Expert Electrical installing solar

Getting the Team Right to Go

How Team Changes got Expert Electrical through a COVID crisis

Someone has to have the guts to make the difficult decisions in a crisis. In a rapid plummet of sales caused by COVID-19 restrictions, Expert Electrical had to act quickly. It turned out that having only half a team was not such a bad thing after all.

 

Sun Seekers

It’s not beyond Ben and his team to pitch their tents around a fire somewhere miles away from the city, to complete a job. They’ll be up in the early hours to kit out a bush or beach property with off-grid power—solar panels, inverter, batteries and generator. Because they’re electricians, they’ll also fix up the switchboard connections to get all the home appliances, like air con, operating on green energy.

Expert Electrical off-grid solar panels
Off-grid solar power
Expert Electrical taking solar to the country
Power out in the country

Expert Electrical is Ben’s baby. A reputation, evidenced by multiple Google reviews, of being an ‘honest’, ‘professional’, ‘very helpful company’ that is ‘easy to talk to’ has seen the company grow substantially over its 10+ years.

I’m interviewing Leesa. In the leadership team of three business partners, she oversees business administration alongside Joran who takes care of operations and Ben who is the head electrician. We’re in an arty cafe in the middle of industrial Brendale, North Brisbane, and though I’m only an acquaintance I feel like I’m talking to a friend. Leesa’s role frees Ben to be out with his team doing what he does best: custom designing solar and electrical systems for homes and businesses.

Leesa is wholeheartedly supportive of her team.

‘In a saturated industry, we are so much more than just solar. Our team has knowledge beyond the standard solar retailer. Our guys do best where more complex solutions are needed… Customers are starting to recognise us for our experience.’

Expert Electrical setting up off-grid power
Off-grid power systems
Expert Electrical solar lighting up the dark
Solar power lighting up the dark

 

When COVID hit

 

The impact of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020 changed everything. Since working from home was a requirement where possible, the office that usually bustled with six people contained Joran alone, working hard to hold the fort.

Electricians were permitted to carry out essential visits with the appropriate precautions of masks, hand sanitiser and social distancing, but their scheduled visits shrank. Online communication robbed the sales team of their usual face-to-face rapport and they felt hamstrung by working only on phones and screens.

Working from home introduced a new stressor for staff with children: homeschooling.

“The dual role really pushed our boundaries,” Leesa said. “My routine was to help the kids until 1pm, and then start work. After work, I’d help the kids with their homework, and then pick up the last of my workload for the day. I was usually working until about 9 at night.” The team soldiered on despite limited availability from their usual support staff.

 

Making It Work

 

Keeping Virtual Company

With the imperative of social distancing in the battle against the virus, a team accustomed to the friendly comings and goings in the office – a chat and a joke here, a phone message there, a quick lunch together – began losing touch with each other.

They had to find other ways to keep the communication lines going.

Team meetings via Zoom twice a week was a good workaround.

Customer visits also had to change. Usual services to inspect solar systems with testing equipment became a collaborative effort between clients and technicians on Zoom, searching together for numbers and data that could give the necessary story. That wasn’t easy for everyone, but Expert Electrical coached even their elderly clients through it. In a short space of time, the company had transitioned to performing 95% of their work online.

 

Cutting the Overheads

Leesa went straight to the company financials to scrutinise fixed and variable costs. All overheads needed to be cut. Debt needed to be managed and the company needed to make use of reprieves where available.

She knew these decisions needed to be made quickly, before the company bled too much revenue and could not be saved at all.

As an accountant in a previous role, she had seen the sorry state of clients in the GFC of 2008 who held on instead instead of cutting costs. Those that took quick action fared best. Now it was Expert Electrical’s turn to do the same.

Difficult decisions were made. Since there was no government support yet on the horizon, the business had to let staff go to survive. The team was reduced from thirteen to six.

 

A New Staffing Structure

Expert Electrical Team
The Expert Electrical Team

With a much smaller team, roles within the company had to be restructured. Drawing on the strengths of each team member, leadership, warehouse, admin, servicing and sales roles were developed and training was provided. It paid off—Expert Electrical started to get better outcomes.

Clear staffing roles meant less uncertainty around who did what, and that meant less tasks slipped through the cracks.

A new CRM (Customer Relations Management) software system also helped. It soon flagged areas lacking efficiency, and these were given more attention. Queries were filtered via the system to the person best suited to resolve it, rather than the first available person tackling any and every query. It also enabled customers to approve quotes online –  great for CovidSafe practice.

 

The Resilience Factor

 

Leesa’s business experience stopped her from panicking. Knowing she needed to stick to the formula of getting back to basics and cutting costs paved a clear path of action. As the streamlining of staffing and operations gained traction, company efficiency showed a marked difference and sales picked up after a worrying plummet. For Leesa, the good fruit of difficult decisions was assuring. It felt like a worthwhile cleansing.

It was also a comfort to Leesa, Joran and Ben that Expert Electrical could lean into their relationship capital.

More than ever, they relied on word-of-mouth referrals and worked on retaining their customer focus, and that got them through. Maintaining quality service as a priority was a helpful anchor in steering the business into their new chapter.

 

Tips from Expert Electrical

 

Design staff roles to be proactive rather than reactive

Without designated roles, only the squeaky wheels get the grease, and whole sections of business can be neglected. When Expert Electrical restructured their staffing, maintenance and servicing avenues came to life. Taking time to analyse business tasks takes a small business to the next level of efficiency, which strengthens a team in crisis.

Expert Electrical installing solar
Expert Electrical in action

 

Where there’s stress, go back to basics

In business there are things you can control and things you’ll never control. A panicked state can blur those differences. Stopping to re-evaluate your practices and getting back to the bare essentials can be just the cleansing your business needs.

“Work out what your bottom line is and what you need to do to keep the doors open, and maintain that as your first priority.”

 

Every customer interaction is an opportunity

Whether it’s following up a sales lead, installation, a phone call, or after sales care—all are opportunities to show a customer that someone cares about their concerns. An unhappy customer can damage a business, but happy customers are the ones who spread the word to friends and family.

‘We’re not the cheapest providers, but we win work because of our interaction. Sometimes we make a sale just because we spend half an hour answering questions on a phone call. Customers tell me, “You guys will do the job and care about it.”’

 

Moving Forward

 

Expert Electrical has made a huge turnaround since the pandemic dented their sales in March last year. Their dynamic streamlining of business operations resulted in record-breaking numbers in the last quarter of 2020 and onwards. Now they’re on to new things. Look out for their roadshows—a new development to show off their off-grid, mobile tiny home independently powered by solar energy.

 

See For Yourself

 

Read the numerous five-star reviews that Expert Electrical has on Google, coming in thick and fast.

Expert Electrical commercial solar panels
Expert Electrical commercial solar solutions

If you’re looking for solar or electrical expertise Expert Electrical is ready and waiting to treat you with friendly and professional service.

You’ll find them here:

(07) 3195 3633

sales@expertelectrical.com.au

www.expertelectrical.com.au
(Look out for their new website launch in March)

Or find them on Instagram

 

Strength Together In Crisis

 

How Paul Crooks Advertising harnessed the power of community

What do you do when your industry freezes, and everyone stops spending? Paul knew it could be the end of his advertising business. Even more concerning was seeing those in his business networks falling to pieces in the aftershock. How do you help when everyone’s hands are tied in the same way as yours? 

 

At the Centre of the Buzz

Paul has metaphorically ‘jumped out of the plane’ more than once and landed on his feet. One of his most successful business ventures started with him literally walking the hard yards from business to business, pitching his idea, and making new contacts.

It worked because he’s wired for connecting people.

It took three years to get the Buzz business directory off the ground. As it gained momentum in the close-knit community of Albany Creek, Brisbane, curious rumours circulated about who it was, exactly, that published the glossy directory delivered to their doors. The cover was full of faces they recognised, which led to its true success: local business thrived on it. 

That was in 2012. Today, I’m sitting in the suburban office of Paul Crooks Advertising, which offers traditional advertising services as well as marketing consultancy. Today, Buzz is distributed in multiple regions across greater Brisbane. Paul’s laid-back manner and regard for what I’m writing give clues as to how he’s become the super-connector that he is. He has a genuine interest in people and their pathways, which might be why his advice was sought after in a crisis.

 

Paul Crooks Advertising

 

When COVID hit

 

In March 2020, the first month of pandemic pandemonium for Australian businesses, the advertising market froze. Paul’s usual clients, including the big spenders, reeled from severe restrictions and marketing campaigns came to a screeching halt.

‘I’ve never experienced anything like it,’ Paul said.

