Monthly Archives: January 2007

A Radical Change

Well, yesterday was an interesting day. We finally got the funds together to do some really cool things – High speed internet is coming in on Thursday, a laser printer has been ordered along with Quickbooks Pro (to manage the corporate finances), and we started the paperwork yesterday to incorporate. It should be done by next week, if not sooner.

Just hours after all this, I learned that Kevin had been laid off. He went to work that day, and got blown out of the water by that. So he filed today for unemployment.

I find the timing of this all very interesting. I believe the Lord is in control, and I can see that we were actually well prepared for this. We have been talking for several weeks about Kevin coming home full time to work as my office, finance manager, customer service rep, and technical assistant. But this is not quite how we thought it would come about!

My first instinct was to pull back – I mean, those things that I put in motion were about $1200 – we can live on that for two weeks or more. But then, I really started thinking about our needs. We NEED the printer if we are to produce the promotional materials we need to promote our business (we have a new service line that requires mailers, but not enough to justify professional printing). We NEED the high speed internet, or I cannot develop the two service lines that I feel have the best potential for ongoing income. And for complex financial reasons, we need the incorporation if Kevin is also going to work from home – besides which, that Inc on the end of the business name really does help inspire more confidence than the name without it. It will also force us to be better business managers.

So now Kevin is having to make the transition to working at home. And it is different than he imagined. He has to be self-directed. Sure, I give him a lot of his assignments, but as far as managing the office and finances, he has to do it without me telling him how or when. He has to learn to do payroll, and he has to decide to keep up with it (he will, he is very well suited to this job). He cannot have any down time because there is nothing to do – when you are self employed, you do not wait for someone to tell you, every minute has to be spent doing something that benefits the business. If you do not have tasks that earn money right now, you do things that get you more money later. If you have a sense of ownership in your business, you do these things. If you do not, you just slack and never make it. It is a change for him, but it is a cool one.

The next few months are going to undoubtedly be hard as we all learn a new way of working together. But for me, this is the realization of a long hoped for dream, though I’d have preferred to choose my timing! I sort of feel like I am flying without a net.

But the bills are caught up, we have contracts progressing, and we have a property management contract that we can work on when there is no paying work from anywhere else, so I think it will be hard, but we’ll weather the storm. And I can really see the potential of our business coming into realization.

Word of Mouth “Advertising”, isn’t Advertising

Advertising and marketing are things you do to help your business grow. You plan them, execute the plan, then adjust according to results.

Word of Mouth, is not advertising, nor is it marketing. It is not something you do, and it is not something you control. It is something other people do for you – and they do it ONLY after you have done something to earn it.

Word of Mouth is VERY powerful. It is a key feature in building momentum in a business. But it isn’t a means of starting a business, and it isn’t something that happens spontaneously. It must be earned.

How do you earn it?

  • By intelligent marketing and promotion. By the messages your marketing materials send. If they are friendly and if people can identify with them, they’ll remember you, and they’ll mention you when someone has a need, as in, “You might try (insert business name)”. Smart marketing generates buzz, and gets people to remember you as a possible answer to their need. This helps you, but it is not where the REAL power of word of mouth is.
  • By good business practices. If they like the product, and they like the service, and you actually do what you say you will, then they’ll recommend someone else. These recommendations are based on personal experience and satisfaction. They are not just suggesting you MIGHT be the answer, they are saying you WERE their answer. That is REALLY powerful. But it does not come until you have proven yourself. And that only happens over time, so it won’t help a startup much. Somewhere about a year into things though, Word of Mouth will start to have some noticeable affect on your business if you promoted well, and if you operate your business reliably.

You can create an environment in which Word of Mouth can grow, but you cannot CREATE Word of Mouth as a marketing tactic. If you are launching a business, it will be of no value whatsoever to you until you have devised an effective promotional strategy, and carried it out for some time, and until you have a customer track record that stands behind your claims.

So start working on some effective strategies to get your business name and face out there. Get a table at events, write articles and post them for article marketing, get backlinks for your site, hand out business cards, do networking to get to know people, both online and off.

There are plenty of things that work. If you need free marketing methods (remember, they take time to do, and they are often slow to work, but they also usually have long term results), then go to .

Promote your business. Then enjoy the feeling when it begins to work.

Smart Growth

I’ve always had simple business goals. I wanted to keep my family first, keep my business small, and NOT to have to handle the paperwork associated with employees. I wanted my business to stay flexible, so that I had some freedom over what I chose to do, and that was always more important to me than making lots of money. Financially, my goal was that my business justify the time I put in on it, and that it benefit our family. It certainly has done that, though many people would wonder why I was not driven to make more.

