Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things I Want to Tell My Therapist

So, except for some research and tweaking my website, I’m not working on my business venture until I get back from vacation in the middle of September. That leaves me with very little to blog about except for my personal ramblings and goings on.

Which is why I haven’t blogged. Because I’ve been saving up stuff to tell my therapist. But he’s currently on vacation and then booked until August 27th. That leaves me with repeating myself to my husband or sharing my inner turmoil with the blogosphere. Lucky you.

Everybody has issues, ya know? From the frivolous, blown out of proportion childhood slights to the truly life altering, high impact childhood trauma – none of us believes we’re completely normal. I’m no exception. Being married to the world’s greatest therapist doesn’t give me a free pass to normalcy.

My biggest and longest lasting issue is my inability to relate to other women except in the most superficial of ways. Once I become comfortable with women, I seem to alienate myself from them. This is because, I think, I tend to mistake complaining for unhappiness. Unhappiness bothers me, particularly now, when I am happier than I ever imagined I could be. Except for my inability to relate to women without giving them advice and urging them to do things for themselves that would seemingly improve their level of happiness. If I’m complaining to someone, I’m looking for solutions to a problem. This is simply not true for everyone. Sometimes people just want to complain; I think a huge portion of our society relates to others through shared misery. So my friends aren’t looking for suggestions; they’re just trying to relate to me. I think. I’m not completely sure, which is why I want to talk to my therapist about it.

So, I don’t know. It seems like other women are able to have friends and I have some endearing qualities that should enable me to have friends too, right? But then I hear people talking about their friends and I think, “oh…if you can’t tell her she has broccoli in her teeth, are you really friends?”. I mean, I tell complete strangers that they have crud in their teeth. I want to know if I have something in MY teeth that is so distracting that you cannot concentrate on what I am actually saying. I would expect a friend to tell me something like that. But that’s not my point, really. My point is that what I would call an acquaintance, other people call a friend. I apparently have a warped sense of what friends should be.

I blame my sisters for this. I sort of think that friends should be something like my sisters. I am great friends with my sisters. We understand each other, we respect each other, we try to help each other out. We don’t always agree but often we do. And when we don’t, we just sort of keep on loving each other, each thinking the other is stupid but still thinking they’re essentially good and when they have such and such a situation, then they’ll understand that I’m right.
So, I once asked an astrologer if there was something in my chart that caused me to clash so much with women. And when I say “clash”, I don’t mean we get into arguments. I mean there is something that I do that causes people to eventually do or say things that intentionally hurt my feelings. With malice.

But, I was talking about the astrologer and she said I have an ego as big as a room. She said I have Saturn in aspect to my natal Venus, Moon square. She said I must learn to humble myself. Is that not just disturbing? Plus, that was two and a half years ago and I’m no better than I was. So these are the things I want to discuss with my therapist. I want to connect to other women. I want to be able to have more than superficial relationships with women.

Now don’t you wish I was working on my business venture?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sometimes Fantasy > Reality

I had it in my mind a few years ago that I'd like to own a doggy daycare. Like a mom who wants to stay home with her kids and starts a daycare, I could just envision the fun of it all! Romps in the grass, wading pools, tennis balls everywhere. I'd need to buy stock in bleach and dyson! It was going to be great!

I started working on a business plan, checking out the competition, going rates, and researching the cost of rent for a space that would house such a business. And my dream went quickly down the drain as reality took over. I couldn't make it work in my head or on paper. I'd have to hire people, offer a variety of services, and (here is the deal killer) I'd probably have to work 18 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week. For a long time. And I'd probably only pull in $10/hour for a good portion of that long time.

If I'd had the capital and the connections, it's very possible it would have worked out. I had neither at the time, nor do I now. It all quickly got too big and outside my comfort zone much too fast.

Because I'm willing to work. I'm willing to work hard. And I love dogs. I have three of my own and I volunteer for the SPCA. To get paid to play with dogs all day would just rock! But not enough to eat kibble myself and be "at work" all the time when I'm not sleeping.

So, as I have for so very long now, I kept my day job. I got a more interesting day job for the same government agency. Then I got an even more interesting day job that paid me more for the same government agency. And with that last job, I've gained something I haven't had before and something I would work for less money for, if I ever had to. What is it I'd potentially take less money to keep??


