Brave In The Mundane

Brave Isn’t Always Flashy

Did you know that something as mundane as doing laundry can be brave?

I am on a new adventure. This past week I moved from Florida to Nebraska. There are some brave stories — not flashy like saving someone’s life — in this and I’m hoping to share them so that they might benefit someone else. Background: If you don’t know me, then you don’t know that I’m legally blind and have lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which are pertinent facts in these stories.

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Yesterday was the day I decided laundry had to be tackled. Well, to be honest, the lack of clean clothes for my kids and me decided that. The small coin-operated laundry room in our building wasn’t going to cut it. It would take all day with us monopolizing the machines — and many quarters! I decided to find a laundromat so that all the loads could go at the same time and I did — one near us called LaundryLand. Grabbed an Uber and with my two ginormous bags of laundry, headed over. By myself. The kids (they’re adults, but still kids to me!) had other chores they were accomplishing. We all need to be ready to work Monday. Divide and conquer!

God Waits In Our Brave

I was anxious with a good dollop of scared. It’s scary to not trust what you think you can and can’t see. Lupus and RA are also factors in my strength and mobility and I can never be sure how my body’s going hold up. But this is an adventure and I can’t depend on any person to hold my hand through life.

Besides, God keeps showing up in HUGE ways through every step of this move.

He was with me in the laundromat, too. Seems silly to say that, but who thinks of God in the laundromat? I arrived shortly after opening, and the very kind attendant had time to cheerfully show me everything I needed to know before the Saturday throngs descended.

Learning Business Lessons In The Laundromat

Wondering how my trip to do laundry relates to business?

Here’s what I (re)learned yesterday:

God is everywhere. (In your business, your home, the laundromat.) There’s no place you can go that He isn’t there ready to meet you.

Do it scared. Especially if it is out of your comfort zone. If God has called you to a thing — big or small, business or personal — He will equip you to do it. My friend/business coach/mentor, Diane Cunningham Ellis, has referred to herself as “the Brave Coach,” and she consistently teaches that we’re never late to our own miracles and that God provides what we need when we need it. Just do the thing. Diane nudged/pushed me out of my comfort zone to start this business just about two years ago and my life hasn’t been the same since.

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If you need help, ask. Many friends have helped me through this last couple of weeks. Prayer, encouraging messages, practical help, so much more. In business, you can have the same. I pray for my clients and they for me. (How blessed am I that most of my clients have become friends!) If you’re in business, that doesn’t mean you are expected to know everything! Consult with someone who has already walked the path you are on. Someone has faced the same challenge you’re facing. Join a group of like-minded women. Just talking it through with someone else can help bring clarity. We aren’t meant to do life alone!

Don’t let fear stop you. God will meet you and provide for you in business just as He did yesterday in the laundromat for me.

If I can help, just email me. I’d love to be of encouragement or support.

WHAT Do They Need?

WHAT Can You Do To Help Your WHO?

Well, I just about overthought this post to death! 

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Hi, I’m Shelby, and I’m an overthinker. It’s really simple. 

Simple is good because these first posts are about the foundation of your business or ministry. And we want to try and keep that simple!

What can you do to help the people God has called you to serve, whether in business or ministry?

Can you help them learn to do something practical (or maybe not so practical) to help themselves? Can you help them make some sort of emotional/mental/physical transformation? 

I’m calling to mind four clients of mine who are psychologists and counselors. The “whats” for them, in regard to their clients, might look like: What can I do to help them and serve them well? Can I help them eat better? Parent better? Crochet? Play guitar? Just find some balance?

My “whats” in relationship to them might look like: Do they need help setting up their own businesses? Writing blog posts? Taking over some of the business operations so that, after they’re done helping their clients, the can rest or play or refill their own spirits? Getting out of their own way? 

How about your clients? In what ways has God gifted you to help them – and serve them well? Have some great ideas to get started? Fantastic!

