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.

Feeling Lost When You’re the Driver

Feeling Lost When You’re the Driver

When I first started working with my father, I really had no intention of spending more than a year helping him. If someone told me that I’d have spent four, I would have been concerned. I had no vision when initially starting other than helping him get the business afloat, helping streamline and organize the existing structure, and then eventually passing the baton on to someone more qualified and experienced. I think because I did not have a vision, I lost sight.

My employees will ask me for direction or support and there are often times I really am throwing an answer out there. An educated one, but, still a damn guess. And really, there are staff with more experience than me in the business so I want to tell them, “You tell ME!”. There really are times I say this, in a more diplomatic way (obviously); telling them I believe in their decision making and that the worst decisions are sometimes just ones that have never been attempted. So sure, let’s try your idea, and worst case scenario we have to scrap maybe a few hundred dollars but best case scenario we may have found a methodology which could make or save us thousands. This isn’t a zero sum game. All “losses” are gains in knowledge. Fortunately, we found this to be a good approach internally: to encourage dialogue for staff to suggest new methods and/or implementations that would either simplify tasks or make them more cost effective.

After things began to pick up, and my responsibilities grew, I really found myself faced with a moral conundrum. How can I build direction for a place, where I was not entirely sure where I fit? I began focusing on small goals that were attainable that could bring me closer to a larger goal. The logo needed to change: that I could work on. Our documents needed updating: easy. We had no web presence: done. We had only one insurance contract: I began contacting insurers to contract with. We needed to hire more people to handle the volume increase: challenging, but done. These small elements became a means to begin understanding, structurally, what to look for in larger goals.

I began to ask my father questions like: what were the intentions at the outset? What was the driving force behind the company? And, what are you looking to do different from other players in the market? I wanted to use the answers to frame how we could use these as our values and the driving force behind our growth. His interest was in steady growth while maintaining quality of care, a fair and ethical approach for patient treatment, and reliability for both patients and physicians. For me, this translated to patient care with a familial approach. It made sense that we market ourselves as a family business, where we treat our patients, “as our own”. That is to say, provide attention to care that is genuine.

With a sort of ethos built, I felt more confident in what the company stood for. But, strategically, where were we going? The quality of service is good, but so what?  What is the end game? Unfortunately, there is no play book in small business. There’s no one size fits all approach. But, there is a sort of road map I’ve come up with that has been helpful with steering us in the right direction. I’ll be sharing a sort of outline of this in a part two of this post.

The Three R’s to Goal Setting in a Small Business

The Three R’s to Goal Setting in a Small Business

Starting in 2017, I decided New Year’s was not only a great tradition to set for the company to celebrate the holiday season but a way to reflect on met goals and setting new ones as a team.  By looking at the year before as a collective, everyone’s contributions as a team are recognized; furthering a sentiment of cohesion and teamwork. Having our holiday party thereafter became a great way to bond and renew hope for New Year goals.

We continued this tradition in 2018 and it proved to be incredibly effective with major goals. I think a few different elements play into why this works. The first being accountability. I don’t know how many macro level goals I’ve set for the company but because they remained in my head, they never came to fruition. It is very easy to get side tracked with day-to-day operational tasks that you can lose sight of the bigger picture. Because of this, you are not spending any time on strategy and implementation. For an example, are you looking to expand services? What services are you looking to add? How are you going to add it? What is the cost benefit and how much more resources will it take to implement it?  A company should not only just function, but flourish.

Secondly, by sharing company goals with employees, you are essentially proclaiming your growth. In doing this by faith, and in works, not only do you build trust between staff and management but you’re also demonstrating the importance of follow through. Ideally, your staff should reflect your work ethic. By sharing larger goals, your team is affirmed in the necessity of drive and accountability. Essentially if you assign a project to an employee, you are expecting them to take the helm and not only orchestrate but also produce quality work in a timely fashion. But, can you do this? Leading by example is far easier than by commands.

Lastly, having a deadline matters. Even if you spend the second half of the year scurrying to meet your goals, this is better than having put in no effort come the following year. Small steps are still movement! There’s a personal goal I’ve had for this business for almost four years and it wasn’t until last year that I even started to set it in motion. Now that I have the tools, I feel more motivated to complete the goal.

