All posts by Yolanda

Yolanda Brown has been writing business-related material since 2005. She believes in the power of small business' role in strengthening our communities. Besides publishing Cardinal Rules, she writes for other web properties and is building an online business. Yolanda holds an MBA from Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can reach Yolanda at with any comments, feedback or story suggestions.

Hack your New Year’s resolutions with these startup strategies (Guest)

The beginning of a new year always acts as a reset for many of us, especially budding entrepreneurs. Your resolution list may run long or you might not have anything on it at all. At minimum, you should consider a top three list of things to improve for you. This guest post has some great suggestions. Share one of your resolutions in the comments below.

Hack your New Year’s resolutions with these startup strategies (via Pando Daily)

By Michael Carney On December 31, 2013 Entrepreneurs are notorious tinkerers who routinely take what other people see as problems and turn them into business opportunities. There’s even a startup methodology called “Lean Startup” devoted to conducting…

Personal Commitment of a Climber

5 Ways to Renew Your Personal Commitment

Remaining motivated can be a drag, even when you are almost there. There are ways to keep climbing when all you really want to do is jump down. The following methods have worked for me:

Review the reasons you’re pursuing these goals.

Before you even start, be clear about why you are pursuing your chosen goals. If you haven’t already, write what drove you to commit to this path, what succeeding in your goals looks like for you and what success will do for you in the future.

Beyond written form, you can:

  • record videos documenting your journey towards your goals
  • keep up vision board(s) with images of what you want, and update or create annually
  • create an inspiration wall in your home and/or office with pictures of people who motivate you to keep it moving – your parents, siblings, kids, best friends, role models, and others
  • a soundtrack of songs that capture your thoughts, dreams and feelings for what you want your life to look like

Review these as often as you need to even understand your personal commitment. Maintain multiple forms just to reinforce and affirm your path. Share them with others to gain some cheerleaders and a sense of accountability.

Change things up.

When you exercise and reach a plateau where your routine has little effect on your body, you have to change the routine to start getting results again. The same thing can happen in other parts of your life. Ways to change it up include:

  • Do your work in another environment. Instead of working at your favorite coffee shop, go to a bookstore or library.
  • Speak with people you don’t normally interact with. Visit a networking group composed of people outside of your normal circle.
  • Exchange routine tasks. Instead of calling leads first thing in the morning, do it mid-afternoon.

Changing how you do things will re-ignite the fire inside you to stay true to your original commitments.

Go on vacation.

Taking a rest from the grind can give you a chance to relax and have fun. Resting renews your spirit and increases your  energy to finish remaining tasks for your goals (especially if doing so will help you take better vacations). You may even gain inspiration and new perspective for tackling any issues you are facing.

Although it would be nice, don’t only consider a trip to a resort as a vacation. Other ideas include:

  • a day at the park
  • visiting tourist destinations in your own city
  • road trip to a city you have never visited
  • spa day with an overnight stay in a local hotel

Don’t spend time thinking about work. Make sure you enjoy the scenery and the people you are with. Talk to strangers, try new food, get lost – most of all have fun!

And on the traveling note…

Visit your hometown (or whatever first inspired you).

Whenever I visit St. Louis, my commitment to my personal mission and goals is reinforced. This metro area was the first inspiration behind what I decided to dedicate my career to. The first time I returned to St. Louis as an adult after living away for a while, I reminisced about living in a neighborhood with a lot of commerce but little financial re-investment. I wanted to dedicate energy to changing that dynamic for similar communities and the people who live in them. During visits after that one, I always feel more energy to keep moving, especially when it looks like little has changed.

If not your hometown, then re-visit whatever it was to trigger your mission:

  • re-read that special book
  • talk to your grandparents
  • play with your children
  • study specific bible passages

Anything that engaged you enough to stir up this vision should be revisited regularly to remind you “Oh, this is what I’m doing it for!

Celebrate the tasks and goals you have completed.

Former goals you have succeeded at completing must not be forgotten. Reviewing them will remind you of how far you have come and what you can do when you put you personally commit to a goal. Pull out your photo album, read journal entries and watch the video capturing that special time in your life. Do what you need to do to remember your sense of accomplishment and emotions of that time you accomplished what you wanted.

