Change – A personal story

Man pulling the curtain up to a new colorful world.

The past month or so has been intensely frustrating.

I use five basic software tools to run my businesses and ministry. One is called Intellect, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software that includes its own internal email. It is made by a company called Chaos Software, because their original product was a CRM without email called Time and Chaos, probably the best name for productivity software that has ever been concocted. For a one-man show, it’s hard to find anything like it. Everything I need to track clients, keep track of contacts and activity, do group emails, is all right there on a single screen. Easy to use and crazy cheap. $49.00, a one time cost.

The second most important piece of software is something called “17 Hats”.  It is another  an all in one software for small businesses. It has accounting, scheduling, helps you build response forms, does invoicing and billing over the internet (I get paid faster. Clients can use credit cards), and allows for sending contracts and remote signing of those contracts by e-mail. And again, easy to use. It also does email and CRM, but I like Intellect for those purposes better, but you would not need to. It allows me to organize, bill and expense all the different things I do, from coaching to consulting to marketing to copywriting, photography and art. That’s serious flexibility. It’s a SAAS (software as a service) system, but worth the small amount it costs just in terms of organizing sales and support in one place. If you are serious small business, or one man shop, it is a great choice.

I have done email newsletters on MailChimp for quite a while as well. Easy to use, affordable (free for the first 2,000 contacts!), it allows me to create and manage bulk emails for myself and clients with ease.

And blogs. I run four of them for myself alone and use WordPress. WordPress of course has become the defacto standard for blogging and small websites, with an entire ecosystem of plug ins that allow you to do almost anything on your site. They claim to power better than a third of the internet, and when I look at sites when I surf and search, I believe them.

A more recent thing I have been using is something called “Teachable“. Teachable is the platform I have been using for on-line courses. It is elegant in its design and pretty flexible.  The beauty of Teachable is that for what I needed to do, I could use the free version.

All these things work together and easily exchange data so it’s a pretty fluid mix if you invest the time linking them all together.  For a one man operation that at times uses strategic partners for larger projects, it’s a nice mix that lets me accomplish way more than one man should be able to accomplish, and still have a life.

Software is always upgrading and that is a good thing, except when too much of your software upgrades all at once. Intellect has a new version that changes how email works dramatically. What used to be an intuitive process is now complicated. I am still wrestling with being able to do all the things I used to do easily.  Mailchimp has become far more than a bulk e-mail service, adding a whole suite of other marketing tools such as forms and landing pages.  WordPress is introducing a new “block style” editor that I find way more complicated and way less intuitive than the current editor, which is wonderful and fluid and easy to use.  And Teachable has changed their free program so that it is far less useable than it was.

Thank goodness 17 Hats has kept its user interface the same even as they add functionality, or I would be pulling the last of my hair out.

It’s frustrating. Not any one change at once. That is what software does. Sometimes we like the upgrades and some times we don’t, but whether we like it or not, we have to take the time to figure it out. It’s a necessary nuisance. But when everyone decides to do it at once, it becomes a  real strain on getting work done. You have to learn everything at once, while still doing your work.

It has been particularly frustrating as we adapt to getting work done during the age of coronavirus. Many of my clients have lost work or have lost so much business that they have had to stop working with me temporarily.  In a very real way, I am reinventing work from scratch, with new methods and reaching new clients in new ways. Add to that the (what I hope is) change in how justice is done in our country as a result of George FLoyd’s murder and subsequent protests across the world, and I barely recognize my life and work from just a few months ago.

So what did I do?

Well, on Intellect, I just bit the bullet and learned the new way. I was tempted to fall back to the older version, but that’s not a good long term solution. This company and I have a history and I have so much of my business dependent on it that I didn’t want to take the time to start over with something else. And a month into it, I am starting to become  comfortable with the new workflow. Good choice, staying.

Mailchimp and its changes were a no brainer. More functionality, same user interface. Yeah, it will take me some time to figure it out and integrate it all into my workflow, but I can do that without an interruption in work. Staying makes sense here.

WordPress is frustrating. I HATE the new editing interface. I find it about as non-intuitive an interface as a company can design. And coming from a user interface tweaked without reinventing things for years, I have a major learning curve ahead of me and I don’t like it. But I will stay because there is no good alternative without starting all over, and the ecosystem of plug ins is something no other service can match. Staying makes sense, happy with it or not.

Teachable? I will let it go and find a new platform. By reducing what is available on the free platform I would have to upgrade to a paid version. If I have to go that route, I had to decide if, for the money, it is as good as other alternatives. It’s not, at least not for me. Yes, it will mean learning a new system, but the classes are already recorded, and the whole online class thing is a new endeavor. I don’t have a huge body of work yet. so it won’t be a stretch to start over.

What’s the point in all this? You probably don’t care what software I use, or why.  The point is this – Change happens and when it happens we have to decide whether to stay, and why. My first emotion in every one of these cases was “I hate it.” and “Screw it, I will find something new.”

But we have to let emotion to when we are dealing with change, or at least press it back.  We have to look at it practically. Change happens. Most of the time we can’t do anything about it. We can fight it, but in the end, change happens anyway. We can adapt, and even then we have a choice of how to adapt, with a sense of adventure or a sense of dread. Or we can throw the baby out with the bathwater and start again.

There’s a place for all of the above. But we need to do it consciously, mindfully, and we can’t do that when we are dealing with our initial emotions. We need to let them settle. THEN make our choices.

That is no different than the changes because of the Coronavirus, or the recent protest and sea change in politics. Certainly not things we asked for, but it has also been rife with opportunity to learn new things and do good in new ways. I can fight it, and lose, or accept it and dive in. Consider me wet, and now that it is sorting out, getting kind of excited about it. The Possibilities!

What makes the difference? The attitude. Always the attitude. Struggle when faced with change is always hard. Acceptance is hard. Embracing is harder. But when we do, exciting things happen, and we are made stronger for our ability to adapt. As I said before: The Possibilities! But only if we push back the emotion (almost always fear or anger) and just get at it.

I don’t care if you are a company facing changes in marketing, business processes or how you do work; or an individual looking to rescue or change your personal life and work. The lesson holds.

I am in the midst of my changes now. It’s been kind of fun, once I let it. And the fact that it is happening at a time when business is down is sort of a Godsend. As things start to ramp back up, I will have all these new tools at my fingertips.

I might even know how to use them.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

 

 

 

 

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