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  • Jerry Phillips

Making Significant Changes Can Be Stressful

My mother turns 93 in June and for the first time in over 50 years, she is not living on her farm. In October she finally relented to moving to an apartment. There was an initial thrill to the move, as well as the stress of learning a new way of life. Then the pandemic hit, and she had to shelter in place for the past few months. At first, she was okay with it. But as time passed, she became restless, as we all did. She was used to her independence, and she was used to being able to go outside and enjoy the outdoors. Now she was restricted to being in her small apartment and wearing a mask. She became focused on what she couldn’t do, and that leads to some dark thinking.

We are in the process of selling her home and the surrounding buildings. I live the closest to her, of her immediate family and we are a 10 hour drive away. With that we couldn’t rent the property and keep it maintained. We have a great young couple who are willing to purchase the home and we are excited about it. The challenge is to get the home ready to close. After 50 years in the house, my mother has a great deal of “stuff” and even more memories. It’s challenging to move her things out of the house and get it ready, especially from a distance. With the shelter in place rules, it has delayed our work for a couple of months. With the reopening, we have a window to get things done. I have a week that I can travel to Kansas and clear out the house.

I’m a process person, so I’ve been laying out the process for the past few weeks. I’ve learned some lessons that are transferrable to business.

  1. Build the vision. When I leave for Texas next week, the farmstead will be cleared and ready to close.

  2. Communicate the vision. I’ve shared the vision with my mother and our support team at least 5 times over the past three weeks. I ask questions to make sure that everyone understands the vision

  3. Delegate where it makes sense to delegate. Gain consensus when you can. At the end of the time I’m there, the vision must be complete, and I own that. Tough decisions will need to be made and we must be ready to make them and live with the consequences.

  4. When you set the vision, explain the “why” along with the “what”. Define the “how”. I’ve shared that when I arrive, we will walk through all the buildings and see what we must do, then build a plan. That is the first “how”. The second “how” is to make decisions of donate, trash, or if we can’t decide, box it, and store it offsite. I want to take the time pressure off my mother. If she can’t decide on what to do, we box it up and store it so she can take her time sorting through things and decide then. As you might imagine, there are memories attached to most of her belongings. I don’t want her to have to rush through the memories. It’s a great time to reflect.

  5. Prepare before you start the work. What resources do you need? When do you need them? How will you measure success or failure? This one took some time to work through. I rented a dumpster to be on site. I lined up help to move heavy items. I purchased boxes and packing materials to pack things we can’t decide on and I’ve lined up storage for her items. I’ve even laid out how the items will get from storage to her apartment. I’m sure there are things I’ve missed so it leads to my last idea.

  6. Be flexible. The plan is great when you begin, but it may change as you do the work. There is no way anyone can anticipate everything that may happen. So, don’t be so wedded to the plan that you miss the vision. My brother in law just retired. He doesn’t know it yet, but he is on my reserve list for help as I need it. He owes me. I introduced him to his wife, who is my wife’s twin sister.

I know there is always the possibility that something will go wrong or be different than anticipated. I’ve learned to accept some bad with the good that can come from this work. There is no difference between my personal life work and my business life work. And I love them both!

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