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Tue 2 Mar 2010
(c) March 2, 2010
Each Christmas, I ask for the Life’s Little Instructions desk calendar for the coming year.
I love all the nuggets of wisdom it offers and I keep it on the counter in the kitchen “staging area” (the place where the mail and bills stack up and the cell phone charges) so I can glance at it often as I am going about my day.
Today’s “little instructions” calendar page really struck a chord with me—and I think it will with you, too. It says, simply:
“Treasure time. No amount of money can retrieve a single second.”
Wow. This one really hit me.
A year and a half ago, I went on a family “girls weekend” to Chicago to celebrate my aunt’s birthday, and I ended up missing some of the fun because I was stuck dealing with a work crisis for half of the weekend. There is nothing like stuffing yourself into a corner of the cosmetics section at Macy’s on Michigan Avenue on a crowded Saturday afternoon and frantically typing missives on your BlackBerry to folks back at the office to make you aware that your work and life are completely out of whack.
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
A year ago, I went on vacation with some friends to Las Vegas. My friend had specifically asked me if I could leave my BlackBerry at home this time. I said I would do my best, but I still found myself sneaking into the women’s locker room at the spa in my robe, in between the hot stone massage and the pedicure, to quickly address a problem back at the office. At the spa, for pete’s sake!
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
Six months ago, I asked my husband what we should do for vacation. “I thought you didn’t take vacations anymore,” he said to me.
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
Over the summer, a close family friend died unexpectedly. Several months later, in the middle of the night, my parents called with the news that my uncle had been killed in an accident—on a highway he traveled daily for a decade. We miss them so much. We were blessed to have spent many wonderful moments with them…but what if we hadn’t made the time?
No amount of money can retrieve a single second.
The fact of the matter is that (1) Life deals us what life deals us, and (2) We are the only ones who have the ultimate authority to be the stewards of our time, in a way that aligns with our values.
One of the reasons I left my job and started my own business is because I reached a point where enough was enough. I wanted to be the captain of my own destiny, and that included having the final say on where and how I spend my time. Obviously it’s not all “fun and games” all the time – There are still responsibilities and deadlines and clients who need attention. But I didn’t want to miss out on another thing I value, personally or professionally.
Individuals in job transition—whether looking for that next job opportunity or starting a new business venture—may not have the benefit of a regular, robust paycheck, but we do have an even more important gift on our hands in the interim: the gift of time.
Take full advantage of this gift. How will you spend it? Here are a few ideas:
Make things right with the people who’ve been craving your time and attention. Maybe, like me, you were working in a pressure cooker, glued to your BlackBerry and dealing with one crisis or issue after another in a high-stress work environment. Or, alternatively, perhaps you were so burned out that you were too tired to participate in activities with your family or friends, even when you were available. If you blew off someone important to you, even if they understand that you were in survival mode at the time, you owe them an apology. Do it today. Make things right again.
Create a time “hierarchy” list in which you assign all key areas of your life a priority. If spending time with your kids is your top priority, rank that “No. 1.” Maybe volunteering at your church or synagogue is your “No. 2” priority. Ranking these key areas of your life will help you make better decisions about where your time goes.
Set aside a few minutes each week to call or e-mail a friend, loved one or colleague. Let them know what they mean to you. Even if you can’t be with them frequently, let them know they are important to you—in your own words.
Identify two or three drains on your time and take steps to remove them.
Perhaps you were cornered into volunteering for a project that doesn’t rank high on your priority list. Or, maybe you find yourself continuing certain habits that no longer fit your current lifestyle.
Write down a “mission statement” for how you will better maintain boundaries to manage your work/life flow.
For example, will you promise to only check your BlackBerry once a day while you’re on vacation? Or, better yet, will you arrange for a trusted friend or colleague to be a first point of contact for your business dealings while you are away? If you are invited to two events at the same time, will you always give priority to the family activity or the activity involving your closest friends?
Identify areas of your life where you are suffering from “diminishing returns.”
