The Big CLOSE.

Ever wonder how you got to where you are?

Today I was thinking about that…

When I was a kid, every year we’d visit my cousins’ house in Chicago. My family would drive out from Longmont, Colorado and stay there for a couple of weeks, during which time my (indulgent) teenage cousins and I would plan and execute our annual Talent Show in their basement.

The Talent Show featured your standard musical, dance and gymnastic lineup… mostly on roller skates. My mom still has a picture of me at 8 years old in pom-pom pigtails and overalls roller skating in circles around the “audience” (our parents), singing “Tomorrow” from Annie. At right is a picture of me posing before a gymnastic performance.

My talent show duties included: talent recruitment, ordering the numbers, hand-crafting invitations, designing costumes, spreading the word, and getting the parents to attend.

Ah, the glory days…

So no surprise, I guess, that nowadays my favorite time of the year (twice a year, actually) is Summit SeasonThe Women’s Success Summit (May 17th & 18th) is my grown-up version of the talent show. The Summit brings together South Florida’s most ambitious, talented and successful women (and men!) to inspire, educate and ELEVATE the business community.

The theme? The Big CLOSE – all focused around the principles of selling – selling yourself, your ideas, your products, your services. (And by the way, we are ALL selling SOMETHING.)

Clear your calendar, friends, this is one event you must attend. Personally, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And yes, men ARE welcome to attend, and in fact, several often do!

Aside from the phenomenal content and national powerhouse speakers (check out the lineup here:, we have new and exciting sponsorship initiatives for businesses that want to engage 800 upscale, professional and highly influential women over 2 whole days. Check out the sponsorship deck here. Or contact Jessica Lurie for details (888) 531-3830,

By the way, I’m SO excited to announce our new venue, The Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, (YAY!!!) and our partner, Chispa Marketing, that is producing this Summit.

This Summit will deliver game-changing strategies, foster powerful relationships and inspire those oh-so-important “a-ha” moments to help women like me elevate themselves beyond where they are today. Take a look at some of the amazing speakers and sessions we have lined up, and prepare to be blown away…

Been Backstabbed? Have you ever been backstabbed at work? Tell us your story, and what you learned from the experience

1. Shut Up About Maybes

Got booked to teach a celebrity on national TV to paint-a-picture-in-5 minutes using my patented 4 step “Instant-Art” Method.
Bragged about it – unfortunately another artist heard – called – used my name, got booked instead of me – and OF COURSE couldn’t guide the celebrity to look good and get instant results. AS excited as you may be, don’t let news out until firm – better yet – accomplished. I learned-made a contract to teach DAVID LETTERMAN 6 times on NBC-TV. REMEMBER it pays to keep quiet!


2. Think You Should Kill With Kindness? The Answer Will Surprise You!

Experience should have taught me that I would be in for trouble when I was hired into a role temporarily filled by another competitive woman. My intuition quickly picked up her subversive negative energy, so I went right to work to dilute it with my more powerful strong positive. What began as smoldering ash, turned into an explosion! I learned that negative energy would have been diffused by simply letting it go. Adding highly charged energy- even positive- created combustion. FIRED!

Thanks to Nanette Saylor of Wise Well Women Inc.

3. Trust Yourself

Still pretty new in the company, I was once intimidated into doing something incorrectly by a know-it-all arrogant ex-bookkeeper who years earlier had held my job for over a decade and who returned as summer help. When the mistake was discovered, she rolled her eyes to her familiar clique and laughed loudly with such superiority about having this girl here messing up. Lesson learned: Believe in yourself, have confidence, and always do what you think is right!

Thanks to Heidi Diana of School Jungle: All Things Educational

4. Boys On The Prowl

After diligently working my way up the restaurant chain ladder to upper management, the new all male team that bought our company out decided women needed to be driven out of the company. I filed a complaint with HR & ended up being threatened by the Area Director. I quit & opened my own restaurant. It motivated me to stand on my own & now I am on the newest successful venture, growing real estate in Metro Boston. Some times back stabbing is the boost you need to become successful!

Thanks to Lisa Flashenburg of Legal Edge Real Estate, Inc.

5. Do Nurses Care For Nurses?

“Do nurses eat their young?” Every year nursing magazines ask that & every year the answer is “yes”. I’m a firm believer in worker’s unions, and that striking is an absolute last resort- better to use Conflict Resolution strategies and take 6 months than to strike after 3 months. My first job I crossed a picket line for just that-thought it’d been hastily chosen. After I was the subject of pranks, gossip, and things purposefully undone by other nurses blamed on me. Lives at risk for revenge.

Thanks to Jan Patterson of An Ounce Of Prevention

Criticism For You

Have you ever struggled taking constructive criticism like I do? I just found a clever way to learn from it and wanted to share it with you.

A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation and felt I had done a really good job. But when it was over, a colleague asked if I could handle his honest feedback. You probably know what was next. He proceeded to tear me apart (okay, maybe it just FELT that way). Normally, I would try to defend myself and give all the reasons why he was WRONG.

