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The weirdos make change happen.

Historically, the weirdos make systemic change happen.

Le duh: generally, the people inside a system are the ones enjoying all of the upsides of it. Why would I topple my awesome sand castle? It is awesome!

(And sure, there do exist rare souls who benefit from the status quo and are willing to give up some sweet-ass advantages because it’s the right thing to do. They are maybe 0.04% of any system’s membership, she says cynically but with a lot of historical precedent.)

But the not-quites, the outcasts, the weirdos and the misfits…

They aren’t in love with the status quo – it gives them much less, less often, and generally with a brightly patronising smile. They stand to benefit from changes to the system – it can’t be worse than what they have now. And, as anyone who has read a musician’s biography knows, the weirdos have fewer distractions. They’re in their bedroom instead of at the rave/beach party/doof/whatever-the-kids-call-it-nowadays-I-am-old-and-cheerfully-uncool. And they spend that extra time, often, getting very very good at what they do.

Insiders protect the status quo, outsiders change the status quo.

So, I have advice.

Give It Up

You are an insider. Even if it’s as small as having better parking options because you moved in before the zoning laws changed, there are places where the system favours you. And if a new tenant wants to swap car spaces because she has knee problems, your crocodile will get all, “NOPE MINE MY THINGS ARE MINE AND ALSO NOT YOURS MINE MINE.” Understandably, over the generations nature has selected pretty strongly for some kinds of selfishness.

Biological determinism can get fucked.

Stepdads aren’t allowed to kill their new stepkids even though they are competition for the same resources as their biological ones. Lions do it, and plenty of other animals, but “Your Honour, it’s a common mammal behaviour” still doesn’t get the charges dropped.

Learn to let go of advantages, especially when they are unfair. Learn to take a detached, impersonal view of any of the systems you are inside if they are making life shittier for anyone else. Argue vociferously with other insiders. Publish insider info. Get that crowbar. Smash the state.

This applies to your life and your business equally, as I am sure you had guessed. Extra, please teach your kids and also every person you meet ever.

Do Not Dismiss The Weirdos

It’s easy to, ‘cos they’re so… weird! My weirdo is not your weirdo is most assuredly not my cousin’s weirdo, but we all have one.

And we reeeeeeeealllly want to ignore them. We let the label-pinners write off the misfits and sweep them into the dust-bin of blahblah, and then we are shocked, utterly shocked, when they come out of nowhere (nowhere we were looking, anyway) and BAM they revolutionise. Which includes launching a new product or service, a new business model, a new marketing strategy… not just kinda new, but ground-breaking. And there you are, standing on the broken ground, wondering what the fiddly fuck just happened.

Go read How The Mighty Fall, Jim Collins’ dissection of the failure of big businesses, to see it play out over and over. Ignore the weirdos, and you just give them less distractions to worry about, and thus more time to (unintentionally, usually) pull your underpants over your head.

Embrace Your Weirdo

It sucks to be an outsider. It hurts. But it is also liberating.

You can see clearer from out here, darling. Spend your energy writing killer riffs or creating the next piece or serving all the other weirdos, ‘cos we sure don’t get enough love out here.

And then, as needed, pick up that motherfucking crowbar.

I love you, brave soul.

Catherine

I’m back, and I’m full of feelings.

Yesterday's walk

A photo posted by @catherinecaine on

Hello darlings,

I’ve made a lot of space. I ended a relationship, gave away my Elladog, moved 500 miles. (Normally I’d say “800 km”, but that wouldn’t make some of you start singing with a heavy Scottish accent.)

Single, overweight, mid-30s, vehicle-less, one bedroom of possessions. Living on government payments in a share house five minutes away from my parents. It would be possible to see this as pathetic.

But it’s also possible to see this as extremely fucking liberating.

As a Professional Invalid – chronic fatigue still firmly in effect – I have very, very limited resources.

It’s like… being permanently stuck on the day before you realise you have a cold, the one where you tell everyone, “I don’t know why I feel so tired, I slept fine.” (Those are the good days. The bad ones are like the second day of the flu, where you are dying of thirst but can’t make it to the kitchen for juice.)

The mathematics of illness is implacable, unalterable, and mean.

