Dear Event Vendors,
How well do you work under pressure?
So far, you’ve done really great. You’ve delivered on schedule and under budget. We’ve had clear communication, you’ve been fun to work with… my clients are happy and so am I. But how are you going to hold up under pressure? How do you handle unexpected problems and circumstances? Here are some things I hope you know how to do…
1) Keep calm and carry on.
We’ve covered this territory already in an earlier post: What to Do When Things Go Wrong at Your Event. Everything I expect of myself and my team with regard to managing challenging circumstances, I expect of you and yours. We are all professionals. We should be able to manage obstacles when they arise. If we can’t, then we are in the wrong business.
2) Prioritize the success of the event.
When things go wrong, we often revert to basic survival instincts. Of course, we have to take care of ourselves in any situation, but it’s important to me that you remember to support the success of the event. As far as my client is concerned, my team consists not only of my own company’s staff, but all of the vendors I’ve hired. My team must work together seamlessly, in order to create a sense of coherence and continuity in the final product, which is a successful event. When things go wrong, we all have to pitch in and do what we have to do to make things work. This may involve extra time or expense. Short term sacrifice is often a pathway to long-term reward. It also goes a long way to build loyalty, which goes both ways.
3) Maintain focus on the needs of the event attendees.
This one is a little less intuitive, and requires a bit more thought than just taking orders from the event planning team. Ultimately, the success of my event is going to be judged by the value of the experience had by the attendees. Depending on how chaotic things get, you may have to think on your feet and respond to what you observe around you. In other words, you might have to go off book and improvise a bit. Be proactive, and do what you need to do to ensure that guests are comfortable and happy. In the same way that one guest’s positive experience can make a world of difference in the perception of the client as to the success of the event, one person’s complaint can also take the whole thing down a few notches. Err on the side of attentiveness and generosity. Not only will it help to make a more pleasant time for everyone, it will help to solidify the foundation of a successful, long-term relationship.
Aaah, the freelance life. Isn’t this every cubicle dweller’s dream? You make your own hours, set your own agenda, work wherever you feel like working…
And then you wake up.
Being a freelancer is not all about being “free.” Certainly there is a ton of flexibility and independence, but along with this comes the need to be very organized and self-driven. And in the absence of having a regular office to report to every day, one of the most important things a freelancer needs to do is create an optimum work environment.
Like many of you, I spend considerable periods of time sitting at my keyboard. Although working on a lightweight laptop allows me great mobility, I do have a few requirements for a productive work environment that I’m happy to share with you.
1) Find a space that allows you to focus.
Like many of you, I mostly work at home. I need to have a clean desk or table area, without too many piles of paper or unfinished business. I like to have the dishes clean. Even though I don’t work in my kitchen, I can tell they’re in there. Just knowing that my kitchen is clean (and for that matter, my bathroom), allows me to breathe a little easier and focus on my to-do list.
I live in a small apartment with an adolescent child. When he’s home, it can be very difficult to stay focused on my work. For this reason, the WHEN becomes just as important to me as the WHERE in creating my optimum work environment. When my son is at school, I feel freer to spread out on the dining room table. After school when he needs the table to do his homework, I’m more inclined to move to the desk in the corner office of my bedroom.
Sometimes, when I’ve got time to kill during one of my son’s out of the house activities, I’ll find a nearby coffee shop with Wi-Fi to sit for an hour or two until he’s done. I look for places that are relatively quiet, where no one will bother me as I work on my computer. I find working in a fresh space every once in a while to be kind of invigorating.
2) Figure out a way to cut out social media distractions.
Your desktop environment is as important as the space where you are sitting. Like many of you, I can succumb to the rabbit hole of Facebook in a heartbeat. It’s one thing when I’m working in that platform on behalf of one of my clients. It’s another thing when I’m getting distracted by messages, new posts on my home page or likes and comments on my timeline. Now, I give myself long chunks of time when I don’t even have the Facebook tab (nor Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) open on my browser. I have to unplug from the ever flowing, cosmic conversation, or I’m not getting anything done.
