Week 2 – Creating A Digital Brain

This is the second week I am working on this month-long project. If you are new, check out my first week update here! The project I am building is a second brain for a quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. I am creating a digital space where they can store information, procedures, and systems. My goal for this project is to:

  • Help the owner to manage her business and customers
  • Help current and new employees get information and maintain consistency

This month I am going to be:

  • Gathering and organizing information
  • Creating an easy to manage system
  • Managing a large project
  • Building a system that can be added to overtime
  • Documenting my work 

What Have I Done This Week?

This week I focused on the main page of my project. 

The Steps/Info Board’s purpose is for:

  • Step by step procedures on various tasks
  • Answers to the common employee or customer questions
  • Tips on how to solve situations that might arise
  • Information an employee might need including other employee contact info

I brainstormed on what aspects of the business I could add as sub-pages. I listed all the categories and began to add information that I knew. I understand this business’s system and know how to add inventory so I created a step-by-step list for how to add inventory. 

The beauty of this project is that I don’t have to know everything. It can be added to overtime. New questions, procedures, and information can be added, and grow with the company. 

Along with this sub-page, I added Toggle to the other sub-pages with questions that could come up and procedures that could be listed. 

I made a walkthrough video explaining how I managed this project.

What Did I Do Well?

  • I was sure to be specific with the categories I thought to add. 
  • I pushed to cover various bases to demonstrate what this digital brain can do for the owner. 
  • I was specific with the due dates in my project management system. 
  • I kept on top of my time management with my Trello project management. 

What Could Be Improved?

I had a lot of other things going on this past week. It took more of my work time than I anticipated. Next week, I am going to give track practice, meals, and events more time in my schedule. I’ve underestimated how long those tasks take to complete. If I block more time for those, I can accurately plan my work week. 

What I’ll Be Doing Next Week 

Next week I’ll be focusing on:

  • Creating pages for current processes that are kept on paper
  • Customizing the templates to fit the process
  • Documenting my progress
  • Posting my progress
  • Updating the SOP for the system I’m building
  • Updating my landing page
  • Week 3 update post!

Check out my full project here!

Week 1 – Project Planning

This month, I am going to be tackling an Operations project for a quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. This is my week one update of this month-long project. 

In this small business, like most small businesses, everything is institutional knowledge. The owner and employees have all the procedures and systems in their brains. New employees have to be trained to do the same. When an employee leaves, they take information with them. 

This is a difficult truth when a new system is added. Consistency is lost because employees have to rely on themselves to remember. They also have systems on paper that would be easier to manage online. They need somewhere to keep information, systems, and procedures. A place to keep things consistent no matter the employee’s knowledge. That’s what I am going to build. 

This month I am going to be:

  • Gathering and organizing information
  • Creating an easy to manage system
  • Managing a large project
  • Building a system that can be added to overtime
  • Documenting my work 

What Have I Done This Week?

This week I laid out my plan for my project. I planned what I needed to do each week of this month. I chose Trello as my project management system. I’ll be doing a walkthrough video on that next week. 

I talked to the owner of the quilt shop. I wanted to see if this management system is something that would really solve problems and add value to the business. She agreed that it would be beneficial. I created a landing page for this project and started documenting my progress!

What Did I Do Well?

I was very thorough with the steps I need to complete each week. Using Trello, I added checklists within the tasks to clearly pave the way for this project. I talked to the owner of The Quilted Windmill. I stated what problems I wanted to solve and what system I wanted to use to solve them. It was beneficial to see what elements I thought were needed and which ones weren’t. I can now make adjustments accordingly. 

What Could Be Improved?

The due dates on my project management are vague. This next week, I am going to be more specific with when I want tasks completed. 

What I’ll Be Doing Next Week 

Next week I’ll be focusing on:

  • Brainstorming any new sub-pages
  • Adding steps and answers to those sub-pages
  • Documenting my progress
  • Making a Trello project management walkthrough video
  • Posting my progress
  • Updating the SOP for the system I’m building
  • Updating my landing page
  • Week 2 update post!

Want to see my full project? Check out my landing page here!

