The Baby, The Ladies and The Workshop

I stepped into the production room, and this giant cutting table immediately caught my sight. It had a heavily worn metal ruler fixed onto one of its edges – such a workhorse.

We acquired this company in 2010. My wife wanted to get into something creative. Curtain Witchery was a small scale curtain manufacturer. It employed nine ladies with almost a hundred years of curtain making experience between them.

The previous owner could not cope with the demands of running a small workshop. Hence, we bought it cheap. It was almost too good to be true. We fell in love with it, with a romantic idea of running a busy workshop, creating arts.

“I cannot believe it,” my wife said to me.
”It’s ours now,” I replied.
“Yup, it is.”
”Are you ready for the big opening tomorrow?”
”Not really.”

Our first few weeks there were slightly confusing with a steep learning curve. There were times that Eve would call headless-chicken days. I figured out that she was talking about herself. She was the chicken. The other ladies, they were fearless witches.

”How do you all manage?” Eve asked Marg, one of the ladies. “There are so many things to do.”
”We just keep working I guess,” Marg replied.
”Well, in that case, could we skip morning tea today?”
”No, sorry ma’am, no morning tea, no work.”

I am telling you, those ladies, they might have been old, but they were fierce.


”You’re pregnant?” I could not believe my ears. “But we only just bought the business! How are we going to cope?”
”Well, I don’t know,” Eve said. “We’ll figure it out along the way I suppose.”
“Oh, I am sorry dear, it didn’t come out right,” I said. “I love you, and the little baby in your tummy too.”

Luckily, things did get easier in the months following our little pregnancy discovery. We figured out a better system to run the workshop. We had indeed become one of the curtain witches.

”This is your second child, right?” Liz, one of the ladies, asked Eve.
”Yes, it is,” Eve replied.
”Busy days ahead, Eve.”
”I know, I know,” Eve smiled.
”Hubby can help I’m sure of it,” Liz smiled back.
”O yes he will,” Eve said confidently.

Well, nine months went quickly, and it was time for baby girl to be born.

”Tomorrow is the day, you will be induced,” I said.
”I know,” she replied.
“Nervous?”
”Yes.”
”Me too.”

We came early in the morning, the doctor was ready, and it was supposed to be an easy procedure. It would have been a lovely morning if that phone had not rung. Jane, one the ladies, had decided to ring at that exact moment.

”Hello, yes, Eveline is giving birth, yes, right at this moment!” I said on the phone. “What? You’re worried about not getting paid overtime?”
”She is giving birth now, can we talk about it later?” I growled.

I could not believe it. I knew I should not have picked up that phone. I did not know what had gotten into me. I mean who picks up a phone when his wife is giving birth?


”Have you slept?” I asked Eve as I saw her wide awake on the hospital bed.
”She looks like a Natasha,” she replied.
”Really? Natasha sounds mysterious.”
”No, she is Michaela,” Eve then decided.
”Michaela sounds more like her,” I said.

Eve and Michaela spent a few more days in the hospital, adjusting to the new routine. She did not sleep much which worried me.

”Your baby is so cute Eveline,” Linda our workshop supervisor said.
”Is she our new assistant?” Marg said.
”Yeah, she will be fine on the cutting desk,” Jane smiled.

Everyone seemed to enjoy having Michaela around despite our never-ending jobs.

”How are you coping with Michaela in the workshop?” I phoned Eve from my office.
”It is a challenge, but we’ll manage,” she said confidently.


”What? Linda had an accident?” Eve was panicking.

Linda, our supervisor, had an accident in the workshop. She fell over a roll of fabric and hurt her left arm. Her old age did not help either as the doctor said it would take at least three months for her to recover.

“She cannot work for three months?” I asked Eve. “Who is going to cut the fabrics? Who is going to supervise the ladies?”
”Well, I guess I have to fill in for the next three months then,” Eve said.
”Ohh, you will be very busy, and tired too.”
”It’s only three months, we’ll manage,” she said.

The following three months were some of the busiest time we ever had in our lives. Some days got worse when Michaela decided to cry at 3am. Why, o why, would you cry at 3am little girl?

”Sorry hunny, I have to go super early this morning,” Eve said to me on a Monday morning. “Can you help prepare Kiera for school? I’ll bring Michaela with me.”

Eve had been coming earlier to the workshop to get more things done. In the meantime, I tried to help by doing my bit to take care of Kiera, our eldest child.

