Dear J.T. & Dale: I lost my job in April. I've always wanted to own my own business, and I'm thinking now is the time to start one, but at the same time I'm feeling like I should conserve my savings. Thoughts? — Amanda
J.T.: I think that if you can start the business without a lot of cash investment, you should go for it. The term for this is "bootstrapping" — you use a lot of sweat equity while avoiding using up your funds. For example, you might want to get a part-time job that can help pay some of the bills and then spend the other half of the time on the business. It's a proven fact that many amazing businesses get built as a result of recessions, but finding ways to earn a little income while you build the business would be the safest way to do that!
DALE: The key to starting a business is to start. What I mean by that is to begin experimenting. Instead of devoting time to a business plan or loan applications, you just start. Say your dream is to own a computer consulting business. You begin to experiment with one tiny part of that dream. Maybe you figure out a way to help people improve home offices and how to do it safely. You offer your help to friends and neighbors. The point is the starting. Done right, it could even be the part-time job J.T. is describing, and all the while you're building your credibility, business wisdom and network.
Dear J.T. & Dale: Our team has been working remotely since March. I have a co-worker who is responsible for some projects we work on together. She's letting more and more mistakes fall through the cracks. I've covered for her, so our boss hasn't found out. However, I'm starting to get concerned that she'll make a big mistake I can't fix. Should I tell my boss about this? I tried to mention it to my co-worker, but she says she's just tired and exhausted, and doesn't like working from home. — Wendell
DALE: No, don't go to the boss — not yet. Doing so would certainly alienate your co-worker and possibly annoy the boss, who might resent having a problem dumped on him/her. Instead, you can salvage the job and possibly the career of your colleague. This will be a fine, noble thing. But you have to break through her weariness and get her attention.
J.T.: I would start by making a list that documents all the mistakes that you have caught going as far back as you can remember. I would also put asterisks next to the ones that you know are costly. I would then set a call with your co-worker. Explain that this is a very difficult conversation and that your caring for her is why you are having this hard conversation. Then I would share with her all the mistakes and tell her that your concern is that they are continually getting larger and that pretty soon it could be something that you can't cover. Ask how she would feel about reaching out to the boss and getting some time off or working on some ways to reduce stress. Tell her how much you support her, but at the same time tell her that you can't dismiss this anymore because you want to make sure that if something does happen your boss doesn't find out that this has been going on for some time. If she still refuses, then you're within your rights to reach out to your boss. At that point you've done everything you can to try to rectify the situation by working with your colleague. You just can't risk not telling your boss, especially if she's refusing to.
DALE: Agreed, but don't let it come to that. See if you can't restructure the work to eliminate mistakes, perhaps devising a simple quality-control system. These difficult days will end and meanwhile they're offering you a chance to put up some beautiful career karma.
Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators' Lab and author of a novel about H.R., "The Weary Optimist." Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.