‘The global recession was not the same, because at that time every business had different resources and challenges. This was new because everyone stopped at once. Nationally, globally even, everyone was in the same boat.’

Paul was acutely aware that his business was in jeopardy. With no government supports yet in place, he began answering tough questions from his trusted staff about future possibilities if no work came in. In the meantime, he looked for alternate tasks to keep them busy. 

 

Making It Work

 

Reaching Out

Fielding calls from business owners in his network, Paul acted as a sounding board. Concerned about those within his reach who were ‘losing it’ because of the high stakes of future uncertainty, Paul himself was also seeking wisdom. He contacted several senior business people from his inner circle to get a feel for their predictions and how they were navigating the market disruption. 

‘I thought I’d better say something to the business groups, so I recorded a video that went onto the Facebook page.’ This comment was typical of Paul’s understated manner but, in his address, I saw him encourage people to make the most of lockdown by spending time with family, to check on other members of the group, and to support each other.

He reminded the group that they would get through to the other side.

 

Adapting Ideas

After Easter, Paul rang Buzz businesses to check in. He discovered that tradies, deemed ‘essential services’, were doing well and could even work in people’s homes. 

It gave Paul an idea, and he took the handbrake off distribution of the pending Buzz publication.

This would be a special edition.

It would let the community know about active essential services and it would encourage support of local businesses. 

It was a roaring success. Businesses that advertised were flooded with queries and most were booked out for the next two months. A winter directory followed, with the bold title of ‘Let’s Help Local Business Get Back on Their Feet!’ Its centre page showcased personal messages from community business owners with their stories of people standing together in mutual support.

In the editorial, Paul wrote, ‘Who could have imagined what we were going to go through and yet here we are and I have never been more proud to be part of a community and a country that has banded together to fight an invisible enemy that has changed the way we live.’ 

 

Buzz Essential Services Directory

Buzz Helps Local Business

 

Getting Strategic about Business

Disruption to normal business gave Paul the luxury of time to think more strategically about his own business. With a background in television, he wanted to develop more video media for mainstream advertising.

It was a move that would speed up his marketing opportunities exponentially.

The video advertising that kicked off during lockdown went viral, with some videos reaching 90 000 hits. 

The pandemic also gave Paul time to set up an online version of Buzz, which had always been on the To Do list. Buzz Trades and Services website is now up and running, reaching a wider audience. 

 

The Resilience Factor

The Power of Community

Paul is not new to big life challenges. Arriving in Australia knowing only his future wife, he built social and business networks from scratch. He later survived the global financial crisis of 2008. In Paul’s opinion, taking the big jump from leaving a corporate job to starting his own business was far more hair-raising than facing COVID-19. With these experiences behind him, Paul knew he could get through the pandemic.

What worried him most were the others in his ‘tribe’. 

Facing the reality of businesses within his network having to close, the greatest source of strength for Paul was the power of connection. He was encouraged by those coping well and he used the network to help those struggling. He and others helped obtain business grants to keep other businesses afloat. Seeing businesses support each other, like providing free services, spurred Paul on. ‘It was very positive—we did all look after each other. I felt I wasn’t on my own.’

 

Tips from Paul

Stay connected

‘Surround yourself with people who know what they are doing,’ Paul says. You never know when being in community will be your lifeboat. The give-and-take created within a healthy network has tangible effects, especially in a crisis.

Image credit: TheDigitalArtist from Pixabay.

 

Life is easier for those who can adapt

Paul says, ‘Most people have to be pushed out of the plane. They don’t do it voluntarily.’ For some, just the thought of change creates anxiety. Paul could see the panic set in for these individuals, threatening the end of their businesses. He talked several people through it, sometimes with daily check-ins, helping them not to fear what hadn’t yet happened but to embrace change.

‘Always be prepared to throw out the plan you’ve got. If you can do that, you can cope with life a lot easier. If you’re set on one thing and it doesn’t work… People that adapt are the ones that are successful.’

 

Move with the times

If he hadn’t learned to move with changing technology, Paul would still be laying out pieces of paper on an art board to draft an advert. 

“It sounds weird now, but that was in my lifetime.”

Today, most of Paul’s advertising is online. Pandemic changes accelerated the next jump—perfecting video marketing. And it’s paid off.

“If you still want to do the old stuff, you’ll get left behind.”

 

Moving Forward

 

Once JobKeeper support went live, many clients used their increased disposable income and time to focus on marketing. Websites by Paul Crooks Advertising are now looking slick with videos that capture the passion of business owners in a way that words and images can’t. 

Though there was a momentary scare on whether his business would survive the pandemic, Paul Crooks Advertising is now busier than ever. The local business network is also stronger than ever, having gained strength from mutual support through hard times. 

 

See For Yourself

 

If you’d like a flavour of the Brisbane-based network that keeps Paul so connected, check out the new Buzz Trades and Services website.

 

For queries on advertising and marketing services, or the Buzz directory, contact Paul Crooks Advertising:

Email: admin@paulcrooksadvertising.com.au

Phone: (07) 3264 2988

 

 

Alfina of Alfina's Cake and Coffee

Don’t Give Up

How Alfina Saved Her Cafe from a COVID crisis

 

“How am I going to pay the rent?” was the first thing Alfina thought (after swearing) when the prime minister announced COVID-19 restrictions for cafes like hers. It was a sleepless night, but at 4am the plan came.

 

A Community Gem

You’ll probably only find Alfina’s Cake and Coffee through word-of-mouth community networks, because it’s one of those hidden gems. The cakes are what grandma used to make – homebaked, rustic, and always delicious in that wholesome-ingredients-kind-of-way. Favourites like lemon meringue will always be on the menu, but you can also count on new creations based on Alfina’s inspiration for that day. That’s because, as the only staff member, Alfina bakes all her own cakes.

 

But there’s something else. An intangible golden thread runs through this cafe: the way it connects people.

 

How many cafes have you visited where the friendly conversation at the next table spills over to include you? When last did you hear people around you break out in song… or even dance… while you were tucking into a spongy piece of chocolate mud cake?

You’ll be genuinely welcomed at Alfina’s, and that in itself is the reason some of her customers are no longer lonely. It’s how a cancer sufferer found a haven of positivity during her unforgiving treatment. In Alfina’s words, “It’s the kind of place where there’s always someone to talk to, and where you’ll get a job to do if you hang around long enough.”

And that’s exactly how things have always worked there. One of the regular customers built the bookshelf that now holds free secondhand books, and the giftware shelves are filled with jewellery, honey and handcrafted toys made by locals. Volunteer staff have always rallied round her, finding meaning in being part of this special place in Eaton’s Hill, Brisbane.

That was before COVID.

 

Afina's shop - homemade goods

Alfina's rustic choc ginger cake

 

When COVID hit

 

Alfina had just returned from celebrating her mother’s 80th birthday in Cairns, (and had started running out of toilet paper) when the restrictions hit. Concerned friends and family called, but Alfina had no idea what to tell them. She had until lunchtime the next day to make a plan or close the shop.

 

To close would mean losing her only source of income.

 

At the best of times there was not abundant profit after bills were paid, so she could not afford to have debts pile up. Despite government urging landlords to be lenient, her landlord did not offer any reprieves.

 

Making It Work

 

Becoming a Takeaway Shop

Alfina’s first plan was only one idea, but it was enough to keep the doors open.

To become a takeaway venture almost overnight, the shopfront would need to tantalise passersby. Since indoor seating was no longer viable, the the deli counter full of tempting treats and special savouries was moved within a metre of the front door, spanning the width of the shop. A few socially-distanced chairs were dotted around outside for waiting customers. Then Alfina waited.

It worked.

Local people emerged from their work-from-home tethers, keen for a change of environment. And cake, it seemed, was the comfort they were looking for.

 

A Volunteer Army—For Milk

The daily morning shop for milk supply was part of Alfina’s everyday routine until pandemic panic decimated grocery store supplies. Milk—essential for coffees— became the most precious commodity of all. With individual purchases limited to two bottles per customer, the coffee service was in jeopardy.

But this didn’t stop Alfina. She got up two hours earlier each morning and followed an itinerary of shops until she had the supply she needed. Later, her army of volunteers kicked into action, using their quotas on her behalf. This comradery shortened her shopping trips and her very long working hours.

 

The clincher: Friday Night Platters

Alfina's Friday night platters

Ultimately, this ingenious ‘platter pivot’ was how the cafe survived a COVID crisis. The cafe’s deli counter boasts authentic European meats and locally sourced products. Cheeses and chocolates come from Tasmania, the Gold Coast, and Melbourne.

