There Is No Shortcut to Success

Want to know the secret to my success as a businesswoman?

I’ve been in business for almost sixteen years.  I’ve read scores of books on business and soapmaking, watched hours of webinars, sat in seminars, and spent time with my mentors, both in soapmaking and business.  Business isn’t a one-and-done proposition; it must be a continuing journey towards growth and improvement.

Being a home educator, I obviously love teaching.  Being a business owner, soapmaker, and cosmetic manufacturer, I love sharing that passion with others, teaching what I’ve learned through the years.  Whenever someone comes to me with a true desire to invest themselves in learning, I’m happy to take time to teach them.  I’ve even thought about offering classes in beginning soapmaking and setting up a small business.

One of the things that I’ve experienced many times is requests from newbies wanting my success.  If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Can I have your best selling soap recipe?  I want to sell them at the flea market this weekend,” I’d have my dream beach house and be comfortable for life.  I thought those days were behind me.  Then Sunday happened.

A local lady I know messaged me on Facebook:  “Can you give me a crash course on making soap?”  I explained to her that there is no “crash course” to soapmaking.  I further shared that I spent six months learning how to make cold processed soap, and that’s the average.  I have books on techniques, formulation, oil analysis, soapmaking chemistry, and labeling.  This isn’t a quick and easy knowledge set; it takes time, dedication, and work.  I quickly got the feeling that the lady wasn’t interested in spending time learning the craft; she wanted my best soap formulation so she could make soaps to sell in our local area.  She wanted my 10+ years of knowledge and experience fast and free!  I gave her what she needed, though not what she wanted.  The lady wasn’t happy with this.  She wanted the shortcut.

The “shortcut” to success

Just as there are no shortcuts in soapmaking, there are no shortcuts in life.  If you want to be successful in any endeavor, you absolutely must invest the time to do it and do it well.

Business:  Those of us with successful businesses are enviable, I’m sure.  We have wholesale accounts, websites, active social media accounts, and a customer following.  We make it look easy, because no one sees the work we put in after hours (like right now it’s after 10:30 p.m. as I type this).  My friend and I put it, “It takes a lot of time and hard work to become an ‘overnight success.'”  Some people seem to have that one magical idea that nets them a small fortune seemingly overnight, but those people are few and far between.  The rest of us put in a lot of work, sweat, and tears into making our dreams profitable.

Fitness:  You’ve probably seen the great, awesome boiled egg diet that kept popping up all over social media a few weeks ago.  Lose 24 pounds in 2 weeks with the boiled egg diet!  This diet has nothing to do with eggs, though they’re great sources of low-fat protein.  The diet is very close to keto and extremely low calorie.  A quick estimate of calories indicates maybe 1000 calories a day and very few carbohydrates with this diet, so losing weight will be quick – and temporary.  Those pounds won’t stay off once the diet is over.  If you want lasting weight loss, deprivation isn’t the way to go.  You’ve got to make lasting life changes, not temporary weight changes, if health is your goal.

Peace of Mind:  Who doesn’t love a trip to the beach or the mountains?  We breathe in the fresh air and the change of scenery helps us unwind.  When we get home, though, it’s like all the stress and pressures quickly envelop us again.  That’s why I developed my beach-inspired soaps, so you can bring the beach home.  If you want to de-stress and stay calm, relaxing needs to be a daily goal.  Yoga, meditation, or just getting off by yourself to chill for a bit will help lower the stress, which will, in turn, improve other areas of your life.

So what’s the secret to my success?  Hard work.  Studying.  Learning from others.  Making material investments in my improvement.  Years of experience.  And years of mistakes.  Part of the joy of rebranding was starting fresh with all my years of experience as well as the lessons learned from my mistakes – lessons I happily pass along to others.  And underscoring it all,  I work with integrity.  A business owner can have vast amounts of knowledge and experience, but if they lack in basic integrity, then their business lacks in other ways, too.

What are some of the secrets of your success?  Please share them below.

