I know we always hear we should do this; yet, how many really do? I know I hear people say, “Wait, I’ll take extra out at the end of the month.” This is particularly true for those who are just starting their business and who aren’t relying on their business to support the household. The thought is to wait until you get some experience and cash flowing in.
What’s the problem? You get to the end of the month, the next month starts, and you promise to do it then. And on, and on. Maybe once in a while you do take money out as a “salary.” Maybe at the end of the year, you look and decide to take some money out. And maybe you don’t.
So what’s wrong with leaving all the money in your business checking account to build the business? I think it says you don’t value yourself or your business the way you should. If you stick with that approach, it’s also easy to get to burnout. Again, I think it’s related to not truly valuing yourself as a business person. It’s so easy to decide you don’t need to pay yourself.
What should you do? Set aside a certain amount each month to pay yourself. It doesn’t matter how much. Perhaps you decide to pay yourself 10%. If you make $100, then you pay yourself $10; if you make $1,000; you pay yourself $100; if you make $10,000, you pay yourself, $1,000. It really doesn’t matter if you pick 10% or $100. It just matters that you do.
Make it easy on yourself and set up a savings account attached to your checking account and have the funds automatically transferred once a month. I think you’ll be surprised that you’ll always be able to pay yourself.
My question is, do you pay yourself first?
Please share your thoughts on support systems below.
Over the past few years I’ve talked with several clients about a lack of support or encouragement from their friends and even family members. Actually, it’s more that their friends don’t really understand why they want to have a business when they can just quilt or make art. Or, why they should expect to make a living from something others can share. Or, why they don’t just enjoy retirement instead of starting up that new business.
It’s a difficult place to be. We want our friends and family to support us. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. I read a quote from the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If the five people we spend the most time with are those that don’t support us, what does that do to our business? It certainly doesn’t help us grow our business easily.
What can you do to change the situation? First, identify who is not in your camp, support-wise. Then make a decision that you need to remove them from your life or limit the time you spend with them. I get that this is not always easy, particularly if it’s a family member. Hopefully, some of these people will get on board when they experience your passion at what you are doing. Next, look for people you can add to your circle that will be supportive. Of course, you may first need to identify what you actually need from people. Look for ways that you can be around these supportive people.
If we really are the average of those five people, don’t you want to be average with people who support you?
Here’s another quote to remember if you struggle with this,
If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck; and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.
Please share your thoughts on support systems below.
I’m sure many of you have purchased from Zappos? They have great customer service, free shipping, 365-day return policy, someone to answer your questions 24/7/365. Plus all those shoes! What’s not to like?
Have you looked at the service you offer your customers? Shoes aside, how does it stack up to Zappos?
One of my private coaching clients has set an intention for the year to Zappos! She is aiming for 100% customer satisfaction. To do that she is going back over all her processes, and she is creating written standards and checklists to be sure that every product she offers can be a 100% satisfaction for her customers.
Is this one of your goals? Here are some tips:
1. Customer satisfaction begins from the first time someone is aware of your existence. People will draw conclusions about you and your product from the first time they are aware you exist. They also draw conclusions based on anything and everything. For example, if you fly on an airplane and the trays are dirty, you might think that if the company doesn’t care about the cleanliness of the plane, they aren’t maintaining the engines. That could be extreme, but look at it in relation to your business. If you consistently have mistakes in your pattern directions, that leaves a negative impression on your customers.
2. Take time to write what your standards are and communicate them to your team and your customers. You can include on your website, if appropriate.
3. How do you let your customers know that you value them? It could be extra help on a project, following up personally on their experience, or offering a special gift with a purchase.
4. While your goal is 100%, you may not get there right away. You need to have a process for measuring your results and making adjustments.
What are your customer service standards? How do you measure your results and make adjustments? Please share your thoughts below.
Step off the achievement bandwagon for just a moment. You know that I am all about action. Nothing happens unless you take action.
I know last week I shared about the intention I set for my year ahead. Last week we had our annual goal-setting call in which we talked about making stretch goals and all that you could accomplish in 2013.
For those of you who haven’t listened to the call, I also shared an assignment that I gave to a number of my private coaching clients. I asked them to list 100 accomplishments from 2012. “Whoa,” you say. “One hundred! How could someone come up with that many? And, what’s the point?”
