I think entrepreneurship blogs/magazines/books unintentionally focus too often on the extremes. They study the extreme successes and the events leading up to them. They do the same for the extreme failures. Rarely do we look at what’s normal, but what’s normal is usually the best indication of whether or not a business is successful, or a business owner is happy with their career choice.
I myself am plenty guilty of this, posting about Cyber Monday successes or huge chargeback losses. I sometimes fall into the trap of “don’t post anything unless it’s worthwhile”. But really, what might be most worthwhile is just a look at normalcy. I can only speak for myself, but back when I was contemplating leaving my job I probably would have been well served reading and interacting with successful business owners instead of reading about the latest company that Google purchased.
This past week was one of those weeks where nothing great or horrible happened but still embodied almost every aspect of what it’s like to run a business. Some weeks are predictable, which is kind of normal for me. Some weeks, such as this past week, are totally unpredictable, which is also kind of normal for me.
I’m going to try to do posts like this off and on, to hopefully give you a relatively unfiltered glimpse into what it’s like running Pure Adapt.
That intro was far too long, let’s get started!
I spent the Memorial Day weekend doing some larger projects around the house with my wife. We did a bunch of painting, I dug up an old garden in the backyard, that type of stuff. I rarely checked my email – once on Sunday, once on Monday I think – because every minute of all three days was booked out for house work. We did find enough time to pull out the grill and BBQ for dinner Monday night though. BBQ on Memorial Day and Labor Day is a must!
Come Monday evening I was totally exhausted. When I hopped on my computer to plan my week, there was an email sitting in my inbox from my business partner Greg asking me to come in on Tuesday to help pack orders. My normal warehouse day is Friday. Tuesday is generally a big programming day for me. I hadn’t realized it, but our Memorial Day sale had gone really, really well.
Tuesday, May 27th – Warehouse Madness
Initially I was disappointed that I had to go in. I had really hoped to get back into the swing of things on the programming side. Quickly I realized how ridiculous this was: the whole point of what we’re doing is to boost sales, so when my projects play a role in sales growing more than expected, to the point where I’m needed to pack boxes, I should be celebrating. I don’t love my schedule changing at the last minute, but on weeks like this one it can happen often. I try to just roll with it.
I spent the majority of the day as the “sealer”, the person who tapes the packages and moves them for FedEx to pickup. I work really hard when I’m in the warehouse, but it’s so infrequent that the full-timers and part-timers run circles around us owners. The sealer is the only position I can really jump right in and do as fast as they can, so that’s generally where I offer myself up. By the end of the day I was even more exhausted. It was worth it though – we shipped out a record number of packages, roughly 100 more than we’ve ever shipped out on a day (this pic was taken after our first FedEx pickup, before our second pickup, and before we were done packing):
Wednesday, May 28th – How Many Times Can My Plans Change?
I like to ease in to my day for the first hour or so. Typically I’m up around 6:30 but don’t get on my computer until around 7:45 or 8. I really needed one of those days, but unfortunately I had a 8 AM dentist appointment…30 minutes away. So I got up and rushed to the dentist.
Typically my partners and I meet and work together on Wednesday’s, and then I head over to my parents for dinner. They all live sort of close so it kind of works out nicely. The dentist is over that way as well so the original plan was to meet up at a local coffee shop to work and eat. Tuesday I called that off so I could go home and get some work done, and instead we were rescheduled to meet at 2. Around lunch time I received a call from my Mom asking to reschedule dinner, so then I requested that my partners and I switch to a Skype meeting so I didn’t have to head back out their way. It’s inconvenient for everyone when plans change constantly. We all try hard to be really accommodating, which makes it easier.
After the Skype meeting I ran to the grocery store, cooked dinner, and prepared for my talk Thursday night.
Thursday, May 29th – Time to Talk!
Thursday mornings I typically review our meeting notes and take action on as many items as possible immediately. This Thursday I had enough to do that it took me right up to lunch time. Our warehouse manager also called in sick. Despite still being busy, we had enough warehouse coverage so I didn’t need to go in. I spent most of my morning making small programming tweaks, writing emails, adjusting programming plans, etc. That’s usually what comes out of our meetings, lots of tiny things that need tweaking. I do my best to get all of this done in the first half of Thursday so that I help keep our momentum going from the meeting.
My good friend Prof. Wales, with whom I co-taught Web Venturing, was back in town so we decided to meet for Sushi at a place near my house. The day was beautiful so I decided to walk the ~15 minute walk instead of driving. I really enjoy having a house that is within walking distance of restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and the like. It’s one of those benefits I probably wouldn’t have cared about 5 years ago, which makes me glad that we didn’t rush into buying a house.
After lunch Greg called a quick phone meeting to discuss a few emails we received from our industrial park. They issued a revised policies document, as well as new forms for things like tenant repair requests. We reviewed it all together to make sure it all made sense. Greg then forwarded everything on to the employees to keep them in the loop. We try to keep them in the loop on everything going on in the business, but it’s moving so fast that sometimes it’s a challenge.
In the evening I gave a virtual talk over GoToMeeting to the incoming Northwestern Mutual interns at their Syracuse branch. I interned for them when I was in college so they asked me to speak about how the internship helped me as a former intern who went on to a career outside of the company. I got that same awesome rush that I always get out of giving a talk, but I really prefer to be in person. Virtual talks are tough – you go from standing in your office with no one around to all of a sudden being dropped in a room of people who you can barely see. You can’t make eye contact or use body language. I did my best to keep the talk light but still informative, and overall I think it went well. The feedback I received was that it was exactly what they were looking for. I have to make a better effort to get out and give more talks.
I went to bed in a good mood. I thought to myself: “Friday should be a typical warehouse day for me, a day to catch up with the guys on a few projects”.
Friday, May 30th – Part-Time Employees
I typically check my email before heading in to the office on Friday’s. Unfortunately there was an email sitting in my inbox from our best part-timer putting in his two-week notice. Ouch. We had another part-timer leave a few weeks ago. In both cases we parted on good terms. The job just wasn’t a good fit for them anymore.
We’ve had a tough time keeping part-timers longer than 3 – 6 months, although I think that’s kind of just typical of what you get with hourly warehouse work. Whether it’s a student or someone who is out of a job, no one aspires to work 30 hours/week in a warehouse forever, even if it’s a good warehouse with a good environment and above-average pay.
The good news, I suppose, is that we have the hiring process down pretty well now because we’ve done it so many times. The application information is permanently up on our website, but we only make the Google Form open to submissions when we’re accepting applicants…which is now obviously. We have someone coming in for an interview next week. We still have one part-timer who is good. We really need three though, so as of now we’re in the market for two. It’s pretty important that we get our part-timer situation settled ASAP so that the rest of the team doesn’t need to be packing boxes.
The big thing missing from this week was programming. I did get a few small data analysis projects done during the gaps, but for me to successfully contribute I need uninterrupted programming time so that I can knock out the many important projects we have queued up. Yea it was a four day week, but it’s still rare to have so much happening that I don’t even get a single three hour chunk to program. The good news is that this coming week is looking pretty wide open, so hopefully I can make up for it.