We reluctantly came. We nervously saw. OMW, we sold!

The choice of touch points or channels has always been quite a strong focus of most of my career. Where to target customers, on which channel, when and how. So when we launched our small business CW-X SA, I seriously thought that I would be able to lure customers to the website via a range of beautiful imagery on Instagram and engaging stories on Facebook.

Sales have been slow. 

We realized that the brand had dipped into very low awareness levels, the competitor environment was fierce and that unless we put money behind our social media posts, no one was really seeing our brand.

We decided to get our faces out there and approached Randburg Harriers Running Club asking if we could promote our goods at their Thursday evening time trial. I won’t lie, a social media collaborator and an engineer, face-to-face sales was not our strong point and we were dreading it.

The nerves ran high!

But here’s what we learnt:

  • Our brand needs to be seen in the real world. Once people saw the banners, it suddenly felt real.
  • Our faces need to be seen and recognized by fellow runners to make the connection between our brand and ourselves. Why? Because trust sells. Relationships sell. Networking sells.
  • And most of all, word-of-mouth is key! Once people realized its was us and they knew our faces and names behind the brand, they were really excited and started to tell other people.

Mini brand ambassadors were born.

I’m all for eCommerce but it doesn’t allow for much human connection. With the face-to-face interaction at time trial along side the track, it was easier to question and probe. We showed an interest in people and their stories.

It created a comfortable space for people to share their running injuries, their eating struggles and their choice of what running tights suited them more. People opened up to us about personal stories they would not necessarily do online.

After one evening, we’re no experts. But what an eye opener.

And here’s one more nugget. We fell out of our comfort zones and rolled straight into realizing that maybe, just maybe, we can do this thing called sales.

Thoughts on a run, when everyone else is on a plane

I’m surrounded by a rather small group of people in my life. A close-knit family, a handful of friends and then colleagues who I share pretty much majority of my week with. But in recent months, I’ve started to notice that more and more people are moving away, leaving me somewhat ‘behind’.

My decisions to dedicate myself to the blue bank has been largely influenced by the people I work with. Inspiring leaders, thoughtful team members and colleagues who have become good friends. But some of these leaders have left, team members have changed roles and some of my good friends are leaving SA.

Talking about leaving SA, the number of close friends who have left is now being counted on both hands, not just one. Friends who have made the decision to start their lives in other parts of the world. A re-start for some, an adventure for others.

Even though we have the technology and social media to stay in touch, I’m feeling a little sad. Actually very sad.

I’ll admit that it’s a heavy burden to carry knowing that I’ve decided to stay & commit to a life in Johannesburg and South Africa on a continent I call home, knowing very well that KK would be on a plane to any other destination without hesitation tomorrow.

My reasons for staying have always been my close-knit family, my handful of friends and colleagues. But what happens when they’re all gone?

Thoughts such as these make my escapism afternoon runs actually mentally exhausting.

Throw out, make a list and run less. 2018, here we come.

I don’t usually set New Year’s resolutions. I admit to starting off January knowing I’d take the rest of the year to lose all the extra weight put on from all the festivities during the holiday. KK and I typically map out the road races we’d like to run in the year and also book our holidays around these dates.

But in terms of actual goal setting, all I have in my head is a list of really bad experiences that I don’t want to repeat going into the new year.

I did make a few minor behavioral changes which I’m hoping make a difference.

Here’s five things I’ve changed going into 2018:

  1. Ditching the plastic

The new Woolies grocery bags. We just need to remember to take them with us shopping.

During our weekly grocery shopping, we collect around x10 plastic bags to carry our groceries. We use the excuse that “we use the bags for dustbin bags during the week.” But we don’t need to, so we swopped the bags for Woolies enviro-friendly bags. I must tell you, they’re huge and carry quite a lot of goods.

  1. Americano vs. Cappuccino

Confession: this pic was taken in December while we were in Cape Town. It’s a cappuccino. LOL

I know that diets don’t last but if I make small changes to my eating, then that alone should help. Those Vide ‘e cappuccinos are just mucho grande cups of frothy milk and when I’m having two or three a day, it adds up (around the belly). Americano is purely black coffee and while I know the best solution would’ve been to swop for water, one or two coffees with less milk won’t hurt. Baby steps.

  1. Getting organized

Labelling all our cupboards & drawers makes it a lot easier to pack items away too.

