Entrepreneurship

I Don't Go It Alone... And Neither Should You

For the entire history of LMW Edits, I’ve been a one woman show.

I’m a smart person. I have the talent and skills for the service I provide, I have real world work experience, and I even have a couple of fancy degrees including an MBA. It would stand to reason that you’d assume I could start and run a business all by myself.

You would be wrong.

Of course, there are the intangibles that help, like having a supportive husband, family, and friends who will listen to me expound at length about my business and offer helpful suggestions. And I consume an awful lot of content on a regular basis about entrepreneurship and business strategy. But that, my friends, is not enough.

When you operate solo, you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off in order to problem solve or grow. You don’t have anyone to prevent you from having to reinvent the wheel every. single. time. And you definitely don’t have anyone to tell it to you straight if you’re heading down the wrong path.

Planning exercise with Leo from January - pretty crazy to see how far I’ve come in less than a year!

Planning exercise with Leo from January - pretty crazy to see how far I’ve come in less than a year!

Well, guys, I believe in practicing what I preach, and I’m always telling people that if they need help, they should have no shame in hiring it. So a few years ago, I hired a business coach.

First, I did a six month individual program with Debbie Hoffman. Debbie gave me the basic structure I needed to level up from an idea that was kinda working to a real business taking in actual revenue. One example: this MBA didn’t realize that she needed to implement a CRM (customer relationship management) system instead of trying to keep all her clients and their needs stored between her head and a simple to do list!

Then, I signed on for a more long term coaching relationship that could grow with my business. Leo Manzione was recommended to me by another entrepreneur, and he’s been making a concrete difference from our first meeting. Leo has helped me refine my business practices so that I can deliver my best work to each and every client. And most important for me, he continually helps me focus on what needs to get done now so that I can keep moving forward without getting overwhelmed by my larger vision for my business. I’m doing better work, for more clients, and earning more money in the process - so I’d say coaching works!

There are a lot of coaches out there, just like there are a lot of organizers, and you find them in pretty much the same way: asking friends and contacts, doing a little research online, and ultimately going with the person who fits best with your needs and personality. It can feel like a giant leap of faith to pay another person to help you with things you technically could do yourself - but it’s also a shortcut to the places you really want to go.

LMW

Choosing The Right Type of Professional Organizer For You

Many people don’t even know that professional organizing is “a thing” - and yet, there are tens of thousands of us, working in more ways than you could imagine! Some organizers work as a side hustle, and others do it full time. Some organizers ride solo, and others build large companies. Some organizers work with families, others specialize in estate sales. There truly is an organizational fit for every person who needs help reclaiming their space!

Something else you may not know about the professional organizing industry: just because you meet and hire the business owner does not mean that said business owner will be in your home working on the project - or even that the organizers on your project will be employees who have been trained and supervised by that person! It is extremely common in the industry for professional organizers to hire other organizers on a contract basis for jobs they can’t handle on their own.

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

There are upsides to this, for sure. This strategy ensures there are enough people on your job to get your project done in a reasonable amount of time. It brings the overall price down because the going hourly rate for independent contractors is well south of the value of the business owner’s time. It’s also a professional development mechanism - it’s very common for organizers just starting out to do different contract gigs to learn the trade. I did it myself - and still do for organizers I really like working with when they come up short and need a hand!

There are also downsides. As a contractor, I have shown up to a gig for an organizer I have never met in person and been directed into a room and told to start sorting. The only filter applied was a phone conversation and a contract I signed with the organizer’s company. What’s more, on a multi-day job, the team might have been different every day! So just when the client starts getting comfortable with me, I’m done for the day and an entirely different person might show up the next morning.

The downsides are why I will never hire independent contractors. I would sooner refer you, a potential client, to a larger organizing company I know and trust, than I would take on the burden of sending unknown, untrained people into your home and hoping that it all turns out well. My service is built on a strong personal relationship between me and my client, which allows me to create organizational systems and setups that are specifically tailored for them.

