Private Office Available

We've got an office, and we'd love to have you join us!

Private offices are limited and most of them are already spoken for.  If you’d like an office, you need to make a $250 deposit and sign a six-month commitment, and you need to fill out some paperwork.  Private office gets you 24-7 access to the building, use of the flex and conference/classroom spaces during all hours, and your very own office in our thriving community. 

It's up to you how you want to decorate your space, so each office has its own feel!

03-01-2018 06.40.04.jpg

Contact Jenn Haynes or Gretchen Bedell to get more information!


Cobblers' Collective: 2019 Goals!


It’s that time of year again - where we take out last year’s goals, give them a grade (A-F), and use them to create new goals for 2019.

Once again we’re all a little surprised at how much sharing your goals, even if they’re vague, and reviewing them once a quarter pushes the needle. Many of our Cobblers made great progress, completed goals, or discovered they were aiming for the wrong target.

And we made a few jokes while we were at it.

The goals for 2019 for quite a few of our Cobblers are to grow or continue making progress on their 2018 goals. Sometimes a year isn’t quite enough, and that’s ok.

Some of the really great goals for this year are:

  • Stop being a hero

  • Don’t be famous

  • Sail 3-4 Times

What do these have to do with business? Quite a bit actually. Over the last 5 or so years Cobblers’ Collective has been meeting, we’ve discovered some truths about owning your own business.

  1. Hero: You have to say no sometimes. It’s easy, especially if you’re a nice person, to rush in and fix all the problems. But in the meantime, you’ve gobbled up your time and energy working on problems that can be fixed by other people. Saying no is hard, we all agree, but we’ll just keep practicing it and maybe someday we can leave the cape in the closet for a spell.

  2. Don’t be famous: Social media is a PIA - and in the great words of Westly from the Princess Bride, “Anyone who says differently is selling something.” It takes over our free time, but we still have to feed the Google Monster ™ and keep our business’ marketing on track. So you’ve got to put it in a box, a very small, very sturdy, and very controlled box.

  3. Sailing Away: You are the business...sometimes. If you don’t take care of yourself, your business won’t thrive. (You can see variations around the internet of this with “Put your oxygen mask on first.”) Work/Life balance or integration is an ongoing project. Like wrestling an oil-covered octopus into a pair of tights, but you gotta keep trying or you’ll never get the first leg in.

There were also lots of straightforward business things like, increase revenue 25%, bring a new product to market, make an improved marketing plan, etc. That is the great thing about Cobblers, it is the crossroads of your business and your life, we try to tackle all the things.

So once again the Cobblers will kick ass and conquer 2019, and we’re going to have a little fun while we’re doing it.

If you want to join the Cobblers’ Collective you can! It’s free and there’s no paperwork or fees or any of that nonsense. Just show up Thursday mornings at 8:15 and make some new business friends.

Private Office Open

We've got an office, and we'd love to have you join us!

Private offices are limited and most of them are already spoken for.  If you’d like an office, you need to make a $250 deposit and sign a six-month commitment, and you need to fill out some paperwork.  Private office gets you 24-7 access to the building, use of the flex and conference/classroom spaces during all hours, and your very own office in our thriving community. 


It's up to you how you want to decorate your space, so each office has its own feel!

03-01-2018 06.40.04.jpg

Contact Jenn Haynes or Gretchen Bedell to get more information!


We're Offering a $100 Bounty

Gnome making it rain.jpg

Help us find a new member!

We've still got an empty office, and we want to fill it.  Do you know of someone who needs a private office?  Find us an office mate and we'll pay you $100 when they sign up for a private office membership.  Want to sign yourself up? No problem, we'll apply the bounty to your account or just give you some cash!

Details on the private office can be found here.

Spring Cleaning your Business


This morning at the Cobblers’ Collective we talked about “Spring Cleaning” your business.  There are things you need to do on a regular basis (sort paperwork, data entry, board meetings) but when faced with client work it's hard to get to the business of businessing. 

Also, filing and data entry are no fun.  Zero fun.  They suck the fun out of things around them.  So it’s even easier to put this stuff off because it sucks, it’s not urgent, and there are so many other things you could be doing.

One Cobbler uses the Pomodoro Method, “With an old-fashioned timer you have to turn” to force herself to do some of these unpleasant tasks.  She found 25 minutes to be her sweet spot, and she’ll break up the Pomodoros doing different (but equally unpleaseant) tasks.