But this time, I instead tried to find additional reasons on why he was RIGHT! And with that little trick, I was taking the feedback in stride and finding ways to improve. In my case, one of the most valuable takeaways is that my closing was weak, and I could end my presentations much stronger. That’s going to really help me as I move forward.

The next time you are being criticized, try the same strategy. Think of ways to support the criticism – just enough to shift the context from “They are wrong” to “They are right” – it may highlight some blind spots that you didn’t realize you had and open yourself up for big time improvement.

Wishing you a wonderful 2011.


Michelle Villalobos (veeyalowbos)
Business Communications Skills
Speaker, Trainer & Facilitator

How To Say No To Clients Or Colleagues (Without Feeling Guilty)

Sometimes saying yes, just isn’t an option. Saying no is unavoidable. So, how do you do it right? Check out some of these tips.

1. Value Your Time, Put A $$$ On It, And Stick To It

What’s your time worth? Too many people don’t put a monetary number on it. You are the expert. Your time as that expert is valuable. Once you have a $$$ hourly rate for your time, you can very easily convey something like this.

“I’m flattered that you asked for my help. I charge $XX per hour for my time. As the expert in “insert topic/field here”, I get lots of requests for my time. Unfortunately, because of that I’m very busy. Let me know when you’d like to schedule time at my rate.”

Thanks to Jim Kukral of The Attention Formula

2. Say “No” Because You Said “Yes”

People who have a hard time saying no can hurt their teams and themselves in various ways. For those folks, one of my rules is, “One ‘yes’ at a time.” If you have already taken on one extra task or promised significant help to one teammate, here’s the answer to the next request you get: “I would love to help, but I have already promised to (name the action here). If you can wait until (the due date for said action), I’ll be happy to help you then.” You’ll still come across as a good team player.

Thanks to Jim Morgan of TeamTrainers Consulting

3. Let Me Introduce You To My Little Friend…

I simply tell a client my plate is very full and that I won’t have any availability for the next several months. Then, I give them the names of other, equally-qualified writers and offer to introduce them via email. It keeps me from doing work I don’t want to do, yet not look like the bad person with clients.

Thanks to Nichole Bazemore of Simply Stated Solutions

4. How To Say NO. And Have It Stick

1.Politely explain that you can not do it and why. E.g. Sorry I can’t give you an extra discount on that item.

2.Elaborate as is necessary to make the point. Do not over explain. E.g.Our margin is already so low on that we carry it primarily as a service to our customers, not as a money-maker.

3. Explain what you can do. E.g. If you purchase the complete package however, with the carrying case and accessory package, I can give you an additional 20 percent discount on that.

Thanks to Barry Maher of Barry Maher & Associates

5. Be Kind

I’m in sales. I’ve heard “no” a lot of different ways; from surly to sweet.

Kind ways to say, “No”:

“I’m sorry . . .

* we’re going to have to pass on this opportunity for now.”
* it’s not the right time for our company.”
* corporate won’t go for it.” (deferring to a higher power)
* it doesn’t fit in with our (budget, policy, etc.) at this time.

Sometimes people forget they’re talking to a real person if it’s a phone call. Be cordial–as if they’re sitting right there.

Thanks to Hali Chambers of John Morgan Seminars

6. Just Say No + Give An Alternative

My best tip for saying “No” without the associated guilt is to say no, and then offer the person a resource or next step they might find helpful. (Example: another organization/company they can partner with, another organization providing the same type of service, or another person who might be looking for a partnership opportunity).

Thanks to Mary Horowitz of NC LEAP / North Carolina Bar Association

7. Say ‘No’ With A Smile

Clear boundaries of what you will do focusing on making the language neutral.
I’d love to help you with that and I am available from 2-3 today to discuss’. Instead of ‘I can help you!’

‘This position/idea/decision/ is interesting but my concern is…’ instead of ‘I disagree, this idea is …’
‘I feel uncomfortable being asked to stay until 8 pm on this project…’

Thanks to Zele Avradopoulos of ZOrganize

8. It Doesn’t Fit The Path

Keep your vision and goals in the forefront of your mind at all times. When confronted with a request that doesn’t map with your vision and goals you can easily say ‘I’m sorry I can not do that for you. It does not fit with my current path for my business.’ And then help them find someone who can help them if that’s possible.

Thanks to Diane Helbig of Seize This Day Coaching

9. Tell Them Yes To What You Can Do

One of the most effective methods of telling someone “no” without feeling guilty you’re souring the relationship is to inform the customer how you can say “yes”. Rather than saying, “No, I cannot be there for four hours tomorrow morning,” you can say, “To carve out four hours I need at least two days notice. Do you want to schedule that now?” Exceptional customer service – and this is what we are talking about – is not only about the “yes” and “no”, it is about appropriate expectations.

Thanks to Brian Vinson of TRC Engineering Services, Inc.

10. Saying ‘No’ With Grace.

Begin with a simple ‘Thank you for…’ – perhaps taking interest in the product, visiting the store, offering the job etc as this will lower the other person’s defenses and they will be more likely to remain open to future relationship.
Next step is to begin with an ‘I statement’ regarding how you feel about the situation. For example ‘I feel very honoured you considered me for ……but….’ and follow with any negative input.

