5 Years In: Life as a Small Business Owner

Something crazy happened this week: CCC celebrated its 5th anniversary. In the midst of client projects and deadlines, I almost missed it — which is so appropriate. It was just another day in what has become my life as a small business owner.

We're celebrating 5 years in business!

When I started this journey, I never thought I’d get here. Sure, I made plans and thought about where I — and my business — would be in five years, but to be honest, none of it was real. There was too much treading water just trying to stay afloat.

Looking back, I’ve learned a few things and will continue to do so every day. That’s part of the process, one that I enjoy.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned in five years as a small business owner:

  • This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done — and my greatest accomplishment (to date). Finishing my first half-marathon is a close second, but the daily grind of starting and building my own business has permanently changed me. It’s challenged me beyond my wildest dreams, and shown me what I’m capable of. You can read and plan all you want (and you should), but until you jump in, it’s hard to imagine.

An Omnipresent View? The Life of a Small Business Owner

  • You have to learn to say no. Your time is your most valuable commodity, especially because you probably won’t have the money to hire help when you start out. It’s not about missing opportunities or being afraid to take chances; it’s about taking control of your time and your business. Saying yes to everything and everyone will leave you burnt out and likely out of business.

The Power of Saying ‘No’

  • Enjoy the everyday moments. Take time to sip a latte on a patio on a beautiful spring day while brainstorming a blog post or contemplating future business decisions. It may be tough for you to take time off from your business for a long time, so enjoy these moments that relieve stress and sustain you for another day.

Celebrate the Magic in Everyday Moments

  • Be honest — with your clients, prospects and yourself. It may be uncomfortable, but it will benefit all involved in the long run. As difficult as some situations may be, try to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. If you’re not best suited to help a prospect, refer him to another company. If you’re continually running into issues with a client, have an honest (yet professional) conversation. It will either spur changes or an end to the relationship, which may be for the best. Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships cannot be built on lies and half-truths — in business or in life.

A Look Back: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

  • Stay true to why you started your business. It can be difficult to remember your vision as you get bogged down in day-to-day activity, start to grow or deal with a catastrophe. Whether you create a vision board or have an image burned into your mind, keep it front and center. Remembering why you started the business can help you make decisions and decide which opportunities to pursue.

It’s been fun looking back on the last five years this week, which have been an incredible journey. Right now, there’s more work to do, but maybe I’ll be able to sip a latte on a patio this weekend to celebrate this special milestone in CCC’s story.

Thanks to everyone for your support!

Starting chapter six,
Jaime

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How to Take a Break from Technology Without Moving to the Woods

The views were breathtaking.

snow covered mountains in Park City, UT

Park City, Utah

After a client conference last week, I took a day off in nearby Park City, Utah. If you’ve never been, the landscape is breathtaking, and I didn’t even have a chance to hit the slopes. If you’re not a skier, there’s plenty of other sights and sounds to entertain you.

There’s almost a magical quality to Park City, with its old-fashioned Main Street, Mom and Pop shops and mountain backdrops. As I was heading back to the airport the following morning (in a snowstorm), I realized my stress level was much lower than it had been when I arrived. Why? I tried to limit technology as much as possible for a 12-hour span.

Technology transports us to new worlds, allows us to work remotely and offers nearly unlimited learning opportunities. It’s also addictive, available 24/7 and difficult to get away from in our lives today. I’m not suggesting that you move to the woods and shun all forms of technology, but there are ways to take a break from technology and lower your stress level.

How technology gets us hooked

How to Take a Break from Technology and Reduce Your Anxiety Level

  • Switch Screens: Some days you have to be plugged in all day; there’s no way of getting around it. It helps me to switch screens, going from my laptop to mobile, when possible. Something about not standing (or sitting) in front of a computer makes me feel like I’m not as plugged in.
  • Take a Break: Most people work better in spurts, and as counterproductive as it may seem, taking short breaks can make you more productive. You may have a mountain of work to do, but taking a quick walk or heading out of the office for lunch can give you a productivity boost for the rest of the day. I try to move around in between projects to break up the work day.

Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

  • Go Old School: Can you lose technology for any part of your job (even once in awhile)? I love to write outlines and rough drafts on paper. A blank page is much more inviting to me than a flashing cursor, and the process of writing by hand is soothing to me. Pick up a physical business book or attend a conference in-person to hone your skills instead of reading an article or attending a webinar online.
  • Change Your Environment: When I worked in corporate America, I loved to go out to lunch to change the scenery. Oftentimes, I would come up with an idea or solve a problem while sitting at a local cafe or coffee shop. Changing your environment can drive creativity and refresh you, which is why coffee shops are popular alternative working locations.