I Built An Operations System For A Quilt Shop

I chose to build this project for a local quilt shop called The Quilted Windmill. I work for this small business and know how to use their system. I’ve noticed that they don’t have a central location for a lot of their information. They have systems in place that work. From an Operations standpoint, I want to figure out how they could improve their systems. It would be helpful to have somewhere to reference and manage systems. If I figure out a system for keeping inventory consistent, it could be helpful to have somewhere a fellow employee could reference when they add in new inventory.

I wanted to find a program that would work best for this project. I chose Notion because of all of its templates, easy searching, and customization. The Quilted Windmill has a lot of moving parts, so I think that Notion would be the best place to manage them. In this SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), I go over why this would be helpful to the company, how the employees could use it, and general Notion functions. In completing this project, I learned how to: 

  1. Create a realistically sustainable process
  2. Use an Operations mindset when it comes to improving current systems

You can check out my condensed walkthrough video if you’d like!

How to use The Quilted Windmill’s Notion System

For: The Quilted Windmill Employees

Created: February 2021

How this is a solution: Information is all over the place and not all the employees know how to do things. What if the owner is gone and they can’t ask her how to refund or calculate prices? This could be the solution to that and much more.

  • Answers to employee questions stored all in one location
  • Keep up with systems that are put in place and they aren’t forgotten
  • The owner could leave more because the employees have everything they need. 
  • Easy to manage and update

How to use the system…

To find the answer to your question:

  1. Search the sub-page that would have the answer to your question. 
  2. You could also go to Quick Find and search for a keyword to find the answer quickly. 
  3. This page could have step-by-step procedures, common questions, ways to solve problems, and other helpful employee information.

To ask a question: There is or can be a sub-page where employees can add a question that isn’t already in the system. The owner or someone who knows the answer can add the answer and place it under the correct category in the system for organization purposes.

To follow a procedure: You can add steps to different processes. For example…

  1. How to add inventory
  2. How to check someone out
  3. How to sign someone up for BOM (Block Of The Month)
  4. How things are organized in the store

Some other examples of what Notion could keep track of for this company: 

  • Longarming Schedule
  • BOM spreadsheet
  • Employee hours
  • Product requests
  • Order management

General Notion functions

How to add a page: On the left-hand side of Notion, there is a toolbar. Click Add a page to add a new page. From there, you can select a template, view and customize the page.

How to add a sub-page: If on a new page, you can select List under Database. If not, add a dash(/) and select Page. If you scroll down, there are several other options. Including To-do lists, Headings, Bulleted lists, Numbered lists, Toggle lists, Database options, Media options, and so much more. 

How to select a template: There are two options. 

  1. You can select Templates on the empty page. 
  2. In the left-hand toolbar, you can select Templates. There are many to choose from in that window but you can click Browse more templates if you want to see more options. 

How to select a different view for a page: There are some templates like Weekly Agenda and Quick Note that don’t allow for a different view. This would most commonly be used in the Database List template. In the top left above the sub-pages, you’ll see a List view or Add a view. If you select that, you can click a different view or add a view. Changing the view can help you see the information you want to see from the list. 

How to search: If you are searching for a specific sub-page on the page, you can click Search in the top right above the list next to the blue New button. There, you can search for a page. If you are searching for a keyword, select Quick Find at the top of the toolbar. Type in the keyword and anything in Notion with that keyword will show up in the results. 

When you make a new sub-page: 

  1. Add a title
  2. Add an icon if you want
  3. Select the date the page was created
  4. Select the Tag(s) or type in a new tag
  5. Add a new property if there is another variable for sorting involved. This example also keeps track of who created what pages. That is why the property is Person

How I Made A FAQ Page For A Local Bakery

Bricktown Bakery is a local bakery that has been really popular since it opened. Their customers are loyal and involved. Where I believe they have an opportunity is in the management of online Customer Service. They get many repeat questions on social media and through calls. I’ve looked at their social media and have spoken with the owners; It’s stressful for them to manage. I think that an FAQ page would help them to minimize the number of frequently asked questions they get on social media and over the phone. If they received fewer questions, it would ease stress for the owners. If you want a condensed walkthrough of the page, you can watch this video I put together.