The ‘Friday Night Platter Evening’ at the cafe had previously become popular. Families would bring their own wine and sit down to a light meal of savoury meats, cheeses, olives and fruit from the deli. When dine-in restrictions changed the landscape, it meant no more Friday nights.

But it left an itch that needed scratching.

Before long, families started asking for these platters as a takeaway. Not missing an opportunity, Alfina and a friend designed appropriate COVID Safe packaging. The neat box was perfect for Zoom virtual dinner parties, and the orders kept coming. They were a hit over Easter especially, and remain a standard item from the deli today.

 

The Resilience Factor

The meaning the cafe held for some customers during enforced isolation, spurred Alfina on. For a group of ladies in a nearby retirement village, the coffee run was their only outside contact in a day. One lady said, “You saved us – we would have gone insane.”

One elderly lady used to visit daily to order a sandwich, just to break the isolation. Alfina would make sure she only started making the sandwich when this particular customer arrived—it gave them more time to chat, socially distanced, of course.

Alfina enjoyed how life went back to basics for a time, with families going out together. “It felt like back when I grew up. Everyone was just nice.”

Yet, as much as the café helped others, Alfina maintains that it was the constant support of the café community that got her through the crisis.

 

Tips from Alfina

Alfina of Alfina's Cake and Coffee

Don’t give up: Stick to your gut feel and work it out

“People are surprised that I wasn’t ever shut,” Alfina says, with a twinkle of pride. Hard work is nothing new to Alfina. She has had to put in the hard yards to make life work for her and her children since their father died. ”My life hasn’t been easy – I’ve raised them myself, always put them first.”

To Alfina, persevering through this challenge continued to model to her now-adult children the value of hard work in getting where you want to be.

 

Solutions evolve over time

“If it doesn’t work the first time, try a different way.”

Alfina reflects that she only had initial solutions, but each new solution gave her the next step, which was all she needed, and that way she kept going.

On Mother’s Day in March, Alfina was still experimenting with ideas. COVID Safe practices took extra time, and a fourteen-hour day was not sustainable. By Father’s Day in June she’d found an efficient structure for service, working smarter rather than harder. Alfina now has a time of day by which all baking has to be done and gets home at a decent hour.

 

Moving Forward

 

Just about everything changed at the cafe, but it didn’t happen all at once. What worked in March would no longer work now. But some things have stuck, like having the deli near the shop entrance. The permanent changes have been good for business. The happy community of customers stuck with Alfina through it all, and are back in full sing… er… swing.

 

See For Yourself

  1. Visit Alfina’s Cake & Coffee to indulge in one of Alfina’s delicious home-baked goodies and a cuppa. 
  2. Order a platter – phone, or message via the Facebook page, and you’ll be able to collect within 24 hours.
  3. Pop in to select something from the deli or giftware selections.
  4. Come in just to say hello — Alfina loves a chat.
  5. If you have an idea that’s not on the menu, speak to Alfina – she’ll make it if she can.

Contact details:

Alfina’s Cake & Coffee

(07) 3325 5820

6 Bunya Park Drive, Eaton’s Hill, QLD 4037

 

Deli box from Alfina's Cake and Coffee

 

 

 

Finding the Silver Lining

How Clean as Can Bee Harnessed New Opportunities

In March 2020, Clean as Can Bee business partners, Paul and Craig, walked out of a growth seminar brimming with ideas. They couldn’t wait to get started on restructuring the company to harness its organic growth. But when COVID-19 restrictions kicked in just days afterwards, they lost three quarters of their customers. Plans were about to change in a way they could never have predicted.

 

Cleaning is Not a Dirty Word

“We are sick and tired of the way people look down on the cleaning industry and its workers, considering both to be of low socio-economic worth.”

As I interview them in their home-based office, the vibrancy with which co-owners, Paul and Craig, explain their vision for Clean as Can Bee is refreshing.
“Whenever we get together, we want to talk about our passion – how we can grow our business to help more people and their families. Besides that we’re quite boring, really.”

Starting out fresh from Canada, Paul, his wife and his son combined their collective strengths to form a cleaning business. Gaining a reputation for quality real estate exit cleans, they expanded to residential and commercial jobs. But the business was never only about creating a family legacy. For Paul, it was about who they could bring with them on the journey.

“You only need to turn on the news to see the latest industrial relations breakdown within the cleaning industry. It’s not well regulated, resulting in a systemic problem of money-hungry cleaning services taking advantage of workers.”

Clean as Can Bee takes a different approach.

They have a catchy vision. Staff recruit more staff because they love their jobs. Their motto rings true as they raise the image of the cleaning industry: Teaching the world that cleaning is NOT a dirty word.

 

 

Clean As Can Bee | Happy Cleaners

 

When COVID Hit

Business restrictions laid out by government on 22 March had immediate impact. All residential cleaning contracts were placed on hold to avoid the risk of contagion in peoples’ homes. In a knee-jerk reaction, fifty percent of commercial customers cancelled jobs, large and small.

There was no guarantee that Clean as Can Bee would get those customers back.

As the weeks passed, the remaining commercial customers had far less need for cleaning, since many of their employees were working from home. More work was lost.

 

Making it Work

 

Sourcing New Work

It was a dilemma. Clean as Can Bee had to let go of their reliable income streams – residential and commercial cleans. They were forced to seek new cleaning avenues.

But cancelled jobs meant more time to think, and ideas on the back burner became conversation pieces. What about mountain bike cleaning? Motorbike cleaning? Carpets?

They had nothing to lose by activating new ideas.

Over the next 2 months they identified an additional three vertical markets that could make them a better business. Aiming to become a one-stop shop for real estate, they would make carpet cleaning and yard care their business. Decision made, they got cracking on streamlining the processes.

Finding Workers Got Harder

Quality cleaning staff had always been scarce, but with the government rollout of JobKeeper, few people were in desperate need of work. Recruitment agencies yielded nothing.

Applications from higher end income earners looking for supplements to their JobKeeper allowances were a short-lived glimmer of hope. Unused to manual labour, all of them fled at the first signs of hard graft, like cleaning blood off the floor of a medical clinic. Guarding against a high staff turnover, Clean as Can Bee quickly ended that path.

“Our customers often want to know who will be cleaning for them,” Paul said. “They love our cleaners, and they love the fact that the same cleaner stays on.”

The staffing roadblock facilitated a new idea.

Craig turned to contacts servicing the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) to explore employment of a person with a disability. The plan worked! More on that below.

Real-time number crunching

To qualify for JobKeeper for their staff, Clean as Can Bee had to provide clear numbers to the government. Eligibility required certain changes—the single touch payroll for a start. It sparked another opportunity.

Paul knew that their accounting processes could be better streamlined by adjusting business structures for organic growth. Now seemed like a good time for change.

Guided by ATO compliance guidelines for COVID-19, Clean as Can Bee permanently implemented new pay structures. Shifting workers from being subcontractors to employees meant they would secure employee benefits. While this was a lot of work, the restructure placed the business in a position to grow exponentially faster.

 

The Resilience Factor

 

Generosity – A Chance to Give Back

What would motivate a business to provide free services when everyone else was holding on tightly to their money? That question sparked this interview. The answer, it seems, sprang from a deep faith and the foundational company value of generosity.

“We’ve been very blessed,” says Paul. 

He has always seen the business as a God-given assignment. “It’s not just a [marketing] strategy… I don’t drive a brand new car. We want to be genuinely generous. I want a large business to be able to help more people. The more you can give away, the more families you can help. Every employee has a family around them.” This is the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. When the going gets tough – which it does – Paul draws strength from the meaning behind all that they do.

Once the business took stock of what they could still accomplish in the lockdown, they wanted to help their customers. Free cleaning for floundering businesses, like the one that could no longer afford their warehouse and needed an exit clean, was a no-brainer.

Another way they helped was by becoming government-approved to sanitise by COVID Safe protocol. They were able to relieve customers of mandatory extra cleaning regimes, and provided the additional time and disinfectant supplies free of charge.

 

A bright future with NDIS candidates

It took some trial and error before the new NDIS recruit found his groove, but once Clean as Can Bee identified a job that built on his strengths, it opened up a new section of business that they’d always considered – car detailing.

“He is keen, he is fun and he is really, really good at what he does,” Craig said.

They discovered that people with a disability are generally more eager to work than those without. It  was a breath of fresh air at a time when there were many obstacles to overcome.

Car detailing

 

Tips from Clean As Can Bee

 

Let Go and Look For the Silver Lining

Too many businesses try to survive whatever event knocks them by holding onto the things they’ve always done. The secret is to let go when a strategy is no longer feasible and look for the silver lining in every situation. If you hold on too tightly, you might end up losing it anyway.