From Small to Colossal to Small

Do you remember KB Toys?  KB Toys was a chain of inline stores found in malls nationwide in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, with a few tenacious remnants making it into the early aughts.  I loved this store!  They had the best selection of Barbie clothes anywhere – of course, with matching shoes.

Then the 80s brought the likes of Toys ‘R Us to markets nationwide.  While KB Toys was a large chain of small stores, TRU was a large chain of huge stores.  Now, TRU is closing its doors, demolished by billions in corporate debt, as well as its big box store competitors.  According to CNN, Amazon and other online retailers did not mark the beginning of the end of TRU as previously suspected.

The vast entities known as the major online retailers – walmart(dot)com and Amazon, to name the two biggest – certainly didn’t help matters any.  In the past ten years or so, while many people dragged themselves out into chilly late November weather to battle the after Thanksgiving toy store mobs, many others stayed home and shopped in their pajamas, enjoying free shipping and avoiding the crowds.  As Cyber Monday became more of a thing, businesses everywhere encouraged customers to buy online instead of from brick and mortar businesses.

Toys ‘R Us’s problems were at the corporate level.  Too much debt, too poorly managed assets.  Sure, I shopped at TRU several times, and I’ll never forget the excitement of completing our baby registry at Babies ‘R Us when Hubby and I were expecting our first child.  However, I never got that feeling shopping at TRU that I remembered from KB Toys.  While the warehouse-feeling space was vast, it felt impersonal, and there was seldom a great selection of what I wanted.  Two aisles of console games?  No, thank you.  An entire creepy doll aisle?  Get me outta here!  And by the time my older daughter was into Barbies…  Where the heck are all the Barbie ensembles???  Plus, I thought the prices were ridiculously high compared to KB Toys (when I was at a toy-buying age during the companies’ overlap).

Small retailers do struggle with this to some degree.  When will a corporate giant sink us?  Yet, a lot of us indie retailers were born, grew, and thrived over against our big box store counterparts.  We can offer what customers want.  Products I make and sell are not available from Bath & Body Works, for example.  Customers get to meet us personally and often get a sneak peek behind the scenes at what’s going on with our brands.  Many times, they also get the opportunity to give us quick feedback on products we carry that impact the business directly.  Small indie business becomes a relationship between seller and guest, and we love nurturing that relationship.

And now, what do I see but that KB Toys is coming back!  A company that revitalizes old brands has bought the KB Toys name and plans to open 1000 stores for Black Friday and the holiday selling season.  I suspect that a lot of GenXers who share my nostalgia around the brand and the experience of shopping there will line up to bring some of that remembered joy to their own children.  I hope the owners will not go big but will instead focus on smaller size with outstanding customer care.

KB Toys logo
KB Toys is coming back! So exciting!

The likes of Amazon and Walmart will be with us for the foreseeable future.  They’re both retail giants who have managed to maximize profits.  Additionally, Amazon treats its employees well and pays them far above the minimum wage favored by some retailers.  I enjoy my Prime membership and the perks it brings me as I happily click my way to new stuff.  Yet, the small indie retailers will also be around for the foreseeable future, because we can offer what no dot com can; a personal and personalized shopping experience.  Amazon is not going to message me to let me know that they have a new assortment of workout tanks or that those shorts I ordered are on sale if I want to get more of them.  However, a small business owner will take the time to contact a customer, making that person feel important.  Plus, we humans are tactile shoppers.  We like to feel, smell, and experience the things we’re thinking about buying.  No online experience can duplicate that.

How do you like to shop?  Will online retailers wipe out your brick & mortar shopping trips?

 

The Beautiful Game, Life, and Business

It has been called “the beautiful game,” and when you watch it, it’s easy to see how this can be so.  Twenty-two players on the pitch, running, blocking, passing, and kicking, their only protection a pair of shin guards.  They don shorts and jerseys, cleats and socks.  No matter the weather, the uniform is always the same.  Watching soccer played well affords viewers with examples of a clean – though physical – game, good sportsmanship, and the sense that rivals on the field are rivals only for the ninety minutes of regulation game time.  Otherwise, they bond over the beautiful game.  I have often watched professional or college games and enjoyed the play of muscles under skin as they bunched and released, the contour of a thigh as a player kicks the ball, the elongation of the back and neck when heading it.

