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.

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.”

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.


The topic for discussion for last week's meeting was victory celebrations!  We had a variety of victories to celebrate.  One cobbler was able to influence their spouse to sign up for SWaM (Small business, Women & Minorities), which opened up new opportunities to bid on projects that match up with his small business offerings.  (SWaM provides certification and in Virginia can provide money to small businesses both state or local.  You can find more information at

One victory was a successful meeting with a new client, where there may be potential to grow.  A different Cobbler helped a client move on, so they could take the next step on their own.   Next, a commitment to create new packages for more effective marketing.  Another Cobbler duked it out with a government agency over an issue with a client and won.

We want to hear all your small business victories, so shout out your victories and tag it #CobblersCollective.

Summer Fun

Last week at the Cobbler’s Collective we discussed making summer fun for you, your clients and your employees.

This idea came about, as one Cobbler’s client set up some hefty goals to achieve, but also decided that they would incorporate weekly fun as well.   A sort of "you're working hard, so let's play hard too." thing.

This sparked lots of variety in our discussion.  We started with fun ideas. One local business provided a personal training session for their employees, had a Froyo outing and provided lunch.  Another delivered fun packages for others.  (#sparklefriday) We'd even heard that one a business in which the employees did a beer swap.  They would bring in cases and then swap out different beers to create a variety pack.  This allowed them to try new beers they may not of otherwise.

What about a bring your dog to work policy?  It seems there could be a lot of pros and cons with this sort of activity.  What about employees who are allergic?  What do you do with ill behaved dogs?  

And then we started to ask, is this a way to define company culture?  Can you set up rules that allow this to happen without killing the fun?  How do you discover what your employees want and how can you engage them?

Post in the comments below your ideas of how to bring fun to the workplace and motivate your teams.  

This week we will be following up on the personal goals we discussed back in January.  Can’t wait to hear where everyone is excelling, what needs to be tweaked, and what we're just trashing!  If you don't have goals from January, no fear, there is no time like the present to establish goals!

Cobblers' Victories!

Today we got together and discussed our proudest moments.  And they were pretty spectacular! 


Two of us have picked up certifications this year. One Cobbler tested so well in her certification that they asked her to create a video to share with future test takers.

Several of us are negotiating big contracts, some of us have taken calculated risks and finally pulled the trigger on big projects, we’ve pivoted our businesses, and some of us had insanely good 4th quarters! 

Not that Work Nimby (Williamsburg’s most awesome creative Coworking space) can take credit, but y’all did attribute some of your victories to Work Nimbly and the Cobblers’ Collective. 

So how about you?  If you didn’t make it to the meeting, chime in with your first quarter victory here or on our facebook page.  Work Nimbly – Cowork Williamsburg

Cobblers' its GOALS TIME!


Last week the Cobblers met to discuss the goals we set back in January.  We all made progress, but some of us not as much as we’d like.

The goals went as such:

One Cobbler, met her goals, but will continue to pursue the same ones.  She’s hoping to continue to have more story pitches both in her industry and out.

Another Cobbler noticed that her goals were too vague.  So her new goal for the quarter is to make her old goal more specific.

Some of us are going to write our goals out and put them somewhere we can see them more.  Great plan, right?

A few of us are looking for project management software.  We got some recommendations and one Cobbler will be testing out both Wrike and Teamwork.  He’ll get back to us with updates.

There are some Cobblers who need to work on SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures -  the documented processes that a company has in place to ensure services and/or products are delivered consistently every time.)  We’ll be following up with them as well.

Finally, one Cobbler is looking for someone who can do optometry work and is looking to work in the Richmond and/or VA Beach area.  She’s hoping to move more of her client base to Williamsburg but has an active practice both north and south of us.  If you know of someone in that field who’s wants to work in or wants to purchase a thriving optometric practice in those areas, let us know!

It was a great conversation, and it’s good to know that someone will notice if you put off your goals.  Accountability is one of the great gifts of the Cobblers’ Collective!

In the course of our discussion, we also discovered that some of our goals no longer fit with what we want and that we need to let those goals go.  It’s hard to ever be critical of what we do, but when we do notice that a something no longer applies to us, we need to eliminate it. 

