Nice but dangerous

Apparently Yogi Berra once said: “In theory there is no difference between practice and theory. In the practice, there is.”
This week I was busy making a budget. If this sounds hard, it’s because it is. I have learned a few lessons from this.
The first one? It’s the same as the first rule of startups. Everything’s going to take twice as long as you think. The second rule of startups? Double the first rule. I wasn’t expecting to be floating in and out of illness and I also wasn’t expecting to spend an entire day in sales training. Although I’ll admit that I learned a thing or two at the sales training. Or fifteen. I also learned that I rely on getting work done on my weekends a bit too much.
I have always been one of those people who laughed at overly optimistic sales projections. So I tried not to do that. And yet. I certainly don’t trust anything more than three months out, but that’s the nature of the beast. And an interesting comment was that it can actually be more conservative to have smaller budgets for operating expenses or discretionary expenses. Makes all the sense in the world; it’s the budgetary equivalent of sandbagging, and I have learned a thing or two about sandbagging over the years.
Because I’m a numbers nerd (I tease myself endlessly for this), there is actually very little that I like more than digging into the numbers. If this, then this. Drilling down into why certain costs varied month to month, what’s buried under here, why is this number in opex when it should be in COGS. Nerdy business stuff.
I think what makes me the happiest, actually, is that to develop a budget I actually had to develop a spreadsheet business model of how sales projections and assumptions around margin, close percentage, inbound leads, sales targets, etc would flow through to the business. I now have my business in a spreadsheet and I can adjust it as we go. It’s a wonderful thing to see how changing certain assumptions impacts the numbers.
There is certainly an intensity to me; a competitiveness that I tease and others tease. I like to think I am pretty reasonable and have a pretty long fuse, and at the end of the day … I really am a nice girl. I’m honest, I really do want to do the best thing for the customer, and my staff, and vendors, etc.
Stupidity, dishonesty, and apathy make me really, really mad. Just like I once wondered how good of a salesman I really am, I also once wondered just how tough I’d be as a manager. I’m pretty well starting to figure that out.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think you get the best results by scaring or berating people. Something goes wrong, you figure out why not for the purposes of punishment (usually…) but so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Nice, but dangerous to outsiders. Tough, but fair: that’s how I’d like to be as boss. I want everyone to have an opportunity to learn and grow, just as I was given. But they must sink or swim.
Of course, there are many reasons why I’m dangerous. I don’t try to be dangerous, but I’m a salesman. Salesmen are dangerous. Charisma is dangerous.  
I think I forgot to explain before why being a fangirl is so unusual for me. I like to think I take a balanced view. There is good, and bad, and ugly, and indifferent, in most or all things. To make a fangirl out of me I have to be really impressed. It doesn’t happen that often. Or, I suppose, you must just resemble me. We tend to like people who are like us.
But I’m just a little crazy, and I’m human. Watching myself this week was …. Interesting. It was another nutty understaffed week in which I was sick one day, sorta kinda well the next, definitely didn’t sleep enough, baaaaaaaaaaaarely managed to stick to my non-drinking commitment but did have some evil sugar. That’s how you can tell I’m mentally exhausted. I was also a super moron to go do a 30-minute metcon at CrossFit after having been sick the day before, only eating a salad, and on an absolute emotional wave. What happened? I had a sugar crash about 10 minutes in. I can be SUCH an idiot sometimes.
Although I learned, through adversity, that pushups are easier if you tighten your core. Imagine that. You know perhaps ALL of CrossFit would be easier if I’d just keep my core tight. Well, at least I got the coach to laugh at my silliness: ‘I’ve been doing this three years now and guess what I justlearned?’ Carl Paoli would not be impressed.
Speaking of stupidity and adversity. There are a few people I know who tend to bring out parts of me that I don’t care for so much: the one that would rather be negative than positive, and who can’t just let things go. It doesn’t last forever, I think I only stay snarky while you’re actually hurting me and the wound is fresh. Once I move past that, I turn to condescension and indifference (mixed with a biting comment here or there).