How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity

  • Adjust Your Schedule: What is your typical work schedule? Do you have any flexibility? Try to group projects so that you’re able to enjoy some time off, even a few hours. Maybe you can schedule more on 3-4 days a week so that you can regroup and plan on lighter days or even take a day off. What works best for you? If you’re an early bird, work on your most important projects first before you lose momentum. More of a night owl? Save more thought-provoking work for later in the day. We all work our best differently, so try to make your schedule work for you.
  • Shut It Off: Take a vacation, even one day. It’s amazing how much more relaxed you’ll feel when you leave your phone at home or at least don’t check it every five minutes. As a small business owner, I understand how difficult it is to clock out, so to speak, but I always feel so refreshed when I do. You may not be able to take a week-long vacation to some tropical destination, but enjoying an activity you like — ice skating, shopping, getting a massage — can pull you out of the digital world back into the real world.

As amazing as technology is, it’s important to unplug regularly to recharge and enjoy the world around us. You may be surprised at your reduced stress levels and improved productivity and efficiency. So turn off your computer, put your phone down and head outside. The world awaits!

Your Turn: How Do You Unplug?

How do you take a break from technology?
What’s your favorite getaway destination?
What are your favorite activities that don’t involve technology?

p.s. It’s a coincidence that I wrote and published this post on the National Day of Unplugging. It’s not a coincidence that I wrote it in a coffee shop. 😉

An old school Gen X’er in a digital world,
Jaime

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On Thanksgiving, We’re Thankful For…

As Thanksgiving nears, we’re reminded of so many reasons to be thankful.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

We started a tradition in 2012 to post a list of 50 Things We’re Grateful For… during each summer as one simple way to keep gratitude near and dear to our hearts. While we won’t duplicate those efforts in this post, we did want to share a few things that we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving.

#GivingTuesday is a national day of giving to kick off the generous holiday season. After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, think about supporting your favorite charity or cause. Then, see how you can get more involved during the rest of the year. What’s your favorite charity or cause? Let us know in the comments below!

On Thanksgiving, I’m Thankful for #GivingTuesday

Our awesome clients and the CCC community make us smile every day. We appreciate every project, referral, comment, like, share and reader! We’re thankful to work with so many wonderful people who are doing good. If you’re reading this post, say hello!

50 Things I’m Grateful For… Summer 2016 Edition

We’re looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How do you celebrate?
What are you thankful for?
What’s your favorite charity or cause?

Usually smiling & always thankful,
Chef Jaime

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To Give or Not To Give: A 4-Year Journey

I regularly check the Popular Content section on the sidebar of this blog to see what readers are enjoying the most. This valuable information helps me plan future topics or encourages me to tackle previous topics from another angle or with updates. One post that always shows up is To Give or Not To Give…, a look at my first platelets donation experience, so I wanted to share more about my experience since this post.

Donating platelets at the American Red Cross

A lot has happened since my previous post four years ago. I’ve become a regular platelets donor, averaging 12 donations a year, and notching 18 visits in 2015. I’ve accepted the fact that I freeze during my donations, wrapping up in blankets and utilizing a large heating pad (and hot pack to squeeze). I do seem to set off the monitor a little less frequently now, so my mummifying attempts seem to be working. 🙂

As noted above, I try to make it to my local DC (donation center) monthly, which is a little easier to do with a couple of Red Cross updates. The Blood Donor app is so convenient! It allows you to schedule platelets donations online, review your donation history, manage appointments and track your donations, among other tasks. Rapid Pass is a time-saver, as it allows you to answer the interview questions in advance on the day of your appointment. It’s not available via mobile, but it is a nice way to cut down on the time you spend at the facility.

Changes have been made to the actual donation process too. In the past year, the Red Cross has gone back to a two-needle donation process: blood is drawn from one arm and returned in your other arm after having your platelets (and possibly plasma) removed. Unfortunately my body didn’t take to the two-arm process at all, so my DC accepts my donations via a one-arm donation.

After taking a few months off, I’m starting to donate monthly again. I realize others donate more, up to the maximum of 24 times per year, but that seems to be too much for my body to handle. Last fall, I started to have issues during donations, so the Red Cross stopped taking plasma during my platelets donations, which has helped immensely.

