COVID Times and Business

Disclaimer: It’s a little all over the place, but writing is how I process so it is what it is. This is not referencing my newest venture of Doux Wild, but it’s possible the changes will lead up to spending more time on it.

When my car is silent on the way to work, it’s a clear indication I have too much on my mind. Music is an outlet and an expression. If I need to blow off some steam, that is the best avenue to let it all go.

When no sound is coming from the speakers and I’ve arrived at my destination without recalling the trip there, I realize I’ve got some serious contemplation going on. Another indicator: Overwhelming grief – even though I haven’t lost anything. Or I’ve ordered a coffee and I already have one in my hand.

2020 was supposed to be a banner year. As a business owner, our numbers were up significantly in month 1 & 2 and after four long, hardworking years, I was looking forward to bringing in an income that didn’t equal $1/hour. (Honestly, it might be less than that, but whatevs.) We have hit all our goals, both financially and in the services we offer.

Like everyone else, the last three months has changed everything. The experience was eye-opening. It was then I realized that in 3 months (March – May) is when my business makes the most money. I knew spring was our busy season, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked finding out that we lost a half years income in that time span. Maybe being this far in, I should’ve known my numbers better, but that’s the hazard of working IN the business… it takes away from working ON it.

This realization was a devastating blow. I knew I’d be essentially starting over, but losing that much money in such a short period of time was crushing.

I can’t fully put into words what being home for that long was like. There were some really nasty parts – like getting sick twice – and losing full days because of it. I remember wanting to use the opportunity to restructure and brainstorm about the future. Brainstorming is a creative process and I love the planning that takes place. But I couldn’t even do that. I had migraines like I’ve never experienced and an overwhelming urge to sleep (when I wasn’t homeschooling the kids). It was consuming.

At the same time, there were some really amazing things. We had family and friends show up when we needed it most – and they didn’t even know it. Small acts of kindness filled my heart. Snuggling with my family and having full days outside was spectacular. Movie nights, popcorn and camp outs in the living room… I loved every single bit of it.

This forced lifestyle change really shed some light on areas I need to be spending my time, both personally and in business. I looked at my life and what was / wasn’t working for me. I realized that the pressure I put on myself and the level at which I want my business to run, doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

I have a vision of what it means to be a business owner and contributing member of our community. It’s a high standard. Oddly, I’ve created a box of expectations I’m not sure even I fit in.*

The nature of my business serves it’s local community. How it operates I’m not sure I can change. Now is the time for thinking out of the box, but how do I shift things to stay in business, not let down my customers, but also save some energy and time for my personal life?

That’s the key point. I desperately need to reclaim my time. I have set boundaries and created processes to funnel tasks and reduce overlap in my personal/business life, but I’m quickly realizing that these issues and hurdles aren’t ever going to go away. People will always need an answer RIGHT NOW or go elsewhere. And people will always pepper every avenue of contact without regard that I might actually be helping another customer at that moment. Or god forbid, eating a meal. In a world where everything is instant, it’s just how it is.

Even with regular working hours, my time is dictated by how many walk-ins and messages I have to answer. Then I stay late to finish the things that need to be done and the cycle starts all over again.

In short, the thought of starting over is daunting. I’m tired. Working 60+ hour, sometimes 100 hour, weeks no longer serve me. It doesn’t serve the business or the customers either. When I find that I’m reluctant to post anything to social media, because I’m overwhelmed and don’t want to draw more attention, something is wrong. It feels self sabotaging and unbalanced.

They say where you spend your time, energy and thoughts will give that “thing” momentum is absolutely true. Magic blooms every single time. The crux of this is that if you’re focusing on one thing, it might be taking away from something else. Sometimes something more important.

With a schedule like ours, you would think we’d be beside ourselves with boredom and eager to get out there into the world. Nope. Being home was just what we needed. It brought us back together and we loved every minute of it. (Except for those first days of homeschooling. That was rough, but we won’t talk about that.)

I’m a person that needs to compartmentalize tasks, wherever I am and whoever I’m with has my complete 100% focus. The problem with owning a business is it spills into every aspect of life. It becomes you. It makes total sense, since you’re creating something from nothing and pouring every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears into it. It IS the definition of grit.

