Radical Stewardship: Leading by Faith & Works

Radical Stewardship: Leading by Faith & Works

We tell our staff that we love them. Yes. Every single one has been told and assured of this. I have tried the Devil Wears Prada style of management and it’s disgusting. You need only work for someone once who hardly acknowledges you to realize there is no dignity in treating someone like an animal or machine. This elicits no loyalty, respect, or quality of work for any meaningful length of time. 

 “The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are his.” (Psalm 24:1 TEV)

And so, if all of creation belongs to God, how can we be stewards without works? The namesake of the blog, the Parable of the Talents, teaches us that when we are given something we are to make it grow. If you are given a staff, a farm, or even students more likely than not you spend more time with them than you do your own family. If you see someone Monday through Friday at least eight hours a day, 40 hours a week this may be more than a spouse, a best friend, or even a child. Why then should I not develop a relationship based on love? How else do you treat a sentient being well without caring for their quality of life both at work and at home?

Should we not nourish those who work with us? Reassure them of their worth? Support them when there is tragedy and reward them when there is good news? I don’t know how many podcasts, books, and people I’ve sought advice and counsel regarding how to treat a situation with someone on my team when most of what I needed to know I have already experienced in other parts of my life. This is what integrity is: when how you act in one circumstance is unwaveringly the same as another. 

If you treat your wife without respect but you do your constituency; this is not integrity. If you kick your child but pet your dog; this is not integrity. And if you walk into your office and do not extend grace to an employee who may be going through difficulty but expect your finances to flourish; you will get high staff turnover. High turnover will give you high unemployment taxation, disgruntled management, and quality inconsistency. It is you who suffers. 

I cannot manage my business like Steve Jobs (he dead), Jeff Bezos, or the Waltons and I’m not interested in hearing who they exploited to get to where they are. If you are building your business in faith; praying for its growth, and asking God for His blessings, then how can you omit his teachings from the very same pillars you were given: your staff! There will always be competition, there may be another company making a better product than you or the same product but with different packaging but believe me it is ALWAYS service that will differentiate you. It will always be the people representing you who will either be your cornerstone or the undoing of you. 

I have the only five-star rated business in the tri-state area in the industry. This is not by accident. I’ve never taken a business course. Never managed or supervised. I hadn’t even worked in an office like mine and yet not only was I able to turn a failing business into a successful one but I have also maintained a customer base so loyal that some have chosen their health insurance based on contracts we take just so they can continue to receive care from us. And this is in spite of the fact that over the past ten years, 34% of our competitors in Maryland have closed. We continue to grow. 

I’m not being boastful. I’m telling you that when the people on your team want to perform well: you will! Love as you love at home. Support as you support at church. And care as you care with your friends. You will not only sleep better; but you will have greater faith that when things happen they are in His hands and His will. We are merely stewards, not owners. We cannot ruin or fail what we do not own. 

Holiday Gift Guide for the Lazy Boss/Co-Worker

Holiday Gift Guide for the Lazy Boss/Co-Worker

My staff has grown, and responsibilities lessened, and yet I am still too lazy to step into a brick and mortar. Opps.

Again, here are great gift options on Amazon that don’t break the bank, maintain religious sensitivity, and if you order them today, will make it in time for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. They’re also prime so if it looked better in the pictures, return it free. In order of most expensive to least:

NutriBullet ($59.99)
nutribullet
For the health nut who always uses that damn shaker bottle with the wire ball. Upgrade them.

Computer Privacy Screen ($30-$60, depending on screen size)
screen
Please make sure this is okay and/or not against office policy. This may be better for a supervisor or manager. But when I tell you my staff will peek and see what I’m doing like I’m a peer…honey there is sensitive information on display; like your social security and my Sephora cart…

Weighted blanket ($45, Amazon has a $9 off coupon so it’s now $36)blanket

People are going crazy over these. If someone you know has a tough time falling asleep or maintaining sleep this could be a great gift option! And worst-case scenario: it’s a comforter.

Thermal Heat Cap ($27.95)

thermal cap

For the naturalista! This thing will stay HOT. I bought one for myself and my hair felt luxurious after conditioning.

Heating Pad ($26.99, there’s a 5% off coupon today)

heating pad

We’re only getting older. New things hurt. This is absolutely gender neutral as it’s great for back, shoulder, neck, leg pain. But for the poor lady still menstruating, this works double. And it gets HOT.

