5 years ago we embarked on a faith journey. We had outgrown our cute little rambler, but couldn't sell it yet (we had bought at the height of the market in 2005). Since I'm Jen Hickle and you can't really tell me anything is impossible, I convinced Chris that we could get more land and space for our family by renting out our house and renting a house for a few years, while we grew our company and saved for another house. This was a TOTAL faith walk and could have really backfired, but we continued to pray and believe everything would work out in the end.
So that's what we have been doing! We were in Corcoran on a couple acres (and then discovered we like LOOKING at wide open spaces, but not maintaining them!) and then in Rogers (on a beautiful pond, but squeezed between TOO many neighbors). After looking for months, we finally found a beautiful home that fits our family, is in our budget, and has beautiful wide-open spaces for our work-at-home, homeschooling family!
Phew. We are finally at the conclusion of this 5 year journey and we are feeling so thankful and blessed!
(For anyone who is curious, we still own our first home and will continue to rent it out. In fact, we may purchase other rental properties as an investment and more streams of revenue! We've learned so much about renting out our home and being renters in the last 5 years!)
We have been busy picking out paint colors and new carpet, to really make this home updated and feel like "ours." You can follow our adventure on Instagram here:
Here's a couple pictures. I'll showcase the "after" pictures on Instagram in the next few weeks! We are super excited!
I grew up with parents who dreamed.
They were in MLMs, they attended Amway rallies (I had a little shirt that said, "Go Diamond!"), and they always taught me to "think positive!"
I remember seeing little slips of paper in their bathroom drawer with lists of dreams they wanted to achieve (way before having a Bucket List was a thing).
My dad was in sales and I saw the ups and the downs and the feast and the famine of living on straight commission.
My mom produced amazing theatre shows with kids at church and in our private school. She started with a single script and ended with an amazing production-- filling the auditorium with singing, dancing, and drama. Sets and costumes and props. Solos and microphones and backdrops and volunteers in the wings. My dad would fly in from work (he never walks--sort of always runs/glides everywhere, while singing, of course) and help with the finishing touches.
Growing up, I knew my parents were amazing, and yet I didn't. They were just my parents. It was normal to all sing around the piano. It was normal to fall asleep to the two of them practicing for the worship set on a Saturday night. Alphabetizing and filing music on a Sunday afternoon (while watching Little House on the Prairie) was a regular part of our routine. It was normal to see my parents sing duets in church on Easter Sunday.
When I moved to a new community and started raising my kids, I knew I wanted to share my parents with my friends. I also knew my kids had to grow up with the opportunity to be in my mom's incredible theatre shows. I was already growing my music school, so I told them, "I'll handle the billing and scheduling and marketing. You do theatre." And we did. And it was wildly successful. It was a felt need and we filled it.
(Both companies have grown so much that we are completely separate entities now, but we still cross-market and share students.)
Nine years later, those same kids that signed up for the preschool class are almost 13 years old, and headed to the big stage with the older kids next fall. I watched the lead characters of Sleeping Beauty this weekend, and remembered them in our preschool class, Musikgarten, singing and dancing around waving little colorful scarves. Many of the kids now take lessons at my studio and do theatre, too. Some of us go to the same church. As I wiped away a tear, my daughter asked me why I was crying. I simply said, "I love these kids."
Sometimes I worry that I should focus more on my kids. When I'm rolling out a new project or launch, I know I'm working more than usual. And then I realize I'm modeling real life for them. I'm showing them how to take a dream and make it a reality. I realize my parents did the same thing for me. They showed me that God wired each of us with gifts and abilities. It's our responsibility to use those gifts. And bless others. And make a difference in our community.
My mom always comes on stage, welcomes the audience, and introduces the show. As she walked on stage this weekend, my heart welled with pride. I've watched her do this since I was a little girl. It's what she does. She's amazing at pulling the best talent out of every child. She takes a dream and makes it a reality (after hours and hours of sweat and tears and planning and preparation). I love sharing my mom with students and families and audiences and auditoriums, but she is MY mom. She's mine. And I'm so very proud of her.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
Thank you for showing me how to chase my dreams.