3) Pick an environment that allows you to periodically move around.
Please, give your body a rest. It’s important. You may be young and supple now, but you won’t always be… and without realizing it, you can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic low back pain and headaches, or a stiff neck, to name a few physical ailments. Besides, it’s good for your mind and your eyes to have a break from the screen every once in a while.
When possible, I like to periodically stretch out a little, do a few yoga poses, or just put on a good song and dance around a bit. In addition to keeping me from getting stiff, it helps shake the cobwebs out of my brain. I remember things I meant to do and get fresh ideas for writing and correspondence. I’m pretty sure being able to dance around my house whenever I want to is the best thing about being a freelancer!
What are some ways you create your optimum working environment? If you have some other advice for your fellow freelancers, do share!!
This feature is on a member of our techsytalk community – Jim Spellos. Industry leader and tech expert. Catch him at techsytalk LIVE 2015 as well in New York City!
Jim Spellos is the founder of Meeting U. Now in its 16th year, its purpose is to help people become more comfortable with technology. How cool is that??? Although Jim proudly claims the title of geek, he’s not your typical IT variety. His primary interest is in helping you understand what’s out there and how you can use it with less fear and more comfort.
You may remember Jim’s presentation at last year’s techsytalk LIVE, called, “The Ultimate Meeting Professional’s Guide to Internet Connectivity.” It was a comprehensive review of everything you need to know to ensure that your event venue has the bandwidth you need to suit your tech needs. In fact, he and fellow industry heavy hitter Corbin Ball have developed a cool app called Techspec, that enables you to walk through a site visit at a prospective venue and assess its internet capabilities. Talk about good to know! He’s even encouraged planners to share their findings with one another on his Facebook page.
This is a perfect example of how Jim sees his role in the world – as someone who welcomes as many people as possible into the tech community. Although he spends more than a third of his time working with people in the hospitality business, his reach extends into the admin, food, funeral and construction industries, to name a few. Traveling throughout the US and Canada, he gives between 100 and 150 presentations, seminars and workshops a year. His primary interest is in teaching end users like you and me to use tech to be better able to provide content, communication and clarity for our customers.
According to Jim, the leading edge topics in the modern world of technology fall under the following categories: mobile, social, augmented and wearable. These are the lynchpins for the conversation that is unfolding all around us. What he’s most interested in, and what he’ll be talking about at this year’s techsytalk LIVE is the augmented, wearable frontier. “We’re past the phone era. To me, your smart phone is essentially going to become your personal server in a few years. You’ll carry it, it’ll be in your pocketbook, it’ll be in your pocket, and you probably won’t take it out very much. You’re going to be interacting with all the other components of technology that you’re wearing and you’re carrying with you.”
Interestingly, when asked about one basic piece of technology that we should all be paying attention to, Jim replied, “Excel.”
My goodness. It’s practically Luddite in comparison with what’s unfolding all around us. But Jim made a couple of great points. First of all, Excel is an essential organizing tool for anyone in the event world (to this day, Jim teaches a half day course for the hospitality industry). But more importantly, many people have not yet mastered technology basics before they begin grappling with more complex tools. It wouldn’t hurt any of us to take a step back and make sure we are building on a solid foundation of knowledge and comfort before we start messing around with more advanced gadgets.
This goes to the heart of Jim’s approach to incorporating technology into our work, and why he loves what he does so much. When addressing any group, he always finds a wide variety of abilities and understanding when it comes to technology. By breaking things down in a way that makes sense for the needs of the users, he’s able to help people connect to these tools and develop more confidence in their use. H finds the many lightbulb moments he witnesses extremely gratifying. It’s why he does what he does.