”Hi, are you still there? Do you need help?” I called Eve as it was getting a bit late at night.
”Yup, still here, I need to stay a bit longer to finish a job,” she said.
”Ok, I’ll make dinner then, Kiera said she wanted fried eggs,” I replied.
”Are you sure you’re ok?” I asked again. “I can hear Michaela crying.”
”Yes, she cried because I took away the fabric she was chewing.”

Eve came home at 11 pm that night. Michaela was already asleep in the car. I carried our baby girl in and put her in her little cot. Eve went straight to the bedroom and slept.


”Hunnnyyyy! Linda is back!” Eve said with her smile wide open.
”Oooohhh … thank God,” I said.
”Yes, the storm is over,” she replied.
“Wow I cannot believe it, she’s back.”
“Believe it, she is.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Relieved,” she smiled.
“Hah .. same here” I smiled back.

Linda was finally back at the workshop. She recovered well. The doctor put some kind of metal connector to strengthen her bone. We called her the Iron Lady from that moment on.

Everything was back to normal and no more late night work, yay!

”It’s a good day today,” I said to Eve while holding Michaela in my arms.
”Yeah, look at her cute face,” she replied, trying hard not to smooch her.
”She cries a lot, but her face is so adorable.”
”Aha .. with that face she would get away with many things.
”It was a hard few months, it was not perfect, but we made it,” Eve said slowly.
”And we’ll do it again, and again, and again.”
”Yes, together,” she smiled as she was holding my arm.


“Juggling work and parental responsibilities is no easy task, but I’m trying my best, and just like everything else there are good days, and there are bad days.” — Ali Landry

Startup Illusion

Starting a business can put someone’s mind into overdrive. It will then either shut him down or propel him forward. The euphoric moment will last as long as financial resources have not dried yet. With enough funding, the startup party can sometimes last for years. It is only after investors start demanding (sometimes not so) reasonable returns that the party turns into a big reality check. The dreams have dissipated into thin air, and cloud of judgement descending onto earth.

Party is over.

That’s the hard truth of starting a business. It will get worse before it gets better (if it does get better). Starting a business is like eating a box of chocolate – mixed with some not so edible foods. You never know what you’re going to get but the only way to find out is if you keep eating. In business we never know what tomorrow will hold, it can be a disastrous day or a day when we beat all sales record. The only way to find out is if we wake up in the morning and go to work. The only way to eat the good chocolate is if we keep eating the bad ones.

Some people are addicted to starting businesses. They have brilliant ideas, get the funding,  and off they go with an exciting venture. They don’t however stay long enough to feel the downturn, the heartbreak, the never-ending pressure, and the struggle. When things go south, they are the first ones to pack up their bags and go – some of which utilise bankruptcy regulation to move on.

Some people however, are born to build businesses. Not only that they will start their businesses themselves but they will also see to it that their ventures are successful before they move on. If things go south, they will be the last people in the company to pack their bags. Some might take part-time jobs to help with the cash flow.

There is one distinct difference between real entrepreneurs and wannabes – perseverance.

The startup illusion might be alluring but the hard reality is not as glamorous. Starting a business is hard work, it requires sheer mental strengths more than mere intellects or skills. Building a business is about getting up in the morning, go to work not knowing what will happen that day, persevere throughout the day, and then do it again the next morning.

“Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.” –Elon Musk

Breaking Strategy Limited

Many business managers and leaders are working long hours, and if they don’t, the intensity of their work is enough to send them to intensive care by the end of the week. These often result in their incapability to take a step back, to rewire their heads, into a more holistic, external view. A view which is important in devising a business strategy.

There are three things which can potentially limit business managers and leaders from creating good business strategies:

Time limit

As mentioned briefly above, busy people don’t normally have the time to take a step back. Time is the main ingredient in creating good strategy, it is finite, hence it must be utilized to the max. Spending dedicated time for business strategy is the only way to create one. Outside consultants can help tremendously in developing strategic plans. However, CEOs, business owners, and business leaders alike are the real master strategists of their respective companies.

Inside View

Working in the business, putting out fire on a daily basis, can affect vantage views. A good strategy must be developed taking into account external forces such as market, competitions, etc. When we are inside, our mind is filled with what’s happening inside the business. The customers who complain, the suppliers who send wrong goods, and so on. Filling our head with the proper information is important to create a good strategy. Take a step outside the business to get a better vantage view.