When I was in high school, a petition was circling the school. We were outraged about something (I don't remember what, of course) and I'll never forget the principal's response. He wasn't mad. He was calm. But he gathered the high school together and he said: "Protests and petitions won't get you anywhere. Sure, it feels like you're doing something, but the best way to make change is not to sign your name on a paper. It's to stand up and do something. Have that hard conversation. Go directly to the person that has wronged you, and talk to them."
I've never forgotten those words.
The best way to make change is to stand up and do something.
I don't want to be whiner or a complainer. I don't want to be a protester or a petition-signer. I want to get up out of my chair, stand up, and make the small change that I can make.
I remember another day in high school. We were all loudly talking and moving as a herd from the cafeteria through the hallway to our next class. A bulky hand-painted banner had fallen from the concrete block walls and was now being trampled by the entire student body. We didn't even care. We just kept following the crowd. That day, my principal's face was red and angry. He stopped us right there in the hallway. "Didn't you guys see this?? How can you all keep walking and trampling over this poster??" We were dumbfounded. We really didn't see it. And if we did, we simply didn't care. We had our own agenda and our own interests in mind. We kept following the person in front of us, without a thought of the artwork that we were destroying under our feet.
Red-faced, the principal said, "All it takes is ONE person. One person to stop and move the poster so it won't get trampled."
I've never forgotten that, either. I have the power to get out of the crowd, take another look and do something. I can speak up, I can grab what is being trampled and I can get it out of harm’s way.
You don't have to march and protest and sign the petition. Sure, it feels good to be part of the crowd. Something bigger than yourself. But the biggest impact of all comes when just you--just one person--takes a stand and starts that hard conversation. Confronts injustice. Picks up that which is being trampled.
Acting bravely on your own is the most powerful action you can take.
My favorite quote says: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Imagine the impact if we each did just that.
I sighed. I stare at the task on my to do list. Again. It wasn’t going away, and yet I couldn’t seem to get the project done. Every time I worked on it, I got frustrated. Things weren’t working out the way I envisioned. This just wasn’t my strong suit. Sigh. Push it out to next week. Again.
I love using Todoist.com for all my tasks, but it’s frustrating when Chris keeps bragging about all the “points” he earns for completing all my tasks and I have OVERDUE glaring at me. I click the handy-dandy button that delays the due date another week. I rhythmically tap my pen on my desk. Maybe it’s time to get help with this design project.
<Fast forward 2 weeks.>
A new email comes in and the friendly message reads: “Jen, I have the proofs for you. Let me know what you think!” I open the PDF and grin like a fool. It looks so GOOD! And I didn’t have to do it! We hired a graphic designer and WOW this guy knows what he is doing! I write back: “I love it! Approved! Send it to the printer.”
Jumping over to Todoist, I gleefully check off the huge project that had been weighing on my shoulders for months. I grin.
These are the huge benefits of hiring a team:
When I build a team in my company, it’s imperative that everyone knows their role and what they should work on. My favorite tool is www.todoist.com. I can use hashtags to keep projects organized. I can assign tasks to myself or a team member and then set the date for a deadline. Every day, I get an email reminding me of upcoming and overdue tasks. I can even earn points for completing my tasks! Todoist works on my Apple Watch, there’s an app on my phone, and it’s beautiful on my computer. It synchronizes automatically, so I can stay on top of tasks wherever I am. Best part? The basic version is FREE! The upgraded version is only $29 per year. Totally worth it! If you’re building a team or collaborating on projects, check it out.
I know you’re already a Rock Star business owner. But you don’t have to do this all alone.
Build a team--and gain your sanity back!
This morning I was up early, enjoying my quiet solitude (halleljuah!), my coffee, and my book.
For the umpteenth time, I looked up and out of my picture window and thought to myself, "I hate this view. I miss the country. I miss all the trees." I sighed and went back to my book. My thoughts started wandering and I even started thinking about moving houses again. Then I reprimanded myself: "You just moved, silly girl. It's just one view out of one window and you only spend one hour here every day!" I pushed down my thoughts and changed course. Started looking at it from another angle. "My morning time matters. This is where I gather my thoughts and assess where my life is going. This view matters! If it's distracting to see 5 other houses, and I would prefer to see trees, doggonit, I should make a change!"
I stood up, grabbed my overstuffed recliner, and started shoving it to the other side of the room.
