Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

What are you starting and what will you leave behind?

Friday, February 19th, 2010

I am in a history book club, which I’ve talked about before on this blog. We met last night, and the topic was winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Everyone read about a different winner, all amazing people. But the most interesting thing to come out of the meeting was the story about Alfred Nobel and why he may have started the Nobel Prizes.

Apparently, Nobel and his brothers were the most famous inventors of their time. Most notably, Alfred Nobel is credited with the invention of dynamite. In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludvig died when visiting in France, and a French newspaper incorrectly published an obituary for Alfred reporting, “the merchant of death is dead” and claimed that “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” (As an aside, there is an interesting list of other premature obituaries here.)

Alfred NobelMany speculate that it was this bizarre and premature report of his death that led Nobel to (unexpectedly) leave the majority of his money in a trust to fund the Nobel Prizes.

Fast forward to today. One of viagra online shop in uk the best things about being an entrepreneur is the ability to create new things. But the implications of inventing or building or creating something that didn’t exist before can be serious. I’m certain that the founder of Craigslist didn’t anticipate it being used for murder, that MySpace’s founder didn’t plan for it to lead to suicide and that the inventors of these top 10 inventions that went bad for mankind didn’t plan for them to be used the way that the ultimately were.

Nobel’s invention has been used in mining, quarrying and construction to great results. But it has also been used to kill, murder and maim. That was a legacy that he wasn’t comfortable in leaving – so he did something about it.

I am an entrepreneur, but more specifically, I like to build things that didn’t exist before. I get a lot of joy out of envisioning something new, and then bringing it to life. This story of Alfred Nobel, though, was a good reminder to consider the cost. I’m also thinking hard about what I can to leave a legacy of which I can be proud.

Three tips for surviving a business dinner

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

The business dinner is one of the most important functions I attend. Sometimes these dinners happen following a long day of meetings, sometimes they happen the day before the important meetings, and other times they are stand-alone events.

Of course, there are some tips for setting up a good business dinner. Things like – if you’re booking the restaurant, only go somewhere that you’ve been before and that has a wide range of types of food and a quiet enough atmosphere to allow for conversation to happen easily. And other suggestions such as – pick a place that has parking because you don’t want to frustrate people by making them drive around one-way streets looking for a meter spot for a half hour (I live in Boston, this is VERY important!) But these three tips are about getting the most out of the business dinner.

1 – Listen first, ask questions and keep it brief. People love to talk. And they particularly love to talk about themselves. If you’re at a business dinner, this also applies to people loving to talk about their work, the company that they work for or the business that they started. Before you start talking, let them tell you about themselves. If they don’t do it naturally, ask them some questions. If question-asking doesn’t come easily to you, plan the questions ahead of time. “Tell me about what you do” is a good starting point. Ask questions about the history of the company, the role that they play there, big contracts, their areas of growth and their plans for the future. Ask questions about their family, where they live, when they mention their hobbies, ask about those. Be interested in the people who you are dining with – that will go a long way. On the other hand, don’t talk too much. If there are two of you, you should talk less than 30% of the time. If there are more than two of you, the percentage should drop to less than 15%. And most of that time should be asking questions and talking about topics that your dining companions bring up first.

2 – Find common ground (aka don’t get on your soapbox & don’t take offense). When you do talk, make sure that your topics are neutral or related to something that they brought up first. It’s totally OK to talk about your business (you’re at a work dinner, after all) and anything related to work that you are passionate semenax vs about, but you don’t want to offend your dining companion. You’re not out to dinner with friends, so you don’t know what these people think – about anything. It’s better to leave the debate for conversations between friends – you are trying to find commonalities, not differences.

If someone that you’re dining with says something with which you would normally take offense, let it go. A business dinner is not the place to correct or educate your dining companion on the places that they are wrong or that their opinions differ from yours. Of course, you should take everything that is said into consideration when you’re trying to decide whether to do business going forward – but getting your guard up is not going to help anything in the middle of a social dinner.