I know some people who will drive 30 miles to save $1.00 at a grocery store. And while it’s certainly true that many of us are being more fiscally careful during this down economy, are you wasting your time for such a small return? There are likely several areas of your life where you are saving money but wasting an awful lot of time. See if you can’t bring these a little closer into alignment.
Do the thing you’ve always been wanting to do but never had the time.
Maybe it’s taking a class at the gym that was always out of reach because it’s in the middle of the work day. Perhaps it’s working from a funky little coffee shop, which your old boss never would’ve given you permission to do. Or, maybe you simply relish the ability to take a book and sit in the park for a few minutes each afternoon.
We are blessed with the gift of time. And, at the end of our lives, that’s what we will remember and treasure most of all. Why not use this time of transition to really focus on what matters most?
Wed 10 Feb 2010
By Diva Nikki
(c) February 10, 2010
First, I’d like to thank those of you who sent notes of support and concern after my recent Prioritizing Priorities article.
I’d also like to reassure you that in our household, nothing excremental or otherwise has yet hit the fan. We’re just taking further steps to prepare ourselves as best we can.
Not to say it’s all puppies and rainbows in our lives these days, either. But one thing I’ve noted about times of trial in our lives is that it puts in sharp, unmistakable relief the good things in our lives as well. It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes:
“Don’t block the blessings.” – Patti LaBelle
As a Desperate Workingwife, here are some of my suggestions for recognizing the blessings in your life…even when your spouse’s career transition may be far, far less than a blessing.
Appreciate your own career and development.
I recently underwent a bit of career transition myself and began reporting to a new manager in a new area of the company at the beginning of this year. I might have been tempted, at first, to think, “Gee…just what I need. More change.” And that would’ve blocked some serious blessings. Because as it turns out, my new manager is one of the best surprises I’ve had in a long time. She believes in me wholeheartedly, pushes me to be better and encourages me to think bigger. She’s completely reenergized my passion for what I do. There’s a blessing I want to count, not block.
Stop and revel in your own accomplishments.
I’m not saying you should rub your own accomplishments in your spouse’s face. Be tactful. But do celebrate your wins in a personal way. Just finished a big project at work? Treat yourself to a pair of shoes on clearance. Lost a pound this week? Do a happy dance in the kitchen. (I highly recommend socks on hardwood floors for the best spinning capabilities.)
Celebrate the accomplishments of others.
You’ve probably heard that even if you’re feeling down, if you physically make yourself smile that act will eventually elicit the corresponding emotion of happiness. (Try it.) Celebrating the blessings of others can bring you blessings of your own. So attend your friend’s baby shower, go to happy hour to celebrate your co-worker’s promotion and hoot and holler when your spouse gets called for an interview.
Notice and accept support with gratitude.
Chance are, you’ve got a great support network in your life. (My best girls – you know who you are and I love you.) Have you noticed that more often lately, as you’ve been living through your spouse’s career transition time, that lunch or coffee tabs are picked up by friends? Rather than argue with them. let them and thank them. Most of us have it in our nature to want to help the people we care about. This is their time to help you – don’t block their blessings by taking that opportunity away from them.
Thank God for the blessings which come out of thin air.
Maybe you got an unexpected refund check in the mail. Or your heating bill was less than you thought it would be this month. In my case, out of nowhere, a new friend came into my life through one of my music groups. Without any rhyme or reason I could think of, this beautiful woman became somewhat of a personal cheerleader for me and gave me confidence at exactly the time when I needed it. When these things seem to come out of nowhere, simply stop and offer praise for the Holy Spirit’s influence in your life.
Patti Labelle, Don’t Block the Blessings – available on Amazon.com
Yvonne Bynoe, Is Your Attitude Blocking Your Blessings?,
Tue 9 Feb 2010
(c) February 9, 2010
Here in the nation’s capital, we have been buried under piles of snow since last Friday afternoon, with another foot or more expected to fall tonight and tomorrow.
While it’s fun to be essentially marooned in the house (thankfully, we have power but thousands of others are not so lucky), even the dog is getting a little sick of staring at the same four walls for days on end. We haven’t figured out how to break it to him that the cabin fever is likely to persist for several more days.
