Fail Forward Friday – Buying in Bulk

Failure is a part of life.  I personally think it’s an important part because every failure can teach us something if we’re willing to learn from that failure.  I’m planning on Fridays to share with you something I’ve failed at and the lessons I have learned from those failures.

Because I have such a large family, I tend to buy most food and supply items in bulk.  It’s almost always the best way to save money and reduce the per item cost.  It’s one of the important things to be able to reduce the family’s food budget.

When I began Goat Milk Stuff, I took a lot of the lessons I had learned from supplying a large family and applied it to the business.

I quickly found out that while there are similarities, there are also differences.

Case in point – packaging.  When I first decided to start making liquid soap, I knew that it would be a success because I’d had so many people asking for it repeatedly.  As I was developing the formulas, I was also working on packaging.  I knew I would need to dispense the liquid soap, so I purchased these bottles:

fail forward friday pump bottles

And because an entire case of them was so much cheaper (on a per unit basis), of course I went with the case.

Ummm… big mistake.

Turns out, our liquid soap doesn’t really work well in a pump bottle.  When you pump out the liquid soap, it hits your hands and tends to splatter.  I discovered that the liquid soaps that you buy at the store have chemical thickeners added to them.  Thickeners that I did not want to use on our skin, so they were not something I would include in my liquid soap.

Instead we recommend a foamer bottle for our liquid soap.  It works much better and makes the liquid soap last longer at the same time.

So, I’ve had an entire case of these pump bottles sitting around for years – literally years.  I think there are over 400 of them.

fail forward friday pump bottles_1

Since I’ve spent those years, trying to figure out something else to do with them, and haven’t really figured it out, it’s time to move them out.  I had them on the website for quite a while and only sold a few. So they’re going up for sale on eBay.

The takeaway from this failure is that while buying in bulk can save you money, it only works if you actually use the item.  Sometimes, you should pay the higher per unit price initially until you’re sure you will use the entire quantity.

This also applies to food, it’s no use buying an entire case of bananas if they go bad before you can consume them all.

Did you “fail” at anything and learn from it this week?  I’d love to hear about it!

PJ

 

 

The Power of Small Change

I’m forever driving my family and my employees crazy because I’m constantly changing how we do things both at Goat Milk Stuff and just for the family.  Sometimes these changes are really big – “I know, let’s build a new building and start selling goat milk food products like caramel candy and cheese.”  And sometimes these changes are small – “Instead of canning tomato sauce we’ve made from the garden, we’re going to freeze it this year.”

But it’s still change.

tomatoes the power of small change_blog

Some people in my family are very resistant to change and some people embrace it and it hardly affects them.  I’ve always worked on the children that are change-resistant to learn to accept it without negative emotions even if they’re not quite ready to embrace the change.

There’s a concept that I bring up a lot with the family called “kaizen”.  Kaizen is a Japanese word that embodies the spirit of making continuous, small changes, usually in a business environment, to constantly improve the way things operate.

I’ve definitely used the concept with Goat Milk Stuff, but I find that it applies to our personal and family lives as well.  There’s a book that is currently on my wishlist – One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way* by Robert Maurer.  I haven’t read it yet, because I’ve got about 30 books on my bookshelf that are waiting for my attention.  But it’s the next book I’m going to purchase once I’m caught up.  Normally, I would wait to write a blog post until after I’ve read the book, but I had a Bible verse come to my attention that has had me thinking about this concept a lot.

In the book of Zechariah, chapter 4, verse 10 begins like this, “Who dares despise the day of small things?” (NIV)

That phrase – “small things” is translated that same way “small things” in all the translations I looked at.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about the “small things” that I do in my life.

  • I read something to “improve” myself every day

PJ and Indigo Reading the power of small change_blog

  • I read something of no redeeming value other than I find it enjoyable every day
  • I take five minutes to walk 500 steps multiple times a day (for a total of 10,000+ each day)
  • At random times throughout the day I stop and do squats or jumping jacks or burpees – just something for about 60 seconds
  • I try to look each of my children in the eye and tell them something nice every day
  • I try to spend at least five minutes alone time with Jim every day
  • I eat something fresh out of the garden every day
  • I try to make something on the Goat Milk Stuff website a little bit better every day

Those are just the first things that came to mind.  And do I actually do all of those every single day? Nope, but I do them on most days because they don’t take very much time at all, so it’s easy to make them happen.