As you likely know, our family is big into soccer.  My husband played as a child, coached our older daughter, and still loves teaching the sport to younger players.  We often see former players he coached, and parents and players smile and call him, “Coach Peter.”  I’ve been coaching younger children for quite a few seasons now, even though I didn’t play as a kid.  For me, I get to teach them to love the game and play it with joy.  Our daughters both have played several seasons each, and our older now referees and will help coach my teams at every opportunity.

When I coach, I have three rules for my team, and we go over these weekly:  Have fun.  Do your best.  Be good sports (both within our team and towards other teams’ players).  I was reflecting on these rules over the weekend after watching them play so beautifully in Saturday’s game, and it dawned on me that these same rules can apply to business as well.

Sport in childhood. Association football, show...
Sport in childhood. Association football, shown above, is a team sport which also provides opportunities to nurture social interaction skills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1) Have fun.  If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?  It can’t be all fun and games all the time.  In soccer, I have yet to meet anyone who loves running wind sprints (though I did have a player last season who smiled through three disciplinary laps at the end of practice).  There has to be work.  Likewise in business, sometimes it’s a lot of fun.  For me, creating the soaps and engaging with customers are what makes running my business most enjoyable.  Those are the things that make it fun and that see me through hours of creating content and bookkeeping.

(2) Do your best.  There’s an unofficial family motto in my family:  “If you’re going to do it, might as well do it right the first time.”  Yes, there are times when we make mistakes; that’s not what Grandpa – and probably his Grandpa before him – meant by “doing it right.”  We don’t take shortcuts.  We invest the time and attention into doing a good job from the start.  For example, when building a shelving unit, it’s easy to suspend boards between other boards and screw them into place.  However, you’re going to be left with a unit where the boards sag in the middle, the wood splinters around the nails, and the entire thing falls apart.  Sure, it may have only taken half an hour to construct, but it won’t be long before you’re having to tear it apart and start over.  Alternatively, you could take a little bit more time, adding supports and changing the construction to make it stronger.  It might take four hours to build, but it will last through anything but fire.

That’s the same in running my business or any business.  I want to invest the extra time and care into making something strong and long-lasting.  I could go about it half-assed, but whatever business endeavor I’m tackling won’t last very long at all.  It’ll be sloppy and careless, and in addition to being structurally weak, it’ll be unpleasant for people to see.  When I’m perusing businesses’ social media offerings or websites and see poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I wonder how much care they give their products if their presentation to the world is that sloppy and shows that great a lack in care and proofreading.  In this, too, I have the mindset of, “If I’m not doing my best, why bother doing it at all?”

(3) Be good sports.  On my teams, good sportsmanship involves how players treat each other and how my players treat opposing players.  Even in practice, I don’t allow players to criticize each other or to harp on each other’s mistakes.  In play, this means not only watching elbows, pushing, and tripping (all illegal fouls), but also not saying things like, “You suck!” or “You call that a kick?”  Taking this a little further, I also encourage them to at least recognize when the other team does something well.  Praise such as “Good hustle!” and “Nice save.” demonstrates that they have the best attitude for success on the field and off.

In business – and life – raising others up costs us nothing.  In the maker community, we often praise each other’s efforts, and we laugh together on mistakes.  It’s nearly impossible not to laugh in commiseration when one’s young child strews black oxide powder all over one’s work space.  And kitchen.  And powder room.  And living room.  Then, because they’ve walked through it, they leave little black footprints up the stairs and down the hall.  (Can you tell I have firsthand experience with this situation?)  It takes more effort to follow a maker in order to point out their mistakes and to slam them publicly than it does to follow that same maker and give them “likes” and affirmations on their work.  My business requires all the time and energy I can give it, so finding time to insult another maker is pointless to me.  However, seeing their picture on IG or FB and clicking the “heart” or the “thumbs up” takes no discernible time out of my day.