My sister stayed over in December and exposed just how disorganized we really were! She helped me re-pack my cupboards, throwing out old clothes, linen, pots and food. Oh gosh, my medicine cupboard was a mess! The trick is to keep it clean and organized.

  1. Making a list

I make to-do lists all the time at work. But I’ve never made a shopping list before. KK and I head over to Woolies and buy the things we think we need. It’s only by sorting out my cupboards with my sister that I realized that we had loads of food that was going old or duplicates of items that we were not using. Let’s not even talk about my freezer! Just by making a list, I’m buying less now too & saving money.

  1. Run less but more

I’m loving my new Garmin fenix 5S. With such a great strap, I’ve been wearing it to work. Hitting my 10 000 step goal is tough!

KK and I are both coming out of 2017 with injuries. KK missed Kaapsehoop, he pulled out of Otter, did not enter Two Oceans. With my pulmonary embolism recovery and sprained ankle treatment, my running has been slow & reserved. It hasn’t entirely stopped us. KK has been walking a lot and I’ve been enjoying the shorter runs. We’ve become Parkrun fans! But there have been discussions about whether or not 2018 is a rest year for us both and a refocus on strength training. (The verdict is still in the air at this point. Notice that KK still entered Comrades & Otter 2018).

I’m unsure how I feel about 2018. I’m cautious. Overall, I’d like to have a better control over my life and I suspect the only way I can gain this is by focusing on the small things.

The small things, the small differences which eventually are the big changes. I can only try, right?

Goodbye twenty seventeen. Keep the change!

The narrative on WhatsApp groups and social media platforms is all focused on saying goodbye to 2017. The emphasis is on the negativity, the difficulties, how bad it’s been. Ironically it’s the same conversations we have at the end of every year. 2017 is no different.

The longing for the year to end coincides with another familiar tradition – the Instagram #2017bestnine – where your x9 most favorite, most Liked Insta images are displayed in a collage to remind you of what your highlights were during the year.

#2017bestnineofnine

It got me thinking…

It’s easy to remember the bad times, and yes, for most people, including myself, this year was pretty damn shitty. There were too many times of illness, too many people dying and most of my days were overwhelmed by stress.

But just looking at my #2017bestnine sparked reminders of a few great moments that I’d like to cherish and hold dear for a little longer before they fade into memory.

I started writing them down:

  • We became entrepreneurs. We took the plunge and bought a small business. Both KK and I are in our 40’s with long careers in corporate, but it’s as if we’re reborn. Here’s to an abundant and successful CW-X SA in 2018!
  • We travelled to Germany on a fantastic holiday & I learnt how much family tradition means to KK. A highlight was spending time with our friends, Lisa & Shaun (and their dogs Merlot and Schnapps) in Munich. It reminded me that these are the special moments holiday memories are made of.

    Walking the dogs on a lazy afternoon in Munich. We fell in love with the place! Shaun & Lisa, we will come back! We promise!

  • My sister lost weight & started exercising. It’s so inspiring but more than that, she has control over her health. She’s a different person! She’s the one that now sends me recipes and reminds me to drink water and avoid Pringles!

    My sister’s very first Parkrun. Since then, she’s become a fan!

  • I fell in love with trail running. Reaching the top of the Drakensburg mountains on the Run-the-Berg trail run is truly a highlight of my running career. It was worth an entire blog post of its own!
  • I ran my best 10km road run in Pretoria. And when I say best, it wasn’t the time that mattered, not a PB, but rather how I felt that stuck with me. I felt strong, determined, capable. I “owned” that race!

    It was freezing & I spent the first few meters hating on everything and everybody! But I warmed up… as you do.

  • Annie made it through another year! Almost blind and managing her health day by day with the help of my mom, she still manages to provide us with many joyful moments & laughs.

    She loves to sit on my lap and listen to me talk away. She’s a great listener.

  • Another successful Two Oceans & KK’s 4th Comrades race experience is etched in memory. There’s just something addictive about those two races.

    The nerves before Comrades are something else!

  • We surrounded ourselves with healthy family and happy friends. It’s during all the difficult times that this becomes important in your life. This year, more than ever, did I appreciate knowing my family were there when I needed them. Thank you! XXX

There are so many exciting challenges on the horizon going into 2018. There will be more of the bad times, just like there were this year and years before that. But the key is balance.

I’ve promised myself that there would be more balance in my life going forward. For every hard time, more joy. For all the stress, activities of calm and relaxation. And when there’s hurt and disappointment, to be kinder to myself and others.