Are you in love with your business partner?  Not just for their love of numbers, the company you have created together, or their customer service skills, but their cute little nose, their manly smell or the way they make your knees go weak with a passionate kiss?

Whoa, back up.  Passionate kiss?  Can entrepreneurs do that sort of thing?  

They can and they do!  Even though the U.S. Census Bureau does not provide exact data on the number of businesses own by couples, they do show that approximately 3 million businesses are owned equally by men and women, estimating that the vast majority of these are businesses owned by an “entrepreneurial couple”. It would wrong of us to assume that none of these couples are romantically involved. Out of 3 million…that sure is a lot of lovin’ in the office. 

In addition, the phenomenon occurs even more regularly when applied to small businesses with less than 10 employees.  Apparently when people live together, laugh together and decide to build a life together, the imagined life of working side by side through the long hours required of business ownership is a logical next step.  And it is.  They trust each other, they enjoy being together and they are often passionate about the same things.  These couples jump into the business with all of the passion that got them into bed the first time and it is a beautiful, passionate journey; most of the time.

To ensure it is a passionate and wonderful journey all of the time, here are 5 things to consider:

1.  Take a break.  Not from the business, but from each other.  Go for a walk, go on vacation and go out with friends…alone.  You simply have to have moments apart so you have something to talk about when you come back together.  No one wants to be the boring folks ignoring each other over dinner and no one wants to be the bickering couple either.  Spending time in separate locations keeps you both interesting and able to be just a little bit nicer when you are together.

2.  Take care of the couple first.  Someday the kids will be gone, the business will be gone and you will be left staring at the person you decided to build a life with.  Don’t wake up and wonder how you ended up in bed with a stranger.  Be romantic.  Be spontaneous.  Be a flirt.  Step away from everything but each other once in a while.  You deserve it.

3. Set clear goals.  There is nothing worse than working side by side hour after hour only to realize you were both going in different directions.  Knowing where you are going, when you want to get there and who is doing which tasks is essential.  Deciding your direction now, when everyone is calm, is a better plan than waiting till you hit a fork in the road; because that fork could very well be used to stab someone in the leg.

4.  Hire help.  Someone out there likes to clean toilets and I bet it is neither of you.  Someone also knows how to fix a computer, balance the books, and run social media.  Let them.  Make a list of everything that needs to be done- and what has to be done by you - then farm out the rest.  The trick is to use the time you are not doing menial tasks to earn money to pay for the people doing those tasks or to take care of the couple as talked about in point two.

5.  Don’t be the boss.  You can kiss your entrepreneurial partner, but you probably don’t want to kiss the boss.  The boss is a Big Ol’ Stinking Slob.  They think they are always right, use volume and intimidation instead of effective communication and would rather watch others work than participate in work.  If you are acting like the boss and your partner doesn’t like it you can be fired.  That firing usually means the kids and the house are divided and happily ever after is not going to be the end of your story.  Be kind.  Be helpful.  Be a partner.  Don’t be a stinker: don’t be a boss.

Bonus Point: You need other people.  And you have to let them into this crazy project you are doing together.  Enlist the help of a coach, an accountant, a lawyer and probably a therapist (better early on than when it is too late!).  Well-meaning friends and family do not know what you are going through, and truth be told, you probably don’t either.  There are people out there who do, and people who can help you lay out a game plan that will keep you sane, prosperous and most importantly, together.  Let them. 

Now go kiss your big ol bundle of entrepreneurial passion- and don’t stop till their knees go weak.  But, do it fast, you have work to do.
 
 
Let’s face it; everyone has a few personality traits that can be a bit of a…pain in the neck. But for the most part, they’re harmful. So you don’t like it when your green beans touch your pork-chop, or you tend to talk a little too long when you’re on the phone, it’s probably not going to be the downfall of your business or the unraveling of your family. The following personality traits, however, are going to cause some serious difficulties in your life, and it’s recommended that you do something to make some changes, stat.

1.) You focus on the negative. No one wants to be around a Debbie Downer, but have you ever tried working for one? Don’t defend yourself by saying, “Well there’s always room for improvement.” Sometimes a job well done is just a job well done, and it needs to be left at that. Could your employee have turned in that report a day sooner? Would you have done anything with it if it had been turned in a day sooner? No? Then let it go. No one will want to work for you if nothing they do is ever good enough. 