Another uses inboxes for different quadrants of her life.  “I’ve got one for home stuff, one for each of the businesses, one for accounting, and all the flotsam gets put in an inbox.”  Once a week she processes her inboxes and processes, files, adds to her calendar stuff that needs to get done.

We talked briefly about the external brain and how ideas take up space in your head.  Who knows what idea is trapped behind the “I have to get the oil changed.”  If you get that idea out of your head and somewhere your brain trusts it will be taken care of a new idea can take it’s place.  That idea might be something to add to your grocery list, but it could also be the creative breakthrough you were looking for.

We talk a bit about what the City of Williamsburg EDA is for - hint, you don’t have to impress them, they’re there to help you.  If they know where you’re struggling they can help you find resources.  Even if you're having trouble with how to file paperwork or get a new sign installed - the city staff is crazy helpful!  And heck, sometimes the EDA even has grant money!  We’re HUGE fans of the City of Williamsburg EDA.  They’ve always been supportive and helpful of Work Nimbly.  It’s one of the reasons we moved Work Nimbly 2.0 into the city, and they did give us some grant money to help refurb our building before we moved in.

It was a delightful conversation as always, and we’ll see everyone next week!


The Cobblers' Collective is a weekly meeting of independent business folks, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, hosted by Work Nimbly, Williamsburg’s creative coworking space.  It's a safe place where we can troubleshoot problems and help each other grow.

Other links from our conversation:

The thing to Try for Independence Day
Trashcan Turkey

An Oldie but Goodie
Booth Babes Don’t Work

Favorite quote
“But it’s Data Entry.”


Too May Hats, Not Enough Heads

What an interesting Cobblers' Collective!  We went deep this morning.  We started off with a topic inspired by the T3 - TED Talk Tuesday from earlier this week.

The TED Talk is here if you'd like to watch it.

We started with the story that Laura shares in her talk about a woman whose water heater broke during a time diary project.  By the time the week was over, dealing with the broken water heater took seven hours out of her life.  However, if you had asked this woman at the beginning of the week if she could find seven hours to train for a triathlon or mentor someone, she probably would have said, "No, I'm too busy."

So ultimately it's about priorities, right?  Or is it?

One Cobbler suggested that this is just more added pressure to make sure you're making conscious choices about everything.  It's social pressure that says, "You wasted those two hours watching TV when you could have been working out...I wear so many hats, the businessing hat, the momming hat, the friend hat, the wife-ing hat.  When I'm wearing one, I feel bad about the others that are on the wall.  I've only got one head, but..."


To which another Cobbler answered, "You have to stop giving a f*ck." 

If only it were that easy, right?

From there we talked about making the choice to live your life.  Someone will always say you could be doing X, but at the end of the day it's your life.

A member talked about when her husband passed suddenly how it changed her perspective on her priorities, including when to change the oil in her car.  "People talk about time management often, but really time management is actually stress management.  It's going to take me the same amount of time to drive here this morning whether I'm calm or stressed.  I can be angry at the red lights, and the oil change warning in my car, or I can choose to enjoy the ride.  I'm going to get there in the same amount of time regardless."

Another agreed, "but, what you do in your personal life, is not the same as what you can do in your business.  I've got people who depend on me, and if I leave the warning light on in the work van they would be right to question how long I'll be in business."  Which is also true.

We talked about kids, choosing our lives, keeping our f*cks, how people are different, and how plans can change, but maybe its good to have one anyway.

That's why its so great to have this group of people, every one of us is looking at this work/life balance, the stress of being a business owner, and how to manage our time so that we feel less guilty about which hat we're wearing.  None of us really thinks we've got it right, and we all have a different perspective.  But, we're all there to help each other out and suggest that, well, a bit of TV time might actually be good for your soul.


The Cobblers' Collective is a weekly meeting of independent business folks, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, hosted by Work Nimbly, Williamsburg’s creative coworking space.  It's a safe place where we can troubleshoot problems and help each other grow.

Other links from our conversation:

Free Touch Typing Help

Best Quote
“I write and speak about writing and speaking.”


The Balancing Act

Today at Cobblers’ Collective we asked, “How do you prepare for a day off or a vacation from your business?  Or how do you recover from that day off if it happens spontaneously?”

Most of us shared a blank look.  “What do you mean a vacation? I just work anyway.”

