The importance of holidays.
Any budding entrepreneur will tell you that owning a business is a 24/7 job. And it truly is. Especially the first years of building a business.
However, it is easy to forget that while we need to be gaining customers, making payroll and taking care of business, we also need to not neglect our personal lives. Holidays come once a year. Time with family and friends cannot be ‘made up’ at a later date.
So take time this holiday weekend. Time away from your business. Time to savor those laughs, hugs, picnics with loved ones. You cannot ever get those missed moments back.
And I promise. Your business will still be there when you return…..
It seems business websites, publications and speakers are all about leadership. “How to lead…” …”What makes a great leader?” …. “An effective leader”…and so on….and so on.
I find it interesting that in 15 years of owning my business the prevailing thought isn’t “How do I lead today?..” and although I’m sure that makes many experts cringe..I prefer to think of our organization as ‘horizontal’ and not one with me at the top and then a hierarchy of who comes next…and next and next putting someone at the bottom of a long list of organizational members.
I have been contemplating a new bicycle as nicer weather approaches and during my online search have encountered many types of bikes available. From touring bikes to road bikes to trail bikes. And then I came across a picture of a ridiculously looking multi passenger bike where everyone is in a circle facing each other, all pedaling towards each other, but independently. And as it looks as if they would make no progress in any forward direction, the bike does move with incredible accuracy and in a straight line.
There is no clear leader. There are only individual members, all pedaling with different strengths and at different paces. And as one gets tired, the others pick up the slack. If one jumps off, the bike still moves forward. The momentum happens together. And although there may be a leader in the mix, it is not obvious to the outsider.
It is just the best picture painted of my business. Right or wrong by experts definitions, it works. It has worked and I believe it will moving forward. Am I the President of EIS? Do I sign the paychecks and make final decisions? Yes, but the force that moves us forward, the team that picks up the slack for each other..that is what drives us. That is more important to the business than solely myself as a leader.
I can never move that bicycle on my own. Neither can each team member. However momentum is constant as we’re all facing each other, having each others backs and working together. Maybe a new thought surrounding all the leadership buzz…….focusing on the team and not the leader can truly move you ahead.
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In my family there is no need to remind us that holidays are not always a happy time for people. I am married to a psychotherapist, my sister and my daughter-in-law are also in the field of psychology. This is their busiest time of year. Days often end with them walking in the door, hearts heavy. Dealing with clients that are stressed to the max, suicide attempts, drug and alcohol abuse. Family struggles. All brought to a crescendo around the holidays.
In business, we need to also be aware of what is happening around us. Are our employees dealing with added stressors? The customers on the other end of the phone? Our vendors?
Last week I vented on my Facebook wall … “the lady at Wegmans yelled at me for going to the self check-out with more than 20 items…” …and childishly lamented that I like to pack my own…
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My Facebook post from last October 20th – 2016…
Today there was a walk to bring attention to the fight against breast cancer. A flood of pink in downtown. Including all the balloons, the banners, the hollering and celebrating. Every year I am asked to walk. To speak, to contribute, to be part of the ‘fight?’… I was even once chastised by a famous woman I met at a local event and somehow knew I was a cancer survivor. She demanded to know what organizations I was involved, what was ‘I’ doing to be a part of this pink October movement? I responded… “Walking alone”
I admit it. I hate October. I hate it because it’s breast cancer awareness month. You can’t hide from it. It’s everywhere. Pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, pink parades – even watching a football game – pink armbands, pink hats, pink mouth guards! …pink, pink, pink!
I am torn between feeling guilty that I have survived so many years and I should somehow be telling my story. And the awful feeling that I can’t get away from it – especially in October. I don’t need pink to be reminded. I only need to look in the mirror every morning. I don’t want to think about it any more than I have to and I don’t want to live my life as a role model of what a survivor should look like. It was tough enough just getting through it at the time.
And I feel like a terrible person because I think I should feel differently.
I AM however, incredibly grateful for all those that do march – do research – do bring awareness to a horrifying disease that needs to be eradicated. My business regularly gives money to Sloan Kettering for cancer research. Personally I give to local organizations. But for some of us – we choose to be private about our connection to cancer. We choose to not join the parades, but we still are walking.
