Business Failure. Those two ominous words that plague the nightmares of every entrepreneur, young and old. The ever-present possibility of the professional “face plant” motivates us to keep driving, keep pushing, keep learning…but keep playing?
When Somer and I joined forces in professional partnership back in 2014, we very quickly saw how our friendship morphed into a constant business meeting. There was so much to do and the stakes felt so high, every spare minute we had away from our children was dedicated to developing our business. Every conversation centered around our perpetual to do list, go to market strategies and future plans. We were laser beam focused on avoiding business failure.
And you know what? We kind of stopped having fun for awhile there. We almost forget how to be friends. Why? Because all work and no play causes that one big terror that we’re all trying to avoid. Business failure. Play is a pivotal part of professional and personal success. We must laugh, shake off the stress and settle back into that excitement that fueled the entrepreneurial fire in the first place!
So how do you build play time into your business partnership? It’s not as easy as you think! The “Let’s grab dinner!” plan quickly stumbles into a working meal. The “Happy Hour Date!” often slides into a professional woe-fest. Here are a few tips and tricks to making sure your play time stays play time!
- Invite others. It’s hard for conversation to wander towards business when other friends are present that would feel left out of that chitter chatter. Shake things up and bring an extra pal or two to make sure you leave the job at home and just get social! Somer and I almost always invite one other person when we head out to eat. It allows us to make time for those people most important to us and we end up spending our time laughing and sharing, instead of working and grinding.
- Make it about somebody else. The very best way to stop making the conversation about “you” is to focus your energy entirely on serving someone else’s needs! Consider volunteering together at a local shelter, soup kitchen or getting together with friends to stuff gently used purses with toiletries and goodies like we did with our local Modern Femme™ crew. Service projects open our hearts to the needs of others, minimize our focus on our own selfish needs and allow us to focus outwardly, giving back as a team.
- Go big or go home. Sometimes you just need to kick your own butt to get your mind off the busyness of business. Go for a run, take a kickboxing class…break a sweat and challenge yourselves physically! Somer and I are already bonded on a professional level (and of course a personal one). When we dig into something that physically challenges us, we discover a whole new level of how committed we are to supporting each other through our individual and shared obstacles.
Most recently, Somer and I took a drive up to Williamsburg to visit our friends at Go Ape! Treetop Adventure Course at Freedom Park. There’s something incredibly powerful about getting outside, climbing a tree and taking a leap of faith as you navigate ziplines and obstacles. Our first experience with climbing had been back in October with our local Modern Femme™ group at The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium. I’ll be totally honest. I was not looking forward to it. Nature “isn’t my thing,” and I find myself getting a little nervous when it comes to facing physical challenges in front of my peers. Now…I’m hooked. I love it. Every minute! Every bruise! Every sore muscle!
Our friends at Go Ape! did not disappoint. It was a beautiful day and we were itching to climb, get a great workout in and focus our minds on what was directly in front of us instead of going back and forth over the many million things we need to get done before the May convention (Do you have your ticket yet?! Discount codes expire on April 15th!).
At first, we wondered whether the courses would challenge us as much as we were hoping, but it only took a few stretches to see “oh heck yeah” we were working hard! This course really challenged our upper body strength, and as we tired more and more, we had to rely more and more on each other to cheer each other on our climbs back up to the platform after a tough rope net hit or swinging loop traverse. It allowed us to verbalize when we needed help and also gave us the opportunity to put the other person’s needs before our own. Needless to say, after some really demanding climbs, a few hilarious rides into the mulch and maybe even a few perfectly executed profanities…well, work was the last thing on our minds!
When was the last time you did something with your business partner just for fun? How do you carve play time into a dynamic professional relationship?
How You Can Use Scrum to Get Organized
I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is Scrum? Stick with me here – I promise it will be worth it. Scrum is a management and control process that software developers use to break complex projects into incremental pieces, driving focus and productivity with more effective, higher quality results. I came across it in the corporate world and quite frankly, didn’t give it much thought. Since Scrum was designed for software developers, which I most certainly am not, I figured it didn’t apply to me.
Then Somer and I ran into a problem with our brand management. As you know, we have The Studio Hampton Roads, Modern Femme Movement and the Hampton Roads Creative (plus this blog!). Sometimes our to do list is so long, it can feel incredibly overwhelming and even harder to prioritize. We do our best to Think Big, Focus Small, but sometimes the sheer volume of work has us wide-eyed and frozen.
It occurred to me that we needed some process management. Something definitive that detailed our workflow and developed our priorities and set our intentions. Something like…Scrum. Scrum works with these ideas, called sprints, where you focus the team’s energy on selected projects and selected projects ONLY. That’s the key. Software developers have to get to the end goal, but all of the code necessary to reach the end goal can leave developers overwhelmed, and hopping from one project to the next and back again, producing stress and lower quality work.
