Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Up since 5:00 a.m.: business driving me crazy

I pledge never to criticize any business's prices again.

I pledge to accept the prices as representative of what that company needs to charge in order to create fair compensation for its expertise, materials and promotion of itself for the purpose of remaining a viable business.

I will not make random calculations in my head about the amount of money it takes to produce the materials, distribute the product or how much energy/expertise/experience went into the original creation.

I also pledge never to assume that it is easy to run a business, to get customers, to produce the promotional copy for a website, to keep up a blog, to send out email notifications, to train teachers, to stay abreast of the latest developments in technology and education... as though these are after-thoughts and have no bearing the on the cost of the materials to which they pertain.

I confess that I now understand why teachers are paid so little when compared with the universities and schools for whom they work, who must take the lion's share of the tuition to run the business side of the school, and to recruit students. Hello. Who can teach without students?

This summer I live with the daily awareness that the changes I'm making to my business have the ability to either make it or break it. The stress of being in charge is something I have never felt in 7 and a half years of running Brave Writer. I feel responsible for the salaries of my teachers and their general happiness with the job they do so well for Brave Writer, the satisfaction of my customers who are both amazingly supportive and enthusiastic, the need to consider the tight budgets of most homeschooling families, the responsibility to sustain income we've come to depend on, and the need to create materials that serve the purposes for which they are designed.

Suddenly, in an attempt to stay current, I find that I'm on the edge of a breakdown. I don't think it's possible for me to do any more work than I am. I literally can't turn off my brain. I wake up with whole new sets of considerations I must take into account.

Every time I turn around, I think of another permutation that ought to be considered in the redesign of my website, of the registration process (which is effing - excuse the language - complicated), of the new learning platform (which has a learning curve of about 90 degrees straight up!). And every time I think of another change to the existing structures, it's $500-$1000 more to a developper than I planned to spend. Worse, I can't even tell if the end result will be experienced as better (it may look better, but will it accomplish the things I hoped it would alleviate as well as enhance?).

I'm exhausted, stressed, tired, worried, anxious and sick of being a business owner today.


Rebecca C. said...

I'm sorry Julie, I really am. The complexity and expense of business operations is usually breathtakingly underestimated and self-employment is magnitudes harder than most people think it is unless you are just doing it for a lark or for mad money. You have my understanding and sympathy in spades!

brian said...


I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. I hit the office a little after 7 this morning and it's 8:20 as I type this. I have gotten over the waking up in the middle of the night with a new idea though (Yippee). But, there are still not enough hours in the day to get all the things done I want to get done. I'm constantly redesigning the website (you'd think after five years we'd be done). I just hung up with my designer who is doing (get this) 8 more sites for me that will be up in a matter of a few days. Now, I just have to produce content for all those sites.

As you know, I could go on and on. The only thing worse than owning your own business though is working for somebody else.

These past few years have taught me a lot though. I've had to learn when to turn it off (which I don't do perfectly but I'm better at it). I'm also learning to delegate (that's coming along slowly). I'm learning things will never be perfect, so there comes a time when I have to say "good enough". And, I"m learning that if you have 700-800 customers in a month some of them are not going to be happy no matter what you do.

Hang in there. It sounds like you're in one of those very painful parts of the growth curve. They come and they go.


julieunplugged said...

Rebecca, thanks so much for understanding. It means the world to have some resonance with people.

Brian, I KNOW you know. I know you KNOW. It helps when someone tells me - hey this is normal. My web tech guy told me today that I am in the absolutely most normal and most challenging phase of our business. Too big to manage with the kinds of inadequate systems I've hacked together for 8 years and too small to be able to afford what I really need.

So I'm slowing down the process and will be studying "Business Process Automation" practices as I make this transition. I hope it helps.


Sentient Marrow said...

0h Julie, I feel y0ur pain- less since I am n0t as attached t0 0ur business as I 0nce was but en0ugh t0 kn0w that gnawing feeling in the st0mach, the endless w0rk with0ut en0ugh h0urs in the day t0 finish it, the expanding business with0ut the capital t0 d0 things "right", etc I am s0rry
Y0u seem t0 be taking it in stride, try n0t t0 let it rule y0ur life, that's my best advice

l0ve y0u

musing said...