Here is the beginning of what I hope to be a great series of posts. This series will chronicle—in as much detail as I can provide without driving myself or you crazy—the process of reinventing my brand and transforming this website in form and function.
Today I was reflecting upon a common occurrence among people that I talk to with regard to their website(s).
The people I talk to either want a new website or they have one and want to update/add/delete a design or function of the site. These conversations either happen through email or in person and become a dialogue of back-and-forth brain picking. They ask how they can do "X, Y, and Z" and I then ask questions relating to strategy, objectives, and outcomes. These are great conversations, and I love having them to figure out what it is people are doing, and how I can help them out. Read more
This Thanksgiving our family is near Lake Tahoe at a ski resort called Sugarbowl. The only catch is there is not enough snow for skiing. However, we are still finding things to be thankful for like the company of family and friends, playing games, and a little time in the hot tub. Thanksgiving tends to remind people to take stock of all they have. I tend to do that throughout the year and this day does make it just a touch more special.
Have taken some time for a quick post. Something special this year is that we are NOT having a turkey for dinner. We are having ham. So we spared the turkey but not the swine. Hey, a family has to eat.
While I am thinking of holidays. Here is my companies holiday greeting this year complete with a free gift of desktop downloads.
OK, back to the vacation from home and holiday time with family.
I just completed reading Seth Godin's, "The Dip." An interesting little read that presented mostly things that I already knew in various pieces from a variety of sources. However, it is all distilled into a simple, quick, and easy read.
What I got out of this book was some clarity. I suspected I was in a dip and reading this helped bring that into focus. I am in a dip with my business. My business is in a state of stagnation. That is the best I can describe it. It's not dieing, but its not growing either. The level of work with my business could be sustained, for what feels like, almost indefinitely. How can that be bad? I have work, I am making money, but I am not happy with how things are. I know there is potential for more. This business has not reached its potential.
After reading "The Dip" I actually contemplated disassembling my business--quitting it. In the book there are many suggestions about quitting, and the process of why to quit something. There is a purpose to quitting. It is to free you up to focuses energy on getting through the dips that matter. Of course part of the process is identifying what matters, but that was easy--at least for me.
There are other outside factors I will not get into, but suffice it to say that the alternative to being an entrepreneur (going back to punching the clock for a paycheck) was seriously considered for a bit. However, in the thinking surrounding this one thing became clear when I read the sentence, "Never quit something with great long term potential just because of the stress of the moment."
That sentence summed it up for me. There is great potential in owning a business. There is great stress owning a business--stress of the moment. Furthermore, I realized that there are things I have not done or tried with my business. To quit before at least trying would create a great deal of regret later down the road. So now I have a better perspective, a plan for action, someone to motivate me and keep me on track, and a timeframe by which to measure the efforts.
For now I will stick rather than quit.
I find that I use my head way to much. What I mean is I use straight thinking, logic, and rationale as a way of navigating many things that are presented in life. The alternative to using straight up thinking/logic is to use your intuition. An example of using your intuition would be how you can do, or handle, somethings on autopilot. There is not much thinking or contemplation about such things. You have either mastered the process, or know something so well that you do not give it a second thought. Driving home while talking on a cell phone (while not always the smartest thing to do) and being able to make all the right turns, stop at all the right spots (stop signs, red lights) all the while talking to someone AND successfully get home would be a concrete example. It's the things you don't have to think about to get them done that I am talking about.
On the flip side I have been on the thinking side of things way too much as of late. Not that I don't have intuition guiding me on many things, I do. I can brush my teeth while thinking of something else, do the dishes while thinking of something else. It's just that I find a great deal of time and energy is wrapped up in 'thinking' about things. Most of these things involve business and career. Making decisions about what moves to make, what course of action (or inaction) will produce the desired result. This can get really tiring--I'm talking flat out exhausting. Similar to how a workaholic will get to burnout, I think (love the irony) that I have been exhibiting the tendencies of a thinkaholic and I am feeling burned out.
I need a vacation from thinking.
What about you? Have you ever felt you needed a vacation from thinking?
I experienced the contrast of working in a vacuum and working in a group and saw that contrast very clearly. Yesterday I was brainstorming my projects and tasks related to using the GTD system and methodology.
When working alone it was easy to crank out this lists of things I would like to do. However, there was a project I was hung up on. The project had to do with a marketing plan I am trying to implement. I was stuck thinking about what is the next step? In the exercise we were doing in a group our observer (there was an observer, questioner, and main guy) asked if I had shown the plan to anyone elseâ€”marketing pro or notâ€”I hadn't and now I will.
So it was made clear to me that bringing in an outside perspective on things is always valuable. Being a solo entrepreneur and finding the opportunities to share and show ideas for review and reflection is sometimes a tough task.