Doing this means I can’t do that. A year ago my list of commitments was massively longer than now: finding exercise for the Elladog that didn’t break me, mowing the massive fast-growing Queensland lawn, doing the majority of relationship work, plus a billion etceteras. I wonder how I did it and remember: by putting a lot of other things on hold. Sewing. Walking. Leaving the house. This website.

It’s been funny and sad.

For so long this business was my life, in a Heathcliffe and Cathy way; almost all my thoughts took a small detour through it.

Suddenly: tornadoed away.

Forced to answer questions like: who am I now? What do I do?

All answered by the void.

Stupid unhelpful-ass void.

But here I am…

In my small crowded room. Doing the shopping with my dad. Laying down as my body dictates. Finally settling in, getting the rhythms, feeling safe, knowing where the strainer is.

Hearing my niece say, “Hello Auntie Cafrun!”

Sometimes – not as often as I wish – going to the beach that I missed so much.

Feeling just the teensiest edge of space open up at times and contemplating what to do with it.

I didn’t automatically think that Cash and Joy would be it.

In fact, I was extra suspicious of choosing to offer up my energy to its altar.

I knew it could be unbearably rapacious.

And it might take less time to build a new thing than to get this one re-operational in any capacity.

But most of all, there was no compelling reason to do it. No why.

Then shittiness happened.

People being terrible and hurtful and destructive. My Facebook feed is full of my darlings bleeding over the page, and I ache in sympathy.

I wanted, oh so much, to do something that would help. Can’t give blood until one of my meds is titrated off. Can’t donate much money due to careful budget. What could I give?

Oh. Oh. I could give them Cash and Joy.

I can, slowly as hell, help my wounded sweethearts to build. Create. Make money. Flourish. Support all my delightful weirdos and my unjustly maligned darlings and my fierce strivers. Write about the practicalities of a business that wants to be ethical, principled, and still pay the bills on time. Talk about sparkling clean marketing practices.

I want you, my beautiful heart, to create an alternative to Business As Usual, which is toxic and shitty and vicious.

And, from a personal perspective, I’ll prob’ly talk about how how to manage it within non-negotiable limitations.

So here I am. *fistfuls of confetti*

I will write when I can, which will vary. A lot.

I have zero plans to make money just yet, ‘cos I can’t afford the extra energy that would require.

I can’t focus for as long as I used to, so articles may be broken up, written over time, or may veer wildly at the end. I’m struggling to finish this now.

I will end with love.

Be brave, dear heart,

Catherine

Metrics for small businesses

It’s rather delightful when Biznez Owner Catherine gets to reclaim and reintegrate something that Day Job Catherine used to do.

Back in my last – and much-loved – Day Job, I was the Customer Liaison for a large web-hosting company. (In essence, I was the person who translated between tech and people.) One of my biggest achievements in that job, other than my epic lolly jar, was creating a dashboard for the IT department. One system to measure the health of all of our tech, across everything from number of incidents to available network switches.

The process of taking a mind-blowing amount of data and narrowing it into a meaningful and useful snapshot was very educational, but it took a long time before that education raised its head again directly.

’Cos while I was in the first stages of self-employment, I paid almost no attention to metrics. Money coming in the door? Getting more Twitter followers? Cool, we’re all good then!

I was running on energy, with very little idea where I was going.

But that first merry sprint ended, and ended with a crash. Suddenly I found myself thinking about metrics again, reinterpreting what I’d learned to a new scale. Here are a few of my thoughts on metrics for small businesses.

1. Only pay attention to metrics that create decisions.

Even for teeny bizzes there are sixteen bajillion things you could measure… Google Analytics alone has a hundred potential data points.

But the useful metrics are the ones that urge you to make changes.

For example, if you ran an ice-cream truck you could track the temperature every day. Seems valid, right? Well, it depends on whether you actually do anything differently depending on the weather.

If you still take the same number of supplies and drive the same route no matter what the temperature is, then that is a dead metric. It’s not being used for anything; a decorative waste of your time.

But if you tie the weather to sales and use the metric to decide at what temp the weather is hot enough to justify hiring your cousin Benny for the day to help, then suddenly that is meaningful.

