Some Are Not What They Appear

Poorly cut grass and well cut grass
“Professional” grass mowing

Take a look at this picture.  The grass in the foreground was cut by a so-called “professional” lawn mower company.  The grass in the background (up to the driveway and just beyond it), my husband cut.  The “professionally cut” lawn is scalped – cut way too short – and was cut wet.  I took this picture 4 days after it was mowed, and it’d rained some in the interim.  By contrast, Peter (aka “swirl god”) mowed our yard, cutting it wet (it just hadn’t had a chance to dry out between showers), but mowing it with a 20″ push mower and high.  The “professional” service uses a heavy-duty, top-of-the-line riding mower, has the big trailer, nice truck, and so forth.

The point I’m making is, not everyone who presents themselves as a professional knows what they’re doing.  My husband is a true professional lawn care expert, knowing both the chemical care needs of various types of grasses and the best way to maintain those lawns.  The company who butchered our neighbor’s lawn has demonstrated repeated ignorance of lawn care.

I see this same behavior in my industry.  There are hundreds of great soapmakers out there.  There are dozens of fabulous cosmetic manufacturers I know.  Then there are the rest.  They’ll claim their lotions are “all natural” and “preservative free,” not realizing the safety value of preservatives in lotions.  That always leads me to wonder, Are they ignorant of good manufacturing practices, or are they intentionally mislabeling?  Some soapmakers will say they make their own soap and do so without lye.  That’s pretty much impossible, because without lye, there’s no soap – not the real stuff, anyway.

I’ve seen other soapmakers claim their soaps as “all natural” and “fragranced with essential oils.”  Yet, they leave me wondering, Just which part of the gingerbread cookie do you have to press or distill to get the essential oil out?  So-called “professionals” from all fields – not just lawn care and cosmetic and soap manufacturing – drive their businesses on their own ignorance and that of their customers.  The part that really bothers me, though, is that these business owners or employees can cause some significant harm and expense for the people they deceive and who are ignorant enough or gullible enough to believe them.

Having business cards doesn’t make one a professional at anything, any more than wearing a choir robe means one can sing.  Professional people exhibit certain characteristics.

  1. True professionals start at a place of knowledge.  Those of us who have been in the business for a long time know that it takes a lot of time and hard work to become an overnight success.  Before we start, though, we learn as much as possible about our business fields.
  2. True professionals never stop learning.  Whether it’s books, forums, peers, videos, seminars or conferences, professionals always look for what more they can learn.
  3. True professionals accept feedback graciously and seek to learn from it.  Being defensive helps no one, and certainly does not keep customers.
  4. True professionals work with integrity.  Whether it’s a mislabeled soap or shooting weed and grass clippings onto a neighbor’s yard, accepting responsibility for sub-standard work only makes one look better.
  5. True professionals realize that appearances don’t matter as much as quality work.  I see lawn care companies in old trucks and open trailers do exceptionally good jobs on lawns.  I mean, every.  Blade.  Of grass.  Is.  The same.  Height.  I watched one guy, and was just waiting for him to get out the ruler and scissors.  Yet, the guy who cut the lawn above has jazzy equipment but doesn’t know his stuff.  A soap company can look charming and adorable on social media, but doesn’t know correct labeling or the difference between fragrance oils and essential oils.  In absolutely every facet of life, the inside needs to match the outside.

What other characteristics do you see in companies or businesses that strike you as being truly professional-grade?


No Soap in Arendelle!

Ever have one of those weekends that end and you think you could really use a weekend to recover from your weekend?  That’s me today as we begin yet another week of work and school.  We had a great weekend, but we’re totally wiped out!  Saturday, the girls, Mom and I went to see a production of the play, The Little Mermaid.  After sitting in ridiculously, unnecessarily jammed traffic, we finally made it to Raleigh.  The play was highly enjoyable, and we went out to dinner afterwards.

My youngest daughter’s birthday weekend continued into Sunday with church and her family party.  Of course, like most little girls this year, the theme had to be Frozen.  Mom set an adorable table with a white tablecloth and blue snowflakes; my daughter chose a delicious menu of ham, macaroni and cheese (Click for the recipe – soooo good!), crescent rolls, and raw vegetables with dip; and my older daughter and I made the cake.

Frozen Cake
Hannah’s Frozen Cake

Look at this!  Devil’s Food cake (from a box this time) iced with homemade buttercream frosting.  To seal the cake and prevent crumbs from getting into the icing, I applied a sealing layer of thinned icing lightly flavored with clear Creme de Menthe.  My older daughter did the blue trim, and we made the ice palace with rock candy.  The figurines came from The Disney Store.  I told Mom I’d save the rock candy for when they took the girls to the mountains next month; they could eat it in the car.  (Yes, I’m slightly evil like that.)

I have a week to make my way from Arendelle to Hogwarts, navigating through school, work, and a girly sleepover between now and Sunday.  Whew! 🙂

I Quit!

CHOC Walk 2009
CHOC Walk 2009 (Photo credit: Denise Cross Photography) – Thought this was appropriate, as one of our movies was “Aladdin.”

Last week, I quit.  I quit work for the most part.  I quit the business for a week.  In fact, I quit everything but motherhood.  My older daughter was at camp, leaving me home alone with my younger daughter for a whole week.  What a treat, as we haven’t gotten to do this in about a year!

We did all sorts of fun things!  We went to the library and got books.  We went to the beach with my mom.  We got haircuts.  We watched movies – lots of movies.  We read books.  And we cuddled.  That was the best part, that cuddling.

I checked my business email once a day, and the Wee Princess and I went through boxes and boxes of soaps to parcel out which ones we’d be donating.  Then she helped me organize those in my storage space.  I made phone calls, did housework, and made products while she napped,  A couple of days, I napped, too.  So, I didn’t quit completely; it wasn’t a planned break, so I didn’t think it would be fair to my customers just to close up shop completely for the week.

The break was restorative and a great lead-in to beginning school this week.  It taught me something valuable, too; it taught me that I can, in fact, give myself a break from running my business full-tilt, and the world won’t come to an end.  It reminded me that my goal isn’t to build a lasting legacy through my business.  My primary goal is to raise two kind, compassionate, giving, loving, brilliant daughters.  Teaching them those character traits is the legacy that’s most important to me.