Letters from the Real World: Six Month Performance Evaluation

By Cait Reynolds
Small business workspace is small.

Small business workspace is small.

I hate doing self-evals. I always thought the politically-correct questions approved by Human Resources were ridiculously plebeian and prone to producing pablum for responses. Occasionally, I would amuse myself with alliteration while merely mentioning moribund moments of mediocrity in the self-improvement section.

But it’s June 2 today, and it’s high time for me to do a six month check in. Only, I’m my boss now, and I’m going to ask really tough, politically incorrect questions of myself in order to adequately assess my adventures and analyze the adventitiousness of my actions.

It all boils down to three questions:

1. Am I making money?

2. Am I pursuing the right strategies?

3. Am I working hard enough?

Without any surprise, the most objective answer is in the empirical answer to Question 1. Am I making any money?

Yes.

And no.

And soon.

Publishing is a delayed reaction salary, and it’s hard to really say where you are in the first year until about the end of Q3, at which point, any major strategy changes you need to make might not hit for another quarter or two.

So, yes, I’ve made some money. More with the publication of Blacke and Blue at the end of Q1 than I had been for a couple of quarters previously.

No, I haven’t quite made as much as I need to make. Yet.

I’m anticipating a much more indicative set of commission payments at the end of September and October as a result of Q3 and the “delayed reaction” of Q2.

If I sound like a grumpy finance officer, it’s because I am. I’m CFO of Cait Reynolds, Author Enterprises. I’m also the CEO, Chief Operations Officer, Vice President of Marketing, head of IT, legal counsel, and accounts payable/receivable.

At the end of the day, if I’m not making enough money to meet my bottom line within a specific timeframe, then I’m going to have to diversify (i.e. get temp work). There’s a major opportunity cost to my business if I do that, which means there’s a lot of pressure for me to perform for the Board of Directors and Investors (family, husband, publishers, readers, etc.).

As a result of all this, in this first year of being a full-time writer, I’m not sure I’m going to have a strong enough base to sample from in order to answer Question 1 of my self-evaluation.

As Vice President of Marketing, I can tell myself that I have set up an entirely new social media author platform, launched a website, done the right networking, gone from 0 site views and no website to a more than a thousand a month. I’ve made progress in figuring out what I’m best at doing in terms of marketing. I’m developing a brand and an image. I have a plan in place for growing my efforts to be known for certain things. Initial market surveys and “testing” have shown I’m mostly on the right track. I’m convinced that more time will only help me solidify my strategies and get better at knowing faster what it is I need to do.

However, like any good Chief Operating Officer and CEO, I tend to take the VP of Marketing’s prognostications and optimism and slash them down by 2/3 in order to approximate reality and to gauge the realistic amount of effort required to drive the numbers to where I need them to be.

That brings me to my final evaluation question: am I working hard enough?

Yes. And no. And kind of. Sorta.

I am behind where I thought I would be in terms of producing new books, though somewhere in the middle of all of this, I wrote a completely unplanned cookbook. So, that counts. Kinda. I also didn’t think I’d write the number of articles for various journals and blogs that I ended up committing to. Nor did I anticipate my “Margin to Mainstream” project.

The question remains, though, while I am working hard, am I hardly working on what counts, which is the generation of new books? Unfortunately, the muse, who runs that department in the company, is a bit of a management headache.

While she very much understands the necessity of  butt-in-chair time every day, she still complains that genius can’t be rushed. When the COO points out to her that genius is not expected, she turns around and cites things like cognitive processing, the artistic temperament, and pride in one’s work. She refuses to put out half-baked ideas or sub-par work, even to show her editors, and since she is in control of the production of salable goods, she basically has management’s cojones in a vise.

Thankfully, I know myself (or am getting to know myself better as I work for myself), and as COO, I deliberately left my Q4 light in terms of writing projects in order to give myself time to catch up on anything unfinished this year. Accounting might be snippy about it, but there’s nothing else that can be done, given the current staffing.

All in all, I would give myself a middling grade. I’ve accomplished a great deal. I’ve made some really good progress, but I’ve also made some bad mistakes. On the plus side, I am constantly learning from my mistakes and analyzing everything I do for maximum productivity. On the downside, I have yet to reach a consistent level of productivity that can be sustained and produce predictable results and income.

At this point, I have a choice whether to do another 6 month evaluation at the end of December or early January or do skip it. Instead, I think I will take a very careful look at beginning of October to see if I have been able to make significant progress on my Q2 and Q3 goals. There’s less than a month in Q2 left for me to wrap up a bunch of stuff, and Q3 is planned to be pretty heavy with production.

If nothing else, I’m fairly certain Cait Reynolds, Inc. is going to survive year one, and I will be poised to go into year two of my business venture with better plans, better insight, and a better income base…

All in the name of doing what I love and making money at it.

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