Fine Point Consulting Newsletter - October 2020

Welcome to the fourth quarter of 2020!

We made it! After how the year has gone so far, I am starting to wonder… what’s next? Or as someone told me, what level of Jumanji are we going into now?

Well, for Fine Point, we attempted to plan what was next for the company, or more so what we wanted to be next. We did that by having our quarterly planning meeting and writing down all the things that we thought would be important to accomplish in the near future.

Once we had our big list, we talked through everything. Some entries were assigned as to-do items, while others were expanded and discussed in more detail. By the end of the gathering, each member of the Executive Team walked out with a goal - or as we like to call them “Big Rocks” - of what we were going to work on over the next few months. These objectives range from developing and finalizing our 2021 budget, to building and developing a more defined training process as different areas of our company continue to grow.

We would love to hear what’s next for our clients and how we can help make it happen – reach out to us anytime.

President, Fine Point Consulting

How Long Does The (Quarantined) Honeymoon Last?

By Brad Hubele, Controller

Last month, Louisa introduced us to the sticky situations that come from working remotely with toddlers running rampant. This month, our Controller, Brad, gives us a glimpse into how his family has made virtual work and school a part of their daily routine.

Wedding vows of the future may have to add "and in forced co-working" right along with sickness and health. When my wife and I got married last fall, we didn't know we were going to get a crash course in togetherness to start the honeymoon phase. I am happy to report that we have certainly survived that ultimate first year test of working from home together, along with creating a distance learning haven for my son.

For the first three months, both of our jobs moved to completely virtual, like so many others. It was all day together, every day. We made it work by creating a giant workspace and investing in AirPods, a true necessity. At the same time, my son was diving into distance learning at school. It took us some time to find the right set up, but by the time this fall rolled around, we got him situated with the ultimate virtual learning workspace. We used what we had around the house to build him a space that is not only functional, but is fun for him too. We have him set up with our iMac and AirPods, and also threw in a bunch of other technology.

One additional thing we have focused on is making sure that we have time and experiences outside of those workspaces to keep our sanity. We found a way  to fit in "physical education" time by walking the dog or going swimming at our pool. 

As a change of pace, Fridays are a day where we find a place outside of our home to socially distance and get some work done, like at one of Madison's many local breweries that offers outdoor seating. Finally, we also set up a "relaxing and reading" area in our office to make sure we had a place away from the computers and desks to decompress. The dog really enjoys this particular station as well.

Learning and adapting to these changes are certainly a big part of our success. If it was last spring and I was writing this post, the information would have been more of an anti-advice article, complete with a picture of me looking like I was about to jump off the porch. I won't say there aren't still days when that crosses my mind (or my wife’s, for that matter), but our workstations and organization have certainly improved, and we’ve learned how to deal with the “new normal” of our household.

2020 Wisconsin Innovation Awards (WIA)

Fine Point Consulting is proud to recognize and congratulate a few of our many valued clients who have received or were a finalist to receive a 2020 Wisconsin Innovation Award! SafeLi, LLC and OnLume Surgical received an award, while Pyran was a finalist. The selection process began with 380 companies located throughout the state being nominated. Only 10 organizations from the list were chosen as finalists by a group of 30 Wisconsin industry experts.

SafeLi, LLC (in Shorewood, WI) has secured an exclusive royalty-bearing, worldwide license to develop and commercialize product(s) covered by the licensed patent in all fields of use, with initial focus on Lithium Ion Batteries. These materials are based on abundant, non-toxic starting materials that offer low-cost, safer, and higher capacity alternatives to graphite-only anode batteries. Batteries with the patented materials demonstrate higher capacity and faster charge rates than graphite.

OnLume Surgical (in Madison, WI) is a medical device company providing intuitive and ergonomic solutions for precise fluorescence image-guided surgery. Their novel approach allows for excellent image quality with low fluorescent dye concentrations even under well-lit ambient light conditions, and is compatible with a broad spectrum of targeted fluorescent drugs for applications across the gamut of surgical disciplines.

Pyran (in Madison, WI) is creating a world in which everyday plastic products are renewable. Pyran’s co-founders discovered a new chemical pathway to make an oil-based chemical called 1,5-pentanediol (1,5-PDO) out of corn cobs. Currently, the vast majority of the paints and plastics are made from oil. Pyran’s 1,5-PDO product is part of a class of chemicals called “diols”, which are used in the chemical industry as a starting material for many everyday items such as nylon in your clothing, plastics in your car, and paints for your everyday luxuries. Pyran is currently the only company that can make 1,5-PDO at the low costs they do, and the only company to make it from renewable resources.

The winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony on October 13, 2020. We are so proud to work with such groundbreaking pioneers and can’t wait to see what the future holds!

FPC Meet and Greet: Danny Burns, Controller

Fine Point Consulting is delighted to introduce one of our newest team members, Danny Burns, who will be managing multiple clients and providing them with various levels of financial support.


