Do you Prune?

This is a re-post from a while back.  Its’ Springtime in South Dakota and pruning is in full swing.  There is no better time for this.  Happy pruning!

This week, a local tree trimming company came to trim up a few trees in our backyard.  One of the trees is my favorite.  I look at it every time I pass our living room.  It is so beautiful and blesses me every Mother’s Day with clusters of dainty white flowers.  With this in mind, I was a little nervous when the tree trimmers (who did a fantastic job by the way) started up the chain saw and I saw limb after limb being fed to the shredder and turned into mulch.

When they were finished, I went out to speak with them.  They reminded me that all of the smaller limbs and branches needed to be removed if the tree was going to thrive and flourish.  This made me reflect on a must read book by Dr. Henry Cloud entitled “Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward”. 

In the book, he likens the pruning of a rose bush (in his example) to the natural endings that need happen in life and in business.  Pruning by definition is the “cutting away of what is unwanted or superfluous, and thereby reducing its’ reach”.  Dr. Cloud says that it is crucial to cut out, let go of, and prune those areas of your business that are good to make room for the best areas.

What could my business do if I were to prune it?  What could your business do if you were to prune a client that is maybe holding you back or wastes your energy, talent and time?  How much could you grow to your full potential if you were to let go of a portion of your business that may be chugging along but isn’t letting you reach your full potential? 

I see my business like I see my favorite tree.  It is beautiful and brings me joy, I’ve watched grow over the years to what it is now, but I am so excited to see what it will become now that the broken and unneeded areas are gone. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know first-hand that pruning can be painful and sometimes even paralyzing.  Believe me – I’ve been there and still contemplate some areas to prune.  But when you get to the other side, it’s exciting! 

Get out your business plan and a pen.  Being honest with yourself about what you don’t enjoy, no longer want to do and then what you do really want to do (aka passion) is tough – but necessary. 

Tiffny Hagan is the founder and owner of Virtual Office Advantage.  Our desire is to thoughtfully offer those business services you need to grow your organization with a virtual assistant by your side.  To see all of the services we offer and find out more, I invite you to visit www.VirtualOfficeAdvantage.com.  We’d love to have you comment about what you are reading and let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to help with.  Also be sure to “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/VirtualOfficeAdvantage.

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A Case of the Should’s

The word “should” is a bad word to me.  When I hear this word from others or say it to myself, I find myself feeling and thinking badly about myself.  I find myself fixating on all of the the things I should have done – regardless of the amount of work and the quality of work I actually did accomplish.  I beat myself up a bit each time that word surfaces.  You know:  Self-Criticism.

As entrepreneurs, I believe we have something within us that always begs for more.  More time, more calls made, more work completed, more sales made and so on.  I also believe that as entrepreneurs we are extra hard on ourselves.   This effects everything:  our day to day to work, how we communicate with others (and ourselves), if we allow it to – if we choose to push forward.

There is one particular event in my entrepreneurial life that continues to rear up.  It is a part of the business that was shut down (not exactly by choice, but more so by circumstance) and regardless of what I did I was not able to keep it open.  I used to think of it as a “failure” and made it worse by thinking “I should have tried this”, “I should have done that”, and the ultimate zinger “If I was thinking I should have done it differently”.   Talk about self-criticism!

The experience of this “failure” was so embarrassing and so crippling to me that I wasn’t sure I would recover.  Even after 11 years in business (at the time), I didn’t know how or if I could recover.  There is a belief I have deep in my gut that I absolutely know to be true.  When we put everything we have into an idea, a product or in my case an expansion of a business and it doesn’t go as we planned, we take it so very personally.  We feel it as an injury.  I felt it as physically crippling, hard to breath and painful.  It affects so much more than just the ego.  It almost defines who we are.

After a few years, I find myself recovering.  It still stings like crazy.  But the most demented thing about this experience has been that I have re-framed what my should’s look like.  For a very long time, I banished should’s from my conversations.  Now, I not only find myself letting them sneak back in but I find myself thinking the thought “I could do that expansion again.”  Then I catch myself following up that thought with “just because I can, does that mean I should”.  Damn!  The should’s are back!

I don’t know if my business expansion will happen in the same way it once did, but I do know that should is still a bad word to me.  I know that should brings feelings of guilt, lack, pain and so much more.   Maybe I need to assign that past lesson the word “should” and find a new word for my next big idea.  It’s coming very soon and I am excited for the next, next big idea!  I don’t know what the vaccine is against the should’s but I do know that the antidote is time and the next big thing.

Tiffny Hagan is the founder and owner of Virtual Office Advantage.  Our desire is to thoughtfully offer those business services you need to grow your organization with a virtual assistant by your side.  To see all of the services we offer and find out more, I invite you to visit www.VirtualOfficeAdvantage.com.  We’d love to have you share with others what you are reading and let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to help with.  Also be sure to “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/VirtualOfficeAdvantage.