Last summer, my goals changed. I prayerfully thought about what I could accomplish, and how I could take the dreams of my heart, and by compromising some things, create something that would provide a greater realization of other dreams. Specifically, if I earned more, I’d be able to do more good. To do that though, I would have to compromise some of my preferences. It took a careful reassessment of what I COULD compromise, and what I could not.

I’d have to hire employees.

My family would STILL have to be my priority. That meant I’d have to delegate many tasks I prefer to do myself, to keep MY job flexible.

I’d have to move from technician, to trainer and administrator.

I’d have to market in a way I had never done before, and become comfortable in situations I had previously tried to avoid.

We’d have to incorporate. Somewhere I never wanted to go, but financially, it made the most sense (no, and LLC would NOT do for our particular situation).

I had to change my concept of what I was capable of achieving. That was a big step. I’ve always lived in a small town, and done small things. Suddenly I was faced with stepping outside that comfort zone and considering competing with people who were thinking big.

I had to seriously rethink my pricing, productivity, and target market. I also had to think about ways to set up systems to make our services more efficient.

For it to work, I had to determine which of my personal preferences I could give up, and which ones I could not. And I had to think and plan for potentials that I was not at all certain we could ever realize.

Did I want to franchise? No. So how would I expand my efforts if I did not want to do that?
Did I want to hire employees? Not really, but I could make that change – after all, I also liked the idea of providing employment in a depressed area.

Did I want an office outside the house? Absolutely not. But I’d have to have one… so I thought about how I could do that and still feel like I could keep in touch with my home throughout the day – we happen to own a property just across the alley, and that provided the answer. I can still work from home, set up the office on the other property, and interlink the phone systems between the offices.

I also looked hard at my strengths and weaknesses. I am a good designer – not extraordinary, nothing amazing, but functionally good. But that was something I could delegate (did, in fact, to my son). I could delegate marketing tasks (if I could find someone willing to actually DO them!), and I could delegate financial tasks – but ONLY to someone I really trusted (that ended up being my husband). I could delegate some writing tasks, but not all, and I could delegate many technical tasks, but not unless I had someone qualified, or someone whom I had trained (due to financial issues, that one is still a ways out). I could NOT delegate client negotiations. I am simply the best person for that. And I could not delegate project oversight – the buck stops with me. I also refuse to delegate childcare, except sometimes having the older kids watch the younger ones. I am simply NOT willing to give up motherhood to someone else. I’d have to supervise, and administrate on a flexible schedule, and delegate things that were not flexible, so that I could keep motherhood as my priority. I’d have to make sure my business offerings always made that possible (one reason we phased out computer repair services – not flexible enough).

I have a friend now who is looking at some of the same issues. Do I want to grow, HOW do I want to grow, and what can I give up to make that happen, and what do I, personally, have to retain, to keep my personal goals as they need to be?

It has truly been a learning process. We began the effort to seriously grow, about 6 months ago. I had to combine that effort with training my husband and son in their duties, so it has been slow. But this month I realized one of my goals – people are now starting to call ME, instead of us having to chase down every contract. Growth is still slow, but it is happening, and the income trend is steadily rising. Some projects we put into place 6 months ago are also now just starting to pay off, in a significant way, and that is pretty cool.

Everything I choose to do with my business has to fit my long term goals. If it does not fit, I adapt it, or I let it go. I’ve had many opportunities for growth come during the last 6 months, and most of them I passed on. Because growth is only good if it is the kind of growth that you can cope with. What I am ending up with, is a unique and needed service, that fits my lifestyle well, and that works for my clients and employees too.

And I am definitely still learning about growth!

The Mystery May be Solved

I think I have finally figured out what has caused my personal health problems, and what it is that Alex had prior to his cancer diagnosis. It appears that it was Crohn’s Disease. Only since we have no medical insurance, it is not going to be possible to get an official diagnosis.

It is certain that I have colitis, and that I also have upper GI problems, which pretty conclusively points to Crohn’s, especially when you figure in the family connections (a sister has it, and so does my mother – and Crohn’s is familial). Figuring out what to do about it though is tough, since going to the doctor right now simply is not possible. So I am working on figuring out what foods trigger it on my own. NOT easy!

The final piece of the puzzle was learning that 6-MP and Methotrexate are often used to treat it. Alex began gaining weight within two months of starting chemo, and those two drugs were part of his treatment for most of the 3 years he was on chemo. In fact, he started building muscle mass again on chemo, and was healthier on it than he ever was off it! So at least now, we know WHAT to watch for as his body readjusts to not being on the chemo.

