The Loneliness of Business

Sometimes running a business is hard.

Bootstrapping brings it’s own separate challenges – much of it is wanting to do so much but having very limited resources to make stuff happen.  This is often a blessing in disguise.

Whilst I network with testers and talk to the community about things, there are certain things I don’t always feel I can talk about.

What do you do when an idea fails?  That’s one of the most painful things.  It can be scary launching something that could fail. Or that could require lots of work for no return or potential loss of money and livelihood for my family.

What do you do when you don’t reach your goals?

What do you do when your community and customer base have this fluffy and inaccurate vision of how things are?

What about deciding to pull the plug on certain projects and potentially upsetting customers?

If I talk about failure will it be bad for the future of the business?

If I talk too much about success will it make me look arrogant?

Where do I draw the line of what to share?

I love openness in business, but where do I draw the line for mine?

There have been many things I have been doing to try to grow my company.  My work over the years has accumulated in ways that sometimes I don’t give myself or get credit for.  I am somehow succeeding where others have failed.

Increasingly I am having to say no.  It still feels weird and awkward sometimes. No I can’t do this. Or that. No I won’t sell that.  No, that’s not where we align our business.  No I can’t do for free what I normally charge for.

Increasingly people see success and want a free ride.

Sometimes it’s lonely. And frustrating. And hard.  Ultimately, where I am now, I am responsible for everything. I make the decisions. Things happen or not based on my actions.

How do I know if I’m making the right decisions?  What makes something ‘right’?

I thank my husband for being around and putting up with the challenges I face.  I thank my kids for being patient with me.

I’ve long felt like I couldn’t talk about the ins and out of my business until I went to BaconBiz last month.   It was a breath of fresh air to be able to speak to people openly about the challenges we are all facing in bootstrapping our businesses.  And to be honest, whilst the talks were certainly interesting and useful, talking to actual people and listening to their stories is what I found most valuable about the whole experience.

So thanks to BaconBiz and the ongoing discussions and friends that have been made, I don’t feel as lonely as I use to!

 

Bored guy makes a video. Cheap news websites flock. You won’t believe what happened next.

simpsonargh

Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

I am so SICK of these cheap social news websites jumping on the back of ‘social content’ to provide cheap entertainment.

What happened next? Erm, this blog post?  Or I dunno. Nothing. Don’t care. Whatever.

The video I refer to is this one.  I’ve linked to the main video, however a ton of so called news sites have used it as a must read story.  Each article on each website basically saying the same thing in the hope of being shared and driving traffic to their website. But it applies to the hundreds and thousands of lame social content that is being shared on news-y type websites to drive traffic that add little value to our existence.

So bored of this.  Can we all move on from it?

You Should Be Proud Of Yourself

I tend not to big myself up.  I often prefer to keep my head down and just get on with stuff.

(And seriously, I’m not looking for compliments here.  It’s part of my story.)

My husband tells me I should be proud of what I’ve achieved.  And I am.  But I haven’t really shared this in public.  It is probably because I don’t Lean In enough.

Part of it is that I’m still finding my way.  I still feel like I need to find my sweet spot.  There are many things I want to do.  I have a big, big list on my unofficial bucketlist.

However, with my upcoming trip to the US and the chance to meet many other bootstrappers – I have been diving deeper into what other bootstrappers have been doing.

I then compare it to what I’ve done. And guess what?

I’ve been doing and succeeding at what they’ve been talking about.   Whilst living a life of relative freedom.  I work lots. But I also spend lots of time with my family. My husband and I are currently taking equal responsibility for our work. Our kids. And our household.

I work hard, but it doesn’t really feel like work.  I love what I’m creating. And the people I’m working with.  Work and life just rolls into one big ball of awesomeness.

There is something incredibly rewarding and enlightening about it.  I keep talking about it to friends. I feel like I need to pinch myself. I hope it is something that will last.  Where I am now is a very good place and I can’t help but feel that many more people should be in the place that I am in now.

On top of this I feel like I am able to invest in myself.  Something I should have been doing all along.  But life, as it does, often takes over.  And as a mother, I put everyone else in my family before myself.  Perhaps rightly, but probably in hindsight, that was the wrong thing to do.