And another rousing conversation about Work/Life Balance began.  This time we focused a bit on our calendars, tips for helping share free/available time, and turning our phones off on occasion.  But unlike other conversations about Balance, one Cobbler positied What if we have balance, but our struggle is that we’re trying to mold to the 9-5 standard, which won’t work for us.

That’s a really good freaking question.

We talk about Work/Life Balance A LOT at Cobblers’.  It is a topic that wiggles its way into most of our conversations in one way or another.  We all seem to be drawn to discussing it, which would suggest that in some way we’re unsettled about our “Balance.”

But what if our issues with balance come from trying to fit a format that isn’t ours?  What if our issues are that we just can’t admit we do have balance, just not as someone who’s got a traditional job would see it?

We can take a two-hour lunch because we’ll be hard at work from 6-8p when other folks are having downtime.  We check our emails on Saturday morning, so we can go golfing on Monday morning when the course is empty.

We’re balanced, just not their kind of balance.

That’s a pretty interesting perspective.  Why don’t we get together for a long lunch and chat about it?


The Cobblers' Collective is a weekly meeting of independent business folks, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, hosted by Work Nimbly, Williamsburg’s creative coworking space.  It's a safe place where we can troubleshoot problems and help each other grow.

Other links from our conversation:

Appointment Schedulers

Gretchen’s Ringtone
We Can Live Anywhere - Big D and the Kids Table

Best Quote
“I just need a quick nap before bedtime.”

Private Office Opening Up - Feb 1st!

We've got an office opening up February 1st, and we'd love to have you join us!

Private offices are limited and most of them are already spoken for.  If you’d like an office, you need to make a $250 deposit and sign a six-month commitment, and you need to fill out some paperwork.  Private office gets you 24-7 access to the building, use of the flex and conference/classroom spaces during all hours, and your very own office in our thriving community. 

This is just an example of one of the spaces in our building - contact Jenn Haynes or Gretchen Bedell to get photos and discuss joining us!


Cobblers Goals Workshop Round 1 Wrap Up

This week we met upstairs to jump start 2018 by setting some goals.  Rebecca Reimers Cristol lead the workshop (she'll lead next weeks too!)  

Here's a rough outline of what we covered:

First, what are three things that your business did well last year?

Next, Answer the following questions using a scale of 0-10, where 10 is 100% satisfied and 5 is satisfied 50% of the time and 0 is not satisfied at all.

What is your current stress level regarding your business?

What number would you like it to be?

What is the difference between those two numbers?

Remeber, this is all from your perspective, so if you feel like you're kicking ass, then you're kicking ass.  Likewise, if you feel like your ass is the one getting the kicking then its time to make some changes.

Using the same scale:

What is your work/life balance?

What number would you like it to be?

What is the difference between those two numbers?

Looking at the categories below, what do you want for 2018?

1. Income (increase, stay the same, get rid of debt, save for a big purchase, pay yourself more)

2. Systems

3. Customer care: how you take in clients, how you manage their accounts, how you manage money, client files, vendors, your desk or computer

3.Technology-what do you need to upgrade, discard, learn or buy that will help your efficiency?

4.Communication-within your business with co-workers, with clients, with the public (social media)

5.Time management—where do you waste time and what would you like?

If you like, now write down the necessary steps to achieve each goal.  Next week we will look at those steps, identify obstacles that might be in the way and come up with strategies to get around them.  Can't wait to see you then!

Cobblers Collective Accountability Partnership

Every Thursday morning at 8:15 a group of small business owners gather for a unique meeting at Work Nimbly.  The Cobblers’ Collective is a weekly round table meeting of independent business folks and freelancers.  It's a support group of sorts; a safe place where entrepreneurs and business owners can troubleshoot problems and help each other grow. 

Annually the group sets goals for the upcoming year, and then checks back in once a quarter to hold each other accountable.  If you don’t want to share a goal publicly, the group will give you a codeword and still follow up.  This year the Boss Ladies of Work Nimbly (Jenn Haynes and Gretchen Bedell) have teamed up with local business and life coach, Rebecca Reimers Cristol to expand the accountability partnership.

During two consecutive weekly meetings (December 7 & December 14) Rebecca will help members to map out their 2018 business goals. In the first conversation, attendees will evaluate the various aspects of their business and outline a plan for next year.

