Twenty minutes to stand still

imageWeek 2 – May Fitness Challenge

Well, I didn’t do a great job this week accomplishing the goals I set last week. I did get to my scheduled workouts – two yoga classes and a strength training session – but the second goal, of working some yoga into each day, went by the wayside.

This brings out the dirty, little secret I don’t share with my yoga teachers or fellow students – I have no home practice. I used to have a home practice, sort of, but it more or less disappeared as soon as my first child learned to crawl.  I can remember sitting on the floor in a particularly challenging pose and having my toddler land square on my knee. Not exactly a restful experience.

Now the most I manage is a few deep breaths from time to time, or a quick twist when I’m in my car at a stoplight. I had a teacher years ago who generously called this “sneaking a little yoga into your day.”

I did learn something important about myself, though. I never stop moving. At least not when I’m home. I run around all darned day. Which made me wonder whether I ought to consciously schedule twenty minutes each day to stand still.

Visit these terrific bloggers to learn more about the May Fitness Challenge:

Jen at JVKom Chronicles

Samantha at 24to30

 

So…define fitness?

My friend Jen over at JVKom Chronicles is starting a May fitness challenge. The goal? Twenty minutes of movement a day. She’s asked us to track and report our activity.

I have to say, I don’t know where to start. My quest for fitness is more like an imageobsession, something to feel inadequate about when I do it, and guilty about when I don’t do it. (And it is ridiculous – anyone else out there feel guilty when they skip yoga class for the treadmill? Pathetic.)

Not that I’m that dedicated. (Jen’s statement that we could count twenty minutes of housework got me wondering whether twenty minutes working a crossword puzzle would count.)

For exercise, I alternate yoga with the treadmill and once-a-week strength training. But it’s the sheer running around I do that kills me. I know I stand a lot, but am I really moving? Or am I just propped in front of a cutting board exercising my forearms as I dice vegetables?

Ever since I had the flu in March, followed closely by spring break, I’ve been off my game. I decided Jen’s challenge is an opportunity to do two things: 1) get back on a schedule; and 2) work some yoga into the days I’m not in a class.

We’ll see how I do.

 

If you’re happy and you know it…

unruly toddlerEven though I’m Blogging from A to Z this month, I couldn’t resist participating in Suzie81’s Weekly Word Challenge. This week she’s asking us to blog about the word Happy, so the “Happy and You Know It” children’s song came instantly to mind. Who doesn’t love this song, and the hand-clapping, foot-stomping, hurray-shouting joyousness of it?

It made me think I need a happiness trigger, something to rev me up in those down moments. I considered, “If you’re happy and you know it, eat some chocolate.” But then I thought maybe I could select a trigger that would train me to do something useful for myself or Those Others who live here. You know, a Pavlovian response sort of thing.

I’m trying a few out. Feel free to vote for your favorite.

“If you’re happy and you know it…

…fold some laundry.”
…make some dinner.”
…stand on your head.”
…pay some bills.”
…floss your teeth.”
…brush the cat.”
…eat some oatmeal.”

That last one might be too easy, since I love oatmeal so much I eat it almost every day, and would eat it even more often if every time I wanted oatmeal I was somewhere I could prepare oatmeal.

But I’m liking this list. I feel more productive already! And it makes me so happy.

Words for a friend

annabelleedit

Hi, Annabelle. You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but strangely we’re connected in ways we would never have guessed. I’ve heard about your big day today. And I want to send you my best.

The Mississippi River runs through the city where I live. Some days I like to think of the river winding its way through the country, past cities where I’ve never been and people that I haven’t met. And yet, despite the distance, despite the differences, the river connects us.

And other days I think of life like that river, carrying you through places and events, past people known and unknown. Sometimes you hit a bend in the river and you can’t see what’s on the other side. I understand you’ve reached a bend in the river.

Please know this – there are people cheering for you from the banks. Loud and clear. We want to see you safely around that bend in the river and on your way to your destination.

Navigate safely, my friend. And be sure to tell us if you get stuck in the weeds. We’ll be happy to pull your raft clear.

What am I wearing? The black sweater, of course

Fashionable Moms Everywhere are asking, “Tell me, other mom, what are you wearing this award season?” Well, I can tell you without a doubt what I’m wearing – the black sweater.

The black sweater takes a selfie

The black sweater takes a selfie

What black sweater, you say? Why, the one I’ve been wearing for well over a decade that may, in fact, be older than my 9th grade daughter.

You know, the one from that retailer that no longer exists? With the barely discernible grease spot on the front?

Yes, that’s the one. The sweater that has gone to many high-profile locales and events such as:

  • Work about 100,000 times
  • Preschool “Moms and Muffins” day
  • The opera
  • The carwash
  • Several early-season baseball games
  • 10 or 12 dinners with the neighbors
  • Four adult birthday parties
  • At least one speaking engagement
  • The science museum virtually every time I’ve gone (we’re members)
  • Dance competitions
  • Happy hour
  • Lunch with my besties
  • Ten states and at least one other country

It’s been worn with jeans, yoga pants, a wool skirt, my favorite dress pants, and a cute, leather skirt that dresses it up bit. With tall boots, short boots, winter boots, hiking shoes, and heels.