Digging Into The What

These are good starts, but they’re like the “why” question; they’re too general for you to make any real headway. So dig down a level – or maybe two, or even five! What is it about nutrition that you could teach them? Where in their writing are they stuck? Do they have mindset issues (who doesn’t!) that keep them from moving forward?

(And, I feel sure you know this, but I need to say it anyway – don’t forget to pray over every piece of these foundations.)

While digging into the “what,” don’t get wrapped up in it — this is “what’s” time in the spotlight — but let your brain wander around how. Just enough to know that it’s basically doable.

Does The What Fit?

Does the “what” you come up with fit the “why” and the “who” from the prior two posts? Can you picture yourself jumping through some hoops to make “what” happen for “who” because “why?”

Does it make your heart sing a little bit? I’ve owned my own businesses for over 20 years, and the combination of these things really does need to make your heart sing. And sometimes cry. Because while serving people is more than rewarding, it can also be hard.


Who Does Your Heart Long To Serve?

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Another big foundation question for business or ministry is WHO? Who does your heart longs to serve?

My great focus in ministry is widows. When I was widowed, I was the youngest widow in my church, I had children still in school, and no one quite knew what to do with me. That’s an easy one and God put it in my heart as sure as He made my eyes blue.

Who I have been called to serve in business has been harder. I actually know whom it is that I’ve been called to. I’ve just often wanted it to be someone different. Someone easier.

My Who Aren’t Blue

Do you know whom you’re called to serve? Think of all of the people with whom you cross paths. Friends, family, waitstaff at your favorite restaurant, doctors or nurses, that person on Facebook who always encourages you… Who resonates with you? Why? Is there a commonality among these people?

There are a lot of client avatar exercises out there that you can do. I love what my coach, Diane Cunningham Ellis, says about this. Sorry, Diane, I’m paraphrasing here: “When I think of client avatars, I think of the blue people from the movie. My clients aren’t blue people. They’re women just like you and me.”

Who are the people just like you? What goals do you have in common? What pain points?

Is there something you can do to help them achieve their goals and overcome their obstacles? Can you guess which foundational question is coming up next?


What’s The Difference Between a VA and an OBM?

Just what we needed in the world, right? More acronyms! Let’s talk about the differences between a VA (virtual assistant) and an OBM (online business manager) so that you can understand what kind of help it is that you need.

Many OBMs started out as VAs and many VAs do a lot of OBM work. Sometimes the difference is just in what kind of work we enjoy doing most and where we prefer to focus our time and energy.

Doers vs Strategists

VAs love to take on tasks! They are the “get-it-done” people you want in your corner! There are all kinds of VAs who specialize in many different things. These “specialized VAs” tend to earn more because they know the value of their skills — and so does the marketplace.

OBMs are more like strategic overseers. We plot the strategy that brings your big dream into fruition including all of the many details you might consider and even more of the ones that might not occur to you until you have what I call an “oopsy” moment.

VAs and OBMs Have Different Passions…

As a VA, I love to take a to-do list for a client and watch it diminish one by one. Doing tasks and finagling tech make my heart sing. It’s one of the ways I can help the helpers. I love tech things and the puzzle of making it all work together as it should. (It frequently requires a little bit of finessing!) The client’s faces when I tell them that whatever “the thing” is that wasn’t working now is working great… well, that’s just like getting a Christmas bonus. Most VAs that I know feel like that.

As my business has evolved into business management, my very favorite thing — my own professional bliss — is getting on a strategy call with a client. There is nothing like hearing the client’s vision and almost immediately picturing in my mind what it will take to make that happen from a big-picture point of view right down to assigning tasks to team members. It is such a delight to see my clients when they realize their dream isn’t just a pipe dream. It’s a very real — and likely — possibility! Most of my time these days is spent doing this kind of work while my team of amazing VAs knocks out the task list.