3 – Be likeable. This is probably the most important point of all. Even if you violate the first and second tips here, and talk too much and about controversial topics, but people like you, you’re going to be OK. Being likeable is a challenging thing to quantify, though, because everyone thinks that they are likeable. So to be sure that you can accomplish this, you’ll probably have to enlist the help of a partner, co-worker or trustworthy friend. Ask them to help you. Find out from your co-workers what part of your job that you talk about too much. Ask them what aspects of the job they think are most interesting – focus on those things. Check with your friends – the ones that you think are the most likeable – and ask them what stories you tell that are their favorites. What stories do you tell that make people laugh? What are some interesting things about you? What are some pieces of trivia about the place that you’re visiting (you can look these things up ahead of time!) What’s a quirky but interesting story that you read in the news recently? What’s something interesting about the town that you’re from? These types of stories are things that you can think of ahead of time – so when there is a lull in the conversation, you can pull them out and be likeable with your good stories, your interesting anecdotes and your fun tales.

At the end of the day, the business dinner is all about relationships. And they are often the difference between signing the contract across the conference table when the meeting moves from dinner to the board room.

Photo by swami stream

It's official – we're in a recession. But you can still stay positive

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Although it probably came as a surprise to no one, the National Bureau of Economic Research announced today that the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007. But even with bad news about the economy, it is still possible to stay positive.

This is the third and final post in this series, you can read the first two here:

10 Ways to Stay Positive when Times are Tough
3 More Ways to Stay Positive

7) Read a book. Books have been my drug of choice since I was young. That might seem like a strange thing to say, but books are the best and primary way that I alter my mood. This strategy works best if the book is uplifting, but even if it’s just engaging, a book is a great way to help you stay positive. Books are kind of like vacations – they give you new experiences, out of the ordinary, away from your routine. I remember one time when I was going through a particularly low time, I read the entire Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan. Granted, this is not high literature (or anything remotely close). But there are approximately 10 books in the series, and each of them has about 900 pages. By the end of those 9,000 pages, I had a newfound appreciation for the Fantasy genre, and I had mostly gotten over whatever it was that had gotten me down in the first place.

Girl reading a book

8) Take a longer view. Sometimes, when things aren’t going well, it feels like they will never change, like what is happening currently in your life will go on forever. But this just isn’t the case. Change happens. And if you can keep that fact in mind during the tough times, it can help you stay positive that things will get better one day, that what is currently happening won’t be the same forever.

9) Take one day at a time. On the other hand, sometimes a situation seems so overwhelming and so exhausting that the best thing to do is to take each day as it comes. Difficulties can become smaller if you just tackle one day at a time, and by focusing on today, you can help to alleviate worry about tomorrow.

10) Call (or see) a friend. When times are tough, sometimes it’s best to talk to someone who loves you and knows what you need to hear to cheer you up. I had dinner with four of my high school friends on Friday night, and the glow off the conversational therapy will last me a solid couple of weeks.

BONUS 11) Exercise! There is plenty of research that shows that exercise not only helps us be healthier, it also helps improve our mood. But even with all the data, only 22% of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise, while a full 25% live a sedentary lifestyle. You may not be used to exercising, it may be hard at first, but go do something to move your body. Start with a short walk around the block or down the street and work your way up to something more vigorous or rigorous.

You’ll stay even more positive if you can find somewhere to exercise that’s aesthetically pleasing. For example, walk near a lake or the ocean, bike down a street that you like in your town, or jog in a nice neighborhood that has beautiful flowers. Pick a spot to exercise where you feel happy to be when you’re not exercising. It will make the experience more pleasant and you more positive.