They use Wix for their website so I signed up for a free account. Bricktown’s colors consist of black and white. It’s a pretty basic site so I follow their general style. Here’s their website if you’d like to check it out. I matched their style and started to build the contents of the FAQ page. My priorities were:

  1. For questions to be easy for customers to find
  2. For new answers to be easy for the business to add
  3. For the page to fit in well with the style of the business

I settled on creating buttons that trigger lightboxes with the answer to a specific question. This system would make it easy to add new questions and would be easy for a customer to navigate. 

Here is how I added my button. I clicked Add and chose the button style I liked.

I changed the color of the button, text, and font to match the style of the page.

Once the button was designed the way I wanted it, I had to make a lightbox for it to trigger. 

I clicked Add and chose Interactions. I picked the style of lightbox that would look best and chose it. I changed the colors and font to go with the style of the page. 

I selected No to the lightbox settings so that the lightbox wouldn’t show up automatically on the page. I only wanted the button to trigger the lightbox.

I clicked the button, chose Change Text & Icon. This window popped up and I clicked Where does the button link to? 

I selected Lightbox and chose the lightbox I had just created specifically with the answer to this question. For the business to add a new question, all they would have to do is duplicate a lightbox and change the text.

They would then duplicate a button and change the text on it. They would change the trigger lightbox to be the new one they just created. 

In creating this project, I learned how to navigate Wix and create something that really can benefit a company. I think that this would be a valuable addition to this bakery when it comes to answering their customers get their questions. It would also help the owners have more time to run their business. . The owners of this little bakery know that they could improve their online customer service. They just haven’t had time to find a good way to manage it, so I hope the creation of this FAQ page will save them time and their customers’ confusion.

We View Modesty All Wrong

Modesty. Everyone thinks about it differently. Some people think of the dumb rules at camp. Some people just don’t want to think about it because it tends to be controversial.  Some people think it’s just common sense, you do it to protect other people or yourself. In part, all of these are true. I know it’s viewed in a million different ways.

I’ve realized, however, that the many views of modesty are fundamentally broken.

How it’s viewed

There are many places that have dress codes and many parents set up ground rules for modesty. They have their reasons for doing so. It helps other people not get distracted, it’s especially handy when you play sports, and it commonly helps with a person’s confidence. 

I know why modesty is good because I’ve seen the other side. 

We are constantly bombarded with society’s ideals. Wear this, highlight this, do that, and you’ll be happy. Society is telling me modesty isn’t important while my family will say otherwise. The average person receives many conflicting messages on this topic. From the general media’s fixation on exposure, to the way people’s bodies and agency are discussed in our communities, to the messages we pick up from childhood, we have all been told various narratives of what is good and right in terms of how we do or don’t clothe ourselves. 

So who’s right? I know people from all extremes. I know people who say you should never show your stomach and always wear long skirts if you’re a girl. Or should never be shirtless if you’re a guy. I know people who say it doesn’t matter. Who cares what other people think when they see you. That’s their problem. I know people who are trying to walk the fine line. Swim shirts, no tank tops, dresses go to the knees at least.

I understand where all these people are coming from. In specific areas, they are all correct. I just know they commonly have a fundamentally wrong reason for choosing to go in a specific direction. 

Why they’re wrong

Have you ever pieced together a puzzle? 

What would happen if you put the wrong piece in it? It would distort the rest of the puzzle. Trying to perfectly finish the puzzle would then be impossible. Isn’t that crazy? You put one piece in wrong and it changed the entire puzzle. Every other puzzle piece is trying to do its part but that one, fundamental piece corrupted the entire thing. That one piece is so important to the puzzle. Once you put it in the right place, then you can finally complete the rest of the puzzle.

A fundamental reason people dress modestly is for the opposite gender. They don’t want to cause other people to think things they shouldn’t. 

There are two notable problems with that being your main reason. 

  1. With that logic, when the opposite gender isn’t around, you can wear whatever you want. Why is this a problem? The same gender can get distracted, too.
  2. When someone thinks something they shouldn’t, it’s partly their choice to confide in those thoughts. They have the power to stop. Yes, you could help them out by being modest. But some people are just going to think those things. Even if you’re wearing a snowsuit. 

