Photo by John Lester.
To be successful in business, whether you’re a solo freelancer or owner of a business with 100+ employees, you’ll need to navigate change effectively. A key part of this, in my view, is developing systems to streamline certain aspects of your business and free your brain up to do the strategic job of evaluating conditions and making smart decisions. Here’s an excerpt from my book The Small Business Start-Up Kit explaining a bit about my perspective.
As Conditions Change, the Elements of Success Are the Same
While so many aspects of business are subject to relentless change—technology and global economic conditions are two particularly volatile factors—the good news for those just starting a business is that the elements of success remain pretty constant. Businesses that: (1) offer products or services that customers want, (2) do so with efficient operations and savvy marketing, and (3) have solid financial management tend to succeed. Period. Further good news for business newbies is that there are proven ways to achieve these three elements of success, and they don’t need to be complicated or expensive. For example:
When you’re organizing with other folks towards some common goal, the initial group will often come together organically and the group may or may not ever evolve into some formal structure. If it does, you may find yourselves needing to recruit additional board members in order to officially start a nonprofit corporation. Here’s an excerpt from my book Starting & Building a Nonprofit on how to approach this task.
What Makes a Good Board?
Most great boards share some common traits and qualities that enable them to lead their groups creatively and effectively. The members of an ideal board of directors:
- share a passion for and commitment to the nonprofit’s mission
- are willing to roll up their sleeves when necessary to help with the practical work of the nonprofit
- have strong ties to their communities
- are diverse—in age, gender, race, religion, occupation, skills, and background, and
- are willing to support efforts to raise money.
The sections that follow look at these various qualities in a bit more detail.
Passion and Commitment
The very best prospects for your nonprofit’s board will be people who share a passion for, and commitment to, the nonprofit’s mission. No matter what name recognition or professional credentials particular people may have to offer, they will not be assets to your nonprofit’s board unless they care enough about what you do to involve themselves actively in helping you pursue your goals. If yours is a small nonprofit that doesn’t have the resources to hire staff or pay for outside services, it’s even more important that board members be committed to the cause and willing to contribute their time to get nonprofit tasks done.
A room of creatives making plans to resist TrumpWorld. Photo by Clarke Condé.
Early on Election night 2016 I wore my best vintage pantsuit and played a few hastily learned America-themed songs (my friend Matt‘s idea) at my local tap room as election results trickled in. I’d voted a couple weeks earlier; I had occasionally (and judiciously) shared my political views on Facebook in hopes of swaying the few right-wingers who might be lurking on my page against voting for a sociopath; I’d talked to my kids about elections and Democracy and racism and misogyny, including conversations about what a “pussy” is and what “sexual assault” is, which needless to say were not conversations I planned or wanted to have with my 10- and 7-year-old.
I felt like I had done my part.
I thought we were about to have our first woman president, and felt sad that my 100-year-old fiercely Democratic grandmother who died 11 months ago didn’t live to vote and see it happen.
But by 9pm I was feeling very uneasy, and by midnight the creeping cold dread had consumed me completely, as I realized that TrumpWorld was dawning. Holy fucking shit.
Whatever I had done, it wasn’t enough. Many of my friends were 100 times more dedicated to political action and community organizing—and it was not enough.
We all had election fatigue even before the sucker-punch of Trump winning; how can we summon strength to continue to fight? What does “fighting” even mean?
Looking forward to creating more stuff with Clarke! (And Turtle too.)
I finished my last post in the middle of our big annual summer road trip, and since then have made it home, gotten through the first three weeks of the school year, battled a bout of anxiety waiting for the results of my daughter’s annual check-up with her specialists in Cincinnati (ultimately got good news, yay), dealt with landlord stuff (our first tenants moved in while we were gone, which was kind of stressful), got back to my ditch running schedule (with a minor calf strain which I’m trying not to aggravate), recorded an awesome podcast with Russell James Pyle that I’m almost done editing (I swear Russ, I’m almost there), edited several super-dense health care reports that left my brain bruised (ow), and recorded a song and made a music video for it (to be included in aforementioned podcast). That’s just off the top of my head. How the fuck am I so busy? It feels crazy.