Photo by frankjuarez

3 more ways to stay positive

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

The beginning of this blog series starts with the post titled 10 ways to stay positive when times are tough. Below are reasons 4, 5 and 6…

4) Take a break from work – and life. I have often written about the importance of taking vacations from work, but sometimes it’s also helpful to take a bit of a vacation from life. You can do this by spending BSOa day doing something totally out of the ordinary, away from your regular routine. Two Fridays ago, Chris took me to the Symphony for a matinee performance. This was the first time that I had been to the Boston Symphony, and it was great. By shaking up my normal life and seeing something new, my mind started exploring all kinds of things that I don’t think about on a daily basis. For example, the day opened my eyes to the world of senior citizens (the majority of the attendees were over 70). It also brought me back to high school, when I spent many hours playing in a multitude of bands (an experience that I completely dropped after leaving high school but really enjoyed). It was also the first time that I had seen (or heard of) Leonidas Kavakos, the featured violinist, and a man of amazing talent who played a Brahms Concerto by heart that lasted nearly an hour. It was astounding.

Any event that takes you out of your ordinary life will get you thinking about new and interesting things, a very positive experience.

5) Start a new venture. Your venture might come in the form of a company or an exercise routine. Your venture could be a book or cooking club, or even an online course. Whatever you decided to do, starting new things usually comes with optimism and hope – all things that help fight negativity.

6) Do something to help resolve one negative thing in your life. On any given day, most people have a number of things that are getting them down. For some people, the list is long. Pick one item on the list that you can do something about and tackle it. I handle the finances for my family, and I recently realized that it was taking so much time that I was getting frustrated. I decided to look for an online tool that would help me better manage our money. I found Quicken Online, which has simplified things immensely and helped change my entire outlook about money management. Doing that one thing didn’t solve all my negative issues, but it did help resolve one thing that was getting me down.

Up next – ideas 7 through 10.

Photo by Rich Moffitt

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

When times are tough, one of the hardest things to do is stay positive. But being positive is important for every aspect of our lives. It improves our health. It improves our outlook on work and family. And it makes us more pleasant to be around.

Right now, the economic news is bad. Lots of companies are laying off employees. The housing market in the U.S. is continuing its slump. These definitely qualify as “tough times.”

I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.

But the optimist in me has been fighting to the top. So instead of dwelling on the bad, I came up with this list of 10 ways to stay positive, even when times are tough. Here are the first three tips; I’ll be posting the rest throughout the week.

1) Spend time doing something that makes you happy. What do you love to do? What is something that makes you happy just because you like doing it so much? Anything that has an ulterior motive attached doesn’t count. For example, I am happy when I go jogging because I know that it will help me get in shape, but I don’t really like jogging, and I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t have positive health benefits.

I usually would cite playing basketball as something that I love doing just for the sake of it. When I play, I get to hang out with friends, be competitive, exercise, and be social. It also takes my mind off everything else.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I got an even better example to use. My brother Matt and his wife Michele had their first daughter – my first niece – Willow. The only way that I can describe her birth is complete joy. Focusing my attention on her and my family is something that helps keep me optimistic and positive in a way that few other things ever have. Figure out what it is that you love, and spend some time doing it.

2) Vote! Living in the United States, the election is top of mind for me and most other Americans today. Being part of a larger movement of people who are all doing the same thing on the same day is empowering and gives you a sense of belonging. Today, a record number of voters are heading to the polls, and we will end the day with either a black President-elect or a woman Vice President-elect. History will be made either way.

voting in the United States

Get out to the polls and you’ll feel the energy and optimism there that is inherent in the voting process. Voting will give you a sense of optimism and hope for the future.

3) Volunteer. There are always opportunities to help people, especially in a time of economic uncertainty. There are volunteer opportunities for every personality type and skill level. My sister-in-law has donated her time to helping non-profits put together professional business plans. A co-worker is part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. A friend and his family have donated their time in helping to raise Great Danes that are used for rehabilitation. Not only does helping others help you feel better about yourself, but it also reminds you to look outside yourself to put the needs of others first.

Up tomorrow on 16thLetter – reasons 4-6 to stay positive when times are tough.

*UPDATE: I obviously missed the “tomorrow” deadline! I should have said “Up next week…*

Photo by mudpig

Five reasons to start delegating more today

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

It is a simple fact that I am terrible at delegating.

I have a very hard time giving work to someone else to complete. Even when I’m trying to think of tasks to delegate, when I am purposely trying to trim down my workload, I have trouble delegating.

