There’s a car advert on TV at the moment, which goes along the lines of ”you’re never done; when your balance is great, work on your strength, when your strength is great and so on…”

Running a small business feels a bit like this - you’re never done. When one task is ticked off, another 3 or 5 pop up on the to-do list. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, as you think why can’t I do it all? Why am I always working late to finish something? Why do I have loads of ideas and only some come to fruition? Why am I a starter, then a procrastinator, rather than a finisher. Recently I’ve been feeling guilty that it’s taken me ages to plan a staff lunch. Or kicking myself that the workshop list hasn‘t been emailed out, or that I spend so much time at the shop working on the business that my home renovation hasn’t even got started etc etc. Yep, a constant hamster wheel of telling myself off.

Angel over the Houses workshop

Sometimes little things make a difference to this treadmill of doubt. On Tuesday I finally repainted a door and some woodwork in the shop meaning one long-outstanding maintenance job is sorted. (You might not even spot the new paintwork, but I see it on a daily basis and know that it’s done and that feels great). On Friday evening, fortified by banana bread and Jack Savoretti playing at top volume, I was inspired to install a bright, summer display. The front window now looks fabulous for passing customers, who are hopefully intrigued enough to venture inside our emporium, or sign up for a workshop.

Summer window at Hometown 2019

And on Saturday, popping in to see the new Boot Camp shop (a new venture by Platoon Stores), fanned that tiny ignition spark of - yay - I’m also a retailer and I love it. It was a reminder that after 11 years in business, Hometown may still be a small independent, but it is still here. We’ve moved from one shop to a bigger one and we’re still inspiring new customers to start sewing. Other changes are I now have 3 part-time members of staff rather than just me. And these staff have got my back and support me and Hometown 100%. Yes, Retail may be Detail, but I need to remember that small details can also be reassurance.

Today, a strange thing made me stop, act, then relax. All week, I thought I could smell gas in my home from time to time. Whilst working at home on Thursday I heard an ominous crack in the ceiling. Oh god, not only is the house going to explode, the ceiling’s also going to fall down - just which is first? What did I say earlier about procrastination? Well today, after phoning the emergency gas hotline, I’ve been reassured by a lovely guy at SGN, after a thorough inspection, that all is fine in the house and there aren’t any gas leaks. So, I’m on a roll and I’ve just typed a long, long list to give to prospective builders for all the renovation tasks that need a quotation. OK, the ceiling plaster may still fall in before the builder has checked what the problem is, but Marion, give yourself a break. It’s nothing you’ve done to make it happen…. what will be, will be.

Looking for some pictures to attach to the building list, I came across some old photos from the renovation of Hometown’s first shop at number 74 (now The Cheese Room). Plus others from 2013 when Hometown moved into Platoon’s old shop at number 62 (the hamster wheel that is retailing in Rochester High Street!). I’d forgotten all the late nights when I went from the first shop after work, to assemble an endless supply of IKEA cupboards and work my way through many a 10L pot of paint. And then I found a photo of my Mum painting the door, that I just repainted this week. Full circle indeed, especially as Mum popped into Rochester yesterday and loved the new window display!

So, what’s the conclusion? Well, perhaps I need to regularly remind myself that I’m doing my best and have come a long way, even if it sometimes feels like I’m standing still. As the 1930s catch phrase said, “now you’re cooking with gas”*. So however they cook our food at at Mama Mia on Monday, I’m already looking forward to our girls’ lunch. And I promise to send out the workshop email in the afternoon, even if the website’s not completely 100% updated. Good enough indeed.

* ”Now you’re cooking with gas”, meaning “you’re on the right track,” was heard on popular radio shows at the behest of the natural gas industry, as part of a marketing push for new-fangled gas-powered stoves.

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