That said, my style of service is certainly not for everyone! Many people prefer handing off the job to an efficient team and marveling at the end results. So, if you’re contemplating hiring a professional organizer, consider the following.

An larger organizing company or service might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a gorgeous “after” photo that looks like it’s out of a magazine.

  2. Your space is a large and/or tightly cluttered home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is the exact aesthetic featured in the organizing company’s photos.

  4. Your main concern is pricing.

My kind of individual organizing consulting might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a system that works and lasts.

  2. Your space is a smaller home/apartment, or a discrete project area within a larger home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is custom tailored to you, your needs, and your existing home style.

  4. Your main concern is security and trust.

If you think my style of organizing might be a good fit for you, let’s talk! You can schedule your free in-home organizing consultation here.

LMW

One Small Taste of Success

My sister and I are close. Not physically - although we live in the same city, we often go days or weeks without seeing each other or talking on the phone. But emotionally, very much so - we’re really open with each other about everything from gossip to family conflict. We HATED each other as children (something something sibling rivalry something), but a switch flipped some time in high school, and I’ve been proud to call her one of my very best friends ever since

All this to say: we were chatting the other day, while my not quite two year old niece tried on all my costume jewelry and harassed the dog, and got to talking about work. She’s a bigwig at a financial services startup, a relatively recent promotion for her, and has been on fire about it since the day she got the gig. She has always been incredibly smart (much more so than I) and the kind of dedicated, hardworking employee anyone would want to have, but this is a whole new level of passion that I’ve never seen before.

Except… I kind of have. In myself.

When I started LMW Edits, I knew that it would be fun and a challenge, but I didn’t know if it would really work as a going concern and I had pretty minimal goals.  I wanted to have a full roster of clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, and serve them well.  That was it!

Where the work gets done.

Where the work gets done.

For the first three years, I worked towards this relatively modest goal. I loved the work and I loved my clients, but I didn’t feel an inner drive to make my business my life. I still treated it as a job, relishing my time off and feeling a little big of a drag on Sunday nights as I faced the work week.

And then, last year, I started to see a shift. It started with the local conference put on by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) SF Bay Area Chapter, where I saw Debbie Hoffman speak. Debbie is a former Wall Street rock star who shifted her focus to coaching small business owners on the finer points of follow up. I really connected with what she was saying, scheduled a consultation with her the next week, and signed right up for her one on one coaching program.

Getting out there on behalf of my business!

Getting out there on behalf of my business!

As I started to work with Debbie, two things happened. First, I began to see more success: more clients coming in, more interest in my blog, and yes, more revenue in my bank account. Second, I began to dream bigger. The experience of working with so many varied and wonderful clients had started to give me the confidence to express my views on all things organizing related (as many of you have seen here on the blog), and I began to think about how to connect to a larger audience.

LMW Edits is still very much a work in progress, but I’m more passionate about my business and its potential than ever before. I have lots of projects in the pipeline, think about my business constantly, and work more hours than I ever thought I had the capacity to work. And this is all organic and intrinsically motivated - no one is standing over me telling me what to do, I’m just so fired and up and inspired that I absolutely have to get it all done. And all it took was reaching out to someone who inspired me and getting that first small taste of success!

LMW

Shift Your Productivity

When I’m working, I have a lot of tabs open. There’s personal email and calendar, work email and calendar, all my work resources like accounting, blogging, CRM, and social media, and then whatever else I’m clicking around on doing research or finding product links. It gets really overwhelming and cumbersome to manage all that within one browser!

In a stroke of perfect timing, a blogger I follow wrote a post recommending an innovative solution to the multi-tab disaster: Shift. He raved about the ease of use and how it streamlined his workflows.

However, I was hesitant, because the tier of service you really need to run a business costs $99 per year, and as a small business owner I’m trying to make sure that every nickel and dime I spend makes an impact.

Finally, after another day spent clicking back and forth between tabs, I’d had enough. I looked over the options one more time and downloaded Shift, the Advanced version.