The point is that as creative entrepreneurs many of us are onto the next big thing on our list. We check off each item on the list. Ta-da – that’s done. What’s next? We rarely take the time to look back at what we accomplished. Some of also think we didn’t accomplish enough or we missed the mark on the really big thing on our list. Not so. I bet everyone of you accomplished more than you think, so don’t let that inner critic out.
So, go back and write down those accomplishments. Writing it down is key and the list is much bigger when you get it out of your head. I promise. You can aim for 100. After all, it’s just two accomplishments a week, and nobody said they had to be monumental accomplishments. When you get done, go back and look at that list. It will be a good confidence booster. And, as you go through the year and feel like you’ve hit a stumbling block, whip out that list and looked at what you managed to do.
I’d love for you to share some of your favorites over on the blog.
Cultivating Your Creative Life
Quarry Books; $24.99
Ending one year and starting another is often a time for reflection. Here’s another book I think you’ll find valuable, particularly if you are trying to create a new direction. Designed by an artist and healing arts practitioner, the book’s focus is on self-inquiry, dreaming and creating. It includes exercises, space for writing your reflections or drawing. You can either use the book or jump over to your own journal and use that. She also incorporates yoga, breathing, nature and herbs to help you live a more balanced life as you work towards your goals.
Look for the book at your favorite quilt or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.
Are you a New Year’s resolution maker? I used to be, and I probably made some of the same ones you made or are still making. You know, lose weight, eat more healthfully, clear up the clutter.
About six years ago I decided to try something new. I picked a word or two to choose as my intention or focus for the year. I actually started this practice in my yoga class. Kathy, the owner of the yoga studio, passed around a basket and we each picked a word. I picked openness. Well, I was not enamored with that word. The woman next to me picked love, a word I liked much better. I asked if I could pick another word and Kathy told me that I hadn’t picked the word, the word had picked me. Well, I stuck the word on the computer screen and looked for openness. Funny thing, I found lots of opportunities. I’ve had lots of words since then: joy, abundance, challenge. This past year I decided to choose those two words again: openness and opportunities, and I can look back and see magic in what I experienced in those areas.
It’s that time again and I spent some time over the Christmas holiday thinking about what word or words would be my theme for the year and how they will fit with the goals I’ve set for 2013. First, my word is conscious or consciousness, as in being fully aware or deliberate. I put it with living, as in conscious living. It’s very easy for me to get caught up in the doing, and letting the getting it – whatever it is – done be the important part, and not be fully engaged in what I’m doing. As I made a wall quilt in December, I could see how conscious or attentive I was during the design phase, and it was wonderful to see what it brought to me. I can see this as being important in all aspects of my life. One example includes, being fully present when I engage with other individuals. If I approach sharing my knowledge with authenticity and self-awareness, I will expand my reach, which is one of my goals. Another example, being fully present or conscious with my own self. If self-care is one of my goals, and it is, I need to be conscious that I can only be responsible for myself and that I need to be aware and attend to that. A third example, making conscious business and financial decisions. If you aren’t attentive to what’s going on with your business, it will run itself by default – and you may not like the default position.
I know living fully conscious will open more opportunities. Whoops, did you catch open and opportunities? I really think those are my words of the decade.
How am I going to get support for that theme. I’ve got two ideas. One is that I’ve got the words Conscious Living on a Post-it® note on the computer. It’s also on the front of a journal. Those are my reminders. Second, I found a book called A Year of Living Consciously by Gay Hendricks. It includes a quote, a short essay and a conscious living practice for each day of the year.
So, I’m asking you some questions:
1. Do you have a word or theme for the year and how will you stay focused on it?
2. If not, would you like to join me for a year of conscious living?
Yes, I’ve reviewed this book in the past. It’s that good that I think it deserves another look. It’s one of my favorite planning resources. I’ve been using this little book for years and recommend it widely, and I often hear from those who end up getting it about how valuable it is. The book offers a framework to define your personal values, identify the various roles you play and create goals for those roles. Here are some of Jinny’s questions plus a couple of my own:
1. What did I accomplish?
2. What were my biggest disappointments?
3. What did I learn?
4. How do I limit myself and how can I stop?
5. What are my goals for next year?
6. Where do I need to find education or support to get there?
7. How can I make sure I achieve my top goals?
I find one of the most empowering aspects of Jinny’s system is the look at the successes of the year. It let’s you focus on your successes and not get weighed down by what didn’t work. It also lets you get off the treadmill of working on your business to see if you really are on course.Here’s a quote from the book I particularly like: “We must prepare our soil before we’re ready to plant the seeds we want to grow in the new year.”Look for the book at your favorite quilt or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.