It is harder for the rest of us though – my oldest son is now having colon pain and other symptoms consistent with Crohn’s, as is my oldest daughter. They are both in situations where it is tough for them to get treatment. And I am having to test foods one at a time. At this point, it appears that even Ensure is a trigger, since it makes me feel sick and horrid.

One of the difficulties in diagnosing Crohn’s is that it can be “silent” for many years, with secondary symptoms being the only thing you see – fatigue, muscle weakness and pain, difficulty controlling blood sugar, headaches, heart arrythmias, arthritis, chemical sensitivities, miscarriage, and other things brought on by nutritional deficiencies. It can promote either weight loss, or persistent obesity (because your metabolism slows down). It can look like a lot of other things at first. Pain may be a symptom that shows up very late in the course of the disease, especially for young children

I’ve been to doctor after doctor, due to muscle weakness and exercise intolerance (we are talking PAIN when I exercise, and I am not a wimp… I’ve been through induced childbirth eight times, I know pain!). All of the common tests came back negative, and they ended up scratching their heads, and I ended up feeling discouraged. There is no easy solution to this, but at least I know what it IS now.

It is certain to change my life. But I learned with Alex that once you adjust to the new “normal”, things become very manageable even with catastrophic illness. I may not like some of the things that it will change, but I’ll learn to deal with it because it beats pain and constant fatigue.

It is Really Happening For Medicine Bow… I think…

“I’m thinking about starting a business…” is something I hear every day, even in this tiny town. Well, maybe not every day, because there just aren’t that many people here, but often enough that it is no longer something I get excited about. If it meant anything, I WOULD be excited about it!

Starting a new business is ALWAYS something to get excited about! But here, thinking about it means just that. They are thinking about it. Pretty soon, they’ll stop thinking about it. Most of us are that way.

Lately though, I’ve been hearing something different. “I’m waiting for my lawyer to get back to me on this issue so I can start my business…”, “When I finish training, we’ll be starting our business, on (date)…”, or “Construction has started so this business can open soon, and regular progress is being made…”

It ain’t a done deal, but it is quite different. These people are WORKING on it! They are actually doing something more than THINKING!

Don’t get me wrong. Thinking is good. Every good thing starts with an idea, and proper thought and planning can make a dream a reality when lack of them means disaster. But if you want it to actually HAPPEN, you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work! These people are doing that. And when they start doing that, I begin to have faith that they’ll accomplish it, because I know that while I don’t accomplish 100% of everything I work on, I at least produce something positive through the effort.

There is an aire of excitement here. I don’t know if I am the only one who feels it, but it is very real to me. Something is happening. It is small, and slow, but gathering speed. And I like that.

I like to see people step out and try. I love to help them get the groundwork laid, and to know where to go to learn how to do it in a way that will work for them. Having cool stuff go on around me, in my own town (FINALLY!), is very heady.

The only thing I wish is that it would slow down a little. Because I am on the receiving end of work from at least three business projects that are developing here right now. And everybody is in a hurry, and there is just me to do the work!

But overall, I’d rather be too busy to breathe in the middle of exciting changes than to be stagnating along with everyone around me!

I finally believe that things are happening here, because I can finally see other people making an effort to make things happen.

There is a difference between thinking about it and actuall doing it. Even if you are not ready to launch yet, if others can see that you are working, they are more likely to believe it will happen.

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

I Get So Tired of Saying It…

Sometimes I really am tired of telling people what a scam is, just to have them come back to me with another one to ask me if maybe (please), won’t this one work? The list of reasons I give them are the same as I gave them before. I don’t want to insult people, but sometimes I just want to scream!

The hallmarks of scams and almost scams are pretty obvious once you get familiar with them. They are things like:

1. Emotional appeals that leave off critical details.

2. “One Page Websites” that give you no background about who is selling it, or how to contact them.

3. Requirements that you leave an email address before you can find out what it is they are really talking about.

4. Financial companies located offshore (they lack financial protections you might expect to have).

5. People who claim to have the secret to wealth who have a non-professional website (using a template driven website that does not have custom graphics, using free hosting space, etc).

6. Unrealistic claims, or claims built around “imagine this” phrases.

7. Cookie cutter websites. They don’t work…. Not unless YOU work a lot first!

8. Lack of a sound product. That means, something that people want, at the price they are asking. A $2 product plus the ability to resell it does NOT equal a $35 value. A membership to a site with “thousands of downloads” is usually NOT a sound product (those same downloads are available free every Christmas). The ability to resell something is NOT a product!

