big fish in small pond vs small fish in large pond?

Hullo again! This is my first official blog post for the spanking new month of April of a brand new decade 2020!! Feels like a change of century (in a kind of a way)! I opened my social media app to post something useful and clever about my books/events and saw a common trend, but with a twist so I decided to resume my business/career blogs based on a question I got asked a lot – ‘how to find customers’. I didn’t think of myself as a lucrative business guru just yet, but I think the question deserves an answer.

After exhausting a small pond/population where many people are engaged in the same type of careers/businesses (thus competing for the same customers who have purchasing power) at some point you have to make the tough decision of finding ways to innovate, diversify, or expand in other territories in real time or online. Easier said than done, but with enough PASSION, people skills, tech skills, time & resources anything is possible!

woman in black long sleeve shirt holding blue and white toothbrush
photo credit – Science in HD via


Funny enough this is a topic in one of my very first workshops based on the first book. Truth be told, I was probably a born extrovert (based on the baby pictures my parents and older siblings took of me). Then my upbringing (and positioning in the family – LAST- 11-years later) made me into a semi-introvert – all the way through school and my first few jobs. Then voila! One day I (noticed I) began to morph into an extroverted-semi-reclusive uptight corporate office type/writer/speaker/creative type (if that makes sense). Ha!

I say all of this since I often meet a lot of people who share similar work experiences and ask (in not so many words) how do I reconcile the two. They either worked in human resources, (very serious) corporate jobs, attended or facilitated workshops at some point, attended or assisted with special events at companies or in private pursuits, or are life/business coaches or consultants. Usually you may find people (locally) that work in the media or creative fields having a personality or the versatility to traverse borders. 

Does PERSONALITY matter when it comes to ‘SUCCESS’ in work & life?

photo credit – Jonathan Borba via

A popular question life coaches ask when you meet for the first time is, “So, have you done those personality quizzes … what personality type did you score as?” I had to take part in a few of these as a process of recruitment when I interviewed for jobs in the past – they’re called psychometric assessments, and well! They’re sorta difficult to fake – similar to a liar detector test I would imagine!

Based on how you respond, there’s no right or wrong answer per se, but the panel of experts that score those tests are looking for specific qualities that determine if you would fit their organization. This is based on their org goals, the rest of the team, the management/leadership style and the job you are interviewing for. Let’s just say it’s a tad difficult to manipulate if the panel are really good and fair at what they’re doing.

Can you really CONSISTENTLY fake who you are (deep within) anyway?! If you can do that, I guess you can do almost anything else! Having also worked in human resources for about 8 years, I’d say we can tell when people are faking it. And if they manage to still somehow get the job, they won’t be able to successfully fake it for too long afterward!

I can only describe working in HR to sorta like working in the CIA if you think about it carefully. You either re-surface to the regular world shell shocked, or with really special skills! The other option is if you can (learn to) love all aspects of your job and stay in the career for a lifetime – just as some of our parents and grandparents before us did in their chosen jobs to raise us and give us a better life than what they probably had.

Again, I like to use practical (and sometimes funny) examples so people can easily relate. Staying in (more importantly keeping) the same job for a lifetime (till age 60+ & healthy if self-employed in particular) can only be described (in my mind) to learning to love all aspects of your legal partner with all your heart and soul with the patience, tolerance, unconditional acceptance and emotional maturity of a Greek God[dess] in those fables we read or heard about in our youth – without the tragic ending of course!

When you meet or talk to people on the phone for the first time, it’s hard to ascertain their true characteristics as a person – even if you worked in careers like sales, marketing, HR and served on interview panels and dealt with countless performance reviews. If you take your job seriously and learn what you need to know, it does in fact help you understand, empathize and ascertain the motives of others faster and compensate for some of the years you have actually lived in this physical realm.

There’s some quick conversation starters and signs of whether a person can be a future ally (customer, friend, business associate etc). It varies from person to person and situation to situation, but here’s my ‘little personality hacks’ to break the ice so to speak without coming off as desperate or too aloof, disinterested or worse – not with it:

Before approaching them or they approaching you, quickly mentally/visually assess how comfortable they are with themselves – their body, how they move, how they look and feel about themselves and the other people in the room.

E.g. Do they seem uncomfortable with their clothing or appearance? Overdressed/under-dressed compared to others present, but still at ease/confident/friendly? Or are they fidgeting/overcompensating/embarrassed? Preoccupied/judging/out of place/aloof/rather be someplace else – better than/less than/faking either? Look at eyes and body language – making eye contact/eyes darting/rolling, staring in amazement/slight scorn/disdain? 

Based on all of this, adjust your body language – keep greetings warm and embrace their greeting to you. Greetings may vary for different cultures/marital statuses/social settings and ought to be respected that’s why observation is important.

