10 Things I Learned in 10 Years of Business, Part 1

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Ten years.

Wow.

It’s time for a big birthday celebration and that’s going to happen in April! In fact, there will be a special announcement later this week about how we are going to celebrate, which includes the giveaway of 10 Chick-Fil-A gift cards (worth $10 each!) Why am I doing this? Read on…

In April of 2005, I launched HOPE Unlimited, which initially stood for the variety of ways I “helped other people excel.” It was an umbrella business to consolidate freelance writing, speaking, contract work, and online products. One of the catalysts for establishing an official business was that I had the opportunity to obtain and take over a resource for church secretaries, called PROfile. I spent several years providing encouragement and resources to those in church office work, and it evolved into encouraging professional women as a whole.

In 2012, I became a charter member of Platform University, and a new journey began. I started to learn current and relevant principles of building a business and an online presence, and in 2014 happily won a ticket to the Platform Conference in Colorado. I went back and forth about whether I should go–could I cover the expenses not included with the ticket? I finally decided to go for it and I’m so glad. I began to get more clarity and came away with a narrower focus from Helping Other People Excel to Helping Overwhelmed Professionals Excel, and I got more serious about offering services as virtual assisting and consulting, creating resources and remaining available for speaking/training engagements.

I’m seeing steady strengthening of HOPE in this new chapter, and as I take some time to reflect on the last 10 years as a part-time entrepreneur, here are some lessons I’ve learned and am still learning (in no particular order.) I’ll be sharing 10 in celebration of HOPE’s tenth birthday, breaking it into a two-part post:

  1. A small business often remains small. HOPE Unlimited is not yet a huge source of income. My needs have always been met, but entrepreneurs must realize that their part-time business may remain just that–a second source of income, or something that is not equivalent to full-time. And that can be ok! You have to figure what you need/want for your particular lifestyle.
  2. Avoid overly comparing your business with someone else’s. Each business is unique. Because my business involves having a public platform (promoting books, etc.) I have regular input from other platform builders (including some clients) and if I’m not careful, I could be jealous of their level of success, the number of followers they have, etc.
  3. Success is not always measured in money. You never know how you might touch someone.  Once in a while you may hear how someone implemented a tip or idea, or is just encouraged by your faithful presence online. Being faithful doesn’t always mean a tangible paycheck, but it can mean an investment in something far more eternal.
  4. Excellence is not the same as perfection. I’m not really a perfectionist. However, there are plenty of entrepreueurs who are. However, to quote some successful business folks, sometimes you just have to “Ship it.” Get the product out there–without glaring errors of course–and tweak as you go. Online business has opened a world of being able to correct on the fly. At the same time, this isn’t an excuse to be sloppy. While resources don’t have to be perfect, glaring errors aren’t going to gain you points of trust with an audience either. I should be excellent in my writing skills even when posting on social media or writing an email. That means sometimes, I need to slow down.
  5. Feedback (especially complimentary) is a gift. You may not realize how much it means to have someone take a moment to write in or mention that they read your posts. Just last night someone I highly respect mentioned that she follows my postings on Linked In. On a recent Sunday, in passing, someone said, “Your blog continues to get better.” You may think writers get lots of uplifting feedback, but in my experience, we may not get as much as you think. Those uplifting words and engagement mean a lot!

Next time, I’ll pick up with the other five lessons I’ve been since being in business. In the meantime, your turn. What lesson have you learned in the last ten years? Contact me or let’s get the discussion going on social media. (I’ve gotten the comments started on the blog, come chime in!)

Watch for a special announcement later this week to kick off HOPE’s birthday month!

 

Play this video for a special message related to HOPE Unlimited’s upcoming 10th birthday in April! Please note: the gift cards mentioned for the April giveaway are actually going to be Chick-Fil-A cards instead!

Four Fears that Affect Your Productivity

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One of my biggest time management challenges is allowing enough time for each errand or task of the day. I am not strong at estimating how long something will take, or allowing for the inevitable interruptions or setbacks (i.e. from technology) that come my way. Sometimes I think there is a deeper reason for this than simply underestimating. It can become a heart issue, based in some fears, such as the following:

Fear of boredom. I am the kind of person that really enjoys being reasonably busy–meaning that I have plenty to do but like to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think I fear being bored, so I enjoy having valuable tasks ahead for the day. But I can easily reach the tipping point of having too many tasks on the list and then get stressed trying to meet all the self-imposed expectations.

