Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #14a: Confessions and Reflections
Here is a little review of what held true and what didn’t for the Hot Mommas Project journey since March (when this insider’s blog was started). Things that turned out not to be true – that was not by design. I think I was just hopeful. You know, like, “Here’s how we’re going to do this. YEAH!” Then, reality unfolds.
Reality comes in many shapes and sizes, including that of my 5 year old who is sensitive and sweet and brilliant and challenging and has been struggling in his school. Reality comes in the form of my mom – a healthy former aerobics instructor – who almost died in April and has spent 2 of the last 6 months in the hospital. Reality comes in the form of a team that has other priorities because they are students. Reality comes in the form of a slow economy and my incredibly limited time, both of which have impacted my ability to raise more funds. A big part of reality is that things change. You can adapt and move on or struggle and kvetch. I think I’ve done a little of both.
What is this, where I am, who are you? If this is your first time here, this is the insider’s blog for The Hot Mommas Project. We are a women’s leadership project housed at the George Washington University in DC and have an audacious goal of becoming a million dollar venture/organization…while being led by a mom working part time. Our big thing right now is the Hot Mommas Project Case Study competition. Click here to nominate someone.
Confession time: What’s working, what’s not – thoughts and reflections.
#1 The Art of the Start - This post outlines why I wanted to kick the Hot Mommas Project into high gear after it had skulked around academic settings since 2002. My motivations have not changed at all. It is why I continue to fight.every.day for my goals. It is a fight. I have 2 kids, I have a husband, he is a crazy entrepreneur too, we have A LOT going on. If I didn’t feel strongly about what I was doing, I would not have enough energy to fight this fight every day. Some people call it balance. To me, it is a fight. It is not easy. It is annoying when people try to make it seem like it’s easy. But, I am motivated by everything listed in this first post to keep marching on. Status: Still holds true.
#2 Triage - In this post I assess my time, and complain about how difficult it is to play mom, nurse, and business woman. It was a good, honest look at my time and how I was spending it. It was really, really important – and a good first step – for me to take a HARD look at my schedule. I would recommend this mentality for any part-timer or mutlitasking maniac who wants to start a business or take something to the next level. To this day, I still don’t know if I can pull this off working part time. I’m trying. Hard. Status: Successfully got some stuff off my plate. Social stuff has taken a backburner to Hot Mommas Project which, eventually, is going to be bad for me. I am trying to reverse that anti-social pattern now.
#3 THE PLAN - A lot of this is a total crock. The history and pre-steps are accurate, but the planning process totally does not work for my team. I have focused the team on ONE NUMBER per week. Then, I have the more detailed “master plan” in my mind, and just feed them tasks throughout the week. So, to summarize: The plan is “hit this number” and then “everything else.” P.s. The number refers to NUMBER OF CASES PUBLISHED (in our case study competition, which is live right now). P.s.s. I still like the billion dollar traits mentioned at the bottom of the post and continue to think about that a lot, especially with regard to the Hot Mommas Project relationship with GW. It has – single handedly – been one of the best things for us given our constrained resources (time, and money). Status: One number, everything else.
#4 The Productive Amoeba - This post talks about the attempts – sometimes failed - to move things off my plate to create time for the Hot Mommas Project. Hmmmm, deja vu? This is a big deal for moms with little people and big people tugging at their metaphoric skirts. It is a big deal for dads who want to do the right thing and have quality time with their kids. It is a big deal for all people who are searching for their passion. Whoever you are, there is a lot out there to divide up our mental real estate. This post also talks about the process of prioritizing and sticking to goals. In looking back, this is actually a really important lesson. It exemplifies the daily fight. Focus, prioritizing, and the willingness to constantly learn and reexamine. Status: SSDD. Contantly have to assess time, prioritize and focus. It’s like a mental martial art – but, in business.
#5 Emergency Broadcast - This was a low point. It was after my mom almost died. I was really thinking, “Why am I doing this?” A quick turnaround was engineered. Again, it was about fighting the fight. Here is a story I have not told before. When I was admitted to business school, I was petrified. I had spent longer trying to GET INTO the school than I would spend AT the school. I had never attended a private school before, either, and thought everyone would be better, smarter, etc. My mom got me a gorgeous piece of art when I got admitted. It was a 12″ x 12″ black shadow box, with a cream background, and what looked like a abstract Native American figure with various mixed media. At the bottom of the artwork was written, “She showed no fear when the battle came.” It helped me remember to find the strength. It is why Morten Fadum, the artist of this gorgeous artwork, is a sponsor and is providing this exact same piece of art to the winner of the case study competition. Status: My mom is alive. Morten Fadum is a sponsor. Somehow these two points go together.
I’ll discuss the rest of the the posts another day. In looking back, I see the first couple of months were spent assessing my time, getting organized, assessing my time some more, overcoming obstacles, and fighting every day to reach a goal and gain momentum or – as VCs would always say in the late 90s – “traction.” My three big lessons from this time are:
1. Fight every day. Be willing to fight the fight to get what you want. It is what pulled me through the many every-day, and extraordinary, challenges that came up and will continue to surface. You’re not going to fight hard for the thing you rate a “B” in your mind. It HAS to be an “A”. I’m convinced this is why people hate their jobs. They think it’s a “B,” but bosses across America want them to do an “A” job. If you have pride, you do an A job despite this. These are the workers folks are looking for when they say “I need to find good people”: Someone who will do an A job no matter what because of their internal motivations.
2. Be flexible, but not too flexible. Things change. You have to adapt. How do you know when you’re changing/flaky vs changing/smart? I guess the litmus test I’m trying to use is: Will the change get us closer to success? So, clearly someone needs to have a clear definition of success in the organization. Luckily, I have a pretty strong vision for the short term of the project.
3. Organized does not mean efficient. In looking over these posts, I feel I spent a lot of time “getting ready to get ready.” Maybe that is just my mental process. However, I look back and think, “Geez – will you get on with it?” I know I tend to be conservative to try to mitigate risk. However, sometimes you just need to close Outlook tasks and get out there and hit the pavement.