It’s not surprising that connections are made when you aren’t at work. They are made at parties, celebrations, while picking up the kids from school, etc. But when is it too much? When will I be able to get my hair done or spend a spa day with my daughter and not have to answer questions or be expected to give quotes while paying another business to receive a service? When is it too much that I’ll receive a request through a personal outlet on a Sunday afternoon while spending time with my family and worrying about if I’ll lose the job if I wait until the next business day?

I’m aware there are some fixes to these issues and I have tried some of them. I’ve implemented policies and funneled messages to more appropriate avenues. It really comes down to being firm and not caring so much. The trouble is: that’s not in my DNA. If we have set open hours and you pull on my door after those hours, I will open it. I’ve been advised not to and I understand why, but if you are looking at me through a glass door, I am physically unable to turn my back on you.

As a possible solution and a mini biz facelift, I’ve installed full size sticky window coverings. And because I get excited over the completion of projects, I was excitedly telling my husband about it. I mentioned how I probably should’ve had a second set of hands since these things were so huge. At one point I was in a pickle, but managed to get everything in place without even a wrinkle. I said, “it looks like they were professionally done!”

When he replied, “because they were.” I cried.

Window signage is not my business, but it’s a close cousin so to hear that he thinks I’m a professional made me a little teary. (For the record, he’s not a bullshitter, so when he says it, he means it.)

Anyway, not sure what the real point of this post is. I’m in a funky place. I know changes are coming as I’m not one to sit idle on something that isn’t working, but the exact changes will present themselves soon. I hope.

*Side note: Mostly, I realized, I just need to get over myself. If operating my business in a different way, makes me less than a qualified “business owner,” so be it. Life is too short to give a flying F about what someone thinks about a life they aren’t living.

How to lose yourself after kids

431745_10151213376073421_1764688863_nHaving children can rock your world. It turns everything upside down and flips your life right on its nose. To new parents, it’s a freight train you didn’t see coming. The noise is loud and the light is blinding.

First you’re dropped into a pit of sleep loss to the point of near insanity. Days and nights are interchangeable. Remembering to brush your teeth is a thing of the past and the memory of your last shower is a question. And when you do shower, you find yourself wondering if actual hair washing occurred (and with what).

During the next phase, hopefully the non-sleep schedule has released its grip and full sentences are making their way back into your speech.  Bonus if your teeth are brushed. Getting rid of that gawd-awful infant carrier is so liberating. You may consider having a party. But that feeling is quickly replaced with the terror and scramble of trying to prevent your kid from splitting their head open on every object imaginable.

Raising kids can be the most difficult, gut-wrenching experience – there’s a reason I refer to it as “Parenting from the Trenches.” It’s a battle and having a partner in crime makes things easier but in no way does that make it easy. Kids are experts in wearing parents down. As babies, we may strap them to our chest and wear them around town but they are the ones who wear us.

If you’re a reader who doesn’t have kids and you want to, don’t go tearing down the street screaming just yet.

Having children may be the hardest job you will ever encounter but it will also be the most rewarding, fulfilling ride around. Really. Some people would buy tickets for this ride. Nothing compares.

In the beginning, sleep loss is just a small part of the total package. Time moves at its own pace and that’s OK because every moment is savored. Cuddling at 3AM wouldn’t be traded for the most luxurious hotel room in Italy. (Um, right?) After some time, you find your groove and you never thought you’d be so excited watching someone smash food in their face.

Your partner in crime is also your teammate. If you’re doing it right, you will not only have someone to vent to but someone who understands when you desperately say, “your turn! I’m leaving!” But, truly the best part is when your teammate can share in those exciting snapshots – like when junior babbles something incomprehensible or pokes the family dog in the eye.

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about all this is because spending every waking moment caring for another human-being changes you. You have no choice about it.

As far as I’m concerned there are two ways to lose yourself after having kids. First, if you’re not careful, you could lose yourself totally. You could forget who you are, what you love to do, and the things you enjoy. This doesn’t make you a better or worse parent but it does keep your children from learning about who YOU are (outside of being their parent).

The second way to lose yourself after kids, is in the moments of raising them. This includes everything; from being totally wrapped up in a messy project to holding hands while balancing on a log. It’s totally worth ditching your watch. Investing in a pair of rain boots with the sole intention of puddle hopping is absolutely the way to go.

Since this is a how-to article, I would say the best way to lose yourself after having children is to maintain your identity but lean into every crushingly-hard-sweet-simple moment there is. And don’t let a single one of them get away.