To make our goal setting meetings thorough, I use the three “R’s”.  We reflect on the previous year’s goals and accomplishments (“In Review”), the New Year goals (“Resolutions”) , and then concluding with any exciting benchmarks that reflect on significant growth and/or sentimental value (In “Retrospect”).  Here is how I formatted the three R’s with some examples of bullet points:

In Review:  2017’s Resolutions

  1. Double our numbers from last year. (Did a recap of how we met this.)
  2. Gain 2+ new insurance contracts. (Cited two new contracts we gained.)
  3. Find a new, prime location for our office. (Reflected on our move and how grateful we were to find the right location.)

2018 Resolutions:

  1. Double our referrals from 2017.
  2. Gain 2+ new insurance contracts (Listed a few insurers we will tackle).
  3. Strengthen our commitment to clinical and therapeutic results. (Cited how we will do this.)

In Retrospect:

In 2017 PRHSInc experienced the incredible benchmark of hiring two new full-time employees and finally being able to add the owner to our payroll. At the core we want to maintain an ethos of quality over quantity. We are a family and do not want to lose the cohesion and heart that we’ve put into the foundation of this business. Remember that you are a member and your presence matters. We are looking forward to 2018 and going into it with much hope and faith.

After our meeting we went out for dinner and drinks. The New Year represents reinvigorated hope and purpose. To share this with those you spend such a significant part of your days with reinforces perspective. Scripture tells us “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 6:9-11). When you set goals by faith and action, even if you are not religious, what you are doing is habituating trial and error. When a goal that you made does not turn out, despite persistence, it is easier to regroup and try again when it has been quantified. If you have a destination to go to by a certain time, and there’s a road closure, do you go back home or do you use your GPS to find another route? You may be late but you will still arrive at your destination!

Here’s to hitting the road running in 2018 and being able to see how far you’ve gotten by 2019. Happy New Year!

Holiday Gift Guide for the Lazy Boss

Holiday Gift Guide for the Lazy Boss

Not only am I lazy but I’m also tired. We’ve added two new hires and it’s our busy season. I’m tired.

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, before the end of Hanukkah, and just in time to seem like you really do care. In no particular order:

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Gold Monogram Coffee Mug

I just recently bought this for an employee and it’s just as beautiful as it appears. Great for coffee or tea drinkers. Make it more festive by adding some instant coffee packets, a tea variety pack, or a gift card to Dunkin or Starbucks. Boom.

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Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

These are awesome. I’ve had mine for a year now and it still holds a great charge, range is good, and the volume and sound quality are great. Cost is delicious.  A perfect unisex gift. If they have one already, it’s a great gift to re-gift anyway. 

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Electric Massager

You know that one person who has a new ailment every week? I’m sure they’ve complained about back pain or some sciatic nerve issue. This guy is rechargeable, small, and packs a punch. Get it in black for Dante, or in pink for Susan. Throw it in the bag!

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Ganesh Leaf Incense Burner & Incense Variety Pack

Perfect for that employee who is about that relaxation life, or needs to be about it. I bought this for a gentleman caller who no longer exists. The holder looks nice and the incense variety pack smells great.

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Bluetooth FM Transmitter

It’s 2017 and there’s no reason why you should be forced to listen to the radio. The sound quality on this guy is excellent. There’s hardly any issues with static and it’s easy to set-up. Give it to Charlotte who still drives the car they got in high school. (It’s me, I’m Charlotte.)

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Phone Case with Kickstand & Flip Cover

I bought this for an employee and it’s so pretty. This particular one is for the Galaxy, so obviously augment to fit the person’s phone. But there’s no reason why in the year of our overlord Trump 2017, anyone should be walking around with a cracked phone. Get it in black for Bob, or in purple for Bob.

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Scratch Off World Map

I bought a comparable version for a dear friend of mine and it’s the perfect gift for the intrepid traveler. It, aesthetically, looks really beautiful and elegant as well. Great for dude or dudette.

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Amazon Gift Card

Give Bezos his coins and keep your sedentary lifestyle. You can have a card in a box shipped, have the card e-mailed, or print it. Gift cards in general will save you a lot of strife and energy. Best of all: a lot of other retailers offer an e-mail or print option so you won’t even need to move your legs. I’ll be buying myself, on behalf of myself, a gift card to Sephora.