Jim believes that bringing new technology into any business should be an organic process. “The success of technology is a blend and not a replacement. It’s about how we integrate this into what we already do well, rather than how do we ditch everything we’ve been doing for a hundred years and move onto something which is going to be at best a risk and a gamble and at worst, completely a curse and anathema to the people who are using it.”
For Jim Spellos, the use of technology is never an end unto itself, but rather a way to improve the quality of the work we are doing and take it in new and exciting directions. His goal is to help people always be up on the leading edge of tech, but then decide how and if it’s best to use it. In fact, there’s no tech that he considers too outdated to implement, if it makes sense. For example, even though many people consider this the post-PC era, with the rise of tablets and other mobile devices, using a PC or a Mac may still be the best solution for many tasks. And take QR codes. Some people consider them a waste of time, but some organizations use them perfectly for what they need to do.
In the best spirit of entrepreneurship, Jim is not afraid of risks. In fact, like so many successful risk takers, he encourages people to play around and make mistakes, even to the point of failure. (Perhaps it’s the artist in him… did you know Jim is also in a band??) Not only is failure one of our best tools of learning, but it can also breed great innovation.
Like so many successful event professionals, Jim is constantly looking to push the boundaries of our industry by trying new things. In conjunction with EventMobi, Meeting U. developed a cool mobile app for the organization Rock & Wrap it Up, whose mission is to redirect unused food from events to people in need. Named the Whole Earth Calculator, the app converts the amount of food donated into meals served, carbon emissions and methane saved and landfill averted and then shares it onto Twitter, so the organization can show their sustainability efforts. How awesome is that?
Are you still harboring any techno-phobia? Then you definitely need to catch Jim at this year’s techsytalk LIVE. Learn from the man who says that the shift to wearable technology is going to be “evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Doesn’t that sound safe and easy? And whether you’ve heard of Oculus or not, you’re not going to want to miss the cool virtual reality demo that starts off his presentation. Come on and get inspired!
This is the second of a multiple part series. Click here for part 1.
Dear Event Vendors,
Here’s how to work with me on a job…
So you got my business. But that’s only the first step. Now it’s time to show me what you got. I’m going to be frank with you. It’s a crowded field out there, and I’ve got at least five more vendors standing in line, waiting to take your place. But I like you. So I’m going to give you a few tips on the best way to build and maintain a good relationship with me.
1) Be up front with me.
Please, don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. Give me the truth, even if you think I’m not going to be happy. If we’re in the middle of an event, and you’re experiencing an equipment malfunction or some other kind of problem, I’d much rather know exactly what’s going on, so we can troubleshoot together, than to have you make things up, only to have it blow up in both of our faces later on. Besides, remember the story about The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? You want me to trust you, right? We are building what could become a long term partnership, but it won’t go anywhere if I can’t believe the things you say.
2) Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
I’m relying on you to give me realistic estimates of production, delivery & installation time. I would suggest always factor in what I lovingly refer to as “crap time.” That would be the margin of error you build into how long it takes to do things like mix sound, edit pictures or video, hang artwork, hang lights, or deliver printed material. We all know that “shit happens.” Please build this into your schedule of deliverables. If you end up being early, it will be a happy surprise for both of us.
3) Make realistic estimates.
Both for the sake of cost and to ensure a proper outcome, be as accurate as you can regarding quantities of food, drink or other supplies required as well as all associated labor. Just as I need to know that you will support my time frame, I also need to know that you are calculating realistically. I have budgeted a certain amount of money for your goods and services. I need to know that I’m going to get what I require for the amount I’m expecting to spend.
4) Educate me about your process.
Help me understand the way you work and what you will need from me in order to facilitate your process. We are both learning about each other and the way we run our businesses. We need to learn one another’s priorities so that we can help one another. At least for the sake of this event, we need to think of ourselves as a team and work together.
5) Communicate with me clearly and accurately.
