Increasing Productivity, Increasing Guilt?

Every employer and every company seeks to hire and retain the brightest, most productive employees. Presumably, highly productive employees are more valuable, generating more revenue in a shorter period of time. There are dozens and dozens of articles out there that cover tips and tricks for increasing productivity; there are hundreds of apps targeted at achieving the same goal. I'd like to talk about natural productivity though; those little things that you do for your body and your mind to make yourself the most centered and productive person you can be. Three of my go-to tricks that often get discussed are:

1. Fresh air: whether it's ten minutes to sit outside and soak up some sunlight, or a few laps around the block to get your blood flowing, a few minutes outside is bound to help you return to work recharged and refocused.

2. Naps: sometimes it's just inevitable. You've been up late working or traveled home late the night before. When you're truly exhausted, trying to get any work done is nearly impossible. It would be far more productive to take a quick 20 minute nap and actually get some work done for the rest of the day.

3. Breaks from the computer screen: the human brain just isn't meant to focus that long on a screen. Plus, it's terrible for your eyes. At just 22 years old, I've lost my 20/20 vision and had to get glasses for distant presentations. A quick break from staring at your screen can help protect your vision, prevent headaches, and help you complete tasks more efficiently.

Why is it, though, that doing any of these things inherently makes me feel guilty? Why is it socially unacceptable to take a much-needed nap, and why are we berated or asked what we are doing when we aren't click-clacking away on the keyboard?

I'm trying to train myself to accept that these behaviors are allowed, and that they should actually be encouraged. There is a larger culture shift that has needed to occur ever since we developed this 24-hour workday mentality. It's not healthy, and at the end of the day, happy and healthy employees are the productive ones who generate the most return. All employers should take a cue from Google, and understand that "happier workers use their time more effectively."

Lessons from Childhood Entrepreneurship

As a kid, I explored a wide variety of business ventures out of my back driveway. There wasn't an underlying theme between my ideas, besides that they were all meant to turn a profit, but they were all executed in my little "pop-up shop" situated on a busy road.

My very first experience with sales and commercialization was, like many other children's, a lemonade stand. When I finally deemed that too juvenile (at the ripe age of 9) I made my foray into crafts. I dabbled a bit with broader services (car washing, snow shoveling, cleaning, etc.) but I found it tougher to reach consumers and build up demand from my market (my neighborhood).

I look back at all my various attempts at business in the driveway - lemonade, crafts, bamboo (yes, I really did take spare bamboo from the backyard and attempt to sell it), yardsale - and I wonder what factors made some of them successful, and others not. What lessons from childhood entrepreneurship can we draw to apply to new ideas today?

Lemonade: The business model is clear and the success was apparent. With lemonade, timing and location worked in tandem to bring about the ideal consumers. Being situated directly across from a popular neighborhood brunch spot known for boozy Sundays, and operating on high-temperature, brunch-day mornings was crucial. Plus I was cute as heck! In businesses, you have to work your assets.

Crafts: With this business, I had no competitive advantage. I was a horrible artist! My only real chance at success was to be in the right place at the right time looking like the cutest 9-year-old in the world.

Bamboo: The decision to sell bamboo was spur of the moment, because it occurred to me when my Dad happened to be trimming bamboo in the backyard. Therefore, I didn't have time to advertise in order to attract customers. Plus, I set the bamboo up right away, which might not have been the ideal time for foot/car traffic.

Yardsale: The sale was my first opportunity to properly launch a business. My Mom let me keep the earnings if I did the legwork to set up the sale. I advertised in the local classifieds, priced out all the items, and laid them out in a visually appealing way. I made a sign that said "Kollege Fund" and waved it at cars driving by...a minor attempt at guerrilla marketing! The profits were decent, although I did have killer margins on my side.

So why were some of these businesses successful? Between location, assets, timing, and advertising, which variable was most important? And, how many of these factors did my businesses need to include in order to see success? Let's take a look at the facts:

My most successful ventures were Lemonade Stands and the Yardsale, which each have three factors to their advantage. My crafts business was mildly successful, with two factors. And Bamboo was a massive failure, only employing one of these variables. By this logic, businesses that can execute on three or more of these variables will have the best chance at guaranteed success. This might not be scientific, but there are still many lessons from childhood entrepreneurship that we can apply to business today.

Real Life Isn't as Scary as it Seems

When you're in college, everyone will tell you to relish the years that you have. They will remind you to enjoy waking up late, appreciate weekend library sessions with your classmates, and eat up that "free" cafeteria food. They will say, "make the most of those four years because when you graduate, you will never have that kind of freedom again!"

