how to ‘shut down’ when it is imperative to stay open longer

In business for yourself, and especially a new one, it can be all consuming to say the least.   Being a mum and working from home the lines between working and living can sometimes become a little (ok a lot) blurred.  Even when your attention is on something else your thoughts can be preoccupied.  Then introduce the age of social media (social media – the new corner store) – the ultimate excuse to be “open all hours” and I am sure most of us would be happy to create, type, like, click, tweet, shout-out until the cows (children and hubby) come home (ask for their dinner).

I am the first to admit that sometimes it is the momentum – that physical action of doing – that drives things forward but even I am questioning can being on permanent hyper-drive be both constructive and positive 100% of the time?  Here am I grappling with the exhileration of creating, running and building a business whilst maintaining a happy, calm and organised household – and have come to appreciate that things must stop…..in order for them to progress.

So in writing my new mantra for creating a healthy and happy balance I have decided to list the things that are non-negotiables and those things that, temporarily, could make way for ensuring the best possible outcome to succeed ………for everyone.

Can’t compromise – even a little

Quality family time (an obvious one)
Healthy eating
Exercise (at least 1 hour 3 times a week)
7-8 hours sleep
Routine for the kids
A night out – once in a while
Staying in touch with my beautiful friends

Willing to part with (at least for a little while)

TV (well that went quite some time ago)
Perusing the shops (ditto)
The cinema (oh I will miss you cinema)
surfing the net for fun

Now in order to fit all of the must do’s in and focus enough time and energy on creating a structured work life I have come to realise some harsh truths.

1. I need to get up earlier (ughhh)

2. I need to get more done in the time allocated – focus!(ie less distractions, switch off the computer, wear headphones – my sister swears by listening to podcasts when doing her housework)

3. I need to work out what is consuming most of my time – and is it used effectively?  (yes talking to you mac & FB – my shiny new timer will be watching…and ticking..loudly! )

4.  I need to set clear boundaries/routines and stick to them.

4. I need at least 3  days completely switched off-unplugged-zoned out from the business.

5.  and somethings can be outsourced for sanity’s sake.  (my gorgeous mum is writing 3 menu plans each week to stop that time wasting question “what’s for dinner”.

It is amusing to think that working for ourselves may be giving us less freedom than working in a “job” we hated for the very same reason.

…..roll on tomorrow…

two of my favourite books at the moment

How to get things done. David Allen

Cut the clutter.  Cynthia Townley

flow – are you getting it?

 

Ever wondered why some days are spent in a flat spin accomplishing very little, if anything at all, and other days you are like a whirlwind, achieving with ease at lightening speed?  (and goodness help anyone that gets in your way).  No task is too big or too small and complexity is of no concern – everything just gets swept up in the path of accomplishing.

It might all be explained by a theory called flow.

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” Wikipedia.

Totally focused it can bounce you around from one task to another with simple ease and natural progression, completing, solving and finalising projects that have otherwise been languishing or not even on your radar.  Frustratingly I always seem to achieve this magnificent state  – the day before I go on holidays.  A time limit is a sure fire way to ignite your inner being and set you on your way to super-hero status of achieving.

Other ways that you may find flow works for you are:

A purpose. Having clear goals and a step by step plan.

Being toally un-interupted or distracted. (headphones are a good aide)

Experiencing a taste of success.  The promise of what can be achieved is a great way to rocket you to “getting things done”.

Just begin – sometimes starting with an easy task and one that you find enjoyable will set you on the path to completing others.

Whatever your strategy there is no denying that the momentum of accomplishing is intoxicating and purely addictive not to mention totally fulfilling.  Next time you experience flow, make a note of what it was that enabled you to get it and repeat often.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi- Hungarian psychology professor best know as the architect of the notion of flow and for his years of research and writing on the topic.

Reading:  Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

the 5 REAL p’s of marketing – and how they can make you standout in your field.

Ok ok ……so we all know the basic fundamentals of marketing right?  Product, price, promotion and place……. blah blah blah.  Sure they are still the foundation for defining and marketing your product or service, but in this ever changing and evolving world it is no longer enough to get by with just the basics.  In my experience -the need to stand out has given rise to a whole new crop of p’s.