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

You guys, I totally love it. I have three Gmail accounts, and Shift makes toggling between the mail, calendar, and drive windows a total breeze. My personal favorite touch is that when you open a document in your Google Drive account, Shift pops it out into another window automatically. So helpful to be able to tile Google Docs and Sheets across a computer screen - it really makes the Google Drive experience feel a lot more like traditional word processing.

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

I’m really glad I chose the Advanced version, too, because I’m using the crap out of those features. Shift accommodates super helpful Chrome extensions including Boomerang (which is actually changing my life, scheduling emails ahead of time is my new favorite thing) and Lastpass (which I’ve raved about before and makes life so much easier). It also tiles some of my favorite services right inside the app, like Xero, my accounting software; Hootsuite, where I manage social media posting when I’m really feeling on top of my life; and even iCloud which makes grabbing all my iPhone photos for blogging a breeze.

Shift is a new product, so there are certainly some downsides that come with the growing pains of any new technology. For starters, it's definitely a Google and Cloud driven software solution. They do offer support for a limited group of other email account types like Outlook, but my lame old Yahoo email address that I use for junk mail is still out in the cold. Actually… maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

The other thing is that there are still plenty of really useful apps that don't work with Shift. I would be over the moon if they could provide seamless integration with blogging software and my CRM program, for example. However, the good news is that they’re adding linked apps and services all the time, so the functionality is only going to get better over time.

Bottom line: Shift is well worth the investment if you live your digital life in the Cloud, appreciate high quality design, and want to level up your productivity.

What other great digital productivity solutions have you found?

LMW

***This post contains referral links, which may earn me cash back or service credit on the linked sites.  All opinions are my own.**

What I'm Organizing: Working Remotely

For all its flaws, the startup culture that’s taking over the world is making my life a lot easier.  There’s one simple reason: most places I go, there are cafes and co-working spaces that cater to people like me who can work anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection.

Recently, my husband and I went to London for a week.  We lived there for a few months in 2011 for his job, made great friends, and have made a point to visit at least once a year since.  It’s an easy and relatively low-stress trip for us due both to that familiarity and to the fact that his company has an office there, so he can go into work and as a result have to take fewer vacation days.  

I cannot lie and say that I got a particularly early start each day that we both decided to work, but I can truthfully say that I did get up at an undisclosed time, work out, and then get ready and pack myself off to one of the many work-friendly cafes close to our hotel.

Kale caesar, spiced carrot soup, a slice of crusty bread, and fizzy water: the perfect lunch.

Kale caesar, spiced carrot soup, a slice of crusty bread, and fizzy water: the perfect lunch.

At the risk of becoming a total hipster (or hipster wannabe), I have to say that I found one of the best working environments at The Hoxton.  All day, every day, the lobby of this hotel, restaurant, bar, and coffee shop is packed with tech workers and freelancers on laptops.  The food is great (I had the 2 for £10 soup and salad combo), the servers are completely unbothered by you having your nose stuffed into your screen, there’s plenty of natural light, and comfortable seating and outlets abound.

Photo courtesy of thehoxton.com (I posted up at that gray chair closest to the camera)

Photo courtesy of thehoxton.com (I posted up at that gray chair closest to the camera)

The vibe of a space like The Hoxton works for me because the dull roar of people around me feels like pleasant white noise, and I work better when I have slight guilt about the possibility of someone seeing my screen and judging that it’s not actual work.  The only thing I need in addition to my laptop is my glasses - for some reason, wearing them helps me focus even better even though they don’t improve my actual vision all that much.  You wouldn’t want to set up camp in a place like this if you needed to make phone calls, though!

Where are your favorite places to get a little work done while traveling?