After establishing 2018 goals, the second discussion will look at the steps necessary to attain those goals , the likely obstacles that will impede progress and then develop strategies to get around those roadblocks.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running a business and lose sight of what you want your business to accomplish.  Striking a balance between your business workload and personal life is critical to prevent burn out and to manage stress levels. Everyone deserves to feela sense of accomplishment and happiness  regularly in their lives. Cobblers’ Collective has been effective for its members because it provides a place for small business owners to discuss these issues..” says Rebecca.

The Cobblers’ Collective is free and open to any small business owner if they follow a few rules.  1) What happens at Cobblers stays at Cobblers.  It’s a safe space and members often share very personal challenges with their businesses.  2) Be kind.  Everyone in the room is used to running their own show and being the boss, but when offering advice be kind.

“I like attending events like Cobbler’s Collective at Work Nimbly because it promotes (without forcing) healthy business practices with a group of colleagues (in different industries) without having to be a part of a “big business” model. Cobbler’s Collective makes it easy for a small business owner to not feel like they are by themselves.”  says Valerie Horner, of V. Horner Accounting.


Gnorman's Little Free Library of Distinction

Many folks have been by to see Gnorman's Little Free Library and there will be even more now that the Library has been awarded a Certificate of Distinction!

D6H_9561 - small.jpg

The certificate is "Due to its unique design, creative outreach to friends and neighbors and the enthusiasm of its stewards and patrons." according to Todd Bol the Executive Director of Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

The “Boss Ladies,” Jenn Haynes and Gretchen Bedell, commissioned a local boat builder to help them design the mushroom-shaped library, and build a shelf for a golden Gnorman to sit on. Most of the library was built with salvaged, repurposed, or second-hand materials, keeping in line with Work Nimbly's mission of sustainability.

A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, and anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called “mini-town squares.”

The mushroom shape was inspired by Work Nimbly's mascot, Gnorman Rockwell, a small teal gnome. Gnorman travels all around the area, visits local businesses, and has grand adventures. When the Boss Ladies wanted to build a Little Free Library "we knew it had to be a place Gnorman would feel happy!" says Gretchen Bedell

"Its been a big hit in the neighborhood and among the local businesses. It's so much fun to see the books that come and go in and out of the library!" says Jenn Haynes

There are other free libraries in Williamsburg and they can be found in the Little Free Library map:

Work Nimbly’s Library can be found at 201 Penniman Road. For more information, go to or email

Work Nimbly 2.0: Bigger, Better and in the City!

Work Nimbly started as a shared workspace in 2014, but has grown to be so much more. It’s a hub for entrepreneurs to problem solve together, a pop-up art gallery and a hive of activity for people trying to push Williamsburg into the future.

Fall of 2017 begins the next chapter for Work Nimbly, a much larger space on Penniman Road in the city of Williamsburg.

“We have so much more room now!  We really hit capacity at our former place.  Now we have room for workshops, classes, conferences, and, of course, more coworkers!”  Gretchen Bedell, co-owner and Dutchess of Design for Work Nimbly is excited about the new building.

“One of the challenges of the new space was to make sure we still had the productive, yet communal, vibe we had in the Teacherage Building.  With imput from our community members we’ve brought over all the things everyone liked in the old space, and then added more!”  says Jenn Haynes, Work Nimbly’s other co-owner and the Numbers Ninja.

The location of the new Work Nimbly offers outdoor space, including picnic tables and a shared bike to take a quick jaunt during lunch. The more than 3,000 square foot building offers more conference space as well as room for events such as yoga or the popular weekly Cobblers’ Collective small business support group.

“We finally have room for everyone at the Unread Bookclub.” Gretchen talks about the monthly bookclub where “It’s the only bookclub where you don’t have to read the book!  We serve a free vegetarian lunch and two members from the club present on two different business books.”

And the Boss Ladies (Jenn and Gretchen) moved Gnorman’s Little Free Business Library too.  Anyone in the community is welcome to take or leave a business book anytime they like.

“I absolutely look forward to coming to my office at Work Nimbly – it’s where I do my most productive work, where I get advice when I’m stuck on a client project and where we get new ideas for our businesses,” said Natalie Miller-Moore, a longtime member who’s been enjoying her new office since the soft open in July.

There are several membership options, some with 24/7 access, all with rocket fast wifi, great comeraderie, and 95% less baristas.

“We’ve grown so much in the past three years, I’m excited to see what our small business community comes up with next,” says Jenn Haynes.

Work Nimbly can be found at 201 Penniman Road. 