Care for Your Most Valuable Asset

The most valuable asset to any organization is its people. Hiring the right employees and developing a productive and happy workforce is paramount for your success.

As a manager, you have enough to worry about and focus on. From payroll to benefits to conflict resolution, and of course, staying on top of the recent laws and regulations, that is a lot to handle

Fine Point Consulting is here to help!

Morning Pages: You Want Me to Do WHAT Every Morning?!

In last month’s newsletter, in celebration of September being National Self-Care Awareness Month, we shared two self-care musts for entrepreneurs. Even though we are all very busy, especially in 2020 with the pressure from COVID-19, it is vital to integrate such rituals into our daily routines. As we pointed out then – self-care is an essential that some may see as an indulgent luxury, but it’s one you can’t afford not to treat yourself to. One of the options we listed in that article was Morning Pages, and this month, we’re discussing what the practice is and sharing some insights, reactions, and advice from people who have incorporated the practice into their daily routine.

If anyone likes them, that person is stared at in wonderment and disbelief, as if that feeling just doesn’t exist in the realm of possibility. They are the subject of countless memes – dreaded, besmirched, and beleaguered. Life is much more hectic than when these are around. Perhaps you’ve figured it out already, but if not, we are talking about mornings. And while each new day is full of possibilities and represents the opportunity to start again, according to a 2016 23andMe genome-wide association study (GWAS) of just under 90,000 people, only 39.7% of men and 48.4% of women would call themselves “a morning person”. Maybe Morning Pages can change that.

Julia Cameron is a best-selling author, has written over three dozen books, the New York Times calls her the “Queen of Change”, and she is the creator of Morning Pages. In a nutshell, this method of journaling is done as soon as you wake up in the morning, is to fill 3 longhand-written, single-spaced, 8.5x11” pages, for 3 months, and you are not to edit or change what you have written – nor can you censor your writing – in any way. Called “stream of consciousness writing”, no matter what is running through your head, it goes on the page, but dreams should not be included because they are more filler and less breakthrough-inducing substance. The thinking behind Morning Pages is that starting your day by uncluttering your mind gives you a clean slate, which allows for less distractions, clearer thinking, and increased productivity.

Upon gleaning information from people who have shared their experiences with this practice, we’ve realized there doesn’t seem to be too many fence-sitters when it comes to Morning Pages. This is especially true when recounting their first few days to a week of the ante-meridiem journaling exercise.

Perfectionist tendencies? Check those at the night table.

If you are a fan of correcting spelling mistakes, grammar faux pas, and the rules of punctuation, this type of writing may be difficult for you. In fact, professional editors, proofreaders, and writers seem to be the most troubled by creating their Morning Pages. It seems almost cruel to ask a person who is used to structuring their ideas in a way that flows, brings the reader to an end conclusion through careful steps, and needs to be very conscious of the proper word choices, to leave their “work” uncorrected or unchanged. Due to the work responsibilities they are so used to, and usually analytical thinking process, a writer even just getting into the proper mindset to complete the daily free-flowing journal entries the minute that person wakes up is challenging.

There are many videos on YouTube made by creators who tried Morning Pages. Several of them went through a rough patch because of thoughts and feelings the writing exercise brought up. In the end, many made their way to the other side of that, and decided to keep the practice as part of their routine; some continued on for a short time, but didn’t see enough benefits or felt it wasn’t a productive use of their time after all. Writing every morning per Cameron’s explicit instructions would tack on – if absolutely no interruptions or breaks – roughly 30 minutes to getting your day started, when using a handwriting estimate of 25 words per minute and considering it would take about 750 words total to fill up all 3 pages.

If anxieties are cast aside, the stream of consciousness approach can be emotionally and mentally freeing. Since no one is supposed to read the entries, whatever is on your mind can be cleared out, and in addition to increasing productivity, this may make room for forgiveness and healing – somewhat reminiscent of what a letter burning ritual is meant to do. Useful affirmations and intentions to set or reinforce might come out of this form of writing as well, since what we think about ourselves, what we want or need, or concerns and worries are often on our minds with each new day.

No excuses! No skipping! No stopping early! Lots of no-nos.

There are several “rules” involved with Morning Pages. For example, if there are creative blocks, or the three pages aren’t filling up for whatever reason, she urges these issues be dealt with in the journal entries – even if the problem that day is a lack of desire to write. In fact, Cameron even shares that writing the Morning Pages is even more critical when there is no interest whatsoever in writing. Rachel Wilkerson Miller of BuzzFeed wrote an article titled “Here's Everything I Learned From Doing Morning Pages Every Day”, partially subtitled, “Yes, you really do have to write them *by hand*.” Throughout the piece, Rachel outlines some of the explicit and precise directions, including quotes from Julia Cameron:

  • On why the pages cannot be typed: “Longhand pages give us details and the truth of how we feel emotionally. Accuracy is what we are after, not velocity.”
  • On why they must be written first thing in the morning: “To catch yourself before your ego’s defenses are in place. We are after candor — that, and specificity. We want to know how you really feel about your life.”