Electric Candle Warmer ($24.95)

warmer

This is perfect for someone into aromatic oils and/or candles. Not only is it sexy, but it’s practical. You know when you buy a nice candle and you still have a good amount of wax left over? Put that baby on here and take pride in knowing you scammed the scammer. Throw some oils in to complete the gift.

Gold-Plated Initial Necklace ($12.99)

pendant

I really love monogrammed things. It’s an easy way to make something personal, even if you may not know the person well. I gifted everyone on my staff one of these last year and the quality is gorgeous. Although, I have yet to see any of them wear it…

Yankee Candle Midsummer’s Night ($12.99)

candle

Yankee is a top tier brand and typically $30+. Lets not understand why it’s priced as such, but enjoy the blessing. This particular scent is masculine, so it’d be great for any gender. Who doesn’t enjoy the scent of a man, including men?

Insulated Water Bottle ($10.99)

bottle

If you have a water cooler in the office, this works for anyone. It’s kinder to the environment, it’s an encouraging reminder to drink water, and it keeps water cool. Like, for real. I’ve left water in mine for more than 24 hours and found it to be just as teeth numbingly cold as when I filled it.

Umbra Picture Frame ($14.99, $4.50 off today – $10.49)

frame2

This is one of the most beautiful picture frames I’ve ever seen. Even the stock photo that comes in it is gorgeous. I get compliments all the time. It’ll be a good way to dress up someone’s desk at work, or mantle at home. It can be mounted or displayed on tabletop.

Initialed Monogram Notebook ($5.99)

notebook
A really gorgeous notebook. I bought this for someone and was impressed by how pretty it is. Look through the “Customers who viewed this item also viewed…” to get the specific initial.

Gift Card ($ ¥ €)

apple-1086439_1280

All hail the GOAT: the gift card. You can have a card in a box shipped, have the card e-mailed, or print it through most retailers. Also, if you are literally down to the wire and there’s a Dunkin/Starbucks/Panera nearby, you can haul ass and have your gift ready to go. Otherwise, if you have access to a printer: print the bad boy and put it in an envelope. Preferably a card.

Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season. Try not to be so consumed by the capitalism behind it all. I won’t be. Shopping list: done. (Kidding, shopping for family is worse. God be with me, and you!)

Quid Pro Nihil: Sexual Harassment

Quid Pro Nihil: Sexual Harassment

There is no solution against sexual harassment for the exception of male annihilation. It is that simple and easy. I do not have a solution for the appropriate engagement of men, how to avoid their advances, or how to hide what is already hidden. Whether it happens at work, school, or when you are getting your oil changed there will be men who will make it their mission to enjoy at least one of your orifices. If you are living and warm, that is all that matters. 

The photo I’m sharing is from when an Ethiopian man thought it endearing to collect all my pictures from varying social media and make a collage. It looks like what…the kind of gift a murderer sends a victim before their abduction. He cut out everything but my face and cleavage. A body, titled “Amazing Creature”. (-Gag-) A bit psychotic…maybe fap material. I took it in stride. I did not know him, but we had mutual friends. I was a teenager and he was in his mid-20s or so. I took it in stride, so as not to embarrass him or bring further attention to myself. 

When I worked at a network in NYC there were two men who insisted on habituating their affections. I’d exercise in the building’s gym and run into man A. He was white, moderately attractive, maybe in his 40s and often in the elevator when I either was running to a workout or rushing to work from one. He noticed both. He noticed the sweat on my neck. He made note of my smell. All this where he, TOO, worked. 

I couldn’t escape him. For some Goddamn reason I’d see his useless face and have to pretend to enjoy his presence. “Oh haha, yes I am looking radiant and luscious.” We’d discuss my curly hair or how exotic I looked and how New York was the perfect place for someone like myself. I always wanted to fart just moments before we got to my floor to leave him with the kind of stench I had to endure. But who knows, that may have been a fetish that encouraged further harassment. 

Man B was a black man, maybe in his late 20s or early 30s and in good shape. He worked at the network’s tech support team. My boss needed help with her work phone and I had to go a couple times for support to a cave of testosterone. The eyes that lay latent, waiting in that cave was almost paralyzing. Walking in felt like how leaving an air conditioned subway car feels the moment you step back onto the platform and are immediately met with a wave of hot and humid air. It was sticky, unwelcoming. 