These “snow days” got me thinking about how routines—or lack thereof—can both foster and impede progress. A snow day is a transition in miniature, and there are some lessons that can be applied to transitions of any kind.
- Break up the routine.
I wish I had a dollar for all the Facebook postings by friends gleefully exclaiming that work had been shut down on Monday (and then again on Tuesday) due to the snow. There’s a little kid inside all of us who is gleeful anytime the routine gets broken. A free day! No suit and tie! No demands! No obligations! An excuse to park the BlackBerry in the drawer!
When you’re in career transition, your normal routine is probably different now than it once was, but it’s still easy to get stuck in a rut (even if it’s a rut of “waiting” or of doing “nothing”). Don’t wait for the snow to give you an excuse to break up your routine – Do one thing different today to keep your perspective fresh and your energy high. It can be simple, like going to Starbucks for a Cinnamon Dolce Latte instead of your usual brewed-at-home boring coffee. Or wearing something that’s been in the back of the closet for awhile. Or going to a quirky coffeehouse to do some work, for a change of venue. Or meeting a friend for lunch or visiting a museum in the middle of the day.
Even in career transition, it’s possible to reclaim that same “giddy,” joyful feeling that a snow day can evoke.
- But keep some semblance of routine, anyway.
Despite the thrill of the snow day, by the time you’ve been stuck in the house for four days, the joy and charm of it all starts to wane a bit. The groceries run low. Your pale white skin starts to look green from lack of sunlight. So, while I advocate mixing up the routine a bit, it pays to keep some semblance of a routine in place so you can keep your wits about you.
The same is true for those of us in career transition. What begins as a liberating moment can one day make you feel stuck. A friend of mine who’s been self-employed off and on over the years gave me this piece of advice when I left my job to start my own business: “Get up and get dressed every day as if you were still going in to the office.”
While we sure wouldn’t fault you for the occasional day spent in sweat pants, try to “show up” for yourself every day by putting a little effort into your routine.
- Do the thing that’s been hanging over your head.
There were dozens of things I really could have—or should have—tended to while being stranded in the house over the weekend. Gathering paperwork for tax time, ironing my husband’s dress shirts (I offer to do this for him, by the way) and working on a project for a client were on the list. Instead, I organized my sock drawer.
Why the sock drawer, you may ask? Well, it had become a jumbled mess, and every time I opened the drawer to pull out a pair, I was reminded of how much it was annoying me. I longed for the basic order of a well-tidied sock drawer: one row for athletic socks, one row for dress socks, one row for casual and wool socks (and the fabulous socks my friend Nikki knits for me, which are simply the best!).
When you are in job transition, there are likely a few tasks—some small, some large— that are hanging over your head: unfinished business in your personal or professional life that you keep bumping into. Give yourself permission, for just one hour or just one day, to focus your efforts on dealing with them for once and for all. You can always get back to “business as usual” tomorrow.
- Seek out community.
As the snow began to fall already last Friday, a neighbor knocked on our door to let us know about an impromptu happy hour in the community room of our condo building. Then, on Saturday, another knock on the door – the same neighbor, with another invitation to another impromptu party. We don’t usually socialize with our neighbors (in fact, until we got our dog, we barely knew anyone here) but we decided it would be a fun change of pace, so we went. We stayed for hours. We met a woman originally from Minnesota, a military officer who works at the Pentagon, a former interior designer who is writing a cookbook, a fellow writer who moonlights as a dog-walker, a newcomer from Connecticut who just moved here in December. We left feeling a lot of goodwill and affection toward our neighbors. Now when we leave our building and run into someone, instead of simply asking, “How’s the dog?”, they now also ask, “How’s business? How’s your family? Heading back to Wisconsin soon?”
When you’re in transition, it’s easy to wall yourself off from people – maybe because you are so focused on your “next thing” or perhaps because you feel like less of yourself right now. But now is not the time to hunker down alone. Even if you don’t feel like you can (or want to) actively seek out community right now, at least allow yourself to be invited into one. You will leave a more fulfilled and supported person, I promise you.
