This is me on graduation in 1997 from Clemson. From left to right, my mom – Linda, my Nana – Judy, me, my sister – Jennifer, and my Pop – Joe. My Pop the business man…the only thing that is not seen in this picture is my Pop’s cell phone, which he had close to him all the time. I remember he had the first mobile phone in his car in the 1980’s and it was a rotary phone…he was an innovative business man. He was the first realtor in Anderson to have a mobile phone. He and I have lots in common. We love technology and gadgets.
Today…on this Thanksgiving, I went up and sat for about an hour with my Pop. This is my grandfather…my mother’s father. He is in a rehabilitation home after a few trips to the hospital. I am the oldest grandchild and my mother is the oldest of her siblings. In a way, I am like a son to him.
As a business man, it is good to find someone whom you can call a mentor. One that you can sit down, share honest thoughts, and receive honest feedback. But when the talk is over, that positive feedback makes you want to get up and keep on moving ahead. My Pop was a self-employed business man..for most of his adult life. He grew-up in Spartanburg, son to a police officer who died when my Pop was a teenager. It was my Pop and his mother (my Granny) trudging through life for years. He went into the Marines and afterwards met my Mimi, my grandmother. She died when I was only four years old. He became a medical sales guy…then stepped away to tackle the world of real estate. My grandfather sold real estate here in the Anderson, SC area most of his adult life. He has probably sold the same house numerous times. His photographic memory of each house combined with his relationship building skills made him successful leader in this Anderson community.
Now during the later years of his life, I think he is beginning to reflect and share his wisdom. He has seen recessions, he has seen the real estate market flourish. He has had to balance an entrepreneur’s life with the life of a family that encompassed four children and tons of grandchildren. My oldest memories of Pop is going on a house showing with him, sitting in the car, then watching him guide the people (his clients) through the contractual process. He loved what he did. I am sure he loved selling real estate because the of the financial benefit of a sale, but most of all he loved dealing with people. He loved building relationships. He loved hearing stories from his clients, connection with people from different backgrounds, sharing relationships which led to sharing business. Relationships led to strong economic development in his opinion.
Each time I get to sit with Pop, we share stories. He loves to hear my stories of a new client, a new person I met, new ideas, and my vision for my business of tomorrow. He also wants to hear the struggles, the fear, the disappointments, and the challenges. He wants to keep it real, because business is not always about the pluses…it is about weathering the storms and finding positives in the challenges. He has had to endure the downswings, so he sees the value in sharing both sides…but finding ways to understand and move forward to a brighter tomorrow.
My Pop loves to be called my mentor. He is…in so many ways. I seek his wisdom, his advice, his thoughts, his laughs, his positive thinking…but most of all his approval. I want to do it right in his eyes.
Mentors are necessary in this world of business. Mentors bring perspective, bring wisdom, en-still positive thinking, and prepare us to move thoughtfully for a brighter tomorrow. Mentors are awesome…but they are even better when they are your grandfather! One who has found success in his passion…not just selling real estate but building wonderful relationships.
On this Thanksgiving 2010, I am thankful for my mentor…my Pop.
I was walking through a little thrift store today and noticed something…and it struck me. A pencil sharpener…remember those days? I remember when I was a kid and it was this time of the year. Mom would load us up in the car and take us to the store for school supplies. We had a list of items from our school sent home informing the parents what supplies we will need for the coming year. Notebooks, paper, pencils, crayons, etc. created havoc in the local store where moms and dads were loading up children’s school bags.
I remember getting those brand new pencils. They were freshly packed and un-sharpened. They came in all different types of colors; red, blue, yellow, and green. Sometimes you could buy them with your name on them, especially if you had a common name like Bobby. Remember the first pencil you pulled out of the pack and you could go sharpen the pencil for the first time. It was more fun to sharpen the pencil than actually take part in the classroom exercise. I even remember some of my teachers started the day with the whole class in line, sharpening our pencils before starting the lesson.
Do they still have pencil sharpeners in classrooms? Some schools, maybe…if the buildings have housed generations of students. They are still probably on the walls or bookshelves, well because they have become nostalgic reminders of our yester-years. Public education is changing faster than the technology that is leading the way. Dollars are decreasing, teachers are being laid off, classrooms getting crowded, and some of the best and the brightest are loosing site of the age ole testament…education shapes our future.