Once a sprint has been defined, the team must stay on the specified work for the duration of the sprint. They cannot be pulled to other projects, redirected or given more work. They are “in sprint” and any additional projects or adjustments are to be assigned to future sprints.
BINGO. Well, I guess SCRUM is better here.
We reviewed our projects lists for each brand and broke them up into sprints. Once we assigned the sprints, we were off and running. While we were in one sprint, we were 100% focused on the work assigned to that particular sprint. We couldn’t veer off course, swap to another brand, or take on new work. Before we knew it, more was being accomplished with less stress and less mistakes.
For the software development world, sprints are usually two weeks in length due to the complexity of their work. For us, a week long sprint worked best. In a pinch, we’d break into three day sprints. You can choose what length of time works best for you. The important piece is to stay focused on what is in the sprint and embrace the peace of mind that comes with knowing other work that must (and will) be accomplished is assigned to future sprint.
This can apply to small business, blogging, school work, just about anything! Focus your energy, organize your workload, and accomplish a larger volume of higher quality work. Don’t get lost in the busy of bouncing back and forth between everything you have to get done, accomplishing nothing well or maybe not even at all. Scrum can be your key to focused professional energy and long-term small business (or life!) success.
Social Media Scheduling 101: The Basics
Why is social media scheduling important?
Today’s culture, both personally and professionally, is driven by real time transparency. There are any of a million ways that we can interact with the world and share our life journeys, which has been the doorway to maintaining friendships, keeping family from afar close and celebrating life with like-minded individuals. But on the other hand, every time that phone blips that a new message has popped up, we’re driven by madness to look. It’s exhausting!!!! And ultimately incredibly time consuming. As a small business owner, the drive to build a following can be intoxicating and the pressure to be available to your clients 24/7 is crippling. How do you actually “do” your business if you’re always distracted by social media? Social media scheduling is the very best way to continue to curate and share content with your audience, while allowing yourself to focus on higher priorities in your personal and professional life.
If I schedule social media am I lying to my followers by “pretending” to be online when I’m not?
Any way that you can automate your workflow to save time and develop a routine, you are being true to yourself, your clients and most importantly, your family. The key is to appear to be accessible during high traffic times, but not actually be sitting there glued to your phone or computer hanging on every word uttered to the social media gods. Social media scheduling allows us to cater to multiple audiences at their individual peek times, gives us the opportunity to stay active and engaged while on the go and makes sure we have time to focus on what really counts.
Where do I start?
I have two go-to programs that can work for even the most basic new learners (and have lots of advanced features for those in the know). And bonus…they’re FREE! What we’re moving towards is organized strategy. Social media scheduling allows you to develop a marketing strategy for your business and then execute it. You simple couldn’t do that properly on the fly and would get lost in the weeds. These next two tools can help put you on the path to a social media presence that translates to growth and long-term sustainability.
If you’re just digging into the social media behemoth, let’s put a simple tool to work for you while you get your bearings. Similar to how Instagram can cross post to Twitter and Facebook, Friends + Me can take your Google Plus posts and push them to several other platforms. I personally post to Google + and it carries over to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One action = 4 social media networks.
I’ll admit, this tool can be visually tricky and take a little getting used to if you’re heavy handed with links and tags. Once you get comfortable with how your posts will appear in the different feeds, you’ll tailor your original content to work across the board. It’s a fantastic way to save time by not having to manually cross-pollinate your content to each and every platform individually. It’s a great way for new learners to “phone it in” while you up your social media knowledge and a stellar way for a seasoned social media vet to knock out a task list for simple content shares.
Hootsuite is the other tool I rely heavily on. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for me to manage all of my profiles on the various platforms that I use. In its most basic form, I schedule all Twitter activity (content sharing) in here or via their Hootlet (content curating). I can tell you it’s really the Hootlet that is life changing. This little plugin is ridiculously awesome. It allows me to wrap up items of interest in a nice little box with a beautiful little bow instantly and schedule directly from my point of interest. I can open it up from any source and schedule a tweet/share from any of my accounts instantaneously without having to copy/paste links or images into Hootsuite itself. That save of a few clicks is amazing!!!
– Google Plus (2 business profiles)
So. How does this ultimately save time? Have I just traded time spent manually posting for time spent scheduling automation? The key here is to carve out time and stick to it. Don’t be scheduling all day! It defeats the purpose. Here are some quick rules to keep in mind:
- Set a specific day each week (or even an hour each morning/night if that’s better for you) that is devoted to scheduling the next weeks’/days’ tweets/posts/etc. Make that a calendar time in your routine. Stick to it! I do all of my scheduling first thing in the morning. That way my social media profiles are working in the background while I am completing my normal business day and any activity can just be responsive.
