Changes, Choices and Closed Businesses

When you start a business you don’t always think about what comes next and when/how you want to finish with it.  Sure you may imagine creating a great product/company and selling it for tons of money to some big company, but that’s not the reality (or plan) for most business owners.   For most (especially small business owners), they’re more focused on what’s going on today and their current customers (or getting customers for that matter), maybe even what’s coming up in the next year or so, than what could happen however many years down the road.  But the reality is that that decision does need to be made at some point in time.

This week in the US we see the end of Ringling Brothers’ circus, and I saw an article saying that the number of businesses that were sold in the first quarter was higher than it’s been.  I’ve also seen a number of ‘store closing’ signs at what used to be popular retailers.  Times change, people change, needs change, technology (the broadest definition of the word) changes, you (the business owner) change.  Yes, it’s tough to acknowledge the change, and difficult to let go of something that’s been part of your life for however long.  It’s tough to part with the people who have invested time, ideas and sweat into the business and customers.  It can also be scary to look at what’s coming next when you no longer have the business to work on each day.

Sometimes it’s OK or necessary to come to an end in business, sometimes it’s just time for us to move on to something else.  There’s no shame in that.  There’s also nothing wrong with passing the business off (or selling it) to someone who can take it to a level that you can’t for whatever reason.  However, many of the businesses that close each month close for reasons that didn’t have to be reality.  These businesses are run by people who are greedy, or aren’t willing to look at the truth, or aren’t willing to make changes, or aren’t willing to try things, or don’t treat their people right, or aren’t willing to even try to keep up with their competitors and the larger marketplace.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your business and check if you’ve been holding things back or hurting your businesses potential. If that’s the case i encourage you to make the choice to make changes, and get started on at least one of those changes this week.

Expectations of Something More

Do you get up every day with a list of expectations for yourself, the people in your life and the world around you? Lately I’ve been taking time to consider my expectations of the world and think about what they might be and what I really want out of my life.  Part of it has to do with the passing of a family friend, part of it has to do with the hate I’ve been seeing some people share, and part of it has to do with wanting more out of life because life’s really not worth wasting.

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of fun and I think fun has an important role to play in making sure we make the most of our lives.  It can be both a motivator of encouraging us to get the work done so we’ve got the resources to have fun as well as one to make the time to have that fun and take time off as well.  We do have an expectation of making sure we care for our families, and I think it’s an important one to uphold.  There are people around the world who don’t make decisions in light of how it will affect the people who matter the most to them.  But in the same conversation we do have a responsibility to be part of our loved ones lives, and not at work all the time trying to provide for them.

So what’s a person to do? If you’re at work working tons of hours because you’re not making enough per hour/day to support your family, it’s time to upgrade and update your skill set.  If you’re at work all day because you work on a fantastic cause, it’s time to get some new people involved.  If you’re at work all the time because you don’t want to be with your family, it’s time for a serious evaluation of and conversation about your life.  If you’re spending all your time on fun and avoiding the work there must be a reason why.  Maybe it’s because you really don’t enjoy your work, or maybe simply because reality hasn’t smacked you yet.   Whatever the case is I encourage you to take a look at your expectations for your life present and future and see if where you’re at and how your days currently go line up with that expectation.

Fun for Moms

This month one of the things we’re talking about is having fun, and of course today in the US we’ve got Mother’s Day. Some of us don’t think about Moms being fun, they just try to ruin our fun, right?! And if you’re a mom you may be having difficulty trying to remember the last time you had fun, or the last time you had some adult fun.  Whenever a kid is brought into the world it’s someone’s responsibility to care for them, whether it’s their biological mom and/or dad or a family member or an adopted family.  You know I’m a supporter of having a village raise a child and not just depending on the human or humans who brought that child into the world.  One of the reasons is that it’s more fun for the child when they get to interact with other children of the “village,” but it also gives the parents a chance to be parents and have adult friends and get a time-out from being a parent on occasion.

If you’re a mom and it’s been a long time since you’ve had fun I want to encourage you to start making that a part of your life.  Maybe that means drinks (coffee/tea or alcohol) with the girls once a month.  Maybe that means reinstating the weekly date with your partner.  Maybe that means hiring a sitter to give you a couple of hours off each week so you can shower alone, shave your legs or do food shopping without “helpful” second opinions.  Maybe it means watching another family’s kids for a few hours and they watching yours on another day so even more moms get a few hours off.  Maybe it means being more creative and getting the kids involved in your preferred hobbies and interests like gardening, painting, garage sale shopping or car repair.

If you’re feeling guilty for wanting a little fun, let’s get some perspective.  First, everyone needs to have fun and take a break from the challenges, disappointments, hurts and frustrations that come through our lives.  Second, if all your kids see you doing is stressing out and being unhappy, what do you think they’ll think about life?  I wouldn’t want to grow up if all it meant was that I’d be miserable and unhappy.  Yes, you need to teach them responsibility and how to care for themselves, but I believe that part of that is learning proper stress relief and that it’s OK to have fun as part of your life all life-long.  What fun will you have this week?