How does a small business person who is solo find a good outlet for professional collaborative, review, and brainstorming. You could join a chamber of commerce, local rotary, Score, or look for other ways.
If you are a solo entrepreneur I would love to know how you deal?
Interesting post today on Dawud Miracle's blog titled "Why you need to invest in your business."
For those people running a truly small business (less than $150,000 in gross receipts annually) spending money on non-tangible items can be a tricky game. Your marketing and promotion budget looks like the jar above.
What I mean is spending money on new file cabinets, or a new desk for a business owner at this level provides a physical object--something to put your hands on. Whereas investing in a marketing plan, or paying someone to brainstorm on developing your brand is not a definable physical object that you can point to and say "that is what I paid for." This is a tough proposition for a truly small business owner to entertain.
I think it is hard for business owners at this level to see beyond the quarter or next quarter. Business at this level is happening on a day-to-day basis. Business owners keep their view on the short distance game. Being able to "let go" and see the big picture can be a challenge.
I would suggest that a small business owner take time to define their goals with their business.
The idea is to define what you want and from there devise a plan to make it happen. Breaking things down into smaller and smaller tasks is key to moving ahead and there are hundreds of blog posts about the topic of getting things done.
I think that many times small business owners look out and think they can't get to the "pie-in-the-sky" goals and then just give up on it. Thinking you have to spend $10,000 to achieve your goals may actually be reality but that does not mean it has to be all at once. Do what you can with the resources you have now. Build a foundation that can support future endeavors and even handle a change of direction if need be. The key is to, as Walt Disney said, "Keep moving forward."
I know, being a small business owner, that I too can be a (non) spender. If you are a small business owner, do you spend on the non-tangibles? (marketing, promotion, etc?)
Over the weekend I was thinking about focus and how much it matters. I've written about focus on this blog before. What this blog is focused on, what my company is focused on, and what I am focused on. I have found out that all of these things are focused on too many other things. What I mean is that the focus jumps around. Instead of me talking about only one topic on this blog, I talk about many different things. That's not bad, but its not focused and focus can bring interest. Hell, I am the only one who reads this blog because I write it. But the focus of this blog is too fractured. It needs more focus. I read many blogs specifically because they are focused on a specific topic. That is not to say that the author will not get personal from time to timeâ€”that is a good thing. Rather, they stay on topic and don't veer off much.
I find the issues of focus with business to be slightly different in that my service business does not focus on one specific target market or industry, rather it focuses on many different services that it can provide to just about anyone. It's not focused enough. With more specificity comes more focus and more regard as a specialist rather than a generalist. I am still working on this now with my business.
The focus I personally exhibit has the ability to color my day constantly. Whatever I am focused on at the moment can become all consuming and take me away from the things that really matter and what I really should be focused on. I find my personal focus to shift often and when it does stick on something for a time, it is typically not what I should be focused on.
Here I am focused on writing about my focus in many areas. Funny how therapeutic it is to write this post as I now have heightened my sense of focus.
I have been thinking about what I should focus this blog on going forward and I think it should be about life as a small-business entrepreneur. I did intend for this space to be about that but it has not been very focused on the challenges, the ups, the downs, and everything else in between in running and operating my small business. Perhaps someone will find these notes and links going forward and at some point and get something from them.
So here is to going forward with more focus.
Recently, like yesterday, I was turned on to the idea of thinking expansively. Not that I have never thought expansively or 'large' before but my atypical, life-long, conditioned modus-operandi is to hyper focus much like a meerkat. The meerkat is always hyper vigilant and looking for what may lurk on the horizon. The meerkat is always 'tuned-in' to what is off in the distance, be it friend or foe. Their focus is always very tight and narrow.
I am not saying that being hyper-focused, and hyper-vigilant is a bad thing. It can be a very beneficial way of being given the right situation, like if you were a meerkat. It just that when either one or both of these "hyper" modes are practiced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it can, and will, grind your down like a well used pencil. Your sharpness is totally gone and you feel fried.
The key is to balance the narrow, hyper-focused way of thinking with expansive thinking and non-thinking. A widening, or expanse, of input and perspective will help keep one 'wider' in their perspective. I find that looking out at the horizon or up towards the sky actually helps in this endeavor. Ironically the meerkats are looking to the horizon as they engage in the hyper-focus--go figure. I was experimenting this morning in terms of 'expanding' my thinking about my business--it really does help and work. I now find myself operating in a more relaxed and calm state of mind. Or better yet, operating in a non-thinking mode as I work at by meditation.
Do you find yourself caught in hyper-focused, narrow thinking? Do you find it tiring? Or do you find it something else?