LMW

Weekly Peek

Midwestern Hot Spot

Over President's Day weekend, I made my semi-annual trek to Minnesota to visit my best friend and her family - including my honorary nephews, who very gratifyingly remembered me and deigned to let me read them stories (they're 1.5 and 3).  As a special treat they got a babysitter one evening and we headed out for a very memorable dinner at Travail Kitchen & Amusements.  It's a steady stream of small bites, all of them creative, delicious, and inspired by local ingredients - and all of them delivered with plenty of humor and without formality.  I had duck mousse squeezed onto my hand and ate a piece of speck directly from a hanging hook, among other things!  If you're in the Minneapolis area, go early for a drink (or two) - the cocktails and mocktails are all seriously excellent.

Hot Button Issue

My husband and I were lucky enough to be invited as guests of the Marin Community Foundation to attend the Planned Parenthood Northern California Acts of Courage dinner (you may have seen my Instagram posts already...).  It was a truly inspiring evening, featuring honoree Dr. Willie Parker, author Rebecca Traister interviewed by writer and educator Chinaka Hodge, and a poetry reading by Janae Johnson, Natasha Huey, and Terisa Siagatonu that blew both of us away (my husband said it was hands down his favorite part of the night - and he is not what you would call the activist-y type).  Women's health, and equal access to it for all women regardless of race, sexuality, or gender identification, is my hot button issue, and I'm looking for ways to get more involved.

When Conferences Go Right

I talked openly about my thoughts on the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) here, and I'll continue to do that.  Plus, conferences in general have a pretty spotty reputation.  However, I was overall really pleased with my experience at the Regional Conference held by NAPO-SFBA last month.  I found the keynote speaker to be not particularly inspiring, but thought some of the breakout sessions were really helpful and spurred me to think creatively about how to move my business forward this year.  Plus, there were great networking opportunities with vendors and other organizers, and it's always great to feel like part of a community!

Petunia checks out the fluffy white stuff on Day 1 of the storm... and yes, those giant banks from this crazy snow year are taller than a person!

Snowed In

It's been quite dry in California for the past few years, which means we've collectively forgotten how to deal with mountain weather and travel therein.  My friends and I were reminded of just how opinionated Mother Nature can be when we headed to Tahoe for the first weekend in March and quite literally got snowed in for a night longer than planned.  With about four feet of snow falling over two days and all the freeways closed, there was literally no way to drive back to San Francisco.  I try to warn people that this can be a possibility, and sure enough, getting snowed in does actually happen!

What I'm Organizing

Or, should I say, what I'm failing at organizing!  I'm never too proud to admit when I go wrong, and I definitely did last week.

Our renovation means that our contractor has to periodically turn off water and power to move things around, and he wanted a week without us in the house to accomplish the latest round.  So, my plan was to spend the week at my parents' condo at Tahoe.  I'd have few distractions, so I planned to get some serious work done: set up my CRM system, do a lot of writing for the blog, start to work on some cool partnership ideas, take a new look at my social media presence.  Photo below was from Day 1...

If you happened by the blog last week, you'll get an idea of how much of that happened: pretty much none of it!

During the week, whether I was on the slopes or curled up on the couch, I got into that mode where I was happy with what I was doing, l was terribly guilty about what I WASN'T doing, and i was unable to snap out of it.  I had everything I needed in terms of resources, time, ideas, space, and I just could. not. get. it. together.

Looking back, I think it's because I was adrift from my usual work habits and hadn't set myself up for success.  At home, I've developed a series of rituals that make me feel like I'm in work mode and help me concentrate.  For starters, I work on a large computer monitor with separate keyboard and mouse.  There's something about sitting at a desk with that big monitor that deters me from general internet screwing around.  Of course, I only had my laptop with me at Tahoe, and I do plenty of screwing around on that so... 

I also do things like have a candle on my desk that I only light when I'm working (and usually only when it's cold outside, because apparently flame = heat = warm? WTF self?), only wear my glasses when I am actually butt-in-seat working, and only keep work related items on my desk.  At Tahoe there was no candle, I found myself wearing my glasses around constantly, and the small desk in my room in the condo was cluttered with my purse, various charging devices, and other random stuff I brought with me that wasn't work related.

