How Amazing the Synergy of a Group Can Be

For the past two days I have had the privilege of being at a seminar with an incredible group of people who in that short time have come together and forged friendships, shared experiences and knowledge and will have learned more than we could have imagined from both the speakers and each other. That is the synergy of a group of like-minded people who came together as strangers and will leave as friends sharing common goals and ready to help each other in reaching them.

I have been at seminars before where the speakers were great and the information useful but the dynamics of this group has gone beyond the norm. It makes me wonder what the catalyst is in creating the quick bond between people; is it the current economic crisis which makes us all feel more connected? Whatever it is it is energizing to be here, listening, sharing, talking, learning.

Certainly the people here are the type who see the glass half-full,not half-empty. Regardless of the state of the economy they are upbeat, positive in outlook and not letting the situation or the news sidetrack them from forging ahead with new ideas and plans for starting or improving a business. They are people who will not just survive the current economic situation, but actually move ahead with new plans and new endeavors.

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."
Thomas Jefferson


Some Photos From My Trip

I took about 400 photos, but these are just a few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them!


The Current Economic Situation is Crazy - But Another A.A. Milne Quote to Help Us Keep Balanced

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Pooh” - A.A. Milne

I'm thinking that it's time to read more "Winnie the Pooh" these days! When the news swings like a crazy pendulum and you don't know where all of this economic craziness is headed you need to listen to Christopher Robin's wisdom.

I was happy to be away from most news during the first two weeks of October. When I returned and started reading about what had been happening I was appalled. Our news media created a frenzy of fear and near panic, and although there are serious problems now and ahead of us, how much unnecessary stress and angst was caused by excessive "news."

So the next time you feel anxious about the economy or anything in your life, take a deep breath and remember Christopher Robin's advice to Pooh.

A Quote for Today's Economic Times - From an Unusual Source!

From Winnie the Pooh

“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.

"So it is."

"And freezing."

"Is it?"

"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”

A. A. Milne

Are Any of You Runners, Joggers, or Have "Bad Knees"?

I've always had "bad knees" - jogging was never a possibility for me. That is until I found these great shoes that actually have springs in them! I got the "trainers" not the running shoes, but for the first time in my adult life I can now jog without it bothering my knees!

The "runners" were actually "Banned in Boston" - yeah, the Boston Marathon banned them for giving runners an unfair advantage. Don't know how it settled out, but the maker loves to use that for advertising purposes!

They have running shoes, trainers and walkers. Don't laugh at the source I found them at - I get lots of catalogs 'cause I'm a mail order/catalog buyer (I hate shopping at the stores):
Spira Racer
Spira Trainer
Spira Walker

Credit Card Offer - Reduce Your Balance and Get a Reward

I got an interesting offer in the mail the other day from one of my credit cards. This is one that had already reduced my credit line down to just what I owed a few weeks ago. I had taken advantage of a previous offer to get a low interest rate if I transferred other balances to it. Since it was pretty max'd out it the credit line only went down $1,240 - strange number, huh? Basically the computer looked at what I owed and added enough for the next interest accumulation and that became my new credit line. I figured that if I pay-off any more of it they would probably reduce my credit line even further. So that that card has been getting the minimum payment, until the special interest rate offer expires.

The new offer from them is interesting...for the next 4 months they will match 20% of the amount over the minimum payment I make, up to $550. Sounds good, but the catch is that they will temporarily suspend the ability to charge on the account and at the end of the 4 months they will reduce the credit line by what I paid over the minimum plus the 20% they give me.

In my opinion this is a more reasonable way to get people to pay down their credit balances - give them a financial incentive and tell them up-front that they will also be lowering their available credit line. The other way, just lowering credit lines arbitrarily, leaves people without credit they may have been counting on to pay college tuition, etc. And many, like me, will quickly max out their available credit with a cash advance in order to make certain that money is available for upcoming expenses or "buffer money" for those unanticipated expenses.

For example this past spring our beloved dog unexpectedly collapsed while we were 3,000 miles away and was diagnosed with a very aggressive blood vessel cancer; they didn't expect her to survive the night. We put several thousand dollars on our credit card for transfusions, surgery, etc. in order to buy (literally) time for us to return home and spend a few weeks with her before she passed. For us, not having had that credit available would have been tragic emotionally.

The availability of credit in our society provides for flexibility; yes, it has gotten out of control and some people have used it to live beyond their means, but the random reduction of credit lines without any reason (late payments, etc.) puts more of a strain on people that are managing their credit. And in many cases it will have a backlash when people who have been paying down debt begin to save that money instead and pay only minimum payments so that they retain their ability to respond to unforseen needs.


Employees and Employers - What Are The Issues?

Ok, so it it just us, or are all business owners experiencing problems with employees?

We have always operated our business on the basis of treating our employees the way we would like to be treated; after all, we were employees of someone else a long time ago.

We have always had a policy of “you have a life,” meaning if you need to take time off to go to your kid’s school, great, just make sure you’re work is covered by someone else - we don’t want you to work overtime; it means we are understaffed - we want you to enjoy coming to work, not dread it.

While we were active in the business on a daily basis it worked great! The majority of our employees have been with us 10-18 years. At one point I joked that we needed to hire a “token” young person in order to get our health insurance rates down! And that is my issue…it seems that the younger people take advantage of our policies; don’t understand the incredible flexibility we offer. We never fired anyone; we worked with them. Seems these days that attitude is passe. We’ve fired at least three people in the last year (all new hires) for taking advantage of our flexible policies and just blatant disregard of basic business policies (not calling in when you had to take time off unexpectedly, using a company laptop during work hours to download photos and songs, etc.).

Some of it I take direct responsibility for - my former part-time assistant had been padding her hours for almost 4 years - to the tune of 50 - 75% more than was realistic. I never reviewed her timecard (hand created) I just assumed she would be honest.

Other things we've grappled with time and time again over the years are experiences with employees just up and leaving, including never calling and leaving us frantic thinking they were ill or injured, etc. I think that's a universal experience for anyone who's been in business any amount of time, no matter how "good" you are to your employees.

We have always tried to treat our employees exceptionally well, remembering what it was like to be an employee, not an employer. The old Golden Rule concept. And sometimes that has come back to bite us; but my husband, who is the more accepting of life's frustrations always says, "let it go...don't let it drag you down to their level." "What goes around comes around" is something he would say to me when I'd be upset about being taken advantage of...and his other favorite saying is "always err on the side of generosity, you'll never be in the wrong." I guess that goes for generosity of spirit as well as monetarily.

When I argued with him once about it "not being right" he quietly pointed out that the difference between how he looks at life and how I do is that he never expects it to be "right," or "fair" and therefore he doesn't let the negative things get to him and is pleasantly surprised when things go well. It's actually a much more reasonable approach and I have tried to emulate it. When I succeed at it I find I am much less stressed and when I fall back into my old ways I end up harboring tension and negativity, neither of which is good for one, or one's subconscious mind (remember the quotes, you are your thoughts and you become what you think).

Does it change how we treat current employees when we've been "burned " in the past? Yes and no. We still try to err on the side of generosity and remember the Golden Rule, but we have learned to temper it with reality and know that some people will always take advantage and not respond in kind. So we look at what is best for the business first and foremost now, and then at what we can afford to realistically do for our employees, whether it be a monetary issue or time-off, etc.