 

Finding Respect at the Dinner Table

One of the set family rules in our house is that we all meet for dinner at the same time and the same table.  We have done this since our kiddos were born and it is a staple in our house.  This may seem a little “old school” to some with our chaotic lives but it’s what we do.  If you are anywhere close to this house at dinnertime, you better be in your chair.

Depending on the exact time, the nightly news may or may not be on.  There is always conversation and we share the workload.  From the beginning, the expectation was set that we all live here so we all share the workload.  None of what we do is rock science.  It is basic stuff that keeps up present with one another.

One absolute rule – No phones at the table.   Don’t even bring them in your pocket (yes this is true when we go out to eat as well.)  No games, no texting and no talking to anyone other than who is in front of us.  If any phones ring and we are at the table, oh well.  That’s what voicemail is for.

Conversation about what happened to everyone during the day at school or work is a must.  We ask questions, we air gripes, we sometimes cry.  But there is always a lot of laughter and conversation.

Lately our daughter has become super involved in Debate at school.  This is awesome!  What can be very trying is that we now discuss a lot of current events, may of which are very hot buttons.  Our daughter has a wonderful coach who has taught the team to take some of the personal emotion out of debating.  What we are left with is a teenager who knows about current political events and wants to actively discuss them.

The blessing behind this is our younger son is watching and learning.  The gusto is still in speaking.  The education is there and the thirst for sharing ideas is definitely alive at our dinner table!  What is also there is R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

When I was growing up my dad used to tell me “You can think anything you want but it doesn’t all need to come out of your mouth”.  Sage advice.  My two kiddos will tell you they have heard this many many times.  They will also tell you stories of being told to watch what comes out of their mouth or soap will go in it.  The grocery store was a fresh hell for them.  They loved to go, but were angels in the dish soap aisle.

It seems in our culture respect has been forgotten.  Models of rudeness and violence are pretty much the norm.  Snarky behavior and lack of respect are fully expected and sometimes shrugged off as “It’s just the age” or “They are going through a bad time”.  I don’t buy it.

We have found (and fostered) respect at the dinner table.  Everyone helps set and clear the table.  We engage in conversation, sometimes very heated but always respectful.  We listen to one another.  It is the one place I know we each feel heard, loved and respected.

Tiffny Hagan is the founder and owner of Virtual Office Advantage.  Our desire is to thoughtfully offer those business services you need to grow your organization with a virtual assistant by your side.  To see all of the services we offer and find out more, I invite you to visit www.VirtualOfficeAdvantage.com.  We’d love to have you share with others what you are reading and let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to help with.  Also be sure to “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/VirtualOfficeAdvantage.

I’m a #BIZCHAMPION!

We are proud and honored to announce that Virtual Office Advantage has been chosen as an American Small Business Champion by SCORE and Sam’s Club!

The American Small Business Championship (championship.score.org) awarded this title to 102 small businesses, two in every state and the District of Columbia, for their dedication to the success of their businesses. Each state winner will be awarded a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expense-paid trip to a training and networking event in Dallas, TX, SCORE mentoring and publicity throughout the year. Each Champion is also eligible for one of three $25,000 grand prizes.

We are honored to have been chosen for this award! When we began our business in 2003, our dream was to use our expertise to help other micro businesses. We hoped to serve the community by providing micro businesses across the nation the administrative, technical and project management support they need to start and grow their business.

ASBC_Winner_Badge

The prizes, training, publicity and SCORE mentoring we have been awarded will help us take our business to the next level, and better serve you, our customers. We look forward to attending the training event in [City, State], and will be sure to check back in and let you know how it goes.

Tiffny Hagan is the founder and owner of Virtual Office Advantage.  Our desire is to thoughtfully offer those business services you need to grow your organization with a virtual assistant by your side.  To see all of the services we offer and find out more, I invite you to visit www.VirtualOfficeAdvantage.com.  We’d love to have you share with others what you are reading and let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to help with.  Also be sure to “like” us on Facebook at @VirtualOfficeAdvantage.

Grace

Like most of us, my day is spend communicating online.   I find it difficult at times to navigate not only what people are asking for but often more challenging to get to the core of what they are really needing.  This is part of daily life.

Just as difficult for me is often navigating the emotion that comes through, whether via the written or verbal word.  Sometimes the emotion is stress, curiosity, forcefulness and sometimes anger.  Sometimes the emotion is “being nice” (as Midwestern-ers we often said that we are “South Dakota nice”).  I’m finding less and less that the interactions I have with people even in “regular life” is less kind.