In some ways, they will be right. You may put in some stressful years establishing yourself and working for the man. You might even need to set an alarm in order to wake up in time for work. You might have to do things you don't want to do, hit deadlines that seem unfair, and (gasp!) cook yourself dinner. When you graduate, you will miss the friends you made in college because, as everyone knows, they are the best friends you will probably ever have.

But, in many ways, they will be wrong. In college, there is always something hanging over you, whether it's that final you could be studying for, that paper that's due on Tuesday, or that pop quiz that could come up at any time. While you have the ability to craft your own flexible schedule in school, I would argue that you have that same ability in the real world. Time management is a skill that you develop throughout your life, and it only gets easier with time and experience. In the real world, you may be expected to work 40 hours a week (or 50 or 60 or, if you're my good friend Tim, 70) but with the right time management you can manipulate those hours to accomplish everything you need to do.

I, for one, am someone who thrives off of being able to set my own schedule, make my own work plan, and create my own to-do lists. In college, I did that with my startup, but felt stifled by the requirements of school. After graduation, I was surprised to find that the real world actually encourages me to be my own planner and my own advocate.When you head home at the end of the day, you have the ability to ensure that there is nothing hanging over you. You have made your to-do list for the next day, which you vow not to look at until the morning, and you are truly done.

No tests, no papers to receive an arbitrary grade on, and no pop quizzes. When you get home, you don't feel guilty putting in that long workout, cooking yourself a healthy dinner, and snuggling into bed with a good book or your favorite TV show.

For those of you who enjoy the flexibility of college, know that there is happiness in the real world too. When it comes down to it, real life isn't as scary as it seems.

Entrepreneurship and Endurance Sports

When I was 15, I tore out a beginner’s triathlon training guide from one of my mom’s fitness magazines, signed up for a race in Luray, VA, bought a bike, and jumped in the pool. It was the summer before my junior year of high school, and my friends had all left for the summer to study marine biology in Florida. I was lonely, bored, and didn’t really like my job as a research assistant in a lab. I still didn’t really know what entrepreneurship was, although I had dabbled in child-level businesses for a few years. For one reason or another, though, I was drawn to the idea of accomplishing a race that required such diverse skills and such a high level of commitment and intensity. It was a challenge I couldn’t pass up. My first race was incredibly satisfying – I took 1st in my age group and felt very accomplished when I crossed the finish line. The feeling was addictive. Over the next few years I continued to keep up my training and to compete about once a year.

During my senior year of college, I competed in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, which occurs in conjunction with a conference for regional entrepreneurs. I had the opportunity to attend several seminars and lectures given by successful entrepreneurs. I got to hear their stories, listen to their advice, and absorb their management style. Through their talks, they would always share a portion of their personal journey that accompanied their professional success. It was shocking to me how many of these successful, busy entrepreneurs were also Ironmen, or some type of endurance athlete.

But it was through this experience that I realized that at our core, all entrepreneurs are the same type of people operating on the same values; that we prime ourselves to be these durable, enduring beings – not for the sake of vanity but for the sake of success. To some degree, I believe that we all believe the fitter we are, the more productive we are. And the stronger we are, the more confident we become in our ability to lead, and the closer to success our team becomes with us to look up to.

Diving into Personal Branding

Welcome to SarahHaselkorn.com and thank you for taking a look at my site! I will be using this as a forum for sharing my thoughts on entrepreneurship, startups, and early-stage investments - my first foray into the world of personal branding. I've been involved in entrepreneurial endeavors since I was a kid - selling lemonade, crafts, and anything I could think of out of the back driveway. I really hit the ground running with startups during my sophomore year of college when I left school to work with the two cofounders of a mobile analytics company in Boston called Media Armor. Eric and Liz taught me what it meant to show passion through business, and that really fueled my entrepreneurship.

When I left Boston, I began to raise money to open a fast-casual restaurant near campus in St. Louis. That fall I launched Green Bean, a sustainable salad shop that became the first true venture that I founded. For two years I learned the ins and outs of running a brick-and-mortar business, and dealt with the struggles that come up in that industry.

In May, I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Systems Science and a minor in Entrepreneurship, and began a rotational management program at Anheuser-Busch InBev. I've been traveling around the country training and doing projects within every part of the business, from supply to sales to IT support. The corporate perspective has certainly increased and enhanced my business knowledge.

Please feel free to contact me through the contact form on the Connect tab, and to connect with me via social media. Thank you again for visiting my site!