Dec 13

Unexpected Side Effects of Entrepreneurship and Standing at the Office

Most people in my circle know that I'm a weight watchers lifetime member (which means I hit my goal weight and maintained it for six weeks). But most people don't know how much I've struggled over the years since to maintain my weight.

I became a lifetime member a few months before I opened my retail store in late 2002 - more than a decade ago! And for the first two years that followed, I had a VERY EASY time maintaining my weight. I call this one of the Unexpected Side Effects of Entrepreneurship. Two things caused this pleasant Side Effect:

1) Since I quit my "day job" I no longer had any disposable income and almost never went out to eat

2) Instead of an office job, the retail store had me on my feet all day

Two years later, when I went back to an office job, the weight started to creep up a little. It wasn't that bad or much... I was still on my feet a lot during the evenings and weekends, so I was still managing it.

But in the last couple of years, particularly since I had my son, I've had a REALLY rough time of it, mostly because I'm FORCED to sit all day!

I've been noticing a trend around my office... I know at least four others who have varying setups so they're standing all day. I started thinking about it... partly because I've also noticed that my own posture has not been good and my upper back has been bothering me. So I've polled all the folks with the setups and picked on that was easy and inexpensive to implement (my company provides "normal" office furniture... that's it). Said colleague, Braxton Cook, received enough questions about his setup that he wrote his own blog post to explain:


I set mine up today. Here's my (current) setup:

Standing desk setup

My standing desk setup

Mine differed from Braxton's in a couple ways:

1) I got the smaller size Gallant desk top from Ikea

2) I'm forgoeing the chair

I still have a couple tweaks to perfect my situation.... I will be buying a dual monitor stand and I need to figure out a better setup for the laptop and docking station that's currently located on the floor under the desk. It's not in any danger of me kicking it, but I want to use the space for a foam roller. Many of the things I've read about this kind of setup say that you should have somewhere to rest a foot occasionally.

So it's only been one day with this setup, but already I'm enjoying it. I didn't have the mid-afternoon drowsy lull I normally do and overall I felt better with the little bits of movement. Even now, in the evening when I'm usually fighting a ton of fatigue, especially this time of year, I feel pretty good.

I'll status this setup again in a couple months to see if it's still working... but for now, I'm one happy software engineer!


Dec 13

"It's easy when business is good"

Most of my friends and family are going to be surprised at this little tidbit: I have a subscription to Marie Claire magazine. I know, I know. I'm not exactly a model fashionista and I don't wear makeup. I'm in it for the articles. For realz. (Okay, maybe I also like to gawk at $900 shoes I'll never let myself buy...)

But this random article in the December 2013 issue that arrived at my house today caught my eye: an interview with Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber.

IMHO... anyone who is running their own small business wants to pay attention and take whatever bits of advice that anyone at the top of a successful business is willing to dole out. So here's the quote I think is worth sharing from this article:

"I think it's easy to be a good leader when business is good, but you really see people's leadership skills when business gets tougher."

She's speaking about the recession and goes on to talk about what they did:

"We cut a lot of waste that is forever gone. We're careful about hiring. We never want to let people go because we've hired too many."

When I started my retail store, things went well right off the bat. Meaning, sales were higher than I expected. But a few years later when the recession hit, I wasn't prepared. I'm not sure it meant I was a bad leader, but I certainly wasn't a prepared one, and that made all the difference.

If I could do it all over again... I would have been leaner from the beginning. Kept more moola in emergency savings, for one. Once sales had dropped off, it was hard to keep up with routine expenses and hard to prioritize what to spend every precious dollar on.

It's exactly like preparing for possibility of loosing your job. Personal finance experts say to keep anywhere from six to eight months of expenses in an emergency fund. So if the worst happens, you can keep life going while you look for a new job.  I wish I had done the same to keep marketing and advertising efforts going, while not feeling like I needed to skimp on inventory during those lean times.

But this is why I'm telling you about my mistakes... so you can learn from them. This is exactly what I do in my new book.  (Nice segue, eh?)

Moral of this blog post: Learn, learn, learn from others. Copy what the successful peeps did right and avoid what the non-successful peeps did wrong.

(...and you never know what random bits you'll find in random magazines.)

Nov 13

Patience, Kemosabe

Did you know that "kimosabe" actually has a place in the urban dictionary?  http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Kimosabe  I kinda thought it was too old school for that.

This post is simply a welcome, a hello, and a plea to say wait a couple days while I get this WordPress blog set up and configured to seamlessly integrate into the RIOT Software website. Once complete, oh, boy, you better be ready because I have so much to say about software, small business, my new book ("Minding My Business"), money, robots, STEM education, artificial intelligence, my new book ("Minding My Business"), life, and my new book ("Minding My Business").

Did I mention I have a new book out?  It's called "Minding My Business: The Complete, No-Nonsense, Start-to-Finish Guide to Owning and Running Your Own Store."  It's available on amazon in physical and virtual forms.

It's a book for folks considering starting their own small business or folks who already have and are looking for 1) moral support 2) hard data on what happens to your finances and 3) any advice that will prevent them from making a bunch of mistakes that will impact the business. Basically, it's a memoir of my time with the retail store that I started, ran, and eventually closed.

I learned a lot of things the hard and costly way, and wrote it all down in order that others won't go through what I did. If you read my old books, the "Cute Little Store" series, this is a republishing of those. It's both books in one, with a chapter and some stuff added mostly about social media which didn't exist a decade ago when I opened my store.

Enjoy... more blog bits are churning through the neurons in my head...