As I’m investing in myself I am feeling my confidence increase dramatically.  I’m not spending money doing this, rather I am giving myself the time I deserve to do more of the things I should be doing.  Eating the right kind of food (a Paleo diet for me) and exercising plenty (running 3 times per week).

I now feel like WonderWoman and ready to push myself to new limits – in work, personal and family life.

USA Part 2

Last Autumn I went to California for a workliday.  It was awesome.

This time I’m off to Philadelphia for BaconBiz.  A small conference for peeps like me who bootstrap their business along the bumpy roads.  I will then head on down to North Carolina.

The big difference for me is that I’m travelling alone. No big deal you may say.  But for me it is.  Being a family person. Someone who has built their business to be able to spend more (or all!) time with my family.  Spending virtually all my days surrounded by the awesomeness of The Sherry Family. Unschooling.  It is a big deal, for me.

I actually think I haven’t spent more than 24 hours away from my whole family. I will now be faced with a whole 2 weeks to myself.

I AM NOT SURE WHAT I AM GOING TO DO WITH ALL THAT FREE TIME.

Perhaps if you are in Philadelphia or Chapel Hill, North Carolina then you can help me spend some of my time.  Just get in touch!

How Rosie Leans In

I was recently pointed towards the TedTalk and then Lean In book of Sheryl Sandberg.  She’s the COO of Facebook.  I had never heard of her until a few weeks ago.

My first reaction was, umm, pro-women-feminist-leadership. Yawn.  I’ve read enough about that.  The fact that her experience is at a very high level also made me weary of what she was trying to communicate.  I didn’t feel like anything she had to say about women and leadership would really make me think deeply enough about it to write this blog post.

I’m pretty sure, for example, that I don’t want represent a huge company to be a high flying exec, attending big meetings and travelling the world.  It’s just not how I rock ‘n’ roll.

In my time I’ve struggled with finding an employer who would be open to the work flexibility that I aspired to.  Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough. Perhaps I was too scared. Perhaps I felt the times that I tried to ask meant that I was knocked off the list. The fact that Sheryl requested as part of her job to be able to be home for dinner, whilst I understand is brave, is just not something that is good enough for me.  This working for someone else thing just doesn’t work for me.  I needed more than just getting home for dinner time.

However, like Sheryl says. We all want different things.  She’s gone after what she has wanted, whilst raising a family.  I’m doing the same, the Rosie way.

I recognise that I’ve stepped back in many ways, instead of leaning in.  I stopped working when I was pregnant.  I tried going back afterwards, but I couldn’t take it.  I didn’t love the work I was doing at the time enough to see through the high cost of childcare, huge pressure to juggle home & work whilst not seeing my kids.  I did the opposite of what Sheryl talks about – I leaned out instead of in.

However, over the years I’ve been defining my own life whilst discovering the things that I really enjoy doing.  Perhaps I leaned back in  areas, but I certainly leaned in and stayed focused in many other ways.

I don’t think I’ve let myself down. I’ve always had dreams to do things. I’ve always tried hard. I’ve never been happy just being a SAHM – I get bored very quickly.  This boredom meant that I was constantly playing around with project and business ideas.  Some have failed, however, others are now flourishing.  Flourishing in a way that I’ve somehow gotten myself into a leadership role of my own.

It feels weird.  And I find it hard to take credit for it.  (Which is exactly what Sheryl says that women don’t do enough of…and men take credit all too easily).  I’m still not quite sure if ‘the not taking credit for it’  is just who I am, or if maybe, just maybe I should claiming my recognition and shouting about it more.  For now, I’m quite happy pushing things along. Growing my business. Desigining my home and business life to accommodate my needs:

  • I run a successful business that is designed around my family.
  • I bloody love what I do.
  • I unschool my boys.
  • I spend alot of quantity and quality time with the family.
  • I have a supportive and now equal partner.
  • I am happy.

I’ve long been dissatisfied with the status quo.  I honestly don’t understand why so many things are the way they are.  My way of leaning in is to challenge them by creating and sharing my own reality.

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that the impact lasts in your absence” – Sheryl Sandberg

I believe I’m doing the above through my work at Software Testing Club and Ministry of Testing.  I’m working on other projects and discovering new passions which I hope will have a similar impact at some point in the future too!