After a couple of trips, all was resolved and somehow B found his way passing my desk on a floor he had no reason to be on. The network was in one of New York’s tallest buildings. People tended to stay in their respective territories because of just how huge this place was. He stopped and asked if everything was okay. This is after he personally called, how he got my number I do not know, my work phone and wanted to confirm everything was okay. My team looked at me, and rightfully so. Not to note who he was but why he was. I ignored it. 

I had to help my boss again with her phone and somehow ended up speaking to him after hoping calling a generic support line, that I’d end up with another representative. Lo and behold, it was B. He asked about my career past and said he used to watch my show. Now, I’m not going to bash one of my shows, but it was not anyone’s “60 Minutes”. It was hyper localized and specific to a demo he didn’t belong to so it was incredibly bizarre. I was alarmed. 

He walked by again and I ignored the hell out of him because…this is work?! Isn’t this work? Is this not a place where we leave our psychosis behind and act like robots? This man ended up finding me years later online and following my social media. He may even be reading this now. (Hello, I don’t like you. Leave me alone.)

Fast forward a bit, and after years of working with my father and a staff that has usually been 100% women, I forgot about the type of male gaze that happens when you are not out in public. It was bliss. There would be the odd nasty patient who would remark a thing or two. Maybe a random delivery guy or postal worker. All benign and easy to never interact or speak to that person again.

That is, until just a couple of weeks ago when a FedEx worker decided to make it very clear I was a target. He was a man in his late 40s, early 50s (black). Short, skinny, and ugly.  I work late. I always work late. I cannot wake up early and if I do I will stay late. At our old location my father used to sit in his running car for hours until I left. I fought him about it. I’ve traveled the world, lived in major cities; I didn’t need my daddy standing watch. 

Well this Fedex man decided seeing me once was not enough. After one late night of delivering a package after hours (???) he came back again shortly after with another package and joked it was an opportunity to see me again. “Haha, okay thanks.” I took the hit like how all previous harassments have been before; like it was nothing. Nothing. 

He came back the next day, late. I heard the door chime and I left my office to see what was what and it was him. Fortunately my father and another staff member were still working late. As soon as I saw him I flew. Yes, I did. Hid right behind a wall like a child. I asked my father to get it. As he greets the Fedex guy, he asks “where’s Kallie, she’s not scared of me is she?” Coincidentally, my father had a call as he asked the question, so he did not respond. 

After some time my father leaves, and so it is my last remaining staff and myself. I go to the bathroom and hear that she opens the door and I hear my name. My heart sinks. After waiting a few minutes I ask her if he asked for me and she says yes. I take it in stride and go home. 

Friday rolls around and my father and I have a meeting to prepare for a project. While we watch a seminar, I hear one of my staff open the door for a delivery guy. They ask for me by name and  they say they will not release the package unless I sign for it. Of course it was that nasty FedEx guy. At that moment, I felt sick. I felt really sick. Here was a man who insisted on seeing me at a place that became my home. It wasn’t one of the tallest buildings in New York. It wasn’t at a busy Starbucks. It was my business. Mine, the one I built.

I was triggered. I felt too vulnerable to function, and neither could my father. He ended up late seeing a patient because he was waiting in the parking lot to see if the Fedex guy came back. I was triggered because I had been assaulted before and couldn’t handle the vulnerability. 

I am coming off of a week of not going to work. I couldn’t do it. The man who assaulted me was a prosecutor in his early 30s (Ethiopian); educated and seemingly well adjusted. This happened when I was 19, a virgin, and very wide-eyed and naive. I described all the men’s races, ages, and positions because the reality is that regardless of race, ethnicity, education, place, time, economics, or risk; men do not respect women nor their right to being left alone. 

I have no happy conclusion. There is no way to prevent or avoid it. Sexual harassment and assault will always be a possibility and I cannot provide any comfort aside from saying it has happened to me. I have experienced it beyond work spaces. I never said anything about the men at that big NYC building and I didn’t report the man who assaulted me. These are mistakes. Men do not deserve understanding in these circumstances. They should not get a pass. 