Seek New Opportunities

A business needs to continue to expand its borders and search for new opportunities. That way, when business is lost, which is inevitable, there is new business waiting in the wings to replace it. Roll with the punches and keep a finger on the pulse of what customers need from you right now.

New Plans Take Time to Grow

Implementing growth ideas during a crisis takes time. New products or services initially might only replace the business you’ve lost, but you won’t be going backwards. When the crisis is over, you’ll find yourself operating at a higher level, and better placed to thrive.

 

Moving Forward

Paul and Craig view COVID-19 obstacles as a blessing. The need to survive the pandemic facilitated better understanding of their business, leading to a more complete business model.

And the other good news: They’ve re-signed contracts with ALL their previous residential and commercial customers.

Clean as Can Bee continues to grow at a remarkable rate year on year. Their future, says Craig, looks brighter than ever.

 

See For Yourself

Clean as Can Bee would love to hear from you.

  • Do you have a similar story to theirs? They love a good chat.
  • Do you know of potentially good cleaners looking for work in the North Brisbane area?
  • Want a quote?
  • Want to share a message of support?

You’ll find them here:

  1. Visit their website: www.cleanascanbee.com.au
  2. Phone or text to let them know how they can help: 0404 258 785
  3. Send an email: info@cleanascanbee.com.au

Don’t Stop Training in the Off Season

How SBIM Capitalised on COVID Downtime

The first COVID-19 restrictions hit Australia in March 2020 but it was the first of April that loomed like a dark cloud for SBIM in Brisbane. Anticipating a cascade of phone calls after issuing quarter-end invoices, the team braced themselves for a deluge of non-payments. If that happened, the walls could fall down.

 

A Sticky Business

If you’re a small business owner, you’ll want your business to pop up strategically in online searches, particularly the prominent ones like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. You want to be found, you want your customers to like what they find, and you want them to act on it. This is the kind of marketing that SBIM offers.

But wait! There can only be one No 1 on an online search results page, right?

So what happens when your digital marketing agency also has your competitor as a client? That’s where SBIM is different. If you engage with them, you’ll be the one and only business of your kind in your industry.

SBIM | Meeting Room

Our meeting room for this interview was one you’ll see in the video on SBIM’s website, and it resonated with the rest of the neat office, with company colours splashed across decor and the team’s polo shirts. (In case you’re wondering, SBIM stands for ‘Small Business Internet Marketing’.)

As the owner, Gary’s thoughtful answers demonstrated a no-nonsense thoroughness that was mirrored in his COVID-related responses. The team’s easy friendliness in the open-plan office echoed a value that has a lot to do with SBIM’s survival through a pandemic: they value people. It’s what makes their customers ‘stick’.

When COVID hit

The problem with media being our main source of information in the beginning was, of course, that media reports were sensationalist.

“If you believed it—projections were catastrophic. Many panicked,” Gary said.

Yet, after SBIM sent out their invoices on the first of April, the phone lines remained quiet. A good sign. Invoices were paid. First crisis averted.

The real threat came as May, June and July crept in.

The marketplace braced for a potential recession, and SBIM phones remained quiet— too quiet this time. After years of relying on healthy monthly intakes of new business, SBIM sustained three months of zero new customers.

 

Making It Work

SBIM | Don't panic

Sifting Facts from Fiction

For Gary, it was a conscious decision not to panic. Instead, he sifted out the facts from the sensationalist misinformation. He spoke to his established team of trusted advisors – consultants and accountants, especially helpful times like this – and took their advice to hold onto staff and keep cash in the business. Armed with this information, he reassured his team while seeking objective facts to shape further action.

“We didn’t want to contribute to the noise,” Gary said.

How Were the Customers Going?

Marketing someone’s business requires getting to know them well, over time. Gary and his team used the quarter-end mark as a catalyst for checking in with each of their customers. The contact was welcomed, and working relationships grew stronger with customers knowing someone was looking out for them.

How to Market in Uncertain Times

With most of SBIM’s customers working in professional fields like law, medical practice and accounting, they had not been as hard hit as the travel and hospitality industries. Despite that, they still had to make decisions about how to market their business in the midst of a pandemic.

“We were keeping our ear to the ground,” Gary said. The cost of digital advertising dropped quite suddenly as big advertising platforms like Facebook and Google strove to drive more online traffic in the absence of the big spenders spending.

Based on reliable sources and discussions with his business advisors, Gary presented his customers with two feasible marketing options. Either they could access approximately 25% more online advertising without spending more, or they could maintain their existing level of advertising and save. Pausing marketing campaigns altogether ran the risk of losing momentum already gained in the marketing lifecycle, growing from awareness to hard sales.

Many customers took the opportunity to capitalise on online marketing.

As a result, in a very short space of time, SBIM built more online stores than ever before.

Of course, SBIM faced the same two choices.

The Resilience Factor

A fresh project

At this lopsided moment in time, Gary realised that business growth pre-COVID had led to SBIM neglecting their own marketing. It was a pitfall when strategising for scalable impact in the long run.

Gary took his own advice and tripled SBIM’s inhouse marketing efforts, capitalising on the low-cost window. New purpose renewed the team’s energy levels at a time when so much else seemed to be flagging.

SBIM White Room
The White Room in action

The SBIM White Room, usually busy with customer video production, became busy with capturing and editing SBIM’s own interviews. Content generation on marketing strategies, and quality edutainment clips proliferated. Over the next few weeks, the team built up Insta and YouTube followings.

The result of their consequent marketing surge? “That’s paying back big time,” Gary reports.

Relationships matter

As business slowed, Gary took stock of what he still had, and he became especially grateful for SBIM’s strong existing customer base. Relationships built over years through trust and proven results meant that customers trusted SBIM’s advice along the bumpy road too. Only one customer out of the entire database terminated their services throughout the pandemic restrictions.

“A period of three months with no new clients proved that we could survive without new business. It reinforced that we have a resilient business model where recurring services underpin our stability,” said Gary.

In the revitalised business plan moving forward, the focus on customer relationships heightened, with service and customer results being key.

Tips from SBIM

Find Advice You Trust

Surround yourself with trusted advisors, a pool of people you can go to for honest feedback, rather than feeding off the general public. Many business owners listen to too many opinions. If you look long enough, you’ll find ten different points of view that all conflict. 

Gary’s advice is to hitch your wagon to people who can give you solid, unbiased, unhyped strategies. Listen to your trusted inner circle of influence, and then trust your gut feel. Make space for your own judgement, and make your decisions based on a combination of the two.

Don’t Stop Training in the Off Season

“I knew we were going to come out of this. I just didn’t know how.”

Being a cyclist himself, Gary knew they had to keep going based on what they knew for sure to be true, and to keep getting ‘fit for purpose’.

“Don’t stop training in the off season – that’s when you get stronger.”

A previous employer, a large music retailer who knew that success would not last forever, was where Gary first learned this. He has seen this wisdom repeatedly proven over his working career. Gary maintains that recessions or downtimes are the times to stay calm and tap into past experiences—your own or from others. That way, you’ll be ready to catch the wave when the upturn comes.

SBIM | Don't Stop Training in the Off Season

Moving Forward

SBIM not only survived COVID, but came out the other end a better business. The rigours of navigating a pandemic forced Gary into a deeper understanding of his business, becoming more conscientious about business growth planning, and being better placed to look after customers.

“We want to remain the go-to people for sound marketing advice, as we were able to be through the uncertainty.”

 

See For Yourself

Interested in digital marketing for your business?

Because SBIM is interested in getting you results, they work on a ‘no lead, no pay’ guarantee.

  1. Book a discovery session via phone or the website.
  2. A team member will identify your needs and whether SBIM can provide what you’re looking for, whether it’s more traffic, more leads or more sales
  3. If it’s a good fit, SBIM will work with you achieve the marketing goals of your dream business.

Contact details:

https://www.sbim.com.au

Phone: 1300 781 609

Office 1/ 162 South Pine Rd, Brendale, QLD 4500

 

Relish the Happiness of Playing Solo

The fun doesn’t have to stop when you’re alone.

Your fun sensor doesn’t have to switch to ‘out of office’ just because friends aren’t available. Being alone can release pathways to new and different adventures, where your heart and mind can feast on a pleasure exchange reserved solely for you.

 

‘Play is being joyfully immersed in the moment, and as adults, we rarely do that.’ Catherine Tamis-LeMonda

 

 

Image credit: Clayton Ewerton from Unsplash

What fills your soul?

I’m not asking what you’re good at. What do you love doing?