But now I have a secret weapon.

Last week, on my company’s anniversary, I hired my first full-time employee. Cara doesn’t have an official job title yet, she is a jack-of-all-trades. I hired her because she is smart, flexible, likes variety, and because she is the best delegator I have ever met in my life.

Pointing finger delegatesCara takes delegating to a whole new level, not because she is lazy, but because she is efficient. She is willing to do anything if it has a purpose, but if it is useless busy work, she’ll be happy to explain why. If she’s working on a project that can be outsourced to someone else who is not fully occupied with work, she’ll demonstrate how that makes sense. She is also excellent at training other people (which is a big part of delegating). Cara is a master delegator.

In the one week since Cara’s worked with me, her delegation skills have already begun to transform my business. And watching her thought-processes has given me some really good insight into why every person in every business should start delegating more today.

1. Teaching a job to someone else shows you where there are holes in your logic or where you’re taking too many steps. As I’ve begun to explain process-oriented work to Cara, she asks me questions that point out unnecessary steps or reveal a better way to do things. Today I was explaining how to check something from the admin section of a Web site. To do so involves a separate URL, login information and instructions on how to access the data. That process works, but Cara asked why we couldn’t just find the information from the public Website. Turns out we could, and that saved us about 10 unnecessary steps. Just by explaining the steps and having someone ask a question, we saved time and streamlined a lengthy process.

2. Feeling like you have to do something is a lot of pressure; it’s easier to think more creatively when you aren’t stressed with looming projects. I have a to do list that stretches for pages in my notebook. There are many items on that list that have been there for months. They are always on that list, always in the back of my mind; projects that I need to tackle but haven’t been able to get to. If there is a project that has been on your to do list for more than two months, think about delegating it. You aren’t getting it done, so at least some progress will be made if you give it to someone else.

3. Giving away something old and established makes way for something new and innovative. I have a number of repetitive projects that take up a portion of my week every week. These things are always there; kind of like during college on the weekends when I could not ever relax because I knew that there was a book to read or a paper to write. By delegating those kinds of projects, your mind has more room to be creative and to spend time on less process-oriented problems.

4. Establishing processes allows you to delegate and to increase your output in multiples. It’s fairly obvious that it is much easier to outsource something if there is a process for how it gets done. By creating processes around work, and figuring out how to get other people to help do the work, there is another benefit – the total amount of work that you can get done increases exponentially. An good example is the human powered search engine Mahalo. The site employs Guides who help to create pages that can be searched. There is a process to creating those Mahalo pages, and by making sure that everyone who works on the site knows the process, the site can grow faster as new Guides are added.

5. Freeing up extra time will allow you to write that blog post that you’ve been putting off for a week (or longer). More time for other work is the most obvious reason to delegate.

(BONUS) 6. Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work. And in most cases, it’s better to get 80% of the work done at 80% skill level than 40% of the work done at 100% skill level. On top of this, it’s usually not true that no one else could do the work.

When this article first came out, I printed it out and tacked it to my bulletin board at work because of this section:

“Moving into any new position requires that you get rid of the stuff from your old position. This means delegating. It means getting over the idea that you were indispensable on any of your old teams. You can’t do you new job well if you’re still doing your old job.

Delegating your old job should take three days. You find people who are taking a step up when they accept pieces of your old job so that they are excited. You give them an explanation of how to do it and tell them where to go when they have questions.

You are going to tell me that one day is not enough, that you have a very complicated job. But think of it this way: If you died today, your job would be delegated in a couple of days.

Delegating is not enough, though. You have to stop caring. If you are no longer on a project because you got a promotion, then you have to stop obsessing about how the project is doing.”

I try to keep that advice in mind, but I’ve already admitted that it’s a challenge for me. If you’re bad at delegating, try these seven tips to becoming a better delegator. But whatever you do, start delegating more today.

