Parting Shots

I turn 60 next year and always said that I would retire at that age. To be sure that I’ll be successful as a retiree, I’ve started practicing this year with some serious semiretirement. To this end, I have done only a few training venues, consulted with only one client, and continued to write my columns for QR.

I write my columns not only about things I know, but what I am seeing, experiencing and doing. And since I don’t think that most of you would be very interested in the mama moose and her two calves that I saw in the beaver ponds this morning (well some of you might be very interested, but I don’t think it’s what my editor has in mind), it has occurred to me that it may be time to write My Last Column.

But first a background lead-in:

I have had two marvelous careers. The first one was 20 years spent teaching adults with developmental disabilities and the second one twenty years teaching contractors.

My teaching with contractors was one-on-one as a consultant, via workshop venues, writing columns and publishing my book. As a consultant, I found that some of my contractor clients needed to hear what they needed to do more than once (and some way more than twice), before they could move themselves to action. Some of these folks would refer to my “gentle prodding” as nagging — I’m sure in an affectionate way. So, in this spirit, I offer you a few “parting shots”, the final nag, or perhaps you can think of them as “Linda-isms” — things I have taught my clients and my workshop attendees, wrote in my book, and shared with anyone else who’d listen over the last two decades.

Here we go: Linda-isms

I don’t’ care how much you sell. I only care about how much you keep.

This one always reminds me of the framing contractor all puffed up as he boasted to me how much he’d sold that year, only to quickly deflate when I asked him how much he’d kept. I’ve spent years nagging about the importance of gross margin, using financial information as a management tool, and focusing on the bottom line.

When you stop taking what you get and, instead, go after what you want, everything changes.

This nag has to do with first figuring out what type of work you like to do, can do, and make money at. Then you figure out how much you need to sell to make your life work. Then you go after this — what you want — and you turn aside anything that doesn’t fit. What power and control! And a whole lot of fun!

When you decided to start your own business, you went from being a remodeler to a businessperson who just happens to own a remodeling company.

This is the ever-so-hard leap from working in your business to embracing your management and leadership roles so you can work on your business. It is one of the hardest leaps for people to make and often requires oodles of nagging.

Hiring is one of the most important things you do in your business. Take your time and do it right.

Your employees can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running your business, but they are also what make it successful or not. Don’t hire fast, frantically, and without clear job descriptions. Once hired, treat them like the valuable, renewable resource they are. (This is really an area for lots of long-term nagging!)

Without your health, you’ve got nothing.

Ah, the take-care-of-yourself nag. We all started out as “young bucks”— full of energy, could eat anything, drink anything and put in lots of hours. Then one day, time sneaks up on us, and we have to start taking care of this old body of ours. If you haven’t already, start now.

No one on their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time with their business.

Ah, the balance nag. The take-time-for-your-loved-ones nag. The how-many-divorces-do-you-want-to-go-through nag. Plan your time to include spending it with those you love.

Finally, not a true Linda-ism, as we’ve heard this often, but I need to include it here anyway:

Live each day of your life as if it were you last because one day you’ll be right.

I guess that’s why I was watching a mama moose and her babies in the beaver ponds this morning instead of nagging some poor contractor. Like everyone, I don’t know how many days I have, but I sure plan to live them with gusto. I loved the 20 years I spent working with you all, but now I’m ready for 20 or more years doing something else. I am excited about my horizon, and I am darn sure it’ll be interesting, meaningful and fun.