1.  PRESENTATION – Marketing is seemingly more and more about the visual.  The summation of your product, your business and you at a GLANCE.  Visually what you present speaks volumes about you and your business.  Everything from your logo, image, catalogues, web, facebook to those supposedly unimportant presentations to industry such as banking institutions, buying professionals and leasing agents.

TIP – when presenting to industry professionals make sure you do your homework.  Think about what information you are sending through emails.  It needs to be enough so that they can gain a summary of what you do and whether they would be interested in talking to you further.  An email simply stating I have a brand of gorgeous accessories is not going to cut it! And if you are one of the lucky ones to get face to face time- make the most of it. Ask what information are they requiring, what is the best format to present it in and would they like to see samples?

2.  PHOTOGRAPHY – nothing is more of a quick summation than an image.   Online or in print it is imperative you get the best quality photos (and models) you can afford.

TIP – if you can’t afford much, attend a workshop or seek out a short course to learn the tricks the professionals use and practice everyday. You won’t regret it.

3.  POINT OF DIFFERENCE – know your point of difference and USE it.  By coming at it from another angle, it can give you a whole new spin. Buyers, magazines and publicity professionals love a new angle – and it helps you to stand out from the crowd.

4.  PITCH – you have a limited amount of time (sometimes seconds) to grab attention.  Spend time polishing your pitch.

TIP – hire the services of a professional to help you articulate in a succinct way.  If that is out of the budget, ask a close friend to jot down some words about you or your business.  It can sometimes be difficult to put a hard hitting, enthusiastic marketing spin on something you are so close to.

5.  PROFESSIONALISM – in tying all these elements together, it is your professionalism that may get you over the line in that wholesale account you really want, that bank finance your need or that shop position you desperately desire.  People need to see you are committed, capable and worth investing in.  They are quite often accountable to others and don’t want to look silly by taking a risk on someone that may not last the distance.

TIP – ALWAYS be courteous (even if you are devastated inside).  Be early and organised and if you are not successful leave on a pleasant note and ask what areas could you work on for next time.

social media – the new corner store?

Remember back to a time when you would head on down to your favourite local store not because you needed anything in particular – but because the shop assistant (“owner”) would not only recall your name but ask after your great Aunt recovering from surgery, engage in honest-to-goodness conversation and show genuine interest above and beyond the commercial need to sell you something. It was nice to know your hard earned dollars were going to someone else that was working hard,  had a name, a family and an a genuine interest in the community.

Those days however, are not lost, they have just morphed into a new entity.  Social media is the face and voice of the woman behind the store.

Recently, attending seminar “Social media for your business” run by the City of Perth, it was evident that you have to work harder than ever to keep attracting new customers and more importantly keep those customers interested and loyal.  Sprouting statistics from guest speaker Tenille Bentley from Socialite Media “60% of people in Perth are on Facebook –
and 50% of people aged under 30 of which 96% of them are on social media”. So having a facebook account….is only investing in one form of social media. From what I gathered you really need to be running several parallel.  Twitter, blogging, linkedin…… all very fascinating but after all this socializing, won’t I be too exhausted to work?  One thing is for sure though, not surfing the wave of social media means you may as well close the shop door and hang out a sign that says “I can’t be bothered”.

And to give you some hope that all the eyestrain is worth it,  I have been working hard on building my profile on Facebook for my cookies. After only 3 weeks I received an email from the mega successful kidspot.com.au (over a million viewers each month) inviting me to take part in their competition page and thus promoting my biscuits to potentially millions of viewers.  Now that is something I would never have dreamed of.

Tenille’s top tips on investing in Facebook.

1.                 80% of what you write should be about your followers.  20% about your business.