I’m continuing to monitor how my body handles donations going forward but am looking forward to making regular monthly donations again. The Blood Donor app, Rapid Pass and returning to a one-arm donation process have helped me continue to help others in need. Curious? Visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/platelets to learn more about the platelets donation process.

Your Feedback Requested

Do you donate blood, platelets, plasma or a platelets/plasma combination?

Do you react to the anticoagulant by sneezing frequently? (I just made it through my first donation without needing TUMS!)

What do you think of the two-arm collection process vs. the one-arm?

Have you experienced any side effects from donating?

To all fellow donors, thank you!

Jaime

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50 Things I’m Grateful For… Summer 2016 Edition

The days are getting longer, baseball’s back and it’s time for the annual listing of 50 things I’m grateful for. This tradition started back in 2012 and is a post that I look forward to all year.

I’d love for you to add your list to the comments or share your blog post with us, so we can read and share everyone’s lists.

50 Things I’m Grateful For… Summer 2016 Edition

 

  • crushed red pepper
  • Gnome, Penelope & Mojo (CCC’s hard-working staff!)
  • home sweet home
  • chiropractors
  • a sunny afternoon
  • espresso (fueling CCC since 2012)
  • newspapers and journalists
  • vegetarian enfrijoladas
  • awesome clients (who pay promptly)
  • Netflix
  • touchscreen laptops
  • WiFi
  • the power of social media (when used for social good)
  • patios on summer days
  • Grease

 

 

  • laughter and conversation
  • travel, business or pleasure
  • quality design
  • daydreaming
  • handwritten cards and notes
  • adult coloring books
  • my nephew
  • CCC’s online community
  • getting lost in a good book
  • a platform to publish
  • furry friends
  • unplugging
  • fun socks
  • friends & family
  • a night at the ballpark

 

That’s my list on May 24, 2016! What are you grateful for today?

Usually smiling & always grateful,
Jaime

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Gratitude Is Good For You & Your Business

Good job!

“Thank you.”

These two words are so simple yet so powerful. They can be the difference between a one-time customer and a loyal one, a vendor and a partner, a co-worker and a colleague.

It turns out that gratitude is not only good for you, but it’s good for business too. Showing gratitude to your customers, employees, vendors and partners makes them feel like they’re a part of something. They’re more engaged, more productive and more willing to go the extra mile for you.

“Foster an environment of gratitude across your organization. Gratitude in organizations is important—it can boost morale and increase productivity.”  –Carol Preibis, author & blogger

At CCC, we try to show gratitude every day. That’s what led to our 50 Things I’m Grateful For… series, where we list 50 things we’re grateful for every year on our blog and encourage others to do the same. It’s been fun to read your lists!

It’s no coincidence that we publish our annual list at any time of the year except for Thanksgiving. It’s a reminder to show gratitude all year, not only when it’s a hot topic.

Whether it’s saying a genuine “thank you” when an employee does his job well or surprising a loyal customer with a gift you know she’ll love, take the time to be grateful this Thanksgiving and every day. Sometimes, the right thing to do can be good for you too. 🙂

 

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

p.s. CCC is grateful to be spending time with our families on Thanksgiving, so we’ll be closed on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for your support!
Jaime

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Dear Loyal Readers, Thank You!

Danke. Grazie. Gracias. Thank you. 

They are simple words yet heartfelt.

Thank you!

When I started this blog nearly three and a half years ago, I had no idea what to expect. It was a crazy time, equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. I was starting a business, starting a blog and walking into the unknown.

The CCC blog isn’t big by any means, but I’m so grateful. We hit 230 followers recently, and I want to say that I appreciate each and every one of you. Whether you’ve been here for years or months, I hope you find our content valuable.

Clearly Conveyed Communications exists to give brands a voice, but you give me a voice. Your questions, your interest, your likes and shares encourage me to keep writing and find others who can provide a unique voice and valuable content for you. Thank you to our awesome contributors!

Lately I’ve been thinking about the future of this blog and how we can continue to provide value to our loyal readers. You may see some changes, probably minor, in the coming months but we’ll continue to give you the latest news, updates and insight in the marketing, writing and social media arenas.

Thank you, loyal readers, for sticking by my — and CCC’s — side.