Modesty has a lot to do with someone’s personality. In the same way that fashion says a lot about you. Shy people tend to wear clothes that don’t draw much attention. Where it can be the opposite for outgoing people. 

I’ve been to a camp where they had a page of things you couldn’t wear. They required girls to wear a one-piece swimsuit. I had swim shorts and a rash guard. I believe that those would be more modest (and more comfortable). Even though it’s not a one-piece. I also know of some immodest one-pieces. What if someone showed up in something like that? 

Technically, they are following the rules. Anywhere with a dress code has good intentions. The problem is that if a person acts immodest, there are no amount of rules that will cover up their personality. They’ll find ways around the rules. There are also people who are modest, but the rules actually make it harder for them to be. 

How it should be viewed

I’ve never dressed the way I do to help guys. I’ve never done it because that’s what my mom made me do. 

I dress out of respect for myself.

God made me and I’ve always made modest choices based on self-respect. That respect makes me want to honor God, my parents, myself, and others. When you respect yourself, that’s when you have a modest character, which goes far beyond the clothes you wear. 

Respect is what puts that fundamental puzzle piece in the correct spot. Once you respect yourself and dress in a way that displays that respect, all the other things will happen as well. Respect for yourself goes a lot farther than just what you wear. It affects the choices you make. The people you spend your time around. If someone is treating you poorly, respect yourself and get out of that relationship. If you have self-respect, you’ll want to make decisions that will better yourself and others. 

Self-respect is a piece of the puzzle that changes everything. Modesty is one of the things that it changes. Do you respect yourself? Do you give yourself healthy boundaries and think carefully about decisions that could affect your future? Do you have people you respect that respect you?

Tips For How To Work With Difficult Co-Workers

We’ve all dealt with at least one of these people:

  • You are trying hard to help achieve a goal and they’re disengaged from the team. 
  • A project requires everyone to work together and they aren’t trustworthy to do their part. 
  •  Someone who seems to cause drama wherever they go. 

These people are everywhere. We can be their friend or initiate small talk when we run into them at the bank. Simply being around these people can be hard enough. Working with them can be ten times harder. 

People don’t change when they are told their flaws. Bettering yourself is an action you have to take. Before you go calling out someone’s issues, they have to respect you and have a desire to improve. If they don’t have either, action will certainly not be taken. How do you work with someone who is difficult whether they know about it or not? Whether they are working on improving or not?

Every situation is different but there are key actions that can be taken to improve the situation. 

They aren’t motivated

In 2018, I went on a mission trip to Texas with my youth group. We spent a week helping a neighborhood recover from Hurricane Harvey. What happened to them was tragic. They had suddenly lost their homes and livelihoods. They paid a contractor who had offered to build them new homes. After building the framework, he took their money and abandoned them. TEAMeffort heard about this and took action.

We were one of the many groups that volunteered to go down and assist with finishing the houses. There was a lot to do and I got right to work. The majority of the people there felt this way. 

There were a couple of people who were physically able to help but chose to sit around for a lot of the time. They didn’t carry their weight or even look like they wanted to try. 

How do you work with people like that? On this trip, I chose one of the more popular ways. 

I Ignored them.

This works pretty well if you don’t want someone to bring down your motivation. This works if you have enough people that their help isn’t necessary. This is definitely not a great way to work with them. Why? You aren’t working with them at all!

The best way to go about a situation like this is to clearly lay out what is desired from the person. You need to layout your expectations. Remind the person why they need to put these tasks in high priority. Casually tell them how this will positively affect them and others. 

As humans, we love when positive goals are achieved. The route to get there is where we go south. When a person knows what steps need to be taken, they are more likely to take them. 

They aren’t responsible

I’ve gone to 5-day club training for three years now. This training is a branch of Child Evangelism Fellowship. It is a two-week intense training where I learned and memorized the curriculum that we would teach children. In this, I had to work closely with many different kinds of people. I would have to form trust with people I had never worked with previously. It was especially difficult when someone would not be worthy of that trust. 

