Sharon Montgomery is a best selling author and business storyteller. She owns a full-service content agency for small business owners to create “informational narratives”; her solution to potentially boring, cheesy, or salesy corporate books and biographies.
Sharon helps her clients write solid stories, for everything from website content to memoirs, breaking down barriers around tough or complicated topics.
Sharon is a master at writing your story to create trust with your audience, creating authenticity, and sharing your purpose on paper. Sharon creates exceptional content, building solid relationships, blending her wordsmith skills with your raw content to write the best version of your story.
Sharon is the co-writer of the best selling book “Leaving Drugs and Alcohol Addictions for Good”, where she shares her family story with Joe Eisele, Clinical Director for InnerBalance Health Center. Sharon has been a regular contributor to My Mountain Town magazine, published in Medium.com, and her stories have been featured in books, magazines, and websites across the globe. She works with non-profits and caused-based businesses.
Sharon lives in Denver CO with her husband of 29 years, and is an avid container gardener.
Where did the idea for N-Compass Writing Solutions come from?
Five years ago, I had some life changes. Kids were moving out, I had more time on my hands, and decided to do more of my passion; writing. I looked around for a way to put my passion to work as a storyteller in real life settings. (As a mom, a wife, and a black sheep in conservative corners, I think real life can be more interesting than fiction.) I love business and I love writing, so I combined the two after a friend recommended me to her networking group. I had three clients by the end of the week. I found out quickly that copywriting is a different skill set than storytelling, and had to get good at both to balance out my needs, but writing their stories fed my soul.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I always start with something creative. The editing, email reply and paperwork has to wait. That’s the deal I make with myself. I don’t always keep that deal, though. My typical day has three speeds: Calm, Skewed, or Screwed. If it is a calm day, I have a list of tasks on Trello, and balance that with some creative time writing. And my day cooperates. Then I’m done around 5:00 and close my day, satisfied. If it’s a skewed day, I’m squeezing in extra appointments, working later, or skipping breaks when I get in the zone. If the day is screwed, I just hang on and prioritize a bathroom break somewhere in there. That’s usually when emergencies and unexpected stuff poops all over the calendar. Those days, I’m learning about resilience, flexibility, and accepting the path. Tomorrow is another day, with no mistakes in it yet, so I accept and adapt.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I feel in my gut that an idea should be explored, I trick myself into getting uncomfortable. I don’t think, “I’m going to take this idea and run with it, no matter what.” The skeptic, the trickster, and the pragmatic in me needs an exit strategy. Instead, I think, “Let’s go down this road as far as we need to.” I know then that I’ll give it my all, in the moment, but look for evidence to either keep going down this particular path, or because of new information, we tweak, change directions, or stop exploring this particular path. As I go on, getting opinions, sound advice, and tweaking as needed becomes part of the process. And the evidence manifests itself, always. An
idea is just the beginning.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that I’m thrilled is popping up all over is authenticity. The deep need that clients have to get the real scoop. As a society, we are looking for trust and connection. Whether it is about product features and the company’s integrity level, or giving reviews, consumers want the real data–not some polished or vague view–more now than ever.
As consumers of products, services, and information, we crave connection. We recognize authenticity, and are strong enough to handle the truth. It is refreshing to know, to feel, and to craft words for myself and others, that help people make a better decision based on authenticity. Less smarmy, snake-oil salesman vibe, and more honesty, please.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The more lists, calendars, and reminders I use, the more time I free up. But I also know that my ideas don’t always pop up when it’s convenient. When I get stuck, I take my laptop with me when I need a different point of view. Jumping rooms, or towns, can be just what I need. That’s when I use the calm I discover for creative work. I use the travel time to dictate tasks into my recorder for later, and to percolate on what’s got me stuck.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust yourself. Claim your voice and your worth now, not later. In reclaiming your authentic self, you open the space for others to do the same.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Secrets only have power when we hide them and become their keeper. I’ve been called nosey, inappropriate, impertinent and rude for discovering the whole truth. (Mostly by my elderly relatives.)
