Friday, July 2, 2010

Balance


The last few weeks we've been busy with several projects--some large, some small, but all important. Our bi-weekly meetings keep us on track (more or less) so that we've got everyone worked into our schedule.

But this past week, we've also been working on a project that we've managed to squeeze in to our already busy schedule, a project we took on knowing we wouldn't get much financially from, but important to us personally. We've signed on to do the website and communications for our neighborhood elementary school and this week we sent out the first of our email newsletters.

This week has been a lesson in finding the balance in getting paid for what we do, and contributing our talents toward improving our community.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Potential

Recently, a recurrent question I ask myself is: Am I capable of more? Am I living to my potential?

There’s so much opportunity for anonymity, mediocrity, to coast through this life, to be passive. But, what a disappointment to just sit back and let life go bye.

Its risky, being involved, to lose your anonymity, to take on more. It takes a certain amount of confidence to put yourself out there. You might actually attract attention! But also open yourself up to criticism, public failure, embarrassing situations, being spread too thin, or losing your mind.

For me, the choice to become more involved started a couple of years ago. Maybe it was having kids, or being in my mid 30’s, or having our own business... or the feeling that I have a stake in the future that is beyond myself. Don’t get me wrong--in my younger adulthood I had a more theoretical understanding and desire to promote the sustainability of the human race and our world. But now, I definitely have a deeper, more emotional relationship to the future than I felt when I was younger. It makes everything important. This is my chance to do something good in this world, to make my community better, to ensure that my kids will have only the best of everything.

I have a belief that we (myself included) are all capable of more than we do on a day-to-day basis. What if we all lived to our potential? How awesome would that be? I realize we can’t be ON 100% of the time. But even if we had bursts of energy that would take us 1 step closer to our potential a day, that would be somethin’.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Married to the web guy


Being married to the web guy has its pluses.

First, if I have a question about anything webby or technical, I know the guy to call. And he’s really good. I don’t think I’ve ever had a technical problem that he couldn’t fix. Granted, my technical problems probably aren’t that complicated, but still. Knowing I have someone literally in-house to call is a great comfort. If Mark weren’t here, my computer would have been thrown through the window a long time ago.

I’m inspired by his creativity. I love watching him create amazing designs. At some point during our clients’ projects I get to see the work in progress. I get first glance at the mood boards, design concepts, logo designs, etc. I’m no web designer, but after seeing a lot of web design, I know that Mark’s work is pretty amazing. Frankly, I don’t know how he does it. Every client gets a unique design, some clients depending on the size of the project, might be presented with 2 or 3 design concepts. How he comes up with so many ideas, I’ll never know.

I’m totally proud of the business that he’s created. Mark is a modest guy. He will read this and be embarrassed. But, under the laid-back-Seattle-web-guy exterior, he’s a sharp businessman. He’s planning Bizango’s future even when the week is booked with working on client projects. Every week, we set aside time to develop new and improved features to the update tools, or to develop future Bizango endeavors. Sometimes carving out the time for these long-term goals hurts. That time has got to come from somewhere, and every week we look at the schedule and make sure that its on our to-do list. He doesn’t compromise on this. His eye is on the future of our business and the security of our family. He’s my hero.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Disneyland does right




Our family just got back from a 3 day vacation to Disneyland. Our kids, ages 5 & 3, are finally at an age where they could appreciate the fun, magic, and craziness that IS Disneyland.

Disneyland is over-the-top in every way. To go there and really appreciate it, you have to let your inner kid lead. For those who stick up their noses at Disneyland---there’s seriously something wrong with you. To enjoy Disneyland you have to let go of your inhibitions. Don’t worry--no one in southern California knows who you are or even cares (if you’re not a movie star, that is). You can be a kid again. You don’t need any mind altering drugs, you just need to be one with Disney.

The creativity put into Disneyland is amazing. Where else is as extravagant, larger than life, and fantastical? Part of what makes each “land” feel so real is that there’s no holding back. Disney has seen to even the smallest detail to make your experience feel REAL. It creates desire in the weirdest ways-- I could totally see myself living out the rest of my days in Tarzan’s treehouse (Tarzan could stay, of course). Seattle? Work? House? Bahh!! I’ll take life in the treehouse any day.