I remember being a team leader to some teens who were new to the program. I relied on them to get their work done so that I could pass them as 5-day club teachers. One teen, in particular, tested that trust more than once. 

He’d push his work off until the last minute then be “ready to test” after reading through the story twice. He caused me a lot of stress. His storytelling would be great but he just didn’t know the story!

After observing him, I figured out that he simply wasn’t responsible. My goal was to figure out what would motivate him to do his part for the team responsibly. 

I started giving him hard deadlines and requirements for what I needed from him. He had to have read through the story 5 times before lunch. If he wanted to do a certain fun activity, he had to pass his practicum first. This may sound like giving boundaries to a child but the same rules apply for someone who isn’t responsible.

You need to give them a push of some kind. You don’t have to be over their shoulder and hold their hand through every task. Everyone who is irresponsible has the ability to be responsible. Give them the time crunch and lay the pressure on them. Tell them how urgent this project is and why it needs to be done. Help them to understand what is at stake and what this project will improve. I remember someone telling me this once and I believe it truly does apply to situations like this. If a truck is hurtling towards someone, they won’t run until they see it coming.

They cause tension

In the fall, I’ve worked for a local apple orchard. They have turned into an agricultural tourist place bursting to the seams with customers. I’ve worked at many different elements of this business, the most notable one being one of the food venues that serve ice cream sundaes and cookies. Yes, it always smelled amazing. 

I worked with the majority of the same people whenever I was there. They all did their part to make our venue run smoothly. They all did the work, but there was a problem.

The tension was high. 

Everyone acts differently under pressure but one girl was especially rough. Her tone was commonly degrading and she asked busy people to do something she could do herself. It was frustrating. Whenever she’d leave, everyone sighed with relief. After a long day, I was always burnt out. Not just because of the work, but with how this girl brought our team down. 

For the longest time, I just hoped it would get better on its own. Long day after long day and it wasn’t getting better. Finally, the rest of the team stopped taking what she said personally. You have to identify the person’s intentions. Do they mean to be rude or are they just having a rough day? Is pressure just hard for them to handle? 

We figured out that she had a harder time in stressful situations. We stopped taking her rudeness personally and to know our boundaries when she wanted us to do something for her. Some people are just going to be hard. Not letting it affect you and giving yourself boundaries can help you to work with that person. Don’t let them stress you out. Allowing a person to get to you is what will guarantee your team’s dysfunction. 

So, what are some of the biggest takeaways from all of this? What is a good practice when it comes to working with people? Whether they are difficult or not?

Always layout your expectations. When people know what is expected of them, they will have a better understanding of how to accomplish those things.

Make boundaries for yourself. There is such a thing as trying too hard and giving too much. Test your boundaries and identify them. Help others but don’t lose yourself in the process. Don’t carry someone else’s burden. Help them carry it by being there for them. Listen to them and be their friend. Many people don’t understand the difference. When you have clear boundaries, you and your relationships (both professional and personal) will improve.


People can be difficult. Working with some of them isn’t something you can avoid. Take every challenge on with a smile. Life is too short to let someone push your buttons. Whoever invented those button caps was a genius.

How I Overcame Being Overwhelmed

Overwhelm. To submerge. To overpower

When I was a little girl I was scared of having too many blankets in my bed. What if they swallowed me up and I couldn’t get out? We all know what it feels like to be swamped. We have all had a time where you can’t see the light of day. 

We all have a fear of being trapped. Physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally imprisoned. Have you ever thought about why this is the case? We like our freedom. We need our freedom to fully be ourselves. If you met someone for the first time while they were stuck in quicksand, I guarantee they aren’t quite acting themselves. 

This is the same in various areas of life. Depression, an abusive relationship, spiritual or mental fog and so much more. Whether it’s physical or not, being trapped is never something you want. The unknown is not a very comfortable place. We sometimes return to being trapped out of the need to be somewhere we know. We aren’t truly ourselves but we are willing to give up our freedom to be “safe”.

This is why being overwhelmed is a larger problem than people let on. 

An overwhelmed human is rarely productive. I have often allowed myself to be overwhelmed. When the path ahead is foggy, it’s easier to curl up in a ball and think about how trapped you feel. It’s harder to actually take the steps into the fog. 