Who's closer to retirement - me or the sweater?

Who’s closer to retirement – me or the sweater?

The black sweater is begging for retirement, but unfortunately, it has no replacement. Where else will I find a sweater that can hold up to hundreds of washings and still make another of its memorable appearances this evening – at a sixth grade band concert?

How could I have known when I bought it that it would offer the most value of any item of clothing I’d ever purchase, even better than the duo-fold, polypropylene long underwear I wore for over 20 years until it looked like a piece of swiss cheese? (That’s not 20 years straight, by the way. It is slightly too warm here in the summer for duo-fold underwear.)

No, the black sweater cannot be replaced. It is my longest lasting wardrobe love. There can be no other.

This is a blog hop – Click here to read what the rest of the glitterati is wearing this season and enter your link…

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When priorities differ

We bought a vacuum cleaner today. Actually, we bought two. My husband deemed this a complete waste of time and money for what seems like an obvious reason…we already have three vacuum cleaners.

Before you immediately side with him let me explain that one of the vacuum cleaners is a canister vac that dates back to Reagan’s second term in office (no kidding). The second is an upright behemoth that seems to weigh about 400 pounds. It’s so heavy I can barely use it and more importantly, my kids can’t use it. The third, while newer, is so gutless it’s a wonder it can pick up anything at all.

And anyway, should you really get a vote if you only vacuum twice a year? In other words, the person who uses the vacuum should get to decide, right?

Well, we all know that’s not always how decision-making works. When you’re running a business some of the requests you receive seem ridiculous, particularly when it comes to technology. Having been, at various times, both the manager and the managed, it can be frustrating to both parties. What seems like a gaping need to the individuals doing the work may seem like a luxury to the person managing the budget. But I can tell you I’ve experienced situations where lagging technology severely affected output and productivity. If you’re faced with a decision like this, ask yourself:

  • What can I expect to get from an upgrade? Will I see an increase in productivity? Shortened timelines? Better quality output?
  • How long will it take me to see a return on my investment? Will there be a return?
  • If I were doing this job what would I want to have at my disposal?

Decision making always involves a trade-off, and sometimes compromise. I admit, I did let my husband choose one of the vacuums today. He was really impressed by the wide array of attachments it had. Who knows, maybe he’ll vacuum four times this year.

Facing a technology upgrade? Send your stories to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com  – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

What, exactly, is the confession stand?

The snack bar at the ballpark is a huge draw. For my kids (and all others, it seems)  the quest for junk food is so all-consuming that they’ll go to great lengths to visit it. One of my kids was so sneaky that I actually had to frisk him before games and remove the quarters he stashed in his jacket, pants and shoes.

But my affection for the snack bar grew one day when I realized that my kids, out of confusion, were calling it the “confession stand”. The image that brought to my mind was just too good to ignore. I’ve called it the confession stand ever since.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could visit the business confession stand? If you could confess your greatest insecurities and missteps and be absolved? Or seek advice for a problem you cannot solve on your own?

You can. There are many coaches and advisors out there who can help. But you have to be willing to take some risk – and to be completely honest not only with your coach, but with yourself.

As a business advisor, I try to practice what I preach and have worked with business and personal coaches over the years. My current coach, Laurie Phillips, never fails to give me insight into something that I cannot see myself. Coaching is a great alternative, at least until someone can come up with an actual confession stand.

As for the snack bar, I try to choose my battles. For now, I’ll look the other way when my kids make that occasional visit. And I’ll continue to be annoyed that despite all my efforts to serve them wholesome, organic, home-cooked food they still feel the need for a little sugar.

Have a business confession? Send it to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use it I’ll feature your business.

Is “firing” a client like losing your wallet?

My child has lost a wallet containing all his worldly capital – about $30. After a laborious interrogation I helped him track it down to the last time he’d seen it. But the story does not have a happy ending.

He is under the impression that he left it in a jacket which he in turn left at the neighborhood ballpark. We tracked down the jacket in the lost-and-found, but it contained no wallet. (Interesting note of no relevance whatsoever: the lost and found actually contained TWO of his jackets.)

Having looked everywhere else we can think of I have reached the conclusion that it is likely that some child, finding this completely unidentified wallet containing actual money considered it a windfall – and promptly spent it all at the ballpark concession stand. Winner: the baseball program that has additional funds for its programming. Loser: my son.

So we had a brutal conversation in which I told him the wallet is likely gone, as is his money. We will not be replacing it for him. A hard lesson learned. 