2.) You misplace your frustrations. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, but that doesn’t mean you are allowed to scream at your employees when you are really still upset about your alarm not going off this morning. Or maybe you yell at your husband during your late night phone call when in reality you just haven’t seen him in a month and you miss him. If you’re upset about something, address it. Don’t let your receptionist or your spouse take the brunt of your bad mood.

3.) You’re apathetic. An individual who is apathetic appears to not care. You may care a great deal about the goings on in your daily life, but you have to act like it for others to get it. An example would be if a costly mistake occurs and you say, “Oh well, let’s not do it again.” A caring person would want to determine why the mistake was made and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Remember, if you don’t care about the work being done, why would anyone else?

4.) You nag. A nagging personality is one of the most draining personalities to be around, and why? Because you are never fully alone when you are with a nagger. Everything you do is under constant scrutiny. Are you going to turn that in on time? Are you doing that right? Will they like it? Are you following all the directions? Exhausting, isn’t it? So stop. When you ask someone to do something, let them do it. Their process for completing a task is fully their own; you don’t have a say. Assign a task and then wait until either the task is complete or the deadline arrives before you make your critiques.

5.) You don’t listen. Knowing how to really listen (and I mean really listen, not just sit there quietly waiting for the other person to finish so you can say whatever it is you want to say), is one of the most invaluable traits there is. The fact is, you are not always right and you do not know everything. If you need to make a conscious effort to stop talking, then do it.

The problem with most of these personality traits is that the people that have them don’t realize they have them. Take a second to really examine yourself, every day, to make sure you’re not falling into one of these traps. The most successful teams are happy teams, and you want a happy, successful team!

 
 
It seems like a cheesy topic, I know, but the fact is many people today still struggle with feeling confident with their actions. Your personal opinion of yourself holds an incredible amount of weight. After all, if perception is reality, low self-confidence is equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. 

So instead of continuously rooting against yourself, apply a few of these tips and see what it would be like to feel unstoppable

1.) Dress the part. Of course no one should judge a book by its cover, and clothes certainly do not make the man, but there is a definite shift that happens when you see yourself for the first time in a striking suit or gorgeous dress. The feeling of “Wow, I look really good” creates a sense of surprise in the mind, allowing room to think to yourself, “I wonder what else I’ve been holding back.” 

Plus, your reactions to how people treat you are a huge part of your identity. Changing your clothes changes these reactions. If you want to command respect, you first have to dress like you deserve it. 

2.) Work out. Contrary to your probable initial snap judgement, this has nothing to do with looks (although it certainly doesn’t hurt). Pushing yourself physically is the easiest way to retrain your brain to combat negative self-talk. You’ve run 3 miles and think you can’t take another step? Take another step. There, you’ve already proven that you can do more than you think

Furthermore, naturally puts you in a better mood. Did you know the feeling of finishing a difficult workout is often listed as better than the feeling provided by anti-depressants? It’s true. So get off the couch and go for a walk, that little boost in your mood will do wonders for your self-confidence.

3.) Do something for youSince we just discussed a few benefits of exercise, I’ll list one more; it’s good for you. Doing things for you, like engaging in regular exercise, eating healthy or taking a bubble bath once in a while show that you value yourself enough to take care of yourself. 

4.) Take risks. One definition of low self-confidence is always believing you’ll fail at everything you attempt, which can obviously make it pretty difficult to step out on a limb once in a while. However, this is exactly why it is critical to take risks; because you aren’t going to fail every time. Is there a position at your company you’ve been eyeing but are afraid you’d never get? Apply anyway! Who knows, you might just get the job, and it’s little moments like this that prove that no, in fact, you won’t always fail. 

5.) Understand reality. Low self-confidence has a way of warping reality. If you aren’t getting along with one person, you may exaggerate it to feel that no one likes you. In addition, the idea that people are laughing at you or that someone else is able to do the job better than you are both examples of a warped reality.  