Change And Stay the Same?

Over the past decade or so there have been many changes in the business world (‘business’ meaning both for- and non-profits).  Some businesses have embraced the changes, some have been reluctant but have eventually tried out some of them and other businesses have firmly resisted any change efforts. In some of those change-resistant businesses and business industries/niches there have been some innovators who have started new businesses that are taking advantage of the changes, which is causing some disruption in the industry/niche.  Last week there was an event and this past week I was talking with an individual about their new business that really got me thinking about the changes so today I want to talk a bit about both sides of this conversation.

The event is one that’s been around for 40+ years which says something pretty important given how few businesses, let alone events, last that long these days. The event is a live event and is in an industry that has overall been more resistant to or slow to do many of the changes, including tapping into the internet world.  Given that at the core of the event is the fact that it’s a live event, while you wouldn’t want to change that, there is a lot more the event can be doing year ’round to better market the event and keep people connected in between events.

The individual I was talking with is starting a new business in a different industry that has been resistant to change as well.  I rarely talk with people who are on his end of things, typically I hear from businesses who are behind the curve and trying to catch up, or talking with companies who are selling innovative products.  Starting a business brings its own challenges, but starting a business that intends to turn an industry on its head is an even bigger challenge, and I encouraged the individual to stay the course.

So where does that bring us?  It says that there are tons of businesses who have yet to really reach their customers in 2017 as they’re wanting to be reached.  But, I also believe that adopting some changes don’t mean that you have to totally change what you’re offering or who you are at the core.  To give an example: I saw a recent headline questioning if restaurants were the next industry to suffer and become a more virtual experience with all meals being delivered to your home and not going out to eat, and I had to laugh.  Yes, that has some appeal, but a large portion of the success of restaurants is people wanting to get out of their homes and have a meal experience with family or friends, they don’t want to be home, they want to go out.  Food delivery may increase but I don’t think restaurants will ever fully go out of business, especially those that offer a fantastic dine in experience.  However, just because your core offering (eating in a restaurant in this case) shouldn’t change, that doesn’t you can’t change a few of the items you offer on the menu or how you cook them to meet some of the more current desires or practices, expand how you market to your customers or offer more options to pay than just cash.

The world is changing and I don’t think it’s changing back any time soon.  Too many businesses that used to be and still should be essential businesses are being called “dated” or at least not contemporary because they’re afraid to spend the money on upgrades or updates or are stuck at “it’s how we’ve always done things,” yet complain when they can’t get the customers in the door (literal or figurative) or customers complain about what’s offered.  There’s a simple answer to this, but it’s not necessarily one they (or you) want to hear.  Is it a message you need to hear today?

Processes and Procrastination

As we head towards the end of another week you may be thinking about what you can toss onto the piles on your desk or mark so that you deal with it next week and not today or tomorrow.  I’m familiar with the process, everyone does it to some extent. And to some extent it’s necessary to do because there are only so many hours in a day and while you may have something sudden and time-sensitive come up today, you may not have that tomorrow and be able to deal with things from today tomorrow.  The danger comes in when you never get to “tomorrow” and you keep having to put out fires and deal with emergencies today and never get to that other stuff you keep putting off.

The good news is that a portion of what you keep putting off can be handled by someone else.  You can get someone else to file the papers or place/pack orders or refill supplies or input data to a spreadsheet or program or app.  The bad news is, as you probably guessed, they can only do so much as they are not you. All that help is great to a point, then you have to step back in and choose or approve purchases, reply to clients, or confirm the data.

But what it comes back to is that you need to stop and realize that there’s a problem and you’re tired of seeing the problem day after day and not being able to do what you want to with or about it.  Maybe it’s as simple as changing the software, program or procedure that you do things with/through.  Maybe it’s creating a schedule and following it 95% of the time.  Maybe it’s just hiring someone to help out a few hours a week (on either the personal or the professional side).  But I believe that for many of the things that we’re putting off, there’s a simple solution that can make it much easier and much less painful to do the job and get it done quicker and with the results you’re looking for (or at the very least results which is something you didn’t have before).

If you’re struggling with the never ending search for tomorrow in your work or home, I encourage you to take an important first step before the end of the week.  Maybe it’s reaching out to an organizer or coach like myself who is local to you and getting the conversation going.  Maybe it’s taking 30 minutes to investigate other program/procedure options.   Maybe it’s sitting down with your team and talking about who’s doing what and who would rather do what and who can help you clear things off your plate (making things easier for everyone).   What will you do?

Focused on Fun?

One of the things that makes this world go ’round is the fact that we’re all different, yet we’re all similar.  I believe everyone can find something in common to talk about with someone else in the world, but at the same time we’re all so very different in so many ways, whether it be where we live, how old we are, what we eat or what we do with our lives.  I read a great quote recently that got me thinking.  It was from a conversation between James Altucher and Jon Morrow.  If you’re not familiar with Jon, he’s been paralyzed from the neck down since birth.   Just about anyone you ask would say that that makes him “disabled” (or some related term or phrase).  However, they made a good point during their conversation that “Everyone in the world can’t do something as well as someone else… So everyone in a sense is disabled.”