And, even if nothing else, perhaps you will leave with the name of a good dog walker!
Wed 3 Feb 2010
By Diva Nikki
(c) February 3, 2010
A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of keeping the romance going while you’re experiencing career transition in your household. Of course, it can be challenging to be romantic when you’re watching your pennies.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d give you some more ideas for keeping the spark alive, even on a budget.
Have a cocktails and karaoke night – in your own living room.
(Or kitchen, as it happened to be in our case.) Make some cocktails, plug the iPod into some speakers, and sing away to all your favorite songs.
Support the local performing arts.
Attend community theater, community choir, high school or college performances. Tickets tend to be fairly inexpensive, and you might be surprised at the quality of entertainment.
Write letters to each other.
On paper. Reminisce about past dates, anniversaries, vacations or fond memories. Leave the letters as a surprise for each other in random places around the house.
Go to the movies – on a budget.
Attend matinees for new releases you can’t wait for. If your community has one, wait a few weeks, then catch the flick for ½ the price at the local budget theater. (The one where I live also serves affordable pizza!)
Invite other couples over for a shared meal with a theme.
Ask each person to bring a dish (thus saving costs for you) to fit the evening’s theme. Themes could be anything from a country to a certain color or letter.
Be tourists in your own town.
Check out your city’s tourism or chamber of commerce website to find local attractions or events with free admission. You might be amazed at the local treasures you find, like museums, parks, gardens, lectures or outdoor concerts.
Relive great memories.
On a quiet evening, pull out your wedding photos, honeymoon photos and other scrapbooks, cards or letters you’ve kept over the years. Cuddle up together and enjoy reliving the events that have made you who you are as a couple.
Learn something new.
Check your local city recreation, YMCA or community college schedules for available classes coming up. Classes through those organizations tend to be quite affordable. Pick a new skill you’d like to learn together like painting, ballroom dancing or woodworking and enjoy time together during class each week. Who knows – that new skill might even come in handy for your spouse’s new career.
Begin a fitness routine.
Maybe it’s just taking a walk each day – or maybe you want to train together for a 5K next summer. Become each others’ fitness partners. You’ll not only get to spend time together, but you’ll also be able to keep each other motivated to reach your goals.
Volunteer and help others.
Usher at church, do yard clean-up for an elderly neighbor, read books at a nursing home, serve food at the local emergency shelter, walk dogs at the local animal shelter – there are any number of volunteer activities you can do together. And while your hearts are warmed by being together, you’ll also warm the hearts of others through your service to them.
We’d love to hear from you: How do you and your spouse keep love alive on a budget?
Wed 27 Jan 2010
By Diva Nikki
(c) January 27, 2010
In one of my recent posts, I talked a bit about how the journey with a spouse in career transition can be a long one.
So what do you do when the magical end date for unemployment insurance is getting closer and closer at hand? How, you may ask, do you cut things back even further when you’ve already been cutting back?
I’m going to preface the following with a disclaimer. (Thank you, 11 years of working with lawyers in a highly regulated industry.) I am not a financial advisor, nor do I suggest any of the following as official financial advice. You really need to consult your own professional financial about what makes sense for your situation and what your options are. What I do want to offer, however, is food for thought from my own life.
Here are some things to consider as the journey gets longer.
Look at your budget…again.
There are “nice to haves” and “need to haves.” For example, saving for retirement is a really important strategy. And…it also won’t kill our entire future if we stop investing for a few months.
Here’s an example. Our cable bill just went up. And we started thinking hard about whether cable is a necessity or just a nicety. Especially in the days of Hulu.com – is it worth over $100 a month for the convenience of flipping through a bunch channels just because we’re bored? Or could we get by with Internet and more time to read books?
Protect the income you do have.
As the sole breadwinner, I decided to take out a disability insurance policy for myself, above what my employer already covered. It’s an added expense (at a time we don’t need additions), but for me it was worth knowing that if something happened to me while my husband’s still looking for work, the income we do have would be safer.
Encourage your spouse to start broadening the job search.