I know so many people who feel “trapped” by the circumstances in their lives.  Most of them remain that way for years because they don’t want to make the big changes that they feel are necessary.

But you don’t have to make big changes.  You can make continuous, small changes and they will add up overtime.

I once got criticized on my podcast by somebody who thought that my suggestion of doing 10 squats every time you took a bathroom break was ridiculous.  I found that rather sad that somebody wasn’t willing to take a few moments out of her day to make a small change.  Adding new good habits to your life is really hard to do if you go from never doing the habit to trying to devote an hour of your day to it.  Adding new good habits is a lot easier (and more likely to stay) if instead you baby step your way by just doing a little bit at a time.  And if you can anchor those small things to something you already do – like going to the bathroom – it makes it even more likely that you will succeed.

Another example is gardening.  I have a lot of people who want to start gardening, but are intimidated when they see the size of my garden.

emery gardening_blog

I would never recommend that somebody start gardening on a large scale.  Start with a a couple of plants – whatever it is that you would enjoy eating straight from the garden – cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas.  Perhaps some basil if you like to cook with it.  That’s it.  Just start small.  Do something you can maintain.  You don’t have to start by planting enough tomatoes that you can put them up for the winter.  Just have enough to enjoy them.  Nothing sets us up for failure like biting off way more than we can chew because we think we “should” do it.

So let me encourage you – if there is something that you don’t like about your life or something you want to change.  Think about the “small thing” that you can start to do.  If you want to pay off your mortgage – start with an extra $5 whenever you can.  If you want to improve your friendships, start by reaching out to one person a week.  It can be something simple like a text or a small handwritten note (yes, people still love to receive notes in the mail).  If you want to become closer to your spouse, try to say one positive thing to him or her everyday without expecting anything in return.

It’s ok to start small.  It’s just important that you start.

After all, don’t be the one “who dares to despise the day of small things!”

Oh – and if you get the book I mentioned and read it, please let me know what you think of it!

PJ

 

Colter: “Is it just me, or is the internet being really slow today?”
Greyden: “Maybe you broke the internet.”
Indigo (coming into the office): “Colter broke the internet??”

Starting the Day Right

I’ve always said that I hate getting up early, but I love being up early.  There are so many benefits to being up early – I’m more productive, I’m happier, and I get a better start to the day. But I have never been what you would call a “morning person”.  Getting up early has always been a struggle, but it’s something that I’m willing to put the effort into.

For about four months now, the family has a new morning routine that is working out really well for everyone (despite the occasional complaint).

I read some studies that showed that getting up at the same time every day is really beneficial for you, so the entire family is now getting up at 6 am, seven days a week (yep, even on the weekends). We have music that comes on throughout the entire house at exactly 6 am.  Everyone then needs to report to the dining room by 6:15, dressed for the day. They might be sleep-walking to the dining room, but they need to be in the dining room!

getting up early_blog

Waking up early for the 5K Color Run.

We have a different “leader of the day” every day.  It starts with Jim, then me, then Brett, Colter, Emery, Fletcher, Greyden, Hewitt, Indigo, then Jade.  And then it starts all over again.

The leader of the day starts by leading 3 minutes of exercises.  This can vary dramatically depending on who is leading.  Several of us do mostly yoga stretches for 3 minutes, but some of us like to get pushups, planks, burpees, and all sorts of exercises into those 3 minutes. After that, we sit down at the kitchen table and the leader of the day shares a Bible verse.  They talk a little bit about why they chose that verse and what it means.  They can also ask questions about it if they’re confused.

Then we go over the weather for the day (because when you’re on a farm, the weather has a big impact) and what’s on the calendar.  We get all of that situated and assign any special tasks or find out if anybody needs help getting their work done that day.

We finish by 7am and then we all head off to our different areas.  The barn crew heads out to milk.  Jim, Brett, and I head downstairs to do yoga (this is currently Brett’s favorite yoga DVD*).  Indigo and Jade get to work on whatever they’ve been assigned – sometimes it’s cleaning up, making bread, or helping the barn crew.