On a quiet Sunday morning I made my way to my private ‘parade’ – and as I walked past the pink posters and donation jars at my gym on my way to my treadmill – I saw the wave of pink walk by the front windows. For every one of those people in that crowd, I thought. There are 100 of us wanting to just live. Wanting privacy. Wanting to somehow keep it in the past.
Appreciating those who may need to walk collectively.
For me…. I need to be walking alone.
Definitely yesterday’s news, but worth repeating – and looking into as people’s lives were put in danger. I am speaking of the “Interpreter” – used in a press conference to warn people to evacuate in Manatee County during Hurricane Irma.
The video attached shows the “Interpreter” and the message he was actually signing. No further explanation needed. The fact that there were certified Interpreters available and reportedly offered by a local agency removes any excuse for using this employee as an Interpreter for such critical information.
It happens every day – it should never happen. …
At the busiest time of year I had totally forgotten what day it was until I received dozens of ‘Congratulations on your work anniversary’ from LinkedIn – it stopped me short and as I leaned forward into my computer and checked my calendar, yes …it has been 14 years to the day my business license came in the mail. To my home office. In the very small town of Homer, NY…with a roster of 6 Interpreters…in the beginning…all Sign Language.
On the literal hands of those Interpreters a business beyond my limited vision was constructed. One customer at a time. One Interpreter at a time and one language at a time.
Today I am mindful of that early morning mail delivery, completely naive to what this would mean to myself or others (fourteen years later). Staring at a piece of paper with a name that would come to be known to so many. A name that would be on a paycheck for hundreds – a name that would called ‘The Empire standard’ in the industry……(insert my very slow, but intentional smile)….
Crazy. Unbelievable. Stunning. Life changing for me and for my family. The opportunity to work daily with my sons. Every day – has been my unseen blessing. The talented and unwavering professionals that I hired. One by one – who were now forming a new ‘family’… Stacey, Corissa, Eva. I cannot imagine a day without any of them.
The Interpreters that braid cultures and languages into communication – assignment by assignment and day by day. They actually do change the lives of each consumer. They are the human ‘app’ of communication with humanity rising to the top. Each one has a story. Each one a part of my person.
Surprisingly also the customers. So hard fought in the beginning. First one, then twenty, then a hundred. Now over 1,000 customers have been the constant and the fundamental underpinning of the business. Their unwavering loyalty via repeat business and referrals has allowed us to remain. And grow. And they are why we continue…
There is so much more I could say. However – it’s busy – really busy- the staff have no time to tarry – Interpreters run from job to job… No time to cut a cake or pop champagne…next year? – at the 15th perhaps? But for now…know you are integral. You are valued. You are appreciated…you are in my heart and worth every struggle the last 14 years. Happy Anniversary Empire Interpreting Service!
This week, as any other week, was filled with multiple conversations with Interpreters and staff. Normally the dialogue of business … interpreting assignments or catch up meetings with staff. However this week seemed unusually somber – mixed with a glimmer of optimism and even exciting news.
As I looked at the list of checks to go out I couldn’t help but see those ‘conversations’ jump out at me. What usually was a long list of names became another list….
– The Interpreter whose mother had just passed on. Her amazing grace in such a moment. Her thankfulness for those who supported her and her concern for her work commitments.
– The Interpreter who had overwhelming family problems. His voice reflected a heart being ripped from his chest…I’m not even sure how all of the conversation began. But it ended in my heart being broken for him. Yet his concern was that he remain focused on his jobs at hand.
– The staff who received digital images of his unborn daughter – with all the joy and anticipation that goes hand in hand. Reveling in the love for something not yet seen or touched.
– A translator who received a dire prognosis and telling me he needed to take time off emotionally fell like a precariously built deck of cards….toppling one by one into a pool of desperation…
– A staff who discovered for days she’d been walking on a broken ankle. Amazed at her tolerance for pain, her words hit me “I can work – I can work – I can work”…
A long list of names – many I could not pronounce – some I could not remember to put a face to – but all deeper than the list of reductions in our bank account.
They emptied and filled my heart with their stories…their spirit…their despair and their delight. And as I closed out the screen on my computer their names remained in my head. In my soul….
and my lesson….
Never to forget that while I am responsible for every paycheck, behind those numbers is larger responsibility. To always be mindful there is a human being in each name. Someone loved by others. Someone loving others. ‘Someone’ .. going through something while still working for me every day. And that should be etched in my mind and heart. Every single day….