There’s No Business Like Slow Business

Society is obsessed with ‘Quick’

We want a quick fix diet.

A quick route to being fit and healthy.

Fast (but good) food.

A well paying job, now.

With big rewards in the near future.

That big house, now.

An overnight business success.

How many ads and books do you see trying to sell you a quick solution?

But what about the process?

Why are we forgetting the value of the process? It’s the journey that matters, yet we often seem to focus on getting to the end as quickly as possible – thinking that the end is success and the success at the end is what will make us happy.

We glorify success. Everywhere. Ads. Movies. Magazines. Articles. Society pushes us to strive for success, trying to make us believe it is the holy grail. That we are lesser people if we do not make it.

The process of trying to create or be involved in something important is what makes me happy, what about you?

The value of slow business

I think about the business I run a lot. It would be unwise not to! It’s been a slow journey. 7 years in the making, yet only the past 3 years has seen ‘good’ growth. And even this ‘good’ growth is my own measurement, not someone else’s opinion.

I don’t have a proper office. I don’t have ‘permanent employees’. My forecast is not to make millions. I have no debts either. Nor do I ever spend more than I have.

The business I run could not happen overnight. It takes years to build a community and even more years and trials and errors to figure out how to turn it into a profitable business.

For me it’s not all about the profits, it’s also about enjoying and believing in what I do whilst maintaining a healthy work life balance. It takes time and consistent ongoing effort to figure this stuff out. Most people don’t stick with it, you’re many steps ahead if you can. And even more steps ahead if you are able to adapt at any given point.

It’s slow business, but the best bit is that it is sustainable business. My growth chart is a steady upwards curve, it’s not rapid, it’s steady. Steady is good! I can build confidently upon steady and predictable business. I fail. I succeed. I fail. I succeed. I do this all in small amounts. Small failures and successes are easy to cope with. Big failures can be overwhelming, stressful and complete ‘doomdom’!

I focus on the work that I want to do. I don’t let others put me under unnecessary commitments or pressures. I am clear in my mind and goals of where my business is heading. Lots of little steps makes it slow. However, it so clearly feels so right. I have the time to observe the work that I’m doing. Not only to ensure that it is viable as a business, but also to ensure that this is something that I personally feel happy doing.

Fast Business

The flipside is fast business – which often bring in lots of pressure. Fast and often wrong decisions. Hiring employees. Office space. Investors. Loans. Stress. Big failure.

These are all attempts at getting to the goal faster, often too fast. People will say that fast business means more and better rewards. This speak is normally in reference to money and status. The reality is that striving for these so called rewards brings many additional problems to our world.

Fast or slow? You decided.

I vote for slow, conscious, happy business.

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!

 

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!

Decisions + Learning = Progress

I have this theory that the more decisions you make the progress happens.

I feel uncomfortable when I don’t make decisions.  I hate sitting on unresolved situations.  It makes me feel restless and uncomfortable.

When I make a decisions I feel almost automatically relieved and happy. It feels like I can move forward. I learn, no matter whether I succeed or fail. It feels like I’m going to get busy doing real and valuable stuff. I begin to understand the world around me more. I know I will make mistakes along the way. I know I will make the wrong decisions sometimes.  However, equally I will achieve successes along the way and quite often surprising and encouraging discoveries.

The worst thing for me is not doing anything. Not making that decision and being left not knowing or learning about what could have been.

Progress

The 21 Hour Work Week

I read this report on a 21 hour work week by the NEF 3 years ago (when it first came out).  It talks about the benefits that would be achieved if society adopted or moved towards a 21 hour work week – the benefits which included economic, heatlh and community.  It really is worth a read.

Since reading it, the idea of a 21 hour week has really stuck with me.  I think I’ve long been thinking of how to society could work better.  It was part of the reason why I helped set up a coworking space a few years back.  Having kids also makes many people (including myself) re-consider their work situation.

I’ve had it as a goal of mine to work towards a 21 hour week because it feels right to me. The stress of a full 40 hour work week plus commuting time just feels like too much for me and my young family.  It’s taken me a while to get there, but I believe my shorter work week is now here.

I’ve long thought it’s ludricous that society is fixated on a strict 40 hour work week, often with the expectation to work longer hours.  Sure some jobs need employees to be around at specific times, but there are so many jobs that are so close minded about work hours and flexibility.  Then there are articles like this one congratulating an entrepreneur because he works 40 hours per week (not 60, 80 or 100).  There’s a lot of wrong there if we think someone has it so great because they work 40 hours per week.

Of course this depends on the job, but if you give someone 40 hours to work per week it is highly likely that their work will take them 40 or more hours to do.  If you give them 20 hours, I bet you they would be much more productive or creative in how they can get their job done.

As someone who runs their own little business, I am always conscious of the time I spend working.  I’m not always at the 21 hour per week mark.  However, I am always looking to cut out things that just take up too much of my time.  Like meetings and travelling. I also have to think much harder about where I spend the time – my time needs to be used to be used as effectively as possible, eliminate any kind of waste, bring in some kind of value to my business and/or be helping give me achieve some kind of work happiness – if it’s not then I don’t bother.

Like anything, a 21 hour work week is highly unlikely to happen overnight, but it is possible if you work towards it as a goal.  I feel like I am almost getting there.

Sure, perhaps if I worked harder then my business would grow faster, I’m sure it would to a certain extent. However, I do believe the work I’m doing needs time to grow. Whenever I try to push things too fast then I feel like I make the wrong decisions.

The ironic thing is that I still feel busier than ever, but it’s a good busy and it’s not all ‘work’.

Less Is More

The more you have, the more you use.  The old saying is that less is more.