I’m really excited about how well this new routine has been working out for the family.  It really gives us all a chance to start the day with what is important to us – exercise, God, and each other.  Usually we try to put God first, but found the exercise first helped most of us wake up enough to pay attention to God!

How do you start your day?

PJ

 

Brett: “Dad, do you still need your Instagram picture for the day?”
Jim: “Yup – why?”
Brett: “Because there’s a HUGE moth on the window here. It’s almost freakishly big.”

7 Reasons We Involve Our Children in the Finances

I recently finished reading Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made in America.*  I admit, I’m not a huge Walmart fan, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.  It was very interesting learning about how hard Sam Walton worked to grow Walmart and how (like us) he involved his family in the business.  I read many parts of the book out loud to Jim, but this one part I read out loud at the dinner table.

7 reasons we involve our children in finances

“As kids, we all worked for the company in one way or another.  I got to work behind the candy counter or run the popcorn stand when I was five years old.  The business was part of life, and it was always included in the dinner conversation.  We heard a lot about the debt it took to open new stores, and I worried about it.  I remember confiding to my girlfriend one time – crying – and saying, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do.  My daddy owes so much money, and he won’t quit opening stores.'” – Alice Walton (daughter)

My children all laughed at that because it was something they could immediately relate to.

Not only have my children been involved in Goat Milk Stuff from the very beginning, but they have been involved in all of the finances and the decision-making as well.  Of course, when they were younger, they didn’t really understand the implications of everything we discussed.  But they knew that they were involved.

Not everyone has a family business (although I would love it if more families started one).  But every family has finances.  We’ve chosen to include our children in our financial discussions for the following reasons.

1. To teach them how to live on a budget.  Budgeting seems to be a lost art for most people.  They just spend what they want without regards to whether or not they have the funds to cover their purchase.  Because credit is so easily accessible via credit cards, many people live beyond their means because they spend their money on purchases that are not necessities and do not build their wealth.

2. To teach them why delayed gratification is important.  One of the greatest lessons that I hope my children fully incorporate into their lives is that it is extremely important to make short-term sacrifices for the sake of their long-term lifestyles.  Discussing the finances with them is a very straight forward way to show them how not spending money on certain items now means we will be in a better financial situation later.

3. To teach them the importance of saving.  Someone once told me, “Save like you’ll live forever” and I’ve found that having a healthy savings account is the best thing I’ve ever done to reduce the stress in my life and my family’s lives.  But not everyone lives that way. According to a 2011 study, “A majority, or 64%, of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.” (http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/10/pf/emergency_fund/)  I want my children to understand how important it is to have savings to cover the unexpected costs that always arise in life.

7 reasons we involve our children in finances_1

4. To teach them the difference between appreciating assets and depreciating assets.  We spend a lot of money on Goat Milk Stuff.  And despite the fact that I don’t like debt, we have borrowed to build things.  But we always stress to the children the difference between borrowing for an appreciating asset vs a depreciating asset.  With the exception of the Beast (our leased GMS advertising vehicle), we drive two old vehicles – a 1994 pickup truck and a 2002 Sprinter.  When these finally die, we have savings earmarked toward replacement vehicles.  We will get the best used vehicle we can with the cash we have available.  We don’t borrow to purchase vehicles.

5. To help them understand the significance of opportunity cost.  Every dollar that we spend is a dollar that we couldn’t spend on something else.  To continue with the car example, right now the air conditioning in the 2002 Sprinter is broken.  And it is HOT outside.  But we’ve made the decision not to put anymore money into that vehicle because it needs to be replaced.  The children understand this decision and everyone has agreed to be sweaty instead of putting the money into it.  Because they understand that if we spend the money fixing the air conditioning, than we don’t have that money to put toward the replacement vehicle.  It’s an important concept for them to grasp.

6. To teach them how to communicate about finances.  Money issues is often cited as one of the leading causes of divorce.  I want my children to learn how to communicate about money now, so that they will understand how to communicate with their future spouses about money.  With a family of ten, we don’t always agree on how our money should be spent.  But we talk it out til we’ve reached a consensus that everyone can live with.  That’s a really valuable skill to have going into a marriage.