Best Practices for Your Business

One of our Cobblers had a list of some basic best practices for running a business.  We edited it a bit (to make it less industry specific and add the Work Nimbly twist.  We also added a few things that come up during the Cobblers’ Collective.  

So, what do you think of this list?  What would you add?  What makes you feel like you’re running your business as a business?

Basic Practices

  • Do you have an organized database of your clients and their contact info?
  • Do you have a regular time scheduled in your calendar to communicate with past-clients/leads/friends who might have a job for you?
  • Do you have a weekly appointment in your calendar to plan activities for the week?
  • Do you meet with your clients once a year to review their projects/system/etc?
  • Do you talk with your current clients regularly?
  • Do you have a schedule that is balanced and helps you be your best?
  • Are you generating content for web based leads, client retention, feeding the Google Monster, etc.?


  • Do you have a client interview sheet/system/checklist available?
  • What about one for projects?
  • Have you written out your process for working with clients?
  • Do you know where your business comes from specifically?


  • Do you know what clearly differentiates you from your competition?  Can you articulate it quickly?
  • Do you know what your value proposition is?


  • Do you have a written business plan or strategic growth plan?
  • Do you have written goals for your business and are you tracking them?


  • Is your life balanced/integrated so that you are functioning your best?
  • Have you articulated your life goals separate from your business?

Cobblers' Collective: Planing for 2017

"September is the new January."

Fall always makes us want start fresh with new pencils and notebooks.  It has a clean slate feeling.  The crazy, hectic, hot summer is over and now it is time for schedules, order, and getting some work done!  We are not alone in this; the phrase “September is the new January” is being bantered around more and more often. 

So, where do you start planning for next year? 

Here’s what the Cobblers said:

  1. Set aside some time to sit down and plan.  Yes, this can seem silly if you are a solopreneur, but even if having a meeting with yourself is too formal for you, there is a lot to be gained from carving out the time to work on your business.  So, pick a time, put it on your calendar, and yes, you must give it the weight you would a client meeting.
  2. Start with the calendar.  Put in the big events for 2017.  Think about the changes you want to make.  Will you add to your product line?  Will you hire additional employees?  What about changing some systems?  If you get these things on the calendar they are much more likely to happen.  (Put some vacation time in there too while you are at it.  Work/life balance people, it’s a thing.)
  3. Go to the numbers.  Are you hitting the sales and/or revenue marks you want to this year?  If not what can you change for next year?  Is it time to adjust your pricing?  Do you need to cut your expenses?  And, even if you are making the numbers, you can’t rest on your laurels. Forecasting is critical to smooth cash flow.

    Also, consider if you have any large expenses that you should squeeze in this year or if you should wait till next year.  This is an excellent time to talk to your tax professional, they’re less busy now than in January.
  4. Review your processes.  Can anything be streamlined or outsourced?  Have you gotten bogged down in with something you could foist off onto someone else while freeing up more of your time for revenue making?  Is your client pipeline working the way it should or do you need to change some part of that to make it flow more smoothly?
  5. Archive.  Really.  If you are planning for 2017 and you still have 2015 at hand put it away.  Clean out your files, both the physical and the digital ones.  If you don’t have a long-term storage plan, now is a great time to create one, and then use it!
  6. Set your goals and theme/intention for the next year.  You’re wrapping up your previous year, and this is a great time to address what you want to tackle next.  Frame the goals, write them in your planner, tattoo them on your forehead so you see them every day.  Find an accountability partner who will ask you about them (Pro tip: we do this at Cobbler’s, ask us about it). 

    The theme/intention is a little different than a goal.  It’s something you want to focus on as a general idea, typically it’s a word or two.  One of
    Cobblers said their focus for 2016 was “Community,” so they joined Cobblers this year!  We think that’s lovely!

Remember, if you need help or guidance.  The Cobblers are here! 

Cheers to an amazing 2017!

Cobblers' Collective: Spreading the Word about Your Event

Last Thursday with the Work Nimbly 2nd Anniversary party looming on the horizon and some other Cobblers having some upcoming events we talked about how to promote your event. 

First of all, make the event info as easy to find and the RSVP process as simple as possible. 

Figure out how you want folks to RSVP and include a link or simple instructions on all your marketing materials and social platforms.  You can set up a Facebook event or maybe an Eventbrite event to gather all that info and keep all your details easy to find.

Press releases are a good way of getting the word out but you have to be careful to get them to the right people in a timely fashion – even then they still aren’t a sure bet.  Sometimes your release won’t get picked up. 