Remember that you are one of many vendors with whom I’m communicating for this event. I may also be juggling multiple events, so the need for absolute clarity is great. Make sure that all terms and costs are spelled out specifically in writing, via hard copy or email. Confirm that I have received all important documents such as proposals, contracts, timetables and other schedules of deliverables. Please communicate any changes in a timely fashion, and make sure that all appropriate members of my team have been included in emails. If you think that there has been any miscommunication, speak to me directly. Sometimes, subtle meanings or intentions can get lost in texts or emails, and voice to voice or in person contact is the only way to make sure everyone is on the same page. This is especially important at the beginning of our relationship.
Of course, things sometimes go awry, and I’ll be looking to see how you operate under pressure. Stay tuned for Part 3, where I share some best practices for dealing with the worst of times.
You’ve made all your plans, checked everything on your list, made all your confirmation calls, texts and emails. And still, things are not working the way you anticipated. Before you start to pull your hair out, remember that the most amazing events usually result from some form of controlled chaos. And of course, the bigger the event, the more moving parts… hence, the greater amount of chaos!
Still, it’s no fun when staff and supplies don’t show up on time, glasses break, fuses blow, you discover that an important sponsor’s name has been misspelled in the program, the Wi Fi won’t connect, the MC is barfing in the bathroom or nobody thought about what to do with all of those umbrellas.
Here are a few things to remember when you feel the ground dropping out from under you:
1) Don’t panic.
Seriously. If you need to, find someone to slap you across the face so you can snap out of it. Save for an actual emergency where life or limb is at stake, most problems you face during an event are not life threatening. Be grateful you’re not working a cocktail party on the Titanic. Get some perspective! Take a deep breath, count to ten and work the problem.
2) Keep your sense of humor.
I can’t stress this enough. We all know that expectations can be pretty high when you are planning an event. Reputations are on the line, budgets and timelines must be met, and everyone is looking for positive outcomes. But what good is making your bottom line if you’re making yourself and other people miserable along the way?
Instead of screaming, try to find something to laugh at in your situation. C’mon, you have to admit it’s a little ridiculous that the napkins were delivered GREEN instead of BLUE. And so what that the lighting designer blew out the DJ’s circuit? Now you can introduce that Irish spoon player who you’ve been promising a big break.
3) Communicate swiftly, accurately and honestly.
If the problem is something that your client is going to notice, address it immediately. Don’t try to cover it up. Be direct. With confidence. Understand? I’m not advocating that you run to your client with half the story. Yes, you need to let them know that the models are getting dizzy from the fumes from the not-quite-dry paint in the dressing room, but also that you’ve secured an office down the hallway, and the costume racks and make-up tables are being moved there as we speak.
4) Be flexible.
It sure would have been great to have the keynote speaker lead off the morning program. But who knew that he was going to miss his flight last night because his kid’s babysitter got stuck in emergency pothole repair traffic on the way to their house, and he would be forced to take a red-eye that was still circling above the airport while they de-iced the runway? Good thing your afternoon session leaders are all there and you can reschedule the breakouts for this morning and begin the after lunch program with a rousing presentation by your headliner. Repeat after me. I am bendy like an experienced yogi. I am bendy…
5) Remember, you are not alone.
If you are engaged in what seems like a disaster, then congratulations! You are now a real life event planner. If you really think you are losing it, please call one of your other event planner friends and cry on the phone to them. You will feel better – might even come away with an unexpected idea or two, and a good laugh. When all else fails, remember, unlike childbirth (which really does last forever, but that’s another post), this too shall pass…
You’re planning an event. You’ve got a client, a production team, vendors, sponsors and attendees. You’ve got your social media community and even random strangers who are reached by your marketing and PR efforts. You‘ve been networking your ass off. So who are you going to hang out with after it’s all over? Have you thought about that?
Well you should. Every event you produce is another opportunity to build your go-to team and develop your community, both physically and virtually. At every phase of your event’s development – before, during and after production – you can be creating some great and lasting relationships. Ultimately, isn’t this what it’s all about?