Photo by Mykl Roventine

Wanted: A better workplace coffeehouse

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

As I’ve documented many times on this blog, I work alone, from my home office. This is usually great, but sometimes the house gets too quiet or constricting, or I’ve spent too many days in a row with the same walls around me. When that happens, I usually head to a local coffeehouse that has free Wi-Fi, usually Panera Bread.

CoffeehouseToday I’m working at Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble near my house. I needed to buy a book so it was more convenient to stay here rather than make the 10 minute drive to Panera. But here the Wi-Fi’s not free. Granted, it’s only $3.99, but instead of buying the 2-hour pass, I’m opting to do all the offline work I can, and then send everything when I can connect again at home. Not ideal.

All of this has started me thinking about the trend of remote working and the virtual company. The more wireless devices we have, the more places that have access to broadband, the easier it is to work from home, vacation…anywhere really. And companies like Sun Microsystems are even starting to make moves to dismantle entire offices in favor of the cost savings that they get from having an at-home work force.

I am clearly in favor of telecommuting and working from home. But I realized today, in my imperfect, impromptu Starbucks office, that the at-home worker is up against a number of challenges that a better workplace coffeehouse could help fix.

First, the obvious source of the trouble is that humans have issues with isolation. People are born into communities and we are geared toward being around people. Even the extreme introvert likes their aloneness more when they have recently been around people. There are days when the solitary at-home office is too much and we just need to see little kids doing handstands in line while their frazzled mom waits for her Vanilla Latte. (Yes, that is happening in front of me right now.)

Second, the current options to escape that isolation aren’t really working. Aside from the coffeehouse with Wi-Fi, the only option that I have is the library. But both of these options have problems – the library doesn’t allow the conversations and social interactions that at-home workers are craving, and the coffeehouses aren’t equipped for workplace needs (and there are people trying to enjoy a cup of coffee or lunch without having to be immersed in other people’s work).

Finally, there is another problem with the at-home worker that isn’t often talked about. There is a hole that is left by the lack of idea interchange, the constant refining and tweaking of ideas that happens in an office environment. Even with social networking tools and technology to keep us connected at our disposal, at-home workers do the majority of our thinking and planning and decision-making in a vacuum. It’s not our fault – the majority of decisions that are made day-to-day are too small to set up a conference call to discuss. But without the constant input from our co-workers, and the benefit of the collective brain of the group, our decisions are going to lose some edge, some brilliance will be lost that could have been found if we had a group around us to help us refine our visions.

My suggestion to solve this issue is a workplace coffeehouse. My imaginary coffeehouse would have:

– Free unlimited Wi-Fi.

– Coffee and food to be purchased. Perhaps also some kind of a fee structure for use (a monthly membership, like the gym, perhaps?). This business would have to be able to make money, even with a clientele that doesn’t turn over frequently during the day.

– Tables with locks to secure laptops. Nothing is more annoying than having to pack up all your stuff to use the restroom. Locks that can be used temporarily by the person at the table at the time would be incredibly helpful.

– Comfortable chairs that are meant to be sat in for long periods of time without hurting your back.

– Different areas that can be used for different things. There should be areas for tables of 1, 2, 4, 6, and 10 people scattered throughout the room, as well as a couple of glassed-in rooms that people can use for brainstorming or meetings.

– A start-up open pitch night. Once time per week, people would be able to get up and pitch their ideas and invite the crowd to give them instant feedback – this is like an open mic night for businesses.

– A schedule of speakers who would come in periodically to give advice for the at-home worker. Help desk people to answer questions about home networking issues. Financial advisors. VCs. And even management specialist, all with seminars on how to work remotely better.

– Ways for people to meet each other. Too often people look up from their computer only to avert their eyes if they accidentally look my way. These places would need to encourage communication and interaction.

– Social events surrounding the coffeehouse. The coffeehouse’s softball team could compete in the city league, bowling teams could be formed, or maybe the coffeehouse has a bocce court next to it.

Does it seem like I’m recreating the office? Maybe I am, just a little bit. But this could be the office of the future, where people go to work with other folks from their geographic area, all of whom are working on different projects, jobs and careers. Sounds like an interesting place to me.

