Is your business a hobby or a real endeavor?

hobbyHas your husband flat out said or joked around that your business is a “just” a hobby? Have you been plagued with doubts whether your business is real or not?  Do you constantly compare yourself with other businesses and/or business owners?  Well, pull up a chair; we’ve all been there.  But, doubt and comparison are a waste of your great brain.  The first thing you have to do is know the truth and the terms so can defend yourself to others, your husband and most importantly, your inner critic.

The first thing you have to do is define the words hobby and business.

HOBBY: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation.  Money is spent on the hobby, but money is not derived from it.  There is nothing wrong with spending money or time on a hobby unless it is excessive or necessities are being neglected.

BUSINESS: the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money.

Once you’ve identified you have a business, you define what style it is.  There are two main types: lifestyle and growth.

A lifestyle business is defined as one that allows you to maintain a particular lifestyle. It is often thought of as a solo endeavor.  It typically has limited scalability and potential for growth. It can have employees; it can even have big revenue.  But, it’s purpose is to allow you, the business owner, the ability to live your life on your terms while you run your company.   Old school pundits pigeon-holed creatives, photographers, artists, into this category.  Now, bloggers who are enriched by extended and frequent exotic travel with their families and who are blessed to have the flexibility in their day to watch every one of their child’s soccer games are changing the face of business.  With the explosion of technology, even professionals such as CPA’s and lawyers can have a virtual and nomadic lifestyle.   Home party consultants can generate enough income to pay for a child’s first bike, braces, family travel, and tuition. Typically, lifestyle businesses allow the business owner to work out of their home giving the illusion it isn’t a “real” job though that mindset is rapidly changing.

Replying to an unsupportive husband about your lifestyle business takes finesse.  You want to be firm and compassionate. Here’s an example Darcy, a home-party consultant, shared, “Bob, I like providing “(she listed what her income provided)” for the family. Being a (fill in the blank) gives me an outlet to be social and productive while not interfering with the primary responsibilities of being a mom/wife.” Then she added, “What worries you or what are you fearful of me doing this?”

For the blogger who is tired of hearing, “When are you going to get a real job?” you can lightheartedly reply, “Why would I leave behind travel, experiencing my children’s milestones, and the opportunity to enrich my readers, all while paying my bills and funding my retirement?”  Replace the specifics with your own experience(s) and repeat it over and over, in your head till you believe it, and to the naysayers of your (lifestyle business) life.

A growth business is defined as having revenues increase significantly every year, a strategic long-term vision, and an exit strategy for investors.  This business owner is typically your quintessential 80-hour p/week entrepreneur. Understanding the growth business takes an intimate understanding of the life-cycle of business. There are victorious highs and crushing lows.  Only a resilient business owner can navigate those choppy waters. Unsupportive husbands or ill-advised friends will often ask, “When are you going to give up this fantasy?” They don’t recognize the sacrifices you are making and what you need to do to grow and in some cases rescue the business (remember the mention of the life-cycle of business?).   Responding to the unsupportive husband is trickier because it is highly likely you’re consumed with your business and have neglected him.  You may be neglecting other important people in your life, such as your children, friends or your mother, too. OUCH!  Regardless, it is best not to dismiss gripes, but to respond in a compassionate manner. Ask him what he is worried or fearful of. Listen carefully to his response. Perhaps he’s worried you are spending all of the savings on the business (you shouldn’t be, after a point, but that’s another post), or that he’s feeling sidelined.  He may even be worried about your health. Regardless, you need to address the issue and come to a thoughtful, realistic agreement that you can both live with.

Hopefully, this gave you the needed information to practically address your husband’s comments. Bottom line, feel no shame with producing an income, as long as you’re not jeopardizing your primary relationships, your health or your soul.

As always, I welcome family-friendly, helpful comments!  Have you experienced defining or defending your business to your husband?  How did you respond?

