Monday, January 30, 2017

Lessons From The Layoffs 02: Get Over Holding All Business Meetings at a Coffee Shop

In this age of the mobile office and work-from-home entrepreneurs, coffee shops may be a good way to initiate a meeting with a new client or have a quick face-to-face catch up with a co-worker, but --

holding one's business meetings regularly at a coffee shop is not a long term business strategy.

Holding one's business meetings at a coffee shop is not a substitute for an actual office (whether that's at home or rented in a commercial space.)

Let me illustrate --

I enjoy writing at coffee shops. There is definitely something about sharing the space with other people who like coffee and treats-to-eat-while-drinking-coffee that makes visiting a coffee shop GREAT. I've definitely been inspired in and have written and planned out work-related things in coffee shops a lot. So yes, DO support your local coffee shop (and clean the table up after yourself before you leave!)

I've also had great meetings in coffee shops. When you think about Nashville and how spread out we are (and are further becoming as rents and house prices go way up past the median of affordability for the average worker/business person) it's crucial to have an "in between" location for friends to be able to meet and catch up.

Having an in-between location to meet would be especially necessary then, for business associates who are probably otherwise both working from home. Maybe your co-worker is allergic to dogs, or there really aren't enough chairs around your dining room table to seat who all need to discuss plans going forward. Or maybe it really isn't appropriate to meet your client at your house. All of these examples are legitimate reasons to need to meet at a neutral public place.

Nonetheless -- let's face it -- there's only going to be so much really in-depth business planning you can do in a public place when you involve one or more people beside yourself, and this is the long-term strategy point I'm trying to make.

Starting up a home-based business is the dream of many, and in some circumstances it can be run from home always. There are also times a home-run business spins out and grows to where it can be moved into a commercial space. The distinction and timing can be clear-cut to the small business owner, though not always.

However, in these layoffs I'm bumping into curious hybrids of the coffee shop business meeting that are like seedless fruit: convenient, but leaves nothing behind to replicate itself and thus feed the future (of the company).

This "seedless" coffee shop business meeting hybrid is where the coffee shop meeting is the main office meeting. Always. What this shakes out to really mean is:
        1. Entrepreneurs are not taking the time to develop their business in a timely manner. 

        2. Company Supervisors are not understanding that "supervising" actually means assessing their workforce in order to utilize each person to the best of their capabilities. 

The coffee shop meeting is just not a great long-term strategy. In-depth planning takes time, and means discussing company issues that are really not appropriately discussed in a public space. A public meeting by its very nature cannot truly provide the time for in-depth planning mobile workers.

We're not talking micromanaging, we're talking discussing goals and schedules, which necessitates impartation, which sometimes necessitates "taking over" a room -- and that just cannot really be done in a public place. This is why companies have conference rooms.

This isn't how everyone operates but I've seen enough to recognize it's a slippery slope. And it contributes to the illusion that there is communication happening -- and we have enough people in management positions who don't seem to understand what management and communication means. Which that in itself is another post ...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Lessons Learned From The Layoffs 01

Last week I hit a crisis point where I really thought my dreams were just crushed and over.

But excelling at whatever one does lies in the ability to toggle back and forth from focusing in on the details and pulling back to see the big picture.

As an artist, I know this to be true because in order to paint a picture, I need to both look at the canvas at large and then the little pieces that fill it. When I draw a comic book page, I need to draw the picture up out of the page in stages, then also fit that page within the context of the story itself.

As an employee, we can have the luxury of one or the other -- being the details person, or being the big-picture person. But when one is self-employed, or running their own business, looking at both the details and seeing the big picture are crucial, even if you still have the "luxury" of focusing on either detail or big picture. I also think a great employee still has to think like an entrepreneur; in the sense that the practice of mindfulness in the details of one's position and how it jigsaw puzzles in with everyone else's in the company produces excellence in one's area; which further encourages better quality in everything else around.

So rather than see this latest situation as "Layoff #4" (over the past 24 years) I've learned (sometime back around layoff #2) to look at the big picture of how this all works within the framework of my own life story. This is a time to be dispassionate and not take things personally.

What do I learn from it?  

How can I avoid those business mistakes? Can I avoid those business mistakes? What can I personally do better at the next job situation (whatever form that takes?)

Examining the 4 layoffs (soon to be 5 in May) I've personally been through, and the 3 I've been through with my husband, I've noticed 2 large, recurring themes or problems, (that have some small differences between companies):

#1 Money and Vision separate.

#2 Lack of Communication.

The two are different, but both lead to the same thing -- layoffs and/or the company closing outright.

My husband and I had discussed Problem #1 even before we got married, because he'd noticed this too, even when he didn't yet know where I had worked.

Problem #1 was prominent in two of the seven companies, and secondary in a third. In this scenario there is a partnership where one partner had some cash, and the other had a great idea, and they said "Let's make a company!"

Without knowing the details -- other than cold observation as an employee -- in one of these examples it seems like one partner realized he wasn't going to get his money back in the time frame he expected, so he pulled the plug. In that first example I don't see it too much as the fault of the "vision" partner. In examples two and three, however, I plainly do see the vision partner really could have been more considerate about the budget and time frame involved.