I am grateful when people are kind to me or my children or to others.  Grateful.  As I am grateful for all that comes into my business, my team and I work hard on giving grace.  Personally I want to be known as someone who others want to work with.  Not just because I can perform a job they are paying me for.  But because I am grateful for them and want to give grace during every moment, not just the difficult moments.  I don’t mean “be nice” and smile.  I mean to be respectful to others whether they are a vendor or a long time client.  To be considerate and a person who is courteous and thoughtful and has tact.

Grace is beautiful and contrary to what some say it – it is NOT a sign of weakness.   Grace is a sign of great strength and is something to be practiced.  Add a little etiquette into your emails and see what happens.  Take a moment and use your words from a grateful heart.  Grace is beautiful.  Grace changes everything!

 

 

Tiffny Hagan is the founder and owner of Virtual Office Advantage.  Our desire is to thoughtfully offer those business services you need to grow your organization with a virtual assistant by your side.  To see all of the services we offer and find out more, I invite you to visit www.VirtualOfficeAdvantage.com.  We’d love to have you share with others what you are reading and let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to help with.  Also be sure to “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/VirtualOfficeAdvantage.

“I’m so jealous you work from home”

I helped out at my child’s school recently and a fellow volunteer mom that I had never actually met said these words to me.  The conversation went more like this, “I’m so jealous you work from home.  That must be great being able to get to the grocery store during the day and help out like this whenever they need you.”  Or at least that what I heard.

Yes I am lucky that I have the flexibility to drop off and pick up my kiddos from school, I am blessed that I can help out at their school at times and yes if I have a slow day I can run to the grocery store to grab a few things.  As we all know, this is not the norm.

I’ve learned that it’s better for me to smile and let them know that I realize I’m lucky.  I’ve gotten really good at hiding the feeling that wells up inside me.  You may know the feeling:  the knot inside that is followed by heat and then the conscience effort to form a smile and mute your voice, while nodding and then squeaking out “I am lucky”.

At the same time, there is a movie playing in my head that only a few truly understand.  The movie that shows how far I’ve come while juggling the short work days that I have traded for long work nights after my family has gone to bed so that I can have that extra time during the school day with my kiddos – it goes way too fast and I would not trade it for anything.  The movie that shows how fast I work during the day and skip breaks so that I can shorten my workday to be done when I go pick them up from school.  The movie that plays of how lonely it can truly be working from home.

I do love this life.  I do love that I get to do all of these things, ALL of these things.  And I am lucky.  We are all lucky.  All of us who have made the choice to work from home.  The good things and the tough things, all of them.  Sometimes we just need to smile and mute our voices…and let them be jealous we work from home.

Tiffny Hagan is the founder and owner of Virtual Office Advantage.  Our desire is to thoughtfully offer those business services you need to grow your organization with a virtual assistant by your side.  To see all of the services we offer and find out more, I invite you to visit www.VirtualOfficeAdvantage.com.  We’d love to have you share with others what you are reading and let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to help with.  Also be sure to “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/VirtualOfficeAdvantage.

 

 

It May Be Time for a Break

Working from home can be great!   Most of us can power through projects and find ourselves more productive then when working in an office space.  The distractions are not the same, for the most part people (other than little tykes) are not wandering in and out of your office and you really have some control over your work day.

If we are being honest with ourselves, it can be lonely and somewhat boring at times.  Although it does help to have on some background music or stream a favorite TV show to break up the day, sometimes we just need more.

A well timed coffee break with a friend or someone who recharges you, can be worth much more than the time away from the office.  Getting away from your computer monitor and phone, having a change in scenery and seeing a friendly face who can make you laugh fills more than your coffee cup.  It actually boosts your spirits, gives you more energy and combats the loneliness/boredom that does come with working from home.

If a break outside your office is not in the cards, other tried and true options are out there.  Go for a quick walk around the block (better yet, take your 4 legged buddy with you if you have one – they get bored too), call a friend for a quick chat, spice things up a bit with what’s in your cup (think a smoothie, a different flavor or fruit for your water, something hot instead of cold…), stop and eat lunch.  As odd at it may seem to some, sometimes we need to stop, unplug, turn off your phone, go where it’s quiet and just rest.   Resting for a few moments helps to break the monotony of the day while recharging your energy level.

Give yourself a break from working from home and take a break.  Help reconnect with the world and break up the day.

Tiffny Hagan is the founder and owner of Virtual Office Advantage.  Our desire is to thoughtfully offer those business services you need to grow your organization with a virtual assistant by your side.  To see all of the services we offer and find out more, I invite you to visit www.VirtualOfficeAdvantage.com.  We’d love to have you share with others what you are reading and let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to help with.  Also be sure to “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/VirtualOfficeAdvantage.