Best wishes,
Jaime

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Sunshine Award Nomination From Ahh The Simple Life

Passions are meant to be embraced...

CCC is honored to accept the Sunshine Award from Ahh the Simple Life! It’s an award one blogger gives to other bloggers “who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” Carol Preibis, co-founder of Ahh the Simple LIfe, is a contributor to the CCC blog and also recently published an eGuide, Living a Good Life: Live a Meaningful, Happy and Fulfilling Life, which we reviewed here. Check it out!

Living a Good Life by Carol Ann Preibis

Are you living a good life?

Read Ahh the Simple Life’s nominating post (and learn more about Carol!) here.

*** How does the Sunshine Award work? ***

Upon nomination, bloggers accepting the Sunshine Award should:

  • thank the nominating blog and answer the questions it posed
  • nominate other bloggers
  • ask the bloggers you nominate the same number of questions as you received
  • notify the bloggers you have nominated

*** Ahh the Simple Life Asks and CCC Answers ***

1) Why did you begin blogging, and what keeps you going?

I started the CCC blog on April 7, 2012, during the formation of my company, Clearly Conveyed Communications. Our goal has always been to inform and educate our loyal readers in the ever-changing areas of marketing, writing and social media, although sometimes we take the scenic route.

“Where else can you read about MacGyver, Marketing and Leg Lamp Cookies?”

It’s been a strange and wild ride, but we hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. Sometimes we wonder what kind of impact we’re making, so it’s always refreshing to hear from you!

2) What is your favorite topic to write about? 

Although the diversity of the CCC blog seems to be a big draw, I love to write, even about writing. Maybe especially about writing. Our series on the writing process is my favorite series to date on this blog.

My favorite series on the CCC blog is about the writing process.

My favorite series on the CCC blog is about the writing process. Have you read it?

3) What is your favorite inspirational film? 

While Rocky’s victory over Apollo Creed is the epitome of the classic underdog story, I love Field of Dreams. (We even blogged about it, in relation to blogging of course.) Not only does this movie focus on baseball, it’s message of being selfless and following your dreams still resonates today.

Let’s face it: some people will think you’re crazy for following your dreams, and listening to a voice in your cornfield ranks right up there.

My favorite inspirational film outside of the sports world is Goodwill Hunting.

4) How would you describe your perfect day? 

My perfect day would begin when I wake up naturally, no alarm in sight. After taking in the amazing view, I’d saunter downstairs to brew some espresso for a delicious, handcrafted latte, which I’d enjoy with fresh fruit and peanut butter on toast. The rest of my perfect day would be spent reading, writing and enjoying nature, via a trail run or hike. After a vigorous swim (and maybe some paddle boarding), we’d grill some mouth-watering fish for dinner and sit around the fire, toasting s’mores and telling stories.

5) What is the greatest challenge facing humanity today?

While our challenges are numerous, so many come back to the massive (and growing) income inequality problem. It’s disturbing how quickly people label someone not firmly upper middle class as lazy or ignorant (or both). Teachers, social workers and entrepreneurs may be some of the hardest-working people you meet, but their skills aren’t valued in our society nearly as much as professional athletes and rock stars. (No, all entrepreneurs aren’t Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg.) It’ll be interesting to see how this issue affects all of us in the coming years.

6) If you could travel anywhere on the globe, where would you go?

I would love to travel nonstop, experiencing other cultures and traditions, although I would make Italy (or a tropical island) my home base. I’ve long been interested in exploring my Italian roots, and I love water. Someday, I’ll wake up to a beautiful water view.

*** 6 Questions for CCC’s Nominees ***

  1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  2. What activity makes you happy?
  3. What’s your favorite song, and why?
  4. What’s one thing that you have learned this year?
  5. Who has been a mentor, role model or hero at any time during your life?
  6. What’s something that your blogging audience doesn’t know about you?

*** CCC’s Sunshine Award Nominees ***

Seyi Sandra at seyisandradavid

Lesley Carter at Bucket List Publications

Tyler Pedersen at The ancient eavesdropper

Lyla Larimore at A Chief’s Wife’s Heart’s ‘aFire

While our nominees are under no obligation to acknowledge or accept their Sunshine Award, we’re grateful of what they bring to the blogosphere. Take a few minutes to visit their blogs and explore what makes them tick. We think you’ll be glad you did.

Congratulations to our nominees, and a heartfelt thank you to Carol Preibis at Ahh the Simple Life for the nomination. One of the biggest blessings of blogging is the fellow bloggers that you meet, and Carol is at the top of my list.