Simplifying Complexity

Business can be a nightmare to navigate through. Different parts, interconnecting, reacting, talking, affecting one another. From sales, marketing, administration, logistics, and so on. It just seems impossible to put everything together to develop a business strategy comprising all the complex components of a business. Maybe it is impossible. Creating a good strategy requires simplified version that human minds can comprehend. It is important though that the simplified version does not loose important parts of the business itself. Simplifying business complexity without loosing its essence – that’s what we need.

So there it is, some points which can limit the creation of business strategy.

Last but not least – what about small business? Do they need business strategy?

We believe small businesses need business strategy even more than the bigger corporations. The reason is simple: limited resources. Small businesses only have so much resources, every dollar counts. A good strategy will help to make sure that every little bit of resources is capitalized to the max.

Happy Strategizing!

Hidden cost of business

We spent around 1.5 to 2 hours per day, traveling from and to work.  That would equate to around 23 to 30 days per year.  Basically around one month of our life is spent for traveling annually, and this is only for going to work and back.  If only we live close by to our work, maybe we can reduce the time to 20 min per day.  That will save us heaps of time.

Then what about those time we spend waiting for the browser to load?  Or waiting for the kettle to finish heating up hot water.  There are many activities we do on a daily basis whereby lots and lots of time are spent, waiting, driving, and for some people day dreaming.

Obviously if you own the business most likely you will have all these “time wasting” activities sorted out.  But what about the staffs?  How do we make sure that “time wasters” are not wasting time anymore?

Simple, get them to stop wasting time or ask them to waste someone else’s time.

Tough boss?  Let’s call it tough love instead.

Still finding those goals?

In business we sometimes wonder whether we are doing what we’re supposed to do.  Especially in the midst of economic uncertainty like now, more and more people are anxiously waiting for the next big news.  More and more people are wondering whether they should be selling their businesses before it’s too late.  The other half is undecided, not sure if their strategies are the right ones.

All these “unsure, anxious” activities can take up a lot of time, draining every single drop of energy we have.  We can push them aside and just focus on what’s in front of us.  Accept our place in the world, in the business community, or in the corporate ladder.  Then try to pour our best into what we’re doing now, treating them like they’re our callings.  At the end of the day, they might very well be what our goals supposed to be in life, and in business.

Maybe we are already in the right place, at the right time, we just haven’t realized it yet.

“If you search everywhere, yet cannot find what you are seeking, it is because what you seek is already in your possession” Lao Tzu

Sleep deprivation – badge of honor?

Anyone who put in 70 hours week will be familiar with sleep deprivation, especially those young family with new born babies.  However, whether it is a necessity or not that’s another story.  For some of us, we can force ourselves to “buy” those extra time, so we can rest, and not sleep deprived.  If it’s a necessity then there really is not much we can do about.  What if it’s not?

Maybe the issue is deeper from just simply not having enough time to sleep.

A couple of things sprung into mind.  First, it’s a great excuse to make mistake when we’re sleep deprived.  Hey, we’ve done our best, we even loose sleep, a little bit of mistake is acceptable, right?  Second, it’s a great feeling being able to tell our friends how hard we work, we’re even starting to have amnesia, what a hard working fellow.  Finally, it’s a “badge of honor” for us.  It doesn’t feel right if we’re fresh all the time, we need to be sleepy and tired before we can feel our worth.

Sleep deprivation or emotional need?

The art of buying time

Managing business can be very time consuming.  Task after task, never ending to-do list, piling paper work, and not to mention the phone ringing every five minutes.  For those young family it’s even more challenging, especially the ones with babies who seem to decide 2am is the perfect time to wake (everyone) up.

So how do we cope?  Surely we need a little bit of time to step back and make sure our company is still heading in the correct direction.  Being drown in millions of day to day operational details, it’s so easy to loose our focus.

Maybe we need better time management?  There’s only one problem, there’s not enough time to manage.  We have simply exhausted the 24 hours day of our lives.

Probably the easiest way to combat this is by forcing ourselves to set certain time away from all the hectic days.  Will there be sacrifices?  No doubt about that.  But considering the alternative is a possibility of loosing focus and direction, it might very well be a good sacrifice.

In principle, you will be forcing yourselves to “buy” these extra time.

Time truly is money.