#LBCWantsToKnow >> November 2018: Small Business Owner Mindset

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Small Business Owner Mindset

 

Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion on a specific subject.  For the month of November, we rolled up our sleeves to chat about small business owner mindset. Nobody understands the stress of the holiday season like a small business owner, and I was thrilled to see so many Lucky Break Clients sharing their thoughts and experiences.

 

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THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

  • bodysystemsteri: It’s so essential. And I feel as entrepreneurs we don’t take notice till it’s too late.
  • zirafkahanka: For me these three come first: SLEEP, EAT, MOVE. Then anything else. To start to look at my life this way helped me tremendously last year.
  • printtherapy: I have to make the time. I’ve burnt out so many times emotionally and physically that I now really understand the importance of self care. For me it’s good sleep, healthy eating, and working out. It’s also time alone and Netflix binges 🙂 Either I spend time taking care of myself, or I spend the time being tired and anxious and therefore unproductive.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

Overwhelm and burnout are, unfortunately, rampant in the entrepreneurial community.  While everyone’s coo’ing over four-hour work weeks and how sexy it is to be at the helm of your own ship, what they’re not often talking about is how we often work 60-80 hour work weeks and how we sometimes sag under the weight of long to-do lists and massive responsibilities.  I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, but we’re all about “real life” business here at Lucky Break and that’s the reality for many of us.  But as someone who’s hit her brick wall more than once, I’ve learned the importance of self-care.  A few tips I’ve picked up along the way…

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first. The LBC Community is made up primarily of women and we often put ourselves last, taking care of ourselves only after everyone else has been tended to. But you can’t pour from am empty cup and I’ve learned to move myself up in line so that I can be a healthy resource for those who depend on me.

 

  1. Business ebbs and flows. There are times in each of my businesses when I’ve needed to let off the gas a bit to tend to my own health o r the wellness of my family.  Keeping the gas pedal pressed all the way to the floor 24/7 is an impossible ask, so flexibility is key. Recognizing that there are seasons for big launches and concerted waves of outreach, and the development of new collaborations has been key, because there are also seasons for pulling back and conserving energy. Yin and yang and all that jazz.

 

  1. When I feel myself breathing up against a brick wall, a change of energy is needed. Think of it as an intervention: work half-time in your business next week. Go to bed an hour earlier every day this week. Find one thing from your to-do list that you can delegate to someone else. Being attuned to yourself and proactive about your own wellness is much easier than picking up the pieces after you’ve slammed into the wall and everything has shattered.

 

 

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THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

  • a_wildflower_gypsy: Meditate and clear my mind out in nature, phone free. Quiets the chaos and allows ideas to flow.
  • zhibathandbody: I clean… something about putting on my sneakers, cleaning house, and burning sage gets my juices flowing. I find myself away from those things that have my mind cluttered.
  • mistybluebotanicals: I like to FB and insta-stalk creative people I admire. Instagram, in particular, is hard for me because I don’t feel particularly talented in the creativity department, so I like to see what other folks are doing visually. Somewhere taking a ride somewhere news helps to unblock creativity for me.
  • pearlglow_bodybutter_and_soap: I like to look at things I love, read, or start at the beginning. I’ll go back to some of the first things I created or wrote, this always helps.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

I second all of these awesome suggestions! One thing I’ve learned in fifteen years  of being a full-time entrepreneur: pushing through roadblocks rarely helps. When I’ve reached my breaking point, the best thing that I can do is redirect my energy.  Whether that’s cooking a good meal, taking the dog for a walk, calling a good friend, or soaking in a hot bath- anything I can do to change my current paradigm and replenish energy levels before diving back in proves beneficial. Throwing good energy after bad is rarely successful. But it’s also very necessary to dive back in. So take heart, walk off the ship for a bit, but don’t abandon the ship entirely.

 

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Things That Keep Us Up At Night: Entrepreneur Anxiety

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Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, about where you turn for advice, about how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and about what biggest piece of entrepreneur anxiety is keeping you awake at night.