Undesirable as this prospect may be, if the realities of this economy and job market are such that he’s just not finding a job that fulfills his worth and experience, it might be time to broaden the options. Discuss the possibility of looking for less senior positions or positions in former fields of expertise. Or, if your family situation would allow, discuss the possibility of broadening the geographic part of the search. There may be more opportunity in other areas.
If dire straits are truly near, consider part-time work.
Not that any career professional (let alone an MBA) would relish the thought, but asking if “you want fries with that” would at least help make ends meet if you need to make up for unemployment insurance when it ends. And a part-time schedule would allow for networking and job searching time. If you want to be really supportive, you could consider part-time work, too. Perhaps working weekends at a shop you love.
Consider the value of your clutter.
Do you have things around the house you don’t use but may have value? For instance, since my husband and I got iPods, we realized we never used our CDs anymore. So we sold them to a used book store and made several hundred dollars. Look around to see if there might be things you could trade in for cash.
Hang in there and keep supporting each other.
You will get through this. Together. There will be a better future.
Mon 25 Jan 2010
Posted by Jenaissance
(c) January 25, 2010
We are emerging, slowly, from the worst recession in our lifetime, one that has crippled our financial centers, dried up jobs and easy credit, and sent our expectations, not to mention our wallets, reeling.
So why, then, are we so happy?
In the November 23, 2009, issue of Time magazine, columnist Nancy Gibbs writes about the “happiness paradox.” Pollsters have measured (albeit awkwardly) “national attitude” over the years, which, not surprisingly, hit its lowest points in 1973, 1982, 1992 and 2001—all recession years. More recently, when the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index was launched in January 2008, it too sought to measure national “mood.” When the economy hit its roughest patch during the summer months of 2008, so did the national “mood”—until a surprising and paradoxical thing happened. By summer 2009, the national mood had increased to a level even higher than it had been in 2008, before the economy collapsed.
Writes Gibbs: “I’m struck by how many people tell pollsters that the voluntary downshifting and downsizing of the past year have come as a kind of relief. Maybe we’ve lowered our standards. But we already knew that money can buy only comfort, not contentment; happiness correlates much more closely with our causes and connections than with our net worth.”
I tested this theory anecdotally on a random sample of friends and acquaintances whose households are in transition for one reason or another. I asked what transition-inspired changes they’ve made and whether they are happier as a result. Here’s what they had to say.
“My husband and I resolved to do more entertaining at home in 2010 vs. meeting friends at restaurants. We love how the house feels in prep for, during and after guests…and many favorite culinary Web sites and magazines are featuring thrifty and tasty menus that feed a table of friends for a fraction of dinner out for two. We’re trying to focus on honoring special occasions in family and friends’ lives for the themes…heartwarming all around.” (Natalie, Minneapolis)
“I’m eating at home more. It is healthier and I feel better. I am working on finding balance in my life and comfort in my house because I cannot afford to go anywhere so I need peace and balance in my daily life.” (Heidi, Washington, D.C.)
“Our family started a ‘Family Activity Christmas Countdown’ this year. The concept is simple, of course – to celebrate each other during the holiday season instead of losing each other to the hoopla of parties and presents. We created a Christmas countdown chain with a link for each day and an activity on each link. The rules were pretty simple: the activity had to be done together, and if at all possible, cost no money. It could last five minutes or five hours, as long as that time was spent together. This is the second year we’ve done it, and it really has become a highlight of the Christmas season for us.
The other thing that we did last year during spring break was a staycation. All of the kids had friends heading off to beaches and exotic locations and something like just wasn’t in the budget for us. I still wanted to make their spring break special, though, so I came up with the concept of a staycation where each person in our family had a day dedicated to him or her. That person started the day with breakfast in bed (their choice, decided the night before) and then planned our day. We visited the science museum, the zoo and the water park. Some days were just quiet days at home. My one son chose to have a pajama day on his day, and my daughter chose to make dinner together on her day (and have a fire safety meeting – she’s a classic first child.) While our outings to the science museum and the water park cost money, it was significantly less than we would have spent on a vacation, and everyone loved having control of a day.
