Biz Breaks from Greece – Part Two

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I’m watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in the lobby of our hotel on the Greek Island of Andros.  On Greek TV.  In Greek.  And even though I didn’t understand what the heck they were saying, listening to the excitement in the voices of the anchors when Greece opened the parade of nations was electric.  The only  better place to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics would be at the Stadium in London.

We have now been in Greece for a full four days — five if you count the day we landed and sleep-walked through the day with severe jet lag after a 10 hour flight, greetings with relatives, a two hour ferry ride, one hour car ride and a quick check in to the hotel before spending time with even more wonderful relatives.

And what I I have observed so far is that the people are just as nice as I remember them from our first (and brief) trip last year.  The relatives really are happy we are back.  I was afraid we came back too soon and that they’d be bored of us already.  But no.  They can’t do enough for us.  We almost have to fight to do anything for ourselves.  When we go to Mykonos on Monday, we planned to take a taxi to the port.  Looks like we are getting a ride now.  We have been invited to so many people’s houses for dinner that we need to keep a calendar so as not to double book.

We are splitting our hotel stay on this island – staying at one place for a week now, heading to Mykonos for two days and then back here to a different hotel for 8 nights.  We chatted with the manager of the second hotel the other night to ask if we could possibly leave our bigger luggage there after checking out of hotel one and before heading to the port.  Was there any question?  “Of course…your bags will be in your room when you arrive.”   Now we travel a lot.  And I can’t imagine some miscellaneous Hilton or Marriott letting us do that without a nice surcharge.  Here, it was “no problem.”

I’m starting to get into the island vibe here and it’s a very different vibe than Caribbean or Hawaiian Islands.  It’s friendlier…more like family.  And since we are here BECAUSE of family, that all makes sense to me.

‘καλή νύχτα’ from Andros.

Biz Breaks – Greek Style Part One

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Sitting in the lobby of our hotel on an island in the middle of the Aegean Sea at 12:13 a.m. catching up on email, writing a strategy for a new client and continuing a long-term writing project for another, I can’t help but still be miffed about the president’s comments about small business. No matter the context, no one is taking time from this amazing place to keep the business running but me.

But I’ve already covered how I feel about that so I thought I’d just reflect on how amazing it is to continue to be able to do business here in this relatively remote island.  We are on Andros. It’s not an island on cruise line itineraries.  US travel agents don’t book tour groups here – and for the most part, if you are here from the US, it is because you have roots here.  In our case, it’s my wife’s roots.

Yet I’ve not missed a beat with business.  WIFI is better than in most places in the U.S., including in the town square of Chora, the main town on this side of the island.  But I’ve seen dozens of WIFI connections pop  up on my phone while walking around town and going to the beach.  Yesterday, we visited a remote beach via boat and my wife commented when we got there that there was cell service.

So while I am trying to TAKE a business break, I also know that it is my sole responsibility to keep my business running smoothly and don’t mind at all these little moments to catch up on what’s happening back home.

But for now it’s time to get some rest to face the day tomorrow – filled with beach time, chicken Gyros and good Greek wine.  Yassou!

If you’ve got a business….

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As I sit here trying to figure out all the ways I need to stay connected during our upcoming vacation, I am asking myself a lot of questions.  How many Apple “world adapter kits” do I need for six Apple products?  Will the WiFi work as well as it did last time we were in Greece or do I need to research Internet cafes?  What time of the day is best for me to plan to check in every day – late night so that my U.S. clients are still in the office or early morning after they’ve had a chance to review whatever I sent that day?  Is my back up fully informed on what is going on in case I’m temporarily out of touch?  Can I really take the weekends off while away or should I check in then too?

And those are just the first five of 105 questions racing around my brain.  I bring this up in light of the president’s now instant classic “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” speech. I’m no political junkie. In fact I hate politics because of the drama, the divisiveness and vitriol that comes with it.  But I do take issue with this concept. Grammatical error of “you’ve got” aside, this statement is simply offensive to anyone who, like me, took a chance to start his or her own business.  In my opinion, if you aren’t offended by this, you probably aren’t working that hard at building your business.

So with that in mind, I bring you a counterpoint to the president’s statement.

If you have a business, you…..

