Yes, I understand your situation. However, … “
  • “No, that will not work for me. This is what I need… (and when)”

Did you know I have an Outsourcing Course? You can check it out here: Nicole Dean Outsourcing Course. (Needs to be updated.)

5. The Bigger Picture. Making Our World a Better Place.

As you know, I've been talking a lot lately about your legacy and your impact upon the world. I try to make decisions on my business based upon a bigger picture – will it help my customers and will it help my customers to better serve their customers?

Well, this year, I decided to go bigger. First, you may have noticed that I have new graphics in my side bar.

One is “Making the Web a Better Place” and the other is “Making the World a Better Place”. If you have a suggestion of an organization that I should feature on my blog that is making our world a better place, please let me know. Include a link to a graphic, too.

Nicole Dean

PS. Have a wonderful weekend!

I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Lynette Chandler

    Love love love this post. Such great insights and some good reminders.

    @Shannon – this “learning to follow my gut, not what others thought should be done was a difficult lesson for me.” was also very very true for me! I made a huge post about this on my blog exactly about this and yes it was difficult but oh what a lesson it was.

  • James Artre

    Excellent post(s)!

    I appreciate the way you put your own ego aside, while enlisting the input of others and the sharing of their own expertise. This is the character of true leaders.

    Merry Christmas!


  • Marilyn Southmayd

    This is a wonderful insight into what others have learned throughout this last year.

    I learned the hard way that your business can go down in flames very quickly (less than a month) if you make the wrong decisions in your business. Investigate very carefully whatever business endeavor you try. I thought I made a good business decision and everything came crashing down around my ears. I lost my Paypal and eBay accounts that I have fought so long and hard to get a good rating in. As they told me, I made a bad business decision. This is something that I will have to learn to live with.

  • Sharyn Sheldon

    Nicole, this was definitely one of your best posts for coming up on the year end as we all start thinking about our plans for the upcoming year. It reminded me that I have to look back before looking forward. Also, it’s always nice to hear that successful marketers still suffer from some of the same challenges as us newbies – except you learn from them! Thanks for all the wisdom!


  • Lalitha Brahma

    Hi Nicole

    This is an excellent post! It is like attending a Networking event to receive golden nuggets from these renowned experts who have been online for quite some time.
    The Take away for me from this post is:
    1. Listen to your Intuitive voice.
    2. Let go of the feeling that what I know
    a) Is not something great OR
    b) Everybody can learn easily from Internet
    Allow /Give myself permission to
    a) Feel valuable enough to teach /share my knowledge and charge if I want to.
    b) Understand that there are people TRULY wanting to learn from me and that is why They decide to coach with me.

    Thanks again. Wish you Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

  • Savvy Subcontracting

    Live life to it’s fullest. Turning 40 was a little harder than expected. Luckily I was introduced to a book “Life On Your Terms” by Shann Vander Lee. Along with that came her audios that I love listening to and slowly transitioning my life into my dream. It will be slow but I will be living life to it’s fullest as I progress.

  • Loc

    Connie said she outsource all the things that she did not enjoy doing. For bloggers that just starting out, outsourcing for most is out of the question because when you just start blogging you have no traffic and no traffic means no income. So they end up doing it themselves. So I say, if you can afford outsourcing, then by all means but not everyone has the budget.

    • Shannon Cherry

      There are other ways to outsource other than hiring. Get your family to help. Barter. Find an intern. Be creative and you will be surprised how much you can get down.

  • Elian Evans

    Great advise! Focus has been my biggest challenge this year. I’ve started way too many projects. So thanks to your Outsourcing course, I’ve done an inventory.

    One of my great lessons for this year is to follow your own heart/desires/interest (but only keep a list of potential projects for brainstorming purposes – you can always revisit them later).

  • Fran Civile

    I mostly relate to three thoughts in this great post Nicole, 1.Being personal in my blogs, which I am working on finding the right balance, 2.I have for many years made it a habit to choose positive personalities to relate to, and avoid noxious relationships, 3.I’m still learning to combine being strong with being nice.

    I found inspiration in all the above comments!

    Thank you,


  • Edie Dykeman

    What a wealth of great information. It’s always helpful to hear that others have challenges as well. This is a good post for the end of the year, as someone mentioned above, because we can take these lessons into consideration as we head into the new year.

    Nicole, this whole series has been a great help and I hope you continue to host more Expert Briefs in the future. What a wonderful concept!

  • James | Bodyweight Exercises

    My biggest lesson of 2011 is that you can’t get big results when you only give half-hearted effort. In order to get something worthwhile, you need to give it 100% of your energy. This is true in fitness, business, and a lot of other areas of life.

    In 2012, I’m ‘digging deep’ and making sure that all my goals will come to pass. I encourage everyone who reads this to do the same.

    Train hard. Live strong.

  • vicque fassinger

    I agree with Dr. Mani’s commentary on how quality always (eventually) wins over, shines through, and is the brick-and-mortar of stuff that matters. That’s not only true with website content, but also with everything in life. Would you rather have 100 ties or a handful of quality and stunning ties? Would you rather have a thousand “friends” on facebook or a few in your bound address book you know you can call at 2 in the morning and they’ll pick up? In the long run,it truly does cost more to “invest” (time, stress, money) in cheap work, materials, and products than it does to pay a writer, a doctor, or any other professional what they deserve (through their sweat equity, extensive experience, formal education, and honed skills) to earn for their services, products, and expertise. I liked what Dr. Mani wrote so much that I went to his website. There I discovered that he, too, has chosen to do with his life–with his skills, his passion, his gifts, and his talent–what he does because: he can, he wants to, and he has enough. If we are not doing what it is we know we are meant to do–because we can, because we want to, and because we already have today everything we need–then we are just like dervishes whirling haphazardly, hamsters on a wheel bound for nowheresville, or fence sitters waiting for the wind to blow us this way or that. It is our responsibility in this one, brief, beautiful life to embrace the gifts with which we have each been blessed and use them to be of service to others and leave things better than how we find them. How do we know if we are doing what it is we have been called to do? It’s simple. If we are waking up full of joy and happy to be doing whatever it is we have chosen to do with our day, with our talent, with our time, with our lives–because we can, because we want to, and because we (already) have enough–then we are exactly where it is we are meant to be. 🙂 Happy New Year!

  • beth

    Thanks for posting. It is so inspiring for women to read about other women’s success. It gives the motivation necessary to push forward knowing that others have done it too. Love your site, and will continue to come back for the great interviews and up to date info. 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.