I took action and changed my view. On the other side of the room, I can see three trees, a lovely bench, and my kids' swing. Much better. So why didn't I move the chair sooner?
Here were my excuses:
1. I am always changing things. (I should just be content.)
2. My family will roll their eyes and maybe even complain that they liked it the old way. (People will think I'm crazy.)
3. People who visit my house will think the room was more balanced with the chair in the other corner. (I'll feel judged by their opinions.)
I have to tell you, I have a history of moving furniture. Often. When we were first married, Chris would walk in the door and I would say, "Don't be mad. I moved the furniture again." He likes things steady and predictable while I'm happiest when I'm creating, inventing, and coming up with new ideas.
Even as a little girl, I would rearrange the furniture in my bedroom. My dad would come home and say "You should have waited for me!" Nope. When I get an idea, I need to take action. Now.
I've been accused of loving to move furniture because I have control issues. And while I admit that shoving a huge piece of furniture across hardwood floors is quite satisfying, it's not about control as much as having a functional space. If something isn't working, I'd rather change it than complain about it. My parents were in networking marketing when I was a little girl, and I grew up hearing "Be positive!" I love being optimistic and looking on the bright side of things. If I find myself frustrated with a situation or a scenario, I would much rather brainstorm a solution and just CHANGE it than complain about it.
My problem is that I love people, too. And when the people in my life jokingly (or seriously) start nagging me because I'm "always" changing things or "always" moving furniture or always moving houses, I start to slink down. I better sit still. I better try to be more calm and steady. I should stop the stream of ideas in my head and just be grateful where I am.
Yes, being content is so important! But if you have the power to make a change and you can make things better in your house, your business, or your family, DO IT! Who cares if people think you are crazy?! YOU were made exactly the way you are because God made you this way! You are wired for innovation and ideas and positive change. People like you and me were sent to the planet to look at things in a different way and say, "Huh. If I move this chair, my view will be so much better! I'll enjoy my mornings so much more! I'm going to do it!" So what if people grumble a bit? They will get over it quickly. And YOUR view will be better forever.
My 9 year old saw me shoving the heavy armoire a few inches to make room for my chair, and said, "Shouldn't you wait for one of the boys to move that?" Oh honey. If you only knew how many times I've moved heavy furniture. I'm fine. I'm just fine.
I plopped down in my chair and got a huge grin on my face. THAT view is much better! Fewer houses, more trees. I can't wait until the leaves pop out in the spring! Green grass, we need you!
I grabbed my book and my coffee and sighed contentedly. Who knew such a small change could make such a huge difference?
(What do you need to change? What do you need to move around, both literally and figuratively? Make that change. Ignore the nay-sayers. Listen to your intuition. Make the change. I'm cheering you on.)
I have to admit that I was starting to feel a little depressed. I know Christmastime is supposed to be a happy time, but something was pulling me under more and more. I tried to do all my favorite things (reading, drinking coffee, etc) but nothing was helping. I finally realized that I was "gap-focused."
I was spending so much time lamenting what didn't get done this year that I was spiraling down into my own pit of despair. I forgot to acknowledge what went well and what we did accomplish. When I find myself doing this, I call it focusing on the gap. The gap that is between me and hitting the mark.
I really thought I had quit striving for perfectionism, but perfectionism rears its ugly head when I am least suspecting it. The truth is that I am very hard on myself. I have high standards and when I don't reach my own goals, I berate myself.
Tonight my mood turned around when I realized all the good things that happened in 2016. We reached our goal of 430 students at our music school. Our net income increased from 2015 to 2016. We helped to serve more clients than ever before with Never Alone Business Services. I finished writing my book, Happy Kids, Growing Biz.
Do you find yourself focusing on the gap? Do you forget to acknowledge your accomplishments and instead keep pushing pushing forward? If so, you're not alone. Most of us high-achieving business owners don't take the time to actually acknowledge the good things that we have accomplished.
Today, I'm going make a list of everything that was good about 2016. I encourage you to do the same. You may need to enlist the help of your spouse or your staff to help you remember.
Before you make your new goals for 2017, make sure you take a moment to remember what you got done this year. I guarantee it's more than you realize.
Dear busy business owner,
I know you're working so hard. Especially this time of year. You're buying gifts for your staff, you're making sure that everything gets purchased, you're overseeing the schedules, and you're making projections for 2017. The days are long and the hours are often never-ending.