The state of being overwhelmed is not a desirable state. We all wish to work toward a goal. We desire to be unstuck.

How do you overcome being overwhelmed? Here are the steps I have learned to take whenever I am overwhelmed:

Ask yourself why

I’ve gone to an intense Vacation Bible School type of teacher training called Christian Youth In Action. When you are there, you have a lot on your plate. People want to help you in every way they can but a lot is on your shoulders. I remember ending a study session one afternoon and staying longer while the rest of my team left for break. I attempted to study further but ended up bursting into tears. 

The only way I can explain my state of being overwhelmed is fog. You can’t get yourself to do anything productive. You can only think of all that you need to do. You break down at the fact that you are incapable of completing any of it. 

I could barely focus for the rest of the day. I got nothing done. I was just floating around and just wanted the day to end. I was hoping that the next day would be better. Looking back, I see a problem with how I dealt with being overwhelmed. I just beat myself up for being overwhelmed. I attempted to ignore the fact that I was overwhelmed. 

I never asked why I was overwhelmed. A crucial part of solving a problem is identifying the problem. If I had asked why, I would have found out that my confusion over how to best memorize was the reason for my fog. It wasn’t the amount of work or pressure. Understanding why you are overwhelmed is a key to overcoming it. 

Once you figure out exactly what is causing you to feel overwhelmed, then you can work towards defeating it. Tackle the source rather than the symptoms. 

How can you overcome it?

You’ve figured out what is stressing you out. Now what? How have I learned to overcome this obstacle? It took being the most overwhelmed I have ever been with a pinch of the drive to push through it. 

In January of 2021, I started this program called Praxis. It’s a rigorous career development program that I’m going through. They do an incredible job at walking you through the steps and breaking down how to get things done. 

Nonetheless, I still manage to get overwhelmed. 

My go-getter mindset has been determined to figure out how to deal with the fog. After a particularly slow day (due to me procrastinating and allowing myself to be easily distracted), I wondered why I was procrastinating. I was overwhelmed. This is when I figured it out. After dealing with it for so long, I have finally found out how to strategically destroy the feeling of being stuck. 

  1. After identifying the things that are overwhelming you, you need to lay them out for yourself. Write them down on a list. Give yourself an outlet so the task isn’t just bouncing around in your head.
  2. Write down the steps you need to take to complete that task. A task is intimidating you but what about it? Is it the part you don’t quite understand? The step with the most risk?
  3. Trust yourself and go for it. Give yourself a deadline or someone to keep you accountable.

Now, I may need to further explain that last point. Going back to my fog example, the unknown is what keeps us from moving forward. Except, it’s not the only thing. 

We keep ourselves from moving forward. We allow ourselves to be scared and intimidated by the unknown because we don’t trust ourselves. We don’t trust ourselves to take on the hard things. We want the fruit but we don’t want to put in the work to nourish the tree it grows on.

That’s what I have finally realized and wish to share with you. I know that I am capable of anything I put my mind to. I am the only one who can limit myself. I’m the only one who can allow myself to be stuck. I’m the only one who can get myself to take the steps. Other people can push me in one direction or the other but I am the only one who can choose which path I’ll take. 

Robert Tew once said, “If you are going to trust one person, let it be yourself.”

Trust yourself to get the project done. Trust that you have what it takes to go into the unknown. You know that afterward, it would have all been worth it. Even if you fail at your current project, the job you want to apply for, or that interview you are scared to death of, remember that it will still be worth it. You will never regret trusting yourself to overcome being overwhelmed.

Why Operations Is The Refresh Button In A Business

What if Gmail never refreshed? Social media? Youtube? What would happen?

Every time you checked Gmail, there would be no emails. Every time you checked social media, there would always be the same posts. Every time you checked Youtube, there would be the same videos. 

What’s the problem with that? First of all, it’d be boring! Nobody would scroll for hours, trust me. Other than that, what would be a fundamental issue? What is the problem with everything staying the same? 

Seriously! Think about it! 