My goal with the kids on the team is not only to give them skills to be tremendous soccer players, but also to give them skills for life.  The rules I created and enforce will help them be better students, better workers, and better citizens.

What rules can you think of that would benefit both players in youth-league sports and in life?

What Are You Selling?

You’ve heard me say before that we’re an entrepreneurial family, with my husband, our older daughter, and I all having our own businesses.  Our daughter’s mowing business has all but died this year, with many people taking care of their own lawns, a customer moving, and so forth – despite her serious hustle to drive new business.  That’s meant she’s had to find other ways to earn money.

My husband’s business continues to grow with requests for some light landscaping and organic fertilization treatments.  The girls go out to work with him on those days and take care of those jobs so he can focus on applying the inorganic chemicals.  They get to engage with the customers and get paid for the work they do.

Suddenly this summer, mermaid soaps have taken off like crazy!  The older daughter is the “Mermaid Diva,” crafting gorgeous mermaid soaps, each one beautifully unique.  I pay her for each one.  Between making soaps and working with her dad, my daughter has made up about half of her usual summer income.  She’s driven, because she is earning the money she needs to complete her soccer referee’s certification course; this will enable her to make even more money over the next year.  She’s saving up for next summer’s mission trip, next year’s sports (soccer, dance, or both), and next year’s awesome Language Arts class, should she decide to take it.

Mermaid soap
Sparkly mermaid soaps in Crystal Coast Morning. They are beautiful!

Yesterday evening, my husband told me about his former employer – now independent – offering customers a discount on their first treatment if they sign up.  It’s similar to what a major corporate competitor does, though on a larger scale.  Thanks to what I’ve learned throughout the time of my business and the years I’ve been a part of IBN and under the mentorship of Donna Maria, I was able to help him reframe how he thinks about driving his business.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “Big box stores have gotten customers trained to think they must always get a discount.  Big Company XYZ (the corporate competitor) probably averages about $50 per lawn, accounting for both postage stamp-size and high-end neighborhoods.  The local office may get $10-$20 of that for their operating costs and to pay their employees.  Where does the rest go?  It keeps the CEO in boats and vacation homes.  The techs are like worker drones.  That’s it.”

Him:  “No company I’ve ever worked for has ever given customers a discount for signing up.”

Me:  “OK.  And for good reason.  Why do you think that is?”

Him:  “They didn’t need to.  They were selling quality.”

Me:  “Exactly.  How closely do you pay attention to car commercials?”

Him:  “I really don’t.”

Me:  “Think about Chevy, Ford, and Honda commercials.  What do they focus on?”

Him:  “Their features.”

Me:  “No.  Their affordability.  Every single one sells their cars on ‘4000 off MSRP or ‘Just 249 per month.’  They’re selling on price.  Now, think about Mercedes or BMW.  You know the Lincoln commercials with Matthew McConaughey?  What are they selling?”

Him:  “Luxury.  Handling.  Performance.”

Me:  “Right.  And how often do you ever see prices on commercials for high-end vehicles?”

Him:  “You don’t.”

Me:  “Because those car manufacturers are selling quality vehicles, and their customers don’t care about the price when they’re getting quality.  What are you selling to your customers?”

Him:  “My brand.”

Me (smiling):  “Wrong.  Try again.”

He looked at me with a smile, not quite sure what I was looking for.  I smiled back and said, “Let me know when you’ve figured it out.”

As indie business owners, we have to be aware of our motivation and even more aware of what we’re selling.  We’re not selling a product or a service; we’re selling ourselves.  I’ve often privately thought that being a business owner is like legalized prostitution without the sex.  We’re selling bits of ourselves to our customers, hoping fervently that they’ll come back for more.  Packed in with every soap or every lawn treatment, we’re selling ourselves, our back stories, our experience, and our knowledge.  

We’re selling to build our hopes and dreams, to leave a legacy for the next generation, whether that’s the next generation in our families or in the larger entrepreneurial community.

Why do you do what you do?  What are you selling to people?

