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What I Learned About Small Business While Shoveling Snow

Posted By Cathy Larkin On February 16, 2014 @ 3:00 pm In Management | 22 Comments

what i learned about small business

While shoveling 8 to 10 inches of snow out of my driveway during our fourth Northeastern storm, I started thinking about running my small business. The decision process I used to clear my driveway is similar to the decisions you need to make to run a small business.

Here’s What I Learned About Small Business

Planning is Important in Any Endeavor

Many people jump right into a task and just get it done. But some business decisions benefit from stepping back and thinking it through first. To use the snowstorm example, instead of shoveling my own driveway, I could choose to outsource or delegate the job:

  • Hire someone with a snow plow or a snow blower.
  • Hire someone to shovel my driveway for me.
  • Have another family member or friend do it for me.

I could have made any of those choices, but I decided that was unnecessary:

  • I have a short, flat driveway.
  • I had parked the car near the end of it, so there really wasn’t enough snow to justify paying someone else.
  • My nephews live too far away in a storm to help out.
  • Although shoveling snow is not my major skill set, it is a task I am capable of doing.
  • I am a healthy adult, who could use more exercise.

I have plenty of work to do from my home office today, but nothing with a huge deadline that 20 minutes of snow shoveling will affect. So I decided to do it myself.

With some business tasks, you might find that if it is not your primary skill, or you have higher priority tasks, that you should at least consider your options for outsourcing or delegating.

You Need to Have the Right Tools for the Job

This winter I replaced my old winter coat with a new warm, waterproof winter jacket and fleece lined pants. I already have boots, gloves and a hat. I also already had tools like a snow shovel and an ice scraper/brush for the car.

These basic tools made the job easier. Since this snowstorm also had sleet and freezing rain, the waterproof jacket really came in handy.

If you really want, or have the need, you can also add bigger, better and more expensive tools from a snow blower to a lawn tractor with a plow attachment or a snow/plow on your pick-up truck, but for the reasons above, I saw no need.

But, for my home business, I recently realized that I needed to upgrade my small business tools. I work on the computer most of the day, and had been working with a 10″ netbook that I bought when my larger laptop died.

While I liked the portability, especially for conferences, for my daily use – the small size was not great. Then it started to act up, the battery wasn’t holding a charge, the Internet was getting slow, and the power cord was iffy.

Although I handled my driveway with low tech tools, I recently decided to upgrade my business tools. I took advantage of holiday sales and pay-over-time shopping and upgraded to a 17″, MS Windows 8, Dell laptop with a fast processor and 8 GB of RAM – and it darn near flies.

Yesterday while teaching a “create your own website for artist’s” class, I let someone use my old machine when hers stopped working. It was so slow and small. I had forgotten how slow and how small.

I love my new machine and feel I am much more effective, and probably should have upgraded sooner.

Timing and Breaking a Larger Task Into Smaller Steps is Wise

This recent storm was shifting from snow to freezing rain, then more snow that night. Mid-morning, when my trashcan had about 8 inches of snow on top, and the freezing rain seemed to let up a bit, I decided that instead of waiting until it was all over the next day, I would tackle it then.

I was glad I did because by the time I was done, the snow was much heavier and wetter after the sleet and freezing rain picked back up.

A Willingness to Shift Gears and Expectations is Required

I will admit, halfway or more through, as it started to get heavy, I saw a private snow plow drive by. I decided to outsource the rest of the job. I flagged him down asking how much to finish my drive for me. He said he was late for a job, so couldn’t do it. I sighed and continued.

I decided to take smaller shovel loads and to not concentrate on the whole amount that seemed to be left. And, really, breaking it down into smaller chunks…literally…made each shovel load lighter, and it seemed to go faster. All of a sudden – I was done.

So now you know what I learned about small business from shoveling snow.

What are the best tips you use to move your business forward? And if you learned the idea from doing another task, let us know in the comments here.

Snow [1] Photo via Shutterstock


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[1] Snow: http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-112623077/stock-photo-throwing-snow-with-a-snowshovel-against-blue-sky.html