In previous posts, I’ve discussed the fear and insecurity that can arise when it’s time to sever a client relationships. It can feel a bit like losing your wallet – one minute you have the money coming in and the next you don’t.  But experience has taught me that some of the fear and insecurity arises from the fact that many of us envision firing a client as a brutal conversation with no winners. Believe it or not, there are some win-win ways to end a business relationship:

  • Suggest another resource. Even if you’ve outgrown the business you can be utterly assured that there is someone out there for whom this business will be valued and perhaps life-changing. For them it is the “found wallet” and the path to unexpected candy. Find a resource and make an introduction to your client if you can.
  • Raise your prices. OK, maybe this doesn’t seem nice but let’s face it, we all have a monetary point at which it makes sense to keep the business. If there is more margin you can subcontract the work or hire someone else to service the account and still make money. And the client doesn’t lose a valuable resource, so it really can be a win-win.
  • Let the project come to its natural conclusion – and then say no to future projects. Easier said than done, I know. Which is why we will talk about saying no in a future post.

We are off to the ballpark again tonight (after a piano recital, a dance lesson and if we’re lucky, dinner) and I know I will find myself subconsciously looking around for that wallet. But really, it is time for us to move on.

Have you ever fired a client? Send your stories to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them I’ll feature your business.

Cleaning the closets: Evaluating business opportunities

My kids, like so many others, have too much stuff. It doesn’t take long before the closets are stuffed with outgrown clothes, toys and books from indulgent relatives, and the interesting things they collect along the way. My oldest son is a ruthless editor (a trait, I must admit, he gets from me). He has no trouble sorting things into three piles: one to keep, one to pass on to his brother or young cousin, and one to donate. His younger brother, however, is a different story. It isn’t easy for him to let go. Items, for him, take on a certain sentimentality and each thing he casts away represents a loss. As you can imagine, cleaning a closet with him is no picnic.

If you’re running a growing business you will likely reach a day where you realize that your closet is full – you have more business than you can reasonably handle at your present size. This is especially true if you run a service business where you must complete some of the billable work.  A reader, Diane Fiderlein of ThinkSpring Marketing writes:

I’d be curious what you recommend when it’s obvious the business model needs to change in order to continue growing. I have new projects coming from everywhere, far more than I can do myself. I want to do them all because they are interesting and a good fit  but I don’t want to alienate my existing clients either. What do I do, clone myself? Say no? Bring on subs?

Since cloning is not currently an option, a  situation like this usually means one of two hard choices. The first choice, of course, is to get a bigger “closet” – adding people and infrastructure. Adding people is tricky. If you’re hiring employees the level of complexity in your business increases from the first employee you hire. It’s critical to have personnel systems in place, including payroll processing, policies and procedures, and evaluation mechanisms.

Subcontracting is another option, particularly for service businesses, but I ask my smaller clients to follow a simple rule to protect profitability: If you are doing some of the billable work, figure out what your monthly/weekly/daily break-even amount is and make sure your personal billings will cover that. Anything over and above that amount is generally OK to outsource as long as you’re building in some margin for yourself.

Adding infrastructure can be tricky, too, because it raises overhead and impacts profitability, at least in the short-term. I typically like to see my clients with a cash reserve that will cover their new, larger overhead for a bare minimum of 90 days if they’re adding infrastructure.

While a bigger closet is a tempting option, sometimes it’s not feasible and sometimes it’s not prudent. Growth must be handled with care. In my next post, I’ll talk about the other hard choice – saying no.

Have a story about managing growth? Send it to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use it I’ll feature your business.

More help with prioritization

I had so much feedback on my post last week  that I thought I’d follow up with some additional thoughts on prioritization.  If you didn’t see the post, I suggested you start to prioritize tasks by sorting them into the following categories:

  • Low Impact/High Cost – These are the projects that require huge amounts of time, energy and money and have little impact on your long-term business. Kind of like those weekly fencing lessons for the kids – fun to watch but it’s not going to get them into college.
  • Low Impact/Low Cost – These projects have little impact but at least they don’t cost much! It’s like the exercise video you bought on sale and used once. Don’t bother.
  • High Impact/High Cost – These are the things you dream about. The family trip to Hawaii. The backyard pool. High impact but high cost. Worth doing, but make sure you plan – and budget – ahead so you can really implement them.
  • High Impact/Low Cost – Bingo! You’ve hit the jackpot. It’s the $1 winning lottery ticket. These are the things to focus on first. High impact to the business but relatively easy to implement.

If you’re struggling to sort your tasks, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help decide the categories in which they belong:

  • Should be doing this task right now?
  • Will the task bring me money if I do it right now?
  • Is the task necessary to my business?
  • Do I want to do this task?
  • Do I have to get it done?
  • Can someone else do it instead of me?
  • Can someone else do it better than I can?
  • Is my failure to do it affecting someone else’s ability to get something done?
  • Is it affecting my ability to get another task done?
  • What would happen if I didn’t do it at all?
  • What will it cost me if I fail to do it?

Can you think of other questions we should be asking? If yes, please comment or send them to me at sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com and I’ll include them in a later post.

Happy prioritizing!