There are a bunch more, and there is no way you can list everything, because someone will come up with another one just as soon as you think you got all the ways they conceal that they are going to rip you off.

Today I reviewed a financial investment scheme where the terms of use stated that you certified that you were not a law inforcement agent, nor an informant for a law enforcement agent, and that you released the company from ALL civil or criminal charges that you might feel you could file against them!

Stuff like that is a huge, screaming red flag! And it was right there, in print, for anyone to read!

If you don’t want to get scammed, read the fine print. Not only that, figure out what it MEANS, not just what they want you to think it means. “Imagine that you got up every morning to find hundreds of payment notifications in your email inbox…” is NOT saying you WILL. They just want you to IMAGINE that you could, and to THINK they are promising you will.

I keep saying it though, with the hopes that maybe it will help someone not just avoid getting scammed once, but help them spot how to never get scammed again.

Projects in the Works

I’ve been working hard on an idea for about a year. I finally got the bugs worked out to the point that I know it can work. Now I am having to write instructions for it. This means producing about a dozen instruction books, each having anywhere from 6 to 30 chapters. I am halfway done with them, and of course, the easy ones are finished!

The really cool thing about this project though, is that when it is ready to roll out, it will form the foundation for a host of other projects. In the current form, it provides a benefit to one target group. Modify it a little, and add a few specific instructions, and it will form the basis for a totally new product to a completely different audience.

Some of the things I have attempted during the last year or two have been abject failures. But it is interesting how those failures have contributed to the potential for building a project now, into something better. I have learned a lot, and I have a lot of bits and pieces, instructions and explanations already written. They just need polish to apply them to a new use. Beats the heck outta having to rewrite them.

Not exactly pulling a phoenix out of the ashes of disaster, but feels pretty good anyway!

It’s Alive!

So, after the suggestions of someone on a forum to look at my aspirations with Medicine Bow in a new light, I spent several days putting together yet another website. I’m also hard at work on a book to go with the site, and will next assemble some packets for information.

The site is alive, at Blame the URL on my 18 year old son, and the lack of other suitable domain names!

This may be just the beginning, because I’ve had another idea which I’ll begin developing as I assemble the resources for Boonie Business and the Medicine Bow Business Site, and one other site. Because the whole thought process ended in a brainstorm of ideas, which bear developing.

I have a bunch of my websites for sale, listed at, in an effort to rid myself of sites that I cannot keep up with, so I can focus on the ones that compliment my service offerings better. I’d rather make money from my own stuff than from Googles, even though Googles do pay well for some of my sites.

Boonie Business came together fairly quickly though, I started it on Friday, worked on content Saturday and today (Sundays off). Got a lot of other work done in there too. One of the enjoyable things of my business is having things happen fast that have good potential.

An Uneasy Triumph

Our youngest son has been in treatment for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia for the last three years. Last night, on New Year’s Eve, he took his last dose of chemo. We now enter the wait and see phase. It is a great thing to be done with the chemo. But it is scary wondering whether he’ll relapse. And for him, there are other issues as well.

Prior to his diagnosis, he had muscle wasting, failure to grow (over the course of a year), digestive problems and coordination delays. At the age of 7 he could not push the pedals on a bike fast enough to keep the trainer wheels off the ground. He did not have enough strength in his legs to push them hard enough. He also had urinary incontinence, which he still has.

Once he started the chemo, the digestive problems, growth, and muscle problems improved. He is still uncoordinated, and in pull-ups. So it will be interesting to see what happens as he “normalizes” again in the new year.

His medical problems are one reason I have kept my business flexible. Because I never know when I’ll end up camping in the hospital. My business is all on my laptop now, so I can take it anywhere.

When he was first diagnosed, the only clue we had is that for about a week, his appetite just vanished, and he lost weight rapidly that week. It was so subtle, it really was a miracle we were able to catch it that early. So a possible relapse scares me, because I fear that I might miss it. If he does relapse, it will be a more aggressive cancer the next time around. So early detection is even more important. And Alex just does not show symptoms that are like other kids.

We have had it so easy, his treatment has been a walk in the park in comparison to most. He has had only three infections (two sinus, one tunneled port infection), and he had his appendix out in the middle of his treatment. I know that if we had to do this again, it would be a totally different picture. So I have to keep my business flexible.

This year has so many things that hold promise of great change.

UPDATE: Feb 15, 2010 – His muscle wasting is back – he is managing Crohn’s Disease with diet now. He has had two scares with blood counts that went off in the winter time, but is otherwise holding his own. We still expect a relapse, and live our life prepared for it – not paranoid, just wisely prepared.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.