Seeking Happiness

I enjoyed watching this video –  The Happy Secret to Better Work.  Watch it if you can.  I’ll wait.

I’ve been adapting my life over the years to help me become a better and happier person in my personal life and at work. (I actually don’t like separating work and life into separate categories because I believe they should work in harmony – not one or the other. But that’s another story).

I find the above video explains very well what I’m trying to do in addition to giving me some tips to continually improve whatever it is I’m trying to do.

Success Through Happiness

The underlying principal is that the majority of us are trying to find happiness through success. However, we should be finding success through happiness. We need to flip things around.

So it might be:

  • Do things that will make us happy.
  • Exercise to keep our bodies sharp.
  • Eat well.
  • Do work that is engaging.
  • Spending quality time with friends and family.

Through this we will become happy and successful on our own terms (not the terms that society dictates)

Instead of:

  • Working hard in the hope at some point we will achieve the success.
  • Not eating well.
  • Not exercising.
  • Making sacrifices that we hope will pay off at some point.
  • And then hope that we’ll be happy.

As a society we think that happiness will come with success, but in our hearts I think many of us know that is not true. You only need to look at the lives of many ‘successful’ people and see that they aren’t really happy and many are actually very unhealthy and miserable.

I personally don’t want to succeed  if the sacrifice is my health.  That’s failure in my eyes.

How Am I Finding Success?

Of course it’s through happiness, one by one I’m doing things that make me feel good.

  • I exercise daily (most of the time)
  • I eat well (most of the time)
  • I spend lots of time with my family
  • I work hard, under my terms
  • I am creating a business that I feel happy with (it’s taken a while, but I seem to be getting there).
  • I feel my confidence and happiness in my work is reflecting in my steady and consistent growth.

Things I’d like to be doing (helpful points from the video):

  • showing more gratitude
  • journalling / blogging
  • doing more random acts of kindess
  • meditating, just a little bit :)

Everything I do are small changes and efforts where that genuinely make me feel positive as a person.  There haven’t been many drastic changes in my life…each one of them have been one thing at a time.  Looking back – my life has actually changed quite a lot.  I can see it working and hopefully with conscious efforts I will continue along this very interesting and challenging task in life!

Are We Setting Up Our Kids For Failure?

Well, my husband blogged about optimising for happiness, so I thought I’d keep up with him with these few words on a similar kind of subject. :)

I’ve often thought about the high expectations that parents and society have on kids.

Stuff like:

  • getting the best grades
  • getting a degree
  • getting a proper and well paying job
  • deciding on a defined career from an early age
  • buying a house

It kind of perplexes me a bit these days.  If people don’t achieve what they have set out to achieve then they feel like a failure.  I know I did for quite a while.

I wanted that degree. I wanted an important job.  The hurdles that I came across felt like I was destined to fail constantly.

  • I failed to love the academic world.
  • I failed to love the corporate world.
  • I failed to love the routine of working life.
  • I failed (for a while) to find my place in where I wanted to be.
  • I failed (for a while) to find that happiness that I was after.

In hindsight, I haven’t failed. Or I have, but I just call failures an ‘educational opportunity’.  However, I think I would have given myself an easier time if expectations of me (from myself, family and society) had just been a bit different.

Instead of setting goals for these ‘things’ (grades, degrees, etc) we should be setting goals for personal happiness and health.  There are too many of us out there who are just not happy with what we are doing with our lives.  We’ve been taught to strive for better things, but really we need to be striving for happiness and health.

Just imagine what we would all be doing if we all had a focused goal of being happy and healthy. Imagine how different the world would be today.

I’m working towards being happy and healthy, consistently.  It’s a good place to be.

Our Workliday – California 2013

Part of why I love unschooling and working for myself is that we can define the rules.  We recently spent 5 weeks travelling California. It was awesome.

I met some people, some that I’ve been in contact with for years and never met.

After so many years I met @testertested #starwest It's me and @qualityfrog #starwest

It's me an @jbtestpilot #starwest It's me and @sbarber #starwest

It's me and @griff0jones #starwest It's me and @paulholland_TWN #starwest

Nice to meet John Dunham of #Saucelabs today :)

I met Hilary and Stacy who have been volunteering at Software Testing Club.

It's me and @g33klady #starwest It's @stacycbusek and I #starwest

I went to my first American testing conference (StarWEST).