Instead of letting yourself get carried away, stop, breathe and think. Are people really laughing at you? No! The reality is that they've got their own problems to deal with. There is no point in terrifying yourself over something that, realistically, won’t even happen! 
 
 
Fact: you need teamwork. In order for any organization (a place of business, your family, a charity, etc.) to run successfully, its members need to understand the concept of effective teamwork.

And therein appears the essential word: effective. It’s one thing to say you are running a team, but it’s quite another to run that team effectively. Here are a few ways to make sure your team is truly living up to its potential.

1.) Have clearly defined goals. In order to get the most out of your team, you need to have a clearly defined goal that you are working toward as a group. In addition, it’s important to be specific. “Increase efficiency” sounds good, but it’s a horrible goal because it could mean anything. “Increase the amount work orders processed between 3:00 and 5:00 pm” on the other hand, lets everyone know exactly what they are working toward and what will be considered a success. If they found a way to increase the amount of work orders processed between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning, for example, it would be increasing efficiency, but not in the specific way you might want it to be increased. 

2.) Break up the work. Delegating one specific task to one person and another specific task to another person lessons the burden of the problem. It takes a huge, intimidating obstacle and turns it into many small, manageable obstacles. Plus, it gives each person a part of the solution that they can be accountable for.

3.) Hold frequent meetings to review progress. If a specific person is unaware of the progress being made by other members of the group, they can start to feel like they are doing all the work, even though they are still in charge of a single component. Having meetings to discuss progress gives team members a chance to see the progress of the issue as a whole. 

Furthermore, frequent meetings allows the team to see what is working and what is not, and provides a chance for people to offer valuable input. 

4.) Do the little things. Like any job, working on one thing for a long period of time can be grueling, so try to lighten the mood occasionally. Think you aren’t there to bring your employees donuts and juice when they should be happy they simply have a job? Fair enough, but this isn’t an article about how to spoil your employees, it’s an article about how to get the most out of your team. Little things go a long way, so suck it up and bring in some muffins once in a while. 

5.) Celebrate successes publicly. Did your team accomplish the goal? Let everyone know! Announce it in the company newsletter and list the team members that made it possible. Have a company celebratory pot luck and let participating team members wear matching T-shirts to stand out. When the team gets to take credit for the solution, it makes them more eager to solve other problems, and when team members are publicly praised for their work, it makes other members of the company eager to participate in solving the next company issue. 

 
 
Burnout can be difficult to spot if you’re already in it. After all, if you’re anything like me, running yourself into the ground because such a natural habit that you don’t even notice how long it’s been since you’ve last had a break. Go ahead and think about it for a second…when is the last time you’ve really taken some time for yourself?

If the answer is “I can’t remember” or “This morning as I was folding my kids’ laundry and talking my sister through her difficult divorce…” this article is for you.

So what exactly are a few symptoms of burnout? A constant feeling of exhaustion, a general feeling of just not caring anymore, a feeling of not being appreciated or the idea that every, single day is a bad day. Well here are a few traps that lead to burnout and how you can be ready to dig yourself out should you fall into one of them. 

1.) Constantly comparing yourself to others. Let’s get this one out of the way right away. You have certain strengths and you have certain weaknesses. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed and frazzled with the stresses of being a new mother, don’t compare yourself to the mother with 6 kids. She probably seems a little more put together because she’s figured out how to do this. She’s been doing it for 10 years while you’ve been doing it for 10 days. You can learn from her, but don’t compare yourself to her.

The same example can be used in the workplace. Your office buddy closed three sales this week and you haven’t made one all month? Calm down, and take a look at the situation. Your office buddy has been doing this for years and you just started last month. You will get there.  

2.) Poor planning or time management. I have a friend who always complained that she had no time. She would start running errands at the beginning of the day, and would never be done by the end of the day. One day, before she started her errands, another friend of mine suggested she do them in a different order. Saved her 3 hours.

Now I’m sure this seems like a simple case of common sense, but the truth is many of us are going about our daily activities with this same sense of mindlessness. Prioritizing your day’s activities can go a long way towards being able to actually relax in the evening. 

3.) Saying “Yes” to everything. It can be tough to say “no”, especially when the word is associated with someone who isn’t working hard. It’s generally thought that if your boss asks you to take on another assignment, you say “yes” no matter what. But if taking on a new assignment means your current projects are going to suffer, is the trade-off worth it?