I planned to report the FedEx guy, although feeling bad that he could lose his job. Can you imagine? As women we are socialized to stay quiet and unassuming; to not disturb the status quo.This is my greatest regret: never reporting any of them. Giving men the benefit of the doubt. “They can’t help it.” Even my father had told me that. “You are beautiful, they cannot help it.” No. It has nothing to do with beauty. I am a walking orifice. You are too, do not be flattered by men’s advances. As long as you are a warm, living thing; you are desired. But you are not without agency or undeserving of protection or justice. 

Strip them. Report them. And if it isn’t at work, mace them. 

My Father is not your Baba & other Funny Stories: WE ARE NEGROS!

My Father is not your Baba & other Funny Stories: WE ARE NEGROS!

So I have to give the typical, “ahh so sorry I’ve been away” schpiel that is also unfortunately true. I do apologize, not to you, but myself. I was on a good roll blogging and it’s now been over a year. I have 10+ drafts of posts I haven’t been motivated to complete. So I need to do better for me

Business is good. It’s really good. So much so that the first and last thing on my weekend agenda is to typically lay motionless for most if not all of it. I have many stories and lessons to share, but let’s first start with laughter: 

We have outgrown the hatch patch ass accounting and tortuous payroll hell that has evolved over the years that I need to stop doing. When there are a few people, it’s manageable. But now that our staff has grown to 12…I can’t be bothered. Taxes are becoming more foreign, new opportunities, funds, and contracts have come up. We needed to hire people more knowledgeable than ourselves. So, we began shopping for CPA firms and encountered three tropes: the big shots, the hearts, and the clown. It felt like an Old Testament fable. 

The first was too big, not small enough; the second was perfect but needing context, and the third…the third was as such:

There are about 5 current financial goals we have before the new year that we expressed and discussed with the three firms we visited. One of these goals, which I have had for YEARS, is to get Minority Business recognition by the state of Maryland. The advantage this will bring is access to competitive government contracts. With how health insurance has evolved, this would be a fantastic respite from the rollercoaster that is healthcare. 

Well, the CPA asked how we could be minorities if it was owned 100% by a man. Now, another goal we have is to become partners. My father will maintain majority ownership and I minority. So I thought maybe this may have been miscommunicated with him. I asked him how he could ask that? He asked if I would become 51% owner or…

I asked if he had dealt with this sort of thing and he said he had. So I asked how he thought we could not qualify as a minority business without my having to be a majority owner. He gestured to my father and said well yea because, “He is Indian. And so you could only qualify as a woman…” I kept repeating that even if we are Indians we are minorities. Indians are minorities. Asians are minorities. 

Ignoring my explanation, he goes on to explain that there are three ways to be recognized as minorities: you can be black, a woman, or Hispanic. My father interrupts and says he is African. 

The CPA continues…“Okay so you guys would be SBA not a minority business.”

After what becomes the most awkward mix of silence and nervous laughter my father explains that he is Ethiopian.The CPA is still perplexed. At this point I have to mention that earlier in the meeting he said he knew we must be related because after looking at the website (WHICH LOOKED AMAZING***) he saw and compared our names. And not that people of different races can’t be related…but…like…

We are almost an hour and a half into what is supposed to be an introductory/exploratory appointment and so I had little patience left. He finally asks what I am then, I tell him that I am African American. I didn’t know any other way to explain that I was black to this man. He looked like he understood what this new terminology was. So then I proclaimed, “WE ARE NEGRO!”

At this point I was over the situation. I needed to leave. This was a major red flag that I had no interest in trying to paint white. I want to give my business to people who have some education on race and ethnicities. We are a black business. It matters. 

So I ask again if he has had experience with minority businesses because…and he interrupts and says.“yes, I’ve worked with negros.” 

Just like that. What a schmuck. 

Suffice to say we went with our perfect fit. This was the confirmation that they were right for our size and needs. Cultural sensitivities and all. 

I shall endeavor to once again resume The POTT. I may sometimes falter in faith but never in works. So, I’d like to continue to share my lessons so that my ignorance may be someone’s wealth. 

Until then, I wish you laughter in your business or whatever endeavors move you. 

***the company site is very sexy, praise me: www.prhsinc.com

Planting in the Dark

Planting in the Dark

I went back and forth with myself, contemplating whether to share this post; because weakness, doubt, and vulnerability are seldom championed. But, in my binge of business podcasts, startup stories, and entrepreneurial fairytales I felt it important to share when things are low and you wonder when favor will shine again.

“Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9 NLT).

It’s been a challenging year. It began with one of our biggest contracts being taken away from us.There’s really no appropriate way to verbalize it, but just that. Without cause or reason. About 70% plus of our business came from that one contract, and we were mailed an amendment essentially dissolving it. I cried that day. I felt the air escaping me faster than I could catch it. Trying to remain stoic, I reviewed the document with my father. He remained calm. I insisted we get lawyers, that we defend ourselves. He agreed, ready to fight. But before we bolstered ourselves for that new challenge, I dissolved. I was angry and hurt. We worked so hard, harder than our competitors, proving we were equal if not better and here we were with the rug pulled from under us. I cried, because it was an affirmation that life is unfair. That you can toil, and sometimes no matter how intentional you are, sometimes you lose.

My father scolded me, “No.” As if my tears were propelled by a push of a gas pedal, like if I eased up they would end. “No.” Like, my tears were an affront and not from a space of endless overtime, weekends, and nights; an army of me’s from my past standing at a collective front questioning if all that time would end in defeat.

“I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak” (Job 7:11 GNT)

This was the beginning of my descent into regret and resentment. I spent much of this year feeling like maybe I should never have began to help my father. A dutiful daughter is not allowed to say that, but I will. I spent many moments wondering if maybe I should not have offered myself. The endless hours, low pay, and tedious tasks that could have gone into my own pursuits. Further and further I felt I was moving away from my own dreams. I began this endeavor so hopeful, content, and aligned with purpose. In the very least, I felt assured that no matter what, I was honoring my father. But now this honor feels like sludge. An exalting crown, now a heavy weight on my head and I’m not sure I want it anymore.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27 NIV)

Between new insurance guidelines and regulatory restrictions, I’m tired. In an industry where everyone is being bought out or shutting down; I’m tired. Every time we meet a new obstacle I want to say, “But we are small!”, “But we are family-owned and operated”, “But we are black!”, “But we are immigrants!” And the reality is that in business, when the status quo benefits people who do not look like you, inclusion is not a discussion you can bring to a table you aren’t invited to in the first place.

“What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? (Job 6:11)

There is no one black at our table. No one immigrant. No one woman. And here we are up against behemoths; multi-state, national corporate accounts. There are some smaller competitors, but they’ve got the game down. One of our competitors is doctor-run, so they get to self-referral (Stark law doesn’t apply to private payers). Then there are those who have been in the industry for decades (all white and with connections and existing capital). Some of our competitors have been in the industry so long, my father worked for them. So here we are, providing service unparalleled and getting by the fucking skin on our teeth.  

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain — first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head” (Mark 4:26-28 NIV).

Our contract was eventually reinstated, but it’s again hanging in the balance. We aren’t sure what will happen but are diligent and not wavering in our quality of service. Our biggest mistake was being so reliant on one source of capital. Even without, we were still doing well but I used the time to hunt for more contracts; and fortunately was able to get a new one. I know there is worth in what we do. Patients rave of my father, of his care and love. Patients call asking for specific staff, who they have grown to trust. There is heart here. There is intention of public good. I wish quality of care was enough, but it isn’t. Not in this country. Not in healthcare.

I’ve thought a lot about the almost four years I’ve put in and wondered what of my own ambition? Lord, I am to honor my father and mother but how much more before I break? Rather than wallow, I decided to put intention behind growth. Implementing ways to streamline day-to-day operations. New software, management systems, hires, services. In my most discouraging year I’ve spent more time diversifying and facilitating growth and change remembering that in the very least if I’m not motivated by my earthly father, then maybe my heavenly one can push me.

“If God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30 TLB).

 

A Hand Drawn Map for the Lost

A Hand Drawn Map for the Lost

I briefly discussed zero sum game two posts ago in, Feeling Lost When You’re the Driver.”  IF you believe in this theory, I don’t think you can survive business. I don’t think you can survive much in life with this sort of application. It’s not healthy. There is always room in the market for everyone. Your growth, or any other player growing, does not inherently correlate to your loss or vice versa. Someone may do something better than you, but there is not one player that can do everything better than everyone. As long as you are open to new ideas and are invested in quality, there is no competition. Diversity in the marketplace is good! So do not be intimidated or think there is not enough market share…that is unless there is over-saturation.

