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Learning Languages in Business

I admit. I am a very organized person. Once when planning a music program at a church in Brussels, Belgium one of the leaders said to me, “Nell, you are not just organized; you are HYPER organized.” Since he said it in French the pronunciation is “Ee-pear Or-ga-nee-zay.” I had no response other than to agree: I am indeed “eepear organeezay!”

As a result, it never occurred to me to approach the beginning of Threads by Nomad in any other way. My first step was to talk to friends who currently have or have had small businesses. In those conversations, more than one person told me about an organization called SCORE. It is comprised of retirees who have owned and operated businesses and now mentor others who would like to launch their own endeavors.

I can sew. I can communicate with refugees. I know fabric. I am organized and do not procrastinate (if I can help it!). But I admit I know nothing about business.

My daughter, Sis, owns a business. As she was getting hers set up and then as she moved it forward, my mind was boggled down with all she told me. More often than not I would say, “Oh, really?” Or, “That must have been hard.” Or sometimes I would outright say, “What is that?!” I wish I could tell you that after helping her a few months both on site and from home, I understood a lot of what she was dealing with. But, alas, no.

From the beginning it was clear I would manage the production end of Threads by Nomad; but nonetheless–and despite my absence of business savvy–off to SCORE I went to see what I could learn.

I am very appreciative to the Small Business Administration for offering such a helpful program completely free of charge. My husband, Butch, went with me to that first meeting. He listened intently and when they asked me what my greatest handicap would be before I could answer Butch chimed in: “She is not a numbers person!” Oh my, another hurdle to tackle!

Have you ever taken in so much knowledge that you felt your head was swelling? That is what that first meeting was like for me. At the end, two of the mentors assigned me homework. “Go home, get started, and come back to us in a week with a business plan.” Let’s just say that is not exactly how it went down.

We realized immediately we were going to need advice, encouragement, help, and instruction from more than just one source. We put together an advisory board of individuals we personally know who have expertise in small business development. (A few of these small businesses have even developed into big businesses!) We will introduce you to them in a later blog post.

In the meantime, however, I still had the responsibility of writing the first draft of our business plan. I began skimming the template’s pages but the questions and suggestions appeared to be written in a language with which I am unfamiliar. It was, as the expression goes, Greek to me!

Seminary graduation!

Well, it just so happens I took a good bit of Greek in seminary. I tackled the business plan like I tackled Greek–one tiny step at a time. If you look at a project in its entirety, such as translating a book from the Bible from Greek to English, it can be overwhelming. In fact, one time I remember crying in the library it was so daunting. Finally I learned to look at this particular assignment one word at a time, then one phrase at a time, then one passage at a time. It eventually came together and I actually enjoyed it. I tackled the business plan the same way; one small bit at a time. Sometimes I had to look up words. Sometimes I had to put my head down and say, “What the heck is this about?” And sometimes I even thought, “Dude, I’ve got this part covered!”

I returned to SCORE for a short seminar on writing a business plan after I had ours put together. I listened. I learned. I came away thinking, “I have this nailed!” And then I talked to a counselor before leaving. “This looks great,” he says, “but where is your excel sheet?” “What excel sheet?!?!” is my only response. “You need all the financials in an excel spreadsheet.” I am thinking that this is work for someone else, not me! I do not do excel! I have tried. I have failed. I have concluded excel is again another foreign language. I had it written out in the Word document. Wasn’t this good enough?

He insists, “You must go to an excel course and get this into a spread sheet.” Hey, I have learned Greek, I have learned two other languages, I have learned business plan language, I CAN LEARN EXCEL! Yeah, no. The class at the library only left me convinced that this was a language that would require yet another college degree. I made my apologies to my daughter and went back to SCORE with what I had.

“This looks great!” says the counselor with a couple of minor changes. “But where is your excel sheet?” Not that again, please!!!! I explained my dilemma where excel was concerned. The kind gentleman pulls out an example, a template, and explicit directions on how to find the correct resources online. He gently explains that I have all the information, I just need to use the right language to communicate them. I plug them in and voila! So here I am, preparing to try and learn yet another language! I am excited though and even confident that we have been “heeper organeezay” and will complete these final minor details. At least until I learn I must become proficient in yet another language…

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