Building Your Business Team
Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur, part of a large company, or anything in between, you’ll be working with many individuals who’ll be helping you to make this thing happen – technical crew, designers, caterers, photographers & videographers, furniture rental houses, carpet installers – the list goes on.
These are the people who do the work to turn your idea into a reality. You rely on each and every one of them to show up on time, perform their task and help get the show up and running on schedule. These folks should be good-natured, quick-on-their-feet, and excellent problem solvers. This is your team. Depending on if you play well together or not, you may or may not want to work with them again.
- Be thorough, honest and detailed in your communication.
- If circumstances change, make sure to share the necessary information with all of the appropriate people in your team.
- During your working experience, leave room for positive and negative feedback to flow in all directions, between all collaborators. Learn to deliver constructive criticism, even when it’s critical.
- Mistakes will be made by everyone – expect them, and be ready to learn from them.
- Observe who knows best how to roll with the punches. Make them part of your dream team.
Creating an Active and Engaged Community
The people who attend your event or somehow connect to it via social media before, during and/or afterwards are all part of your community. They may be critics or fans, but they are also your future customers, clients and organization members. Don’t talk down to them – no one wishes to have their intelligence insulted.
You might be surprised how many enthusiastic supporters are out there just waiting to hear from you. If they can’t make it to your event in person, tell them about it via your blog. Post pictures and video on your FB and Twitter pages, or via Pinterest or Instagram. Seek out their feedback. Enjoy their praise and learn from their criticism.
Don’t Waste the Opportunity for Face-to-Face Contact
This is one of the most significant aspects of interacting with your guests at a live event. You actually get to shake hands, share some food and drink, and hopefully a laugh or two. All the Skype conferences in the world can’t take the place of getting to meet your online friends in person. And bringing new people into your circle is an equally exciting opportunity for growth and development of your project. Your success is all about the relationships you cultivate.
Remember – the way most people choose someone they want with them on their team is by determining if they can stand spending a significant amount of time with that person. In other words, who do they want to hang out with while they are working? If someone rubbed you the wrong way, I mean, you simply couldn’t stand being around them, would you hire them to work in your company with you? Would you want them for a client? Of course not!
Meeting someone in a social setting, like an event you’ve produced, is a great way to make at least a partial evaluation about whether or not they’d be a good addition to your team, or someone you’d like to collaborate with going forward. Think about that the next time you plan an event, and keep your eyes out for your peeps!
Work in Progress: The Life of an Entrepreneur in Beta
This is a series dedicated to the new entrepreneur. Welcome to the life you’ve always dreamed of creating.
We entrepreneurs have extraordinary lives. If you’re like me, then right about now, you’re just trying to hold together your sanity. It’s the tail end of one of the worst winters in memory. You’ve been sick a couple of times already, and you’re still fighting some crappy cold. Probably traded it back and forth with one of your kids at least twice already. In fact, you may even work at home and your son is home from school with his third bout of stomach bug and he’s watching some stupid Disney sitcom while you’re trying to get some writing done!
So, you feel my pain.
Whether you’re a parent or childless, a caregiver, a pet owner, or just have a complicated family situation, if you are self-employed, and especially if you work at home, your personal life is sometimes going to pull at you in ways that can be distracting and even threatening to the success of your business. However, there are some things you can do to help you feel a little more in control and able to handle the unexpected.
Life doesn’t give a crap about your professional deadlines.
It’s true. Illness and other personal crises don’t defer to that proposal you promised to your client today, or the Twitter postings you have to do or the sales calls you have to make, or the spreadsheet you’re supposed to deliver. Everyone, at some point or another, has some extenuating personal circumstance that gets in the way of normal, daily activity.
The first thing to do when something urgent intrudes on your carefully scheduled to-do list, is to take a step back and rank your priorities. Figure out which things absolutely can’t wait, and which deadlines actually have a little leeway. Depending on the urgency factor, you’d be surprised how far the priority bar can drop. It’s really important to keep a perspective that allows you to take care of what’s important in the broader scale of your life before you start freaking out about a work deadline.
