Notes-Off-the-Napkin-logo1By Andrew Frame

In our search for a new spiritual home, we visited a small Congregational church for the second time this past Sunday, a modest and lovely structure built in 1927. The pastor was a visiting cleric, well spoken, and his military background was clear from his sermon. He mentioned that he had “retired” three times -- from the Navy as a Chaplain, from the Church as an active daily minister, and from the Sheriff’s Office as a Chaplain. But time and circumstance present him with new opportunities. And as long as he can handle them, he will.

Opportunities require something on our part though. We have to be alert for them. We have to be willing to seize and follow them.

Being self-employed, an opportunity to pick up some new business might be tempered with the opportunity to have to release a profitable client due to irresolvable issues. Easy opportunities might be a networking coffee kibbutz. Harder opportunities might be hours of cold-calling, voice-mail messages, and telephone-tag.

Are you prepared to answer opportunity by having a regular plan to dig for new business? Are you bold enough to step in and make an effort to win the trust of a new client – or walk away from significant billing to lessen the stresses being placed on you and your operations?

My independent-shop colleagues got out of the daily grind because we felt the amount of work we were putting into The Company was not proportional to the return we were receiving. In sales terms, the ROI – return on investment -- was lousy. Now, we have to work harder and smarter, because the steady predetermined weekly amount isn’t so steady or predetermined anymore. The work itself, though, is more rewarding, because we now can utilize the hours in the day as we see fit for our maximum advantage.

Insomnia? Write or produce something at 3am. Nap later in the day. Try and do that punching a clock. Want to go to a ball game? Go! Grocery shopping? Not at 7pm when every one else is there. And laugh – but early-bird dinners are a pretty good deal.

Early in broadcasting, I attended most of my children’s school functions, and didn’t miss a field trip or performance. As consolidation gripped and workloads increased – without equitable compensation – the time available shrunk until it was gone. I wanted my time back.

Arriving at this point took work. Getting more work from existing clients, and finding new ones. Failure to have a solid new business program will have your efforts collapse as clients cycle in and out.

Which leads us to: Eggs.

Ostrich eggs, chicken eggs, quail eggs. Your clients. Your basket is how much work you can do to maintain your quality control, and maintain enough cash flow to have your business pay for your lifestyle.

Recently we had to take one of the ostrich eggs out of our basket. We made attempts to work out a solution to an ongoing problem for almost two years, to no avail. Prior to this, we had begun a new business plan, and managed to put a few new quail eggs in the basket. But, new business takes time to cultivate and grow, and it almost always starts out as a quail egg.

An active new business plan seems to be overlooked when a small business gets successful. But, eventually your clients will switch vendors, or at least, split orders between you and the Next New Thing.

In your success, are you the committed pig, or the involved chicken?

Now, if you can view commitment and involvement from the perspective of priorities, you arrive at: Rocks.

You have a clear jar, just big enough to hold all the rocks you collected on an expedition with your four-year old in the backyard. First, you put in all the little rocks, followed by the medium-sized rocks, and finally the big rocks. After putting in the little rocks, you notice the volume of the jar is a bit smaller. Once the medium rocks go in, it really loses space, enough so the big rocks stick out the top preventing the lid from going on. (Any parent of a four-year old will tell you well-fitting lids are a good thing.)

The rocks are priorities, responsibilities.

Dump out the jar, and put in the big rocks first. The whole structure begins to change. Instead of being free to fall out of the confines (control) of the jar, they’re going to stay more firmly placed once the smaller items are added. The big rocks are the big long term issues. The very infrastructure of life. Shelter, food, love, relationships, finances, sex -- the big things that matter immensely when they change, because they can change you. These are the really important things that deserve and require most of your attention and when under control can give you a sense of stability.

Next, add the medium-sized rocks. Medium issues that help to define who you are — the daily shorter-term decisions of the routine things. Finally, the smallest-sized rocks. These will filter in, around, down, through… to fill all the cracks and crevices and anchor the whole pile together. Interestingly, these are so small they have their own maxim: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.

In the long run, when viewed from The Big Picture, they are all but insignificant. But the fact that they are there means you have to pay a little attention to them, for they will help fine-define you as a person day-to-day. Just don’t spend a lot of time on them, or you’ll feel the wrath of anxiety attacks and sleepless nights.

Pick your priorities, and pick your battles. You will lose the war one day, because you will die. But along the way, you can make the journey an interesting one.

What applies in life, applies in business, too.

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