You also get the priviledge of creating jobs and hiring amazing people. You see the smiles on your clients' faces and you get the joy of making a difference in the community.
And yet, sometimes it all still feels so small. Like maybe it doesn't really matter. Is this all worth it? Couldn't there be a bigger vision? A more glamorous mission?
I want you to know that what you do matters. Your company is your calling. It's a reflection of who you are and what you were created to do. No one is exactly like you. You bring your personality and your preferences and your flare into everything you do. Sometimes the difference you're making in the world feels so tiny. You're so aware that there are bigger things that need to be accomplished--people are fleeing war-torn countries, babies are dying, cancer is spreading. And yet. Listen to me. All you can do is be faithful in YOUR calling. You are exactly where you are for a reason and a purpose. You ARE making a difference in lives, and your efforts spread like a stone dropped in a pond. You may not ever see all the ripples that you are causing. But you are actually required to be faithful where you are and use the gifts and talents you've been given. Because, don't you see? If we all do that--if we all stay faithful to the calling we've been given--then it all works together! We all play our part. And that makes a bigger difference in the world than we could ever do alone.
Does your heart ache for a need? Do tears spring up in your eyes when you see how much is yet to be done in the world? Don't ignore those clues. Use that passion and ache to fuel your desire to grow your company. And then GIVE BACK. Start small. Even $25 makes a difference. But don't stop there. Give more.
This year, set a giving goal. Maybe it's 10% of your net revenue. Or 5% of your gross. Whatever you decide, your giving will increase as your company grows! This accomplishes a dual pupose: you will have a bigger goal outside of yourself and you will know that you are making a difference in the world. You will also have a bigger reason for growing your company and serving more people in 2017!
Don't look down on the work that you do. Don't resent where you've been planted. Instead, remember that you are exactly where you are supposed to do. What you do matters. I believe that with all my heart.
And I believe in YOU.
Once in awhile, I find my heart pounding, emotions rising, blood pressure escalating. I feel resistance: "I don't want to do this" I mutter. I push through. "Gotta get this done." I slam my fist on the desk, frustrated.
Other times in my business, I breeze through tasks, amazed at how quickly and easily I can maneuver my way through the situation. I click through items one by one, happily checking things off my list.
What's makes all the difference in these two scenarios? It's all in how we are wired.
Some people love to physically do things with their hands. You may like building, fixing, using machinery, untangling things, or making a physical model. Some of us get angry and frustrated while attempting to do the same things.
Some people are wired to create systems, organization, and rules. Others buck systems and love to question "Why?"
Figuring out how you are wired and what comes easily and naturally is a huge key to more happiness in life. If you can avoid the stress of doing things you are not naturally good at, you can spend more time on the things you love. And here's the thing: the thing that YOU love is difficult for other people! So if we stick to our strengths, we all win.
A couple years ago I was preparing for a big family meal at our house. Relatives were driving from out of town and the house was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. I needed another rack added in the oven so I could bake more food at one time. This particular oven rack was curved at one end and I could not figure out how which direction the rack should go in. Was it backwards? Upside down? I felt my blood pressure rising, but instead of getting frustrated, I called out to my hubby, Chris. He installed the new rack, easily and with no effort. What was frustrating for me was easy to him.
Very often in our business, we send out emails to our clients. Chris can labor over the words and phrases and waste time and effort, or he can ask me to pound out a couple paragraphs in a minute or two. It's not that he can't write--it's just much easier for me.
Having a team for your business is crucial so that you can figure out how each person is wired. I love giving assessments to my staff so I know what they enjoy and what stresses them out. Studies have proven that we all love doing a job that we enjoy, that we feel is meaningful, and where we feel useful. "Delegate" isn't such a scary word when you re-frame it and think of assigning tasks based on who truly thrives in each area.
We've all been taught to "power through" or to do the unpleasant tasks first. "No pain, no gain." But I'm going to challenge your thinking. Every time you do something that brings up feelings of anger, stress, or resentment, write it down. (Or make a mental note. Or tell Siri to jot it down.) Conversely, when you breeze through certain tasks, write those down too. Bonus points if the task isn't just easy, but you truly love doing it. After assembling your list for a few weeks, analyze it. What tasks should you stop doing? What can you give to your team instead? Don't delegate because you "should" delegate, delegate the items that frustrate you or stress you out. Keep things on your list that you truly enjoy and love to do. Here's why: You gain energy from doing things that come easily or naturally to you. When you gain energy, you can get more things done! Why drain your battery doing something that someone else could do easily and naturally?