What executives value in testing

I helped get a Meetup in San Francisco started (and met lots of cool people!)

#muchlatergram San Francisco Testing Meetup with Michael Larsen #muchlatergram San Francisco Testing Meetup with Josh Meier

#muchlatergram San Francisco Testing Meetup, Fred @rainforestqa #muchlatergram San Francisco Testing Meetup

I went to a meetup at TwitterHQ! :)

I went to TwitterHQ :) I'm such a geek :)

I did work when kids allowed (this was kind of hard, but possible).

Worklidaying in Santa Cruz

My husband went to a Startup conference, some meetups and a few coworking spaces.

[Sorry, no photos] :)

We did this whilst doing things like going to DisneyLand, the beach (oh, Malibu and Santa Monica, we miss you!) and hanging out in San Francisco.
Graham and I at Zuma Beach, Malibu :) Walking in a line

California California

Stealing a ve' nice moment Ben's Trike Hire

We cycled across that #goldengate Ben drinks from a toilet #exploratorium

It's The Super Sherrys Aaron played Doodle Jump and hit the jackpot.  He was very pleased!

I’m really grateful that we can do these kind of things. It’s inspiring, eye opening, interesting and educational. And it’s expensive, ouch!

5 weeks on the road becomes hard work with little ones (specifically my 2 year old).  An 11 hour flight is not exactly relaxing either, especially when the little dude won’t site still or sleep! We are all happy to be back in our comfy own home now!

Hopefully we can do more in the future!  Sometimes we just need an excuse! #hint

And to end things of – it was ve’nice :)

It's a nice place :)

The Business of Profit

I’ve long battled little people talking in my head.  Trying to figure out the world, how things are and how they could be.  Some things I’ll never get – like the idea that profit is what drives a business.

I think we’ve lost our way

Businesses are classed as not-for-profit or for profit. So Limited companies in the UK are for profit. Charities are not for profit, social enterprises can have profit with clauses within them to re-invest money into the business and there is also the need to have a socially driven mission.

So the first thing that you need to do when you start a business is decide whether you are in it for profit or for good.  Is it only me who feels this is wrong?

I want to run a company that is profitable and does good – for customers and the community around us. There is no ‘or’. There is only ‘and’.  Businesses by default should be doing both.

I’ve set my company up as a limited company because it gives me the freedom to decide and choose how we do things.  I dread the slowness of decision making and paperwork involved with a charity or social enterprise. I answer to myself, my customers and my desire to run a meaningful business. I aim to make a profit because this is what will make us sustainable (and have some growth).  With sustainability comes the ability to invest comfortably in the business and ‘other things we believe in’.  Sustainability and profit can free us from basic worries (paying the rent and buying food) and empower us to be free to work on more meaningful projects.

What questions should we ask when in business?

Why is meaningful business not the norm? Why shouldn’t everyone who sets out to start a business aim to do good as part of who and what their business is? Why is it not part of a business plan? Imagine if different questions were asked when you were setting up a business, would it make people do things differently?

  • what values are important?
  • what would make you happy?
  • what would make your employees and your community happy?
  • how do you plan to achieve sustainability?
  • how will you grow your business ethically?
  • at what point can you invest money into other causes?
  • how will you grow a business without detrimental consequences to your (and your employees) health?
  • how do you want to achieve change?

JustGiving – a great living example

I was at Meaning Conference last week where Anne-Marie , the founder, was giving a talk about her experiences. I hadn’t looked into the set up of Just Giving as a business, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it is set up as a for profit (limited company) with investors too.  Investors who are yet to see return on their investment.  A key driver for JustGiving to being a Ltd company was the ability to reinvest money into the business without complications.  (I think the video will be available online on the Meaning Conference website soon).

Why aren’t more technology heavy companies out there aiming to do good?  Why is there such a focus on growing fast and selling out quickly?

The people behind JustGiving are clearly determined to create a viable and sustainable business that does good, will reward their investors down the line and have (hopefully) proven that this can be done without being a non-profit.  An truly awesome example of good business.

Profit should not drive business

I think too many people see profit as a bad thing.  Big business is probably to blame for this as profit always seems to be their driving focus.  I’m not sure what it will take to change this, but I really think we should all embrace profit as a positive thing as long as the right things are done with the money made.