What other features would you like this workplace coffeehouse to have?

UPDATE: Another possibility would be for bars to do something like this during the day, when they otherwise wouldn’t be making any money. Just think – WiFi during the day, vodka tonics at night. I think that the clientele would become much more dedicated…

Photo by John Althouse Cohen

Stop scheduling meetings on Tuesdays and get to work

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

I might be the last person to know this, but Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. I was alerted to this fact by this blog post, which pointed to some research by Robert Half International. But then when I went to dig in deeper, Tuesday-is-the-most-productive-day-ever was all over the Internet. 

This article says that in 2002, 1998 &1987 the data showed the same thing – Tuesday is the most productive day of the week at work.

Here’s a piece from 2002 talking about how Tuesday is the best day to get work done.

Tuesday biology bookAnd then there’s this 1994 book: Office Biology or Why Tuesday Is Your Most Productive Day and Other Relevant Facts for Survival in the Workplace. There is a whole book about how Tuesdays are so productive. How could I have missed this incredibly important fact for all these years?

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first. I wasn’t really sure that Tuesday was my go-to day of productivity. Then I was reading a post by Steve Rubel on his Micro Persuasion blog about becoming an expert, and in the post, Rubel included a chart of his Google Reader reading habits. And then it dawned on me that I should check my stats in Google Reader to see what they showed.

I typically read RSS feeds from Google Reader at about the same rate every day, with the exception of the weekends. Or so I thought! Here are my trends for the last 30 days:

Those big spikes? Those are Tuesdays!

Last 30 days

Here is the day of week chart:

Day of week chart 

And just for fun, here’s the time of day chart. Anyone who knows me well – or ever worked with me – will not be surprised at the early morning lull.

Time of day 

So what does all this mean? For me, it means that it’s time to take some deliberate action. If I am more produtive on Tuesdays, I’m going to be proactive about keeping that day as productive as possible. I am not going to schedule meetings on Tuesdays, for example, because meetings break up the flow of my day. And I plan to complete one major, sticky, important-but-difficult or important-but-boring project every Tuesday. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

What do you think? And what do your *Trends* show? Is Tuesday your go-to day?

*If you use Google Reader, you can find this data by clicking the Trends link at the top of the left-hand navigation in Google Reader.

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

As I write this post, I’m getting ready to go away for a long weekend with Chris (my husband) to visit friends and family in Philadelphia. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that both of us are entrepreneurs – Chris helped start Spine Frontier a couple of years ago and I started Pure Incubation back in September. It may be obvious from that statement alone, but let me just come right out and say it – we are both insanely busy with our jobs. It is hard to get away for a vacation – even for a weekend – and to take a day off (gasp!) is practically impossible. But we are doing it this weekend.

Philly loveAs I was thinking about leaving, though, all the reasons why we shouldn’t go away kept swirling through my head. And they almost kept us from going (we didn’t book our flights until 5 days ago, for example). So I thought it might be useful to give my fellow entrepreneurs a list of 10 reasons that they should take more vacations. Refer back to this post anytime you are considering going away, but almost back out. Be strong! Take that vacation!

1) You work too much. I have no problem with working hard – or long – but if you are an entrepreneur, it’s likely that you work too much. Like to the point where you aren’t getting enough sleep, exercising regularly or eating well. Working a lot isn’t necessarily the best way to be productive and it’s hard to stop once you’re in the habit. So stop everything for a couple of days, get some sanity back, and you’ll be able to return to the job with a more realistic outlook on work duration – and you’ll likely be more productive during the hours that you are working.

2) New environments spark creativity. Right before I quit my last job, I took a vacation to Arizona. On the trip, we went to visit Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright school of architecture. I know very little about architecture, but seeing the amazing creative environment that was built at that school was so inspiring to me that I know that I had to leave my job. It opened my heart up again to the creativity that was just dying to come out – and that I could bury in the sameness of my everyday life.

Dance Philadelphia3) You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times. Going on a vacation will give me something else to talk about – outside of my work.