We do keep a list of individuals and their goals, if you’ve got one you’d like us to hold you accountable for, shoot the gnome ( an email with the subject line “Goals” and we’ll track it for you.




Cobblers' to the Rescue!

The Cobblers’ Collective was really interesting this morning.  Our Cobbler, Madeline need help dry running her upcoming presentation about the role of a Public Relations Officer.  It was super informative, and it sparked some really interesting comments.


This is one of the fantastic thing about the Cobblers’ Collective, that we can all gather and support each other in our business adventures.  It is such an amazing community.

And speaking of support, next week we’re going to be discussing our goals that we set back at the beginning of the year.  Some of the goals were to make more money, or not work weekends by the end of the quarter, or learn a new language (or bits of it anyway.) A few of them were even personal, so we created a code word: “WATERMELON!”

We’ll be sending out reminder emails to everyone who asked us to help them be accountable.  If you’d like to add your goal(s) to the accountability sheet, email the Gnome ( with them and when they need to be done by, and we’ll add them to the list. We’ll then check in with you and see how it’s going.

Technology, Cobblers' Style

Today we talked about technology.  What gadgets and apps have helped you do your thing?


Cobblers mentioned Evernote (Jenn is a super fan) and Toggl (Gretchen loves this one.)  Universal "yeas” for Dropbox.

Jack mentioned that at a conference he went to the speaker said you should limit yourself to 10 technologies.  (Suites, like Microsoft Office or Adobe, would count as 1 technology.)  It seems that after 10 you're spending more time working on the tech and less time being served by the tech.

This turned the conversation to kicking it old school and using using paper.

We've all mentioned the paper calendars, and the fans of Work Nimbly have all tried one sort or another (check out the Spark Notebook or the Passion Planner (it's not that kind of passion.))  Joe promised to bring his paper calendar/workbook the week after next so we can all geek at that.

Do you journal?  Are you team digital calendar or paper calendar?

Let us know.

Next week we're going on a field trip to talk with the lovely people from Primm about Google AdWords.

You can RSVP here, by March 4th please.  

Morrison (Gretchen's trusty Van) will be making the trip for anyone that wants to carpool.  Just make sure to let her know, and be at Work Nimbly by 8:15 a.m. next Thursday.


We talked about Outreach today!  There are newsletters (the old-fashioned paper kind), email newsletters, social media, and actual networking.


We started with email newsletters which spun toward inbound marketing (marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out.)  At Work Nimbly we use Tiny Letter because it’s easy, free, and minimalist.  We send out a weekly email to our “Cobblers” mailing list and a quarterly-ish email to our “Work Nimbly” list.

Keep in mind that there are some regulations about emails.  An unsubscribe button is mandatory.  Tiny Letter, like the other email services, will manage that for you.  Also, make it easy to unsubscribe.  Nothing is more frustrating than finding yourself 12 links away still trying to get off that newsletter.

But how do you get those email addresses in the first place?  One way is to manually add folks to your list.  Proceed with caution, ‘cause just bulk adding all those folks to your mailing list is not polite.  Put a link up on your website so folks can subscribe.

You can also use the inbound marketing tactic of offering something of value (template, chart, whitepaper, article, etc) in exchange for an address.  Both HubSpot and I Will Teach You To Be Rich are companies with very strong inbound marketing campaigns.

How often should you send content? Monthly seems common but you should do some research about the best time and frequency to send stuff out for your industry.  Different times are good for different industries.  Look at your analytics to see how it is actually working for you.  If you don’t actually analyze your results, what’s the point in putting out that effort?

And it is an effort.  Unless you’re getting prepackaged content from industry specific providers, you need to create content regularly that is pertinent to your audience. (Keep a running list of topics to go to, to help expedite the process.)  A quick calculation during the meeting suggested about 8 hours a month for a basic, but solid, content schedule with a weekly blog and a monthly email newsletter.

Other News

We’ve got a Cobblers’ Collective Slack group.  If you want to participate send The Gnome an email at and let him know.  If you haven’t heard of Slack, check it out, it’s sort of a chat room full of awesome.