Even if it is Disneyland, there’s a lot to appreciate about being in a place where creativity is valued. While we were waiting in line (part of the DL experience, no doubt), we saw a group of executives getting a tour of Pixie Hollow. It was funny to see a group of men in suits walking though Tinkerbell’s forest, taking everything in all so seriously. They’re no fools, they know this is a goldmine.

From a business perspective, there’s a lot to learn from Disney. Disneyland is expensive. But still the people come and pay. Disneyland has spared no expense at creating an experience. Disney wants everyone to feel special. Everyday is a celebration. The parades, fireworks, and musical numbers are spectacular. Our kids got to meet Tigger, for goodness sake. Can you put a price tag on that? Apparently you can. Yes, this vacation set us back some, but it was worth it. We’ll totally go again.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Coffee to the rescue



This week we’ve been struck by the crud...again. WIth 2 kids in preschool, we’re bound to catch any virus that’s out there. And we do. I can take the coughing in my face and the wiping of runny noses, but my patience is truly tested by our little ones’ extreme crankiness and sleepless nights. Sometimes I just have to laugh at the insanity when I’m up at 2 am trying to get one of them back to sleep, while I can hear the other start up again. What a tag team they make. Its like they’re conspiring against us.

Despite the sleep deprivation and the fact that I am now also sick (thanks to the coughing in my face), I still have to get up and go about my day; work, meetings, childcare.

The thing that pulls me through is coffee.

Honestly, I don’t love the taste of coffee. I didn’t really drink it until I moved to Seattle. Well, it was hard to avoid in a city that has a coffee shop every 50 feet. I do love the smell which is probably what drew me to it. But mostly, I love the routine of making a pot of coffee, and fixing my cup just the way I like it.

There’s something about having a cup of coffee in front of me that helps me focus. Even before that first sip, just the ritual of sitting down with a coffee in front of me, helps me plan my day, prioritize what I have to get done, and set to work. However tired I am, however much I have on my plate for that day, I know I can get through it because at least I’ve got my coffee.

And its not just me. I can’t even have a conversation with Mark in the morning until I see that he’s got his coffee in hand. It took me at least 10 years of being married to him before I figured that one out.

So, we take our coffee ritual seriously here.

Before kids, Mark and I took a trip to Italy. (Little did we know that would be our last hurrah just the two of us.) One of our stops was a 3 day stay at an agriturismo. We slept in the carriage house of a thousand year old castle in the middle of Tuscany. Yes, you’re right-- it can’t get any better than that. We happened to be stranded there at that castle, seeing we hadn’t thought to rent a car (we arrived at the castle mostly by luck and a very expensive cab ride). So, we spent our days lazily wandering through vineyards and olive groves, playing with the family dog who we named “Paulo”, communing with the cattle that we would later eat that night sitting at the family’s dinner table. We also learned about espresso.

Our room was equipped with cornflakes, homemade biscotti, a hot plate and an espresso maker--the beautiful silver retro kind you put on the burner. We had our first lesson how to make espresso from the young Italian woman who let us in. In our feeble attempts at conversing in half Italian/half Spanish/half English, we learned how to craft a brew of true Italian espresso.

If the ritual of making coffee is good, making espresso is even better. It seems the more elaborate the ritual, the more meditative and focused the act becomes. Coffee is our routine, espresso is Special.

So, when the kids are driving us crazy, work is busy, creativity needs to be evoked, or we need that special focus in our cluttered mind---its coffee to the rescue.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blogging from the inside out

When I started blogging over a year ago, I was a novice. I was finding my way in the blogging world. I wasn’t sure what to write, but I knew I wanted to tell our story of running our business, having a family, and trying to make it all work together somehow.