Take a business for example –  ‘old’ businesses are often burdened with more.  It’s hard to get rid of waste. It’s hard to change or innovate. It’s hard for the people and the business to be nimble and quick. Is it really a wonder why startups can achieve what big corporations can’t?

But I’m not just referring to business.  It applies to any aspect of life.

For us, we are aiming to have less stuff. Less commuting.  Less work. Less furniture. Less things. Less clothes.  Less toys.

This gives us more. More freedom. More space. More peace of mind. More time with the kids.

Funnily it means we are busier than we have ever been, but in very different ways.

Less means…

  • More creativity.
  • You make do with what you have.
  • You make sure you do your research.
  • You help friends or colleagues, and vice versa.
  • You are ever so careful with what you spend.
  • You be as efficient as you can.
  • You think outside of the box.
  • You question everything you are doing.
  • You remove any kind of waste, hassle or unhappiness.
  • You appreciate what you have.
  • Flexibilty.
  • Control over your life and decisions.

Society is obsessed with more…

Everything in the media is obsessed with growth.  Big is good. Small is failure.  I disagree.

Big means:

  • other people make decisions for you.
  • you can’t think for yourself.
  • someone else thinks outside of the box for you.
  • you have no flexibility
  • you have no control
  • you do as people ask
  • you have no (or a very ineffective) voice
  • appreciation of what you have is often lost.

It’s really ok to have less.  These days it is an advantage.

 

Learning To Be

Life is one big long journey.

Who I wanted to be when I was 13, 18, and 25 is different to who I want to be now.

Who I want to be in 5 years time will no doubt be different from who I want to be now.  My aspirations will change. My life will change too. My kids will be more grown up. I’d sure be a sad puppy if my business didn’t change either.

What I do increasingly feel is that I know more about who I want to be and what I stand for.  Perhaps it is a simplistic concept.  And people say it all the time – ‘just be yourself’.

But it’s hard to just be yourself, perhaps:

  • work is not allowing you to
  • you don’t feel you have the time to yourself
  • being yourself means creating a lot of change around you
  • you have to do things differently, and that is scary.

(etc, etc, etc!)

I often relate this back to my business and my kids.  The fact is that creating a business is hard work. Raising kids is hard(er).  Doing the two whilst homeschooling feels like a whole other dimension.

It was a couple of years ago that I decided to be somewhat selfish: everything I wanted to do had to evolve around me, my life and how I wanted to work.  I felt this was essential to help me become a happy and productive human being.

Initially this meant working at home with an infant whilst my other 2 boys were at school. Now it means working whilst homeschooling all my boys.  A subtle change? Hmm, not quite.

(2 of) my boys come to work with me It does mean that I work from home or wherever there is wifi.

It also means I work strange hours. An hour here, a couple there, often late at night.  I’m happy with that. My kids come first, that’s the way it should be.  I’ve also learned to become very efficient with my time.

It also means that I create my own image of myself and my business.  This could come in the form of general branding. However, it can come in many other forms – the way I dress, how I behave, my personality, the effort I give to create something special and fun, the time I spend getting to know people (without giving them a hard sell).

Perhaps the biggest change for me is adapting my business to work for my family.  One example is bringing my kids along with me when I have an event or go to a meeting.  I don’t do it all the time. I did it today for a Rapid Software Testing course.  I brought my #2 and #3 in with me whilst the students got settled.  It wasn’t longer than an hour.  They enjoyed it and liked the drinks and croissants on offer.  I’ve done it for business meetings too – “if you want to talk to me, then we’ll have to meet in a park”.

It felt awkward at first, especially with my youngest (who is 2).  But it’s important for me.  Partly because it’s me ‘ learning to being me’.  But the other part is that (I believe) it helps create conversations and change.

These conversations and hopeful change is what drives me. I want to show people how it is possible to live a life of balance – because frankly society totally lacks it. <– I’ll leave that for another rant.

A Story of A (Testing Planet) Bug

I’m a tester. I run websites aimed at testers. Strangely testers seem to get this weird pleasure reporting bugs to me. I won’t tell you of all the bugs that I know exist, but I can tell you of one.

The one that made me laugh at first then wonder how we were going to fix it. The one bug that was a real pain in the *** to fix. The one that was the equivalent of finding a bug once the CD-Rom had been shipped. The one that happened at the busiest time of my working year. The one that led to great conversations. The one that will mean we will hire some extra help for the next issue.  The one that highlights that content bugs can be hard to catch.

A Bug on The Testing Planet

It was a bug on The Testing Planet that we failed to catch before it went to print. We’ve had typos before. Wrong dates. But this one was different, not catastrophic, but more embarrassing to see go out. It was a few lines of editing notes that were left in at the end

of Lisa Crispin’s article. Ooops we say. We fixed the digital version easily. It took about an hour to do all the necessary work.

The fix we came up with was to design a sticker to promote TinyTestBash to go on top of the unwanted text, the effort that went into it:

  • This sticker had to be designed (1 hrs effort).
  • It had to be printed on to label sheets and precisely cut, this actually took a long time! 4 hrs to create a sticker for each copy of The Testing Planet, to date I’ve only done it for half of The Testing Planets we’ve ordered. So the total will be 8 hrs.
  • We then had to stick them in each of The Testing Planets, this was time consuming too, especially as the stickers were manually cut which made them difficult to peel. Total time for (half of The Testing Planets) was 8 hours.
  • I needed some help as I had very little time that week to deal with this issue (it was in the run up to TestBash), so I called upon Mauri’s help who was conveniently attending the RST course.

Total cost to fix half of the bugs: 17 hours. As I distribute the rest of The Testing Planets that we have it will likely double.

Great conversations and making a new friend with Mauri, priceless :)

(I won’t mention Mauri getting to see my boys fight in the back of my car!)

So if you have a copy of Issue 10 of  The Testing Planet you now know why that sticker is there! :)