I love colours and I love to paint, but I’m no maestro. I have a feeble awareness of textures and effects achievable with paint, but these are not important when I’m painting for fun because the outcome is not for scrutiny, it’s just for me. It doesn’t have to look like the image in my head. In fact, it rarely does. Sometimes there’s no image in my head at all – it’s just about the joy of splooshing colours together. Like the joy of creating the word splooshing.

As a kid, what did you do without being asked?

What did you do before school and responsibilities dictated your attentions elsewhere?

Did you love riding your bike or climbing trees?

Were you forming secret societies with the neighbourhood kids?

Did you love making a mess in the kitchen?
These could be clues as to what will bring you joy in the now.

Art links me back to the free part of my soul. Painting, drawing, moulding, building or crafting. These were things to which I simply gravitated in my spare time, because they filled my tank and let me just be me.

3 Proven Traits of a Playful Adult

The ‘Adult Playfulness Trait Scale’ uses a series of questions to work out how playful you are. It was designed using a combination of personality research and play literature. The conclusion landed on three human abilities that work as our internal play generators.

  1. Are you a fun seeker?

Is Fun a VIP in your life? When you see fun as important, you’ll take the initiative to make it happen. And when fun happens to you, you’ll value it enough to embrace it rather than push it away.

               

Image credit: olives from Pixabay

 

  1. Can you break the rules or do you let worry about consequences inhibit your fun?

There are always barriers to feeling free enough to have fun. You might worry about what people will think. You might have been raised to think that playfulness shows immaturity. You might believe you have no time for play. A playful adult will be able to navigate these obstacles and break through to the fun side.

  1. How spontaneous are you?
    Will you do something on impulse? Playful adults tend to go with the moment into unplanned activities. They allow a certain amount of careless flitting after shiny things – just for the fun of it.

These three playfulness factors are partly linked to our personality. Some people simply are more impulsive and therefore will more easily follow pleasure pathways. On the flip side, some of these playfulness factors are learned, so they can be nurtured. If we want to, we can get better at being a playful individual.

Why Nurture Your Ability to Play Solo?

  • You think differently in a different space.

Some of your unique interests may not be shared by those with whom you hang out. A run on the beach might be in your giddy dream zone but it’s someone else’s worst nightmare. Solitary play means you can get lost in what you love to do without worrying about others.

 

  • It’s called ‘flow’.

That zone where time disappears and you become totally immersed in the enjoyment of what you’re doing. It’s a form of play. Science shows us that when you’re in flow, you enter into deep concentration and the chatter of your brain dies down. In this time your brain increases its information-processing speed, stretching your mind to accomplish something. The result can be a feeling of being happy (even ecstatic), motivated and fulfilled.

Image credit: Alex Harvey from Unsplash

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  • You aren’t dead.

You need to have spaces in which you, as an individual, can light up and sparkle, relishing being alive. Responsible tasks and tedious jobs don’t have to take up all the space. Finding these channels of fun wards off depression and facilitates happiness.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard.
 

  • Play is a way of being kind to yourself.

Taking time out to relax with something that brings you joy reduces stress hormones. It’s a form of mindfulness, which strengthens your ability to cope with stress, restores your creative energy and grows your capacity to sustain joy.

  • Your 10-year-old self will thank you.

Remember when you couldn’t wait to be an adult because then you could do whatever you wanted? You’re that adult now. You get to choose to eat dessert before dinner, or go to bed late, or to buy a plane ticket to the Great Barrier Reef, or to go to a class of your choosing. Don’t let your younger self down.

9 Playful Ways to Feed Your Heart and Soul Through Play

Invite Fun as a VIP

  • Collect quotes, posters, digital wallpaper or cartoons that make you laugh. Dot them around your living spaces.
  • If cooking meals each night is becoming tedious, try a new recipe once a week or once a month.
  • Brighten up your commute to work (for those of you still commuting!). Find a fun game, or challenge, or comedy podcast to make it enjoyable. Make it your laugh-out-loud or sing-out-loud time.
  • Build short play breaks into your day – even your working day. Five or ten minutes are all you need to strum a ukulele, play on a balance board, make an origami creation, spin a yo-yo, toss juggling balls, or scoot around the block or the building on a grown-up kick scooter. Set an alarm to get into the habit, if you need play reminders at first.

                           

Image credit: Anastasia Vityukova from Unsplash

Break the Rules

Change something you loathe into fun. Anything can turn into play if we adopt a playful mindset.

  • Getting fit doesn’t have to be punishment. Find a fun way to work up a sweat. Do an obstacle course in your local park. I recently discovered the ‘Healthy and Active’ section on my council website, which includes group exercise in the park, kayaking and dragon boat racing. Your avenue might be an adult dance class or martial arts.
  • Dance and sing while you clean. A little butt-wiggling at the sink, or taking full advantage of the acoustics while cleaning the shower, or a few extravagant twirls dancing with the vacuum-cleaner, can turn dull tasks into entertainment. If that’s not your thing, then at least make sure you listen to a comedy or feel-good music while you’re doing the dirty work.
  • At work, find desk-sized versions of game favourites – Scrabble, Jenga, Connect Four. Go and disrupt a colleague to play with you if needed.

 

Don’t Overthink It

  • Disengage from devices and digital connection. Give yourself permission NOT to put your fun activity on social media, but to fully absorb, enjoy and hoard your magical moments to yourself. It will free you to fully engage with what you’re relishing, without worrying about what others think.
  • Hide a secret stash of things that fuel your frivolity. A toy box, of sorts, that you can rumble through whenever you need a pick-me-up. It could include:
    • photos
    • fun childhood toys (poppers, silly string, a Slinky, bubbles)
    • sensory things that feel nice (vanilla scented anything, a foot soak, a stress ball, a massage roller)
    • a kooky musical instrument like a kazoo
    • something crafty like a pack of washi tape spools or a sand art kit.
    • an inspirational read – a poem, or book of quotes, or a favourite story

Collect these ‘shiny things’ over time. Don’t think too hard about whether it should go into the box or not – no justification is necessary.

Image credit: Braydon Anderson from Unsplash

 

Over to You

This blog series began because you, my readers, almost unanimously voted for the topic of relearning to play. Perhaps this pandemically-challenged year has left us all crying out for a good dose of fun as relief from the tensions of constant change. 

A little recap:

As this series comes to a close, I hope that rediscovering the benefits of a playful life has given permission once again to dally daily in the delights of play.

Please tell me about it.

  • Of the adult playfulness traits, which one is easiest for you?
  • What activities are you going to try to expand your individual play repertoire?
  • What was your best insight from this blog series?

Inspirational References:

 

Discover the Social Wealth of Play

Give and take in playful connection means everyone shares in the fun – adults included.

 

Connection with others is a basic human need. Whether it’s…

the invitation to what’s about to kick off,

collaboration backwards and forwards,

the jesting in friendly competition,

or bonding activities that stick in our memory,

… social play brings valuable human connection.

 

‘You can discover more about a person in one hour of play than you can in a year of conversation.’ – Meredith Sinclair

 

I was running around Sandgate roundabout trying to keep my eyes open despite the pelting rain, to pass the baton to Spiderman. That memory stuck with me. Believe it or not, this charity event with my workmates was full of merriment. Complete with grass skirts, wigs and other crazy accessories we’d rummaged, we formed a superhero team that splish-sploshed around a relay track. I cheered Wonder Woman with her rain-smudged make-up, and my team cheered me on as I brought the baton round the next leg, complete with dripping cloak. We were tired by the end, but it made us all the more heroic. It was a day of breaking barriers to experience a different kind of freedom together.

No normal clothes.

No normal work get-together.

No taking cover in the rain.

The companionship of being ridiculous together forged friendships through shared history-making that day. It remains a memory we all smile at.

 

We Need These Skills to Play Well With Others

For some of you reading this, the idea of silliness or doing something for no good reason can feel either immature or unproductive. Our beliefs on how important fun is, come from what was modelled to us as children or how our culture sees play. They can be legitimate joy-stoppers.

Some parents are more playful than others.

Some cultures are more recreational than others.