Well, let’s think about what it would be like if a business never changed. The Department Of Transportation for example. Nobody likes the DOT. Why? Ask anyone and they’ll tell you horror stories of waiting for hours, frustrated people, and plenty of confusion to go around. Do you know what the DOT’s biggest problem is? Other than the fact that they are literally the saying, “Good enough for government work.” 

They stay the same! They never work to improve their systems, workflow, or anything else! Granted, that is the government’s fault that they don’t do that. They don’t need a positive customer review. There is no drive to improve. I know some elements of the DOT run better than others, but I think we can all agree that getting a license is not a fun experience. The point here is that change is crucial for an actual business to succeed! 

A business needs to try new things and strive to improve! Even in areas that don’t seem to require improvement. 

Fall of 2020, I started working for a local quilt shop. I heard that the owner was overwhelmed by how her system was organized. It caused her a lot of stress and she was looking for someone who was tech-savvy and organized enough to figure out a better system. I volunteered to work for her. I knew nothing about fabric, her system, or the program she used. 

She started teaching me and I soaked it in. As soon as I had a foundation of knowledge, I asked any questions that came to mind. I asked her questions about her products, what their systems were, and about the website platform. I call myself her website manager but I really am her Chief of Operations. 

I’ve designed signs, re-organized fabrics, patterns, kits, and made a cheat sheet to help them know what categories to add a new fabric line to. These are just a couple of projects I have tackled. This is the definition of an operations role, jumping all over the place solving problems and improving systems. 

Operations help businesses grow by working out the kinks. The best businesses I see are ones that are trying new things and working out problems. Operations make changes for the better. Operations are the refresh button.

The Importance Of Being Earnest (At Marketing)

Gwendolyn in The Importance Of Being Earnest once said, “My ideal has always been to love someone of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.” I don’t blame her. Personally, I wouldn’t pass up a great guy just because his name isn’t Ernest. What does Earnest mean and why would a name like Ernest inspire confidence? Earnest means to show sincere and intense conviction. Marketing needs to be executed in earnest. 

I live in a small community surrounded by other small communities. I’ve watched small businesses explode and others… not so much. I’ve seen businesses drop after the newness wears off. I’ve seen businesses continue to exceed expectations long after they opened. 

The contrast between some small businesses succeeding while others fail makes you wonder: What is the key to a business’s longevity? I set out to tackle that question by taking a deeper look into small businesses in my town.

2020 was a rough year. Despite that, I’ve seen so many small businesses succeed first-hand. 

One of our neighboring towns had a market this summer. A couple of vendors along one road turned into over 40 vendors all over a park! They built this market from the ground up — in the middle of a pandemic! It’s amazing what two ladies and a desire to help out other small homemade businesses can do. 

May be an image of 2 people, people standing, outerwear and christmas tree

In the next town over, a couple with a photography business bought the building next door and turned it into a bakery. They are a major hit. People will travel 40 minutes to get their donuts. I asked the owners if they ever anticipated doing this well and being met with this much support. They can’t believe it’s real. Here they are after a mind-blowing opening day.

Another couple of ladies love to bake so they started a Shopee. Whoever goes there, raves about their food to everyone.

I’ve worked at an agricultural tourism orchard. They started out with only apples and a couple of small buildings and are now blowing up. Trust me, you figure that out fast when you can’t find a place to park and the kettle corn stand can barely hold its own.

In contrast, there is a little one-room grocery in my town. They opened spring of 2020 and have already required a fundraiser. A fitness center is doing solid along with another small grocery. The fitness center is gaining members slowly while the grocery is barely hanging on due to incoming chain stores. They aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s what they aren’t doing that could change everything.

What could these small businesses do to grow and fight competition? What did the previous businesses do that has caused them to skyrocket? 

Creating value is necessary for any business. If nobody wants your product, you are never going to sell it. When it comes to small businesses, connecting with people and being good at sales is a must. What gets them to the next level? This is when the importance of marketing makes its presence known. 

All the small businesses I know of that are doing incredibly well are marketing. They are getting in the paper, in the news, and most notably on social media. The businesses that aren’t doing those things are either growing really slow or struggling. 