 

Not Going to be All Things

It’s a brilliant reality for both business and life:  You’re not going to be all things to all people.  I’m not going to be all things to all people.  We can read that in two ways:  One is the simple reality that it’s not possible to be all things to all people, and a second is that I refuse to try to be.

I would like to get into a local shop, one in particular.  As I met with the store owner, some of her preferences emerged.  One, because this friend of hers makes soap without palm oil, then that’s apparently best.  (I’ll dig more into the palm oil issue in another blog post.)  Using lard or tallow was out, because some of her customers are vegans.  Alright…  Not my thing, but I can respect folks for whom it is.  In a follow-up email, she didn’t care for the exfoliant in one of the free, full-size samples I’d sent her.  So here it is – three strikes against my soaps.

I addressed the palm oil issue with her and how I handle that myself.  I began to think of ways to get around the palm oil while keeping it vegan (shortening works with the same properties) and even went so far as to reformulate the soap recipe in order to avoid the palm and owing to the fact that my stock is hydrogenated soybean oil-free at the moment.  I graciously suggested a way to use the scrubby remnants of the soap, based on a question I fielded at Spring Fest.

Then it hit me.  Where does it stop?  So I reformulate this one soap, changing up the oils and leaving out the exfoliant.  But then I’d have to change all my wholesale-offered soaps when I have dozens of them ready to go to appreciative customers now.  For fun, I did make the reformulated soap; check out the video of my swirling work!

As I say here, I will not be all things to all people, and I declared that on Friday.  My older daughter in all her teen wisdom said, “I thought it’d be a bad idea for you to do that.”  And so it goes.  I went down that road before, and I ended up stressed out, disheartened, and frustrated.  Lesson learned!  Here are my tips for avoiding the trap of trying to be all things to all people:

  1. Declare now that you’re happy with YOU, however this manifests itself.  Is it in who you are, what you have, where you live, what you make?  Whatever it is, find a way to be happy with it.
  2. Internalize that happiness to find peace with yourself.  It’s one thing to declare something is true, but it’s another thing to feel it.  Geraldine in The Very Fairy Princess declares, “I know I’m a fairy princess, because I feel it inside.”  Maybe you’re not feeling fairy princess-y, but feel who you are deep down.
  3. Be prepared to let opportunities go in exchange for your integrity.  I’m not vegan.  I don’t co-opt to the “organic” label.  I use both essential oils and fragrance oils.  If I co-opt my integrity to any of these trends or preferences just in order to attract customers, then I will no longer be selling me.  I would be inauthentic in my business, which in itself would suck my soul dry.
  4. Always be honest about your you-ness.  Yes, I’m willing to pass up opportunities in order to hold on to my integrity, but I also refuse to sink to dishonesty in order to grow my business.  We prefer to run a fully transparent business, holding secret only those things which are proprietary, like our fragrance blends.  I can say with pride, “This is who I am, and these are my products.  Let’s find the most perfect fit for you.”

Embrace you.  I bet you are pretty wonderful, though not everyone will appreciate your unique wonderfulness.  Be you, anyway.

Starting with the Finish in View

No secret…  I walk a few times a week.  I’ve walked in pretty-chilly temps and I’ve walked in weather where I begin pouring sweat as soon as I step out of the house – like walking through the sauna that is North Carolina in the summer.  I don’t walk because I like freezing my butt off or sweating out two pounds of liquid in under an hour.  In fact, if I could get the same benefits from not-walking, I would in a heartbeat, but the truth is, I can’t, and walking really does have a whole lot of benefits – psychological, holistically physical, emotional, and even spiritual.

When I start my walks, within the first quarter mile, I mentally plan my route and start thinking of the very end – that last quarter mile when I can start slowing it down, check my pulse, log in the time and calorie burn, and get more comfortable.  I think about which route I’ll follow.  It’s always the same four streets, but depending on how I walk them, it can be 2.5 miles or 2.8 miles.  It may seem silly to think about finishing my walk before I have barely begun, but envisioning the end helps motivate me through every step and prevents me from taking short-cuts – skipping that little bit of .2 mile or not going down that short street.