Buying advertising is, of course, a more surefire way of getting the info in front of people.  Some of the Cobblers have had good luck with the Tide radio station’s Save 30 store promotion.  You could also just pitch an idea to a local magazine about a you or an aspect of your business and see if they are interested, everyone is looking for content, you might get lucky.

Don’t forget to simply ask people to come. 

Send an email to your customer or business friend list (you have been collecting all those emails from networking events for something right?) or hand out/mail a physical invitation to people, mention it on your Facebook wall. 

And remember a personal note, or email from you to one person, can convince people to join you.

Just be careful that you don’t become that person who shouts at their actual friends all the time about their business.  Facebook is for silly memes and cat videos, don’t make too much noise about your business on your personal page or people will just unfollow you!

What do you think has been the best way of marketing your event?  Let us know in the comments!

Onboarding - and a pirate metaphor!

One of the metaphors used in Cobblers when talking about freelancing/entrepreneurship, is the pirate life.  All the freedom of the open sea, good songs, lots of rum, your mates about deck.  But also no security, you’re at the mercy of the wind, and always scrambling for the next gig.  It’s feast or famine – or to continue the metaphor, lots of booty or absolutely booty at all.  Welcome to Ship Entrepreneur!

When onboarding clients or employees is discussed in Forbes or some business book we picture 1950’s flight attendants gently leading folks in nice suits onto the well-appointed plane, handing them a very organized book with everything the client or employee needs to know in it.  They politely sit down and crack that book open and read it. 

When it happens on the Ship Entrepreneur we imagine more swords, yelling, chaos, energy. 

So often we’re wrapped up in getting the gig, we don’t think through the details.  We don’t think about how to tell the customer what is expected of them.  We’re so tangled in our own nets of work, we don’t take the time to bring on an employee with a training schedule.  We just toss them a sword, shove them on to the deck, and tell them to defend the bow! 

So how do we fix this?  Well, we can always steal ideas from the corporate world. 

For customers: 
1. Have a contract with a time line.  Go over it with them so they understand exactly what you can/will do, how much input you need from them, and how delays in that input will affect the time line. 

2.  New client questionnaires!  One of our Cobbler’s has a questionnaire that helps outline the specific scope of work for each new client.  Since she is a bookkeeper these questions mainly deal with things like how many bank accounts and credit cards you have, but think back on your past few clients and about what you wish you had known upfront.  Use that to create a standard set of questions.  Pro tip: Ask how they heard about you so you can figure out what is working in your marketing!

For employees:
1.  You need a job description and training schedule.  We know!  So much work, but it’s worth it to have a well-trained employee who can actually help out.

2.  Employees need mentors.  Have them shadow someone so they know how to really do the job, even if that someone is you.  Have regularly scheduled check-ins to give and receive feedback or questions. 

This is an ongoing problem, but with a bit of attention we can fix Ship Entrepreneur and hit the high-seas again!

Cobbler's Collective: Taking the Leap...

This week we talked about when to take the “jump” for your business.

This was an interesting topic for this particular group of Cobblers because there were folks from all stages of the business life cycle.  We had some who were pre-jump, some just jumped, and some more established businesses that were jumping (or not jumping) to the next level. 

Photo via  Sabrina's Stash  on flickr

Photo via Sabrina's Stash on flickr

What makes someone decide to quit their job or come out of retirement/sabbatical/child rearing pause to start their own business?

What makes an established business decide to build a building or add a product line or employees? 

Everyone’s reason is a bit different but the overarching theme was once you reach a tipping point you suddenly get brave because you can’t wait any longer. 

There are people who reach a tipping point but are too scared to take the plunge.  That seems to be the difference between the entrepreneur and the frustrated employee.  Some folks are risk adverse (some of them are even entrepreneurs in our group) but they still found a way.  Some of them bought an established business or found a partner or made a savings account that could sustain them for a period of time in case the clients didn’t show. 

You have to find your pattern of action, which takes some self-awareness, and figure out what you need to make sure your psyche can take the leap.  Establish the line, in your mind, of what is most important to you and make sure that is not in more jeopardy than you can stand. 

To establish this some folks need a plan (or 12) but some folks need to feed on the frantic energy that comes from not having a plan.  One Cobbler talked about his plan actually being a map.  Rather than an Excel spreadsheet, he has an idea of where he wants to be and can pivot on the ideas till he gets there. 