One of the main benefits of being an entrepreneur is flexibility.
I’m a single mom, and I am grateful to be able to take my son to his karate classes and dance rehearsals and help him with his science project and history reports. However, there are some weeks when my workload is really humming, and I feel like I’m trying to cram three lives into one. Flexibility is one thing, but at some point, time and energy simply run out. How does one deal with this?
Well aside from the need to realistically prioritize your business related activities in the form of a well thought out to-do list, it’s important to always program in a little extra time for things to go wrong, take longer than we expect, or for sudden interruptions, or other things that come up out of the blue. That way, our expectations are realistic, and we are less likely to be caught short of time when it really counts.
As an entrepreneur, you have the advantage of being in full control of your schedule. If it works better to do your best creative writing at 5am before the rest of the house is awake, or after 10pm, when they’re fast asleep, do it. Take full advantage of the unconventional lifestyle you have chosen to create a schedule that works for you. Clients or colleagues in other time zones, publication deadlines, and high traffic communication hours should be considered as strongly as the needs of your family and your own personal preferences. You may even have time for a middle of the day workout or yoga class…
You’re gonna screw up. A lot.
Last year, I heard a lot about making mistakes in business when I was interviewing young entrepreneurs at Under30CEO. Again and again, the term, “iteration” came up. One of the most common lessons these 20-somethings were learning was the value in making mistakes. In fact, some went as far as to say, the more mistakes you made, the more you learned.
Is screwing up the best way to learn? Perhaps, if you want to look at it that way. I prefer to reframe the discussion to think about altering our expectations around business plans. If one is open to the notion of engaging in a learning process every time we push forward our ideas, then we become less hung up on the idea of being an expert and having all the answers. As long as you learn something, then your mistake was also a gift.
Ideally, we’re all living our lives in beta.
Don’t beat yourself up. Learn your lessons and move on. There’s no time for sitting around feeling inadequate. Just get better. Be like a shark. Keep moving. Set your agenda, and quietly tick things off your list. Despite all the obstacles, interruptions, challenges, unexpected left turns and revisions, if you keep moving forward, you are going to find yourself making progress. It’s inevitable.
I find completing tasks, especially large ones, to be so uplifting, that I often force myself to start the day with the hardest ones, just so I can ride the energy of getting them out of the way into the rest of my piddly to-do’s. Then, I make sure I reward myself for my accomplishments.
Work hard and play hard.
Depending on how you’re feeling, you may want to change that to “Work hard and chill hard,” but that’s up to you. Either way, make sure you give yourself a break to recharge your batteries. It’s all about balance. You’ve gotta rest up, space out, act silly or go a little wild in between the stretches of hard work. It’s the only way to keep yourself replenished and inspired.
You have no idea what’s going to happen.
Some of our biggest visionaries didn’t know what the hell they were doing. They didn’t have any guarantees or proof of success. But they trusted their gut and were willing to take a chance on failure. If you have already been brave enough to make an unconventional decision to start your own business, then by definition, you are a risk taker. You’ve come this far – don’t stop now! You may end up being more wildly successful than you could have ever imagined… but you won’t know until you give it everything you’ve got!
Work in Progress: The Life of an Entrepreneur in Beta
This is a series dedicated to the new entrepreneur. Welcome to the life you’ve always dreamed of creating.
Being an entrepreneur means by definition that you are responsible for overseeing many levels of your business. However, given our economy and the rapidly changing corporate landscape, today’s managers and even administrative personnel in small, medium and large offices are being called upon to exercise many skills that have not previously been part of their training or experience.