 

Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I wanted to share some of the responses with you. Why? Because so very many of us are lying awake with worry/ fear/ overwhelm at night, and there’s a surprising amount of commonality in what plagues us. Entrepreneurship is damn hard and sometimes I don’t think we talk about that enough.  In my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve often taken comfort in community, talking about the “hard stuff” and realizing that my worries and failures are well-tilled ground among the small business set. In fact, that’s the reason that I started a consulting company- to help us connect to one another, pull back the curtain on running a product-centered brand, dish “no b.s.” business advice, and help others benefit from the 3,719 mistakes I’ve made as an entrepreneur.

 

Entrepreneur Anxiety

 

I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main “umbrellas.” Below you’ll find some direct-from-our-mouths answers about what’s rumbling across the brain waves at 1am. The responses are purposefully provided without any identifying information, because the replies could easily have come from any of us!

 

ENTREPRENEUR ANXIETY + FEAR OF FAILURE + JEOPARDIZING OUR FAMILIES

  • Fear holding me back every step of the way. Worried that I’ll waste my family’s money on a failed attempt at entrepreneurship.
  • Every-frigging-thing.
  • Worrying that I’ll fail.
  • Not getting this company I’ve worked so hard for off the ground and where I want it to be.
  • Wondering if it’s all worth it.
  • Are my products good enough?
  • Family balance.
  • Should I continue this business or shut it down? Is it adding to or taking away from my life?
  • Managing anxiety, and managing unfounded doubts about potential success and failure when taking risks.
  • Imposter syndrome.

Mercy… that’s is a heavy list, isn’t it? I put it forward because I think these are the anxieties that constantly dance through our heads, but so rarely roll forth from our mouths. But there is comfort in the commonality… you aren’t alone. You’re not the only one facing that fear, white-knuckling it, and sweating it out.  In my experience (and in the experience of the majority of my consulting clients), struggle is at the very core of entrepreneurship.  But there’s a tremendous beauty in challenging ourselves, pushing outside our comfort zones, and taking a risk. It’s never easy and rarely boring, but there’s almost nothing else I’d rather do with my life at this point.

 

Here’s my advice…

 

Nervous energy isn’t your friend. And I say that as someone whose first grade teacher gave her a book about anxiety at the ripe old age of 6. I’ve ultimately realized that all energy is either productive or destructive, and anxiety is massively destructive energy. That doesn’t mean that we should go running off of cliffs blindfolded in the name of courage. We shouldn’t ignore our gut, but it’s wise to be aware of (and attuned to) our nervous energy. Once we’ve made a decision, stand confidently in those decisions.  Don’t give into panic or stagnation or the negative narrative that your mind wants to produce. Becoming more self-aware is an essential building block of business success.

One of my favorite books to read to steady myself and help me pay attention to the negative narratives that run on a loop in my head is Rising Strong by Brene Brown.  It’s a good read and I hope you might find some value in it, too.

 

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Impostor syndrome is real.  And we all suffer from it. I don’t think there’s any level of success that’s immune from this beast. But the key- I think- is to hear that narrative when it pops up. Be attuned of it, but don’t indulge it. Two things that help me:

  • Keeping a journal of my accomplishments.  Progress is hard to see when it’s incremental and we’re standing so very close to it. But if I keep a notebook nearby (or even a digital note on my smartphone), then I can casually jot down the wins- both large and small- in the moment.  When I feel stagnant and like I’m up against the impossible, I leaf back through those notes and I’m continually reminded of just how far I’ve come.

 

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It’s time for a “come to Jesus” moment…

Focus Is Your Friend

Focus Is Your Friend

 

Most of the makers that I work with come at their work from a creative perspective rather than from a business perspective. And that can be an intrinsically beautiful thing as you push the edge of your work and continue to innovate.

