Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pursuing the Mundane

Well, I didn't get back to the blogging Friday evening. Note to self: don't set expectation of writing at night.

My day on Friday was a bit hectic. Here is what I recall 4 days later:

Set hard deadline date for Sock Hop pattern #3.
Begin testing pattern idea for Sock Hop #3. Choose lace pattern for body of sock.
Announce deadline date with teasers on Sock Hop board at Circles' forum.
Arrange for test knitter to knit from my instructions blind.

Conversation with Nanney Kennedy at Sea Colors re: next showcase at Circles. (perhaps 2/10) and planning of other future collaborations.

Outreach to Margaret Wilson re: next Circles Travel Circle to Mostly Merino. (maybe lambing season this time?)

Finalize date and details of Travel Circle to Grafton Fibers.
Post finalized information on forum, which includes writing post, adding to calendar, making sure post "sticks" to top of board for ease of finding. (Now need to update web site.)
Choose date for 2nd Annual Circles Book Fair and post on forum with calendar attachment.
Post on forum about Circles vending at NETA SPA Knit and Spin.
Update "Current Event Schedule" "sticky" post on Event board of forum. (need to make same update to web site and set up posts to roll out on web site's news blog.)

Teach children's knitting class at daughter's school. (they signed up 12 girls between 6 & 9 year olds! absolute chaos.)
Pick up daughter's friend at school in Quincy - her mother is out of town - for weekly play date at Circles. (end up in rush hour traffic on 93S and get lost in Quincy.)
Arrive at Circles at 6, cover shop floor until 8 and get dinner for the girls.
Go home and crash.

I'm sure there were a few other things - phone calls, emails, oversight activities. They are escaping me now. My short term goal is to get some events on the Circles calendar a few months out, then prepare a e-newsletter and some reminder emails that can be scheduled for sending ahead of time. Hopefully, this will buy me some space to focus on the share application. We'll see how that goes.

Monday and Tuesdays should be my days off. But yesterday I spent some time working on the administration of the forum. I've been relentlessly assaulted by spammers trying to register. I have the system set up so that all new registrations have to be approved. Still, it was up to about 40 per day that I was having to check out and reject. A niggling, tedious thing. Also, there were some glitches in the appearance of the forum. A menu that was to stretch across the entire screen was wrapping, taking up precious vertical space and the logo with sheep photo was not showing at the top. I'm new to the world of forums and html, so I'm slow figuring these things out. I knew that I needed to upgrade the forum software, but the instructions were daunting. After downloading it and procrastinating the process, I accidently learned that my service provider has a tool for doing the upgrade for you! Yee haw! Saved. It then took me several hours to figure out how to fix the other problems. In the end, I triumphed. (I used to be a programmer, but that we 20 years ago in very different language and applications. I have to dig deep into my brain's muscle memory to get into gear. This kind of absorbed, quiet problem solving work, though, is actually relaxing and some of the least uncomfortable for me to do. I can get so focused on the riddle that I almost don't feel all the sensations in my body. It only works for so long. Then I crash. But, I did accomplish what I set out to do.)

Security on the forum seems to be improved. No spammers today. The logo/photo are at the top and the menu stretches across the screen. Check. That feels good. Now on to the sock pattern - (finalized the instructions for the toe last night), the events and the marketing email prep....

No matter the grandiosity of anyone's vision, the work ends up being about the mundane. Getting your hands to do the all little bits which you hope add up to the big picture in your head. The trick is to maintain both perspectives simultaneously and to progress on both fronts. They require such different parts of the brain. Even the physical pace of the two are different. It can be difficult to transition from one mode to the other on a regular basis. I find it inefficient to do it too often, but I need to work on that. One thing that helps is knitting. My hands are working and my mind can wander. If I push my self to complete tasks all day and don't leave enough energy to knit, I am much more challenged to keep the longer-range perspective active. So, as I write this week, I'll be trying to pinpoint the level of activity that I can maintain and where to stop and make time for knitting and reflection and re-grouping for the next day.

Until tomorrow...