The Business of Caring

Lets get straight to business.

To succeed in business you need to show that you care.  Ok, ok, you don’t need to, but if you are in business for the right reasons (ie – it’s not all about the money) then you need to care AND if you show that you care then you have a better chance of succeeding.

Let me give you some examples of how you can show you can care to highlight my points of how you can show that you care.

You have a vision

You express this vision in more than just a mission statement. You live it. You breathe it. You try your damn hardest to create  your vision.  You surround yourself with people who believe and can help you achieve it. Your vision has everything to do with how you behave inside and out of your work.

There is something within you driving for a different world.  Perhaps it is to provide something better for those closest to you, but it probably goes deeper than that. You want change. You want to do something better. Something more meaningful.  Whatever it is, doing something different in a positive way shows that you care.

For me: My current vision is to provide the positive change that I believe is needed for the software testing world.  I am bootstrapping my way towards the change. I am building the right kind of relationships and friendships.  Decisions are often hard, but I try my best to keep them in line with my goals. I adapt and change as the community does too.  I have my ups and downs. My wins and fails.  But I keep pushing forward.  I have a (relatively) big vision, but for decision making I only tend to focus on the next 6-12 months.

You have been in the industry for a while

This means you know what you are talking about. You’ve been around long enough to perhaps prove that you like the industry you work in. You have studied your industry ongoing. You probably go that extra mile. You naturally want to learn more, constantly. You have gained trust with your community and peers for being genuine. You know when someone doesn’t know their stuff!

For me: I’ve been around testing for long enough to know what I’m talking about, understand the history of the industry and the people and have a good feeling of where I would like to take the software testing community next.  Being around long enough also means that I’ve developed relationships and have naturally proven that ‘I care’ to my network.  I’ve also put in significant effort into learning other skills to help me achieve what I want to (business, sales, marketing and web publishing).

You listen to people

You care what people say. You listen. You ponder. You take on board feedback. You respond. Appreciate and take action where appropriate. You change the rules if you can. You might collect what you hear formally or take a mental note of it. You let people know you are listening whether they are talking directly to you or not.

For me: I monitor the software testing world and community as closely as I can. I share stuff for the good of the community. I create things that I think are useful. I try my best to find a balance between the good of the community and being a business.  I get things wrong lots more than people realise (hindsight always proves to be the best learning lesson). I fix my mistakes if I can and keep trying and moving on.

You respond to people

Business is about people. If someone reaches out to you then you do your best to respond. They will probably always remember this. An email, a tweet, a photo or a blog post.  Whatever it is, you show you care by acknowledge the people that exist and their contribution that you value.

For me: I respond to tweets, emails and social media as best as I can. I respect people. I help them. I don’t automate my responses. There is no Rosie Robot here!

You try to make the right decisions

We all want to make the right decisions, but we are human and are prone to failure.  Also a right decision for one person can be a very wrong one for someone else. Ethos of honesty and openness will show you care.  The act of questioning what you are doing is built right into your daily life.

For me: There are the needs of the community, my business and myself to consider.  I think deeply about the needs of the community.  However, I also need to think about myself.  Once upon a time I put others before myself.  I think I’m quite a giving person.  But there comes a point where that can’t be the case. I believe that if I am personal happy, physically fit and financially stable then I will be in a much better position to make better decisions.

You want to do a good job over making the most money

All businesses sell something, but you are in it to in it to win  it for the long term (not short gain wins) whilst doing the best job possible. You have boundary. You have ethics. Crossing them can be deadly.

For me: If I want to achieve the change that I’m looking for then I need to say no to the norm. Which I often do. I won’t promote certain products. I won’t release content that is not in line with our ethos. I won’t spam the community. Etc.

You can say no

Saying no can be wonderful. It can give freedom. It provides clarity. You say yes to the things you care about, no to the things that distract and help you lose focus.  Saying no gives you the focus that you need to make you the best in your niche. You don’t need to be the best and win at everything.

For me: I’ve gotten better at saying no.  Sometimes for my own sanity.  Sometimes saying no means making the right decision (as mentioned above).  Often saying no means people don’t take advantage of me.

I care

I care and I try to show it. My business is growing and I love the work that I do.  That to me is a great start to a promising future.