Part of it is that I’m making more structured time for music and recording and videos and related creative stuff, and trying to make it part of my regular work on top of writing and editing. For ages I have wanted to get better at recording music and making videos, but the timesink of learning all that technical stuff was too daunting. Till now I haven’t had the time or bandwidth, but for various reasons it finally feels like a good time to take it on. I’m moving in baby steps, learning basics of iMovie and GarageBand to start. Both also have mobile versions which is pretty cool.
A final shot of the podcast table before it was moved to our tenant’s hosue. Sniff. Photo by Peri.
It took me several extra days to get this podcast done, largely because a couple months ago my summer took an unexpected turn: I found out about a house for sale on my street, at a really good price—and I LOVE my downtown Albuquerque neighborhood—and because my grandma had recently passed away (RIP Eunice 🙁 ) and left me some money, I was in the fortunate position to be able to pull together a downpayment, and WHAM just like that my husband and I became owners of a second property and, as of August 1, landlords. So, in addition to rekindling my Self-Employed Happy Hour podcast this summer and attempting to blog regularly and promote my coaching business and continuing to build Pyragraph’s online store (and trying to have some fun with the kids and getting ready for our regular Midwest road trip, etc. etc.), I’ve been cleaning, learning about landlording, partially furnishing the house for the tenants, breathing through the anxiety of the unknown, and generally doing my best to go with the flow that I’ve come to learn is the norm in self-employed life.
The truth is that as a self-employed person, I have to watch for and take advantage of opportunities. No one is going to do it for me. I’m pretty invested in writing and publishing, both in terms of my business author stuff and of course Pyragraph, and I do in fact love publishing and communications. But it is a tricky business—especially the online publishing part, which often feels like trying to crack some inscrutable code that is in flux as I’m trying to solve it. A successful business model for information products is increasingly elusive in a world drowning in free information.
So when this property opportunity came up I somehow managed to push past some early feelings and doubts (“What am I, nuts? I don’t know anything about property investing! What do I know about being a landlord? So much money is involved, what if I totally screw up?”) and opened myself up to the possibility that doing something completely new and unexpected might actually be a great fit with my other projects and areas of work. Investing in an income property actually seems like a good move for a self-employed person, right? I hadn’t really considered it before so it felt like a bit of a crazy idea.
Dang, this post has been a long time coming! I’m coming out of a work tunnel building new Pyragraph products and services, for what seems like an eternity. I’m in the tough position of wanting to build content and monetization systems that don’t really exist pre-packaged, but we don’t have much of a budget, so the only realistic option was to tackle it in-house, slowly but surely, with some great support from other talented tech folks as well as Pyragraph’s editorial/creative team, but doing the bulk of the technology implementation myself.
Ay caramba, it was a slog. The goal was to launch it last December but since I’m not really a programmer (and don’t even play one on teevee) it took me forever and all the new systems (mainly, our PyraPASS memberships and our Online Store) finally went live about a month ago. Phew to the phew! Now we’re switching gears from building to promoting (again, slowly), so you’ll hear more about our awesome creative career services and products in the coming months.
Like tons of self-employed people, my reality involves wearing a lot of different hats, keeping a bunch of different balls in the air, and managing a whole grab-bag of metaphors to describe my ever-evolving independent path.
Photo courtesy of Barney Lopez.
I first met Barney Lopez at my daughter’s pre-school, where he was the teacher in the classroom next to my daughter’s. Several months later I realized he was the bass player for the Red Light Cameras, who at the time was a new band hitting big. Not long after that, my daughter wanted to take theater classes at school and I learned not only that Barney was the teacher, but that he was heavily involved in Blackout Theatre and a whole bunch of programs bringing theater to Albuquerque’s kids.