Similarly, thinking about the end of a business venture from the outset helps a business owner work towards that goal, that completion, that teleos.  As we celebrate 15 years of soapy business, I reflect back on those early days, and I did not have an end-game in sight.  It wasn’t until several – SEVERAL! – years down the road that I began to think about things like having a brick-and-mortar store and passing my business down to my children.  That particular route requires certain steps and a certain amount of time, just like when I opt for “route A” of my walking choices.  Going the B&M route means striving to build up the revenue to sustain such a venture, taking into account overhead, staffing needs, retail traffic ebbs and flows, and so forth.  Passing the business down to my daughters requires teaching them every aspect of the business, not just the technical aspects, but also the passion and the why.

Last year in the midst of the rebrand, the brick-and-mortar suddenly became less important to me, and the girls have no desire to run a soapmaking business, though they love making soap.  They love the creativity and the design aspects, and the chemistry of it fascinates them, but that’s as far as their enthusiasm goes.  So, it’s become time to work with another end-game in mind.

To be honest, I haven’t entirely worked that out, yet.  Part of the rebrand involved an increased focus on wholesale and private label, though retail is still a very strong part of my business.  At this point, though, I’d more love to have a separate work shop than a full-blown B&M.  I’d enjoy the space separate from the house to make, wrap, and store my products.  The completion of my business now would be having a strong business to sell off in – ideally – one huge chunk to someone who’d love and nurture it as I do.  Again, this route requires a certain path, a certain set of steps, a particular journey to traverse.

Without the finish in sight, I could just meander along, making this product or that product, selling whenever, pushing for sales when I felt like it and ignoring my business when I didn’t.  Similarly, when I walk for my health, having a defined time frame and route ensures I do at least as much as I need to, and it also restricts me from following whims that could take me on long treks – not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, but when the family is expecting me to be gone a certain amount of time, being gone for 2-3 times that would cause them to worry.

Goals are essential, but goals without a defined end are just nebulous scratchings on a dry-erase board, the result of moments or hours of brainstorming.  As you set your goals, whether fitness, business, or lifestyle, determine to look at the end.  It’s likely not the end, but it is an end, often that of a chapter before the next beginning.

Pushing Through

I didn’t want to do it.  Despite knowing I must get some much-needed exercise today, it was a struggle getting out there.  My legs were still feeling remnants of the abuse from earlier in the week, it’s less-than-warm outside, and I have some business-related computer-based matters that need my attention in addition to planning tomorrow evening’s soccer practice.  Yeah, I put it off.  Even after my older daughter “helped” me out by grabbing my sneakers and workout clothes for me (without my asking her to), I still found another ten minutes’ worth of reasons not to strike out.

But finally, I could put it off no more.  Though the sun was out and the sky was a vibrant, cloudless blue, the wind stabbed through my top like knives and stung my cheeks.  The muscles in my legs were still a bit tight.  I was cold.  All I wanted was to be inside in my warm, fleecy bumwear in front of my computer with a mug of hot chocolate getting work done.  For about fifteen seconds, I gave serious consideration to turning around and going back home.  But sheer determination and nothing short of stubbornness kept me going.

I did it.  I did it for 47 minutes and almost 3 miles.  I did it despite the bitter wind and my desire to be warm inside.  I warmed up and kicked my heart rate up to my perfect target rate.  Best yet, I had that time for my brain to be free of distractions, which gave it room to plan my soccer practice, formulate a new direction in my business, and mentally draft this blog post.

Business requires us to push through sometimes, too.  I’m facing hours of website work this weekend, which is my absolute least favorite thing to do for my business.  It has to get done, though.  Other business owners may love that type of stuff but hate dealing with the public (my favorite).  Regardless of what your least favorite task is or how much you may not be feeling one of your more enjoyable ones, as business owners, we have to push through and get things done.

The past month has stymied my drive and creativity, and in the evolution of my business, especially over against changing technologies, I have to push through yet again with a new angle and a new way of connecting with my customers.  I love my customers, talking to them and hearing their stories, but that is one thing I really miss about not doing as many events – I just don’t get to connect with them like I used to.  Sure, blog posts and emails are great, but it all too often feels like a one-sided conversation.