Business is redemptive

Redemption to some is a charged word. But, for me, it means new beginnings. Redemption means literally to save.  But, it doesn’t have to mean saving others.  Flight attendants have taught us for decades to put on your oxygen mask, first, then turn and put it on others.  Why? Because we can’t help others if we passed out, or more bluntly, died, from lack of oxygen.

So, then, how can we save ourselves? But, more importantly, why do we need saving? If you’re a woman business owner in a difficult marriage,  you need saving.  If your husband has poor communication techniques that leave you feeling drained, confused, and rejected, you need saving.  If you are spending too much time defending and preparing for the next onslaught of negativity, you need saving.  But, how do you save yourself? And what does that really mean?

First, you need to discover who you are. Why? Because you need to know what (or who) you are saving.  What better way to find out who you are through full expression of creating something new or rediscovering what “your juice and your joy” are about. Take, for example, Sophia, who owns a bakery.  Her head and her heart are divided between placating her husband’s constant negative doubts about her and her bakery or focusing on becoming the best bakery her town has ever experienced. What does she love to do? Bake. Not process payroll.  Not package the products. Just bake.  To do that, she needs to put the right people in the right positions.  Even if that means making difficult decisions such as letting some people go or scaling back the business.  She needs to get back to her passion so her business can grow to meet her vision. When Sophia synced with her passion, again, she knew her truth: she is the best baker and is creating the best bakery in her town.  By focusing on being her best in the business, she now more confidence and “head space” to respectfully defend her husband’s criticisms and intelligently engage in a difference of opinion.

Then, there is the story of Tonya, a vibrant young mother of 3 rambunctious boys, who is caught in the cross-hairs of a verbally and emotionally abusive husband and her desire to transition her exquisite silverware hobby into an income producing business.  Her husband actually said to her, “What makes you think you’re so special? I work hard. I don’t want to hear another word about your stupid silverware s**t, again. In fact, I don’t ever want to see it either.”  Don’t you just shudder when you read what her heart and soul hear? Tonya, bless her heart, thinks that she is doing something, anything to control the circumstances from making that ugly beast come at her, again. So she tries to manipulate the situation by literally putting her business in the closet before he gets home every night.  The truth is her creative, loving soul is tortured with self-doubt and self-flagellation stealing her creativity.

A confused mind can’t create.

How can someone create something new, something great with messages like that filling her heart, soul, and mind? Without a doubt, Tonya is in a damaging, unhealthy, abusive relationship and needs to not only get out (so easy to say) but she desperately needs to be saved.  Creating her beautiful custom silverware, hearing her customers accolades, and building an environment of support and beauty may just provide the redemption she needs.  But, first, she needs to know her truth.  She needs to correctly label her relationship, so she can move away from it and quit trying to fix it or excuse it away.  Just as an alcoholic doesn’t fall asleep on the couch, they pass out.  Chronic complaining isn’t venting, it’s a poor attitude of the heart. Tonya’s husband isn’t just having a bad day, he is an abusive man and they are in an unhealthy, destructive relationship.

Business redemptive? Absolutely! Hallelujah!

What Is Your Happy Place?

Happy PlaceMorning!

Notice the title didn’t ask, “Where is Your Happy Place?”

There is a subtle distinction.  But, this subtly packs a wallop.  I want you to think about the elements that would be in, part and present at your happy place.

Would laughter, respect, solving a customer problem, horseback riding, your children, to be understood, selling your products, running, picnics, worship, painting, balancing the checkbook, etc…be on your list?

A simple exercise to identify elements that make you happy is to take seven minutes and write down everything that makes you happy.

DO NOT overthink this. This is not about practicality or even responsibility.

Once you have that list, read it over 7 different times over the next 3 days. After allowing your happy elements to percolate in your brain, take your list and identify the top 7.  Then rank them in order of importance.  Now, add a “p” to the elements you have present and an “a” to the ones that are absent.

Where do your happy elements fit in your life now?

Where do you find them?

How can you add the ones that are absent?