If you are stuck on what to get your boss; I want a massage. You guys can all pool in and collectively get me one. Thank you. Happy Holidays!

My Father is Not Your Baba & Other Funny Stories: Tale of the Redneck

My Father is Not Your Baba & Other Funny Stories: Tale of the Redneck

There’s no HR friendly or PC way to tell this story and fortunately no one was harmed in the making of this incredibly awkward exchange…

My father has been in this country for over 30 years, but there is only so much nuance and cultural literacy one can own in the absence of having not been born and raised in this country. And even then, many people still either choose to, are not exposed to, or find it difficult to understand how various races and cultures operate linguistically.

That’s enough of a preface, so boom:

My father and a white employee of ours were working hard in moving a shipment of oxygen tanks to the basement of our previous office. This was hard work. They were both up and down stairs carrying these cylinders that are heavy and that you also have to take care not to bang up. Our employee was working their ass off and my father was really impressed.

While they are up and down, I’m minding the phone lines. And as they are working I can hear their conversation both because I have the ears of a demigod but also because the walls were paper thin. All of a sudden I hear my father say, “Wow you are a really hardworking redneck!” To which she responded with a laugh.

I just…

After the panic subsided I immediately pulled my father aside for a hushed conversation and told him to never use the word again. He was shocked! He said he thought it was a compliment. And sure the denotation of the word is based on the premise that when a white person is working hard outside, and their neck is exposed to the sun, it gets red. The connotation is what gets us in trouble. I had to parallel the use of the n-word; because while not nearly as offensive, the same rules apply. If you’re not of that race, just don’t use it. Put in that context he felt horrible and said he would make it right.

I then heard him approach the co-worker and ask her if the term he used was appropriate for the circumstance because he wasn’t sure. He mentioned that all his white friends used it, so he thought he could too. She went on to tell him that she used it all the time and it was okay that he used it. But, that sometimes people may get offended. But she wasn’t. He apologized and said that he did not know the term could be offensive and that he really wanted just to convey how much he admired her strength. She laughed and said that there was no issue.

She came to me laughing and began to tell me the story so I too could have a good laugh. I acted as if I knew nothing and then made sure she saw that I was mortified. I immediately apologized to her and told her that he probably didn’t understand the meaning behind the use of the term.

In a way, I can’t blame my father. When you are black and an immigrant, and you come to a country like America; is there much that can verbally harm white people? In a nation built for the gain of whites, what stones can you throw to dent their exterior? The reality is that white people in America have never been slaves, subjugated, or maligned. There is no white subaltern voice in America because they have always maintained hegemony. The language reflects this. The language of the colonizer, unless dismantled or altered, will always inherently favor them. This is why the employee laughed, because ultimately what’s a redneck to a nigger?

In any case, this serves as a beautiful example of immigrant acculturation. There’s only so much our environment can afford us, outside of seeking that information ourselves. We still laugh about the whole thing. And fortunately, my father can now avoid such a faux pas in the future.

Entrepreneurship is a Love Unrequited

Entrepreneurship is a Love Unrequited

Imagine giving your all; your nights, your weekends and even your sleep to something and not seeing your return for days, weeks, months, or even years. You spend the dreams of your days and nights working, thinking, and re-imagining dilemmas, new approaches, and ideas for this thing. But, nothing gives. All that stands is what you’ve given and there’s no take off. There will sometimes be a glimmer of flight, but then it doesn’t sustain. So again, you go back to the drawing board and think, where’s the damn love?

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” – T. E. Lawrence

Business ownership is often touted as possible for everyone, withstanding through time, passion inducing, exciting, and even sexy. But, just like that ex, it’s got no love for you. A small business does not care how much time or energy you’ve given. It doesn’t care that you’ve told everyone you love about them. It doesn’t care that you have given the most precious thing a human can: time. It does not care that you have the education, experience, network, capital, or drive.  It’ll take, and take, and take and look at you like any parasite does: pathetic.

About two years ago my father and I prepared for two weeks for a major bid submission. It was two weeks of 12-14 hour days mulling over contracts, cost analysis, vendor research, and combing through verbiage. I ended up sick during this time and between the piles of tissues, stacks of documents, and going cross eyed we treaded on. By the end of our submission we were wiped. We stood back and looked at the marvel. We felt so proud. This bid was our baby and we just loved the damn thing.

