Some changes are worth a little pain

Our basement bath and laundry room (also known as the dungeon) are undergoing a long-overdue facelift. One side effect of this is three kids temporarily sharing a bathroom – two fairly low maintenance boys, and one not-so-low maintenance girl who comes with a lot of gear.

The previously empty bathroom counter now holds: two hair brushes, a curling iron, hairspray borrowed from a neighbor, two bottles of nail polish, a half-eaten sprouted wheat bagel, an extra toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, and twenty-two (count them) twenty-two other items. My boys are not welcoming the change.

Change can be painful. It can be inconvenient. It can be stressful. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t undertake it – especially when the outcome is worth some pain and inconvenience. To make the journey easier:

  • Establish what a positive outcome looks like. It’s really hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.
  • Assess the cost before you start. If it feels like a financial stretch get comfortable that there’s an ROI  you can live with.
  • Don’t try to go it alone. Line up the resources you need to help you.

And one more thing – make sure the people helping you share your vision and values. I’m fortunate to be working with the world’s most tidy contractor who not only appreciates  my desire to maintain some semblance of order, but also knows I cannot go more than a few hours without a functioning washer and dryer.

My boys will have to suffer through a few months of shared space. Then they can focus their energy on a new argument – who gets to use the awesome new bathroom.

Planning to make a change? Send your stories to – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

If at first you don’t succeed, then what?

Every year, my youngest son requests an eggplant from the farmer’s market so every year I buy one and make the only thing I can think of to make with an eggplant – Eggplant Parmesan. And every year my kids turn up their noses in disgust.

I happen to like Eggplant Parmesan so it annoys me to no end that they won’t even try it. Not to mention it is fairly tedious to make. But every year, bolstered by the blind, enduring optimism that comes with motherhood, I roll up my sleeves and get to work.

And finally, this year, it paid off. Two of three kids gave it a lukewarm review. I’ll take that as progress toward my ultimate goal of serving it more than once a year.

Those of you who are familiar with my Parent Your Business model know I talk in terms of the stages of maturity of a business, from its start as a Squalling Infant, through to its Surly Teen years and hopefully beyond. And the reason I do this is that in my experience, businesses mature along a general timeline much like kids do – and sometimes they just aren’t ready for what you’re trying to serve them.

Ask yourself this if you find yourself failing at an initiative that’s important to you and your business: Is my business ready for what I’m trying to do? If the answer is no, do I know why? And what am I going to do differently so I’ll succeed the next time around?

Can you suggest another recipe for eggplant? Send your suggestions to – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.

Is it really going to be that bad?

One of my worst mom moments: sitting in a pediatrician’s office while four nurses held down my son to give him a needed shot. It was horrible. He was screaming at the top of his lungs and terrifying his younger brother who was also in the room. But it was the outcome that really got to me.

Immediately, after the shot he brightened right up and said, “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.”

Sometimes the anticipation of an event is worse than the event itself. How often do we put ourselves through all kinds of trauma for something that isn’t going to be that bad?

Fall is a time for change and many of those I know are making transitions in their businesses and their lives. Sometimes the change feels so huge it is almost paralyzing. How do you take the first step?

When I speak to small business audiences I often present a large amount of information, and I can sense the point at which some of the participants start to panic about the changes they need to make to run an effective business. To ease that feeling, I typically share this quote from Mark Twain before we all head our separate ways. For me, it really does point you toward the path for change and I make this practice a cornerstone of my business:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Good luck! Hopefully the worst will be over in a few seconds.

Making some change in your business this fall? Send your stories to – if I use them I’ll feature your business.

Summer and other ambiguous territory

Today is my least favorite day of the year – the last day of school. The day that all the systems we’ve put in place suddenly vaporize, leaving a vast, yawning pit of ambiguity in their place. In past years, I’ve fought for weeks to regain control of the schedule, household tasks and habits of my children. (Seriously, how much TV would you watch if left to your own devices?) But now I have a series of steps I take to help me get my arms around the beast that is summer.

When you’re dealing with a changing or ambiguous environment, the best thing you can do for yourself is put some structure in place – any structure, even if it’s just a little. Here’s some thoughts about how to handle ambiguity:

  • Make a schedule. I’m sure any parent who’s spent unscheduled time with their kids (or in their business) knows the feeling of coming to the end of a day with the realization that nothing really got accomplished. Where does the time go? Have a clear idea in your head of what activity will be allocated to each day so you’re not just staring inertly at a list of endless possibilities.
  • Set expectations. I do my kids a favor and tell them what I expect during the course of the day. What food is off-limits and what food constitutes a “free snack” they can consume at any time. How long the TV can be on. When to apply sunscreen. Do the same for your employees – it’s the best way to ensure your wishes will be met.
  • Create systems. While I’m open to input, I don’t just walk away and let my kids decide how to take care of the household chores. Each person signs up for what they will do and then we put the tasks on a schedule. Do the chores always get done? No, but it helps me keep track of who is to do what and helps me hold them accountable.
  • Document. No matter how often I show my daughter how to do the laundry, her teenaged brain immediately discards half of what I’ve told her the minute I walk away. That’s why I leave instructions in a waterproof slipsheet – how to sort the clothes, what temperature to set, how much detergent to use – it’s a relatively small effort on my part and it minimizes the potential for laundry disaster.

The main takeaway – don’t leave the situation to work itself out. It will rarely go the way you want it to.

During the course of this post, you may have jumped to the logical conclusion that my favorite day of the year is the first day of school. But that’s not the case. The beginning of the school year brings another set of challenges, and entirely different structural requirements. So we do it all again.

How do you handle ambiguity? Send your stories to – if I use them, I’ll feature your business.