I am not so delusional that I think my kids wouldn’t trade our staycation for a trip to Hawaii in a heartbeat, but I’d like to think that we made some fun memories just the same. (Becky, Minneapolis)
So how about you? How are you finding happiness and contentment among the challenges of the recession? We’d love to hear from you!
Thu 14 Jan 2010
(c) January 14, 2010
Starting a new business is an exciting, thrilling opportunity—but, if you’re not careful, your new venture can easily drain your finances before you even earn a penny in profit.
In Tuesday’s issue of “The Daily Rung,” I shared with you a few tips for knowing what to spend your money on when forming a new small business. And now it’s time to consider a few places where you can save money.
Part II: Where You Should Save
Unless you are expecting clients to visit your office, you really don’t need much in the way of office furniture—at least, not right away. If you’re working from home, you’ll probably need a desk with ample work space, a good ergonomically sound chair (since you’ll presumably be sitting in it much of the day) and a file cabinet, preferably one that locks and is fire proof.
Be sure to set up some space that is dedicated solely to your work. In other words, your work desk shouldn’t double as the gift-wrapping table and the poker night table, and the keep the kids and the dog away from it, too. In a home office, it’s critical to keep your work space separate from your living space. Not only will this help keep you organized, but it’s also a requirement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you are planning to claim home office deductions on your annual income tax return.
If you need to equip a new office, Craigslist, office furniture resale stores and Target and other discount retailers offer low-budget solutions. And even if what you come up with is hardly a matched set, if aesthetic is important to you, never underestimate the power of a good can of spray paint to give all the pieces a cohesive look.
Depending on your line of work, you may or may not need to have a dedicated telephone and/or telephone number. So much business these days is transacted via e-mail that, if you have to make a choice, it might make sense to invest in a high-speed Internet service first, rather than a phone line. If you plan to use a cell phone for business purposes, ask your wireless service provider to give you a special rate by bundling it with your current calling plan. If you use a land line, consider purchasing prepaid telephone cards to make long-distance phone calls rather than paying for costly long-distance service.
And, there are many great services available—Skype being one of them—that offer free web conference services so you can hold virtual meetings with colleagues and clients without spending a cent, and all from the comforts of “home.”
As soon as you announce that you are open for business, you will likely be on the receiving end of endless solicitations to advertise your new business. Whether it’s a representative from the Yellow Pages, the community “shopper” newspaper, or the latest fad in online advertising, the solicitations will come. These sales people have a job to do—and goodness knows it requires persistence on their part—but that doesn’t mean you should just hand over your wallet, either.
Before you consider any kind of advertising for your business, revisit your business plan. Who are the customers you are hoping will hire you? And where are they? If you are trying to appeal to a niche market, chances are good that your prospective customers won’t be looking for you in the Yellow Pages. Likewise, if your target customers aren’t Web users, then online advertising may not help you reach the right folks.
Advertising, when done carefully and selectively, can really help your business development efforts. Advertising, when done foolishly or without a plan, is like watching your money run straight out the door. Be selective—and, if you’re really unsure, there’s no harm in trying some other business generating activities first (phone calls, face-to-face meetings) before considering alternate forms of getting the word out.
Wed 13 Jan 2010
By Diva Nikki
(c) January 13, 2010
I have a phrase I’ve shared with many people: “Patience is a virtue. It’s just not one of mine.”
Tolerance, I’ve got plenty.
Love, in abundance.
Understanding, in spades.
Patience…not so much.
So when I tell you that if you have a spouse in career transition that you should be prepared for this journey to be long one, I want you to appreciate exactly how hard that journey is for me.
I’m a doer. I’m an action girl. I love to help. I adore making things happen. How does that work into helping my husband find work? It really, really doesn’t.
The reality is, in today’s environment it can take a long time to find a new job. There are lots of really talented, highly experienced people out there and available for hire. I remember a time when job descriptions might have said they wanted 10 years of XYZ experience, but didn’t necessarily require that of a potential employee. I remember a time when they might have taken a chance on someone with different industry experience but who had the right skills. Now, companies can be entirely prescriptive of exactly the length and type of experience they want – and have 46 people apply with those exact specifications.