These seem like really small things that a person should be able to overcome easily.  And maybe you're made of tougher stuff than I am and you can get work done anywhere, no matter what.  But for many (most?) of us, the small habits and rituals we create to nudge ourselves into doing the things we need and want to do are crucially important.  This is why I always say that organizing isn't just about stuff, it's about habits.

About to drop down and get first tracks in Counterweight Gully at Alpine Meadows, I'm closest to the camera (Photo by @xoxjulianne)

On the plus side, I spent great quality time with my parents and enjoyed an AMAZING powder day skiing with some of the coolest hard-charging ladies around.  So, instead of dwelling on the fact that I didn't get much done last week and now feel behind, I'm trying to be thankful for the great experiences I did have and start anew this Monday.

Have a great week!

LMW

 

 

Harsh Criticism?

Marie Kondo is still hitting the news and one article in particular that came out last summer really galvanized a lot of chatter within the organizing community.  Taffy Brodesser-Akner took a much more critical view than we usually see of the entire professional organizing industry in her piece for the New York Times: Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff.

Many National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) members reacted strongly to the central paragraphs of the story, where Ms. Brodesser-Akner describes attending the annual NAPO Conference.  They feel misunderstood, attacked, and mocked.  I can see why.  There are some biting cheap shots in there.

But – and I’m going to say this as delicately as I possibly can, so as not to diminish the effort, talent, and good intentions of many wonderful people – I rather agree with some of Ms. Brodesser-Akner’s assessment of the organizing industry and the people who claim to speak for it. 

I’ve been a member of NAPO, both at the national level and the local San Francisco Bay Area chapter, for a couple of years.  There’s a lot of good there: continuing education, mentorship opportunities, a strong referral network, advocacy on behalf of the industry, and support and good humor in the face of what can be a strange and intimate business.  The members of NAPO, as a rule, are kind, welcoming, generous with their time and expertise, and dedicated to helping their clients.

However, professional organizing in the United States was an industry waiting to be disrupted when Marie Kondo came along.  There are a few core reasons for this. First, apart from a few franchising companies (Neat Method is perhaps the most well known), most professional organizing businesses are single proprietors working out of their homes.

Second, professional organizing is quite literally an aging industry.  This is both because it’s a learn-on-the-job type of career that rewards longevity in business, and because it’s often a second, later in life career that accommodates a person’s interest in working in a way that fulfills them while allowing them to maintain a flexible work/life balance.  I feel the demographic quite acutely in my involvement with NAPO: I’m 34 and sometimes feel like everybody’s kid sister. 

Finally, to address the elephant in the room: professional organizing is dominated by women, and shares both the strengths and weaknesses of other female-dominated spheres.  The spirit of cooperation within the industry is truly legendary.  But as Ms. Brodesser-Akner noted about the NAPO Conference, majority female organizations can trend away from professionalism and towards the crafty, folksy, and touchy-feely. 

What does this mean for a potential customer?  This means that, more than in many other service industries, the experience of interacting with an organizer will vary wildly.  Some have a comprehensive online presence and others have websites out of 1995; some use online payment processing and others only accept checks; some keep abreast of the latest innovations and some are quite distrustful of new organizing trends in pop culture. 

What does this mean for the industry?  It means a long history of stagnation and late adaptation to changing cultural trends and technologies.  For all the cooperative spirit between individual organizers, the industry as a whole lacks cohesion, standards of service, and most importantly, capacity and support for innovation.

Professional organizing is an incredibly valuable industry, especially in our fast paced modern world where not everyone learns to organize and doesn’t have the time or energy to start from scratch alone.  But it will not stay relevant if it can’t grow and adapt to our changing cultural, technological, and financial landscape.   

And that’s where I find myself: trying to start a larger conversation about organizing our lives, what motivates us to acquire and de-accession, how we consume, the ways in which we can use technology to help and in which it can hold us back.  With appreciation and respect for the capable organizers who have gone before me, I’m trying to kick the professional organizing industry into the twenty first century where it belongs.