Just a few months ago, I bought an iPad from Apple. The new wave of the future when it comes to personal and business computing. It is not only a computing tool but a business class communication tool. As a college instructor at Clemson, we are being challenged to find innovative ways to engage our students and still conserve if not cut costs. I have made a vow to try to teach the whole class this coming semester using just the iPad. I am not sure if I can execute this plan, but I am going to try.
Today’s teaching tools are technologies that are shaping the way we teach and the educational process of our future. At the end of last semester’s class, I asked each student to write a thank you note to one person that has shaped their future. I asked them to hand write the note, with their signature, and hand write the envelope. Some students were perplexed with the assignment, either not understanding the purpose or the means to execute the assignment. The hand written note is so much more powerful that an email. Think about those hand written notes you receive in the mail. I am hate throwing them away, so I have a place for each one that I receive.
Writing a hand written note takes time, effort, dedication, and thought. If you are writing a two page letter and it is pen…you better chose your words carefully. It is hard to go back and fix something. We now are surrounded by spell check and other grammatical word fixing mechanisms…you know the red and green lines under a word or sentence. They use those colors so we feel annoyed until we fix the error. But they become our crutch. I am a poor speller; by the mere fact that I am not only an educated individual, but one that depends on technology.
So what is the balance? How do we still teach our next wave of leaders, our new knowledge economy how to think like practitioners and not as technicians. How do we teach them to evolve with the technologies and not be so dependent upon a tool. How do we teach to creatively write and allow the tools to facilitate the process instead if dictating the process.
If we are going to have a bigger and brighter knowledge economy, we have to compete on a fundamental level…in our education system. Yes…it takes dollars, but it also takes a commitment to tomorrow and knowing our past. There are days where I wish I could have a pencil sharpener again, bringing the fun back into the creative process. But I sure do like the iPad as well. But, we have to find the middle ground between age old technology and new innovation to set the stage for tomorrow. We can’t just go lay-off old teachers just because they are going to retire eventually, but we can’t just lay-off the new teachers because of seniority. We need to be selective in who is teaching in our public schools, ones that are going to inspire the next creative class of human capital.
I will leave you with this…have you ever heard of the Call Me Mister Program, housed at Clemson University? The sole purpose of this program is to empower and educate young African-American males to be elementary school teachers here in South Carolina. To put more African-American males in leadership roles to become role models for our young students. Imagine the opportunity to change the face of South Carolina by changing the image of African-American males from the years of oppression this state has witnessed. Now that is innovation. It did not take technology…it took vision.
As a small business owner and an entrepreneur, one of the hardest challenges faced is how to balance time between working in the business and working on the business. That in lies a critical distinction. For a business like mine here in the Upstate of South Carolina, I have to consistently looks for ways to refine and strengthen my business model. I am a Storyteller and I make money off of telling others’s stories using video, digital media, and social media.
If you are self-employeed or own a small business, you have probably started at day one doing both. It goes in cycles, you spend lots of time growing your business and when you take on clients, you then focus on serving those commitments. This is a good business cycle to have, so we should maximize our time and remember that when are not racking up billable hours, we need to grow our business.
Defining our terms:
Working On Your Business
This is when you are spending time and energy away from those billable hours to do the following:
- Business Development – seeking out new business opportunities, partnerships, or forging relationships and creating a plan.
- Working the Numbers – spending time not only servicing the books (finances) but also thinking strategically how to grow your business financially. Creating budgets for growth areas and contrast them with what is necessary to operate your business.
- Marketing – spending time working on your business message and delivering that message to the right audiences, using the right mediums. Creating and evolving your marketing plan and budget.
- Seminars/Conferences – spending time to grow as a business owner. Seeking out venues for you to meet like minded people and those who can help you grow.
- Rest – spending time away from your business to enjoy family and friends…the things that make you smile. ROR is crucial for reflection and critical for ROI.
Working In Your Business
- Generating billable hours – working with your clients to serve or satisfy your contractual obligations
- Business Development – executing time to pitch those clients, meeting prospects, generating proposals for your next set of billable hours.
- Servicing the Numbers – making sure that you are keeping up with your invoicing, liabilities, expenses, and operating costs. This is crucial to do weekly, monthly, then quarterly to get ready for Uncle Sam and his state friends.
- Servicing your relationships – writing thank you notes, taking a client to lunch, making follow-up phone calls, things necessary to be considered your clients “go-to” person.
- Marketing – executing daily, weekly, and monthly your marketing strategy.
It is my belief that a small business owner should spend the same amount of time on Working On Your Business as the billable hours your generate when you are working in your business. For every hour you bill a client, you should spend that same amount of time growing your business.