Fear of insignificance. I like to do things that cause people to think, to change, and to grow. In a strengths finder assessment, one of my strengths is significance–the desire to be important to people and do important things. But I can allow my personal drive to prove myself significant to cause me stress and pressure.

Fear of failure. I get a rush out of accomplishing a lot in a day. So I keep going because I don’t like the feeling of things being left undone. I was valedictorian in high school and have always been at least somewhat driven by achievement. I don’t like to fail at something and want to do a lot of things naturally well, sometimes without having to put a lot of work into it.

Fear of work. this may sound counterintuitive since I have workaholic tendencies. But, sometimes, hidden in that, is a laziness. For example, I can be on Facebook for an unreasonable amount of time each day. I can get a lot done because I’m fast, but that doesn’t mean I always do things well or give them enough thought in the process.

I could apply some time management principles to this, but the bottom line is that my fear(s) interrupt me sometimes from being truly productive and embracing each day. How about you?

Engage: Which of the four fears affects your productivity most?

 

Benefit from: This blog, Time Management Ninja,  has a lot of suggestions about time management.  And my book, Time Management, Jesus’ Way, is only .99 on Amazon!

Revisit: Three Time Management Myths

Also enjoy:

 

Call for Submissions

Contribute to our first “Pros Pointers” post that will publish on April 13 and receive some publicity for your company/blog!

The topic is: Productivity apps

I want to read what YOU would share to help overwhelmed professionals. Click hereBeutler-3226(edit) to contribute!

Five Ways to Fight Communication Overload

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How big are the notification numbers on your app icons? (The numbers you see on the photos in this post are REAL, bless the hearts of the folks who were willing to share them for my use. Names withheld of course. :)

We are inundated with all kinds of communication everyday, to the point where it can become overwhelming. Here are five tips to cut down on the noise.

Purge your email. Periodically consider whether you really need that weekly email newsletter. For example, in the past, I tried jumping into the couponing pool. I’ve come pretty much right back out (that’s another topic.) In the process of trying it, I ended up subscribing to several sites and then hardly looking at the deals. Time to unsubscribe from a lot of them.

“But Beth, what if you miss out on a deal?” I miss out on deals all the time. I can always find the sites later, or bookmark them into a “saving money” folder so if I get the urge to do something like eat out or some other fun activity, or have something specific I need to buy, I can research sales and coupons then.

Turn off notifications. If you are active on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, adjust your settings so you are only getting notifications for things that really interest you. These days, it’s easy for people to add you to groups, and if you don’t have settings adjusted to your preference, you could have long lists of notifications or emails of when someone posted in that group. I’ve recently done this myself for Facebook groups that I want to remain part of, without being reminded every time someone posts there.

Also consider adjusting notifications on your cell phone. If you use a phone that lets you see email, it may be best you may not need to have a sound or icon come up every time a new email comes in. You can check it when you want once or twice a day.iphone

Be cautious about your cell phone. Many of you may be using a cell phone exclusively rather than a land line. In that case, you really don’t have much choice about  giving out your number. But if you still have a home phone and a cell phone, be cautious about giving out your cell phone number too widely. We already deal with lots of interruptions in life and extra calls may not be necessary in the middle of your days.  Some time ago, I gave my cell phone number out to a business I was calling to inquire about something for a client. We decided not to go in that direction, but unfortunately I occasionally receive calls hoping we will be interested in something currently offered. Thankfully these have subsided, but it makes me realize I can be even more selective about who gets my cell phone number. I could’ve given my land line number which also acts as my business main line. (I’m now able to have the landline forward to my cell phone without giving out the actual cell number.)

Use voice mail. Many messages can be handled by a simple voice mail–both leaving one and receiving one. You don’t have to answer every call right away (same goes for email.) Let the phone go to VM if you are in the middle of something that needs focus such as driving or meeting with a friend. Really. It will be okay!

Use “do not mail” and “do not call” lists. From time to time, check the national “do not mail” and “do not call” lists and get your name off of junk mail and telemarketing lists. Now, if you enjoy getting coupons, catalogs, samples, or other pieces of mail, so be it. But if you want to simplify–these services can help you out.