… and Different Areas of Expertise

Most VAs charge an hourly rate or have a monthly retainer. They can take on as many as 10-20 clients depending on the services being provided. Some tech VAs only specialize in a couple of tech stacks because of the amount of time they invest in continuing their education. Other tech VAs seem to grasp the tech intuitively and are jacks (and jills!) of all kinds of tech. Highly specialized VAs, such as copywriting VAs, for example, can (and do!) charge as much as OBMs and more. Whether you choose to use a VA from another country is a matter of personal ethics, but please pay them fairly. Whatever country they’re in, they work hard to keep their skills up to date.

As an OBM, on routine, non-launch months for any given client, my work load might be somewhat static. At that point, the client is paying me to keep things running smoothly including social media strategy, email marketing, content marketing, website and its maintenance, and any random tasks that come up. (There are always random tasks!)

Once we enter into launch mode, my client and I kick into high gear. There’s the strategy of the actual launch, the marketing around it which could include social media, email marketing, and other avenues. There’s the tech that needs to be set up, checked, and double checked. This requires an OBM to be flexible as things do change a lot during the course of a launch.

Some OBMs get a salary plus a percentage of the profits. Others get paid a set retainer every month with the understanding that some months are light work months and other months are going to go like gangbusters.

I have worked with most of my clients for more than a year and only selectively take on new clients. I have learned (the hard way, I’m sorry to say!) that more than two launches at the same time is a no-go and if an oncoming client is planning a launch in the same timeline as others, I often refer them to other OBMs if their launch is set in stone. Both my current clients and the potential new client deserve undivided attention. If I can’t give it, I don’t sign them!

Tools and Numbers

VAs don’t receive nearly enough recognition! Most are proficient in so much tech that you just can’t even imagine. They keep up with the latest updates on popular software, best practices for whatever their specialty happens to be, and so much more. (And, yes, VAs specialize!) My regular team of VAs include a data analyst, an incredible VA who specializes in writing beautiful blog posts and emails, and our newest member who right now is turning out social media graphics that are incredible!

OBMs can work for clients at virtually any level of business. The traditional wisdom is that OBMs are only necessary after you hit about $500,000 in revenue. Not true. There are OBMs who are happy to work with and for clients who are in an in-between place on the start-to-scale continuum.

OBMs need to have an understanding of the numbers that swirl around a business. KPIs, OKRs, metrics, leading vs lagging indicators — sound like a foreign language? That’s okay — if you have someone who understands them and can help you keep the ship sailing in the right direction!!

As OBMs, we almost have to know more than our clients to properly manage their business, because we’re providing the strategy and guiding them along every step of their journey to success.

Both VAs and OBMs are dedicated to seeing our clients succeed. When you do well, it thrills us. We are putting ripples into the world — good ripples that can help people.

Wondering if you need an OBM? Download my free article!


How Will You Deliver Your Service or Product?

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You’ve identified the “why,” the “who,” and the “what.” That’s fantastic! You’re so close! HOW will you be delivering “your thing” to your people? Is it an online thing or an in-person thing? Both?

Have you given any thought to the myriad options? You have to look at this from two sides:
How do you feel comfortable delivering “the thing” to them?
How will they best receive it?

The two might be the same or they might not. If they’re not, then you might need to take another look at your WHO. You won’t be able to serve them well if you have trouble connecting in ways that make sense to them. (Lesson learned the hard way. More than once!)

Some Hows For Online Delivery

Teaching Platform (Thinkific, MemberVault, etc.)
Email (yes, people deliver whole programs via email!)
Voxer (cool walkie-talkie app!)

Podcast (public or private)
Video teachings
Zoom (great for group teachings and interaction)


Why We Do What We Do

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There is a “why” for everything that we do in this world. What is the “why” that drives you for your business or your ministry? One of my coaches once asked “What is the WHY that makes you CRY?” Happy tears, sad tears, angry tears, frustrated tears. Just a “why” that moves you to deep emotion.