Inconvenient truths tend to be swept under the rug of life because it’s easier to control, I suppose. But I don’t agree. Inconvenient truths need to be addressed. Talked about. Brought into the light and dusted off so we can repair or toss what’s there. Otherwise, we get used to the lump under the rug, and it starts to smell, or break through the rug, or trip us up anyway.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Using the tools and resources in my writer|entrepreneur toolbox, every chance I get. I’m talking about my team. Putting together a really great toolbox takes input, feedback, and other people’s talent, right along with my specific set of skills. Knowing when I’m best for the job, and when I need to pick someone’s brain, or hear their feedback is a hard-won battle with my ego. It’s been the best set of tools I have. Building a solid team has kept my ego in check, my business productive, and expanded my experience.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Learn to say no. I’m picky. You should be, too. I work really hard to have a solid, specific set of resources to help me run my business. There’s no easy way to find them without digging through some overly-promised, under-delivered duds. Part of gaining experience is discerning, recognizing quality, and utilizing your resources regularly.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Letting “scope creep” into projects. I was great at closing deals and making partnerships, but because I wasn’t always as clear as I needed to be about boundaries, timelines, and what happens if someone wants to add “just one more thing” to a project, I got run over. When that happened, there was resentment on both ends. I fixed it by getting a handle on my business systems. (I don’t get a pass on crappy business processes just because I’m more of a big picture kind of gal.) I clarified and streamlined my proposal and contracts, which is where scope creeping demands start. Then I communicated the boundaries or renegotiating process by looking them in the eye and reenforcing our agreed upon boundaries. They usually just needed a quick reminder to keep to the framework, or expect another invoice, and that was it. Painful exchanges, gone.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
What about an AirBnb community for creatives? Yep, I chose this because my current oasis is under six inches of snow. It’s a garden, a patio and a hot tub, but I’ve used it to do the nitty-gritty of writing, and I hate the cold. My deadlines don’t care, though, so it’s time for a change of scenery.
Providing a network of various spaces for creatives specifically in mind is worth looking into. A fresh change of scenery can make all the difference between hitting writers (or any creative) block, or working through it. A co-op of homes, land, workshops, or studios to set up on a trade or discounted basis sounds sustainable with the right system. Shared spaces with a host who doesn’t get the need for noise or space tends to harsh the creative process (not to mention it’s COVID country now). A community for artists and creatives may just jolt the perspective they need when their host is a fellow creative. OHHH I hope someone let’s me know about their already up-and-running creative’s property swap. Fingers crossed!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I miss getting lost in a crowd. The positive energy at a concert or a really great bar scene is my jam! I haven’t been to one since before February Thanks, COVID-19. So I got some fun, sexy, lacy things that reminded me just how great it feels to dress up, even in my socially-distanced life. Playing dress-up helps make me feel beautiful, even when the weather says to bundle up over the sassiness. As an extrovert, it was well worth helping me feel more…seen. I’d say my husband agrees.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Grammarly. As a writer and the niece of a brilliant (and unforgiving) editor, my punctuation, spelling, and other writing rules should be on point at all times. Grammarly isn’t a fix-all, but just helps when I’m tired of wondering what Aunt Fran would say about the sentence or paragraph. And now it works as autocorrect for my text messaging. If you’ve gotten a simple, clear text from me, thank Grammarly. And Aunt Fran.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s a toss up. No really. Our community should read “White Like Me” by Tim Wise, and “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and here’s why: White Like Me is a wake up call for the convenient assumptions in our (writing, entrepreneur, life) communities, and Big Magic is the permission to get past our assumptions, practice compassion (both for ourselves and others) authentically, and then do big things with what’s left.
What is your favorite quote?
You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. – Ayesha Siddiqa, a Packistani political scientist, commentator, and author.
- A great idea is just the start. Growing that idea into reality takes utilizing valuable resources and listening to feedback.
- The trick is getting out of the way when someone else can do it better or faster.
- Prioritizing self-reflection, feedback, and growth is at least as important as staying busy.
- A change of scenery can make all the difference.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.