I hate group projects.
Maybe it's because I was homeschooled until college, or because I'm the middle child of seven, or because I'm stubborn, hardheaded, and emphatically independent (sorry, Mom and Dad - you were/are amazing for raising seven of us). Whatever the reason, group projects are my nightmare. I struggle with giving up control and with being confrontational (go figure). I prefer to put my head down and work on my own.
As a small business owner, you have to juggle a lot of things and wear a lot of hats. I'm a terrible juggler with a head that is far too large for even one hat. I'm learning how to handle things, and it's going well, but I still have a long ways to go. I get so focused on one specific area that other areas start to slip. I have a single-track mind with a train barreling down it at full speed, which has its strengths but also a lot of weaknesses. Turns out, putting your head down and working until you collapse isn't the best.
Enter: an old friend, a close friend, and a stranger.
An Old Friend
My dear friend (and college roommate) Allison came to visit this week. We've known each other for a decade now (weeeird). She came up to help me with the store and I excitedly shared my goals for the week with her.
"I'd like to put away the Christmas stuff, sort and organize inventory, stock shelves, and change the window display."
"Great!" she said, and we both started boxing up the holiday inventory and decorations. After that was done, I started wandering through and looking at the new donations. Allison disappeared. I got distracted by the neat things I was finding, and customers started coming in.
A little while later, I found Allison. She had washed all the dishes, sorted out the recycling, changed the trash bag, and was knee deep in organizing my desk.
"I'm so sorry! I know you wanted to do inventory, but I just...this...needs to be done!" She apologized profusely to me.
I just had to laugh. I come by my personal areas of mess honestly. It's a trait that I have inherited from my father - the "desk pile" and the "sortof organized chaos" (it can also be a symptom of ADHD - people with ADHD struggle to keep their personal areas organized, like their desk/car/closet/purse).
Allison organized my desk for me. She filed papers, and made places for my office supplies. She brought me labeled cleaning supplies and used them to mop the floor and clean the tables. She found the areas that I felt overwhelmed by and the areas that were not on my radar, and she fixed them.
It. Was. AWESOME!
I didn't even know that I needed that kind of help. But Allison did, and I can't thank her enough.
A Close Friend
Last Saturday, I woke up at 2 am feeling horrible. I had abdominal pain and was having...bathroom problems. It was miserable, and my partner, Josh, kindly offered to cover for me in the morning. I was able to drag myself in around 11, but quickly found it was too much. I sent out the "bat signal" to my family and Julia, and she was quick to respond.
[Sidebar: at this point, if you don't know who Julia is, then you're not paying attention. Julia is my bandmate, my friend, and my professional colleague. She is a sustainable events consultant and one of my favorite humans. It's her fault that I opened this store and I can't say enough good things about her.]
"We have to drop off a kiddo at a birthday party, but we can be there at 1:30!"
She and her partner Mark appeared at a crisp 1:15 and sent me home to nap. I was able to sleep for three hours and started to feel human again.
I knew I needed help, and Julia and Mark helped me without question and I can't thank them enough. This wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last and I am grateful.
One day as I was looking through my Instagram notifications, I noticed that an account had liked a lot of ReCraft's posts and had commented on a few with very positive and encouraging things. It made my day brighter. I started noticing that she was interacting with my account regularly and it always made me smile to see her comment or like something.
Then she came in to the store and I realized that this was someone local! We had a really nice chat, and Elle promised that she'd come back again soon. I woke up to a message in my Instagram account one morning.
"Hey there! I've come in a few times, and love seeing all of your wonderful posts! Your store inspires me so much. I saw the post you made a few days ago that said you were ill and didn't have the funds to pay employees. I've got a few days a week that I've been looking to put towards volunteering, and I was hoping you could use me in your store! I'm happy to do anything to help. I love how much your store reaches the community and I'd look forward to doing anything I could to help you! Please let me know if you could use a hand! Best, Elle"
My gut reaction was "that is so sweet, but I don't think so. I'm not a non-profit, it'd be taking advantage of people if I had volunteers."
Then I talked to Julia. She pointed out that I have a huge pile of unsorted donations and that Elle offered to help freely and that she wants to be a part of this.
I had to get over myself. The next day, I messaged her back and we set up a time for her to come help me. The first day that Elle was in the store, we sorted and organized a HUGE amount of stuff. The second time she came in to help me, we got to talking and I started complaining about my procrastination of making a website and how hard I was finding it to get started.
"Okay, Bethany. Next time I'm here, you're going to sit down and work on a website," Elle said to me, mock-seriously. "And I'm going to be here in two days, so you better prepare yourself!"
We laughed, but that joke scolding was just the motivation I needed. Thanks to Elle, I sat down and started working on this very website and it was done even before I saw her next!
I'm so grateful for Elle and for her encouragement and willingness to jump in and help.
Success Is A Group Project
Malcolm Gladwell said in his book, Outliers, that "success is a group project." I'm slowly learning that I can't do this by myself, and that I have to swallow my stubbornness and put away my independence. I have to ask for help and then let people actually help me. I also have to accept the help that is offered even when I don't think I need it, because I probably actually do need it and just don't see it.
I'm begrudgingly starting to like group projects.