 

But that approach can simultaneously hamstring a growing brand. The desire to create, create and then create some more often evolves into a product collection that resembles a many-headed-beast with little focus. And- at the end of the day- your product collection must tell a cohesive story that your target audience can understand. Creatives often have an low-level, perpetual tension between their inherently innovative souls and their need to button things up and make decisions that increase efficiency and product a profit.

 

If you’ve been…

 

    • Building volume in order to gain traction on Etsy

 

    • Launching every product your neighbor/ mama/ best friend asks you to create

 

    • Creating a steady stream of new products because you’re smitten with the latest raw material or design trend

 

…then there’s a better-than-even chance that you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel that’s breeding exhaustion while simultaneously evaporating profits. You’re in good company, but man… is that hamster wheel frustrating.

 

The need to edit a product collection to be succinct + cohesive is one of the biggest mindset shifts that must happen when you move from “hobbyist” to “professional maker.” And while I understand that it’s the Achilles heel of intrinsically creative souls, it also very necessary if you want to build a sustainable creative brand.

 

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The more products you create…

 

    • The more raw materials you’ll need to have on hand,

 

    • The more storage + work space you’ll need at your disposal,

 

    • The higher the likelihood that you have to DIY your product packaging (it’s more challenging to professionally print a large variety of labels/ boxes/ tags since printing costs drop as you reach higher numbers of a single design),

 

    • The more divided your marketing efforts + attention span will be,

 

    • The more products you’ll need to photograph (tying up your time + making it more challenging to tag in a pro),

 

    • The more products you’ll need to program into your website (again: tying up your time + making it more challenging to tag in a pro),

 

    • And the higher the likelihood that you’ll need to create everything “to order,” which kills efficiency and drives your costs of production sky-high.

 

More is not more. Say it with me, now: MORE IS NOT MORE.  I propose that we all get that tattooed somewhere on ourselves as a daily reminder that editing is a critical task of successful businesses. Heaven knows that I have needed it on my journey as maker…

 

TIPS FOR EDITING A PRODUCT COLLECTION

 

1. Focus on what you want your brand to “own.” What do you want to be known for? Which of your products are out of alignment with that vision?

 

2. Think about the target audience you want to serve. What story are they telling themselves when they purchase + use your products? Which of your products fall outside that narrative?

 

3. Look at your sales numbers. Which of the products that survived cuts #1 and #2 (above) are eliciting a positive reaction from your audience?

 

4. Review your costs of production. Which of the remaining products that survived cuts #1, #2 and #3 are financially viable?

 

Review the products that are left standing and edit once more for cohesion. If something doesn’t fit, remove it. If there’s a gaping hole, fill it.

 

Remember that seeing beloved products on the cutting room floor will be an emotional experience for you. There’s nothing to say that you can’t continue making  these products (as gifts for those you love or on a specially commissioned basis).  Be gentle with yourself: I can attest that wine + long, hot baths help.

 

And no matter what you ultimately edit out of the collection, someone somewhere is going to be less-than-thrilled. In the ultimate display of irony, several of the brands I work with have made decisions to cull a product from their collection, only to see an almost-immediate surge in the product’s popularity right before the guillotine drops. Don’t be dissuaded! Make the cuts, frame the announcement in a positive light, project confidence, suggest other products you believe will please the devoted fans of whatever is going by the wayside and raise a glass to flexing your entrepreneurial muscle.

 

“Be as close to your singular purpose as you can. Gandhi knew who he was; he was at perfect peace with himself. Nike, for instance, knows what it is; regardless of the product or sport, everything has its clear and common purpose. You get in trouble when you get split against yourself. Like when Microsoft cranked out the Zune, just because it thought it should. Or that kid who comes back from spring break with fake dreadlocks. Or athletes who rap. (Sorry, Shaq.)”   -Marc Ecko

 

Thanks for the bag of dicks… no, really.