A business owner recently told me that she delegated all her favorite tasks to her staff because she thought as the owner that she "should" do the unpleasant things. NO! Everyone defines "unpleasant" differently. Keep the tasks that you love and are good at. Assign tasks to your staff based on what they are good at. Then we all win!
I hate numbers, but Chris loves them. The same task in a spreadsheet that would put me in a bad mood takes Chris effortless time.
I love copywriting. I can whip out a headline, an email subject or a blog in just a few minutes. Chris will waste time and energy trying to do the same thing.
Some of my kids are really good at some things, and others are good at other things. I pay attention and assign them chores based on their natural abilities. I'll tell you a little secret: it makes the whole family happier when we all get to do the things that we are naturally wired to do.
I challenge you to re-think your To Do list. Who can help you? Who can you delegate tasks to? Who can you hire? And what can you do more of just because you love it and it comes naturally?
Accept this challenge and watch your life change. Guaranteed.
I don't know about you, but it's been a crazy month so far! Things have been going wrong and staff has needed to be replaced. Kids schedules are being set and adjustments are being made for the whole family.
My friend said something really profound to me the other day. When I lamented that things keep going wrong, she said: "It's okay. You're just getting clear on what you really need."
Woah. That hit home. Every time something goes awry, I get more clarity on what needs to be changed and improved. Every time a staff member doesn't work out, I realize what I need to look for next time. Every time something breaks down, I realize I need to put a new system in place to prevent the same thing from happening next time.
Owning a business is tough, my friends. (It's also awesome.) It is definitely NOT for the faint of heart! There is so much to manage and so much to do. There are always problems (and they land on your shoulders, because you're the business owner).
But now is NOT the time to quit. Don't give up. Instead, use this opportunity to figure out what you really need. What support is missing in your life? Who do you need to hire? What new system needs to be in place? What can you tweak or improve?
I memorized this poem when I was young and it's always stuck with me. (It's longer than this, but here's just a little taste for you.)
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Whatever you're going through, please know that you're not alone. We're here to help you and encourage you and cheer you on. If we can help you with any of your business needs, please let us know. We're cheering you on.
Do you have a deep aching for something that's missing in your life? Maybe it's traveling or moving to a bigger house. Maybe you wish you could just jump in your car and drive and drive and never come back.
I get it.
There was a time in my life that I was so tempted to just leave everything behind and go start over somewhere.
If you feel frustrated and even angry, LISTEN to those emotions. Those are cues that things need to change. Use that deep determination to accomplish your goals. Do the next right thing. The next task. Put one foot in front of the other. Persevere. Don't give up.
No, there's not a magic pill to fix everything.
Goals are accomplished by just doing what you can, with what you have, where you are.
I know you know this, but we all need encouragement and a reminder sometimes.
Did you know? Teddy Roosevelt's men were in the middle of war when they requested more men! More ammunition! More supplies! He replied with the now-famous words, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." I love that. We all have tools right in front of us. Opportunities. Skills and talents. Your big dreams are slightly disconnected to your next right step. You NEED the big goals, yes, but you need to know the next 3 tiny steps that you need to take on your journey. Look down. What's right in front of you? What can you do right now today? What are you procrastinating on? What are you avoiding? Go do it!!
Maybe you juggling everything on your own. Are you getting burned out from working all the time?
The only way you'll ever get to the next level is if you delegate, simplify, automate, or eliminate certain tasks. You simply can't continue on at this pace. You can't do it all alone. Reach out for help. (Yes, it takes time to get help for that project, or to hire that assistant or nanny. But it's WORTH IT.)
Use your deep aching and longing for change to create a determination that you WILL succeed. And you will. Use your frustration and anger to propel you forward! It's there for a reason! You are MADE to do the things you long for! Those desires are in there for a reason.
I believe in you! You can do this. One foot in front of the other.
Just one step at at time.
Hi, I'm Jen Hickle!