Don’t judge your immediate reason. I’ve run across this a lot when it comes to money. If the initial “why” is because the person needs an income there seems to be a knee-jerk attitude to defend that. No defense necessary! Money is necessary for the things we need in this world. Money mindsets are deep-rooted and you might need some help there and Patti Fagan is just the person I would recommend!

Whether money is your “why,” or it’s something else, let’s go deeper.

WHY (ha, see what I did there?) Is Your Reason Important To You?

Let’s continue with the money example since we’ve already gone there. Money is your reason for your services or your products. The next level is: What do you want to do with that money? How will you use it?

One of my clients said that she was going to use the additional income to help fund a health clinic for women. Fantastic! I was bowled over. Let’s go deeper yet.

Why did she want to fund that women’s health clinic? Her mom had died from cancer diagnosed far too late because she did not have ready access to regular health care. We were beginning to get deep into the heart of things. This woman lost her mom at what she considered far too young an age. She has daughters, sisters, cousins, friends. She doesn’t want to see any of them go through that. That is a why that makes you keep going when things don’t seem to be falling your way.

Some coaches recommend that you peel back five layers deep to get to a solid, down-to the-heart WHY. For some other initial reasons for “why,” that is probably a good exercise. I thought this client and I could stop here.

Why Is Your Why So Important?

Business and ministry are hard. They can both push you to the brink and then a little more. Those times are the reason your “why” is so important. It’s the thing that makes you dig in a little more deeply. It’s the reasons that you continue to care when it would be easier to just quit.

Your “why” is also the thing that keeps you true to your purpose. God gave you this thing to do, whatever it is, but there are a lot of temptations to pull you off track. My friends and I call them “bright shiny objects,” because that’s exactly what they seem like! Distractions! Holding tightly to your reasons for doing what you do will keep you from wasting time, effort, and money chasing what really isn’t meant for you.

If You Don’t Know

I think most of us have at least a surface idea of what our “whys” are. It’s my suggestion that you go deeper. Sticking with the money example, if you just say you want to make money, when things get hard with your business or ministry, it becomes easy to quit and go work at McDonalds or do something else to make money that isn’t what we are called to. Whatever your initial “why,” try to go at least two levels deeper.

You can read about my why on the about page.

It’s a solid foundation for your business or ministry.

My Summer On The Couch

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This is my couch. It is, for the most part, where I live these days.

I feel like a fraud. For all my talk of faith in God and His plan and being grateful that Rich has been released from his pain and now lives in the presence of God (and those things are true!) I have gotten to a place in my grief where I’m just not functioning well.  I’m having a hard time doing anything at all.  I miss Rich so much every day I can barely breathe.  I learned things that I wish I could unlearn and have made decisions that  I thought were sound but that I now question incessantly.  Getting out among people is painful and I’m becoming a real hermit. 

It hasn’t been all bad.  I’ve made some moves and done some things that stretched me beyond what I thought was capable.  For as much a mess as my mind is, my faith continues to grow stronger.  It’s funny in a way.  Someone, on the day that Rich died, wished that I would never find peace and, for right now, that person’s wish is coming true in spades.  I don’t believe, though, that this crippling state of mind is what my Father wants for me.  He’s allowing it, and I don’t exactly know why, but I trust that He will help me to pull out of it when it is time and that it is serving a purpose.

To that end, I’m starting with some grief counseling on Friday.  My kids gave me some time, let me binge watch all of the HGTV home shows, sitting on the couch, but finally they spoke up. “Mom, we don’t think you’re doing very well. We need you to be better.” GULP. It costs the moon and my insurance doesn’t cover it but this life, this living on the couch, isn’t what is meant for me.  It isn’t what God wants for me and it isn’t what Rich would want for me.  It sure isn’t what my kids need.

I feel a little bit — actually a lot — ashamed that I’m at the point of needing some help. But I’m going to get it anyway. I’m worth it.

(originally published 8/4/2010)

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