Market Research, Cobblers' Style

The Cobblers’ met to discuss Market Research.  It was a lively discussion and one of the highlights included learning to “facebook stalk” your clients (it’s a small town, so don’t be creepy, but knowing how and where your clients spend their time could help you find other clients just like them.  And facebook isn’t your only resource.)

We also chatted about surveying our current customers/clients.  Are you talking to yours?  What do they want that you could offer?  How do they feel about your company?  Your current clients are a great resource, and you should use them.

Also take a look at what your competitors are doing.  Where are they advertising? Where and when are the networking?  What does their social media stream looking like?  Knowing these things can help differentiate you and help your efforts stand out.

And then here are some other helpful links:

Downloadable Marketing Plans – this is a good launching point for most folks.
How to Build an Unbeatable Content Marketing Plan
Marketing Plan Template – with bonus video from John Paul of John Paul Mitchell fame


Last year the Cobblers’ Collective met and wrote out their resolutions.

What is so fantastic about the Cobblers’ is the wonderfully strong and supportive community we’ve built.  There is a place where you can ask the questions about your business and get helpful answers, vocal support, or at the very least a “you got this!”  

We’re all facing the same challenges as small business owners.  We all charge too little, give too much away, and forget to write things down.  These resolutions are a testament to how much we are all alike despite how different our businesses are.

So this year...

We will double check our taxes.

We will keep better records.

We will look at our finances at least once a month.

We will charge what we deserve.

We will track our mileage.

We will not give our services away for free.

We will use our time/schedule wisely.

We will be more organized.

We will manage our time better.

We will do what our doctor says.

We will collect fees/payments up front.

We will get all our tax info to the accountant before October.

We will be ready for national projects.

We will cultivate more relationships.

We will not skip quarterly tax payments.

We will give ourselves more rewards for goal successes.

We will not take on outside business that doesn’t pay three times or better.

We will not let others devalue our business.

We will communicate better.

We will charge everyone for all of the work we do.

We will use a mantra for our business based on our purpose.

We will not launch a new product too early.

What else will we do?  Come to the Cobblers’ Collective at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday mornings and ind out!










Cobblers’ Collective Mistakes Jar Edition

We anonymously submitted some of our mistakes to the jar today, and pulled them out to share them.  This is one of the more popular Cobbler’s topics, so we’ll be taking down the mistakes jar monthly, unless we’re talking about goals.  If you want to put your mistake in the jar, feel free to do that anytime!

The great thing about the mistakes jar, is that most of us ARE MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES.  Hard to believe, right?  But, yes we’re all goofing in the same way, so we can help each other fix these mistakes along with ourselves!

Today’s mistakes included:

Jumping on technology too fast.
When you jump on a technology, it’s not just a financial commitment, it’s a time commitment.  Even if the technology (or book, or class, or system) you purchased will help you with a problem, you have to remember it takes time to implement and really learn about the technology.

Not taking time for yourself.
Just schedule it, and keep that commitment.  Your problems will be there when you get back.  If you don’t take care of You, then You won’t be able to take care of your business.  When you do take time to yourself, make your time count.  Do something that truly makes you happy and rejuvenates you.

Not validating/verifying information.
We’ve all done this.  Missed a tiny number that should have been verified, published something with the wrong date or location, or just trusted the client didn’t goober up their spelling.  Sometimes we’re just going too fast, but most of the time we just don’t have a system in place to make sure we’ve double checked ourselves.  Perhaps it’s time for an “Outbound” checklist.

Putting the wrong people in a position.
It’s really hard to train personality traits into people, actually it’s downright impossible.  Some people are just not who you want them to be.  Even if they have the skillset and they’d be really great at job X, if they’re not feeling it they’re not gonna do it.   Some solutions are: get to know people on a more personal level before hiring them, make a job description and have others help you interview so you get a different perspective.

Seeking business approval from family & friends.
Not everyone’s friends and family are entrepreneurly savvy.  As much as we want to share our victories, and challenges, with the people in our lives who are close to us, they’re not always the right people to help you evaluate your business.  It’s important to find someone who understands the unique experience small business ownership is.  Better yet, find two people; one in your industry and one outside your industry. 