I don't have a TON of it but I do have some. It is the government, after all. But as long as I show up to meetings on time, no one hassles me if I'm running late. No one gets bent out of shape if I am at lunch longer than the allotted time. I can leave a little early to take a dog to the vet. I can even work from home occasionally. I appreciate those small perks so very much!

But what I am lacking in my job is excitement. Oh, there's the occasional wigging out on the part of somebody important that causes my job to be exciting; searching, sorting, scrambling to get some data into a presentable format to head off disaster. But I do my job well enough that those situations are rare.

So recently my life got very exciting outside of work when my husband started his own counseling business full time. My last blog was all about the stuff we did to get his name out to the community and online. So I started thinking about how much I enjoyed helping him get started. And then I started thinking how much I would enjoy doing something like that for someone else for a little bit of money. I want to get paid, don't get me wrong. But mostly, I want to get paid to do something that really interests me.

So, in doing some research on how all this might work, I found a lot of information that leads me to believe that web designers really dislike people with ideas like mine. But I also think there are a lot of small businesses that just don't have anything on the web because they don't know how to do it themselves and it's a lot like getting your car worked on when the only thing you really know about cars is how to drive - you just don't know if you're getting ripped off or not. If my idea works, I think it could get businesses to hire a web designer, when they otherwise would have never considered it.

Rather than repeat my idea, I'll just link you to a really wise, self proclaimed "geek" off whom I bounced my idea. I found Owen on Twitter. Owen has so many useful tips and gives such excellent explanations that he's worth checking out even if you aren't interested in any more of my long winded words! He is a wealth of practical, user friendly information.

Thanks for your great insights, Owen!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

How We Started a Small Business - sort of

In April, my husband left the world of public service and went into private practice. He is an independently licensed clinical counselor. Since then, I've spent a great deal of time trusting in the Universe, learning how to run a business, how to network, how to advertise with almost no money, and how to keep the faith when my bank account is very low. Currently, there is enough money. It's the timing that gets tricky.

I moved into the position of project manager, public relations specialist, accountant, web master, researcher, and secretary. I really enjoy all of my roles!

Here's what we've gotten ourselves into over the last three months:

  • Named the practice
  • Created the Website
  • Advertised with Google Adwords
  • Office
  • Furnished Office
  • Business Cards, Brochures & Flyers
  • Began Search for Printing Services
  • Speaking Opportunities
  • Joined Chamber of Commerce
  • Blogging/LinkedIn/Twitter
A couple years ago, I was blogging on a fairly regular basis on Xanga. I tried to get hubby into it but writing is not really his thing. He's much stronger at in person presentations and is a very dynamic speaker. He did do a couple of blogs though, under the name "Cincinnati Therapy Guy". I'd forgotten about that. So when we were trying to think of a catchy name for his practice, he mentioned it and thus he became the "Cincinnati Therapy Guy". I think its easy to remember, descriptive, and shows his sense of humor and humility.

So, getting the word out was my highest priority. Part of getting the word out included getting a website up and running. Since we were advertising solely online, this was crucial. People want to get an idea about who you are before they come to share their deepest, darkest secrets with you. I have set up websites before, purely for sharing my dog pictures with my relatives out of state. I had no clue about sitemaps, search engine optimization, or link bait. I'm sure a professional could do much more with the site. For now, I think it gives visitors the information they need and is simple to navigate. I used Nvu to create the site and FileZilla to publish to our webhost.

(Snag) I changed webhosts somewhere in the middle of all of that. In hindsight, I'd have made the switch in a more planful manner. As it was, I didn't have the pages ready when the new host kicked in. I've always used templates or FrontPage to create sites. While the new host has templates, the available software is very different than I'm used to. It took me a couple of days to find software I could figure out. I didn't realize it would be so complicated (and maybe it isn't but it was beyond my ability to figure out)!

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. We have some of that, since he's been seeing clients part time for a few years. We need more new clients though! So I looked for other ways to let people know he was now available full time.

We wanted to be listed in the phone book but that was expensive and complicated. His main base of operations is our home and you cannot use a home phone number to list a business in the Yellow Pages. Not even online. So, while I think it's a disadvantage, I think it's one we couldn't afford to do anything about. Another phone line is not in the immediate budget and we already had business cards.