I’m not going to lie: the waiting is hard. And it’s especially hard as the spouse of the one doing the looking. Because really – there’s nothing you can actively “do” to help. And as the wait gets longer, the more stressful things can get.
So how do you get through the seeming eternity that is your spouse’s transition? How do you keep your household – and marriage – going?
Occasionally, revisit your plan.
You put together a budget, agreed on compromises and schedules within the first few weeks of transition. But it’s a good idea to revisit those if the journey is taking a few months. Make sure the plans you set will still work if things go longer than you thought.
If need be, create a “worst case scenario” plan.
What happens if unemployment insurance runs out and your spouse still hasn’t found a new career? Take another look at finances, support networks and possibilities. Create the “holy crud” plan now, while things are still okay. That way, if it needs to be put in place, you won’t have to create it in a panic.
Find ways to re-energize.
If you’ve ever followed a diet plan, you know that even when you begin a plan with utmost dedication, after awhile, you can lose energy. Find ways in the midst of this transition to re-energize – individually and as a couple. Talk to each other. Encourage one another. Pursue (affordable) hobbies or activities that make you feel good. Build romance into each day.
If you think you’re feeling dragged down as the career transition timeline continually drags on, how do you think your spouse feels? No matter how hard it is, keep offering support. Let him know every day you love him and believe in him.
Tue 12 Jan 2010
(c) January 12, 2010
Starting your own business is an exciting, exhilarating leap of faith—and a very empowering one, at that.
If you’re like most sole proprietors in the start-up phase, however, you will want to save every penny that comes in the door and choose your expenses carefully…at least until your revenue grows. That doesn’t mean you won’t one day have that shiny office with an expansive view of downtown and your name stenciled on the door in gilded paint. It does, however, mean you may need to make do with a less glamorous set-up until your business grows to a profitable and sustainable level.
In this two-part series, we explore where you should spend—and where you can save—when starting your new small business.
Part I: Where You Should Spend
It’s tempting—and generally wise—to cut corners when starting a small business and to choose your expenditures wisely, since it’s likely that you may not have a lot of seed money to start with and it may take awhile before revenue comes marching in the door. Don’t make the mistake of cutting corners on absolutely everything, however. Here are the things—in my own humble opinion–that you should never scrimp on (even if you’re tempted):
Going to law school and, later, working as the communications director for two large law firms taught me a very important business lesson: Don’t make a big business move without first consulting with a business lawyer. It’s important to find someone you trust, who has demonstrated experience helping small businesses like yours, and whose fees are palatable to your pocketbook. A good business lawyer will help you structure your new business in a way that makes the most sense for your business objectives, keep you on the right side of the law in your jurisdiction, and protect your business from unforeseen legal issues down the road.
This will probably be one of the biggest expenses you will incur during the start-up of your small business. Lawyers are expensive. (One reason is because, as my husband likes to say, “If the work was fun, people would do it for free.”) Just gulp now and accept it. But legal planning now will save you time, and perhaps costly problems and unforeseen “surprises,” down the road. It’s kind of like going to the doctor: a full work-up now will keep you on the healthy path toward the future.
You may also need an intellectual property lawyer to help you file any trademarks or service marks that you are developing as part of your new business. You may want to do this as soon as possible after meeting with your business lawyer, since filing trademark applications takes time and is a fairly slow and tedious process—not to mention that you will want to protect your intellectual property from the very beginning of your business venture.
Accounting and tax services.
Uncle Sam is not always the friendliest guy. Not if you mess up your taxes, that is. Spare yourself the guess-work and hire a good certified public accountant (CPA) with small-business experience to guide you through the tax process. It pays to start building a relationship with a CPA you trust; as your business grows, your accounting and tax needs also will grow in scope and complexity and you will want to rely on someone who’s been with you from the beginning, who understands your business goals and who can help you navigate complex tax laws (which seem to be getting more complicated with each passing year).