Conversation openers for business/social settings (except parties and casual events).

white spiral notebook
photo credit – Alexa Williams via

1. Hi, how are you doing? I’m Name. This is a lovely/nice/fun/interesting event, don’t you think? Pause for their response and let them finish their response. Observe their tone and body language. If they tell you their name without you asking directly at this point, that means you’re off to a good start (based on your body language/tone etc).

2. How did you learn about this event? Do you come here a lot? (if it’s a place). They may say something like, my friend Jane/John told me about it and thought I should attend. Or I saw it advertised on XYZ and then they may pose the same question to you. If they ask you first, you can respond: how about you? (learn about this event/place).

First few questions try not to go into any long-winded answers, or talk too much about personal stuff or brag to impress – keep it formal, yet social/friendly and see where it leads naturally. Maintain eye contact without staring at body parts, flaws, clothing or hair and keep tone friendly, but not overly-excited to be mistaken for creepy/desperate. 

If you are a gentleman and did not come with a date, you can offer the other person a drink – especially if you invited them, or are the host of the event. But stop at one drink! Especially if it’s alcoholic and they have to drive. Depending on how it goes, you can ask if they drove and are okay to drive home – depending on if they are consuming alcohol, if it goes late or they are not accompanied by anybody of the opposite sex.

[If they go with you at this first meeting without prior knowledge of who you are, it’s either a sign that you managed to build their trust very quickly, or they may be looking for a 1-night stand only!]

3. What do you do [for a living]? How long have you been doing X job and do you like it?

person in gray sweater holding black textile
photo credit – Kelly Sikkema via

[This is usually an instant conversation starter. You may connect on many issues and talk and talk and talk depending on shared experiences and jokes/annoyances of the ‘trade’ you may have in common. If this happens and people in the room are beginning to observe the two of you and whisper/smile, you know this is also a good sign.]

4. Midway into the event or before leaving, you can ask: So what do/did you think about the event/place? Do you think you’ll return/be back to another event like this?

[You are really trying to ask if you’ll see them again, but want to be discreet in directly asking/coming on too strong to avoid creeping them out, unless you really get obvious signs that they want to continue the conversation – whether business or social].

5. People usually connect on the topic of food and drink and similar places/events, so you can say something like, How is your calamari/appetizer or wine/passion fruit juice? (slight flirting depending on your tone and body language).

[It’s important not to come off as showing off the entire repertoire or list of places and foods you have consumed to show you are ‘well cultured’. In case the other person have not tried many of those places and foods or there are other people within earshot that may be turned off by the excess. If you are in public it’s good to be polite. If in private you are free to do/say whatever you like as long as you are not offensive. Look for cues].

Based on the person’s response, it leaves an opening for you to now say something like, You know who does a great XYZ …there’s this place on RSTLN&E close to ABC. Similar style as here, not as noisy, people are friendly and there’s entertainment on Thursday nights, 2-4-1 drink specials and the calamari is like heaven! (not literally of course).

[What you are really waiting for is their response/body language to invite them there once the conversation progresses in a certain way. If you are uncertain if they are single and other people are part of your conversation, you can make it a group lime/hang-out.]

To find the customers/business partners/associates you instantly gravitate towards and totally get what you are about, you have to condition your mind to be actively on the look-out for things to do and places where you think they’ll frequent. It can be an event, a car show if you are into cars, it could be a promotion at the mall or supermarket.

Conditioning yourself to find customers

happy birthday greeting card on white ceramic tiles
photo credit – alexandra lammerink via

When you sit to watch the local news, TV/movies, scan the newspapers, social media, Internet, stand in line at a place of business etc, train your eye to spot events and topics of interest to your job/career.

It’s easy to miss, but if you truly love what you are doing for a living and want to get good enough to make the type of money that would eventually allow you to live the life you want to live, you must extend yourself to develop the grit, personality, communication, diplomacy and people skills. Or bigger technical skills/knowledge to build the confidence and versatility to lead/carry a discussion with almost anyone.

dress form sketch
photo credit – Roberto Martinez via

When you find your rightful customers that not only want, but NEED your products or services because it fills a need/goal in their life and your experiences intersect, you’ll be able to eventually close the deal almost instantaneously – seemingly without effort.

Of course if you are not offering a service that is a necessity in a small pond and not willing to extend yourself outside of your comfort zone or the conditions for doing work overseas are tedious, living in a small pond and trying to make the type of money to meet your personal and career/life goals may be not the best route for you.

If you already have a family or commitments where you live who are unwilling, not in the position to make the move with you, or there’s another hurdle to migrating to an easier environment to live your passion (unabashedly), then some extra thought must be put into how happy you see your life in the next decade or so.

Hope this helps. Until next time, the world is your oyster if you reach beyond the ordinary.

Carpe Diem!

Carolyn x


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