In addition, saying “yes” to everyone, all the time, dramatically increases the chance that you’ll be taken advantage of. Eventually, people will just start assuming you’ll say “yes” before you’ve even answered them. Saying “no” once in a while reminds them that you do, in fact, have a choice in the matter. And yes, as much as you may sometimes think you don’t, you do always have a choice. 

 
 
I’m sure we’ve all heard plenty of inspirational quotes, and we’ve probably got a short list of a few that we consider seriously significant. But every once in a while (read: now, while you’re reading this article for the first time), a collection of quotes comes along that is more than just quirky banter. These quotes are keepers; meaning they are actually much more useful when applied to your daily lives than when applied to paper.

1.) "It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

As important as this quote is, its principal may be one of the most overlooked. Working together is essential for progress. Businesses aren’t run by a single individual; they’re run as a team, and the most successful businesses are due to successful collaboration within that team. The more ideas you have floating around, the more options you have to choose from.

2.) "Politeness is the poison of collaboration." - Edwin Land

Collaboration require honesty, and politeness is often a nice way of being dishonest. If you don’t like an idea, speak up, and explain your reasoning. The more you hold things in, the more you are robbing the group of useful feedback.

3.) "The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other." - Thomas Stallkamp
It can be easy to move focus of a meeting to the individuals instead of a problem itself. It doesn’t matter who says what idea, or who has the biggest problem with a specific policy; if it’s one person’s problem it’s everyone’s problem.

4.) "We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some are bright, some have weird names, but we have to learn to live in the same box." - Anonymous

You do not always get to choose the people you will be collaborating with, but you still must learn to work together as a team. But don’t look at it in a bad way; for all you know that annoyingly bright crayon that sits in the office across from you could have some fantastic ideas.

5.) "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." - Ryunosuke Satoro

Think of this as a pointillism painting with each individual, uniquely different dot representing a part of the picture. The picture itself wouldn’t come together without all the individual dots. The reason there is a picture at all is because of a very specific combination of different point of color.

6.) "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller

In addition to the previous quote, just think of all the things we can do better together! One person protesting on the street looks like a crazy person, but 50 or 100 or 1000 people protesting the exact same thing in the same place creates a sense of organization and purpose. It’s the reason petitions and boycotts so often see results. Working together gets a message across.

7.) "Few things in life are less efficient than a group of people trying to write a sentence. The advantage of this method is that you end up with something for which you will not be personally blamed." - Scott Adams

People need ownership. They need to be able to tackle something with a sense of responsibility. Delegation is incredibly important when collaborating. Instead of assigning one large task to a group, consider breaking it up into smaller tasks that will be assigned to the individuals in the group.

8.) "Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part." - Casey Stengel

Sometimes a team’s chemistry is more important than the actual skills of the team members. Since this quote is in reference to baseball, I’m going to stay on that topic. The teams that make it to the post-season are not always the teams with the best players, they’re the teams that have figured out how to win with what they got. There is no room for egos in collaboration.

9.) "The purpose of life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is." - Gerhard Gschwandtner

Before the task of collaborating can even begin, it’s important to have a common goal in mind. Without it, everyone is going to be running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off! Identify the task everyone needs to be working towards, delegate, and begin problem solving. 

 
 
We all want to live up to our full potential, but as the saying goes, “The path to success is often under construction.” And it’s true; our path to reach our goals is most definitely going to be strewn with obstacles that we are going to have to overcome. We know this. We’re ready for this. But what happens when the obstacles begin multiplying? And we are the cause of it?

Believe it or not, many of your hindrances may be due to your own behavior or habits. So before we start stressing over how we are going to solve the problems that are already there, let’s take a look at three things that might be creating new ones right under your nose.

1.) You don’t plan. Not everyone is a planner, and often what we do plan tends to be what we enjoy. Personally, I love to cook, so planning meals for the week is a way of relaxing. Planning my workouts for the week, however, is a different story altogether.