A year later that baby looked at us brand new and rejected us. Yes, sir. We did not win that bloody bid and we felt so defeated. We gave it our all; our snot, sweat, and tears and we lost. How? I mean, we were perfect for it, in every possible way. It was going to be our major break. We prayed over it, our family prayed over it, our friends did as well. And there it went: our time, energy, and hopes. In the weeks following we heard of other competitors who won and couldn’t help but wonder, “but they couldn’t love or treat you better than we could”. Ha!

All jokes aside, we heard that the bid was a bust and that those who won were being paid very little and being enforced by rules and regulations that were strict and daunting. Reimbursement for services would allow most to break even and the demographic was not necessarily desirable. In the end, the loss was a win. All that time and energy we put in, the several months after we remained faithful and envisioned a future with this win, and in the end it served us better to be without it.

The moment we let go other opportunities and contracts became available. And, because of the crash course we experienced, we shaped up our own policies and procedures. The experience made us better, and in the end we were rewarded with better opportunities because of how we grew from the experience. It’s funny, because now, if offered to us on a silver platter, we’d kindly decline that bid. Maybe not kindly, but we’ve got better having to do less. So, bye.

“Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference. Perhaps this is why we always love madly someone who treats us with indifference.” -Cesare Pavese

I believe, this is often why so many business go bust within the first few years. You cannot unwaveringly love someone without knowing them to their core. In business terms you’ve got to know the industry, you have to know the market, you’ve got to offer something new or different, you’ve got to have the startup or be willing to work for free, and finally have the kind of focus and ethics that will ingratiate you to not only your consumer base but any partnerships you forge within or outside of your business. Just like you know that love like the back of your hand, you must have a command of your industry. You know who that person may be seeing or have an interest in; know your competitors and what they offer. You know that your ex is a compulsive liar; market on that weakness and market integrity as your leverage.

The business itself has eventually learned some reciprocity. The toxic relationship it once was is now turning a bend and offering a return for our tireless commitment. But it’s a love not meant for everyone. It’s an endless endeavor that carries you beyond the computer screen and into your bed. It’s there in the meals you miss, the social activities you cannot go to, the bottles of wine you empty, and arguments you regret. It’s there, a pit in your stomach, that you cannot pass.  Entrepreneurship is for the unrelenting; for the kind of formidable force that will not recoil at “no” and retain hope in the face of seeming failure. It’s an endeavor not for most for it’s a love that even when seemingly won, requires constant attention.

If in the face of failure you leave and look elsewhere, a 9-5 working under Bob or Sue may be better for you. Otherwise, if picking back up and taking failure as leverage excites you like the sadist you are, entrepreneurship is an adventure to eventually grip the reigns of. A love to not see as hopeless, but always on the horizon.

My Father is Not Your Baba (and Other Funny Stories)

My Father is Not Your Baba (and Other Funny Stories)

Inevitably, when working with your family, there are going to be cringe worthy moments of either complete embarrassment or disaster. Before embarking on joining my father, I wasn’t sure what to anticipate as far as our work relationship was concerned. Would he be a totalitarian and dictate to me how he wanted things? Are we going to fight over every important decision? Will we think likeminded and maintain professionalism? How would our work and home life balance?

Suffice to say, working with my father has probably been the easiest part of this experience. We discuss and analyze options and directions logically and try to maintain compassion for our customers/patients without getting personal or taking anything to heart. This doesn’t mean faux paxs and mild arguments don’t occur. Sometimes we do take work home and to the dinner table. There have been times I haven’t spoken to him and vice versa at home, but upon entering the office doors, we resume communication. But really, he’s probably the easiest person I’ve ever worked with.

Honestly, the best anecdotes are the funny or embarrassing ones. The very first incident being the story behind this post title; which I think I may turn into a series where I compile all the embarrassing, cringeworthy, and/or funny moments I’ve experienced working with my father.

