How are you? Busy. What are you doing? Scrambling. Is that working for you? Stay tuned. Some small businesses I know are busier than they’ve ever been. Life is getting busy. Friends have less time to chat. I’m working almost every day. It’s summer and I don’t think I’ll manage to get to hike until after Labor Day. With all of that busy-ness it would seem that people could take more time from their business. I asked a few the taboo question. How is the money side of things? The answer explains why few are booking vacations. But, eventually all of that effort will pay off, right?
I was in Coupeville last night. It’s one of the main tourist towns on Whidbey. They’ve got a historic main street, an intriguing wharf, a quiet moorage, and occasional orcas. I was there for an interview. Nope, not a job interview. That saga continues. (My Jobs Report Month 11) I was there for a radio interview: Kathy Baxter’s “Spirit Talks on Whidbey” show on KWPA. We were going to talk about the consequences of downsizing on the economy and spirituality. I circled town three times hunting for parking and ended up a few blocks away at the local library, one of my frequent public speaking venues. The town was busy. A friend in retail taught me a metric. Watch for the shopping bags. Lots of bags = lots of spending. Lots of empty hands = lots of browsing. Browsing doesn’t pay the bills. There were a few bags, but not many. At least people were visiting and taking time off from their busy lives.
A couple of years ago business was dismal. Owners and employees had time to worry. Now they have less time to worry, but they don’t have money to spend, except on more inventory, supplies, or debt reduction. Something had to keep people afloat through those dismal years. I’m in the same situation. I’m busier than ever but none of the money this year has made it to me. My sales of photos and books, my consulting and speaking services, have all remained inside the bounds of my business’ checkbook. Each of my projects is investing in the next. A few sales paid for renting venues. The classes are paying for prints and materials. The exhibits will pay for the next round of publishing. And eventually there will be more than sufficient excess, the seemingly mythical thing called profit.
Surely my busy business friends were at least gaining some discretionary capital, but no. Many of them are working without paying themselves, hoping to build the business to the point where it can pay for their time plus a helper or two. They are booking record revenues, but are constrained by weak profit margins, and hampered by cash flow potholes. Too many of our phone calls happen on weekends or late at night. They’re working Sundays or staying up past midnight or both.
If scrambling had a sound effect it would probably be the messy sound of mud or gravel spinning-out from under a tire as a work truck gets traction. It could be the rough cough of an outboard before it catches and bites into the water. It is the noise that seems to signify nothing, but that is the overture and prelude to progress.
In my case, I am trying to start about 18 engines. I counted. Some stand alone. Some are tied to each other. Many of them are reaching culmination within the next few weeks and months. Yesterday I uploaded the most recent Two Guys video: Two Guys Walking Around Port Townsend. I talked about Coupeville. Want to see the place? Earlier we did Two Guys Walk Around Coupeville. Before that we did Two Guys Walk Around Langley (the one on Whidbey, not the one with the CIA or the one in BC.) So far we do the videos for free and for fun, but also as exposure for ourselves and the places we enjoy. I’m blogging today because for the next two days I’ll be helping conduct a Self-publishing Weekend on Whidbey Workshop: From Writer to Author, self-empowerment through self-publishing. That puts me into the two weeks where I take down the existing photo exhibits in the Braeburn (Langley) and Wind and Tide (Oak Harbor) in preparation for installing my photo exhibit, Twelve Months at Double Bluff, at Raven Rocks Gallery (Greenbank) – with the possibility of a one day show that I just heard about at a dance last week.
Woven through that schedule are my ongoing projects (e.g. consulting, the book about Scotland, more classes, and volunteering) and a collection of collaborations which are wonderful ideas that all seem to have the common need for funding. (Yeah, I know, maybe kickstarter can help.) And I continue to apply for jobs, track my investments, keep my home ready for buyers, sell my collectibles, and somehow find time to go out and dance or stay home to sit on the deck with a glass of wine.
I handle so many different projects because the world is changing and I am in an unconventional situation. The rules are changing. We thought they were written in stone, but they was really just scratches in sand that are being washed away by rains and tides.
My projects haven’t funded my lifestyle yet, but my efforts have built a foundation and my energy is providing them momentum. Breakout friction is always higher than rolling friction. That first shove can take a lot of effort. After things start to move they can roll easily.
Our positive collected efforts may be in a similar situation. Whether it is a business or an advocacy or a personal project, the apparent lack of movement may only be temporary. People are busy. Energy is flowing. Things will eventually begin moving. We’ll have to keep pushing, but it will take less effort, and maybe we can catch our breath, and then we’ll notice that we’ll have to jump into the driver’s seat and start steering this thing. There’ll always be something to keep us at least a little busy.
Stay tuned to the adventure. Imagine my life as these projects break out singly, in series, or in parallel. The self-publishing workshop can go on the road (call us), I could get a commission to produce a Twelve Month study somewhere fun and exotic, consultations can happen anywhere, it would be fun if the Scotland book created a book tour of Scotland, and each of the quiet and discreet collaborations could find their funding and audience carrying me into fascinating futures. There’s no way to know where this will lead. Stay tuned.
And now it is time for me to plan one key activity. I think I can block out a four hour vacation sometime around lunch and before tonight’s event. Quick, while no one is looking.
Thank you for this inspiration to keep our projects going even if we don’t see a monetary return (yet): “Breakout friction is always higher than rolling friction. That first shove can take a lot of effort.” and “People are busy. Energy is flowing. Things will eventually begin moving. We’ll have to keep pushing, but it will take less effort, and maybe we can catch our breath.”