 

Caroline Maguire, a social skills expert, devised something called the ‘Play Better Plan’ for struggling kids. In it she asks parents to reflect on their own social skills. These are some of the things kids need to see —and, of course, we need to have seen in our own parents— to successfully play with others:

  • We manage our emotions rather than let them manage us
    When we’re having a ‘big emotion’ like disappointment, we don’t expect everyone in the room to change for us. We have strategies to cope without becoming overwhelmed.
  • We can read a room
    We can tell the prevailing emotional tone in a room, and work out how to
    participate in the activity. We can adjust our energy level, tone or expectations to match the setting.
  • We can meet people halfway
    We can reciprocate with a smile, a gesture or answers to questions, and we will make the effort to step in from the sidelines when that’s needed.
  • We understand social cues and respond to them
    It’s those unwritten rules that we learn via facial expressions and body language, while being aware of our own non-verbal messages. We pay attention to these to help us ‘tune in’ to someone else’s thoughts.
  • We can see things through someone else’s eyes
    We can understand someone else’s perspective, which helps us understand their reactions to what we do and say.

Image credit: Egor Myznik from Unsplash

  • We can be flexible and adapt
    We understand that keeping a happy friendship or group is sometimes more important than being right. We accept we may not always be right, and that sometimes it’s appropriate to compromise or not to argue.
  • We can change our communication style based on our audience.
    We’ll interact differently with a five-year-old than we will with a good friend our own age. We’ll filter private and public information, and adjust what we talk about based on the interests of those around us.

If any of these social skills are challenging, playfulness may not come as easily to you. But the upside is that play, even as a grownup, is a powerful way to strengthen these skills and strengthen relationships in the process.

 

Want to build connection with others? Play will help you do that.

Whether it’s with your children, your spouse, your friends or your workmates – a bit of fun together goes a long way in bridging relationship gaps or simply forming better bonds.

 

Image credit: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen from Unsplash

  • Play invites connection
    There’s nothing like a good laugh among strangers to help break the ice in introductions. Have you noticed how the person who can make people laugh draws others in?When there’s something joyful in the midst of us, it can serve as a connection point. Like that pack of cards dealt out at the work lunch table, where Newbie is automatically included into the friendly banter.
  • Play grows your ability to empathise
    Whether it’s beach volleyball or Monopoly or a girl’s night out, having fun together means being alert to each others’ reactions.- Judging something from another’s perspective. Will they buy that property on this turn or the next?
    – Taking turns or cooperating: “Your ball!”
    – Choosing the right communication: the topics we select with our girlfriend who needs cheering up.When we’re playing well together, we’re building relationships by seeing situations through each others’ eyes.
  • Play lets you gently test relationships
    In play it’s okay to have both winners and losers. Differences can be sorted out without it all turning nasty, because it’s not about the outcome, it’s about enjoying something together. An atmosphere filled with good humour is a safe setting to explore relationship boundaries.How much teasing can that person take?
    How much physical touch is okay?
    How relaxed can I be with this group?If anyone oversteps a boundary during play, then “Sorry, I was only playing,” provides a graceful exit.

 

21 Playful Ways to Build Your Relationships

 

Invite Fun as a VIP

 

With your family:

  • Make a family playlist together of fun things everyone would like to do. Include big adventures and small things that are easy and inexpensive. Doesn’t matter if you don’t get through the list, it’s just fun to have ideas that keep you stimulated.
  • Go on adventures together. Geocaching is a free and fun way to get out and about discovering and giving away ‘treasures’. Create scavenger hunts in your backyard or neighbourhood.
  • Go on a picnic with a difference. With younger kids, have a teddy bears’ picnic. For older kids, give them a REAL camera with lenses and shutters, and get them to take nature shots.

With your friends:

Image credit: NeONBRAND

  • Organise sport – volleyball, ice-skating, table tennis, cricket, badminton. I’ve recently discovered the inclusive fun of disc golf – like putt-putt, but with frisbees.
  • Have a retro-games night – play all the games your grandparents would have played, and ensure it’s a ‘devices off’ night. Mahjong, gin rummy, backgammon, Cribbage, Bingo. And you’re away.

With your partner:

  • Surprise them with a picnic dinner in the park or by the sea. Or you could both go on an organised mystery picnic.
  • Hire a personal chef for a few hours and have them teach you how to create a favourite dish. Then have a date night in when the chef leaves.

 

Break the Rules

 

With your family:

  • Who says you can’t beat your kids at their own games? Surprise them by getting good at their favourite video games, have nerf gun wars. Alternately do craft or baking or dress-up with them, or go bike-riding with them.
  • Restaurants can happen at home. Create a mock restaurant where the kids do the meal and serve it to the grownups.

 

With your friends:

  • Go somewhere the scout group would go – kayaking or rock climbing or archery or whitewater rafting. Without kids.
  • Go on all the rides at a theme park – without kids. Release your inner mojo at a trampoline park, let off steam at a go-cart track, scream down the slides of an inflatable park on water.
  • Don’t just watch a movie together. Dress up for themed movie nights based on a chosen movie – sleeping bags and firepit for campout movies, bling for glitz and glamour movies, or a colour based on the movie.

With your partner:

  • Get scared together. Do the Storey Bridge tour or go to the top of the highest building. Venture into a haunted house. Watch a scary movie.
  • You know that thing you’ve always wanted your partner to do with you but you’re not sure they’ll agree? Surprise each other on secret goofball dates.
  • Break your mould and do something utterly different together – a Segway tour, sing in a pub choir, go on an overnight hike, or try line dancing.

 

Don’t Overthink It

With your family:

  • Pick out some mystery items at the supermarket and get creative together on what to do with them.
  • Your kids love it when you can act their age. Have a full conversation with them in an alien language or go ape with them in the local playground.

Image credit: Rudy Anderson from Pixabay

With your friends:

  • Do something spontaneous. Call friends up on a whim (Ironically, it might help if you prep your friends for a spontaneous adventure ‘sometime’). Let friends in the group take turns introducing the group to ‘my favourite thing’.

 

With your partner:

  • Play in the dirt. An outside project that requires getting sweaty, dirty and tangled up together may require a hot shower afterwards.
  • Cook something together that you can’t even pronounce. Here’s an easy cocktail to get you going: Caipirinha with Cahaca https://www.thespruceeats.com/caipirinha-recipe-759290
  • Paint a huge canvas together.

 

Over to You

What relationships would you like to build or strengthen?

What fun could you use to build that connection?

You could be that fun person who makes friends and draws others in – if you get good at play. Consider this your permission to play.

And please tell me about it.

  • What group activities bring you the most joy?
  • What new playful activity are you going to try?
  • Do you have a photo or idea to share?

 

Inspiring References:

How Play Lights up Your Brain

 

Give yourself a break from performance pressures by adopting a playful mindset. Let fun sharpen your mind and memory.

 

Image by Clay Banks from Unsplash

As kids we told stories, created games, and went on adventures in our backyards – just for the fun of it. Our brains lit up and grew as we played. As adults, the need to achieve in so many areas of life mean many of us have forgotten how to do something ‘just for the fun of it’. Remembering our playful selves not only activates our creative brain, but helps us respond more flexibly and work smarter, leaving more time for… fun.

 

 

Artist: Allison Adams. See more of her Groundbreaking Girls collection here.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to be a very serious person, right? As the first woman to become an associate justice of the US Supreme Court she was feisty. When it came to justice, according to one of her clerks, she was pretty scary. Yet, with her recent passing, her life is warmly remembered for her care, wisdom and advocacy. She says play helped her.

She said she owes her success in law school to her daughter, Jane. After going to a full day of classes, she would return home to her 14-month-old daughter just as the nanny left at 4pm. This was Ruth’s play time, until Jane fell asleep. It was their pleasure time together. After this break, Ruth could continue with the books again.

So I felt each part of my life gave me respite from the other. And I wasn’t so overwhelmed thinking that my whole world was the law school. I think I had a better balance, better sense of proportions of what matters.

 

 

A Time to Remember

When you think about how much of your day as a grown-up is taken up with To Do lists, goals and tasks, it comes as no surprise that in our performance-based culture we’re losing the knack for creating and imagining. Things like:

Exploring a pathway without knowing where it’s going.

Wondering about something as we turn it over in our hands.

Daydreaming about our dreams coming true.

 

Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

Carl Jung, the founder of analytic psychology, once looked for a way to retrieve his childhood creativity. He said of himself,
The small boy is still around, and possesses a creative life which I lack. But how can I make my way to it?” His solution was to go back to the play activities he’d enjoyed as a child.

Modern-day play expert, Dr Stuart Brown, says the same thing. He encourages adults to go back as far as we can to our clearest, most joyful, playful image that we have, and build from the emotion of that. He speaks of lives transformed by unlocking passions and inner drives from these happy memories.

 

So How Will Play Sharpen Up Your Brain?

Rediscovering play not only reintroduces a sense of wonder and revelry into our lives—it’s significantly good for our brains too.