4) It’s been a long time since you’ve been on a vacation. Admit it – when’s the last time that you took a vacation? A real one. A work trip doesn’t count. If it’s been longer than 6 months, it’s time.

5) You need to reconnect. For me, the trip will be great because I’ll be able to reconnect with Chris. We see each other during the worst part of our days – in the mornings (when I can barely function) and after work (when all Chris wants to do is veg out and recover from the insanity of his day). A vacation is going to give us the opportunity to spend the good parts of our days together – and this is important. Maybe you need to reconnect with your spouse, or your friend, or your kids or your parents – or maybe you just need to reconnect with yourself (solo vacations are highly underrated in my opinion). Invite whoever it is that you’re missing to go away with you and spend the time reconnecting.

6) You need to get out of the house. OK, this one might just be for me. But my office is IN my house, and I can never escape work (or the house). I love where I live, I look at the ocean from my office window, but I need to get outside of these walls. If you work from home, which many entrepreneurs do for a season, you know what I mean.

7) It’s helpful to remind yourself why you’re working so hard. Most of us aren’t working our butts off for nothing. There is usually a dream, a goal, a vision to come at the end of it. For me, I want to be able to travel. So taking periodic vacations reminds me why I’m doing all of this.

Joan of arc of philly8) You need some fresh air. You’re probably working so hard and so much that you spend most of the daylight hours in your office, wherever it may be. You need to get outside, to breathe the air, to have the sun shine on your face. Typically people spend time outside on their vacations, whether it’s strolling through a neighborhood or doing something active.

9) Talking to people in other places will help your business. No matter what your company is doing or building, you have customers that you need to serve. And getting out of your familiar bubble will allow you to talk to people about what you’re doing – and will help you refine your ideas to make sure that you’re serving them better.

10) Vacations are fun. At least, they should be. And if a vacation isn’t fun to you, do something that is. The point is, you need to lighten up sometimes, have a little fun, laugh, joke around, remember that everything isn’t serious and at the point of imminent collapse (which is how entrepreneurs usually feel).

Bonus #11) Your employees want you to go away. (This is for those of you who have employees.) If you ever worked for someone else, you know how it is when the boss is away – there’s a feeling of freedom, of lightness, of relief. As the boss, you may not want your employees to feel this freedom. But it’s important not only for you to get a break, but for your employees to get a break from you. When you get back from vacation, you’ll find that they are refreshed, as well.

Happy travels!

(the pictures here are all from Philly – “Love” by vic15, Dance Philadelphia by my aim is true, Joan of Arc by pwbaker)

Good + Fast + Cheap

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

There are so many good things about starting a company. The freedom. The independence. The creativity that it brings out in me. The amazing things that I’m learning. But the one thing that is so incredibly frustrating is that I have to rely on part-time contractors to get anything done.

The last job that I was at, I worked with an incredible team of people. Technically, I guess they worked for me, but each of them was so good at what they all did that I really considered us to be a team with myself at the helm, giving directions and making sure that the company, the development, the product – that everything was moving in the right direction. Quickly. Efficiently. FAST.

Now, I am a solo act. I am still working as quickly as I ever have – probably more so because I’ve upped the amount I’m working to approximately 15 hours per day (all the statistics about how much you work when you’re self-employed are right, it turns out). But no matter how quickly I work, I am always waiting for someone else to get something done.

Let me be really quick to say that I am not blaming anyone for this situation – I am still working with an amazing group of people. It’s just that they are only contracted to work some (small) number of hours per month. I mean, I work more hours PER DAY than each of them work per month. This is the way it has to be, but it really tests my patience.

According to Chris, this situation is attributable to the Good Fast Cheap theory of business. OK, I don’t think that Good Fast Cheap is technically a business theory, I think it’s more a concept that designers use when working for clients to try to help them understand how they work, but it’s a reality with my company so far. Chris’ claim (and I think he’s right) is that you can pick two of the three – Good, Fast, Cheap – but you will have to forgo the third. In my case, I have picked good and cheap, but I have to let go of FAST.

This is really too bad, because fast is one of my favorites.