Rules are made to be broken though. And while Julia Cameron created the method and what the best way to do it is, people who write their Morning Pages have come up with ways to make the concept work with time and other constraints. Life Coach Edwin Soriano, for example, made the following adjustments:

  • Instead of writing immediately upon waking up, he showers, does some reading, then completes his Morning Pages for the day; or he writes them in the evening.
  • Because typing is faster, he “writes blind” (as he calls it) in the Evernote app on his laptop, and “blacks out” the monitor; one time he even did an audio recording.

Soriano also shared that the first 5-10 days might seem “just sooo boring…so tedious”, and to enter that feeling in the pages, but around day 20 or 30, “you will start to feel the *need* to write your morning pages. You will feel as if your mind *needs* to release its thoughts into words…”. He also credits Morning Pages with getting him back into writing on his three blogs, becoming “more focused and purposeful…more outspoken, more expressive…and solving problems and breaking through obstacles”. Clearly, Morning Pages has made a positive difference for him!

About Morning Pages, in Julia Cameron’s Own Words

  • “When people ask, ‘Why do we write morning pages?’ I joke, ‘To get to the other side.’ They think I am kidding, but I’m not. Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, our negativity, of our moods.”
  • Morning pages are about tuning out our inner critic. “We learn to hear our censor’s comments and say, simply, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ while we go right on writing. We are training our censor to stand aside and let us create.”
  • “The pages may seem dull to you, even pointless, but they are not. Remember that they are not intended to be ‘art.’ They pave the way for art. Each page you write is a small manifesto. You are declaring your freedom — freedom from your Censor, freedom from negativity in any quarter.”
  • “The morning pages teach logic brain to stand aside and let artist brain play.”
  • “Write your pages daily and be open to their suggestions.”

Have you tried Morning Pages? If not, do you think you will? Do you do a different journaling exercise? To learn more about Morning Pages, visit Julia Cameron’s website. Both The Right to Write and The Artist's Way, two of Cameron’s books, have Morning Pages listed as one writing exercise among many meant to help stimulate and inspire creativity.

Are you Prepared and HR Compliant for Election Day?

Election Day is almost here! November 3rd is approaching fast, so now is the time to review your company policies, handbooks, and plans related to the day of. It’s important to make sure you are legally compliant with regard to time off for employees to cast their votes and/or participate in the election process through other local opportunities. Please review the information below, and if you have any questions or concerns, reach out to us – the sooner, the better – so we can both rest easy knowing your organization is all set for Election Day!

In terms of time off for voting, there are a few main points of Wisconsin’s statute (§6.76). Any person (employee) who is eligible to vote in the upcoming election is entitled to a period of not more than 3 back-to-back (consecutive) hours to cast their vote. The employee is to inform the employer of the intended absence from work prior to election day, the hours off are to be taken during the period of time when polls are open, and the employer can choose the time of day (for example: morning, or end of shift). A business is not required to pay employees for time off to vote, nor is it allowed to impose any sort of penalty because of time away from work to vote.

Should an employee be interested in serving as a worker at the polls (registered with the state to do so as a volunteer), there is no time period allotment similar to the 3 consecutive hours mentioned above. However, employers may allow employees to use unpaid or paid time off for the activity. The issue of time off to vote becomes more complicated if a business operates in more than just Wisconsin. For example, some states require a notice to be posted with voting information and employee rights a certain number of days prior to Election Day, and others may require the employer to pay for voting time off. Also, this is where the above-mentioned review of your organization’s handbooks and policies come into play, as the information contained therein may go beyond the Wisconsin statute, or statutes in other states relevant to your business.

We are available to answer your HR-related Election Day questions, and to help you review your organization’s particular situation and existing documents. We want to help make sure you’re in compliance and prepared, as well as assist you in ensuring that every one of your employees who wants to vote or be involved as an election process volunteer can do so.

We urge every eligible voter to visit the polls and make their voices heard!

And as a ‘thank you’, each employee of Fine Point Consulting who volunteers to help with the polls on Election Day will receive a one-time gift in the amount of $100, as a token of appreciation for helping our wonderful community and its citizens.

Mark Your Calendar!

  • October 31: Third Quarter Payroll Tax Reporting Filing Deadline
  • November 3: Election Day
  • November 16: Nonprofit 990 Extended Deadline

Fine Point Consulting is a boutique consulting firm offering expert-level professional accounting & human resources services customized to meet your budget. We help entrepreneurs who are trying to scale fast, get more done, and stay lean.

Call us today for your free consultation at 877-535-1183 or use the button below