Recently on the Life and Spirituality blog I posted some thoughts about grief and loss, as a close family friend is entering the last part of their journey.  Hearing this interview between James and Jon got me thinking about this friend again and about how we live our lives.  I’ve seen enough of the TV and the news to know that all of us could live our lives saying ‘woe is me’ and be absolutely right.  We’ve all got problems, whether it was that your sandwich got eaten by the office munch or you don’t have clean water to drink.  Most of us could list a bunch of things that aren’t right in our lives at this time.  As important as it is to recognize the issues, the question is do we just see the issues or do we look for a way out or how to fix them?

Jon is one example of many who choose to look for a better tomorrow, just like my family friend always has.  I’m a huge dog lover and have always admired them for their ability to love and play, while often still knowing when it’s time to be serious.  Countless dogs around the world are working dogs, whether they sniff for drugs or help people who have mobility issues or other disabilities, or even just love on those who are sick.  But it’s those same dogs who work very hard who also teach their humans what it means to see more to life than just what’s right in front of them.

The question we’re really discussing this month as we talk about fun is whether we’re able to find balance between the work (and difficulties) and the play in our lives, or maybe if we’re really willing to.  Yes, there will be times when a push or extra hours at work is necessary, but there comes a point that you will burn out.  No matter how seriously you panic over or focus on the incoming burn out, it’s unlikely that you can avoid it or recover from it if all you’re focusing on is the burn out.

So today I challenge you to evaluate your focus on life.  What are you really focused on? Are you focused on the ways you’re failing and not succeeding (I know they exist, we’ve all got them), or are you making a point to improve in at least one way every day and have at least one period of fun and really live life every day?  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be looking back thinking what a miserable person I was and how much of life I missed out on.  What about you?

Celebrating Small Businesses

It has been National Small Business Week this week!  It’s a great opportunity to celebrate and support the small businesses online and offline that work very hard to help lots of people around the world.  If you’re a small business, you face some special challenges and special opportunities.  Today I want to share some encouragement and a few ideas with you.

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: you’re a ‘small’ business.  You’ve probably been counseled before to look for ways you can grow, and growth can be a good thing, but not everyone has the same concept of growth.  Growth to you may be 2 new customers each month, but growth to someone else may be 2000 new customers.  You don’t have any reason to be ashamed for fitting the ‘small’ business definition or not wanting to grow to a company that serves billions around the world.

As a small business you can have a lot more say in what you offer and how you help people.  It’s also a great opportunity to offer some more specialized or customizable products and services because you don’t have to come up with the quantity or figure out those logistics for your thousands or millions of customers.  Offering more unique or custom designed products can really help you stand out as a business in your local community.  I use MailChimp for my newsletters and they’ve been doing a great newsletter series highlighting some of their clients and sharing about the ways that their small businesses are learning and growing.

As a small business though you don’t have the resources to tap into that some of those big companies do.  What it means is that you have to get good at finding the free or lower cost resources that work for you, and encouraging your happy customers to share about you with their friends and family.  Their kind reviews on Yelp, Facebook and Google don’t take long but not every business encourages their customers to do them.  Things like social media, a blog and a newsletter can be very low cost opportunities to market your company, and there are lots of local opportunities you can take advantage of as well and not every small business (or business of any size) does.

Small businesses have an important role in the community and business world at large, you should be proud of what you do if you’ve got one. If you’ve got a small business I encourage you to share a little about your business in the comments below.  Or if you don’t have a small business but love one share some love for them in the comments, too!

I Choose Fun

A new month has arrived and this month we’ll be talking about a very important topic: fun! Of course there will be lots of fun ideas shared on the creativity blog as always, but we’ll also be taking a look at applying the concept of fun to our lives, families and businesses on this blog as well. We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the more serious stuff and about improving our lives because it’s important, and through that success we can have more resources to spend on the fun things of life. But sometimes we let the serious stuff take over our lives and we forget what our real goal is in all of it, and why we’re working as hard as we are.

Yes, we’ll talk about some more serious topics as they relate to having fun this month, but I really want to encourage you to work on finding more balance in your life. Why? Because as adults I don’t think all of us really are as intentional about having fun and really enjoying life as we should be. We have a ton of responsibilities and the constant changes in the world around us may encourage us to work when/while the money’s good.  And that’s a valid point because I do encourage you to have financial reserves, build them up when you’re not spending a lot and also plan for the future.  But when we don’t take any or enough time for fun our productivity and ability to succeed can suffer.

So the place I would encourage you to start this month is with your attitude and being open to having fun.  Don’t feel guilty if you take a day off to go on a field trip with one of your kids.  Don’t kick yourself for taking one morning off from the gym to be with your partner instead.  Don’t look at fun as an option somewhere down the road, choose to make fun an active and consistent part of your life today.