I guess I’m still trying to find my way as a “blogger”. Lately, I feel I’ve lost something in trying to write articles and blogs that are more focused on Business, and less focused on our internal process. I’m no expert, but I fear I may have come across that way in my effort to be prolific about running a business.

Maybe I’ve been a bit misguided to believe that in order for people to want to read my blog (so far, not so much), I need to be an expert on a topic (I’m not) and write information that others will hopefully find useful and relevant (Geez, who knows). And, the business of trying, maybe too hard, to sound informative, has got me hating my new writer voice. Blogging has lost its magic for me personally. So, its not really working out for me, this blogging business. What am I missing?

For me, what’s missing is the account of our personal experience. That’s how this blog got started and I think I was closer to being on track in the beginning. Its our experience that’s compelling. Anybody in the web/tech/marketing business and their brother can write about why its so important to have a beautiful website. But running a family business is a more interesting story. Running a family business has all the stuff sitcoms are made of. We may not be quite so witty, or have musical numbers, but we can be entertaining in our own way. Who can’t relate with being stressed about money or deadlines, feeling angry at STUPID accounting software or annoyed that the kids are too loud to take a call just then? We try to cover up the things that make us human (mistakes, debt, insecurity, farts/burps/BO, etc), but really its the experience of being human that’s so entertaining.

So, today, as I plug in my iPod to drown out the sound of Mark and our 3 year old dancing to “Take On Me” upstairs, I sit down at our cluttered desk that we share, I am turning over a new blogging leaf. Blogging from the inside out. This blog is about our experience as a family, running a business, raising 2 daughters in this crazy world, staying happily married, doing it our way, making compromises along the way, but trying to never loose our way.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A recent testimonial

A gracious testimonial from one of our recent web design clients;

"I love my site - 2 people in the last week have used the same word to describe it: "Stunning!"--Jann Placentia, Piacenza Design

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What makes us different

One of the things that sets Bizango apart from other web design companies (aside from our amazing work and magnetic personalities) is our relationship with our clients even after site launch. Really, our relationship is only just beginning once we get our client’s beautiful new site up and live. Having our clients use our easy update tools, our hosted content management system, keeps us connected with them in a way that other web providers often aren’t. Because we provide an ongoing service to our clients, we are motivated to nurture our relationships, and to keep our clients happy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Showing Appreciation

People want to be appreciated. We want acknowledgment of a job well done.

I once had a co-worker who said he didn’t feel like he needed to be told that he was doing well at his job. My first reaction was 1. that’s not true, he’s lying to himself, and 2. there must be something wrong with me for needing that validation. I suppose he felt so confident in himself and in the job that he was doing that he didn’t feel he needed to hear it from the boss. And it was true, he was excellent at what he did. Less than 6 months later, my co-worker left the job because he was dissatisfied.

Now, I’m not saying that the reason why my co-worker left was because no one told him he was doing a good job (even though he said he didn’t need to hear this), because I think the issue was far more complicated. But what if that was a factor in his overall dissatisfaction? What if he had been told that he was doing excellent work and had been made to feel he was an invaluable asset to the organization? Would that have made him more likely to stay?

Pushing to work harder, to be more productive, often with less, can burnout even the most competent and hardworking. We need to feel rewarded for the work we do. Money usually works quite well. But if there’s no budget for raises or big fat bonuses, words of thanks can go a long way and it doesn’t cost a dime. And when our employer has the personality of a Dilbert cartoon, or if we’re self-employed, we depend on our co-workers and customers for appreciation and recognition of our work. Appreciation can come in the form of referrals, testimonials, links, coffee and bagels, or a simple expression of praise; its what keeps the fire burning to work harder and better.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Extreme Web Design


I'm strapped in -- all alone on this tiny plane. There's an empty seat in front of me. Looking out the window I can see the pilot standing on the rocky riverbank. He grabs the propellor, gives it a spin.

Old school.

But it only takes one spin and the engine roars to life.

Now I can feel the power of the Piper Super Cub beneath me. The wind is picking up. The pilot's running around the wing. Coming toward me. Making for the open hatch. Hurry up, man! This plane wants to be in the sky.

My pilot is one of Alaska's most famous bush pilots. He's also my client -- and today, that makes him the boss.

I'm in amazingly good hands. So why am I terrified? It's irrational. I gaze longingly down at the ground. Can I still change my mind?

The pilot dives in through the hatch and straps himself into the seat in front of me. He snaps on his seatbelt. Grabs the throttle. My heart's in my mouth. And we are leaping forward, bumping over rocks, hurtling straight toward the river.

But we never come close to that water. This little plane wants to fly. I can feel the super cub growling YIPPEE YIPPEE YIPPEE beneath me. Two big bounces and we're leaping into the sky. The river is gleaming below.

The super cub is built like a bicycle. It sounds like a lawnmower. But it eats air!

We cruise up the canyon. Treetops whisper away beneath us. Massive mountains rise on both sides. My heart is pounding. All of a sudden my pilot grabs the throttle and banks us left -- toward a 10,000 foot-high wall of sheer rock.

A turn like that in 360 degrees of space -- with the mountains leaping up on my left and the stormclouds gathering away to my right -- it would squeeze a "YEEHA" out of anyone. It does me. And down inside a part of me is wondering... "Am I gonna die today -- for web design???"

--

We are lucky to have all the amazing clients we do. I get paid for this?

Can't say more about the Alaskan experience yet, because their site is still being written, designed and programmed. But once it launches it'll be obvious why I love this job.

Follow our new Bizango page on facebook to be notified of the epic Alaska project launch. We'll reveal the name and location of this remote adventure lodge -- and of the family who had the grace and generosity to fly me in so we could build them a website that would help them tell their story.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Glass Half-Full


There will always be things in our lives that we can't control. For us that are, shall we say, control freak-ish, this can be a difficult pill to swallow.

We can't make someone do something that they just don't want to (with a possible exception of our kids). You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

In a scenario where I don't feel I'm in control, I try to focus on the positive. I guess I'm more of a glass half-full kind of person. I try to see where I do have power. I can't make you do something, but I do have control over my response and what I choose to do. So, the school board may not listen to our suggestions/requests/anger--but I can be involved in my child's school, I can be an active participant in her class and in her education in and outside of school. It doesn't mean that I'll roll over and stop trying to change your mind. But I won't let it defeat me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Writing Copy for the Web

Writing copy for the web has its own challenges.

We have an overwhelming amount of information available to us, all at our fingertips, and with our fast internet connections we can surf this information quickly. But how much do we actually read and process? Let's face it, people have short attention spans. Even if you don't have adult ADHD, we're still so accustomed to browsing information and websites quickly that we really have to be drawn in to pay attention.

So, how do we sell to people who may only spend a minute or two, if we're lucky, reading our website?

Here's 3 tips which may help:

First, use small words and short paragraphs. Recognize that people are in a hurry and want information that is easy to read and understand. They don't want to have to think. People aren't impressed with big words--they get annoyed and move on.

Second, speak clearly. Write how you would say it. If you're trying too hard to explain something, your audience is trying to hard to understand it and they will lose interest. To be honest, you should assume your audience is less intelligent ( I mean no offense) and speak to that level. You're not trying to win awards for literary fiction here, you're trying to sell.

Third, be compelling. This is probably the most challenging. But if you have nothing interesting to say, why say it? The whole point of writing is to get your audience to keep reading and to ultimately contact you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beyond the Website


Our most recent print work for one of our clients--

When our business first started, back in 2006, it was about building websites. Beautiful sites, easy to update.

Four years later, what we provide our clients has evolved. At our core, we still provide beautiful, custom sites using the same Easy Update Tools, but we've learned to expand our business to include other services and marketing support that our clients frequently ask us for.

Wanting our business to grow, and wanting to keep our clients happy with our services, we saw the need to offer more comprehensive web-marketing. Now, our clients aren't just looking for a website, but they're wanting help with their search engine optimization, their copywriting, their print work, their online newsletters. We've grown to incorporate our clients' needs into the services that we provide.