To that end, I am going to be launching a brand new Facebook group just for Coastal Carolina Soap Company’s customers, whether you have bought from us or you just love our brand story and want to stay connected.  The link will be going out very soon, so be on the lookout for that.  Maybe my blog posts come right to your inbox, or perhaps you see them on Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media outlet.  You can find out about this incredible new group by subscribing to this blog or also by signing up to receive our emails (one of which handily contains links to each blog post for the month).

We hope you will join us, and we look forward to connecting with you in new and exciting ways beginning next week!

Getting Right Back On

I went out last Friday for a wonderful trike ride.  The weather was in the 70s – shorts and t-shirt warm – and being out pushing it felt awesome!  I was tearing through the neighborhood, coasting through the large puddle in the cul de sac behind our house, enjoying the day and saying “hi” to neighbors.  Friday was my day to push it, to nip that third mile.  I was in the far cul de sac, and it happened.  That cul de sac isn’t a constant-radius turn, and I lost control and began to tip.  In fighting to stay upright and regain control of my trike, the pedals beat the devil out of the backs of my legs.

pic of bruises
“Ouch ouch ouch! Shit shit shit!” Exactly what I was saying as this was happening.
Bruised leg
And the left leg. It only hurts when anything touches it.

My trike survived with nary a scratch or ding, and except for that cut (which looks worse than it is) and my legs’ 50 shades of purple, I fared well enough.  But now I had a choice.  I could walk my trike home, where my older daughter was waiting to ride it, or I could ride it home.  Walking was safe enough, though painful as all get-out as bruised and swollen as my legs were.

A little back-story…  I never learned how to ride a bike.  I tried, but I fell too many times, and one time, I got the wind knocked out of me.  That experience scared me as I heard my fourth grade teacher’s voice in my head talking about broken ribs and punctured lungs.  That was it for me.

So here I was a vast number of years later facing a choice – walk or ride; it was going to hurt either way.  After walking around twenty feet or so, I hopped on my trike and rode home, and not straight home; while I didn’t do the route I had planned, I did add a bit extra to the ride before reaching home and getting cozy with two ibuprofen and an ice pack.

Like many entrepreneurs, I’ve fallen in business, too.  I’ve been banged up and bruised, even shed a little O-positive.  There have been some failures that made me ultra-sensitive, not wanting anything to touch the disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and/or anger boiling inside me.  I wanted to give up, just walk the business back to its settled position, liquidate everything, and find something else to do.  The thing is, I visited with that idea.  I pulled it out, entertained it, and debated it.  I dug deep underneath why I was thinking about quitting, and the answer always came back to frustration or something going on outside of my business.

Regardless of how banged up I was or how bad the business bruises were, I hopped right back in the fray.  I didn’t quit nor did I give up.  I did give myself permission to whimper and whine, to grab the figurative ice pack and pain killer (usually my favorite cozy pajamas and dark chocolate).  After my little pout session – little being the operative word here – I reformed my plan and attacked my business from a different perspective.  Without the moments of failure, I would have maintained the status quo, keeping on doing business the same exact way.  Sometimes, in fact, those moments of failure are exactly what we need to keep us from taking our progress for granted and to shake us out of old mindsets.  Often after a major failure, I reframe my thinking in huge ways and my business experiences significant growth.

Saturday, my family and I went to the beach (you can check out that video on my Facebook page), and my youngest and I took a 2 1/2 mile walk on the beach, banged up legs and everything.  Today I was back on the trike for a glorious half-hour ride.  There are three cul de sacs in our neighborhood, two of them not having constant-radius curves.  I didn’t avoid them; I just slowed down and created a constant-radius response with my trike.  I learned how to do it different, just as I do in business.

In business, as in life, there are failures and falls.  The important thing is, “Never give up.  Never, ever give up” (Winston Churchill).