The fact is you have to plan. Planning gives you a chance to see what obstacles might come your way, giving you time to think of possible solutions now, while you’re calm and clear-headed. It also gives you the opportunity to break a larger goal into smaller goals, lessening the weight of the overall task at hand. And if you don’t even know where to start, consider Canvas Creek. Strategic planning is one of the things we specialize in!

2.) You don’t make decisions. Making a decision sounds easy enough, but the truth is it can be downright paralyzing. The error many people make is seeing the two options in terms of “right and wrong” or “good and bad”. This creates difficulty because, most likely, there isn’t a bad decision, the two are just different. Instead, think of it as two positives. One option may be better than the other, but they are both possible solutions, and neither one is going to be perfect.

For example, if two roads lead to the same place, and one road has a pothole, does it really matter which road you take? Sure if you take the pothole road you might take a little longer, but is the difference in time really going to matter in the end? Probably not. Make a decision, stick to it and move on.

3.) You don’t delegate. Being able to delegate is essential. You can’t possible do everything (okay maybe you can, but you’re going to run yourself ragged), so you have learn how to lighten the load a little bit.

Take this as an example: one of the best rules in business is to surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses. Let’s take a look at a baseball coach. Maybe he is extremely skilled at teaching hitting mechanics but has a weak spot when it comes to teaching pitching mechanics; that’s why he would hire a pitching coach. It’s not because he isn’t knowledgeable about pitching, there is just someone else out there that is more knowledgeable, and delegating the pitching workouts to someone else frees up more time for him to work with the hitters. In the end, everyone benefits from having a pitching coach as part of the staff.  

 
 
Starting a business is tough, and keeping a business going can be tougher still. Not only are you in charge of everything, but you are also responsible for everything, which can feel like quite a burden. Don’t worry though; it’s all going to be all right. All you have to do is make yourself into the best businessperson you can, preparing yourself for dealing with the trials and tribulations that come with being your own boss. Here are three Essentials:

1.) Have a clear set of goals and values. Knowing what you want is essential of any business plan, but understand what you are willing to do to get there is an entirely different story. The area of business ethics seems to be quite an unspoken “guideline” to many companies, but the truth is it’s a component of doing business that’s extremely paramount.

Take my friend, for example, who runs an ice cream truck. All of her ice cream product comes from Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream, a locally owned and managed business. If she were to buy her product from Costco or Walmart, she could absolutely get it for a lower price (thereby increasing her profit ratio), but the quality just wouldn’t be the same. It’s worth it to her to serve only the best ice cream available, which has kept her customers coming back year after year.

Before you go into business, make sure you know where your values lie. That way, when a decision comes up that needs an immediate answer; you won’t have to waste valuable time deciding between the right option and the option that doesn’t mold with your business values.

2.) Communicate often and clearly. Any group of people, whether it’s a business, a family or just a close-knit group of friends cannot function properly without effective communication. That means make sure your clients and employees have a clear understanding of everything that is going on and everything that is required of them. Give customers frequent updates (when their product is set to arrive, how that architectural drawing they hired you to do is coming along), and give employees clear-cut instructions.

And don’t forget the most important part of effective communication: listening. It’s vital that you are listening to your customer’s wants and needs and your employee’s concerns and ideas. A successful business is an evolving business, and the best way to make sure you’re an evolving business is to have an open line of communication.

3.) Nip problems in the bud. It’s incredibly important to catch problems as they arise. Have there been some issues with your product arriving on time? Sit down and figure out if a different shipping schedule needs to be put into place. Is there an employee with a bad attitude? Bring them into your office and take care of it. Maybe they are going through a difficult time at home, or maybe there has just been a misunderstanding that needs to be straightened out. Either way, it’s important to make sure small problems don’t turn into larger, more significant (and more damaging) problems. 

What tips do you have for running a successful business
 
 
In today’s fast-paced business world, effective communication is everything. Without it, things can fall apart in a heartbeat. Combine that with the stress of today’s economy, where many employees are terrified of losing their jobs, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. So here are a few ways to ensure effective communication is taking place in your place of business.

1.) Listen. Yes, this means you are going to have to stop interrupting. By far the most important part of effective communication is listening to the other person. So many people are already forming ideas in their heads of what they want to say in return before the first person is done talking that they are missing out on important information. Give the speaker your undivided attention; it will be easier to make an informed decision when you have all the information anyway. 

