It’s over to Phil and Christine Jensen, directors of The Cake Professionals…
Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ begins with the challenge to keep our heads when all about are losing theirs. If ever there was a year when our heads felt a bit wobbly and foggy, 2020 would be it.
As business owners in an industry that’s been gouged by Covid mitigation laws, is it even possible to ‘keep our heads’? More often than not these days, ours want to implode with anxiety, fear and relentless uncertainty that we carry around as we stare at diaries that are hopelessly free from bankable bookings, or full of small orders that suck enormous chunks of time. Holding those unanswered questions about our futures is exhausting and can at times be entirely debilitating.
Here are six tried and tested ways to make sure that while our business world is upside-down, our heads are clear enough to function…
1. Remember you’re all you’ve got
If you own or run a business, you’re the one carrying the can. If we really grab hold of the fact that we are the business, we’d start treating ourselves as the vital business asset we are. In an airline emergency, the reason you’re asked to put your own oxygen mask on first is that you’re a whole lot more useful to yourself and those around you if you’re fuelled and functional.
The success of your business doesn’t start with a magic loan, or a spreadsheet, or a new studio – it starts with your wellbeing. We cannot underscore this highly enough. So, invest in you.
2. Be a control freak* (T&Cs apply)
Control freakery is underrated. Embrace your inner Marie Kondo! Tidy house, tidy office, tidy diary. We’re all about it… to a point.
After our second child arrived our family suffered for a year as a result of my period of postnatal depression. I felt powerless and hopeless. In the midst of the darkness, I stumbled on a random book called Fly Lady. The book asked me to start by doing one thing. Clean the kitchen sink. Nothing else, just clean the sink ‘til it sparkles. Turns our environment actually does have a huge impact on our productivity, attitude and ability to think in a straight line.
3. Buy shares in confetti cannons
Celebration is the bright spark of confidence and hope in the midst of the muddle. There’s a mental confetti cannon that goes off when we articulate the wins (out loud), however big or small. In days when ‘working from home’ mean that time merges into a ball of unpunctuated waking and sleeping, intentionally marking the positive moments is essential. Sticking a flag in the sand helps us find focus. Our wins may be as diverse as: “I got booked!” to “I got through today without swearing at anyone!”. Don’t judge. A win is a win. Take it!
Would you like to develop your cake decorating skills? Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine is for you, packed with step-by-step tutorials, inspiration, expert tips, techniques and the latest products from the world of cake!
4. Connect to raw relationship
We humans are built to travel together through time and trials. We thrive in connection and companionship. Even the introverts among us are fuelled by being deeply understood. In a world of virtual living, we feed on a world of filtered, processed information. Someone else has thought it, edited it and shared it. We’re living on junk relationships with people we don’t even know. That depletes us. The truth is, we’re actually surrounded by people who we could know a lot better. Friends at a distance or nearby, partners, and yes, family. The relationships we’ve got used to are still full of unexplored corners. Places that could turn up the colour on our own lives if we’d lean in and listen more intentionally.
Find the nearest human. Ask them the usual questions, then ask them “what happened next?” “what were your options?” and “why?” Make a pact with yourself not to speak unless you’re asking curiously about their world. Then listen to really hear.
5. Invest in the invisible
You are invisible.
All the really important stuff in you is unseen. The folk around you only get to see the results of the invisible stuff working itself out into the big wide world. Which means it makes absolute sense to invest as much time and energy as we can to keep that creative, curious, questioning, thinking, feeling part of us in good shape. That means regularly and often, we need to make a space to dance, meditate, play, garden, sew, draw, sing, write, learn, read, create, talk, cycle, act, skip, get bored, and inhabit ourselves to our edges.
“We are not made of cake. We are not our work. We are so very much more than that.”
6. Muzzle your mornings
The first four hours are where the day is won or lost. Lose out at the start and it’ll take a miracle to turn the ship. Problem is, mornings are wild noisy untamed beasts, with urgent calls on your eyes, ears and shirt sleeves. Which doesn’t help when you’re not yet firing all cylinders. The trick is to turn the volume down by reducing the decisions you need to make. For that, you need to start the day before.
Lay out your clothes for the day ahead. Write a list of the first four jobs you’re going to tackle. The morning will be calmer. Even if you get jumped awake at 4:38 by a cranky two-year-old. It will be calmer. You've taken about 16 different decisions out of the first 20 minutes of your day. That, is a win you can build on.
These aren’t all the things that keep us together as cake business owners, but they’re a great start. They’re part of the most important part of keeping going in the midst of change and adversity… looking after ourselves as human beings first.
PS. Before you finish reading, it’s vital that you know if right now it’s all a bit rubbish – it’s ok to not be ok. This whole global pandemic thing is a giant pile of change, grief and anxiety rolled into an unknowable lump that we carry around as cake business owners.
PPS. If it’s all too much right now, tell someone. Now. Pick up the phone. Dial. It’s not the end of your story, and you’re not alone.
Explore more from our cake business series: