Friday, July 7, 2017

Pay Attention To What's In Bucket Number Two

In October of this year, we'll be celebrating the 4 year Anniversary of Bodacious Biscuit Love. I was chatting with an old friend of mine the other day and shared this bit o' news. "Has it been almost 4 years already?" Yes. "Are you going ahead with year 4?" Yes. The conversation continued. Questions. Answers. Trials and tribulations. Mistakes. Goals reached. Growing pains. Successes. Memorable moments. Towards the end, he asked, "If someone wanted to do this full time, like you, what would they need to do?"

It's not the first time someone has presented me with this question.

One would think this is an easy question to answer however, that's not the case. There is no way to pack it into a nutshell because the answer falls into two buckets. Bucket one would supply all of the necessary components like launching (making your debut), marketing, social media (setting up your Facebook page), legalities, funding, growing your contact list, booking events, advertising, creating a website/blog site, etc.

If most of that is foreign to you, consider recruiting some volunteers who could assist in those areas.

Bucket one is the foundation of sorts. These are components you need to have in place. It takes a decent amount of planning to establish your foundation. Exactly how long does it take before you can make your debut? That depends on the area of focus, what you're going to be doing, how many people will be involved, and if you plan on growing your volunteer base as time goes on. Each item in bucket one will vary. Regardless of how many hours you spend planning your route, this is your foundation.

The second bucket is the cement that secures your foundation. In bucket two you'll find tidbits of candid advice, guidance, roadblocks, the-things-no-one-likes-to-talk-about, and in-the-raw questions that you need to take into consideration before and while contending with the components in bucket one.

When someone asks, "Aside from the basic stuff, what else do I really need to know," this is when you empty the contents of bucket number two onto the table. 

Keep in mind that a portion of what-is-in-bucket-number-two will vary as it depends on who you're asking. The founder of a large organization with 100 volunteers won't have the same contents in bucket number two as a tiny group run by 3 people.

What's left is a unified pile of fundamentals that apply to all those involved...

1. You will have to make sacrifices. Most of what you're going to do will occur in what little free time you have. This includes nights and weekends. Once you've worked your scheduled hours for the week, run your errands, fulfilled obligations, took the kids to soccer practice and crossed everything off your to do much time is left? That time is what you can realistically invest. Anything beyond'll have to make sacrifices. Instead of getting 7 hours of sleep, you may have to get by on 4 or 5. Getting together with friends every Saturday night for adult beverages may come to a screeching halt.

Although most family members and friends will graciously understand and support your passion and cause, there will be a lingering few who will curl their lip. Some may have the audacity to ridicule your decision to shift your efforts towards the greater good. Sadly, this can end relationships. I've seen it happen.

2. Skip the Instant Ramen Noodle mind frame. In the past, I've worked for a few entrepreneurs who had launched a start up company. Most are realistic and aware that instant success doesn't exist. In fact, during the first year, profit is meager. That's if there is a profit at all. A select few, and I can always sniff them out, start throwing temper tantrums during the 3-6 month period. They expect unrealistic results. I refer to this as the Ramen Noodle Mind Frame. They want to add water, wait 5 minutes and BOOM! Instant success.

The same holds true for your organization. Don't expect immediate success or swarms of people lining up at your door with donations and volunteer applications three days after you launch. It doesn't work that way. Building your community and a volunteer base takes a great deal of time and effort. Establishing yourself with the community, building credibility, earning trust, and gaining solid ground towards your main area of focus takes months. Yes, this means you'll be doing most of the work to prepare for events and fundraisers in the beginning.

3. Be prepared for what's beyond the euphoric honeymoon phase. If you've ever dated or entered into a new relationship, you're probably extremely familiar with the honeymoon phase. Everything is new, fresh, lovey dovey and for the first few months you're holding hands at the grocery store, getting all smoochy woochy and farting glitter. Then...reality sets in. Flaws are more noticeable, the underwear on the floor is no longer an endearing quality and the sweatpants come out of hiding.

You'll find yourself in a similar situation a few months after your organization makes a debut. There's always a sense of excitement, in the beginning, people are generous with the congratulations, you hold your head up high because you're the founder/chairman/president, the motivation is through the roof and the confidence level is at an all time high. Like with new relationships, things settle down as time moves on. The novelty wears off. Reality sets in. You may experience fatigue, self-doubt, massive sleep deprivation, a sense of being overwhelmed, frustration, stress, etc.

Although the emotional roller coaster is normal, what you do at this point is a true test of character. You've got two choices. Follow through with your mission and white knuckle the perseverance you had in the beginning or walk away and hope no one notices.

4. Keep yourself in check. Over the summer an employee of a fast food chain took a photo and posted it on Facebook. I think he worked for Taco Bell and the photo was of him licking a stack of hard tacos. The photo went viral and he was fired. Or...something like that. I don't remember details however, I do remember that it caused an immense amount of havoc.

In this day and age of social media, smartphones and any other high tech device capable of taking photos and recording, it's imperative that you keep a few things in mind. First, you represent whatever organization you're associated with regardless of size...even if you're a one person show. Second, a single photo or someone overhearing you say the wrong thing can cause irreversible damage. And third, how you react to criticism will say more about your character than those who are criticizing.

5. Always extend copious amounts of gratitude. The people who are in your circle and support what you're doing...never forget to thank them. Whether it's a personal message or one that you put on your Facebook page, expressing your gratitude goes a long way. Extend your gratitude to everyone and do it often. From the people who donate cash or goods to those who share your status updates and promote your cause, and everyone between, thank them. Always.

6. It's not all about you. Most of us have crossed paths with someone who suffers from The Me Me Me Syndrome. You can sniff these people out from a mile away. They've got a continual need to always be in the spotlight and will go to great lengths to ensure their good deeds are recognized by the masses. How they go about this...well, the list is lengthy.

Your group or organization is not all about you. This holds true even if you're the only person running the show. Here at Bodacious Biscuit Love, it's just Lisa and myself running the show. However, our belief is that it takes community effort and teamwork to do what we do. Every single person in our Bodacious community is a part of our team. Most of the photos we post are the people within our community, the sweet shelter, foster and rescue pups, biscuits and other fun stuff. Lisa and I are very seldom in the photos. It's not about us. It's about our Bodacious community...both 2 legged and four.

If you gravitate towards the Me Me Me Syndrome personality type, get over it. It's okay to take pride in what you do, but not to the point where you're posting 50 "look at me and what I'm doing" selfies a day. Find that balance and do it quickly. No one likes a glory hound. People don't respond well when they're pushed to the sidelines while you're soaking up the credit.

7. Be honest with yourself about your motive. A while back an acquaintance of mine went full speed ahead in starting an organization. The T's were crossed, the I's were dotted and it didn't take long for the organization to debut. Her enthusiasm and motivation were visible for the first few weeks, however, that fizzled out after a short period of time. It jaded her focus to the point where the motivation that fueled her efforts had nothing to do with her said passion.

It's probably safe to say we've all done something and when asked why our given reasons may not have matched our intent. Maybe you, at one time, volunteered to make cake pops for the bake sale. You told everyone it was because you wanted to help the 8th grade raise money for their field trip. However, in the back of your head, you were really trying to out-do the Martha Stewart wannabe Sally's mom. You get where I'm going with this?

Before starting your group, ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" If your answer does not back your passion, and it's not 100% genuine, you should reconsider.

8. Occasional emotional breakdowns are inevitable. I remember countless nights sitting at my desk and coming across images on my newsfeed of animals that had been rescued from nightmares. The photos people post are gruesome and a true testament to the dark side of some humans.

When working with shelter, foster and rescue animals, you will be exposed to this. It won't just be a photo you're looking at with the option to quickly scroll until it's invisible. There have been a few occasions where I've had to hold back tears when on location. As you get affiliated with more groups, you'll see more photos, visit more animals and hear more stories. At times, it rips your heart out. And yes, it gets overwhelming.

I have no shame in admitting I've sat at my desk and sobbed. I have felt helpless and angry at humans and everything between. This is normal. And, it's okay.

9. Not everyone will be your fan. Regardless of the amount of good you do, how well you carry yourself or the number of times you've assisted someone, not everyone will like you. Or, along the way, you might take a stand on a few things. And, we all know, not everyone responds well to that. There is no way to avoid this. As the saying goes, "haters are gonna hate." Like I've said before, how you choose to respond this speaks more about your character than theirs. Have thick skin. Let the shit roll down your back. And, most importantly, don't lose focus on your mission.

10. This isn't a competition. It doesn't matter the length of time an organization has been established, the number of volunteers they have or how bloated their funds one point they were at square one. Everyone has a starting point. It's easy to get frustrated in the beginning. Funds are low. You only have 45 "likes" on your group's Facebook page. Your setup at an event looked meager in comparison to others. Etc. Everyone has been there.

This isn't a race. There are no competitions. There are no awards to be won. You don't need to have 100 volunteers or donations pouring in by a certain time. Give it time. Work hard. Stay true. Make connections. Stay focused. You'll get there...

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