 

  • Play Activates Your Brain All Over

By its nature, play promotes curiosity and exploration. Very often it involves doing something with your hands. As soon as your hands reach out and begin manipulating something in 3D, the cerebellum is fired up, which sends impulses to your frontal lobe, where your executive skillskick in. When this happens, you’re developing your working memory.

 

Image by Dominik Scythe from Unsplash

The simple acts of mixing cookie dough, tinkering inside the bonnet of a car, or playing the piano are physiologically tuning up your brain. The neurological processes involved are making you a better problem solver.

 

  • If it was Fun, You’re More Likely to Remember It

Adult learning is more likely to stick when it’s something enjoyable, like trying out a new hobby or exploring a new place.

When last did you fun-learn? A time you

laughed

moved

heard stories or

did ‘hands on’ stuff

… on a course or in a meeting or at training. Compare how much you remember of that to how much you remember of the last news bulletin you watched. The playfulness in fun-learning stimulates your contextual memory, which is your recall of an event.

  • Play Triggers Creativity and Innovation

Dr Brown advises that rather than slotting play appointments into our schedules, we should aim for a state of play to be infused into all that we do – work, home, family, wherever. Engaging in play through our bodies, through objects, and with other people will enrich our lives by changing the way we think.

Workplaces are catching onto this. Neuroscience now backs the advantages of playfulness for increasing productivity and innovation. More employees are being allowed out to play during a working day. Whether a snatch of table tennis, a group relaxation session or an afternoon social, playful employees are less likely to become overwhelmed by work. Studies find playful workers to be happier, more satisfied at work and more likely to come to work.

 

11 Playful Ways to Stimulate Your Synapses

 

Invite Fun as a VIP

 

Image by SplitShire on Pixabay

  • Write a limerick about someone you know and send it to them.
  • Print a heap of your favourite phone photos and get family members or housemates to do the same. Pile the pics in a bowl on a coffee table for people to pull out at random. Each will have a story to tell.
  • Try a new hobby. Learn to play your favourite song on a guitar or knit your first scarf.
  • Eat a fruit or vegetable that you’ve never tried before.

 

Break the rules

  • Who says you have to speak normally? Next time you’re at a restaurant only talk with an accent to the wait staff.
  • Dream crazy dreams. Pretend you have no limitations. Create an inspiration board full of pictures and words portraying your heart’s greatest desires, and display it somewhere you’ll see it often. You never know…
  • Who said you’re not dance video material? Make a dance video with a friend to your favourite tune and roll on the floor laughing as you watch it. This father and daughter get the vibe.

Don’t Overthink It

  • Play along with a child, completely following their lead. Don’t make any suggestions, just do exactly what they do or what you’re told. If they seem stuck on what to do with you, ask a question, starting with “I’m wondering …?” And ending with, “What do you think?”
    See how Tom Hanks answers kids’ questions, with a good dose of ‘tomfoolery’.
  • Up-cycle something. Transform a favourite old T-shirt into a bag, or paint a piece of jewellery. Explore thrift stores, garage sales or your own cupboards for something that needs a new lease on life. Imagine, create and play. Add things, chop things, twist, paint or glue. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out – find glee in the process. Check out these up-cycled clothes for ideas.
  • Take a bus or train to a town or city you’ve never visited. Just go to the station and get on the next one that pulls in. See if you can find the most fun thing to do in that place.
    OR If you’re not quite that brave, check your local ‘What’s On’ and pick an activity to attend.
  • You know that thing you’ve always wanted to do, but never been brave enough to do? Rollercoaster rides, fly in a wind tunnel, touch a snake or paint with oils, for example. Grab some people you trust, let your hair down and gambol in new experiences.

 

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Over to You

You now have a neuroscientific excuse to play. It’s good for your brain.

Take a trip down memory lane to remember your favourite play activities

Take a play break and light up your brain.

Australians, we have a long weekend to take our brains for a play spin.

Let’s play!

And please tell me about it.

  • What’s your earliest happy childhood play memory?
  • How do you play in your workplace?
  • Do you have a photo or idea to share?

Inspirational References:

Joy is What We’re After

 

Rediscover the wonder. Howl with laughter. Find glee in the simple things. Grow your happy. Play.

 

In a world that’s peppered a little too heavily with depression, anxiety and stress, few of us would refuse an extra dose of happiness. Playfulness is the booster shot. Fortunately, your capacity for fun is not something that requires a fairy godmother’s magic wand. It’s a space within yourself that has plenty of potential to grow. Sometimes it just needs a little nurturing.

 

Image credit: Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

 

When I worked with children with severe autism and intellectual disabilities, I learned a fascinating thing: it was often the parents, not the children, who needed to learn to play nicely. When children can’t speak, it’s the gleam in the eye that matters—that moment swollen with anticipation when both know what the other is going to do. That’s when the joy bursts begin.

I witnessed those profound moments when parents first learned they COULD communicate back and forth with their child. They discovered the wonder of shaking a shaker in unison, peeking out from behind a blanket in random explosions of “There you are!”, or collapsing in a heap together at the end of a song, in an eruption of giggles.

The adults needed to slow right down, stop doing stuff every 3 seconds and stop filling all the space talking.

The reason this worked? The emotional connection with another is the essential first step to many other things a child needs to develop, including playing.

Image credit: Robin Higgins from Pixabay

 

This gleam in the eye for grown-ups might be that knowing smile from an inside joke in conversation, or the wink you gave as you walked by, or the secret sign you recognised from across a room.

Discover The Playful Rat

Neuroscientists Pellis & Pellis ran play experiments with rats to uncover patterns formed through play-fighting. They found that rats need play to learn survival skills, but it wasn’t through honing movement, thinking or social skills necessarily.

Play helped them learn to adjust their emotions based on the unpredictable scenarios it presented (Apparently rats have feelings too).

Through play they learned when to be more aggressive, when they’d crossed a line, how to tease and how to show affection.

The take-home point for humans is that through play our brains learn to deal better emotionally with the unexpected things life throws at us. I interpret that as resilience.

And let’s face it – who doesn’t want to be playfully happy?

Play is, by definition, pleasurable. No expected outcomes – just pure enjoyment of the moment. Children are experts at it. They can turn something very functional into something far more amusing. Take the functional task of eating, for example. The joy of squishing mashed potato through your fingers and then trying it on your hair, or seeing how far peas can be thrown, and being thrilled by the bright colours of strawberries and pineapples.

When was the last time you threw spaghetti onto a wall to test if it was cooked?

It’s never too late to develop your playful side. The more you play, the more easily and naturally playfulness will come to you.

It’s not a personality thing. Play may look different to each of us, but we all have the capacity for fun-seeking and spontaneity, even if it requires a little coaxing.

 

 

So What Emotional Benefits Justify You Going Out to Play After This?

 

Being playful will improve your mental health.

  • Play counteracts depression

Without play we become incapable of experiencing sustained pleasure, says Dr Stuart Brown, in his book on how play shapes the brain. Doesn’t matter how old you are. The opposite of playfulness is depression. That’s a serious repercussion for not having enough fun.

 

  • Play is a stress reliever

A cheerful activity releases endorphins into your system. We like endorphins. They are happy hormones that give us natural highs.

The rat experiments from earlier crunched the numbers on this … After the rats had been through some rat stress, a dose of rough and tumble play lowered their fight-or-flight hormone levels, which had ramped up during the stress.

Play can change the stress status of your body from fight-flight mode to a happy high

 

  • Play keeps you young.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Grandparents, you already know this. Those playdough sculptures and cricket games with the grandkids keep the brain cells stimulated and the body moving. 

Laughing, singing, moving about happily or just becoming fully absorbed in something pleasant leads to taking fuller breaths, getting more oxygen into our systems and relaxing. Muscle tension eases, and with that, so does generalised fatigue, body aches and stiffness. When our digestive process relaxes we can better resist gastrointestinal disorders and cardiac tension.

Playfulness can actually increase your resistance to disease and boost your vitality.

 

  • Play can help to heal emotional wounds.

Since it’s not about outcomes, in play it is impossible to fail. A bit of silliness or spontaneous creativity can relax us and bring about a sense of well being. As play gently invites us into creativity, and through that, mastery, our self-esteem is given room to grow. Movement in play invites release, and creativity nurtures insight.

When talking is not an effective pathway for dealing with trauma, play can heal – even for adults. Just as our brains can be changed by trauma, they can be rewired with positive interactions through play.

 

9 Playful Ways to Give Yourself a Joy Boost

Ready for a booster shot? Here some things to try:

Invite Fun as a VIP

  • Organise a game night. There’s nothing like cheerful banter around a board game to get the play juices flowing. And don’t be fooled! Those who claim they are not fans are often the ones who surprise you most with their buffoonery.It doesn’t have to be board games. One of my favourites is themed murder mystery nights. I have never laughed so hard as the night my usually deep-thinking friend took centre stage as a gregarious celebrity for the mystery evening, complete with accent, selfies, dinner meditation and companion bottle of wine (pictured above).

