The Longest, Hardest Semester Is Over

I wrapped up my 17-hour semester and the grades have been rolling in for the courses lately. To my amazement, I landed a 79.99% “B” in Spanish I and was registered for Spanish II for Spring. While I didn’t manage to get a 4.0 (or even a single “A”) this semester, I’m more than happy with my grades considering running my business for countless hours and working on homework every weekend.

I can tell how busy I was by how much “free time” I seem to have now – it’s ridiculous, really. When Kristin goes to bed, I don’t have to work because I was at school during the day. When the weekend rolls around, we can go shopping or just lay around watching TV and deciding what to eat next without working on Spanish or some other online deadline.

I’m on my way to the advisor today to see what I can do for my final elective. The exit requirement sheets are so darn confusing, it’s better to go see an advisor and get into the right class without any surprises when I apply to graduate in a few weeks.

HS-graduationDid I just say “apply to graduate!?” It’s been a long road since this high school graduation pic was taken in 1997: in the last decade/century/millennium. The road started out promising: full-ride scholarship plus books to any state school and got accepted both to USF and the Honors College. Something just wasn’t clicking right in my brain and it took too long to realize that college students actually have to study to get good grades (at least when they’re 18). I quickly lost my scholarship and had to get a job, and another, and another. Going back to school wasn’t really an option when I needed to provide my own health insurance and things just seemed too busy to go to school and work. I had no idea how anyone could do both.

A few years later, some friends of the family made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was pretty close to having my A.A. and the offer was for a 50% scholarship to finish my 2yr degree at community college. I finished in 3 or 4 semesters while working during the day after all.

Love and marriage kept things going pretty easy in my life by having a partner to share the load of day to day living and I kept plugging away at my 4yr degree with the school assistance program at work. I got something like 7 out of 8 classes with an “A” and got those all reimbursed. When I left that job, I was on my own for school again and had to take the summer off. We hit classes hard this semester with the goal of walking in May 2010.

After meeting with my advisor, it was going to take 17 hours (including Spanish I) for the Fall and 14 hours (including Spanish II) in the Spring. No slips. No D’s. No vacations. No hospitalizations. Hardcore school all the way for the next 30 weeks with 4 relaxing weeks in the middle. Time to get my USF diploma on the wall next to Kristin’s to make for 2 HCC diplomas and 2 USF diplomas in the house.

Here we are in the middle – to be continued…

Connections Are King in Business

I had a call this morning with Barry Moltz to continue our design discussions on the site redesign he commissioned me to do for his book, blog, and speaking website. To set up the rest of this story, let’s go back a couple of years.

I started blogging at the end of 2005 and ran across Liz Strauss’ blog about successful blogging, appropriately called I started reading and commenting all of the time, made some friends, and took a trip to Chicago in May 2007 for the first annual SOBCon – Business School for Bloggers. There, I met Phil Gerbyshak and Terry Starbucker amongst the crowd of great people. Back for the second year in 2008, I’d already done business with quite a few SOBs, as we’re called (Successful Online Bloggers), and I came back home to even more work as a result of the conference.

About a year ago, my friend, Liz Strauss recommended that Barry send me his book to review for his site. Connection #1. I was really busy and was in school — reading just wasn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, I’d ramped up my freelancing to work most evenings after my wife went to bed and I did a complete site migration and design for Phil, then another site, and another. I started my own company in March and he had even more work for me.

Out of the blue one day, I was sitting at Panera when a tweet from Barry came through asking if I’d be interested in re-designing his site. “Heck yeah!” was really hard to hold back, but I managed. We chatted, the price was right, so we’re working on that now for release in the next couple of weeks. Connection #2. I asked him how he came to me as a service provider, and he said it was a tweet about WordPress that got his attention and that he’d even forgotten the connection to my name and the book review. I reviewed his book within a week of that call. 🙂

I’ve been working on this and that recently when I got an e-mail from Hawaii for another site. Rosa Say was wanting to move Joyful Jubilant Learning, a community blog with about 2 dozen writers from TypePad to WordPress. Along with that, there were about 4 other sites to create or migrate, which was fine with me. She has several connections with SOBCon people, but it was Phil Gerbyshak who convinced her to use my services. Connection #3.

Back to the call this morning… Barry had Phil on his radio program to talk about social media and my name was mentioned; not once, not twice, but over 5 times. I lost count when I started blushing in my own living room.

Nurture your connections, and your connections will sustain you.

Hard Times and Pressing Forward: How Small Businesses Succeed

Drive to succeedEvery entrepreneur hits hard times due to overhead, payroll, the economy, or any number of reasons why the coffers get low or revenues drop. It’s a time to take inventory of the situation, particularly what is coming in and going out. Being a successful business means overcoming anything that comes your way. Here are some steps and tips to take when hard times hit.

  • Check your numbers – look at your cashflow for the last 90 days and the same 90 day period from the previous year(s), if you’re not just starting out. Are there unexpected expenses? A big accounts receivable? Does revenue have cycles and it’s just a tough time? Sole proprietors can do their personal budgets to “cut costs,” as well.
  • Circle around – if you are in the services industry, contact your past clients with a friendly “thank you” for past business and offer them a promotional code for new projects or referrals.
  • Look for discounts – check your own service providers and their competitors to get better rates or plans for items such as Internet, phone, insurance, etc. to reduce your expenses. We have reduced our expenses over 10% in the last two months by switching some providers.
  • Expand into new territories – if you offer a product or service that can be tailored to the market, now is the best time to do so. Stop making things or selling services for things on the decline or with a small share of the market if that is the majority of your business. If you already have the big players covered, expand into the niches if you can do so cheaply.
  • Social media, yo! – one caveat about social media: if you’re going to do it, do it right or you’ll only hurt yourself. A Facebook page for your company and a vibrant, relevant, likable Twitter account can take your business to the next level or kickstart a new one in a major way.

In Business for Myself – Overload

Tax Time!It’s been a heck-of-a couple of weeks around here, but I don’t think I’ve been this excited about things in a good while. Then again, I don’t think I’ve also been this wracked and torn and broken, either. Makes for a great story for the grand-kids if I can remember details like this. Never mind – I’m writing it down here!

On March 30th, I filed with the State of Florida to create a limited liability corporation: Petersen Media Group, LLC and immediately applied for my EIN to get a business bank account to bring stuff out of my PayPal account for easier accounting and purchasing. That was very exciting and we are still on a high from all of that. I’m following in some pretty solid footsteps with my family, since my grandpa ran a John Deere dealership for decades and both my aunt and uncle run their own businesses and my mom ran a home business for quite a while when I was younger. None of them are here to help, but things are rocking anyway.

I got a book on small investments and it had a chapter on when to save money and do your finances during the year. I choked when I saw the section about filing estimated taxes on April 15th and dug around to discover “unemployment taxes” and all kinds of other penalty-inducing crap from the IRS. This was one of the wracked and torn bits from my opening. [Read more…]