7. To teach them to be a good steward and ultimately trust God with their finances.  This is the biggest reason that we keep the children involved so intimately in the business finances.  I’ve always said that God built Goat Milk Stuff.  There have been so many times when he just supplied us with exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.  One common reason I hear from parents who DON’T discuss the family finances with the children is because they don’t want to worry the children or stress them out.   I believe that if you’re pointing the children (and yourself) toward the fact that God has promised to supply all of our needs (needs, not wants), then that is how you teach them not to stress out about money trouble in their future.  When the business is struggling financially, we present it to the children in a way that causes them to rely more heavily on prayer and God than to be overly burdened.  Hiding the finances never really works out well because if Mom and Dad are completely stressed out about money, don’t you think the children are aware there is a problem anyway?

So those are the major reasons we keep the children involved in the finances.  How do you talk to your children about finances?  If you don’t, I’d love to know why not.

PJ

 

 

Emery (whispering instructions to his friends) “When Brett comes over to say we have to leave, you guys go get in her way, and then we’ll run, so we don’t leave yet!”
A friend: “Are we supposed to do that? That doesn’t sound good….”
Greyden (laughing): “We do it all the time.”

My New Office

We’ve made a switch here on the farm as far as offices are concerned.  Jim took over my office at the soaproom and my office is now located in the new kitchen building.  When we designed the new building, we dedicated a part of the furnace/utility closet to a mini office.  Right now, since nobody is using this building very much, it’s really quiet.  That means I’m “locked” away and not frequently interrupted – mostly because the children haven’t figured out to look for me here yet!

I’ve just got the basics in this office, but I thought I’d give you a little tour.  On my desk are the things I use most: laptop, printer, stapler, pens, paper clip, and extra paper/notepads/sticky pads.  Then of course is my “Hewitt loves Mom” Lego that he made for my birthday.

my new office_blog

I admit, I currently have a little stack of papers that I have to deal with (to the right of the laptop).  I don’t usually have that, but with launching the new caramel candy, I’m a little behind.

You’ll notice that there is NO telephone on my desk.  That’s the best part of my new office.  I can actually concentrate.  I do have my cell phone in my pocket if I need to make an outgoing call.  But that’s it – when I’m here working, I’m here working.  Jim and Brett (and me when I’m there) are answering phones in the soaproom.

On my other desk is my RESPeRATE*, my “Give Thanks” reminder, my ever-present glass of water with lemon, and a 3 drawer bin for stuff that I don’t have to deal with right away.  On top of the bin are folders with the items I’m working on that I use too regularly to bother filing right now (the construction and equipment info for the new kitchen, the information on the Grade A dairy we’re planning, and our annual workers compensation audit).  I’ll be happy when I can file that last one away for the year!

my new office_blog_1

My “Give Thanks” reminds me (when I’m grumpy because I’m dealing with paperwork and regulations and the parts about owning a business that I don’t like), that I’m doing that work because I’ve been blessed with a business that employs my whole family and helps people with their skin conditions.   It’s a great reminder and I keep it right where I need it.  My RESPeRATE is a device that Jim got me years ago that is intended to lower my blood pressure.  I absolutely love it.  I’ll try to write a post about it soon.

I also have my small filing cabinet and a paper shredder.  We make sure that we’re very secure with all the information we deal with.  It’s one reason we don’t keep credit card numbers on file on our website. Anything even remotely sensitive gets shredded as soon as it is finished.

On top of the filing cabinet is a bin that holds everything that needs to go back to the soaproom to be scanned into evernote (also the subject of an upcoming blog post).

I also have my ball chair*, which I’ve talked about before.  We have lots of them- some red, some black, and some purple, but there is only ONE green one.  The green one is mine (green is my favorite color).  It matched my old office nicely, but there was no way I was leaving it behind for Jim to use.

my new office

And then of course, there’s my mini trampoline* and a pair of 5 pound hand weights.  I’m a big believer in exercise and eating right.  I like to make sure to keep my lymph moving and the mini trampoline helps with that.  I simply bounce on it, I don’t actually jump on it, so my feet never lose contact with the black surface.  And the hand weights are for when I take breaks to do compound exercises – like squats with a shoulder press or lunges with a bicep curl.  I’m all about “multi-tasking” when it comes to exercise, so I try to work as many muscle groups as I can.

my new office_blog_4

That’s my new office.  It’s only been 1 week, but so far, I’m loving it! What “special touches” do you keep where you do all your paperwork?

PJ