Reward yourself when you complete tasks for your current goals. It’s said time after time, but doing this will give you something to look forward to more immediate than completion of the actual goal. Incrementing the rewards to higher levels of value for each completed task is a strategy that can excite you.

For instance, completing a task now may win an afternoon off from work to relax. Accomplishing a task just before you finish a goal may win a ticket to the concert of  your favorite artist. Completing the goal wins you a vacation, remodel of your home office, or even the purchase of a new home.

Don’t forget to reward those who are helping you too!

Sometimes it takes seeing others succeed at pursuing their dreams to gain the courage to keep pursuing what you know is yours to have. I’m Fine, Thanks, a new documentary that shares the stories of people across the U.S. who decided to pursue their hearts’ desires, also demonstrates what happens when people make a personal commitment to live the best life they can. Many of them changed their circumstances and now live more fruitful lives. The producers are raising money in a Kickstarter campaign to complete the film. Though it was fully funded as of this weekend, it’s not too late to participate. At the very least, you can contribute today and receive a digital copy of the film before it is publicly released. See more in the video below.

What have you done to renew your personal commitment? Have any more ideas related to the statements above. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

First image courtesy of

Motviation for success

2012 Mid-Year Motivation


I’m still here.

Got a little off-track (again). I started focusing on a job hunt instead of building my online business. About two months ago, things started to pick up in business though.

My offline business became the preferred provider for a great organization that hosts multiple events in the year. Also, a writing client started sending projects my way again. I have renewed motivation to pursue my business vision and manage products of my creation.

Motviation for success
New motivation has driven my desire to succeed with my product ideas.

Upcoming plans include:

  1. eBooks – now in process! How to start a business, how to write a business plan and how to apply to business school are all book topics outlined and being written. I have wanted to put these together for a while so I’m excited to finally put this process in motion. The books will be sold on Amazon and other e-tailers. I will provide at least one through this site at no cost.
  2. Cardinal Rules – I’m very sorry for neglecting this property. I know consistency is one of the most important aspects of owning a blog and one that I have not kept up. I also own another web property about my journey as a single mother. I am dedicated to increasing consistent blog postings to both sites.
  3. Fun Spaces. This is my offline business. I intend to grow it more than ever before. I’m still as excited about it as when I conceived the idea and have decided to develop it with added services including children’s parties. It will be a drop-in child care facility and major player in the movement to encourage play for children and adults. I’m currently updating the website, pursuing new advertising venues and pursuing new leads.

I am committed to sharing my thoughts and inspiring entrepreneurs through this platform. It’s the best of worlds for me to do this, and have time to take care of my children and provide for our well-being. It really is a matter of just making it happen.

I invite you to stay connected with me via Twitter. Also, stay updated with Cardinal Rules on Twitter and Facebook. I also created fun Pinterest boards including one for entrepreneurial inspiration and another for pure motivation.

In my next message, I’ll share my motivation and inspiration to keep doing what I’m doing and how important it is to have some inspiration in your life. Meanwhile, let us know how business is going for you so far this year.

Image courtesy of

Whitney Houston Entrepreneur

Whitney Houston Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Whitney Houston EntrepreneurAs many of us mourn the passing of Whitney Houston, tons of memorials and tributes have popped up across the internet. I decided I wanted to pay tribute to her as well, especially since I couldn’t find anything remembering her for being business savvy.

Whitney Houston was a major role model for me when I was entering my teenage years and I will always remember her from that time. She has a lasting legacy through her daughter Bobbi Kristina, her godson Nick as well as her works as an entertainer, philanthropist and mentor.

My tribute to Ms. Houston is in recognition of what she did as an entrepreneur (and professional) and what the rest of us can learn from her example.

Concentrate on your strengths

Whitney was infamously mocked for her dancing skills during the early part of her career. In a 1991 interview with Ebony magazine, she acknowledged her dedication to singing since that’s what she was good at. She did not take dancing seriously – that’s not what people loved about her. She honed that craft to win 415 awards (562 award nominations) in her career from a diverse body of organizations including the top experts in her field.

Lesson: Become great at what you do by practicing; investing in your development with classes, coaches, even developing others; practicing; challenging your strengths; practicing; listening to good advisers; and practicing.