Google Adwords is a really simple way to advertise on a budget. You choose some keywords that describe the products or services you're selling, create some (hopefully) eye catching ads, set a budget, and begin getting new traffic to your website. This is supposed to make the phone ring. It has been ringing but I'd like a lot more ringing!!

Google has done a good job of walking you through this process, with blogs, forums, and videos. They explain how to run a good campaign, how to create a sitemap, and search engine optimization. Currently, I'm trying to decide whether it's better to use search targeted ads or placement targeted ads.

(Snag) Hubby does most of his work out of our home. We live in a crappy neighborhood though and I was concerned that people were finding the address and then calling someone else. So my feeling was that he needed an office in a better location. We found a couple that we could reasonably afford and some that we could afford and really liked. Many were far too big. The one we liked best wasn't particularly sound proof though, and sometimes people in therapy yell or sob. So we had to find something else.

He stumbled upon his current office in his travels. It is in a convenient location, the perfect size, has ample free parking, and inexpensive. I'll save the adventure of furnishing the office for another blog. Suffice it to say, it's furnished and getting that way was an adventure. :p Interestingly enough, each of his new clients has preferred to come to our house rather than his office.

Early on, he got business cards from Staples. One should be sure to proofread these before you order and when you pick them up. We returned 1000 cards once because they misspelled "counselor". When we picked up the replacement batch, they misspelled his last name! Sadly, we had both handed out tons of them before noticing.

Current advice from a number of sources indicates that business cards are no longer necessary. Perhaps that's true for a lot of industries but I think they've been helpful. He isn't selling products and his services are very specific. People don't always need his services at the time he meets them. Sometimes it's months later, or they have a friend or family member who wants to see a counselor. For him, business cards are small and discrete, which is perfect for people who want to see a counselor.

So how else do you let people know that you offer counseling services in the Greater Cincinnati area?? Hubby goes around town talking to people. He goes to New Age shops, yoga places, doctors' offices, lawyers' offices, and he spends a lot of time in coffee shops. He loves Starbucks but he is also fond of the Coffee Emporium and Take Ten. He hands out cards and we even made him a flyer. Oh, we also have bumper stickers that advertise his website. Next on our list is brochures.

Brochures are tricky because you can't really create a nice one at home. So we have been searching for a printing service. This has been more difficult than you'd think. There seem to be a lot of printers in our area. One met with him and he was impressed with their prices and presentation. But the sales person didn't show up or call at their next scheduled meeting. Eventually he spoke with her again and set up another appointment. We were running late because we were dropping off furniture at the office so I called her. Before I could explain that we'd be late, she said she'd been meaning to call because she couldn't make the appointment. I told her hubby would call her later to set up something. Instead we've been searching anew. Because if your potential printer doesn't call you to say they can't make a meeting, will they call you back when you need 1000 flyers by next Friday? I don't trust that they will. I mean, isn't this like interviewing for the job? If they will treat you poorly during the honeymoon, do they really need your business?

Dennis has spoken at a Kiwanis meeting, a civic group, and a local social club. He's been to open houses and grand openings and mixers. He joined the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and is reaching out to local small business owners about providing an Employee Assistance Program. He's also interested in doing short presentations at brown bag lunches and speaking at events held by non profit organizations. He's volunteered to do counseling for military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families at no charge. He's doing a workshop on meditation later this month.

He's started blogging again and this time, he's going to stick with it. He's also on Twitter (as CintiTxGuy) and LinkedIn, as of this weekend. So we're reaching out, in every direction of which we can think. I'm reading blogs, to learn from the wisdom of others. I send him emails several times a day, with links to blogs that might interest him, blogs about blogging, articles about current news in mental health, to websites that look like I want ours to look, to events he might attend, groups he might speak with, and anything else I can think up!

We still have lots to do, lots to learn. I'm confident it will work out and pay off. Not because of all the time and effort but because Dennis is a warm, caring person; he's a good therapist. He has healthy boundaries and he takes joy in his clients' progress. He loves his work and he's very good at it. And I'm just going to keep shouting it from every mountain top I can find.