Rollin’ Along

In the business seminar my husband and I attended a couple of weeks ago, the presenter said that exercise is key to developing the right mindset for business success.  However, when you’re juggling home life, family life, and running a growing business, how in the world are you supposed to find time to exercise?  Are you one of those who joined a gym in January?  How many times have you made it?  Driving to the gym, working out, showering, then driving on to work or home equals a huge time commitment each day; and it’s so easy to subtract that from your busy schedule.

What if, though, you found an exercise that takes less time but still has good benefits?  The presenter shared that he runs a mile almost every day.  It takes him about 10-15 minutes, but then he’s done.  (He also shared that, when he was in the Corps, he could run three miles in 18 minutes.)  Slow is okay; it’s far better to be slow than not to exercise at all, and the slow mover is still making more progress than the couch potato.

I spend 30-60 minutes a morning, five days a week, doing stretches, resistance work, and toning; there’s absolutely no shortcut to that.  Then I spent another 45 minutes 4 days a week walking almost three miles.  That was before last Thursday.  My trike showed up, all sleek bright yellow, 24″ wheels, six speeds, and a seat perfectly suited to my tushy.

Me on my new trike. The reflectors aren’t the only thing making this visible! It’s bright! Those jeans are getting baggy on me!

Now I can bike those three miles in 20 minutes (I’m still building up speed), getting the heart rate up there, pushing the legs to firm up and get stronger.  The calorie burn is roughly the same as walking, but it takes half the time.  Pretty sweet, huh?  On top of that, my knees have been feeling much more amazing, and on the weekends, I have time to add a walk onto that bike ride.  Another benefit is, I feel exhilarated for a substantial period afterwards, but then I start feeling really draggy around 9:00, which means I crash into sleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night.

This week’s business take-away is, get out and exercise, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.  It’ll help renew and recharge your mind and body, making it easier to give focus to your business life.  That time also allows ideas to fall out of the ether, which can spark some amazingly outside-the-box creative processes!  Make it happen!

 

 

Keeping the Right Business Mindset: QIQO

Last Thursday, my husband and I attended a business seminar for small business owners on the “Mindsets, Habits, and Actions of Successful Business Owners.”  There were a bunch of delicious nuggets I took out of the seminar – I had five pages full of notes! – and I’ll be sharing some of them with you in the weeks ahead.  These aren’t in any particular order.

The first thing that comes to mind as I reflect on this seminar is the idea of “quality in, quality out.”  If you’re a bit older, you might remember in the early days of computer programming the acronym GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.  Both concepts are similar – you will put out what you take in.  The seminar leader said he never listens to nor watches the news; he gets daily papers and can pick and choose what he reads.  He replaces the constant news flow with listening to podcasts about business.

This is something I have to think about every day with intention.  I don’t listen to the news nor do I watch it.  There is no news that will be important to my life in six months, so how much less important is it now.  There are other temptations on our time, though, aren’t there?  Social media is a big one!  That time on Facebook catching up with friends and trends is time that’s not going to my business.  On top of that, it can easily suck the joy out of a morning before my day has even had a chance to start.

So with what do I replace this time and brain drain?  I check email, which helps me begin to put together my agenda for the next day.  I cruise through a set of problems at brilliant.org and exercise my math and physics skills.  Also, I read business blogs and articles.  If I want to be successful in business, then I must make it a point to read what successful people do and emulate those disciplines for myself.

When I put quality input into my brain, then my day gets off to a jazzed up, high quality start.  Solving math problems gives me a sense of achievement to begin my day (especially considering math is far from my strongest subject), and reading business blogs inspires me, giving me food for thought as I take care of that day’s tasks.  By contrast, scrolling through Facebook first thing often leaves me feeling disgusted or inundated by negative energy – just too much fearmongering, intolerance, and hate.  It’s like having the choice between a filling, healthy breakfast or a doughnut.  The calorie count might be the same, but only one of those will leave me feeling good about what I took in and nourish my body well.

What’s it going to be for you today?  With what will you fill your mind as your day begins, as you get ready to roll up your sleeves and tackle the little-and-growing empire that is all yours?  Will you fill it with high quality things so that your output will reflect quality, or are you going for the junk?  Choose wisely, for we only get one “today.”