We’d also like to thank our loyal readers! Without you, we’d be writing to ourselves in a public forum. We hope that you continue to find our content valuable and take a moment to drop us a note once in awhile. In turn, we’ll keep on keeping on trying to educate, inform, entertain and inspire.

Cheers,
Jaime

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Every Move You Make: Maintaining Privacy in a Digital World

Every Move You Make: Maintaining Privacy in a Digital World

The Man. Big Brother. The eye in the sky. Whatever you call it, it’s watching you. (Cue The Police — the band, that is.)

We’ve touched on the issue of privacy in a digital world before, but it’s worth revisiting as technology continues to improve. The issue comes from balancing convenience and maintaining any privacy whatsoever. Where’s the line in the (digital) sand? When will we know when it has been crossed?

“It straddles the line of creepy and cool.”  –Jeff Bakalar, CNET Senior Editor

As CBS News reported, the new Google timeline tracks — and archives — every move you make. Before you completely freak out, note that your timeline is visible only to you, and the search giant does allow you to opt out of being tracked. Of course, that may hinder any location-based services you utilize, such as Google Maps.

Understand that this isn’t a Google issue, or a Facebook issue; it’s a human issue. Do we jump all in to utilize the conveniences that technology offers? Do we maintain any privacy at all? Does it matter anymore?

Sure, you can opt out of the Internet entirely, but that’s getting harder and harder to do. According to a Pew Research study released last week, 15% of American adults don’t use the Internet at all. While that’s a substantial drop from a 2000 study (48%), it’s still shocking to most of us. How do they manage? What do they do for a living?

“In our ever-more wired world, connectivity is crucial for access to jobs, government services, health care, and information—as well as for the education and skills training of younger Americans.”  –Julia Greenberg, WIRED staff writer

So the question is where’s your line? Do you have one? Have you thought about it?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s a personal decision like what you wear or the music you listen to.

Let’s discuss; weigh in with your opinion. Where’s your line?

p.s. If you’re now humming “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, here you go. Enjoy!

An old school soul living in a digital world,
Jaime

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50 Things I’m Grateful For… Summer 2015 Edition

The author enjoying small talk at a conference.

It’s time, once again, for our annual tradition on the CCC blog. Each year, I list 50 unique “things” that I’m currently grateful for. While I’m grateful every day, it’s helpful to write down a list every now and then. I encourage you to try it! Write your own blog post or share your list in the comments below.

Here we go, 2015 edition:

1) Biting into fresh watermelon
2) A steaming hot latte, even on a hot, summer day
3) Emoji — a universal language that has graduated to the business world
4) My quirks & imperfections
5) Coloring
6) That Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood concert not that long ago…

7) Christmas
8) A good trail to run
9) Zip-lining and high ropes courses
10) Burning candles and a roaring fire in the fireplace
11) Getting lost in a good book
12) The dark
13) The beauty of nature

Just another day in paradise... 🌅 Nature in the city.

A post shared by Jaime Shine (@jaimeshine) on

14) Dirt track racing
15) Scheduling my platelets donations through an app
16) Learning something new
17) Family (blood or not)
18) Art & design
19) Bruce, my first food sculpture (and event planning)

20) Keeping score at a ballgame
21) My brother, sister-in-law & soon-to-arrive Baby Shine!
22) The power of knowledge
23) Mental math
24) Andy Warhol
25) Catching a movie on the big screen
26) Small businesses (and the people who start them!)
27) My wanderlust spirit

28) Hope & second chances
29) God, and his (or her?) glory
30) Music, especially live
31) Clients who pay on time
32) My ever-running mind, even when I want an off switch
33) Whiteboards

34) Adventures
35) Golden Flashes
36) The thrill of crossing the finish line
37) Flexibility
38) Fellow bloggers (Ahh The Simple Life, Lance Wyllie & Sage Doyle to name a few)
39) CCC’s 3rd anniversary

40) Cheez-It Crunch’d (my new favorite snack)
41) Growing up in the 80s
42) My parents
43) Laughing out loud
44) Strong women

45) JAWS
46) Typewriters
47) Mad Men (& women)
48) Wedding soup
49) Generation X
50) Chucks

There’s my list on a beautiful Friday afternoon. We’d love to hear what you’re grateful for!

Usually barefoot, always grateful,
Jaime

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