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I received a surprise this week when I stopped by the post office to check Lucky Break’s mailbox. Tucked inside that petite metal cubicle was a small, nondescript box addressed to me. Tucked inside the box? A bag of dicks. No, really. A bag of gummy candy penises and an anonymous, unsigned letter inviting me to eat said bag of dicks. I exploded in laughter. So irreverent is my sense of humor that I assumed someone was yanking my chain. Actually, I called Melissa (my Operations Manager) from the post office parking lot to ask if she had done it to razz me. She hadn’t, but we both enjoyed a riotous laugh.

 

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I mused with my husband over dinner about who might have sent it. I fielded an onslaught of inappropriate jokes from my two teenage girls, who were (unsurprisingly) amused by phallic gummy candy. I decided to ask my friend Google about how one sends anonymous erotic gummy candy. And that’s when I finally understood: there’s a recently launched website dedicated to the anonymous sending of hateful penis gummies. For $15 and 10 minutes of your life, you, too, can reach out and touch someone… anonymously.
I sat quietly for a few minutes. Call me naively optimistic, but I really hadn’t considered that someone was trying to be cruel. Who had sent it? Why had they sent it? Who had I wronged so badly that they had thought sending me a package of gelatinous genitalia was a good idea? This isn’t the first time someone has taken a swipe at me or my business. I know all too well that being in business is hard and not everyone will love what you do. And still, this was surprising.

 

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So here’s the rub: I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m fantastically imperfect. I’m prone to being impulsive. I often can’t see the forest for the trees. My bullshit meter is permanently set on “negative four.” I hate to exercise and I can eat an entire box of Thin Mints in a single sitting. I’m not proud, but those little wafers are damn good…

 

If my entrepreneurial journey has taught me anything, it’s taught me this: when you rock the boat, people strap on their life vests and start looking for the wave-maker. And I’m nothing if not a wave-maker. Perhaps I took an unpopular stance on an issue. Maybe I boogied too closely into someone else’s dance space. Who knows? Perhaps I failed to recognize an opportunity to help someone or said something that offended. There are a myriad of possibilities, I suppose, but I’ll never have the opportunity to learn from the experience or apologize because the person that sent the gummy-dicks stayed in the shadows, anonymous.

 

Starting a business and being a leader is a lot like strapping a lightning rod to your head and running around in a thunderstorm. Sooner or later, you’ll be struck. Add in the possibility of allowing the Universe to strike anonymously and the temptation is often too much to resist. The lure of anonymity is so seductive- we can take that swipe and marinate in self-righteous satisfaction without ever having to own our actions or confront that which offends/ scares/ challenges us.

 

But each of us has a choice about what to do with the energy that we generate and have transferred to us each day. I would venture that whomever sent this energy my way could have used it more wisely: either by investing it in their business or their family or by sending me a sincere email about how I’ve fumbled. But now that the energy is here, I have the power to decide what to do with it. I could lay in bed tonight, my head full of racing, accusatory thoughts as I replay various scenarios in my head. But that wouldn’t be the best use of the energy, either.

 

My default reaction is always to pick up that gummy-bear grenade and toss it back doubly hard, but I’m slowly training myself to respond with intention rather than reaction. It’s an uphill battle, but I do have my hiking boots on. I vowed a long time ago not to live a life of complacency and stagnation. And while stepping out and living with passion invites criticism, I’ve stocked my dresser with Big Girl Panties and my kitchen cabinets with wine.

 

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If I’ve offended you, let’s talk about it. I’m not flawless or invincible. My email address is simply my first name + @luckybreakconsulting.com. Send me a missive… I promise to read it, meditate upon it and answer with my most honest thoughts. And if you can’t summon the courage to do anything but send me food, then let’s up your game and send me the good stuff, shall we? A few of my favorites…

 

Sea Salt caramels from Good Karmal

The Exotic Truffle collection by Vosges

Jeni’s Goat Cheese & Red Cherries Ice Cream

Dark & Stormy Popcorn by Butter + Scotch

 

Each of us has a choice: when someone lobs a grenade your way, how do you react? If you’ve been on the receiving end of anonymous or internet hate, I’d be honored if you shared the story in the comments. There’s power in talking about it and wisdom to be gleaned from it. So, what’s your story?