Many of us struggle with aligning our priorities with our actions. I recently had a conversation with one of my private coaching clients. She said her family was her priority, yet she was barely fitting them in around her business, rather than the other way around. Our priorities are really defined by how and where we spend our time, and, by that definition, family was not her number one priority.
To get clearer on your priorities, during the next month develop a list of your needs, wants and values. “What’s the difference?” you ask. A need is something you must have in order to be your best, such as time, space, money, love, information, food, etc. A want is something that you relate to by trying to acquire or experience it, such as a car, a vacation, a house, a new sewing machine, etc. Values are behaviors or preferences that you naturally gravitate to or that are prompted from within and not by needs or wants. An example might be security or adventure or creativity. The same thing can be a need, want or value for different people or for the same person at different times. Here are some guidelines:
* If there is urgency, it’s probably a need.
* If there’s a craving or desire, it’s probably a want.
* If there is a natural and uncomplicated pull, it’s probably a value.
Next, complete a “calendar audit.” Look at your calendar for the last couple of months. Take every bit of time, personal as well as business, and compare your expenditure of time with your needs, wants and values. What did you learn?
Last, create objectives and action plans to better align your words and your actions. The most fulfilling goals are those that align with your values.
In the past month, I’ve had several conversations with quilters and fiber artists about how they view their “businesses.” Several really don’t think of themselves as business people. They are happy to share their work/skills and don’t think about the money beyond meeting their expenses. Is this running a business? Not really; it’s supporting your hobby. And, if that’s what you want, that’s perfect for you. If, however, you really want a business, here are some tips:
1. Start to think about how you view your business and work on your mindset if needed. Do you buy into the starving artist mentality? Why? A business is supposed to make a profit. It’s not a bad thing. Is your business structured to do that? And, are you ready, willing and able to do that?
2. Consider how others view your business. Do people think you are running a successful business? Or do they think you make quilts or art for fun and sell it on the side? You might look at how other business people view you vs. how your family and close friends view you, too. Do you have established routines and discipline or do you invoke the solopreneur’s version of “writers’ block” to run an errand or go shopping? Do you want other people and your family to view you as a business person? And, if they don’t, does this affect how your view yourself?
3. Do you know your numbers? It’s critical that you know how much money is coming in and how much is going out. You need to track these numbers and use the information to make decisions about your business. If you don’t understand your numbers, The Professional Quilter is currently running a terrific series by Sue Tucker, who is the CFO at Studio 180 Design.
4. How do you structure your day? Remember back when you had that corporate job. You had tasks to complete. Your role had a place in the company and its profit structure. Now that you are on your own, the freedom is great. That freedom, however, imposes a requirement for discipline. If you used a planner/calendar at your corporate job, consider adapting the same or similar system now that you run your own business. Committing the appropriate time to your business will make a difference.
Running your business is much harder work than pursuing your hobby. It’s just as much fun. And, in the end, it has the possibility of being much more rewarding.
On our call last week, someone asked me if I was good at multi-tasking. I think she thought I get lots done so I must use that process.
I try hard not to be a multitasker? How about you? Do you read your e-mail while you’re on the phone and at the same time bind your quilt? Quite the picture, isn’t it?
According to Harvard Business Review blogger Paul Atchley, studies show that multitaskers are less efficient, perhaps by as much as 40%, than they think. He says that it takes an average of 15 minutes – and I’ve read numbers as high as 40 minutes – to reorient oneself to the main task. Wow – 15 minutes! Can you imagine how much time you waste on a daily basis trying to get back to the task at hand?
If you want to break your multitasking habit, here are four tips:
1. Focus on one task at a time. Atchley says our attention starts to wane after 18 minutes. He suggests that if that happens and you switch to a different task, make notes about the first task so it’s easier when you go back. I think that if your attention wanes, it might be time for a quick stretch and then quickly re-focus on the same task.
2. Since I mentioned focusing on a task, be sure to divide your project into doable tasks. Set a timer for the task. I find it easier to focus if I have specifically set the time aside.
3. Eliminate distractions. This could be closing the door to your studio, letting the answering machine pick up the calls, stopping the audible tones of your e-mail. What’s key is paying attention – again focus – to your task.
4. Stick with it until it’s done and done right.
And, if you think multi-tasking is only a problem today, here’s a good quote from Lord Chesterton, attributed to a letter to his son in the 1740s:
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”