My daughter was just three at the time, and Barney was the first of many creative folks I got to know who both worked in schools and as musicians, actors, playwrights, and all kinds of other creatives. I loved seeing the dual lives of these dedicated folks, busy engaging kids’ minds during the day, and in their off hours having art openings, CD release parties, theater openings, and book signings. It made me feel our kids are in good hands.
Barney is still working with kids through theater programs, and is helping raise funds for a program called Wrinkle Writing which brings theater education to area schools. I talked with him last week about the program and about how teaching kids theater can help both kids and teachers alike.
Peri Pakroo: Hey Barney! I’m super excited about the Teacher’s Lounge event coming up! Thanks so much for putting it on, and for taking some time to chat about it with me. First off, please clue me in. What is the Wrinkle Writing program?
Barney Lopez: Wrinkle Writing is a theater education program that sends professional theater artists into the schools to help kids write and perform their own play. We work with the students throughout the school year and it culminates in a showcase of the students’ plays for family and friends. We just finished our fifth year and reached over 700 students.
This was originally posted at Pyragraph.
Last week Pyragraph reached a pretty cool milestone: our 1,000th post (this post by Thom Wall, whoo!). I was supposed to write a blog post about it but was running behind as usual, failing yet again to get actual writing done because of the frustrating elusiveness of uninterrupted time to work. I’m great at doing a million things, but terrible (these days especially) at getting anything done that requires sustained, quiet focus. So I decided I’d finish my post late Sunday night when the kids were sleeping, which is typically one of my best work times.
I was happily writing sometime around midnight on Sunday and in striking range of finishing it off. I took a little break and got on Facebook. Big mistake (as usual).
I saw David Bowie had died.
I gasped and clicked. It seemed to be true. Besides losing the rest of my night to a flurry of reading and clicking and posting and hoping it was a hoax (it was not, obvs), my train of thought with my almost-done post was gone. Shock quickly gave way to grief, and now my post is no longer about Pyragraph’s 1,000th post, but about how I and so many other folks who simply considered ourselves fans of David Bowie have found ourselves shaken and mourning and turned into a bunch of raw, red-eyed hot messes.
Cover image of David J. Slater’s book, Wildlife Personalities, featuring the photo at the center of the Monkey Selfie dispute.
Originally posted at Pyragraph.
Andrew Dhuey (do yourself a favor and click through to Andrew’s LinkedIn profile) is a lawyer based in Berkeley, California focusing on patent litigation. Andrew and I went to college together at UW–Madison and we’re friends on Facebook, and I enjoy reading about some of the interesting intellectual property cases that he sometimes posts about. But all those cases pale in comparison to his latest: the Monkey Selfie case.
When I saw that Andrew was representing British photographer David J. Slater in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by a monkey represented by PETA’s lawyers, I knew I had to hit him up with some burning questions.
Peri Pakroo: Hi Andrew, thanks so much for chatting with me. Is this your first monkey selfie case?
Andrew Dhuey: Yes, but I’m learning quickly. I think when this is done, I’ll be among the top 50 monkey lawyers in the nation.
That’s exciting. Can you tell me about how you first heard about this case? How did it end up on your desk?
When I read about the case, I first slapped my forehead (as everyone did). But then I saw that it was filed in San Francisco federal court (across the bay from me). Opportunity knocked. I contacted David Slater and made my pitch. There you have it.
Kimo and Margarita get their swab on. Photo by Clarke Condé.
Finally catching up with some photos and such from recent happenings. It has been a seriously busy fall with some great events via Pyragraph and otherwise.
This event from Oct. 28 was really cool and special to me, for obvious reasons (or not obvious, if you haven’t read about the crap disease my daughter was diagnosed with in 2013). These three wonderful women—sisters Sam Kimura (who, like my daughter Jila, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia) and Alex Kimura, and their friend Taylor Shorten are on a year-long quest to add more people to the bone marrow donor registry. Check out their project online: Sharing America’s Marrow – S.A.M.