Thanks to Anne Laidlaw of Shiloh Trust

11. How To Tell Someone You’re Too Busy For Them Right Now

No one wants to feel like they’re at the bottom of your list. Try something like this:

“Right now, all my attention is focused on serving (my/our) current (customers/partners). If we have the opportunity to work together in the future, I know you’ll appreciate that same level of commitment.”

That doesn’t work for current customers and partners, of course, but it’s a graceful way to turn down business or partnership opportunities without offending them or closing the door for the future.

Thanks to Scott Allen of OneCoach

12. Say No With A Smile….

When working with clients…I do my best to develop clear defined policies…mostly for myself. They give me something black and white to use in …especially…difficult situations…Policies help me to keep my emotions in tact…and to be able to say NO without guilt.

Thanks to Sally Gilchrest-Unrau of

13. Saying NO- Brother Can You Spare A Reason?

When I have to say the big N-0, I make sure to give a clear explanation as to why it can’t be done, offer reasonable alternatives, and if applicable explain the current list of projects I’m working with the client and offer to put one on the back burner and replace it with the current request.

Thanks to Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting


The act of saying no is important to separate from feeling guilty. Feeling guilty is appropriate when you do something with the intention of deceiving or hurting someone else. Saying no is a refusal not a rejection and must be communication that way to avoid hard feelings. A business refusal is not the same thing as a personal rejection and it is important to know the difference. It is understandable to feel badly that you must say no, although not to go down the road of guilt. How we presently handle a situation today determines what will happen the next time. If you feel pressured to make choices that compromise your integrity, you may want to question the request rather then the answer.

Thanks to Lisa Brateman of Lisa Brateman, NYC Psychotherapist, The Relationship Specialist

Coopetition At Work

These are pictures of me with founder of, Jessica Kizorek. Jessica is a keynote speaker, a consultant and a marketing strategist, among other things. In other words, she’s my competition – or at least most people would THINK she is.

Actually, we’ve been working together a lot – she was the keynote speaker at my Empowered Woman Success Summit in June, and will be again this November ( We also created two amazing workshops: Strut 1.0 and Strut 2.0, and now I’m contributing to her upcoming book “The Official Guide to Being A Badass Business Woman.” 

Today at my Mastermind session, when I was talking her up to the group, one of my members observed: “Isn’t she your competition?” Well, kinda sorta but not really.

Once you define your brand well enough, and once your voice is unique enough, competition doesn’t exist. People either want to work with YOU or they want to work with WHOMEVER.

In this case, my leads have only increased as my relationship with Jess has grown. We make such a splash together, that more people are hearing about each of us now than ever.

Not only do I love working with Jessica (I suspect she feels the same way – ’cause she tells me so), but this is a strategic alliance in which each of us brings our strengths to the table.

Jessica with her amazing SPIRIT, her work ethic, execution-oriented approach, and a varied, vetted support network of freelancers and experts. And me with my audience, corporate contacts and Summit (which we think we’ve determined is THE largest women’s business event in Miami! – confirmation on that coming soon), where Jessica gets to showcase her skills and grow the BadassBusinessWomen network.

Do you have a “rival” that has access to things you don’t? Do you have strengths that she doesn’t? Rather than lament it or feel envy, think about how you could support create opportunities for each other. In other words, find your biggest competitor whose integrity you trust (this is a big piece), and seek her out. Figure out what you can create together!

Let me know how it goes…

Why Women Play DIRTY

I am and always have been a “girl’s girl.” Not a sneak peek into my dating life (that’s a whole other special report), what I mean is I’ve never been one of those women who says: “I get along better with men.”

I love girl talk, I love “girlie” activities, and I naturally gravitate towards female company and conversation. We listen, give advice and lend a hand when needed; we dish about our lives, our work, our men and our clothes. It’s all very Sex & The City.

Work has been no exception. In many jobs, the female friendships I made lasted far beyond my last day at work. In at least one case I can tell you the relationship I developed with my boss was the absolute best part of the job.

But there’s a dark side to working with women. While at a fashion magazine in Miami, for example, I witnessed (and was the victim of) some of the most competitive, gossipy, territorial, queen-bee, backstabbing behavior I’d seen since high school. Behavior that went unacknowledged, unaddressed and, sadly, unpunished.

I realize that female rivalry isn’t something we like to talk about, because it implies that we feel competitive with other women, and none of us likes to admit that we feel insecure or that we compare ourselves to our girlfriends, colleagues or sisters.

But to deny that rivalry exists is a mistake – especially if you’re trying to get ahead in your career. Female competition is a fundamental part of who we are; it has existed and persisted through millions of years of evolution, and has been sociologically and culturally reinforced for several thousand more.

Understanding these complex and at times contradictory influences on our female relationships is essential to getting ahead in work and in life – at least if you plan on working (well) with women. If you don’t understand the female competitive urge – where it comes from, what it centers on, how it’s manifested, and what to do about it, get ready for a career filled with stress, bitterness, and insecurity.

What do you think about HOW and WHY women play dirty, and do you have any stories? Please share them here!

If you’re interested in downloading the entire Special Report I wrote on this subject, you can right here: