I recently came across an article listing the 12 things successful people finished before noon. These were things like exercise, make a to-do list, have a morning ritual, eat breakfast, be on time, take a break, follow up on messages, etc. As I read it through, I couldn’t help thinking that
A: these people must get up at 4 a.m.,
B: there is no way anyone could do all these things in a whole day, much less before lunch, and
C: there is no way these people are doing all these things AND getting any work done.
What pressure! It really made me stop and think:
As a small business owner, you are already doing so much. There is so much pressure to do more and more and more, but what would happen if you decided to do less?
In my experience, probably 85% of your problems will solve themselves if you don’t do anything about them (physically or emotionally).
I’m not talking about the things that obviously need your immediate attention, like your air conditioner going out in the middle of a heat wave. However, a lot of the issues we feel are crises are really things that will work themselves out if we let them.
When I gave up the idea that I needed to do More, that’s when I really started to experience success.
If you are putting too much pressure on yourself, you are not going to enjoy whatever activity you are doing. The pressure to do more sucks our energy and we actually get less done.
Maybe if we learned to take the pressure off, whatever we are trying to accomplish will seem easier and more enjoyable.
Remind yourself of the success that you have already created. If you are feeling like you have to recreate your business from square one every day, you will feel burned out. Realize how far you’ve already come, and that it is not going to disappear in a day.
The human condition is such that we will always want more. By accepting that this is a part of being human, but not letting it consume you, you can realize that ‘where you are is where you are supposed to be’. Try accepting, not resisting and relaxing into your situation and see what happens.
Find what it is for you personally that helps to quiet your mind and rejuvenate. Take a walk, do yoga, paint, or find some activity that takes you away from the busy mind and quiets you. By quieting down your brain you actually have more energy to achieve more. (And, you don’t have to wake up at 4 a.m. to make it all happen!!)
Like most business owners I have always found it really difficult to take time away from my shop. Scheduling a vacation around appointments, payroll, bookkeeping, etc. just seemed like too much work! I found myself taking just a couple of days off, when what I really needed was a “proper holiday” and time to recharge my batteries.
I kept waiting for a perfect time, but the perfect time never seems to happen when you own your own business. This added to my general feeling of burnout.
Finally, my husband Michael got fed up with us not being able to take a real vacation, and insisted that we go somewhere for longer than just a weekend. The choice between my marriage or leaving my business for a bit was obvious!!
It took some planning, but I am so glad I did–I came back feeling refreshed and energized.
We now take regularly scheduled vacations throughout the year, in fact, this year we took a two week vacation, the longest I’ve been away. My business didn’t burn to the ground, fall apart, or cease to exist. However, there are a few things that I’ve done to help things run smoothly while I’m gone.
Payroll Service – because I can call in the hours from anywhere, I just need to have access to a phone.
Be Prepared – by having systems in place to handle any emergencies that may arise, my employees are already ready and trained for whatever does come up. We have a binder with resources for potential emergency situations (vet, plumber, electrician, etc.), and my head groomer (who is very trustworthy and honest) has access to my checkbook and a credit card in order to be able to take care of anything that arises. I have delegated to my employees the non-grooming tasks at the shop and given them the tools, resources and authorization they need.
Leave Contact Information – In this day and age with the technology that we have, we are usually only a phone call away. However, if you are going to be seriously out of touch (like I was for part of the time while camping), leave the contact information for the place that you’ll be staying and designate a friend or family member as an emergency contact.
Rescheduling – I move my grooming customers around, or reassign them to another groomer. Believe it or not, your customers will not leave you if you are not available for them every second. They will reschedule, go with another groomer in your shop, or wait until you come back. Your best customers want you to be happy and healthy so you can groom their pets for a long time!
On this last trip I got to do a lot of things I’ve never done before — like shooting a gun, feeding wild mustangs and learning to fly-fish. We also went off-roading, swimming, hiking, rafting and boating. We spent time with good friends, ate wonderful food, drank too much wine, played games and laughed a lot.
When I returned to my business it was with a renewed energy … here are some pictures of some of our activities. And hopefully this will inspire you to take a vacation of your own!!
Loosing a valued employee is an inevitable part of owning a business. It’s difficult enough when they leave on good terms, but when you have to let them go or they quit because they are unhappy, it can become a big negative influence on your business and personal life.
Finding ways to deal with angry ex-employees is important to your sanity and the morale of your current staff. I’ve come up with some ideas that help me move on that I’d like to share in case you’re ever in this situation.
It was never ending and always there. It was never all “done”, so it wasn’t really very helpful and just added to my stress.
Lists are good, like journaling, they get thoughts out of our heads and onto paper so we can stop obsessing and get on with things. Entrepreneurs have a million different things to do all at once, but if all those things keep spinning around in our heads we can never focus long enough on any one task to get it done and move forward. We’re in crisis management, dealing with the issue that screams at us the loudest and never getting ahead.
The List of 7
This was the situation I kept finding myself in with lists. Then, I read a tip online that said “Limit Your To Do List to 7 Items a Day”. The premise was that you really can’t do more than 7 “must-dos” in a day. Of course, you do a lot more that that, but by prioritizing the things that absolutely have to get done and leaving the rest for another day, you actually get more things done in the long run. The list of 7 helps you focus on the really important tasks.
Since I’ve been doing this, a lot have changed. Here is what I do:
In this busy holiday season, when you are making your list and checking it twice, make sure your list is do-able by having a list of seven!
I always look forward to this time of year, the cooler weather, changing leaves and abundance of local produce that becomes available now. I also look forward to our annual Harvest Party which takes place every year around Labor Day weekend (depending on when the grapes ripen). My husband and I have a (very) small vineyard on our property. There are 50 Cabernet and 55 Zinfandel vines, which yield more than enough wine for our own use, plus plenty to give away.
Small business owners seem to be people with the biggest need for friends, and the least amount of time for friendships, and I am no exception. I have some truly fantastic friends, but I never seem to have time to get together with them. That’s why our annual grape harvest is such an important time for Michael and me. It’s the one time we have to make time to see our friends. After all, the grapes need to get picked, and we need the help picking them!
Everyone comes by to lend a hand in the harvesting and we provide a continental breakfast, BBQ lunch and dinner for our “helpers”. This year, our friend James made magic on the BBQ, with ribs, chicken and tri-tip. We had fresh tomatoes and grilled zucchini from the garden, and figs picked from trees along the road. It’s a wonderful way to welcome in Autumn and say goodbye to Summer. My son Mike flew in from Phoenix to help, making good use of his Enology & Viticulture degree.
Our friends really enjoy picking the grapes and watching them get crushed. They also get a chance to sample the different vintages from the years before. And of course, we always look forward to having them come back!
“Days of wine and roses laugh and run away, like a child at play”
-Johnny Mercer, Days of Wine and Roses
I believe strongly in “training up” my staff, and am always looking for opportunities to teach new skills. There haven’t been any changes in my core staff for a number of years and we’ve fallen into a pretty comfortable pattern, and things have moved along smoothly.
That is until Kerice, one of my top groomers, recently went on maternity leave. For the last few months, we’ve been talking and having meetings about how to handle her special customers, how to keep our numbers up while she is gone and who will handle the other tasks she normally does. We’ve done our best to be proactive and address any issues that might arise before she left, but I can feel there is still a lot of tension around the changes that are taking place.
Years ago, I heard a talk about relationships and families. The speaker compared a family to one of those hanging mobiles. The different things hanging from the mobile represent the people in the family. The mobile hangs in balance until one of those “people” changes in some way. Then the mobile bounces around like crazy for awhile until it finds it’s new balance.
I think this analogy is even more true in business. We go merrily along until one of our employees leaves or we add someone new. Then our “mobile” gets upset and everyone scrambles around, trying to find their new place. This can be a time of stress, but it can also be a time of great growth for your employees.
When things change, or alter slightly (or dramatically!) things will go off balance for awhile. But just like the mobile, it will regain balance once everything adjusts back to a new routine.