[Tweet “What one thing can you do today to cut down on communication overload?”]

Engage: What one thing can you do to cut down your communication noise today?

Benefit from: Combine your email subscriptions into one daily “newspaper” with Unroll.me.

Revisit: One way to stay uncluttered in life is to say “No” occasionally. Here’s how to do so graciously.
Also enjoy:

Is Your Timing Off?

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“Hi honey. What did the doctor say?”

Innocent question, unless you are asking it at a fast food restaurant, of a man getting ready to serve customers, in front of said customers. Then it is poorly timed and inconsiderate.

This is a true story. I observed it some time ago when I was getting a meal at a a fast food shop evidently owned or managed by these two people. Before you judge this person though, think about the following points regarding your timing when interacting with your coworkers.

Do you allow people to settle in before hitting them with questions? Maybe you don’t mind “hitting the ground running” when you get to work, but many people prefer to have time to take off their coats, get their computer booted up, use the restroom, get coffee, insert routine here______ before tackling their tasks. If you’ve waited this long to get an answer, a few more minutes won’t matter.

Do you make comments in front of others who are not involved? In the case mentioned above, none of us at the restaurant (customers or other coworkers) needed to know what Dr. ________ said. My guess is that the woman was worried (I’m guessing the coworker was her husband or a relative) and as soon as she saw him she wanted to ease her mind. However, she made it awkward for him as he had to turn and say, “I will tell you about it later.”  Be careful to have important conversations out of earshot of other employees who aren’t part of the problem, solution, or project.

Do you interrupt coworkers who are working on a project? Interruptions occur all day long, and your culture may be accustomed to it. But when you can allow workers extended uninterrupted time to get their work done, you’ll help productivity all the way around.

Do you announce information too soon–or worse yet–too late? Workplace communication is a tricky thing. When in doubt, err on the side of giving employees too much info rather than creating a vacuum. Vacuums fill with something…usually rumors.

Consider the ways your approach to conversation, communication, and questions may be just a little off when it comes to timing. Refine your approach, and you will probably see a jump in productivity and effective teamwork.

[Tweet “Refine your approach to communication, and you may see your productivity soar.”]

Engage: What type of interruption throws you off course the most?

Benefit from: This blog post by leadership expert Karin Hurt will help you deal with moody people–and includes a tip about timing. 

Revisit:  Another way to injure relationships at work is by gossiping. Here are three posts from a series I did on Gossip in the Workplace.  Post 1  Post 2  Post 3

Also enjoy: 

Saying “Happy Birthday” with Integrity

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I was listening to a podcast and the speaker was sharing ways to show appreciation to your team. Most of the ideas were spot on, but I was concerned about one of them.

This business owner greets his employee’s birthdays with a “Happy Birthday” email. Nice idea, right? Well, he went on to share how the process was automated so that employees automatically get an email from him on their birthday. His assistant reminds him of whose birthday it is so in case they thank him in the hall, he will know what they are talking about.

Ouch.

That struck me as rather impersonal and borderline dishonest. Now, before you challenge me about automated systems, yes, I think there is a place for them. I, for example, do utilize pre-written text for various communications and greetings. And I like how Facebook, for example, has made it easier to put a birthday greeting on several contact walls fairly quickly. And I confess, sometimes when I put the greetings on walls, I don’t stop to think about the person or truly be mindful of their name. (I’m working on that.)

I just pause, though, at the thought of greetings going out automatically to team members without my personal awareness or effort that day, particularly if the idea is to sincerely wish them a happy birthday and thank them for service to the company.

So my tip to you today is simple. When designing appreciation strategies, be sure to remember that your team members are real people with real feelings. If I was employed by this company and heard the CEO publicly explain this birthday system, I’m not sure I’d feel all that warmly greeted on my birthday going forward when I got his “personal” email to me.

[Tweet “Remember that your team members are real people with real feelings.”]

Engage: What do you think? Should birthday greetings and other forms of appreciation be automated?

Benefit from:  My book, Boost Your Workplace Morale is full of practical ideas to encourage and uplift your co-workers.

Revisit: It’s a good idea to remember what you’ve been given (and forget what you give.)

Also enjoy (my sharing of other blog posts should not be considered an endorsement):