December 2007


Migrated from Blogger – original post dated December 29, 2007

There are times when everything seems to be crowding in and there are no easy answers. Times when you feel pulled in twenty different directions at once, with an ever-increasing list of problems and concerns vying for your undivided attention.

Yesterday was one of those days. At one point I just wanted to bash my head into the wall repeatedly. The phone kept ringing, my toddler was insisting that my lap was the only place she wanted to be, and I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out who was going where for next week’s cleaning schedule for my housecleaning company. And while it didn’t seem like the best use of my time at the moment, I left toddler and ringing phone in the hands of my capable husband and zoomed off to a client’s house for a quality assurance check.

In point of fact, it was the best use of my time that I could have made. Stressed out as I was, when I reached the client’s house and met with the client, reviewed areas of concern and told her I would just fix the missed areas while I was there—as I settled into the cleaning zone for those short few minutes I had time to think. It was time away from phones (I had even mistakenly left my cell phone behind), family distractions, and the siren lure of my Inbox and computer. No emails to check, no calls to take, no one asking me questions or pulling on my leg and whining for attention.

In the space of a few quiet moments—well maybe not that quiet, I did run the vacuum and was dripping from exertion by the time I was done—I realized I was being short-sighted in my business tactics.

Early on, when there was no money, or very little of it, I did it all. I worked all the cleanings by myself. I designed the website, despite no experience in web design. I trained my staff, in spite the fact that I’m no great shakes at training. I have handled purchases, financials, customer relations, sales, recruiting, management, and anything else you can think of.

Some of it I’m excellent at. I know business, what makes clients happy and what doesn’t, how to define my niche, how to provide a service for a reasonable price, and how to keep the books. When I do cleanings, my clients are deliriously happy. But I don’t do cleanings anymore (see references to toddler above) unless the situation demands it and I am lacking in management capability or time to get out there and train.

As I did a quick vacuum and mop at the client’s house today I had time to really think about what I wanted. Did I want a business that was cobbled together, barely efficient, and full of half-trained staff and clients who were running out of patience? Or did I want a business that was a powerhouse of cleaners, with an efficient manager who could do quality checks and training and ensure that the staff was cleaning homes in the manner that the clients both expected and deserved?

Despite having a record month for December I knew that the former option was simply no longer viable or acceptable. I needed to find a manager or fold up the business…it wasn’t fair to my clients or my staff to keep hobbling along. It also wasn’t fair to my spouse, my toddler or me to be so stressed out, so often. If you aren’t good at something, recognize it. If you know you aren’t going to get better, acknowledge it and then adapt.

So I adapted. I decided to cut my income in half and hire a manager. Someone who can train personnel, do quality checks on others, and eventually even help me expand to the Northland (north of Kansas City). My reasoning was that if I have happy clients and well-trained staff, the business can expand exponentially—rewarding my efforts many times over. As I told my mother, “I have to look at the long-term and make a decision NOW on how this business will continue into the future. If I continue to just try and patch things, and if I am continually am distracted by the little stuff, things will never improve and the company will stay small.”

I have learned so much in the past two plus years of running this business. The hardest lesson by far was the one I learned yesterday…think small and you stay small, think big and you will grow big. But along the way, you had better know your limits.

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Migrated from Blogger – original post dated December 24, 2007

It is two weeks into my new ‘low-information diet’ and it hasn’t been a pretty sight here in the Shuck household.

I think there is something calming about checking your email twenty times a day, or knowing what your exact bank balance is, and what bills have come in and what your exact debt/income ratio is…

Okay, so I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times and I doubt I’ve managed to restrain my hitting the Send/Receive button on the email to three times a day more than a handful of times. But I’m well below my usual 16-20 times per day!

I am also proud to announce that I haven’t visited any of my favorite news sites since the 9th! Yes, that’s right, I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the world except for what my husband tells me. He gives me the juicy bits each evening when he returns home from work and a day spent surfing the web.

I have taken up fiction reading again, but thanks to the munchkin (14th month old Princess Emily) not much of that happens. I’m lucky to get an hour in each day at present.

I rather like only processing my incoming mail once per week. My exceptions to this rule are packages (fun stuff to unwrap!) and checks (that goes straight into the bank). I will admit to actually feeling anxiety when I look over and see a huge stack of mail to process through. And folks, I get a LOT of mail.