 

 

As a creative outlet, starting and growing a business is personal

Starting and growing a businessBusiness is one of the last creative bastions remaining. And for that, I am glad.  Every human being needs to express themselves in a unique way that revitalizes and emboldens them.  I don’t indulge in the traditional creative outlets, such as cooking, painting, or writing poetry, because I feel lacking.  My creative talents are expressed in a different, albeit, tangible way.  I produce products and services that meet my customers where they are and what they need.  I designed (well, verbalized it to a very good graphic artist) the look and feel of our brand.  I established the systems and processes that ensure a memorable experience for our customers.  I try to inject fun and surprise for my employees.  But, personal expression in business doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, we’re just getting started.

Business provides meaningful and productive work for people to do. Business creates goods and services that enable communities to flourish. But, it’s in business where you have the ability to intentionally develop a culture where customers and employees can be supported and encouraged.  When employees feel esteemed, respected and appreciated, their on-job performance and loyalty skyrockets.  Setting up systems and processes that center around customers that are welcomed, loved and listened to, manifests a built-in ambassador network.  

But, the crown of creativity is, by design, creating an environment, a culture, that you may not have at home.   I didn’t realize it, but by not feeling validated, appreciated or listened to, I poured what I wanted needed, into my customers and employees.  For example, when customers call with a complaint, they are typically on the defense because they expect a similar position.  But, I don’t offer excuses. Quite the opposite.  I immediately offer empathy just by saying, “Oh, you must be SO frustrated.  You were looking forward to receiving your order to x,y, z (drive a new car, feel pretty with that dress, stop snagging all your clothes with that cast, give your family protection with your life insurance policy,…).  Let me fix this for you.”

Frustration dissolved, reconciliation begins.  I offered to my customer what I wanted needed: execution and empathy.  It became the internal “Care, Connect, Create” mantra of CastCoverz! and all employees are trained with this mindset.  By giving what I wanted needed, I filled a void, made raving fans of our customers, and built a blockbuster business.

Where else can you create something that epitomizes your personality, your brand, and your feelings, but in business ownership?  What have you created in your business to fill the void at home?  I look forward to reading your comments, below.

 

 

Stop whining, blaming and complaining in its tracks with 1 simple tactic (and a cute kitten picture).

So, you are faced with another issue.  Yours, theirs, whoevers.  Stop whining, blaming and complaining immediately with 1 simple tactic.

Dee Dee Artner said, “Blaming others is an act of refusing to take responsibility. When a person can’t accept the fact or the reality, they blamed another person or the situation instead of taking accountability. If you have time to whine then you have time to find a solution.” 

I love that.  But, I take it one step further with all my critical relationships (my children, husband, employees, volunteers, etc.).  My simple tactic drastically reduces and in many cases, stops whining and complaining Stop whining, blaming and complainingin its tracks.  The tactic?  Insist that if a problem exists and they must “tell” you about it, then they must also bring to the table 3 solutions to fix it. Perhaps those 3 solutions aren’t applicable or realistic (especially in the case of a young child, story below) but what it does is shift the thinking to solution mode rather than stay in complaint mode. The other benefit to this trick is eventually the person will learn that they have to come to you with 3 solutions and they a): either don’t bring it to you or (even better) b): they figure out the solution and the problem is solved and done! Added benefit is children (and adults) start thinking strategically about problem-solving rather than having a reactive approach to problem solve.

Why do you have to keep children’s solutions in perspective?  I’ll tell you a story to illustrate. When I was a little girl of 6, I received a kitten as a gift by my beloved grandmother.  I Stop whining, blaming and complainingloved that kitten.  I called her Furful, because she was full of fur.  Well, after some time, it became evident that my older brother was allergic to her. My parents had to tell me the tragic news that Furful couldn’t live with us anymore and had to go to the local animal shelter.  I was heart-broken and in my wails I howled, “There must be another way!”  My dad in his infinite wisdom asked, “What would you have us do?” Sitting there looking up at my parents, I thought long and hard about my big brother (who I really didn’t like very much then) and how much I loved Furful.  I said in complete seriousness for my 6-year-old brain and broken heart, “Well, give HIM away!”  Furful you were never forgotten. 🙂

 

 

 

Shi(f)t Happens: Change Your Path

Shi(f)t Happens to us all.  You get to choose how you react to it.  When faced with it:

  • Sometimes you need to change course, reverse course, change direction.
  • Pull up the stakes, break camp.
  • Do a turn-about,double-back, do a 180.
  • Repeal, Have a change of heart.