Lesson learned? That old saying that Time is Money. If you're a partner and it's not "your money" you have to respect the money/time frame.

But even when it is YOUR OWN MONEY you still must respect the money/time frame issue. Just throwing money at a thing isn't going to make it automatically work out or be successful. This is why we have bosses and supervisors, which now creeps into Problem #2 territory.

Problem #2 will need it own post; because that addresses the whole larger issue of the delusion of there being better communication just because we have smart phones and social media.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Life Beyond A Lay-Off ... What's Next ...?

"Experience doesn't make you wiser. Evaluated experience makes you wiser." 
Andy Stanley
(boldface mine)

Sometimes we get into repeat patterns ...
where things you thought were going to happen, don't. 
Things you hoped would happen, don't. 
And it seems like everything is just unraveling.

Then sometimes we are surprised --
by the beauty of our eyes opening and of finally understanding
certain things you once thought were not yours, 
actually are supposed to be, after all.

Listening for that Breath of God
for that moment where He speaks
and reminds you of who you are in Him, 
requires patience and pursuit.

Sometimes the patterns are there for you to notice
and change what needs to be changed.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Coupon Nerd-Out

That familiar bullseye logo!

I LOVED the reality TV Show Extreme Couponing. I binge-watched a set on demand, and marveled at the --well, how else do I put it?-- extreme lengths these amazing participants of the show went to, to get the most product for the least amount of money possible. It just floored me!

My favorite episodes were the ones where the people got this ridiculous -- no, seriously, it was really a RIDICULOUS -- amount of food and toiletries for very little money, but then they turned around and did the practical thing: they donated a huge amount to the local food bank to help others in need! It was really touching to see them do that. (I mean, really, we do have to be practical. There's only so much you and your family can actually use up before the expiration date on the product, you know?)

I super-enjoy the idea of couponing, and still buy the Sunday paper every once in a while to see if I luck out, but realistically I don't get to use many, as much as I try. Food sensitivities mean I have to avoid what most people enjoy (preservatives and nitrates for instance, cause me physical pain). Overall it seems the most popular stuff is what really get the bulk of the coupons. But back in November (when the schedule got super-slammy there for a while) I enjoyed a great (modest, but great!) coupon nerd-out moment.

I went to Target to buy toilet paper, because they usually have large packages where the resulting price-per-individual-roll turns out to be reasonable. I expected the "good" price to be $18 or less for 24 rolls. But when I got there it turns out they had a sale ...

Target was selling a package of 15 rolls for $10 -- and the package itself had a $1 off coupon that read "Use It Right Now!" -- which meant if I bought two packages, I could use both coupons and pay $18 for 30 rolls instead, and so it was a good deal. But then it gets better!

Target would give the customer a $5 gift card for buying TWO packages of the TP! So, okay, it's $18 for 30 rolls (already double the amount I was expecting to be able to buy!!) + I am ALSO $5 ahead!

So because of the great sale (and the $5 gift card I was going to get) I went back to the car, and got my $3 manufacturers coupon for a double-bottle package of contact lens solution. The solution wasn't on crazy sale (which would have been say, $11.99 or less for the package of two bottles) but at $13.99 it was still cheaper than it typically is (high is like $15.99.)

So to the cashier I went and $13.99 - $8.00 (because I used both the $3 coupon and the $5 gift card) meant I only paid $7 and change (after tax) out of pocket for the contact lens solution, and I essentially got 6 rolls of toilet paper for free when all was said and done. A very modest coupon victory, sure, (when compared to those amazing people who get so much on the TV shows) but it's a happy one, anyway!

WAHOO! I felt pretty good.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sometimes Time Blurs By ...

So ... very ... busy ...

My brain is writing blog posts I cannot yet post because I cannot get enough time to compose them on a keyboard.

Oy vey!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

AGH. The Nightmare of Updating Blogger Templates

Yeah. There goes my sidebar.

9 years (with one re-build somewhere in there already) of adding and sculpting a sidebar with like 100+ links to Things I Really Like (and kept tabs in this way because I was just too lazy to put them in my browser booksmarks) all gone in an instant because of a silly notion of updating the template. sob!

There should be emojis in this new template. :/

I thought updating would be nice, cause I'd get all those neat social media widgets on the posts, right?

Argh. Now I have to replace all those categories!!  :O   

Okay. I'm trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Let's just say it's very Zen and it's just time to update everything and do something fresh! (I still really prefer my centered title block, though. wah!)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Laughing and crying at the same time is such a strange sensation. The emotions that have to come into play to make that happen are SO intense and layered. It's very surreal.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant made me laugh so hard I actually cried -- several times. This bittersweet memoir about her aging parents by cartoonist Roz Chast, was just really funny and sad and hilarious and beautifully told. I love her scratchy art and hand-written text telling stories about her mom and dad ... because it packs the cartooning/story-telling down into a whole deeper way personal-feeling level.

I love it for its frankness, for its sharing of the hard stuff that aging somehow has become for many folks. It's hard to watch ones' parents age; and in America we've been taught it's preferable to spread the family out; and with the need for two incomes to pay the bills, it's not convenient or easy having parents/grandparents return to live in the same house when they are aged and infirm because of the 24-hour care needed. It's a bittersweet memoir, and so worth reading.