For around the first two years of my joining the business, it was only my father and myself. We did everything. From my scrubbing the toilet to interviewing hires, to him visiting his patients to going to business meetings; it was just us two keeping the ship afloat. As such, the environment was more familial than professional. I got used to yelling across the office, “Hey Baba, did you get a chance to…” or, “Baba, I thought we were going to…” In turn he’d respond or call for me by my full name: Kalkidan. It was, after all, just us.

As business grew we made our first hire. This person has come to be an important part of our team, but at the time was simply an employee who was neither kin or kinfolk. Simply put: she’s a white woman. Okay? So, she joins our team and we begin to build our workflow and rhythm for our day-to-day. Well, one morning she knocks on the door to come in for the day and my father opens it. All of a sudden I hear her say, “Hi Baba, thanks for opening the door.” Maaan. We definitely had a good laugh.

I no longer call my father Baba in the office, but by his first name. And because my full first name is not used by Americanas, he started calling me, “Kallie”. There is a lot of intimacy in language and this was a lesson we both had to learn for the sake of professionalism. Not that my full name is unprofessional, or that my father should not be called endearingly, but that the way you communicate with one at home is not for your professional world to be invited to. If you can’t pronounce Kalkidan, don’t try because I’m not amused. And don’t call my father Baba, because he ain’t your daddy.

Moving On Up (…To the West Side)

Moving On Up (…To the West Side)

For the past four years, we’ve been operating out of an office nestled in a large, cozy house. It has seen the business grow from one full time employee to four. The house kept us at a low overhead and considering my father owned it, we were renting at a price that allowed us some financial cushion. The house fostered an environment that reiterated that at its core, our business runs as a family. But, as a baby outgrows a crib, we have outgrown the home. And so, we move.

We need to hire more employees and this humble abode will not do. How exciting is that, though? Business has grown so much that we need more staff, but do not have the physical space to accommodate them. Pretty good dilemma to have. And while it sucks having to go from renting for little, and also renting smart by essentially being our own landlord, it’s a move that we have no choice but to oblige.

In our search for the perfect location we used five criteria: cost, location, space, environment, and accessibility. An important element to our cost analysis was that we wanted to see the promise of the expansion of business either through a new contract or referral source. We needed to know that an increase in rent would never pose as a constraint. Because we were able to, just recently, secure a lucrative insurance contract, as well as a few more dependable referral sources, we felt comfortable in our financial cushion. Profit growth was just about guaranteed.

An important element in determining our location was not wanting to stray from the general vicinity where we had established a presence both with patients and with insurance providers. Because much of our competition exists in other cities, we wanted to maintain a service area presence that is otherwise not being served. Often referrals come to us simply from the distance of a patient’s home, and considering our proximity to Baltimore City; this is important. We also wanted to be certain the area fit our professional vibe and was safe.

Space, for us, was important in two regards. The first being space for employees, both old and new. Secondly, we needed warehousing space for our ever growing catalog of medical supplies. Ideally we wanted a space that was slightly too big and thus would allow for us to grow into. We want to avoid another move for at least five years, so we imagined what our potential for employee and product line expansion would be and if that space could house us at maximum capacity.

Having worked in stuffy office environments before, I felt it important to have as much clear and open spacing as well as sunlight available to the majority of staff and potential patients, customers, or visitors to our office. I also wanted to have as much of an open layout as possible for internal staff, with enough private spaces for patient consults and one-on-one meetings. Following our familial ethos, I think it’s important to have a communal environment where employees can easily consult with one another and work in enough proximity to feel encouraged to work as a team.

Finally, as we are located right off of the beltway and in a corporate park; ease in finding our location as well as ample parking space were important for the obvious reasons. While most of our business actually occurs outside of our office, we still often welcome walk ins. Commute for our staff and ourselves was also important as we wanted to avoid any issues of getting to the office as quickly as possible and/or in case of an emergency.

After having visited various locations and assessing options such as leasing versus purchasing; we settled on a location that hit all our markers. And while ideally we were looking to purchase a property, the right fit could not be found. So, we settled on a location that did meet our mark with the exception of purchasing. It was one hell of a search, but eventually we found the right space.

Today is our last day in this home. As much as I’ve nurtured this endeavor, I’m overwhelmed by how much it has grown. Our once cozy office cannot contain the behemoth that is burgeoning. It is officially a season of harvest and our piece of the pie is in sight. We’re finally moving on up and out…to the West side!