The day I showed up for my first temp job after graduation, my new boss handed me a shoebox full of receipts and said, “Do something with this.” Was I a bookkeeper? No. But I took a column pad and divided up the expenses into categories, and made sure everything totaled up properly. It wasn’t that hard. As a bonus, after a couple of months I discovered that the office manager was writing herself extra paychecks. When she got fired (and prosecuted) for embezzlement, I got promoted to her position.
My next office management job was at a small medical practice. Since I already knew my way around a column pad, adding payroll to my list of skills wasn’t a big stretch. That and all the rest of my daily administrative tasks quickly grew to include all manners of patient interaction, including fielding medical questions, playing DJ (important to set the right mood!), calming nerves and cooling tempers when the schedule went awry, not to mention making sure the boss was fed…
When I segued into the event production industry seven years ago, I found that all of the skills I had developed in my earlier jobs were completely transferable. Instead of calming distraught patients, I was soothing anxious clients. Regardless of the business, I encountered people daily who depended on me to provide accurate information, clear communication, technical expertise and a relatively stress-free experience.
Anyone who is intelligent and motivated can develop a comfort level working with new software programs and online platforms. This site is filled with expert tips on which pieces of tech are best suited to your needs. The kind of skills that I’m talking about are the ones that typically develop over time, after you’ve worked in a number of different types of business situations.
This is good news, given how volatile the job market is these days. Many of us are in the midst of changing careers, being re-assigned or just plain looking for work. Whether you are launching a new entrepreneurial venture, trying to manage an expansion of the scope of your present job or looking for work in a new field, it’s important to be able to articulate the things that you know how to do so that you can claim your authority and if necessary, distinguish yourself from everyone else.
Here are some great skills to polish up for the days ahead:
Time Management – Personally, I think this one is paramount. A key ingredient to having a productive and satisfying work experience to is to start out each morning with a plan that pairs a list of priorities with a reasonable expectation of what is possible to accomplish in a given day. Put down the most important things first, and the times when you’ll be working on them. Scheduling it all is really helpful and gives you a better shot at completing the tasks. Just make sure you factor in some “crap time” to allow for the inevitable last minute things that come up.
Ego Management – It really helps if you can develop some ability to manage your need to be right all the time. Put your ego aside, and let your boss and your clients be the right ones. They are the ones paying you. Unless your point needs to be made in order to save the integrity of the entire company, or the fate of a huge campaign, or a major project, or your physical well being or integrity, (I’m not advocating any kind of abuse here), then let it go. If what is being asked of you is truly a deal breaker, and there’s no room for negotiation, then consider walking away – it’s not healthy to be in a situation that makes such unreasonable demands of you.
Diplomacy – I’m a bit of a natural people pleaser (which has its pros and cons), so I can often tell when situations need a little more smoothing over. But the flip side of this is that you need to be clear about boundaries and expectations, so that there are no surprises or miscommunications. Yes, there are tactful ways to say things. You can be kind at the same time as you are stating something very firmly. My friend calls me the “velvet hammer.”
Flexibility – You gotta learn to go with the flow. It’s pretty much the name of the game. No matter which scenario you find yourself in, circumstances can change in a heartbeat. Funding falls through, you lose accounts, technical glitches impede progress, deliveries are late, vendors flake out, snowstorms destroy your event attendance, shit happens! Best to cultivate a positive attitude, so you don’t get completely derailed every time something goes wrong.
Self-Discipline – There are going to be parts of your job that you can’t stand. It’s just the nature of work. Hopefully, there are parts that you really love, too. Make it a point to dig into at least one task that you really hate first thing in your day. Get it over with. Then, move on to the part of the job that you love. If necessary, reward yourself with a cappuccino, or ten minutes playing around on Facebook before moving back to the next unpleasant task. But remember, every time you check one of those nasty bits off your list, you get to pat yourself on the back for being so mature. Besides, delayed gratification is always so much sweeter…
Perspective – At the end of the day, it’s a job. It’s not your soul, your spirit, or your essence. (You get to keep that part for yourself and explore it on your own time.) This work – it may be what occupies much of your waking hours, but in the end, you are more than just your occupation. Keeping this in mind will allow you to let go of the frustrations that might otherwise end up making you kick the dog, or worse. Even if it’s your own company, and you are pursuing your life’s passion, your dream job – you still have to maintain SOME form of life/work balance, otherwise you, too can end up dribbling into a cup at the end of the day.