Picture this, you are going about your day and scrolling through social media. Suddenly, you see a post about a new flavor of donuts that the small local bakery is selling for this week only. Of course, you are now hungry for a donut and you want to go to get one. Say you are busy and can’t go get a donut right now. By marketing, that business just reminded you that they exist. 

In the small and large business world, you could have a groundbreaking product. What makes or breaks your chances of making sales, is whether or not customers who would buy from you, know about you. 

You could advertise your miracle anti-aging cream to a middle school but you aren’t gonna make many sales. If one of these small businesses advertised to a whole different state, they wouldn’t do so well. They go hard on advertising and updating the people who will buy from them. 

Notice how I said advertising and updating? The best businesses are always changing. Trying new things to get their customers interested. If a bakery never made a different product, would you go? Maybe to have a flavor you have already tried. These businesses are branching out and trying new things. Would you like to know a secret?

Make sure nobody is looking over your shoulder. I’m serious! 

Okay. The secret is: People don’t like to miss out. Crazy, isn’t it? For the marketing world, it is an important reality. Remember when I told you to imagine scrolling through social media and seeing a post about the new donut flavor? What if it was a post about the same donut flavor you’ve seen many times? Are you just as interested in going to the bakery? Yes, they reminded you that they exist. That is a very important first step. The step that takes a business even further is change

Getting the brand out there and getting people interested is the difference between a good company and a great one. Never get stuck doing the same thing. That’s old school. Running a business is not easy. There are a million different things you can do to improve it. A foundational principle is marketing. Every successful business understands the importance of being earnest with their marketing.

The Real Goal Of The Sales Role

I come from a fairly cheap family. We get what we need and that’s it. My parents bought a car once at the dealership and have not returned since. We’ll get a used car from our neighbor. Why? Saving money is a large part, but what was the key factor? Well, it’s the same motive that many other people have acquired.

They avoid car dealerships. Repel the idea of answering a phone call from an unknown number. Dread buying insurance. What do all of these examples have in common? 

Sales Representatives. 

When you think of a car dealership, you think of a guy in a fancy suit ready to mislead you into buying a car you can barely afford. When you think of buying insurance, you think of being bombarded with different packages that you don’t fully understand. When you think of answering an unknown call, you dread the idea that the person on the other end is going to try to sell you something you don’t need. (Or they’ve been trying to contact you about your car’s extended warranty). In the past, my family has even had various salesmen come to our door selling frozen goods, vacuum cleaners, and math curricula. 

All this to say, sales tends to get a bad rap. Salespeople are known for trying to get you with what looks like a deal but isn’t. The stereotypical salesman is untrustworthy, overbearing, and just plain annoying. 

This isn’t always (and definitely shouldn’t be) the case. When it does happen, it turns people off big time. There is a key to Sales that many companies don’t exercise. Yes, car dealerships do manage to sell cars with cheesy salesmen. I’m not saying that their practices don’t work. What I am saying is that sales can be done in a way that leaves a lasting impression on the buyer that is positive. 

My family finally renovated our outdoor space. It needed something and we have always wanted a pool. We visited a local pool vendor and a man asked us questions about our area, answered any questions we had, and made recommendations. It was a great experience. Why? What did he do that separated him from the stereotypical salesman? Jeffrey Gitomer (King of Sales) once said, “People don’t like to be sold to — but they love to buy.” This pool salesman wasn’t trying to sell us something. He was trying to help us. He was friendly, down to earth, and wasn’t afraid to tell us downsides. He recommended a solution for us after asking questions and listening to our answers. He clearly wanted to help us find a solution and use all of his knowledge to do so. 

That sort of experience is what makes sales have a positive lasting impression on a customer. When you connect with a customer on a human level, they don’t feel like they are being sold to. Instead of having a solution shoved into their face, a solution is being hand selected according to their needs. A salesperson can be honest about imperfections and willing to go out of their way to help a customer solve their problem. The customer is left with a positive impression of the company, whether they bought the product or not. You could say, “But… the main reason for sales is selling stuff, right?” You’re right. That is the main reason the sales role exists. Regardless, when that’s your main goal, you will have frustrated customers. Using your product to help people should be the goal. If that is your goal, you are accomplishing a lot more for your company than just selling your product.