So how do you know if your business idea is just like the others? Are there already too many businesses like yours? Is it even worth attempting? How do you get started and what steps can you take to begin its development? Let’s mapquest your business idea. It’s not a GPS, but it will get you closer. We’ll go over a series of questions that will help determine if that idea you’ve got is not only fully fleshed out but maybe begin exploring if it’s finally worth starting. I’m full of ideas, let’s play with this one: The Mobile Playground.

Firstly, what’s your idea? Flesh it out as if you are explaining it to an alien with no conception of modern, human life.

American kids are inundated with various new toys, gadgets, and activities that once purchased become recyclable within a week. Attention spans are shorter than your patience. You want to keep them moving, interacting, and engaged but you have no energy to go to the park, they aren’t interested in their toys, and you can’t think of an affordable activity within in a 5 mile radius. What do you do? You feel guilty sitting them in front of the tv or phone and/or they may have already been doing that for the last 2 hours. So why not rent a customizable truck that has playrooms set-up for playing house, restaurant, inflatable bounce house things, etc. These are options for those who may live in apartments, condos, or not have much space in their homes. For those who do, you can rent and pay for the set-up of activities like mini golf, a medium size swimming pool, bowling, etc. Your kids get the experience, and you save space and money! Whether you’ve got the kids for the weekend, or are all out of birthday party ideas; Mobile Playground gives you options without the stress and it all comes to you.

Who is your customer?

Children 2 to 12…and exhausted parents/guardians.

Who are your competitors?

Jump Zone, Chuckie Cheese’s, Discovery Zone, Dave & Buster’s, and bowling alleys.

Why your service? What makes yours different?

Variety and convenience! Just go to any person’s home who has children under the age of 10 and you will see a wasteland of toys, playhouses, etc that haven’t been used in weeks. It would be so much cheaper and efficient to be able to “rent” a themed truck for a few hours where kids can play with new toys, or have an interactive experience like an inflatable house for the weekend without having to deal with storage or maintenance. Depending on how long you rent, everything is gone and cleaned up and out of your space for you. This idea is so unique and because the amount of homes of working professionals is only growing, guilt-free convenience is the easiest thing to cash in on.

Now, if you have an idea that may have too much market saturation, is there a way to change your demographic? For an example, you want to open a hair salon targeted towards women and men of color. Why not open a hair salon for children? Do you know how exhausting it is to wash a little black girl’s hair and then style it?! I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. Or, maybe you want to open an Ethiopian restaurant in a city like Washington, DC. You know damn well there are a million of them already, but you’re convinced it was what you were meant to do. Why not consider the melting pot of the city and begin exploring a fusion of Ethiopian & Latin American cuisine? Misir papusas, anyone?

How do you market it?

Daycares, Yelp, and Facebook.  

How much will it cost to start and operate?

At first, if there’s no seed or start up money, a moving truck can be rented and the entertainment flavors can be kept to a variety of about 3-5 options. Because everything will be cleaned and reused, and little to no expertise for set-up will be required, a low overhead can be maintained. A storage unit can be rented to keep all the toys and equipment. And before transitioning full-time, operation hours can initially be Saturdays and Sundays. Considering this is when I would assume most business would occur, this works well with maintaining a full time job; thus not having to keep anyone on payroll. The importance of low overhead can not be overstated. It’s incredible how operation costs can easily add up, whether for the convenience or the assumption, the less you have to spend on space, utilities, and professional staff the better.  YOU MUST BE MISERLY. You will not be paying yourself first because you’re not going to be paid at all. So if you have any idea of that, get it out of your head now.

What’s your bottom line?

Honestly, the financial bottom line at the beginning may be your framework for how you move. This is especially so if you are juggling a full-time job and/or have no outside investors. Is this a passion project for you or are you looking to make the kind of money Karl Marx would find you deplorable for? I’m going to be honest, unless you love the idea, you will find it easy to quit. Because, again, at the beginning you will not make any money. You will be working for free, and you will be investing your time, money, and energy into something that may not even cover cost initially. So by bottom line, beyond the finances, beyond what your profit and loss reports look like; can you find the energy to work either for free or at a loss?