It’s Ok if you do or you must.  Just promise yourself to make it an adventure.

Shi(f)t Happens

Wishful Thinking Has A Lot of Power. Don’t Allow It.

I’m a very optimistic person.  I cultivate and protect my optimism because it has carried me very far through difficult times.  It is the reason I persevere during challenging times.  It has given me hope when I walked away from it. It gives me energy and motivation.  But, like all things in life, there is a shadow that often masquerades as optimism.  What is it?  Introducing wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking is Polly-Anna positive which means you are ignoring your reality. You have to think about the negative effects and/or consequences of wishful thinking to discern what is good and true and right for you.  This usually means accepting that “it” is going in the wrong direction, “it” isn’t going to change, and more importantly, you can’t fix “it.”  Commonly we get stuck in the powerful lure of wishful thinking such as, “I know when (fill in the blank) happens “it” will be ok!”  Or another example, “But, if I just (fill in the blank), I know ‘it’ will turn around.” But, what typically happens is we ceaselessly try to fix “it” all in the hopes of a-180-degree turnaround. We do this proactively, with good intentions, by establishing consequences, attending counseling or a myriad of other “trying” options.  

Wishful ThinkingYou’re probably asking, “So how do I know if I’m in the snare of wishful thinking?” Ask yourself this one question, “How do you feel the majority of the time about/when “(fill in the blank)?”  If the majority of the time you feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, worn out, anxious, etc. your gut, your intuition, your reality, your God, is telling you it is time to recognize “it” doesn’t serve you and it’s time to move on.

Caveat:  if “it” is an integral part of your life (job/a primary relationship/…) move on only and only if you sincerely and respectfully gave notice (the old college try) to the situation/behavior and “it” didn’t respond. Don’t wait till you’re beyond wit’s end, angry, or exasperated.  It’s not their fault you didn’t communicate your needs and/or concerns. And, no, they are not supposed to read your mind.  Not your boss, your spouse, your children, your employee, your neighbor, your pastor, your mother, etc…

So what’s the solution?  Execute, execute, execute.  Nothing gets done without activity.  Pick up the phone and make sales calls. Write that content.  Create new campaigns. Innovate new products.  Do what it takes to get “it” done.

Hope is not a strategy.  Hope does not reduce your debt.  Hope does not stop someone from treating you poorly.  Hope doesn’t bring in the sales, give you a good grade, clean your house, create an employee manual, or shed the pounds. Hope does not improve your job.  Hope cannot change a person’s heart. You can’t wish away your problems.   Hope may not be a strategy, but it is a promise that your life gets (much) better with optimism AND execution.  

Wishful thinking has a lot of power and it can derail even the best intentions.  Stop surviving, take back that power, execute, and start thriving.

Junk Drawer Journal

journalAs CEO of my business and my home I always had dozens of Post-it® notes stuck to the message board, my car dashboard, my computer screen, my bathroom mirror, etc… to remind me what my priorities were at any given moment and to record my random thoughts.  In fact, managing my Post-It notes was becoming a part-time job! What a time-waster!  That’s until I discovered a simple trick that I incorporated into my daily ritual of journaling.  You are spending time, alone, in the quiet of the a.m. (and once more at night) with your thoughts on gratitude and big questions, aren’t you?   You’re not?  Hmmm, more on that later.