- Commit to a time each evening that the phone/computer gets put away. For example, clients at The Studio now know that our business booking hours are Monday – Friday from 8AM – 5PM. If they email us during that time, they expect a response. But if they email outside of that time, they know they’ll hear from us during the next business day. We’ve educated them and we’re training ourselves. Now, when that email dings with a new inquiry, I don’t look at it if it’s after hours. They know, and I know it will be there tomorrow.
- Give yourself a break! Cut yourself some slack! It’s ok to take a break from time to time on social media. It’s ok to not post every meal, every night out, every stylish outfit. Let go of the pressure to perform. Focus on enjoying the interactions with people and sharing your heart. You’ll find it not only comes more naturally, but more purposefully. Be IN your life.
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Did you like this post? Check out How to Create Hyper-Linked Email Signatures in Gmail!
How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale
Using Your Resources: How to Resell Your Used Items and Buy Second Hand was the first post in this “series,” and hopefully, by now you’ve had an opportunity to read through that and determine where you want to attempt to sell your used items.
The next logical step is how in the world to keep yourself organized so that you have a steady flow of items ready for sale and can keep product “moving through the pipeline” without sucking hours from your already jam-packed schedule. The key here is ambitious preparation and forethought. A little “do it now!” vs. a “I’ll do it later!” can make staying organized a breeze.
Here are some things that I do to stay organized with my sale items. Note: These particular steps make the most sense for consignment sales, yard sales and/or mommy swaps. Consignment stores are a bit different, but you can glean some useful tips for how to store for those too!
1. NEARBY STORAGE: I have available storage bins at the ready for new additions that no longer fit the boys in their bedroom. The most recent size(s) or season are stored under their train table so that if they try something on and it doesn’t fit, it immediately goes into the boxes. This keeps our drawers full of clothes that fit and prevents me from having to do massive sorts constantly. I try not to mix sizes and keep like items together, especially pajama sets or coordinating sets, so no hunting for missing pieces later and I know with a glance what size/season is in each box.
2. BE THE OVERACHIEVER: Yup, I am that person that starts prepping for the next consignment sale the day after the most recent consignment sale is over. As soon as the hosting group’s ticketing system is cleared out and released for the next event, I start entering my items for the next sale. I print and apply tags and even hang items on hangers if required. If things need to be zip-tied or put in plastic bags and taped closed, I do it right when I am moving items from the nearby storage in #1 to the long-term storage I’m going to describe here shortly. By the time those items hit the long-term storage bin, they are prepped and ready for sale and I don’t need to see them again until I drop them off to be sold. Similar can be done for yard sales too. As you are going through items to sell, stick a price tag on them and box them up. When your next yard sale comes around, you get out the box and you’re good to go! This prevents the brutal all-nighters trying to price items or get them entered into a consignment system before the deadline. (BONUS TIP: If you are selling items online, a great time saver is to list all of your available items on a spreadsheet with their price tag and where you posted them so that you can track what is sold and what is still available. This also helps you compare which online sources are producing the best results for you!)
3. LONG-TERM STORAGE: I have a gigantic bin in my garage that stores all of my “ready to sell” items. It’s easily moved from the garage to the car (by the husband) and easily stored out of the way until the next event. Anything that is in that bin has been itemized, tagged, priced, etc. etc. and is literally ready to come out of the box and onto the sales floor, wherever and whatever that may be. In that box I keep everything I need to get items sale ready. I have safety pins, ticket paper, plastic bags, zip ties and hangers (which you can get free usually at your local dry cleaners or keep an eye out for the super cheap ones when they go on sale!), pens and markers. And tape! I don’t have to hunt for anything. Super efficient and super fast. A great tip for those items getting shipped would be to have packing envelopes in there too! If I have items in there that cross seasons (this can be tricky with consignments sales), I keep the furthest away season on the bottom and layer a trash bag on top to separate from the next upcoming sale items. That way I know when I deliver my items, I empty the bin until I hit the trash bag and the know those items underneath are for the next, next sale. (See!! Crazy overachiever!)
4. CAR QUICK STORAGE: If I’ve posted an item online that I am sure is going to sell quickly locally, I pop it in my car so I have it with me in case someone contacts me to buy while I’m at work. That gives me the instant opportunity to meet at a public place during my lunch hour or right after I finish up for the day, rather than having to schedule a time/location later in the week. Get it gone!