My motivating factor, the “it” factor, was and is the love of my father. I believe in his dream and my investment into what could give him a comfortable retirement. For you, it may be that you genuinely love the service or product. Or, maybe, you are fulfilling what you believe to be your purpose. This helps, immensely. Because, entrepreneurship is a love unrequited.

If you fail, will you regret having tried or be happy that you did?

If you think you may regret having put time and money into an idea, then just don’t start. Many businesses fail, or ideas become harder than you thought to execute. And, at the end of it all, you have to walk away with growth. Resentment will not allow you to leverage an experience for something greater. If you maintain that it is easier to recover from financial risk, than regret, then there is hope. Conviction will be your solace. If you do not believe in your product or service, then move on. Not all ideas are worth implementation. It’s okay to work for someone else, particularly if your strengths can be stronger felt in a collective. That may be your lane. For all others, do not lose sight. Remember your destination and hold steadfast that your diligence will get you where you are meant to be. You are where you are meant to be.

Ain’t No Meksis in Amerika

Ain’t No Meksis in Amerika

When I first began working with my father he had one full-time employee. The employee was a friend of his, a very highly educated Ethiopian man. On the days when my father was in office, he and this staff member would properly break twice a day. Once for lunch, where like civilized people, they would sit in the kitchen and eat their meals together; sometimes sharing when someone’s lunch was bigger than the others. For their second break, one would walk over to the local convenience store and buy coffee for the both of them. They would enjoy their meksis (afternoon/before dinner snack) and wax poetic about politics, the Church, or life back home. Meanwhile I, admittedly, was agitated that they had the nerve to have another break.

I’ve been thinking a lot about meksis. When I worked at a newspaper several years ago, in Addis, there was sort of a ritualized element behind the glorious second break of the day. Depending on your work environment and the hours you worked, you may go with your co-workers to the local cafe or beer garden and have a breather before returning to work. If you had a 9-5, you would meet up with your buddies who worked locally and maybe grab a light dessert or snack before heading home to eventually settle in and have dinner with your family. For those who would return back to work it was a good way to reset and feel a bit more energized.

For me, I would meksis because the electricity would go out and the generator wasn’t working. One time I went to the local movie theater and caught a new release film. After returning to work and finding the same conditions, I left.  At that time, I found it to be so extravagant. Almost lackadaisical. How do you just leave work to hang out? Do you really think when you get back from work you’re going to be focused or would you probably bum around the office until it’s time to go?

This week, every day (…well every other day), I decided to walk away from my desk and either take a walk or go out for lunch. What I found was that when I returned, I felt a bit more of a push to finish the day stronger. I felt less stressed and more motivated to complete whatever task I had unfinished. While on my break I felt more human. I don’t know of any other way to describe it, but I felt like I was a living thing beyond my labor. The days I didn’t break, I felt it too selfish to do so. This culture of being chained to your desk and leaving for a break, even lunch, as being extravagant is harmful. Why, in America, are we not expected to properly have a break from work?

When I was working in New York, no one took a break. You could easily work a 15-hour day and to step away from your desk for 30 minutes to take a damn breather, and when you returned people would react like you went to Neiman’s to go shopping. The reality is that hours worked does not necessarily correlate to productivity. And what many employers fail to realize is that when productivity is low, there is little incentive to increase pay which results in high turnover. In the end you are paying for the lack of compensation and not incentivizing productivity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics we are in one of the slowest growth periods, for productivity, since the Great Recession. I do not think it would be unreasonable to attribute this, in some way, to poor work environments caused by long hours worked.

If someone can perform a task in one hour, after having taken a break, versus someone who has been working non-stop that may require two hours; how much money are you wasting? A 30-min paid break is cheaper than that extra hour of paid labor. Not to mention a happier employee will likely result in higher retention rates. Employee turnover is a cost not often discussed, but the time and energy that goes into interviewing, hiring, and training; not to mention the effect it has on company morale can have an adverse impact in the long term.

While a formal lunch hour break won’t work for our office, I will be encouraging staff to take their breaks when comfortable for them. And I must absolutely lead by example, because I hardly leave my seat for a bathroom break let alone leaving the office. And while I still do have some reservations around meksis, admittedly, the act of breaking, with or without friends is absolutely integral to work productivity and mental health. So no, there is no meksis in America, and in many ways it’s to our own detriment.