Diversify your income streams

Whitney Houston has earned more awards than any female singer has ever received. She sold over 200 million records and albums internationally, an extraordinary achievement especially for an African-American artist. That said, singing was not her only talent and was not the only way she earned income. Unlike what has been commonly reported, she co-wrote and published some of her music under her publishing company Nippy Music Inc (later WhitNip Publishing, Inc). Songs published under this name include Count On Me, Something in Common, Queen of the Night, Like I Never Left You, and others. As these songs have sold during the years, they have earned residual income for her (and now her estate).

So many are aware of her transition into acting. Her movies The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife earned combined box office revenues of $540.5 million worldwide.  Some of the success, I believe, was because she used her voice in two of these movies (The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack is still the best-selling gospel album ever made). What is not as widely acknowledged was the role she took on as a movie producer by delivering movies she thought would be good for little girls to see.  In addition to her version of Cinderella, the Cheetah Girl and Princess Diaries franchises (all associated with Disney) were co-produced or executive produced by her company Brownhouse Productions, usually in association with Debra Martin Chase. The Princess Diaries alone earned over $300 million in box office revenue worldwide. She recently picked up the producer and actress bug for a remake of the ’70s classic Sparkle which wrapped around Thanksgiving 2011 and is scheduled for release in August 2012.

Lesson: Fill in service gaps you believe exist in your market. Open your business portfolio to include more areas of your value chain or other products/services complementary to your strongest talent. Look for ways to incur residual income such as licensing your work to others.

Do what works for you

When Ms. Houston began tipping over to superstar status, she began losing fans in the R&B market… she was even booed at the Soul Train Awards in 1989. Many accused her of not sounding soulful enough on her records. In the December 1990 issue of Essence magazine, she acknowledged making a business decision to pursue a mainstream pop sound, a sound she felt would provide longevity to her career. Her name and her history-making music will stand the test of time because she didn’t bow to pressure from others.

Lesson: Decide on a path to share your talent and stay true to your decision. There will be naysayers especially when you go against the grain and do the unexpected, but if you twist and turn with what everyone else says about what your work should look like, your work will lose the essence of what works best for it – you.


Early in her career, Whitney gave a voice to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. She later set up the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children to give and raise funds for children all over the world. She helped raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, United Negro College Fund, Red Cross and many others throughout her career.  Her contribution of singing helped to raise $300,000 for the Children’s Defense Fund in one night. I believe her contributions to charity helped her career last as long as it did.

Lesson: A basic tenet for successful entrepreneurs has been to give. Share your time, talent and/or money with organizations who work on behalf of others. There are so many benefits of doing this – in the end, it helps us all have a better world than we would without your contributions.

Whitney Houston is a testament of how someone can become the best in the world at owning her talent and serves as a reminder to those watching that she was still human. The most gifted people can go through the greatest personal struggles especially when they have been given superhuman status. At the end of the day, if we don’t take care of our bodies, we will not be able to share our talents with the world for very long.

Here’s a song I appreciate now more than ever before. It’s inspiring for entrepreneurs building our businesses, one day at a time.



5 Best TV Shows Entrepreneurs Must See in 2012

It’s difficult to take time to watch television while running and growing a business, but doing so can be a quick way to gain inspiration and tools. Entrepreneurs are represented in so many ways on television these days. From catering, cupcake baking, and restaurants to fishing, house flipping, and tech startups, there are many TV shows you can tune into for inspiration within your specific industry. For more general business inspiration, you can watch any TV show on CNBC, MSNBC or Bloomberg TV to learn something new which can take your business to another level. That said, there are only a few shows that I believe are great at giving multiple, awesome general business lessons while telling a great story all within one hour.

Below are 5 TV shows that I have enjoyed and learned great lessons from, listed in alphabetical order.

1. The Apprentice on NBC

In what has become a veteran of mainstream business TV shows, The Apprentice (along with its sister TV show Celebrity Apprentice) has proven to be more than about watching Donald Trump choose one person to win a job or a major donation (while firing the rest). Each week, you can learn lessons about:

  • Project Management
  • Team relations
  • Communication
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Presenting to executive management of a potential customer
  • How to answer the inevitable question “why you?” when it comes to being chosen for a new job/contract or retained for a current one

A new season of Celebrity Apprentice will begin airing on Sunday, February 19 at 9 pm EST.