But everyone agreed whether it is a plan or map you need to consider how this will affect the others in your world, your family, your partner, the people who count on you. 

So, in conclusion, find the edge of your personal cliff, notify your tribe of your intentions, set up the safety ropes if you need them, and jump.  You are never going to fly if you don’t leave the ground.

Cobblers' Collective: The Mistakes Jar

So today we broke out the mistake jar! 

You may remember in July we decided to empty our mistakes jar into the fire during the goal burning.  It was exceptionally cathartic; however the jar was empty!  So today we added new ones and started working on them. 

That’s the great thing about mistakes, it’s easy to make more! 

The way the Mistakes Jar works, is everyone gets 3 slips of paper to write out some businessey mistakes, anonymously, and throws them in the cookie jar.  Then we pull out a few, read them, and come up with some solutions.

Mistake one: Taking on too many tasks & stressing rather than calling in help
Mistake two: Taking on too many projects that don’t align with my goals or objectives

We all take on too much.  Taking on too much is a super common problem for entrepreneurs regardless of their industry.  I think that is one of the most fascinating things about the Cobbler’s Collective, we are all in different industries but have so many commonalities in our problems.

So some solutions:
Pre plan.  This is really the answer but it takes on a couple of forms.

Pre plan A: Have a stable of subcontractors or freelancers you can outsource to when you get overwhelmed.  Sometimes that could be outsourcing your actual work and sometimes that could be outsourcing some life stuff (like housekeeping or childcare) so you can buckle down & do the work.

Pre plan B:  Limit the number of clients or projects or boards or whatever it is you can quantify.  Know your capacity and stick to your guns about those numbers.

Pre plan C:  Know when you should give yourself more lead time & build that into the client expectations.  For instance, tell everyone you’re coming back from vacation later than you are.  Build in some time to empty your inbox and prep for client work without clients breathing down your neck.

Pre plan D: Have a phrase at the ready to use when some asks you to help out or take on something else.  Like “I have to check with my office manager before I commit to anything, let me get back to you.”  No one has to know your office manager is your cat! 

Pre plan E:  Know the values & goals of your business.  They are probably similar to your own but, I would bed they’re slightly different.  You personally might want to go work for that political campaign or that religious organization, but does your business?  Maybe, maybe not.  But that decision is not one to make in the heat of the moment, it’s something you should consider a head of time.

Mistake three:  I hired the wrong employee and don’t know how/want to fire them

Ah, employees.  Everyone wants them, till they get them. 

The big answer is you just have to do it if it needs to be done.  You are not doing anyone any favors by keeping them in a job they aren’t suited to.  The long term answer is to set up a good onboarding process where the employee knows from the beginning what the expectations are, how they will be evaluated, and what happens when the expectations are met or not met. 

There should be a LOT of feedback in the first 90-180 days.  And that feedback should go both ways. 

We also got some great topics to talk about in future Cobblers' Collectives.  Including another session practicing saying "No."  We'll see you next Thursday at 8:15 for another meeting!

Keeping your cool, Cobblers' style

Today’s topic: Keeping your cool, what to do when a client upsets you.  

This one brought out lots of great advice.  Starting with, if it is heated and in person, walk away before it gets out of control.  

Yes, if you’re angry, you should walk away.

If it is via email, write a response, then take 24 hours to cool off. Then go back to rework with more perspective.  We all know not to hit the send button in the heat of the moment, but sometimes drafting an email response can keep you from “stirring the pot” for the next several hours while you’re waiting to calm down.

What do you do if your clients constantly upset you?  If you find this is an ongoing issue with clients, create a decision tree and use it to stick to your plan.  Try to understand why you may be having a problem.  Were you clear?  Is your client feeling a time pressure?  Is it just a misunderstanding?  

If you get caught in a heated moment, and someone is yelling at you, trip L.E.A.P.S. (Listen, Emphasize, Acknowledge, Paraphrase & Summarize).  It’s a police and salesperson trick to de-escalate a situation.

One Cobbler really recommends Verbal Judo by Dr. George J. Thompson.  This book can show you how to listen and speak more effectively, engage others through empathy, avoid the most common conversational disasters, and use proven strategies to successfully express your point of view.  Exactly what you need in a heated conversation.

Last but not least, try to avoid the conflict altogether by creating best practices.  One example was sending a client a note after a certain phase of work has been completed.  In the note, let them know how it went with a reminder of the agreed upon work completion date.