But slowly, things are sliding into place, and I’m happy with the changes so far. I have managed to completely re-create my website through a trial version of Dreamweaver and have turned over all the files to a web designer who is also a client of mine through CCS. I’m finally outsourcing the management and updates to it and the new website should be online and active within the next week or so. A sleek new look, professional and thorough—it is ready to go!!!!

I’m hoping this will take my income with CCS to the next level, give me the flexibility I need to bring in more staff and perhaps hire a manager, and then I can devote myself to 25th Hour (advertising and promotion only) and Creative Solutions more and more.

At some point in 2008 I will be offering free coaching sessions to a limited number of clients as I roll out Creative Solutions Life Coaching. I will be posting a request for participants in the near future. Stay tuned!

Migrated from Blogger – original post from December 9, 2007

Here I am in front of my computer, realizing just how often I sit here and:

  • Check my email
  • Review my personal finances through MS Money and my online banking
  • Check my email
  • Go through my daily physical mail, processing each bill and comparing it to the previous statements
  • Check my email
  • Browse the news websites
  • Check my email

Huh, [scratching head], I think I see a pattern here.

In Chapter 6 of Timothy Ferriss’ bestselling book “The 4-Hour Workweek” he recommends going on a “Low-Information Diet”. The first set of requirements? “Go on an immediate one-week media fast.”

He stipulates the following:

  • No newspapers, magazines, audiobooks, or non-music radio. Music is permitted at all times.
  • No news websites whatsoever (cnn.com, drudgereport.com, msn.com, etc.)
  • No television at all, except for one hour of pleasure viewing each evening.
  • No reading books, except for this one book and one hour of fiction pleasure reading prior to bed.
  • No Web surfing at the desk unless it is necessary to complete a work task for that day. Necessary means necessary, not nice to have.

I stare at the list [gulp] and keep reading. I read on to Chapter 7, where he discusses ‘Time Wasters’. I nearly rebel as I read the following:

1. Turn off the audible alert if you have one on Outlook or a similar program and turn off automatic send/receive, which delivers e-mail to your inbox as soon as someone sends them.

2. Check e-mail twice per day, once at 12:00 noon or just prior to lunch, and again at 4:00 p.m. [These] are times that ensure you will have the most responses from previously sent e-mail. Never check e-mail first thing in the morning. Instead, complete your most important task before 11:00 a.m. to avoid using lunch or reading e-mail as a postponement excuse.

“No way,” I say as I read the instructions on e-mail, “No WAY! I need to be able to check first thing in the morning!” Instead I write in my notebook, reduce checking email to four times a day: 1st thing in the morning, again at noon, again at 4:00 p.m., and finally at 7 p.m.

Then the daydream hits…

I’m new here and the moment I have been dreading finally comes. I walk up to the podium slowly, feeling each set of eyes upon me as I stop, turn, and face them. I take a deep breath and let it out in a rush and just say it, “Hi, my name is Christine and I am an information addict.”

The group chimes in return, “Hi Christine!”

The fantasy melts away.

Umm, yeah, so like Timothy was saying, less email is better. And if it will keep me from having to attend a newly formed IA (Information Addicts Anonymous) meeting in the near future than I’m ready to make the change!

Still unable to bring myself to such an extreme restriction I settle on checking email three times a day.

  • Once 1st thing in the morning (but after I have drafted a ‘to-do’ list for the day)
  • Once at noon
  • And then finally (that’s it Christine, NO more for today!!!!) at 4 p.m.

To summarize, on December 9th, 2007, I committed to:

  • Process all incoming postal mail once a week, on Thursday, instead of on a daily basis
  • Process all financials (online payments, balancing checkbooks, paying staff members and any bills) on each Thursday instead of daily.
  • Check my email a maximum of three times a day (I sent out an email to everyone informing them of this change).
  • Reduce my television viewing to one hour per day maximum
  • Re-introduce one hour of fiction reading each evening at bedtime
  • Eliminate reading of any media websites, newspapers or magazines.
  • Reduce all reading to either “The 4-Hour Workweek” or one of my Life Coaching study books (I need to continue my studies, so that is a reasonable tweak to Farriss’ suggestions)
  • Eliminate all web/internet surfing unless needed for work that day. (Oh lord, this means no online shopping. I think I may die. Yes, yes it’s possible to die from lack of online shopping.)

Hi. My name is Christine and I am an information addict.

Check back in with me for updates as I wade into the sea of the unknown—adulthood faced with NO unnecessary computer use, NO unnecessary television use, and NO unnecessary reading. I strongly suspect that my days are going to be very, very different…