If you miss it when it airs, you can catch full episodes online.
2. Oprah’s Master Class on OWN

The stories highlighted by this TV show are great for young entrepreneurs to glean the challenges and successes people can have by continuing to pursue their crafts even through perceived failure. Past entrepreneurs highlighted include Ted Turner, Lorne Michaels, Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z), Oprah Winfrey and many others. Lessons shared have included:

  • Be true to what you want to do and what you don’t want to do
  • Be open to opportunities that push you beyond your current circumstances
  • Learn from your failures and get back up from them
  • How to know when it’s time to let go and move on

Oprah’s Master Class airs on Sundays at  10 pm EST. Some episodes and clips are available online, and you can read summaries of each episode as well.

3. Shark Tank on ABC

TV show ABC's The Shark Tank

Image: ABC

If you wanted to know what is essential to capture in your pitch/ 30-second sell/ business plan to gain buy-in from outside parties – this is the best TV show to watch. You can learn from real life pitches made by several entrepreneurs to potential investors and partners Barbara Cocoran, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec and new Shark Lori Greiner. The Sharks are uber-successful entrepreneurs who decide if they will invest their personal funds in a company according to the presentations given in each episode. From this show you can learn a lot including:

  • What goes into a good business pitch
  • What you should look for in potential investors, partners and advisers
  • Questions you should have answers to before you share your ideas with others
  • The level of innovation happening in this country today

Shark Tank airs on Fridays at 8 pm EST. You can watch full episodes online, and read recaps of each pitch.

Check out episodes from the Canadian version of the show Dragon’s Den – you’ll see some familiar Dragons.

4. Tabatha Takes Over on Bravo

TV Show Tabatha Takes Over on Bravo


Yes there’s more to Bravo than it’s Real Housewives franchise and similar TV shows. Tabatha’s Salon Takeover and the new Tabatha Takes Over are real gems for entrepreneurs who need some lessons in employee relations, customer service, marketing and much, much more. Tabatha Coffey has a knack for keeping it real with entrepreneurs – showing them the reality of what is going on in their businesses with footage from a hidden camera, speaking to entrepreneurs about the state of their companies and separately speaking to employees to get their sense of what is going on with business, giving entrepreneurs strong feedback on what they can do to strengthen the company and finally checking on them several weeks later to see if anything stuck. Although the show provides a cosmetic makeover for the place of business it really is more about the internal makeover that takes place with the business owners and their teams.

From this TV show, you can learn:

  • How the actions and attitude of a leader (you) affect the actions and attitudes of his or her (your) team and customers’ perspectives
  • How to assess if your business truly reflects the brand you want it to
  • Ways to partner with members of your business community to attract more customers
  • How a clean, ordered work environment (cosmetic and systemic) affects team morale and ambition

Tabatha Takes Over airs on Tuesdays at 10 pm EST. You can watch clips online and read her behind-the-scenes commentary for different business cases.

P.S. This is a good one for consumers to watch so you can understand the level of customer service you SHOULD receive from your vendors.

5. Undercover Boss on CBS

TV show Undercover Boss on CBS

Image: Littlejohn/CBS

One of the best ways to understand different challenges within your organization is to infiltrate the system and make observations while doing the work. The premise of this TV show is a CEO joins the regular, typically customer-facing, workforce in his or her organization in a disguise so everyone will act as they normally do without the pressure of being watched by a senior manager. These CEOs see first hand what works and what does not work in their companies. By the end of their journey, they meet with their executive teams to share their observations and implement system-wide changes. They reward good employees they meet along the way and chastise employees that do not exemplify company values. Ultimately it is an experience in coming down to Earth and really experiencing the company as a person who usually represents the company to end users.

Lessons you may embrace from watching Undercover Boss include:

  • How employees’ perception of senior management’s appreciation of them can affect customer service
  • The importance of clear communication throughout the organization so everyone understands company and employee expectations
  • How to understand whether resources exist to provide the customer service you expect your customers to receive
  • What connecting with your employees can do for company morale

New episodes of Undercover Boss begin airing on Friday, February 17 at 8 pm EST. You can watch full episodes online anytime.

What TV shows do you watch for inspiration and lessons in business? Share in the comments below.