Here’s the answer to my Post-It Note overwhelm: I journal it!  It’s quite easy.  I have a self-created 2 pages p/day journal. The left side includes how I start my morning (Analog Only: no email, no screen-time, just sacred quiet time with my coffee and a book older than the Gutenberg press).  I also journal, pray and meditate.  Then I scribe Prayers for Self and Others, What I’m Grateful For, My Big Question of the Day (ask the what, not the why; e.g. What would happen if I…?” vs. Why am I not…?”), and a shortlist of the Top 3 Things That Will Make Today Great.  Is that not a great way to start the day or what?

journal

But, on the right-hand side, I’ve titled the top of the page “JUNK DRAWER”. The sub-title is: Thoughts, To-Do’s, Scribbles, …   Why “JUNK DRAWER”?  Decades ago, to tame the paper tiger, I gave myself permission to have 1 junk drawer that I would put whatever-needs-attention in.   It could be dentist appointment reminders, coupons, quotes or thoughts on Post-It notes, gift ideas, etc. But, I would only get to it once a week or month. Or longer.  So, it became stuffed. The idea was good but the execution didn’t work for me because it was out of sight, out of mind.

The “Junk Drawer” Journal works because I write everything that comes to mind.  I don’t care how it looks or sounds. Its purpose is to just to get my to-do’s, my priorities, my worries, off my mind.  I’ve added my (short) grocery list, recollections about a gnarly conversation I had with my husband, list of calls to make, a cute memory of my children, household tasks that needed completing, conversations that need to happen at work, etc.  Sometimes I create 3 columns (1 for each business: CastCoverz! and Till Business Do Us Part and 1 for personal) and put what I need to do under each main category.  Sometimes I scribble a flow-chart or a picture of what I want my bathroom remodel to look like.  Most of the time it’s a combination.                                                                                                                                                                   smart-phone

But, here’s my secret to really make it work: I whip out my smartphone and take a picture of my 2-page journal spread.  That way, I can refer to the picture throughout the day!  FYI…this is for my eyes only and I don’t allow myself to judge me.   Caveat:  I still use an exhaustive daily planner.  Hey, no judging.  I have 2 businesses! 🙂 But, this works because my journaling is a random, free thought process.  Too many times, my “Junk Drawer” thoughts just don’t belong in my daily planner but they still took up space in my head.  Getting them out of my head and on paper in a structured, yet creative format allowed my brain to focus on my important tasks.  

Journaling in your handwriting vs. typing sparks creativity.  Actually creating a journal with your handwriting is the very essence of creativity.  I would love to know how you keep track of your random thoughts, below.  Remember to always keep your comments family friendly, helpful and kind. We all need more of that.


BONUS:  Did you zoom in on how I end the day?  I write down nice things done throughout the day by me and others.  That always brings a smile to my face. Then I write down my failures and regrets (notice I intentionally don’t give them a lot of room).  Then I examine them, learn (from them) and turn (from them).  Then I give them over to God.  If I see a pattern developing of the same failure or regret, then I do some deeper soul-searching.   At then at the end of each night, I give myself the gift of an “Amish Hour” (an extended version of my 20+ minutes of Analog-Only A.M.)  No screen time in any form.  Just a good book.  But, I confess, I usually have classical music playing.  I sleep deeper, have more creative/less frightening dreams, and wake up refreshed, ready and excited to take on a new day!

Your Happy Warrior (a person undiscouraged even in the face of difficulties; plucky crusader),

Annette de Lancey Giacomazzi

Show me the money, honey!

The standard entrepreneur and spouse dynamic can be very touchy.  As entrepreneurs, we have a high-risk tolerance.  Spouses typically have a much lower tolerance.  Entrepreneurs are optimistic and often obsessed with their business.  Spouse of entrepreneurs are often more wary of the business’ upside and don’t feel connected to it.  Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time with their “other” child, their baby, their business, which can breed resentment.  Add the dynamic of entrepreneur as wife AND spouse as husband and we’re all on new ground.  Now, throw in the different styles of handling money and that ground just gave way to a sinkhole. Just for added measure, men are typically more practical and women are often relational.  In fact, your husband’s practicalism can come across to you as resistance or lack of support. Put entrepreneurialism, male/female dynamics and different money styles in the same relationship and you have the potential of creating significant discourse in a marriage.  That just means it’s time for meaningful discussions.  It can take time, work and dedication to help our spouses understand our business, our dreams, our motivations with the hope they can become our allies. There is a lot of loneliness and heartache in the process, on both sides. Not just for us women, but for the men who love us and stay with us. But, I can help shorten your learning curve. And one of the shortest ways is to show me the money, honey!