Cobbler’s Collective: Contingency Plans

Today, we met to discuss what happens if there’s snow, illness or aliens. You know, what to do when you can’t work.

Being ever prepared, Dale brought a checklist his firm sends out to clients when the weather report looks ominous.  This sheet reminds building owners of things to check before the storm hits. We've shared it below, so you too can be ready!

We didn’t just talk about checking out your building, we also talked about checking out your computer. Do you back your computer system up?  When was the last time you double checked to make sure your backup system was working? Making sure your backup system is backing up should be part of your regular business maintenance.

( is a new player in this market that is very reasonable. Gretchen uses a combination of (for active projects) and for longer term storage.)

And speaking of technical failure plans, do you have a plan in place if your hardware stops working?  How will you get to your work if your computer crashes, and how do you keep working once you get your data off the broken machine? Many backup software programs allow you to download your work off their servers, but you should find a time to try it when it’s not an emergency to learn how your system works. Think about having a backup computer, or at least do the research to know what you would buy in a pinch if your hardware fails.

Consider too, your service contracts. Do you have someone who regularly maintains your building? Will they be able to get in to service your equipment, or do you need to reschedule them?  Do you have someone assigned to contacting service providers? What about employees? Having a written policy in place (that everyone knows) can greatly reduce the stress of closing the office for a day or week or even a month.

We also talked about insurance. There are many flavors of insurance. (e.g. disability, errors and omissions, professional liability) Individuals should keep in mind that your personal insurance may not cover damages to work-related items. If you leave your work laptop in the car, and it gets stolen, chances are your personal insurance won’t cover the cost of replacement since it’s a “work” laptop.  As always, you should talk to your insurance representative and your lawyer.  (And do try to read the fine print on your insurance documentation, to understand what you are actually covered for.)

Finally, what happens if you pass on?  Do you have a letter of instruction for your partner (business or personal partners) that tells your person what to do with your business, clients, etc.   Does your family know who to contact about your business if you do pass on?

Sometimes you just can’t get to work, but the Cobblers universally agree that you should have a plan in place (preferably written down) for the days when you’re just not going to make it into the office.

Storm Preparedness for Commercial Buildings
from Guernsey Tingle Architects

Many of our clients have experienced major storm events in their buildings, while some have not.  Many of you have full-time maintenance and facilities staff that are much more experienced than we are at preparing for storms.  For those of you that may not, the following is a list of items to help in your storm preparations.  Add it to your other storm readiness lists.

  • Enclose or secure all outside furniture, planters, trash cans, etc.
  • Check all gutters and downspouts for clear drainage path.
  • Check all membrane roof areas for leaves, debris and other items that may clog roof drains.
  • Secure all operable windows – make sure they are locked; not just closed
  • Check outside doors for closure at threshold and astragal (where double doors meet at the center).  Most commercial doors are not designed to withstand direct wind driven rains – temporary storm closure or blocking may be needed.
  • If you have sump pumps or emergency pumps (such as elevator pits or basements), check battery backup or emergency power.
  • If you have a grinder pump, check battery backup or emergency power.
  • Check outside drain inlets to insure clear drainage path.  Look for leaves, debris, etc. that could clog drains.
  • Check security system for operation in extended power outage.  Verify emergency contact information with your security company.
  • Back up all computer programs and store backup medium offsite.  UPS systems will only last for brief power outages.
  • Check other “intelligent” systems for operation during extended power outages.

After storms and extended periods of power outage:

  • Reprogram thermostats & replace batteries.
  • Reset telephone system.
  • Reset computer servers.
  • Verify all U.P.S. systems are still functioning correctly.
  • Test emergency lights, exit signs & other emergency egress items for proper operation (note:  look for a red reset button next to fluorescent lights – these may be your emergency light fixtures).
  • Check roof drains for clear drainage path.
  • Clear out all site drain inlets
  • Check with elevator maintenance company on post-outage elevator operation.
  • Test sump pumps & grinder pumps.