I’ve always loved the Staples commercial in which a father runs through the aisles, filling his cart with school supplies; a scene set to the tune of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” This brilliant marketing is a great take on parenting, but also highlights the hate-to-love it excitement and promise of another academic year.
As a kid, back to school season always revved me up. Along with an updated wardrobe, and a fresh supply of note- and textbooks, and fine point pens, I eagerly anticipated the academic challenges. I also embraced resuming a structured routine. (Don’t let me fool you, this verve fell off during college.) It felt much like spring, but only better, because spring made me restless and more inclined to slack off. Fall, felt serious.
Fast-forward to adulthood and entrepreneurship, and this back to school mindset prevails. Even more so, since launching my public relations firm in 2010—during the month of August.
Unintentional, but well-timed, the pairing of my internal cycle of “getting down to business,” to the warden ettinger group’s anniversary has created a natural opportunity to reflect upon the past year’s accomplishments and failures, unmet goals, and lessons learned—valuable information to take into the next quarter and beyond. And, a great excuse to buy a new planner (I still rely on a notebook in tandem with my devices to keep track of to-dos), file folders, pens and a fabulous power suit.
Of course, the real conversation is about taking things to the next level. Just as each year of school carries you higher in your education, each year on the job should be elevating your career. So while you’re taking stock of where you are, be sure to look ahead to where you want to be three, six, and 12 months from now. Every decision you make, and each opportunity that you take advantage of, should be based off of those goals. Otherwise, you’ll lose your way and wind up feeling stuck or unsatisfied. Which, whether you’re a business owner or an employee, is not an emotion that you want to carry.
A good way to shift gears from “summertime casual” to business attire only is by grabbing a couple of industry-related, leadership or how-to (social media, content marketing, management, etc.) books and start reading. If you don’t know what’s worth your money and reading time, these compilations, 13 Must Read Business Books to Kickstart 2013 and 21 Women Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Favorite Business Books should keep you occupied all year long.
Networking with accomplished co-workers and peers within your company or field, provides another quality outlet for defining and refining your goals, and for gaining new perspective on how to navigate the different issues and situations you’ve experienced but not yet mastered. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send over an email inviting them to coffee or lunch. Chances are, they’ll be flattered by your request.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve encountered over the years. This simple statement came from a very successful woman, Midge Rendell, who during a keynote speech, addressed women’s reluctance to drop the bravado and be honest with our peers when we need support.
Reminding us that some days, “You can’t do it all,” Rendell deemed asking for help—whether it’s a last minute request to grab a sick kid from school when a meeting can’t be left, proofreading an important presentation, writing a recommendation, reviewing a business plan or providing counsel on how to handle a difficult peer relationship—a proactive measure to stay on top of your professional game, not a sign of weakness.
I have heeded Mrs. Rendell’s advice since that day, and have been pleasantly surprised by the results. If you are not already employing similar tactics, I strongly recommend moving this up the to-do list.
There are many ways in which small business owners can adopt a back to school mindset and capture that focus and enthusiasm you left behind in the dog days of summer. I hope these words here, along with this Back to Business post on UPS’ Small Business Blog, and this one from About.com, will leave you feeling like you have a head start on the new (school) year.
As always, all of us here at Women on Business welcome your suggestions.