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Un-charted Territory

I couldn't figure out how to post a PDF file as an image, so I'm simply pasting a list here of the areas of the business that I must attend to. The 'areas' are in bold and some of the tasks they encompass are listed below them. This list is by no means exhaustive. And they are not in any order. This is simply the brain dump:

Coop Shares Program
state application
in-house and web communications
word of mouth channels
budgets for different amounts raised
accounting - equity accounts, member rolls, dividends, benefit

Pattern Collaborative
pattern formats
basic patterns
existing designs
online sales
order fulfillment
commission tracking

Event Planning
idea list - travel & showcase
calendar online
setting up/breaking down
hosting guests - meals, lodging, directions

Shop Supervision
shop maintenance
tracking systems - special orders, class/event registration, sample program
accounting/bookkeeping - cash flow tracking/planning, inventory, bank recs, backups
product information management
merchandising - displays/stock presentation/signage

print ads - mags, local papers, local organizations
web site maintenance
news blog/forum updates
radio?? WBUR
guest teaching
external events - SPA, Wake up the Earth, etc.

Class/Workshop idea list
Class/Workshop development
guest instructors - hiring, hosting
marketing - emails, in-house signs, flyers
registration package - prep work, materials list
registration tracking

cash flow
sampling - making and tagging
price list

job requirements
operations manual

Program Development/Management
Sock Hop
Yarn Co-op
Knit Alongs
Stripe Lights
new program ideas
program creation-funding, communicating, executing, tracking

marketing emails
forum posts
Reluctant Retailer
product/service brochures
books/booklets- color, community design, pattern collections
business plan/admin

Customer Interface
social circles
sales floor
event hosting

There. It's exhausting just cutting and pasting this list. Execution???? (Well, my mind wanders to another meaning of that word.) Oh, I and forgot to include IT. That's right, I'm also the information technology department. I'm sure there's more. But on to seeing what I actually get done. I'll post about yesterday and today later tonight. Off to work now...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ready, Reset, Plod

My first order of the new year is to figure out how to move forward with diminished capacity. The biggest disappointment of 2006 - in the business realm, that is - is that I did not complete the process of establishing the business co-operative. I was wisely advised to stop thinking of that as a 'failure'. (Thanks, John!) Instead, I am to consider it a 'challenge'. Whatever the term, I need to get to work if this is not to become the big "Challenge" of 2007. I'm ready to forge ahead in whatever way I can.

The big question is how to go about getting any work done. Clearly I have to reset my expectations for myself. There is a lot of work I can do in 'quiet' mode, which extends my 4 hours per day limitation, unless I do the 4 hours of physical/people interaction first and get fried so that I'm not really functional. Anyway, to figure this out, I started by creating lists of all the areas of the business that I am supposed to tend to. What this did, was leave me in a state of overwhelm. It's temporary. I've seen this before. When you see the scope of the business undertaking, you can't imagine how you can possibly pull it off. (And it could be argued that a business that is breaking even while it doesn't pay me, is not "pulling if off". Though, it could also be argued that for a 3 year old business to self-sustain when the owner has to check out on such a long-term basis is miraculous. Particularly when the industry is experiencing a downturn.) Regardless of the whether I have or haven't pulled it off, it's difficult to imagine how anyone would. Then to imagine how an incapacitated person would is beyond difficult.

Still, the work has to get done. So, I need a plan. And I need to figure out how to stay focused when I'm not feeling well. I have an idea that I'm going to try here. I'm going to post about my work plan, how to get a grip on it, and how my daily tasks are progressing. I'll do this for a few weeks to see how it goes. My hope is that a commitment to publishing my work progress will embarrass me into getting work done. More seriously, it may be an interesting exercise for anyone who's interested in running a small business to observe. When you get your MBA, there are a lot of case studies about being a manager. But these managers are usually in larger organizations with casts of thousands. Or hundreds. Or even a hundred. Let's just say they have plenty of support staff. The CEO isn't cleaning the bathroom and making the runs to Staples. I have an MBA and not once in my studies did we discuss what the reality of running a micro-business is like. So, perhaps, this will be informatively helpful to someone.

Tonight I'll work on how to post the first chart (can I put a PDF in here?) I've made regarding the areas of the business and some of the major tasks in those areas. I feel ready to get some work done. I'll reset my expectations with the new plan. We'll see how my work plods along. "GO" might be a bit overstated.

Until tomorrow....