Being A Renaissance Person – Make a list of all the diverse things you know how to do. You’d be surprised how handy some of these skills may come in… Used to be a DJ in college?
Make a great mixed tape. Make a great Spotify mix that helps set a good mood in the office. Got a license? Pinch hit as a driver or errand runner… Learn your way around Quickbooks, Mailchimp, Paint or Dropbox so you can make yourself useful in other ways. Bilingual? Use your second language!
The bottom line is, the more tools you are familiar with, and the greater variety of talents and skills you bring to the table, the more useful you will be to your team, as an assistant, a collaborator and a supervisor. It’s a new era. We’re all becoming generalists!
Work in Progress: The Life of an Entrepreneur in Beta
This is a series dedicated to the new entrepreneur. Welcome to the life you’ve always dreamed of creating.
On or Off the Grid: You Decide!
A few years ago, I decided that it was time to get rid of cable TV, a move that was partly motivated by cost, but more so by a need to unplug from the constant drone of voices telling me what to buy and how to think, and the endless repetition of details of the most frightening and anxiety provoking things happening at any given point in the world. I couldn’t take it anymore. (Not to mention the fact that I could too easily lose a whole night’s work getting sucked into a marathon of Top Chef.)
Since then, I’ve also gotten rid of my land line. I kept the number, but I substituted a very inexpensive Vonage connection. I don’t even keep a phone regularly plugged into it. I simply let it take messages that are instantly emailed to me as audio files, and I respond when necessary. The only people who regularly use that line anymore are telemarketers and bill collectors, so I haven’t lost anything in the way of communication with family, friends or colleagues.
During this same period, my time spent online has increased dramatically. Because I work regularly on behalf of clients in various social media platforms, I spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and to a lesser degree YouTube and other visual sites. But I also read many blogs as well as digital newspapers, magazines and literary sites. And we all know how much jumping around one can get involved in once you open the door to exploring.
And of course there’s my cell. I admit it, I’m one of those people who is pretty much umbilically attached to my iPhone. I use it as my mobile access to email, my calendar, my notepad, and an instrument of documentation. I take pictures and video on a regular basis, and record my thoughts as well as conversations with others as audio files. I check my FB page regularly for news from friends and colleagues, as well as the pages for the several clients whose platforms I manage.
Over the past several years, my relationship to mass media and communications has drastically changed. With so many digital options, I’ve been able to carve out a unique way of receiving my information and staying in touch with people, via phone, text, IM, video chat and email. No longer a slave to the broadcast TV schedule, I access movies and television shows through Netflix and Hulu Plus, sometimes enjoying a marathon viewing of my favorite program, at whatever time I like. I get much of my news via online sources, sometimes catching headlines via Twitter or FB links. And I do love Skyping with my family and friends around the world.
But even though I consider myself fairly well connected, I must admit that my favorite times are when I completely unplug – from my laptop, my television, and my iPhone. Sometimes I give myself a couple of hours to write, read actual books or magazines or attend a yoga class, take a walk, or go see a show or a movie. During vacations, I’ve allowed myself longer chunks of time away from email and texting, but I know I can do more! Honestly, it is SO HARD to completely cut the cord.
My hope is that I’ll continue to carve out these “off the grid” times. I’ve even had occasions out with friends when we’ve all agreed to shut off our phones while we are having lunch. As much as the thought can cause a little anxiety at first, it’s wonderful to be reminded that the world will actually continue without you while you recharge your batteries. And honestly, it’s essential to have some downtime to reflect, relax and meditate. It’s why they invented voicemail.