Oh well, we all need to vent. I think perhaps finding people whose company we really enjoy, who share some of the same frustrations, and who are in the same industry so we can trade war stories …. Well, it’s like we’re brothers in arms I suppose. I’ve had this before with some co-workers at Ask Jeeves and Exit41. There was this one guy, to remain nameless, at a company also to remain nameless … we used to go out drinking about once a week, essentially to bitch about other people. Oddly enjoyable hours spent in bars over beers. Like a guilty pleasure.
I have said before that I am waging war on negativity. Mental exhaustion makes me tend towards being more negative. I’ve said before that I am a bit of an intellectual snob. Well, I’ve met my match. And then some. It’s a little bit scary.
So I can go a bit too far sometimes, I suppose in either direction. Emotions make me stupid. So does lack of sleep. But that was not the case Monday or Wednesday. That was just me being emotional.
So this post didn’t start with ‘I love Doug’ (disappointing, I know) but I will talk about him because he’s awesome. On Friday I was telling Doug that what keeps me going back to CrossFit is that intrinsic motivation of wanting always to be stronger or faster than before, or to do something I couldn’t do before. I can now do kipping freestanding handstand pushups. That is super cool. There’s a ton of other things I can’t do or can’t do well …. But they are as much reason for me to keep going back as that 100kgs is now a ‘safe’ heavy back squat for me. I’m pretty sure my max was 97 about three months ago.
Business is the same thing. What motivates me is seeing stuff that wasn’t there before. The signed contract. The revenue numbers ticking up. Hitting targets. There’s nothing as empowering as a motivational tool than to throw a goal up and, as an individual or a team, try and hit it.
On the flip side, nothing makes me more upset than not achieving things as fast as I want to. Not that I’m the slightest bit competitive or anything. Takes one to know one.
Back to Doug. Earlier in the day I had just been reminding him that you have to get people in the right frame of mind for constructive criticism he later called me at 6pm with constructive criticism on my budget when I was utterly exhausted. Criticism VERY WELL TAKEN, I need critical feedback, and it was probably the most useful feedback I’ve gotten in six months. His timing sucked but he pointed out another lesson. Your model needs a key, and it also needs the ‘if-thens’ to be called out explicitly. Goodness knows I may not remember why I made various assumptions back in February when I was doing my forecasting, or that certain things must happen before certain other things can happen.
I really do like my team. I love to see them get fired up and excited, and working really hard. I was having one of those happy dance moments on Tuesday when we did a brand identity workshop in order to inform our style guide for the web site redesign. I had a very vivid flashback to my first day at Babson where we did this business simulation in small groups, and I, uncharacteristically at the time, completely took over the room. Because someone had to do it. I was usually the one who thought I could lead better than the leader but didn’t actually want the responsibility of leading. Reminds me a bit of a story that Adam told when I interviewed him. But I digress.
So, here, I specifically stepped off to the side and let the team do their thing, only sometimes contributing. I was very happy to hear general consistency around not only that we want to be fun and funky and innovative and exciting but that we want to be process-oriented and data-driven. It is great to have some form of validation that it’s not just me pushing what I want onto them, but they seem to want it too. Perhaps my all-too-obvious excitement at insights and showing them how we can make decisions based on data is having its intended effect.
I changed my Skype status this week to something awesome: ‘the plural of anecdote is not data.’ True.
Exciting times ahead. I was really feeling a bit besieged on Wednesday, between everyone seemingly wanting a piece of me on the one side and cold, hard reality on the other. Hence, part of the emotional overload. Interesting times, at least.
Trying to separate the good ideas from the bad? Sometimes it’s easy. Actually it usually is. Sometimes you know something is a bad idea and you do it anyway. It’s like that awesome Alice in Chains line: ‘no one plans to take the path that brings you lower.’
Busy week. Monday night: dinner and out way past my bedtime with one of my favourite Wi-Fi boys. Tuesday: Nasty cold & WebAfrica reseller event. Wednesday: going away dinner for Helen. Thursday: qigong lecture & dinner at Orinoco Flow. Friday: Dinner & drinks @&Union with Sam, and a chance to catch up with Jason Lilley who looked about as exhausted as I felt after my four and a half hours of sleep.