However, when you’re forced learn a new skill or manage your time better so you can groom more dogs, it can really make you “up your game”. You can get a better idea of what is happening in your shop when things change–rather than when things are “normal” (are they ever really normal?). And, you can get a better idea of what you need to change.
These changes will make your shop more efficient and profitable in the long run. With your support and encouragement, as well as pointing out that feeling “out of balance” at this time is normal, your staff will end up stronger and excited about their new skills. So don’t fret if your mobile is feeling off-balance or off-kilter. Take it as an opportunity to get more involved and see what changes need to be made in your shop to put you back in balance!
“Get’er Done! Larry the Cable Guy
She took the salt and pepper shakers on the table and placed them far apart from each other. She said, “Every business owner has problems. The CEOs of the biggest companies in the world have problems. The difference between them and you is very simple. Say that salt shaker are your problems, and the pepper shaker are the solutions to those problems. See how far apart they are. You have a problem and you think about it and worry about it and fret over it until slooooowly (she moved the salt shaker slowly towards the pepper shaker) you get to the solution (the salt and pepper were now together). The CEOs have a problem (she moved the shakers apart again), and they find a solution (back together again). The CEOs took action faster so they were able to find a solution faster. The difference between you and them is how fast you move that salt shaker.”
When we have a problem, why don’t we get started on finding a solution right away?
Over-thinking leads to under-acting. It’s so easy to get stuck trying to find the perfect answer, or feeling sorry for yourself and getting overwhelmed. I admit I could win an award for procrastination, especially back then. I’ll take an hour and a half to talk myself out of a 20 minute workout. But her words have stayed with me, and I’ve learned to pay attention and get moving when the urge to do nothing strikes. Sometimes it means ignoring that yappy little voice in my head (you know the one!) that threatens to keep me stuck, or listing in the morning the 7 most important things I need to do today. I’ll reward myself (work in the garden for half an hour and you can watch Dogs 101) and give myself time limits (at the end of Animal Cops, get out your yoga mat).
Trying to find the “perfect solution” keeps us stuck.
The biggest change I’ve made is the way I handle the challenges we all have in business. Stuff happens all the time, but I really try to get moving on a solution right away. It doesn’t have to be the perfect answer, I just try to do SOMETHING. I try not to spend a lot of time in that “why me” state of mind I used to dwell in.
Keep in mind that nothing is permanent, it’s OK to take a direction and change your mind later. Energy creates energy, and you’ll find your ” to-do” list getting shorter and shorter and your stress disappearing.The important thing is to move forward as soon as you can.
When faced with a problem, do you find yourself overwhelmed and “stuck”?
What kind of things could you do to get yourself moving?
Remember to try this:
According to dictionary.com, gossip is “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others”. If you think about it, most of us are not really evil or vindictive, however, we do tend to spend a fair amount of time talking about others – and the matters that should be personal or private in their lives. Which brings me to the question…
Human nature makes us want to understand why others are behaving in a particular way. In my opinion, we tend to gossip in order to understand. I know when I’ve been known to gossip it is usually when I’m feeling insecure or fearful of the motives of someone close to me. Instead of going to that person directly, I’ll speak to someone else about the possible reasons that that certain someone is acting the way they are. This is not a very compassionate or understanding way to handle things, and I am certainly not at my best when I indulge.
I’m not talking about genuine concern for another, I’m talking about speculating about the thoughts that are going through their minds and causing them to act in some way towards me. That is all that gossip is, speculation. You don’t know what that person is really going through, or thinking, or feeling, but human nature wants to tell us it’s all about me. So we make up all these scenarios but were really just playing a guessing game. The only way to know why a person is acting a certain way is to ask them directly.
Every single time I’ve gotten into this circle of gossip, and then gone to the person in question directly, I’ve been off the mark, really off. Dead wrong. The family member I felt was judging me was going through a personal crisis. My employee who I thought was unhappy with another employee and with work was having financial difficulties.
We usually miss the real reasons why people are really doing something because we can’t get the real information. I think this is because in our society we avoid confrontation. Our fear keeps us from asking people directly what is going on or why they are behaving a certain way.
Because we are so egocentric we tend to assume that the reasons that people are acting that way is because of us, or something we’ve done. But in my experience, that’s rarely the case.