I’m not saying you can’t measure non-action data, but it should not get regular attention. It’s interesting, but it’s not important, and should be treated accordingly.

2. Tie your metrics to a plan.

There is absolutely no point to increasing your Facebook likes.

There is absolutely no point to increasing your newsletter subscribers.

There is absolutely no point to increasing your website visitors.

Unless you have a plan.

You know, a goal you want to accomplish and a path to get there.

Metrics that aren’t tied to a plan or goal just track your progress to nowhere in particular. The only thing they accomplish is making you feel warm and fuzzy.

It’s kinda funny for me, the Cash and JOY ambassador, to be saying, “Forget that, it only makes you feel good.” But I want both halves of the equation for you, jellybean. Focusing on metrics that aren’t tied to a plan may bring you a bit of joy, but they are extremely unlikely to bring you cash.

The right metrics do both, and do it better. They don’t just measure growth, they measure growth with a purpose. Growth that gets you closer to your heart’s desire.

That shit is sacred, yo. I don’t want you to settle for meaningless enlargement when you could have meaningful flourishing.

And the right metrics make that more likely.

3. Hard metrics, and soft metrics.

Most people do one, or the other.

Some people can produce every single solid number about how their biz is doing: how many signups to this list, the conversion rate on this page.

Some people can tell you to ten decimal places how things feel: the excitement around a new offer, how they feel about the work.

You have to measure both.

The internal and external reality of your business are equally important. All data, and you will lose your joy (and your conscience) to become a number-increasing cog. All feel, and you will never explore the full power and potential of your work.

For the all-feel peeps, the challenge is to commit to and fall in love with the numbers, to give them the attention, and the unflinching acceptance of reality, that they deserve. To be brave enough to get real.

For the all-data peeps, the challenge is to commit to and fall in love with a difficult-to-quantify subjective reality. To give your gut the attention, and the unflinching acceptance of illogic, that they deserve. To be brave enough to get unreal.

4. How do small businesses measure their internal state?

I think the easiest method is to measure the output of an internal state. It’s hard to quantify the anxiety in your biz, but it’s actually pretty easy to measure your number of sleepless nights, or how often you want to go to work in the morning.

The key is to find a measurable behaviour that accurately enough represents the internal state you want to track. The better you know yourself and your patterns, the easier this is. You could measure your intake of cheese sticks if you know that’s a reliable internal barometer for your level of distraction.

5. Single data points are meaningless.

Knowing that you have 258 email subscribers doesn’t mean much by itself. Data gets meaningful when it has context.

Trending: are your numbers going up, going down, or flatlining?

Velocity: are you getting closer to your goal, at a speed you’re comfortable with?

The key to both of these assessments is about measurement over time. When you track a metric over time, it stops being data points and starts being a pattern. Patterns are a higher form of information, and something we can act and make decisions from.

6. Pay very close attention to sample size.

I would guesstimate that 85% of the most woe-ifying incorrect assumptions my clients make are based on data.

They’re just not based on enough data.

This is the downside to the previous point about wanting to find patterns in data. We are astonishingly good at doing so, and do it automatically.

This can be… a problem.

Sometimes the data is too small to draw meaningful conclusions from. But we do it anyway, and then regard our conclusions as gospel truth. (“No-one liked this offer.” “How many readers did you have at the time?” “About 50.”)

Be very conscious when you’re making judgements from small data sets. They are extremely inaccurate.

7. How do you manage your metrics well?

Firstly, fall in love with them. Realise that measurements aren’t a dry boring thing you have to do every now and again. Accurate, meaningful measurements are the ultimate power to make amazing things happen in your business, for you and for your clients.

Then, write out your plan. What are you trying to achieve, step by step?

Next, decide how you want to measure your results at each step of your plan. How will you know it’s working?

Now, make a solid and delightful system for gathering, paying attention to, and making decisions from your metrics.

Last, build in a fucking gigantic dose of gratitude and celebration for your metrics. Cheer for every sign, no matter how small, that you are moving in the right direction.

And then do it again, next time.

Do you want to know how to make a marketing plan that is metric-rich and extremely delightful? I’ve just finished running my ultimate planning experience, The Pilot Light. And I had such a good time I’m thinking about doing it again soon. Put your details in the form to learn more!