This next week is going to be very, VERY interesting. As is the week after, come to think of it. The CrossFit Open starts that week.
It is not that hard for me to make a rule for myself not to drink or not to eat any grains during competition season. What I’ve known all along would be way harder is sticking to a bedtime, especially when you’re in a moment and just don’t want to go home.
So time to up the ante. 8 hours a night, minimum, starting now. I’m done with this hangover of exhaustion mode. Not. Cool.
Why the Yogi Berra quote? Because play time is over. Not that I was playing around before, but you hit a point at which you’re ready to go and then nothing gets in your way. No one puts pressure on me like me.
  • “As you said data now, I was busy typing it.” – Adam (yess!! I am winning!)
  • “We need a relationship that’s based on –“ “– not lying?” – Rudolph & Ellie
  • “It was the best idea since bottled beer. Ouch. Bottled beer – “ – Rudolph
  • “Stefan’s not feeling violent today. It’s a Monday.” “It’s coming.” – Ellie & Stefan
  • “Open source is getting to me.” – Stefan
  • “Have you met me? I’m not very patient.” – Ellie
  • “I am getting excited for you now.” – Rob
  • “That’s not what I meant by behave.” – Lance
  • “Did you bring me here on purpose?” – Rob (no, I brought him there on accident!)
  • “Wow. That’s like …. The definition of a hubristic statement right there.” – Rob
  • “Are you a sports model?” “No, she’s actually the CEO of a company. It’s weird.” – waitress & Rob (I’m still not sure what exactly he finds weird)
  • “You’ve taken this photo to a level of analysis that no one else has.” “I know. But it’s so cool!” – Ellie & Rob
  • “You wouldn’t want your successor’s job.” – Rob
  • “I stretched them yesterday but I didn’t use the stick because I was late for dinner.” – Ellie
  • “He’s from Kraaifontein. He knows what he needs to bring.” – Rudolph
  • “Now I’m gonna call the prospect. Because that wasn’t actually the sales call I was expecting to take!” – Ellie
  • “I don’t play.” – Bronwyn
  • “I woke up and realised it was just a dream. And then I thought about it and realised that actually it probably wasn’t!” – Ellie
  • “I can’t even remember that photo being taken!” “You weren’t even drunk then!” – David & Ellie
  • “Wi-Fi is a drug in Africa.” – Allister
  • “I think you’re very nice. Dangerous, but nice.” – Lance
  • “You can’t steer around interference. This isn’t Bend it like Beckham.” – Rob
  • “Americans don’t understand the Oxford comma.” “Some Americans.” “I forgot there was an American in the room.” “An American who knows proper punctuation, that is!” – Rob & Ellie
  • “Do you see why I like this guy?” “Uh-huh.” – Ellie & Adam
  • “So Mike tells me: ‘You’ve gotta meet this chick Ellie,’ and I’m thinking ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.’ Then I met you.” – Rob
  • “They’re just like us!” – Ellie
  • “Come for the wireless, stay for the snark.” – Rob
  • “Only behind your back.” – Tim
  • “I liked that comment directed at you … about the stickers.” – Adam
  • “I don’t know if you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror lately, but you’re a big sack of mostly water. And water absorbs Wi-Fi really well.” – Rob
  • “What’s a ‘Ronnie list’?” – Steven
  • “You can’t have your stickers until you sing happy birthday.” – Ellie
  • “What’s wrong with the oranges, Bronwyn?” “They are green.” – Ellie & Bronwyn
  • “I’d rather have a broken arm than a sick mind.” – Shirfu
  • “Being healthy takes time.” – Shirfu
  • “I should go meditate in a cave for all of you!”  – Shirfu
  • “We must all find our nemesis and thrash it.” – Shirmo
  • “I expect you to deliver the deliverable, not the miracle.” – Doug
  • “I’m not really patient enough to be in my position either. But I don’t really have a choice.” – Ellie
  • “Perception is reality. But it’s also perception.” – Ellie
  • “Well, you’ve sold me on Skyrove!” – Jade
  • “They don’t seem to care how the standards are. They just make stuff that works.” – Tim
  • “He does come across as pretty clued up.” – Tim
  • “If you’re going to be a salesman, you need to be charismatic and you need to be tenacious. It sure as hell doesn’t hurt to be good looking, either.” – Ellie
  • “The problem I have with him is that I believe everything he says.” – Ellie
  • “That was boss, that whole conversation.” – Jason (I get philosophical when I’m sleep-deprived)

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One comment

  1. I should mention, one of my passing comments this week actually has its roots here:
    http://networkingnerd.net/

    I give all credit to Mr Hollingsworth

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