As a business owner, I really hate gossip, so much so that I have declared my shop a “gossip free zone” and inform any prospective employees of it at their initial interview. Gossip in a small shop can be really detrimental, and difficult to deal with. It creates a hostle environment and undermines the trust you want to establish. Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid my knee-jerk reactions to gossip, and approach the person instead to find out what is really happening.
I found that when I clear my mind of assumptions and speculations and approach someone with an open mind and open heart I tend to get the answer:
“I have noticed that you seem upset, you aren’t talking, you’re avoiding eye contact, is something wrong?”
If I can approach them from a place of observation without judgement, and identifying the behavior without taking it personally, the person feels safe to open up and let me know how I can help.
Here’s a quick list to follow to avoid your own inner turmoil and get to the root of what is going on so you can move forward while helping others:
1. Accept that you don’t know what’s happening without asking
2. Ask the person you are concerned about what is happening
3. Do it in a way without judgement or accusations
4. Be genuine about your desire to know what’s wrong and to attempt to help them fix the problem
When they are encouraged to open up you build trust, open communication and relieve your stress about what this has to do with you, and help the other person move towards solutions.
Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand. ~Emily Kimbrough
The last six weeks have been a challenge. One of my groomers is pregnant and will be going out on maternity leave at the end of August, so I’ve been interviewing for a new bather to help take the load off my other bathers and groomers when she’s gone. Another groomer broke her ankle and has been on “desk duty”, and the “Spring Crazies” hit just as all of this was happening.
So, as is frustrating but inevitable, I’ve spent a lot more time working on the floor at Wags, and a lot less time directing and guiding. That’s why I’ve decided to re-post one of my past blogs, Getting Back to Your Dream.
Small business needs ebb and flow. Having systems in place to deal with them quickly is essential if you’re going to have the time and balance you want in life. Step back into your business and address the issues. Before you know it, you’ll be back on track!
Recently, I went through a period that was full of sadness. My father passed away after a long, slow battle with Alzheimer’s. Several of my closest friends were going through some very difficult times. It seemed everywhere I looked, there was a grey veil of gloom and grief.
After my father’s Memorial, I began to try to put my own life back on track, but I was having little success. I still felt like I was trying to walk through water. I couldn’t hear the sound of my own voice, never a good thing when you’re a writer. I was decidedly uninspired and indifferent.
Sometimes, in times of need, comfort can come from the strangest of places.
Michael and I attended a birthday party for a dear friend. This man’s business is creating facades and sculptures for buildings and displays. The grounds of his beautiful house were strewn with columns, Grecian heads, pyramids, whimsical pigs and other assorted sculptures. It was like Disneyland for grown-ups. On his deck were 6 ft tall replicas of Chinese warriors (modeled after the Terracotta Army Warriors found in Emperor Qin’s tomb). I loved them, and said so. He said he had forty in a warehouse, and gave them away to friends who liked them.
Would I like one?
I got two…
Named Bert and Ernie–after the original Bert and Ernie, the police officers in “It’s a Wonderful Life” . They now stand in my back yard. I am obsessed with them. They make me laugh. Because they are made of an industrial type of durable Styrofoam, I can easily lift and move them, even though there are 6 feet tall. Taking pictures of Bert and Ernie helping prune the vineyard, barbecuing, hanging by the pool, is silly and senseless and just what I need right now. It taps into that good energy where my voice comes from. I’m starting to write again. My mood has lifted.
Laughter, joy, silliness and fun have such tremendous healing powers. Remember to take time when you’re down to watch that funny movie or comedian’s special, call that good friend and laugh over the good old times (especially if it’s a friend who’s feeling down, too!), take some goofy pictures, start a silly comment line on facebook. Dance like no body’s watching. Break out of the blues and into the light.
What silly things could you do when you’re feeling down?
What or who makes you laugh?
What are your top 3 funny movies?
Have these on hand and ready for your next blue moment. Remember to laugh, loud and often. Play, joke, goof around, find your own Bert and Ernie. I can ask my friend. I think he’s got a few left.