Change is good.  Come along!

LMW

What I'm Organizing

There comes a time (one hopes) in the life of every small business when the number of clients outpaces the capacity of the business owner's brain.  For LMW Edits, that time has come!

I'm really into using integrated cloud-based apps to run my business.  I'm pretty well versed in accounting, marketing, and other foundational business practices thanks to my MBA, but I'm still just one person and anything that streamlines processes is a win in my book.  Plus, part of the way I differentiate my business is by keeping on top of tech trends in the organizing space, so it would be rather incongruous for me to use dated tools myself.

So, when I realized I needed a CRM tool (that would be Customer Relationship Management, a fancy way of saying "how to keep track of clients"), my top priority was to find something that would integrate with Xero, the cloud-based accounting app I've been using since I received my very first payment.  Although I have nothing to compare it to, I've been very happy with Xero: the design is clean, it's super user friendly, and there are tons of resources available including the App Marketplace, which is where I started my CRM search.

At this point, based on reviews and recommendations from other tech-savvy organizers, Insightly is bubbling to the top of the list.  I'm going to do a bit more research, so if you have a CRM solution you love, tell me about it!  I'd be very interested to hear your experience.

LMW

Weekly Peek

Image courtesy of Blossom T. Barnes

#Girlboss

My friend Blossom T. Barnes (another one of the wonderful women I've met through the Junior League of San Francisco) has just launched her business, and I was lucky enough to attend her launch party.  Brick & Mortar Society is an innovative concept combining independent retail with marketing and event planning.  As a small business owner myself, I really appreciate what Blossom is working on.  I also thought the panel she assembled of fellow female entrepreneurs from The Fix Berkeley, Hey Lady Shoes, and Table + Teaspoon including expert moderation by Pernella Sommerville was both eye opening and encouraging.  Follow Brick & Mortar Society on social media and watch for more great things from Blossom!

Photo taken by my husband on the ferry across Lake Como

La Dolce Vita

I just got back from a truly amazing trip to Italy with my husband and parents (plus a visit from our favorite London residents while we were in Florence).  I don't want to bore you with a travelogue, but I will say this: Florence is so cute it's almost like Disneyland, Italian food really is better in Italy, Lake Como is just as beautiful as you think it is, and I was just. not. ready. for the fashion in Milan.  You know how you see the really crazy couture in store windows (like metallic flatform oxfords, those furry Gucci mules, or weird voluminous dresses) and wonder who wears them?  The Milanese women do.  And with panache.  I absolutely fell in love with Milan and will most certainly go back.

Photo courtesy of theory.com

photo courtesy of cuyana.com

Shop For A Cause

Have you, like me, been eyeing anything from Theory or Cuyana recently?  Well, hold off for just a little while longer and come to shopping parties at both stores' Union Square locations on Tuesday, October 25!  Each store will be offering a percentage of the proceeds back to the Junior League of San Francisco, which will help fund our work in the San Francisco community and partnerships with other local nonprofits.  I have last year's version of this gorgeous lightweight sweater and will be looking for the dusty pink shade, and still need to purchase this simple and elegant silk tank in a couple of colors.

Photo courtesy of dogwalks.com

Pampered Pooch

Of course, Petunia is well taken care of while we're away.  She goes on off leash group walks 5 days a week with the wonderful people at Dogwalks.com, and they also offer daycare and boarding.  Owner Julia Frink has a lovely home with a shockingly big backyard in the Richmond district, where she and her team of devoted dog lovers watch over a small pack of rotating pooches.  Petunia is an excellent judge of character, and she loves each and every person from Dogwalks so much that she is absolutely beside herself every time they come to pick her up.  Plus, they update their Instagram account several times a day with adorable shots of the dogs and their adventures.  We love the whole Dogwalks team and are so grateful for how much they love our silly Petunia!