2.                 It’s about being social.   Keep it relaxed and fresh.

3.                 Tag other pages you like.

4.                 Integrate twitter and u-tube

5.                 Create a landing page that is interactive.

Other guest speakers for the seminar included

Mike Haydon – SEO Perth speaking on twitter

Lesley Dewar – stories my nana tells

Mark Garner – Make them click getting more from your website

Peter Taliangis speaking on network site linkedin

Mark Van Geyzel Internet marketing for you speaking on blogging and vlogging.

sink or swim…..? why athletes are the best business models.

After a considerable absence I have decided to plunge head on into exercise again (swimming, my choice of torture). Previously a fairly competent swimmer, now very unfit, my third session was some what of a struggle and saying I resembled a dead fish – would be kind……. they at least float! It made me think (whilst focusing in solitude on the long black line) that …well… it has a pretty strong analogy to approaching business. Starting the “training session” I meandered along behind my coach (dad). I loosely knew the session, what I wanted to achieve distance wise – but hey if I didn’t feel like it – I would cut corners, stop at one end, have a rest and was generally unfocused and feeling sorry for my out-of-breathe self. There were no other targets other than getting out alive and in time to watch The Good Wife.

Half way through, a squad of amazonian women who looked like they were out to break the Olympic record for butterfly, in their spare time, forced us out of the lane and then demonstrated what focused, determined and well trained athletes looked like. You know the ones that have a goal, are dedicated, pick experts in their field who draw up detailed plans to guide, coach and encourage them every step of the way and constantly remind them of why they are doing it in the first place. It was hard not to feel that the stronger, more aggressive “competition” was squeezing me out. And when I finally decided to bring out my secret weapon (flippers) to get back in the game – it was too late! I was swamped in a lane with a dozen other swimmers only able to go 3 metres before stopping and weighing up whether I had time (and the inclination) to overtake before oncoming swimmers.

Business too is brutal. This is what I have gleaned from the focused athlete …………and why most of them succeed in business long after they have hung up their cosies.

1. Success- they know what they what to achieve and what defines success for them. 

2. Planning – they pick experts that will help them achieve that success with detailed, daily reference.

3. Goal setting – They break down the long term goal into managable AND measured steps to keep them on track. (or as my husbands training in management taught him “chunk the elephant”… you will hear me bang on about this.)

4. Dedication/focus and drive. They work (hard) at it EVERYDAY.

5. Competition – they know everything about their competitors and what it takes to be better than them.

6. Innovation – they keep up with new methods, training regimes and motivation techniques.

and lastly and most importantly …….(at least I think) they have……

AMBITION. They want to achieve greatness, they are dedicated, passionate and hell bent on getting there – whatever it takes!!

In discussing this with my father (a professional swimming coach for 30 years) the thing he finds so interesting is that even the average Joe wanting to get in shape will pay good money for a coach to keep them on track yet most people starting out in business ….decide to swim it alone!

web presents

I read an interesting online article the other day about what small business should budget for creating* an online presence. It was suggested a small business should allow between $3000 and $6000 for creating a website and interestingly it sparked a healthy debate. 72 comments in fact, some said not enough, others chirped $2000 was adequate (but met with snide “but at what quality”). Obviously I am no expert on the matter – but having just created my own website I experienced quite a different amount to the said budget – $0!. Using iweb (that came as part of the programs bought with my computer) I have been able to create a website with minimum fuss. I was able to gain a pretty good understanding of the site building program in an afternoon and having already mocked up how I would like my web to look using powerpoint, was easily able to copy and paste the content into iweb. I am neither a graphic artist nor web designer but know what I like so decided to give it a go before I embarked on the overwhelming task of searching for a web designer. Although it is not fancy it does give you the basics to ensure you are getting your business out there in cyberspace. Once you have mastered the program you can then sign up with other helpful (free) programs such as google analytics that will ensure you are making the most from your site. With plenty of other similar programs out there it is possible for new businesses starting out to at least have something on the web for customers to locate and learn more about them at a fraction of the price. Try them out and have a play…… I had heaps of fun!

*note hosting of the website is not included in the above cost. After reviewing the packages I have gone with mobile me for $99 a year and redirected my current domain to this site.

http://www.cookiedoughbiscuits.com.au