In the same spirit, invest in a good accounting system for your business so you can be organized and effective in invoicing clients, paying your bills, and staying on top of your cash flow. QuickBooks offers several easy-to-use solutions, including a starter version that is free and can be upgraded as your client base—and your business needs—grow.
It’s worth it to spend a little money on developing a brand for your new business, followed by a simple business card and Web site so that potential customers have a way to find you. My 10-plus years in the marketing and communications arena have given me a very strong bias, which I will share with you here: Hire an expert to help you. Don’t try to do this yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. Being able to create circles in Microsoft Word does not make you a designer and plugging words together does not make you a writer—and, if done poorly or sloppily, it will make you look ridiculous. And, for pete’s sake, that handwriting font that looks like a little kid scribbled with a pencil should be outlawed. Just…don’t go there.
Hiring a graphic designer, a writer or a marketing/communications consultant can make all the difference between giving the impression of being a strong, successful, professional, contemporary business or a rinky-dink, unprofessional business that’s running out of someone’s back bedroom…and looks like it. And, frankly, if you are a client seeking to hire a sole proprietor, which company will you trust more with your business, based on first impression alone?
You need not hire a costly agency to help you. There are some outstanding freelance designers, writers and consultants (I like to think I am one of them) who have award-winning experience and who, because they are freelancers with low overhead, can offer you a better price than some of the flashy agencies and creative services firms. Some may even be willing to barter services with you as a cost-effective solution.
A post office box.
If your office is in your home, you will want to consider renting a post office box from the local post office or mailing-related store (such as Mailboxes, Etc., or The UPS Store). Since you will want to keep your personal mail separate from your business mail, this is one way to ensure that happens. And, if you work from home, you probably won’t want to broadcast your home address to strangers who visit your Web site. A p.o. box gives you a business presence, and a place to direct your mail, while protecting your privacy at home. Generally, post office boxes are available in a variety of sizes and the cost to rent a box is commensurate with the size.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in Thursday’s issue of The Daily Rung, where we highlight some areas where you should save money in starting up your new business venture.
Wed 6 Jan 2010
By Diva Nikki
(c) January 6, 2010
Guilty pleasure admission: I’m a “Gleek.” Since the very pilot episode of the TV show Glee, I’ve been hooked.
There’s something about the absolutely over-the-top portrayal of a group of high school misfits, their weekly slushie face-dousing trials…and the way they continually fight through the negativity and adversity to do what they love…that endears this show to me.
Their wildly successful pilot episode featured the small group of initial Glee kids doing an amazing version of the Journey tune “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I will admit – I went out to You Tube and watched it several times.
There’s something about that song – and the show – that resonates with my life right now. As the wife of a husband in career transition, I feel like negativity exists every day in our household. While I’m quite happy (as is my unstained wardrobe) that I don’t literally have a grape slushie thrown in my face each day, there are certainly days where it’s hit me or my husband in a proverbial sense.
Like every time he applies for a job and gets the lovely standard form rejection letter (sometimes within a day, which really hits you). Or each time he tries to sell a great new idea for a startup business to a new client and never hears back from them. When we count the days until unemployment insurance runs out. As I’m in a store and don’t get to purchase something I want because we’re on a budget. And when we have to endure well-meaning people who say really trite, insensitive things about my husband’s current employment situation, essentially saying, “You’ll never be able to pull this off.”
Every day we live through the adversity, I feel just like one of those poor high school kids, getting up every morning and just knowing the cold, icky (though maybe not bright purple) reality that’s going to be sloshed in my face.
The lesson for me here really is: “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Don’t stop believin’ in my husband’s brilliance and abilities.
Don’t stop believin’ that everything will be ok.
Don’t stop believin’ that there really is a greater Plan unfolding.
Don’t stop believin’ that the economy will improve and more jobs will become available.
Don’t stop believin’ my husband is doing everything he can to find a new career.
Don’t stop believin’ in my own ability to keep supporting my husband emotionally…and our household financially.
I think I need to go work on my jazz hands…