  • Probably took a huge risk, like quitting what everyone called a “great” corporate job (like me).
  • Most likely put some money on the line.  Savings, a business loan, something….
  • Endured the raised eyebrows and crooked smiles of friends and neighbors when you told them you were launching your own business.
  • Bite your lip every quarter when you write that tax estimate check to the government and wonder how in the world it is possible that you are paying significantly more tax than you did when you were a corporate drone.
  • Never completely disconnect. Ever.  (see above)
  • Bring business to others.  Often.  Whether it’s a subcontractor helping you with a writing project or a web designer creating a new look for one of your clients, you bring business to others who have different skill sets – but further fueling the economy.
  • Treat every new business presentation like your life depends on it because your entrepreneurial life probably does.
  • Told your significant other or kids that you couldn’t do something like join them for a Sunday brunch because you needed a day to catch up.
  • Gotten a big surprise (positive or negative) that has made you completely adjust your schedule and priorities for a day, a week, a month or longer.
  • Love every minute of it.

Personally I wouldn’t change my decision to launch my own business for anything. Even the perceived negatives on the above list are generally a joy compared to the corporate life – well maybe everything but ditching the family and paying the higher taxes.  But I continue to be driven by the fear that I will someday have to go back to an office setting and so far that’s working for me.

If you have a business, you took the risk, you launched it, you built it, you nurture it and its success or failure is solely up to you. Period.

Packing Blues

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Anyone who knows me knows that besides my family I have two favorite things in life.  Travel.  And planning travel.  But there is one part about vacation that I don’t like.  It’s the last week or so of “getting ready.” Wrapping up projects, making sure that back up is in place, getting things in order around the house and yard, buying all the last minute items and packing. Oy packing.  We are getting ready for a trip to visit family in Greece and I am positive that it is going to be amazing.  We’ve put a lot of time into planning this trip but we haven’t overbooked ourselves.  We have a lot of time to go with the flow of the day.  There is nothing better than anticipating that.

But as we begin to get to the part of the planning that makes me crazy, I of course say, “what were we thinking?”  I always do.  Work projects that normally take me minutes are taking days because I am realizing I didn’t close the loop on another project or talk to my subcontractors about what needs to happen when I am gone – or I’m getting distracted by “stuff.”

And the crazy thing is that I’m not going to be disconnected, except on the plane ride over and back. Otherwise, I have every form of communication possible and I won’t be turning off for even a day. As a small business person, I just can’t.  But it’s okay.  When you work for yourself, it’s not even a problem to keep that connection. It just is.

But back to my last minute planning.  I put a list together for myself last night with work and personal stuff mixed together.  I think there are 35 things to get done — each one more important than the other.  The last thing on the list is pack.  And that’s on purpose.  The one thing that I would get rid of when it comes to vacations is packing.  And not just my packing – but the whole family’s.  We are at one time the world’s worst packers and the world’s most overpacked family.  Every time. No matter if the trip is one day or one month.  Will I solve this problem this time?  Heck no.  Not a chance.  This trip may end being the worst ever from a packing perspective. The only thing keeping it in line are the luggage limits due to international travel.

So soon, off we go – to take a business break.  Cheers to UNDERpacking and getting all that getting ready stuff done.  Today.


Hot Hot Hot

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Ok, it’s hot.  Really hot.  This is a summer for the record books.  And I couldn’t be happier!  I hate hate hate hate hate hate winter.  I complain all winter long: the first snow, the last snow, the big snow, the freezing rain, the freezing temps and the below zero windchills.  I hate it all.

So you will never hear me complaining about summer.  I figure I’m just not allowed. I think I’m the only person on earth who has enforced that rule on myself.  I know that because when it’s cold, everyone seems to be complaining about the cold. Ditto when it’s hot.  I’ve even said to total strangers who are moaning about the heat “I hate cold so I don’t complain when it’s hot.”  The response I usually get is, “I hate cold too but this is just too hot.”  In other words, “I just like to complain.”

Now on to the heat. We built a pool two years ago and it has been pretty hot ever since in the summers.  A friend tells me our building the pool is responsible.  He doesn’t get it. Usually my building a pool would ensure COLD summers.  Really.

For example, last winter my new car was not responding well to the snowy roads in early January even though it is front wheel drive. I actually nearly got stuck on two different occasions – and had never experienced that before.  So I decided to bite the bullet and get snow tires for the first time in my life.  And guess what.  It never snowed again.  Not even a quarter inch.  All snow haters can thank me at anytime.  I’ll put those puppies back on the car early next year so that we can go snow free for the whole season!

Until then, enjoy the weather.  Or complain about it.  Everyone does. Image