Show me the money, honeyIdeally, your business is a profit driven business vs. a drain-the-family-finances beast.  The surest way to drive a wedge between you and your husband is if you’re not contributing to the family coffers, regardless of the reasons why.  Are you also sacrificing family time, private time with your husband, household needs, your health, to work on your business?  If so, this will surely add to his level of frustration and resentment.

For everything, there is a season.  When you start a business it will take up a lot of your time. When a major project comes along and you need to give it your all (think of the launch of a new product line, a book, being on Shark Tank).  Hopefully, you secured the stakeholders (your family’s buy-in) to pursue these efforts.  Perhaps you had a serious health issue, family matter, or life-altering event that forced you to put the business on the back burner, but now you’re going at it with all 8 cylinders.  Putting those situations aside, have you been working at your business for 2-3 years and you’re still using the business as an excuse to avoid your responsibilities at home, for not contributing to the family account? Check out this post, “Is Your Business Your Lover?”, for some additional insight. Additionally, perhaps you’re treating your business as a hobby.   If you’re not sure, here’s a helpful post for you, “Is Your Business a Hobby or a Real Endeavor?

How do you determine if he is just being practical or if he is resentful and unsupportive of you building your blockbuster business?  It is best not to dismiss gripes, but to respond in a compassionate manner.  Ask him what he is worried or fearful of. Listen carefully to his response. Perhaps he’s worried about the future of your retirement accounts or is feeling ignored or sidelined. He may even be worried about your health.   You can make bargains like Nina did.  A stay-at-home mom with a rockin’ transcript business. When she started the Show me the money, honeybusiness, Mike was very leery, so Nina made small bargains with him. Such as, if she made $X in XYZ time-frame, they can purchase/do ABC.  Then she upped it a little with each new bargain. Over time, the “bargains” gave him concrete examples of her dedication and the potential for the business. Barbara, a lawyer who struggled to get her private practice going in the early years, consistently hit income goals. In other words, she hustled and her husband worried less.   Nina and Barbara didn’t come from an adversarial perspective but rather worked with their husbands to have their goals met. You’ll also need to address the issue and come to a thoughtful, realistic agreement that you and your husband can both live with.

Have you tried those tactics and your husband is still critical and unsupportive, but you know you’re building a blockbuster business?  Well, you’ve come to the right place.  Humans are created and wired to connect.  And those connections need to be supportive, helpful and encouraging.  By the way, I’m not talking about rubber-stamper-yes-people.  They can be just as detrimental as nay-sayers. But, that’s another post.  We need people in our corner building us up, not tearing us down. The world and our own inner critic do enough tearing down.  The community at Till Business Do Us Part will support you (Hug) and give you the practical advice when necessary (Shove).

Hug and a Shove,

Annette

The Power of AND

Power of ANDThe Power of AND is often lost in our black or white, left or right,  pass or fail world, what happened to AND?  Why is it either/or?

Did you know you can have a business AND happy customers (not to mention employees)?   How about eating (some) junk food AND eating healthy?  Yes, you can have a beautiful garden AND have someone else tend to it.  Did you know you can have a thriving business AND a healthy marriage? Did you know you can believe in the power of God AND the eloquence of science? Did you know you can care for the poor AND be a capitalist? Did you know you can state your opinion AND have a conversation with a dissenter without hating (them vs you, you vs. them)?

AND takes courage.  AND takes presence of mind. AND takes work.  AND takes intention. AND requires a higher level of brain power. AND requires more of us. But, anything worthwhile is worth working on.