    If you aren’t able to host, try a location-based game. Two on my wishlist are a real-life rendition of Cluedo in the city, or an adventure in an Escape Room.

  • If getting regular exercise doesn’t excite you, try a fun alternative workout.
    “I need another hoola hoop session on my balcony tonight.”
    My work colleague once stunned me with this inspiring comment. Of course! What a great way to get the blood circulating.Instead of a training circuit in a gym how about a running around with your arms in the air, aka flying a kite? Or try stand-up paddle boarding. Or community bike riding. Or a self-defence class.
  • Seek out comedy, simply to laugh. Watch a comedian live, or find an amusing podcast that will meet your recommended daily dose of laughter.
    ‘There’s No Such Thing as A Fish’ is a podcast on Spotify that has me laughing out loud. It’s a fusion of fact and comedy, discussed by a rotating crew of presenters who have fun with the absurd things of life. 

– Trevor Noah’s multiracial humour is one of our favourites, especially in his South African shows.

– A TV show that cracks us up is ‘The Goes Wrong Show’. The first episode went viral. That resulted in another six hilarious episodes where actors improvise as their theatre skits go very wrong.

 

Break the rules

  • Down with Stranger Danger! You’re old enough now discern a suspicious person without this blanket rule. Not all strangers are evil.
    – Chuckle with the mum in the park about her cute toddler’s antics.
    – Offer to help the backpacker who looks lost.
    – Joke with the shopper next to you who just spilled his coffee.
    I don’t know about you, but my endorphins shoot up when I’ve had an unexpected laugh with a stranger. It’s a feel-good moment of all being well with you and your fellow man, and the world not being so hostile after all.
  • Impossible! How could that be? Magic tricks and illusions can sprinkle a little fun around when you next have the chance to thrill a captive audience.
  • Ignore age recommendations on kids’ toys. Indulge your playful spirit with nerf guns, water-slides, rub-on tattoos or beading kits. It’s for your benefit, but kids will love you for it too.

 

Don’t overthink it

Image credit: Tookapic from Pixabay

  • Play with a pet. Especially a baby one. They’re play geniuses, and they’ll get you smiling and moving and chasing and cuddling in all manner of unpredictable, joy-filled capers.
  • Create something that you have no skill at creating. Rope in someone else to up the hysterics. Fish around on Pinterest for a truly unattainable goal, and experience the freedom of cutting, snipping, pasting, sewing, painting, sawing, hammering or assembling, for absolutely no functional reason at all, other than to laugh.
  • Have a ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’. Do everything your heart desires in your city. Breakfast, bike ride, art gallery, river cruise. Extend it by booking somewhere for the night and snuggling with your loved one by a fireplace with a good glass of wine.

 

Over to You

What form of play is beckoning to your laughter within?

Where will you find the most joy in play?

It’s yours for the taking.

Make space for it in your calendars or write it on your To Do list, and go play.

 

And please tell me about it.

  • What comedy podcasts or shows can you recommend?
  • What ideas are you going to try?
  • Do you have a photo or idea to share?

 

Inspirational References:

How Your Home Can Become a Fun Place.

 

Say yes to pops of playfulness, starting where you live.

 

Imagine you could enter your home and have it embrace you with joy regardless of the day you’re having. Playfulness begins when you’re relaxed, secure and can just be yourself. When your home is a place of gleeful inspirations, you’ve made a good start in relearning the wonder of play. And it’s more important than you might think— it’s essential to your wellbeing. Read on to start giving yourself permission to play.

 

We all played as kids, so we’ve got the know-how. Even if, as adults, we’ve gotten a little rusty, the need to play is wired into our brains and we never outgrow it. It’s a built-in safeguard to ensure life never gets too deadly serious, because that’s… well—deadly. Serious. Responsibility, with it’s ever-increasing importance as we grow up, can tend to boss around our spontaneous, freely expressive, carefree selves.

Maybe that’s where your requests for this topic came from, my curious friends? Maybe it’s because you want more fun in your life? You want to reconnect with your inner child who knows just how to spin around with dizzying delight, be enthralled by new discoveries and frolic with anyone who cares to do so for no good reason. Good news! Anyone can power up their PLAY-ability again with a few simple strategies. This blog series will show you how.

So let’s begin, shall we?

The first step is easy. It starts in the comfort of your own home. Why? Here are 3 good reasons:

  1. Home is a sanctuary.
    To play with joyful abandon, we need to feel safe. The merriment inside us will only peek out when there’s trust and acceptance in the atmosphere. Where better than our home to find this space?
  2. Home is where we can be our most authentic self with others. 
    When we’re relaxed, the setting is ready for shared bursts of playfulness with others in the house whether family or housemates. With humour in the house, deeper connections are made.
  3. Home is a place of expression.
    You know what it’s like. That moment when you walk into someone’s house and instantly have a fuller picture of who they are. Maybe you’re amazed by what takes pride of place on their cabinet, or you can just feel the atmosphere of calm or chaos or sport or family.
    Our personalities leak out in our home. When we dot the happy parts of ourselves around our homes, playfulness is not far behind.

 

Now, for those of you with perfectionist qualities, with a place for everything and everything in its place, a gentle word. The need for orderliness could wrestle your fun-seeking longings. If that’s you, you might need to make a few little concessions as the cogs of rediscovering playfulness are oiled, because play, by nature, is unpredictable and creativity may just get a little messy.

 

What are the most playful spots or things around your house?


My husband and I are not great decor or maintenance people, so things in our house can become a little tired. But there is one spot that continues to bring me joy and is often a conversation piece. It’s a wall with three paintings. We painted this wall a textured charcoal, to showcase three bold paintings in brushstrokes of red, yellow, blue and green. They pop on that wall. But more than that, they bring back memories of our adventures in Hong Kong—of perusing a market of strange delectables, of buying our very first real paintings from the artist herself, and of going for a swim in the warm South China Sea.

‘To miss out on play is to miss the harvest of a well-lived life,’ says play author, Dr Stuart Brown. Professors Sergio and Vivien Pellis take the neuroscience perspective and suggest that play ‘may be a process underlying lives worth living’.

 

If play gets this much credit, then surely it deserves to be given more room in our lives?

 

9 Easy Ways to Play at Home

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Break the Rules

  • Instead of a table cloth, spread butcher paper on the dining table and draw or write away.  Write questions at each person’s place setting, or make up a collaborative silly poem, or collect the best things about every day over a week, or rubber stamp it all over. Keep it as a work of art and use it for your next dinner party.
  • Who said you can’t draw on walls? Doodle on the bath tiles with bath crayons during a bubble bath. Use liquid chalk to write inspirational quotes on the window above the kitchen sink or leave a joke on the mirror.
  • Wall colour doesn’t have to come from expensive art pieces. Add fun wall stickers to a dull wall to liven it up. Here are a few fun ones: 
    – Birds on wires
    – 80s party confetti
    – Tall daisies

  • Why sleep inside? Many of you have already done this during pandemic lockdowns – have a campout in the back yard, complete with fire pit and s’mores.

 

Don’t Overthink It

  • Put together a dance playlist of your favourites. Whether you’re at foot-tapping level, or up to wiggling and jiggling, or right up there in full booty-shaking, hands-in-the-air dancing, just enjoy music for the sake of it. Whether on your own or with others around, have a bit of fun while washing the dishes or folding the laundry. Or just any time.
  • You know how card games tend to live in cupboards, only to make an occasional entrance? How about leaving a few out around the house, for when the whim hits. You might find it connecting people at unexpected times.

 

The good news is that it’s not hard to make your house a PLAYhouse.

Is your home a safe place? You’re already halfway there. Can you think of 5 things in your house that spark joy? You’re already striding forward.

Can’t think of 5 things? Don’t worry. Start building a list or just be on the lookout from now for things that make you bubble.

From now on, give yourself permission to play… in your home.

Go on! Escape your functional mind for a moment and have some fun.

 

And please tell me about it.

  • What are your favourite places or pieces in your house?
  • What ideas do you want to try?
  • Do you have an idea or a photo to share?

 

Inspirational References: 

  • I love this book by Meredith Sinclair: Well-Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit. A number of my ideas for these blogs have come from her insights.
  • Dr Stuart Brown’s quote is from his book, ‘Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.’
  • The Pellis & Pellis quote is from their book, ‘The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience.’