2.) Have some perspective. This tip could also be called, “Know your audience.” Understand that it can be particularly difficult for an employee to communicate with their boss. Regardless of how warm or welcoming you attempt to be, you are still going to be at least slightly intimidating to your subordinates. Understanding where they are coming from will help you understand what they are trying to say, even if they are having a hard time getting it out.

3.) Be clear. One of the most important parts of effective communication is the communication part. Nothing is going to be resolved if you can’t actually articulate the information. Rambling for 20 minutes is only going to waste everyone’s time, so before you get started it might help to write down some bullet points, the main concept and a couple examples to help you illustrate your point (keep in mind you don’t need to use every example). Keep the information as short and simple as possible.

4.) Be open to ideas. Communication is a two-way street. If you ask for feedback and then become defensive with each critique, no one is going to want to voice their opinion. Likewise, if you need ideas for a project but laugh at the first idea to come your way, you’re going end up with very few ideas to look over. More so, understand that you don’t know everything. There are going to be ideas and concepts that you aren’t going to come up with. Someone else is going to have a brilliant idea once in a while, and don’t you want that person to be able to come to you when the genius strikes?

5.) Be genuine. No one wants to talk to a robot. Showing that you have a sense of humor and a warm heart will go a long way in making others feel comfortable around you. I’m not advocating an inappropriate amount of self-disclosure here, I’m just saying that it’s important for others to understand that yes, in fact, you are a fellow human being.

What are your tips for effective communication?

 
 
The Art of Collaboration

“I loved making a decision by myself!” is the first thing I heard when Susan stepped away from the completed canvas.   The second thing I heard was from Todd; a loud, unmistakable, “ugh.”  Todd rolled his eyes and then smiled because it was just ‘so Susan.’  Apparently, she had to ask everyone’s opinion before she could settle down and get some work done, get dressed for a party, or decide what to order for supplies.  Todd, on the other hand, didn’t need opinions; he just wanted to get some work done and often went his own way and avoided Susan with her endless neediness. 

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?   There is an art to collaboration and few people are artists, which is why Canvas Creek Team Building actually uses art for their premier event.  When people step to the canvas, 95% of them have no interest in painting, no idea what they are going to do, and no reason to become engaged in the process other than the directive “you will be there at 9am” from their boss.  They come with reluctance, much like Todd when entering a conversation with Susan. 

It’s what happens in the next few minutes that is important.  After beginning the task, participants act in a completely singular fashion until they realize, often with baffling surprise that others could help them complete the task.  They wrestle with this idea for a while then they begin to work together, leaning on each other, supporting each other and finally presenting a completed piece of art they are truly proud of. 

This is exactly what is needed in the development of an energy frontier: the act of recognizing others are available with expertise, complimentary abilities and an eye on collaboration.  Collaboration is not the act of indecision or ram rodding an idea, it is the display of ideas, the collective wisdom of those gathered together and the delightful moment when everything comes together for a win that each person has a stake in and can be proud of.  So, how can collaboration be accomplished?

1. Look at the possibilities-what could be accomplished if you had a bigger team, more players or a different skill set.  

2. Know what you do, and what you offer.

3. Listen to what others do, what they offer.

4. Give up ‘ownership’.  When collaborating, it does not matter who came up with the idea or who will get the credit.  You must know that when everyone participating in the process wins, you also win.  There are few things in this world that are so specific that only you can do them.  Embrace that.  Help others and they will help you.

5. Move; get out of the way.  Collaboration moves fast and it gets things done.  Don’t stand in the way with “it’s not how we do things” or “oh gosh, I don’t know.” Jump in and see what can happen and trust the collective knowledge…or don’t play the game. 

6. Appreciate others.  Share applause.  Know that together you are accomplishing what you could not have done alone, whether a multi- billion dollar company or a start -up, say “Thank you for your help,” and mean it.  You are collaborating and it feels good.

If you and the people you are collaborating with would like a dose of creative juices (a jump start to your collective success), try jumping into Canvas Creek.  Like a splash of cold water it will refresh you, energize you and teach you the art of collaboration.